Editing the sum of all knowledge
Welcome to the Hurt Your Brain internet playlist from October 10, 2016. It's a collection of podcasts, videos, and other links for people who love to learn online and are fascinated by the world. Click here to get playlists emailed to you as they come out.
Jimmy Wales — The Sum of All Human Knowledge – On Being, Sep 8, 51 min (listen) Learned: Open source software was an inspiration for Wikipedia, the behind the scenes volunteers are an vibrant, well thought out community (they regularly convert "vandals" into volunteers), being a for profit enterprise would bias their attention, some schools assign students homework to create a Wikipedia entry, and Jimmy Wales also has a very popular entertainment website geared towards fan communities, called wikia. Thoughts: Jimmy Wales is an active Quora user and I've seen his answers pop up several times on my feed. He always comes across as a thoughtful dude so it was good to see this confirmed here in this interview. Wikipedia wields enormous power, and Wales seems to understand how rigorous the process for collecting all the world's information needs to be. Most interesting to me was how much planning and thought goes into shaping the community of volunteers into a thriving democratic world. On a side note, there is always a raw, unedited version (only within podcast app feeds, not on website) of On Being, and checking this out at least once is a great peak behind the scenes of podcast production. Change My View – You Are Not So Smart, Oct 9, 76 min (listen) Learned: The subreddit /r/changemyview is a gold mine for natural language computer science researchers because of its complete history of structured arguments. If you are open to having your mind changed on something, the most effective thing you can do is explain in detail what you currently believe, and the most effective (and surprising) thing you can do to change someone else mind is to simply use bullet points. Also, don't be a dick is a good philosophy when arguing if you actually want to get through to them. Thoughts: /r/changmyview is one of my favorite subreddits and I am continually amazed at the level of dialogue that occurs there. As this episode points out, it's all in the structure in how it's set up and how well it is moderated. Host David McRaney intertwines interviews from the scientist who studied the subreddit, the moderators of the subreddit, and with a founder of Reddit itself. One of the most fascinating possibilities of this type of research, besides helping shape better online arguments, is that as AI becomes better at understanding what is happening online, it could predict social and cultural trends before anyone realizes they are a thing. Quote: "There is plenty of social science research to support the idea that simply elaborating your opinion can be all it takes to realize you don't really hold that strong of a view. Most of us walk around with a meta-belief. We believe that we believe things because we carefully contemplated them inside and out, but for many things, that simply is not true, and elaborating your beliefs can not only bring into the spotlight the flaws in your thinking, when you do it in front of other people, it holds you accountable, so that you can avoid that most pernicious of psychological phenomena, the backfire effect." How Old is the Average Atom? – The Naked Scientists, Sep 5, 56 min (listen) Learned: answers to lots of rapid fire questions for scientists, like: can we actually see the moon landing site? (yes), can humans cause earthquakes? (yes), what will kill you first if exposed to space? (a couple things, but you'll be unconscious), and of course, how old are atoms? (old). Thoughts: Because I sometimes have too much time on my hands driving long distances, I've actually thought about the very question in the title of this podcast. I was hoping more of the episode would be devoted to it but it's just one of many of the dozens of questions asked in this episode. As to the actual answer, atoms are created all the time, but it is very possible that most hydrogen atoms have contained the same nucleus for over 13 billions years! VIDEOS Calvin & Hobbes - Art Before Commerce – kaptainkristian, May 23, 6 min (watch) Learned: Bill Waterson, creator of Calvin & Hobbes, is protective of his beloved comic strip and went to great lengths to not bastardize it with rampant commercialization. Thoughts: I really loved Calvin & Hobbes growing up, and this video essay perfectly describes what made it so special. I'm really digging the video essay format that this channel and similar ones like Nerdwriter1 specialize in. Check out this post I found on Medium for more recommendations. Quote: "So many strips rely on the punch line, which makes their characters plastic and predictable. Garflield's a lazy cat who loves eating and being an asshole, and that's every Garfield strip. It's lazy writing in the most literal sense." Time Travel in Science Fiction: A Brief History | James Gleick – Big Think, Oct 3, 12 min (watch) Learned: H.G. Wells invented the concept of time travel as we know it today and was one of the first futurists. Time travel could not be conceived of until the industrial revolution, where progress was actually made within one life time and people could think about what might change in the near future. Thoughts: James Gleick is known to be a fantastic writer and hearing him talk makes me want to read some of his stuff ASAP. His newest book is about time travel that I first heard about from the wonderful Brainpickings. Galaxies From Nothing – Veritasium, Oct 3, 5 min (watch) Learned: about field theory, quantum fluctuations, and other things that I have no hope of actually understanding. This is the type of stuff that requires a PhD in physics to really get, but I love it mainly to help maintain a sense of wonder about the world. Thoughts: The idea that the shape of the universe is a large scale imprint of what happens at the quantum level, and that nothing would exist as it does without an extremely short lived (like really really short) hyperinflation is amazing to me. Also amazing – the people who can figure this out and take care to explain it to the rest of us. ARTICLES AND OTHER LINKS A Year of Books: 23 Book Recommendations from Mark Zuckerburg (read) Love or hate him, Mark Zuckerburg has chosen an interesting selection of books during 2015 as a reading inititiative. Farman Street does a nice job giving an overview and I've definitely added a few to my list. /r/changemyview (read/discuss) As I said about the above You Are Not So Smart podcast episode, this little section of the Internet is a shining example of what is possible in civilized online debate. Check the subreddit out and scroll through the list of topics. Sort by most popular because the more comments the better and you might find some new ways to look at familiar subjects. That's all for this week! Connect with me @erikthejones on twitter and if you've learned anything interesting, please forward this link to any curious natured friends or family so they can subscribe. Many thanks!