“A potent, short-lasting compound that has been found throughout the plant kingdom” – notably, in ayahuasca – “DMT can induce the sensation of leaving the body, producing profound changes in sensory perception, mood and thought, when it is administered externally – for instance, when it’s smoked or injected. Those under the influence sometimes compare the episode to the near-death experience, complete with perceived sentient beings who transmit information, often in the form of visual language.” Anthropologist Graham St. John looks at the history of DMT research and the debate over whether or not humans’ pineal glands can produce it themselves (and what it would mean if they did).
Pinker is an evangelist for Enlightenment values, arguing that the philosophers of that era laid the groundwork for the scientific and social breakthroughs that have lifted millions out of poverty and created a healthier, wealthier world. At a time when it often feels like we’re backsliding, his argument has found a receptive audience.
The results were striking: individuals who completed these tasks while their phones were in another room performed the best, followed by those who left their phones in their pockets. In last place were those whose phones were on their desks. We saw similar results when participants’ phones were turned off: people performed worst when their phones were nearby, and best when they were away in a separate room. Thus, merely having their smartphones out on the desk led to a small but statistically significant impairment of individuals’ cognitive capacity—on par with effects of lacking sleep.
Happiness studies and positive psychology, which started seriously taking off in the 1990s, are “scholarly fields that combine Eastern religions, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and behavioral economics – but above all represent a shift of focus among some psychologists from mental illness to mental health, from depression and anxiety to subjective well-being.”
“Because the brain grades on a curve, endlessly comparing the present with what came just before, the secret to happiness may be unhappiness. Not unmitigated unhappiness, of course, but the transient chill that lets us feel warmth, the sensation of hunger that makes satiety so welcome, the period of near-despair that catapults us into the astonishing experience of triumph.” Neurobiologist Indira M. Raman explains why the brain requires that contrast.
“Curation” lends to the proceedings a certain air of quasi-professionalism. It seeks to claim for the proprietors an exquisitely refined faculty of discrimination, a sense that “objective” higher standards are being enacted and adhered to. The selection that has been made, we are being assured, was not a product of whim or fancy, let alone crass commercialism.
“Since individuals’ investment in their own education is personally rewarding, you might infer that government investment in society’s education would be socially rewarding. But this is a classic ‘fallacy of composition.’… Yes, schooling is selfishly lucrative—at least for strong students. On a societal level, however, it is shockingly wasteful for students weak and strong. Federal, state, and local government spends far too much money educating Americans.”
You might wonder how people who seem so good by occupation could be so bad in private. The theory of moral licensing could help explain why: When humans are good, it says, we give ourselves license to be bad.
He’s Marcel Gauchet, and he’s writing a magnum opus. “In our neoliberal age, democracy has come to mean little more than the pursuit of individual rights and interests, while the hope of determining our shared fate through democratic means has become strangely elusive. To think ourselves out of this mindset, we need history—and lots of it.”
Why? And how? “We might deny that morality needs to be taught, putting our faith in the natural goodness of children or their propensity to discover and sign up to moral standards of their own accord. Or we might bite the indoctrination bullet and resolve to inculcate a selected moral code and associated justification. … Or we might decline to educate in morality and simply educate about it. … But the objections to these responses are obvious, and serious.”
A man who worked on the technology of Hawking’s voice synthesizer in 1986 got a call in 2014 about saving the tech. “In nearly 30 years, he had never switched to newer technology. Hawking liked the voice just the way it was, and had stubbornly refused other options. But now the hardware was showing wear and tear. If it failed entirely, his distinctive voice would be lost to the ages.” This is the story of the quest to save it all.
And this is from the students themselves, who ranked arts degrees above language, history, and philosophy. This may be more a reflection of the schools than the subject, however. One student: “I fail to see where my money has been spent other than on new campus development, staffing and subsidising degrees in other disciplines.”
The belief that humans are perfectible leads, inevitably, to mistakes when ‘a perfect society’ is designed for an imperfect species. There is no best way to live because there is so much variation in how people want to live. Therefore, there is no best society, only multiple variations on a handful of themes as dictated by our nature.
Dreams differ not only across a single lifetime or a single night, they also differ dramatically across historical epochs. The dreams of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and indeed the dreams of most peoples of the ancient world, were viewed as direct portals into the spirit world and the realm of the ancestors and gods. Ancient peoples (and traditional peoples even today) often experienced dreams as the place to conduct a transaction with a spirit being who could significantly help or hinder you in your daily affairs.
Some people have denied the existence of consciousness: conscious experience, the subjective character of experience, the “what-it-is-like” of experience. Next to this denial—I’ll call it “the Denial”—every known religious belief is only a little less sensible than the belief that grass is green.
