Mind-Bending “Quantum Darwinism” Theory Passes Experimental Tests

“The main idea of quantum Darwinism is that we almost never do any direct measurement on anything,” Zurek told The Foundational Questions Institute in 2008. “[The environment] is like a big advertising billboard, which floats multiple copies of the information about our universe all over the place.”

—Kristen Houser, “Mind-Bending ‘Quantum Darwinism’ Theory Passes Experimental Tests.” Futurism. July 24, 2019

Or, see the Wikipedia page on Quantum Darwinism.

The Resulting Fallacy Is Ruining Your Decisions – Issue 55: Trust – Nautilus

“In life, it’s usually even more complicated because in most real decisions we haven’t examined the coin. We don’t know if it is a fair coin, if it has two sides with a heads and tails on it and is weighted properly.

That’s the hidden information problem. We can’t see everything. We haven’t experienced everything. We know the facts that we know, but there may be facts that we don’t know. Then the job of the decider is to reduce the uncertainty as much as they possibly can, but to understand that they’re always working within a range and they have limited control over how things turn out on any given try.”

—Stuart Firestein, “The Resulting Fallacy Is Ruining Your Decisions.” Nautilus. Issue 55.

We’re at Peak Newsletter, and I Feel Fine | Vanity Fair

“‘No one needs more shit to read,’ wrote Erica Buist in a widely circulated Medium post entitled ‘The Personal Newsletter Fad Needs to End,’ citing Twitter, print magazines, and her nightstand book stack as competing entities.

It’s true that my Pocket app, Chrome tabs, bookshelves, and feeds are all crammed with reading material. Yet somehow I never begrudge a new newsletter landing in my inbox.”

—Claire Landsbaum, “We’re at Peak Newsletter, and I Feel Fine.” Vanity Fair. July 11, 2019

Even if you aren’t looking for another newsletter to subscribe to, you are bound to find something of interest in this article, such as the How to Stay Married Forever edition of Ask Molly.

Safety or Stalker App?

“…Life360, a location-sharing app aimed at families, is apparently ruining the lives of teenagers all across the United States…Parents can now remotely check their child’s browsing histories and social media accounts, watch their movements via motion-sensing cameras, and track everywhere they go with location-sharing apps. In a Pew Research Center study last year, 58 percent of US parents said they sometimes or often look at their teenager’s messages, call logs, and the websites they visit. In a separate study from 2016, 16 percent said they used location-sharing apps.”

—Louise Matsakis, “On TikTok, Teens Meme Life360, the Safety App Ruining Their Summer.” Wired. July 12, 2019.

Contrast the features of Life360 with this report from The Citizen Lab on Stalkerware:

“Persons who engage in technology-facilitated violence, abuse, and harassment sometimes install spyware on a targeted person’s mobile phone. Spyware has a wide range of capabilities, including pervasive monitoring of text and chat messages, recording phone logs, tracking social media posts, logging website visits, activating a GPS system, registering keystrokes, and even activating phones’ microphones and cameras, as well as sometimes blocking incoming phone calls. These capabilities can afford dramatic powers and control over an individual’s everyday life. And when this software is used abusively, it can operate as a predator in a person’s pocket, magnifying the pervasive surveillance of the spyware operator.”

Christopher Parsons, Adam Molnar, et al. “The Predator in Your Pocket A Multidisciplinary Assessment of the Stalkerware Application Industry.” Citizen Lab. June 12, 2019.

Open question: What distinguishes a “safety app” from a “stalking app,” the presumably benign intentions of parents? What happens to children that grow up in this environment? Will they go on to submit to this kind of surveillance from their domestic partners and spouses? What of the underlying economics that are reporting all your activity in order to refine automotive insurance pricing?

If you think through the implications, surveillance capitalism is often sold as a “safety” feature, but the economics are driven by other considerations. Further, the impact on human flourishing and autonomy are rarely understood and often significant. These developments are not good for anyone other than the people providing the app. Don’t be fooled.

I Don’t Want This Party to End

“In Senegal, the polite expression for saying someone died is to say his or her library has burned. When I first heard the phrase, I didn’t understand it, but over time I came to realize it was perfect. Our minds and souls contain volumes inscribed by our experiences and emotions; each individual’s consciousness is a collection of memories we’ve cataloged and stored inside us, a private library of a life lived.”

—Susan Orlean, “Library Book.” New York: Simon & Schuster, 2018 quoted in Joanne McNeil. “I Don’t Want This Party to End.” All My Stars. July 9, 2019.

Joanne McNeil’s discussion of her secret library is lovely.

With Little Training, Machine-Learning Algorithms Can Uncover Hidden Scientific Knowledge

“Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have shown that an algorithm with no training in materials science can scan the text of millions of papers and uncover new scientific knowledge.”

—Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, “With little training, machine-learning algorithms can uncover hidden scientific knowledge.” Techxplore.com. July 3, 2019.

Scientists Are Giving Dead Brains New Life. What Could Go Wrong? – The New York Times

“But there was a worst-case scenario: A partly revived post-mortem brain, trapped in a feverish nightmare, perpetually reliving the very moment of its slaughter. ‘Imagine the ultimate sensory-deprivation tank,’ a member of the N.I.H.’s Neuroethics Working Group told me. “No inputs. No outputs. In your brain, nobody can hear you scream.'”

—Matthew Shaer—Scientists Are Giving Dead Brains New Life. What Could Go Wrong?The New York Times. July 2, 2019.