Sam Harris, Patreon, and the Meaning of Words

I’m not meaning to get all holier than thou in this post. I just wanted to collect the relevant information in one place for the record. I was an early supporter of Harris both as a reader and later of the podcast. I loved that I could back two of my primary causes at the same time, as I was also an early adopter of Patreon.

Sam has always been a champion of truth-telling and clearly representing oneself unambiguously. His book, ‘Lying’ is an exploration of this. He takes words very seriously. (From the Kara Swisher interview ‘Sam Harris on religion, politics, and making enemies online‘)

In December of 2018, Harris left Patreon for the second time. He assured Patreon supporters that their relationship to his online content and other supporter perks would not be affected. (Short version with pertinent info. From ‘The Drive Interview with Peter Attia‘.)

(Longer version with reasons behind leaving Patreon.)

In April of 2019, Harris announced a policy change which would affect prior Patreon supporters requiring them to have an active subscription on his website in order to access content behind his paywall. He blatantly went back on his word and reneged on his prior commitment. (From ‘What Do Jihadists Really Want‘ 2019.)

This had a surprising effect on me. Not so much about money or inconvenience. Simply that Sam Harris, the champion of words, had gone back on his! With some vague bullshit excuse about it being impractical and what ‘we’ have to do at this point. I was upset. I seemed to be in the minority. It was mostly crickets on Reddit where I would have found like-minded reactions if there were any.

Some conjecture… Sam went from being an obscure author, barely getting published, to selling out large halls full of fans eager to spend an hour in his company! Along the way he’s picked up some business people and no doubt some of them have made an impression on him. People change! (From ‘Understanding Humans in the Wild‘)

I realize now I had become a fan. Sam had taken on the sheen of a heroic figure. So this was a wake up call for me. And moving forward I’ll take what he says with a grain of salt.


Update 1/8/20. Just noticed that the Sam Harris podcast has gone full subscription only. Only half of each episode is available on iTunes. As I mentioned above I was an early supporter on Patreon (and would have continued doing so if he hadn’t canceled his account). It’s been an interesting ride. Watching Sam go from (to my eye) a Buddhist philosopher neuroscientist full of passion for sharing ideas, to a media company founder now resentful of the 90% of his listening audience not paying for his content. Almost as bad as watching Taleb morph into a dead-lifting Twitter math bully. From Making Sense Podcast #177 – Psychedelic Science

Update 3/16/21. Not sure what compels me to post this, or why I still find this so grating. The ‘never liar’… is that fundamentally different than not honoring your word? From the Ayaan Hirsi Ali Podcast 2/8/21

Update 5/29/21   What about a ‘white lie’ Sam? From Sam Harris: “Spirituality Is a Loaded Term.” (People I (Mostly) Admire Ep. 25)

Marshall McLuhan & Buckminster Fuller’s First Meeting on an Intellectual Cruise Around the Greek Islands | McLuhan Galaxy

useriscontent-july11mcluhan_fuller

Buckminster Fuller and Marshall McLuhan met for the first time  after boarding the New Hellas in Athens for an eight-day boat trip  around the Greek Islands. The two gurus of the electronic age had been  invited on the trip, along with thirty-two other  leading intellectuals from fourteen countries,  by Constantinos Doxiadis, a Greek architect  and urban planner. The idea was to have a  symposion,” a radical mixing of intellectual  activity and sensual pleasure as the boat traveled  from island to island. Each morning, the  group would have informal but intense discussions  onboard about “the evolution of human  settlements.” In the afternoon and evening,  they would leave the boat to go swimming, visit  famous historic sites, eat in restaurants, see performances, go dancing,  and shop. High-level theoretical discourse was well lubricated with  retsina and ouzo.

Full Story: Marshall McLuhan & Buckminster Fuller’s First Meeting on an Intellectual Cruise Around the Greek Islands

My Lyric to Billy Strayhorn’s ‘Upper Manhattan Medical Group’ U.M.M.G.

