Darwin Day & Attachment
unopened condition

In honor of Darwin Day: An interior page on natural selection in an unopened original of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society. Note that the octavos in the edition haven’t been cut accounting for the top of the page being curved in the picture (because of the attachment of the adjoining pages). Science changed dramatically that day.

📖 I’m 4% done reading Economy, Society, and Public Policy by CORE Team

Read sections 1.0-1.3. I’m loving the graphs, charts, videos, and supplementary interactive material they’re including in the book. It’s completely fascinating and quite a different reading experience on a computer versus either paper or e-reader.

Having immediate access to data like this make for a more interesting Economics experience.


Annotations from Unit 1 Capitalism and democracy: Affluence, inequality, and the environment

Cyril Ramaphosa

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyril_Ramaphosa
Annotated on January 30, 2020 at 12:00PM

PPP

PPP stands for Purchasing Power Parity
How to Calculate and Use Purchasing Power Parity – PPP
Annotated on January 30, 2020 at 12:07PM

But some have taller skyscrapers at the back, meaning a greater disparity between the top 10% and the rest of the population, whereas others have a less steep profile.

It might be more interesting if the top decile in each country were broken into tenths to show the even more severe disparities. I suspect that some of the height differences would be even more drastic if we could see the top 1% or even the top 0.1% on these graphs.
Annotated on January 30, 2020 at 12:36PM

A thousand years ago, the world was flat, economically speaking.

I don’t think we have to go back even this far. If I recall correctly, even 150 years ago the vast majority of the world’s population were subsistence farmers. It’s only been since the 20th century and the increasing spread of the industrial revolution that the situation has changed:

Even England remained primarily an agrarian country like all tributary societies for the previous 4,000 years, with ca. 50 percent of its population employed in agriculture as late as 1759.

–David Christian, Maps of Time (pp 401) quoting from Crafts, British Economic Growth, pp. 13–14. (See also Fig 13.1 Global Industrial Potential from the same, for a graphical indicator.
Annotated on January 30, 2020 at 01:03PM

If you have never seen an ice-hockey stick (or experienced ice hockey) this shape is why we call these figures ‘hockey-stick curves’.

I’m glad they’ve included an image of a hockey stick to provide the context here, but I’ve always thought of it rotated so that the blade was on the ground and the sharp angle of the handle itself indicated the exponential growth curve!
Annotated on January 30, 2020 at 01:18PM

Watched Hans Rosling's 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes from The Joy of Stats - BBC Four | YouTube

Hans Rosling's famous lectures combine enormous quantities of public data with a sport's commentator's style to reveal the story of the world's past, present and future development. Now he explores stats in a way he has never done before - using augmented reality animation. In this spectacular section of 'The Joy of Stats' he tells the story of the world in 200 countries over 200 years using 120,000 numbers - in just four minutes. Plotting life expectancy against income for every country since 1810, Hans shows how the world we live in is radically different from the world most of us imagine.

More about this programme: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00wgq0l

I really love the visualizations here! There’s so much to pull apart and analyze. I do wish I had a more focused view on some of the time lapse. There are some countries moving around in interesting ways and I’d love to be able to watch what they’re doing and match them up with various historical events. Watching Japan, for example is fascinating. The near-global dip for large portions of the connected world in 1918 was particularly interesting to see as well.

Dr. Lynne Kelly’s research on history, indigenous people, and memory, and a dovetail with Big History

David Christian, Fred Spier, Bill Gates, Big History Institute, and other Big History researchers and thinkers, if you’re not already aware of her, allow me to introduce you to researcher Dr. Lynne Kelly. Her work dramatically expands our understanding of pre-literate societies’ learning, memory, and particularly collective learning. Further, it makes for a strong and fascinating story that could not only be integrated into Big History; it provides links between modern and pre-modern humans and ties deeply into ideas of origin stories, mythology, and early religion; and it provides actual methods for improving student’s memories and particularly that for history.

I think her work has some profound impact on the arc of Big History, particularly with respect to Threshold 6, well into Threshold 7, and continuing into the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution. In true big history fashion, her thesis also touches heavily on a broad array of topics including anthropology, archaeology, psychology, neuroscience, history, and education.

