Boing Boing 

The failed writer who became NSA's in-house "philosopher"

Deep in the Snowden leaks are a series of columns by the "Socrates of SIGINT," an NSA spy who answered an internal help-wanted ad to write about the philosophy of surveillance.

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Roddy Piper in THEY LIVE: great analysis by Slavoj Žižek

They Live stars Rowdy Roddy Piper, who died July 31. It's one of the greatest political sci-fi films of all time, and fittingly, it's the opening film analyzed by Slavoj Žižek in The Pervert's Guide to Ideology.

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Sisyphus is very excited about cheevos

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 3.26.22 AM

The story of Sisphyus, the Greek mythological figure doomed to endlessly roll a rock up a hill for all of eternity, has endured for thousands of years, perhaps because nearly every human being knows the feeling of being chained to pointless, repetitive tasks that seem like they will never end.

In games, there's a word for that: grind. Existential Comics, a webcomic devoted to deep-cut jokes about philosophers and philosophy, recently reframed the classic tale of Sisyphus around that controversial aspect of gaming culture, in a comic where the doomed prisoner of Hades receives a "Just Keep Rollin' On" achievement for pushing the boulder up to the top of the hill five thousand times. And Sisphyus couldn't be more excited about it.

From World of Warcraft to Cookie Clicker, it's easy to find yourself in games that feel like interactive Skinner boxes, designed to lure you into doing the same thing over and over and over again. Like all behavioral conditioning, grind requires a reward to incentivize its repetition, and achievements have become one of the most popular (and arguably emptiest) rewards.

The question of whether grind and achievements are fun, or just manipulative wastes of everyone's time, is of course a matter of debate and personal taste. Sometimes it's soothing, even therapeutic to tune out the world and lose yourself in a repetitive task, and maybe even enter a state of "flow".

One person on my Twitter feed suggested that they'd actually love to apply this sort of gamification to the boring tasks of their everyday life, to make them more bearable or perhaps even enjoyable. (There's an app for that, of course.) "Achievements" aren't just something we chain ourselves to in the name of entertainment; they can also be a way of finding entertainment in the things we're already chained to. After all, if you've got to keep pushing that boulder, why not find a way to enjoy it?

You can read the full comic, which was supported by a Patreon account, at Existential Comics.

Allow this gorgeous film to remind you you're dreaming right now

End your week right with a moment of clarity. Aaron Paradox dreamt this hypnotic animation accompanied by voices of Bear Vasquez and Alan Watts and set to The Way by Zack Hemsey.

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Nihilist Arby's is the best thing on Twitter

Nihilist Arby's

Follow it here.

Why aren't ethicists better people?

Professional ethicists aren't any more likely to behave ethically than baseline humans who don't get paid to sit around all day and contemplate the difference between right and wrong.

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Lessons from Pratchett

A beautiful list, including "[T]he innocent had everything to fear, mostly from the guilty but in the longer term even more from those who say things like 'The innocent have nothing to fear'.”

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Variations on the Trolley Problem

The "Trolley Problem" is a highly problematic thought-experiment about utilitarianism and morals -- ripe for skewering in the pages of McSweeney's.

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Utilitarianism versus psychopathy

A classic thought experiment asks you to choose between doing nothing and letting an out-of-control trolley crash into a schoolbus, or pushing a fat man into the trolley's path, saving the kids but killing the bystander.

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Philip K Dick on Disneyland, reality and science fiction (1978)

Here's an excellent, rambling PKD riff on the relationship of Disneyland to science fiction (and Episcopalianism) and what is, and is not, real.

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Watch two women compare a century of beauty trends

YouTuber Cut Video mashed up two remarkable videos showing models cycling through 100 years of fashion trends, decade by decade.

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Jo Walton's "The Just City"

Time-travelling godess Athena assembles on a volcanic island every man and woman in history who has ever prayed to her to live in Plato's Republic, and sets in motion a social experiment that shows just how heartrending, exciting, and satisfying philosophical inquiry can be.Read the rest

WATCH: 365 words of wisdom, recorded one word daily for a year

YouTuber Ben Schmidt created a philosophical twist on the photo a day concept. He wrote then read a 365-word reflection on time, recording one word each day.

Ben notes in the two minutes it takes to spin through a year:

We become more informed about some aspects of our world, and lose track of others.

It goes by quick, so make each day count!


Dungeons & Dragons & Philosophy

Ethan Gilsdorf explains why Socrates would have made a good DM and that John Stuart Mill was Lawful Neutral. Catch his talk on Head-Banging, Dice-Rolling, and Summoning Demons tonight in Cambridge, Mass.Read the rest

Infosec Taylor Swift's cyber-philosophical musings

Do you like your cyberphilosophy delivered via the dulcet voice of America's country music treasure Taylor Swift? Head over to Twitter and follow @SwiftOnSecurity. Below are a few of her most incisive critiques of techno-utopianism.

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Short film: the Magic of Consciousness

Ed writes, "Here's an ambitious short film I made for the Royal Institution with evolutionary psychologist Nicholas Humphrey -- it explores the problems in understanding human consciousness particularly in explaining how its seemingly magical qualities arise from the physical matter of the brain."

Side-scroller life-lessons

Owl Turd's most recent webcomic, We Go Forward, has a surprising barb hidden in its lighthearted parable about life considered as a side-scroller. It brought me up sharply this morning when I read it, and I can't get it out of my mind.