Blog Archive for the ‘Seminars’ Category

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Brian Christian Seminar Tickets

Posted on Thursday, May 26th, 02016 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Brian Christian presents Algorithms to Live By

Brian Christian presents “Algorithms to Live By”

TICKETS

Monday June 20, 02016 at 7:30pm SFJAZZ Center

Long Now Members can reserve 2 seats, join today! General Tickets $15

 

About this Seminar:

It is possible to be extremely astute about how we manage difficult decisions. With just a few mental tools we get the benefit of better outcomes along with release from agonizing about the process of deciding.

Many mental tools—algorithms—developed with obligatory clarity for computers turn out to have ready application for humans facing such problems as: when to stop hunting for an apartment (or lover); how much novelty to seek; how to get rid of the right stuff; how to allot scarce time; how to consider the future; when to relax constraints; how to give chance a chance; how to recognize when you’re playing the wrong game; and how to make decisions easier for others (“computational kindness”).

Brian Christian, the co-author of Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions, lives in San Francisco, deploying his degrees in philosophy, computer science, and poetry.

Walter Mischel Seminar Media

Posted on Monday, May 16th, 02016 by Andrew Warner
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This lecture was presented as part of The Long Now Foundation’s monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking.

The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control

Monday May 2, 02016 – San Francisco

Video is up on the Mischel Seminar page.

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Audio is up on the Mischel Seminar page, or you can subscribe to our podcast.

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Thinking hot and cool – a summary by Stewart Brand

In the 1960s, Mischel and colleagues at Stanford launched a series of delayed-gratification experiments with young children using a method that later came to be known as “the marshmallow test.” A researcher whom the child knew and trusted, after playing some fun games together, suggested playing a “waiting game.” The researcher explained that the child could have either one or two of the highly attractive treats the child had chosen and was facing (marshmallows, cookies, pretzels)–depending on how long the child waited for them after the researcher left the room. The game was: at any time the child could ring a bell, and the researcher would come back immediately and the child could have one treat. To practice, the researcher left the room, the child rang the bell and the researcher came right back, saying, “You see, you brought me back. Now if you wait for me to come back by myself without ringing the bell or starting to eat a treat you can have both of them!!” The wait might be as long as 15 or 20 minutes. (About one third made it that far.)

The kids varied widely in how long they could stand it before ringing the bell. Mischel emphasizes that the focus of the research was to identify the specific cognitive strategies and mental mechanisms, as well as the developmental changes, that make delay of gratification possible–not to “test” or pigeonhole children. Between the ages of 4 and 6 years, for example, the older kids could delay their gratification longer, apparently as the impulse-overriding “executive function” of their maturing brains kicked in. And in some conditions it was easy for the children to wait, while under other conditions it was very difficult. The research sought to identify the cognitive skills that underlie willpower and long-term thinking and how they can be enhanced.

Longitudinal studies of the tested children suggested that something profound was going on. By the time they were adolescents, the kids who had been able to hold out longer for the bigger reward in some conditions were also likelier to have higher SAT scores, to function better socially, and to manage temptation and stress better. On into their adulthood, they were less likely to show extreme aggression, less likely to over-react if they became anxious about social rejection, and less likely to become obese. For the kids who did not hold out well and took the quick reward, Mischel said the findings suggested that “the inability to delay gratification can have quite serious potential negative effects.” (Mischel cautions that the longitudinal results are only correlations that describe group findings and do not allow accurate predictions for individual children.)

Can “delay ability” be trained? Mischel thinks it can, if we understand how our mind works. He and colleagues postulated a “Hot System” and a “Cool System” in the brain. (They are similar to Daniel Kahneman’s “System 1” and “System 2” in his book Thinking Fast and Slow.) The Hot System (Go!) is: emotional, simple, reflexive, fast, and centered in the amygdala. It develops early in the child and is exacerbated by stress. The Cool System (Know), on the other hand, is: cognitive rather than emotional, complex, reflective, slow, and centered in the frontal lobes and hippocampus. It develops later in the child and is made weaker by stress. In the Hot System the stimulus controls us; in the Cool System we control the stimulus.