What is your justification in believing that 2 + 2 = 4? You are justified because you understand the concepts involved. You understand what all the terms in that simple sum mean and that, as a result, the sum of two and two is four. Philosophers call that sort of justification a priori justification, and describe it as justification independent of experience. But how could there be such justification? Isn’t all justification dependent on experience?
We are experiencing a fundamental paradigm shift in our relationship to knowledge. From the ‘information age’, we are moving towards the ‘reputation age’, in which information will have value only if it is already filtered, evaluated and commented upon by others. Seen in this light, reputation has become a central pillar of collective intelligence today. It is the gatekeeper to knowledge, and the keys to the gate are held by others.
Properly conceived, leisure could be the ultimate social safety net for an era of technologically driven uncertainty. It is potentially a space for bootstrapping new “careers,” which may or may not adhere to the traditional forms of self-employment or wage labor. It is also a space where one can move beyond the career-as-identity paradigm altogether, and contribute to one’s community through cultural and civic activities that are ignored in economic models because they are unremunerated.
Built into the standard conception of rationality are two fundamental assumptions. The first is that there is a best way for any life to be. The second is a more technical assumption – I’ll call it the Axiom of Transitivity for Better Than – which holds that for any three choices, if the first option is better than the second, and the second option is better than the third, then the first option must be better than the third.
Using the Vulcan printer, ICON can print an entire home for $10,000 and plans to bring costs down to $4,000 per house. “It’s much cheaper than the typical American home.” It’s capable of printing a home that’s 800 square feet, a significantly bigger structure than properties pushed by the tiny home movement, which top out at about 400 square feet. In contrast, the average New York apartment is about 866 square feet.
Not long ago, the scientists and software developers who pioneered the World Wide Web thought it would democratize publishing and usher in a more open, educated and thoughtful chapter of history. But while the Internet and its offshoot technologies have improved society and daily life in many ways, they have been an unmitigated disaster for the way we communicate and learn.
“Many a scholar will have a hard time admitting this point, but, beyond the academy, there’s not a single skill set that would be enhanced by reading Virgil. A mechanic or surgeon who reads Virgil will be neither a better mechanic or surgeon—nor a better human being. He’ll just be a mechanic or surgeon who enjoys Virgil. When it comes to being relevant to a larger purpose beyond ourselves, there is no case to be made for reading Virgil. Unfortunately, we persist in making our cases in response to the standard attacks.”
“Americans have reached a point where ignorance, especially of anything related to public policy, is an actual virtue,” Tom Nichols would write in the preface to The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Expertise and Why It Matters, which was published by Oxford last year and quickly became a bestseller. “To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong about anything.” Further down the page, he would add: “I’m worried.”
“Minds are not made by nervous systems alone but rather by nervous systems in cooperation with many other and far older living systems of our body, including metabolic, endocrine, immune and circulatory systems. Nervous systems are late-comers in evolution. They are useful servants of the older life systems
The internet has made the pace of language change much, much faster. “Now that every English speaker in the world can talk to every other English speaker in the world, the virus is mutating vociferously. The modern grievance airer must keep pace.”
If you look at the early days of science fiction with the author of Frankenstein, and then turn to recent movies Black Panther, Annihilation, and A Wrinkle in Time, you get pretty serious acknowledgement that women are an integral part of the genre. The films “dispute a mainstream perception of science fiction as a masculine genre, using feminine costumes and environments to build the strong-willed characters. Nothing will stop these women from overcoming the perilous obstacles ahead of them.”
The massive new study analyzes every major contested news story in English across the span of Twitter’s existence—some 126,000 stories, tweeted by 3 million users, over more than 10 years—and finds that the truth simply cannot compete with hoax and rumor. By every common metric, falsehood consistently dominates the truth on Twitter, the study finds: Fake news and false rumors reach more people, penetrate deeper into the social network, and spread much faster than accurate stories.
“[A team of researchers in Italy] created a computer model of human talent and the way people use it to exploit opportunities in life. The model allows the team to study the role of chance in this process. … Their simulations accurately reproduce the wealth distribution in the real world. But the wealthiest individuals are not the most talented (although they must have a certain level of talent). They are the luckiest. And this has significant implications for the way societies can optimize the returns they get for investments in everything from business to science.”
“The knitting project has been a particularly fun one so far just because it ended up being a dialogue between this computer program and these knitters that went over my head in a lot of ways. The computer would spit out a whole bunch of instructions that I couldn’t read and the knitters would say, this is the funniest thing I’ve ever read.”
“A crime happens, and there is a witness. Instead of a sketch artist drawing a portrait of the suspect based on verbal descriptions, the police hook the witness up to EEG equipment. The witness is asked to picture the perpetrator, and from the EEG data, a face appears. … Is it mind reading? Sort of.” And Canadian researchers are just beginning to make it a reality.