Lasting peace, while not theoretically impossible, is probably unattainable; even if it could be achieved, it would almost certainly not be in the best interests of a stable society to achieve it.
That is the gist of The Report from Iron Mountain. Behind its qualified academic language runs this general argument: War fills certain functions essential to the stability of our society; until other ways of filling them are developed, the war system must be maintained—and improved in effectiveness.
The authors choose not to justify their work to “the lay reader, unexposed to the exigencies of higher political or military responsibility.” The Report was addressed, deliberately, to unnamed government administrators of high rank; it assumed considerable political sophistication from this select audience.
To the general reader, therefore, the substance of the document may be even more unsettling than its conclusions. [Read more →]
NEW YORK – Fannie Mae, Merrill Lynch and all of your least favorite Wall Street players were seen brawling in the streets this evening. The winner will claim an extra trillion dollar bailout. It’s a financial crisis of epic proportions!
Rabid fans of mixed martial arts often consider their sport to be a proven, scientific, and highly evolved form of fighting. Modern MMA practices are contrasted with those of American Judo and Karate-do—unwittingly cast to represent “traditional martial arts” at large—and judged uniformly superior.
Many centuries ago, a flock of pigeons departed their native land, roosting on the tiny Indian island of Mauritius. Enjoyed the relaxing tropical atmosphere, and an environment free of natural predators, they decided to stay awhile.
While the vast ocean protected the birds from attack, evolutionary forces reshaped their bodies and minds. [Read more →]
In last Tuesday’s presidential debates, moderator Tom Brokaw asked the candidates a difficult question: will the economy get worse before it gets better? Arguably, it is the President’s job to inspire confidence in our financial system, not to deliver candid investment advice. Unfortunately, such cheerleading amounts to a tax on the credulous buy-and-hold investor, favoring those who better understand the political game.
As I skimmed Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere 2008 report yesterday, I was reminded of McCain and Obama’s earlier performances. Technorati’s investigation reveals that bloggers are “savvy and sophisticated,” and their daily output is “integral to the media ecosystem.”
Technorati, in case you didn’t know, is a blog aggregation service, whose business is built upon the free content we bloggers create. Like our presidential candidates, it is not necessarily in Technorati’s best interest to provide a frank assessment of our future. So let me provide my own frank assessment. [Read more →]
Many long-term students of Taiji enjoy improvements in their metabolic and kinesthetic efficiency. They burn fewer calories, and expend less effort, to accomplish the same amount of work, whether that “work” consists of repeating the Taiji forms or any other activity.
When food is scarce and plain, this efficiency is an obvious benefit. For most people living in developed countries today, however, food is abundant and tasty. To a person who has become addicted to eating—as the majority of Americans are, studies show—this hard-earned fruition of Taiji is actually a problem: it makes you fat. (Technically, eating the food makes you fat, but let us ignore that detail, as everyone does.)
Dedicating oneself to longer and more strenuous practice might seem like an intelligent solution. Unfortunately, this is likely to accelerate the efficiency gains, exacerbating the problem in the long run. If we choose to define physical fitness as effort and exertion, then Taiji is a lousy fitness routine.
A comfortable and plausible short-term solution: redefine success as failure, and vice-versa. Prioritize effort expended, rather than work accomplished. Sure, your new Taiji may be less functional, but at least you’ll look good doing it!
The more responsible, but less appealing solution is to start eating within your means: to consume calories in accordance with physical needs, rather than insatiable desires. In the meantime, returning to one’s target weight requires a disciplined starvation diet, in conjunction with regular exercise.
Can we view this scenario as a metaphor for the United States economy? [Read more →]
Martial Development: First of all, congratulations: a recent surge in Berkshire Hathaway’s stock price has made you the richest man in the world. $62 billion dollars, I hear. According to my estimates, you could literally buy up all the tea in China.
Warren Buffett: I drink Coca-Cola.
Martial Development: Fair enough. You know, kung fu is all about profitably investing time and effort. As one of the world’s greatest investors, I thought you might have some unique insights to share with us.
Warren Buffett: I’ve never even made a hostile acquisition! What do I know about kung fu?
In medical science, one must pay attention not to plausible theorizing, but to experience and reason together. — Hippocrates
The James Randi Educational Foundation has not validated any extraordinary human ability; ergo, none is likely to exist. — Anonymous crank
Are psi and other forms of mental kung fu real? Some research suggests that they are, but to properly evaluate the data, you need a solid background in experimental design, statistical probability, and the subject itself. Science is hard.
Supposition and common-sense appeals are easy, and unlike research data, they always support the desired outcome. A suitable bit of folk wisdom can be found to justify any emotional investment.
For example, if you want to master a difficult new skill, you’ll remember that practice makes perfect; later, if you become frustrated and finally give up, it is only because you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. This is all ex post facto rationalization—not reason, and certainly not science.
So belief and disbelief are not two poles on the spectrum of opinion, or two sides of the same coin. They are both on the same side of the coin. There is nothing inherently rational about a default to skepticism, it’s just another bias.
These are perilous times, for even the best of us.
A few short months ago, the market analysts were telling us this would never happen…that the fallout from the banking industry’s irresponsible lending practices would be confined mainly to the housing sector, and our broader economy would continue its gentle ascent.
Folks, the hot-air balloon ride is over. Today, we find ourselves unwilling passengers on an economic Hindenburg. The markets are dropping fast. Typically reserved pundits are openly using the R-word—recession—and a few have even mentioned the D-word! [Read more →]