quarta-feira, 30 de abril de 2014

Take at least 30 minutes to read this, if you want to know more about skepticism or speed reading

You may need to take a few hours if you want to know about both.

This could be my "smallest" post so far, because it could be just this link.

But since I don't like relying on links too much, because they will eventually break, I'll paste almost all of it here and then add a whole lot more...
    Take about 15-25 minutes to "read" this. Best case scenario. Speed reading won't help you here.
    TED talks to the rescue: https://www.ted.com/playlists/1/ho...    The first talk says it all needs to be said here IMHO. The brain have 1 function, and one function only: to generate movement. Don't try to understand my very short description here, go on the link and watch the first talk if you really want to comprehend this. Something around 15-20 minutes gone, until now, depending on how much of the video you've skipped without missing the point.
    We somehow adapted this amazing tool to do other stuff as well, such as calculations. It's almost like using the computer's video processors to do math calculations. It works, but you can't use both at the same time in extreme situations.
    While amazing, our brain is way more limited than some people would like to believe. It just isn't able to be quickly trained in doing something it wasn't meant to do. It is that simple. It isn't a computer and it isn't doing boolean operations.
    With that piece of skepticism in mind, you can quickly drop almost every single snake oil idea about the brain out there. Including this whole speed reading vs subvocalization and skimming idea.
    The other piece is offered by SGU: https://www.theskepticsguide.org/    Now, you either know about them already or you don't. If you don't know add, at the very best case scenario, some 2 hours to this "read", among listening to 1 episode, studying about skepticism from their point of view and, with some good coincidence, identifying the concept with one you had previously. In the worst case scenario in which you'd still get there, this could easily take years.
I meant to talk just about speed reading when I started writing that comment. But, as you can realize by the last paragraph, it inspired me into talking about skeptics.

The "skeptic" word was widely used by Carl Sagan (I like how old this link feels) in the first Cosmos voyage (which I didn't watch). Now we got a new awesome Cosmos odyssey thanks mostly (I think) to Family Guy's Seth MacFarlane, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Carl's wife and fox. In it, there is no usage of the keyword "skeptic" anywhere (at least in the first 5 episodes) anymore, as Evan observed

I believe that's because "skeptic" has now a wide variety of usage and many people will miss-define it as "hard minded" or something in those lines. So they will also associate it with people who don't listen, which couldn't be farther from the true skeptic, as still defined by SGU.

Anyway, skepticism is actually closely related to science. I've talked about this (in portuguese, with english translation link in the bottom, which I haven't read-proof) few weeks ago. Although it's not as closely related as we'd like, because too many self proclaimed scientists aren't really skeptics. But let's begin from the basics. I'll basically repeat some of my linked post there...

In short:
Science (from Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge") is a "systematic enterprise" that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe. In an older and closely related meaning, "science" also refers to a body of knowledge itself, of the type that can be rationally explained and reliably applied.
To illustrate the scientific method, I love this video about "what is sea level":

The point is, defining even something that might appear as simple as "sea level" is actually far more complicated than we can intuitively anticipate. And if we don't study it hard enough, it will be defined wrongly. Going through all that tough job of doing it properly is what scientists do.

Now, there is big a danger there. A good skeptic will be a scientist by heart, and a good scientist must be always skeptic. But what is skepticism after all? If you missed my wikipedia link there (or if it broke):
Skepticism is generally any questioning attitude towards knowledge, facts, or opinions/beliefs stated as facts, or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere.
So, basically being a skeptic is being a curious potentially annoying kid. Thus the wrong definition many people have about it. The danger in science happens every day. Scientists forget to cast question and doubt in their fields. They often begin to think they have expertise in other fields. Science isn't easy and practically all of who have attempted showing they know way more than their narrow field of study have failed.

The scientific method shields nobody against logical fallacies. Skepticism does. But a skeptic is no scientist. A great skeptic will spend days, weeks or even months studying a subject before talking about it. A scientist will spend years or a whole life in just 1 subject (we usually associate science with physics, but that's just 1 field).

Each one have his role, and I am not either a scientist nor a good skeptic, as most of us. I just find it elucidating to realize their existence. I also think it helps me on my own personal quest while trying to understand the cosmos. And it helps to filter out the junk.

In the end, all this is just an attempt to illustrate concepts through defining words. I often find it's one of the worst methods for illustrating concepts, but ignorant as I am I know not many better practical ways. I hope you could grasp some of what I meant to transmit here.

quarta-feira, 16 de abril de 2014

Same personality test, 8 years later

I have always had fun filling up tests, especially about myself.

