Tag Archives: Published Elsewhere

On Debating Generously

You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.”

— Daniel Dennett, sharing Anatol Rapoport’s rules of constructive argument and debate (via Nagesh Belludi)

On the Global Perpective Inspired by Spaceflight

You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.’

— Edgar D. Mitchell, astronaut

On the Obligation to Speak Out

Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.

— Elie Wiesel

On Interesting Cities

And though “youth-driven food boom” may sound frivolous, it is anything but. Restaurants and cafes are a big part of the personality of a city. Imagine walking down a street in Paris. What are you walking past? Little restaurants and cafes. Imagine driving through some depressing random exurb. What are you driving past? Starbucks and McDonalds and Pizza Hut. As Gertrude Stein said, there is no there there. You could be anywhere.

These independent restaurants and cafes are not just feeding people. They’re making there be a there here.

— Paul Graham in his essay “How to Make Pittsburgh a Startup Hub

On the Essential Challenges of Technology and Software Development

We’re not working in an ideal world here — we’re making standards for them to be applied in the real world. So we’re not going to look at something that would revolutionize the keyboard completely. We want something that’s usable, something that’s economically feasible. We want it to work.

— Philippe Magnabosco, project manager seeking to improve French-language computer keyboards, as quoted on The Verge

On the Danger of Strong AI

Nick Bostrom worries that creating something smarter than you is a basic Darwinian error, and compares the excitement about it to sparrows in a nest deciding to adopt a baby owl so it’ll help them and protect them once it grows up—while ignoring the urgent cries from a few sparrows who wonder if that’s necessarily a good idea

On Sacrificing for the Arts

Charles Dickens, rejecting an invitation from a friend:

“It is only half an hour’ — ‘It is only an afternoon’ — ‘It is only an evening,’ people say to me over and over again; but they don’t know that it is impossible to command one’s self sometimes to any stipulated and set disposal of five minutes — or that the mere consciousness of an engagement will sometime worry a whole day … Who ever is devoted to an art must be content to deliver himself wholly up to it, and to find his recompense in it. I am grieved if you suspect me of not wanting to see you, but I can’t help it; I must go in my way whether or no.

via “Creative People Say No

On Free Expression

It’s a truism of free expression that if you only defend speech you agree with, you don’t believe in free expression. That doesn’t mean you have to defend the content of the expression: it means you have to support the right of people to say stupid, awful things. You can and should criticize the stupid, awful things. It’s the distinction between the right to express a stupid idea, and the stupidity of the idea itself.

Cory Doctorow


On the God of the Gaps

Men think epilepsy divine, merely because they do not understand it. But if they called everything divine which they do not understand, why, there would be no end of divine things.

— Hippocrates (as quoted by Carl Sagan in The Demon-Haunted World)

On CSS

CSS got it wrong and we’re now suffering the consequences. The HTML feature that was ignored in CSS 1 was the thing they should’ve focused on: tables, which were directives that generated layout. It set us on a path of trying to fake them by piggybacking on supposedly semantic elements, like lipstick on a div.

Stephen Witten

On the Difficulty of Writing

Writing is a mentally difficult thing — it’s hard to know when something’s worth saying; it’s hard to be clear; it’s hard to arrange things in a way that will hold a reader’s attention; it’s hard to sound good; it’s even hard to know whether, when you change something, you’re making it better.

James Somers