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Artem Kaznatcheev
Works at Integrated Mathematical Oncology, Moffitt Cancer Center
Attends McGill University
Lives in Tampa, Florida, USA
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Artem Kaznatcheev

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Sometimes I feel like a leprechaun that has reached the end of his rainbow to find a modern optics textbook.
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+Julian Xue recently convinced me to actually read Plato's Republic for myself instead of relying on secondary sources. As I am nearing the end, I am constantly wondering: when did this become Plato's -- if not all of philosophy's -- most famous work?

/cc +Forrest Barnum, +Dirk Puehl
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+John Baez 

I apologize, trying to do too many things right now, including catching up on my inbox. So I did not read the entirety of you reply. However, I do not think I was conflating two bits of history other than summarily. Otherwise, comments become quite long. You are correct about the crusades and what not but the overarching theme was that by the time of the Renaissance, the Church was deeply wounded as an authority figure - the inability to defeat the Muslims in the Crusades as well as concurrently (the Ottomans, I believe) lead to a deep questioning of the notion that "God was on their side". And as one result, the so-called pagan writings of the ancients made a comeback. I can only refer you to Durant's tome for more. 
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"If you are depressed, you are living in the past; if you are anxious, you are living in the future; if you are at peace, you are living in the present"

The above is a "quote" floating around the internet that is attributed to Lao Tzu. Of course, Lao Tzu never wrote anything like that and the reference to "depression" and "anxiety" should give it away. Alternatively, it's vacuity and 'deepism' should let you know that something is up. At the very least, the lack of verse number tells you that the person quoting didn't actually read this in the Tao Te Ching themselves.

Hilariously, I've also seen this quote attributed to Warren Buffet. The real source seems to be a Brazillian neuro-linguistic programming self-help guru Junia Bretas. Or at least, that is as far as I am willing to search.

The misattribution raises some questions for me on the abuse of authority and quotation.

On a quick reading, the lines seem as if something deep has been said. However, reflecting on them for a moment lets you see that there is no insight. I feel like that if you know that the quote comes from a person not known for deep thoughts then you will dismiss it after this initial reflection. But if you see the name of somebody that commands respect and authority, like Lao Tzu (if you are trying to appeal to meditating hippies) or Warren Buffet (if you are trying to appeal to a different demographic) then you might believe that you should distrust your initial dismissal.

Is that also the reason for why people share this quote without having actually read it in the Tao Te Ching or gotten it from a reliable source? Or why other misquotes propagate?

The final twist, of course, is the old man himself. Lao Tzu is more myth than man and there is reason to believe that the early Taoist manufactured him as a way to pull authority on early Confucists. In particular, they selected a master named Lao Dan that was told in folk tales to have taught the rites to Kongzi and attributed the Tao Te Ching to him. A misquotation to start us off.

/cc +John Baez, +Forrest Barnum, +David Basanta, +Maylin Cui, +Abel Molina, +Dirk Puehl 

This post is based on a discussion I started on /r/taoism: http://www.reddit.com/r/taoism/comments/38z14i/if_you_are_depressed_you_are_living_in_the_past/ and the background image is a sample of writing in the Great Seal Script that was used in China during the dates traditionally given for the writing of the Tao Te Ching taken from the translation of the book (by William Scott Wilson) that I have on my desk. Of course, it is completely unrelated to the quote.
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The background is upside down, isn't it?
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+Robert Vander Velde asks a good question at #TheEGG  on if there are insights we get from public goods game that escape my technique of boiling down to pairwise games. I think there are and in interesting ways.

/cc +David Basanta +Jacob Scott 
Usually, when we are looking at public goods games, we consider an agent interacting with a group of n other agents. In our minds, we often imagine n to be large, or sometimes even take the limit a...
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A few years ago, in honour of Alan Turing's 100th birthday, +Lev Reyzin asked the #cstheory  community to list Turing's most important and influential contributions: http://cstheory.stackexchange.com/q/11797/1037

This resulted in a lot of feedback (9 answers). For example, I stressed the impact of his viewing science through the algorithmic lens: http://cstheory.stackexchange.com/a/11811/1037

Turns out that Lev then followed up on his blog with a list of 14 contributions. I just stumbled across this entry now, but I'd recommend it!
In my post Alan Turing Year, I discussed how it's important for people to be aware of Turing's intellectual contributions to math and computer science, as well as his war efforts and tragic death. It's time to live up to my own call and do my part. In this post I'll talk about Turing's impact, ...
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Is the religious laity's knowledge of their own religion at an all time low?

