Dog with a Blog // Why I Love Wikipedia

For those in my reading audience who are not acquainted with the modern-day Disney channel:

There exists a television show called Dog With a Blog.

The subject matter: Exactly What It Says On The Tin.

The Wikpedia article: Priceless post-post-modern literature. Second only to The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars as an example of gonzo Wikipedianism.

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This television show is written by a team of adults. The money these adults receive probably helps them support their families. These adults are functioning members of the U.S. economy.

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The Sad Story of David Edmondson

Today, I wish to share the tale of a man with a troubled past, and of a company that used a very flimsy excuse to rid themselves of this man, all for the sake of signalling.

I call it…

 

The RadioShack Dilemma

A few months ago, I learned about the story of David Edmondson.

Edmondson is the CEO of a company called eRecyclingCorps, but is best known for his resignation from the CEO position at RadioShack (a company with $5 billion in revenue) after it became known that he’d never actually graduated from college, despite his claims to the contrary.

This seems natural enough. After all, who wants a liar at the head of their company? (I’m assuming here that RadioShack forced Mr. Edmondson to resign.)

But certain features of RadioShack’s decision start to look very strange when you view them in the context of Edmondson’s career.

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Utilitarian Thought Experiments

Introduction

I’m currently enrolled in a moral psychology class. We spend a lot of time talking about human moral instincts — the ways we think about moral situations when we haven’t had time to reflect on the consequences.

Sometimes, our instincts are excellent; they help us save people from oncoming trains when there’s no time to think about alternatives. But other times, they lead us down strange paths.

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The Human Spirit

My fifth post for the humanist blog Applied Sentience is now live:

http://appliedsentience.com/2014/09/26/death-isnt-the-end-how-humanists-can-think-about-the-afterlife/

Here, I talk about one of my favorite subjects — the seemingly miraculous way that a bunch of individual human beings built the world we live in over the course of a few thousand years.

The secret of our success: Even if people don’t always understand one another, our intentions are similar enough that we manage to create laptops and buildings and pencils.

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How to Have (and Remember) More Ideas

My third post for Applied Sentience is up:

http://appliedsentience.com/2014/08/29/making-better-use-of-humanitys-most-valuable-resource-good-ideas/

Check it out for some thoughts on Srinivasa Ramanujan, David Foster Wallace, Jean-Paul Sartre, and why Quora isn’t living up to its potential (on which more later).

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Related: I cannot emphasize strongly enough that you should keep a file for your ideas (however strange or impractical) and get in the habit of writing them down. Habits that help:

  • When you have an experience that gives you a strong emotional response (laughter, joy, anger, confusion), think to yourself: “How could people have more/less of this experience in their lives? What would have to be invented or changed?”
  • Keep a journal. You’ll remember more experiences like the ones I mentioned above, and you’ll be able to notice very easily when you write phrases like “I wish…” or “If only…”
  • Sit down for a formal brainstorming session once in a while. If this doesn’t sound appealing, try it once, for ten minutes. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it again, but if you do like it, you might find it becoming a valuable habit.
  • Use Workflowy, which is the best tool I’ve found for quickly making lists. Evernote is also good, but not quite as fast.

If you have an idea-generating habit that I didn’t list here, put it in the comment section! I’m always looking for ideas about how to look for ideas.

Dubstep in Vienna: Or, Craving Things That Don’t Exist

Reading time: 8-10 minutes, plus one short song.

A collection of musings around the topics of art, yearning, and synthesizers. 

 

How I learned to love music

Most people worry about the future. Some people worry about the past. I worry about alternate histories: things that never happened, but what if they had?

One of those what-ifs has been on my mind lately:

What if I’d been born early enough in history that I never got to hear electronic music?

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I still remember the first time I knowingly heard a synthesizer. (Whatever electronic sound effects Britney Spears and Nelly were using had escaped my notice.)

I was 12, and riding in the car of my good friend Peter Andrews. His mother was driving, and we were listening to songs from the 1970s. Most of them were background noise, and held no interest for me.

Until…

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Two People Who Changed Their Minds

My second post at the humanist blog Applied Sentience is up!

http://appliedsentience.com/2014/06/24/stories-to-live-by-changing-our-minds-pt-1/

Within, I discuss the interesting stories of two people who were well-known advocates for certain political and moral policies, but then publicly denounced certain of their previous beliefs after learning new facts about the world. This doesn’t seem to happen as often as it should, so I thought that Alan Chambers and Patty Wetterling were worth writing about.

Of course, just because you’ve changed your mind, doesn’t mean your views are more accurate than they were before; read the comments for an interesting set of counterarguments from a fellow named “McFoofa”.

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Side note: It’s interesting to write for a blog with an established audience. You take on a different tone, simplify certain concepts, and assume certain bits of knowledge from the readers there. And because I have no established audience yet for Alpha Gamma, I wind up writing things that (I hope) are untouched by any such calculation.

Sky Lanterns and the World of Tomorrow

I just started writing for Applied Sentience, a blog curated by the humanist chaplaincies of various American colleges. This post first appeared over there.

Whether or not you like me, the other folks at Applied Sentience write really great stuff about physics, ethics, religious policy, and many other notable topics. Check them out!

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Humanist communities need more wonder.

This isn’t the fault of the humanist communities. Most religious communities also need more wonder. Most people need more wonder.

(The words “awe” and “transcendence” could stand in for “wonder” – I’m referring to that whole category of emotions.)

Whether it comes from the high note of a gospel hymn or the highest rocket in a fireworks display, wonder might just be the single best emotion. Mix wonder with affection, and you get love. Seek out wonder in your daily life, and you might avoid the hedonic treadmill that so often exhausts the pursuers of happiness. As far as I know, wonder never gets boring.

I don’t come by the feeling of wonder easily. And when I do, it’s hard to tell whether the things that give me that feeling will also work for other people.

(For example, most people don’t see dubstep as a quasi-religious experience.)

But last November, I stumbled onto something I think could become a wonder-inducing ritual for humanists around the world. The ritual is cheap, safe, beautiful, and equally accessible to one person or a gathering of thousands.

I could reveal it now, but this essay will make more sense if I tell you a story first.

Read the rest here!

 

Backing Up Happiness

I just found another essay that echoes An Ode to Phones. The author, Glenn Gillen, owned many possessions (CDs, DVDs, etc.), but moved his life to the cloud as the necessary tools became available.

The most accessible section of the essay:

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, while talking to a friend about the risk of crime and property theft in San Francisco, that I appreciated the magnitude of what had happened.

10 years ago, someone breaking into my house didn’t just carry a huge emotional impact, but significant upfront and ongoing financial ones too. TVs, home theatre systems, computers. Thousands of dollars of equipment and potentially months of effort to acquire replacements and set everything up again. Not to mention the sentimental things like photos that could never be replaced. But today the financial impact is $999 to replace a Macbook Air and 30mins-60mins to set it up. All the “irreplaceable” music, photos, and software is back exactly as it was in the time it takes to eat lunch.

Taking something that seemed to have a high negative impact, and making it near negligible, has been liberating. And so I’m constantly looking at how to take it further.

Gillen’s article made me think about things that are harder to back up than data. Especially emotional states. Continue reading