I, a philosophical zombie

I have just listened to the newest episode of the Serious Inquiry Only, which is about how peoples’ brains work differently.

SIO227: Do You Have an Internal Monologue?

… because one of your beloved hosts of SIO does not! Needless to say, this was a mind blowing realization to that person. We talk about the extraordinary differences in human internal experience, and some of the current science and philosophy on the topic.

The episode mostly focused on internal monologues, but the hosts also mentioned the fact that not everyone have a mind’s eye, and even mentioned someone on twitter who had neither an internal monologues nor a mind’s eye.

In the podcast, one of the hosts, Thomas Smith, said that people with neither an internal monologue nor a mind’s eye must be philosophical zombies.

As I understand the podcast, having an internal monologue means that there is an auditory aspect to peoples’ thought process, where they hear their thoughts as voices, either their own or someone else’s.

You might have guessed it from my description and the post’s headline, but I don’t have an internal monologue. Nor do I have a mind’s eye (I just learned that not haven’t a mind’s eye is called aphantasia,I have just always said that I’m not visual).

This means that, for me:

  • An earworm is just a song that I instantly recognize
  • I don’t visualize characters in books
  • I don’t read dialogue in the voice of the characters/people
  • For me, picture this/visualize this is just a metaphor for thinking about some

It also means for me that most memorizing techniques doesn’t work for me, since they often require the ability to visualize things.

What it doesn’t mean:

  • I am unable to make figures and diagrams that are useful

Quite contrary, I often make quite clear and useful diagrams/figures, since I have to think about how to communicate through them than people who make them “on the fly”.

  • I don’t enjoy reading

I have always read a lot, and I enjoy well written books. Unlike what some might think, I can also be affected emotionally by books.

  • I can’t improvise speeches and writing

On the rare occasions where I am giving a speech, I usually note a couple of subjects that I need to cover, and then improvise from there. When writing for my blog, I only have a faint outline of what I want to cover, before starting to read the blogpost.

Having listening to the podcast, I did realize that there probably is a connection between my lack of inner monologue, and why I don’t particular sing along songs. I much prefer to listen to the artists doing the singing, and I don’t have a inner monologue pushing me to open my own voice.

Feel free to ask questions about how my thinking process work, but do remember that I don’t have a shared experience with most of you, so I can’t describe the differences, just how I experience it.

 

 

 

New podcast recommendation: In Research Of

I have started to listen to a new podcast In Research Of, which describes itself thus:

This is the homepage of the podcast “In reSearch Of…” a show where we go back and watch the TV show In Search Of… and consider some of the explanations the producers chose to ignore.

Hosted by:

Blake Smith (Monstertalk, The Horror Podcast) a writer, researcher, and podcaster.

Jeb Card, archaeologist and author of Spooky Archaeology.

Even if you haven’t seen the original In Search Of… (I haven’t) it is well worth a listen.

Shining a light on Victoria’s Secret

There is a lengthy article in New York Times about Victoria’s Secret, and the behavior of some of its senior people.

Note, content warning: sexual assault, harassment, misogyny.

‘Angels’ in Hell: The Culture of Misogyny Inside Victoria’s Secret

A Times investigation found widespread bullying and harassment of employees and models. The company expresses “regret.”

The article calls it bullying and harassment, but what they describe also includes sexual assault:

[I]nside the company, two powerful men presided over an entrenched culture of misogyny, bullying and harassment, according to interviews with more than 30 current and former executives, employees, contractors and models, as well as court filings and other documents.

Ed Razek, for decades one of the top executives at L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, was the subject of repeated complaints about inappropriate conduct. He tried to kiss models. He asked them to sit on his lap. He touched one’s crotch ahead of the 2018 Victoria’s Secret fashion show.

Touching someone’s crotch, aside from being something the current president advocate, is clearly sexual assault.

I am not surprised that a company like Victoria’s Secret has a big streak of misogyny, but the behavior described actually shocks me – the company is nothing without the models, and these models are among the most powerful in the modeling world, yet even so, they had to experience this behavior.

