William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

The New Religion Of Dataism (Another Version Of Man-As-God)


Dataism is the word coined by Yuval Noah Harari in his essay for an optimistic, practical implementation of Scientism.

Just as divine authority was legitimised by religious mythologies, and human authority was legitimised by humanist ideologies, so high-tech gurus and Silicon Valley prophets are creating a new universal narrative that legitimises the authority of algorithms and Big Data. This novel creed may be called “Dataism”. In its extreme form, proponents of the Dataist worldview perceive the entire universe as a flow of data, see organisms as little more than biochemical algorithms and believe that humanity’s cosmic vocation is to create an all-encompassing data-processing system — and then merge into it.

As an example, he says, “Every day I absorb countless data bits through emails, phone calls and articles; process the data; and transmit back new bits through more emails, phone calls and articles. I don’t really know where I fit into the great scheme of things, and how my bits of data connect with the bits produced by billions of other humans and computers.”

The mistake here is to think “data” is some new thing. Before people were glued to their “devices”, they were present in the world and then as now inundated by stimuli that had to be “processed”. That last word is pure Dataism and a replacement for “thought about.” The only material difference between these periods is that we now have developed the conceit that if we store enough data understanding and immortality will be ours. (Maybe via the “singularity”.)

Dataists further believe that given enough biometric data and computing power, this all-encompassing system could understand humans much better than we understand ourselves. Once that happens, humans will lose their authority, and humanist practices such as democratic elections will become as obsolete as rain dances and flint knives.

Implicit in this religion are two ideas: that all things can be measured, and that an equation can be found for all measurements. The first tenet is false. Even if you don’t (yet) accept that our intellects are immaterial and therefore not subject to ordinary physical pressures and therefore strictly unmeasurable and therefore can never be more than crudely approximated by any physical systems such as a computer (normal or quantum) and therefore our intellects are forever out of bounds, there is physics itself. How can, if they exist, strings or branes be measured? Measurement will always be bounded.

The second tenet fails, also in the strict sense, because equations focus on the measurable, and can only approximate the unmeasurable. Our intellects are one example, but so are ordinary quantum-mechanical events, which can’t be predicted with certainty.

This point is harped on because if we can’t model the most important aspects of us and our world, then two maladies are ever ready to strike: Hubris and the Deadly Sin of Reification. These are usually mates. Let’s see Harai demonstrate that. After needlessly digressing on “religious fanatics” who disapprove of LGBT activities, and then reversing himself by saying it “doesn’t matter what you think about this particular conundrum”, he says:

Yet humanism is now facing an existential challenge and the idea of “free will” is under threat. Scientific insights into the way our brains and bodies work suggest that our feelings are not some uniquely human spiritual quality. Rather, they are biochemical mechanisms that all mammals and birds use in order to make decisions by quickly calculating probabilities of survival and reproduction…

Even though humanists were wrong to think that our feelings reflected some mysterious “free will”, up until now humanism still made very good practical sense.

It did? How did Harai know? There is no Harai: there is only, if Dataism holds, a mass of wet chemicals chugging along fixed nuclear and electric potentials. Harai’s mistake is the same all make when dismissing free will: you must use what you don’t have to eliminate what you do have and which can’t be eliminated. Once you freely choose to disbelieve in free will, the world will be a better place. (The objection to this obvious point is always “The argument Harai is making is subtler than that”, but how this subtlety overcomes the painful objection is never given.)

Massive contradiction:

If you had to choose between listening to the Bible and listening to your feelings, it was much better to listen to your feelings. The Bible represented the opinions and biases of a few priests in ancient Jerusalem. Your feelings, in contrast, represented the accumulated wisdom of millions of years of evolution that have passed the most rigorous quality-control tests of natural selection.

Skip the historical inaccuracies. Is the fallacy not obvious? Did not evolution, if it directs all, also lead those priests in ancient Jerusalem to write what they did? Aye, it did: it must have. So then how can Dataism save us when Dataism is control of all and there is no free will? Answer: it cannot.

