Have Humans Been Evolving Themselves?

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“People want to know if humans are getting taller, smarter, better looking or more athletic. My answer is truthful but disappointing: We’re almost certainly evolving, but we don’t know in what direction or how fast.”

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When People Were Scared Of Computers

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“In the early 1980s, the age of the personal computer had arrived and ‘computerphobia’ was suddenly everywhere. … [The subject] came up in magazines, newspapers, computer training manuals, psychology studies, and advertising copy.”

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When The Medieval World Had Robots

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“Throughout the Latin Middle Ages we find references to many apparent anachronisms, many confounding examples of mechanical art. Musical fountains. Robotic servants. Mechanical beasts and artificial songbirds. Most were designed and built beyond the boundaries of Latin Christendom, in the cosmopolitan courts of Baghdad, Damascus, Constantinople and Karakorum. Such automata came to medieval Europe as gifts from foreign rulers, or were reported in texts by travellers to these faraway places.”

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How Tech Criticism Is Failing Us

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“That radical critique of technology in America has come to a halt is in no way surprising: it could only be as strong as the emancipatory political vision to which it is attached. No vision, no critique. Lacking any idea of how sensors, algorithms, and databanks could be deployed to serve a non-neoliberal agenda, radical technology critics face an unenviable choice.”

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When Memory Stops Functioning, Where Does A Person’s Identity Reside?

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“Dementia undermines all of our philosophical assumptions about the coherence of the self. … Everyone touched by the disease goes through a crash-course in the philosophy of mind. … If someone cannot remember not just where the milk bottle goes, but what a milk bottle is for, then the shared pre-suppositions on which communication, meaning and identity depend become badly strained.”

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A More Complicated View Of What Makes Us Intelligent

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“Increasingly, it makes less sense to think of genes and environments as independent causes,” writes a research team led by Penn State sociologist David Baker. Its examination of likely reasons for the gradual rise in IQ scores over the 20th century suggest more challenging curriculums, to a significant degree, create smarter students.

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People Are Fighting Over Sand (And There’s A Shortage)

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“Though the supply might seem endless, sand is a finite resource like any other. The worldwide construction boom of recent years—all those mushrooming megacities, from Lagos to Beijing—is devouring unprecedented quantities; extracting it is a $70 billion industry. In Dubai enormous land-reclamation projects and breakneck skyscraper-building have exhausted all the nearby sources. Exporters in Australia are literally selling sand to Arabs.”

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Living Life Without The Brain’s Memory Center

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“Her life is an endless series of jump cuts. In our age of pinging distractions, people often express a desire to ‘be present,’ but Johnson belies such sentimentality. She is marooned in the present.” A profile of an artist whose hippocampus was completely destroyed in 2007 by a viral infection – and what neuroscientists are learning about the brain from the things she can and cannot now do.

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Study: Listening To Music Improves Heart Health

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“A newly published, small-scale study from Greece finds listening to either classical or rock music positively impacts two important predictors of cardiovascular risk. The effects are particularly pronounced for classical music fans, who, in the study, had a more robust physiological response to music of either genre.”

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The Dangers Of Spiritual Amateurism In America

Dangers of Spiritual Amateurism in America

“Much of the forbidden, obscure, and esoteric knowledge that once made Buddhism and other religions difficult to study has now become accessible – with potentially dangerous results. … This is the spiritual equivalent of giving every teen driver a Formula 1 racing car: It’ll go fast, but many young innocents will end up splattered on the road.”

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Neuroscientists Wonder: Can Our Brains Retain A Child’s Capacity To Learn?

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“The possibility of reawakening our youthful, receptive brains has piqued a lot of interest among educators, therapists, and those in search of expanded experience or thought. I might be able to immerse myself in music lessons and absorb them more effectively. Others might disable the plasticity brakes before a trip abroad, quickly learning a new language.”

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An Atheist’s Search For A Useful Morning Prayer

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Heather Havrilesky: “Unfortunately, I don’t like saying bold and glorious words out loud. So I need a prayer that’s not too prayer-like. I need a belief system that doesn’t require me to suspend my disbelief. My prayer shouldn’t conjure pews and crosses and a vengeful God, but also it shouldn’t conjure wind chimes and scented candles and middle-aged men in linen pants. I need to honour my soul, of course. Who doesn’t? But I want to do it in a way that doesn’t make me feel like I’m living in a douche commercial.”

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When The Bots Take Over

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It’s understood now that, beside what we call the “real world,” we inhabit a variety of virtual worlds. Take Twitter. Or the Twitterverse. Twittersphere. You may think it’s a stretch to call this a “world,” but in many ways it has become a toy universe, populated by millions, most of whom resemble humans and may even, in their day jobs, be humans. But increasing numbers of Twitterers don’t even pretend to be human. Or worse, do pretend, when they are actually bots.

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TED As Evangelical Performance

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“A great TED talk is reminiscent of a tent revival sermon. There’s the gathering of the curious and the hungry. Then a persistent human problem is introduced, one that, as the speaker gently explains, has deeper roots and wider implications than most listeners are prepared to admit. Once everyone has been confronted with this evidence of entropy, contemplated life’s fragility and the elusiveness of inner peace, a decision is called for.”

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A Rabbi And An Atheist Talk Good And Evil

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And they didn’t walk into a bar, they walked into the 92nd St. Y. They’re Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, and Rabbi Geoffrey Mitelman, founder of Sinai and Synapses, “an organization that aims to bridge the gap between scientifically grounded views and spiritual belief.”

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