It started with a pair of spiritualists in post-Civil-War New York; became a ubiquitous family pastime that was considered good, clean fun (and great for a date); and had its reputation ruined by The Exorcist. (It also told its first manufacturers what it wanted to be called.) (includes podcast)
“One of the biggest misconceptions people have about mindfulness is that you can train yourself to stay in this mindful state all of the time. … Even if you spent 20 years in a Tibetan monastery, you would not be able to stay in a mindful state. We are not, evolutionarily, designed to stay in this blissful, present-moment awareness state.”
“As a German citizen who came to the United States relatively late in life, I was initially struck by how much more positive thinking was valued in the United States than back in Europe.” Research psychologist Gabriele Oettingen had presumed this was a good thing – until she started doing some studies. It seems that some kinds of positive thinking are a lot less helpful than others.
“France’s leadership is struggling to pay for the government it provides. While the capital remains a global magnet of culture, it increasingly risks becoming a playground for the world’s elite, detached from its midsize cities, villages and countryside, where rising hardships stoke resentments and widen the opening for far-right parties.”
“Our original cinematic visions of imagined futures — often dystopian wastelands — were shaped by their film locations on what was then undeveloped land outside Los Angeles. Even the futuristic worlds on soundstages called back to Los Angeles, a city whose rapid growth was multi-pronged and haphazard.”
“From the ‘genius bar’ at the local Apple Store to bestselling books that trumpet ‘the genius in all of us,’ geniuses seem to abound. But if we consider the idea of ‘genius’ as it has evolved across history, it starts to look like we don’t really need geniuses as we once did. … The increasing banality of genius in the contemporary world has begun to dissolve it as a useful category.”
The idea of homo sapiens‘ predecessors having been “savage” and “primitive”, in contrast to our own intelligence and ingenuity, has been fundamental to our species’s modern idea of itself. “[Yet] Neanderthals created complex tools, buried their dead, had an organized use of space, probably cared for the infirm, and perhaps even conversed vocally.”
“Feisty personalities, although unpleasant, can be tremendously effective. … You’re probably avoiding this strategy because you think that being negative is, well, negative. … The good news is that a whole range of negativity – of beneficial negativity, mind you – has nothing to do with being a jerk.
“Global information warfare is not virtual. It is mostly latent; that is, it is in the world but not experienced as part of the world. It is a war without shadows. You cannot see it, and you cannot hear it; it happens silently every day, can hit anyone anywhere, and we can all be its unsuspecting victims.”
“I’ve decided that the champions of innovation-speak are as confused by the subject as anyone. To them, technology is a thing with a life of its own. And it can evidently only be understood via the ministrations of a class of reverent spiritual adepts, duly catechized in treating its essence as holy and its creators as demigods. And so their tales are ultimately as simple, as explicit in their lessons, as a sacred text.”
“Even under roads and public parks, there are centuries-old historic sites to avoid. There are more practical obstacles, too, like canals, major traffic crossings, and sites where things like underground garages will be built in the future. … Then there’s the chance the drilling process will stumble across something like the ruins of an unknown ancient castle.”
“After a severe brain injury, some people remain in a vegetative or minimally conscious state, unable to speak or move intentionally, and seemingly unaware of the world around them. In recent years, however, neuroscientists have found signs that some of these patients may be conscious, at least to a degree.”
“What people don’t like, apparently, is the idea, borne in on them every day as science marches through their genetics and into their brains, that a person is merely a slub in the fabric of the universe, no more than a complicated and clever bulge amid the threads of causation, rather than a free-wheeling, free-choosing, autonomous, responsible initiator of deeds.”
“Operating beyond normal science’s simple accumulation of more information, Big Data is touted as a different sort of knowledge altogether, an Enlightenment for social life reckoned at the scale of masses. As with the similarly inferential sciences like evolutionary psychology and pop-neuroscience, Big Data can be used to give any chosen hypothesis a veneer of science and the unearned authority of numbers.”