A broad, reasonable introduction to her work can be had in CalTech physicist Sean Carroll’s  recent podcast interview.

Another short introduction is her TEDx Melbourne talk:

A solid popular science encapsulation of her work can be found in her book The Memory Code: The Secrets of Stonehenge, Easter Island and Other Ancient Monuments (Pegasus Books, 2017).

A more thorough academic treatment of her work can naturally be found in:

With some work, I think her research could become a better foundational basis for a stronger bridge from threshold 6 into threshold 7 with dramatic impact on how we view origin stories, mythology, religion. It also has some spectacular implications for improving pedagogy and memory within our educational systems and how we view and use collective memory and even innovation in the modern world.

Listened to The Origins of Life: David Krakauer, Sarah Maurer, and Chris Kempes at InterPlanetary Festival 2019 by Michael Garfield from Complexity by the Santa Fe Institute

OCTOBER 9TH, 2019 | 55:37

A few years after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, upsetting centuries of certainty about the history of life, he wrote a now-famous letter to Joseph Dalton Hooker, British botanist and advocate of evolutionary theory. "But if (and oh what a big if),” Darwin’s letter reads, “we could conceive in some warm little pond with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity etcetera present, that a protein compound was chemically formed, ready to undergo still more complex changes.”

That was 1871. Nearly 150 years hence, humankind has worked out the details of the evolutionary process to exquisite depth and resolution, but abiogenesis - the origins of life - remains one of the greatest mysteries of our world. Fierce theoretical debates rage on between those who think life got its start in deep sea hydrothermal vents and those who think it started in “some warm little pond” – not to mention more heterodox hypotheses. The consequences are enormous – shaping plans for interplanetary exploration, changing our approach to medicine, and maybe foremost, settling the existential question of what life is in the first place.

This week’s episode was recorded live at the Santa Fe Institute’s InterPlanetary Festival in June 2019. The panel features evolutionary theorist David Krakauer, President of SFI; biochemist Sarah Maurer, Assistant Professor at Central Connecticut State University; and SFI Professor Chris Kempes, who works on biological scaling laws. In this discussion, we present a spectrum of perspectives on the origins of life debate, and speak to the importance of presenting this unsettled science as itself an evolutionary object...

Visit our website for more information or to support our science and communication efforts.

David Krakauer's Webpage Google Scholar Citations.
Sarah Maurer's Website.
Chris Kempes's Website.
InterPlanetary Festival's Website.
Complexity Explorer's Origins of Life Online Course.

Some interesting philosophical discussion on the origin of life and related research. I definitely fall more into David Krakauer’s camp of thought.

We definitely need a better definition of life. I’ve got a version brewing based on work in the area of big history, but it still needs some refining.

Bookmarked History, Big History, & Metahistory by David C. Krakauer (SFI Press)

What is history anyway? Most people would say it’s what happened in the past, but how far back does the past extend? To the first written sources? To what other forms of evidence reveal about pre-literate civilizations? What does that term mean—an empire, a nation, a city, a village, a family, a lonely hermit somewhere? Why stop with people: shouldn’t history also comprise the environment in which they exist, and if so on what scale and how far back? And as long as we’re headed in that direction, why stop with the earth and the solar system? Why not go all the way back to the Big Bang itself? There’s obviously no consensus on how to answer these questions, but even asking them raises another set of questions about history: who should be doing it? Traditionally trained historians, for whom archives are the only significant source? Historians willing to go beyond archives, who must therefore rely on, and to some extent themselves become, psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, archeologists? But if they’re also going to take environments into account, don’t they also have to know something about climatology, biology, paleontology, geology, and even astronomy? And how can they do that without knowing some basic physics, chemistry, and mathematics? This inaugural volume of the SFI Press (the new publishing arm of the Santa Fe Institute) attempts to address these questions via thoughtful essays on history written by distinguished scholars—including Nobel laureate Murray Gell-Mann—from across a wide range of fields.

