Archive for January 10th, 2013

January 10, 2013

Half-life of Knowledge

The Half-Life of Facts

The half-life of knowledge is the amount of time that has to elapse before half of the knowledge in a particular area is superseded or shown to be untrue. The concept is attributed to Fritz Machlup (1962). For example, Donald Hebb estimated the half-life of psychology to be five years.

The half-life of knowledge differs from the concept of half-life in physics in that there is no guarantee that the truth of knowledge in a particular area of study is declining exponentially. In addition, knowledge can not be quantified and falsification of a doctrine is hardly comparable to exponential decay process that atomic nuclei go through.

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January 10, 2013

Extropianism

Extropianism [eks-tro-pee-ahn-iz-uhm], also referred to as the philosophy of Extropy, is an evolving framework of values and standards for continuously improving the human condition. Extropians believe that advances in science and technology will some day let people live indefinitely.

An extropian may wish to contribute to this goal, e.g. by doing research and development or volunteering to test new technology. Extropianism describes a pragmatic consilience of transhumanist thought guided by a proactionary approach to human evolution and progress.

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January 10, 2013

Rational Mysticism

Rational mysticism [mis-tuh-siz-uhm], which encompasses both rationalism and mysticism, is a term used by scholars, researchers, and other intellectuals, some of whom engage in studies of how altered states of consciousness or transcendence such as trance, visions, and prayer occur. Lines of investigation include historical and philosophical inquiry as well as scientific inquiry within such fields as neurophysiology and psychology.

 The term ‘rational mysticism’ was in use at least as early as 1911 when it was the subject of an article by Henry W. Clark in the ‘Harvard Theological Review.’ In a 1924 book, ‘Rational Mysticism,’ theosophist William Kingsland correlated rational mysticism with scientific idealism. South African philosopher J.N. Findlay frequently used the term, developing the theme in ‘Ascent to the Absolute’ and other works in the 1960s and 1970s.

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January 10, 2013

User Illusion

The user illusion is the illusion created for the user by a human-computer interface, for example the visual metaphor of a desktop used in many graphical user interfaces. The phrase originated at Xerox PARC. Some philosophers of mind have argued that consciousness is a form of user illusion. This notion is explored by Danish popular science author Tor Nørretranders in his 1991 book ‘Mærk verden,’ issued in a 1998 English edition as ‘The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size.’

He introduced the notion of exformation  (explicitly discarded information) in this book. According to this picture, our experience of the world is not immediate, as all sensation requires processing time. It follows that our conscious experience is less a perfect reflection of what is occurring, and more a simulation produced unconsciously by the brain. Therefore, there may be phenomena that exist beyond our peripheries, beyond what consciousness could create to isolate or reduce them.

January 10, 2013

Bicameralism

muses by MK Mabry

Bicameralism [bahy-kam-er-uhl-iz-uhm] (the philosophy of ‘two-chamberedness’) is a hypothesis in psychology that argues that the human brain once assumed a state in which cognitive functions were divided between one part of the brain which appears to be ‘speaking,’ and a second part which listens and obeys—a bicameral mind.

The term was coined by psychologist Julian Jaynes, who presented the idea in his 1976 book ‘The Origin of Consciousness’ in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind,’ wherein he made the case that a bicameral mentality was the normal and ubiquitous state of the human mind only as recently as 3000 years ago. Jaynes saw bicamerality as primarily a metaphor. He used governmental bicameralism to describe a mental state in which the experiences and memories of the right hemisphere of the brain are transmitted to the left hemisphere via auditory hallucinations.

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January 10, 2013

Piphilology

Piphilology [pahy-fi-lol-uh-jee] comprises the creation and use of mnemonic techniques to remember a span of digits of the mathematical constant π. The word is a play on the word ‘pi’ itself and of the linguistic field of philology (the study of written language).

There are many ways to memorize π, including the use of piems (a portmanteau, formed by combining pi and poem), which are poems that represent π in a way such that the length of each word (in letters) represents a digit.