You can chill a hot object of desire by representing it to yourself in Cool, abstract terms. Don’t think of the marshmallow as yummy and chewy; imagine it as round and white like a cotton ball. One little girl became patient by pretending she was looking at a picture of a marshmallow and “put a frame around it” in her head. “You can’t eat a picture,” she explained. (Girls were better handling temptation than boys.)

While coolly defusing a temptation, you can also make Hot the delayed consequences of yielding to it. Mischel was a three-pack-a-day smoker ignoring all warnings about cancer until one day he saw a man on a gurney in Stanford Hospital. “His head was shaved, with little green X’s, and his chest was bare, with little green X’s.” A nurse told him the X’s were for where the radiation would be targeted. “I couldn’t shake the image. It made hot the delayed consequences of my smoking.” Mischel kept that image alive in his mind while reframing his cigarettes as sources of poison instead of relief, and he quit.

“If you don’t know how to delay gratification,” he said, “you don’t have a choice. If you do know how, you have a choice.”

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New Seminar Apps and Long Now Video Archive

Posted on Wednesday, May 11th, 02016 by Danielle Engelman
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The Long Now Foundation is making its video archive of the Seminars About Long-Term Thinking (SALT) freely available on its website and on the new Apple apps, allowing people to stream the SALT Seminars on Apple TV and their iOS devices.

The free iOS apps feature videos of The Long Now Foundation’s latest Seminars, including those by author and Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman; author Neil Gaiman; English composer and record producer Brian Eno; oceanographer Sylvia Earle; biotechnologist, biochemist and geneticist, Craig Venter; WIRED’s founding executive editor Kevin Kelly; author and MacArthur Fellow Elaine Pagels; Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh; biologist Edward O. Wilson; author and food activist Michael Pollan; and psychologist Dr. Walter Mischel, creator of The Marshmallow Test.

Long Now Seminars iOS app

The Long Now Foundation Seminars, which are hosted by Stewart Brand, are online and available in the iTunes store as as free app and audio podcast. The iOS app initially launched with 50 Seminars with new videos added monthly as part of the Foundation’s ongoing lecture series.

The Seminars are free to watch, and are made available through the generous donations of the members and sponsors of The Long Now Foundation. Membership begins at $96 per year, and includes free tickets to the monthly Seminars held at the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco, as well as a quarterly newsletter, free and discounted tickets to partner events amongst other member offerings. The Seminar media is created in association with Shoulder High Productions, a full circle media company and with FORA.tv, a San Francisco-based video production and marketing company.

 

Walter Mischel Seminar Tickets

Posted on Tuesday, April 12th, 02016 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Walter Mischel presents The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control

Walter Mischel presents “The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control”

TICKETS

Monday May 2, 02016 at 7:30pm SFJAZZ Center

Long Now Members can reserve 2 seats, join today! General Tickets $15

 

About this Seminar:

Can you pass the marshmallow test? You’re a little kid. A marshmallow is placed on the table in front of you. You’re told you can eat it any time, but if you wait a little while, you’ll be given two marshmallows to eat.

The kids who have the self-control to pass this most famous of psychological tests turn out to have more rewarding and productive lives. Walter Mischel, who first ran the test in the 1960s, spent the rest of his career exploring how self-control works, summarized in his 2014 book The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control. “The ability to delay gratification and resist temptation has been a fundamental challenge since the dawn of civilization,” he writes. “It is the ‘master aptitude’ underlying emotional intelligence, essential for constructing a fulfilling life.”

This talk spells out the remarkable things have has been learned about willpower and self-control in the individual. It also considers wider implications. Does it make a difference when an organization or society has more people able to fully engage self-control? Does it make a difference when that kind of behavior is publicly expected and trained for explicitly? Is there a social or political or cultural level of surmounting marshmallow-test temptations? That might be the essence of long-term behavior.

Stephen Pyne Seminar Media

Posted on Thursday, February 25th, 02016 by Danielle Engelman
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This lecture was presented as part of The Long Now Foundation’s monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking.

Fire Slow, Fire Fast, Fire Deep

Tuesday February 9, 02016 – San Francisco

Video is up on the Pyne Seminar page.

