The Overstory

Na túto knižku treba trpezlivosť. Začína koreňmi – krátkymi akoby poviedkami, ktoré postupne predstavia ľudské postavy (môže mať kniha deväť hlavných postáv?). Potom príde kmeň, kde sa príbehy postáv poprepletajú, vyrastú do koruny. A na koniec padajú semená. A celý čas sú tam ešte stromy, veľa stromov.

Nálada je taká optimisticko-pesimistická. Teda pre ľudí vpodstate len pesimistická a trúchlivá. Ale na stromy, aj keď to v čase príbehu nie je veľmi ružové, čaká budúcnosť. 

Understory je po anglicky lesný podrast – všetko to, čo rastie v lese pod korunami stromov, v knižke sa viackrát spomína. Overstory – koruny stromov, je priamo len v názve knihy a aj to pravdepodobne kvôli slovnej hračke. Všeliakých viac-či-menej zjavných referencií sa nájde tiež dosť: na Loraxa, ktorý hovorí za stromy, na Annu Kareninu a (ne)šťastie rodín, na Wohllebenov Secret Life of Trees… veľa som si určite ani nevšimla. 

Kniha o stromoch a čase, ktorá je vlastne o ľuďoch, taká, čo dáva viac otázok ako odpovedí. Miestami trochu pátosu, miestami príliš hustý podrast, ale celkovo veľmi dobre napísaná. 

Your kind never sees us whole. You miss the half of it, and more. There’s always as much below ground as above. That’s the trouble with people, their root problem.

thoughts he doesn’t know how to have.

‘When is the best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago.’
‘When is the next best time? Now.’

The greatest flaw of the species is its overwhelming tendency to mistake agreement for truth. Single biggest influence on what a body will or won’t believe is what nearby bodies broadcast over the public band.

Other creatures—bigger, slower, older, more durable—call the shots, make the weather, feed creation, and create the very air.

I hear myself best when I’m sleeping.

What do stories do? They kill us a bit and make us change.

Righteousness makes Mimi nuts. She has always been allergic to people with conviction. But more than she hates conviction, she hates sneaky power.

You’re studying what makes some people take the living world seriously when the only real thing for everyone else is other people. You should be studying everyone who thinks that only people matter.

The best arguments in the world won’t change a person’s mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story

She could tell them about a simple machine needing no fuel and little maintenance, one that steadily sequesters carbon, enriches the soil, cools the ground, scrubs the air, and scales easily to any size. A tech that copies itself and even drops food for free. A device so beautiful it’s the stuff of poems. If forests were patentable, she’d get an ovation.

Say the planet is born at midnight and it runs for one day. First there is nothing. Two hours are lost to lava and meteors. Life doesn’t show up until three or four a.m. Even then, it’s just the barest self-copying bits and pieces. From dawn to late morning—a million million years of branching—nothing more exists than lean and simple cells. Then there is everything. Something wild happens, not long after noon. One kind of simple cell enslaves a couple of others. Nuclei get membranes. Cells evolve organelles. What was once a solo campsite grows into a town. The day is two-thirds done when animals and plants part ways. And still life is only single cells. Dusk falls before compound life takes hold. Every large living thing is a latecomer, showing up after dark. Nine p.m. brings jellyfish and worms. Later that hour comes the breakout—backbones, cartilage, an explosion of body forms. From one instant to the next, countless new stems and twigs in the spreading crown burst open and run. Plants make it up on land just before ten. Then insects, who instantly take to the air. Moments later, tetrapods crawl up from the tidal muck, carrying around on their skin and in their guts whole worlds of earlier creatures. By eleven, dinosaurs have shot their bolt, leaving the mammals and birds in charge for an hour. Somewhere in that last sixty minutes, high up in the phylogenetic canopy, life grows aware. Creatures start to speculate. Animals start teaching their children about the past and the future. Animals learn to hold rituals. Anatomically modern man shows up four seconds before midnight. The first cave paintings appear three seconds later. And in a thousandth of a click of the second hand, life solves the mystery of DNA and starts to map the tree of life itself. By midnight, most of the globe is converted to row crops for the care and feeding of one species. And that’s when the tree of life becomes something else again. That’s when the giant trunk starts to teeter.

Life has a way of talking to the future. It’s called memory.