Although I am not religious -- or maybe because I am not and never was -- I find myself at a loss when trying to understand who people like the New Atheists are addressing with their critiques. For concreteness, I am thinking of the typical discussion thread on a place like /r/atheism. Many of the arguments offered there are based around misrepresentations of basic theology (of the little I am familiar with it) and have very convincing counter arguments that were elaborated thousands of years ago. They never seem to engage with serious theology in a quest to "understand" something or to hone new and interesting arguments. Instead, I often see the repetition of the same silly ones like "who made the maker?".

It seems that the explanation for this is that New Atheism is not a enterprise of inquiry but instead a political agenda and thus is concerned with what the 'average religious person' thinks of as religion and not with the scholar of religion. [At times, there also seems to be a certain amount of ethnocentric hatred of cultural out-groups, too. I want to avoid this by focusing on the relationship between New Atheists and Christianity in the West] 

How the 'average religious person' conceives of their religion is the debate between the influence of 'high' and 'low' theology. In the linked reddit comment, telkanuru assess the current divide between 'low' and 'high' religion:

"If I had to put my finger on a moment in time during which the Christian laity was the least educated about their religion, there would be a couple candidates: the 7th c., the 18th c., and now."

Does this mean that the New Atheists are picking a particularly weak target? Would the New Atheists have a much harder time -- and thus provide much more interesting to read arguments -- if they were taking up the same political agenda against the more religiously knowledgeable public on the eve or at the time of the protestant reformation?

For those that are religious, how does this accord with your experience? Does it feel like knowledge of religion among the religious masses is at an all time low for Christianity? What about for other religions, or in other parts of the world?

/cc +Forrest Barnum, +Abel Molina+Marcel Montrey, +Dirk Puehl 
I've read citations in Marx's Capital that were part of a survey of laborers perceptions of and famailiarity with common christian ideas amd...
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This is probably one of the uneducated answers you did not like. But at one point in my life it seemed like Christianity has layed out there inner workings in a complex mesh of rules, interpretations and in hierarchies, partially coupled to functions, that studying it seemed as complex as studying mathematics or physics. But then it did not teach me something about the world, it only promised to give me an advantage within their inner realm, their very own ecosystem. I got impatient and quitted. It felt like they made up fiction to keep me away from the world. I know I could never argue deeply with them, but I do not feel the need. Only few of them can argue deeply with a (say) mathematician ..
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Artem Kaznatcheev

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Given the cultural baggage of over 2000 years of Western philosophy, it is very difficult to think genuinely in terms of process instead of state. At such times, it is worthwhile to turn to other traditions, such as Chinese philosophy, and in the process of gaining some understanding of them learn to avoid the focus on stasis. I think this is important not just for the idle philosopher, but also if we want to make better sense of fields like biology.

One of the difficulties in this journey, though, is dealing with the culture shock of translation. For this, it seems like Barry Allen's (2015) Vanishing Into Things might be a good addition.

As always, you can make exploring these topics easier for me and offer a belated birthday gift through Amazon: https://amzn.com/w/2N0S7EQVYGYRA
Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews is an electronic, peer-reviewed journal that publishes timely reviews of scholarly philosophy books.
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+Christian Hummeluhr I have an opposite impression. I always encounter bias towards thinking in static objects or labels in everyday life. I believe that it has to do with the craving to efficiently classify the world into objects with properties and to reduce analysis of causality to discovering hidden properties and their definite mixtures. This is a helpful mechanism, but no good for slow thinking and deep analysis, including scientific theorizing. For me a stone is an object, for a geologist - it is a process indeed.
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Lisa Rosenbaum has recently published three essays in the New England Journal of Medicine arguing that "unreasonable prejudice against researchers who have financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies, because a conflict of interest does not necessarily mean that the researcher is biased." As a response, Bill Gardner -- the author of the linked article -- or maybe the editors of the British Journal of Medicine suggest that this doesn't mean that we should relax our skepticism of industry-funded biomedical research but instead increase our distrust of all research: "It’s wrong to treat industry scientists as if they were defiled, or university scientists as if they were pure. We should be suspicious of everyone."

Now, I am all for #openscience  and making research more transparent, but I don't think the route forward is increased suspicion and simply dumping all the data in some publicly accessible place. Sure, in individual cases, having access to the raw data is great, but if everybody dumps all their data then that will be just another thing that nobody checks. Just like people often don't check the accuracy of references, or -- in fields that aren't mathematics but fetishize it -- check that the equations written in a paper follow from each other; I am sure there are more examples, these are just the ones I happen to encounter in my work.

