“ "If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility!" ”—Søren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher (1813-1855), Either/Or: A Fragment of Life
“ "The knowledge of past times and of the places on the Earth is both an ornament and nutriment to the human mind." ”—Leonardo da Vinci, Italian polymath; painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer (1452-1519), The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci (English translation by Jean Paul Richter of 1888)
“Stewart Brand: ‘Look At the World Through the Eyes Of A Fool’
“I think we have become too shortsighted. (…) When everything is moving fast, the future looks like it is next week. But what really counts is the future ten or hundred years from now. And we should also bear in mind that the history that matters is not only yesterday’s news but events from a decade or a century or a millennium ago. (…)
When NASA released the first photographs of the earth from space in the 1960s, people changed their frame of reference. (…) We began to talk more about “humans” and less about Germans or Americans. We began to start talking about the planet as a whole. That, in a way, gave us the ability to think about global problems like climate change. (…)
We like to think that we are living in a very violent time, that the future looks dark. But the data says that violence has declined every millennium, every century, every decade. The reduction in cruelty is just astounding. (…)
The internet is better than any catalogue or encyclopedia could ever be. (…) When you give internet access to people in the developing world, they immediately start forming educational networks. They expand their horizons, children teach their parents how to read and write. (…)
Q: “Stay hungry, stay foolish”. Why?
It proposes that a beginner’s mind is the way to look at new things. We need a combination of confidence and of curiosity. (…) It means putting aside the explanations provided by social constructs and ideologies. (…)
Ideologies are stories we like to tell ourselves. That’s fine, as long as we remember that they are stories and not accurate representations of the world. When the story gets in the way of doing the right thing, there is something wrong with the story. (…) Marvin Minsky has once said to me that the only real evil is the idea of evil. Once you let that go, the problems become manageable. (…) No theory can be coherent and comprehensive enough to provide a direct blueprint for practical actions. That’s the idea of foolishness again: You work with imperfect theories, but you don’t base your life on them. (…)
“ "Privacy is not something that can be counted, divided, or “traded.” It is not a substance or collection of data points. It’s just a word that we clumsily use to stand in for a wide array of values and practices that influence how we manage our reputations in various contexts. There is no formula for assessing it: I can’t give Google three of my privacy points in exchange for 10 percent better service.” ”—Siva Vaidhyanathan, cultural historian and media scholar, currently a professor of Media Studies and Law at the University of Virginia, cited in James Gleick, How Google Dominates Us, The New York Review of Books, August 18, 2011
“ "College: two hundred people reading same book. An obvious mistake. Two hundred people can read two hundred books." ”—John Cage, American composer, philosopher, poet, music theorist, artist, printmaker (1912-1992), M: Writings 1967-1972 (tnx libraryland)
“ "It is not inertia alone that is responsible for human relationships repeating themselves from case to case, indescribably monotonous and unrenewed: it is shyness before any sort of new, unforeseeable experience with which one does not think oneself able to cope. But only someone who is ready for everything, who excludes nothing, not even the most enigmatical will live the relation to another as something alive." ”—Rainer Maria Rilke, Bohemian–Austrian poet (1875-1926), Letters to a Young Poet
“ "If you understand something in only one way, then you don’t really understand it at all. The secret of what anything means to us depends on how we’ve connected it to all other things we know." ”—Marvin Minsky, American cognitive scientist in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), co-founder of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AI laboratory, cited in Training Genius: The Learning Secrets of Polyglots and Savants, The 99 Percent, July 2011 (tnx myserendipities)
“ "The sad truth is that most evil done in this world is not done by people who choose to be evil. It arises from not thinking." ”—Hannah Arendt, German American political theorist and philosopher (1906-1975), paraphrased by Damon Horowitz in Damon Horowitz calls for a “moral operating system”, [12:15] TED (original: "The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil." — The Life of the Mind (1978): “Thinking”)
