3QD's 2014 finalists for best blog posts on philosophical topics: Should animal products have ethical warning labels? Why is scientific uncertainty a moral responsibility [see last 4 mins.]? Should people choose probabilistically among competing moral theories? What are some bad ways of arguing about free will? Are most of us just not good enough to be utilitarians? Are volunteer soldiers morally responsible for unjust wars? Do P2P networks provide a model for something to do with consciousness, reality, and, yep, quantum mechanics? When are delusions good for us (see also)? What's up with philosophical systems that knock themselves down, e.g. Nāgārjuna's, Nietzsche's, and Rorty's? There's also an archive page for older prizes and other categories (previously).
The Age of Uncertainty, A Personal View by John Kenneth Galbraith was a 12 (or 15) part documentary mini-series about the fickle art of economics, co-produced by the BBC, CBC, KCET & OECA, and broadcast on television in 1977. Galbraith’s dry Scottish Canadian wit, and the 70’s-style art-direction, are worth viewing for those who like this sort of thing. The parody corporate videos for the Conglomerate UGE anticipated some of the ideas explored later in the 2003 documentary The Corporation. Some parts will seem dated, considering that this series was produced in the thick of The Cold War, before the rise of Reaganomics, Thatcherism, The Fall of the Berlin Wall, the rise of the EU, yuan, electronic transfers, etc. The basic insights about the instability of financial markets are still real, as always. [more inside]
The 'worst storm since 1987' is due to hit the UK over the next few days. It may also hit 'northern France and the Low Countries'. It may be 'overwhelming' and 'there is a risk of some parts getting two inches of rain in a six hour period'. The Met Office has warned that 'England and Wales will be hit by a significant storm on Sunday night with winds of up to 80mph in some areas'. They also said the predicted storm was 'not one you would see every year' and that 'exceptional winds will batter Surrey'. Drivers are advised to 'at a minimum, take a fully-charged mobile phone and warm, weatherproof clothing.' Some media outlets claim, however, the storm will only be the worst of the last five year, though in Bristol it'll be the worst in 'two decades'. Never the less, 'stay well away from trees'. [more inside]
Since time immemorial, people have tried to predict the future. In the second half of the 20th century, these efforts grew more ambitious and sophisticated. Improvements in computational power, data gathering, and analysis were all put to work to try to lift the veil on the future. But the last decade has not been kind to futurology. Bankers' and insurers' forecasts of risk turned out to be drastically wrong, torpedoing the financial system and ushering in a long stagnation. Politicians' visions of long-term stable economic growth evaporated. Perhaps relatedly, scathing critiques of our ability to foresee the future rose to the top of bestseller lists. In this newly self-conscious mood, Nesta funded research that tries to get under the surface of different ways of talking about the future. This paper leans on that research, defending some forms of futurology. Accompanying Guardian post on uncertainty being the only certainty.
Tails of the Unexpected: "Normality has been an accepted wisdom in economics and finance for a century or more. Yet in real-world systems, nothing could be less normal than normality. Tails should not be unexpected, for they are the rule." An eminently human-readable explanation of why normal models fail to describe the uncertainties of our abnormal world. [more inside]
Anger, Politics and the Wisdom of Uncertainty - "If there's somebody or even some institution to blame, it turns out people are much more likely to get angry... anger tends to inspire individuals to engage in more political activities than they would otherwise... Without someone to blame, respondents mostly just grow fearful and anxious... A particular danger of anger seems to be closed-mindedness. Research finds that when citizens get angry, they close themselves off to alternative views and redouble their sense of conviction in their existing views. Fear and anxiety, on the other hand, seem to promote openness to alternative viewpoints and a willingness to compromise." (via) [more inside]
"Take a little bad psychology, add a dash of bad philosophy and ethics, and liberal quantities of bad logic, and any economist can prove that the demand curve for a commodity is negatively inclined." MIT economist Andrew Lo and string theorist turned asset manager Mark Mueller on the "physics envy" that plagues economics, and how to stop worrying and love uncertainty.
HotBits is an Internet resource that brings genuine random numbers, generated by a process fundamentally governed by the inherent uncertainty in the quantum mechanical laws of nature, directly to your computer in a variety of forms. HotBits are generated by timing successive pairs of radioactive decays detected by a Geiger-Müller tube interfaced to a computer. (Warning: random sounds.)
Quantum Mechanics: Myths and Facts (pdf), a recently-updated paper on the Cornell arXiv peer-review site. By Hrvoje Nikolić of the Rudjer Bošković Institute in Croatia. [more inside]
May The Force be with you. Also: 13 things that don't make any sense. May your New Year - and the many years to come - be wild and wonderous and bright.