What is a better solution? I am not sure. I suspect it has to involve some shift in culture, such as not simply granting authority to things because they are published, and holding all people that stand to gain from fraud -- including the glam mag that got a headline from lax reviewing practices, if we are going to stick to assigning authority to publication -- as accountable, not just the researchers that committed the fraud.

Would love to hear from people that no the bio-medical field better and disagree with me.

/cc +David Basanta, +Christian Hummeluhr,  +Jacob Scott, +Julian Xue 
We should be worried about financial conflicts of interest in medical research. But it's more complicated than that.
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Christian “zodium” Hummeluhr's profile photoTau-Mu Yi's profile photo
 
I tend to agree that distrust of industry-connected scientists is probably too high, but also that trust in university scientists is too high. For me, the former isn't really a scientific culture so much as a scientific practice problem.

Science as practiced today depends on a lot of implicit trust, where it should depend on replicability and real accountability. We trust that the data was actually collected, wasn't tampered with, was analyzed correctly, that all analyses were reported, etc. This is simply not so for many or even most papers. 

I think we're just hitting the scalability limit of the current scientific pipeline. It's simply not sufficiently robust against abuses of the trust we depend on, and industry scientists are a high-profile scapegoat. Excessively distrusting them is a way to focus on symptoms rather than the problematic structure (i.e., our excessive dependence on trust which is frequently broken).

Open data is part of the answer, but is not the complete answer. In a world with seven million highly interconnected scientists, every step of the scientific process needs to be transparent and reproducible. If it isn't, we are inviting groups of charlatans to set up shop and publish humbug under the guise of science (e.g., as we're seeing with predatory journals). I don't see any way out other than full transparency, and I'm not at all afraid that data will "become" yet another thing people don't look at--it IS already a thing people don't look at, because they can't!
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When we remember Karl Pearson, in a positive light, it is as an accomplished statistician and, when in negative, "as Goliath to Fisher's David" and as a proponent of oppressive views on eugenics and the "woman question". However, the real fascinating story seems to be not of the Pearson "seized" by the "statistical impulse", but the interdisciplinary voyage of the 35 years prior to that.

Theodore M. Porter's (2004) Karl Pearson: The Scientific Life in a Statistical Age highlights this voyage. In some way, this is Porter's third book in a series on "how quantification became institutionalized in the modern world." The previous one was the 1996 Trust in Numbers that I discussed briefly before: https://plus.google.com/101780559173703781847/posts/R5Z4xpGjFyw

I hope to read both books at some point. As always, you can push them to the top of my reading list -- and thus receive my gratitude and more comprehensive commentaries on related topics -- by ordering them for me: http://amzn.com/w/2N0S7EQVYGYRA
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Go home robots, you're drunk

One of the highlights of robotics and AI for me, is that they can help you realize how many different facets there are to being in the world. How things that we take for granted, are not often as simply as we think they are. In this case, falling down gracefully.

Although I do find it a little surprising that top-line robots are so ungraceful, given how good Big Dog was at falling gracefully half-a-decade ago: https://youtu.be/cNZPRsrwumQ?t=34s However, these highlights should not be taken as representative, since although most robots at the DARPA competition did fail, a lot of them did very impressive things before that.
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Jan Moren's profile photoDimitrios Diamantaras's profile photoNick Byrd's profile photo
 
Two legs is a lot more difficult than four. Especially if you're expected to do stuff that shift your center of balance.

And as a guess, the Big Dog creators have possibly not gone out of their way to film and distribute its failures. It's hard to impossible to judge the actual level of accomplishment in robotics from film clips.
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Some nice take away messages on the "benefits of chocolate" discussion going around. I haven't been following it closely -- or at all, really -- but I did enjoy this post. Especially the closing bit:

"Personally? I think the underlying motivation behind a lot of the anger I see online is that scientists, and science communicators, don’t like being made out as fools. That’s understandable. But if that’s the reason, then I don’t think Bohannon is at fault. Journals have an obligation to thoroughly review articles, and Bohannon is notorious for demonstrating just how many predatory journals there are in the scientific landscape today. Journalists have a responsibility to do their jobs and critically examine the work on which they report."

