Is life absurd? Should we bother with it? Does it matter either way? Rightly or wrongly, Thomas Nagel’s 1971 article, “The Absurd”, is one of the most celebrated and widely-cited contributions to the literature on these questions. I certainly am struck by how frequently people refer to it in conversations I have with them about this topic. It seems like anyone with even a dim awareness of literature will have heard of Nagel’s piece.
Since the austerity crowd won't own up to a mistake, I will: I engaged in a kind of thought experiment last week, after we first learned that austerity economics is partly based on a spreadsheet error. I wondered, What if you were a government leader who sincerely believed those figures, or an economist who made the mistake of a lifetime? My empathy was misplaced. This discovery hasn't changed government policy one bit—at least not yet. Economists Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff seem surprisingly unremorseful. And austerity's paid pitchmen are still hawking their wares.
Baseball fans, here’s a unique (true?) tale of how - just after World War II - a baseball team consisting of Stratford-on-Avon actors and ex-POWs would dress in Elizabethan blouses and crush teams from nearby US air bases. “A dream team “with Paul Robeson (Othello) on first base, Sam Wanamaker (Iago) on second, Laurence Olivier (Coriolanus) on third and Peter O’Toole (Shylock) at shortstop.
Stephen Wolfram, creator of the Wolfram|Alpha search engine and author of the books Mathematica and A New Kind of Science, is known all over the world for his contributions to our understanding of computation. In 2012, he received a lot of attention for something else: At the SXSW show, he revealed that he had a more than 20-year personal computational log of, basically, the life of Stephen Wolfram. This included everything from every e-mail he had sent, to when he had gone to bed, to how long his phone conversations lasted, and much more. He then released this data on his personal blog.
I’ve been meaning to recommend Michael Huemer’s latest book — The Problem of Political Authority — for some time. I don't have much to say about it, except that it is the most comprehensive and tightly-argued defence of political anarchism that I’ve ever come across.It is a book of two halves. In the first half, Huemer looks at the problem of political authority, which he says consists in two sub-problems. The first being the problem of political legitimacy, i.e. does the state have to make certain laws and enforce them by coercion? The second being the problem of political obligation, i.e. do people have an obligation to follow the laws made by the state?
Recently I wrote a very long post in which I tried, as exhaustively as possible to discuss if it was the case to let people delegate their vote in eDemocracy. The conclusion was that it would be better not to introduce it. Which is a bitter conclusion, because it halts the conversation before it starts. I also suggested that IF we wanted to allow delegated voting, it should be done in a “non linear” way. In other words, it should be possible to delegate someone, but it’s not a good deal.
Artificial wombs are a staple of science fiction, but could we really build one? As time passes, we’re inching closer and closer to the day when it will finally become possible to grow a baby entirely outside the human body. Here’s what we’ll need to do to pull it off.
Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee hearing on drones was not your usual droning and yammering. Well, mostly it was, but not entirely. Of course, the White House refused to send any witnesses. Of course, most of the witnesses were your usual professorial fare. But there was also a witness with something to say. Farea Al-Muslimi came from Yemen. His village had just been hit by a drone strike last week.
It was a time when the greatest power the world had yet known suffered an attack on its primary city which seemed to signal the coming of an age of unstoppable decline.The once seemingly unopposable power no longer possessed control over its borders,it was threatened by upheaval in North Africa, unable to bring to heel the stubborn Iranians, or stem its relative decline. It was suffering under the impact of climate change, its politics infected with systemic corruption, its economy buckling under the weight of prolonged crisis.
Right now it’s Sunday afternoon. There is large pile of washed, but as yet un-ironed clothes on a seat in my living room. I know the ironing needs to be done, and I’ve tried to motivate myself to do it. Honestly. The ironing board is out, as is the iron, I have lots of interesting things I could watch or listen to while I do the ironing, and I have plenty of free time in which to do it. But instead I’m in my office writing this blog post. Why?
The new ads for Facebook Home are propaganda clips. Transforming vice into virtue, they’re social engineering spectacles that use aesthetic tricks to disguise the profound ethical issues at stake. This isn’t an academic concern: Zuckerberg’s vision (as portrayed by the ads) is being widely embraced — if the very recent milestone of half a million installations is anything to go by.