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January 10, 2013

Memory Sport

world memory championships

memory palace

Memory sport, sometimes referred to as competitive memory or the mind sport of memory, is a competition in which participants attempt to memorize the most information that they can then present back, under certain guidelines. The sport has been formally developed since 1991, and features regional and international championships.

One common type of competition involves memorizing the order of randomized cards in as little time as possible, after which the competitor is required to arrange new decks of cards in the same order. Mnemonic techniques are generally considered to be a necessary part of competition, and are improved through extensive practice. These can include the method of loci (referred to as the journey method, which uses visualization to aid recall), the use of mnemonic linking and chunking, or other techniques for storage and retrieval of information.

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January 10, 2013

Moonwalking with Einstein

Moonwalking with Einstein

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything’ is a nonfiction book by Joshua Foer, first published in 2011. Foer describes his book as participatory journalism in the world of competitive memorization and attempts to delineate the capacity of the human mind. He sets out to investigate the underpinnings of those with enhanced memory, soon finding himself at the 2005 U.S. Memory Championship.

He covers the scientific basis of memory creation and historical attitudes towards memory, including its negative reputation in the Western educational system, a perception which Foer is largely opposed to. He explores common mnemonic tools for improving memory: the techniques of Roman rhetoricians and the tannaim (‘reciters’) of Sri Lanka, the Major System and the PAO System for memorizing numbers and cards, and Mind Mapping, a note-taking technique developed by educational consultant Tony Buzan. These methods are all a form of the method of loci, in which data is stored in a sequence of memorable images that are decomposable into their original form.

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January 10, 2013

Method of Loci

The method of loci [loh-sahy] (plural of Latin ‘locus’ for ‘place’ or ‘location’), also called the ‘memory palace,’ is a mnemonic device introduced in ancient Roman and Greek rhetorical treatises. The items to be remembered in this mnemonic system are mentally associated with specific physical locations. It relies on memorized spatial relationships to establish, order and recollect memorial content.

The method of loci is also commonly referred to as the journey method. In basic terms, it is a method of memory enhancement which uses visualization to organize and recall information. Many memory contest champions claim to use this technique in order to recall faces, digits, and lists of words. These champions’ successes have little to do with brain structure or intelligence, but more to do with their technique of using regions of their brain that have to do with spatial learning. Those parts of the brain that contribute most significantly to this technique include the medial parietal cortex, retrosplenial cortex, and the right posterior hippocampus.

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January 10, 2013

Google Effect

Exocortex

The Google effect is the tendency to forget information that can be easily found using internet search engines such as Google, instead of remembering it.

The phenomenon was described and named by researchers Betsy Sparrow, Jenny Liu, and Daniel M. Wegner in 2011. Having easy access to the Internet, their study showed, makes people less likely to remember certain details they believe will be accessible online. People can still remember things they cannot find online, and how to find what they need on the Internet. Sparrow said this made the Internet a type of transactive memory. One result of this phenomenon is dependence on the Internet; if an online connection is lost, the researchers said, it is similar to losing a friend.

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January 10, 2013

Don’t Be Evil

Don’t be evil‘ was the formal corporate motto (or slogan) of Google. It was first suggested either by Google employee Paul Buchheit at a meeting about corporate values that took place in early 2000, or by Google Engineer Amit Patel in 1999. Buchheit, the creator of Gmail, said he ‘wanted something that, once you put it in there, would be hard to take out,’ adding that the slogan was ‘also a bit of a jab at a lot of the other companies, especially our competitors, who at the time, in our opinion, were kind of exploiting the users to some extent.’

While the official corporate philosophy of Google does not contain the words ‘Don’t be evil,’ they were included in the prospectus of Google’s 2004 IPO (a letter from Google’s founders, later called the ”Don’t Be Evil’ manifesto’): ‘Don’t be evil. We believe strongly that in the long term, we will be better served — as shareholders and in all other ways — by a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short term gains.’

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