Just because an academic field is timeless doesn’t mean it should never change. If the humanities are ever to enjoy a true resurgence, it will come as a result of a reinvention that embraces a fresh new take on old disciplines.
Natasha Jen of Pentagram: “Design thinking embodies our obsession with prescription. … We crave prescriptions and mythology in general – as a profession and as a society. … Prescriptions create a kind of prison, in terms of how we can think about things and how we work. But a very linear methodology-based way of working completely removes other possibilities.”
Khoi Vinh of Adobe: “Design thinking has a lot of downsides. It can be very superficial. It can be very misleading and the outcomes that it produces can be disappointing. It can lead to bad design. But it offers a useful lesson on how designers think about democratization of our craft.”
While disruptive innovation is inextricably linked to variations of business models and low-end market encroachment, radical innovation is reliant on organizational capabilities and individual and organizational human capital. Whereas incremental innovation — e.g. a razor company’s fifth razor blade — helps firms to stay competitive in the short-term, radical innovation focuses on long-term impact and may involve displacing current products, altering the relationship between customers and suppliers, and creating completely new product categories.
I have discovered that most people, including any number of scientists, remain cloudy on the issues involved in struggles over consciousness. Another analytical philosopher, John Searle, has referred to the consciousness “scandal.” The “scandal” is that no one agrees either on a definition of consciousness or how it comes about.
Well, they try to “modernize” it, for one thing. And the design! The Passover celebration – on a Monday, natch, when theatres are dark – “took place in a large downtown apartment in a prewar building, decorated with billowing scarves, bright pillows and hanging palm branches to replicate a Bedouin tent. The usual holiday prayers and songs, which commemorate the biblical exodus of Jews from slavery, were replaced by a high-caliber revue of poetic and musical performances from stars of some of the biggest current Broadway shows, including ‘Hamilton,’ ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ and ‘Frozen.'”
Let the handwringing begin: “Youngsters now believe that they can become an ‘overnight sensation’ by appearing on a prime time entertainment show, according to the examinations director at the Royal Academy of Dance.”
From an interview published this year: “Dictators are always afraid of poets. This seems kind of weird to a lot of Americans to whom poets are not political beings, but it doesn’t seem a bit weird in South America or in any dictatorship, really.”
Protopia is a state that is better today than yesterday, although it might be only a little better. Protopia is much much harder to visualise. Because a protopia contains as many new problems as new benefits, this complex interaction of working and broken is very hard to predict.
It’s certainly true that observation plays a crucial role in science. But this doesn’t mean that scientific theories have to deal exclusively in observable things. For one, the line between the observable and unobservable is blurry – what was once ‘unobservable’ can become ‘observable’, as the neutrino shows. Sometimes, a theory that postulates the imperceptible has proven to be the right theory, and is accepted as correct long before anyone devises a way to see those things.
How did Uber’s ratings become more inflated than grades at Harvard? That’s the topic of a new paper, “Reputation Inflation,” from NYU’s John Horton and Apostolos Filippas, and Collage.com CEO Joseph Golden. The paper argues that online platforms, especially peer-to-peer ones like Uber and Airbnb, are highly susceptible to ratings inflation because, well, it’s uncomfortable for one person to leave another a bad review.
Despite centuries of research, nobody fully understands how the convoluted mesh of biological tissue inside our heads produces the experiences of our everyday life. Gazillions of electrical, chemical, and hormonal processes occur in our brain every moment, yet we experience everything as a smoothly running unified whole. How can this be? Indeed, what is the organization of our brain that generates conscious unity?
People are usually sure that they’re living within a particular culture, but typically wonder if what they have is a civilization. It’s been that way since the days of Madame de Staël and Henry James, but the terms are still easily confused. The German historian Oswald Spengler considered civilization the teleological “inevitable destiny of culture.” And Samuel Huntington’s famous book The Clash of Civilizations, largely about the differences between the Euro-American and Arab worlds, protests that efforts to distinguish culture from civilization “have not caught on,” and the “civilization” of which he writes is really “culture,” a set of beliefs rather than a system of rule.
We arrive ready to interact with other humans and our culture. The real genius of human babies is not simply that they learn from the environment – other animals can do that. Human babies can understand the people around them and, specifically, interpret their intentions.
Geoffrey C. Bunn argues that the history of the lie detector doubles as the history of an attempt to contend with the rise of mass culture: the machine, as a manifestation of a widespread desire for order in an age of tumult. The device, Bunn suggests, is in many ways a work of science fiction that lurks, awkwardly, in the present reality—a machine that has been, from the beginning, in dialogue with pop culture and its myths.
