THUNK – 114. Shades of Skepticism

Skepticism is an essential tool for rational thought, but knowing when & how to use it is hard…I think???

(NOTE: the form of skepticism described here is sometimes known as “radical skepticism.”)

-Links for the Curious-

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Skepticism – plato.stanford.edu/entries/skepticism/

Science Curiosity and Political Information Processing, Kahan et al, 2017 – onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/pops.12396/full

Skepticism on RationalWiki (a resourse of the “skeptic” community, essentially advocates of scientific primacy) – rationalwiki.org/wiki/Skepticism

THUNK 18 – Skepticism & Empiricism (where I cover an alternate version of skepticism called Pyrrhonian skepticism) – www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y78EScMnTsk

THUNK 86 – Cognitive Biases & the Socratic Method – www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZO-CGN78gdY

THUNK 58 – The Problem of Induction – www.youtube.com/watch?v=xu6kkLJ58Z0

THUNK – 113. Memetics & Punching Nazis


In the constant struggle between memes, the punching of Nazis barely scratches the surface of the conflict.

CW: Physical assault

-Links for the Curious-

Spencer punched while explaining his Pepe the Frog pin – www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rh1dhur4aI

Dawkins on Memes – www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BVpEoQ4T2M

CGP Grey on Complementary Outrage – www.youtube.com/watch?v=rE3j_RHkqJc

PBS Idea Channel on Pepe the Frog – www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uXYIdvV1CU

Dan Dennett on Dangerous Memes – www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzGjEkp772s

“On Liberty,” by John Stuart Mill, an important building block of our current understanding of free speech & harm – www.gutenberg.org/files/34901/34901-h/34901-h.htm

The SEP’s fantastic summary of the nuances of freedom of speech – plato.stanford.edu/entries/freedom-speech/

THUNK – 111. Populism


Donald Trump’s election is another victory for a worldwide trend of populism…what is it & why is it happening?

QUICK NOTE: I really gloss over the identity component of populist rhetoric here – the “purity” of the groups in question (be they red-blooded ‘Muricans or blonde blue-eyed “Aryans”) is a critical component of a lot of this rhetoric. I didn’t want to invoke tribal sensitivity to accusations of racism – race frequently serves this role, but it’s a broader effect than that.

*Links for the Curious*

Foreign Affairs, “The Power of Populism,” a collection of neat articles highlighting some of the potential causes of the global populist trend – www.foreignaffairs.com/issues/2016/95/6

The Economist Explains: What is Populism? – www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2016/12/economist-explains-18

“Right-wing vs. progressive populism: How to win in these populist Trump times” by Jonathan Matthew Smucker – www.salon.com/2016/11/13/right-wing-vs-progressive-populism-how-to-win-in-these-populist-trump-times_partner/

THUNK – 110. Physicalism & Decoding Minds


Even if the mind *is* totally entailed by the physics of the brain, we’ve got a long way to go to understand it.

-Links for the Curious-

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Physicalism – plato.stanford.edu/entries/physicalism/

Could a Neuroscientist Understand a Microprocessor? – journals.plos.org/ploscompbiol/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pcbi.1005268

Google’s image recognition neural network – research.google.com/pubs/pub42455.html

THUNK – 109. Psychology, Transparency, & Journalism


Some say that transparency is the ideological future of journalism, but our brains might not be up to the task.