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Audio is up on the Pyne Seminar page, or you can subscribe to our podcast.

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Ecological wildfire – a summary by Stewart Brand

“We are uniquely fire creatures,” Pyne began, “on a uniquely fire planet.” Life itself is a form of slow metabolic combustion—which eventually created oxygen and burnable vegetation that allowed fast combustion, ignited by lightning. Humans came along and mastered fire for warmth, food preparation, and managing the landscape, and that made us a keystone species. Humanity’s ecological signature on the world is fire.

Then we made fire the all-purpose catalyst for craft (clay, glass, metal) and eventually industry, shifting to the vast geological resource of fossil fuels. That “pyric transition” made humans dominant on the earth, even to the point of affecting climate. We used fire to clear much of the world’s forest for agriculture.

Then came a century of misdirection about wildfire. The forests of Europe are mostly too wet to burn, but by the late 19th century the leading foresters in world came from there and taught their ignorance to foresters in North America and India, where the land depends on seasonal fire for ecological health. National governments set about suppressing all wildfire, with catastrophic success. In the absence of the usual occasional local fires, massive fuel loads built up, and destructive megafires became the norm. There was an alternative theory of a “restoration strategy” to manage wildfire in way that would emulate how lightning and native American burning kept the landscape ecologically healthy, but it has been applied haltingly and fractionally, and megafires still rule.

“The real argument for fire is that it does ecological work that nothing else does,” Pyne concluded. “Charismatic megaflora” like redwoods need fire. An ecologically rich mosaic of forest, savannah, and meadows needs fire. Healthy prairie needs fire or it gets taken over by invasive woody plants. People trained only as foresters are blind to all that. Wildfire practice now works best when it is guided by wildlife biologists who insist that red cockaded woodpeckers need fire-dependent longleaf pines, that grizzly bears need the berries that grow in recent burns, that pheasants need grassland burned free of invasive eastern red cedar.

The techniques for prescribed burns for a bioabundant natural landscape are now well honed. They need to be applied much more widely. When in doubt how to proceed, ask the ecologists, who will ask the animals.

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Jane Langdale Seminar Tickets

Posted on Monday, February 15th, 02016 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Jane Langdale on Radical Ag: C4 Rice and Beyond

Jane Langdale on “Radical Ag: C4 Rice and Beyond”

TICKETS

Monday March 14, 02016 at 7:30pm SFJAZZ Center

Long Now Members can reserve 2 seats, join today! General Tickets $15

 

About this Seminar:

The late 20th century saw the yields of the world’s staple crops more than double. To keep this momentum going well into the 21st century, scientists are working on C4 rice, a rice that more efficiently photosynthesizes sunlight, potentially making the crop that feeds half the world up to 50% more effective.

Jane Langdale is a Professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Oxford, and a Senior Research Fellow at The Queen’s College, Oxford.

Stephen Pyne Seminar Tickets

Posted on Monday, January 18th, 02016 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Stephen Pyne on Fire Slow, Fire Fast, Fire Deep

Stephen Pyne on “Fire Slow, Fire Fast, Fire Deep”

TICKETS

Tuesday February 9, 02016 at 7:30pm SFJAZZ Center

Long Now Members can reserve 2 seats, join today! General Tickets $15

 

About this Seminar:

Fire acts in the short-term & long-term. It periodically destroys landscapes with devastating speed, yet, if properly managed, it leads to the long-term health of many ecosystems.

Stephen J. Pyne is a professor at Arizona State University, author of Between Two Fires: A Fire History of Contemporary America (amongst many other books), and considered one of the world’s foremost experts on the history and management of fire.

Rick Prelinger Seminar Media

Posted on Tuesday, December 22nd, 02015 by Andrew Warner
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This lecture was presented as part of The Long Now Foundation’s monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking.

Lost Landscapes of San Francisco, 10

Wednesday December 9, 02015 – San Francisco

Video is up on the Prelinger Seminar page.