Sky through window
Flowers at bedside
Nurse sing song reminds me of
Better days than…

Doctor’s orders
Feed intravenous
Friends come, soft sad looks on their
Loving faces

Hey, I may have left a song or two
At least I took the chance of loving you

Turn the lights out
It’s time to go
So long, goodbye
Goodbye so long

© John Humphrey 1999

Why Preschool Can Save The World

This is such a powerful piece of reporting. It actually answers the question: ‘What should we do?’
Planet Money
http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2012/10/19/163256866/episode-411-why-preschool-can-save-the-world

On today’s show, we meet a self-described robber baron who decided to spend his billions on finger paint and changing tables. We revisit decades-long studies that found preschool made a huge difference in the lives of poor children. And we talk to a Nobel prize-winning economist who says that spending public money on preschool produces a huge return on investment.

 

Danny Kahneman Revisited: Thinking Fast And Slow

I’m a long time fan of Danny Kahneman. I collected as many links to Danny’s audio and video
talks as I could find back in May of 2008. It remains a good collection and I recommend you check
it out. In the meantime however, Danny released his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, and I’ve been
excited to read all the great reviews. Not only that, but Danny’s book tour resulted in quite a few
audio interviews. I’ve collected as much as I’ve found in this post and will updated it as more comes
in. Enjoy!

 

LessWrong.com: The Cognitive Science of Rationality 12 September 2011
Wired, Jonah Lehrer: The Science Of Irrationality October 18, 2011
The New York Times, Daniel Kahneman: Don’t Blink! The Hazards of Confidence October 23, 2011
New York Post, Kyle Smith: Think vs. blink October 23, 2011
The New Yorker, Jonah Lehrer: Is Self-Knowledge Overrated? October 25, 2011
The Wall Street Journal, Christopher Shea: Daniel Kahneman’s Politics October 28, 2011
The Economist: Not so smart now Oct 29th 2011
The Chronicle, Evan R. Goldstein: The Anatomy of Influence November 8, 2011
Vanity Fair, Jaime Lalinde: The Quiz Daniel Kahneman Wants You to Fail November 8, 2011
Financial Times, William Easterly: Thinking, Fast and Slow November 5, 2011
The New York Times, Jim Holt: Two Brains Running November 25, 2011
Freakonomics: Daniel Kahneman Answers Your Questions November 28, 2011
Sam Harris: Thinking about Thinking November 29, 2011
The Boston Globe, Jesse Singal: “˜Thinking, Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman December 04, 2011
Cleveland.com, Karen R. Long: Daniel Kahneman makes ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow,’ a mind-blower December 11, 2011
The New York Review of Books, Freeman Dyson: How to Dispel Your Illusions December 22, 2011
The Guardian, Oliver Burkeman: Daniel Kahneman: ‘We’re beautiful devices’ 14 November 2011
The Independant: ‘We’re blind to our blindness.   24 November 2011
Vanity Fair, Michael Lewis: The King of Human Error December, 2011

The Marvels and the Flaws of Intuitive Thinking Edge Master Class 2011 (Danny on video for 1:21 + lengthy notes)

Audio
At the LSE Thinking Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman in conversation with Richard Layard November 15, 2011
New York Public Library Daniel Kahneman In Conversation with David Brooks December 16, 2011
Forum- A World of Ideas Making Better Judgements Daniel Kahneman,   Ngaire Woods,   Julian Baggini November 19, 2011

 

 

In Lieu of Christmas Presents 2011

So disheartening about the Greg Mortenson fiasco. Who knows where the lines in the sand are or what led Greg to cross them, but however you look at it, the fact is he lied!
This year our donations went again to…


One World Health
partners with government to manufacture drugs whose patents have expired but which remain affective for curing diseases.


Global Giving
vets and organizes a wide variety of projects.They will keep me in the loop as the projects develop.
AAVAZ
is a truly global network. It has over ten million members in 193 countries.
EFF
is a legal non-profit that works on behalf of internet freedom.