Algorithms to live by

Túto knižku si so záujmom môžu prečítať aj computer science ľudia, aj tí ostatní. Každá skupina iným spôsobom, ale oba sú dobré. Ľudia, ktorí už kde-tu na nejaký algoritmus natrafili a stretli sa s nejakými jeho hraničnými prípadmi, sa nedozvedia z informatiky veľa nového, ale dostanú zaujímavé súvislosti a príklady (áno, aj zo skutočného života) a počiatočné podmienky na rozmýšľanie novým smerom. Tá druhá skupina ľudí dostane prístupným spôsobom vysvetlené aj celkom netriviálne veci, čo samo o sebe vôbec nie je málo a navyše môže tiež oceniť prepojenia na rôzne životné situácie a rozhodnutia, ktoré v nich robíme. Niektoré príklady sú uletené, niektoré prehnané, ale z veľa z nich sa dá niečo si zobrať.


But for the computer scientists who wrestle with such problems, this verdict isn’t the end of the story. Instead, it’s more like a call to arms. Having determined a problem to be intractable, you can’t just throw up your hands. As scheduling expert Jan Karel Lenstra told us, “When the problem is hard, it doesn’t mean that you can forget about it, it means that it’s just in a different status. It a serious enemy, but you still have to fight it.” And this is where the field figured out something invaluable, something we can all learn from: how to best approach problems whose optimal answers are out of reach. How to relax.

If you want to be a good intuitive Bayesian, if you want to naturally make good predictions, without having to think about what kind of prediction rule is appropriate – you need to protect your priors. Counterintuitively, that might mean turning off the news.

Communication is one of those delightful things that work only in practice; in theory it’s impossible.

Named for Nobel Prize-winning economist William Vickrey, the Vickrey auction, just like the first-price auction, is a “sealed bid” auction process. That is, every participant simply writes down a single number in secret, and the highest bidder wins. However, in a Vickrey auction, the winner ends up paying not the amount of their own bid, but that of the second-place bidder. That is to say, if you bid $25 and I bid $10, you win the item at my price: you only have to pay $10.

A doctor told me about her approach to keeping things. “My kids think I’m whacky, but I put things where I think I’ll need them again later, even if it doesn’t make much sense.” As an example of her system, she told me that she keeps extra vacuum cleaner bags behind the couch in the living room. Behind the couch in the living room? Does that make any sense? It turns out that when the vacuum cleaner is used, it is usually used for the carpet in the living room… When a vacuum cleaner bag gets full and a new one is needed, it’s usually in the living room. And that’s just where the vacuum cleaner bags are.

Perhaps the patron saint of the minimal-context-switching lifestyle is the legendary programmer Donald Knuth. “I do one thing at a time,” he says. “This is what computer scientists call batch processing—the alternative is swapping in and out. I don’t swap in and out.” Knuth isn’t kidding. On January 1, 2014, he embarked on “The TeX Tuneup of 2014,” in which he fixed all of the bugs that had been reported in his TeX typesetting software over the previous six years. His report ends with the cheery sign-off “Stay tuned for The TeX Tuneup of 2021!” Likewise, Knuth has not had an email address since 1990. “Email is a wonderful thing for people whose role in life is to be on top of things. But not for me; my role is to be on the bottom of things. What I do takes long hours of studying and uninterruptible concentration.” He reviews all his postal mail every three months, and all his faxes every six.

Ursula K. Le Guin: No time to spare

Zbierka zamyslení, ktoré Le Guin napísala, keď už mala viac ako 80 rokov. Majú podnadpis: Thinking about what matters a presne o tom sú. Sú napísané trochu voľnejšie ako jej fantasy knihy (The left hand of darkness, The wizard of Earthsea), čo sa týka obsahu miestami dokonca trochu povrchne, ale sú napísané majstrovsky. Pre mňa toto je pani spisovateľka, ktorú by som vydržala čítať veľmi dlho. Pred dvoma rokmi zomrela, takže nové knižky už nebudú, treba ešte pohľadať tie staršie.

The opposite of spare time is, I guess, occupied time. In my case I still don’t know what spare time is because all my time is occupied. It always has been and it is now. It’s occupied by living.
An increasing part of living, at my age, is mere bodily maintenance, which is tiresome. But I cannot find anywhere in my life a time, or a kind of time, that is unoccupied. I am free, but my time is not. My time is fully and vitally occupied with sleep, with daydreaming, with doing business and writing friends and family on email, with reading, with writing poetry, with writing prose, with thinking, with forgetting, with embroidering, with cooking and eating a meal and cleaning up the kitchen, with construing Virgil, with meeting friends, with talking with my husband, with going out to shop for groceries, with walking if I can walk and traveling if we are traveling, with sitting Vipassana sometimes, with watching a movie sometimes, with doing the Eight Precious Chinese exercises when I can, with lying down for an afternoon rest with a volume of Krazy Kat to read and my own slightly crazy cat occupying the region between my upper thighs and mid-calves, where he arranges himself and goes instantly and deeply to sleep. None of this is spare time. I can’t spare it. What is Harvard thinking of? I am going to be eighty-one next week. I have no time to spare.