(CNN) —So is this the "new normal"? That's the question I keep hearing as people try to comprehend the tragedy at the Boston Marathon and its chaotic aftermath. The answer is yes—in more ways than you might think.
The Fox News response to the recent Plan B ruling provides a graphic example of how the channel uses “fair and balanced” reporting to creates false perceptions. A press release issued by the conservative Family Research Council uses misdirection to attain the same goal. Anyone who wants to understand why the U.S. is so divided need look no farther than these two pieces of political communication disguised as reporting.
Corporate interests and their elected representatives have created a world of illusion in order to resist paying a decent wage to working Americans. They’d have us believe that minimum-wage workers are teens from ’50s TV sitcoms working down at the local malt shoppe.
Continued demand for Africa’s natural resources as well as the recent discoveries of oil, gas and minerals in, among others, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique, together with an improved macro-economic environment, sustain prospects for robust economic growth on the continent.
There has been a minor kerfuffle recently regarding the TED franchise’s decision to remove from their main video site, TEDx conference talks given by scientists promoting psi research and the exploration of non-reductionistic approaches to consciousness.
We'll start this time with CHASING ICE —a documentary by and about one of the world's greatest adventurers, who spent years with his brave & hardy team designing, building and setting up some of the world's toughest cameras to endure the planet's harshest environments, all to track by time-lapse whether glaciers are growing or shrinking. It's spectacular to watch, long before you finally get to see the hard-won footage.
The US House of Representatives revitalized efforts to pass the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which never got the approval of the Senate last year. Yesterday the bill passed by a margin of 288 to 127 after two days of debate, which included the potential of malicious cyber attacks raining down on American power grids and disrupting livelihoods.
In the year 2025, a rogue state—long suspected of developing biological weapons—now seems intent on using them against U.S. allies and interests. Anticipating such an event, we have developed a secret “counter-virus” that could infect and destroy their stockpile of bioweapons. Should we use it?
Knowing what kind of genes are involved in the main biological processes is much more relevant to your life than which car is faster, Porsche or Jaguar. And I’m not talking about dangerous driving here. I am talking about the crucial information about the genes that govern your longevity. You have to know what they are, what they do, what happens to them during aging and what are the ways to make them work better, towards keeping you young for a longer time. I am reprinting the text of the article written by Dr. Matthew Carter and Dr. Anne Brunet from Stanford University. I let myself explain some of the biological terms in brackets to make this beautifully written story of one gene a bit simpler. This is a must-read.
It is the year 2113, and humanity “made it”. It was touch and go there for a while — but the advancing tidal wave of technological progress has swept all things that could be argued problematic aside. There are over two thousand billion acknowledged citizens in the solar system, most of them in the Earth-Moon system, but literally hundreds of billions away from the inner heart of activity around the sun. There are tens of thousands of solar space colonies — most of these intricate flower-like variants of O’Neil habitats inhabited by thoroughly post-humans.
When we say “we” “one” or “I” in a context of “ought to think” we are referring to intellectuals in which we assume have a grasp on “rationality”. I assume that I am rational and that the material in which influenced me to write this paper on intellectualism and rationality was rational in itself. But not all “intellectual” media is rational.
Short term; displaced workers learn new skills. Long term; work-free future evolves. From assembly line robots to ATMs and self-checkout terminals, each year intelligent machines take over more jobs formerly held by humans; and experts predict this trend will not stop anytime soon. Even teachers, doctors, and government officials will one day be replaced by increasingly ‘smarter’ systems.
The freedom to die in peace has been much in the news of late. When an 83-year-old man shot first his dying wife and then himself in a Pennsylvania hospice, distressed commenters speculated that local law left him with no better options. The wife was bedridden, in a unit for people who have less than six months to live, and Pennsylvania has no Death with Dignity provisions like those in Washington and Oregon.
Sometimes a science-fiction novel achieves the impossible, and actually succeeds in reaching out and grasping the future, anticipating its concerns, grappling with its possibilities, wrestling with its ethical dilemmas. H.G. Wells’ short 1886 novel, The Island of Dr. Moreau, is like that. The work achieved the feat of actually being relevant to our own time at the very least because the scientific capabilities Well’s imagined in the novel have really only begun to be possible today, and will be only more so going forward. The ethical territory he identified with his strange little book ones we are likely to be increasingly called upon to chart our own course through.