“If the button is not shaped like the thought, the thought will end up shaped like the button.” — Ted Nelson

I’d like to share with you a section from the famous book on software creation (and creation generally): The Mythical Man Month, by Fredrick Brooks. Why? …

The Internet may be our finest tool for inculcating the highest values in ourselves — but before cultivation comes freedom.

This is an extract from an article originally published on Wonk Bridge.

Goodness, truth, beauty. These are not common terms to encounter during a discussion of the Internet or computers; for the most part, the normal model seems to be that people can do good or bad things online, but the Internet is just technology.

This approach, I think, is one of the gravest mistakes of our age: thinking or acting as though technology is separate from fields like philosophy…

Happy new year, everyone.

I’d like to leave you with a thought, something very simple: we owe a great deal to those who have an idea, something new, different, often against the grain and ideally with some evidence to back it up, and who hold on to their idea despite people dragging them down, calling them names or ignoring them. …

Kind Words is not a meditation game, but a kindness game for which meditation is the optimal strategy.

Kind Words is a game without winners and a social network without identities. The only objective is to show kindness to strangers, and its social functions and gameplay are the opposite of the most insidious features of modern social networks that make them simultaneously anti-social, depressing and impossible to quit. For this reason, I consider it a prototype for a type of system that we might build to foster broader, more profound and more positive-sum interactions between people.

Opening: Highs without Subsequent Lows

The thinker Naval Ravikant identified a pleasing set, “highs that don’t lead to subsequent lows”:

This, I compare to social media…

Having Taught Computers Humanity, Perhaps They Can Teach Us Good Faith

Winner of the Best Article from a New Contributor 2020 Award at Wonk Bridge’s 2020 Award Ceremony.

Degrain’s “Otelo e Desdemona”, an image and scenario epitomising the quandary of our present focus — to risk good faith, or embrace the ease of bad faith?

Bad faith is corrosive and, as with the nuclear calculus, the only way to deal with it is invoke a deterrent that is just as (or more) dangerous: the accusation of bad faith, which has the potential to negate any conversation. …

The potential of technology to empower is being subverted by tyrannical user interface design, enabled by our data and attention.

This article was originally published on WonkBridge.

My thesis here is that an obsession with easy, “intuitive” and perhaps even efficient user interfaces is creating a layer of soft tyranny. This layer is not unlike what I might create were I a dictator, seeking to soften up the public prior to an immense abuse of liberty in the future, by getting them so used to comical restrictions on their use of things that such bullying becomes normalized.

A note of clarification: I am not a trained user interface designer. I am just a user with opinions. I don’t write the…

The potential of technology to empower is being subverted by tyrannical user interface design, enabled by our data and attention.

My thesis here is that an obsession with easy, “intuitive” and perhaps even efficient user interfaces is creating a layer of soft tyranny. This layer is not unlike what I might create were I a dictator, seeking to soften up the public prior to an immense abuse of liberty in the future, by getting them so used to comical restrictions on their use of things that such bullying becomes normalised.

A note of clarification: I am not a trained user interface designer. I am just a user with opinions. I don’t write the following from the perspective of someone who…

Dear Max, it was wonderful to meet you last week. It bears repeating that I felt as though talking for the first time to a hidden collaborator.

I think that the center of the conversation was uncorrelated thinking: something in the possession of those thinkers that do interesting things that surprise us, or that combine fields and ideas that we didn’t think possible. People and organizations like this are a rocket under society, but they are both misunderstood and rare.

As we agreed, the size of fields and the necessary groundwork in order to achieve proficiency makes it harder to…

I am sorry to hear that you are unwell, and hope that you feel better soon.

When a friend or relative dies, or when we or a person close to us becomes ill with something serious, it tends to change our perspective on how we live. Often we realize that we wasted a great deal of time on things with little lasting value, and neglected what’s important.

Sam Harris expressed this idea very clearly during a speech, extracted here:

“People realize… that their attention was bound up in petty concerns, year after year, when life was normal… like watching…

Most people are stunningly irrational; falsifiability is a test and a tool that helps us to hew away unfounded mental models and leave behind what works (for now).

The criterion that a theory ought to tell us how to show its falsehood is a wonderful filter, holding back pseudo-scientific claims about nature and forcing us to be honest. Those of us who can’t or won’t open ourselves to falsification are in a freeloading relationship: kept fed and comfortable on the couch of those who do.

Perhaps it’s time that we struggled off the couch and got a job, opening up…

Oliver Meredith Cox

I am a writer and musician; in writing I work on novels, poetry and essays, in music, rock. I advocate free speech and free inquiry, try to shun the mawkish.

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