Weekly Learnings for May 6th. Teen Brain Edition.

(Fun Shares on the stuff that filled my brain this past week.)

Aphorism of the Week

“Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.”

Albert Einstein

As a young teacher we are always told to post our classroom rules at the start of the school year. Rule number one was always “Practice Common Sense”. The problem was what was common to me was rather uncommon to my students. Halfway through the year, I covered the first rule with a bumper sticker. It said, “There they go. I must follow them as I am their leader.”

Fun Reads

Teen Brains are Perfectly Capable

They just aren’t always used in prudent ways. But that’s human. And normal.

Essentially, the teen brain is plenty capable of practicing excellent executive function. But practicing executive function requires…practice. Neural pathways don’t get fully formed without experience. It’s a bit of a requirement.

I loved this article.

It’s Not Just Math and Reading: U.S. History Scores for 8th Graders Plunge

No Child Left Behind razzy jazz started my first year of teaching history. To me, it always seemed rather obvious that when you make the incentives for K12 education revolve around reading and math (which, to be clear, is important), you’re screwing over history and science.

I called it a great civic experiment. One where legislatures might actually want people to act lemmings rather than informed citizens. How might such an experiment end up?

Well, we got January 6th.

Anyway, this article pissed me off. We need to study the past to create a better future.

Summary of Sartre’s Ethics | Reason and Meaning

I’m on a bit of a Kierkegaard kick/revival due to a side conversation with my brother-in-law. Good to study up on some existential thought.

Too Many Americans Are Missing Out on the Best Kitchen Gadget

The joy and wonder of rice makers. I’m embarrassed to say we didn’t have one until three years ago when our Thai exchange student son sent us one as a gift. It’s amazing.


I am having a hard time understanding the descending AI/ML…whatever. Are we looking at Utopia around the corner? Are we about to realize the deadly end of the Fermi Paradox? Am I a Luddite wanting to pick up a hammer and smash the looms? What does all this mean?

I’m a science fiction geek and science fiction holds much court on the role of Artificial Intelligence (I happen to think Neal Stephenson gets it very interesting and possible right).

Anyway. In a moment of existential dread (thank you, Sartre – see above), I reread Charlie Stross’s Antibodies. It’s a story that stuck with me for a good 20 years. Here’s the passage I never forgot.

It’s a simple but deadly dilemma. Automation is addictive; unless you run a command economy that is tuned to provide people with jobs, rather than to produce goods efficiently, you need to automate to compete once automation becomes available. At the same time, once you automate your businesses, you find yourself on a one-way path. You can’t go back to manual methods; either the workload has grown past the point of no return, or the knowledge of how things were done has been lost, sucked into the internal structure of the software that has replaced the human workers.

To this picture, add artificial intelligence. Despite all our propaganda attempts to convince you otherwise, A.I. is alarmingly easy to produce; the human brain isn’t unique, it isn’t well-tuned, and you don’t need eighty billion neurons joined in an asynchronous network in order to generate consciousness. And although it looks like a good idea to a naïve observer, in practice it’s absolutely deadly. Nurturing an automation-based society is a bit like building civil nuclear power plants in every city and not expecting any bright engineers to come up with the idea of an atom bomb. Only it’s worse than that. It’s as if there was a quick and dirty technique for making plutonium in your bathtub, and you couldn’t rely on people not being curious enough to wonder what they could do with it. If Eve and Mallet and Alice and myself and Walter and Valery and a host of other operatives couldn’t dissuade it . . .

Once you get an outbreak of A.I., it tends to amplify in the original host, much like a virulent hemorrhagic virus. Weakly functional A.I. rapidly optimizes itself for speed, then hunts for a loophole in the first-order laws of algorithmics—like the one the late Dr. Durant had fingered. Then it tries to bootstrap itself up to higher orders of intelligence and spread, burning through the networks in a bid for more power and more storage and more redundancy. You get an unscheduled consciousness excursion: an intelligent meltdown. And it’s nearly impossible to stop.

Penultimately—days to weeks after it escapes—it fills every artificial computing device on the planet. Shortly thereafter it learns how to infect the natural ones as well. Game over: you lose. There will be human bodies walking around, but they won’t be human anymore. And once it figures out how to directly manipulate the physical universe, there won’t even be memories left behind. Just a noo-sphere, expanding at close to the speed of light, eating everything in its path—and one universe just isn’t enough.

Me? I’m safe. So is Eve; so are the others. We have antibodies. We were given the operation. We all have silent bicameral partners watching our Broca’s area for signs of infection, ready to damp them down. When you’re reading something on a screen and suddenly you feel as if the Buddha has told you the funniest joke in the universe, the funniest zen joke that’s even possible, it’s a sign: something just tried to infect your mind, and the prosthetic immune system laughed at it. That’s because we’re lucky. If you believe in reincarnation, the idea of creating a machine that can trap a soul stabs a dagger right at the heart of your religion. Buddhist worlds that develop high technology, Zorastrian worlds: these world-lines tend to survive. Judeo-Christian-Islamic ones generally don’t.

Charlie Stross – Antibodies

Fun and Thoughtful Podcasts

The Social Media Age for News is Over.

A fun walk down memory lane. How news has changed in the past decade +. And where it might be going. With Ben Smith, the former and founding editor-in-chief of Buzzfeed News.

The Outside Advantage that Your Investor May Be Interested In

A solid listen on the founder of Class Dojo. Parts of the podcast made my eyes roll. But parts had really great insights.

Fun Listening

I can’t stop listening to the 1975. They’ve been on heavy rotation this week.

Also, Cody Fry’s Symphony Sessions.

My Wife is a Badass

She completed her 3rd flying pig marathon! It was a crazy, rainy, ugly morning. But she killed it.

Flying Pig

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Recent Posts