Boing Boing 

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!

365

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.

Philosopher referee hand-signals

apaphilref
(via Bruce Sterling)

Movies teach us morals


Carl Plantinga's talk, "Spectator Judge: Affect and Ethics in Narrative Film and Television," delivered to the Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image, argues that movies powerfully instill moral values in the people who watch them, by cueing us to "judge, believe, and feel emotions in various ways." This is the thesis of the novel I'm working on, so I read the summary of the talk with great interest:

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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves: spectacular, deep, zingy novel


If you love Karen Joy Fowler's books (and you should, because she is a spectacular science fiction writer who has also written some thoroughly mainstream bestsellers), you'll know that there are two Fowlers: there's the mysterious, subtle Fowler of Sarah Canary, a nearly indescribable masterpiece; and there's the accessible, funny, sweet Fowler of The Jane Austen Book Club. But in We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, her first novel since 2008, she fuses these two things into a novel that is simultaneously a high-speed antic and an absolutely essential meditation on nothing less than what it means to be a good person.

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Science show on consciousness, with Alan Moore


BBC Radio 4 has kicked off a new season of the amazing science show The Infinite Monkey Cage, and the second episode of the series is a wonderful panel discussion on consciousness called Through the Doors of Perception. This episode is greatly enhanced by the presence of Alan Moore, creator of Watchmen, Lost Girls, From Hell, and many other standout comics. Moore's contributions on the relationship of art and magic to consciousness are the most interesting parts of the show -- though the whole thing is fascinating (Download the MP3).

(Image: Alan Moore, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from mbiddulph's photostream)

No robot will ever...

Today's XKCD strip, Reassuring, wittily illustrates Kevin Kelly's Seven Stages of Robot Replacement, which start with "1. A robot/computer cannot possibly do the tasks I do" and heads toward "5. OK, it can have my old boring job, because it’s obvious that was not a job that humans were meant to do."

Be sure you go to the original for the tooltip punchline.

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The alternative to anti-science is not blind pro-science

Alice Bell has a really interesting and challenging essay up that the Guardian talking about apparent contradictions where people tout themselves as being on the side of science with one issue (say, climate change) and are skeptical and not-terribly-accepting of science with other issues (say, GMOs). It's not really something you can boil down to simple hypocrisy, though, Bell says. To do that, you have to ignore the very basic fact that evidence-based decision-making has to take into account more than just scientific data. Instead, economics, social values, legal considerations, and all sorts of other non-science things have to be considered alongside the science.

Damned good advice

Shane Nickerson's "11 things it took me 42 years to learn" is damned good advice:

5. Stop comparing your life to others.
Your life has nothing to do with theirs. You imagine their world to be perfect, but it never is. Find your own happiness, be happy for others successes, and fight that envy. It will tear you up and make you hard to be around. Dump your cynicicm, while you’re at it. It’s cheap and simple.

6. Go where life blows you.
So to speak. Let that gentle pushing and pulling you feel each day guide you towards where you belong. Say yes to new things. Be open to exciting experience. Try new foods. Travel. Don’t just hate stuff because it’s easier. Maybe you’d love eel. Or urchin. Or the Insane Clown Posse. You don’t know.

7. Measure your failures as cautiously as you measure your successes.
So you failed. Okay. In the same way you are modest about your successes, be modest about your failures. Don’t linger in them. Think of all the hard learning you did while you worked so hard on something that sucked. Valuable knowledge. That’s how it goes sometimes. On to the next one.

11 things it took me 42 years to learn (via Wil Wheaton)