This is NOT “scientific consensus.” (Click on image to enlarge and see original source.)

Scientific consensus isn’t the same as consensus in politics, in business, or in deciding where to go for dinner.  The conflation of the scientific and lay senses of the term are, I think, a primary cause of much of the general public’s distrust of the conclusions that scientists draw from their work.

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Can formal reasoning capture this?

In 2000, Eekels published a paper [1] that among other things discussed a type of inference called innoduction, which is supposed to capture some aspects of design creativity.  I don’t think it’s necessary to develop a whole new style of inference, and that the usual inference styles – particularly abduction – can do the job admirably.

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Battery farms could help create a better grid.

An article in IEEE Spectrum discusses the case for “replacing” power plants with “battery farms.”  Besides the obvious problems that batteries don’t generate energy but only store them, there is some merit in implementing battery farms.  Most importantly, they serve as a stock that can help balance the differences between rates of power generation and consumption.  That systems aspect is particularly interesting to me.

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Influencing choice can be bad.

I came across an old link I’d squirrelled  away about research on consumers’ mindsets.  I found the way the research was written up for public consumption to demonstrate quite crisply the ethical difference between design and marketing.

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Industry funded academic research is a problem.

Industry-sponsored academic research often ends up in the hands of single corporations. I think this defeats the overall goal of academic research, which is to improve everyone’s lot in life.

There’s a growing trend, in many areas of academia (such as engineering), to expect industry to at least partially match government research funding. The advantages, they say, are that industry involvement creates greater opportunity for knowledge and technology transfer, and academia can identify industry-relevant problems faster and easier. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the financial burden of research is partly transferred away from government; in this way, governments can be seen as “saving money.”

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How horrible is this design? Let me count the ways!

How horrible is this design? Let me count the ways!

I keep seeing this horrible thing all over social media, and I have absolutely had it with people having intellectual orgasms over it.

An Austrian artist, Klemes Torggler, designed this brain fart.  It got picked up by a few design websites and then went viral.  Fortunately, that all passed months ago, except lately I’ve started noticing this thing appearing again, all over the place.  And in virtually every case, the “reviews” are just ridiculously over the top.  You’d think Torggler had just cured cancer or invented FTL.

I am compelled, therefore, to write this and clearly state just how horrible a design this really is.

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To panic or not to panic.

In cases of impending disaster, there is a “conventional wisdom” that the disaster would not be communicated to the public, to prevent panic.  The argument is that the loss of life and property arising from a disaster plus its antecedent panic will be greater than that of the disaster alone.  Since a community will suffer less overall if impending disasters are hidden from public view, governments tend to accept such “sins of omission” as appropriate policy.

Whether you agree or not with this approach, I think you should rather be wondering why we aren’t working more toward social norms that exclude the kind of panic that governments typically expect.

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