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Austhinking

December 2013

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In this final edition of the newsletter for 2013, we wish all our friends, associates and followers a happy holiday season and a very good year to come. 

Since this is the season when many people make various kinds of resolutions, and since our obsession is critical thinking, we start by offering a guide to the habits of critical thinkers.   
Seven Habits of Highly Critical Thinkers
Yesterday Tim put up a blog post viewing critical thinking through the lens of the acquired habits possessed by highly critical thinkers. His list:
  1. Judge judiciously
  2. Question the questionable
  3. Chase challenges
  4. Ascertain alternatives
  5. Make use of methods
  6. Vary viewpoints
  7. Sideline the self
See the post for brief elaboration of each of these habits.  
The lurid lure of conspiracy theory
In November The Age published Paul's piece Stuffing up the mother of all conspiracy theories, a withering critique of the documentary film and book JFK: The Smoking Gun, by retired Melbourne detective Colin McLaren. The piece generated a flood of emails, letters to the editor and phone-calls. This year he has written about Chavez and Venezuela, the Papacy, Paul Keating and Indonesia, the civil war in Syria and many other subjects, but nothing generated so much response as this riff on conspiracy theory.
Can public superminds help save us from near-term extinction?
Tim addressed this question in his presentation to the 2013 Science, Technology, Future conference in Melbourne. His answer: maybe, but not without far more resources being applied to developing the technologies and the social processes required for public superminds to be created and have impact. 
Sudden death in North Korea
The abrupt execution last week of North Korea's Number 2 power-broker, Chang Song-taek, uncle and supposed mentor of dictator Kim Jong-un had Paul on ABC radio explaining its meaning for listeners. Chang, he remarked, was accused of having caused "grave damage to the Party and the revolution". Paul's take was, "One can only hope that this was true, given the awful nature of the Party and the dreadful outcomes of the revolution."
The language of life's secrets
Here's a beautiful quote from Michael Lewis's book Moneyball:
"The statistics were not merely inadequate; they lied. And the lies they told led the people who ran major league baseball teams to misjudge their players and mismanage their games. [Bill] James later reduced his complaint to a sentence: fielding statistics made sense only as numbers, not as language. Language, not numbers, is what interested him…What to most people was a dull record of ephemeral events without deep meaning or lasting value was for James a safe deposit box containing life’s secrets."
Our take? Not only in baseball and not only in sport! Merry Christmas all!
Austhinking previous editions: 
  • October 2013 - Eavesdropping, Intelligence Amplification, and Reality Tours
  • September 2013 - Policy, Business, Law, and Evangelical Atheism
  • July 2013 - Election Forum, China, Jews and Jesus
  • June 2013 - Elections, Predictions, Spies and Shakespeare
  • May 2013 - Meta-analysis, Mapping and Democracy
  • April 2013 - Collective Knowledge, Rise of China, Intelligence, and a Puzzler
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