A collection of snippets I've found interesting / useful / insightful, etc. Pulled from Kindle.
Thinking, Fast and Slow (Kahneman, Daniel)
- "the second best predictor of the feelings of a day is whether a person did or did not have contacts with friends or relatives. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that happiness is the experience of spending time with people you love and who love you."
- "My experience illustrates how terrorism works and why it is so effective: it induces an availability cascade. An extremely vivid image of death and damage, constantly reinforced by media attention and frequent conversations, becomes highly accessible, especially if it is associated with a specific situation such as the sight of a bus. The emotional arousal is associative, automatic, and uncontrolled, and it produces an impulse for protective action. System 2 may “know” that the probability is low, but this knowledge does not eliminate the self-generated discomfort and the wish to avoid it. System 1 cannot be turned off. The emotion is not only disproportionate to the probability, it is also insensitive to the exact level of probability."
- "This preference for the status quo is a consequence of loss aversion."
- "The idea that the future is unpredictable is undermined every day by the ease with which the past is explained."
- "Subjects’ unwillingness to deduce the particular from the general was matched only by their willingness to infer the general from the particular."
- "you will more often than not err by misclassifying a random event as systematic. We are far too willing to reject the belief that much of what we see in life is random."
- "you will more often than not err by misclassifying a random event as systematic."
- "Random processes produce many sequences that convince people that the process is not random after all."
- "“people are not adequately sensitive to sample size.”"
- "The principle of independent judgments (and decorrelated errors) has immediate applications for the conduct of meetings, an activity in which executives in organizations spend a great deal of their working days. A simple rule can help: before an issue is discussed, all members of the committee should be asked to write a very brief summary of their position. This procedure makes good use of the value of the diversity of knowledge and opinion in the group. The standard practice of open discussion gives too much weight to the opinions of those who speak early and assertively, causing others to line up behind them."
- "feeling of cognitive ease, and my System 2 was happy to lazily accept the final grade. By allowing myself to be strongly influenced by the first question in evaluating subsequent ones, I spared myself the dissonance of finding the same student doing very well on some questions and badly on others. The uncomfortable"
Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)
- "Any man who can take a TV wall apart and put it back together again, and most men can nowadays, is happier than any man who tries to slide-rule, measure, and equate the universe, which just won't be measured or equated without making man feel bestial and lonely."
The Moral Landscape (Harris, Sam)
- "All of our behavior can be traced to biological events about which we have no conscious knowledge: this has always suggested that free will is an illusion."
- "That which is right cannot be dependent upon one’s being a member of a certain tribe—if for no other reason than one can be mistaken about the fact of one’s membership."
- "to say that an act is morally necessary, or evil, or blameless, is to make (tacit) claims about its consequences in the lives of conscious creatures (whether actual or potential)."
- "in the moral sphere, it is safe to begin with the premise that it is good to avoid behaving in such a way as to produce the worst possible misery for everyone."
- "we should observe the double standard in place regarding the significance of consensus: those who do not share our scientific goals have no influence on scientific discourse whatsoever; but, for some reason, people who do not share our moral goals render us incapable of even speaking about moral truth."
Reasons and Persons (Oxford Paperbacks) (Parfit, Derek)
- "Remoteness in time has, in itself, no more significance than remoteness in space."
- "Suppose next that I must undergo some ordeal. Instead of saying, The person suffering will be me’, I should say, ‘There will be suffering that will be related, in certain ways, to these present experiences’. Once again, the redescribed fact seems to me less bad."
- "If we cease to believe that our identity is what matters, this may affect some of our emotions, such as our attitude to ageing and to death. And, as I shall argue, we may be led to change our views about both rationality and morality."
- "It is irrational to care less about future pains because they will be felt either on a Tuesday, or more than a year in the future. And it is irrational to care less about the suffering of other people because they are more than a mile away. In these cases the concern is not less because of some intrinsic difference in the object of concern. The concern is less because of a property which is purely positional, and which draws an arbitrary line."
- "I claimed that, according to CP, some desires may be rationally required. Return to the case where my reason for helping someone is that he needs help. Does this reason depend on a desire? Would I have a reason to help this person even if I did not care about this person’s needs? More generally, would I have a reason to act morally even if I did not care about morality?"
- "The best pattern of blame and remorse is the pattern that would cause the rich to give most. Since this is so, C might imply that the rich should be blamed, and should feel remorse, only when they fail to give a much smaller part of their incomes, such as one tenth."
- "In Prisoner’s Dilemmas, the Self-interest Theory is directly collectively self-defeating. In these cases, if we all pursue self-interest, this will be worse for all of us. It would be better for all of us if, instead, we all acted morally. Some writers argue that, because this is true, morality is superior to the Self-interest Theory, even in self-interested terms."
- "For a Kantian, the essence of morality is the move from each to we."
- "In Prisoner’s Dilemmas, the problem is this. Should each do the best he can for himself? Or should we do the best we can for each? If each does what is best for himself, we do worse than we could for each. But we do better for each only if each does worse than he could for himself."
- "Where the Self-interest Theory divides, morality unites. It tells us to work together—to do the best we can. Even on the scale provided by self-interest, morality therefore wins. This is what we learn from Prisoner’s Dilemmas. If we cease to be self-interested and become moral, we do better even in self-interested terms.’"