How many fallacies so far?

For we are now at the confluence of two scientific tidal waves. On the one hand, biologists are deciphering the mysteries of the human body and, in particular, of the brain and of human feelings. At the same time, computer scientists are giving us unprecedented data-processing power. When you put the two together, you get external systems that can monitor and understand my feelings much better than I can. Once Big Data systems know me better than I know myself, authority will shift from humans to algorithms. Big Data could then empower Big Brother.

People who have never programmed a computer, and I’m guessing Harai falls into this camp, have such a touchingly naïve faith about computational ability you always feel like a bully to point out how algorithmic sausage is really made. As an example of the childish mistakes this faith makes, this:

How do humanists choose a book? They go to a bookstore, wander between the aisles, flip through one book and read the first few sentences of another, until some gut feeling connects them to a particular tome. Dataists use Amazon. As I enter the Amazon virtual store, a message pops up and tells me: “I know which books you liked in the past. People with similar tastes also tend to love this or that new book.”

Raise your hands if you know why the humanists are using the better algorithm. I’ll leave identifying this book-liking fallacy as homework. Hint: what happens if every reader must use this system? That Harai can’t see what is obvious to any algorithm builder allows him to enthuse:

Take this [book-liking fallacy] to its logical conclusion, and eventually people may give algorithms the authority to make the most important decisions in their lives, such as who to marry. In medieval Europe, priests and parents had the authority to choose your mate for you. In humanist societies we give this authority to our feelings. In a Dataist society I will ask Google to choose…

And Google will answer: “Well, I know you from the day you were born. I have read all your emails, recorded all your phone calls, and know your favourite films, your DNA and the entire biometric history of your heart. I have exact data about each date you went on, and I can show you second-by-second graphs of your heart rate, blood pressure and sugar levels …”

Well, Dataists, i.e. materialists, i.e. scidolators, must say these things under pain of inconsistency, but it is obvious silliness.

For scholars and intellectuals, Dataism promises to provide the scientific Holy Grail that has eluded us for centuries: a single overarching theory that unifies all the scientific disciplines from musicology through economics, all the way to biology…

But even if Dataism is wrong about life, it may still conquer the world. Many previous creeds gained enormous popularity and power despite their factual mistakes.

It’s well to suggest Dataism could catch on in spite of it being fallacy-laden. With the disappearance of Christianity in the West, the spiritual vacuum left behind must needs be filled. There will always be fanatics like Harari volunteering replacement “systems”. Thus you will now not be surprised to learn that Harari is the author of the book Homo Deus, a title that explains all. (That book is due out soon: if somebody sends me a copy, I’ll review it.)

Incidentally, more about these kinds of fallacies in Uncertainty: The Soul of Modeling, Probability & Statistics.


  1. Take this [book-liking fallacy] to its logical conclusion, and eventually people may give algorithms the authority to make the most important decisions in their lives, such as who to marry.

    a) I’m sure that in Harai’s world marriage will been optimized out long before anyone gives a computer the authority to choose
    b) Harai’s little bubble must not include the ever present, and present day eHarmony advertisements that claim the algorithm with 29 dimensions of compatability will find your perfect mate if you will only cede your decision making to it.

  2. As I enter the Amazon virtual store, a message pops up and tells me: “I know which books you liked in the past. People with similar tastes also tend to love this or that new book.” What if it’s the first book you are buying?

    “can show you second-by-second graphs of your heart rate, blood pressure and sugar levels …” I can graph my blood sugar levels—I need an explanation of WHY they are what they are. When does that come?

    My favorite saying again: “Just because we can measure it doesn’t mean we can control it.”

  3. “The only material difference between these periods is that we now have developed the conceit that if we store enough data understanding and immortality will be ours.”