Marshall McLuhan Centenary in Full Swing!

2011 marks the centenary of Canadian icon Marshall McLuhan’s birth and it’s being celebrated around the world. Especially I’d like to share two go-to sites for all things McLuhan this year.
Dr. Alex Kuskis’s McLuhan Galaxy
and
Marshall McLuhan Speaks with a great collection of video clips.

From "McLuhan For Beginners" by Terrence Gordon

Mike Daisey!

[Update 2012/01/14 Mike Daisey on This American Life!]

What a treat… stumbling upon a blazing, fully-formed force for consciousness.
With 16 shows behind him already I’m obviously coming to the party a little late
but what a find. Probably not since Bill Hicks have I found someone who so brilliantly
blends humor, insight, and activism. Go Mike!

How Theater Failed America

Full hour CSPAN interview around The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs
(wherein he describes going to China and speaking with workers from the Foxconn
factory where all our gadgets are made).

 

 

Why Did The FBI Stash Taliban 9-11 Phone Records?

Update Oct. 21, 2012: The Kiriakou Conundrum: To Plea Or Not To Plea

Eric Holder, attorney general under President Barack Obama, has prosecuted more government officials for alleged leaks under the World War I-era Espionage Act than all his predecessors combined, including law-and-order Republicans John Mitchell, Edwin Meese and John Ashcroft

Update Oct. 1, 2012: John has been accused by the Department of Justice of crimes under the 1917 Espionage Act, a charge historically reserved for persons who betrayed their country to foreign governments for money.

reluctant-spy-john-kiriakou.jpg
This is one of those stories that opens up so many rabbit holes you don’t know where to start. And then, once you do start, it keeps getting worse and worse, until you’re left feeling duped and useless, and reminded once again of the possibility that if there is such a thing as ‘evil’ it probably resides somewhere in Washington,

In 2002, with NY Port Authority Detective Tommy McHale, on loan to the FBI, CIA agent John Kiriakou raided the Taliban embassy located in Peshawar, Pakistan. The bloodless action resulted in two van loads of Taliban documents and equipment. A few days after the raid, Detective McHale called Kiriakou to let him know about an incredible find…

“You’re never going to believe what I found!” It was a file folder with telephone bills in it. And the telephone bills were written in English. They were Pakistani issued telephone bills. And they documented 168 calls made, from the Taliban embassy to numbers inside the United States, and I mean all over the United States, Bethesda MD, Los Angeles, Buffalo, Kansas City, all over the country. And those call stopped abruptly on September the 10th, 2001, and then started up again slowly, on September the 16th.

So why were the numbers never investigated?
John Kiriakou, author of The Reluctant Spy, shares his story and his frustration in the following interview excerpt from C-SPAN’s After Words.
(Click arrow to hear clip) John Kiriakou: Peshawar Taliban Embassy Raid
Link to full Video interview.

In the full interview Kiriakou describes his involvement in the arrest of Abu Zubaydah. Kiriakou was instrumental in arranging for the medical care that kept Zubaydah alive. Kiriakou was earlier led to believe that Zabaydah, incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay, began ‘speaking’ after one episode of waterboarding. It later came to be known that Zubaydah had been waterboarded   83 times in the month of August 2002 alone!
The interview includes details about Kirakou’s recruitment, and his time as an anti-terrorism agent in Greece. Kiriakou is inteviewd by Frederick Hitz, who was the Inspector General of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1990 to 1998 and is the author of The Great Game: The Myth and Reality of Espionage.

How much coal is required to run a 100-watt light bulb 24 hours a day for a year?

Navajo Generating Station
Creative Commons License photo credit: brewbooks

How many of us have a clue about how much a kilowatt is. Check out Marshall Brain’s article, “How much coal is required to run a 100-watt light bulb 24 hours a day for a year?”
You can also get the podcast from iTunes.