Writing is a risky business. No guarantees. You have to take the chance. I’m happy to take it. I love taking it. So my stuff gets misread, misunderstood, misinterpreted – so what? If it’s the real stuff, it will survive almost any abuse other than being ignored, disappeared, not read.    
Large general questions about meaning can only be answered with generalities, which make me uncomfortable, because it is so hard to be honest when you generalize. If you skip over all details, how can you tell if you’re being honest or not?
Maturity is not an out growing but a growing up. Adult is not a dead child but a child who survived.
I envy self-confidence even as I dislike it
Children have to believe what they are told. Willingness to believe is as necessary to a child as the suckling instinct is to a baby: a child has so much to learn in order to stay alive and in order to be human. 
Specifically, human knowledge is imparted through language, so first we have to learn language, then listen to what we’re told and believe it. Testing the validity of information should always be permitted and is sometimes necessary but may also be dangerous: the little one had better believe without running any tests that the stove burner could burn even when it isn’t red, that if you eat Gramma’s medicine you will be sick, that running out into the street is not a good idea . . . Anyhow, there’s so much to be learned, it can’t all be tested. We really do have to believe what our elders tell us. We can perceive for ourselves, but have very little instinctive knowledge in how to act on our perceptions, and must be shown the basic patterns of how to arrange the world and how to find our way through it. 
Therefore the incalculable value of true information, and the unforgivable wrongness of lying to a child. An adult has the option of not believing. A child, particularly your own child, doesn’t.

Mathematical Foundations for Computer Science… alebo toľko kníh som v aute ešte nemala

Prvá bola Computational Blood Cell Mechanics.

Aj práca na tejto druhej knihe trvala zhruba dva roky (a to nepočítam učenie predmetu, ku ktorému bola napísaná). A tento týždeň som pre ňu bola vo vydavateľstve. Okrem mojich pár výtlačkov som viezla aj skoro všetky ostatné. Dúfam, že sa z nich čo najviac dostane medzi študentov a študentky. 

Martin M. Šimečka: Medzi Slovákmi

Stručné dejiny ľahostajnosti od Dubčeka k Ficovi alebo ako som sa stal vlastencom

Útla knižočka. Veľmi čitateľná a zaujímavá (aspoň) na dvoch úrovniach. Jednak z pohľadu česko-slovenských reálií a potom z filozofického pohľadu na to, aké sú motívy ľudí aj ako jednotlivcov aj ako národa. Trochu mi škrípal koniec. Bol príliš romantický a jednoduchší, než by si aktuálne dianie zaslúžilo. (Knižka vyšla v roku 2017, takže to môže byť čiastočné vysvetlenie.) Ale aj tak silno odporúčam.

To, čo nazývam ľahostajnosťou voči spoločnosti sa často ukrýva za zdanlivú pokoru: ja predsa nie som lepší než iní a ten, kto si osobuje právo vstupovať do svedomia národa, je arogantný povýšenec. (Tento argument som často počúval na adresu disidentov.)

To je však typické pre slovenské nepochopenie spoločenskej roly elít – od tých intelektuálnych cez ekonomické až po politické. Sú totiž privilegované svojím postavením, ale to ich zároveň zaväzuje k postojom, ktoré si občas vyžadujú odvahu. Slovenskí spisovatelia ju v čase normalizácie nenašli, lebo spoločnosť im za to nestála.

Slovenskí komunisti to možno mysleli dobre, ale záchranou slovenskej elity ju zároveň prizvali k tomu, aby sa aspoň na čiastočný úväzok podieľala na normalizácii. Slovenskej spoločnosti, ktorá sa k tejto dohode ako celok ochotne pridala, tak už nemal kto povedať, že to nie je správne.

Dnes sa javí absurdné, že referendum nebolo vypísané, ale Mečiar a Klaus vedeli, že by ich jeho výsledok dostal do pasce. Neviem, či mám obdivovať ich vtedajšiu odvahu, alebo žasnúť nad ich drzosťou, ale naozaj sa im podarilo rozdeliť štát napriek tomu, že voličom tento plán pred voľbami v júni toho roku zatajili. 

