🎧 The Daily: How ‘Medicare for All’ Would Work (or Not Work) | New York Times

Listened to The Daily: How ‘Medicare for All’ Would Work (or Not Work) from New York Times

As the idea gains traction in mainstream circles, we look at its roots in progressive American politics.

🎧 The Daily: Silicon Valley’s Military Dilemma | New York Times

Listened to The Daily: Silicon Valley’s Military Dilemma from New York Times

Should Big Tech partner with the Pentagon? We examine a cautionary tale.

Some great history and questions about ethics here.

I’m surprised that for it’s share of profits that Down didn’t spin off the napalm division to some defense contractor?

Of course some tech companies are already weaponizing their own products against people. What about those ethical issues.

👓 Defining the DNA of collaboration | The Open Co-op

Read Defining the DNA of collaboration (The Open Co-op)
As a species, human beings are barely more intelligent than kindergarten kids. We revel at our place at the top of the food chain, and praise our technological ingenuity but, let’s face it, we’ve barely begun to work life out. We’ve created one directional extractive systems that undermine our own life support systems, like kindergarten …

There’s some interesting philosophy here. It dances around the idea of fitness landscapes, but doesn’t mention them directly, though this is essentially what the article is exploring from the perspective of businesses.

👓 How to Think Like a Front-End Developer | Jeremy Keith

Read How to Think Like a Front-End Developer (adactio.com)

Alright! It’s day two of An Event Apart in Seattle. The first speaker of the day is Chris Coyier. His talk is called How to Think Like a Front-End Developer. From the website:

The job title “front-end developer” is very real: job boards around the world confirm that. But what is that job, exactly? What do you need to know to do it? You might think those answers are pretty cut and dried, but they’re anything but; front-end development is going through something of an identity crisis. In this engaging talk, Chris will explore this identity through the lens of someone who has self-identified as a front-end developer for a few decades, but more interestingly, through many conversations he’s had with other successful front-end developers. You’ll see just how differently this job can be done and how differently people and companies can think of this role—not just for the sake of doing so, but because you’ll learn to be better at your own jobs by understanding how other people are good at theirs.

👓 The Man Who Tried to Redeem the World with Logic | Issue 21: Information – Nautilus

Read The Man Who Tried to Redeem the World with Logic (Nautilus)
Walter Pitts was used to being bullied. He’d been born into a tough family in Prohibition-era Detroit, where his father, a boiler-maker,…

Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia

McCulloch was a confident, gray-eyed, wild-bearded, chain-smoking philosopher-poet who lived on whiskey and ice cream and never went to bed before 4 a.m.  

Now that is a business card title!

March 03, 2019 at 06:01PM

McCulloch and Pitts were destined to live, work, and die together. Along the way, they would create the first mechanistic theory of the mind, the first computational approach to neuroscience, the logical design of modern computers, and the pillars of artificial intelligence.  

tl;dr

March 03, 2019 at 06:06PM

Gottfried Leibniz. The 17th-century philosopher had attempted to create an alphabet of human thought, each letter of which represented a concept and could be combined and manipulated according to a set of logical rules to compute all knowledge—a vision that promised to transform the imperfect outside world into the rational sanctuary of a library.  

I don’t think I’ve ever heard this quirky story…

March 03, 2019 at 06:08PM

Which got McCulloch thinking about neurons. He knew that each of the brain’s nerve cells only fires after a minimum threshold has been reached: Enough of its neighboring nerve cells must send signals across the neuron’s synapses before it will fire off its own electrical spike. It occurred to McCulloch that this set-up was binary—either the neuron fires or it doesn’t. A neuron’s signal, he realized, is a proposition, and neurons seemed to work like logic gates, taking in multiple inputs and producing a single output. By varying a neuron’s firing threshold, it could be made to perform “and,” “or,” and “not” functions.  

I’m curious what year this was, particularly in relation to Claude Shannon’s master’s thesis in which he applied Boolean algebra to electronics.
Based on their meeting date, it would have to be after 1940.And they published in 1943: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF02478259

March 03, 2019 at 06:14PM

McCulloch and Pitts alone would pour the whiskey, hunker down, and attempt to build a computational brain from the neuron up.  

A nice way to pass the time to be sure. Naturally mathematicians would have been turning “coffee into theorems” instead of whiskey.

March 03, 2019 at 06:15PM

“an idea wrenched out of time.” In other words, a memory.  

March 03, 2019 at 06:17PM

McCulloch and Pitts wrote up their findings in a now-seminal paper, “A Logical Calculus of Ideas Immanent in Nervous Activity,” published in the Bulletin of Mathematical Biophysics.  