“The difference is due, [neuro-philosopher Andy Clark] believes, to our heightened ability to incorporate props and tools into our thinking, to use them to think thoughts we could never have otherwise. If we do not see this, he writes, it is only because we are in the grip of a prejudice – ‘that whatever matters about my mind must depend solely on what goes on inside my own biological skin-bag, inside the ancient fortress of skin and skull.'”
“Virtual reality confounds the idea of the ‘mind-body problem,’ the relationship between the conscious mind and physical body that’s remained a staple of the philosophy of mind since Aristotle and Plato. Mind-body dualism dictates that the mental being is “in here” while the physical self is “out there.” But questions of neurobiology make that whole proposition more complicated.”
To assess their creativity, all students performed a series of problems from the Alternative Uses Task, a common measure of creative ability in which one is asked to come up with novel uses for a common object. Half came up with offbeat uses as they walked down the virtual corridor (whether or not doing so necessitated breaking down walls), while the others did so immediately afterwards. Either way, “superior creative performance was observed in the ‘break’ condition,” the researchers report. This result supports the thesis that the “bodily experience” of breaking down barriers “would spread to conceptual processing.”
“Whenever a fact contradicts one of our beliefs, we are prompted to restore consistency by revising some of the beliefs in our web. But in choosing what to revise, we are no longer guided by facts alone. Starting from the anomalous evidence, we look at the contested belief and its supporting justification(s), and assess how consistency can be most parsimoniously restored in light of the full web of our beliefs. We can end up revising anything, from doubting that we actually observed the anomalous evidence in the first place, to the principles of logic and mathematics that lie at the centre of our web.”
Seriously: “Fewer and fewer people look to old stories for real enlightenment these days, and for many, questions of right and wrong can seem old-fashioned. But that’s not to say there isn’t a hunger for a discourse that can teach us what behavior is praiseworthy. Now, we look to Twitter.”
Practices of toleration that used to be seen as essential to freedom are being deconstructed and dismissed as structures of repression, and any ideas or beliefs that stand in the way of this process banned from public discourse. Judged by old-fashioned standards, this is the opposite of what liberals have stood for. But what has happened in higher education is not that liberalism has been supplanted by some other ruling philosophy. Instead, a hyper-liberal ideology has developed that aims to purge society of any trace of other views of the world.
How is it that human thought is so deeply different from that of other animals, even though our brains can be quite similar? The difference is due, Andy Clark believes, to our heightened ability to incorporate props and tools into our thinking, to use them to think thoughts we could never have otherwise. If we do not see this, he writes, it is only because we are in the grip of a prejudice—“that whatever matters about my mind must depend solely on what goes on inside my own biological skin-bag, inside the ancient fortress of skin and skull.”
To assess our health, we weigh ourselves, measure our blood pressure, and check our cholesterol. But one scientist is trying to figure out the connection between our well-being and something much more difficult to quantify: wisdom.
One of the prototypes, called Project Scene Stitch, illustrates how an algorithm could be used to replace ugly buildings in the foreground of a photo—a user would enter some key words, and the algorithm would find another image that would fit naturally into the space the user wanted to fill.
“It’s a big question, when the word ‘real’ makes sense. An interesting possibility is that the whole distinction between real and unreal is misguided.”
Crowd psychology has been around since the 19th Century. But it’s only in the last few decades that there’s been a major shift to seeing crowds as more than mindless masses. “The crowd is as psychologically specific as the individual,” says the University of Sussex’s John Drury, an expert on the social psychology of crowd management.
Taste buds are actually a collection of roughly 50 to 100 cells that come in three varieties, (each responsible for detecting different tastes—salty, sweet, bitter, umami, and sour) and have a lifespan of only about 10 days. “Taste buds turnover very quickly, you will get a whole new set of taste buds in probably four weeks, all the way through your life,” Dando says. Fueling that turnover are stem cells, which sit at the base of taste buds and continuously churn out new cells. “You can imagine it’s a balance of new cells being born and old cells being broken down and dying,” he says. “What we saw is both sides of that balance being tipped.” In the obese mice, apoptosis increased in the taste buds, and the number of cells responsible for producing taste bud cells declined.
Franklin Webster “proposed one of the most grandiose schemes that has ever been seriously suggested. His intention was to transform Washington, D.C., into a capital of such beauty and cultural advantage that never again would an American be tempted to go abroad for artistic or intellectual reasons.”
The world’s optimum population is less than two billion people – 5.6 billion fewer than on the planet today, he argues, and there is an increasing toxification of the entire planet by synthetic chemicals that may be more dangerous to people and wildlife than climate change. Ehrlich also says an unprecedented redistribution of wealth is needed to end the over-consumption of resources, but “the rich who now run the global system – that hold the annual ‘world destroyer’ meetings in Davos – are unlikely to let it happen”.