Sam Harris
Shape of things to come

Sam Harris on the problem of artificial intelligence

“The fact that we seem to be hastening towards some sort of digital apocalypse poses several intellectual and ethical challenges. For instance, in order to have any hope that a super-intelligent AGI would have values commensurate with our own we would have to instil those values in it, or otherwise get it to emulate us. But whose values should count? Should everyone get a vote in creating the utility function of our new colossus?

“If nothing else the invention of an AGI would force us to resolve some very old and boring arguments in moral philosophy.

“It’s interesting that once you imagine having to build values into a super-intelligent AGI, you then realise that you need to get straight about what you think is good, and I think the advent of this technology would cut through moral relativism like a laser. I mean, who is going to want to engineer into this thing the values of theocracy?”

Sam Harris in the most recent episode of his podcast.

See also: Sam Harris on the mechanics of defamation and other posts tagged ‘philosophy’

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David Ogilvy
Use your words

David Ogilvy: “How to Write”

A memo sent out by David Ogilvy to everyone at Ogilvy & Mather on September 7th, 1982:


The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather. People who think well, write well.

Woolly minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches.

Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Here are 10 hints:

  1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.
  2. Write the way you talk. Naturally.
  3. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
  4. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
  5. Never write more than two pages on any subject.
  6. Check your quotations.
  7. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning—and then edit it.
  8. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
  9. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.
  10. If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.

(via Boing Boing / Open Culture)

More like this: Posts tagged writing.

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What if Man of Steel was IN COLOR?

VideoLab attempts to turn back time and restore the natural color & brightness in shots from DC’s Man of Steel. Turns out there was a beautiful Zack Snyder movie hiding underneath the bleak coloring.

Would Man of Steel have been more successful at the box office if it wasn’t colored like Schindler’s List? What do you think?

Superman should fly in blue skies – not grey ones.

Man of Steel, in colour

The colour grade wasn’t the only thing wrong with Man of Steel, but I like this look much more.

Pantone Minion Yellow
Shape of things to come

Pantone announces new colour: ‘Minion Yellow’

PANTONE Minion Yellow Swatch Card The press release is pretty hilarious too, and not in a deliberate way:

“Just as the sun’s rays enliven us, PANTONE Minion Yellow is a color that heightens awareness and creates clarity, lighting the way to the intelligence, originality and the resourcefulness of an open mind – this is the color of hope, joy and optimism,” said Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director, Pantone Color Institute.

“An extroverted hue, it projects playfulness and warmth and is suggestive of intellectual curiosity and enlightenment.”

Pantone Announces PANTONE Minion Yellow


Now I’m no colour expert at the Pantone Color Institute®, but this officially licensed hue seems a little too pale to my eye. You only have to look at these images of the Minions themselves holding up the Pantone swatch card to see that they’re not exactly the same colour.

Via the highly technical process of using Photoshop’s blur and colour dropper tools for a few minutes I’ve sampled what I think looks like a more Minion-y yellow.

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BuzzFeed
Use your words

The BuzzFeed editorial style guide

Editorial style guides fascinate me, and the BuzzFeed style guide makes for an interesting browse. The word list in particular provides a brilliant snapshot of Internet popular culture as it stands in 2015.

Don’t hyphenate blow job, but do hyphenate butt-dial. Uppercase TARDIS but a subreddit is a lowercase place. T. rex, but T. Swift. Make sure to capitalise Apple Store (and most brands) but you can leave the exclamation mark off of Yahoo.

See also: The BuzzFeed Editorial Standards And Ethics Guide

The BuzzFeed style guide word list →

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The Buddha Dordenma statue in Thimphu
Humans and other animals

“You need to think about death for five minutes every day”

“It is this thing, this fear of death, this fear of dying before we have accomplished what we want or seen our children grow. This is what is troubling you.”

Advice given to a western traveller by Karma Ura, director of the Centre for Bhutan Studies.

“Rich people in the West, they have not touched dead bodies, fresh wounds, rotten things. This is a problem. This is the human condition. We have to be ready for the moment we cease to exist.”

BBC Travel: Bhutan’s dark secret to happiness, by Eric Weiner, a self-described “recovering malcontent and philosophical traveler”.

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Use your words

Tip: Avoid using filter words in your writing

Suzannah Windsor Freeman:

Filter words are those that unnecessarily filter the reader’s experience through a character’s point of view.

For example:

Sarah felt a sinking feeling as she realized she’d forgotten her purse back at the cafe across the street. She saw cars filing past, their bumpers end-to-end. She heard the impatient honk of horns and wondered how she could quickly cross the busy road before someone took off with her bag. But the traffic seemed impenetrable, and she decided to run to the intersection at the end of the block.

Eliminating the bolded words removes the filters that distances us, the readers, from this character’s experience:

Sarah’s stomach sank. Her purse—she’d forgotten it back at the cafe across the street. Cars filed past, their bumpers end-to-end. Horns honked impatiently. Could she make it across the road before someone took off with her bag? She ran past the impenetrable stream of traffic, toward the intersection at the end of the block.

Are These Filter Words Weakening Your Fiction?

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