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By TheophileEscargot (Sat Feb 28, 2015 at 02:03:25 PM EST) Reading, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "The Adjacent", "The Hard Way". Links.

What I'm Reading
The Adjacent by Christopher Priest, science fiction writer on the literary end of the spectrum.

Starts out well with an interesting concept. A mysterious weapon is annihilating areas of space. The narrative jumps between different times, notably the second world war and the near future, where the Islamic Republic of Great Britain is struggling with climate change and an unspecified insurgency.

The IRGB isn't quite as Ukippy as it sounds: rather than a horrific dictatorship it's mostly a rather bumbling bureaucracy. There are some nice details: "Temperate Storms" since you can't call them hurricanes outside the tropics, the Mebsher armoured vehicles used for transport. There are some haunting details to the WW2 stuff too. I loved the image of the heartbroken female Polish transport pilot, who dreams of the day she's asked to fly the ultimate plane, a lightweight unarmed reconnaisance Spitfire, and when she finally gets the chance just flies it out to see.

However, the plot doesn't actually come together in any satisfyingly coherent way. It also gets a bit self-referential in a kind of late Heinlein way. Because the weapon is vaguely-understood-quantum it turns out the same events can be different depending on point of view. Different characters turn out to be the same character only quantum different. And the weapon turns out to beam people into the world of Priest's Dream Archipelago series only wiping their memory somehow. Overall, if you like Christopher Priest; or have a high tolerance for plot incoherence and doomed romance, it's worth a read. Otherwise not really recommended.

Review, review, review, review, review.

What I'm Reading
The Hard Way by Lee Child is a rather lacklustre entry in the Jack Reacher series. The mystery is very obvious. The antagonists are set up as formidable, but prove to be remarkably easy to get rid of. Best parts are Lee Child's descriptions of Britain and Britions. (Child is a British writer writing about American characters, and to me at least he seems to mimic an American writer uncannily well.)) Overall, for completists only.

Socioeconomics. The abolishment of serfdom was followed by a sharp increase in agricultural productivity, the living standards of peasants, and industrial development. Why are the older generations richer? Robots and skills? The fall of the skilled worker. The decline in on-the-job training.

Politics. Class-Based Affirmative Action Is Not the Answer:

The supporters of affirmative action, in other words, want the oligarchy that runs and owns the U.S. to be a rainbow oligarchy. The opponents don’t mind (might even prefer) something a little more vanilla...

The economic function elite colleges perform is to separate the few winners from the great mass of losers in American life and the function of both racial and economic affirmative action is just to make sure that everyone believes those winners are chosen fairly. What the dispute’s about, in other words, is what color the elite will be and whether or not a few more of them will come from working class families, not about how to diminish the gap between them and everybody else. So whoever wins, the vast majority loses. And this is true not only of affirmative action but of all the commitments to anti-discrimination that have come to occupy the center of American social justice.

Frankie Boyle on offence and free speech.
There was a piece in the New Statesman recently about Tim Minchin, breathlessly titled "The Satirist Who Ran Out of Upwards To Punch". Now I love Tim's shows, but he'll probably have been surprised to find that he's the apotheosis of political comedy because he... delivers "a nine-minute beat poem called “Storm”, featuring a narrator at a north London dinner party getting increasingly angry with a tattooed hippie ... he berates her for her credulousness. The rant takes in psychics, homoeopathy, auras, star signs, spiritual healers and religious prophets."

You might have imagined that routines "punching up" against the big targets of the day would have to involve the international banking system; the arms industry; or even just the fact that the entire world is about to disappear screaming under boiling waves. To the well trained ear of the English middle classes, an authentic target is more likely to be something like "star signs".

Germany's new far right.

Articles. Witch-Hunt Against "Fake" Female Hearthstone Player Discredited. Understanding Kim Jong Un (economic reformer?) Category structure and oppression:

The "bird" category has (somewhat culture specific) internal structure. For example, most Americans will agree that a robin is a better example of a bird than an albatross, and an albatross is a better bird than an ostrich. (And while bats are not birds, they are better birds than horses are, and horses are better birds than refrigerators are; so the gradations continue to some extent outside the category boundary).

Random. The Rainbow Batman. that time I defaced my son’s developmental questionnaire.

Pics. Fight or Starve: 1925.

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All that you can do is watch them play | 9 comments (9 topical, 0 hidden)
Apparently I'm not most Americans by lm (4.00 / 1) #1 Sat Feb 28, 2015 at 07:03:14 PM EST
For the life of me I don't see why a robin is a better example of a bird than an albatross or why either albatross or robin is a better example than an emu.

But then I also don't think that the category of bird has any metaphysical import. It's just a useful placeholder to hold batches of types of animals that most scientists agree are birds.

And the notion that horses are better birds than refrigerators is just nuts.

