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!
Hello! I’m Aaron Gertler, and I’ve spent the last six months looking at hundreds of job postings on Yale University’s career site. Some of them were awesome; many were awful.
In the first part of this post, I examined common mistakes companies make when trying to hire students. This post is much happier: I’ll be looking at the common traits of my favorite job postings, and explaining how companies can use them to improve their hiring process!
Are you trying to hire students fresh out of college?
If so, that’s wonderful! We really appreciate it. I’ve applied to a lot of jobs over the past few months, and most companies I spoke to made me feel welcome and appreciated.
However, there are a few strange flaws I see in a lot of job postings. These aren’t just my pet peeves: I’ve also heard a complaints from many other students. And when a student has hundreds of jobs they could be applying for, a good job posting often makes the difference between keeping them on the hook and losing them in the wide sea of capitalism.
To help companies improve their hiring, I’ve written this quick guide to writing job postings for students. Some of this might be relevant to other job postings. Take what you like, leave what you don’t.
What is the point of writing a “best books of the year” list?
If you are Amazon or the New York Times — and if you are, how are you reading this, you enormous corporation? — you write the list because you expect that people will buy books from you, or at least listen to you, no matter what you recommend.
I do not expect either of those things to happen. At best, the person reading this might decide to look up a single free story on the internet, or check out a single book from the library.
Thus, 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, including my #1 for the whole year!
If you’d like to see a list of every book I remember reading, check out my Goodreads account.
The Best Books of My 2014
Best List Of All The Books
Not in any particular order, save for #1.
- Worm (this year’s favorite) (free!)
- Love Is The Plan, The Plan Is Death (free!)
- Stories of Your Life (some of the stories are free online)
- A Path Appears
- Making Minds Less Well-Educated Than Our Own
- Poking a Dead Frog
- One More Thing
- The Motivation Hacker
- Mission in a Bottle
- Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You’ve Got
- Ogilvy on Advertising
- Building Stories
- The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis
- The Charisma Myth
- Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead
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.
At least, not a name I could find on this handy list of fallacies.
Hopefully, that means I get to name it myself. I’d like to call it “the Aaron Fallacy”, because I’m writing this post, and because the person who brought it to my attention was also named Aaron (though he was not me). But it seems counterproductive to have a fallacy named after oneself, so instead, I will call it “the Fallacy of Trust”.
(Edit: Shoot, Murray Gell-Mann beat me to the punch. As did Michael Crichton. Still, no point in taking the rest of this down. Maybe it still contains insight?)
Yale’s Environmental Health and Safety office recently sent an email to all students with the headline “The Dangers Are Real”.
While the email included useful information on important topics like “the history of pedestrian right-of-way in Connecticut”, this was my favorite part:
“Distracted pedestrians are being injured at an increasingly alarming rate.”
“Increasingly alarming” is a beautiful phrase.
The Yale Environmental Health and Safety office does not imply that the rate of injury among distracted pedestrians is increasing — only that the employees of the office are becoming progressively more alarmed.
There are many reasons this could be happening. Maybe the injury rate really is increasing. Or maybe the injury rate is decreasing, but the average injury has gotten worse.
It is also possible that the author of this email is suffering from unrelated feelings of alarm, but attributes this alarm to the current rate of distracted pedestrian injury in Connecticut, whatever that rate may be.
* * * * *
The phrase “increasingly alarming” can be applied to literally any set of time-series data while remaining subjectively accurate.
- “The global temperature is rising at an increasingly alarming rate.”
- “Bears are attacking Canadians at an increasingly alarming rate.”
- “George Clooney is aging at an increasingly alarming rate.”
And so on.
I feel like this phrase ought to have an Urban Dictionary entry, or at least a national holiday in the United States. On “Increasingly Alarming Day”, citizens would go about their business as usual, but would feel slightly more anxious than on other days.
Already, the idea has support from doctors, environmentalists, and Piers Morgan. I sense the seeds of a grassroots movement.
“Increasingly Alarming”: Your one-stop solution for statistically dubious panic.
In which I steal an idea from Venkatesh Rao and publish a series of thoughts that are too short, and perhaps not logical enough, to be full posts.