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Posts tagged with heroes

[S]tereotypes aren’t so much about people totally projecting things that completely aren’t there but about people having a framework with which they interpret things that actually are there.

It’s not that racism causes people to see (for example) belligerent teenage boys where there are none, but that a white belligerent teenage boy is just seen as himself while a black belligerent teenage boy is part of a pattern, a script, and when people blindly follow the scripts in their head that leads to discrimination and prejudice.

So yeah, it is a fact, I think, that I was a bit off-putting in my Jeopardy! appearance—hyper-focused on the game, had an intense stare, clicked madly on the buzzer, spat out answers super-fast, wasn’t too charming in the interviews, etc. But this may have taken root in people’s heads because I’m an Asian and the “Asian mastermind” is a meme in people’s heads that it wouldn’t have otherwise.

Look, we all know that there’s a trope in the movies where someone of a minority race is flattened out into just being “good at X” and that the white protagonist is the one we root for because unlike the guy who’s just “good at X” the protagonist has human depth, human relationships, a human point of view—and this somehow makes him more worthy of success than the antagonist who seems to exist just to be good at X. So we root for Rocky against black guys who, by all appearances, really are better boxers than he is, because unlike them Rocky isn’t JUST a boxer, he has a girlfriend, he has hopes, he has dreams, etc.

This comes up over and over again in movies where the athletic black competitor is set up as the “heel”—look at the black chick in Million Dollar Baby and how much we’re pushed to hate her. Look at all this “Great White Hope” stuff, historically, with Joe Louis. So is it any surprise that this trope comes into play with Asians? That the Asian character in the movie is the robotic, heartless, genius mastermind who is only pure intellect and whom we’re crying out to be defeated by some white guy who may not be as brainy but has more pluck, more heart, more humanity?

It’s not just Flash Gordon vs. Ming the Merciless, it’s stuff like how in the pilot episode of Girls Hannah gets fired in favor of an overachieving Asian girl who’s genuinely better at her job than she is (the Asian girl knows Photoshop and she doesn’t) and we’re supposed to sympathize with Hannah. Okay, here’s one more comment from the Internet that kind of encapsulates it. The kind of un-self-awareness of what someone is saying when they say they’d prefer I not win because I try too hard at the game, work too hard at it, care too much about it, and that they’d prefer that a “likable average Joe” win.

This is disturbing because it amounts to basically an attack on competence, a desire to bust people who work very hard and have very strong natural gifts down in favor of “likable average Joes”—and it’s disturbing because the subtext is frequently that to be “likable” and “average” you have to have other traits that are comforting and appealing to an “average Joe” audience, like white skin and an American accent.

Arthur Chu to Ken Jennings (via pushinghoopswithsticks), highlights mine

Filing this lucid account as more evidence that, mathematically, I want to think about racism / sexism / stereotypes of various sorts as being about lack of variationnot about location of mean/median/mode.

Related: scaly llamas




One night in the winter of 1907, at what we have always called “the home place” in Henry County, Kentucky, my father, then six years old, sat with his older brother and listened as their parents spoke of the uses they would have for the money from their 1906 tobacco crop. The crop was to be sold at auction in Louisville on the next day.

They would have been sitting in the light of a kerosene lamp, close to the stove, warming themselves before bedtime. They were not wealthy people…. [T]here would have been interest to pay, there would have been other debts. The depression of the 1890s would have left them burdened. Perhaps, after the income from the crop had paid their obligations, there would be some money that they could spend as they chose. At around two o’clock the next morning, my father was wakened by a horse’s shod hooves on the stones of the driveway. His father was leaving to catch the train to see the crop sold.

He came home that evening, as my father later would put it, “without a dime.” After the crop had paid its transportation to market and the commission on its sale, there was nothing left. Thus began my father’s lifelong advocacy, later my brother’s and my own, and now my daughter’s and my son’s, for small farmers and for land-conserving economies.