- "S is directly collectively self-defeating. If all successfully follow S, this will be worse for each than if none do."
- "It is not enough to ask, ‘Will my act harm other people?’ Even if the answer is No, my act may still be wrong, because of its effects. The effects that it will have when it is considered on its own may not be its only relevant effects. I should ask, ‘Will my act be one of a set of acts that will together harm other people?’"
- "The Third Mistake in moral mathematics is to ignore very small chances when they would either affect very many people, or would be taken very many times. The Fourth and Fifth Mistakes are to ignore very small and imperceptible effects on very large numbers of people."
- "Suppose that each of us has made the outcome as good as he can, given what the others did. Each has then acted rightly. But we together may have acted wrongly. This will be so if we together could have made the outcome better."
- "I should subtract from my share any reduction that my joining causes in the shares of the benefits produced by others."
- "The moral solutions are, then, often best; and they are often the only attainable solutions. We therefore need the moral motives. How could these be introduced? Fortunately, that is not our problem. They exist. This is how we solve many Prisoner’s Dilemmas. Our need is to make these motives stronger, and more widely spread. With this task, theory helps. Prisoner’s Dilemmas need to be explained. So do their moral solutions. Both have been too little understood."
- "If each rather than none does what will be better for himself, or his family, or those he loves, this will be worse for everyone."
- "I have claimed that it is unlikely that C is wholly self-effacing. It would at most be partly self-effacing and partly esoteric. It might make the outcome better if some people did not believe C; but it is unlikely that it would make the outcome better if C was believed by no one."
- "In this wider sense our ultimate moral aim is, not that outcomes be as good as possible, but that history go as well as possible."
- "It may change the concept of desire if we claim that we can want something to be true that we know is false."
- "Common-Sense Morality ignores these effects whenever it is directly collectively self-defeating. It tells each to do what will best achieve his M-given aims. This claim assumes that it is enough to consider the effects of what each person does. In these cases, if each does what best achieves his M-given aims, we together cause the M-given aims of each to be worse achieved. This is like a case where, if each does what harms no one, we together harm many people. In such cases it is a mistake to think that what matters morally are only the effects of what each person does. We must agree that this is a mistake even if we reject C and accept Common-Sense Morality."
- "We must cease to believe that an act cannot be wrong, because of its effects on other people, if these effects are either trivial or imperceptible."
- "‘I could have acted differently. But this only means that I would have done so if my motives had been different."
- "Each of us should ask: ‘Is there some other set of motives that is both possible for me and is such that, if I had this set, the outcome would be better?’ Our answers would depend on what we know, or can predict, about the sets of motives that will be had by others."
- "‘In the doctrine that ought implies can, the sense of ‘can’ is compatible with Psychological Determinism. When my act is irrational or wrong, I ought to have acted in some other way. On the doctrine, I ought to have acted in this other way only if I could have done so. If I could not have acted in this other way, it cannot be claimed that this is what I ought to have done."
Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion (Paul Bloom)
- "the idea that rationality is an especially white male Western pursuit is where the extremes of postmodern ideology circle around to meet with the most retrograde views of a barroom bigot."
- "When people remembered incidents in which they were the perpetrator, they often described the harmful act as minor and done for good reasons. When they remembered incidents in which they were the victims, they were more likely to describe the action as significant, with long-lasting effects, and motivated by some combination of irrationality and sadism."
- "We see this sort of advice spelled out by Bertrand Russell, who says that when we read the newspaper, we ought to substitute the names of countries, including our own, to get a more fair sense of what’s going on. Take “Israel” and replace it with “Bolivia,” replace “United States” with “Argentina,” and so on. (Perhaps even better would be to use arbitrary symbols: X, Y, and Z.) This is an excellent way to remove bias."
- "Zell Kravinsky, who donated his kidney to a stranger, said that people find this unusual only because “they don’t understand math.” But this isn’t quite right—the real problem is that often people don’t care about math."
- "We are constituted to favor our friends and family over strangers, to care more about members of our own group than people from different, perhaps opposing, groups. This fact about human nature is inevitable given our evolutionary history."
- "Actually, and this is a hard thing to write, I usually get more upset if my Internet connection becomes slow and uncertain than when I read about some tragedy in a country I haven’t heard of."
- "Often—very often, I will argue—the action that empathy motivates is not what is morally right."
- "Intellectually, a white American might believe that a black person matters just as much as a white person, but he or she will typically find it a lot easier to empathize with the plight of the latter than the former. In this regard, empathy distorts our moral judgments in pretty much the same way that prejudice does."
- "But spotlights have a narrow focus, and this is one problem with empathy. It does poorly in a world where there are many people in need and where the effects of one’s actions are diffuse,"
- "As Jonathan Haidt argues, we are not judges; we are lawyers, making up explanations after the deeds have been done. Reason is impotent."
The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail-but Some Don't (Silver, Nate)
- "if one believes in Bayes’s theorem, scientific progress is inevitable as predictions are made and as beliefs are tested and refined."