Tri magické knižky na dovolenku

Jednu som mala so sebou papierovo: Ursula K. Le Guin: The Earthsea Quartet. V podstate je to sága rozdelená do štyroch kníh (A wizard of Earthsea, Tombs of Atuan, The farthest shore, Tehanu), ktoré sa dajú čítať aj samostatne a ja som dve z nich už kedysi aj mala otvorené, ale teraz som si ich prečítala všetky spolu.  

Treba ich čítať v origináli alebo v nejakom naozaj dobrom preklade, lebo viackrát som sa pristihla, ako si hovorím, že toto by sa teda ťažko dávalo do iného jazyka tak, aby to ostalo rovnako pôsobivé. Nie je to ľahké čítanie… niekedy smutné, miestami temné, celé filozofické, vyžaduje trpezlivosť a stojí za to. Ursula Le Guin vie písať. (Pre záujemcov, ešte ďalšie, trochu ľahšie, odporúčania: The left hand of darknessWild girls, Those who walk from Omelas…)

A kedysi raz niekto o týchto knihách povedal, že pomôže si ich prečítať, keď sa neviete vyrovnať s tým, že vám niekto blízky zomrel. Ak budete v takej situácii, prečítajte. Pomôže.  

It is very hard for evil to take hold of the unconsenting soul.

To light a candle is to cast a shadow… 

Was I to join them therefore? To let their acts rule my own? I will not make their choices for them, nor will I let them make mine for me.

As a child in Atuan, Tenar had learned how to learn. As a stranger in Gont, she had found that people liked to teach. She had learned to be taught and so to be accepted, her foreignness forgotten.

‘Will you be about the house?’ she asked him, across some distance. ‘Therru’s asleep. I want to walk a little.’
‘Yes. Go on,’ he said, and she went on, pondering at the indifference of a man towards exigencies that ruled a woman: that someone must be not far from a sleeping child, that one’s freedom meant another’s unfreedom unless some ever-changing, moving balance were reached, like a balance of a body moving forward, as she did now on two legs, first one then the other, in the practice of that remarkable art, walking…

‘How she’s changing!’ she said. ‘I can’t keep up with her. I’m old to be bringing up a child. And she… She obeys me, but only because she wants to.’
‘It’s the only justification for obedience,’ Ged observed.

Keď som dočítala Zememorie, tak som sa pustila do knižky, ktorú mala na dovolenke Kika: Kelly Barnhill: Dievča, ktoré pilo mesačný svit. Prvá polovica výborná, druhá sa dala spraviť aj lepšie. 

Každý rok ľudia v Protektoráte obetujú jedného novorodenca čarodejnici, ktorá žije hlboko v lesoch. Už od nepamäti vedia, že len tak ochránia svoje mesto pred jej čarami. Lenže čarodejnica Xan vôbec nie je zlá. Naopak, o opustené dieťa sa postará, nakŕmi ho hviezdnym svitom a nájde mu novú, milujúcu rodinu na opačnej strane lesa. Raz však omylom nakŕmi malé dievčatko mesačným svitom a tomu potom začne v žilách kolovať mágia. Xan sa rozhodne, že dievčatko vychová sama. Dá mu meno Luna a jeho čarovné schopnosti uzamkne do času, keď bude mať trinásť rokov. Lenže s blížiacimi sa trinástymi narodeninami sa kúzla začínajú drať na povrch. Nad lesom sa zlietajú obrovské kŕdle desivých vtákov, pod zemou sa prebúdza sopka a les obchádza žena so srdcom tigra. Z Protektorátu mieri do lesa muž, ktorý je rozhodnutý zabiť čarodejnicu. Čoskoro bude musieť Luna chrániť tých, ktorí doteraz chránili ju. A postaviť sa proti skutočnému zlu…

A potom ešte elektronicky tento cantos: Dan Simmons: Hyperion. Písané v duchu Canterburských poviedok, je to šesť príbehov, ktoré si rozprávajú siedmi spolupútnici. Príbehy sú rozmanité a (pre mňa okrem jedného) zaujímavé, ale nie je to kniha, ku ktorej by som sa ešte chcela vrátiť.  

After fifty-five years of dedicating his life and work to the story of ethical systems, Sol Weintraub had come to a single, unshakable conclusion: any allegiance to a deity or concept or universal principle which put obedience above decent behavior toward an innocent human being was evil.