-Links for the Curious-

Should Journalism Be Objective? Serial: Part 2 | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios: www.youtube.com/watch?v=xT0yRXWo6UU

Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence. By Jonas T. Kaplan, Sarah I. Gimbel & Sam Harris, Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 39589 (2016): www.nature.com/articles/srep39589

Priming us and them: Automatic assimilation and contrast in group attitudes. By Ledgerwood, Alison; Chaiken, Shelly
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 93(6), Dec 2007, 940-956: psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=buy.optionToBuy&id=2007-17941-003

Transparency is the New Objectivity, by David Weinberger (via Joho): www.hyperorg.com/blogger/2009/07/19/transparency-is-the-new-objectivity/

The View from Nowhere Q&A, by Jay Rosen (via PressThink): pressthink.org/2010/11/the-view-from-nowhere-questions-and-answers/

Nature’s peer-review policy: www.nature.com/authors/policies/peer_review.html

The Blur Between Analysis and Opinion, by Clark Hoyt (via The New York Times): www.nytimes.com/2008/04/13/opinion/13pubed.html

Wikipedia’s “Neutral Point of View” Editing Standard: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Neutral_point_of_view

PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL SCIENTIFIC FIGURES ARE COURTESY OF THE AUTHORS NAMED IN THE EPISODE. PLEASE DO NOT REPRODUCE OR DISTRIBUTE THESE FIGURES WITHOUT THE AUTHORS’ CONSENT.

THUNK – 108. Statistical vs. Clinical Significance


Scientists excel at finding patterns, but statistical significance isn’t always enough to create policy.

-Links for the Curious-

A great summary from UWS about the difference between statistical & clinical significance – www.uws.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/P_Values_Statistical_Sig_Clinical_Sig.pdf

Mental rotations, a group test of three-dimensional spatial visualization.
Vandenberg, Steven G.; Kuse, Allan R.
Perceptual and Motor Skills, Vol 47(2), Oct 1978, 599-604. dx.doi.org/10.2466/pms.1978.47.2.599

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2009 Dec;97(6):1097-114. doi: 10.1037/a0016786.
The implications of Big Five standing for the distribution of trait manifestation in behavior: fifteen experience-sampling studies and a meta-analysis.
Fleeson W1, Gallagher P.

THUNK – 107. Graham’s Number & Number Sense


Graham’s number is…really really big. But our brains start throwing errors at much smaller quantities.

-Links for the Curious-

Numberphile’s fantastic video of Ron Graham explaining Graham’s number – www.youtube.com/watch?v=HX8bihEe3nA

“Two Systems of Non-Symbolic Numerical Cognition” by D. Hyde, a review of research on the two psychological systems for cognitive representation of number – www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3228256/

A summary of some landmark studies regarding the cognitive representation of number – software.rc.fas.harvard.edu/lds/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/feigenson2004.pdf

A great Wikipedia summary of some of the creatures which have demonstrated some capacity for number sense – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_sense_in_animals

A study showing the gradual “linearization” of the approximate number system’s logarithmic error allowance during childhood – www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12741747

An analysis of possible evolutionary reasons the approximate number system is mapped logarithmically – www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26755188

The 2014 paper which improved on Graham’s upper limit to his Ramsey theorem question – www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195669814000936

THUNK – 106. The Toulmin Method of Argumentation


Think you may get into some arguments during the holidays? Steven Toulmin & Reddit can help.

-Links for the Curious-

“The Uses of Argument” by Steven Toulmin – johnnywalters.weebly.com/uploads/1/3/3/5/13358288/toulmin-the-uses-of-argument_1.pdf

A summary of the Toulmin method as rendered by Colorado State University – writing.colostate.edu/guides/guide.cfm?guideid=58

Winning Arguments: Interaction Dynamics and Persuasion
Strategies in Good-faith Online Discussions
arxiv.org/pdf/1602.01103v1.pdf

THUNK – 105. Why Elections Suck


There are a lot of people unhappy with the most recent presidential election in the US, & they have good reason – it needs fixing.

