1989-andrew.pdf: “From the Okhrana to the KGB: Continuities in Russian foreign intelligence operations since the 1880s”, Christopher M. Andrew
This monograph analyzes the finances of the militant group al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) in Anbar province during 2005 and 2006, at the peak of the group’s power and influence. The authors draw on captured documents that give details on the daily financial transactions of one specific sector within Anbar province and of the financial transactions of the AQI provincial administration. Some of their conclusions are: AQI was a hierarchical organization with decentralized decision-making; AQI in Anbar was profitable enough to send substantial revenues out of the province in 2006; AQI relied on extortion, theft, and black market sales to fund its operations in Anbar; AQI needed large, regular revenue sources to fund its operations, but its administrative leaders did not hold much cash on hand. The authors’ interpretation of data on compensation practices and participants’ risk of death indicates that AQI members were poorly compensated and suggests that they were not motivated primarily by money to join the group. The authors also find that mounting attacks required organizational expenditures well beyond the cost of material used in attacks. One major conclusion is that disrupting AQI’s financial flows could disrupt the pace of their attacks.
[Discussion of “inverse p-zombies” via excerpts of “Inverse zombies, anesthesia awareness, and the hard problem of unconsciousness”, Mashour & LaRock 2008: the problem of telling when someone is conscious but otherwise appears and acts unconscious, a problem of particular concern in anesthesia for surgery—anesthesia occasionally fails, resulting in ‘anesthesia awareness’, leaving the patient fully conscious and feeling every last bit of the surgery, as they are completely paralyzed but are cut open and operated on for hours, which they describe as being every bit as horrific as one would think, leading to tortured memories and PTSD symptoms. Strikingly, death row executions by lethal injection use a cocktail of chemicals which are almost designed to produce this (rather than the simple single reliable drug universally used for euthanasia by veterinarians), suggesting that, as peaceful as the executions may look, the convicts may actually be enduring extraordinary agony and terror during the several minutes it takes to kill them.
Further, anesthesia appears to often operate by erasing memories, so it is possible that anesthesia awareness during surgery is much more common than realized, and underestimated because the victims’ long-term memories are blocked from forming. There are some indications that surgery is associated with bad psychiatric symptoms even in cases where the patient does not recall any anesthesia awareness, suggesting that the trauma is preserved in other parts of the mind.
While doctors continue to research the problem of detecting consciousness, it is far from solved. Most people, confronted with a hypothetical about getting money in exchange for being tortured but then administered an amnesiac, would say that the torture is an intrinsically bad thing even if it is then forgotten; but perhaps we are, unawares, making the opposite choice every time we go in for surgery under general anesthesia?]
Common maxims about beauty suggest that attractiveness is not important in life. In contrast, both fitness-related evolutionary theory and socialization theory suggest that attractiveness influences development and interaction. In 11 meta-analyses, the authors evaluate these contradictory claims, demonstrating that (a) raters agree about who is and is not attractive, both within and across cultures; (b) attractive children and adults are judged more positively than unattractive children and adults, even by those who know them; (c) attractive children and adults are treated more positively than unattractive children and adults, even by those who know them; and (d) attractive children and adults exhibit more positive behaviors and traits than unattractive children and adults. Results are used to evaluate social and fitness-related evolutionary theories and the veracity of maxims about beauty.
1957-shockley.pdf: “On the Statistics of Individual Variations of Productivity in Research Laboratories”, (1957; ):
It is well-known that some workers in scientific research laboratories are enormously more creative than others. If the number of scientific publications is used as a measure of productivity, it is found that some individuals create new science at a rate at least 50 times greater than others. Thus differences in rates of scientific production are much bigger than differences in the rates of performing simpler acts, such as the rate of running the mile, or the number of words a man can speak per minute. On the basis of statistical studies of rates of publication, it is found that it is more appropriate to consider not simply the rate of publication but its logarithm. The logarithm appears to have a normal distribution over the population of typical research laboratories. The existence of a “log-normal distribution” suggests that the logarithm of the rate of production is a manifestation of some fairly fundamental mental attribute. The great variation in rate of production from one individual to another can be explained on the basis of simplified models of the mental processes concerned. The common feature in the models is that a large number of factors are involved so that small changes in each, all in the same direction, may result in a very large [multiplicative] change in output. For example, the number of ideas a scientist can bring into awareness at one time may control his ability to make an invention and his rate of invention may increase very rapidly with this number.