Summary of “Civilization Is Built on Code”

The word “Code” derives from the Latin codex, meaning “a system of laws.” Today “Code” is used in various distinct contexts-computer code, genetic code, cryptologic code, ethical code, building code, and so forth-each of which has a common feature: They all contain instructions that describe a process.
As code advances, higher-level technologies feed on more fundamental technologies in much the same way more complex organisms feed on simpler organisms in the food chain.
Human civilization has thus advanced through the creation and improvement of code, which is built on layers of platforms that accumulate like the pipes and tunnels that lie below a great city.
In the past 200 years, the complexity of code has increased by orders of magnitude.
Death rates began to fall rapidly in the middle of the 19th century, due to a combination of increased agricultural output, improved hygiene, and the beginning of better medical practices-all different dimensions of the advance of code.
Greater numbers of people living in greater density than ever before accelerated the advance of code.
The second epochal change related to the advance of code is that we have, to an increasing degree, ceded to other people-and to code itself-authority and autonomy, which for millennia we had kept unto ourselves and our immediate tribal groups as uncodified cultural norms.
We depend for our survival on an ever-growing array of services provided by others, who in turn are ceding an increasing amount of their authority to code.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The 7 Basic Human Needs That Successful Businesses Focus On”

Let’s start with the concept of basic human needs.
The famous economist Manfred Max Neef said, “That the aim of development must be neither producerism not consumerism, but the satisfaction of fundamental human needs, which are not only needs of humanity, but needs of being as well.”
Neef created the ‘Human Scale Development,’ which states, among other things, the following two assumptions: First, fundamental human needs are finite, being limited in number and classifiable.
Second, Neef stated that fundamental human needs are the same in all cultures and in all historical periods.
The idea that all of us, as human beings, have basic needs can be quite revolutionary, especially when you grow up in a society that imposes needs, represented by “Shoulds” and “Should-nots” passed down by previous generations.
These highly successful companies learned early on the importance of connecting their business directly to human needs.
If your main needs are connection and expression, then you want to market to groups that also prioritize those needs.
Once you have identified your own needs and your chosen market and its needs, then it’s time to define your company’s values and needs.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Alexa, Should We Trust You?”

Every so often weird glitches occur, like the time Alexa recorded a family’s private conversation without their having said the wake word and emailed the recording to an acquaintance on their contacts list.
Alexa alone already works with more than 20,000 smart-home devices representing more than 3,500 brands.
After my daughter-in-law posted on Instagram an adorable video of her 2-year-old son trying to get Alexa to play “You’re Welcome,” from the Moana soundtrack, I wrote to ask why she and my stepson had bought an Echo, given that they’re fairly strict about what they let their son play with.
In one howler that went viral on YouTube, a toddler lisps, “Lexa, play ‘Ticker Ticker’ ”-presumably he wants to hear “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Alexa replies, in her stilted monotone, “You want to hear a station for porn hot chicks, amateur girls” “No, no, no!” the child’s parents scream in the background.
Catrin Morris, a mother of two who lives in Washington, D.C., told me she announces on a weekly basis, “I’m going to throw Alexa into the trash.” She’s horrified at how her daughters bark insults at Alexa when she doesn’t do what they want, such as play the right song from The Book of Mormon.
Alexa needs to get better at grasping context before she can truly inspire trust.
If you tell Alexa you’re feeling depressed, she has been programmed to say, “I’m so sorry you are feeling that way. Please know that you’re not alone. There are people who can help you. You could try talking with a friend, or your doctor. You can also reach out to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance at 1-800-826-3632 for more resources.”
Though virtual assistants are often compared to butlers, Al Lindsay, the vice president of Alexa engine software and a man with an old-school engineer’s military bearing, told me that he and his team had a different servant in mind.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Marcus Aurelius on How to Motivate Yourself to Get Out of Bed in the Morning and Go to Work”

