Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for July 12th, 2017

It’s getting more serious: Democrats Want to Know If Trump Quashed a Russian Money Laundering Case In Return for Dirt on Hillary Clinton

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That would explain a lot. Read Kevin Drum’s explication, very useful.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 July 2017 at 5:11 pm

Interesting Thoughts on How to Bribe Everyone Into Fighting Climate Change

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Kevin Drum has a post worth reading—in particular how a world that does not run on fossil fuels would be more stable economically.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 July 2017 at 12:48 pm

My Griswold No. 7 cast-iron skillet with lid goes to auction

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A very nice skillet. The diameter of the top (not at the pouring spouts) is 10″; the diameter of the bottom (outside) is 8.5″; the diameter of the interior cooking surface is 8″.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 July 2017 at 12:33 pm

Posted in Daily life

Most of what you think you know about human reasoning is wrong. Here’s why.

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Henry Farrell has an interesting interview in the Washington Post:

Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber are the authors of “The Enigma of Reason,” a new book from Harvard University Press. Their arguments about human reasoning have potentially profound implications for how we understand the ways human beings think and argue, and for the social sciences. I interviewed Mercier about the book.

HF: So, many people think of reasoning as a faculty for achieving better knowledge and making better decisions. You disagree. Why is the standard account of reasoning implausible?

HM: By and large, reasoning doesn’t fulfill this function very well. In many experiments — and countless real-life examples — reasoning does not drive people towards better knowledge or decisions. If people start out with the wrong intuitive idea, and then start reasoning, it rarely does them any good. They’re stuck on their initial wrong idea.

What makes reasoning fail is even more damning. Reasoning fails because it has a so-called ‘myside bias.’ This is what psychologists often call confirmation bias — that people mostly reason to find arguments that whatever they were already thinking is a good idea. Given this bias, it’s not surprising that people typically get stuck on their initial idea.

More or less everybody takes the existence of the myside bias for granted. Few readers will be surprised that it exists. And yet it should be deeply puzzling. Objectively, a reasoning mechanism that aims at sounder knowledge and better decisions should focus on reasons why we might be wrong and reasons why other options than our initial hunch might be correct. Such a mechanism should also critically evaluate whether the reasons supporting our initial hunch are strong. But reasoning does the opposite. It mostly looks for reasons that support our initial hunches and deems even weak, superficial reasons to be sufficient.

So we have a complete mismatch between, on the one hand, what reasoning does and how it works and, on the other hand, what it is supposed to do and how it is supposed to work.

HF: So why did the capacity to reason evolve among human beings?

HM: We suggest that the capacity to reason evolved because it serves two main functions:

The first is to help people solve disagreements. Compared to other primates, humans cooperate a lot, and they evolved abilities to communicate in order to make cooperation more efficient. However, communication is a risky business: There’s always a risk that one might be lied to, manipulated or cheated. Hence, we carefully evaluate what people tell us. Indeed, we even tend to be overly cautious, rejecting messages that don’t fit well with our preconceptions.

Reasoning would have evolved in part to help us overcome these limitations and to make communication more powerful. Thanks to reasoning, we can try to convince others of things they would never have accepted purely on trust. And those who receive the arguments benefit by being given a much better way of deciding whether they should change their mind or not.

The second function is related but still distinct: It is to exchange justifications. Another consequence of human cooperativeness is that we care a lot about whether other people are competent and moral: We constantly evaluate others to see who would make the best cooperators. Unfortunately, evaluating others is tricky, since it can be very difficult to understand why people do the things they do. If you see your colleague George being rude with a waiter, do you infer that he’s generally rude, or that the waiter somehow deserved his treatment? In this situation, you have an interest in assessing George accurately and George has an interest in being seen positively. If George can’t explain his behavior, it will be very difficult for you to know how to interpret it, and you might be inclined to be uncharitable. But if George can give you a good reason to explain his rudeness, then you’re both better off: You judge him more accurately, and he maintains his reputation.

If we couldn’t attempt to justify our behavior to others and convince them when they disagree with us, our social lives would be immensely poorer and more complicated.

HF: So, if reasoning is mostly about finding arguments for whatever we were thinking in the first place, how can it be useful?

HM: Because this is only one aspect of reasoning: the production of reasons and arguments. Reasoning has another aspect, which comes into play when we evaluate other people’s arguments. When we do this, we are, on the whole, both objective and demanding. We are demanding in that we require the arguments to be strong before changing our minds — this makes obvious sense. But we are also objective: If we encounter a good argument that challenges our beliefs, we will take it into account. In most cases, we will change our mind — even if only by a little.

This might come as a surprise to those who have heard of phenomena like the “backfire effect,” under which people react to contrary arguments by becoming even more entrenched in their views. In fact, backfire effects seem to be extremely rare. In most cases, people change their minds — sometimes a little bit, sometimes completely — when exposed to challenging but strong arguments.

When we consider these two aspects of reasoning together, it is obvious why it is useful. Reasoning allows people who disagree to exchange arguments with each other, so they are in a better position to figure out who’s right. Thanks to reasoning, both those who offer arguments (and, hence, are more likely to get their message across) — and those who receive arguments (and, hence, are more likely to change their mind for the better) — stand to win. Without reasoning, disagreements would be immensely harder to resolve.

HF: Despite reason’s flaws, your book argues that it “in the right interactive context, works.” How can group interaction harness reason for beneficial ends? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 July 2017 at 12:29 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Science

The 100 greatest movie props in movie history and the stories behind them

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Via Jason Kottke, here they are. One example: the red stapler from Office Space!

“I wanted the stapler to stand out in the cubicle and the color scheme in the cubicles was sort of gray and blue-green, so I had them make it red. It was just a regular off-the-shelf Swingline stapler. They didn’t make them in red back then, so I had them paint it red and then put the Swingline logo on the side.

“Since Swingline didn’t make one back then, people were calling them trying to order red staplers. Then people started making red Swinglines and selling them on Ebay and making lots of money, so Swingline finally decided to start making red staplers.

“I have the burnt one from the last scene. Stephen Root has one that was in his cubicle. There were three total that we made. I don’t know where the third one is.”

Written by LeisureGuy

12 July 2017 at 11:49 am

Posted in Movies & TV

Chiseled Face, Nancy Boy, Baby Smooth, and Ogallala Bay Rum + Sandalwood

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Let me recommend once more Nancy Boy shaving cream, particularly the Signature fragrance (Mint+Rosemary). It is my favorite shaving cream, and I love it though in general I prefer soaps. They don’t advertise except on their website, and to buy it you pretty much have to order it from them, but it’s worth it. They do sell a travel size. And, FWIW, every other product from them I’ve tried has been really good. I have no connection at all with the company. My (strong) recommendation is based totally on fragrance and performance, though the packaging is pretty nice as well.

And with the Chiseled Face brush I again got a wonderfully fragrant lather, which the Baby Smooth razor removed, along with the stubble, with no problems at all, leaving my face blissfully smooth. A splash of Ogallala Bay Rum + Sandalwood, and I’m ready for the day—somewhat belatedly.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 July 2017 at 11:32 am

Posted in Shaving

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