“For tens of thousands of years, technology has been directed outward—on the world at large. Now, for the first time in human history, technology has reached a point where it can be directed inward—back on its creators. Technology has found something new it would like to change: Us.”
Evidence of absence: “Interpreting fossils that aren’t there comes with its own peculiar challenges, and these gaps and ghosts that haunt the fossil record are a big part of palaeontology’s allure. In dinosaur palaeontology, sample sizes are often small, and the challenge is to find creative ways to extract information from fossils. One of the most daring moves of all is to begin treating the fossils we don’t have as data.”
That’s sort of young. “So how do they do it? Like children and adults, infants appear to rely on two key features to detect funniness.”
Take a hint from the art of the Moche people: “Order gives way to chaos. The internet of things turns on its makers.”
“A technology that might have extended the field of dialogue, that might have brought distant cultures and persons into closer understanding, has contributed unexpectedly to their accelerated fragmentation. Years ago, Benedict Anderson wrote of the newspaper as an important technology of nationalist solidarity. The high politics of the nation, the sports news of the day, the freakish local weather all found places in its columns. A reader’s social imagination was, without any conscious intention, broadened to encompass them all. The very overload of information in our modern environment has helped to produce the opposite effect.”
“If something is beyond words, then it’s hard to get a handle on what, if anything, it means. Ludwig Wittgenstein, for example, was convinced that it was nonsensical to try to speak about what lies outside the limits of language. Even so, he wrote an entire book about what cannot be said.”
A company called Cyborg Nest has invented a one-inch chip called North Sense, to be permanently attached to the body, that vibrates when facing magnetic north. You don’t turn it off any more than you do your eyes or ears; it provides the same constant data stream they do – which is why the Cyborg Nest folks think it will change cognition and perception.
“Rather than diffusing controversy and polarisation, it seems as if statistics are actually stoking them. Antipathy to statistics has become one of the hallmarks of the populist right, with statisticians and economists chief among the various “experts” that were ostensibly rejected by voters in 2016. Not only are statistics viewed by many as untrustworthy, there appears to be something almost insulting or arrogant about them. Reducing social and economic issues to numerical aggregates and averages seems to violate some people’s sense of political decency.”
“When given nothing else to do, the brain defaults to thinking about the person it’s embedded in. … [That is,] brain areas related to processing emotions, recalling memory, and thinking about what’s to come become quietly active.” It’s quieting that area that Buddhist meditation practice is all about.
“Making multitasking actually work is not a matter of expanding your working memory. It’s the reverse. In order to multitask effectively, you need to decrease the amount of working memory that a task requires. And that’s where habits come in.”
“We tell stories that make us seem adventurous, or funny, or strong” – or virtuous or stoic or oppressed. “We tell stories that make our lives seem interesting. And we tell these stories not only to others, but also to ourselves. … If we reflect on the stories we tell about ourselves, both to others and to ourselves, we may well find out things about who we are that complicate the view we would prefer to be identified with. Why might this matter? Here is one reason.”
“The editors who select the topics are “deeply aware of the social impacts of new technologies and of the role of real people in shaping those technologies. We don’t treat technology in a vacuum here. We talk about how people who use technology have a chance to take some responsibility for it, and to influence its future design and direction.”
Luck is chance viewed through the spectacles of good or bad fortune. It’s really good news, at least for you, if you win the lottery, and it’s really bad news if you’re one of the passengers on the plane when it crashes. Chance, then, is the objective reality of random outcomes in the real world, while luck is a consequence of the subjective value you place on those random outcomes. Luck, we might say, is chance with a human face. Understanding this gives us a clearer view of reality, and a clearer view of reality means we can choose better courses of action.”
“Non-European thought is often underrepresented in philosophy. The rich histories of India, China, the Islamic world, and Africa are often seen as footnotes and side ventures to the thinkers of Europe. While European thought is of great use, the influence of African ideas on Freud, the influence of Maoism on many French philosophers, and the refinement of Greek ideas by Islamic thinkers cannot be denied.”
“For better or worse, we must accept that civility ‘does not exist outside of politics as an independent force,’ … but rather is just as much the ‘subject of political struggle’ as everything else.”
“The reality is, for our generation, if you care about the life of the mind, you’re just going to have to keep doing it, and who knows where you’ll be doing it? Is it going to be as an adjunct? On a tenure track? At Gotham Writers Workshop? As a journalist? As long as you can keep it going in your own head without going mad, you’ve got something.”
