When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."
I knew everything when I was 12, but not since. But way before I was 12, I knew that there were important things that the adults didn't know, or had forgotten, and I swore I would remember them. Now it's 60 years later and I don't remember them, but I never forgot that there were important things that nobody seemed to remember.
When man turns tyrant it is his own freedom he destroys.
The idea that a majority of gun owners are going to rise up and then support human rights is a fantasy of right-wing Americans who currently don't support human rights.
Functioning democracies are not propped up by guns. They are propped up by institutions heavily supported by the public. Institutions such as independent government agencies, independent courts, and free media outlets.
Women everywhere are always expected to continually imagine what one situation or another would look like from a male point of view. Men are almost never expected to do the same for women. So deeply internalized is this pattern of behavior that many men react to any suggestion that they might do otherwise as if it were itself an act of violence."The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy"
Freedom is the right to say two plus two make four. If granted, all else follows.
Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm, but the harm (that they cause) does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.
If, in Récoltes et Semailles I'm addressing anyone besides myself, it isn't what's called a "public". Rather I'm addressing that someone who is prepared to read me as a person, and as a solitary person. It's to that being inside of you who knows how to be alone, it is to this infant that I wish to speak, and no-one else. I'm well aware that this infant has been considerably estranged. It's been through some hard times, and more than once over a long period. It's been dropped off Lord knows where, and it can be very difficult to reach. One swears that it died ages ago, or that it never existed - and yet I am certain it's always there, and very much alive."The Life of a Mathematician - Reflections and Bearing Witness" (1986)
We have to abandon the idea that schooling is something restricted to youth. How can it be, in a world where half the things a man knows at 20 are no longer true at 40 - and half the things he knows at 40 hadn't been discovered when he was 20?
I will, in fact, claim that the difference between a bad programmer and a good one is whether he considers his code or his data structures more important. Bad programmers worry about the code. Good programmers worry about data structures and their relationships.
I know of no more encouraging fact than the ability of a man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor. It is something to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so make a few objects beautiful. It is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look. This morally we can do.
If I have one message to give to the secular American people, it's that the world is not divided into countries. The world is not divided between East and West. You are American, I am Iranian, we don't know each other, but we talk together and we understand each other perfectly. The difference between you and your government is much bigger than the difference between you and me. And the difference between me and my government is much bigger than the difference between me and you. And our governments are very much the same.
[George Orwell] hardly writes anything about fascism, at all. He hardly writes a single essay saying why you should be against it. He takes it for granted, that when you look down the gun barrel of Hitler and Mussolini and Franco and fascism and nazism, that you don't need to be told what's wrong with it. Here is everything you hate. Here is ever bullying father, every crushed, repressed mother, every sadistic prison warder, every exploiting capitalist, every racist and Jew-baiter, every thug and bully and sadist and exploiter that has ever been all rolled into one, and then refined and double-distilled and then re-done again so you've got the absolutely pure of everything that's hateful. We tend to sneer, or I've heard people sneer, at the use of the word "evil" by politicians. By politicians on should usually suspect the use of this word. But it's not possible, if you want to write morally, or you want to write critically, or you want to write historically, it's not possible to do without this word.
[Q: can you conceive of any form in which you might support American military action taken, like the President's justification, in anticipation of an imminent and dangerous threat?]
Why don't you generalize it, and say, can you conceive of any action which any state might take? Sure, you can imagine such things. Let's say you're in Iran right now. [audience laughter] It's under attack by the world's superpower, with embargoes... It's surrounded by states either occupied by its superpower enemy, or having nuclear weapons. Little way down the road is the regional superpower, which has hundreds of nuclear weapons, and other WMDs, and is essentially an offshore US military base. And has a bigger and more advanced air force than any NATO power, outside the United States. And in the past year has been supplied by the global superpower with 100 advanced jet bombers, openly advertised as able to fly to Iran and back to bomb it. And also provided with what the Hebrew press calls special weaponry, nobody knows what that means, but if you're an Iranian intelligence analyst you gonna give a worst case analysis, of course. And has actually been publicly provided with smart bombs, and deep penetration weapons... They have a terrific justification for anticipatory self defense, better than any other case I can think of.
But would I approve of their bombing Israel, or carrying out terrorist acts in Washington? No, even though they have a pretty strong case, better than anything I can think of here. Just as the Japanese had a much better case than any that I can think of here, but I don't approve of Pearl Harbor. So yeah, we can conceive of cases, and in fact some of them are right in front of our eyes, but none of us approve of them. None of us.
So if we don't approve of them in real cases, why discuss hypothetical cases that don't exist? We can do that in some philosophy seminar, but in the real world there're real cases that ought to concern us.