March 03, 2019 at 06:21PM

I really like this picture here. Perhaps for a business card?
colorful painting of man sitting with abstract structure around him
  
March 03, 2019 at 06:23PM

it had been Wiener who discovered a precise mathematical definition of information: The higher the probability, the higher the entropy and the lower the information content.  

Oops, I think this article is confusing Wiener with Claude Shannon?

March 03, 2019 at 06:34PM

By the fall of 1943, Pitts had moved into a Cambridge apartment, was enrolled as a special student at MIT, and was studying under one of the most influential scientists in the world.  

March 03, 2019 at 06:32PM

Thus formed the beginnings of the group who would become known as the cyberneticians, with Wiener, Pitts, McCulloch, Lettvin, and von Neumann its core.  

Wiener always did like cyberneticians for it’s parallelism with mathematicians….

March 03, 2019 at 06:38PM

In the entire report, he cited only a single paper: “A Logical Calculus” by McCulloch and Pitts.  

First Draft of a Report on EDVAC by jon von Neumann

March 03, 2019 at 06:43PM

Oliver Selfridge, an MIT student who would become “the father of machine perception”; Hyman Minsky, the future economist; and Lettvin.  

March 03, 2019 at 06:44PM

at the Second Cybernetic Conference, Pitts announced that he was writing his doctoral dissertation on probabilistic three-dimensional neural networks.  

March 03, 2019 at 06:44PM

In June 1954, Fortune magazine ran an article featuring the 20 most talented scientists under 40; Pitts was featured, next to Claude Shannon and James Watson.  

March 03, 2019 at 06:46PM

Lettvin, along with the young neuroscientist Patrick Wall, joined McCulloch and Pitts at their new headquarters in Building 20 on Vassar Street. They posted a sign on the door: Experimental Epistemology.  

March 03, 2019 at 06:47PM

“The eye speaks to the brain in a language already highly organized and interpreted,” they reported in the now-seminal paper “What the Frog’s Eye Tells the Frog’s Brain,” published in 1959.  

March 03, 2019 at 06:50PM

There was a catch, though: This symbolic abstraction made the world transparent but the brain opaque. Once everything had been reduced to information governed by logic, the actual mechanics ceased to matter—the tradeoff for universal computation was ontology. Von Neumann was the first to see the problem. He expressed his concern to Wiener in a letter that anticipated the coming split between artificial intelligence on one side and neuroscience on the other. “After the great positive contribution of Turing-cum-Pitts-and-McCulloch is assimilated,” he wrote, “the situation is rather worse than better than before. Indeed these authors have demonstrated in absolute and hopeless generality that anything and everything … can be done by an appropriate mechanism, and specifically by a neural mechanism—and that even one, definite mechanism can be ‘universal.’ Inverting the argument: Nothing that we may know or learn about the functioning of the organism can give, without ‘microscopic,’ cytological work any clues regarding the further details of the neural mechanism.”  

March 03, 2019 at 06:54PM

Nature had chosen the messiness of life over the austerity of logic, a choice Pitts likely could not comprehend. He had no way of knowing that while his ideas about the biological brain were not panning out, they were setting in motion the age of digital computing, the neural network approach to machine learning, and the so-called connectionist philosophy of mind.  

March 03, 2019 at 06:55PM

by stringing them together exactly as Pitts and McCulloch had discovered, you could carry out any computation.  

I feel like this is something more akin to what may have been already known from Boolean algebra and Whitehead/Russell by this time. Certainly Shannon would have known of it?

March 03, 2019 at 06:58PM

📺 Coal’s Deadly Dust | Frontline | PBS

Watched Coal's Deadly Dust from FRONTLINE
FRONTLINE and NPR investigate the rise of severe black lung disease among coal miners, and the failure to respond.

Just heart-breakingly stupid and senseless. It’s for nonsense like this that we really need some better worker protections in the US. What a screw up over multiple administrations for decades to have something like this happen. Corporations should be held liable for the externalities like these that they’re causing when they ought to know significantly better.

👓 Reflecting on My Failure to Build a Billion-Dollar Company | Medium

Read Reflecting on My Failure to Build a Billion-Dollar Company by Sahil Lavingia (Medium)
I left my job as the second employee at Pinterest–before I vested any of my stock–to turn Gumroad into a billion-dollar company. And…

A great little essay. We need more entrepreneurs building things like this rather than chasing the dream of being a unicorn. We need more stories like this, because this is how the world really works, not the other way around.

👓 WTF Is Going on at Wright State? | Inside Higher Ed

Read WTF Is Going on at Wright State? (Inside Higher Ed)
It's ugly, but it was foreseeable, maybe even inevitable.

The glut of Ph.D. graduates is slowly killing academia. We need a better pathway for highly educated people to do something besides teach with these degrees because there just aren’t enough spots to employ them all.

