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Archive for September 7th, 2022

The Transformative Power of Humility

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Rugged Individualism strikes me as devoid of humility and indeed verging on overweening pride — and yet it is a favored outlook among many in the US and particularly among conservatives: Red states are rife with would-be Rugged Individualists.

Humility, however, has its strengths. Daryl R. Van Tongeren, Associate Professor of Psychology at Hope College, writes at

Small moments change our lives.

One such moment came in the form of email, sent to me from my doctoral advisor. Dr. Everett Worthington, an international leader on the science of forgiveness, was teaching a graduate seminar (for the last time) on the topic. If I ever wanted to learn from a world-class scholar how to conduct cutting-edge research on a topic in positive psychology, this was it. So, I enrolled.

That class led Worthington to invite me to join his positive psychology research group. It was in that group that I met Don Davis and Josh Hook, fellow graduate students at the time, and the three of us started investigating an undervalued but transformational virtue: humility.

Researchers originally shied away from humility because it seemed like a measurement nightmare: how do you assess whether someone is humble? Using self-reports seemed thorny. If someone reports being humble, are they accurately describing their virtue or would only an arrogant narcissist self-report excelling at humility? And do low scores represent overly modest self-deference or legitimate hubris? But once the field discovered that you could, indeed, assess humility rather reliably, an exciting new frontier opened—one in which social scientists have catalogued many benefits of humility.

In my book, Humble, I discuss the past decade of research on humility, a considerable portion of which has been supported by grants from The John Templeton Foundation. I explain that humility involves knowing yourself (i.e., developing self-awareness), checking yourself (i.e., reducing defensiveness), and going beyond yourself (i.e., cultivating empathy). It’s about being the right size for a situation—not too large and not too small. Humble people are able to own their limitations and their strengths, can share the praise and accept the blame, and are willing to prioritize the needs of others alongside their own needs.

Humility also enhances our relationships. Research has found that we want to be friends with humble people, desire to date humble partners, and are more committed and satisfied when our romantic partners are humble. Within relationships, we’re more forgiving of humble partners. And humility is even good for our health: when both partners are humble, we experience better physiological responses to stress.

Humility also helps improve our work life. Humble leaders listen to their followers, empower them to make decisions, and are able to set higher goals for their teams. In turn, those who work with humble leaders are more satisfied and productive at work, experience more creativity, and are actually more humble as well. Humility breeds humility. Modeling humility can transform a workplace or community into a place where everyone can flourish.

And humility is deeply needed in our societies. Not only do scientific and technological advances require the intellectual humility to admit what we do not know and need to learn, but humility is also imperative in the cultural, political, and religious spheres of life. We need cultural humility to see the limitations of our own perspective, realize that our way of seeing the world is not superior, and constructively engage those with whom we differ. If we possess a genuine curiosity to learn from others, we see viewpoint diversity as a strength, not only a problem to be solved. To address the deep divides in politics and religion, humility compels us to listen first, take the perspective of others, and seek to affirm the humanity of every person.

Humility also enhances our relationships. Research has found that we want to be friends with humble people, desire to date humble partners, and are more committed and satisfied when our romantic partners are humble. Within relationships, we’re more forgiving of humble partners. And humility is even good for our health: when both partners are humble, we experience better physiological responses to stress.

Humility also helps improve our work life. Humble leaders listen to their followers, empower them to make decisions, and are able to set higher goals for their teams. In turn, those who work with humble leaders are more satisfied and productive at work, experience more creativity, and are actually more humble as well. Humility breeds humility. Modeling humility can transform a workplace or community into a place where everyone can flourish.

And humility is deeply needed in our societies. Not only do scientific and technological advances require the intellectual humility to admit what we do not know and need to learn, but humility is also imperative in the cultural, political, and religious spheres of life. We need cultural humility to see the limitations of our own perspective, realize that our way of seeing the world is not superior, and constructively engage those with whom we differ. If we possess a genuine curiosity to learn from others, we see viewpoint diversity as a strength, not only a problem to be solved. To address the deep divides in politics and religion, humility compels us to listen first, take the perspective of others, and seek to affirm the humanity of every person.

