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Kaj Sotala
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> FOR AN ASPIRING BODHISATTVA, the essential practice is to cultivate maitri, or loving-kindness. The Shambhala teachings speak of “placing our fearful mind in the cradle of loving-kindness.” Another image for maitri is that of a mother bird who protects and cares for her young until they are strong enough to fly away. People sometimes ask, “Who am I in this image—the mother or the chick?” The answer is we’re both: both the loving mother and those ugly little chicks. It’s easy to identify with the babies—blind, raw, and desperate for attention. We are a poignant mixture of something that isn’t all that beautiful and yet is dearly loved. Whether this is our attitude toward ourselves or toward others, it is the key to learning how to love. We stay with ourselves and others when we’re screaming for food and have no feathers and also when we are more grown up and more appealing by worldly standards.

> In cultivating loving-kindness, we learn first to be honest, loving, and compassionate toward ourselves. Rather than nurturing self-denigration, we begin to cultivate a clear-seeing kindness. Sometimes we feel good and strong. Sometimes we feel inadequate and weak. But like mother-love, maitri is unconditional; no matter how we feel, we can aspire that we be happy. We can learn to act and think in ways that sow seeds of our future well-being. Gradually, we become more aware about what causes happiness as well as what causes distress. Without loving-kindness for ourselves, it is difficult, if not impossible, to genuinely feel it for others.

-- Pema Chödrön, Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion

When I'm sick, I use that as an excu... reason to order food.

As a result, my Pizza Online order history is a pretty reliable record of the times when I've been sick.

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> It was once thought that when a reasonably wealthy country achieved democracy, it would almost certainly maintain it. No more.

> Democratic backsliding is far less rare than political scientists used to believe. In a recent academic paper, we identified 37 instances in 25 different countries in the postwar period in which democratic quality declined significantly (though a fully authoritarian regime didn’t emerge). That is, roughly one out of eight countries experienced measurable decay in the quality of their democratic institutions.

> Scholars used to argue that democracy, once attained in a fairly wealthy state, would become a permanent fixture. As the late Juan Linz put it, democracy would become “the only game in town.” That belief turned out to be merely hopeful, not a reality.

> As a result, the global trend for democracies — the other categories being partial or complete autocracies — does not look positive, as the following chart shows. While we are not yet to the point where democracies are rare, as in the 1970s, it is quite possible that the “third wave” of democratization has peaked. And the recent de-democratization trend stands out

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> The head of Google DeepMind is worried that technology companies and individuals will fail to co-ordinate on the development of artificial superintelligence — defined by Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom as "an intellect that is much smarter than the best human brains in practically every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom and social skills."

> DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis, whose company is arguably at the front of the race to develop human-level artificial intelligence (AI), said at The Future of Life's Beneficial AI conference in January that he wants (and expects) superintelligence to be created.

> But it's important that technology companies and individuals are open and transparent about their AI research, according to Hassabis.

> When superintelligence is close to being developed, the Cambridge graduate and chess grandmaster said that there might be a need for the leader of the AI race to "slow down ... at the end." This would give societies a chance to adapt to superintelligence gradually, while providing scientists with the opportunity to carry out further research that could mitigate the risks of developing harmful AI.

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> I was a co-author of a paper back in 2007 in the BMJ on medical myths. The first myth was that people should drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. This paper got more media attention (even in The Times) than pretty much any other research I’ve ever done.

> It made no difference. When, two years later, we published a book on medical myths that once again debunked the idea that we need eight glasses of water a day, I thought it would persuade people to stop worrying. I was wrong again.

> Many people believe that the source of this myth was a 1945 Food and Nutrition Board recommendation that said people need about 2.5 liters of water a day. But they ignored the sentence that followed closely behind. It read, “Most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods.”

> Water is present in fruits and vegetables. It’s in juice, it’s in beer, it’s even in tea and coffee. Before anyone writes me to tell me that coffee is going to dehydrate you, research shows that’s not true either.

> Although I recommended water as the best beverage to consume, it’s certainly not your only source of hydration. You don’t have to consume all the water you need through drinks. You also don’t need to worry so much about never feeling thirsty. The human body is finely tuned to signal you to drink long before you are actually dehydrated.

> Contrary to many stories you may hear, there’s no real scientific proof that, for otherwise healthy people, drinking extra water has any health benefits.

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> My younger daughter is something of a handful, so I’ve been thinking a lot about things like obedience, virtue, loyalty, and authority lately. These are often associated with martial arts training, so I thought I’d share my views here.

> I think it is important to distinguish between skills and virtues. Skills are abilities cultivated by practice, which are valued because of what they enable you to do, and should be deployed when its advantageous to do so. Virtues are inherent characteristics, which can be deepened or resisted through practice, but are considered good in and of themselves. A lot of trouble comes from confusing the two.

> For example, obedience is not a virtue, but it is a very useful skill. A person who cannot behave obediently when necessary gets into all sorts of unnecessary trouble, and is excluded from all sorts of beneficial activities. For example, if you can’t follow orders, you’re not safe to have on a sailing boat. No sensible person would welcome you into any kind of dangerous activity if you are unable to follow safety regulations. Obedience is really useful, but obedience cultivated as a virtue is utterly deleterious. It is not virtuous to obey, it is virtuous to do the right thing.

