What Does It Mean To Be Amish?

There were a group of tourists in a bus in Amish country. Getting off the bus, they saw an old Amish man standing nearby.

One of the tourists asked the old Amish man, “What does it mean to be Amish?”

The old Amish man, who we’ll call Amos, started talking about Jesus, and before too long, another tourist stopped him. He said, “We know all about Jesus. But, what does it mean to be Amish?”

Amos stopped for a moment and thought. Then, he asked, “How many of you have television sets?” Raising his hand to indicate they should do so to say they did.

Every hand went up.

Then, he asked, “How many of you think that television, on balance, has a negative impact on your life and on your communities?”

Again, every hand went up.

Finally, he asked,”How many of you are willing to give up television?”

They group looked to one another, but no hands were raised.

“That is what it means to be Amish.”

Frauchiger-Renner Paradox Clarifies Where Our Views of Reality Go Wrong

“The experiment, designed by Daniela Frauchiger and Renato Renner, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, involves a set of assumptions that on the face of it seem entirely reasonable. But the experiment leads to contradictions, suggesting that at least one of the assumptions is wrong. The choice of which assumption to give up has implications for our understanding of the quantum world and points to the possibility that quantum mechanics is not a universal theory, and so cannot be applied to complex systems such as humans.”

—Anil Ananthaswamy, “Frauchiger-Renner Paradox Clarifies Where Our Views of Reality Go Wrong.” Quanta Magazine. December 3, 2018.

Probably the clearest explainer you’ll find. The assumptions are that: quantum theory is universal, quantum theory is consistent, and opposite facts cannot both be true. This thought experiment suggests that at least one is false, and depending on which one either leads to positions that quantum theory collapses into classical physics at scale, observer perspective changes results, or the many worlds hypothesis.

CPR as Death Ritual | Topic

“Only about one in five receiving CPR in a hospital leave the hospital alive.

Only 1 in 10 elderly patients receiving CPR are alive a year later…

…A society’s death rituals make a statement not only about what it means to die, but also what it means to live.

For a world obsessed with technology, our final rites are a last communion with data and machines.”

—Nathan Gray. “What Doctors Know About CPR.” Topic. December 2018.

CPR has a place, but it’s a small one. It should never be a piece of theater for families that cannot accept the fact that death comes to us all, and modern medicine cannot prevent it.

End of Trust

“The first all-nonfiction McSweeney’s issue is a collection of essays and interviews focusing on issues related to technology, privacy, and surveillance.

The collection features writing by EFF’s team, including Executive Director Cindy Cohn, Education and Design Lead Soraya Okuda, Senior Investigative Researcher Dave Maass, Special Advisor Cory Doctorow, and board member Bruce Schneier.

We also recruited some of our favorite thinkers on digital rights to contribute to the collection: anthropologist Gabriella Coleman contemplates anonymity; Edward Snowden explains blockchain; journalist Julia Angwin and Pioneer Award-winning artist Trevor Paglen discuss the intersections of their work; Pioneer Award winner Malkia Cyril discusses the historical surveillance of black bodies; and Ken Montenegro and Hamid Khan of Stop LAPD Spying debate author and intelligence contractor Myke Cole on the question of whether there’s a way law enforcement can use surveillance responsibly.”

End of Trust

One Can Not Feel Like An Old Fogey

  1. “A good Christian can not attend church and still be saved.”
  2. “A good Christian cannot attend church and still be saved.”

“Example 1 speaks uncontroversially of the possibility that good Christians may be forgiven for lax church attendance. Example 2, by contrast, states a radically anticlerical claim: that church attendance will wreck your chances of salvation.”

—Geoffry Pullum,”A Moment of Sympathy for the Old Fogeys and Snoots.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. October 28, 2018

Even if general usage would make these interchangable, I cannot abide using can not and cannot as if they were the same.

Clinical Trial Society

“One implication is that 25, 50, 250 years from now, we become a kind of clinical-trial society in which empirically driven decisions are constantly popping up. But by clinical-trial society, I mean all sorts of questions, because the information net becomes so rich — and the capacity to understand or deconvolute that information, because of computational power and because of A.I.-dependent algorithms, becomes so rich — that we begin to subject aspects of human behavior, human selves, that were previously considered outside the realm of assessment to a kind of deeper clinical assessment.”

—Siddhartha Mukherjee in roundtable discussion with Regina Barzilay, George Church, Jennifer Egan, and Catherine Mohr in “From Gene Editing to A.I., How Will Technology Transform Humanity?New York Times Magazine. November 16, 2018.

This discussion strikes me as terribly naïve and would have benefited from the perspective of someone like James C. Scott. Legibility on the scale imagined here may benefit the average person, but it will primary serve the interests of capital. It will be an instrument of social control and a catalyst of inequality, as Egan points out.

Another issue? What kind of human beings will be created when we start becoming a manufactured product? And what of those born outside this process? Will people whose DNA hasn’t been scrubbed to acceptable norms be second-class citizens? Who decides what those norms will be?

Technological utopianism is just as bad as any other fundamentalism. Science and knowledge will always be serving someone’s agenda, and while the benefits may trickle down, it shows a series lack of historical perspective to imagine it will primarily benefit those on the receiving end.