“Where Is Now? The Paradox Of The Present: ‘[it] exists at the fractured center of many overlapping pasts’
“The night sky is a time machine. (…) The sky we see at any moment defines not a single past but multiple overlapping pasts of different depths. The star’s image from 100 years ago and the galaxy image from 100 million years ago reach us at the same time. All of those “thens” define the same “now” for us. (…)
The simple truth is that every aspect of our personal “now” is a layered impression of a world already lost to the past. (…)
All we know about the world comes to us via signals: light waves, sound waves and electrical impulses running along our nerves. These signals move at a finite speed. It always takes some finite amount of time for the signal to travel from the world to your body’s sensors (and on to your brain). (…)
Signal travel time constitutes a delay and all those overlapping delays constitute an essential separation. The inner world of your experience is, in a temporal sense, cut off from the outer world you inhabit. (…) We live, each of us, trapped in our own now. (…)
According to Presentism only the present moment has ontological validity. In other words: only the present truly exists; only the present is real.” (…)
“You never experience the world as it is. You only experience it in the way light brings it to you. (…) A simple truth about our experience of the world. We have no “direct” knowledge of the world-in-of-itself but, instead, are forced to rely on signals carried to us from external objects. If the properties of the signals are somehow changed while they are traveling to us then our experience of the world is changed as well.” ”—Adam Frank, US physicist, astronomer and writer, Department of Physics And Astronomy at University of Rochester,☞Where Is Now? The Paradox Of The Present
“Mirror neurons in an individual’s brain fire both when the individual grasps a peanut and when she sees another do the same. (…) Our brain mirrors the state of other people. Understanding what they feel then becomes understanding what you now feel in their stead. Neuroscience has discovered empathy. (…)
I think that the most exciting progress in my field is the discovery that the brain does not just mirror the emotions of others. We share the actions, sensations and emotions of the people around us. So if you see me grasp a cool glass of water, you share my intention to grasp the glass, what it feels like to grasp the glass, the cool sensation in my fingers and my satisfaction as I feel my thirst being quenched. This is richer than what the term ‘affective empathy’ suggests, and incorporates goals and sensations that traditional psychology had thought to be the result of much more cognitive processes. (…)
You transform what others feel into representations of what you would feel in their stead; ‘where’ becomes ‘how’ you understand others. When you study mentalizing, and find regions that are not involved in your own experiences, it is hard to know what actually happens within these regions. ‘Where’ remains where. (…)
Where neuroscience is interesting, is by showing us the limits of our natural empathy, and helping us devise ethics that are compatible with how our brain works. For instance, our work shows that we feel what goes on in others by projecting what we would feel in their stead. In this context, ethics that suggest ‘treat others as they would like to be treated’ are harder to follow than ethics that suggest ‘treat others as you would like to be treated’. (…)
Q: Are we ‘homo empathicus’ as much as we are self-interested, individualistic creatures?
As westerners in particular, we were brought up to centre our thinking on individuals – individual rights, individual achievements. (…)
But if you call the state of your brain your identity (and I would), what our research shows, is that much of it is actually what happens in the mind of other people. My personality is the result of my social environment. Even ‘my’ ideas are the result of all the ideas and skills of my forefathers, internalized in my brain through mirror-like phenomena. Also, whenever I take a decision to do something, mirror systems will let me share the pain and joy I make others feel. The fate of others colours my own feelings and thus my decisions. I is actually we. Neuroscience has put ‘we’ back into the brain. That is not a guarantee (…) that some of my actions are not egoistic and selfish, but it shows that egoism and selfishness are not the only forces that direct our brain. We are social animals to a degree most didn’t suspect only a decade ago.”
