114,532 research outputs found

    Book Review: Religion in a New Key

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    A review of M. Darrol Bryant\u27s Religion in a New Key

    How to read probability distributions as statements about process

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    Probability distributions can be read as simple expressions of information. Each continuous probability distribution describes how information changes with magnitude. Once one learns to read a probability distribution as a measurement scale of information, opportunities arise to understand the processes that generate the commonly observed patterns. Probability expressions may be parsed into four components: the dissipation of all information, except the preservation of average values, taken over the measurement scale that relates changes in observed values to changes in information, and the transformation from the underlying scale on which information dissipates to alternative scales on which probability pattern may be expressed. Information invariances set the commonly observed measurement scales and the relations between them. In particular, a measurement scale for information is defined by its invariance to specific transformations of underlying values into measurable outputs. Essentially all common distributions can be understood within this simple framework of information invariance and measurement scale.Comment: v2: added table of contents, adjusted section numbers v3: minor editing, updated referenc

    Knowledge, Belief, and Assertion

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    The traditional answer to the question what it is to make an\ud assertion appeals to belief (see Grice 1989 and Searle\ud 1969). To assert something, so the analysis goes, is to\ud express a belief by way of uttering a sentence. Timothy\ud Williamson claims (1) that on the traditional analysis\ud assertion is constitutively governed by the truth rule (242):1\ud One must: assert p only if p is true.\ud He argues (2) that the traditional analysis is mistaken, and\ud (3) that assertion is constitutively governed by the\ud knowledge rule instead (243):\ud One must: assert p only if one knows p.\ud I will argue that all three of these claims are false

    Receptor uptake arrays for vitamin B12, siderophores and glycans shape bacterial communities

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    Molecular variants of vitamin B12, siderophores and glycans occur. To take up variant forms, bacteria may express an array of receptors. The gut microbe Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron has three different receptors to take up variants of vitamin B12 and 88 receptors to take up various glycans. The design of receptor arrays reflects key processes that shape cellular evolution. Competition may focus each species on a subset of the available nutrient diversity. Some gut bacteria can take up only a narrow range of carbohydrates, whereas species such as B.~thetaiotaomicron can digest many different complex glycans. Comparison of different nutrients, habitats, and genomes provide opportunity to test hypotheses about the breadth of receptor arrays. Another important process concerns fluctuations in nutrient availability. Such fluctuations enhance the value of cellular sensors, which gain information about environmental availability and adjust receptor deployment. Bacteria often adjust receptor expression in response to fluctuations of particular carbohydrate food sources. Some species may adjust expression of uptake receptors for specific siderophores. How do cells use sensor information to control the response to fluctuations? That question about regulatory wiring relates to problems that arise in control theory and artificial intelligence. Control theory clarifies how to analyze environmental fluctuations in relation to the design of sensors and response systems. Recent advances in deep learning studies of artificial intelligence focus on the architecture of regulatory wiring and the ways in which complex control networks represent and classify environmental states. I emphasize the similar design problems that arise in cellular evolution, control theory, and artificial intelligence. I connect those broad concepts to testable hypotheses for bacterial uptake of B12, siderophores and glycans.Comment: Added many new references, edited throughou

    Microbial metabolism: optimal control of uptake versus synthesis

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    Microbes require several complex organic molecules for growth. A species may obtain a required factor by taking up molecules released by other species or by synthesizing the molecule. The patterns of uptake and synthesis set a flow of resources through the multiple species that create a microbial community. This article analyzes a simple mathematical model of the tradeoff between uptake and synthesis. Key factors include the influx rate from external sources relative to the outflux rate, the rate of internal decay within cells, and the cost of synthesis. Aspects of demography also matter, such as cellular birth and death rates, the expected time course of a local resource flow, and the associated lifespan of the local population. Spatial patterns of genetic variability and differentiation between populations may also strongly influence the evolution of metabolic regulatory controls of individual species and thus the structuring of microbial communities. The widespread use of optimality approaches in recent work on microbial metabolism has ignored demography and genetic structure

    Trusting (and Verifying) Online Intermediaries\u27 Policing

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    All is not well in the land of online self-regulation. However competently internet intermediaries police their sites, nagging questions will remain about their fairness and objectivity in doing so. Is Comcast blocking BitTorrent to stop infringement, to manage traffic, or to decrease access to content that competes with its own for viewers? How much digital due process does Google need to give a site it accuses of harboring malware? If Facebook censors a video of war carnage, is that a token of respect for the wounded or one more reflexive effort of a major company to ingratiate itself with the Washington establishment? Questions like these will persist, and erode the legitimacy of intermediary self-policing, as long as key operations of leading companies are shrouded in secrecy. Administrators must develop an institutional competence for continually monitoring rapidly-changing business practices. A trusted advisory council charged with assisting the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) could help courts and agencies adjudicate controversies concerning intermediary practices. An Internet Intermediary Regulatory Council (IIRC) would spur the development of expertise necessary to understand whether companies’ controversial decisions are socially responsible or purely self-interested. Monitoring is a prerequisite for assuring a level playing field online

    Book Review: Automating the Professions: Utopian Pipe Dream or Dystopian Nightmare?

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    Platform Neutrality: Enhancing Freedom of Expression in Spheres of Private Power

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    AbstractTroubling patterns of suppressed speech have emerged on the corporate internet. A large platform may marginalize (or entirely block) potential connections between audiences and speakers. Consumer protection concerns arise, for platforms may be marketing themselves as open, comprehensive, and unbiased, when they are in fact closed, partial, and self-serving. Responding to protests, the accused platform either asserts a right to craft the information environment it desires, or abjures responsibility, claiming to merely reflect the desires and preferences of its user base. Such responses betray an opportunistic commercialism at odds with the platforms’ touted social missions. Large platforms should be developing (and holding themselves to) more ambitious standards for promoting expression online, rather than warring against privacy, competition, and consumer protection laws. These regulations enable a more vibrant public sphere. They also defuse the twin specters of monopolization and total surveillance, which are grave threats to freedom of expression.</jats:p
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