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You can't teach an old dog (or your brain) new tricks: why learning is hard
VIDEO EXPLAINER/ ARTICLE: The hallmark of intelligence is the ability to learn new tasks. How does the human brain go about the task? The human brain, remarkable as it is, does not go about the task of learning in a very efficient manner. It uses a highly inefficient approach called "Reassociation." We appear to  learn new tasks simply by repeating the original neural activity patterns and swapping their assignments. Although "quick and dirty" it's not the best way to learn. SOURCE: Quanta ...
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The best and the worst ways to argue: 7 levels
INFOGRAPHIC: Disagreement is a far more common form of response to statements and arguments. Agreeing tends to motivate people less than disagreeing; when you agree there's less to say. When we disagree, we should be careful to do it well. Most of us can tell the difference between crude name-calling and a carefully reasoned refutation, but it would help to put labels on the intermediate stages. Here's an outline for a disagreement hierarchy based on 2 elements: the quality of the statement(s) used and the underlying emotion that accompanies the disagreement. SOURCE: Paul Graham ...
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A "global useless class": the future as seen by Yuval Noah Harari
VIDEO: Just as the Industrial Revolution created the working class, automation could create a “global useless class,” and the political and social history of the coming decades will revolve around the hopes and fears of this new class. The combination of biotech and I.T. might reach a point where it creates systems and algorithms that understand us better than we understand ourselves. The problem is understanding the “extremely complicated chains of cause and effect” in the world. “Time is accelerating,”. The long term may no longer be defined in centuries or millenniums — but in terms of 20 years. “My fear is that homo sapiens are not just up to it. We have created such a complicated world that we’re no longer able to make sense of what is happening.” SOURCE: The New York Times ...
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Talk to Books: A Google tool for browsing passages from books using AI
UTILITY: Type in a question or a statement, the model looks at every sentence in over 100,000 books to find the responses that would most likely come next in a conversation.  Although it has a search box, its objectives and underlying technology are fundamentally different than those of a more traditional search experience. It enables an AI to find statements that look like probable responses to your input rather than a finely polished tool that would take into account the wide range of standard quality signals. Talk to Books is more of a creative tool than a way to find specific answers. You may need to play around with it to get the most out of it. SOURCE: Talk to Books ...
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Machine learning’s ‘amazing’ ability to predict chaos
LONG ARTICLE FOR HARDCORE READERS: The pioneers of chaos theory discovered that the “butterfly effect” makes long-term prediction impossible. Even the smallest perturbation to a complex system (like the weather, the economy or just about anything else) can touch off a chain of events that leads to a dramatically divergent future. In a series of results, scientists have used machine learning to predict the future evolution of chaotic systems out to stunningly distant horizons. The approach is being lauded by outside experts as groundbreaking and likely to find wide application. (Read this article against the backdrop of the video with Yuval Noah Harari) SOURCE: Quanta ...
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How to stop someone from talking incessantly
INFOGRAPHIC/ VIDEO: Some people love to hear themselves talk so much that, try as you might, you can’t get a word in edgewise. One part art of the problem is that you’re waiting for them to pass the baton to you: they’re simply not going to do it. You don’t have to interrupt them; you can use your body language and shut them up with non-verbal cues . SOURCE: YouTube via Lifehacker ...
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To eliminate waste, we need to rediscover thrift
VIDEO: There's no such thing as throwing something away -- when you toss a used food container, broken toy or old pair of socks into the trash, those things inevitably end up in ever-growing landfills. But we can get smarter about the way we make, and remake, our products. This video shares exciting examples of thrift -- the idea of using and reusing what you need so you don't have to purchase anything new -- as well as advances in material science, like electronics made of nanocellulose and enzymes that can help make plastic infinitely recyclable. SOURCE: TED ...
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How the progress bar on your computer screen keeps you sane
VIDEO: A lot of time spent on the computer involves waiting -- for programmes to load, files to save and so on. The progress bar is our constant companion during these periods. We hardly ever give a thought to the progress bar. This delightful video tells you that there is a lot more behind this humble utility. The video traces the evolution of the device and the psychology that lies behind it. SOURCE: TED ...
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Here's a list of 1,174 Coursera courses that are completely free
UTILITY: Generally speaking, Coursera courses are free to audit but if you want to access graded assignments or earn a Course Certificate, you will need to pay. There are a few courses that are still completely free. When you sign up for these courses, you would see an option of “Full Course, No Certificate.” More than 1,150 Coursera MOOCs (1,174, to be exact) that are still completely free (including the graded assignments, minus the certificate). SOURCE: Fast Company ...
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Your speech Is packed with misunderstood, unconscious messages: "dysfluencies"
ARTICLE: folk wisdom that ums and uhs betray a speaker as weak, nervous, ignorant, and sloppy, and should be avoided at all costs, even in spontaneous conversation. Many scientists, though, think that our cultural fixation with stamping out what they call “disfluencies” is deeply misguided. Saying um is no character flaw, but an organic feature of speech; far from distracting listeners, there’s evidence that it focuses their attention in ways that enhance comprehension. SOURCE: Nautilus ...
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A ritual for the later years of life: give away what you have treasured
VIDEO: We use rituals to mark the early stages of our lives, like birthdays and graduations -- but what about our later years? In this meditative talk about looking both backward and forward, Bob Stein proposes a new tradition of giving away your things (and sharing the stories behind them) as you get older, to reflect on your life so far and open the door to whatever comes next. SOURCE: TED ...
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Get rid of negative thoughts and ideas by identifying 4 bad habits
INFOGRAPHIC: A pessimistic, negative outlook extracts a toll on your life in many ways. It is strongly linked to heightened risk of physical health disorders, mental health problems, dysfunctional relationships, and financial difficulties. Negative thinking is not a fixed state that persists unchanged. Everyone can learn how to combat negative thinking by keeping a watch for 4 patterns of behaviour. SOURCE: Inc ...
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The population bomb has been defused -- Malthus was wrong
VIDEO/ INFOGRAPHIC/ ARTICLE: In order to put the dire prognostications of Malthus and Ehrlich about population growth outstripping the capacity of the Earth to feedits people, inally to rest, an important component is needed - lower fertility rates. Overall world fertility has fallen. There's a strong association between fertility and income levels - once a country passes about $5,000 in per capita annual gross domestic product, it almost never has a high fertility rate. Overpopulation concerns have shifted from global to regional. Countries such as Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo still have very high fertility rates. SOURCE: Bloomberg ...
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Five Books: The best books on everything
WEBSITE: Today, our knowledge goes well beyond anything imaginable; if anything there is too much to read. Five Books is building a comprehensive library of knowledge, curating recommendations on any topic you might want to read books about. It has covered 1,055 topics so far and aims to add at least two new ones every week. SOURCE: Five Books ...
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The brain-body connection is more than we think it is
LONG ARTICLE FOR HARDCORE READERS/ VIDEO: An all pervasive “cerebral mystique” creates a false dichotomy between the brain and the body and ignores bodily influences on our psychology, from chemicals in the blood to bacteria in the gut. What’s outside the body also influences the mind. The environment floods the brain with the equivalent of about 10 megabytes of information per second SOURCE: National Geographic ...
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There are so many pieces of good reading that I come across each week but I can’t squeeze them all in. This utility provides a list that you can browse through at leisure.


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“From the ‘information age’, we are moving towards the ‘reputation age’, in which information will have value only if it is already filtered, evaluated and commented upon by others. In the reputation age, our critical appraisals should be directed not at the content of information but rather at the social network of relations that has shaped that content and given it a certain deserved or undeserved ‘rank’ in our system of knowledge.”

(Source: Aeon)

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