“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead)
“Be the change you want to see in this world” (Gandhi)
There is an idea virus within American culture that has the power to destroy. The idea is that technology and innovation are fundamentally good. Whether you consider yourself a technologist, an entrepreneur or a scientist (all labels I use to identify myself at times) I’d like to propose an alternative to to this idea and an inoculation against the virus.
Observation #1: Innovation amplifies whatever values and beliefs are held by the innovator.
For instance, if I value my time, I might invent the first clock, or start a business to create time-management products, or devote my life to unlocking deep mysteries of the physics of time. And if I believe clean drinking water is a fundamental human right, I might invent a new method of water purification, or …
Based on an informal assessment and polling I’ve done recently, here’s what we fear:
- LOSING ONESELF
- Death / Pain / Insignificance
- BEING WRONG
- Self-Exploration / Failure / Change
- Being Found Out / Self-Expression / Lying
- LOSING ONESELF
- Power / Anticipation / Fear-Itself
- Intimacy / Just Doing It / (Lack of) Freedom
- THE UNCONTROLLABLE
- Disaster / Crisis / Unknown-Unknowns
- Being Unworthy / Unmet Expectation / Meaninglessness
- Unfairness / Inequality / Injustice
- Doing it Wrong / Shame / Guilt
Each of us has a unique profile of what fear is depending on how we related to various value dimensions (intrinsic, extrinsic and systemic). For me the scariest are: (1) Unknown-Unknowns (2) Power (3) Being Wrong (4) Self-Expression (5) Injustice
How about you?…
Several years ago I became aware of Eliezer Yudkowsky’s “AI-Box Experiment” in which he plays the role of a transhuman “artificial intelligence” and attempts (via dialogue only) to convince a human “gatekeeper” to let him out of a box in which he is being contained (resumably so the AI doesn’t harm humanity). Yudkowsky ran this experiment twice and both times he convinced the gatekeeper to let the AI out of the box, despite the fact that the gatekeeper swore up and down that there was no way to persuade him to do so.
I have to admit I think this is one of the most fascinating social experiments ever conceived, and I’m dying to play the game as gatekeeper. The problem though that I realize after reading Yudkowsky’s writeup is that there are (at least) two preconditions which I don’t meet:
Currently, my policy is that I only run the test with people who are actually advocating that an AI Box be used …
This interview was done as part of the New Cancer Mentality initiative:
New Cancer Mentality is a grassroots organization focused on giving cancer patients a virual townhall to ask their questions to leading oncologists and researchers about their work. Furthermore, New Cancer Mentality focuses on bringing about collaboration between researchers as well as giving researchers an online forum to share their views and what needs to be done to cure this disease.
If you’d like to learn more or join the movement, check out blog and contact David.…
There’s a scientific paradox in the world of nutrition about what the optimal diet is. A new theory may resolve the paradox. Oh, and help you live forever too.
The majority consensus is the “post-agricultural revolution diet” is best, which says that a majority of your intake should be vegetables and fruits, and that you should severely limit your animal product intake, especially red meats. Some proponents (like T. Colin Cambell of China Study fame) go as far as claiming that a strictly vegan diet is best.
The other camp argues for the “paleo” or “caveman” diet, which says we need to eat what our paleolithic ancestors ate: lots of foods high in animal fat and animal protein, and avoid industrialized grains altogether (some fermented natural grains are fine). Fermented foods in general are encouraged, honoring the fact that before preservation, refrigeration and pasteurization we evolved a symbiosis with bacterias that are critical for our digestion and processing of nutrients.
Both sides agree that processed …
Remember Jamie Oliver’s TED Prize Wish? Well tonight is the prime time season premiere of his Food Revolution show on ABC. The Huffington Post called Undercover Boss the most subversive show in America, and I can’t disagree. But in terms of importance to the future of America (and by extension every country which imports American TV and culture), Food Revolution I can’t imagine a more important show.
It’s not just the lives of individuals who eat crap (which is most of the country, frankly, even though they have no idea how toxic what they are eating is). It’s the happiness and achievement potential of today’s youth. It’s the emperor with no clothes at the center of the healthcare debate. And it’s a lynchpin for economic recovery and sustainability.
Watch the premiere, and spread the word……
James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA’s double-helix structure recently called for a back to basics approach in dealing with cancer. In previous post threads I’ve discussed cancer’s complexity and in particular the confounding and scary implications of somatic evolution, which underscores some of the reasons we are not winning the “war on cancer.” Here I will discuss some cutting edge approaches to treating and preventing cancer and how they might pan out in light of the complexities of the disease. The categories below are not mutually exclusive, and the examples cited are nowhere near exhaustive, but this should give you some food for thought. If you have ideas, questions or know of approaches that should be highlighted, please comment.
