Ideas

Why Has Innovation Become A Religion?

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“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.”

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Learning Narrative From Your Pet Wolf

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“Depending on the details I selected, the story could be comic or sad. My parents could be painted as reckless or heroic. I could accept one teller’s version over another. I could create my own. Fiction, through fabrication, finds the truth that real life tends to cover up.”

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How Do You Build A Beer Pipeline Under A Medieval World Heritage Site?

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“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.”

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The Conscious Unconscious (What Science Is Learning)

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“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.”

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Are We Merely The Product Of Neurons Firing And Cells Replicating? (Or Is There Something Bigger?)

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“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.”

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Animals Can Also Be Heroes, Of Course

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Sure, we know about dogs who’ve rescued people and the cat that chased a dog away from a toddler, but seals, hippos, and rats are among the many animals who’ve been observed displaying altruistic behavior. (Especially rats, some of whom have learned to locate land mines.)

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The “Culture” Of Big Data (And What It Doesn’t Mean)

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“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.”

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Are You A Multi-Tasker? Oh, Oh…

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Study: “They found that heavy multitaskers—those who multitask a lot and feel that it boosts their performance—were actually worse at multitasking than those who like to do a single thing at a time. The frequent multitaskers performed worse because they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, and they were slower at switching from one task to another. Ouch.”

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Free Versus Anti-Free – Artists Should Get Paid. (And Yet…)

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“If the conversation is reduced to money alone, then all writing is reduced to content, all artists to content producers, and part of our utopia is lost. One did not become a writer in order to starve, but nor did one become a writer in order to get rich. So why did one become a writer?”

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Is Google Making Us All Dumber? The Neuroscience Of Search Engines

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“Google is known as a search engine, yet there is barely any searching involved anymore. The gap between a question crystallizing in your mind and an answer appearing at the top of your screen is shrinking all the time. As a consequence, our ability to ask questions is atrophying.” Says Google’s head of search, “The more accurate the machine gets, the lazier the questions become.”

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What Makes Some Ebola Jokes Okay And Others Beyond The Pale?

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“As some comedians are fond of pointing out, basically anything can be joked about if you do it the right way. Ebola would seem to be a particularly tough subject – it is, after all, killing a lot of people at this very moment, so anyone attempting to joke about it has to scale a rather imposing initial wall of tastelessness. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.”

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Shakespeare As A Model For Cognitive Science

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“Traditional approaches to language treated sounds, words, phrases, sentences, and meanings as essentially separable, and choked on language that relied on the multi-level interactions that characterize Shakespeare’s verse. That our brains are continually bombarded by information from all sides, though, is a basic tenet of modern approaches to cognition.”

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Architects 3D-Print A Column That Can Withstand Earthquakes

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“The aptly named Quake Column is a knurled pillar of 3-D printed concrete that combines an ancient Incan masonry technique with state-of-the-art manufacturing tools to create a structure that can withstand seismic shocks without mortar or rebar.”

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Virtual Reality Could Change The Ways We Live Our Lives

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“You will soon be able to slip on a Rift and be instantly transported to a mall with a couple of girlfriends to do some clothes shopping. Everything you see is your size, and you can try outfits on an avatar that has your identical proportions. You can match items with an online inventory containing a copy of every item of clothing in your real-world closet. See how the skirt goes with the shoes you picked up last week with a click.”

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There’s An Epidemic In America – Of Hypochondria (Blame Ebola)

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In Dallas, some parents are keeping their kids home from school. Nearly 40% of Americans are evidently concerned that there will be an Ebola outbreak in the U.S. Certain TV pundits are energetically stoking the fear. A bioethicist explains where hypochondria comes from and why it isn’t entirely fair to callit irrational.

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Facebook Will Never Stop Manipulating Us

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“Facebook has every reason to manipulate the News Feed to optimize for whatever user engagement metrics correspond to the best returns for advertisers, which in turn correspond to the best returns for Facebook. And it has every reason to use other experiments in an effort to improve other parts of its operation.”

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