A Turning Point in Cancer

“The narrative has been incubating for many years, but in recent days we are witnessing some extraordinary progress in treating and monitoring cancer. The convergence of genomics of the cancer—be it from the person’s DNA or tumor directly or the blood (known as liquid biopsy)—matched with the appropriate therapy is leading to outcomes that are being described as “unheard-of” by expert oncologists. This represents the essence of individualized medicine, whereby understanding the unique biologic basis of a person’s cancer can lead to highly accurate and effective treatment, and also avoid the toxicity of classical chemotherapeutic agents.”

-Eric Topel, “A turning point in cancer.” erictopol.substack.com. June 10, 2022

This kind of sums up what I have been seeing a lot of lately. Almost daily, I see reports from randomized trials, tabletop science, and other areas that indicate a lot of progress is being made in the treatment of cancer.

Letter in Support of Responsible Fintech Policy

“Blockchain technology cannot, and will not, have transaction reversal mechanisms because they are antithetical to its base design. Similarly, most public blockchain-based financial products are a disaster for financial privacy; the exceptions are a handful of emerging privacy-focused blockchain finance alternatives, and these are a gift to money-launderers. Financial technologies that serve the public must always have mechanisms for fraud mitigation and allow a human-in-the-loop to reverse transactions; blockchain permits neither.”

Letter in Support of Responsible Fintech Policy

If you can dictate the premises, you can dictate the conclusion. It is possible to have transaction reversal mechanisms as part of a smart contract, which presumably these “experts” would know. They are worried about privacy, but at the same time, they are worried about too much privacy. Let me guess, only government hits that sweet spot of panopticon privacy and anything outside the panopticon must be used in service of crime.

As a counter to this document, I’d like to refer to the previously mentioned blog post on blockchains, where Tim Roughgarden says:

“An enormous number of people, including a majority of computer science researchers and academics, have yet to grok the modern vision of blockchains: a new computing paradigm that will enable the next incarnation of the Internet and the Web, along with an entirely new generation of applications.”

Which experts are being listened to and who does that benefit?

Georgia Guidestones, a.k.a., The Ten Commandments of the Anti-Christ

  1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
  2. Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity.
  3. Unite humanity with a living new language.
  4. Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason.
  5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
  6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
  7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
  8. Balance personal rights with social duties.
  9. Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite.
  10. Be not a cancer on the Earth — Leave room for nature — Leave room for nature.

It’s interesting that these are a focus for some people. I’d imagine the Ted Kaczynski might wonder at who is guiding reproduction, and assert that this runs counter to human “wildness”. The third point runs counter to the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel. Traditionalists want tradition to be the focus, and not reason.

But, much of the Georgia Guidestones seems like common sense. Probably anyone who would be in a position to read them after some sort of apocalypse would know the points relevant to their circumstance. Points 1, 5 and 6 might not even be relevant, assuming “nations” as we know them were no longer possible.

The Georgia Guidestones, and particularly the reaction to them, provide much to think on.

Seven Varieties of Stupidity

“1. Pure Stupidity…

2. Ignorant stupidity…

3. Fish-out-of-water stupidity…

4. Rule-based stupidity…

5. Overthinking stupidity…

6. Emergent stupidity…

7. Ego-driven stupidity…

-Ian Leslie, “Seven Varieties of Stupidity.” ianleslie.substack.com. May 21, 2022

It’s a fun classification exercise. I’d say that 3 is a subset of 2, being in an unfamiliar environment is a variety of ignorance.

However, if you think about the kinds of stupidity we are most likely in contemporary times, it’s rule-based stupidity. Everyone is being turned into algorithms. They have a set of rules they are given, checklists, and they go through the checklist, whether it makes sense or not.

For example, if you take out a home equity loan of $20,000 on a home worth $200,000. Does the bank really need your credit report and income? But, by God, they’ll get through their checklist, before they’ll lend anyone money.

It’s also interesting to think about the connections. Rule-based stupidity is a variety of emergent stupidity, or the kind of stupidity you get when people get together and are afraid of conflict and sharing their ideas. Rule-based stupidity is trying to stripe initiative away from people because you are afraid of the first three forms of stupidity.

Ego driven stupidity reminds me of barkers in the Church of Interruption piece. People that are too busy thinking they are the only ones with anything interesting to say, aren’t learning anything. There’s only so much we can learn from our own experience. To be smart in any meaningful sense, we have to learn from the experiences of others. If we stop doing that, we slowly become more stupid.

Proton Is Trying to Become Google—Without Your Data

“These days, all Google and Apple and Big Tech talk about is privacy, so the best way to give our definition is to give the contrast. The way Google defines privacy is, “Nobody can exploit your data, except for us.” Our definition is cleaner, more simple, and more authentic: Nobody can exploit your data—period. We literally want to build things that give us access to as little data as possible. The use of end-to-end encryption and zero-access encryption allows that. Because fundamentally, we believe the best way to protect user data is to not have it in the first place.