That last bit about personal responsibility is an important one. It is why you almost never catch me writing "in this peer-reviewed study". That is an appeal to an authority. The authority of 2 to 5 randomly-ish selected people that are anonymous to me. Instead, you should use your own best judgement supplemented (when needed) by the expertise of a trusted, verifiable, and accountable authority. This is a high threshold, and if you don't pass it and are a person of power (like a journalist for a widely read news-source) then you should remain silent.

/cc +Parmvir Bahia, +David Basanta, +Christian Hummeluhr, +Abel Molina, +Theresa Liao
Crash course in philosophy—treat like cases alike.[1] That means that if you think a much-hyped article on the health benefits of chocolate is unethical, your reasons for this conclusion ought to a...
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+Abel Molina that would be a very interesting study to read (as long as it was done by mindful cultural anthropologists, and not just some newspaper's poll) on what people mean by science explicitly and implicitly (i.e. what do they say should be labeled as science and what do they actually label as science) and how that differs between populations. I wouldn't be surprised if somebody in science studies has done something like this.
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I don't think that I would get this book, but I did enjoy the punchline of this review:

"So it may come as a surprise when Boyce looks at contemporary evangelism and concludes that feel-good religion has actually “silenced” the doctrine of original sin. ... Nonetheless, says Boyce, original sin hasn’t disappeared. It has now morphed into the “selfish gene” of evolutionary psychologists. The science of Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker and others essentially repurposes the notion of hereditary depravity."

Do you agree with this assessment?

Also, how does this relate to the older Platonic focus on decay through change? Building on the Greek religion of his time, for Plato we are caused by the perfect Form of man, but are always flawed shadows of this Form. Of course, for Plato this is not restricted to man but extends to the whole sensible world: my bed is caused by the perfect Form of the bed. At this point, in the context of man, it seems like a clear precedent for Original Sin, especially given the strong historic influence of Neoplatonism on Christianity.

However, Plato inherits something further from Heraclitus: they view the world as constantly in flux and degenerating. Thus, to recast in the language of Original Sin, not only are we sinners but we are more depraved sinners than our fathers. Can we find this idea propagating to the modern day? Environmentalist views of man as an ongoing destroyer of the pristine Earth seems like a good candidate -- I wonder what Popper would have said about this.
James Boyce’s comprehensive social history traces original sin through the ages.
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+Artem Kaznatcheev Diving into your agree-able observation of Plato, I find at issue the matter of the arrow of time. In my above sketched analysis of the story of the Fall, I hinted at the idea that common sense knows causation under two guises. In short, one could be called "physicist's causation" and is home to the familiar arrow of time, the other could be called "physician's causation" and refers to what creates and maintains delta to an ideal, healthy "state", where "nothing (pathological) happens".

[The definition of] such ideal states may undergo secular changes -- although perhaps not in Plato's view -- but at the smaller scale it plays the role of the immutable. The latter implies that there's a quid pro quo involved when locating that sort of cause at the origin of time as is defined by the physicist's or historian's arrow of time.
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Researcher in theoretical computer science, evolutionary game theory, and mathematical oncology
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  • Integrated Mathematical Oncology, Moffitt Cancer Center
    Research associate, 2014 - present
  • Laboratory for Natural and Simulated Cognition, Department of Psychology, McGill University
    Associate member, 2008 - present
  • School of Computer Science, McGill University
    Research & teaching assistant, 2012 - 2014
  • Institute for Quantum Computing, University of Waterloo
    Research assistant, 2010 - 2011
  • School of Computer Science, McGill University
    Research assistant, 2009 - 2010
  • Canadian Light Source
    Software developer, 2007 - 2007
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Tampa, Florida, USA
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Montreal, Quebec, Canada - Moscow, Russia - Trieste, Italy - Tsukuba, Japan - Port Jefferson, New York. USA - Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada - Tuxedo Park, New York, USA - Waterloo, Ontario, Canada - Singapore
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I marvel at the world through algorithmic lenses
Introduction
From the ivory tower of the School of Computer Science and Department of Psychology at McGill University, I marvel at the world through algorithmic lenses. My specific interests are in quantum computing, evolutionary game theory, modern evolutionary synthesis, and theoretical cognitive science. Previously I was at the Institute for Quantum Computing and Department of Combinatorics & Optimization at the University of Waterloo and a visitor to the Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore.
Education
  • McGill University
    Computer Science, 2012 - present
  • Institute for Quantum Computing, University of Waterloo
    Quantum Computing, and Combinatorics & Optimization, 2010 - 2011
  • McGill University
    Computer Science, Physics, Mathematics, and Cognitive Science, 2006 - 2010
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