“What best distinguishes our species is an ability that scientists are just beginning to appreciate: We contemplate the future. Our singular foresight created civilization and sustains society. It usually lifts our spirits, but it’s also the source of most depression and anxiety, whether we’re evaluating our own lives or worrying about the nation. Other animals have springtime rituals for educating the young, but only we subject them to ‘commencement’ speeches grandly informing them that today is the first day of the rest of their lives.”
“Titled ‘Carne y Arena,’ the project has both Hollywood bona fides — it is partly funded by the studio heavyweight Legendary Entertainment — and the stamp of the art house community, for which Cannes is a holy site. … ‘Carne y Arena’ tells the story of Latin American immigrants who are attempting to cross into the United States via the Arizona desert when they are spotted and caught by U.S. authorities.”
Uh oh. “We’re going to see ransomware against our cars. Our digital video recorders and web cameras will be taken over by botnets. The data that these devices collect about us will be stolen and used to commit fraud. And we’re not going to be able to secure these devices.”
Why yes, I’d like to use “Bank Butt” for the living room, while “Snowbonk” is nice for the kitchen. In short: “1. The neural network really likes brown, beige, and grey; 2. The neural network has really, really bad ideas for paint names.”
The evidence says Amazon Go may be coming to both the UK and Europe: “The company filed applications to trademark four slogans: ‘No Lines, No Checkout. (No, Seriously),’ ‘No Queue, No Checkout. (No, Seriously),’ ‘Every Queue is a Defect,’ and ‘Every Line is a Defect.'”
Both “Less is more” and “More is more” are the catchphrases of a consumer society faced with unimagined plenty. Following World War II, “Less is more” suggested unease with mass abundance: restraint became an emblem of refinement. Two decades of uninterrupted prosperity later, “More is more” poked fun at its abstemious parent. It is also a fitting description of the way we live now.
“In physics, it’s dangerous to assume that things ‘exist’ in any conventional sense. Instead, the deeper question is: what sorts of processes give rise to the notion (or illusion) that something exists? For example, Isaac Newton explained the physical world in terms of massive bodies that respond to forces. However, with the advent of quantum physics, the real question turned out to be the very nature and meaning of the measurements upon which the notions of mass and force depend – a question that’s still debated today.”
Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. “The phrase has a dour fatalism to it – if everything’s bound to fail, why bother trying? But time has distorted the law’s intended meaning entirely. There really was a Murphy, and the law that bears his name is not an admission of defeat. It is a call to excellence.” Corinne Purtill explains. (Has she ruined it for the rest of us?)
Recognize the name but can’t quite place it? The Dunning-Kruger Effect is the cognitive phenomenon wherein many people (especially on the lower end) overestimate their abilities, such as 80% of drivers rating themselves above average. (We’ve been seeing the effect in action quite a lot lately.) The incident that inspired psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger to investigate the phenomenon was a doozy.
Nietzsche argued that with the death of God (i.e., the power of religion in society), notions of sin and guilt and expiation would fade away. In the industrialized West, that just hasn’t happened: the ideas of guilt (“liberal guilt,” if one likes) and expiation have driven the movements for human rights, environmentalism, animal welfare, international war crimes tribunals, and (more obviously and controversially) for reparations for colonialism and slavery. Wilfred McClay looks at these movements – and what he sees as their extensions, the exaltation of victim status and the speech wars on college campuses – and find their roots deep in the beliefs and assumptions of Western Christianity and, before it, Judaism.
“Almost 2,500 years before the current vogue for behavioural economics, Plato was identifying and seeking to understand the predictable irrationalities of the human mind. He did not verify them with the techniques of modern experimental psychology, but many of his insights are remarkably similar to the descriptions of the cognitive biases found by Kahneman and Tversky. Seminal papers in behavioural economics are highly cited everywhere from business and medical schools to the social sciences and the corporate world. But the earlier explorations of the same phenomenon by Greek philosophy are rarely appreciated.”
In its origin, cool was a creation of African-American jazz musicians to face the pressure of Jim Crow arrangements during a time when the United States was an unembarrassedly racialist white society. At various points in its history, cool was, in Dinerstein’s language, “the aestheticizing of detachment,” “an emotional mask, a strategy of masking emotion,” “a public mode of covert resistance,” “a walking indictment of society,” “relaxed intensity” played out through the jazz musician, who was “global culture’s first non-white rebel.”
“Over the past five decades, and especially over the past few years, much of the world has got faster. Working patterns, political cycles, everyday technologies, communication habits and devices, the redevelopment of cities, the acquisition and disposal of possessions – all of these have accelerated. Meanwhile, over the same half century, almost entirely unnoticed by the media or mainstream academia, accelerationism has gradually solidified from a fictional device into an actual intellectual movement: a new way of thinking about the contemporary world and its potential.”
Having a secret is mostly about thinking about the secret, alone (which makes sense, really). “The actual act of hiding — the moment a person makes up a lie, or changes the subject, or simply omits certain information from a conversation — proved to be only a minor part of the experience of having a secret. Instead, what seems to affect people much more is how often they think about the secret.”