-Links for the Curious-

FairVote, an organization advocating for more representative & fair electoral systems – fairvote.org/

A simple online tool to determine who your elected representatives are. (Protip: phonecalls are harder to ignore.) – www.whoismyrepresentative.com/

A paper by the EAC detailing the historical basis of the electoral college & some of its flaws – www.eac.gov/assets/1/Documents/The%20Electoral%20College%20(Jan.%202011).pdf

C.G.P. Grey’s fantastic series “Politics in the Animal Kingdom” – www.cgpgrey.com/politics-in-the-animal-kingdom/

THUNK Episode 95 – Duverger’s Law & Ingroup Bias – www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1v8zK39MIY

THUNK Episode 104 – Ethics Overview & Moral Voting – www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcFyef0eUXM

THUNK – 104. Ethics Overview & Moral Voting

Some believe that voting a certain way this election is right/wrong. Let’s look at some ethics & see why.

-Links for the Curious-

First thing’s first, a shout-out to my friend Kevin Greenlee (who’s got legit degrees in philosophy & doctrinal theology). His fascinating article on Christian morality in this election is what kicked this whole thing off – ethawyn.blogspot.com/2016/11/hold-your-nose-and-vote-on-wickedness.html

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s brilliant summary of deontology – plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-deontological/

On consequentialism – plato.stanford.edu/entries/consequentialism/

On virtue ethics – plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-virtue/

A summary of Bentham’s utilitarianism – www.reed.edu/humanities/hum220/syllabus/2010-11/Bentham-Principles.pdf

A summary of Kant’s CI from MIT – www.mit.edu/~rdoody/Morality%20Ethics%20Handouts/KantEthicsPHIL13.pdf

GEM Anscombe’s “Modern Moral Philosophy,” which kicked off the modern revival of virtue ethics – www.pitt.edu/~mthompso/readings/mmp.pdf

THUNK – 103. On Rand-Bashing


Ayn Rand & her “selfish” ideology of objectivism produce both fervor & ridicule…but why?

-Links for the Curious-

A searchable online repository of Rand’s writings (including all quotes cited here) – www.aynrand.org

Branden’s retrospective personal statement regarding the character of Rand, her philosophy, & her “collective” – www.starways.net/lisa/essays/benefits1.html

The Partially Examined Life does a *very* charitable reading & conservative rebuttal of many of Rand’s philosophical works – www.partiallyexaminedlife.com/2013/07/01/ep78-ayn-rand/

The evolutionary origin of human hyper-cooperation (an observation of the role of altruism in evolutionary biology that prima facie refutes many of Rand’s claims) – www.nature.com/articles/ncomms5747

THUNK – 102. Dimensional Analysis

Dimensional analysis is awesome, but human brains are depressingly easy to distract with number-crunching.

-Links for the Curious-

Randall Monroe’s “what if?” blog – what-if.xkcd.com/

A simplified version of Maxwell’s dimensional analysis of the speed of light – www.math.ucdavis.edu/~temple/MAT22C/LecturesMat22CW15/10-MaxwellAndStokes-22C-W15.pdf

A history of units & dimensional analysis – people.eecs.berkeley.edu/~joschu/docs/history-of-units.pdf

Sources of Mathematical Thinking, Dehaene et. al. 1999 – www.cecm.sfu.ca/~jborwein/mathbrain.pdf

Summary of the paper from MIT news – news.mit.edu/1999/math-0512

THUNK – 99. Braitenberg’s “Vehicles” & the Chinese Room

Braitenberg’s “Vehicles,” Searle’s Chinese room, & Cole’s “Virtual Minds” – some thoughts on thinking machines.

-Links for the Curious-

Some selections from Valentino Braitenberg’s “Vehicles” – www1.appstate.edu/~kms/classes/psy5150/Documents/Braitenberg1984.pdf

Alan Turing’s fantastic 1950 paper “Computing Machinery & Intelligence” – www.csee.umbc.edu/courses/471/papers/turing.pdf

John Searle’s paper, cited over 5000 times, about the Chinese Room argument – www.class.uh.edu/phil/garson/mindsbrainsandprograms.pdf

David Cole’s “Artificial Intelligence & Personal Identity,” where he posits the mechanism of virtual minds – citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.383.778&rep=rep1&type=pdf

