Goodbye to the Genius Who Changed the Way We Think (and You Didn’t Know Even Know It) 

Scott Page on John Holland:

Holland observed that an adaptive environment can be modeled as a population of problems and that many of these problems were high dimensional and complex. To solve these larger problems, systems would need to somehow self-construct subproblems that, when solved, would point to the solution of larger problems–not an easy task.


Holland’s idea in retrospect seems obvious. He used evolution as a metaphor for an algorithm that could be used to solve problems, and in doing so defined the field of evolutionary computation.

Holland’s Adaptation in Natural and Artificial Systems is pretty great and not as difficult to enjoy as it seems like it could be considering it’s density. You should read it.

Stand-Up Comics Have to Censor Their Jokes on College Campuses 

There’s plenty not to like about Caitlin Flanagan’s new article in The Atlantic. For instance:

Meanwhile—as obvious reaction to all of this—frat boys and other campus punksters regularly flout the thought police by staging events along elaborately racist themes, events that, while patently vile, are beginning to constitute the free-speech movement of our time. The closest you’re going to get to Mario Savio—sick at heart about the operation of the machine and willing to throw himself upon its gears and levers—is less the campus president of Human Rights Watch than the moron over at Phi Sigma Kappa who plans the Colonial Bros and Nava-Hos mixer.

However, her depiction of campus culture rings all too true and can be seen in patterns which can often emerge at certain types of schools. In response to the article, a friend emails:

College is becoming a sad place.

I was dressed up one day because I had to give a lecture or something. My students asked me what I was lecturing about and I said whatever it was. Then I joked that it could really be anything, though, since I was dressed up. I said, “If you wear a tie and act like you know what you’re doing, people will assume you’re an expert.” A female student raised her hand to tell me I was being sexist.

But is it really a new thing? Probably not and more like: Campuses can be too P.C. and The Atlantic is on it! Yes colleges can be depressing, but maybe this was something from an old unpublished Culture War essay upcycled with a shiny new Chris Rock quote?

The film P.C.U. covers much of the same ground and is over 20 years old. Go watch it (again if you haven’t seen it a while). It holds up and the music in fantastic (score by Steve Vai, party by George Clinton). And honestly, P.C.U. doesn’t just hold up as dystopian college fic, but as model of contemporary social media outrage cycles as well.

Using Algorithms to Determine Character 

Quentin Hardy, for The New York Times:

“Algorithms aren’t subjective,” he said. “Bias comes from people.”

That is only true to a point: Algorithms do not fall from the sky. Algorithms are written by human beings. Even if the facts aren’t biased, design can be, and we could end up with a flawed belief that math is always truth.


More than anything else, though, Ball Four was my Catcher in the Rye. Turns out the “grown-ups” haven’t actually grown up that much, and the best we can do is find some humor in this unavoidable situation and come to accept our heroes fellow creatures for whom they really are. Warts (or beaver-shooting) and all.

Rob Neyer

[A]ny argument that tries to put a moral dam in front of a technological river is doomed. Napster; Bittorrent; now adblocking.

Charles Arthur, on the implications of the content blocking coming to iOS this fall for web-based publications and their advertisers (via Jean-Louis Gassée)

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