Category: think

The Most Ironic Chinese Counterfeit Fail Ever

What do you do when you see a Chinese seller pop-up on Amazon selling a product for less than it costs just to make it? You order one and wait to see what comes!

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Can you figure out how anyone could sell and ship a non-copyable product for less than the manufactured cost? Oh, the sublime irony of what actually showed up!…

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When to Lie

 

Question #1

Your grandma has Alzheimer’s disease. This morning she woke up and could not find her husband. He died 5 years ago. If you tell her, she will be sad and upset… at least until she wakes up again tomorrow. Should you lie?

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trumpWap – Make the web great again

Remember when almost every image on the internet was trump?

With trumpWAP, we can make the web great again. This is huge.

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Plug in the trumpWap and on day-1 you’ll get between 20% and 90% more trump (depending on your browsing habits). It’s that simple.

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Continue reading for more examples of trumped up websites & apps, a perfunctory video demonstration, and info on getting your own trumpWAP!

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Why did Google declare war on HTTP?

Google is waging a war to force websites to only serve content over secure
https connections by demoting the search ranking of websites that continue to use normal http connections. “…we’re also working to make the Internet safer more broadly. A big part of that is making sure that websites people access from Google are secure.”

At first take, this seams like a magnanimous move by the internet’s benevolent dictator. Security is a good thing, so by forcing lazy websites to finally go secure we are all better off… right?

Unfortunately, things are not so simple and Google’s motivations are likely not so benevolent…

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A drug that is 100% adictive after a single dose

It is easy to be in favor of legalizing pot. People should be allowed to to make their own choices, even if that means they might make choices that we think are mistakes.

But what if there was a drug that was absolutely 100% permanently physically addictive after the first dose? The drug is cheap and easily available. Once you’ve had your first dose, you are miserable until you get the next one. Repeated use kills quickly and quietly. I’ll call it “Slack”.

Every person who has ever tried Slack now regrets it and wishes they could quit, but they can not. It’s addiction is too strong. Even so, new people continue to try it and get hooked.

Would you be in favor of legalizing Slack?

Invalid answer: “There is no such thing as a 100% addictive drug!” (this is the answer I once got at an otherwise very interesting a drug addiction roundtable.)

Possible valid answer:

“There is no substantive difference between making the single bad decision to try that first dose of Slack and the repeated bad decisions people make to continue to take less addicting drugs. Part of the cost of freedom is that people sometimes make bad choices for themselves – and they suffer the consequences.”

I think that is logical, but contradicts the general human principal of proportional consequences. I think we all intuitively sense that the bigger a mistake, the more severe the consequences can be.  It does not seem right to allow a Slack user to die as punishment for single moment of bad judgement. It seems like we should want to stop them from doing something that we know is a mistake – and something that even they will eventually agree is a mistake.

There is no drug like Slack today, but I’m not sure that it matters. What if a drug was only 99% addictive and deadly rather than 100% – would that change things? How about 98%? Or 90%? At some point we are talking about heroin or crack, and eventually we get down to StarBucks.

How do we define the line between a drug that should be illegal and one that should not?

Illiterate Intelligentsia?

Learning to read and write is very hard.

It takes years and years of constant practice to train our brains to seamlessly convert a visual pattern of shapes into an internal auditory stream of speech that we can understand. You might not remember how hard it was to learn to read, but if you have kids in elementary school then you know what I am talking about.

Clearly our brains were not designed for this type of task – it is only though force of will that we coerce them to do it.

Teaching reading and writing is similarly difficult. Our societies have developed a class of people dedicated to accomplishing the task. In the USA, we publicly fund an army of 3 million people whose primary function is to teach our kids to be literate members of society. Each one of these teachers has themselves had years of specialized training just to learn how best to teach these skills. We even require them to be licensed like doctors and lawyers.

Compare this to listening and talking – tasks our brains are clearly well suited for.

Verbal auditory creation and comprehension are a built in feature in human brains. We get them for free with no overhead. When we think to ourselves “I need to stop at the store and get milk”, we naturally do it by talking and listening to an internal verbal monologue. We do not create the visual representation of the letters ‘I–N-E-E-D-T-O-….” on an internal screen.