The economic hardship of my family and of many others, a century ago, was caused by a monopoly, the American Tobacco Company, which had eliminated all competitors and thus was able to reduce as it pleased the prices it paid to farmers. The American Tobacco Company was the work of James B. Duke of Durham, North Carolina, and New York City, who, disregarding any other consideration, followed a capitalist logic to absolute control of his industry and, incidentally, of the economic fate of thousands of families such as my own.

Because I have never separated myself from my home neighborhood, I cannot identify myself to myself apart from it. I am fairly literally flesh of its flesh. It is present in me, and to me, wherever I go. This undoubtedly accounts for my sense of shock when, on my first visit to Duke University, and by surprise, I came face-to-face with James B. Duke in his dignity, his glory perhaps, as the founder of that university. He stands imperially in bronze in front of a Methodist chapel aspiring to be a cathedral. He holds between two fingers of his left hand a bronze cigar. On one side of his pedestal is the legend: INDUSTRIALIST. On the other side is another single word: PHILANTHROPIST. The man thus commemorated seemed to me terrifyingly ignorant, even terrifyingly innocent, of the connection between his industry and his philanthropy. But I did know the connection. I felt it instantly and physically. The connection was my grandparents and thousands of others more or less like them. If you can appropriate for little or nothing the work and hope of enough such farmers, then you may dispense the grand charity of “philanthropy.”

Wendell E. Berry

(Source: neh.gov)




lembarrasduchoix asked:

thank you for the introduction to Newcomb’s paradox! Could you do a post on your favorite paradoxes? 

 
The decision theory paradoxes I’m familiar with are:
Ellsberg Paradox— Theorists encode bothsituations with unknown probabilities, such as the chance of extraterrestrial intelligence in the Drake Equation or the chance of someone randomly coming up and killing you, and
situations that are known to have a “completely random” outcome, like fair dice or the runif function in R,
the same way. However the two differ materially and so do behavioural responses to the types of situations. 
Allais Paradox — The difference between 100% chance and 99% chance in people’s minds is not the same as the difference between 56% chance and 55% chance in people’s minds. (In other words, the difference is nonlinear.) At least when those numbers are written on paper.Prospect theory proposes the following [0,1]→[0,1] function describing how "we" perceive probabilities(Remember that it shouldn’t be taken for granted that everybody thinks the same, or that it’s possible to simnply re-map a person’s probability judgment onto another probability. Perhaps the codomain needs to change to something other than [0,1], for example a poset or a von Neumann algebra.)
Newcomb’s Paradox — This one has a self-referential feel to it. At least as of today, the story is well told on Wikipedia. The Newcomb paradox seems to undercut the notion that “more is always preferred to less” — a central tenet of microeconomics. However, I believe it’s really undercutting the way we reason about counterfactuals. I actually don’t like this one as much as the Ellsberg and Allais paradoxes, which teach an unambiguous lesson.
 
Despite the name, they’re notreally paradoxes. They are just evidence that probability + utility theory ≠ what’s going on inside our 10^10 neurons. I don’t think Herb Simon would be surprised at that. (Simon is famous for arguing to economists that “economic agents” — both people and firms — have a finite computational capacity, so we shouldn’t put too much faith in the optimisation paradigm.)
You can find out a lot more about each of these paradoxes by googling. As is my way, I’ve tried to provide the shortest-possible intro on the subject. Twenty-two slides opening the door for you.
I also think it’s interesting how the calculus disproves Zeno’s paradox and how a proper measure-theory-conscious theory of martingales disproves the St. Petersburg paradox. I also think Vitali sets and the Banach-Tarski paradox are compelling arguments against the real numbers. Particularly since everything practical is accomplished with (finite) floats, I’m not sure why people hold on to ℝ in the face of those results.
But personally, I’m more interested in decision theory / choice theory than those pure-maths clarifications.
 