Target & Kill Approaches
Biris and Zharov are making some exciting progress in using nanotubes to tag and then track cancer cells inside the body as they move around. They propose to kill the cancer cells by heating up the nanotubes using lasers, while others are …
Also must-read this Sunday is Michael Pollan’s NY Times Op-Ed piece from Wednesday. Nice cap to my week of ranting on the dismantling of rationality when it comes to lifestyle choices that directly impact one’s health, here and here.…
I have been trying to get the straight scoop on whether statins actually decrease mortality and morbidity in a significant way and I haven’t been able to find any real evidence that they do.
If you ask a cardiologist it’s clear that they believe unequivocally that statins work, mostly because they see what statins to do blood cholesterol levels. But remember, cholesterol numbers in and of themselves do not matter. They are a proxy variable for cardiovascular health. Plaque buildup matters. At one time blood cholesterol numbers were the only non-invasive indicator we had of plaque buildup, but that’s not true anymore. However, drug companies are highly incentivized to prove that statins improve health. So they fund lots of studies.
Notwithstanding the systemic bias when there are profit motives and publication motives, we can turn to these studies and see if statins actually work. The best way to remove bias is to look at large-scale meta-analyses, like this one. If you simply read the …
If you had a billion dollars to make the world a better place, how would you spend it?…
This is a very complex topic, as the following talk suggests:
The main takeaways from this that I got are:
- Cancers for which sunlight deficit is a risk factor are orders of magnitude more prevalent than the few for which overexposure is a risk factor.
- People who are using sunscreen regularly are precisely the ones who shouldn’t be.
- We should be very careful and sparing about recommending sunscreen usage or sun avoidance, and always temper such advice with the tradeoffs of not getting enough sunlight.
As someone who wonders on a regular basis whether the public has the right information to make informed decisions about health-related tradeoffs, I am curious… does the above strike you as surprising? What do you currently do regarding sun exposure, and are you likely to change anything based on the above? What do you think the overall message that reaches the masses is regarding sun exposure?…
Here is a fascinating discussion on NPR’s Forum from earlier this year on the subject of mercury and fish:
If you’ve listened to this the whole way through (which you should), I’m curious as to how it will affect your habits, if at all. And why?…
The following quotes are from a book describing a real set of events:
[The incident] is an extraordinary example of what happens when you get… a dozen people with an average IQ of 160… working in a field in which they collectively have 250 years of experience… employing a ton of leverage.
It’s hard to overstate the significance of a [government-led] rescues of a private [corporation]. If a [company], however large was too big to fail, then what large [company] would ever be allowed to collapse? The government risked becoming the margin of safety. No serious consequences had come about in the end from the… near-meltdown.
Was the incident:
a) The savings and loan scandal
b) The collapse of Enron
c) The sub-prime mortgage meltdown
d) none of the above
First correct answer gets to invest in an exciting new bridge project I’m involved with in New York!…
I just tweeted on a subject that I suspected would cause a stir, and so it has, I’m moving it here:
RafeFurst: I strongly support a soda tax! RT @mobilediner: check it out: a Soda Tax? http://amplify.com/u/dvl
coelhobruno: @RafeFurst what about diet soda? Would it be exempt?
RafeFurst: @coelhobruno no diet soda would not b exempt from tax. Tax should be inversely proportional to total nutritional content. Spinach = no tax
Lauren Baldwin: I do as well … and while they are at it they should tax fake fruit juice too.
Kevin Dick: I think this would be an interesting experiment. I predict a tax does not cause any measurable decrease in BMI.
Kim Scheinberg: New York has had this under consideration for a year. Perhaps surprisingly, I’m against it. In theory, people will drink less soda. In reality, it will just be another tax on people who can afford it the least.
Leaving aside the “rights” issues and …
From Monday’s Washington Post:
The District, New York and Los Angeles are on track for fewer killings this year than in any other year in at least four decades. Boston, San Francisco, Minneapolis and other cities are also seeing notable reductions in homicides.
Full article is here, in which more sensible police approaches are given credit for the decline.…
Pursuant to my earlier post, it turns out there already is such a group:
Thanks to Marissa Chien who found it and pointed me to it. She also suggests that people who are having trouble with their mortgage should seek advise from HUD. Information is power and many people (I’ve learned) are irrationally scared of approaching their lender and negotiating. More and more lenders are willing to cut deals to avoid foreclosures.…
Given everything I hear about obesity stats in the U.S. and malnutrition in the developing world, the last thing I was expecting to find in my inbox this morning was a plea to join a Facebook cause to help end hunger in America. Really?
I’m usually not skeptical in this way, and I’m loath to focus on the negative when it comes to philanthropy, but I can’t get these thoughts out of my head and I’d like some perspective from those who are better informed about the alleged U.S. hunger crisis. In the mean time, here’s my food for thought:…