I’m curious what other economic pressures are causing this issue and ones like it? Solidarity and unions are a stopgap at best, eventually the entire system is going to come down unless some drastic changes are made. Eventually it’ll only be the tier 1 schools that have tenure anymore, and everyone else will just be teachers. But even the tier 1 schools may have problems eventually too…

Apparently tenure numbers in rankings don’t mean enough after some point to force colleges to grant it at a reasonable level.

👓 Instacart and DoorDash’s Tip Policies Are Delivering Outrage | The New York Times

Read After Uproar, Instacart Backs Off Controversial Tipping Policy (New York Times)
The delivery app’s practice of counting tips toward guaranteed minimum payments for its contract workers drew accusations of wage theft.

👓 I don’t want to be a brand. | Cheri Baker

Read I don't want to be a brand. by Cheri BakerCheri Baker (social.cheribaker.com)

I attended a training program on author marketing recently, and while I appreciated most of the advice, and the speaker was excellent, I’m struggling with one piece of it, which I’ll paraphrase here:

“You should write down your brand statement, and then EVERYTHING you communicate online (or around your customers) should be in line with that statement. In short, if it doesn’t advance your brand, don’t share or say it.”

And my heart rose up in revolt and shouted: F@CK THAT SH*T!

Some great sentiment here on just being a person.

📑 I don’t want to be a brand. | Cheri Baker

Annotated I don't want to be a brand. by Cheri BakerCheri Baker (social.cheribaker.com)

“You should write down your brand statement, and then EVERYTHING you communicate online (or around your customers) should be in line with that statement. In short, if it doesn’t advance your brand, don’t share or say it.”

And my heart rose up in revolt and shouted: F@CK THAT SH*T!

Almost as iconic as “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!”

👓 High demand from retirees to live on campus at Arizona State University I InsideHigherEd

Read High demand from retirees to live on campus at Arizona State University (insidehighered.com)
A sold-out housing complex for senior citizens on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus sparks a conversation about whether universities are doing enough to engage with older people.

🔖 Creative Clarity by Jon Kolko

Bookmarked Creative Clarity by Jon Kolko (Brown Bear LLC)

This book is built on a simple premise: Most companies don't know what creativity really is, so they can't benefit from it. They lack creative clarity. 

Creative clarity requires you to do four things:
1. Choreograph a creative strategy, describing a clear future even among the blurry business landscape.
2. Grow teams that include those creative, unpredictable outcasts;  give them the space to produce amazing work; and build a unique form of trust in your company culture.
3. Institutionalize an iterative process of critique, conflict, and ideation.
4. Embrace chaos but manage creative spin and stagnation. 

This book is primarily for people in charge of driving strategic change through an organization. If you are a line manager responsible for exploring a horizon of opportunity, the book will help you establish a culture of creative product development in which your teams can predictably deliver creative results. You'll learn methods to drive trust among your team members to enable you to critique and improve their work. And as an organizational leader, you'll complement your traditional business strategies with the new language and understanding you need to implement creativity in a strategic manner across your company.

In a creative environment, chaos is the backdrop for hidden wonderment and success. In this book, you'll gain clarity in the face of that chaos, so you can build great products, great teams, and a high-performing creative organization.  

hat tip: Human Current

🎧 Episode 082 The Complexity & Chaos of Creativity | Human Current

Listened to Episode 082 The Complexity & Chaos of Creativity from HumanCurrent

How does chaos influence creativity? How can “flow states” help teams manage feedback and achieve creativity?In this episode, Haley interviews designer, educator and author, Jon Kolko. Kolko shares details from his new book Creative Clarity: A Practical Guide for Bringing Creative Thinking into Your Company, which he wrote to help leaders and creative thinkers manage the complexity and chaos of the creative process. During his interview, he explains how elements of complex systems science, including emergence, constraints, feedback and framing, influence the creative process. He also provides many helpful tips for how to foster a culture of creativity within an organization.

Cover art for The Complexity & Chaos Of Creativity featuring Jon Kolko

Quotes from this episode:

“A constraint emerges from the creative exploration itself….these constraints become a freeing way for creative people to start to explore without having rules mandated at them.” - Jon Kolko

“Framing is the way in which the problem is structured and presented and the way that those constraints start to manifest as an opportunity statement.” - Jon Kolko

“The rules around trust need to be articulated.” - Jon Kolko

“Chaos is the backdrop for hidden wonderment and success.” - Jon Kolko

Some interesting thoughts on creativity and management. Definitely worth a second listen.

I’ve seen the sentiment of “thought spaces” several times from bloggers, but this is one of the first times I’ve heard a book author use the idea:

Often when I write, it’s to help me make sense of the world around me.

—Jon Kolko