    At first I read it as “understanding and immorality..”, but immortality works too. :>)

  4. And here is the creed of Scientism, expressed by the brilliant anonymous author:

    I believe in a single substance, the mother of all forces, which engenders bodies and the consciousness of everything, visible and invisible.
    I believe in a single Lord, the Human Mind, the unique son of the substance of the world, born from the substance of the world after centuries of evolution: the encapsulated reflection of the great world, the epiphenomenal light of primordial darkness, the real reflection of the real world — evolved through trial and error, not engendered or created, consubstantial with the mother-substance — and through whom the whole world can be reflected. It is he who — for we human beings, and for our use — has ascended from the shadows of the mother-substance.

    He has taken on flesh from matter through the work of evolution, and he has become the Human Brain.

    Although he is destroyed with each generation that passes, he is formed anew in each generation following, according to Heredity. He is summoned to ascend to comprehensive knowledge of the whole world and to be seated at the right of the mother-substance, which will serve him in his mission as judge and legislator, and his reign will never end.

    I believe in Evolution, which directs all, which gives life to the inorganic and consciousness to the organic, which proceeds from the the mother-substance and fashions the thinking mind. With the mother-substance and the human mind, evolution receives equal authority and importance. It has spoken through universal progress.

    I believe in one diligent, universal, civilizing Science. I acknowledge a single discipline for the elimination of errors and I await the future fruits of collective efforts of the past for the life of civilization to come. So be it.
    Meditations on the Tarot, LETTER IX, THE HERMIT by Anonymous

    And further:

    The ideal — or ultimate aim — of all philosophy and all science is TRUTH. But “truth” has no other meaning than that of the reduction of the plurality of phenomena to an essential unity — of facts to laws, of laws to principles, of principles to essence or being. All search for truth — mystical, gnostic, philosophical and scientific — postulates its existence, i.e. the fundamental unity of the multiplicity of phenomena in the world. Without this unity nothing would be knowable. How could one proceed from the known to the unknown — and this is indeed the method of progress in knowledge — if the unknown had nothing to do with the known? If the unknown had no relationship with the known and was absolutely and essentially a stranger to it? When we say that the world is knowable, i.e. that knowledge as such exists, we state through this fact itself the tenet of the essential unity of the world or its knowability. We declare that the world is not a mosaic, where a plurality of worlds which are essentially strangers to one another are fitted together, but that it is an organism — all of whose parts are governed by the same principle, revealing it and allowing reduction to it.

    The relationship of everything and of all beings is the conditio sine qua non of their knowability. The open recognition of the relationship of all things and beings has engendered an exactly corresponding method of knowledge. It is the method generally known under the title THE METHOD OF ANALOGY; its role and its import in so-called “occult” science has been illumined in an admirable way by Papus in his Traite elementaire de science occulte (Paris, 1888 pp. 28ff).

    Analogy is not a tenet or postulate — the essential unity of the world is this — but is the first and principal method (the aleph of the alphabet of methods) whose use facilitates the advance of knowledge. It is the first conclusion drawn from the tenet of universal unity. Since at the root of the diversity of phenomena their unity is found, in such a way that they are at one and the same time different and one, they are neither identical nor heterogeneous but are analogous in so far as they manifest their essential kinship. The traditional formula setting forth the method of analogy is well known. It is the second verse of the Emerald Table (Tabula Smaragdina) of Hermes Trismegistus:

    Quod superius est sicut quod inferius. el quod inferius est sicut quod est superius, ad perpetranda miracula rei unius. That which is above is like to that which is below and that which is below is like to that which is above, to accomplish the miracles of (the) one thing. (Tabula Smaragdina, 2; trsl. R. Steele and D. W. Singer, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine xxi, 1928. p. 42).