- "In the scientific argument over global warming, the truth seems to be mostly on one side: the greenhouse effect almost certainly exists and will be exacerbated by manmade CO2 emissions. This is very likely to make the planet warmer. The impacts of this are uncertain, but are weighted toward unfavorable outcomes."
- "The need for prediction arises not necessarily because the world itself is uncertain, but because understanding it fully is beyond our capacity."
- "Absolutely nothing useful is realized when one person who holds that there is a 0 percent probability of something argues against another person who holds that the probability is 100 percent."
- "Fisher’s notion of statistical significance, which uses arbitrary cutoffs devoid of context* to determine what is a “significant” finding and what isn’t,61 is much too clumsy for gambling."
- "there isn’t any more truth in the world than there was before the Internet or the printing press. Most of the data is just noise, as most of the universe is filled with empty space."
- "Who needs theory when you have so much information? But this is categorically the wrong attitude to take toward forecasting, especially in a field like economics where the data is so noisy. Statistical inferences are much stronger when backed up by theory or at least some deeper thinking about their root causes."
- "But this book is emphatically against the nihilistic viewpoint that there is no objective truth. It asserts, rather, that a belief in the objective truth—and a commitment to pursuing it—is the first prerequisite of making better predictions. The forecaster’s next commitment is to realize that she perceives it imperfectly."
- "Unless we work actively to become aware of the biases we introduce, the returns to additional information may be minimal—or diminishing."
- "A long-term study by Philip E. Tetlock of the University of Pennsylvania found that when political scientists claimed that a political outcome had absolutely no chance of occurring, it nevertheless happened about 15 percent of the time."
A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again (David Foster Wallace)
- "Lonely people tend, rather, to be lonely because they decline to bear the psychic costs of being around other humans."
- "it was the sort of deeply tense absence of comment which attends only the grossest and most absurd breaches of social convention,"
- "For this—the promise to sate the part of me that always and only WANTS—is the central fantasy the brochure is selling."
- "I remember reading somewhere that Jet Skis are incredibly dangerous and accident-prone, and I take a certain unkind comfort in this as I watch blond guys with washboard stomachs and sunglasses on fluorescent cords buzz around making hieroglyphs of foam."
- "Part of the overall despair of this Luxury Cruise is that no matter what I do I cannot escape my own essential and newly unpleasant Americanness."
- "But of course all this ostensibly unimplicating behavior on my part is itself motivated by a self-conscious and somewhat condescending concern about how I appear to others that is (this concern) 100% upscale American."
- "For me, boviscopophobia is an even stronger motive than semi-agoraphobia for staying on the ship when we’re in port. It’s in port that I feel most implicated, guilty by perceived association."
- "Looking down from a great height at your countrymen waddling in expensive sandals into poverty-stricken ports is not one of the funner moments of a 7NC Luxury Cruise, however. There is something inescapably bovine about an American tourist in motion as part of a group. A certain greedy placidity about them. Us, rather."
- "An ad that pretends to be art is—at absolute best—like somebody who smiles warmly at you only because he wants something from you. This is dishonest, but what’s sinister is the cumulative effect that such dishonesty has on us: since it offers a perfect facsimile or simulacrum of goodwill without goodwill’s real spirit, it messes with our heads and eventually starts upping our defenses even in cases of genuine smiles and real art and true goodwill."
- "Rather, part of the essay’s real badness can be found in the way it reveals once again the Megaline’s sale-to-sail agenda of micromanaging not only one’s perceptions of a 7NC Luxury Cruise but even one’s own interpretation and articulation of those perceptions."
Networks, Crowds, and Markets (Easley, David)
- "This logarithmic form for utility has a simple intuitive property: the bettor receives the same utility benefit from doubling his wealth, regardless of how much he currently has."
- "linear utility functions predict behavior that doesn’t align well with either empirical evidence or common sense."
- "Ultimately, the design of search tools is an example of a kind of higher-order feedback effect: by causing people to process their available options in one way or another, we can reduce rich-get-richer effects, or amplify them, or potentially steer them in different directions altogether."
- "whereas the crux of the Central Limit Theorem is that small independent random values tend to cancel each other out, the rich-get-richer nature of copying actually amplifies the effects of large values, making them even larger."
- "More generally, perhaps the main lesson to be learned from studying cascades is to be careful in drawing conclusions about the best course of action from the behavior of a crowd."
- "From here, we can invoke an argument – familiar from the undirected case as well – that there is almost surely at most one giant SCC. For if there were two giant SCCs – call them X and Y – all it would take is a single link from any node in X to any node Y, and another link from any node in Y to any node in X, and X and Y would merge to become part of a single SCC."
- "In experiments, one finds that C does slightly better than A and E, but only slightly. Thus, the five-node path shows that simple centrality notions like betweenness can be misleading measures of power in some kinds of exchange networks."
- "Suppose there are many bidders and that each bids her estimate of the true value. Then, from the result of the auction, the winning bidder not only receives the object, she also learns something about her estimate of the common value – that it was the highest of all the estimates. So in particular, her estimate is more likely to be an overestimate of the common value than an underestimate. Moreover, with many bidders, the second-place bid – which is what she paid – is also likely to be an overestimate. As a result, she will likely lose money on the resale relative to what she paid."