-Gilad Edelman, “Proton Is Trying to Become Google—Without Your Data.” Wired. May 25, 2022

I’ve used the Protonmail app for Android and the Protonmail website. There is a free tier with 1 GB of storage. For €120/year, you can get a VPN, file storage and an encrypted calendar. While you can get it slightly less expensively if you buy it in pieces from elsewhere, this is a very reasonable solution. Recommended.

Black Hole as Metaphor for Climate Change

“Imagine a black hole. Humanity’s lined up before it. Everyone has to march through. Some are at the front of the line. They reach the other side first. Some are at the back of the line. They’re still laughing and joking and pretending, maybe. Nobody much hears from those who’ve gone through, because, well, it’s a black hole. But on the other side, nothing is ever to be the same again.

This is where we are now. We are at the threshold of the Cataclysm. Some of us are now crossing over to the other side, of a different planet, one that’s going to become unlivable. This isn’t “going to happen” or “might happen,” it is actually happening now.

Those are my friends, for example, in the Indian Subcontinent, where eagles are falling dead from the sky, where the streets are lined with dead things.

Extinction. The Event. You can literally see it happening there.

They are the first ones through the Event Horizon, if you like — the lip of the black hole. They are canaries in the coal mine, my Indian and Pakistani and Bengali friends. They are on the other side, and are experiencing the world in the Event. And that world is coming for us all.

-Umair Haque, “The Age of Extinction Is Here — Some of Us Just Don’t Know It Yet.” eand.co. May 21, 2022.

There’s a couple of things about this article that struck me. For one, while I’m not a physicist, I’m pretty sure a black hole would represent total annihilation. It’s not some kind of phase change. So, it’s a bad metaphor.

Good metaphors use relatable experiences. Some that occur to me is climate change is like having a heart attack. Climate change is like fighting in a war. Climate change is like a Super Fund site. All of these have tradeoffs in effectively communicating an idea, but at least people understand them from their personal experience or from the experiences from those around them. But a black hole? It’s clear the author doesn’t really understand what it means, and the audience probably less so.

The other thing is that while I fundamentally agree with the author’s point, climate change and the current state of geopolitics, suggests that we, as a species, are in for a very hard time ahead. But, what’s the take-away for the reader? No sense in driving now? Ship has already sailed, nothing to do. Train has left the station?

Perhaps these are true. if so, then why even talk about it? If you cannot do anything about the problem, you must bear it. What point is there in talking about it?

Sympathy for the Autistic / Being Autistic

“Having any child is a life-changing experience. Having one who isn’t like you, though, is also a learning experience. I think I cried when it fully sunk in that “childhood wonder” is a real and short-lived thing for allistic children, and I did a double take recently when my wife stated that soon our son’s emotions would open wide up. He’s already more emotional than I ever have been!

On a day-to-day basis, my son is a lot more talkative than I ever was. He seldom wants to play with toys unless he can do so with other people . . . and he plays in a completely different way. He wants to have the characters talk, and often he wants to narrate the entire “story” telling me what my characters do, as well…

…Both of them are also way more comfortable asking me for things than I am with doing the same. The issue is, they tend to be extremely vague.

My life is punctuated with “Can you do something for me?”, “Can I have a favor?”, “I’m hungry.” , “Can you do it for me?”, “Can you get it for me?”, “Daddy, can you play with me?”, “I’m lonely. Can you be with me for a bit?”

If there’s one very important thing I’ve learned from having a neurotypical child, it’s this:

Independence is not something you are going to have with an NT child. They need a lot of attention.”

-Jaime A. Heidel, “What Is It Like for An Autistic Parent to Raise a Non-Autistic Child?neuroclastic.com. June 26, 2019.

There are occasions, such as when reading this, when I find I am very much in sympathy with the autistic perspective. This is not just an issue with children, but people in general. They are emotional. Frequently people are asking for something from those around them that assumes you know what they want. They always want to be together. Frequently, people don’t want to be responsible for their own problems.

The funny bit is how I use “they” in the preceding paragraph. Largely, I do not need to be around people. I only ask for help when there is no other way to get something done. I am not going to talk about myself or my emotions. All of which points to the possibility that perhaps I’m on the spectrum?

The strange bit is when around children, and their torrent of emotions, I find I’m much more sympathetic than when I’m with adults. Adults hide their pain and often lash out. Children will show it, and then you can tell them, “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I’m not used to being around small children.” They, rarely hearing such an admission from an adult, often feel much better after. Truly, I’m not trying to hurt their feelings. While this is also true of adults, it’s much harder to recognize that you have hurt an adult’s feelings, and even more difficult to say you didn’t mean to do it.

Woke or Witch-Hunt?

“At the protest, I met Tulsi Patel, a postdoc at Columbia. Patel tells me about a new bullying policy at Columbia, which she helped to write, to deal with “power-based harassment” that doesn’t fall into the already illegal categories like sex and race-based harassment. “We recommended calling it the Office of Conflict Resolution, just to make it sound like a chill thing, like it’s about resolving conflicts,” Patel said. The provost is reviewing the proposal. 

