Journal Club: Chen et al, 2018: Neural Ordinary Differential Equations

In the 2018 NeurIPS conference, 4,845 papers were submitted. The paper I’m reviewing here by Chen et al, 2018, titled Neural Ordinary Differential Equations, won best paper award. The paper discusses using continuous Ordinary Differential Equations (ODE) for Neural Networks (NN) as opposed to the sorts of discrete layers used in the standard Recurrent Neural Networks (RNN).

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World War II Week by Week

Between 2014 and now, I’ve been regularly watching The Great War series on Youtube, which follows the First World War week-by-week, while also doing mini-biographies and answering viewer questions. Tons of content there, all worth watching. But since last September, the same person who hosted The Great War (they have a new host there as they cover the interwar years who is also great), Indy Neidell, has begun covering World War 2 week-by-week (79 years to the week after it occurred for WW2, as opposed to 100 years for WWI).

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Quantum Mechanics qua Being

Aristotle defined metaphysics as the study of Being qua Being – or, one might say, studying Being being Being. He says in book VII of his Metaphysics that Being is the individual instances of essence, which is the substance that defines what a thing is in-itself. Now, in our present time, we’ve narrowed down the primary substance further than our everyday sensible objects, down to subatomic particles. Can Aristotle’s philosophy be a useful lens to think about quantum mechanics?

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Foreign Policy Realism, Idealism, or Transactionalism?

An article in The American Conservative by Daniel R. Depetris contrasts Mitt Romney’s approach to foreign policy (as a synecdoche for the Republic Establishment) to that of Donald Trump. The former is a sort of idealism, where America takes point in the “U.S.-led liberal international order.” The latter sees international relations as a business transaction, where alliances are treated as a quid pro quo relationship. Is there a foreign policy realism that can be used as a middle ground?

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Transhumanist Virtue Ethics: Desirable Innate Preferences Determined by Reason

Natural rights don’t exist, except in the human mind. They are a way for a social species to maintain social cohesion. But, as useful as natural rights may be in deciding how to organize society, they are not fundamental; instead, they are derivative of what humans, in general, desire.

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The Absurd Heroism of D-Day

Today, June 6 of 2019, is 75 years after the June 6, 1944 Anglo-American amphibious invasion of Normandy, France. But what did those brave men fight and die for?

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Human Relations and Accountability

When a mob boss tells three of his underlings to commit a murder, and then the three underlings commit the murder, is the mob boss culpable? Most people would say yes, even though he himself did not commit the murder, because he is the boss. But isn’t it possible for the three underlings to have just ignored the bosses orders and done nothing, in which case he would have just been talking? No, most people would say, because the underlings did commit the murder and they have entered into a hierarchical relationship with the boss where they are obligated to follow his orders.

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Existence and Essence in Our Time

I’ve been reading a bit of Scholastic and Islamic Golden Age philosophy – namely Thomas Aquinas and Abu Ali al-Husayn ibn Sina (Avicenna). In those times, people were obsessed with two things: the Greek philosophers (Plato, the neoplatonists, and Aristotle) and being able to reconcile the Grecian ontology with their monotheistic, Abrahamic religion. It’s interesting to read their philosophy, but I was wondering if it had any relevance to modern philosophy.

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Should Futurists Support War?

Since at least World War 1 the idea of war as being all about glory and heroism has seen massive disillusionment. Most people, I think, would agree that war is not a good thing, even if some think it a necessary thing. But technological arms races, both during war and in peacetime, generate a plethora of technological advances. That raises the question: should futurists and transhumanists welcome war in order to usher in greater and faster technological advances?

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Sohrab Ahmari vs David French From an Atheist Point of View

Sohrab Ahmari is a Catholic conservative commentator who recently wrote a piece calling fellow Christian conservatives to political action to Christianize the U.S. In the piece, he takes aim at David French, who is more of a live-and-let-live classical liberal, though also a conservative Christian. This has sparked a lot of conversation amongst those of a social conservative ilk.

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Ending the Need for Dangerous Vaccinations

I just recently finished my three part series on evolution and was wondering about some practical uses for the theory. That’s when it struck me that measles was making a comeback due to people opting out of vaccinating their children for fear that the inoculation could be dangerous. Here is a proposal for solving all our problems.

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Can We Become the Absurd Hero?

Voltaire once said that “if God didn’t exist we would have to invent him.” Our imaginations are, of course, limited by our evolutionary past. To us, God has to be human-like. God must be benevolent, meaning it’s actions must seek to benefit humans. Why wouldn’t we invent a God like that? We are human-centered by our very nature. We feel that we deserve our self-designated special place in the universe.

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