Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Media conspires to avoid work

Seems they all forgot about the other "deadliest act of mass murder in a school in U.S. history":

The Bath School disaster is the name given to not one but three bombings in Bath Township, Michigan, USA, on May 18, 1927, which killed 45 people and injured 58. Most of the victims were children in second to sixth grades attending the Bath Consolidated School. Their deaths constitute the deadliest act of mass murder in a school in U.S. history. The perpetrator was school board member Andrew Kehoe, who was upset by a property tax that had been levied to fund the construction of the school building.

Kehoe used a detonator to ignite dynamite and hundreds of pounds of pyrotol which he had secretly planted inside the school over the course of many months.

Hat tip to Dad.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Roboticists and economists

What's with the maleness?

Wired News: A number of people in your book don't sleep, don't bathe. Is there something about robotics that appeals to this personality type, or does the work itself take over?

Lee Gutkind: You can't just do this for eight or 16 hours and walk away. Even debugging a program will take a whole day. So I think it takes a patient but obsessive personality. Don't forget also, it's a very male-oriented culture. There's not a lot of joking, not a lot of flirting, because there's no one to joke and flirt with. You're flirting with your robot is what you're doing.

All I've got is rationality.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The superstition economy, or how self-deception makes the world go 'round

That might just be the title of my dissertation. Tyler brings up self-deception, just as I'm working out my paper on the role of belief, often delusional belief, in securing trust. Here's the abstract:

Belief constitutes hope, and hope is essential to all entrepreneurial activity, as it enables trust. The critical belief is belief in selflessness, within yourself and others, which is self-deceptive in as much as we are naturally selfish. So it is costly to produce, maintain, and signal a credible commitment to this belief, which religion provides via sacrifice and stigma. Numerous secular institutions compete along the same dimension, and are characterized by belief, sacrifice, and stigma. Namely, government, health care, education, romantic love, and others have to some degree become substitutes for religion. However, they require more sacrifice than religion, due to the problem of monitoring, and in particular, more costly self-deception. Better information improves monitoring, and reduces self-deception. In a world of improving information, this may explain the rise of secularism. However, so long as information is less than perfect, religion will remain, as the existence of God cannot be disproved.

Remember folks, I'm trying to maintain methodological atheism here.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

This one goes to eleven

Keith Richards continues to defy categories, and all theories of human behavior:

"The strangest thing I've tried to snort? My father. I snorted my father," Richards was quoted as saying by British music magazine NME. "He was cremated and I couldn't resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow. My dad wouldn't have cared," he said. "... It went down pretty well, and I'm still alive."