"Yesterday I posted a drawing made by someone [Empirical Daily] elsewhere on the web, one depicting yours truly uttering one of my heart-felt notions: “It is no kindness to cultivate physical realism.” Meaning, parents, we are adults and know that the material world is what it is, and no amount of whimsical thinking is going to warp reality to our wishes. Telling our children that they are indigos or avatars is nothing more than a useless lie, and nothing less than a form of cruelty.
I believe two things about belief. One, that we can have our cake and eat it too: that we can trust in the collective enterprise of science to tell us meaningful things about a reality independent from our perception of it, and still take pleasure in the Secondary Realities available to us through the faculty of imagination. Two, that it is a short series of epistemic steps from believing the stars care for the fate of men, to believing the stars and other superlunary powers endorse some particular distribution of political or social power among men. If we’re going to have a secular Sunday school, I hope to goodness sake that they teach these lessons well. The first permits us pleasure of a kind we might not otherwise know; the second delivers us from forms of oppression which (we know) would otherwise thrive unchecked."

Zachary Bos. 2014.

(TitleAn emblem from Leopardi)

"A pretty fine rendering of yours truly, captured by the author of the Empirical Daily blog. I still believe firmly that it is not a nice thing to encourage people to believe that reality is ‘what you make of it.’ Cultivating delusion is a form of child abuse."

Zachary Bos. 2014.

(TitleWho is that handsome man)

"The argument of this book is that we, and all other animals, are machines created by our genes. Like successful Chicago gangsters, our genes have survived, in some cases for millions of years, in a highly competitive world. This entitles us to expect certain qualities in our genes. I shall argue that a predominant quality to be expected in a successful gene is ruthless selfishness in individual behaviour. However, as we shall see, there are special circumstances in which a gene can achieve its own selfish goals best by fostering a limited form of altruism at the level of individual animals. ‘Special’ and ‘limited’ are important words in the last sentence. Much as we might wish to believe otherwise, universal love and the welfare of the species as a whole are concepts that simply do not make evolutionary sense."

— Richard Dawkins. 2006. (1976).

(Title: The Selfish Gene; 30th Anniversary Edition)


Training Day — LIVE. DIE. REPEAT.


Text By Me 45. 


(pic from Edge of Tomorrow poster (c)) 


"The secret ingredient of improvement is always the same: practice, practice, practice." - Daniel Dennett. 2008.

I got the inspiration from the brilliant movie Edge of Tomorrow (EoT), watched it last week, and I’ve shamelessly stolen their tagline. Sure Groundhog Day did a similar plot decades before, but EoT is just so much better in my opinion. 

Here is the premise for this piece: we live each day, then lose consciousness each night (die), and repeat. Just like EoT, except we age and time is an arrow, blah blah. Anyway, the day is the largest continues time unit we have at our disposal. I have written about my ambitions towards excellence in my previous piece. So can we view each day, in isolation, as an opportunity to practice what we want to excel at; in all fields of life? Granted many of us are already doing this more or less, but this piece is about setting up rules for a game where: each day is viewed in isolation and dispassionate focus is applied to improve from the last. More details follows in the rest of the text.

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"It looks designed because it was designed by evolution. But it is a bottom-up design, not a top-down design. All the messiness of biology, the compromises, trade-offs, imperfect solutions, indirect functions, anatomical quirks, developmental twists and turns all scream – bottom-up messy happenstance design, i.e. evolution."

Steven Novella. 2014.

(TitleJust Asking Questions – Creation Edition)

"The dream of every cell is to become two cells."

Francois Jacob. 1971.

(Title: Cited in Monod)

"I now think, then, that the opponent-process dynamics of emotions, and the roles they play in controlling our minds, is underpinned by an “economy” of neurochemistry that harnesses the competitive talents of individual neurons. (Note that the idea is that neurons are still good team players within the larger economy, unlike the more radically selfish cancer cells. Recalling Francois Jacob’s dictum that the dream of every cell is to become two cells, neurons vie to stay active and to be influential, but do not dream of multiplying.)
Intelligent control of an animal’s behavior is still a computational process, but the neurons are “selfish neurons,” as Sebastian Seung has said, striving to maximize their intake of the different currencies of reward we have found in the brain. And what do neurons “buy” with their dopamine, their serotonin or oxytocin, etc.? Greater influence in the networks in which they participate."

Daniel Dennett. 2008


"My mistake was that I had stopped the finite regress of homunculi at least one step too early! The general run of the cells that compose our bodies are probably just willing slaves–rather like the selfless, sterile worker ants in a colony, doing stereotypic jobs and living out their lives in a relatively non-competitive (“Marxist”) environment. But brain cells — I now think — must compete vigorously in a marketplace. For what?
What could a neuron “want”? The energy and raw materials it needs to thrive–just like its unicellular eukaryote ancestors and more distant cousins, the bacteria and archaea. Neurons are robots; they are certainly not conscious in any rich sense–remember, they are eukaryotic cells, akin to yeast cells or fungi. If individual neurons are conscious then so is athlete’s foot. But neurons are, like these mindless but intentional cousins, highly competent agents in a life-or-death struggle, not in the environment between your toes, but in the demanding environment of the brain, where the victories go to those cells that can network more effectively, contribute to more influential trends at the virtual machine levels where large-scale human purposes and urges are discernible."

Daniel Dennett. 2008


"Robin Williams ‘had Parkinson’s’ when he died.
Susan Schneider said her husband had been sober but “not yet ready to share publicly” his struggles with Parkinson’s."

BBC News. 2014.

(TitleRobin Williams ‘had Parkinson’s’ when he died)

"There is a theory in comedy, Lenny Bruce the American satirist, was the first one to say, said: ‘The audience is a genius.’ And the idea is, the audience—you regulate comedy. You decide what a comedian can or can’t say on stage because if you don’t laugh at a joke it is not socially acceptable. If you do then just by definition it is socially acceptable. I thought we could put that to the test tonight. We can start gently and work our way up and see at what stage Birmingham goes ‘Oh, for fuck sake.’ (…) It is a weird thing though because I suppose the thing we all got in common in this room is we all share a sense of humor. We’re all laughing at the same kind of things. It’s a weird thing where I laugh the very loudest just before I have a sense of humor failure. I find that the closer to the edge — the funniest jokes for me are the jokes that I laugh at and as I’m laughing I go ‘I’m a terrible human being. Funny though. But I’m a terrible human being.’"

— Jimmy Carr. 2011.

(Title: Being Funny)