Hopefully the article will put an end to this, and will ensure a culture change in the company.

How to completely miss the point

The Danish government party, Socialdemokratiet/The Social Democrats, have made a video which is supposed to show that they support all children.

You don’t have to be able to speak English to get the gist of what the video is about. It is based on the Privilege walk exercise, which is based on Peggy McIntosh’s 1989 article White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, and has is meant to illustrate how privilege will affect people.

Now, look at the video from the Social Democrats, and you’ll probably notice straight away that they have completely missed the point of the exercise. The group of children in the video is extremely homogeneous, and there are none with different ethnical backgrounds or with visible handicaps.

Yes, the video ends up with great differences between the children, but the big distance this is only possible because they have changed the questions in order to remove any referring to white and able bodied privileges, and instead focusing on only those that can affect this particular group of children. It is understandable why they have done this, but it goes against the whole concept for the exercise.

I cannot even begin to understand why anyone would do this particular exercise without any representations for the groups that faces systematic discrimination in the Danish society. I can only think that this was done deliberately to not draw attention to the plight of those groups, and instead focuses on more traditionally social democratic priorities – e.g. class and education. This is, unfortunately, not surprising, given how the Danish Social Democrats has become more and more anti-immigrant, in order to win voters back from the xenophobic Danish Peoples’ Party.

Qassem Suleimani killed

As you all probably know, the US has made an airstrike in Iraq, killing Qassem Suleimani and several others.

I am not going to be sorry that Qassem Suleimani is gone, but as Mano Singham says, this is really really bad. Iran is not going to take this lightly.

Also, there is the whole problem of assassinating people – if this becomes widespread, it would mean that the US leadership would become a legitimate target for e.g. Iran. This is not a good thing, and is why most countries have signed up to use the international criminal court, ICC, to prosecute people instead – of course, the US is not a state party to the ICC.

If you want to know more about Qassem Suleimani, the New Yorker had a good portrait of him in 2013 The Shadow Commander.

Book review: Range by David Epstein

Around Christmas, I read Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein, which is a book which really speaks to me, since I have had a somewhat uneven path to my current career. Something which I think is a strength – which Epstein’s book definitely backs me up on.

The first part of the book, takes on both the idea of focused children becoming child prodigies and the 10,000 hour rule, which says that it takes 10,000 hours of intense training to become a world expert on something. Regarding child prodigies, Epstein points out that training children to become focused on one area, and thus become child prodigies in those areas only works on areas with well defined problem areas, e.g. chess, golf and to some degree classical music, while in areas which are more chaotic (most other sports, and other things interacting with other people), it doesn’t work. This is because the later areas are so-called wicked problems. Here a broadness of experience and range is a plus.

This means that world leaders in areas which can be considered wicked problems, usually haven’t just focused on those areas. Rather they have touched a number of different areas, before starting to focus on that particular area. One example Epstein mentions is that most Olympic competitors have usually dabbled in a number of sports before choosing their discipline.

From speaking of world experts in different areas, and their path to become so, Epstein broadens the subject to discuss career paths in general. He takes on the idea that people should choose their path from a young age, and that changing career paths later in life is somehow bad. He, rightfully, points out that the earlier you make your choices, the less options are you aware of – heck, the less options might exist.

This rings true to me. The job I do now, working as a business analyst in software projects, didn’t really exist when I had to choose my path after high school. I instead started studying business management and later switched to economics, before becoming aware that computer programming was something I found interesting. Now, I have again moved away from doing actual programming, and instead work with the business, ensuring that the end system will be useful. One of the reasons I am effective at this job, is my technical background, but it is certainly also helped by my early years studying business management and economics.

One other factor Epsteins mentions, when it comes to choosing a career path early, is the fact that peoples’ brains keep developing, and that you are different person when you are older than when you were younger. This should make you pause – think of all the decisions you made back then, which you have since changed as you have lived more years, experienced more things – why should your career path be any different?