    The use of analogy is not limited, however, to the “accursed sciences” — magic, astrology and alchemy — and to speculative mysticism. It is, truth to tell, universal. For neither philosophy, nor theology, nor science itself can do without it. Here is the role that analogy plays in the logic which is the basis of philosophy and the sciences:

    (1) The procedure of classification of objects on the basis of their resemblance is the first step on the way of research by the inductive method. It presupposes the analogy of objects to be classified. (2) Analogy (argument by analogy) can constitute the basis of hypotheses. Thus the famous “nebular hypothesis” of Laplace was due to the analogy that he observed in the direction of the circular movement of the planets around the sun, the movement of satellites around the planets, and the rotation of the planets about their axes. He concluded therefore, from the analogy manifesting itself in these movements, their common origin. (3) As J. Maynard Keynes says in his A Treatise on Probability: “Scientific method, indeed, is mainly devoted to discovering means of so heightening the known analogy that we may dispense as far as possible with the methods of pure induction.” (J. Maynard Keynes, A Treatise on Probability, London, 1921, P- 241).

    Now “pure induction” is founded on simple enumeration and is essentially only conclusion based on the experience of given statistics. Thus one could say: “As John is a man and is dead, and as Peter is a man and is dead, and as Michael is a man and is dead, therefore man is mortal.” The force of this argument depends on number or on the quantity of facts known through experience. The method of analogy, on the other hand, adds the qualitative element, i.e. that which is of intrinsic importance, to the quantitative. Here is an example of an argument by analogy: “Andrew is formed from matter, energy and consciousness. As matter does not disappear with his death, but only changes its form, and as energy does not disappear but only modifies the mode of its activity, Andrew’s consciousness, also, cannot simply disappear, but must merely change its form and mode (or plane) of activity. Therefore Andrew is immortal.” This latter argument is founded on the formula of Hermes Trismegistus: that which is below (matter) (energy) is as that which is above (consciousness). Now, if there exists a law of conservation of matter and energy (although matter transforms itself into energy and vice-versa), there must necessarily exist also a law of conservation of consciousness, or immortality. The ideal of science, according to Keynes, is to find the means to elaborate the scope of known analogy so far as to be able to do without the hypothetical method of pure induction, i.e. to transform the scientific method into pure analogy, based on pure experience, without the hypothetical elements immanent in pure induction. It is by virtue of the method of analogy that science makes discoveries passing from the known to the unknown, formulates fruitful hypotheses, and pursues a methodical, directing aim. Analogy is its beginning and its end, its alpha and its omega. In that which concerns speculative philosophy or metaphysics, the same role is reserved there for analogy. All conclusions of a metaphysical nature are based only on the analogy of man, Nature and the intelligible or metaphysical world.

    Thus the two principal authorities of the most methodical and most disciplined philosophy — mediaeval Scholastic philosophy — St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventura (of whom one represents Aristotelianism and the other Platonism in Christian philosophy) not only make use of analogy but also assign it a very important theoretical role in their doctrines themselves. St. Thomas advances the doctrine oianalogia ends, the analogy of being, which is the principal key to his philosophy. St. Bonaventura, in his doctrine of signatura rerum, interprets the entire visible world as the symbol of the invisible world. For him, the visible world is only another Holy Scripture, another revelation alongside that which is contained in the Holy Scripture properly said:

    Et sic patet quod to/us mundus est sicut unum speculum plenum luminibus praesentantibus divinam sapientiam, et sicut carbo effundenslucem. And it thus appears that the entire world is like a single mirror full of lights presenting the divine wisdom, or as charcoal emitting light. (Bonaventura, Collationes in Hexaemeron ii, 27)

    Meditations on the Tarot, LETTER I THE MAGICIAN, by Anonymous

  5. Ye Olde Statistician

    October 4, 2016 at 9:42 am

    Hey, they could measure epicycles in astronomy, too. And they successfully predicted celestial phenomena for centuries… right up until the phases of Venus were discovered. What happens when we’ve been letting some Perfect Algorithm pick our spouses for us and then later discover there was something missing from the algorithm? Like, it was centered on the wrong thing.

    our feelings are not some uniquely human spiritual quality. Rather, they are biochemical mechanisms that all mammals and birds use in order to make decisions by quickly calculating probabilities of survival and reproduction…

    a) In the classical schema, feelings or emotions are common to all animals. That’s why “feelings” are not the will.
    b) Feelings do not calculate probabilities. If anything, they cloud them with a warm haze of desire or revulsion. That is, we use them to judge the desirability of a thing, not the likelihood of its existence.

