Psychology

I have long been skeptical about the prospects for off-world human colonies. Given that the International Space Station is the most expensive thing we have ever built and it is entirely reliant on supplies from Earth, it would be a gigantic leap just to make a self-sustaining closed life support system. Beyond that are many […]

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Andy Weir’s hard sci-fi novel The Martian has a protagonist whose sense of humour was part of why he was selected as part of a crew for a Mars mission: “They all showed signs of stress and moodiness. Mark was no exception, but the way he showed it was to crack more jokes and get […]

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With the Trudeau cabinet’s approval of the Trans Mountain extension everyone is talking abut hypocrisy: “The day before they passed a climate change emergency resolution and now they are approving a pipeline for the dirty tar sands: the hypocrisy!” The trouble is, arguments based on accusations of hypocrisy often don’t hold up logically. “Al Gore […]

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Productivity in the context of academic research is an unusual phenomenon. While elements like data entry may have a pretty direct and straightforward relationship between effort and outcomes, coming up with new ideas and writing can both involve a lot of unpredictability and spontaneity. Academic productivity is also social, or at least networked. The extent […]

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Perhaps a central virtue for the world of the future will be self-denial, and specifically channeling covetous feelings toward sustainable ends: not collecting 10,000 Barbie dolls or flying into low Earth orbit, but doing instead things that will enrich and distinguish you in the community without heavy ecological effects, like writing, making art, and theatre. […]

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Today I was at a conference on “Building a Post-Carbon Future” by 2050. It was certainly not bad, but I felt there was a huge disjoint between the Paris Agreement targets frequently referenced (to keep global warming to less than 1.5–2.0 ˚C above pre-industrial levels) and the scale and ambition of the policies and actions […]

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One virtue of anxiety is sometimes you do come up with a new approach to solving a problem the 1000th time you think it over, even if you haven’t learned any pertinent information in the interim. The new approach is probably bad, but at least the rate of new ideas never falls to zero and […]

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Something occurred to me as I was walking through the snow this morning. There’s an episode of Yes Minister (The Bed of Nails) in which the hapless minister Jim Hacker is charged with implementing an integrated national transport policy. His savvy and manipulative chief civil servant explains: It is the ultimate vote loser… If you […]

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today we have a set of such prophecies and for all the average person understands they may just as well have emanated from the delphic oracle

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After [redacted by the CIA] left, Boris had to keep introducing harsher and harsher methods, because Abu Zubaydah and other terrorists were trained to resist them. In a democracy such as ours, there is a glass ceiling on harsh techniques that the interrogator cannot breach, so a detainee can eventually call the interrogator’s bluff. And […]

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