Weeknote for 8/2/2020



I’m researching new medications. My Remicade infusion on Monday seems to have worked this time, and my flare-up has calmed down immensely. But my doctor made the good point that new medications have come out since I started Remicade that may be more effective for me, so I’m going to research his recommendations and talk to him again this week to make a decision.

As you will see in the rest of this post, my mind has opened back up, which I take as another sign that my health has improved.



I started my math programming cheat sheet. My first goal is to add the LaTeX examples that will help me make decent-looking Anki flashcards for the material I’ve read so far. I’ve added them up through basic fractions. After LaTeX I’ll add Python examples.

Math modeling is trying to sidetrack me. This math relearning project is reminding me of math’s role in my project on modeling. A large part of that project will be understanding how different disciplines engage in modeling so I can integrate their approaches. Applied mathematics models real-world situations, and math applies so broadly and fundamentally that I think it should be one of the first fields I examine.

But math also contains models of itself, which is what has caught my attention. I’m hoping to find the kinds of analysis I wrote about in “Fundamentals” and “Number Sense” and that I read about in the Common Core Progressions. Mathematical logic and related areas seem promising. Of course, to understand this stuff, I need to learn math, which pushes me back to my current project.



I watched the Perseverance rover launch. It’s convenient that we’ve entered this new space age right as I was discovering futurism and just as our world is entering these crises that require some hope to pull us through. At the moment I think of this new era in terms of (1) cooperation between national and commercial space programs, which is what the Crew Demo-2 flight was about; (2) a focus on sending humans to the moon and Mars, which is what Perseverance and the Artemis program are about, among other initiatives; and (3) glimmers of commercial enterprises, mainly space industry and space tourism.

I see these types of programs as the bridges that will lead us from the present world to the one I daydream about with my fellow futurists. There’s a launch or a landing or a test to watch every few weeks, and they’re helping me keep this vision in view. I’m grateful to The Oatmeal for putting me on this path back in 2018 by getting me to care about the landing of InSight.



I’m suddenly interested in AI again. I don’t know what sparked it, but after a long while of almost forgetting the subject, last week I became very intent on finding classic books on AI, finding a book covering its history, and listening to AI skeptics.

I got through pieces by Peter Kassan, Eric Siegel, and Maciej Cegłowski, each of whom brought up important points but, in my opinion, missed the bigger picture. My view is that hype and disappointment over AI shouldn’t govern a sober assessment of its prospects. As I see it, this is the most complicated research program anyone has ever undertaken, and it’s way too early to declare it a failure. And while the well-known AI doomsday scenarios aren’t inevitable, we still need to have a broad and ongoing conversation about AI risks that includes them. Matthew Graves responded to Cegłowski with similar thoughts.

For an AI skeptic I can agree with, I’ll probably listen to Gary Marcus’s Rebooting AI soon, and I’ll look into Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans by Melanie Mitchell, whose name keeps coming up in my recent searches.

I’m trying not to let this new obsession derail my math relearning.

Social issues


The End of Policing offers reasonable solutions. I listened to it last week and found that it was less radical and more realistic than the title might suggest. Here’s a video interview with the author. Vitale’s point is that abusive policing comes from the fundamental purposes we’ve assigned to the police, and typical reform efforts have failed because they don’t address those purposes. Deeper reforms that do tend to work would include “ending the War on Drugs, abolishing school police, ending broken-windows policing, developing robust mental health care, and creating low-income housing systems” (p. 222).



I hung out with Jeremy. Saturday we picked up dinner and sat at a picnic table outside my apartment building and jabbered for a few hours. It was nice to get together again, and I’ll probably do more of it.

This entry was posted in AI, Conceptual modeling, Health, Math relearning, People, Social issues, Space, Weeknotes. Bookmark the permalink.

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