ArtsJournal: Arts, Culture, Ideas


A Wilting Critique Of Meritocracy

The story of the concept of ‘meritocracy’ has been well rehearsed in recent times, largely because of the way in which inequality and precarity have exposed its weaknesses. But some are still surprised to learn that the idea was conceived in the spirit of social satire, not the spirit of idealism. - Sydney Review of Books

Big Claims For The Kind Of Art AI Will Make

Miller argues that AI-fueled art gains independence from its algorithmic parents and takes flight in works that bear the hallmarks of creativity and genius and will one day exceed human artists’ wildest imaginative dreams. Miller says he sympathizes with what I’m saying about the power of art coming from the connection with a human artist, plumbing their emotions and consciousness. But I’m being premature. Just wait, he says, computers will one day produce art as transcendent as the works of Beethoven and Picasso were in their times. - Nautilus

How We’ll Know If An AI Develops Consciousness

Clearly, asking questions about consciousness does not prove anything per se. But could an AI zombie formulate such questions by itself, without hearing them from another source or belching them out from random outputs? To me, the answer is clearly no. If I’m right, then we should seriously consider that an AI might be conscious if it asks questions about subjective experience unprompted. - Nautilus

COVID Is The Great Reset — And The Future Is Grim

What they are being told is this: In order for this economy to thrive, we don’t actually need you. We don’t need your labor, because robots and a few college kids will do ever more of the work. To which the unneeded must reply, “Yeah, but what am I supposed to do?” The answer to that question is becoming increasingly obvious: die. Die of Covid, die of poverty, or die of despair, but as much as possible, do it where you won’t be seen. - Lapham's Quarterly

How (And Why) We Forget Most Things In Life

An efficient memory system involves “a finely orchestrated balancing act between data storage and data disposal.” To retain an encounter, deliberate attention alone will get you most of the way there. - The New Yorker

What Algorithms Choose For You (Your Responsibility Too)

This sifting and ranking process results in a News Feed that is unique to you, like a fingerprint. But of course, you don’t see the algorithm at work, and you have limited insight into why and how the content that appears was selected and what, if anything, you could do to alter it. And it is in this gap in understanding that assumptions, half-truths, and misrepresentations about how Facebook works can take root. - Medium

The Science Of Loneliness

One review of the science of loneliness found that people with stronger social relationships have a 50 per cent increased likelihood of survival over a set period of time compared with those with weaker social connections. Other studies have linked loneliness to cardiovascular disease, inflammation, and depression. - Wired

Have We Been Traumatized By The Proliferation Of Therapy-Speak?

"Around every corner, trauma, like the unwanted prize at the bottom of a cereal box. The trauma of puberty, of difference, of academia, of women’s clothing. When I asked Twitter whether the word’s mainstreaming was productive, I was struck by two replies. First, overapplying the term might dilute its meaning, robbing “people who have experienced legitimate trauma of language that is already oftentimes too thin.” And, second, invoking “trauma” where “harm” might suffice could play into the hands of “people who despise and fear vulnerability.” - The New Yorker

What Powered The Enlightenment

There was no single Enlightenment message: instead it was a cacophony of voices, speaking and writing in all the languages of Europe. There were great figures, many of whom are still familiar today, whose names were honoured in salons from Portugal to Austria and France to Sweden. Diderot, Voltaire and Kant were household names, but Ritchie Robertson argues for a varied, inclusive and rather unhierarchical image of the Enlightenment: one in which French bishops, English jurists and German poets, most of whom are now long forgotten, participated in equal measure. - History Today

When Real Tragedy Strikes, What Can Criticism Do?

A critic wonders, in the wake of two mass shootings after a year of mass death and destruction. "Every day I’m thankful for the work I get to do. I am paid to watch, to think, to write. But this week, like so many others recently, it has felt pointless, even silly, to analyze fictional stories when real people are dying." - The New York Times

As Animal Crossing Turns One, A Writer Contemplates How Its Look And Sounds Have Accompanied The Pandemic

Amal El-Mohtar: "While the animal-people of the game speak incomprehensible approximations of their textual dialogue — not unlike hearing language in a dream — and the jaunty soundtrack provides comedy noises when you get stung by wasps or bitten by mosquitoes, the sounds of your character moving physically through the island are astonishingly immersive. ... The visual cues may be cartoony, but the sound's realism translates the green triangles of grass into vividly encountered texture." - NPR

In Isolated, Dark, Solitary Times, Lighthouse Keepers Know How To Survive

Truly. Well, except for the occasional disappearance, murder, and the like. But in pandemic times, we might feel like we understand them. "All they had was each other and the sea. Rooms piled one on top of the other, a couple of strides across and that’s it, no way out, nowhere else to go." - The Guardian (UK)

Some Artists Actually Made Money During The Pandemic

To be fair, not that many. But a few found real success while every other vehicle for their work was shut down. For instance, some of those "who pulled out such things as sewing machines and cookie cutters in an effort to make money over the last year were met with unexpected success. Hundreds of budding entrepreneurs started selling homemade face masks on Etsy, for example. Others found a market for artisan foods, including fancy cookies and charcuterie boards. Yarn sales took off. Custom aprons, puzzles and coloring books were all in high demand." - Los Angeles Times

Dream Big, Sure. But It Can Paralyze You

Sure, audacious goals can be energizing. But a fixation on them can lead to big disappointments. Worse, when your eyes are constantly on the horizon, you can miss what is right in front of you. For happiness, we need a better approach to setting goals—one that sets us up for success in life and lets us enjoy the here and now. - The Atlantic

Can We Preserve Brains? Can We Preserve You?

The implications surrounding a human brain-preservation technique that can keep the entire connectome intact are profound. If indeed, you are your connectome, defined by all the memories and essences of you imprinted in its structure, then it’s essentially you that’s preserved. Your connectomic self. - Aeon

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