If you change career path in your later life, you have both the advantage of having a wider range of experience to base the decision on, and you will still have your toolbox from your old career to use in the new career. This means that you might be able to solve problems which other people in the field can’t, since they simply lack the required tools.

Much the same can be said about focusing on diversity in teams. It has been shown again and again that the more diverse a team, the better they are at problem solving. Again, because they bring a more diverse set of tools to solve the problems, and not just the same tools that they have all learned in school.

I have simplified the arguments a bit, but I hope you get the general gist. Epstein also provides a lot of concrete examples of cases where range and diversity has helped over narrow expertise.

All in all, I highly recommend the book, and I hope the message of the book is taken to heart.

Interesting news on the ancestry of Orangutans

An interesting bit of science news from my local University, the University of Copenhagen.

Extinct giant ape directly linked to the living orangutan

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen have succeeded in reconstructing the evolutionary relationship between a two million year old giant primate and the living orangutan. It is the first time genetic material this old has been retrieved from a fossil in a subtropical area. This allows the researchers to accurately reconstruct animal, including human, evolutionary processes way beyond the limits known today.

As the opening paragraph makes clear, this is an interesting piece of news, not only because of the results, but also because of the advancements in techniques this research has led to.

The news release from the university mostly focuses on how the expansion of the techniques are going to make broader research possible – for the actual results of the study, you’ll have to go to the article in Nature (behind a paywall)

Lazy linking – the Trump circus

Impeachment

The open hearings in the impeachment inquiry have started, and despite the orders from Trump of people not participating, some key people have already been in and have given some pretty damning evidence.

So far we have heard career diplomats like William Taylor, George Kent, and Marie Yovanovitch speak about what they experienced, and it has been pretty damning.

For a full transcript of the testimony by Taylor and Kent see: Read George Kent and William Taylor’s Full Opening Statements at the First Public Hearing in Trump’s Impeachment Inquiry

As for Marie Yovanovitch, this is an article worth reading.

“This Is the Way Gangsters Operate”: A Hero Is Born as Yovanovitch Gives Voice to Widespread Rage at State

The diplomatic rank and file believe Mike Pompeo has allowed Trump to pollute the State Department with politics. Marie Yovanovitch made their case. “I think people are feeling huge pride in Masha,” says a former ambassador.

While the testimony of the three career diplomats have been very damning, things are going to be much worse for Trump. Coming up are witnesses like State Department official David Holmes , US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, Defense Department official Laura Cooper, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale, and National Security Council staffer Fiona Hill. And many more are probably to come, including John Bolton and Mick Mulvany, especially if the courts find that the House’s subpoena overrules the orders from Trump (something which would be obvious in any other timeline).

Roger Stone found guilty

It hasn’t gotten much notice, but Roger Stone has been found guilty on all counts, making him the 6th Trump Associate Convicted Under Mueller Probe.

Giuliani is in trouble

Or so it would seem

Giuliani ‘is potentially in a heap of trouble’ and could be indicted today: ex-prosecutor

On MSNBC’s “AM Joy,” former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade suggested that President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani could be indicted today, based just on the facts that are already known about his involvement in the Ukraine plot.

The idea of Giuliani going to jail is bringing me great joy.

Trump pardons war criminals

Trump uses his presidential power to grant pardons – and unsurprisingly he pardons the worst sort of people.

Trump Clears Three Service Members in War Crimes Cases

Top military leaders have pushed back hard against clearing the three men. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy have argued that such a move would undermine the military code of justice, and would serve as a bad example to other troops in the field, administration officials said.

It is not like US soldiers often get prosecuted for their actions in war zones, and even rarer they get found guilty. In these cases, there is clear evidence that they killed unarmed civilians – often the witnesses were their fellow soldiers – yet Trump decides that he knows better, and pardons them.

The 100 best books of the 21st century

The Guardian has created a list of the books they consider the 100 best of the 21st century (so far). The list and the description of each book can be found here.

As always with such lists, people are looking at it, and trying to figure out how many they have read, and as a bibliophile, I am no exception. So, I have recreated the list below in order for me to share.