Our first step can be to seek feedback from a trusted source; inquiring how humble we are and what our areas for growth might be is a way to gain an initial assessment of the work that is before us. And once we get that feedback, we need to work hard to resist defensiveness. It’s not useful to get feedback, as unflattering as it may be, if we dismiss it out of hand. Affirming ourselves and striving for growth rather than expecting perfection is important. And all of this requires that we build empathy: an emotional attunement to others and the desire to see their perspective. Empathy is at the social center of humility.

This set of skills requires practice. . .

Continue reading.

Skills can be acquired only through practice — reading a book about some skill imparts theoretical/abstract knowledge of the skill, but that is not at all the same as practical knowledge, and a skill is practical knowledge. Unfortunately, when adults attempt to learn a new skill, they often feel frustrated — the daily gains are so small! — and do not persist. The answer, I believe, is to find enjoyment in the difficulties encountered in learning a new skill. If you enjoy the process, you are more likely to persist and to be consistent in your efforts. And it’s clear that is a skill worth having, even though it’s undervalued in the competitive and hypercapitalistic common in the US today.

Written by Leisureguy

7 September 2022 at 7:52 pm

Views of the Social Gospel among Christian groups

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Some groups seem to be more Christian (in terms of sharing more of the concerns expressed by Jesus, for some an important figure in Christianity) than others — that is, not to put too fine a point on it, some Christians take Jesus more seriously than others do.

Written by Leisureguy

7 September 2022 at 7:12 pm

We are in midst of an epidemic of narcissism

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The ideal of “Rugged Individualism” is popular on the Right: that a person on his own (and it’s generally a man) is stronger and doesn’t need no stinking help from the government or other people. Examples tend to be fictional, in movies often played by actors such as John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, and seen in characters such as the sheriff in High Noon (Gary Cooper in that one) or the eponymous hero of Shane (Alan Ladd). But Rugged Individuals go beyond Westerns to infect all sorts of genres — cf. Bond (James Bond).

Rugged Individualism rejects the benefits of community and, to my mind, is a malignant form of narcissism. And narcissism is everywhere nowadays. See this PLOS paper published by NIH:

Does a narcissism epidemic exist in modern western societies? Comparing narcissism and self-esteem in East and West Germany


Narcissism scores are higher in individualistic cultures compared with more collectivistic cultures. However, the impact of sociocultural factors on narcissism and self-esteem has not been well described. Germany was formerly divided into two different social systems, each with distinct economic, political and national cultures, and was reunified in 1989/90. Between 1949 and 1989/90, West Germany had an individualistic culture, whereas East Germany had a more collectivistic culture. The German reunification provides an exceptional opportunity to investigate the impact of sociocultural and generational differences on narcissism and self-esteem. In this study, we used an anonymous online survey to assess grandiose narcissism with the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) and the Pathological Narcissism Inventory (PNI) to assess grandiose and vulnerable aspects of narcissism, and self-esteem with the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSE) in 1,025 German individuals. Data were analyzed according to age and place of birth. Our results showed that grandiose narcissism was higher and self-esteem was lower in individuals who grew up in former West Germany compared with former East Germany. Further analyses indicated no significant differences in grandiose narcissism, vulnerable narcissism or self-esteem in individuals that entered school after the German reunification (≤ 5 years of age in 1989). In the middle age cohort (6–18 years of age in 1989), significant differences in vulnerable narcissism, grandiose narcissism and self-esteem were observed. In the oldest age cohort (> 19 years of age in 1989), significant differences were only found in one of the two scales assessing grandiose narcissism (NPI). Our data provides empirical evidence that sociocultural factors are associated with differences in narcissism and self-esteem.


