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That’s not what I meant!

Ambiguity pervades language. This ambiguity can be used strategically by speakers, but it’s also what makes language so challenging for machines to understand – and in some cases, it even leads to miscommunications between people, particularly over written communication. During in-person interactions, ambiguity is more easily avoided. If a speaker says of a recently released … Continue reading That’s not what I meant!

What is ‘innateness’, anyway?

A recurring question in both scientific and public discourse is whether any given property of an organism is innate or learned. This debate, usually framed in terms of Nature vs. Nurture, often centers around properties of human behavior and cognition: intelligence, language, morality, mathematics, and so on. But while this dichotomous framing perhaps seems obvious … Continue reading What is ‘innateness’, anyway?

Sounding entitled

There’s nothing inherently wrong with being entitled. A worker is entitled to a paycheck; a customer is entitled to the goods they’ve paid for; all of us are entitled to certain inalienable human rights[1]. So why is “entitled” usually used as an insult? When someone says that somebody else is “acting entitled”, what they really … Continue reading Sounding entitled

Biased language

Bias is real – and often harmful. It’s been shown to manifest in hiring decisions, in the training of machine learning algorithms, and most recently, in language itself. Three computer scientists analyzed the co-occurrence patterns of words in naturally-occurring texts (obtained from Google News), and found that these patterns seem to reflect implicit human biases. … Continue reading Biased language

P-hacking and false discoveries

The term “p-hacking” has made its way into the public discourse surrounding science, particularly regarding the replicability crisis. But although the term suggests intentional malevolence on the part of the scientist, it’s actually a scenario that many well-trained scientists can fall into. So what is p-hacking, and why is it dangerous? Significance and the elusive … Continue reading P-hacking and false discoveries

The Evolution of “Bad Science”

Science faces a replicability crisis. This is well-known among scientists and even the general public. Various explanations have been proposed as to the cause of this crisis – some of them on this blog – but these proposals have usually been informal in nature. Recently, two scientists (Smaldino & McElreath, 2016) built a computational model … Continue reading The Evolution of “Bad Science”