Suddenly… Human Trafficking

Update: 10/01/12 A powerful collection of modern day slavery photographs published in the Atlantic this week.   Photographed by Lisa Kristine. It turns out Lisa also has a Ted talk. Some things are so horrible you can hardly bring yourself to learn more about them. At the very least, we can make a donation. Free The Slaves!

Yesterday, driving in to work I listened to this talk and was surprised I didn’t know more.

Then today on a show I like ThisWeekInTwitter,   guest Aaron Cohen, author of ‘Slave Hunter’ really got my dander up. Throwing the phrase ‘the children’ around like a Fox News anchor, calling Amsterdam a failure, and talking about the ‘tools’ (i.e. laws) he and like minded activists need in order to go in and shut down these slave trade operations. Another part of his argument that really rankled me was his statement that ‘Craigslist receives a third of its earnings from sex postings’, as though this was something Craigslist was doing. Why pick on Craigslist? Can we not assume that a large portion of any classified ad publisher’s income derives from sex related ads? (Here’s the recent NY Times article about Craigslist and sex related ads Aaron was probably thinking of). But just because I didn’t like the way Aaron framed his argument didn’t mean he doesn’t have valid points. Certainly it made me realize I have a lot to learn.

So then I went back to Ted and found this…

About Amsterdam I found various articles discussing changes being made, like raising the age to 21 and requiring prostitutes to be licensed. Also this:

Anti-slavery campaigner and labour party city councillor Lodewijk Asscher already raised the issue in February. This week he submitted a detailed report , noting that between 50 and 90 per cent of all the prostitutes working in Amsterdam’s inner-city were found to be working there against their will – coerced and forced by international criminal gangs.

These are such messy issues. You want to think that somewhere, drugs and prostitution are being handled intelligently and effectively. If not Amsterdam, where? I will try to follow-up on the Amsterdam situation. But in the meantime I obviously have a lot of reading to do around the issue of human trafficking. How can there be 27,000,000 people caught up in slavery and I hardly know the first thing about it?

In Lieu of Presents – Christmas Charity Gift Giving

[Update] Just finished Stones into Schools. I couldn’t put it down once I got started. Fascinating, heart-wrenching and insightful. Afghanistan and Pakistan are complicated places! At least I have a clue now. When I think of what a dollar buys in terms of education over there it sickens me to think a single missile costing upwards of $800,000. On the other hand, I don’t want anything to happen to the girls going to those schools. So yes, I want the troops to come home, but not if it means the Taliban (who emerge in the book as a true enemy) can march right back into Afghanistan. It was so encouraging to read about Colonel Christopher Kolenda reaching out to the elders of Afghanistan- building relationship! That seems to be the way things get done over there!

A few years ago our family stopped giving each other hard drives and boots and started donating to charity instead. It was Mom’s idea. She just loved to give a goat (Oxfam Canada). I had just read Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson’s story about building schools, mostly for girls, in Pakistan and Afghanistan. That book is just so moving. So we donated to the non-profit he has set up to collect funds for more schools.

Greg has a new book, Stones into Schools which I just picked up (purchase from this link donates a percentage of the price to the Central Asia Institute, Greg’s non-profit). I’m looking forward to reading it over the Christmas break.   We also chose the Central Asia Institute again this year because I have such a soft spot for educating girls, but also because it makes such a powerful positive impact.

In 2009…
CAI schools total 131
CAI built 29 new schools Afghanistan and
in Pakistan
CAI Students total enrollment is 58,000
CAI now has 36,000 female enrollment
CAI has a total of 17 vocational centers
CAI educated 19 higher education scholarship students.
CAI had teacher training & midwife training workshops
CAI’s Greg Mortenson published 3 new bestseller books
CAI’s Greg Mortenson spoke at 214 events nationally
CAI’s program Pennies for Peace raised 150,000,000 cents
CAI’s Pennies for Peace expanded from 280 to
4500 programs in schools, groups & libraries in 20 countries

Greg Mortenson C-Span interview with Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack. (audio) (video)

Direct donation link.