Are modern capitalistic cultures nurturing narcissism? Sociocultural changes are frequently proposed to be central mechanisms contributing to increasing narcissism []. The majority of empirical studies on the associations between sociocultural changes and narcissism relied on student samples from the US. In the present study, we examined an exceptional case in human history: The division and reunification of Germany. We investigated whether individuals exposed to these two different social systems (with distinct economic, political and national cultures) differed in grandiose and vulnerable narcissism, and self-esteem.

Empirical evidence for the narcissism epidemic

Narcissism is increasing in modern Western societies and this has been referred to as a “narcissism epidemic” []. The endorsement rate for the statement “I am an important person” has increased from 12% in 1963 to 77–80% in 1992 in adolescents []. Recently published books feature more self-centered language compared with earlier publications. For instance, the personal pronouns I and me are used more frequently than we and us []. Moreover, the use of narcissistic phrases such as “I am the greatest” has increased between 1960 and 2008 []. The rise of narcissism is also reflected in more self-focused song lyrics [] and a stronger orientation towards fame in TV shows []. These observations suggest that narcissistic expressions within individualistic cultures have become more frequent.

Scores of self-reported grandiose narcissism, assessed by the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI), have increased []. Twenge and Campbell reported a significant increase in NPI scores in a cross-temporal meta-analysis of American college students between 1979 and 2006 []. NPI scores were 30% higher in the most recent cohort compared with the first cohort. Further analyses between 2002 and 2007 excluded any confounding effects of ethnicity. Taken together with other studies, these findings confirmed that NPI scores are increasing over time in American college students ([], but also see []).

Evidence for an increase in narcissism in Western societies has predominantly been provided by the same research group. In these studies, narcissism was consistently measured using the NPI, which has received much criticism []. Shortcomings of the NPI include a restriction to grandiose aspects of narcissism [] and problems with validity []. Moreover, the NPI is constructed based on the clinical definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) produced by the American Psychiatric Association []. Nevertheless, Raskin and Terry developed the NPI to assess individual differences in nonclinical populations. The authors have themselves admitted that the NPI fails to capture important psychological and behavioral dimensions that are inherent to pathological narcissism []. This means that high NPI scores may represent a non-distressed, self-confident version of grandiose narcissism []. However, recent research shows that the NPI provided a strong match to expert ratings of DSM-IV-TR NPD and grandiose narcissism, compared to other narcissism inventories [].

The Pathological Narcissism Inventory (PNI) has been developed to capture both grandiose and vulnerable aspects of narcissism []. PNI scores are thought to be closely related to the clinical diagnosis of NPD, although this has not yet been tested in narcissistic patients. However, recent evidence indicates that the PNI is a useful tool for assessing more pathological aspects of narcissism [].

Self-esteem, defined as global evaluation of the self [], is related to narcissism []. However, recent data provide evidence that narcissism differs from self-esteem in various domains, such as its phenotype, its consequences, its development, and its origins []. Self-esteem and narcissism have distinct impacts on outcome measures []. Narcissism and high self-esteem both include positive self-evaluations, but the entitlement, exploitation, sense of superiority, and negative evaluation of others that are associated with narcissism are not necessarily observed in individuals with high self-esteem []. Self-esteem is increasing in the Western world. Middle school students from the United States had markedly higher self-esteem scores in the mid-2000s compared with the late 1980s []. Moreover, the self-esteem of college students increased substantially between 1968 and 1994 [].

Sociocultural environments and narcissism

The development of personality traits is closely related to the cultural environment []. Cultural environments can be classified as individualistic or collectivistic []. Individualistic cultures encourage a stronger focus on the self, whereas collectivistic cultures emphasize the importance of social values. Narcissism contains a strong focus on the self, accompanied by a high need for admiration, and grandiose fantasies []; therefore members of individualistic cultures may be more narcissistic than individuals from collectivistic cultures [].

Some studies have provided empirical evidence that

In this connection, an earlier post on the indications of malignant narcissism is relevant. (I should add that the checklist is not about any one individual in particular; it is a general diagnostic tool.)

