23 April 2014

"The Information" by James Gleick

While it is a massive book, The Information is a fantastic read. It summarizes the evolution of information and communication through time. From the early pioneers of long range communication (early African drummers and later the telegraph), standardizing the English language through the publication of dictionaries through to the development of information theory (which had an odd start branching off from math).

Interesting tidbit: Ranchers, in the early days of the telephone, would connect through cattle fences together and run the phone line through the barb wire instead of running new wire.

22 April 2014

Amy Webb: How I hacked online dating

Webb discusses how she found that the the online persona presented through online dating sites often do not match the persona of the real person. She also shares several funny stories.

Amy Webb: How I hacked online dating (TED)

17 April 2014

Peter van Uhm: Why I chose a gun

As the highest commander in the Netherlands armed forces, Uhm shares his motivation for choosing a can to promote peace. He suggests that the armed services efforts are invaluable to achieving and maintaining peace world wide.

Peter van Uhm: Why I chose a gun (TED)

08 April 2014

Philip Zimbardo: The psychology of evil

Zimbardo addresses the "why" of evil behavior. Contrary to most thoughts, evil behavior, he suggests, stems not from the individual but from a system that allows an individual to be evil.

Philip Zimbardo: The psychology of evil (TED)

02 April 2014

"The Invisible Gorilla" by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons

A book about how we humans can miss the most obvious of things because they are outside the realm of our expected exceptions. The authors give six types of cognitive illusions:

  • Illusion of Attention, in which we think we are paying attention when we are not; such as staring straight at a motorcyclist on the road and not recognizing the existence of the vehicle.
  • Illusion of Memory, such as being able to accurately recall a very detailed memory, most of which is probably made up by your mind.
  • Illusion of Confidence, such as distrusting a doctor who openly consults with reference material, even though such doctors are much better at making accurate diagnoses.
  • Illusion of Knowledge, such as thinking you know everything about how a bicycle works but most people cannot draw an accurate, detailed diagram of it.
  • Illusion of Causality, in which we falsely attribute some later events to earlier ones simply because they happened in a chronological order.
  • Illusion of Brain Capacity, such as playing classical music thinking it will increase our brain power even though it really does not.

Interesting tidbit: talking on the phone leads to driver impairment whether they are hands free or not.