Links: Maryland comedy, car sharing, the structure of politics, sexuality, and more!

* “Battle over bare-breasted women brews at one of Maryland’s busiest beaches” Likely SFW, as it’s in the Washington Post, and one gets the sense the writer had a good time with this one. The illustrative photo included shows a seagull, alas. When we fight over this maybe things are pretty good because we have time to worry about the dangers(?) of bare-breasted women on beaches.

* “Automakers Race to Get Ahead of Silicon Valley on Car-Sharing.” Good news all around.

* “How Insurance Companies Can Force Bad Cops Off the Job.” A novel approach to a serious problem.

* “Why Sacrifices by the Rich Won’t Fix Social Welfare;” points rarely made. Notice:

If we look at the overall fiscal position of the U.S. federal government, we are spending beyond our means and the future will require some mix of spending cuts and tax increases. According to a report from the Government Accountability Office: “To close the gap solely by raising revenues would require a revenue increase of about 33 percent, and maintaining that level of revenue, on average, each year over the next 75 years.” I would submit that revenue increases of such magnitude are unlikely or perhaps even impossible, and thus any new spending will have to come out of other government spending. In other words, for better or worse, we’ve already committed to spending that tax increase on the wealthy that you were planning to use for other purposes.

* “Get Congress Back to Legislating, Not Just Budgeting: Yuval Levin, an expert on the budget process, explains how a congressional power grab in the ’70s led to paralysis today.” Again, not the sexiest or most fun piece, but it is essential for understanding what’s amiss in government today.

* “Congressman Is Hit in Multiple Shooting;” maybe something like this is what it will take to get gun control back on the agenda, since Congress may become much more interested in it if Congresspeople have a personal stake. We’ve already somehow decided as a society that routine mass shootings, including mass shootings of children, are just, you know . . . something that happens.

* Pornhub is the Kinsey Report of our time? (At New York Magazine and likely SFW.)

* “Why Ethereum is outpacing Bitcoin,” noting that I don’t understand Ethereum well.

* On “Why Women Have Sex: Understanding Sexual Motivations from Adventure to Revenge (and Everything in Between) — Cindy M. Meston David M. Buss.”

Briefly noted: Deep Thinking — Garry Kasparov

If you’ve read Average is Over you’ve gotten enough of Kasparov’s book to skip it; the abstract lessons from the second section of Average is Over are similar to Deep Thinking‘s. Still, human-computer play remain underrated and also remains a key metaphor for what human-computer interaction will look like in the near future. Computer-assisted driving is maybe the most familiar aspect right now, and that sort of dynamic will likely increase as time goes on and as the number of transistors that can inhabit a given area continues to increase.

Deep Thinking is most interesting about halfway through when Kasparov describes in detail the conditions under which he played the famous 1997 Deep Blue match. Before and after there is some interesting material but less than one would like. Maybe I’m just a sucker for narrative, and the middle section is primarily narrative. Still, the more I read of Kasparov the more I think I should read more, and his writing about Putin and Russia is consistently insightful. If you want a conventional review of Deep Thinking, Robin Hanson’s “Grandmasters vs. Gigabytes” is good.

There are few aesthetically beautiful sentences but still some useful observations. For example:

Connections between chess skill and general intelligence are weak at best. There is no more truth to the thought that all chess players are geniuses than in saying that all geniuses play chess. In fact, one of the things that makes chess so interesting is that it’s still unclear exactly what separates good chess players from great ones.

That last sentence is true of novelists and other writers too. “Good” and “great” can be felt and the critical faculty can be honed over time, but specific definitions remain elusive. Oddly, though, two pages later Kasparov returns to notions of greatness in a way that almost contradict the quote above:

When Der Spiegel asked me what I thought separated me, the world champion, from other strong chess players, I answered, ‘The willingness to take on new challenges,’ the same answer I would give today. The willingness to keep trying new things—different methods, uncomfortable tasks—when you are already an expert at something is what separates good from great. Focusing on your strengths is required for peak performance, but improving your weaknesses has the potential for the greatest gains.

So there is an answer to what separates good from great (“The willingness to try new challenges”) or there isn’t? Both sections are interesting and both might be true, but this is the sort of internal contradiction editors (or Kasparov’s ghost writer / assistant, Mig Greengard) are supposed to find.

Then there are sentences like, “It’s a privilege to be able to focus on the negative potential of world-changing breakthroughs like artificial intelligence. As real as these issues may be, we will not solve them unless we keep innovating even more ambitiously, creating solutions and new problems, and yet more solutions, as we always have.” Everyone else seems to be for innovation, making me tempted to come out as anti-innovation simply to be contrary.

But there are very useful sentences too, like the last one here:

How professional chess changed when computers and databases arrived is a useful metaphor for how new technology is adopted across industries and societies in general. It’s a well-established phenomenon, but I feel that the motivations are underanalyzed. Being young and less set in our ways definitely makes us more open to trying new things. But simply being older isn’t the only factor that works against this openness—there is also being successful. When you have success, when the status quo favors you, it becomes very hard to voluntarily change your ways.

Success is never final. Yet we, collectively, never seem to know that. Peak performance sustained over a lifetime may have to incorporate this idea.

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