Written by Leisureguy

7 September 2022 at 6:47 pm

Oath Keepers members list includes hundreds of law enforcement officers, politicians, military members

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The US has an extremely serious political infection that has metastasized into politics, school boards, local government, law enforcement, and the military. This is a strongly resistant infection with many defenses, such as bad faith arguments and actions, dismissal of facts and research, and demonization of different points of view, with a predilection toward calls for violence (threats against librarians, teachers, school board members, and government officials from local, county, and state offices to Congress and the Executive Branch. January 6 saw an eruption into actual violence, with explicit threats to kill the Vice President and the Speaker of the House.

Alanna Durkin Richer and Michael Kunzelman report at CBS News:

The names of hundreds of U.S. law enforcement officers, elected officials and military members appear on the leaked membership rolls of a far-right extremist group that’s accused of playing a key role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, according to a report released Wednesday.

The Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism pored over more than 38,000 names on leaked Oath Keepers membership lists and identified more than 370 people it believes currently work in law enforcement agencies – including as police chiefs and sheriffs – and more than 100 people who are currently members of the military.

It also identified more than 80 people who were running for or served in public office as of early August. The membership information was compiled into a database published by the transparency collective Distributed Denial of Secrets.

The data raises fresh concerns about the presence of extremists in law enforcement and the military who are tasked with enforcing laws and protecting the U.S. It’s especially problematic for public servants to be associated with extremists at a time when lies about the 2020 election are fueling threats of violence against lawmakers and institutions.

“Even for those who claimed to have left the organization when it began to employ more aggressive tactics in 2014, it is important to remember that the Oath Keepers have espoused extremism since their founding, and this fact was not enough to deter these individuals from signing up,” the report says.

Appearing in the Oath Keepers’ database doesn’t prove that a person was ever an active member of the group or shares its ideology. Some people on the list contacted by The Associated Press said they were briefly members years ago and are no longer affiliated with the group. Some said they were never dues-paying members.

“Their views are far too extreme for me,” said Shawn Mobley, sheriff of Otero County, Colorado. Mobley told the AP in an email that he distanced himself from the Oath Keepers years ago over concerns about its involvement in the standoff against the federal government at the Bundy Ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada, among other things.

The Oath Keepers, founded in 2009 by Stewart Rhodes, is a loosely organized conspiracy theory-fueled group that recruits current and former military, police and first responders. It asks its members to vow to defend the Constitution “against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” promotes the belief that the federal government is out to strip citizens of their civil liberties and paints its followers as defenders against tyranny.

More than two dozen people associated with the Oath Keepers – including Rhodes – have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack. Rhodes and four other Oath Keeper members or associates are heading to trial this month on seditious conspiracy charges for what prosecutors have described as a weekslong plot to keep then-President Donald Trump in power. Rhodes and the other Oath Keepers say they are innocent and that there was no plan to attack the Capitol.

The Oath Keepers has grown quickly along with the wider anti-government movement and used the tools of the internet to spread their message during Barack Obama’s presidency, said Rachel Carroll Rivas, interim deputy director of research with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project. But since Jan. 6 and Rhodes’ arrest, the group has struggled to keep members, she said.

That’s partly because Oath Keepers had been . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 September 2022 at 10:12 am

The Rule of Compounding: How Small Steps Lead to Big Gains

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I have often failed to apply the idea of compounding to non-financial settings. The power of compounded interest is well know, but the idea can be generalized. In my Nordic walking I found that if I walked consistently (daily), then after some weeks — even though I was not trying for it as a goal — I was walking longer distances at a faster pace and enjoying it more. So I changed my focus from trying for longer distance or faster speed to simply making sure I walked daily; the distance and speed then took care of themselves, and I enjoyed the walks more.

Similarly, as I have continued to apply myself to figuring out how to manage my personal budget, I kept making small changes and improvements to the point that I now feel quite comfortable in my finances — something that I did not feel for too many years. But I got there through making small changes and adjustments from month to month.

And Covey’s 7 habits are built on methodical attention to consistent effort, week after week, toward important goals that are not urgent. The payoff over time is enormous.

