31 May 2010

Some Listening

I was blissfully out of touch with news while vacationing,* so I little to say about news.  I did listen to some podcasts while flying though.  Here are a few that I probably would have bothered to comment on if I were home when I listened to them.  [NB These are now two weeks out of date, as I forgot to publish this when I got home.  Still worth listening too, though, as they're not current-events type stuff.]

( * Though sports news managed to slip in.  Well done to Inter for their Champions League trophy and to England for their World Twenty20 win.)

Cato Daily Podcast :: "Robert Gates Is No Dwight Eisenhower" featuring Justin Logan

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The Economist :: Barack Obama's rant against technology (article — "Don't shoot the messenger: America’s president joins a long (but wrong) tradition of technophobia")

This reminds me of a passage in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, which I was reading while away.

"To worship the natural to the exclusion of the unnatural is to practice Organic Fascism. And in the best tradition of fascism, the are totally intolerant of those who don't share their beliefs: thus they foster the very kinds of antagonism and tension that lead to strife, which they, pacifists one and all, claim to abhor. To insist that a woman who paints berry juice on her lips is somehow superior to the woman who wears Revlon lipstick is sophistry; it's smug sophistical skunkshit. Lipstick is a chemical composition, so is berry juice, and they both are effective for decorating the face. If lipstick has advantages over berry juice than let us praise that part of technology that produced the lipstick. The organic world is wonderful, but the inorganic isn't bad, either. The world of plastic and artifice offers its share of magical surprises." ... 
"A thing is good because it's good," he continued, "not because it's natural. A thing is bad because it's bad, not because it's artificial. It's not a damn iota better to be bitten by a rattlesnake than shot by a gun."

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The Economist :: Innovation in history (article — "Getting better all the time: The biological, cultural and economic forces behind human progress," a review of Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist)

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The Invisible Hand :: Management Rewired with Charles Jacobs

A review of (of course) Management Rewired, a book about brain science and business management. That's a very intriguing combination for me, so I'm going to have to pick this one up.

I am a little worried about the way Jacobs played fast a loose with his analysis by mixing up different cognitive levels. For instance he seemed to equate inhibitory neurons and behavioral inhibitions.** Jacobs seems to be conflating, in this interview if not in the book itself, the physical and metaphorical, the anatomical and the functional. I was happy to hear him bring up the Bundle Theory of Self, but I think he may have similar problems of evaluating it on several different scales concurrently. I shall have to read his book and see.

( ** Yes, there are inhibitory neurons involved in behavioral inhibitions, but inhibitory neurons are involved in ... pretty much everything, from focusing your vision on a location, to bending your arm, to figuring out where on your body you're being poked, to deciding whether eat a bite of meat next or go for a mouthful of potatoes.  I'm currently unable to think of a neural process which does not involve some inhibition on the neuronal level.)

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