Moral parents, moral babies

Ars again covers interesting research on the psychology toddlers. This time: toddlers with parents with lower tolerance to injustice show stronger differences in EEG-readings when watching prosocial vs. antisocial behavior.

It also has a discussion on how difficult it is to do a “psychological” assessment of toddlers’ behavior and derive concrete explanations or conclusions from them.

The Trick of Hope

I often tell myself and my students: medicine is the most human of all the sciences that is stuck with the least human of all the experiments: and that is the randomized trial.
Randomization doesn’t exist because doctors are malign or medicine is nasty it exists precisely for the utterly opposite reason: because we hope too much.
We’re so hopeful, that we want things to work so badly-especially against cancer-we want things to work so badly that we’ll trick ourselves to believing that they’re working.
And there’s nothing as toxic or as lethal as that trick: the trick of hope.
Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee in PBS’ Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies

ArsTechnica on first-world-problems … ehm, Soylent

ArsTechnica has probably the best piece I’ve read covering the meta-problem with Soylent.

Nobody will live off of Soylent for extended periods of time. And even if there were people like that they would be considered  at least as weird or crazy as maybe vegans or people with similarly “limited” diets.

Soylent won’t destroy anything in our food culture that hasn’t been already destroyed. Why would anyone care if you drank Soylent instead of eating your drive-through fast-food alone. Chugging down a glass of Soylent instead of munching a chocolate bar between meetings. The cultural aspect of eating together is moot in those cases. At least Soylent would provide a “nutritiously balanced” choice here.

Yes, people must eat, but people don’t *need* to cook (themselves). And honestly many people don’t. I can’t really see the difference between eating out, just heating things up in a microwave or oven or drinking Soylent for that matter. The cultural aspect of preparing food is lost in those cases anyway. This may be partly because of the next aspect.

Cooking is not as easy as it may sound. It requires following “discrete series of steps guided by a mix of instruction, experience, and intuition” “surrounded with a complex support scaffolding” (I really advise you to read the 2nd page of that article). It is as easy and as necessary for a fairly normal everyday life as is compiling software. (I still believe that cooking is the analog equivalent of programming). I second the argument that as easy and essential it may look to some, it looks equally impenetrable and “magic” to others.

One interesting aspect I’ve not thought of previously was that Soylent may be a way to relieve people with eating disorders of guilt and anxiety when eating the “wrong food”. Since “for people struggling with food-related issues, it can be like a damaging drug that you can never quite quit cold turkey” it may provide an unambiguous food choice that is “satiating without being delicious.” It makes preparing and consuming food quantifiable which was the problem for the last two groups of people in the first place.

I don’t really care if it’s Soylent or something else. If find the possibilities intriguing. It’ll get a lot more interesting once anyone cared to study the long-term effects of consuming Soylent. But I’ll definitely try some once it gets available in Germany. 😉

Authors@Google: Garry Kasparov

A very insightful talk with chess legend Garry Kasparov. He touches on some very interesting topics:

  • the role of intuition in decision making
  • the power in being free to make mistakes or how modern risk aversity produces mistakes
  • the psychology of playing at the top
  • how chess is a unique platform to explore the intersection of something we’re good at and the machines are bad at and vice versa (i.e. raw computing power and human intuition)
  • the feeling of playing against human, machines or both in combination
  • and a bit of Russian politics.


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