- "The fact that truthfulness is a dominant strategy also makes second-price auctions conceptually very clean. Because truthful bidding is a dominant strategy, it is the best thing to do regardless of what the other bidders are doing. So, in a second-price auction, it makes sense to bid your true value even if other bidders are overbidding, underbidding, colluding, or behaving in other unpredictable ways."
- "If bidder i deviates from a truthful bid in a second-price auction, the payoff is only affected if the change in bid changes the win/loss outcome."
- "as homophily draws people together along immutable characteristics, there is a natural tendency for mutable characteristics to change in accordance with the network structure."
- "This point is ultimately at the heart of the model: although segregation in real life is amplified by a genuine desire within some fraction of the population to belong to large clusters of similar people – either to avoid people who belong to other groups, or to acquire a critical mass of members from one’s own group – such factors are not necessary for segregation to occur. The underpinnings of segregation are already present in a system where individuals simply want to avoid being in too extreme a minority in their own local area."
- "A second, related kind of advantage is based on the way in which standing at one end of a local bridge can be an amplifier for creativity . Experience from many domains suggests that innovations often arise from the unexpected synthesis of multiple ideas, with each of the ideas perhaps well known by itself, but well known in distinct and unrelated bodies of expertise. Thus, B’s position at the interface between several noninteracting groups gives her not only access to the combined information from these groups but also the opportunity for novel ideas by combining these disparate sources of information in new ways."
- "Empirical studies of managers in large corporations have correlated an individual’s success within a company with his or her access to local bridges"
- "This outcome is consistent with a picture in which the weak ties provide the more crucial connective structure for holding together disparate communities and for keeping the global structure of the giant component intact."
- "The closely-knit groups to which you belong, although they are filled with people eager to help, are also filled with people who know roughly the same things that you do."
- "Bearman and Moody  have found that teenage girls who have a low clustering coefficient in their network of friends are significantly more likely to contemplate suicide than those whose clustering coefficient is high."
- "One reason for graph theory’s power as a modeling tool is the fluidity with which one can use it to formalize the properties of large systems using the language of graphs, and then to systematically explore their consequences."
- "Although the Web is built on a lot of sophisticated technology, it would be a mistake to think of it primarily as a technological network: it is really a projection onto a technological backdrop of ideas, information, and social and economic structure created by humans."
- "we note first of all that there are several distinct reasons why you might study a particular network data set. One reason is that you may care about the actual domain that the data set comes from, so that fine-grained details of the data are potentially as interesting as the broad picture. Another reason is that you may be using the data set as a proxy for a related network that is impossible to measure"
- "a mathematician’s Erdös number is the distance from him or her to Erdös in this graph"
- "In other words, regardless of whether YouTube had better features than its competitors, once it became the most popular video-sharing site, there was by definition an added value in using it. Such network effects amplify the success of products and technologies that are already doing well; in a market where network effects are at work, the leader can be difficult to displace. Still, this type of dominance is not necessarily permanent; as we will see later, it is possible for a new technology to displace an old one if it offers something markedly different or when it starts in a part of the network where there is room for the new technology to take hold."
Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies (Nick Bostrom)
- "The ultimate potential of machine intelligence is, of course, vastly greater than that of organic intelligence. (One can get some sense of the magnitude of the gap by considering the speed differential between electronic components and nerve cells: even today’s transistors operate on a timescale ten million times shorter than that of biological neurons.)"
- "it seems likely that somebody could in principle sit down and code a seed AI on an ordinary present-day personal computer; and it is conceivable—though unlikely—that somebody somewhere will get the right insight for how to do this in the near future."
- "Accordingly, one can view artificial intelligence as a quest to find shortcuts: ways of tractably approximating the Bayesian ideal by sacrificing some optimality or generality while preserving enough to get high performance in the actual domains of interest."
- "The ideal is that of the perfect Bayesian agent, one that makes probabilistically optimal use of available information."
- "Two decades is a sweet spot for prognosticators of radical change: near enough to be attention-grabbing and relevant, yet far enough to make it possible to suppose that a string of breakthroughs, currently only vaguely imaginable, might by then have occurred."
- "This thing, the human brain, has some capabilities that the brains of other animals lack. It is to these distinctive capabilities that we owe our dominant position on the planet."
Mort (Terry Pratchett)
- "Cutwell had learned once again that one universal manifestation of raw, natural magic throughout the universe is this: that any domestic food store, raided furtively in the middle of the night, always contains, no matter what its daytime inventory, half a jar of elderly mayonnaise, a piece of very old cheese, and a tomato with white mold growing on it."
Statistics: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Hand, David J.)
- "We have seen that, in general, as the complexity of a model increases, so its goodness of fit to the available data continues to improve but that its goodness of fit to other samples drawn from the same distribution (or its ‘out of sample performance’) typically initially improves but then begins to deteriorate."
- "It means that it is necessary to develop strategies for choosing models of the right complexity: too simple and we risk missing out on potential predictability, too complex and we risk overfitting. This principle underlies Occam’s razor, which states that ‘models should be no more complicated than is necessary’ (attributed to the 14th-century Franciscan friar William of Occam)."
- "And, after a while, as we continue to add more predictor variables, so we start to predict aspects of the data which are peculiar to the sample. They are not features which apply to the more general population."