“Why do unpleasant hazing practices manage to remain so appealing that individuals are willing to risk legal punishment, injury and even death to keep the practices alive?” Anthropologist Christopher Kavanagh looks to the phenomena of cognitive dissonance, social glue and “costly signals” for explanations.
Physicists have been suggesting as much since Einstein. It’s all just the space-time continuum. “So in the future, the sister of the past,” thinks young Stephen Dedalus in Ulysses, “I may see myself as I sit here now but by reflection from that which then I shall be.” Twisty!
Is it bike paths? Innovative water use systems? Less greenhouse gas? Sure, but that won’t earn Australian developers the coveted six stars. “It’s about going back to that old adage of community: people, walkability, liveability, places for the kids to play. [We want to] change the way people think about how they live.”
Michael Lind with a theory about artists destroying conventions – and maybe art itself: “Modernism was not a late stage of Western art. It marked the death of the Western artistic tradition and the beginning of something entirely new — the art of global industrial capitalism. Did I say I blame the Germans? German romanticism could not have killed off Western art without the help of global industrial capitalism.”
Researchers: “We contend that the reason people dislike hypocrites is that their outspoken moralizing falsely signals their own virtue. People object, in other words, to the misleading implication — not to a failure of will or a weakness of character.”
“Secular and religious, critic and journalist alike have summoned the term to deride and outright dismiss entire areas of research and technology, including stem cells, genetically modified crops, recombinant DNA, geoengineering, and gene editing. … To urge against playing God … is to convey a mistrust of scientists – and to criticize their arrogance in the face of the power and unpredictability of nature.”
“In the last century, originality has killed one once-flourishing art form after another, by replacing variation within shared artistic conventions to rebellion against convention itself. The moment artists were taught to consider themselves superior mutant creative geniuses rather than practitioners of traditional crafts, it was only a matter of time before some would get tired of creative variation within the inherited conventions of their art and start rejecting the basic conventions.
“Reflecting on the history of logic forces us to reflect on what it means to be a reasonable cognitive agent, to think properly. Is it to engage in discussions with others? Is it to think for ourselves? Is it to perform calculations?”
Elizabeth Landau: “Otherwise reasonable people enact all kinds of rituals to promote good luck or cast off the bad, especially in situations of uncertainty. Three different Facebook friends of mine say they touch the outsides of the airplanes they are boarding before takeoff. Chimney sweeps are considered good luck in Germany, and another former colleague of mine would try to touch them when she was a girl growing up there.” What’s behind this is something called “embodied cognition.”
“It’s the rare neuroscience finding that’s immediately applicable to everyday life: By knowing the way the brain is disposed to behaving or misbehaving in accordance to your goals, it’s easier to get the results you’re looking for, whether it’s avoiding the temptation of chocolate cookies or the pull of darkly ruminative thoughts.”
“In the face of [a] typhoon of data vying for our attention, we find a measure of self-actualization in the 16 ‘likes’ that friends proffer our duck-faced self-portraits. It mixes a sense of desperation, vanity, hunger for attention, and pathos … It’s also a modern mode of ‘bookmarking,’ like carving one’s name in a tree – witness the thousands of visitors snapping selfies in front of the Mona Lisa.” Noah Charney looks at the phenomenon, referencing neuroscience, Magritte, and Bosnian stand-up comedy.
“When thinking about fashion in philosophy, there are four basic categories under which texts, thinkers and ideas can be grouped. By considering the interrelation of these groups, we can begin to glean how an idea becomes fashionable. The four categories are the fashionable, the foundational, the prohibited, and the unfashionable.”
“A quarter-century ago, psychologists began to point out important links between the development of scientific theories and how everyday thinking, including children’s thinking, works. According to theory theorists, a child learns by constructing a theory of the world and testing it against experience. In this sense, children are little scientists – they hypothesise on the basis of observations, test their hypotheses experimentally, and then revise their views in light of the evidence they gather.”
What cars may become is another sort of “third space” – that space traditionally occupied by cafes, pubs and other places where humans socialize. “Some companies have declared explicitly they want their cars to be the new third places. It’s a dramatic reinterpretation of what constitutes a social environment, and maybe not in a way we’re ready to accept.”