Some people like to use GIFs as metaphors for their own lives:
No, no, no!
That’s not you. Don’t pretend a GIF is about you when it’s clearly about someone else.
To repair this broken world, I’ve written some antidotes to this “What Should We Call Me” nonsense. Please use these whenever you encounter the appropriate situation.
It’s very cheap to experiment on people these days.
For ~$100 and ~5 hours of my time, I used Google Consumer Surveys (GCS) to collect over 800 responses to the following question:
Famine threatens Ethiopia. Thousands of lives are at risk, but U.S. help could save them. How important is it that the U.S. give $9 million in food aid to these Ethiopians?
This wasn’t just curiosity. This was an experiment. My question had three possible endings:
- …food aid to these Ethiopians?
- …food aid to these men and women?
- …food aid to these human beings?
We all know that Ethiopians are human beings, of course. But do our actions reflect that knowledge?
At least one study found evidence that we’ll donate more money to help rescue someone from our country than someone from another country. (Kogut & Ritov, 2007)
I have a similar question: Are we more willing to help foreigners when they are framed as our fellow humans, rather than as people from some other country?
This post attempts to answer two questions:
If you could spend a few weeks being Barack Obama, what would you learn about his life and the world in which he lives?
How would this experience change the way you think about the man, his policies, and the American presidency?
Welcome to the Met! My name is Aaron, and I’ll be your tour guide today.
Oh! It’s kind of a funny story, actually. I was supervising Finger-Painting Day last week, and this four-year-old spilled yellow paint all over my uniform! It’s still at the cleaners.
Of course they have spare uniforms. But they don’t fit me very well. I have an unusual hip-to-waist ratio. Also, broad shoulders.
Anyway, let’s get started!
I read about 125 books this year, and these are the ones that come to mind when I think of the word “best”. They are very different, and you won’t like all of them, but they all do something well.
To quote my book-review post from last year:
I’ve sorted this list into a series of “bests”: a Best Graphic Novel for people who like those, a Best Book About Selling Stuff for people who like those, and so on. Whoever you are, I’d probably recommend many of these books to you. And some of them are free!
For a list of every book I remember reading, check out my Goodreads account.
Best List of All the Books
These are in alphabetical order, save for the first four, which I liked most of all.
- The Neapolitan Quartet (series, all four books)
- The Book of Disquiet
- Negima! Magister Negi Magi
- A Civil Action
- Azumanga Daioh
- Behind the Beautiful Forevers
- Digger (free!)
- Great (free!)
- Gone Girl
- Parable of the Sower
- Strangers Drowning
- Strong Female Protagonist (free!)
- The Road to Wigan Pier (free!)
- The Vision of the Anointed
- The Yale Book of Quotations
- Them: Adventures with Extremists
- We Learn Nothing
It must be very strange to be Adele.
Whenever Adele sings anything, even in the privacy of her own home, she is singing “an Adele song”. When she sings “Can’t Buy Me Love” in the shower, she is singing “Adele covers The Beatles”.
Adapted from something I wrote in Yale’s “Daily Themes” class. (Great class, by the way!)
Write twelve possible first lines to twelve different stories (fictional, non-fictional, or some combination of both). For a real challenge, let those lines start to feel like they hold together by juxtaposition. See the work of David Markson for a model.
These aren’t good sentences, but I wrote them hoping they could become first lines for first drafts of good stories.
I haven’t written those stories yet, but if you’d like me to write one, let me know and I will do that, just for you.*
- Our god is cruel and jealous, and we wish we had a better one.
- Today my Anti-Procrastination Friend saw me on Facebook and…
- We know that our island is an experiment, run by someone we don’t understand.
- The main character of this story was hit by a car just after you finished this sentence.
- “This has been my favorite funeral of the year.”
- Gambling is for suckers, he thought, and pushed the button again.
- There he was, waving his sign like a madman and shouting the true heights of various mountains.
- This is my history of the world, factual and proportionate, slave to neither narrative nor…
- We abandoned the Earth in our ships, but we left the Amish behind.
- You might think that even a very intelligent cloud could never kill a person, but…
- According to the actuary table, one of us was dead by now.
- They were looking for souls all along!
- “This week, life was just one long fire alarm.”
- She’d learned to run on water, but that wouldn’t save her when she came back to shore.
- You do not fuck with Liz when she’s delivering a pizza.
*With the exception of #9, because the Amish deserve an entire novel. And #8, because it’s the friggin’ history of the world.
(To see all 60+ prompts from Daily Themes, click here.)
Genius.it is one of the year’s better inventions.
Right now — right this moment — you can turn any web page into a cross between a Kindle book and a page of lyrics on Rap Genius. Other people can read your annotations alongside the article, and add their own comments.
I plan to use this invention often. It’s the best way to deal with the fact that someone is always wrong on the internet.
Below is the first article I’ve “annotated” in this way:
* * * * *
Ezra Klein and Phil Libin are both smart people. But I think that they make some mistakes in their depiction of how experts on artificial intelligence think about the risks of this powerful technology.
(Faithful readers: You can now subscribe to this blog!)
My last two posts for Applied Sentience are up:
Within, I discuss some thoughts I’ve had recently on the problems with empathy, and how we need another layer of moral feeling on top of empathy — for which I borrow the term “heroic responsibility” from Eliezer Yudkowsky — if we want to do good in difficult situations.
The posts total about 2500 words, but this post provides a brief summary.
I’ve started a new series of blog posts on Applied Sentience: “Teach To The Future”.
Through these posts, I cover subjects like teaching people (especially kids) to write for an online audience:
Or teaching people to see through the eyes of other people, in a rigorous and practical way:
I care a lot about education, especially since I’ve just received 17 straight years of the stuff. But I think we spend too much time on some subjects and not enough on… well, the subjects I cover in these posts. I don’t know much about pedagogy, but I try to stick to skills I do know. As always, let me know if you have thoughts on how to develop these ideas further.
Bonus: If you teach children and want help figuring out a curriculum based on any of the subjects or lesson plans I describe, I’m happy to help!