Annotate the Web: March 2016

I use Genius to add comments and context to the articles I read. This is a monthly round-up of articles I did the most Genius-ing on. To see all my annotations, follow me on Genius!

If you like to think while you read, you should get an account and add the Chrome extension. The Internet needs thoughtful people like you!

(Also, without the extension, you may not see the annotations on these articles.)


Articles of Note

80 years ago, Harvard had a “Jewish quota”. They used rhetoric about “character” to limit the number of Jews they admitted, in favor of students who weren’t as book-smart but fit the Harvard ideal. Today, the same thing is happening to Asians, for the same reasons.

Controlling for other variables […] Asians need SAT scores 140 points higher than whites, 270 points higher than Hispanics, and an incredible 450 points higher than blacks (out of 1,600 points) to get into these schools. 

If you want to see some ridiculously offensive statements from MIT’s Dean of Admissions, this is the article for you!

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The Best Movies of My 2015

I get fancy when I review books and music. Not so for movies.

This is a straight-up list of the films that moved me this year. The first on the list was the best. The ninth was the ninth-best.

Most of these weren’t released in 2015 — that’s just when I found them. Whatever year you live in, I’d recommend them all.


The Best Movies of My 2015 (list)

  1. Chronicle
  2. Summer Wars
  3. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring
  4. Three Colors: Blue
  5. Ip Man
  6. The Tribe
  7. Spy
  8. Gimme the Loot
  9. Nightcrawler
  10. The Smash Brothers // “Be Right Back” (Black Mirror)


The Best Movies of My 2015 (reviews)

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Utility Monsters, Part I

My latest post for the humanist blog Applied Sentience is up:

It’s a pretty strange post, but I think that the issues I raise around the utility monster problem are important. If you care more about a randomly selected human than a randomly selected chicken (and I think you should), you accept the existence of utility monsters — thinking beings which are worthy of greater moral consideration than other thinking beings.

Right now, humans are the world’s reigning utility monsters. That may not be true forever.

I think we are likely to eventually create machines which possess a kind of consciousness that is deeper and richer in certain ways than our own. Whatever metrics we can use to measure the “value” of a human life (and we all have them), we know of no reason that advanced computers will not eventually score higher on said metrics than we do, whether it’s in 50 years or 500.

And before we can make decisions about how to react to this situation — or whether we should work to prevent it in the first place — I think that we should do our best to understand what it might be like to be a superhuman utility monster. Empathy shouldn’t just extend to beings with lesser mental capabilities than our own.