“From the ‘genius bar’ at the local Apple Store to bestselling books that trumpet ‘the genius in all of us,’ geniuses seem to abound. But if we consider the idea of ‘genius’ as it has evolved across history, it starts to look like we don’t really need geniuses as we once did. … The increasing banality of genius in the contemporary world has begun to dissolve it as a useful category.”
The idea of homo sapiens‘ predecessors having been “savage” and “primitive”, in contrast to our own intelligence and ingenuity, has been fundamental to our species’s modern idea of itself. “[Yet] Neanderthals created complex tools, buried their dead, had an organized use of space, probably cared for the infirm, and perhaps even conversed vocally.”
“Feisty personalities, although unpleasant, can be tremendously effective. … You’re probably avoiding this strategy because you think that being negative is, well, negative. … The good news is that a whole range of negativity – of beneficial negativity, mind you – has nothing to do with being a jerk.
“Global information warfare is not virtual. It is mostly latent; that is, it is in the world but not experienced as part of the world. It is a war without shadows. You cannot see it, and you cannot hear it; it happens silently every day, can hit anyone anywhere, and we can all be its unsuspecting victims.”
“I’ve decided that the champions of innovation-speak are as confused by the subject as anyone. To them, technology is a thing with a life of its own. And it can evidently only be understood via the ministrations of a class of reverent spiritual adepts, duly catechized in treating its essence as holy and its creators as demigods. And so their tales are ultimately as simple, as explicit in their lessons, as a sacred text.”
“Even under roads and public parks, there are centuries-old historic sites to avoid. There are more practical obstacles, too, like canals, major traffic crossings, and sites where things like underground garages will be built in the future. … Then there’s the chance the drilling process will stumble across something like the ruins of an unknown ancient castle.”
“After a severe brain injury, some people remain in a vegetative or minimally conscious state, unable to speak or move intentionally, and seemingly unaware of the world around them. In recent years, however, neuroscientists have found signs that some of these patients may be conscious, at least to a degree.”
“What people don’t like, apparently, is the idea, borne in on them every day as science marches through their genetics and into their brains, that a person is merely a slub in the fabric of the universe, no more than a complicated and clever bulge amid the threads of causation, rather than a free-wheeling, free-choosing, autonomous, responsible initiator of deeds.”
“Operating beyond normal science’s simple accumulation of more information, Big Data is touted as a different sort of knowledge altogether, an Enlightenment for social life reckoned at the scale of masses. As with the similarly inferential sciences like evolutionary psychology and pop-neuroscience, Big Data can be used to give any chosen hypothesis a veneer of science and the unearned authority of numbers.”
Study: “They found that heavy multitaskers—those who multitask a lot and feel that it boosts their performance—were actually worse at multitasking than those who like to do a single thing at a time. The frequent multitaskers performed worse because they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, and they were slower at switching from one task to another. Ouch.”
“Google is known as a search engine, yet there is barely any searching involved anymore. The gap between a question crystallizing in your mind and an answer appearing at the top of your screen is shrinking all the time. As a consequence, our ability to ask questions is atrophying.” Says Google’s head of search, “The more accurate the machine gets, the lazier the questions become.”
“As some comedians are fond of pointing out, basically anything can be joked about if you do it the right way. Ebola would seem to be a particularly tough subject – it is, after all, killing a lot of people at this very moment, so anyone attempting to joke about it has to scale a rather imposing initial wall of tastelessness. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.”
“Traditional approaches to language treated sounds, words, phrases, sentences, and meanings as essentially separable, and choked on language that relied on the multi-level interactions that characterize Shakespeare’s verse. That our brains are continually bombarded by information from all sides, though, is a basic tenet of modern approaches to cognition.”
“You will soon be able to slip on a Rift and be instantly transported to a mall with a couple of girlfriends to do some clothes shopping. Everything you see is your size, and you can try outfits on an avatar that has your identical proportions. You can match items with an online inventory containing a copy of every item of clothing in your real-world closet. See how the skirt goes with the shoes you picked up last week with a click.”
In Dallas, some parents are keeping their kids home from school. Nearly 40% of Americans are evidently concerned that there will be an Ebola outbreak in the U.S. Certain TV pundits are energetically stoking the fear. A bioethicist explains where hypochondria comes from and why it isn’t entirely fair to callit irrational.