I know I am forgetting several interesting paradoxes which have revolutionised the way people think. (Zeno thought his reasoning was so revolutionary that he concluded, via modus tollens, that the world didn’t actually exist. One of many religions that has come to such a belief, not to mention Neo and Morpheus thought so.)If I’ve neglected one of your favourite paradoxes, please leave a comment below telling us about it.

lembarrasduchoix asked:

thank you for the introduction to Newcomb’s paradox! Could you do a post on your favorite paradoxes? 
 

The decision theory paradoxes I’m familiar with are:

  • Ellsberg Paradox— Theorists encode both
    1. situations with unknown probabilities, such as the chance of extraterrestrial intelligence in the Drake Equation or the chance of someone randomly coming up and killing you, and
    2. situations that are known to have a “completely random” outcome, like fair dice or the runif function in R,
    the same way. However the two differ materially and so do behavioural responses to the types of situations. 
  • Allais Paradox — The difference between 100% chance and 99% chance in people’s minds is not the same as the difference between 56% chance and 55% chance in people’s minds. (In other words, the difference is nonlinear.) At least when those numbers are written on paper.
    image
    Prospect theory proposes the following [0,1]→[0,1] function describing how "we" perceive probabilities
    I tried to edit this to make it more readable, really I should just redo it in R myself.(Remember that it shouldn’t be taken for granted that everybody thinks the same, or that it’s possible to simnply re-map a person’s probability judgment onto another probability. Perhaps the codomain needs to change to something other than [0,1], for example a poset or a von Neumann algebra.)
  • Newcomb’s Paradox — This one has a self-referential feel to it. At least as of today, the story is well told on Wikipedia. The Newcomb paradox seems to undercut the notion that “more is always preferred to less” — a central tenet of microeconomics. However, I believe it’s really undercutting the way we reason about counterfactuals. I actually don’t like this one as much as the Ellsberg and Allais paradoxes, which teach an unambiguous lesson.
 

Despite the name, they’re notreally paradoxes. They are just evidence that probability + utility theory ≠ what’s going on inside our 10^10 neurons. I don’t think Herb Simon would be surprised at that. (Simon is famous for arguing to economists that “economic agents” — both people and firms — have a finite computational capacity, so we shouldn’t put too much faith in the optimisation paradigm.)

You can find out a lot more about each of these paradoxes by googling. As is my way, I’ve tried to provide the shortest-possible intro on the subject. Twenty-two slides opening the door for you.

I also think it’s interesting how the calculus disproves Zeno’s paradox and how a proper measure-theory-conscious theory of martingales disproves the St. Petersburg paradox. I also think Vitali sets and the Banach-Tarski paradox are compelling arguments against the real numbers. Particularly since everything practical is accomplished with (finite) floats, I’m not sure why people hold on to  in the face of those results.

But personally, I’m more interested in decision theory / choice theory than those pure-maths clarifications.

 

I know I am forgetting several interesting paradoxes which have revolutionised the way people think. (Zeno thought his reasoning was so revolutionary that he concluded, via modus tollens, that the world didn’t actually exist. One of many religions that has come to such a belief, not to mention Neo and Morpheus thought so.)
And the guy sliced up a speeding car tyres with a samurai sword. You really can't argue with someone who does that.
If I’ve neglected one of your favourite paradoxes, please leave a comment below telling us about it.


hi-res




I view a mathematics library the same way an archaeologist views a prime digging site. There are all these wonderful treasures that are buried there and hidden from the rest of the world.

If you pick up a typical book on sheaf theory, for example, it’s unreadable. But it’s full of stuff that is very, very important to solving really difficult problems.

And I have this vision of digging through the obscure text and finding these gems and exporting them over to the engineering college and other domains where these tools can find utility.




Many years ago, I was being driven to the airport and observed something stupid about myself. Then I used science (kind of). I remember this so clearly because it has symbolised other challenges since then.

image

I had a bag of snacks — Doritos or Chex Mix or something — sitting on my lap. I was eating them and talking with the driver. We were discussing business or something. I noticed I was eating the snacks rather quickly. Even after becoming aware of the speed, I found it hard to hold off on eating one for more than 10 seconds. (I probably ate a handful every ≤5 seconds.) The delicious taste of Chex Mix was in my mouth, making me want more.

