But weirdly, they only got there after the Catholic Church banned many Aristotelian ideas as heretical. “Among the ideas that Tempier condemned was a principle of Aristotelian thought that held that the ‘first cause’ (or, as medieval scholars would have said, God) could not have made more than one world.”
“This manuscript, never before published, is marked ‘A Lecture’ and dated ‘1966-67.’ Where and when it was delivered, or if it was delivered, is not known. The manuscript seems too long for a single lecture. … The where and when of the lecture have not been confirmed, though extant records have been thoroughly searched.”
The key, based on academic research into adult learning, is cognitive dissonance. Suzanne Cope explains.
You don’t need drugs, either, according to research – though both religion and drugs can help. “Much of our personality is made up of attitudes that are usually subconscious. We drag around buried trauma, guilt, feelings of low self-worth. In moments of ecstasy, the threshold of consciousness is lowered, people encounter these subconscious attitudes, and are able to step outside of them. They can feel a deep sense of love for themselves and others, which can heal them at a deep level. Maybe this is just an opening to the subconscious, maybe it’s a connection to a higher dimension of spirit – we don’t know.”
Primatologist Robert Sapolsky: “Humans universally make Us/Them dichotomies along lines of race, ethnicity, gender, language group, religion, age, socioeconomic status, and so on. And it’s not a pretty picture. We do so with remarkable speed and neurobiological efficiency; have complex taxonomies and classifications of ways in which we denigrate Thems; do so with a versatility that ranges from the minutest of microaggression to bloodbaths of savagery; and regularly decide what is inferior about Them based on pure emotion, followed by primitive rationalizations that we mistake for rationality. Pretty depressing. But crucially, there is room for optimism.”
“You would lean against the lockers with a faraway expression on your face and let people assume whatever they wanted. Like that you were a girly girl but could also be a tomboy. Or that back in your home town you’d been friends with a bunch of crows. And everyone assumed that if they saw a crow it probably knew you, because you had some kind of understanding with crows owing to undefined telepathic abilities that made you look troubled now and then but also really important. And if anyone wanted to track down an old friend of yours and write her an actual letter to find out if any of this was true, well, best of luck to them.”
Joe Berkowitz: “The best pun I heard during the course of writing the book was: ‘I went to go shopping for cherries and microphones the other day: bought a bing, bought a boom.'”
Yes, this is a real thing that happens. Larry and Toby Milstein are the 20-something children of the (very wealthy) people who live in the apartment where Bernstein used to live. “Inspired by the many artists who have called the Dakota home, and spurred by their own substantial arts philanthropy, these millennial billion-heirs have taken to hosting séances that are attended by their fashionable set of well-connected peers.”
For instance, at the London Design Biennale, “Guatemala, which ties for sixth place in the Global Emotions Report, will show an installation about the community action taking place in Santa Catarina Palopó. This town on the volcanic shores of Lake Atitlán is reinventing itself as a kind of conceptual art, using the paintbrush to boost civic pride and tourism. Its residents have become involved in a two-year scheme in which they are painting their houses in bold Mayan patterns, with a strict but vibrant palette of five colours sourced from local textiles.”
“Only a tiny percentage of people in the post-industrial world will ever end up working in software engineering, biotechnology or advanced manufacturing. Just as the behemoth machines of the industrial revolution made physical strength less necessary for humans, the information revolution frees us to complement, rather than compete with, the technical competence of computers. Many of the most important jobs of the future will require soft skills, not advanced algebra.”
“In this technology-ridden world, it’s easy to assume that the seat of human intelligence is similar to our increasingly smart devices. But the reliance on the computer as a metaphor for the brain might be getting in the way of advancing brain research.”
“Scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital studied 17 ‘superagers,’ people over 65 who have the mental function of those in their 20s. The goal was to find out if there were any observable differences between superager brains and normal brains, and if so, whether the rest of us could use that information to give ourselves better brain function through the years.” The Answer? Yes!
A longread report on “Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data,” a full course taught by two data scientists at the University of Washington who believe that teaching bullshit detection is one of the main purposes of education – and crucial for a healthy democracy. (Be sure to look out for Brandolini’s Bullshit Asymmetry Principle.)
Australian scientists have recreated a famous experiment and confirmed quantum physics’s bizarre predictions about the nature of reality, by proving that reality doesn’t actually exist until we measure it – at least, not on the very small scale.
“People who enjoy a lot of respect — like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk — warn of a coming artificial intelligence apocalypse. Others say the conversation has become alarmist — either that general AI is unlikely, or that even if it arrives, it will be here to help, not harm us.”