“ "There’s an art to finding something when you’re not looking for it. (…)
Serendipity is a historian’s best friend and the biggest part of the rush that is the daily magic of discovery.” ”—William McKeen professor and chairman of the Department of Journalism at Boston University, The endangered joy of serendipity, Special to The Times, March 26, 2006
“Malleability of Vague Information as a Performance Booster
"As William James pointed out, vagueness is not without virtues. Sometimes, precision is dangerous, a closed door keeping us from imagining new possibilities. Vagueness is that door flung wide open, a reminder that we don’t yet know the answer, that we might still get better, that we have yet to fail.”
“Is the eternal quest for precise information always worthwhile? Our research suggests that, at times, vagueness has its merits. Not knowing precisely how they are progressing lets people generate positive expectancies that allow them to perform better. The fuzzy boundaries afforded by vague information allow people to distort that information in a favorable manner. This latitude positively influences behavior by affecting outcome expectancies.
Conversely, the very nature of precise information prevents people from distorting it and forces them to be objective about their expectancies, which in turn may have a less positive influence on performance. (…)
The malleability of vague information allows people to interpret it in the manner they desire, so that they can generate positive response expectancies and, thereby, perform better. (…) Hence, on certain occasions, precise information is not as helpful as vague information in boosting performance.” ”—H. Mishra, A. Mishra, B. Shiv, In Praise of Vagueness: Malleability of Vague Information as a Performance Booster (pdf), Department of Marketing, University of Utah, and Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, aps, Psychological Science, XX(X) 1-6, 2011
“Tomorrow we will show the world that Norway’s democracy grows stronger when it is challenged. (…) We must never cease to stand up for our values. We have to show that our open society can pass this test, too, and that the answer to violence is even more democracy, even more humanity, but never naïveté.” ”—Speech by Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg in Oslo Cathedral after deadly attacks by a Norwegian on a self-styled mission to save European “Christendom” from Islam, July 23, 2011
“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: a human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. (…)
Without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless creating.” ”—Pearl Buck, American writer who spent most of her time in China, the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature (1892-1973)
“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: a human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. (…)
Without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless creating.” ”—Pearl Buck, American writer who spent most of her time until 1934 in China, the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature (1892-1973)
“ “Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!” ”—Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel), American writer, poet, and cartoonist (1904-1991), Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!, Random House, 1975
“ "Every time we engage with culture, we change it. Copying is an act of creation —recreation is creation because it arouses the spirit of the original in a new time, giving it new meaning. The work of the House of Wisdom continues today, every day, and the process of transmission, transliteration, transmutation and retransmission that once took five hundred years now happens in the blink of an eye.” ”—James Bridle, writer, publisher, editor, coder, designer, The House of Wisdom (tnx carvalhais)
Tim Harford on Why there will never be another Da Vinci
"Approximately 3,000 scientific articles are published per day – roughly one every 10 seconds of a working day. We can now expect that these papers will, each year, cite around five million previous publications. And the rate of production of scientific papers is quadrupling every generation. (…) The percentage of human knowledge that one scientist can absorb is rapidly heading towards zero. This side of a new Dark Age, there will never be another Da Vinci. (…)
This means that funding new ideas that matter is almost certainly getting more and more expensive. By itself that fact need not be too disturbing: we can afford to spend more on science, and there are more qualified scientists across the world than ever. But it also suggests that scientific and technological innovation is, more than ever before, an organisational problem – and an organisational problem to which we have probably devoted too little attention.” ”
