Jacob's Pondering Notes

Last sync: 27th of November 2020.

A collection of quotes that made me think or that I still need to think about.

Jacob's Pondering Notes

“If the canon of conspicuous consumption were not offset to a considerable extent by other features of human nature, alien to it, any saving should logically be impossible for a population situated as the artisan and labouring classes of the cities are at present, however high their wages or their income might be.”

26 Nov 2020 at 10:05 pm
The Theory of the Leisure Class (Oxford World’s Classics)
Thorstein Veblen

“In order to stand well in the eyes of the community, it is necessary to come up to a certain, somewhat indefinite, conventional standard of wealth”

10 Nov 2020 at 7:38 am
The Theory of the Leisure Class (Oxford World’s Classics)
Thorstein Veblen

“The motive that lies at the root of ownership is emulation; and the same motive of emulation continues active in the further development of the institution to which it has given rise and in the development of all those features of the social structure which this institution of ownership touches. The possession of wealth confers honour; it is an invidious distinction. Nothing equally cogent can be said for the consumption of goods, nor for any other conceivable incentive to acquisition, and especially not for any incentive to the accumulation of wealth.”

10 Nov 2020 at 7:23 am
The Theory of the Leisure Class (Oxford World’s Classics)
Thorstein Veblen

“As a matter of selective necessity, man is an agent. He is, in his own apprehension, a centre of unfolding impulsive activity—“teleological” activity. He is an agent seeking in every act the accomplishment of some concrete, objective, impersonal end.”

8 Nov 2020 at 8:59 am
The Theory of the Leisure Class (Oxford World’s Classics)
Thorstein Veblen

“Even those who manage to avoid severely addictive behaviors struggle with balancing the rewards of dopamine release with the consequences of the behaviors that release them.”

3 Oct 2020 at 9:21 pm
How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed
Kurzweil, Ray

“We are capable of hierarchical thinking, of understanding a structure composed of diverse elements arranged in a pattern, representing that arrangement with a symbol, and then using that symbol as an element in a yet more elaborate configuration. This capability takes place in a brain structure called the neocortex, which in humans has achieved a threshold of sophistication and capacity such that we are able to call these patterns ideas. Through an unending recursive process we are capable of building ideas that are ever more complex. We call this vast array of recursively linked ideas knowledge.”

13 Sep 2020 at 8:30 pm
How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed
Kurzweil, Ray

“Truly random data remains spread out in an undefined mess. But chaos—deterministic and patterned—pulls the data into visible shapes. Of all the possible pathways of disorder, nature favors just a few.”

29 Aug 2020 at 7:38 pm
Chaos
James Gleick

“Divide a swimming pool in half with some barrier; fill one half with water and one with ink; wait for all to be still; lift the barrier; simply through the random motion of molecules, eventually the ink and water will mix. The mixing never reverses itself, even if you wait till the end of the universe, which is why the Second Law is so often said to be the part of physics that makes time a one-way street. Entropy is the name for the quality of systems that increases under the Second Law—mixing, disorder, randomness.”

29 Aug 2020 at 7:25 pm
Chaos
James Gleick

“Each scientist had a private constellation of intellectual parents. Each had his own picture of the landscape of ideas, and each picture was limited in its own way. Knowledge was imperfect. Scientists were biased by the customs of their disciplines or by the accidental paths of their own educations.”

25 Aug 2020 at 9:23 pm
Chaos
James Gleick

“Growing up smart in Brooklyn was in some measure a matter of steering an uneven course between the world of mind and the world of other people. He was immensely gregarious when very young, which he regarded as a key to not being beaten up. But something clicked when he realized he could learn things. He became more and more detached from his friends. Ordinary conversation could not hold his interest. Sometime in his last year of college, it struck him that he had missed his adolescence, and he made a deliberate project out of regaining touch with humanity. He would sit silently in the cafeteria, listening to students chatting about shaving or food, and gradually he relearned much of the science of talking to people.”

20 Aug 2020 at 10:10 pm
Chaos
James Gleick

t was in mathematical physics, though, that (David) Ruelle made his lasting contribution to the exploration of chaos. By 1970 he had joined the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques, an institute outside Paris modeled on the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He had already developed what became a lifelong habit of leaving the institute and his family periodically to take solitary walks, weeks long, carrying only a backpack through empty wildernesses in Iceland or rural Mexico. Often he saw no one. When he came across humans and accepted their hospitality—perhaps a meal of maize tortillas, with no fat, animal or vegetable—he felt that he was seeing the world as it existed two millennia before. When he returned to the institute he would begin his scientific existence again, his face just a little more gaunt, the skin stretched a little more tightly over his round brow and sharp chin.”

18 Aug 2020 at 9:57 pm
Chaos
James Gleick

“When they recon all this up, they live quietly and keep to themselves, like a man who stands under the shelter of a wall during a driving storm of dust and hail; they see the rest of the world full of wrongdoing, and are content to keep themselves unspotted from wickedness and wrong in this life, and finally leave it with cheerful composure and good hope.”

23 Jul 2020 at 5:03pm
The republic
Plato

“Clouds represented a side of nature that the mainstream of physics had passed by, a side that was at once, fuzzy and detailed, structured and unpredictable. Feigenbaum thought about such things, quietly and unproductively.”