> Loyalty is a virtue that often gets confused with obedience. Let’s take it in a martial arts context. Many instructors of my acquaintance would say that a good student is loyal and obedient. I don’t agree; I think that a good student is loyal, yes, but obedience is grossly overrated.

> Of course, a disloyal and disobedient student is a waste of everybody’s time. But a disloyal and obedient student is worse: they will follow your instructions right up to the point that you make a mistake; their thoughtless obedience prevents them from calling you on your mistake, and so they follow you blindly into error. Then their lack of loyalty leads them to cast you as a villain or a fool, and storm off in a huff. A loyal and obedient student makes things easy for an instructor, but their obedience prevents them from helping you to grow. The best students are loyal but disobedient. They are not inclined to blindly accept anything, and will call you on every error. But their loyalty keeps them training with you, and you grow together.

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> The older generation of Trump supporters the press often focuses on, the so called “forgotten white working class”, are in this sense easier to explain since they fit into the schema of a 1950s-style electorate. Like the factory workers in Factotum, the baby boomers were promised pensions and prosperity, but received instead simply the promises. Here the narrative is simple. The workers were promised something and someone (the politicians? the economy? the system itself?) never delivered. Their horse never came in. [...] 

> [Younger] Trump supporters hold a different sort of ideology, not one of “when will my horse come in”, but a trolling self-effacing, “I know my horse will never come in”. That is to say, younger Trump supporters know they are handing their money to someone who will never place their bets — only his own — because, after all, it’s plain as day there was never any other option.

> In this sense, Trump’s incompetent, variable, and ridiculous behavior is the central pillar upon which his younger support rests. [...] 

> Pepe [the Frog] symbolizes embracing your loserdom, owning it. That is to say, it is what all the millions of forum-goers of 4chan met to commune about. It is, in other words, a value system, one reveling in deplorableness and being pridefully dispossessed. It is a culture of hopelessness, of knowing “the system is rigged”. But instead of fight the response is flight, knowing you’re trapped in your circumstances is cause to celebrate. For these young men, voting Trump is not a solution, but a new spiteful prank.

> We know, by this point, that Trump is funny. Even to us leftists, horrified by his every move, he is hilarious. Someone who is all brash confidence and then outrageously incompetent at everything he does is — from an objective standpoint — comedy gold. Someone who accuses his enemies of the faults he at that very moment is portraying is comedy gold. But, strangely, as the left realized after the election, pointing out Trump was a joke was not helpful. In fact, Trump’s farcical nature didn’t seem to be a liability, rather, to his supporters, it was an asset.

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Neuroskeptic: "More lesbians say they "always" orgasm during sex (86%) than straight women (65%). Men bad in bed, science finds."

> Spiritual awakening is frequently described as a journey to the top of a mountain. We leave our attachments and our worldliness behind and slowly make our way to the top. At the peak we have transcended all pain. The only problem with this metaphor is that we leave all others behind. Their suffering continues, unrelieved by our personal escape.

> On the journey of the warrior-bodhisattva, the path goes down, not up, as if the mountain pointed toward the earth instead of the sky. Instead of transcending the suffering of all creatures, we move toward turbulence and doubt however we can. We explore the reality and unpredictability of insecurity and pain, and we try not to push it away. If it takes years, if it takes lifetimes, we let it be as it is.

> At our own pace, without speed or aggression, we move down and down and down. With us move millions of others, our companions in awakening from fear. At the bottom we discover water, the healing water of bodhichitta. Bodhichitta is our heart—our wounded, softened heart. Right down there in the thick of things, we discover the love that will not die. This love is bodhichitta. It is gentle and warm; it is clear and sharp; it is open and spacious. The awakened heart of bodhichitta is the basic goodness of all beings.

-- Pema Chödrön, Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion

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> The key point is that the political economy of anti-immigrant, Islamophobic news is such that the fabrication of stories implicating Muslims is worth it: those who start the rumors (whatever their reasons) know that there are media outlets willing to smear an entire religious group. The media outlets, in turn, are willing to run questionable material because it is red meat to a large portion of their base. It sells. Later apologies, if they come at all, are of no concern.

> In one of the more astonishing stories of 2017, last week the German tabloid Bild claimed that on New Year’s Eve in Frankfurt, a huge group of intoxicated Muslim men, most of them refugees, had formed a “rioting sex mob” and assaulted scores of women. The story contained “eyewitness” accounts and even interviews with purported victims. Naturally, it was picked up internationally and spread via social media.

> One week later, however, police in Frankfurt declared that the story was completely false: no such sexual assaults had been reported, the “victim” in question was not even in Frankfurt at the time, and two individuals were now under investigation for starting the false rumors and wasting police resources.

> Bild is the largest-selling newspaper in Europe, with a circulation of about 3m per day, but it has come under attack from other outlets in Germany for stoking anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim flames. When the police announced that the Frankfurt incident was false, Bild published an apology, and claimed that the story, “in no way met the journalistic standards” of the paper. But the fact remains that it was published and reproduced globally, and no quantity of retractions, excuses or apologies from the outlets that ran with it will heal the damage.

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