    Even though humanists were wrong to think that our feelings reflected some mysterious “free will”

    Our emotions are moved by our perceptions. Our will is moved by our conceptions. The writer is like many confusing intellect with imagination. You do not will yourself to feel hungry, although you may will yourself to stick to your diet.

    In medieval Europe, priests and parents had the authority to choose your mate for you.

    Parents had the authority to talk sense into your hormone-addled teenaged body. Priests did not. The minister of the sacrament of matrimony was the couple themselves. Children of the aristocracy were typically put into Muntehe, “honor-marriage.” But this was not typically the case for children of the peasantry or of those who paid merchet on themselves. These generally entered into Friedehe, “joy-marriage.” This was especially so after the invention of romantic love by the troubadours and minnesingers. And even the prince or princess had the right to reject a proposed marriage.

    On manors, the land-lord had the duty to approve marriages by the peasants in the village. Parents often cultivated marriages like their crops by “play dates” when the kids were young, so that they grew up in each other’s company and becoming friends. That the other kid’s family owned the rights to adjoining manses was not a coincidence.

    The author’s algorithm seems faulty if it is based on mythic understanding of history.

    Many previous creeds gained enormous popularity and power despite their factual mistakes.

    The author seems under the delusion that the purpose of a creed is to discover or predict “facts.” But a creed is a set of beliefs, such as “all men are created equal in human dignity” or “love your neighbor as yourself” or “sorrow stems from unbridled wanting” or “all right angles are congruent.” And note that Bolyai’s and Lobachevsky’s invention of non-Euclidean geometries did not mean that Euclid made a “factual” mistake.

  6. KIRK: The old ones programmed you, too, but it became possible to destroy them.
    RUK: That was the equation! Existence! Survival must cancel out programming.

  7. I am reminded of the ‘whiskery gentleman’ who guards the chicken coop.

    Turn down you internal microphone and tape over your webcams girls (Tell your daughters.)

    Take it from me who learned the hard way.

    Any programmer worth his salt knows this and any programmer, bully or otherwise, sausage lover or otherwise, who doesn’t advise a female of this, does not have your best interests at heart.
    Certainly not a gentleman.

  8. La Longue Carabine

    October 4, 2016 at 11:05 am

    Netflix has many recomendations based on what I’ve watched and how I’ve rated. However, the recommendations don’t take into account why I watched or why I gave the rating.

    For example, I watch some things because they are hilariously awful, then Netflix recommends things that are just plain awful. My sense of humor is a little offbeat, perhaps?

    And Amazon is going to recommend a wife?!

  9. Dataism is not new. John Wheeler, a fine physicist with off-the-wall ideas (he was the one who coined the term “black hole”), originated the notion of the universe as data, “It from Bit”. (See, department of shameless self-promotion, http://rationalcatholic.blogspot.com/2016/01/it-from-bit-what-about-god.html.)
    Indeed, he went so far as to suggest that we create the universe by observing it, the Participatory Universe.

  10. And I’ve known programmers with security level ‘for your eyes only.’
    So I know what I’m talking about.

  11. Hmph. Never leave the house without my flint knife.

  12. ACricketgripes,
    Sounds like your security need updating.

  13. Neo got to choose between the red pill and the blue pill…

  14. Not enough data to respond.

  15. Most of the code I write is “For my eyes only”. This isn’t an edict, it is the pragmatic problem that other people do not want to look at my code.

    I swear my code isn’t that ugly. Sometimes my variable names fall sideways on me. i, j, and k show up. Why don’t I use something more descriptive? Count maybe? But i is a counter. Everyone know that.

    x, y, and z also show up, but usually in the places where x, y and z axes are in use. But my dynamics teacher taught me that I didn’t need to use x, y and z. x, y, and z map to i, j, and k don’t you know? Except now i, j and k are vectors. Vectors are awesome, let’s put some vectors in here….

