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Imaginary Positions

The issue of "failing to update" probably deserves its own post. The state of the world tends to change over time. Even people who bother to look stuff up to determine whether their views are in accordance with current reality and revise accordingly can't afford to constantly keep checking back to see if any relevant facts have changed. The first time you get in an argument you might look the facts up but from then on when the same issue comes up you fall back on your previously-researched conclusion.

This is one reason why old scientists need to die out before new ideas can receive suitable consideration.

I tend to think a lot of positions people hold that appear currently absurd were once validly held - either by that person, or by a source that person respects - at some point in the past. For example, many who think they want stronger gun control laws hold in their heads the idea that you're much more likely to be mugged in the US than in Great Britain...because that used to be true, back when they first formed their opinions on the subject. Or consider Macintosh versus Winodws arguments that allege Macs are/aren't more/less expensive and are/aren't much faster than comparable PCs; all those views are correct, depending on the reference frame of the speaker.

Disappointment in the Future

If exponential growth means you get 90% of the progress in the last 10% of the time, I've got to say, that list looks surprisingly doable given that we've got another year to do it in. We're certainly more than 10% of the way there now! The iPhone alone checks off about a quarter of the list...

Hanging Out My Speaker's Shingle

Look here or here to find out how much it costs to get a talk by Adam West ($20-30k), or Bill Cosby($100k+), or Scott "Dilbert" Adams ($45k) or hundreds of other speakers of varying status. As soon as you are giving enough talks to have a handle on what your market value might be, it's probably to your advantage to join one or more speaker registries and just list it.

Is Humanism A Religion-Substitute?

The claim that religiously-inspired music is inherently more beautiful than atheistically-inspired music initially seems plausible but on reflection it seems clear there is a severe selection bias at work. The majority of religiously-inspired songs that have been written actually suck, as do the vast majority of songs of any sort. A few early churches cultivated an environment in which singing and songwriting were well rewarded, something one could make a career out of. Many talented people spent lifetimes writing song after song - most of them terrible - for the church and hundreds of years later a few of the songs that survive from that era are lovely. Do you really think Handel couldn't have written a decent song about atheism if he'd been paid to do so? Or at least, one that we'd regard as good if people had been singing it for centuries?

But you're looking at the output of professionals at the height of their craft, winnowed by time. It's like comparing Casablanca with some recent student art film projects and claiming black & white movies are inherently better.

(FWIW, here's the closest thing that I've written... Hymn of the Flying Spaghetti Monster )

Burch's Law

Once in a very great while, lottery tickets become a positive-expectation investment. On those occasions, large groups do indeed invest in them. Gambling consortiums have the necessary expertise and inclination more often than hedge funds. Wikipedia says:

a Polish-Irish businessman named Stefan Klincewicz bought up almost all of the 1,947,792 combinations available on the Irish lottery. He and his associates paid less than one million Irish pounds while the jackpot stood at £1.7 million. There were three winning tickets, but with the "Match 4" and "Match 5" prizes, Klincewicz made a small profit overall.

I also recall an incident many years ago where a foreign (Australian?) gambling consortium tried to get all the numbers in a US state lottery, but I can't find the reference just now.