Reality has a surprising amount of detail – John Salvatier

Source: Reality has a surprising amount of detail, by John Salvatier

This turns out to explain why its so easy for people to end up intellectually stuck. Even when they’re literally the best in the world in their field. … At every step and every level there’s an abundance of detail with material consequences.

You can see this everywhere if you look. For example, you’ve probably had the experience of doing something for the first time, maybe growing vegetables or using a Haskell package for the first time, and being frustrated by how many annoying snags there were. Then you got more practice and then you told yourself ‘man, it was so simple all along, I don’t know why I had so much trouble’. We run into a fundamental property of the universe and mistake it for a personal failing.

You might think the fiddly detailiness of things is limited to human centric domains, and that physics itself is simple and elegant. That’s true in some sense – the the physical laws themselves tend to be quite simple – but the manifestation of those laws is often complex and counterintuitive.

This surprising amount of detail is is not limited to “human” or “complicated” domains, it is a near universal property of everything from space travel to sewing, to your internal experience of your own mind.

you might think ‘So what? I guess things are complicated but I can just notice the details as I run into them; no need to think specifically about this’. And if you are doing things that are relatively simple, things that humanity has been doing for a long time, this is often true. But if you’re trying to do difficult things, things which are not known to be possible, it is not true.

The more difficult your mission, the more details there will be that are critical to understand for success. You might hope that these surprising details are irrelevant to your mission, but not so. Some of them will end up being key.

You might also hope that the important details will be obvious when you run into them, but not so. Such details aren’t automatically visible, even when you’re directly running up against them. Things can just seem messy and noisy instead. … Another way to see that noticing the right details is hard, is that different people end up noticing different details.

Before you’ve noticed important details they are, of course, basically invisible. It’s hard to put your attention on them because you don’t even know what you’re looking for. But after you see them they quickly become so integrated into your intuitive models of the world that they become essentially transparent. Do you remember the insights that were crucial in learning to ride a bike or drive? How about the details and insights you have that led you to be good at the things you’re good at?

This means it’s really easy to get stuck. Stuck in your current way of seeing and thinking about things. Frames are made out of the details that seem important to you. The important details you haven’t noticed are invisible to you, and the details you have noticed seem completely obvious and you see right through them. This all makes makes it difficult to imagine how you could be missing something important.

If you wish to not get stuck, seek to perceive what you have not yet perceived.

A Cartoonist’s Advice

Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential. As if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth. You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out and I guarantee you’ll hear about them. To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.

— Bill Watterson
cartoonist, author of Calvin & Hobbes

Source: A Cartoonist’s Advice

Today’s biggest threat to democracy isn’t fake news—it’s selective facts

Source: Today’s biggest threat to democracy isn’t fake news—it’s selective facts

Can you believe everything you read if you’re not reading everything?

Selective facts are “true” facts that only tells us part of the story, and they influence our views on every issue from gun control to Islamic terrorism to free trade. … Selective facts are worse than outright fake news because they’re pervasive and harder to question than clearly false statements.

news has to engage us for us to read it. Selective facts occur because news and social media companies focus predominantly on their readers’ interests. Media organizations maximize readership and increase profits by creating and sharing content that their readers want to read. … The publisher and social media algorithms learn what the audience wants to hear, gives it them, and the selective cycle continues.

this coverage imbalance leads to a deep empathy gap across countries and religions. It’s especially hard to have empathy in either population when the content you read consistently heralds your side as the victim and ignores extreme actions by your own members.

Just because you think you’re a well-reasoned person doesn’t mean you haven’t accidentally cocooned yourself in an algorithmic bubble. If your goal is to make good decisions for your family, your community, or your country, you must consciously work to get a representative set of facts.

Preliminary Steps Toward a Universal Economic Dynamics for Monetary and Fiscal Policy | NECSI

Source: Preliminary Steps Toward a Universal Economic Dynamics for Monetary and Fiscal Policy | NECSI
Cite as:
Yaneer Bar-Yam, Jean Langlois-Meurinne, Mari Kawakatsu, Rodolfo Garcia, Preliminary steps toward a universal economic dynamics for monetary and fiscal policy, arXiv:1710.06285 (October 10, 2017).

We find that the current approach, which considers the overall supply of money to the economy, is insufficient to effectively regulate economic growth. While it can achieve some degree of control, optimizing growth also requires a fiscal policy balancing monetary injection between two dominant loop flows, the consumption and wages loop, and investment and returns loop. … We further show that empirical evidence is consistent with a transition in 1980 between two regimes—from an oversupply to the consumption and wages loop, to an oversupply of the investment and returns loop. … Our analysis supports advocates of greater income and / or government support for the poor who use a larger fraction of income for consumption. This promotes investment due to the growth in expenditures. Otherwise, investment has limited opportunities to gain returns above inflation so capital remains uninvested, and does not contribute to the growth of economic activity.

Since 1980 consumers have accumulated trillions of dollars of debt, and the wealthy have accumulated trillions of dollars of savings that is not invested because there is nothing to invest in that will give returns. … No matter how much money investors have, these so-called “job creators” do not create jobs when consumers don’t have money to buy products. Increased economic activity requires both investment and purchase power to pay for the things the investment will produce. … Reaganomics moved things too far toward the wealthy, so shifting the flow in the other direction has to be done in the right measure.