As I thought about it, I was able to focus on the taste at least, and appreciate it, but I still found it hard to slow down.

image

I decided to do a little experiment on myself. I put the bag of Doritos at my feet instead of in between my legs. The next time I reached for the snacks I had a few more deciseconds to stay my hand—and it worked. The amount of time (or was it the effort?) it took to lean my torso forward gave me enough time (or was it inclination?) to think: “Do I really want another one yet?” and answer “No” more of the time. I started snacking more like every 30-60 seconds.

I decided to take the experiment one step further. (This is part of experimental science, right? You notice the beginnings of a trend and then you test more input values to see if the trend extrapolates.) I put the crisps (or squares, or whatever) behind my car seat. So, I needed to twist my torso, crane my neck, and put my arm into a fairly awkward position — costing more than a second and even more effort than leaning forward. That was enough to reduce my snacking to one every 2-5 minutes.

 

image

Certainly this is far from gold-standard science. But, I was satisfied with the findings (and until now, I didn’t publish them, so there was no-one else to satisfy.)

Years later Richard Thaler coined the wonderful phrase “libertarian paternalism" — and I thought, it doesn’t just have to be about governance. I can nudge myself as well. (Nudge is co-authored with Cass Sunstein, another hero.)

image

Here are some other tricks I’ve used to nudge myself into doing what I really want:

  • shutting my laptop when I leave it
  • putting my laptop in a drawer and closing it
    (both these give me more time to think: Is getting out the computer really what I want to do right now? What am I going to do on the computer? When am I going to be done?)
  • Standing at my desk improves my mood and energy and also makes me spend less time at the computer. (a key challenge is getting a monitor at eye level and a keyboard just below elbow level.)
  • Close my eyes if webpages take a long time to load. (why burn them out / hypnotise myself any more?)
  • If sitting at a computer with a monitor, I aperiodically stand up, walk away, and face away from the computer. (I face a wall, sitting or standing, or look outside, and think about what I actually need to accomplish on the computer.)
  • move email conversations quickly to phone call (in business)
  • send “to-read” Amazon previews to Kindle
  • I use the “Save for Later” extension for Chrome. (Even if I don’t actually read it later, I can believe that illusion for long enough to kick the tab out of my immediate view.)
  • If I open a new tab/window for goofing off when I really shouldn’t, I say the word “No” out loud so I can hear myself. That sometimes helps me close the tab and get back to work, only 2 seconds wasted.
  • Whenever I spend a lot of money on myself (electronics or a trip), I donate to charity. (I guess that’s more about habit formation as self-discipline rather than nudging myself into compliance.)
  • putting snacks / dessert higher up or behind cupboards
  • leaving a nice-looking knife & cutting board out in plain sight
  • leave vegetables and beans out in plain sight
  • Spend time organising my workspace so that more important things to do (or symbols of things I want to do) are in plain sight.
    For example, I might stack “to read” papers out of the way (I’ll find them when I’m bored). But if I decide I need to work out more I might clear my workspace and put my gym card or shorts in plain view.
  • write to-do lists on paper instead of on the computer

I haven’t developed any really good tricks for avoiding procrastinating on the Internet.

but Randall has ... click thru and read the alt text

Partly it’s because of blurred boundaries about what’s worth reading and what’s not. Partly it’s because with three keystrokes I can pop open a Twitter window or tumblr or reddit or facebook or … on-and-on … and make my “strategic” decision from there.

Advices? Similar experiences?




The word “Evolution nowadays suggests "evolution of organisms by natural selection as per Darwin & modern population genetics".

But what about other kinds of evolution? Any unary endomorphism from a system onto itself, applied over and over to generate “time”, could be considered a kind of “evolution”.