Prison always has been a good place for writers, killing, as it does, the twin demons of mobility and diversion

I would welcome some glimmer of understanding but, failing that, working on the puzzle will suffice.
indicators of true giftedness in a young person: structured curiosity, empathy for others, compassion, and a fierce sense of fair play
[as she was getting younger] language was the hardest for him. Her vocabulary loss was like the burning of a bridge between them, the severing of a final line of hope
He told me what it was like to be a poet obsessed with perfection, far harsher toward his own efforts than even the most vicious critic. And the critics were vicious
It was hard to describe, but I’d seen rooms full of more important personages rearrange themselves to orbit around personalities like his

It no longer matters who consider themselves the masters of events. Events no longer obey their masters.


Michelle Obama: Becoming

Žiadne vysokohodnotné umelecké dielo to nie je, ale človek sa dozvie veľa malých zaujímavostí (americké reálie). Už len pre ne sa túto knihu oplatí prečítať. Ale okrem toho na mňa urobili dojem dva motívy, ktoré sa tiahli prakticky celým rozprávaním. 
Prvý je ten, že záleží na tom, koho poznáš a kto Ťa pozná. Obamovci si cieľavedome a prakticky stále budovali sieť ľudí. Aj v tomto kontexte zrejme platí to outlierovské ponaučenie, že na to, aby bol človek výnimočný, tak si to na jednej strane musí odmakať, ale na druhej musí vedieť rozpoznať a využiť príležitosť, lebo tá sa nutne niekde pri tom odmakávaní naskytne.  
A ten druhý, feministicky neprehliadnuteľný, je ten, ako sa Michelle prispôsobovala Barackovej kariére (nevyhnutne, vedome), ako to vnímala (ťažko, nespravodlivo) a ako sa s tým vysporiadala. To posledné ma zarazilo najviac. Len jeden príklad za všetky.
My s Mišom nie sme ani zďaleka tak vyťažení ako Obamovci, ale aj tak je pre nás problém nájsť si čas, aby sme mohli športovať (odkedy máme deti). Boli obdobia, keď som športovala ja a vtedy sa on prakticky nehýbal. Teraz je obdobie, že Mišo pravidelne behá a ja sa neviem dostať na plaváreň ani raz do týždňa. Akoby to boli spojené nádoby, spoločný objem času, ktorý sa dá na toto minúť a keď jeden z nás vyčerpá, druhému neostáva. Chce to nemalú vedomú snahu, aby to tak nebolo, ongoing negotiation bez konca na dohľad, lebo život stále beží so svojimi nepravidelnosťami, ktoré akúkoľvek vyhovujúcu dohodu za chvíľu zmetú zo stola.
A čo spravili v rovnakej situácii Obamovci? Barack nič. Žil si ďalej svojím životom. Ostalo na Michelle, aby sa s tým vysporiadala. To, že ak si chcela zacvičiť, musela vstávať brutálne skoro ráno, musela jej mama vstávať brutálne skoro ráno, aby k nim prišla a postrážila zatiaľ deti, to sa jeho nedotklo. 
A takéto situácie tam boli ako gorálky na šnúrke jedna za druhou. Ťažko sa mi čítali. 
Advice, when she offered it, tended to be of the hard-boiled and pragmatic variety. “You don’t have to like your teacher,” [mother] told me one day after I came home spewing complaints. “But that woman’s got the kind of math in her head that you need in yours. Focus on that and ignore the rest.”
[Michele’s mother] listened, but she didn’t absolve him from the choice at hand. Instead, she returned him to his agony with a blithe shrug of her shoulders. “Handle it how you think best,”
Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child—What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.
But as I’ve said, failure is a feeling long before it’s an actual result.
It was as close as I’d come to understanding what motivated Barack. The world as it should be.
I knew I was no smarter than any of them. I just had the advantage of an advocate. I thought about this more often now that I was an adult, especially when people applauded me for my achievements, as if there weren’t a strange and cruel randomness to it all.
Barack was hoping to ride all the way to school with the girls, but he knew it would create too much of a scene. His motorcade was too big. He’d become too heavy.
In our life before children, such frustrations might have seemed petty, but as a working full-time mother with a half-time spouse and a predawn wake-up time, I felt my patience slipping away until finally, at some point, it just fell off a cliff.
I now tried out a new hypothesis: It was possible that I was more in charge of my happiness than I was allowing myself to be. I was too busy resenting Barack for managing to fit workouts into his schedule, for example, to even begin figuring out how to exercise regularly myself.
It went back to my wishes for them to grow up strong and centered and also unaccommodating to any form of old-school patriarchy: I didn’t want them ever to believe that life began when the man of the house arrived home. We didn’t wait for Dad. It was his job now to catch up with us.
Our decision to let Barack’s career proceed as it had—to give him the freedom to shape and pursue his dreams—led me to tamp down my own efforts at work.
I thanked her again, hung up, and sighed. None of this had been my choice in the first place. None of this was my choice at all.
I didn’t understand how he could look at Sasha and Malia, now five and eight, with their pigtailed hair and giggly exuberance, and feel any other way. It hurt me sometimes to think that he did.
Barack and I had been through five campaigns in eleven years already, and each one had forced me to fight a bit harder to hang on to my own priorities. Each one had put a little dent in my soul and also in our marriage.
In general, I felt as if I couldn’t win, that no amount of faith or hard work would push me past my detractors and their attempts to invalidate me. I was female, black, and strong, which to certain people, maintaining a certain mind-set, translated only to “angry.” It was another damaging cliché, one that’s been forever used to sweep minority women to the perimeter of every room, an unconscious signal not to listen to what we’ve got to say.
I was now starting to actually feel a bit angry, which then made me feel worse, as if I were fulfilling some prophecy laid out for me by the haters, as if I’d given in. It’s remarkable how a stereotype functions as an actual trap. How many “angry black women” have been caught in the circular logic of that phrase? When you aren’t being listened to, why wouldn’t you get louder? If you’re written off as angry or emotional, doesn’t that just cause more of the same?
Tu je ešte jeden rozhovor s Michelle.

