Friday Hodgepodge

Friday, December 01, 2017

Notable Commentary

"As these systems become increasingly reliable and accurate, my hope is ... that regulators don't impede progress that could save millions of dollars -- and lives." -- Paul Hsieh, in "Will Computers Be Reading Your Chest X-Ray?" at Forbes.

"Today, there are two groups who venerate the Confederate flag: 1) those honest people who are yet unclear about individual rights and, thus, do not question the myth and 2) racists, who as collectivists are opposed to individual rights and know the flag is a pro-slavery symbol." -- Bob Stubblefield, in "Letter: Civil War as Actually Fought Over Slavery" at The Aiken Standard.

"The question should be: do [financiers] profit through creating values that enhance human well-being -- or are they parasites who line their pockets through short-range gambling and predatory exploitation?" -- Yaron Brook and Don Watkins, in "How to Recover Our Respect for the Finance Industry" at The Federalist.

"While few of our beliefs are formed individually through algorithms enacted for the purpose of answering discrete questions, the acquisition and maintenance of at least many of our other beliefs depends on how we choose to conduct our cognition." -- Gregory Salmieri and Benjamin Bayer, in How We Choose Our Beliefs (PDF, 2013), in Philosophia 42: 41-53.

From the Blogs

Over at You Can and Did Build It is a post about a good article on free will by a contemporary defender of the concept, Albert Bandura:

"Hmm. Exactly what are those pistons doing?" (Image via Pixabay.)
This concept of "top-down" cognitive regulation is the most important contribution Bandura makes. What he is saying is that man actually exercises control over all these subsystems that operate in the background, but only at the "macrobehavioral" level (the "top"), i.e. only at the level of what one can directly choose. Man cannot choose or know about the details of the combustion engine's momentary operation (the "down"), just as he cannot choose or know about what his neurons are doing. When he chooses to do something, however, man activates these subsystems. In simple terms, he is a causal agent in enabling these subsystems to function to his benefit.
This reminds me a little of Salmieri and Bayer's later discussion (linked above, and lighter on jargon after the first page or so) of choosing whether to believe something, especially when it's a less weighty decision about something we have read or heard about. Salmieri and Bayer take note of the countless prior cognitive choices that go into such a decision, consciously considered at the moment or not. Insofar as these have led to habits or assumptions, they seem to me a little like the "subsystems" mentioned by Bandura above, although "user-installed", if you will, and so over which we can have more awareness and control at the moment.

-- CAV


Today: (1) Corrected pasting error in block quote. (2) Added final clause to last sentence.

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