“Maybe the abolition of privacy will kill the novel. But more likely, as with the invention of trains or rockets or sex, it will make it new. One of a writer’s rewards is to find himself alive in the detail of his stories, and the age of the internet provides a whole new funfair of existential provocations. In my childhood, the visiting funfair was called “The Shows”, and that is what I found when I went looking for heroes in the fiction machine, carnivalesque people who are bent of shape – by their pasts, by their ambitions or by their illusions – under the internet’s big tent. In a world where everybody can be anybody, where being real is no big deal, some of us wish to work back to the human problems, driven by a certainty that our computers are not yet ourselves. In a hall of mirrors we only seem like someone else.”
Patrick West: “Since his death in 1900, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche has had the unfortunate distinction of being blamed for three catastrophes to have befallen Western civilization” – World War I (some of his bellicose writings), World War II (the whole Übermensch thing), and relativism (thanks to Foucault). “But is Nietzsche really to blame? And was he really a relativist? I would say that he isn’t and he wasn’t. I believe that it’s time that the great man and free-thinker par excellence was reclaimed by the school of the Enlightenment.”
Despite Nietzsche’s pointed, if sporadic, political commentary, there’s a debate among scholars about the political relevance of his thought. On the one side are those who think Nietzsche’s concerns were largely apolitical. If you comb through his texts, you don’t find much that speaks directly to traditional political concerns. And when he does touch the political, it’s never in any systematic way; there’s no unified theory. On the other side are those who see in Nietzsche a deeply political thinker. It’s true that much of his writing is about morality and the role of art in society. But if you believe, as I do, that ethics and culture are inseparable from politics, Nietzsche’s ideas are inescapably political.
“The spectacular advances of modern science have generated a mindset that makes potential limits to scientific inquiry intuitively difficult to grasp. Again and again we are given examples of seemingly insurmountable problems that yield to previously unimaginable answers. Just as some physicists believe we will one day have a Theory of Everything, many cognitive scientists believe that consciousness, like any physical property, can be unraveled. Overlooked in this optimism is the ultimate barrier: The nature of consciousness is in the mind of the beholder, not in the eye of the observer.”
Power is a drug, or it’s worse than a drug. A psychology professor found during two decades of work that people “under the influence of power” act like they have brain injuries, “becoming more impulsive, less risk-aware, and, crucially, less adept at seeing things from other people’s point of view.”
Actually, art is better when the artists are organized, or so say these two artists who have written a book about creativity.
The theory runs: “The Cars-verse includes a World War II–era Jeep named Sarge, who explicitly references events like the Battle of the Bulge. In the direct-to-DVD film Planes (made by Disney but not Pixar), there is an actual WWII flashback in which the plane Skipper recalls losing his entire squadron in the Pacific Theater. Assuming that Car WWII occurred, and that it contains the same contours as the actual WWII, we can assume that there were Car Axis powers, and thus a Car Hitler.”
We’re physical beings, so maybe we think our minds are more powerful than they are. “Is it possible that our experience of decision-making — the impression we have of making choices, indeed of having choices to make, sometimes hard ones — is entirely illusory? Is it possible that a chain of physical events in our bodies and brains must cause us to act in the way we do, whatever our experience of the process may be?”
Senator Al Franken – author of “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them,” which is now 20 years old – and Olivia Wilde, about to star in “1984” on Broadway, talk lies, fake news, truth, and literature. Franken: “It’s adorable to think I made a living by pointing out that people were lying. And people seemed to care about it back then.”
“Imagine that a legal structure were erected to execute the wishes of the dead, and that the law would side with the dead even when their wishes conflicted with the needs of the living, or with the wellbeing of future generations.”
“It is with relatively high confidence that I predict you’re going to see a boom in landscape architecture. You will see innovation and invention that has never been possible, because suddenly, everyone’s going to have all this excess space.”
In just the article we need for a summer Friday at the office, Melissa Dahl offers three suggestions that generally work for her.
Stephen Greenblatt leads us through the 4th-century theologian’s life and writings to explain how he invented the doctrine of original sin and associated it with sex and conception – and how, to justify that doctrine, he constructed an elaborate argument to take literally a biblical story that thinkers had treated as an allegory.
“The model that allowed two bots to have a conversation—and use machine learning to constantly iterate strategies for that conversation along the way—led to those bots communicating in their own non-human language. If this doesn’t fill you with a sense of wonder and awe about the future of machines and humanity then, I don’t know, go watch Blade Runner or something.”
“Revenge and punishment both imply, ‘Even if I’d been you, and I’d had your life, I would never have done what you did.’ And that in turn implies, ‘I wouldn’t have done it, because I’m better than you.’ But the person who says, ‘I’m better than you’ is taking a serious step in a very dangerous direction. And the person who says, ‘Even if I’d had your life, I would never have done what you did’ is very probably wrong.”