“The conscious mind (…) it’s like a stowaway on a transatlantic steamship, that’s taking credit for the journey, without acknowledging all the engineering underfoot. (…)
When Galileo discovered the moons of Jupiter and realized that, in fact, we’re not at the center of things, but instead we’re way out on a distant edge. That’s essentially the same situation we’re in, where we’ve fallen from the center of ourselves. (…)
The first thing to do is to recognize that what you’re seeing out there is not actually reality. You’re not sort of opening your eyes, and voila, there’s the world. Instead, your brain constructs the world. Your brain is trapped in darkness inside of your skull, and all it ever sees are electrical and chemical signals. So all the colors you see, and so on, that doesn’t really exist; that’s an interpretation by your brain. (…)
All we’re actually doing is seeing an internal model of the world; we’re not seeing what’s out there, we’re seeing just our internal model of it. And that’s why, when you move your eyes around, all you’re doing is updating that model. (…) We don’t even need our eyes to see. When you are asleep and dreaming, your eyes are closed, but you’re having full, rich visual experience —because it’s the same process of running your visual cortex, and then you believe that you are seeing. (…)
Some thoughts aren’t thinkable, because of the way that thoughts are constrained by our biology. (…) What we call visible light is just one ten-billionth of that spectrum. So, we’re only seeing a very tiny sliver of that, because we have biological receptors that are tuned to that little part of the spectrum. But radio signals, and cell phone signals, and television signals, all that stuff is going right through your body, because you happen not to have biological receptors for that part of the spectrum. (…)
Mother Nature chronically reinvents things all the time—accidentally. Just by mutation, there are always new ways to do things, like detect motion, or control muscles, or whatever it is that it’s trying to do—pick up on new energy sources, and so on. And as a result, what you have are multiple ways of solving problems in real biological creatures. (…) Mother Nature probably came up with about three or four different ways to detect motion. And all of these act like parties in the neural parliament. They all sort of think that they know how to detect motion best, and they battle it out with the other parties. (…)
“ “The sweetest and most inoffensive path of life leads through the avenues of science and learning; and whoever can either remove any obstruction in this way, or open up any new prospect, ought, so far, to be esteemed a benefactor to mankind.” ”—David Hume, Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, known especially for his philosophical empiricism and skepticism (1711-1776), An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding full context metaphors lib
“ "Is the Internet in the tool kit of natural selection? That is, does the Internet alter our fitness as a species? Does it change how likely we are to survive and reproduce? Debate on this question is in order, but the burden is surely on those who argue no. Our inventions in the past have altered our fitness: arrow heads, agriculture, the control of fire. The Internet has likely done the same.” ”—Donald Hoffman, Cognitive Scientist, UC, Irvine; Author, Visual Intelligence, The sculpting of human thought, Edge, The world question Center 2010, Page 6 (wildcat2030)
“ "We were wanderers from the beginning." ”—Carl Sagan, American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer, and science communicator in the space and natural sciences (1934-1996), Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, New York: Random House, 1994
“ "This universe seems, in some sense, to be a living, evolving, adapting universe that utilizes information to organize itself and to create ever increasing levels of complexity. We are a part of it and cannot be separated from it and are interconnected with it all. Furthermore it appears to be a self referencing system. As nature learns, habits form and those that lead to useful outcomes solidify and effectively become “hard coded”. Even then these "habits of nature" (including us) adapt and evolve by trial and error as change occurs.
It appears that nature has bootstrapped itself not only into existence but has evolved itself into the current state of complexity that we now observe all around us. Most astounding of all is that humankind has evolved to the point that we can ask questions and have begun to gain understanding fundamental to natures very existence. Perhaps, then, we and all sentient beings really are one of natures way of knowing about and experiencing itself. Not only that, in some sense, we seem to be able to influence its very evolution.” ”—Edgar Mitchell, American pilot, engineer, and astronaut, Robert Staretz, The Quantum Hologram And the Nature of Consciousness, Journal of Cosmology, 2011, Vol. 14.
