Required Reading, Third Week of November 2015

Throughout the week, I read a LOT of online articles. What follows are the two I found most interesting:

The Doomsday Invention, via The New Yorker—A portrait of Nick Bostrom, the futurist-philosopher at Oxford who is so mired in the future that the present is meaningless to him:

Bostrom had little interest in conventional philosophy—not least because he expected that superintelligent minds, whether biologically enhanced or digital, would make it obsolete. “Suppose you had to build a new subway line, and it was this grand trans-generational enterprise that humanity was engaged in, and everybody had a little role,” he told me. “So you have a little shovel. But if you know that a giant bulldozer will arrive on the scene tomorrow, then does it really make sense to spend your time today digging the big hole with your shovel? Maybe there is something else you could do with your time. Maybe you could put up a signpost for the great shovel, so it will start digging in the right place.” He came to believe that a key role of the philosopher in modern society was to acquire the knowledge of a polymath, then use it to help guide humanity to its next phase of existence—a discipline that he called “the philosophy of technological prediction.” He was trying to become such a seer.
“He was ultra-consistent,” Daniel Hill, a British philosopher who befriended Bostrom while they were graduate students in London, told me. “His interest in science was a natural outgrowing of his understandable desire to live forever, basically.”

 

Why People Keep Saying, “That’s What the Terrorists Want”via Harvard Business Review—here is a quick lesson about how and why people attach their own emotions to explain the actions of other people:

How is everyone so savvy when it comes to knowing what terrorists want?

One explanation comes from a cognitive bias called correspondent inference theory. It was developed in the 1960s and 1970s by the social psychologist Edward Jones to explain the cognitive process by which an observer infers the motives of an actor.

The theory comes from the foundational work of Fritz Heider, the father of attributional theory. Heider saw individuals as “naïve psychologists” motivated by a practical concern – a need to simplify, comprehend, and predict the motives of others. Heider postulated that people process information by applying inferential rules that shape their response to behavior. In laboratory experiments, he found that we tend to attribute the behavior of others to inherent characteristics of their personality — or dispositions — rather than to external or situational factors.

 

Comic Explodes the “DNA Is Just Source Code” Metaphorvia MIT Technology Review:

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