- "The hypothesis testing situation described above is analogous to the situation in a court of law, where the accused is initially presumed innocent (null hypothesis), and where two kinds of mistakes can arise: an innocent person is found guilty (Type I) or a guilty person is found innocent (Type II)."
- "At the very least, different people, with different background experience, might be expected to have different prior distributions."
- "On the other hand, the subjective approach shifts probability from being an objective property of the external world"
- "The size of just a single value can have a dramatic effect on the mean, but leave the median untouched. This sensitivity of the mean to extreme values is one reason why the median may sometimes be chosen in preference to the mean."
Existentialism is a Humanism, Jean-Paul Sarte 1946 (Jean-Paul Sartre)
- "If, however, it is true that existence is prior to essence, man is responsible for what he is. Thus, the first effect of existentialism is that it puts every man in possession of himself as he is, and places the entire responsibility for his existence squarely upon his own shoulders."
- "Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself. That is the first principle of existentialism."
On Liberty (Mill, John Stuart)
- "His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side; if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion."
- "Where there is a tacit convention that principles are not to be disputed; where the discussion of the greatest questions which can occupy humanity is considered to be closed, we cannot hope to find that generally high scale of mental activity which has made some periods of history so remarkable."
- "To call any proposition certain, while there is any one who would deny its certainty if permitted, but who is not permitted, is to assume that we ourselves, and those who agree with us, are the judges of certainty, and judges without hearing the other side."
- "The beliefs which we have most warrant for, have no safeguard to rest on, but a standing invitation to the whole world to prove them unfounded."
- "He devolves upon his own world the responsibility of being in the right against the dissentient worlds of other people; and it never troubles him that mere accident has decided which of these numerous worlds is the object of his reliance, and that the same causes which make him a Churchman in London, would have made him a Buddhist or a Confucian in Pekin."
- "for while every one well knows himself to be fallible, few think it necessary to take any precautions against their own fallibility, or admit the supposition that any opinion, of which they feel very certain, may be one of the examples of the error to which they acknowledge themselves to be liable."
- "To refuse a hearing to an opinion, because they are sure that it is false, is to assume that their certainty is the same thing as absolute certainty."
- "If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error."
- "If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
- "A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury."
- "Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign."
- "Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough: there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own."
Utilitarianism (Mill, John Stuart)
- "To have a right, then, is, I conceive, to have something which society ought to defend me in the possession of."
- "When Kant (as before remarked) propounds as the fundamental principle of morals, 'So act, that thy rule of conduct might be adopted as a law by all rational beings,' he virtually acknowledges that the interest of mankind collectively, or at least of mankind indiscriminately, must be in the mind of the agent when conscientiously deciding on the morality of the act."
- "That a feeling is bestowed on us by Nature, does not necessarily legitimate all its promptings."
- "There was no original desire of it, or motive to it, save its conduciveness to pleasure, and especially to protection from pain."
- "There was no original desire of it, or motive to it, save its conduciveness to pleasure,"
- "that each person's happiness is a good to that person, and the general happiness, therefore, a good to the aggregate of all persons."
- "No reason can be given why the general happiness is desirable, except that each person, so far as he believes it to be attainable, desires his own happiness."
- "since persons, even of considerable mental endowments, often give themselves so little trouble to understand the bearings of any opinion against which they entertain a prejudice,"
- "this self-sacrifice must be for some end; it is not its own end; and if we are told that its end is not happiness, but virtue, which is better than happiness, I ask, would the sacrifice be made if the hero or martyr did not believe that it would earn for others immunity from similar sacrifices?"
- "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied."
- "All action is for the sake of some end, and rules of action, it seems natural to suppose, must take their whole character and colour from the end to which they are subservient."
Ethics in the Real World (Peter Singer)
- "A 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change spelled out some likely consequences of continuing high levels of greenhouse gas emissions over the next few decades: In Latin America, 70 million people could lack enough water, and many farmers will have to abandon traditional crops as the soil becomes more saline; in Africa, 250 million people would be at risk of water shortages, and the wheat crop could be wiped out; in Asia, 100 million people would face floods from rising sea levels, and less rain could mean reduced rice crops in China and Bangladesh."
- "DEPRESSION IS, according to a World Health Organization study, the world’s fourth worst health problem, measured by how many years of good health it causes to be lost. By 2020, it is likely to rank second, behind heart disease. Yet not nearly enough is being done to treat or prevent it."
- "Zell Kravinsky, an American who has given a kidney to a stranger, points out that donating a kidney can save a life, while the risk of dying as a result of the donation is only 1 in 4,000. Not donating a kidney, he says, thus means valuing your own life at 4,000 times that of a stranger—a ratio he describes as “obscene.”"
- "Some vegetarians and vegans may object to in vitro meat, because they don’t see the need for meat at all. That’s fine for them, and of course they are free to remain vegetarians and vegans, and choose not to eat in vitro meat. My own view is that being a vegetarian or vegan is not an end in itself, but a means toward reducing both human and animal suffering, and leaving a habitable planet to future generations. I haven’t eaten meat for 40 years, but if in vitro meat becomes commercially available, I will be pleased to try it."