“ "You afterwards become so enamoured of this offspring of your brain, that you imagine it impossible, but he must produce something greater and more perfect than the present scene of things, which is so full of ill and disorder." ”—David Hume, Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, known especially for his philosophical empiricism and skepticism (1711-1776), An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
“ "Nothing is more free than the imagination of man; and though it cannot exceed that original stock of ideas, furnished by the internal and external senses, it has unlimited power of mixing, compounding, separating, and dividing these ideas, in all the varieties of fiction and vision.” ”—David Hume, Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, known especially for his philosophical empiricism and skepticism (1711-1776), An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
“Eric Friedenwald-Fishman: ‘No art? No social change. No innovation economy’
“There is no discipline that nurtures and sparks the cognitive ability to imagine, and unleashes creativity and innovation, more than arts and culture. There is no approach that breaks barriers, connects across cultural differences, and engages our shared values more than arts and culture. There is no investment that connects us to each other, moves us to action, and strengthens our ability to make collective choices more than arts and culture.” ”—Eric Friedenwald-Fishman is the creative director/president of Metropolitan Group, No art? No social change. No innovation economy, Stanford Social Innovation Review, May 26, 2011
“ "But the truth is, it’s not the idea, it’s never the idea, it’s always what you do with it." ”—Neil Gaiman, English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre and films
“ "One evening, contrary to my custom, I drank black coffee and could not sleep. Ideas rose in crowds; I felt them collide until pairs interlocked, so to speak, making a stable combination. By the next morning I had established the existence of a class of Fuchsian functions, those which came from the hypergeometric series; I had only to write out the results, which took but a few hours.” ”—Henri Poincaré, French mathematician, theoretical physicist, engineer, and a philosopher of science (1854-1912), The Foundations of Science, 1908
Chris Gruhl: ‘Art is about creating a moment that people remember’
Henri Cartier-Bresson, “Hyeres, France, 1932″
“Why do people consider this photo a masterpiece? Why do people still consider Shakespeare a masterpiece after so many years for that matter? Depth, thought, more though, ageless relevance to the human condition, an appeal to emotion, relevance to our humanity, something that unveils our cruelty or encapsulates our love.
Art is about creating a moment that people remember.
The art will be relevant as long as people remember it. Art that is remembered so well that generations seek to pass it along become classics and define new styles and ideas and inspire the following generations of artists.
Sometimes art is great because it is “first” and “paradigm shifting” but that tends to require study to understand and feel the impact of. The greatest art stands alone and even untitled through the ages and still strongly effects the people who come in contact with it. If you turn off your analytical brain and come to a piece with the mind of a child, open, receptive, uncolored by bias or doubt or fear or envy then you will quickly find what it is that makes a piece a classic.
The trick is not comparing it to anything but your soul. That is no mean task. It can shake you to the core of your being. “Modern Man” would rather judge the world he/she perceives than confront his/her deeper self.” ”—Chris Gruhl's (Shadowgolem) comment under a deleted Cartier-Bresson picture. This picture was submitted to the DeleteMe group on Flickr (whose members vote on photos) without any mention to the original author and was very quickly removed by popular vote. The photo was sold at auction in 2008 for $265,000.
“ "The scientists demonstrated that the act of remembering changes our memories. (…) A memory is only as real as the last time you remembered it. The more you remember something, the less accurate the memory becomes. The larger moral of the experiment is that memory is a ceaseless process, not a repository of inert information. It shows us that every time we remember anything, the neuronal structure of the memory is delicately transformed, or reconsolidated.” ”—Jonah Lehrer, American journalist who writes on the topics of psychology and neuroscience, Memory is Fiction, The Frontal Cortex, June 4, 2010.
“ "When we change the way we communicate, we change society." ”—Clay Shirky, American writer, consultant and teacher on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies, Here Comes Everybody, Penguin Group, 2008
“ "Cyberspace: A new universe, a parallel universe created and sustained by the world’s computers and communication lines. A world in which the global traffic of knowledge, secrets, measurements, indicators, presences never seen on the surface of the earth blossoming in a vast electronic light.
Cyberspace: A common mental geography, built, in turn, by consensus and revolution, canon and experiment; a territory swarming with data and lies, with mind stuff and memories of nature, with a million voices and two million eyes in a silent, invisible concert to enquiry, deal-making, dream sharing, and simple beholding.” ”—Michael Benedikt, Ph.D. in mathematics, Professor of Computing Science at University of Oxford, (1991), cited in David Bell, An Introduction to Cybercultures, Routledge, 2002, p.7.