“If we design workplaces that permit people to find meaning in their work, we will be designing a human nature that values work,” psychologist Barry Schwartz wrote in his inquiry into what motivates us to work.
“Given the smallest excuse, one will not work at all,” John Steinbeck lamented in his diary of the creative process as he labored over the novel that would soon earn him the Pulitzer Prize and become the cornerstone for his Nobel Prize two decades later.
Work, of course, has a profoundly different meaning for the artist than it does for the person punching into and out of a nine-to-five workplace.
Yet even those fortunate enough to be animated by a deep sense of purpose in a vocation that ensures their livelihood can succumb to the occasional – or even frequent – spell of paralysis at the prospect of another day of work.
Nearly two millennia ago, in an era when for the vast majority of people work wasn’t a source of purpose and meaning but the means for basic sustenance gained through hard labor, the great Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius offered an abiding answer in Meditations – his indispensable proto-blog, replete with abiding wisdom on such matters as how to begin each day for optimal sanity and the key to living fully.
At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work – as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for – the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”.
Any resistance to this inherent purpose is therefore a negation of our nature and a failure of self-love.
When you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, remember that your defining characteristic- what defines a human being – is to work with others.

The orginal article.

Summary of “What Kind of Emotions Do Animals Feel?”

As one of the world’s most prominent primatologists, de Waal has been observing animals for four decades now, debunking myths around the differences between animals and humans.
De Waal witnessed the other chimpanzees touching, washing, anointing, and grooming her body-gestures very similar to what humans do after a death.
While de Waal begins his observations with chimpanzees, he also presents fascinating glimpses of the emotional lives of other animals.
De Waal also digs at an oft-asked question: Do dogs feel shame when they do something wrong? It reminded me of online videos where you see garbage overturned and a dog slouched down, staring at the floor in a way that viewers interpret as “Guilt.”
“No one doubts that dogs know when they are in trouble,” writes de Waal, “But whether they actually feel guilty is a point of debate.” According to a study by Alexandra Horowitz, the canine guilty look-“Lowered gaze, ears pressed back, slumped body, averted head, tail rapidly beating between the legs-is … not about what they have done but about how their owner reacts. If the owner scolds them, they act extremely guilty. If the owner doesn’t, everything is fine and dandy.”
De Waal draws a clear distinction between animal behaviors that connote emotions readable to outside observers and what animals actually feel.
“The possibility that animals experience emotions the way we do makes many hard-nosed scientists feel queasy,” de Waal points out, “Partly because animals never report any feelings, and partly because the existence of feelings presupposes a level of consciousness that these scientists are unwilling to grant to animals.”
“For me,” de Waal writes, “The question has never been whether animals have emotions, but how science could have overlooked them for so long.”
Just as de Waal’s book makes readers more attuned to the emotional life of animals, it gives us more than enough to ponder about our own human emotions.

The orginal article.

Summary of “or do they just stick around for the food?”

There is something very British about the fact we have many, many words to describe types of falling moisture and yet the most dramatic and powerful of emotions – motivating billions of humans to do extraordinary things for one another each day – is chucked into a single bucket labelled, rather blandly, “Love”.
Storge is the love between family members, for instance; eros is erotic love; philia is something like the loyalty that friendship brings; philautia is love for the self.
One small-scale study suggests that cats do receive an oxytocin boost upon being petted by their owners, so there may be love there, but it reflects one-fifth of the amount seen in dogs.
Ancient Greeks had no word for cupboard love undoubtedly, this is a love the vast majority of animal pets may feel for us.
Even invertebrates such as stick insects and hissing cockroaches might approach something like this form of love.
You really could argue that it’s a kind of love – something close to philia, a loyalty or a dependable friendship, with the emphasis on food dependability.
A desperately depressed part of me wonders if Dustin loved only himself – that he exhibited philautia.
Yours was a careful love, but a real and vivid love, nonetheless – a love on a spectrum of incredible ways in which humans engage with other animals on planet Earth and, in fleeting moments or in lifelong infatuation, they engage back.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Robots Are Beating Humans At Poker”