A quick note: the response that I end up advocating in the end here is spiritually similar to a sort of philosophical “Pragmatism.” If you’d like to read some more about it, check out its entry in the SEP here: plato.stanford.edu/entries/pragmatism/

The SEP article on “functionalism,” one of the philosophies of mind characterized here – plato.stanford.edu/entries/functionalism/

THUNK – 98. Mixed Reality & “Game” Design

Maybe VR isn’t a specific thing, but part of a continuum of physical/virtual experience called “mixed reality.” Regardless of how you think about it, the virtual already plays a significant role in your life, & game designers (as terrible a name as that is) are the ones building your future.

-Links for the Curious-

Paul Milgrim & Fumio Kishino’s foundational 1994 paper on mixed reality – etclab.mie.utoronto.ca/people/paul_dir/IEICE94/ieice.html

An article detailing Tencent’s new credit rating app & its truly frightening potential – www.brownpoliticalreview.org/2016/03/the-socialist-network-why-chinas-proposed-credit-rating-system-is-anything-but-credible/

Jesse Schell’s 2010 DICE talk, detailing his unique vision of the future as built by game designers – www.youtube.com/watch?v=nG_PbHVW5cQ

YouTube channel “Extra Credits,” a great resource for beginning to learn about some of the aspects of game design that are being used to build our virtual future – www.youtube.com/user/ExtraCreditz

THUNK – 97. Autonomous Vehicle Ethics…?

There’s a lot of talk about the ethics of autonomous vehicles…but maybe it’s not as big a deal as people are making it.

-Links for the Curious-

Patrick Lin’s “The Ethical Dilemma of Self-Driving Cars – www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixIoDYVfKA0

“Why Self-Driving Cars Must be Programmed to Kill” – www.technologyreview.com/s/542626/why-self-driving-cars-must-be-programmed-to-kill/

“How to Help Self-Driving Cars Make Ethical Decisions” – www.technologyreview.com/s/539731/how-to-help-self-driving-cars-make-ethical-decisions/

A chapter from a book on autonomous vehicles written by Lin, detailing many of his arguments for ethical AV design – goo.gl/OKgisk

“Reciprocal Collision Avoidance for Multiple Car-like Robots”, a paper detailing many of the challenges of creating networked automated vehicles (let alone independent ones) – www.disneyresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/alonsomora12icra_paper.pdf

“Driver Killed While Using Tesla’s ‘Autopilot’ Feature” – www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/tesla-autopilot-accident-crash-death_us_577584afe4b0a629c1a95099

Some details about the Apple petition to ban the use of toxic chemicals in some of their manufacturing facilities – blog.greenamerica.org/2014/08/14/victory-apple-to-remove-two-potent-toxins-from-supplier-factories/

THUNK – 96. The Replication Crisis & Belief Perseverence

The sciences are dealing with a crisis of replication…and that’s a *good* thing. How might we learn from them?

-Links for the Curious-

“Psychology is in Crisis Over Whether It’s in Crisis” – www.wired.com/2016/03/psychology-crisis-whether-crisis/

“1500 scientists lift the lid on reproducibility” – www.nature.com/news/1-500-scientists-lift-the-lid-on-reproducibility-1.19970?WT.mc_id=SFB_NNEWS_1508_RHBox

Self-enhancement & belief perseverance – www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022103107000686

Abstract & concrete data in the perseverance of social theories: When weak data lead to unshakeable beliefs – www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0022103183900318

Perseverance in self-perception and social perception: biased attributional processes in the debriefing paradigm – www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1185517

THUNK – 86. Cognitive Biases & the Socratic Method – www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZO-CGN78gdY

THUNK – 72. Logic – www.youtube.com/watch?v=_P5AkmnMf4E

THUNK – 73. Rigor – www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3uDwNUVieQ

THUNK – 74. What Reason is For – www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-ozUrg7HnU