What I'm Reading (Aug. 19)

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Studying the nautilus, the beauty of lullabies, understanding stupid, the continuing hype of AI, separating signal from noise, and a worrisome note on bananas

“The coelacanth has perfected life in the slow lane in a different way. Almost uniquely among animals, their normal position is head down, tail up, perfectly vertical and still. So here we have a 100-million-year-old fish, bright blue, 6 feet long, standing on its head and rarely feeding, like a deep-water Zen master.”

What is going on in the Mesophotic Zone? What is the Mesophotic Zone? A scientist updates us on his studies of the nautilus, no, not the ship, the sea creature. And of course, from where else, Nautil.us, Twilight of the Nautilus

Perhaps it is because of my extended visit with my 6-month-old grandchild, a young zen master who loves music and rhythm and has taught me so much about love, devotion, and surrender.  But this caught my eye,

“Is any music genre more disrespected than the lullaby? It may be the oldest music genre, and almost certainly the most widely performed. Every one of us has benefited from the lullaby at some point in our life—if not as a singer, at least as a listener during our infancy.”

Short, sweet just like a lullaby, Ten Observations on Lullabies

Some government, federal, state, and local decisions have been all over the map of the underlying science and public health. We are often inclined to reference them in some political way, but a better word choice might be stupid.

“Stupidity is a very specific cognitive failing. Crudely put, it occurs when you don’t have the right conceptual tools for the job. The result is an inability to make sense of what is happening and a resulting tendency to force phenomena into crude, distorting pigeonholes.”

This article may help us understand Linus Pauling or other brilliant people who say and do some dumb things when wandering outside their field. From Psyche, Why some of the smartest people can be so very stupid

For any of you who follow my writing regularly, you know of my concerns about AI in medicine. When I find a fellow traveler, I pounce on their words.

“All of this suggests the disturbing conclusion that one true value of AI is its ability to procure the capital of financial investors and the support of corporate executives. A lot of machine learning and AI modeling is built on methods that are not public or even possibly explainable. We may not even to be able to really tell when this happens if we only trust AI to tell us. Such models and the datasets, shrouded in secrecy, offer little to the skeptical inquirer except one (appropriately computational) binary: believe or doubt.”

It's not that AI will take over and replace us as much as it will subvert our true intentions. From the Hedgehog Review, “Looking Under the Hood of AI’s Dubious Models

And then I ran across this quick video from Aeon. It talks about how best for all of us to cope with statistics. Hopefully, my articles have covered all of the C’s the video mentions.

The modern world is littered with statistical noise. Here’s how to find the signal

I love bananas, so the possibility of losing them forever to a fungus is upsetting. From EconLife,

The Travels of a Banana