Friday, July 25, 2014

25/7/2014: WLASze: Weekend Links on Arts, Sciences and zero economics

The is WLASze: Weekend Links on Arts, Sciences and zero economics

Admittedly, the WLASze has become a rather irregular feature on this blog. Still, occasionally, I come across some interesting reading on a variety of arts and sciences subjects worth sharing… lighter and heavier alike.

On a heavy side of thing, Rupert Read and Nassim Nicholas Taleb essay "Religion, Heuristics, and Intergenerational Risk Management" (ECON JOURNAL WATCH 11(2) May 2014: 219-226:

As anything Taleb puts his mind to, this is worth a read. It is short, fundamentally cohesive and, although not new as far as thinking is concerned, certainly novel in exposition of the argument.

"… we believe that religion has traditionally performed a powerful risk-management function at the level of the individual and the collectivity, particularly in preventing the accumulation of debt in systems and in preventing some kinds of experimentation with natural systems, ones that produce errors with irreversible effects. We argue that religion transmits heuristics of risk control across generations, and that religion does so in modes that only it can."

Big enough? Not for Taleb. He takes the argument beyond simple 'demand-supply' relationship: "It is not just that religion is a helpful source of sound heuristics for resisting gambler’s ruin and similar hazards. More strongly, we should say that we humans actually don’t know whether human beings can live sustainably without something like religion."

If so, then society's devolution from religious belief systems can be a risk. Not to hold back Read and Taleb oblige: "Modernity is in this sense a dangerous uncontrolled experiment. The amount of historical time that any significant number of humans have lived without religion is infinitesimal compared to the sweep of history. Given that, the amount of time that we have sought as societies, as a species, to live without religion is almost nil. It is a symptom of chronic short-termism and over-optimism that people now assume that living in such a way is sustainable."

Over-optimism? Why not - we had Age of Determinism before, Age of Engineering, Machine Age and so on - all were based on solid assumptions that world can be made deterministic and thus manageable. All blew up in the face of history, under the impact of 'Black Swans' that were un-programmable, un-manageable ex ante.

"Just as nature is ‘wiser’ than us (in a statistical, risk-management sense) with regard to a vast swathe of threats, illnesses, etc., just as our knowledge only surpasses nature’s in unusual and rare circumstances, so religious man is wiser than irreligious and non-religious man with regard to a vast swathe of threats, moral and spiritual illnesses and problems, etc. The knowledge of irreligious and non-religious man surpasses that of religious man only in rare and unusual circumstances."

Exciting stuff… And to add to it, here's another example of Read's thinking: "Why There Cannot be Any Such Thing as “Time Travel”"

Read contributes to a fantastic blog that is worth a read… ok, not a read, a follow.

On a more visual side of things (you would not call it 'lighter' by any means), Tate is showing Malevich's retrospective:

On the opposite side of the spectrum to philosophy and art, rests technology. Except on some occasions when new tech enters old art - the figurative art - without first becoming established in new art - the conceptual fields. Thus, the question of this decade for tech v art geeks: 3-D Printing Wait till the boffins of high art learn about 4D-Printing and other toys Pentagon is funding… (see link on 4D printing here:

Update: an absolutely amazing and fascinating discovery just 'printed': the creation of the first ever synthetic leaf with all core properties of a living photosynthetic cellular structure - a major breakthrough that is now reaching beyond 4D printing.

And figurative artist Jeff Koons is probably one of those who can use 4D printing in his works. I am not a fan, but he is worth studying, if only as a counterpoint to one's biases.

"Critical opinion is divided, to say the least, over Koons’s work. He is castigated for the slickness of his product, and the pretentious claims he makes for it; but he is also lauded for his cleverness in combining the monumental effect of high art with the cheap pleasures of the banal. He has, according to veteran critic Robert Hughes, “the slimy assurance … of a blow-dried Baptist selling swamp acres in Florida”. But even this denigrator-in-chief admits: “The result is that you can’t imagine America’s singularly depraved culture without him.”" Here is an LAesque in its size and comprehensiveness collection of material on him:

“the slimy assurance … of a blow-dried Baptist selling swamp acres in Florida” I love it!...

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