“Today’s elite angst about so-called post-fact or post-truth public discourse is but the latest version of an historical struggle – a struggle over the question of who possesses moral and intellectual authority. Indeed, the rejection of the values and outlook of the holders of cultural power in many Western societies has long been portrayed as a rejection of truth itself. The reason elite values have been enshrined as ‘the truth’, right from the Ancient Greeks onwards, is because the rulers of society need to secure the deference of the masses. The masses are being encouraged to defer not to the power of the elites, but to the truth of elite values.”
“As information technologies come to affect all areas of life, they are becoming implicated in our most important problems — their causes, effects, and solutions, the scientific investigations aimed at explaining them, the concepts created to understand them, the means of discussing them, and even, as in the case of Bill Gates, the wealth required to tackle them. Furthermore, information technologies don’t just modify how we act in the world; they also profoundly affect how we understand the world, how we relate to it, how we see ourselves, how we interact with each other, and how our hopes for a better future are shaped. All these are old philosophical issues, of course, but we must now consider them anew, with the concept of information as a central concern.”
Musk’s alarming views on the dangers of A.I. first went viral after he spoke at M.I.T. in 2014—speculating (pre-Trump) that A.I. was probably humanity’s “biggest existential threat.” He added that he was increasingly inclined to think there should be some national or international regulatory oversight—anathema to Silicon Valley—“to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish.” He went on: “With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon. You know all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water and he’s like, yeah, he’s sure he can control the demon? Doesn’t work out.”
“Many believe we live in a post-literate age, one in which, writer Douglas Glover concludes, “books have become irrelevant.” Others disagree, some vehemently. His point is not, however, one I want to enter into a debate over. I don’t want to beat up on the degraded tastes of the common reader, analyse the impact of the digital revolution on reading habits, or make an appeal for the government to do more to address stubbornly high rates of illiteracy. What I find of most concern and significance is the rise in aliteracy—the growth of a population that can read but simply doesn’t want to.”
Father Reginald Foster was one of the two chief Latin experts at the Vatican for four decades – and an instructor whose influence has spread through schools and universities all over the U.S. Says one prominent professor who’s a former student, “He is not just the best Latin teacher I’ve ever seen, he’s simply the best teacher I’ve ever seen.” Says another, “I saw him for an hour in Rome in 1985 and that one hour completely changed my life. His approach was completely different from every other Latin teacher out there, and it was totally transformative.”
For much of modern history, icebergs have helped us speak about deeper reservoirs of meaning. The phrase “just the tip of the iceberg” has, at least since the environmental movements of the Sixties, expressed the idea that there is much more to something than meets the eye. As the historian William Cronon observes, internalizing nature through language like this is our best way of understanding it—and ourselves.
“Language is a tool used to describe the world in which we live. However, don’t confuse the map with the territory! There is one major difference between the world we live in and language: Whereas the real world is free of contradictions, the man-made linguistic descriptions of that world can have contradictions.”
“The world’s most improbable video game plunges you into a virtual Walden Woods, where you can ‘live deliberately,’ as Thoreau famously put it, replacing drudgery in the pursuit of material comfort with a quest for spiritual fulfillment in harmony with nature. ‘It’s an attempt to make a game that has a kind of stillness at its core,’ says its lead developer, Tracy Fullerton.” But is that what players use it for?
“To accept my definition of style is to concede that for it to assert itself, a number of pretty unusual characteristics have to coexist in one individual. As such, a gifted writer’s style is as irreducible and arbitrarily conferred as any talent; amenable to practice and refinement, sure, but at base as God-given and inimitable as Federer’s touch or Picasso’s hand. Here lies the existential challenge faced by the style guide or writer’s manual: beyond the nuts and bolts of usage and basic writerly manners, they are attempting to teach the unteachable.”
“The Black List [is] an anonymous survey in which industry professionals name the scripts they liked the most that year. [It] was started in 2005 by a 27-year-old film executive from west Georgia named Franklin Leonard, and has become an influential index of the most original and well-written – if not the most bankable – screenplays in Hollywood. Its power to launch careers and expedite projects is astounding.” (print and podcast)