And apparently the book – a branding campaign, via Nike’s ad firm Wieden + Kennedy – isn’t too terrible: “Lady Madeline Parker flees the pending oppression of a loveless marriage, taking a job in a seaside tavern under the cloak of anonymity. She soon meets Harland, a bespectacled sailor with a mysterious past.”
“While we frequently wring our hands about the fact that news is in ‘crisis’, we rarely discuss what news actually is. Much like history, news is fundamentally a way of imposing order on the messy totality of what’s going on around us. The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘news’ as ‘newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent or important events’. Or, in [historian Robert] Darnton’s words, news is ‘stories about what happened’. What we consider to be news is therefore intimately connected to our perception of time.”
“Moral grandstanding is worse than being merely annoying. There are strong moral reasons to avoid grandstanding: it leads people to adopt extreme and implausible claims, and it devalues public moral discussion. But what is it and what are moral grandstanders trying to do?”
When these philosophers claim that art has ended, they are not saying that there will be no new artworks. Their claim is quite different. They are telling us that art has some kind of goal, or line of development, which has been completed; plenty more will happen in art, but there is nothing left to achieve.
“If art is defined by human emotions, what might happen once external algorithms are able to understand and manipulate human emotions better than Shakespeare, Picasso or Lennon? After all, emotions are not some mystical phenomenon — they are a biochemical process. Hence, given enough biometric data and enough computing power, it might be possible to hack love, hate, boredom and joy.”
“Most [evolutionary biologists] see outrageous sexual traits” – say, beautiful plumage and elaborate mating rituals in birds – “as reliable advertisements. The logic goes that only the fittest manakins could coordinate their movements just so. Only the healthiest peacocks could afford to carry such a cumbersome tail. Their displays and dances hint at their good genes, allowing females to make adaptive decisions. But [ornithologist Richard] Prum says that view is poorly supported by years of research, and plainly makes no sense when you actually look at what birds do.”
A “consciousness lecture,” an “intention experiment,” electronic “personal meditation assistants,” and the MIT Mood Meter: a reporter visits the first-ever World Happiness Summit in Miami.
“We measure the very moments of our lives by computer-driven clocks and calendars that we keep in our pockets. I get why people think this way. Still, it’s a pernicious fallacy. To believe that change is driven by technology, when technology is driven by humans, renders force and power invisible.”
“No one ever tells you how much you suck at something. Unless you have a mean boss, an abusive parent or a malicious friend, most people are happy to help us maintain the delusion that our efforts are not in vain. No, we cannot count on people around us to let us know how much we suck. It is far more acceptable to compliment than to criticize. So the onus is on us as individuals to admit to ourselves how much we suck at something. And then do it anyway.”
“The harm of a censorship system is not just that it impoverishes intellectual life; it also fundamentally distorts the rational order in which the natural and spiritual worlds are understood. The censorship system relies on robbing a person of the self-perception that one needs in order to maintain an independent existence. It cuts off one’s access to independence and happiness. Censoring speech removes the freedom to choose what to take in and to express to others, and this inevitably leads to depression in people. Wherever fear dominates, true happiness vanishes and individual willpower runs dry. Judgments become distorted and rationality itself begins to slip away. Group behavior can become wild, abnormal and violent.”
In a single two-hour workshop, “Devine and Cox offered ideas for substitute habits. Observe your own stereotypes and replace them, Cox said. Look for situational reasons for a person’s behavior, rather than stereotypes about that person’s group. Seek out people who belong to groups unlike your own. Devine paced among the desks, making eye contact with each student. ‘I submit to you,’ she said, her voice steady with conviction, ‘that prejudice is a habit that can be broken.'”
That’s right: Google may be making plans for people to use Android Pay … by triggering facial recognition.
How? Maybe just luck (there haven’t been high-profile suicides or murders on Twitch, unlike Facebook Live, for instance), and maybe the way Jeff Bezos is obsessed with managing the company’s “cool” look.
See, this is why research funding is so important: “Not familiar with YInMn? Don’t worry, it’s pretty new to the color scene. The pigment was discovered by accident in 2009 at Oregon State University in a chemistry lab run by Mas Subramanian, a professor in materials science, and his graduate students. Accident or not, Crayola liked the new hue.”
“Ear-openers represent the top slice of bread in the complaint sandwich. The meat of the sandwich is the complaint itself, or the request for redress, and the bottom slice of bread in the complaints sandwich is the digestive. The digestive is a positive statement much like the ear opener that comes at the close of the complaint.”
‘The language of analytic philosophy,’ he complained, ‘“forces” the reader to a conclusion through a knock-down argument.’ Discussion thus became a zero-sum game. If the loser of an argument did not accept his opponent’s conclusion ‘he dies’, a victim of his own mental weaknesses. Among the collateral damages of this aggression was an appreciation of intellectual diversity. Nozick aspired to pacify philosophy.