  • Crystals and quasicrystals evolve naturally.
  • Caves and stalagmites evolve naturally.
  • History evolves artificially … although no-one knows the mapping.
  • Art evolves artificially … again, no-one knows the mapping. (but we know there is cross-pollination. Could we call it “Art sex”?)
  • Proto-biological chemical compounds, like basic amino acids, “evolved” by a method similar to natural selection.
  • Businesses (and entrepreneurs) that grow through trial-and-error, evolve their ideas and their business processes by artificial selection.
  • Romantic relationships evolve. Any human relationship evolves. Sometimes “a” relationship can evolve with a group of people as-a-unit. But here I’ve found the selection to be more exogenous than endogenous. Friendships seem to pick up exactly where they left off γᵢ(Tᵢ) rather than be pitched to the dustbin of 0. Even romantic relationships seem to hang mostly where they were, even after a breakup. Perhaps the breakup zeroes the romantic part ⌊γᵢ⌋ᵣ, but everything else—sexual chemistry, personality dynamics, humour dynamics, and history—remains stubbornly unbudged by a breakup per se.
  • And like I said, any endomorphism, repeatedly applied to a system, could count as “evolution”. (An endomorphism draws both the input and the output from the same domain, i.e. ƒ: X→X.) If there is a throw-away criterion (mapping ↦ 0), we could call that “selection”. Any fixed point of the mapping ƒ(p)↦p is an endpoint of evolution.
     

In this video, John Baez talks about how the inherent interestingness of the number 5 has made itself apparent to us through several processes:

  • artists (mosque designers) discovered it. God speaks to us in the language of mathematics, remember?
  • crystals and quasicrystals discovered 5 by evolution — but not the biological kind
  • soot and space dust found , also by natural non-bio evolution
  • BTW, unrelated but some Scots (perhaps Picts) carved some Platonic solids out of stone centuries before Plato … so perhaps they should be called Scottish solids.
  • the Pariacoto virus found by biological evolution
  • Roger Penrose (a mathematical physicist) discovered & described 5-way symmetry in modern mathematical (group theoretic) terms

In each case, logic is the canvas. Art — nature — mathematicians are the painters.




100 Plays • Download

02:30 If you look carefully at the entire built world, you can find little stories in every tiny thing.

If you recognise that every corner, every seam, every curve was a point of decision by a really deliberate — and probably very smart — person, you can recognise a story in every little thing.

The goal of the show—it’s worked on me—is to notice more things.

—Roman Mars, host of 99% Invisible

(Source: radiolab.org)




110 Plays • Download

Willow Tree by Chad Van Gaalen




[T]he point of introducing L^p spaces in the first place is … to exploit … Banach space. For instance, if one has |ƒ − g| = 0, one would like to conclude that ƒ = g. But because of the equivalence class in the way, one can only conclude that ƒ is equal to g almost everywhere.

The Lebesgue philosophy is analogous to the “noise-tolerant” philosophy in modern signal progressing. If one is receiving a signal (e.g. a television signal) from a noisy source (e.g. a television station in the presence of electrical interference), then any individual component of that signal (e.g. a pixel of the television image) may be corrupted. But as long as the total number of corrupted data points is negligible, one can still get a good enough idea of the image to do things like distinguish foreground from background, compute the area of an object, or the mean intensity, etc.

Terence Tao

If you’re thinking about points in Euclidean space, then yes — if the distance between them is nil, they are in the exact same spot and therefore the same point.

But abstract mathematics opens up more possibilities.

  • Like TV signals. Like 2-D images or 2-D × time video clips.
  • Like crime patterns, dinosaur paw prints, neuronal spike-trains, forged signatures, songs (1-D × time), trajectories, landscapes.
  • Like, any completenormedvector space. (= it’s thick + distance exists + addition exists + everything’s included = it’s a Banach space)

(Source: terrytao.wordpress.com)




The essential prerequisite for finding the answer to a question is the desire to find it.

Tristan Needham

author of Visual Complex Analysis (the best book so far about complex numbers)