Blindsight a Echopraxia

Dve knihy, ktoré napísal Peter Watts. Veľmi, veľmi zaujímavé. Nepíšem, že výborné (to mám rezervované na inú kvalitu), všeličo sa im dá vytknúť, ale sú veľmi podnetné na rozmýšľanie o vedomí, o slobodnej vôli, o tom, čo všetko je život.
V knihách totiž ide o kontakt s iným životom. Schválne nepíšem, že s mimozemšťanmi, lebo to už máme zaškatuľkované… možno nie úplne ako zelených mužíkov, ale vpodstate ako niečo ľuďom celkom podobné. Ale tu je ten iný život tak cudzí a tak iný, že naše kategórie jednoducho nie sú aplikovateľné.
Treba veľa čítať medzi riadkami. Predpokladám, že kopu vecí mi aj ušlo (a na rozdiel od niektorých iných kníh nemám chuť si tieto prečítať znovu), ale to je práve ten druhý dôvod, pre ktorý knižky odporúčam. 
nature of free will, which Wegner thumbnails as “our mind’s way of estimating what it thinks it did”
at least under routine conditions, consciousness does little beyond taking memos from the vastly richer subconcious environment, rubber-stamping them, and taking the credit for itself. In fact, the nonconscious mind usually works so well on its own that it actually employs a gatekeeper in the anterious cingulate cortex to do nothing but prevent the conscious self from interfering in daily operations
The game is never over; there’s no finish line this side of heat death. And so, neither can there be any winners. There are only those who haven’t yet lost.
It didn’t matter whether shackles were built of genes or iron, whether you installed them after birth or before conception. Chains were chains, no matter where you put them.
What do you think vision is?” she asked him. “You don’t see a fraction of the things that surround you, and at least half the things you do see are deceptive. Hell, color doesn’t even exist outside your own head. Vision’s just plain wrong; it only persists because it works. If you’re going to dismiss the idea of God, you better stop believing your own eyes in the bargain.
Truth had never been a priority. If believing a lie kept the genes proliferating, the system would believe that lie with all its heart.
Brains are survival engines, not truth detectors. If self-deception promotes fitness, the brain lies. Stops noticing— irrelevant things. Truth never matters. Only fitness.
We’re not thinking machines, we’re—we’re feeling machines that happen to think

Nedávne knižky

Yuval Noah Harari: 21 lessons for the 21st century – 21 krátkych kapitol, každá na inú tému: vzdelanie, terorizmus, migrácia, náboženstvo, úpadok liberálnych demokracií, pokrok v umelej inteligencii a biotechnológiách, všetko s vyhliadkou na niekoľko desiatok rokov do budúcnosti. Harari je historik, ale v tejto knihe sa snaží interpretovať súčasnosť a poukázať, kam smerujeme a čo z toho vieme (a čo nevieme) ovplyvniť. Ak by ste mali čítať práve jednu knihu z tohto zoznamu, tak túto.

Most people who go on identity quests are like children going treasure hunting. They find only what their parents have hidden for them in advance.