13 Jul 2020 at 6:19 pm
Chaos
James Gleick

“a third place is often invoked to explain the appeal of Starbucks: the first place is home, the second place is work, but people also need a third place to socialize that’s neither home nor work”

12 Jul 2020 at 12:25 pm
Understanding the New Rules of Language
Gretchen McCulloch

“Sometimes whole groups defied gender norms—men overall tended to swear more, but techies, a cluster that was male-dominated, didn’t swear much at all, presumably because they were using Twitter as an extension of the workplace.”

21 May 2020 at 10:16 pm
Understanding the New Rules of Language
Gretchen McCulloch

“And yet the most commonly used sets of emoji are the faces and hands, like the smile, the face with tears of joy, the thumbs up, and the crossed fingers. We use emoji less to describe the world around us, and more to be fully ourselves in an online world.”

14 May 2020 at 9:09 pm
Understanding the New Rules of Language
Gretchen McCulloch

“I conducted an informal survey, asking if people retype their keysmash if it doesn’t look, er, smashing enough. While there were a few keysmash purists, who posted whatever came out, I found that the majority of people will delete and remash if they don’t like what it looks like, plus a significant minority who will adjust a few letters.”

13 May 2020 at 10:45 pm
Understanding the New Rules of Language
Gretchen McCulloch

“During the laborious process—aided by laboratory robots but guided by a large group of smart scientists—the narrative morphed from one characterized by hubris to shock and eventually to chagrin. It turns out that we have about half the number of genes as the average potato: around twenty thousand!”

12 May 2020 at 10:33 pm
The Neuroscience and Experience of Addiction
Judith Grisel

“The decade or so between puberty and brain maturation is a critical period of enhanced sensitivity to both internal and external stimuli. Notice how integrated the brain is with social development: by appreciating new ideas and experiences, teens develop a sense of personal identity from which important life choices follow. An explosion in neural rewiring underlies developmental milestones like affirming likes and dislikes, discovering and nurturing talents, and becoming a sentient individual separate from one’s parents. In this way, experiences in adolescence are concretized by lasting patterns in the brain and behavior.”

5 May 2020 at 10:01 pm
The Neuroscience and Experience of Addiction
Judith Grisel

“Some of it is metabolized in the stomach, though more for men than for women due to sex differences in the amount of enzyme contained in the gastric fluid. Nonetheless, it diffuses out of the stomach at a rate that depends on how much food is there, and even what kind of food, heading straight for the liver.”

21 Apr 2020 at 6:43 am
The Neuroscience and Experience of Addiction
Judith Grisel

“Besides being slower to enact intentions, low dopamine is also associated with higher-than-average orderliness, conscientiousness, and frugality. In other words, it confers a tendency toward rigidity in areas other than movement.”

13 Apr 2020 at 5:39 pm
The Neuroscience and Experience of Addiction
Judith Grisel

“all addictive drugs are addictive precisely because they share the ability to stimulate the mesolimbic dopamine system. Countless studies have demonstrated that the squirt of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens from addictive substances (including chocolate and hot sauce!) is associated with the substances’ pleasurable outcome.”

8 Apr 2020 at 9:21 pm
The Neuroscience and Experience of Addiction
Judith Grisel

“When you ‘see’ something, only about ten per cent of the information comes from the optic nerve. Other parts of your brain have to deconstruct the signals – recognise faces, interpret movements, identify danger. In other words, the biggest part of seeing isn’t receiving visual images, it’s making sense of them.

For each visual input, it takes a tiny but perceptible amount of time – about one-fifth of a second – for the information to travel along the optic nerves and into the brain to be processed and interpreted.

One-fifth of a second is not a trivial span of time when a rapid response is required – to step back from an oncoming car, say, or to avoid a blow to the head.

To help us deal better with this fractional lag, the brain does a truly extraordinary thing: it continuously forecasts what the world will be like a fifth of a second from now, and that is what it gives us as the present. That means that we never see the world as it is at this very instant, but rather as it will be a fraction of a moment in the future. We spend our whole lives, in other words, living in a world that doesn’t quite exist yet.”

20 Jan 2020 at 9:20 pm
A Guide for Occupants
Bill Bryson

“The body is often likened to a machine, but it is so much more than that. It works twenty-four hours a day for decades without (for the most part) needing regular servicing or the installation of spare parts, runs on water and a few organic compounds, is soft and rather lovely, is accommodatingly mobile and pliant, reproduces itself with enthusiasm, makes jokes, feels affection, appreciates a red sunset and a cooling breeze. How many machines do you know that can do any of that? There is no question about it. You are truly a wonder. But then so, it must be said, is an earthworm.”

16 Jan 2020 at 8:55 pm
A Guide for Occupants
Bill Bryson

“If the view that language is essential for complex thought is true, Brother John should have been much less able to function than this. John would later describe these episodes as very difficult and confusing, but he did manage, and he was mentally present during them.
Extreme views on both sides of the question are fading: language is an important tool for thought, and inner speech is not mere mental-acoustic froth. But it is not essential to the organization of ideas, and language is not the medium of complex thought.”

2 Jan 2020 at 6:21 pm
Other Minds
Peter Godfrey-Smith

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