There is this test, Personal DNA which have been around for quite a long time and, for some odd reason, keeps getting upgraded with functions that don't work. That ATTAP company responsible for it has no contact info and no way to know what's happening there... Creating account doesn't work, to begin with its issues.

But it's still the best personality test I've ever seen! It takes about 30 minutes to complete, it's very extensive and even if you take it twice in a roll you won't have the exact same results. So it is quite subjective indeed. It also brings some typical personality info that I like to compare to horoscope. It's just a lot of mumble jumble, such as "You are well-attuned to your talents, and can deal with most problems that you face.".

 The coolest part about it, I think, is the 13 personality traits. It's represented in a weird colorful map and later dissected point by point. They claim:

Each bar indicates the percentage of test takers who entered a lower value for that trait than you did. For example, if Confidence is at 80, that means that 80% of people entered lower values for confidence questions than you did. Based on a sample of 30,000 users
If that's true, and if there is indeed enough people taking the test, that's wicked cool!


My old personal dna report, from my previous blog post, says I'm a "respectful leader" and gives me this weird and colorful map (mouse over to see each color's description):

My new one says I'm a "free-wheeling analyst" and gives this other colorful map:

Almost half of my traits changed a lot over those last 8 years. Most didn't. I'd assess they are all basically true!

For the 6 big changes: seems like I'm extremely less open to new experiences than I was, this means I'm ready to choose and do stuff; a lot more extroverted and outgoing, awesome; got much much more empathy towards others thoughts and emotions, yeah baby; and trust a lot less in others, so I think now think most people aren't good at heart (nor bad for that matter), because I actually believe most people are just zombies (more on that to another blog post, maybe). I also believe much less than I already did in agency, in other words, how much me or anyone can change the future - I indeed now believe we can't, just like we can't change the past; and I became much less interested in how things look while much more interested in how things work, though I always prefered functionality over aesthetic, the previous test showed I cared much closer to 50 50, while now it's almost 0 to looks.

For the rest of 7 little changes, some of which may be insignificant: a little less confident about expressing my opinions, which I like to translate as less confrontative without necessity; little less masculinity and little more femininity, which is good because I was too extreme in both stereotypical traits before; a little more spontaneity reaching the awesomeness of being comfortable with having no plans; little less attention to style or fashion, which is quite irrelevant as I never gave any attention to how my own dressing style looks, although I eventually might; little more authoritarianism, favoring the order and the law a little more, but still not so much; and very little less earthy, or more imaginative - I've always loved theory and abstraction, but I still prefer practice way much more. Many people may find this last one weird, as many mighty say I dream too much.

What I do find bad about this and all other similar tests is exactly this... From my point of view, I got better in every single one of the 13 aspects. I worked to get better, and I did, and I'm glad to see it reflects in such a test. But, in both tests, they say I'm something awesome. How did I go from "Respectful Leader" to "Free-Wheeling Analyst"? That doesn't seem to reflect the improvement I've made, nor to reflect what I was or what I am. This whole "feel good" horoscope part of it is terrible! I'd like to see "You're a spoiled kid" result for a change, which can actually teach us in what we can or should improve to engage in social norms and / or to learn how to know ourselves.

In any case, there. That was my " having fun with a personality test" for today! :-P

terça-feira, 15 de abril de 2014

Filosofando um pouco sobre céticos, cientistas, medicina e alienígenas

Seguindo minha linha de escrever posts em vez de emails para o nerdcast, encontrei mais este assunto.

Há muito tempo atrás escrevi um email sobre o nerdcast 369 "Profissão Médico" e não consegui fechar para enviar... Daí veio o episódio mais recente, 409 "Alienígenas do Passado" e me lembrei do primeiro email e resolvi ressucita-lo. Vou dividir aqui em duas partes.

PARTE 1 - Médicos

Scrubs. Melhor produção sobre medicina que reflete a realidade. Gostaria de ter visto o que os médicos do episódio teriam a dizer sobre ela... Pra quem nunca assistiu, recomendo pois é também uma das melhores sitcom jamais feitas!

E quando quiserem ter uma boa noção sobre a ciência consolidada das coisas, aconselho começar a ouvir o podcast Skeptics Guide to the Universe (ou SGU). Homeopatia é apenas uma, das chamadas pseudo-ciências, mais criticadas por eles e a página em português do wikipedia revela que a preocupação que eles têm com esta porcaria é bastante relevante. HOMEOPATIA NÃO É CIÊNCIA! E sim, o artigo sobre ciência em português também está completamente defasado. Comece pesquisando em inglês, com a mente aberta, e logo verá.

