“Two years ago, in an essay on the persistence of the Frankfurt School, I wrote, ‘If Adorno were to look upon the cultural landscape of the twenty-first century, he might take grim satisfaction in seeing his fondest fears realized.’ I spoke too soon. His moment of vindication is arriving now.”
“The idea is that the desire to counter racism might itself end up fomenting prejudice. Based on what we know about the human mind and the psychology of bias, should this ‘backlash’ explanation of the Trump Effect” – the marked rise in incidents of harassment and even assault since the election – “carry any weight?” Daniel Engber looks at the research.
No, not the “unlikeable” ones like Cersei Lannister on “Game of Thrones,” whose walk of shame partially redeems her, but the ones on dark comedies like “Fleabag” and “Transparent,” wherein the characters offer “a way of challenging audiences to confront their own biases against historically less sanctioned forms of female behavior.”
Fidel Castro was sidelined from power a decade before he died – and artists were still repressed and controlled. But his death “does mark a tremendous psychological milestone.”
Teju Cole takes note of Taryn Simon’s work, and makes marching orders for our time: “We don’t turn to history because it is demonstrably relevant, and we don’t look at art only because it is monumental or beautiful.”
‘Mom’ is now the highest form of flattery. Witness one Twitter response to a photo of Beyoncé with her daughter: “Beyoncé just ENDED your moms, moms mom, moms mom’s cousin, your moms mom’s cousin’s friend, and your moms mom’s cousin’s friends dog.”
“Mainstream economics is built on the premise that the economy is a machine-like system operating at equilibrium. … The system might experience shocks, but the result of all these minute decisions is that the economy eventually works its way back to a stable state. … But why not look at the economy in terms of the messy complexity of natural systems?”
“When the technology of the home was more like a tool to augment human muscle power – a place for the washing machine, the fridge, the boiler – the home was as a private, bounded space. Now technology is breaking down those boundaries. When parents worry about where their children are going (metaphorically) and to whom they’re talking on social media, they’re acknowledging that people can be at home, in their bedrooms, and yet somewhere else simultaneously. Young people seem to be most at home when they are on – or perhaps ‘in’ – their phones, flicking between apps, surfing their social networks.”
“Honestly, being a black man, I had thought that I had been marked enough,” writes George Yancy, a philosophy professor at Emory who is one of a couple hundred individuals that “advance leftist propaganda in the classroom,” according to a website launched by conservative youth group Turning Point USA.
In their main finding, the researchers report the ability to make connections between distant concepts was associated with “structural variation” of several specific brain regions, one of which “was connected to distant regions through long-range pathways.”
“A new study finds that, for some, logic- and evidence-based reasoning may as well have been commandments handed down from God. … Yeah, they’re looking at you, New Atheists.”
“Both sets of studies confirm the importance of evidence accumulated after a decision has been made, but diverge on the source of this evidence. The Cambridge group suggests that an incoming stream of evidence is continually accumulated both before and after a choice has been made. By contrast, the Trinity College group suggests that top-down signals – information that feeds back to influence earlier stages of processing – provide an additional input to enable changes of mind.”
Remember the Satanic-ritual-abuse-in-day-care panic of the 1980s and ’90s? Here’s a look at how the false memories of the young victims-that-weren’t got implanted and took hold – and how some of them handled it when, years later, they came to understand that what they thought they remembered hadn’t really happened.
“Through much of human history, frugal simplicity was not a choice but a necessity – and since necessary, it was also deemed a moral virtue. But with the advent of industrial capitalism and a consumer society, a system arose that was committed to relentless growth, and with it grew a population (aka ‘the market’) that was enabled and encouraged to buy lots of stuff that, by traditional standards, was surplus to requirements. As a result, there’s a disconnect between the traditional values we have inherited and the consumerist imperatives instilled in us by contemporary culture.”
“The idea that we should be constantly policing our thoughts away from the past, the future, the imagination or the abstract and back to whatever is happening right now has gained traction with spiritual leaders and investment bankers, armchair philosophers and government bureaucrats and human resources departments. So does the moment really deserve its many accolades?”