The Growth Equation has a post that generalizes the idea of compounding:

Growing up, long before he experienced success and became worth billions of dollars, a young Warren Buffet would tell his family and friends, “Do I really want to spend $300,000 on this haircut?” The haircut he was referring to, of course, wasn’t in the six figure range. It probably would have cost him closer to $20. Buffet’s point was that if he cut his own hair, saved the monthly $20 expense, and invested it, over the course of his life all of those seemingly insignificant $20 investments would have netted him thousands of dollars. Buffet was speaking to the law of compounding gains, which goes something like this: small investments made consistently over time build upon themselves and, eventually, amount to something big.

“Recognizing that every dollar you spend today is $10 or $100 or $1,000 you won’t have in the future doesn’t have to make you a miser. It teaches you to acknowledge the importance of measuring trade-offs. You should always weigh the need or desire that today’s spending fulfills against what you could accomplish with that money after letting it grow for years or decades into the future. And the more often you trade, the more likely you are to disrupt compounding and to have to start all over again,” writes Jason Zweig in the Wall Street Journal. 

Compounding isn’t just useful in finance. It is a principle that applies to all of life. Brushing your teeth every day is a small investment. If you skip it, nothing bad happens on that day. But if consistently skip it, those small “not so bad days” add up—and you are left with a costly, both financially and in terms of human suffering, dental disaster.

Some other areas where compounding gains matter a lot:

• Eating your vegetables.
Physical activity.
• Making time for intimate connection with your loved ones.
• Practicing an instrument.
Meditation (or other forms of contemplation).

In all of these examples, you build on what you did today tomorrow. You start the next day just a little bit better, often so little you can’t even measure it, than you were the day before. But if you add up those increments over the course of a lifetime, the result can be massive.

Another important lesson related to consistency and compounding is this: It is harder to make up loses than it is to accrue gains. For simplicity’s sake, imagine that you have $1.00 and it goes down 50 percent. In order to get back to where you started, you must double your 50 cents; or put another way, you must go up by 100 percent. The same goes for so many endeavors beyond finance. If you attempt a heroic effort and it goes poorly—for example, you go for broke in sport and wind up injured; you go for broke in a relationship and wind up in way over your head; you go for broke in diet and wind up with an eating disorder—getting back to where you started is going to require a lot more effort than the potential gains that you lost.

Put simply, if you go big or go home you often end up home, and with a long journey to get back to where you started. If you go small and steady over a long period of time, however, you often end up with something big. Are there exceptions to this rule? Of course. If you are in . . .

Continue reading.

Small gains are easy to achieve, but because they are small, they are undervalued. But if you consistently make small gains, every day or every week, in time you will have achieved a big gain. “Many a mite makes a mickle.”

I suddenly remember a person who suggested that we spend an hour every day studying some topic — his example was real estate. He started knowing little, but within a few months he had a fairly broad knowledge, and after a year or two he had expert knowledge.

Another obvious example: Learning a language. You don’t learn much on any one day, but if you are consistent in your study, day after day, you will in time achieve mastery.

As my grandmother often told me, “Slow and steady wins the race.” That idea is easy to understand but seems to be difficult to absorb — to internalize to the degree that one consistently applies it in life, day to day and week to week. I think one reason people cannot absorb the idea (and thus apply it readily, from within) is that the idea bounces off the shell of impatience with which many wear as armor. They try something for a day or two or three, see no real gain, and quit. Bad idea. Instead of quitting, persist.

Update: As I reread this, I saw that the underlying foundation was patience (in addition to persistence). Some years back, I came to the conclusion that patience is a skill and thus is acquired through practice. Impatience is just a beginner error (like a wrong note in playing the piano) and means only that we need to continue to practice, perhaps working on that particular situation to find ways to combat the impatience.

