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.”
“A research team led by Girija Kaimal of Drexel University found just a few minutes of doodling or freestyle drawing activates the brain’s reward system, leaving people feeling more creative and confident in their problem-solving abilities.”
“It is as if the brain reacts to a stimulus by building then razing a tower of multi-dimensional blocks, starting with rods (1D), then planks (2D), then cubes (3D), and then more complex geometries with 4D, 5D, etc. The progression of activity through the brain resembles a multi-dimensional sandcastle that materializes out of the sand and then disintegrates,”
Oh yes, they do happen – as recently as last year in India, and in 2007 in the U.S. (in Omaha). One major problem, though, is serving the defendant with papers. Seriously.
“Let it be said that studying boredom will not solve our problems with respect to desire and its tangles; nothing but death can do that! But Heidegger was right that the correct attitude to boredom is one of rigorous fascination.
According to the “spin-off” theory of philosophical progress, all new sciences start as branches of philosophy, and only become established as separate disciplines once philosophy has bequeathed them the intellectual wherewithal to survive on their own.
“In the field of self-improvement, there have always been snake oil salesman ready to promote gimmicks disguised as legitimate answers. But the internet age has ushered in a whole new era: The maddening proliferation of hope — clouded in broscience. The 7 ways to transform your sex life. Use polyphasic sleep to hack your energy levels. Dump a stick of butter in your coffee to energize your breakfast and keep you feeling full all day (no shit — you just dumped a stick of butter in your coffee). All of these hacks carry a similar message: If only we did XYZ, then our bodies, minds, and entire lives will transform for the better.”
A half-ironic Tumblr post from October has changed The Babadook forever: “In recent weeks, the Babadook-as-queer-icon has gone from a internet in-joke to a Pride Month figurehead, with remixed representations of the monster he appears in a storybook in the film featuring in celebrations online and off.”
Google learned early on to devote time to training its people to relax – and that was for business purposes. “Meditation and other restful practices don’t just help workers disconnect—they may boost innovation, too.”
A meditation upon the titles we throw away: “I no longer go to church, since here in the Catskills we have the dump. Ours is the purest iteration of the cathedral: on a windswept rise under a ceiling of sky, the enclosing mountains the choir waiting silently to begin. Beneath the metal eaves of a soaring peaked roof, mortal leavings gather.”
The Roma in Europe number about 12 million, the largest ethnic minority in Europe – and after generations of working on it, they’re getting their own institute for arts and culture.
“The democratisation of consumer goods has made them far less useful as a means of displaying status. In the face of rising social inequality, both the rich and the middle classes own fancy TVs and nice handbags. They both lease SUVs, take airplanes, and go on cruises. On the surface, the ostensible consumer objects favoured by these two groups no longer reside in two completely different universes. Given that everyone can now buy designer handbags and new cars, the rich have taken to using much more tacit signifiers of their social position.”
“Study after study … suggest[s] the ways that popularity imprints itself on people’s lives, far beyond the teenage years, through both its presence and its absence. Popularity affects people’s ability to find success in their careers, regardless of their intelligence or their work ethic. It affects their ability to find fulfilling friendships and romantic relationships. … [It’s] much like class in America: It divides people. It defines people. Yet we generally treat it as a relic of the past – as something that was, once, but that thankfully is no more.”
“For humans, a sketch is a depiction of a real thing. We can easily understand the relationship between the abstract four-line representation and the thing itself. The concept means something to us. For SketchRNN, a sketch is a sequence of pen strokes, a shape being formed through time. The task for the machine is to take the essences of things depicted in our drawings and try to use them to understand the world as it is.”
“Dr. Pimple Popper” (a California dermatologist), for instance, has well over 2 million YouTuibe subscribers. “There’s actually a psychological explanation for loving these videos – or at least voluntarily watching more of them.” Katherine Ellen Foley explains this intersection between disgust and curiosity.
It can be a motivator to do what needs to be done, and (like banging your head against the wall) you can feel much better after you stop. The key, as usual, is moderation.
“The computer learns by having another algorithm—a teacher—progressively introduce constraints—here are different available instruments, these are chords, this what it means to sing in soprano. In essence, the algorithm is replicating Bach’s creativity based, not evolving its own creative genius. As such, AI algorithms are best suited to be creative collaborators.”
“As far as your neurons are concerned, a face is a sum of separate parts, as opposed to a single structure.”
“Cults, generally speaking, are a lot like pornography: you know them when you see them. … Less easy, though, is identifying why. Knee-jerk reactions make for poor sociology, and … often (just as with pornography), what we choose to see as a cult tells us as much about ourselves as about what we’re looking at.” Tara Isabella Burton looks at numerous examples and considers where it’s appropriate to draw the line.
“The defining trait of the age seems to be arrogance — in particular, the kind of arrogance personified by our tweeter in chief; the arrogance of thinking that you know it all and that you don’t need to improve because you are just so great already. But our culture’s infatuation with this kind of arrogance doesn’t come out of the blue.”
“Democracy cannot function when every citizen is an expert. Yes, it is unbridled ego for experts to believe they can run a democracy while ignoring its voters; it is also, however, ignorant narcissism for laypeople to believe that they can maintain a large and advanced nation without listening to the voices of those more educated and experienced than themselves.”
For instance: “Phyllis Latour Doyle, secret agent for Britain during World War II, spent the war years sneaking information to the British using knitting as a cover. She parachuted into occupied Normandy in 1944 and rode stashed bicycles to troops, chatting with German soldiers under the pretense of being helpful—then, she would return to her knitting kit, in which she hid a silk yarn ready to be filled with secret knotted messages, which she would translate using Morse Code equipment.”