Grossman, the dean of NYU’s medical school, talks a lot about, “listening to our community” and “believing in the process,” but the protestors don’t really care about any of that. They’re playing a different game. They know that if they make enough noise, if they claim enough “harm,” NYU— or any other school that brands itself as inclusive or progressive—will give in. And even if Sabatini were hired, no one would have worked with him. It would have been social suicide to.  

Many of the researchers and postdocs I spoke to pointed out that, as scientists, it’s essential to look carefully at all the evidence and to leave no stone unturned. The way the Whitehead and MIT conducted their investigation into David Sabatini runs counter, they say, to the scientific method itself. It also sends a clear message: That ground-breaking research takes a backseat to an ideal of social purity, and that subjective truth is the only truth that matters.

“In my lab, there were two criteria we always strived toward; that the discovery is fundamentally true, which means proving it in many different ways, and that it’s new,” Sabatini said. “Everyone talks about your truth, and my truth. Physically, chemically, there’s only one truth.”

-Suze Weiss, “He Was a World-Renowned Cancer Researcher. Now He’s Collecting Unemployment.” bariweiss.substack.com. May 19, 2022.

Obviously a one-sided story. But, it does raise questions about what the appropriate response to these kinds of allegations should be. In this version, it would appear that Sabatini is on the receiving end of someone using sexual harassment as a tool for punishment for a relationship that did not work out.

Then, there are claims like those against Warren Ellis, who had many women have come forward has a pattern of “sexual manipulation.” Or women like Chrissy Hynde, who blame themselves for sexual assault.

Further, much of this discussion falls into black and white notions of someone being at fault. Relationships are complex. People make mistakes. But, there are also people acting badly and unaccountably. What to do about it?

Conflict resolution seems like a reasonable way to think about it. But, what does “resolution” consist of? If it is truly about creating environments where people feel safe, then the main focus of the process cannot be about passing judgment and destroying people.

Where’s the line between woke and witch hunt? How can we move to create safer, more inclusive spaces, but at the same time, recognize that people make mistakes? With all the discussion about these issues, you rarely see any nuance beyond passing judgment and attacking people. That’s not creating a safe environment for anyone.

Online Techno-Polymath Guy

“I was discussing with Sam the “genre,” so to speak, of the Online Techno-Polymath Guy. You know this guy. He (and it’s usually a he) has his own website, probably hand-crafted in Kirby, Github, or WordPress, as well as a well-regarded, personable Twitter presence. 

He keeps track of everything he reads, writes pithy blog posts on esoteric subjects. His personal philosophy is progressive with a futurist bent.  He has worked in a variety of fields, though you are unsure what he actually currently does for a living. He is knowledgeable, authoritative, but eccentric, which you can tell by the fun colors he’s used to design his fun little homepage. 

You can have fun clicking around his carefully maintained archive, witnessing the dynamic interplay of his disparate areas of interest. You can ooh and ahh at his reading lists, his quirky, inventive stances on issues like quantum computing and social media moderation. 

It’s all very inspirational.”

-Allegra Rosenberg, “Fear of the Archive.” tchotchke.substack.com. July 29, 2020.

When I read this, I thought I’d probably met the definition of this archetype for this person. Then, he goes on to say this.

“Better to be inconstant in one’s archiving (or forgo it completely) than to constantly be faced with the dirty dishes, the nauseating, living ‘matter’ of one’s past interests, pasts opinions, past genius lying guilelessly buried under strata of increasing idiocy.”

The weird thing about keeping a daily blog like this one is it is a process and a bit of a discipline. Here it is on Saturday morning, and I’ve nothing on my blog for the day. What do I do?

I have a Wallabag list that I put everything interesting I came across – in newsletters, RSS feeds or from wherever. I just look for something especially interesting or that I’d like to make a short statement about or would like to remember. Curation, and sharing of the things you think are interesting in this moment is a kind of love, a sharing of oneself.

The audience for these blog posts is the future me. It’s capturing a moment, and in some future moment, stumbling across it while looking for something else, I don’t think past me is some brilliant standard I’m no longer living up to. More often than not, I’m looking at the flaws, mostly spelling and formatting mistakes, and correcting them.

You see, future me remembers some of what it was like to be past me. There are wisps of memory of that particular moment, where I wrote something or did something, but much of it gets lost. But, being able to read these bits helps me to remember. Helps me to see how I’ve grown and changed. Whereas without taking the moment to write the post, it would be forever lost, like salt in the ocean.

Memory flavors everything, but it is its own kind of experience. It is always flawed and incomplete, like trying to see ocean salt when you can only taste it.

When I look at this blog, I see a few really good things. But, most of it is very mediocre. But, Sturgeon’s Law reigns everywhere. It doesn’t have to be good. I’m allowed to say dumb things – past, present and future – because I’m a flawed human being. And, every once in awhile, there’s gold in this swill bucket. But, you never get a chance to find it if you don’t stir it on a regular basis.

Lower your standards. No effort is lost of wasted. It’s this kind of dialogue, mostly with ourselves, that makes blogging worthwhile. I recommend it to everyone.