Keep the Apidistra Flying (George Orwell)
- "It occurred to him that he was merely repeating the destiny of every human"
- "Serve the money- god or go under; there is no other rule."
- "He had reached the age when the future ceases to be a rosy blur and becomes actual and menacing."
- "He had a feeling that if you genuinely despise money you can keep going somehow, like the birds of the air. He forgot that the birds of the air don't pay room-rent."
Think: A Compelling Introduction to Philosophy (Blackburn, Simon)
- "To have your choosing modules set by the lazy sophism is to be disposed towards that kind of choice."
- "But, says the incompatibilist, why does it make a difference if it was mini-Martians, or causal agencies of a more natural kind?"
- "It may be that if you are angry with me that will alter my decision-making system for the future, but it does not show that I could have acted differently in the past."
- "For the ghost is really a kind of ethereal little human being, a ‘homunculus’ that takes in information, deliberates, wants various things, is swayed or influenced or guided by different pieces of information, and that in the light of all that does something. If we cannot understand how human beings are free, we cannot understand how such a homunculus can be free either."
Stumbling on Happiness (Daniel Gilbert)
- "But when another group of physicians was asked whether they would prescribe Medication X or an equally effective Medication Y for a patient with the same disease, 48 percent chose to prescribe nothing. Apparently, adding another equally effective medication to the list of possibilities made it difficult for the physicians to decide between the two medications, thus leading many of them to recommend neither."
- "The misses are crucial to determining what kinds of inferences we can legitimately draw from the hits."
- "Because emotional happiness is an experience, it can only be approximately defined by its antecedents and by its relation to other experiences.9"
Rationality: From AI to Zombies (Eliezer Yudkowsky)
- "There is no ideal philosophy student of perfect emptiness who can be persuaded to implement modus ponens, starting without modus ponens. If a mind doesn’t contain that which is moved by your moral arguments, it won’t respond to them."
- "But compulsion is not a property of arguments; it is a property of minds that process arguments."
- "Even the notion that God threatens you with eternal hellfire, rather than cookies, piggybacks on a pre-existing negative value for hellfire."
- "The very fact that a religious person would be afraid of God withdrawing Its threat to punish them for committing murder shows that they have a revulsion of murder that is independent of whether God punishes murder or not. If they had no sense that murder was wrong independently of divine retribution, the prospect of God not punishing murder would be no more existentially horrifying than the prospect of God not punishing sneezing."
- "Our map, then, is very much unlike the territory; our maps are multi-level, the territory is single-level. Since the representation is so incredibly unlike the referent, in what sense can a belief like “I am wearing socks” be called true, when in reality itself, there are only quarks?"
- "If you just want to have fun, remember that simplicity is at the core of scientific beauty."
- "How often do you see headlines like “General Relativity Still Governing Planetary Orbits"
- "Probability theory tells us that surprise is the measure of a poor hypothesis; if a model is consistently stupid—consistently hits on events the model assigns tiny probabilities—then it’s time to discard that model. A good model makes reality look normal, not weird; a good model assigns high probability to that which is actually the case."
- "Dictionary editors read what other people write, and record what the words seem to mean; they are historians. The Oxford English Dictionary may be comprehensive, but never authoritative."
- "The worst metathreat to complex civilization is its own complexity, for that complication leads to the loss of many purposes."
- "What is optimism? It is ranking the possibilities by your own preference ordering, and selecting an outcome high in that preference ordering, and somehow that outcome ends up as your prediction."
- "But the ranking of an option as “low” or “high” is not an inherent property of the option. It is a property of the optimization process that does the preferring. And different optimization processes will search in different orders."
- "It is the resolution of doubts, not the mere act of doubting, which drives the ratchet of rationality forward."
- "“Only God can tell a truly plausible lie.” I wonder if there was ever a religion that developed this as a proverb?"
- "But once I assign a probability of 1 to a proposition, I can never undo it. No matter what I see or learn, I have to reject everything that disagrees with the axiom. I don’t like the idea of not being able to change my mind, ever."
- "That which I cannot eliminate may be well worth reducing."
- "Your strength as a rationalist is your ability to be more confused by fiction than by reality."
- "The modern concept of religion as purely ethical derives from every other area’s having been taken over by better institutions. Ethics is what’s left."
- "Error is not an exceptional condition; it is success that is a priori so improbable that it requires an explanation."
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (Eliezer Yudkowsky)
- "Harry’s hands had stopped turning pages. It seemed that Harry’s brain, for all its abstract knowledge, was still incapable of appreciating scope on any real emotional level, because it had just forcibly redirected his attention away from trillions of possibly-sentient blades of grass who might be suffering or dying even as they spoke, and toward the life of a single human being who happened to be nearer and dearer."
- "Up until this point Harry had lived by the admonition of E. T. Jaynes that if you were ignorant about a phenomenon, that was a fact about your own state of mind, not a fact about the phenomenon itself; that your uncertainty was a fact about you, not a fact about whatever you were uncertain about; that ignorance existed in the mind, not in reality;"
- "For it is a sad rule that whenever you are most in need of your art as a rationalist, that is when you are most likely to forget it.)"
