Artificial intelligence has nearly unimaginable potential to shape the world, but it poses a number of significant ethical questions that need to be carefully examined at every step to reduce bias. Several experts give a rundown of the main concerns. Read the rest
It's been nearly four years since the first crowdfunded collection
of Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag's webcomic Strong Female Protagonist
was published; the second volume
, published this week, traces not just the evolution of its protagonist, the superhero Alison "Mega Girl" Green, but of its creators, who have found new and amazing depths to plumb and heights to soar to.
Quantum physics gets real weird real fast, and one idea gaining more currency of late is the concept of quantum retrocausality, where a decision made in our experience of the present may influence what we experience as the past.
These aren't a bunch of Time Cube type cranks, either. From a helpful overview by Lisa Zyga:
First, to clarify what retrocausality is and isn't: It does not mean that signals can be communicated from the future to the past—such signaling would be forbidden even in a retrocausal theory due to thermodynamic reasons. Instead, retrocausality means that, when an experimenter chooses the measurement setting with which to measure a particle, that decision can influence the properties of that particle (or another particle) in the past, even before the experimenter made their choice. In other words, a decision made in the present can influence something in the past.
Huw Price has done some great introductory lectures like this on the concept:
• WTF is Quantum Retrocausality? (YouTube / Seeker) Read the rest
Natalie Wynn, creator of the Contrapoints YouTube channel, is a lapsed academic well-versed in the lingo of both 4chan and Tumblr, making her the perfect person to construct an entertaining takedown of Jordan Peterson. Read the rest
When we think of democracy, we generally think of voting: the people are polled, the people decide. But voting is zero-sum: it has winners and losers. There are other models of governance that can make claim to democratic legitimacy that produce wins for everyone.
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In I Am Here , director Eoin Duffy addresses the strange sensation when we realize our entire lives have led up to one fleeting moment. Read the rest
While the typical answer is 33 beats per minute, musician Adam Neely's answer morphs into a great primer on the "perceptual present," a concept widely discussed in both the philosophy of music and of consciousness. Read the rest
With the rise of white nationalist groups whose allies in government extend all the way to the President of the United States, tech companies are finding themselves in the uncomfortable position of deciding where tolerance begins and ends -- where they have a duty to step in and silence certain kinds of speech.
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What is Life? collects some of the more interesting takes on whether we may be living in a computer simulation. Read the rest
The most perfect lie in publishing, "This Page Intentionally Left Blank", is commonly to be found in books, manuals and tests. But also journals, curiously enough, a fact that is the subject of a paper published at Academia Obscura.
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The US Code of Regulations (1984) actually mandates that blank pages in certain books and pamphlets must be marked as such.1 As such, they are especially common in technical works. This has lead to a large number of people attempting to solve the philosophical conundrum such non-blank blank pages create, often through online fora and crowdsourcing platforms. The Office of the General Counsel at the US General Accounting Office, acutely aware of the distress caused, purported in 2001 to have resolved the conundrum in its Principles of Federal Appropriations Law (Second Edition, Volume IV).2 Text on page ii, which is otherwise blank, reads “This page is intended to be blank. Please do not read it.” However, this appears to have only further entrenched the philosophical contradictions, and the subsequent Third Edition contained no such text on its blank page.
Philip Goff, associate professor in philosophy at Central European University in Budapest, argues that the idea of panpsychism ("mind is everywhere") shouldn't be dismissed just because it sounds crazy. Read the rest
No expression of far-right idiocy is complete without a macho misreading of Nietzsche. So frequently miscast as the godfather of everything from the Master Race to Mens' Rights, his name alone is something of a shibboleth. Which is sad, because he wouldn't have thought much of them, writes Sean Illing.
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“Nietzsche's argument was that you had to move forward, not fall back onto ethnocentrism,” Hugo Drochon, author of Nietzsche’s Great Politics, told me. “So in many ways Spencer is stuck in the 'Shadows of God' — claiming Christianity is over but trying to find something that will replace it so that we can go on living as if it still existed, rather than trying something new.”
Nietzsche was a lot of things — iconoclast, recluse, misanthrope — but he wasn’t a racist or a fascist. He would have shunned the white identity politics of the Nazis and the alt-right. That he’s been hijacked by racists and fascists is partly his fault, though. His writings are riddled with contradictions and puzzles. And his fixation on the future of humankind is easily confused with a kind of social Darwinism.
Actor James Franco has a new YouTube channel in which he raps about philosophy with Eliot Michaelson, a philosophy lecturer at King's College London, and other experts on such heady matters as imagination (above), and metaphor (below). The special guest on these two episodes is Rutgers University philosophy professor Elisabeth Camp. Also below is an episode on the ethics of abortion with Princeton University philosophy professor Elizabeth Harman.
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I always hate having to write "Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell," because it's such a wtf mouthful. But they make beautiful animated explainer videos, so I have to write "Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell" a lot. They are always great, but this 6-minute guide to thinking your way out of existential dread might be their best video yet. The graphics are stupendous.
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Here's a one-sentence synopsis for this interesting 5-minute cartoon guide to Stoicism: We can't control much of what happens around us or to us, but we can control how we respond and think about it. Read the rest
Varanasi is one of the great spiritual centers of the world, along with Jerusalem, Mecca, Vatican City. This personal project by filmmaker Aeyaz is a contemplative look at the city and at what comes beyond life. Read the rest
Philosophy and Predictive Processing is a new online research compendium in which neuroscientists, psychiatrists, philosophers-of-mind, and other big thinkers explore the theory that we're always hallucinating. Our brains aren't just processing information from your senses so we can perceive reality, the authors argue, but also constantly predicting what we'll encounter, presenting that to us as what's actually happening, and then doing error connection. From New Scientist:
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...Predictive processing argues that perception, action and cognition are the outcome of computations in the brain involving both bottom-up and top-down processing – in which prior knowledge about the world and our own cognitive and emotional state influence perception.
In a nutshell, the brain builds models of the environment and the body, which it uses to make hypotheses about the source of sensations. The hypothesis that is deemed most likely becomes a perception of external reality. Of course, the prediction could be accurate or awry, and it is the brain’s job to correct for any errors – after making a mistake it can modify its models to account better for similar situations in the future.
But some models cannot be changed willy-nilly, for example, those of our internal organs. Our body needs to remain in a narrow temperature range around 37°C, so predictive processing achieves such control by predicting that, say, the sensations on our skin should be in line with normal body temperature. When the sensations deviate, the brain doesn’t change its internal model, but rather forces us to move towards warmth or cold, so that the predictions fall in line with the required physiological state.