Category Archives: The Dice

Stupid stuff and the probability of tragedy

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Italian Hall

Drunk drivers will almost always get home safely each night. And if that happens enough successive times, the human brain “learns” a very bad thing, that it is okay to be driving drunk. Until tragedy strikes and it’s not. The Barack Obama foreign policy had been famously summarized as “Don’t do stupid s**t,” which is opposite of drunk driving, but… Read more »

Gaslighting and the ethic of veracity

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Gaslight

I don’t know who are worse. Is it the cultists like Fox News’ Stuart Varney who says with a straight face that “Donald Trump has never lied to the American people”?  Or the Machiavellian congressmen and religious leaders who downplay the lies for their own endgames? Or the cynic’s shrugged-shouldered “All politicians lie”? My longstanding ethical credo has been that… Read more »

Schlemiels, schlimazels, probability and free will

Laverne & Shirley

“The brain is a machine that remembers the past in order to predict the future.” — Dean Buonomano [1] Schlemiel and schlimazel are two Yiddish words known to many only by their mention in the theme song to the old television show Laverne and Shirley. In the classic definition, the schlemiel is the bungler who is always spilling soup on… Read more »

Hurricane Dorian: Wishin’, hopin’, thinkin’ and prayin’

Dorian-Saturday

Residents of Florida’s Gulf Coast (where I live) have woken up on Saturday morning to find their prayers answered, as Hurricane Dorian’s projected path has taken a sharp right turn. Fervent prayers from Florida’s northern Atlantic coast, on the other hand, are apparently still stuck in limbo. Those sentences are an expression of theodicy, “the justice of God,” or the… Read more »

Your “existential” birth lottery ticket revisited

What if I were never born? This is one of the “big questions” in life that can lead to unresolvable human angst. Some recent articles in the New York Times on the subjects of abortion rights and in vitro fertilization (IVF), resulted in a published selection of letters to the editor in which this theme bubbles up a repeatedly, including… Read more »

Bad habits and the Bayesian brain

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A long-standing battle between two different philosophies of “doing statistics” appears to play itself out in trying to understand how the human brain exercises volition (or “choice”, or “free will”), and it appears that our brains have decided to stand with the “Bayesians.” All life on this planet naturally seeks to “change the odds” of its own survival and procreation…. Read more »

Left-brain versus right-brain ethics

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NPR science correspondent Shankar Vedantam hosts an excellent podcast entitled Hidden Brain, focusing on the science of human behavior. A recent episode features brain researcher and psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist, author of a book that tries to sort the myths from the science regarding the differences between our “left brain” and “right brain.” The two brain hemispheres sometimes appear complementary or mirrors… Read more »

Posts that the internet missed – part 2

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In the prior post I brought back some of 2018’s posts from this blog that should have had more internet traction. In case you missed them, here are a few more: Government budgets are moral documents It looks like a real U.S. budget from the dysfunctional Congress will not be a Paul Ryan legacy. He should have read this post… Read more »