Bookcover of History, Big History, & Metahistory

Listened to Mindscape 72 | César Hidalgo on Information in Societies, Economies, and the Universe by Sean CarrollSean Carroll from preposterousuniverse.com

Maxwell’s Demon is a famous thought experiment in which a mischievous imp uses knowledge of the velocities of gas molecules in a box to decrease the entropy of the gas, which could then be used to do useful work such as pushing a piston. This is a classic example of converting information (what the gas molecules are doing) into work. But of course that kind of phenomenon is much more widespread — it happens any time a company or organization hires someone in order to take advantage of their know-how. César Hidalgo has become an expert in this relationship between information and work, both at the level of physics and how it bubbles up into economies and societies. Looking at the world through the lens of information brings new insights into how we learn things, how economies are structured, and how novel uses of data will transform how we live.

César Hidalgo received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Notre Dame. He currently holds an ANITI Chair at the University of Toulouse, an Honorary Professorship at the University of Manchester, and a Visiting Professorship at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. From 2010 to 2019, he led MIT’s Collective Learning group. He is the author of Why Information Grows and co-author of The Atlas of Economic Complexity. He is a co-founder of Datawheel, a data visualization company whose products include the Observatory of Economic Complexity.

Mindscape cover art

It was interesting to hear Cesar Hidalgo use the concept of “big history” a few times in this episode. I’m not 100% sure he meant it in the David Christian sense of the words, but it at least felt right.

I was also piqued at the mention of Lynne Kelly’s work, which I’m now knee deep into. I suspect it could dramatically expand on what we think of as the capacity of a personbyte, though the limit of knowledge there still exists. The idea of mnemotechniques within indigenous cultures certainly expands on the way knowledge worked in prehistory and what we classically think of and frame collective knowledge or collective learning.

I also think there are some interesting connections with Dr. Kelly’s mentions of social equity in prehistorical cultures and the work that Hidalgo mentions in the middle of the episode.

There are a small handful of references I’ll want to delve into after hearing this, though it may take time to pull them up unless they’re linked in the show notes.

 

hat-tip: Complexity Digest for the reminder that this is in my podcatcher. 🔖 November 22, 2019 at 03:28PM

Listened to How capuchin monkeys learn about food And what that might teach us by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

Cover artwork of female capuchin and young infant. She is holding a rock to crack nuts.When chimpanzees were first seen stripping the leaves off slender branches and inserting them into termite nests to fish for the insects, people marvelled. Our nearest relatives, using tools to get nutritious food. Imagine, then, the surprise among primatologists when capuchin monkeys, not nearly as closely related to us, proved equally adept at tool use. Capuchins select stones that can be half as heavy as they are and carry them long distances to use as nutcrackers.

Elisabetta Visalberghi is a biologist based in Rome, who published the first scientific observations of tool use in capuchins. That is just a part of her far-reaching investigations into how capuchins, which are omnivorous, go about deciding which foods are worth eating and which are best avoided.

The results may surprise you.

Trailer: The Bearded Capuchin Monkeys of Fazenda Boa Vista from Cognitive Primatology_ISTC on Vimeo.

Notes

  1. Cover photo of Chuchu and her infant by Elisabetta Visalberghi.
  2. The video I mentioned in the show is The bearded capuchin monkeys of Fazenda Boa Vista, available from the CNR Primate Center in Rome. There are some other videos on Vimeo.
  3. The CNR Primate Center website.
  4. Cashews really are a problem from the people who have to process them. This article is very recent.
  5. Banner from a photo by Allan Hopkins
  6. How about making a donation to show your love for the show?
This is so fascinating from an anthropological and even socio-economic perspective.

🎧 Climate Obscura | On the Media | WNYC Studios

Listened to Climate Obscura by Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield from On the Media | WNYC Studios

Trump's attacks on climate science; the dark money behind environmental deregulation; and the Anthropocene.

The Trump administration has ordered federal agencies to stop publishing worst-case scenario projections of climate change. This week, On the Media examines the administration’s pattern of attacks on climate science. Plus, a look at the dark money behind environmental deregulation.

