Highlights of Kevin Kelly’s Unsolicited Advice

“* Being able to listen well is a superpower. While listening to someone you love keep asking them “Is there more?”, until there is no more…

* The more you are interested in others, the more interesting they find you. To be interesting, be interested…

* To make something good, just do it. To make something great, just re-do it, re-do it, re-do it. The secret to making fine things is in remaking them…

* To make mistakes is human. To own your mistakes is divine. Nothing elevates a person higher than quickly admitting and taking personal responsibility for the mistakes you make and then fixing them fairly. If you mess up, fess up. It’s astounding how powerful this ownership is…

* If you are not falling down occasionally, you are just coasting…

* Friends are better than money. Almost anything money can do, friends can do better. In so many ways a friend with a boat is better than owning a boat…

* Hatred is a curse that does not affect the hated. It only poisons the hater. Release a grudge as if it was a poison…

* For every dollar you spend purchasing something substantial, expect to pay a dollar in repairs, maintenance, or disposal by the end of its life…

* Anything real begins with the fiction of what could be. Imagination is therefore the most potent force in the universe, and a skill you can get better at. It’s the one skill in life that benefits from ignoring what everyone else knows…

* When crisis and disaster strike, don’t waste them. No problems, no progress…

* When you get an invitation to do something in the future, ask yourself: would you accept this if it was scheduled for tomorrow? Not too many promises will pass that immediacy filter…

* Rule of 7 in research. You can find out anything if you are willing to go seven levels. If the first source you ask doesn’t know, ask them who you should ask next, and so on down the line. If you are willing to go to the 7th source, you’ll almost always get your answer…

* How to apologize: Quickly, specifically, sincerely.

* When someone is nasty, rude, hateful, or mean with you, pretend they have a disease. That makes it easier to have empathy toward them which can soften the conflict…

* Buying tools: Start by buying the absolute cheapest tools you can find. Upgrade the ones you use a lot. If you wind up using some tool for a job, buy the very best you can afford…

* The universe is conspiring behind your back to make you a success. This will be much easier to do if you embrace this pronoia.”

-Kevin Kelly, “68 Bits of of Unsolicited Advice.The Technium. April 28, 2020.

Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) – Statistics and Research

“The purpose of this article on COVID-19 is to aggregate existing research, bring together the relevant data and allow readers to make sense of the published data and early research on the coronavirus outbreak.”

https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus

When you get tired of listening to people that don’t know what they are talking about blather on about epidemics, cures or whatever, take a look at this site for a good overview of the state of the coronavirus data.

The Plain Person’s Guide to Plain Text Social Sciences by Kieran Healy

The Plain Person’s Guide to Plain Text Social Science is written for graduate students in the social sciences, but useful for any writer. For people not doing sophisticated data analysis, the key suggestions are to use a text editor like Emacs for writing, Markdown for formatting, git—such as on GitLabs—for version control, and a translator program like Pandoc to translate your text file into a variety of formats, such as epub, pdf, doc and so forth. Additionally, he strongly recommends automated backing up of your data with a cloud service. He mentions two standards but if you go that route consider a privacy focused service like SpiderOak, or the free software alternative, NextCloud.

Details

The Plain Person’s Guide to Plain Text Social Science is worth reading for anyone involved with writing, research or data analysis. It introduces the problem of thinking about the tools that we use to do our work and serves as a technical primer for a particular style of writing.Kieran Healy starts with a dichotomy, c.f., Section 1.2. There are two computer revolutions. One revolution is trying to abstract out the technology and present people with an easy, touch interface to accomplish specific tasks. Using your phone to take a picture, send a text message, post to social media, play YouTube videos, etc. are all examples of this type of technology. It’s probably the dominant form of computing now.

The other revolution are the complex computing tools that are being developed that cannot be used via a touch interface. At this point, there is no way to use an open source neural net like Google’s TensorFlow in a way that is going to make sense to the vast majority of people.

As we move to using a keyboard, this tension can be seen in the different types of tools we can use to write, research and do analysis. Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Access, etc. were designed to be digital equivalents to their analog predecessors – the typewriter, the overhead projector, the double entry account book or the index file. Of course, the digital equivalents offered additional capabilities, but it was still tied to the model of the business office. The goal for these tools, even as they include PivotTables and other features, is to be relatively easy to learn and use for the average person in an office.

The other computing revolution is bringing tools to the fore that are not tied to these old models of the business office and is combining them in interesting new ways. But, these tools have a difficult learning curve. For example, embedding programming code that can be written into a text analysis to generate calculations when it is typeset is not a feature the average person working in a typical office needs. But, it clearly has some advantages in some contexts, such as for data analysts.

Complexity makes mistakes easier to make. So, it requires a different way of working. We have to be careful to document the calculations we use, track versions from multiple sources, be able to fold changes back into a master document without introducing errors, and so forth. The Office model of handing a “master document” back and forth and the process bottle-necked waiting for individuals making revisions isn’t going to work past a certain minimum baseline level of complexity that we are slowly evolving past.

So, laying out this case, he then suggests various tools to consider: a text browser such as Emacs, Markup for formatting, git for version control, Pandoc for translating text documents into other formats, backup systems, a backup cloud service, etc. All of these tools are equally important to complex writing of any sort, whether it be for writing long works of fiction, research analysis, collaborative writing, and other circumstances we are more likely to find ourselves in, which these more powerful tools help make possible.

Raccoon 22’s Cognition

“To evaluate the universal effectiveness of the Aesop’s Fable paradigm, we applied this paradigm to a previously untested taxon, the raccoon (Procyon lotor). We first trained captive raccoons to drop stones into a tube of water to retrieve a floating food reward. Next, we presented successful raccoons with objects that differed in the amount of water they displaced to determine whether raccoons could select the most functional option. Raccoons performed differently than corvids and human children did in previous studies of Aesop’s Fable, and we found raccoons to be innovative in many aspects of this task. We suggest that raccoon performance in this paradigm reflected differences in tangential factors, such as behavior, morphology, and testing procedures, rather than cognitive deficiencies…

…Online Resource 5: Video footage from Raccoon 22’s fourth final trial. Here we see that she is able to overturn the entire apparatus by rocking her body backwards while pulling on the rim of the tube. We designed the apparatus to be freestanding so that the raccoons could approach and explore the apparatus from all sides. Thus, we made the base of the apparatus smooth, lacking any raised edges, and heavy (11.3 kg) so that the raccoons would not be able to grip or lift the base. Despite these precautions, Raccoon 22 was able to overturn it and retrieve the reward.”

—Lauren Stanton, et al. “Adaptation of the Aesop’s Fable paradigm for use with raccoons (Procyon lotor): considerations for future application in non-avian and non-primate species.” Animal Cognition. November 2017.

Sometimes, researchers test the cognitive abilities of members of the taxon. Sometimes, members of the taxon test the cognitive abilities of the researchers.