Couples (Penguin Modern Classics) (Updike, John)
- "made him as uncomfortable as the talent auditions at a country fair, where faces strained by stolen mannerisms lift in hope toward wholly imagined stars."
- "Piet struggled to see his predicament as relative, in any light but the absolute one that showed it to be a disaster identical with death."
- "Janet had taken to reading the newspaper, as if this smudgy peek into other lives might show her the way out of her own."
- "“I like old men. They can be wonderful bastards because they have nothing to lose. The only people who can be themselves are babies and old bastards.”"
On Solitude (Penguin Great Ideas) (Montaigne, Michel de)
- "[Now then, old chap, are you collecting bait to catch the ears of others?]"
- "Whether we are running our home or studying or hunting or following any other sport, we should go to the very boundaries of pleasure but take good care not to be involved beyond the point where it begins to be mingled with pain. We should retain just enough occupations and pursuits to keep ourselves fit and to protect ourselves from the unpleasantness which comes in the train of that other extreme: slack and inert idleness."
- "We should set aside a room, just for ourselves, at the back of the shop, keeping it entirely free and establishing there our true liberty, our principal solitude and asylum."
The Myth of Sisyphus (Albert Camus)
- "All things are not explained by one thing but by all things."
- "In other words, phenomenology declines to explain the world, it wants to be merely a description of actual experience."
- "The absurd, which is the metaphysical state of the conscious man, does not lead to God."
- "The important thing, as Abbé Galiani said to Mme d’Epinay, is not to be cured, but to live with one’s ailments."
- "The only reality is “anxiety” in the whole chain of beings. To the man lost in the world and its diversions this anxiety is a brief, fleeting fear. But if that fear becomes conscious of itself, it becomes anguish, the perpetual climate of the lucid man “in whom existence is concentrated.”"
- "Likewise, the mind that aims to understand reality can consider itself satisfied only by reducing it to terms of thought."
- "“The often ridiculed consequence of these opinions is that they destroy themselves. For by asserting that all is true we assert the truth of the contrary assertion and consequently the falsity of our own thesis (for the contrary assertion does not admit that it can be true). And if one says that all is false, that assertion is itself false. If we declare that solely the assertion opposed to ours is false or else that solely ours is not false, we are nevertheless forced to admit an infinite number of true or false judgments. For the one who expresses a true assertion proclaims simultaneously that it is true, and so on ad infinitum.”"
- "Living, naturally, is never easy. You continue making the gestures commanded by existence for many reasons, the first of which is habit."
Meditations (Marcus Aurelius)
- "My mind. What is it? What am I making of it? What am I using it for? Is it empty of thought? Isolated and torn loose from those around it? Melted into flesh and blended with it, so that it shares its urges?
- "How they act when they eat and sleep and mate and defecate and all the rest. Then when they order and exult, or rage and thunder from on high. And yet, just consider the things they submitted to a moment ago, and the reasons for it—and the things they’ll submit to again before very long.
- "Bear in mind that everything that exists is already fraying at the edges, and in transition, subject to fragmentation and to rot.
- "The task of philosophy is modest and straightforward. Don’t tempt me to presumption.
- "This is what you deserve. You could be good today. But instead you choose tomorrow.
- "Suppose that a god announced that you were going to die tomorrow “or the day after.” Unless you were a complete coward you wouldn’t kick up a fuss about which day it was—what difference could it make? Now recognize that the difference between years from now and tomorrow is just as small.
- "That I had the kind of brother I did. One whose character challenged me to improve my own.
Down and Out in Paris and London (George Orwell)
- "Foreseeing some dismal Marxian Utopia as the alternative, the educated man prefers to keep things as they are.
On the Shortness of Life (Seneca)
- "Life’s finest day for wretched mortals here Is always first to flee.
- "You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire.
The Most Good You Can Do (Peter Singer)
- "Is it okay, he asked, for us to be going to the movies and drinking chai lattes while 1.4 billion people are living in extreme poverty?
- "Quoting scientific studies that show the risk of dying as a result of making a kidney donation to be only 1 in 4,000, he says that not making the donation would have meant he valued his life at 4,000 times that of a stranger, a valuation he finds totally unjustified. He even told Ian Parker, the author of the New Yorker profile, that the reason many people don’t understand his desire to donate a kidney is that “they don’t understand math.”
The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (Carl Sagan)
- "where science was presented as an integral part of the gorgeous tapestry of human knowledge.
Although of course you end up becoming yourself: a road trip with David Foster Wallace (David Lipsky)
- "And so—and it was a big deal for me, because I was so embarrassed going in. But I think it was the first time I’ve ever treated myself like I was worth something.
- "And there’s times when, for instance for me, commercial fiction or television is perfectly appropriate. Given the resources I’ve got and what I want to spend. The problem is, when I’m trying to derive all my spiritual and emotional and artistic calories from that stuff, it’s like living on a diet of candy.
- "like—I went to this one thing called SLAA? Oh, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous? Where guys would, like, would go to prostitutes, you know? And get thousands of dollars in debt on their credit card. ’Cause they just couldn’t stop. That it seemed to me that the only differences, that the differences were relatively unimportant. That there’s more just this sort of desperate hunger, enormous hole to be filled. And a real inclination to look outside, for like consumer products mostly of varying kinds, to fill it. And that’s what seemed really like, movingly American about it to me.
