“The internet and digital media have created the impression of limitless knowledge at our fingertips. But, by making us lazy, they have opened up a space that ignorance can fill.”
“Zombies belong to the realm of horror stories that reappear over and over throughout history – from ancient Mesopotamia to modern-day sci-fi – because they raise a more terrifying fear than merely that of a gory death: the threat of eternal life.”
Martha Nussbaum looks at two of anger’s main drivers, loss of status and the desire for payback, and looks to Aristotle and Nelson Mandela for examples of how to deal with them.
“We like silence for what it doesn’t do—it doesn’t wake, annoy, or kill us—but what does it do? When Florence Nightingale attacked noise as a “cruel absence of care,” she also insisted on the converse: Quiet is a part of care, as essential for patients as medication or sanitation. It’s a strange notion, but one that researchers have begun to bear out as true.”
“Q: If you’re going to procrastinate, are there better and worse ways to do it?”
Charles Duhigg: “There is no magic formula that applies to all people. What we do know is that often people are fairly bad at picking up on what is refreshing and rejuvenating, and so they tend to misevaluate what they should do as a break.”
“We humans are oddly fond of trusting our guts. Well, that might not be such a great idea: The same people more likely to go with intuition over rational thought are worse judges of others’ emotions, according to new research.”
“To see if they could actually identify such patterns, the team had 80 people solve a series of math problems while lying in an fMRI scanner. Using a mix of otherwise standard methods from computer science and neuroscience, they identified a sequence of brain-activation patterns corresponding to encoding a problem, planning a solution, making the necessary computations, and providing a response.”
“Human beings are extraordinarily good at deceiving themselves and possibly never more so than when they think that they have had a new idea, as Steven Poole makes clear in this fascinating compendium of new ideas that aren’t new at all.”
“[Jonathan] Jackson sees his thoughts as shapes. Every person he meets, every sentence he reads, and every decision he makes are presented as data points on a kind of continuously moving mental scatter plot, creating figures he compares to constellations.”
The real interest in the term “public intellectual” lies in what its usage can tell us about ourselves: how we imagine the links between politics and prose, thought and action, individual contemplation and social congregation. Why, for example, has the notion of publicness itself become such a high value for some, practically synonymous with benevolence, as if to attach “public” to the name of a discipline grants it a special dignity?
“Stanford had funded Muybridge’s work for years, and this was their most meaningful trial yet, so when Stanford’s horse trotted down the track at 40 feet per second, Muybridge was ready with his camera.”
“Within the community, each person will be allotted just 200 square feet of living space, but apartments will be soundproofed, with Roomba-sized robots that rearrange furniture for different needs and times of day. … Furnishings and possessions not being used will be stored inside 4-by-4-foot boxes that are integrated into the apartment floors and electronically move up and down as needed.”
“The game gives users a heightened appreciation both for public space and the architectural and historical landmarks in their city. Apparently, so many players have flocked to the National Mall in Washington DC that the National Park Service has encouraged rangers to help people find Pokémon, and learn about historical monuments in the process.”
“Farmers will continue to rely on off-farm income to pay their bills. They will choose loan payments over savings accounts, chicken feed over dental care. They will face the heartbreaking decision to leave their farms.”
As a neuroscientist, my interest lies mainly in a more practical question: is it even technically possible to duplicate yourself in a computer program? The short answer is: probably, but not for a while.
Where philosophers have long debated how much we should trust our perception of the external world, neuroscientists operate on the assumption that we shouldn’t trust it much at all. According to neuroscience, it’s pretty much all in your head. Your world, through neuroscience’s empirical lens, is a construct you’ve built from patterns your brain has identified in sensory experiences.
“According to a 2014 Gallup poll, 70 percent of Americans think that the crime rate is increasing, up from 63 percent in 2013. But the reality is that America is getting safer. The national crime rate is about half of what it was at the peak in 1991. … Nnow that crime rates are so low, people have ‘very little direct experience of crime,’ so their perceptions are mainly shaped by news media and entertainment.”
“Just like regular maps, brain maps are useful points of reference. Scientists use them to agree on what they’re studying in the first place, say, by pointing to something called the “anterior cingulate cortex” and having other people know what they’re talking about. But over time, better data can refine those maps. So a team of researchers have marshaled a huge amount of brain scan data to create a new, precise brain map, published in Nature today.”
“What happens after death? In this, the ancients looked to Hades, god of the underworld, brother of Zeus and Poseidon. But Hades gave no reassurance. … Sympathetic interest in the human condition eventually led the Greeks to adopt new forms of religion and new cults. No longer seen as a joyless fate, the afterlife became more of a personal quest.”
“Art requires emotional and phrenic investments, with the promised return of a shared slice of the human experience. When we view computer art, the pestering, creepy worry is: who’s on the other end of the line? Is it human? We might, then, worry that it’s not art at all.”
“Good listening is much more than being silent while the other person talks. To the contrary, people perceive the best listeners to be those who periodically ask questions that promote discovery and insight. These questions gently challenge old assumptions, but do so in a constructive way.”
Jenna Wortham: “Facebook, which can be seen as a kind of social census, now offers nearly 60 different gender options … Plainly, we are in the midst of a profoundly exhilarating revolution. And ‘queer’ has come to serve as a linguistic catchall for this broadening spectrum of identities, so much so that people who consider themselves straight, but reject heteronormativity, might even call themselves queer. But when everyone can be queer, is anyone?”
Linguistic philosopher Ian Olasov: “I think the philosophy of language can help us understand what’s going on, and what I’ve found in some of my research on moral slogans might shed a unique kind of light on the issue.”
Pokemon is also heavily tilted toward cities, not small towns and rural areas. But why? Turns out history is the reason.
“Honorable Turkish nation, claim democracy and peace: I am calling you to the streets against this action of a narrow cadre that has fallen against the Turkish nation. Claim the state, claim the nation.”
“We are caught in a series of confusing battles between opposing forces: between truth and falsehood, fact and rumour, kindness and cruelty; between the few and the many, the connected and the alienated; between the open platform of the web as its architects envisioned it and the gated enclosures of Facebook and other social networks; between an informed public and a misguided mob. What is common to these struggles – and what makes their resolution an urgent matter – is that they all involve the diminishing status of truth.”
“Given enough frustration, it’s normal and healthy to get angry. But for a subset of the U.S. population – some 7 percent of adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health – the propensity to fly off the handle is so great that they can be professionally diagnosed with ‘Intermittent Explosive Disorder,’ or IED.” (Yes, IED as in improvised explosive device.)
“While Freud’s concept of the superego played a more ethical role, encouraging the id and ego to follow moral rules, [the] Id-Ego-Superego structure roughly matches onto the Unconscious-Conscious-Metacognition structure of the mind studied in neuroscience today.”
“The basic idea—that we should rank candidates for power according to some desirable quality, then pick the best of them—seems too obvious to have needed inventing, but invented it was, and (at least in the West) not so long ago. If we go back to the occasion of its first appearance in the English-speaking world, we will find a group of men who opposed it, not just because they did not think it would work in practice, but because they disagreed with it in principle.”
“Metaknowledge functions as a powerful bullshit detector. It can separate crowd members who actually know something from those who are guessing wildly or just parroting what everyone else says.” It can also function, writes George Musser, as a “lie detector” and/or a “truth serum.”