Results for 2017-02

The Voice of a Million Ancestors

28.2.2017 kl. 00:36 - Sveinbjörn Þórðarson

Harari writes in Homo Deus:

The scientists not only sanctified human feelings, but also found an excellent evolutionary reason to do so. After Darwin, biologists began explaining that feelings are complex algorithms honed by evolution to help animals make the right decisions. Our love, our fear and our passions aren't some nebulous spiritual phenomena good only for composing poetry. Rather, they encapsulate millions of years of practical wisdom. When you read the Bible, you get advice from a few priests and rabbis who lived in ancient Jerusalem. In contrast, when you listen to your feelings, you follow an algorithm that evolution has developed for millions of years, and that withstood the harshest quality tests of natural selection. Your feelings are the voice of millions of ancestors, each of whom managed to survive and reproduce in an unforgiving environment. Your feelings are not infallible, of course, but they are better than most alternatives. For millions upon millions of years, feelings were the best algorithms in the world. Hence in the days of Confucius, of Muhammed or Stalin, people should have listened to their feelings rather than to the teachings of Confucianism, Islam or communism.

Truman: Offensively mediocre

26.2.2017 kl. 10:48 - Sveinbjörn Þórðarson

I've always despised Harry S Truman. Not because he dropped the A-bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Any US President would have done the same. And not because of his whiny, petulant voice, or his thin, pursed lips, or even his banal, anti-intellectual speeches.

No, there's just something about the sheer mediocrity of the man that offends my sensibilities. He's like a character straight out of Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis: A Missouri haberdasher exemplifying small-town American thrift, vacuousness and stupidity.

Truman was a uniquely American American. This is something he shares with Donald Trump, even though the two could not be more different.

Harry S Truman

Þriðja heims hagvöxtur og öllu stolið

9.2.2017 kl. 11:45 - Sveinbjörn Þórðarson

Samkvæmt Seðlabankanum var 6% [!!!] hagvöxtur á Íslandi í fyrra. Sannkallaður þriðja heims hagvöxtur, því svo mikill hagvöxtur þekkist varla í þróuðum ríkjum.

Ef það er einhvern tímann tækifæri til þess að hækka skatta og laga félagsþjónusturnar, þá er það núna. En ég hugsa samt að við sjáum eitthvað lítið af því frá þessari ömurlegu nýju hægristjórn. Allir peningarnir beint til vina þeirra og svo til Panama, á meðan náttúruperlur landsins eru lagðar í rúst af túristum. Íslensk tragedía.


Rushing towards the Great Unknown

6.2.2017 kl. 09:07 - Sveinbjörn Þórðarson

Harari says it like it is:

When people realise how fast we are rushing towards the great unknown, and that they cannot count even on death to shield them from it, their reaction is to hope that somebody will hit the brakes and slow us down. But we cannot hit the brakes, for several reasons.

Firstly, nobody knows where the brakes are. While some experts are familiar with developments in one field, such as artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, big data or genetics, no one is an expert on everything. No one is therefore capable of connecting all the dots and seeing the full picture. Different fields influence one another in such intricate ways that even the best minds cannot fathom how breakthroughs on artificial intelligence might impact nanotechnology, or vice versa. Nobody can absorb all the latest scientific discoveries, nobody can predict how the global economy will look in ten years, and nobody has a clue where we are heading in such a rush. Since no one understands the system, no one can stop it.

Secondly, if we somehow succeed in hitting the brakes, our economy will collapse, along with our society. ... the modern economy needs constant and indefinite growth in order to survive. If growth ever stops, the economy won't settle down to some cosy equilibrium; it will fall to pieces. That's why capitalism encourages us to seek immortality, happiness and divinity.