For a small example: in the kitchen I find myself waiting for various things — the water to boil, the tea to steep, the food in the skillet to start to cook. I was impatient until it occurred to me to exploit the time, so when I have those moments, I do little tasks: empty the ice-cube trays into the bin and refill the trays; put the dry dishes away from the drainer; wash dishes in the sink, put away things from the counter, and so. I now fill the time instead of waiting it out.

Other occasions of impatience will call for other remedies.

Written by Leisureguy

7 September 2022 at 9:34 am

Posted in Daily life

AI And The Limits Of Language

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Jacob Browning and Yann Lecun have an interesting article in Noëma that begins:

When a Google engineer recently declared Google’s AI chatbot a person, pandemonium ensued. The chatbot, LaMDA, is a large language model (LLM) that is designed to predict the likely next words to whatever lines of text it is given. Since many conversations are somewhat predictable, these systems can infer how to keep a conversation going productively. LaMDA did this so impressively that the engineer, Blake Lemoine, began to wonder about whether there was a ghost in the machine.

Reactions to Lemoine’s story spanned the gamut: some people scoffed at the mere idea that a machine could ever be a person. Others suggested that this LLM isn’t a person, but the next perhaps might be. Still others pointed out that deceiving humans isn’t very challenging; we see saints in toast, after all.

But the diversity of responses highlights a deeper problem: as these LLMs become more common and powerful, there seems to be less and less agreement over how we should understand them. These systems have bested many “common sense” linguistic reasoning benchmarks over the years, many which promised to be conquerable only by a machine that “is thinking in the full-bodied sense we usually reserve for people.” Yet these systems rarely seem to have the common sense promised when they defeat the test and are usually still prone to blatant nonsense, non sequiturs and dangerous advice. This leads to a troubling question: how can these systems be so smart, yet also seem so limited?

The underlying problem isn’t the AI. The problem is the limited nature of language. Once we abandon old assumptions about the connection between thought and language, it is clear that these systems are doomed to a shallow understanding that will never approximate the full-bodied thinking we see in humans. In short, despite being among the most impressive AI systems on the planet, these AI systems will never be much like us.

Saying It All

A dominant theme for much of the 19th and 20th century in philosophy and science was that knowledge just is linguistic — that knowing something simply means thinking the right sentence and grasping how it connects to other sentences in a big web of all the true claims we know. The ideal form of language, by this logic, would be a purely formal, logical-mathematical one composed of arbitrary symbols connected by strict rules of inference, but natural language could serve as well if you took the extra effort to clear up ambiguities and imprecisions. As Wittgenstein put it, “The totality of true propositions is the whole of natural science.” This position was so established in the 20th century that psychological findings of cognitive maps and mental images were controversial, with many arguing that, despite appearances, these must be linguistic at base.

This view is still assumed by some overeducated, intellectual types: everything which can be known can be contained in an encyclopedia, so just reading everything might give us a comprehensive knowledge of everything. It also motivated a lot of the early work in Symbolic AI, where symbol manipulation — arbitrary symbols being bound together in different ways according to logical rules — was the default paradigm. For these researchers, an AI’s knowledge consisted of a massive database of true sentences logically connected with one another by hand, and an AI system counted as intelligent if it spit out the right sentence at the right time — that is, if it manipulated symbols in the appropriate way. This notion is what underlies the Turing test: if a machine says everything it’s supposed to say, that means it knows what it’s talking about, since knowing the right sentences and when to deploy them exhausts knowledge.

But this was subject to a withering critique which has dogged it ever since: just because a machine can talk about anything, that doesn’t mean it understands what it is talking about. This is because language doesn’t exhaust knowledge; on the contrary, it is only a highly specific, and deeply limited, kind of knowledge representation. All language — whether a programming language, a symbolic logic or a spoken language — turns on a specific type of representational schema; it excels at expressing discrete objects and properties and the relationships between them at an extremely high level of abstraction. But there is a massive difference between reading a musical score and listening to a recording of the music, and a further difference from having the skill to play it.