At the crescendo of the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, a pair of computer scientists have announced that they’ve created an artificial intelligence poker player that is stronger than a full table of top human professionals at the most popular form of the game – no-limit Texas Hold ’em.
Over the past few decades, artificial intelligence has surpassed the best humans at many of our species’s beloved games: checkers and its long-term planning, chess and its iconic strategy, Go and its complexity, backgammon and its element of chance, and now poker and its imperfect information.
For the past nine months or so, I’ve been working on a book about the collision of games and AI – and I’m still working on it, sadly not having become an instant millionaire at the World Series of Poker.
As humans have ceded dominance at game after game, I’ve come to see superhuman games AI as both augury and an object lesson: It gives a glimpse into a potential future of superintelligent systems, and it teaches us how we humans would and could respond.
Computers’ conquest of poker has been incremental, and most of the work to date had focused on the relatively simple “Heads-up” – or two-player – version of the game.
“The analysis of a more realistic poker game than our very simple model should be quite an interesting affair,” he wrote.
I’ve spoken with both pros and scientists who think poker AIs might kill the very game they are trying to conquer.
On the one hand, these skeptics argue, modern elite poker can feel sterile, with young pros making the best plays from behind sunglasses and beneath headphones, the game lacking the engaging human characters it needs to put on a good show and attract a new generation.

The orginal article.

Summary of “There Are Two Kinds of AI, and the Difference is Important”

Most of the advances in artificial intelligence have been focused on solving particular kinds of problems.
In essence, “General intelligence is what people do,” says Oren Etzioni, CEO of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Seattle, Washington.
“Understanding of natural language is what sometimes is called AI complete, meaning if you can really do that, you can probably solve artificial intelligence,” Etzioni says.
The Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence is training AI to solve standardized exam questions.
Plus, the more humanoid a general AI is designed to be, the easier it will be to tell how well it works.
“If we create an alien intelligence that’s really unlike humans, we don’t know exactly what hallmarks for general intelligence to look for,” Hanson says.
How will we use general AI? We already have targeted AI to solve specific problems.
“We’re so far away fromeven six-year-old level of intelligence, let alone full general human intelligence, let alone super-intelligence,” Etzioni says.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Selfish Dataome”

That burden challenges us to ask if we are manufacturing and protecting our dataome for our benefit alone, or, like the selfish gene, because the data makes us do this because that’s what ensures its propagation into the future.
Shakespeare, to be fair, contributed barely a drop to a vast ocean of data that is both ethereal yet actually extremely tangible in its effects upon us.
Data like these have outlived generation after generation of humans.
As time has gone by our production of data has accelerated.
In Perspective: The human genome fits on about two CDs. The human species produces about 20,000 CDs worth of data a second.
On the face of things, it seems pretty obvious that our capacity to carry so much data with us through time is a critical part of our success at spreading across the planet.
The proliferation of data of seemingly very low utility could actually be a sign of worrying dysfunction in our dataome.
Either through data credit schemes akin to domestic solar power feeding back to the grid, or making the loss of data a positive feature.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Paradox of the Elephant Brain”

Equating larger brain size with greater cognitive capabilities presupposes that all brains are made the same way, starting with a similar relationship between brain size and number of neurons.
Did the African elephant brain, more than three times as heavy as ours, really have more neurons? These are fundamental discoveries that attest to the cognitive capacities of nonhuman species-but such one-of-a-kind observations do not serve the types of cross-species comparisons we need to make if we are to find out what it is about the brain that allows some species to achieve cognitive feats that are outside the reach of others.
Once we had recognized that primate and rodent brains are made differently, with different numbers of neurons for their size, we had predicted that the African elephant brain might have as few as 3 billion neurons in the cerebral cortex and 21 billion neurons in the cerebellum, compared to our 16 billion and 69 billion, despite its much larger size-if it was built like a rodent brain.
If the human brain still had many more neurons than the much larger African elephant brain, then that would support my hypothesis that the simplest explanation for the remarkable cognitive abilities of the human species is the remarkable number of its brain neurons, equaled by none other, regardless of the size of the brain.
The brain hemisphere of an African elephant weighs more than 2.5 kilograms, which meant that it would obviously have to be cut into hundreds of smaller pieces for processing and counting since turning brains into soup to determine the number of neurons inside works with chunks of no more than 3 to 5 grams of tissue at a time.
The Winner Is. Lo and behold, the African elephant brain had more neurons than the human brain.
No, the human brain does not have more neurons than the much larger elephant brain-but the human cerebral cortex has nearly three times as many neurons as the over twice as large cerebral cortex of the elephant.
The superior cognitive capabilities of the human brain over the elephant brain can simply-and only-be attributed to the remarkably large number of neurons in its cerebral cortex.

The orginal article.