Almost all children learn to talk and listen without any conscious effort at all. Almost all parents are competent at teaching auditory fluency with no formal training.

So why we spend so much time and money and effort learning and teaching and promoting and testing literacy if it is so damn hard and we are so innately bad at it?

For the past 1,000 years, literacy was a fundamental requirement for participation in the intellectual world.

If you wanted to get ahead in this modern world, you needed to learn to read and write good.

The printed (or carved or pressed) word is an amazing technological achievement. I can read a text from 1,000 years ago and/or 10,000 miles away and precisely receive the knowledge the writer embodied. I can even make a copy of the text to take home with me so others can do the same. A single text can reliably disseminate a vast amount of knowledge to millions of people. Compare this to the telephone-game of auditory knowledge passing where you are lucky if you can a full sentence reliably passed on to a dozen friends over the course of a few seconds.

We are great at auditory speech- but it is a horrible medium for information storage and dissemination.

Until very recently literacy was the only reliable way of storing and sharing information. This is why we spend a huge amount of effort teaching people to read and write. It has allowed us to act as a single massive and long-lasting superintelligent Superorganism. No matter how hard it has been to create and master literacy, it was well worth it.

But times are changing…

First there was the invention of the record player that made it possible to store sound and pass it fatefully forward in time. Then came radio which allowed us to widely disseminate sounds across space. Fast forward to today were I have a machine in my pocket that not only can understand my voice and answer back, but simultaneously has instant access to most of humanity’s accumulated knowledge.

It is not hard to imagine a machine in the near future that is a little bit Siri and and a little bit Watson that can instantly answer any question I might have without me needing to read or write at all. Add in a little OrsonEar and it can also be my personal notebook, diary, secretary, and publishing agent.

About half of the books I want to read are already available in Audiobook form. After a few years practice, I can now listen to a book at 2x speed, which is faster than I can read. It is hard work, but I think my comprehension is higher than when I read and I can use my eyes for other things at the same time. I bet if I had started listening to hyper-fast speech when I was a kid and my brain was still pliable, it would be very natural and easy for me to do it now.

There is currently available technology that can automatically convert written text into spoken text so we could potentially listen to *any* written content.This is still a bit rough, but in the near future this will likely produce better output than even having the author read their own work aloud. Audiobooks could become interactive and self-adapting, automatically explaining words and concepts I don’t know, slowing down when they sense that I am having trouble keeping up, and omitting things that I already know. The experience of a good audiobook will grow to resemble a deep yet facile conversation with an expert rather than a passive and effort-full task.

Anyone who has tried the latest versions of Dragon Dictate knows that we have already passed the milestone where speaking is faster and more accurate than writing or typing for the vast majority of people. This trend will continue and accelerate and it seems likely that typing will soon be as useless a skill as cursive penmanship (which, by the way, is still being taught to my kids!).

Looking forward to into our not-so-distant future, will we have any need for literacy?

In 2030, will someone who knows how to read and write be better off than someone who doesn’t?

More importantly, will someone who knows how to read and write be better off than their equivalent selves if they had done something else with the time and brain cells they would have used up learning to read and write?

What else could our kids learn if they had an extra 3,600 hours of learning time during the phase of their lives when their minds are most open and plastic? And what new abilities might we make room for in their minds if we stopped drafting trillions of neurons into service as poorly performing text-to-speech engines?

Personally, I today would not hesitate to forfeit my ability to read and write if I could instead, say, have a deep intuitive understanding of Hilbert Spaces. Or the ability to imagine a polychronon. Or even just be able contemplate the integration of messier primes. These are all visual spacial tasks that my neocortex might well have been able to master if I had not already committed so much of it learning to recognize various series of letter symbols and the complex and arbitrary rules needed to create them.

Maybe it is time to rethink the supremacy of literacy in education and instead look towards creating future generations of thinkers capable of things we (literally) can not imagine…