- "And one of the things I noticed in the halfway house is the difference between me and like a twenty-year-old prostitute who is dying of AIDS, who’d been doing heroin since she was eleven, is, is a matter of accidents. Choices of substances.
- "Dave’s saying he notices on days when he brushes his teeth with his left hand as opposed to his right hand that he thinks more interestingly.
- "And that as the Internet grows, and as our ability to be linked up, like—I mean, you and I coulda done this through e-mail, and I never woulda had to meet you, and that woulda been easier for me. Right? Like, at a certain point, we’re gonna have to build some machinery, inside our guts, to help us deal with this. Because the technology is just gonna get better and better and better and better. And it’s gonna get easier and easier, and more and more convenient, and more and more pleasurable, to be alone with images on a screen, given to us by people who do not love us but want our money. Which is all right. In low doses, right? But if that’s the basic main staple of your diet, you’re gonna die. In a meaningful way, you’re going to die.
- "I think one of the reasons that I feel empty after watching a lot of TV, and one of the things that makes TV seductive, is that it gives the illusion of relationships with people. It’s a way to have people in the room talking and being entertaining, but it doesn’t require anything of me. I mean, I can see them, they can’t see me. And, and, they’re there for me, and I can, I can receive from the TV, I can receive entertainment and stimulation. Without having to give anything back but the most tangential kind of attention. And that is very seductive.
- "You know, why are we—and by “we” I mean people like you and me: mostly white, upper middle class or upper class, obscenely well educated, doing really interesting jobs, sitting in really expensive chairs, watching the best, you know, watching the most sophisticated electronic equipment money can buy—why do we feel empty and unhappy?
- "I think one of the insidious lessons about TV is the meta-lesson that you’re dumb.
- "You know, that kind of desperate, like very American, “I will fix this somehow, by taking radical action.”
- "sound editorial suggestions were met with a seventeen-page letter about literary theory that was really a not-very-interesting way
- "the Henry Ford road-trip equation: two men will become comfortable if they have to travel any distance in excess of forty miles.
- "It turned out spending time in college, waking up each morning to statues and gardens, had not been especially good preparation for sidewalks and billing statements.
Letters to a Young Contrarian (Christopher Hitchens)
- "The high ambition, therefore, seems to me to be this: That one should strive to combine the maximum of impatience with the maximum of skepticism, the maximum of hatred of injustice and irrationality with the maximum of ironic self-criticism. This would mean really deciding to learn from history rather than invoking or sloganising it.
- "and to suspect the Utopian tourist in myself and others.
- "Stay on good terms with your inner Yossarian.
- "David Hume’s stoic reflection that, after all, I was also nothing before I was born.)
- "George Orwell said that the prime responsibility lay in being able to tell people what they did not wish to hear.
- "The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.
Mortality (Hitchens, Christopher)
- "For me, to remember friendship is to recall those conversations that it seemed a sin to break off:
- "I sympathize afresh with the mighty Voltaire, who, when badgered on his deathbed and urged to renounce the devil, murmured that this was no time to be making enemies.
Oblivion (David Foster Wallace)
- "someone at once obtrusive and irrelevant, the human equivalent of a house fly or pinched nerve,
- "I was partly concerned that it might be spectacular and dramatic and might look as if the driver was trying to go out in as dramatic a way as possible. This is the sort of shit we waste our lives thinking about.
- "The German logician Kant was right in this respect, human beings are all pretty much identical in terms of our hardwiring.
- "largely because I was evidently so hollow and insecure that I had a pathological need to see myself as somehow exceptional or outstanding at all times.
- "The fraudulence paradox was that the more time and effort you put into trying to appear impressive or attractive to other people, the less impressive or attractive you felt inside—you were a fraud.
- "age—their very adultness obscured all other characteristics.
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (David Foster Wallace)
- "Unless I’m some kind of psychopath who can rationalize anything and can’t even see the most obvious kinds of evil he’s perpetrating, or who doesn’t even care but wants to delude himself into believing he cares so that he can continue to see himself as a basically decent guy.
Against the Double Blackmail: Refugees, Terror and Other Troubles with the Neighbours (Žižek, Slavoj)
- "what happens to democracy when the majority is inclined to vote for, say, racist and sexist laws?
- "The greatest hypocrites are those who advocate open borders: secretly, they know very well this will never happen, for it would trigger an instant populist revolt in Europe. They play the Beautiful Soul, which feels superior to the corrupted world while secretly participating in it: they need this corrupted world as the only terrain where they can exert their moral superiority.
Animal Liberation (Peter Singer)
- "With diet, too, it is more important to remember the major aims than to worry about such details as whether the cake you are offered at a party was made with a factory farm egg.
- "Over the past twenty-five years, nearly half of Central America’s tropical rainforests have been destroyed, largely to provide beef to North America.
- "For instance, an acre of broccoli produces twenty-four times the iron produced by an acre used for beef, and an acre of oats sixteen times the same amount of iron.
- "It takes twenty-one pounds of protein fed to a calf to produce a single pound of animal protein for humans. We get back less than 5 percent of what we put in.