Should you feel guilty about doing nothing? Or just appreciate the beauty of it.

To a culture of productivity, unscheduled time is a cardinal sin. Idle time is discouraged because it is often collapsed with laziness. We fear that stillness indicates stagnation, as if inaction is an opportunity cost to possible joy or success. We fear silence most of all, believing it signifies emptiness, and we rush to fill it with stimulation and communication, publicly cataloging our thoughts and memories as evidence that we are alive. But there is value in unoccupied time, empty space, and silence. Doing things without a purpose gives us a chance to consider the purposes of things around us.

The complete article

Julien Baker — Oxford American

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Stephen Hawking’s advice for a fulfilling career


“Work gives you meaning and purpose, and life is empty without it.”

Last month, the American Psychological Association published an article that synthesised findings on this topic that stretch back as far as 1993. Research from Harvard professor Teresa Amabile found that “no matter the size of a goal – whether curing cancer or helping a colleague – having a sense of meaning and feeling a sense of progress can contribute to happiness in the workplace.”

But finding work with purpose can be hard for many.

The complete article

Bryan Lufkin — BBC

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When a Stress Expert Battles Mental Illness


Mental illness is an illness. It can happen to anybody. A stress expert shares his experience.

Even so, it’s hard to come to terms with an illness that affects my mind. When I injure my body, it’s easy to say “my calf is pulled” or “I have a stress fracture in my heel.” But if I don’t have control over my mind, I can’t help but wonder who am “I.” I’ve found some consolation in meditation, which has helped me realize that perhaps “I” am the awareness that lies underneath not just physical pain, but also thoughts and feelings.

The complete article

Brad Stulberg — Outside

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Goodbye, Cold War


A well-written piece on what the end of cold war could mean. But, I doubt if the cold war has really ended. Maybe it has just morphed into something else, which will be clearer in the years to come.

THE UNITED STATES is in a remarkable place: for the first time, we are living in a truly post-cold-war political environment. For those on the center-left and center-right, there remains a desperate hope that if Trump were to be removed from the scene, through impeachment or defeat, the US could somehow return to its previous trajectory. And for all the past year’s politics of despair, a likely electoral outcome, because of popular revulsion toward Trump, is that centrist politicians in both parties will gain another shot at power. Given the razor-thin margin of Trump’s victory—despite institutional advantages like the electoral college and voter suppression—there is little reason to assume that Trump the politician will enjoy lasting political dominance. But as long as party stalwarts persist in recycling cold-war tropes, they will remain trapped in the same cycles of social crisis and popular disaffection. Even if this combination of nostalgia and outrage works for a couple of election cycles, it cannot work indefinitely. This is not 1989.

The complete article

Aziz Rana — n+1

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How the internet is transforming death


Have you ever got a notification or a reminder from a friend who has died? The social profiles of people who have left us are still there and they look no different than that of a friend who you have not reached out to in a long time.

A fortnight ago, a friend sent me a light-hearted reminder that it was her birthday in a few days. She does this every year.

The problem is that she died a couple of years ago, and I simply cannot bear to block her (and her digital messages) from my account. I wouldn’t want to either: her satirical messages still make me smile. Like millions of other people, her continued digital life serves as a reminder of her unique identity. Her messages from the grave are a profound example of a contemporary revolution in dying and death.

The complete article

Joanna Bourke — Prospect

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When algorithm denies you service

If you deny an applicant a loan because of his credit score you need to send to customer his credit report along with stating the reason of rejection. The customer can look at report and see why his credit score is low. If there is any discrepancy, he can contest. Also, he can make some corrective actions to improve his score like paying off an existing loan.

Given that we are transitioning into a world where algorithms are making decisions to deny you a service, it becomes important that the consumer understands why he was denied a service. The customer needs to be explained in simple terms what were the reasons his service request was denied. The customer should have the opportunity to contest any discrepancy and also should have opportunity to take corrective actions.

Seems there is some progress on this front.

In May 2018, the new European Union General Data Protection Regulation takes effect, including a section giving people a right to get an explanation for automated decisions that affect their lives.

The complete article

Anupam Datta – The Conversation

The Hilarious (and Terrifying?) Ways Algorithms Have Outsmarted Their Creators


AI has started surprising us. Should we be scared or excited?

As the paper notes in its discussion—and you may already be thinking—these amusing stories also reflect the potential for evolutionary algorithms or neural networks to stumble upon solutions to problems that are outside-the-box in dangerous ways. They’re a funnier version of the classic AI nightmare where computers tasked with creating peace on Earth decide the most efficient solution is to exterminate the human race.

The complete article

Eric Limer — Popular Mechanics

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