“History is driven, above all, by mathematics and the power it gives us to understand, predict and control the world.
The emergence of the first, truly great, Western civilization, in the scattered city states of Ancient Greece, was intimately connected with the first systematic thinking about reason, logic and number.
Although Pythagoras himself is a figure shrouded by myth, the Pythagorean revolution he and his disciples set in motion was the prelude to the astonishing flowering of classical philosophy which laid the foundations of the Western world.
On those first foundations men such as Euclid and Archimedes devised a means of making sense of the world which enabled their contemporaries, and successors, to master it. Greece bequeathed her mathematical heritage to Rome and the achievements of the Caesars, their imperial highways, feats of engineering and centralised accounts, were all the fruits of mathematical knowledge.
Rome’s fall was the prelude to Islam’s rise and again mathematical innovation was the leading indicator of historical progress. While Western Europe was sunk in a Dark Age of dynastic squabbling, pagan aggression and superstitious poverty the Islamic world flourished, advanced and subdued its foes while also nurturing a series of mathematical thinkers responsible for transmitting wisdom and generating great historic breakthroughs. Whether it was the establishment of Arabic numerals as the principal method of mathematical notation or the invention of algebra, Arabic and Islamic culture was the world’s forcing-house of progress for centuries.
Europe only caught up again in the sixteenth century, but when we did it was with a burst of mathematical innovation which once more moved the world on its axis. Galileo and Descartes authored advances in mechanics and geometry which were hugely ground-breaking. They were followed by the arguably even greater geniuses of Newton and Leibniz.
Newton, the greatest President this society has had - so far - was the godfather of the Enlightenment, mankind’s great period of intellectual flowering, the liberation from ignorance on which our current freedoms rest.
In the nineteenth century, the greatest mathematicians were Germans - like Karl Friedrich Gauss and Bernhard Riemann - reflecting the shift of intellectual innovation, and economic power, to central Europe.
In the twentieth century, the flight of mathematicians like Kurt Gödel from a fascist Europe sunk in a new barbarism to a new world of liberty and promise again presaged a fundamental shift in economic, political and intellectual power. (…)
Richard Feynman has described the precision of quantum mechanics as like being able to measure the distance from New York to L.A to the nearest hair’s breadth. And for those of us navigating journeys even more fraught and perilous than an odyssey across America - such as driving from West London to Westminster without hitting roadworks - the precision of GPS satellite technology can guide us - and all thanks to the extraordinary precision of relativity’s equations.”
“If any one faculty of our nature may be called more wonderful than the rest, I do think it is memory. There seems something more speakingly incomprehensible in the powers, the failures, the inequalities of memory, than in any other of our intelligences. The memory is sometimes so retentive, so serviceable, so obedient; at others, so bewildered and so weak; and at others again, so tyrannic, so beyond control! We are, to be sure, a miracle every way; but our powers of recollecting and of forgetting do seem peculiarly past finding out.” ”—Jane Austen, English novelist whose works of romantic fiction (1775-1817), ‘Mansfield Park’, cited in Roger Highfield, 75th stories: Mapping memories - Eleanor Maguire and brain imaging, Wellcome Trust, 5 July 2011
“ "All things would be visibly connected if one could discover at a single glance and in its totality the tracings of an Ariadne’s thread leading thought into its own labyrinth." ”—Georges Bataille, French writer, philosopher (1897-1962), The Solar Anus (via machinemachine)
“ "Now, a symbol is not, properly speaking, either true or false; it is, rather, something more or less well selected to stand for the reality it represents, and pictures that reality in a more or less precise, or a more or less detailed manner. ” ”—Pierre Duhem, French physicist, mathematician and philosopher of science, best known for his writings on the indeterminacy of experimental criteria and on scientific development in the Middle Ages (1861-1916), The aim and structure of physical theory, Princeton University Press, 1991 p. 168.