    Wait. Maybe that isn’t such a good idea.

    But we can assign a number to the vector, that will make the boss feel better and then he will let me go home and get my beer…

  16. Huh? Home security? I’m thinking of digging a moat.

  17. IchBinEinBerliner

    October 4, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    Fascinating. If you had to choose between the opinions and biases of a few priests in ancient Jerusalem and your gut, go with your gut because evolution!
    If you have to choose between the opinions and biases of a few priests in 21st century Menlo Park and your gut, go with the priests because we all know faithfully following the recommender system maximizing Amazons profit leads you straight to the promised land. The lord truly works in mysterious ways.

  18. Brad’s right of course, ‘for your i’s only isn’t quite accurate. It all depends whether your code’s worth the read. You don’t know till you read it.
    For UK eyes only so that’s all you get.

    What a sweetie! Would that it were true.

    Fabulous, I’ll help you dig. I am a natural digger. Easier to control the traffic with a moat without a boat.

    Just take the one so we can all go home.

    “wake me up when it’s all over”


  19. Sander van der Wal

    October 4, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    Google is going to recommend stuff from the advertiser who pays the most for the ad.

    You don’t need a big database to know about the bloody obvious.

  20. It sure looks to me like Yuval Noah Harari in his essay was discussing social trends associated with “Big Data” and how various elements in society were looking at that…and where those viewpoints would lead in the extreme.

    It doesn’t look at all like he was, in being descriptive about the topic , also being an advocate FOR the topic… not at all … and as such the rebuttal by Briggs seems entirely misplaced. (like difficulty with metaphors, Harari’s ‘first-person-present’ style of description seems to have been misinterpreted as conveying his personal advocacy of the topic described)

    Does this concluding statement, advice really, from Harari really look like it came from someone who was personally advocating “dataism” (or “scientism”):

    “If you don’t like this [the trend to using & exploiting data], and you want to stay beyond the reach of the algorithms, there is probably just one piece of advice to give you, the oldest in the book: know thyself. In the end, it’s a simple empirical question. As long as you have greater insight and self-knowledge than the algorithms, your choices will still be superior and you will keep at least some authority in your hands. If the algorithms nevertheless seem poised to take over, it is mainly because most human beings hardly know themselves at all.”
    – Yuval Noah Harari

    “Know Thyself” was & will remain profoundly basic advice, just as relevant now as when it was inscribed in the Temple of Apollo some 400 years BC.

    That advice, given as a fundamental means of retaining one’s identity in an envisioned dystopian future wherein others have ceded their identity to algorithms is, quite dramatically, NOT what and advocate of “dataism” (or “scientism”) would ever offer.

  21. “Measurement” is a spongy thing that defies definition. Your race is measured and/or counted by Big Brother, even though “race” is an abstraction (read non-scientific). Various individual “potentials” are also entered into the Big Data Frame, which haven’t happened and are therefore not real and cannot be measured in the strict sense of that word.

    Big e-Brother is no more rational than his predecessor, but that doesn’t mean He is ineffectual.

  22. While I agree with a lot of what Briggs writes above, he does fall into one common fallacy. That is of viewing emerging AI systems as merely the product of “programming of algorithms.”
    While that is strictly true, the viewpoint obscures something extremely important, a characteristic only of newer AI systems such as “deep learning.” The “algorithms” in these systems are not created by humans. The algorithms are emergent, not put in by the programmers.

    Only the underlying, rather uninteresting code came from humans. The algorithms evolve – the systems learn. The result is that humans do not and often cannot understand what is going on in these systems.

    Viewing it only in the frame of human created algorithms would be like viewing computers as only a result of the hardware in them, ignoring the soft code that resides in that hardware.