If we are willing to make such efforts in order to understand foreign cultures, unknown species and distant planets, it might be worth working just as hard in order to understand our own minds. And we had better understand our minds before the algorithms make our minds up for us

Questions you cannot answer are much better for you than answers you cannot question

because liberalism is losing credibility exactly when the twin revolutions in information technology and biotechnology confront us with the biggest challenges our species has ever encountered. The merger of infotech and biotech might soon push billions of humans out of the job market and undermine both liberty and equality

You might object that people were asked ‘What do you think?’ rather than ‘What do you feel?’, but this is a common misperception. Referendums and elections are always about human feelings, not about human rationality. If democracy were a matter of rational decision-making, there would be absolutely no reason to give all people equal voting rights

it would perhaps be helpful to view immigration as a deal with three basic conditions or terms:
Term 1: The host country allows the immigrants in.
Term 2: In return, the immigrants must embrace at least the core norms and values of the host country, even if that means giving up some of their  traditional norms and values.
Term 3: If the immigrants assimilate to a sufficient degree, over time they become equal and full members of the host country. ‘They’ become ‘us’.

I am aware that many people might be upset by my equating religion with fake news, but that’s exactly the point. When a thousand people believe some made-up story for one month – that’s fake news. When a billion people believe it for a thousand years – that’s a religion, and we are admonished not to call it ‘fake news’ in order not to hurt the feelings of the faithful (or incur their wrath)

On the other hand, you cannot organise masses of people effectively without relying on some mythology. If you stick to unalloyed reality, few people will follow you 

Truth and power can travel together only so far. Sooner or later they go their separate ways. If you want power, at some point you will have to spread fictions. If you want to know the truth about the world, at some point you will have to renounce power

To run fast, don’t take much luggage with you. Leave all your illusions behind. They are very heavy.

[liberal narratives] assumed that as long as we give students lots of data and a modicum of freedom, the students will create their own picture of the world, and even if this generation fails to synthesise all the data into a coherent and meaningful story of the world, there will be plenty of time to construct a good synthesis in the future. We have now run out of time.

So what should we be teaching? Many pedagogical experts argue that schools should switch to teaching ‘the four Cs’ – critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.

Most important of all will be the ability to deal with change, to learn new things, and to preserve your mental balance in unfamiliar situations

Ernest Cline: Ready Player One – Približne pred rokom som čítala tri knihy od Suareza, v ktorých sa zaujímavo prelínal skutočný svet s virtuálnou realitou. Aj som ich odporúčala niekoľkým ľuďom, ktorí majú radi podobné čítanie a na oplátku som dostala tip na túto knihu. (Nedávno bol k nej aj film, ktorý sa ale knihy nejako veľmi svedomito nedrží.) Nepáčila sa mi. (Ani ten film.) Je taká… pre zarytých fanúšikov (starých) počítačových hier.

For a bunch of hairless apes, we’ve actually managed to invent some pretty incredible things.

Ramez Naan: Nexus – Toto je úplne iné kafe. Tiež sci-fi, a tiež dosť akčné, ale veľmi zaujímavé na rozmýšľanie. Experimentálna nano-droga je schopná prepojiť ľudské mysle. Niektorí ju chcú vylepšiť a použiť na dobré účely, niektorí ju chcú zakázať a niektorí ju chcú zneužiť. Za povšimnutie stojí, že podobne ako v Suarezových knižkách, pokrok (nech už je definícia tohto slova akákoľvek) v tejto oblasti netlačí Amerika (ani Čína, ani Rusko), ale juhovýchodná Ázia. Je fajn, že má ešte dve pokračovania.

War between those who accept the limitations of “humanity” and those who embrace the power of the possible is inevitable.

Naomi Alderman: The Power – Náš vpodstate dnešný svet, ale niečo je v ňom iné. V mladých dievčatách sa zobudí sila. Dotykom môžu spôsobiť neskutočnú bolesť alebo aj smrť. Príbeh je porozprávaný z pohľadu štyroch postáv (troch žien a jedného muža) a prejde cez všeliake možné situácie, v ktorých sa muži, nie ženy, boja o svoju fyzickú bezpečnosť. Rozoberá aj terorizmus, náboženstvo, stereotypy. A na konci ukáže, že nevybalansovaná sila má nedobné dôsledky bez ohľadu na to, v koho rukách (doslovne) sa ocitne.

They’re doing it because they’ve been told to.’Tunde thinks, No, that’s not the reason. The reason is because they can

there are still places today where boy babies are routinely aborted, or have their dicks ‘curbed’. This can’t have happened to women in the time before the Cataclysm. We talked about evolutionary psychology before – it would have made no evolutionary sense for cultures to abort female babies on a large scale or to fuck about with their reproductive organs!