1. Kate Aronoff [@KateAronoff], fellow at the Type Media Center, on the White House's suppression of climate warnings. Listen.

2. Jane Mayer [@JaneMayerNYer], staff writer at The New Yorker and author of Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, on the billionaires supporting the modern conservative intellectual framework. Listen.

3. Jan Zalasiewicz, Anthropocene Working Group Chair, on the traces that today's humans might leave behind for future civilizations, and Benjamin Kunkel [@kunktation] on whether the Age of Capitalism might be a more appropriate term to describe our epoch. Listen.

Some interesting discussion on climate, but more specifically on the effects of man from a much longer term geological perspective. It’s not often that one could say there’s news that takes a Big History perspective, but this certainly comes as close as one could hope. The second segment was particularly interesting.

I sort of like the idea of dating the Anthropocene from the 1950’s with the invention of the atomic bomb as it created a world-wide layer. But then the beginning of agriculture or the start of the industrial revolution also likely had world-wide effects as well.

👓 A Perspective on Time | Visual.ly

Read A Perspective on Time (visual.ly)
Humans are good at a lot of things, but putting time in perspective is not one of them. It's not our fault - the span of time in human history, and even more so in natural history, are so vast compared to the span of our life and recent history that it's almost impossible to get a handle on it. A large infographic comparing various timescales from the last 24 hours to the entire span of the universe

❤️ randal_olson tweeted 10 most populous cities in the world from 1500-2018. #dataviz https://t.co/vtGEBVLdYk https://t.co/uvIkuE4VDI

Liked a tweet by Randy Olson Randy Olson (Twitter)

👓 How long do floods throughout the millennium remain in the collective memory? | Nature

Read How long do floods throughout the millennium remain in the collective memory? by Václav Fanta, Miroslav Šálek & Petr Sklenicka (Nature Communications, volume 10, Article number: 1105 (2019) )
Is there some kind of historical memory and folk wisdom that ensures that a community remembers about very extreme phenomena, such as catastrophic floods, and learns to establish new settlements in safer locations? We tested a unique set of empirical data on 1293 settlements founded in the course of nine centuries, during which time seven extreme floods occurred. For a period of one generation after each flood, new settlements appeared in safer places. However, respect for floods waned in the second generation and new settlements were established closer to the river. We conclude that flood memory depends on living witnesses, and fades away already within two generations. Historical memory is not sufficient to protect human settlements from the consequences of rare catastrophic floods.
This is intriguing particularly when thinking back to our earliest world literatures which all involve flood stories.

I wonder what the equivalent sorts of things would be for C. elegans, drosophila, etc. for testing things on smaller timescales?

📑 ‘The goal is to automate us’: welcome to the age of surveillance capitalism | John Naughton | The Guardian

Annotated 'The goal is to automate us': welcome to the age of surveillance capitalism by John NaughtonJohn Naughton (the Guardian)

Historians call it the “conquest pattern”, which unfolds in three phases: legalistic measures to provide the invasion with a gloss of justification, a declaration of territorial claims, and the founding of a town to legitimate the declaration.  

🎧 Episode 116 An Educator’s Guide to Systems Thinking: An Interview With Linda Booth Sweeney | Human Current

Listened to Episode 116 An Educator's Guide to Systems Thinking: An Interview With Linda Booth Sweeney by Angie CrossAngie Cross from HumanCurrent

In this episode, Angie talks with systems educator and award-winning author, Linda Booth Sweeney. Booth Sweeney describes her work as a systems educator and explains why understanding systems is so important. She shares many wonderful examples and stories of patterns (and feedback loops) that show up in everyday life and explains how seeing a pattern is the very first step toward influencing change. Booth Sweeney also talks about her books and why storytelling is such an instrumental tool in her work.

Linda Booth Sweeney
Some awesome ideas hiding in here. Definitely worth a second listen as well as bookmarking some of Sweeney’s books to read in the future. I particularly like the idea of systems thinking for children via storytelling. Some of the ideas here have some overlap with ideas in Big History.

🔖 davidgchristian tweet: We humans have reduced the biomass of life on earth by 50%

Bookmarked a tweet by David Christian (Twitter)