And by the time one hits "'Not All Men' works in sort of the opposite way. By creating this hypothetical subcategory of Not-All-Men and forcing attention to it, it derails discussion away from, & attempts to undermine statements about, the category as a whole", I think things have entirely gone off the rails. As much as I think most categories are pretty loose, I don't think that they're so loose that a categorical statement can still be correct if it doesn't apply to an entire category.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
Are you trolling us here? by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #2 Sat Feb 28, 2015 at 07:26:08 PM EST
320 million robins, vs. (at best) 1.5 million of the most common species of a threatened genera?

A flying bird (as most do) over a flightless bird?

Another animal vs. an inanimate object? You can't see this? Really?

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
Whose trolling who? by lm (4.00 / 1) #3 Sat Feb 28, 2015 at 08:20:40 PM EST
If an object meets all of the criteria to be included in a category, it no less belongs in that category than other object that meets all of the criteria to be included in a category.

Likewise, if an object does not meet the criteria to be included in the category, it doesn't matter by how many criteria it fails to be included in the category.

We're not even talking about fuzzy cases here like whether a platypus is a mammal or if an artificial bird is really a bird. The question is over cut and dried members of a category in one set of cases and over cut and dried non-members of a category in the other case.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
[ Parent ]
That's true according to formal logic by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #4 Sun Mar 01, 2015 at 02:24:09 AM EST
But the article is claiming that cognition doesn't work according to formal logic. It claims that studies of reaction time and the lists that people produce show that cognition works differently.

I'm not quite sure what you're saying: that these results are nuts according to the rules of formal logic; that human cognition doesn't work that way; or that your cognition doesn't work that way?
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Not just formal logic by lm (4.00 / 1) #6 Sun Mar 01, 2015 at 07:41:07 AM EST
Unless you're going to claim taxonomic ranks for botany and biology are formal logics.

Maybe I'm just put off by language that is used. If they want to talk about similarities rather than categories, I wouldn't think it nuts.

At any rate, my cognition works that way. I'm human. So human cognition can't categorically work that way.  Some human cognition can work that way.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
[ Parent ]
Wikipedia by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #9 Mon Mar 02, 2015 at 12:40:04 AM EST
Linnaeus's use of binomial nomenclature was anticipated by the theory of definition used in Scholasticism. Scholastic logicians and philosophers of nature defined the species man, for example, as Animal rationalis, where animal was considered a genus and rationalis (Latin for "rational") the characteristic distinguishing man from all other animals. Treating animal as the immediate genus of the species man, horse, etc. is of little practical use to the biological taxonomist, however. Accordingly, Linnaeus's classification treats animal as a class including many genera (subordinated to the animal "kingdom" via intermediary classes such as "orders"), and treats homo as the genus of a species Homo sapiens, with sapiens (Latin for "knowing" or "understanding") playing a differentiating role analogous to that played, in the Scholastic system, by rationalis (the word homo, Latin for "human being", was used by the Scholastics to denote a species, not a genus).
I know basically nothing about Scholasticism, but it does seem to me that it's based on the formal logic set out in Greek philosophy. Human cognition doesn't necessarily work that way: people do seem to fall into logical fallacies a lot.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
I think that's close to a genetic fallacy by lm (2.00 / 0) #10 Sat Mar 14, 2015 at 09:32:19 AM EST
Taxonomic trees may have been inspired by formal logic but that does not mean that they are applications of formal logic. After all, in biology taxonomic trees are used for an entirely different purpose than preserving truth values.

Anyway, I went around asking a few different people if robins made better birds than ostriches and if horses made better birds than refrigerators. I didn't prompt them other than to say, "can I ask you a couple of weird questions?"

Mostly I just got puzzled looks and blank stares. The most popular response was "what does that even mean?"


I do agree that people don't always think in logical propositions. The 19th and 20th century projects to reduce math and language to formal logic failed entirely. Not only do people often think in terms of logical fallacies but they often hold two contrary or contradictory ideas.

I also think that categories often have looser boundaries than we like to think. I"m not a Platonist where I think there is some perfect form of a bird in which  all true birds participate and from which they obtain their birdness. Instead "bird" is an evolving idea. Most people living in what is now France 2000 years ago probably had a different idea of what birds are we do today. Their idea of a bird may well have excluded flightless animals and included bats. A even better example is the medieval idea of what constitutes a fish which included mammals such as dolphins and whales that are excluded from the modern definition.

But the reddit essay didn't include boundary cases, transitional animals, or the change in the use of words over time. It just addressed contemporary ideas of what is or is not a bird, etc. I think most folks in the present day US have a pretty clear idea of what a bird is and both horses and refrigerators fall outside of the boundaries of that idea and they fall outside so much that asking an American whether a horse or refrigerator makes a better bird that the question doesn't even make sense to them.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
[ Parent ]
Whose? by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #5 Sun Mar 01, 2015 at 04:03:26 AM EST
Now I know you're trolling.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
Rainbow Batman by lm (4.00 / 1) #8 Sun Mar 01, 2015 at 08:07:17 PM EST
"he worries me with those queer costumes of his!"


Kindness is an act of rebellion.
All that you can do is watch them play | 9 comments (9 topical, 0 hidden)