Rebecca Solnit: Men explain things to me – Z feministických ešte táto. Malá knižka, zopár esejí, nie všetky rovnako dobré, ale tá prvá z nich by mala byť povinné čítanie pre všetkých.

but the out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is, in my experience, gendered. Men explain things to me, and other women, whether or not they know what they’re talking about. Some men.

not to speak of the countless women who came before me and were not allowed into the laboratory, or the library, or the conversation, or the revolution, or even the category called human

Milena Holcová: Lidi aneb Cestování je série omylů, ale jeden je zajímavější než druhý – staršia knižka od mamy českej novinárky, ktorá spolupracovala s Kuciakom. Sú to príbehy a postrehy z ciest po Kube, Pakistane, Afganistane a niekoľkých afrických krajinách. O ľuďoch, kultúre, predsudkoch a všeličom inom. Páčila sa aj Mišovi.

Na cestách jsem nezčernala ani si neoblíbila hedžáb (povinné zahalení žen), ani nepropadla šarmu Fidela Castra. Nepřivezla jsem si žádné suvenýry a obávám se, že ani zmoudření. Zůstávám hluboce zakořeněna ve střední Evropě, jsem jen poněkud zmatenejší. Ráda bych vás touto knížkou přesvědčila, že právě pochybnosti jsou to nejcennejší, co je možno si z cest přivézt.

Pak [Martina] čeká zoufale nudný den v mužské společnosti. Posedávání ve stínu a hledání důvodů, proč nic nejde.

Charles C. Mann: The wizard and the prophet – Dva prelínajúce sa životopisy a svetonázory. William Vogt, jeden z prvých ľudí, ktorí začali šíriť ekologické zmýšľanie, a pracovať na tom, aby rýchlo rastúca ľudská populácia nezdevastovala planétu. On a jeho nasledovníci sú v knižke pracovne nazvaní prophets. Na druhej strane Norman Borlaugh, človek ktorý dostal Nobelovu cenu za mier a odhaduje sa, že vďaka nemu miliarda ľudí nehladovala. Trpezlivo pracoval na tom, aby prekonával limity dané prírodou a veril, že ľudstvo má šancu na prežitie práve preto, že dokáže vymýšľať nové riešenia (wizards).

Moreover, the ship is too large to turn quickly. If the Wizardly route is chosen, genetically modified crops cannot be bred and tested overnight. Similarly, carbon-sequestration techniques and nuclear plants cannot be deployed instantly. Prophet-style methods—planting huge numbers of trees to suck carbon dioxide from the air, for instance, or decoupling the world’s food supply from industrial agriculture—would take equally long to pay off. Because backtracking is not easy, the decision to go one way or the other is hard to change.

middle section of this book, I invite the reader to put on, as it were, Vogtian and Borlaugian spectacles and look at four great, oncoming challenges: food, water, energy, and climate change. Sometimes I think of them as Plato’s four elements: earth, water, fire, and air. Earth represents agriculture, how we will feed the world. Water is drinking water, as vital as food. Fire is our energy supply. Air is climate change, a by-product, potentially catastrophic, of our hunger for energy.

Why and how did humankind become “successful”? And what, to an evolutionary biologist, does “success” mean, if self-destruction is part of the definition? 

Harari o učení

Čítam Harariho 21 Lessons for the 21st Century a je to veľmi, veľmi zaujímavé, strašidelné a myšlienko-štartujúce, takže nejaké pospletané dojmy k tomu určite časom napíšem. Ale dnes som tam natrafila na toto v kapitole 19: Education: Change is the only constant:

… the last thing a teacher needs to give her pupils is more information. They already have far too much of it. Instead, people need the ability to make sense of information, to tell the difference between what is important and what is unimportant, and above all to combine many bits of information into a broad picture of the world.

[liberal education] assumed that as long as we give students lots of data and a modicum of freedom, the students will create their own picture of the world, and even if this generation fails to synthesise all the data into a coherent and meaningful story of the world, there will be plenty of time to construct a good synthesis in the future. We have now run out of time.

If this generation lacks a comprehensive view of the cosmos, the future of life will be decided at random…

So what should we be teaching? Many pedagogical experts argue that schools should switch to teaching ‘the four Cs’ – critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.

Most important of all will be the ability to deal with change, to learn new things, and to preserve your mental balance in unfamiliar situations… Unfortunately, teaching kids to embrace the unknown and to keep their mental balance is far more difficult than teaching them an equation in physics or the causes of the First World War.

Due to the growing pace of change you can never be certain whether what the adults are telling you is timeless wisdom or outdated bias.

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