E não é inofensiva. Não pode ser bom só por que parece não fazer mal. Uma forma que isso faz efetivamente mal: as pessoas as vezes trocam a medicina por esse tipo de lixo, e morrem sem sequer tentar procedimentos básicos que certamente poderiam ter salvado a vida caso tivessem optado pela ciência. Outra forma: vacinas. Pessoas deixam de tomar vacina e terminam causando indiretamente a morte de outras que não podem tomar a vacina. Sim, pseudociência MATA!

Vou fazer uma comparação aqui, para ilustrar a forma que vejo isso tudo.

- Uma pessoa "normal" quando pesquisa no google, se chegar a pesquisar, creio que leva cerca de 1 minuto, incluindo olhar o primeiro link que clicar e dar uma lida por cima de tudo.

- Um nerd pesquisando um assunto que já conhece, gasta 5 ou 10 minutos. Talvez até 1 hora. Olha a origem do link antes de clicar e já tem alguma noção de evitar coisas evidentemente inúteis.

- Um auto denominado cético como o pessoal do podcast que recomendei, via de regra, gasta horas ou dias pesquisando um assunto antes de pensar em falar a respeito. E ainda assim, fala com precaução.

- Um cientista pode gastar a vida inteira para pesquisar 1 único assunto. E descobrir no final que era um beco sem saída. O bom cientista está preparado para lidar com isso e com a completa falta de "sucesso" na sua carreira inteira.

Nessa escala, eu diria que sou um nerd de baixo calão, dificilmente gasto mais que 10 minutos pesquisando um assunto e o pessoal do nerdcast talvez estaria entre "nerds" e "céticos", excluindo o Azaghal. Já os homeopatas? Se perderam no meio do caminho e ficaram flutuando por aí. Certamente gastaram um bom tempo em se formar, mas nunca em pesquisar um assunto a fundo suficiente. Ou se perderam em alguma falácia lógica mesmo.

PARTE 2 - Alienígenas

Um dos melhores exemplos de cientista que se perdeu em falácias lógicas foi citado no último podcast mencionado. Michio Kaku. Quando um cientista começa a falar fora da sua área geralmente dá merda mesmo. Longe de ser o único, talvez seja o mais proeminente que ainda não se converteu completamente para força escura da pseudociência, mas está no caminho e acredito não ter mais volta.

Eu costumo concordar muito mais com o Azaghal do que com o Alotoni, mas neste episódio não deu. Sei que precisa ter conflitos para manter a veia cômica e talvez o Azaghal desta vez estivesse falando só pra provocar isso mesmo. Nem alienígena nem sequer UFO não existem, dentro do nosso radar científico. Infelizmente. Da mesma forma que não existe homeopatia. Explico.

Tudo isso é formado por milhares de pessoas que se perderam nesse caminho da ciência. E ciência, se ainda não percebeu, não é nada fácil!!

Vamos começar do começo.
Ciência (do Latin scientia, traduzido por "conhecimento") é uma "empresa sistemática" que constrói e organiza conhecimento na forma de explicações testáveis e predições sobre o universo. Num significado mais antigo e muito próximo, "ciência" também se refere ao corpo de conhecimento em si, do tipo que pode ser racionalmente explicado e confiavelmente aplicado.
Uma das principais consequências desta definição é que um conhecimento científico precisa ser replicável. Mas já volto nisso. Tem aqui um vídeo excelente que mostra algo que você certamente imaginava que era simples, mas conforme vamos prestando atenção aos detalhes vemos que de simples tem nada. Qual é o "nível do mar"?

Qualquer detalhe perdido nisso, medirá o "nível do mar" de forma errada. Se você não estudar suficiente para fazer isso certo, vai errar! E deixar de estudar um assunto mais a fundo é tentador. É humano. Eu não tenho saco pra isso. Os poucos que tem, os cientistas sérios, fazem isso tudo. E depois, para saber se fizeram certo, colocam tudo que fizeram na comunidade, para ver se mais cientistas conseguem replicar os resultados. Quanto mais se replica e se confirma, mais força o estudo ganha. Foi assim com o Darwin.