Human intuition is bad at dealing with exponential growth but it’s very good at one thing: not looking weird in front of your peers. It’s so good at this, in fact, that the desire to not look weird will override most incentives.
What can one say about a country where a museum of science in a great city can feature an exhibit in which people fire machine guns from a helicopter at Vietnamese huts, with a light flashing when a hit is scored? What can one say about a country where such an idea can even be considered? You have to weep for this country."American Power and the New Mandarins" (1969)
Destruction of the environment is not only rational; it's exactly what you're taught to do in college. If you take an economics or a political science course, you're taught that humans are supposed to be rational wealth accumulators, each acting as an individual to maximize his own wealth in the market. The market is regarded as democratic because everybody has a vote. Of course, some have more votes than others because your votes depend on the number of dollars you have, but everybody participates and therefore it's called democratic. Well, suppose that we believe what we are taught. It follows that if there are dollars to be made, you destroy the environment. The reason is elementary. The people who are going to be harmed by this are your grandchildren, and they don't have any votes in the market. Their interests are worth zero. Anybody that pays attention to their grandchildren's interests is being irrational, because what you're supposed to do is maximize your own interests, measured by wealth, right now. Nothing else matters. So destroying the environment and militarizing outer space are rational policies, but within a framework of institutional lunacy. If you accept the institutional lunacy, then the policies are rational.
If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.
The New Colossus
"The New Colossus" is a sonnet by American poet Emma Lazarus (1849–1887). She wrote the poem in 1883 to raise money for the construction of a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty (Liberty Enlightening the World). In 1903, the poem was cast onto a bronze plaque and mounted inside the pedestal's lower level.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority, by someone recognized wiser than oneself.
So what I’m proposing is that finance, and indeed consumer Internet companies and all kinds of other people using giant computers, are trying to become Maxwell’s demons in an information network. The easiest way to understand it is to think about an insurance company. So an American health insurance company, before big computing came along, would hire actuaries to set rates. But the idea of, on a person-by-person basis, attempting to decide who should be in the plan so that you could only insure the people who need it the least on an individual basis, that wasn’t really viable. But with big computing and the ability to compute huge correlations with big data, it becomes irresistible. And so what you do is you start to say, "I’m going to..." — you’re like Maxwell’s demon with the little door — "I’m going to let the people who are cheap to insure through the door, and the people who are expensive to insure have to go the other way until I’ve created this perfect system that’s statistically guaranteed to be highly profitable.”
And so what’s wrong with that is that you can’t ever really get ahead. What you’re really doing then is you’re radiating waste heat. I mean, for yourself you’ve created this perfect little business, but you’ve radiated all the risk, basically, to the society at large. And if the society was infinitely large and could absorb it, it would work. There’s nothing intrinsically faulty about your scheme except for the assumption that the society can absorb the risk. And so what we’ve seen with big computing in finance is a repeated occurrence of people using a big computer to radiate risk away from themselves until the society can’t absorb it. And then there’s some giant bailout and some huge breakage. And so it happened with Long-Term Capital [Management] in the ’90s. It happened with Enron, and we saw a repeat of it in the events leading to the Great Recession in the late aughts. And we’ll just see it happening again and again until it’s recognized that this pattern is just not sustainable.
Just as love is an orientation which refers to all objects and is incompatible with the restriction to one object, so is reason a human faculty which must embrace the whole of the world with which man is confronted.
Whatever God does, the first outburst is always compassion.
Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.
A man's work is nothing but the slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.
Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape.
There exists in our society a widespread fear of judging that has nothing whatever to do with the biblical "Judge not, that ye be not judged," and if this fear speaks in terms of "casting the first stone," it takes this word in vain. For behind the unwillingness to judge lurks the suspicion that no one is a free agent, and hence the doubt that anyone is responsible or could be expected to answer for what he has done. The moment moral issues are raised, even in passing, he who raises them will be confronted with this frightful lack of self-confidence and hence of pride, and also with a kind of mock-modesty that in saying, Who am I to judge? actually means We're all alike, equally bad, and those who try, or pretend that they try, to remain halfway decent are either saints or hypocrites, and in either case should leave us alone.
An idea is not responsible for the people who believe in it.
Everywhere I look, I see compounding dysfunction. I see the gears within the dysfunction. I see the people turning the thumbscrews of the people fixing the gears so that the machine becomes the thumbscrew crushing the world.
Suppose that humans happen to be so constructed that they desire the opportunity for freely undertaken productive work. Suppose that they want to be free from the meddling of technocrats and commissars, bankers and tycoons, mad bombers who engage in psychological tests of will with peasants defending their homes, behavioral scientists who can't tell a pigeon from a poet, or anyone else who tries to wish freedom and dignity out of existence or beat them into oblivion.