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Eric Cline Seminar Tickets

Posted on Tuesday, December 15th, 02015 by Andrew Warner
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The Long Now Foundation’s monthly

Seminars About Long-term Thinking

Eric Cline presents 1177 B.C: When Civilization Collapsed

Eric Cline presents “1177 B.C: When Civilization Collapsed”

TICKETS

Monday January 11, 02016 at 7:30pm SFJAZZ Center

Long Now Members can reserve 2 seats, join today! General Tickets $15

 

About this Seminar:

In 1177 B.C., the Bronze Age came to a sudden end, and with it the end of the dominance of the Minoans, Mycenaeans, Trojans, Hittites, and Babylonians– empires that had ruled for over a millennium. Eric Cline’s research paints a vivid picture of these thriving cultures and the complex causes that led to this “First Dark Age.”

Philip Tetlock Seminar Media

Posted on Monday, November 30th, 02015 by Andrew Warner
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This lecture was presented as part of The Long Now Foundation’s monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking.

Superforecasting

Monday November 23, 02015 – San Francisco

Audio is up on the Tetlock Seminar page, or you can subscribe to our podcast.

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All it takes to improve forecasting is KEEP SCORE – a summary by Stewart Brand

Will Syria’s President Assad still be in power at the end of next year? Will Russia and China hold joint naval exercises in the Mediterranean in the next six months? Will the Oil Volatility Index fall below 25 in 2016? Will the Arctic sea ice mass be lower next summer than it was last summer?

Five hundred such questions of geopolitical import were posed in tournament mode to thousands of amateur forecasters by IARPA—the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity–between 2011 and 2015. (Tetlock mentioned that senior US intelligence officials opposed the project, but younger-generation staff were able to push it through.) Extremely careful score was kept, and before long the most adept amateur “superforecasters” were doing 30 percent better than professional intelligence officers with access to classified information. They were also better than prediction markets and drastically better than famous pundits and politicians, who Tetlock described as engaging in deliberately vague “ideological kabuki dance.”

What made the amateurs so powerful was Tetlock’s insistence that they score geopolitical predictions the way meteorologists score weather predictions and then learn how to improve their scores accordingly. Meteorologists predict in percentages—“there is a 70 percent chance of rain on Thursday.” It takes time and statistics to find out how good a particular meteorologist is. If 7 out of 10 such times it in fact rained, the meteorologist gets a high score for calibration (the right percentage) and for resolution (it mostly did rain). Superforecasters, remarkably, assigned probability estimates of 72-76 percent to things that happened and 24-28 percent to things that didn’t.

How did they do that? They learned, Tetlock said, to avoid falling for the “gambler’s fallacy”—detecting nonexistent patterns. They learned objectivity—the aggressive open-mindedness it takes to set aside personal theories of public events. They learned to not overcompensate for previous mistakes—the way American intelligence professionals overcompensated for the false negative of 9/11 with the false positive of mass weapons in Saddam’s Iraq. They learned to analyze from the outside in—Assad is a dictator; most dictators stay in office a very long time; consider any current news out of Syria in that light. And they learned to balance between over-adjustment to new evidence (“This changes everything”) and under-adjustment (“This is just a blip”), and between overconfidence (“100 percent!”) and over-timidity (“Um, 50 percent”). “You only win a forecasting tournament,” Tetlock said, “by being decisive—justifiably decisive.”

Much of the best forecasting came from teams that learned to collaborate adroitly. Diversity on the teams helped. One important trick was to give extra weight to the best individual forecasters. Another was to “extremize” to compensate for the conservatism of aggregate forecasts—if everyone says the chances are around 66 percent, then the real chances are probably higher.

In the Q & A following his talk Tetlock was asked if the US intelligence community would incorporate the lessons of its forecasting tournament. He said he is cautiously optimistic. Pressed for a number, he declared, “Ten years from now I would offer the probability of .7 that there will be ten times more numerical probability estimates in national intelligence estimates than there were in 2005.”

Asked about long-term forecasting, he replied, “Here’s my long-term prediction for Long Now. When the Long Now audience of 2515 looks back on the audience of 2015, their level of contempt for how we go about judging political debate will be roughly comparable to the level of contempt we have for the 1692 Salem witch trials.”

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