Sunday, July 15, 2012

Windshield time

DSC00058“Windshield time” is the time spent lost with amidst thoughts while winding along the highways.   Sometimes there’s music on the radio (podcasts on the player), sometimes conversations, sometimes wind to stir thoughts along.

This weekend, I ended up logging articles that I wanted to read and short thoughts I needed to complete, all the way between Maastricht and Calais.


In summer, when restaurant terraces can be a nice way to enjoy the sun, why do theyKlout have to be overrun with smokers?  (10 km)

And why is my Klout score headed south?  Is it a reflection on my life? (5 km)


I’ve been reading The Mechanical Mind, philosophical musings on the differences between machine and human intelligence.  I used to read a lot of cognitive science and re-engaged after seeing IBM’s  Watson.  It strikes me as as a powerful search engine, not true AI: the manipulation of symbols based on categoriesThinking machines is different than manipulation based on understanding.

David Auerbach explores this in his essay The Stupidity of Computers in n+1 magazine, noting that computers manipulate structured knowledge organized into hierarchical categories.  Thus, they excel at answering questions about things in a store (where there are departments with features, brands, and prices) but not in newspaper articles (also in departments, but without consistent tags).

Human and machine thought converges only if men think using structures computers can understand, or if computers augment, rather than replace, human thought.  The latter implies that thinking requires abilities that computers by their nature can never have.  Interesting to speculate on that (110 km)


Cookie MonsterAre you an Order Muppet or a Chaos Muppet, Bert or Cookie Monster?  What happens if you partner with your opposite; what sort of children do combinations produce (Elmo?).  It’s always fun to play with stereotypes and metaphors, and I enjoyed this riff from Slate.  (20 km)


busy calendarI don’t know how I missed The Busy Trap, a New York Times op-ed piece from late June.  Tim Krieder asserts that “being busy” has become an end in itself, driven by ambition or drive or anxiety, simply because we’re addicted to busyness and guilty or afraid of idleness.  Guilty as charged: life is filled with opportunities that come around once, rarely, and I make the most of them.  But it was this alternative life that caught me:

Not long ago I  Skyped with a friend who was driven out of the city by high rent and now has an artist’s residency in a small town in the south of France. She described herself as happy and relaxed for the first time in years. She still gets her work done, but it doesn’t consume her entire day and brain. She says it feels like college — she has a big circle of friends who all go out to the cafe together every night.

Europe is not the negation of ambition, as many suspect: it’s the achievement of balance and connection.  The stores close on off hours and the trains run off to interesting places. Busyness is something we collectively force one another to do.  Windshield time is the cure (100 km).


PatriarchyExtended families have elders: patriarchs and matriarchs who wield authority and pass judgments, affirming choices and granting acceptance.  I went online to see if there was theory to support the role.  Wikipedia acknowledged the definition of “patriarch”, but then ran off into a screed that male authority presumes female subjugation.

It’s not clear to me that granting authority to one person automatically diminishes the rest.  Authority may be limited and balanced in many ways, and it would be unusual for a despot to routinely emerge.  It’s unfortunate that feminist theorists take such a solipsistic view rather than a symbiotic one  (although I understand the motivations)  (35 km)

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