No, not everything is available on streaming (as a matter of fact, most things are not). The few indie video/DVD/Blu-Ray stores that survived the 2000s are coming back strong. “Saving the video is sort of cultural stewardship. …If you want to see stuff from 15, 20, 30 years ago, you have to do deep detective work if it’s not a famous movie.”
Yikes. The app’s technical details make it ripe for exploitation by those into “post-truth” memes: “Disinformation that would quickly be debunked on other networks thrives on Instagram, especially since it hasn’t been worth mainstream media organizations’ effort to devote significant time or money to the platform.”
When we have new experiences and encounter unfamiliar ideas, clusters of neurons are formed and existing clusters connected with previously learned behaviors are strengthened. Through the right kind of training, our brains can adapt to perform at higher levels than many of us tend to think—pushing us past what we believe our “natural abilities” to be.
“What would society and civilisation be like if we didn’t have to ‘earn’ a living – if leisure was not our choice but our lot? Would we hang out at the local Starbucks, laptops open? Or volunteer to teach children in less-developed places, such as Mississippi? Or smoke weed and watch reality TV all day? I’m not proposing a fancy thought experiment here. By now these are practical questions because there aren’t enough jobs.”
“Archaeologist of sound” Mylène Pardoen: “The houses were very tall, so the sound stayed. It … sound remained there and seemed thicker than it would today. It was not louder, nor was it less loud. It was denser. There were more sounds that collided with one another.” (includes audio)
“I think it was assumed that inner speech was just this kind of monologue, the output of a solitary voice chattering away in your head. And we now think there are a few main kinds of inner speech. Inner speech varies according to how compressed it is, how condensed. We think inner speech varies according to how much it’s like a conversation between different points of view. We’re starting to tease apart these different qualities. And that fits with the idea that inner speech has a lot of different functions. It has a role in motivation, it has a role in emotional expression, it probably has a role in understanding our selves as selves.”
Technological utopianism is always self-aggrandizing. “We stand at the high peak between ages!” the poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti wrote in his “Manifeste du Futurisme” in 1909, predicting, among other things, that the Futurist cinema would spell the end of drama and the book. Every other modern era has seen itself in exactly the same way, poised at the brink of an epochal transformation wrought by its newly dominant technology, which, as Carr notes, is always seen as “a benevolent, self-healing, autonomous force […] on the path to the human race’s eventual emancipation.”
Sissel Tolaas has a collection – a library, if you will – of more than 6,500 odors in airtight cans as well as a “smell camera” she travels with. She’s created what she calls SmellScapes of towns as varied as Mexico City, Paris, Berlin, Cape Town, London, Kansas City, and, most recently, Singapore. Here’s how she does it.
For most people “consciousness” will have various meanings and include awareness, self-awareness, thinking in language. But for philosophers and neuroscientists the crucial meaning is that of feeling something, having a feeling you might say, or an experience. An easy way to think about it would be pain.
The first incidence of time travel in fiction (Rip van Winkle and the Connecticut Yankee notwithstanding) was H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine in 1985. Ten years later, Einstein first published his theories – and it turns out Wells’s fantasies matched up pretty well. “Time travel has been an object of fascination ever since.”
The data show Americans move geographically less. So what is the cause? “My best guess is that the greatest single factor in the great settling down was the increasing physical and economic security of US life.”
This is a truly creepy story of mysterious secrets controlled by a private cabal of gatekeepers who deny researchers for no clear reason and seem to “regard their role, in part, as guarding the reputation of the British monarchy.”
“We turned to ritual, to dance, to quiet conversations that played softly like a piano in the dark, to the old ways, to prayer, to cussing, to tears, to side eye, to righteous pettiness, to shade throwing, to memes, to each other. Increasingly, we turned to song. This was hardly by chance.”
This is a story of the human readers – called “lectors” – and their political affiliations, and how technology changed everything.
Add the historic city of Nimrud (Nimrod in the U.S.) to the list of places ISIS has utterly destroyed. But hey, technology: “Digital scanning, robot etching and 3D reproduction can recreate these monuments, to an exactness unknown to past attempts at such reinstatement. Extrusion techniques can rebuild monuments using the dust of the ruins themselves.”