All representational schemas involve a compression of information about something, but what gets left in and left out in the compression varies. The representational schema of language struggles with more concrete information, such as describing irregular shapes, the motion of objects, the functioning of a complex mechanism or the nuanced brushwork of a painting — much less the finicky, context-specific movements needed for surfing a wave. But there are nonlinguistic representational schemes which can express this information in an accessible way: iconic knowledge, which involves things like images, recordings, graphs and maps; and the distributed knowledge found in trained neural networks — what we often call know-how and muscle memory. Each scheme expresses some information easily even while finding other information hard — or even impossible — to represent: what does “Either Picasso or Twombly” look like?

The Limits Of Language

One way of grasping what is distinctive about the linguistic representational schema — and how it is limited — is recognizing how little information it passes along on its own. Language is a very low-bandwidth method for transmitting information: isolated words or sentences, shorn of context, convey little. Moreover, because of the sheer number of homonyms and pronouns, many sentences are deeply ambiguous: does “the box was in the pen” refer to an ink pen or a playpen? As Chomsky and his acolytes have pointed out for decades, language is just not a clear and unambiguous vehicle for clear communication.

But humans don’t need perfect vehicle for communication because we share a nonlinguistic understanding. Our understanding of a sentence often depends on our deeper understanding of the contexts in which this kind of sentence shows up, allowing us to infer what it is trying to say. This is obvious in conversation, since we are often talking about something directly in front of us, such as a football game, or communicating about some clear objective given the social roles at play in a situation, such as ordering food from a waiter. But the same holds in reading passages — a lesson which not only undermines common-sense language tests in AI but also a popular method of teaching context-free reading comprehension skills to children. This method focuses on using generalized reading comprehension strategies to understand a text — but research suggests that the amount of background knowledge a child has on the topic is actually the key factor for comprehension. Understanding a sentence or passage depends on an underlying grasp of what the topic is about. . .

Continue reading.

Knowledge, as we commonly define it, clearly goes beyond linguistic understanding. A good example: read a book on (say) boxing, and then get into a ring with someone who has experience in the sport. Even though you might be able to recite the book by heart, you still will find you don’t do well in an actual encounter. The same holds true for fencing, cooking, programming, and so on. There is “book learning” and practical knowledge and the gap is often wide.

This is not to denigrate book learning. Knowing the terms and patterns and structure of the activity is a big help is guiding and understanding actual experience. Rather, my point is that book-learning has limits and actual productive knowledge blooms from experience, combining practical knowledge with abstract knowledge.

That’s why, for example, in my post on Covey’s 7 habits I strongly recommend a 9-week trial, in which the abstract concepts can be filled out through the process of gaining experience. You can read about how it works and believe you understand it, but when you actually start using the method you quickly realize that applying it — moving it from abstract, theoretical knowledge into practical knowledge and skill — does require additional learning (through experience).

Written by Leisureguy

7 September 2022 at 9:04 am

Dapper Doc and RazoRock BBS Standard

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The Yaqi Target Shot has two knots, each on a threaded base that screws into the handle. This morning I used the silvertip knot — a very full and relatively dense knot, so not quite my cup of tea, but perfectly usable. I loaded it well with Dapper Doc’s Old Fashioned Lilac & Fig CK-6 shaving soap and made a love lather.

RazoRocks BBS Standard razor is, so far as I can tell, the stainless steel version of the Baby Smooth, and it delivered a delightful shave: extremely comfortable and extremely efficient. Three passes left my face smooth for a splash of Dapper Doc’s aftershave (augmented a couple of squirts of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel). 

The tea this morning is again Mark T. Wendell Pu-erh Tuo Cha: “Maintaining the Pu-erh tradition of being sold in various shapes and sizes, this selection has been compressed into small nest shapes, often referred to as tuo cha. We have found that each Yunnan black tuo cha tea piece will make approximately 16 ounces of hot tea. When brewed, Pu-erh tuo cha tea yields a dark, full-bodied brew that has a unique damp and earthy aroma taste. It retains its flavor through several infusions very well.” 

Today I am going to try another infusion.

Written by Leisureguy

7 September 2022 at 8:25 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

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