Skip to main content

Annual Dilbert [Headlines] Post

Szczekociny festival poster 

Scott Adams, the cartoonist who created Dilbert, has said that there are only nine news stories, constantly re-written.

Every year at about this time I like to check the newspaper with his list in mind, to see if he is right. I'll start with his wording unmodified by examples.

1. EXTREME WEATHER BATTERS SOMEPLACE
2. IDIOTS KILL INNOCENT PEOPLE
3. POLITICIAN DOES SOMETHING ILLEGAL
4. PRIMATE ATTEMPTS INAPPROPRIATE SEX
5. EXPERT WARNS OF FINANCIAL CALAMITY
6. BIG COMPANY BUYS ANOTHER BIG COMPANY
7. FAMOUS PERSON DOES SOMETHING INTERESTING
8. A SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERY MIGHT BE USEFUL IN TEN YEARS
9. GOVERNMENT FAILS TO ACHIEVE A GOAL

I surveyed the news on one day (a few days back as it happens). Just by convenience, these headlines are all from January 19th. Well, actually, I cheated a little with one of them, but I'll let you dear reader do the work of figuring out which one that is. Without further ado....

1. EXTREME WEATHER BATTERS SOMEPLACE

Catastrophic flooding in southern Africa.

2. IDIOTS KILL INNOCENT PEOPLE

Jury selection gets underway in the trial of a classic in the annals of such idiocy.

3. POLITICIAN DOES SOMETHING ILLEGAL

Parking in a handicapped spot. Not the worst of crimes, but a pretty blatant one.

4. PRIMATE ATTEMPTS INAPPROPRIATE SEX

Orangutans "make calls that often include sounds like kisses, squeaks and grunts." Gee, I know what inspires such sounds among humans....

5. EXPERT WARNS OF FINANCIAL CALAMITY -- "The Scale of the Chinese Real Estate Crash is Terrifying" even from the seemingly safe distance of the other hemisphere. Business Insider

6. BIG COMPANY BUYS ANOTHER BIG COMPANY -- General Electric to buy French engineering group Alstom.

7. FAMOUS PERSON DOES SOMETHING INTERESTING -- Pope Francis continues to fill this particular news niche.

8. A SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERY MIGHT BE USEFUL IN TEN YEARS

This one involves potential improved treatment for diabetics. that's the 10-years-later use. The actual discovery involves the cone snail. It fits the template perfectly.

9. GOVERNMENT FAILS TO ACHIEVE A GOAL.

The goal of the government in Greece, until recently, was keeping the promises it had made to the troika by which it was bailed out not long ago. Not gonna happen. The second graf of the story to which I've just linked you reads, "leftist Syriza leads the opinion polls and is intent on cancelling the austerity terms of a bailout from Europe and the International Monetary Fund and also wants a big debt write off." Okay, so that means "we've failed to achieve the goal, and now we want to forget we ever set it."

Adams is right. We're all in a loop.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

England as a Raft?

In a lecture delivered in 1880, William James asked rhetorically, "Would England ... be the drifting raft she is now in European affairs if a Frederic the Great had inherited her throne instead of a Victoria, and if Messrs Bentham, Mill, Cobden, and Bright had all been born in Prussia?"

Beneath that, in a collection of such lectures later published under James' direction, was placed the footnote, "The reader will remember when this was written."

The suggestion of the bit about Bentham, Mill, etc. is that the utilitarians as a school helped render England ineffective as a European power, a drifting raft.

The footnote was added in 1897. So either James is suggesting that the baleful influence of Bentham, Mill etc wore off in the meantime or that he had over-estimated it.

Let's unpack this a bit.  What was happening in the period before 1880 that made England seem a drifting raft in European affairs, to a friendly though foreign observer (to the older brother…

Cancer Breakthrough

Hopeful news in recent days about an old and dear desideratum: a cure for cancer. Or at least for a cancer, and a nasty one at that.

The news comes about because investors in GlaxoSmithKline are greedy for profits, and has already inspired a bit of deregulation to boot. 

The FDA has paved the road for a speedy review of a new BCMA drug for multiple myeloma, essentially cancer of the bone marrow. This means that the US govt has removed some of the hurdles that would otherwise (by decision of the same govt) face a company trying to proceed with these trials expeditiously. 

This has been done because the Phase I clinical trial results have been very promising. The report I've seen indicates that details of these results will be shared with the world on Dec. 11 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology. 

The European Medicines Agency has also given priority treatment to the drug in question. 

GSK's website identifies the drug at issue as "GSK2857916," althou…

Francesco Orsi

I thought briefly that I had found a contemporary philosopher whose views on ethics and meta-ethics checked all four key boxes. An ally all down the line.

The four, as regular readers of this blog may remember, are: cognitivism, intuitionism, consequentialism, pluralism. These represent the views that, respectively: some ethical judgments constitute knowledge; one important source for this knowledge consists of quasi-sensory non-inferential primary recognitions ("intuitions"); the right is logically dependent upon the good; and there exists an irreducible plurality of good.

Francesco Orsi seemed to believe all of these propositions. Here's his website and a link to one relevant paper:

https://sites.google.com/site/francescoorsi1/

https://jhaponline.org/jhap/article/view/3

What was better: Orsi is a young man. Born in 1980. A damned child! Has no memories of the age of disco!

So I emailed him asking if I was right that he believed all of those things. His answer: three out of …