If a title is bold, it means I own the book. If I have struck through a title, I have read the book. If a title is in italics, the book is on my to-read list.

  • I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron (2006)
  • Broken Glass by Alain Mabanckou (2005), translated by Helen Stevenson (2009)
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (2005), translated by Steven T Murray (2008)
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (2000)
  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (2015)
  • Chronicles: Volume One by Bob Dylan (2004)
  • The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
  • Darkmans by Nicola Barker (2007)
  • The Siege by Helen Dunmore (2001)
  • Light by M John Harrison (2002)
  • Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck (2008), translated by Susan Bernofsky (2010)
  • Bad Blood by Lorna Sage (2000)
  • Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman (2001)
  • Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood (2017)
  • Adults in the Room by Yanis Varoufakis (2017)
  • The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins (2006)
  • The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy (2018)
  • Tell Me How It Ends by Valeria Luiselli (2016), translated by Luiselli with Lizzie Davis (2017)
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman (2002)
  • Harvest by Jim Crace (2013)
  • Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (2002)
  • The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (2009)
  • The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin (2015)
  • Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera (2009), translated by Lisa Dillman (2015)
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (2011)
  • Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk (2009), translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (2018)
  • Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (2016)
  • Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick (2009)
  • The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff (2019)
  • Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware (2000)
  • Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller (2003)
  • The Infatuations by Javier Marías (2011), translated by Margaret Jull Costa (2013)
  • The Constant Gardener by John le Carré (2001)
  • The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (2018)
  • Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli (2014)
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012)
  • On Writing by Stephen King (2000)
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2010)
  • Mother’s Milk by Edward St Aubyn (2006)
  • This House of Grief by Helen Garner (2014)
  • Dart by Alice Oswald (2002)
  • The Beauty of the Husbandby Anne Carson (2002)
  • Postwar by Tony Judt (2005)
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (2000)
  • Underland by Robert Macfarlane (2019)
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan (2006)
  • Women & Power by Mary Beard (2017)
  • True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey (2000)
  • Small Island by Andrea Levy (2004)
  • Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín (2009)
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (2003)
  • Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson (2011)
  • Night Watch by Terry Pratchett (2002)
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (2000-2003), translated by Mattias Ripa (2003-2004)
  • Human Chain by Seamus Heaney (2010)
  • Levels of Life by Julian Barnes (2013)
  • Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit (2004)
  • Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (2014)
  • Moneyball by Michael Lewis (2010)
  • Atonement by Ian McEwan (2001)
  • The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (2005)
  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith (2000)
  • The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
  • The Green Road by Anne Enright (2015)
  • Experience by Martin Amis (2000)
  • The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal (2010)
  • Outline by Rachel Cusk (2014)
  • Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (2006)
  • The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee (2010)
  • The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson (2015)
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (2016)
  • A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard (2009), translated by Don Bartlett (2012)
  • Rapture by Carol Ann Duffy (2005)
  • Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro (2001)
  • Capital in the Twenty First Century by Thomas Piketty (2013), translated by Arthur Goldhammer (2014)
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney (2018)
  • A Visit from The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (2011)
  • The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon (2001)
  • Tenth of December by George Saunders (2013)
  • Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (2011), translated by Harari with John Purcell and Haim Watzman (2014)
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (2013)
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night‑Time by Mark Haddon (2003)
  • The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein (2007)
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2006)
  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (2001)
  • The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert (2014)
  • Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (2002)
  • Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
  • The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (2004)
  • My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (2011), translated by Ann Goldstein (2012)
  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2006)
  • Cloud Atlas David Mitchell (2004)
  • Autumn by Ali Smith (2016)
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015)
  • The Amber Spyglasse by Philip Pullman (2000)
  • Austerlitz by WG Sebald (2001), translated by Anthea Bell (2001)
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005)
  • Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich (2013), translated by Bela Shayevich (2016)
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (2004)
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (2009)

All in all, I have read 10 books on the list, and want to read 32 more of them. I have already bought some of those books.