    For example, “deep learning” are a kind of system that sort-of mimic neural systems. They are fed training data, and from that they adjust a huge number of parameters in a way that improves their ability to reach conclusions about similar data (and they may do this repeatedly as they work).

    Although AI with training data goes way back (I used it in 1968), and the core idea of deep learning – neural nets – is equally old, breakthroughs in the field have come mostly since 2000 or so and, combined with the amazing increase in computing power, produce a system unlike any we have seen before. These systems are evaluating your credit score (and have been since the early 90s in a primitive form). They are doing image processing. They are very important to autonomous automobiles. They are all over the place, and we don’t really understand them at a detailed level.

    While I oversimplify here, and am not myself an expert in deep learning, I reiterate that it is important in understanding these systems to look beyond the “algorithms created by humans” viewpoint. Again, the interesting properties are emergent, not put in by the programmers.

  23. Well, I think what’s being envisaged here is a sort of natural state of democracy emerging from the communications revolution. It’s too fantastical.


  24. Bryant Poythress

    October 5, 2016 at 2:55 am

    Were it so simple that, as Harari puts it, feelings are “evolutionary rationality made flesh”. Although he qualifies those as ‘scientific insights’ I much prefer your explanation of feelings and their relationship to our perceptions; the appeal is always to our will as I indicate to Sheri below . Also, I think you are on to something regarding the difference between ‘facts’ and insights or truth. As C.S. Lewis says in his book ‘Miracles’, “until there were thinkers, there was no truth or falsehood”. As to the relevance of truth (as insight derived) to making many of life’s ‘important decisions,’ Harari makes no mention of the most important fact, which is what it is and where to get it. Proverbs 4:7 ‘Get wisdom, get understanding!’

    While I tend to agree with you that Harari was not necessarily advocating dataism, I’m not so sure that he wasn’t implying the universal need for and inevitable ascendency of its (his) worldview. The rickety rationale undergirding it is what WMB mercilessly deconstructs.

    Ultimately, I think you are right that we cannot control everything (or anything). In Scripture, we are told ‘present your bodies’, ‘live by the Spirit’ and (supplement your) ‘knowledge with self-control’. All these things require volition, and never on earth will they all be completely automatic for us.

  25. John,

    I would suggest you take a look at Briggs’ post on the topic of deep learning (and others) here:


  26. Okay, I read his post. It misses the point, just like this post did in that area.

    He is technically correct about them, but the important properties are downplayed or missing, and the old post somewhat contradicts his statements above about algorithmic sausage.

    Deep learning works for a number of real world problems. An easy example is visual pattern recognition. One can talk all day about what is inside the system, and one can call it a statistical model, but it doesn’t matter – what counts is that these systems do very well at some tasks, and their inner workings are not created or understood by humans.

    Likewise, big data works, for some things. I agree with Biggs that it is overhyped, but then what technology isn’t?

  27. The following is from a man who states unequivocally that there are different ways to love or origins and that love which comes from the soul, the mind and the heart are distinct considerations. He does not say that the one is better than the other. If love IS….there can be no scoffing or needs for those bypassing the bible to quote Aristotle or even Thomas aquinas in order to justify a league table of love.

    The word of this man is final given the premise of the christian faith. I think some, ‘modern’ intellectuals of the Catholic bent truly believe they’ve got the mind soul and heart sussed. It’s workings and it’s transmission. They call other pontificators ‘moderns’ and yet they see no irony in their strutting peacock certainty at what they ‘know’. Jesus doesn’t deconstruct what love actually IS. Those who think there’s no mystery are showing either their age, a lack of curiosity or the belief that if God would let’em at it they’d have him sussed too. Utter precocious hubris, theres no other explanation for it unless they are duplicitous in reality, in which case, they don’t care what they’re saying or whether it’s reasonable.

    This was posted at the end of a discussion about love but later appeared elsewhere on the wrong post.

    Matthew 22:37-39

    Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
    This is the first and greatest commandment.
    And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.”

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