E não é assim com homeopatia. Muito menos com qualquer um desses estudos sobre OVNI. Tem alguns links no episódio do nerdcast, como este do Richard Dolan. Rídiculo. Ele só tem relatos e se baseia nos relatos! Nada na ciência é baseado em relatos. Precisa replicar! E o estudo em si, precisa ser meticulosamente registrado. Por que um dos outros principios básicos da ciência é que nossa memória e todos outros nossos sentidos são extremamente falhos. Não vou nem detalhar este assunto aqui, mas são. Comece a registrar qualquer coisa que você faça depois tenta lembrar. Daí olha no registro. Vai ver que sua memória estava errada. É um teste simples que ninguém faz. E ela está errada não só por que nossa memória é fraca, mas também por que pode ter sido armazenada errada desde o começo, por ter visto uma ilusão ótica. Também pode ter sido misturada com falsas memórias. Etc.

Se algum dia um alíenigena vier a terra, encontrar alguém, dar Oi e ir embora e nada for filmado, algo como no filme E.T., a ciência jamais reonhecerá isso como uma evidência. Ela não é perfeita, é apenas a melhor ferramenta que temos para evoluir nossa tecnologia. E, graças a ela, é cada vez mais improvável que esse alien apareça por aqui sem ser filmado! Infelizmente, graças a ela também, é cada vez mais díficil aceitar sequer uma boa filmagem como sendo real - mas existem formas de identificar se um vídeo foi editado ou não.

Enfim, gostaria muito que o pessoal do nerdcast aproveitasse mais essa oportunidade que conseguiram criar em educar o povo brasileiro e talvez conseguir quebrar alguns paradigmas do conhecimento por aqui. Pra mim, este da ciência seria o mais importante deles.

sexta-feira, 4 de abril de 2014

Why is it so difficult for a technology to be simple?

Disclaimer: This is a not so long but very dense text, like most of what I write. You can't just glance your eyes to read it.

I am a former programmer, a person who proposes to work hard to simplify computer processes. And I think most of us overlook "simplicity" way too much. I know I did overlook it many times, and I probably still do, despite all my efforts.

I'm currently struggling a lot on finding a perfect and simple solution for "bookmarking", in lack of a better term. It's not just bookmarking, though, as that implies having broken links. I want no missing data. So I want to save an offline / personal copy for at least 10 years. Know when I saw it. Share it. Search with keywords or date. Browse thumbnails. Etc.

I've tried delicious, google bookmark and +1, old extinct xmarks and its new lastpass version, all those tools you associate with "bookmark". But I'm also using dropbox, calendar, twitter, youtube history, ifttt, just to give you some examples and maybe an idea of what I actually mean and what I actually want to find. Maybe there is such a tool out there, but it's certainly not associated enough with the whole bookmarking concept and I still couldn't find it after a couple of days.

For another instance, I'm also recently struggling to find an awesome text editor. Yeah. Your read it right. Text editor. Awesome one. Offline. Collaborative. Powerfull. Reliable. Clean. It doesn't exist. Not yet. Not anything close to it. When I started searching for one, I thought I'd be able to find one easily. I overlooked it.

Now going back some years... since my first smartphone, an iPhone 3GS, I can't find a phone that will give me all the simple things I want. Share files. Hear music. Record callings. Battery life. Among others. I hardly can believe how this also doesn't exist yet. Even Apple, being so good with keeping a checklist, still couldn't do it. I currently own a Moto Razr HD, which still lacks power on all "simplicity" I've mentioned there, but at least it works much better (in general) than any iPhone ever did, for those "simple" tasks. Granted, gadgets are way more complicated to build than software. I'm just trying to explain in general terms what "simple" means to me, and why it is indeed difficult to build "simple" stuff. And I think Apple, Google and even Nintendo are masters at doing that, in general.

With that, I hope you can now see there are lots of difficulties in being "simple"!

I think the most important one is: "simple" isn't opposite to "complex", which isn't synonymous of "complicated". We constantly develop technology to simplify things for us, since the first wheel or pen. But the more it simplifies, the more complex it needs to be. And building up a solid complex tool for us, highly subjective individuals, is quite complicated.

Even building something apparently as simple as a bookmarking tool is something extremely complex. Extremely. That is if you have the degree of exigence I do.


If you are doing any attempt to build up technology to simplify our lives, please, take a step back. Look at the whole picture. As most of us usually do, you're also probably doing it wrong. I believe for some people all it takes to do it right is just being more careful.

For Apple, the iPhone is actually very close to the whole "simple" concept I try to explain here. But almost all of its issues are actually limited thanks to some legal issue. All, except battery. Just make a bigger phone with a smaller screen! Call it "iPhone Pro". Not everyone uses it so much, but for lot of us who do, we care about it lasting a whole day with heavy usage more than anything else.

For me, I know I'm so bad at it I just gave up on trying. Just hope this isn't too hypocritical.