“Computer scientist Danny Hillis once remarked, “Global consciousness is that thing responsible for deciding that pots containing decaffeinated coffee should be orange.” (…)
The web is a perfect example of what engineer and early computer scientist Vannevar Bush called “intelligence augmentation” by computers, in his 1945 article “As We May Think” in The Atlantic. He described a future in which human ability to follow an associative knowledge trail would be enabled by a device he called “the memex”. This would improve on human memory in the precision of its recall. Google is today’s ultimate memex. (…)
This is man-computer symbiosis at its best, where the computer program learns from the activity of human teachers, and its sensors notice and remember things the humans themselves would not. This is the future: massive amounts of data created by people, stored in cloud applications that use smart algorithms to extract meaning from it, feeding back results to those people on mobile devices, gradually giving way to applications that emulate what they have learned from the feedback loops between those people and their devices.” ”
“Does it actually even seem to you as if you have a detailed model of the world around you in your head? Be careful. Yes, it seems to you as if the world is there for you. But not in your head. It’s there. Around you. In reach. And we are made — through evolution — to get the information we need, when we need it.
We have evolved not to be representers-of-the-world, but to lock-in and keep track of where we find ourselves. We use landmarks and street signs to find our way around; arithmetical notation makes it possible for us to calculate with big numbers; we wear wrist watches so that we can know the time without needing to know the time; and we build libraries so that we have access to what we need to know, when we need to know it.
The so-called Google effect is merely the latest expression of a cognitive strategy that is almost as certainly as ancient as our species.
There is no question that the new technologies are changing our lives. But here we need to remember: The more things change, the more they stay the same. All tools extend what we can do, and so, all tools have the potential to extend our minds.”
“Jeff Hammerbacher: ‘The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads… That sucks.’
“After a couple years at Facebook, Jeff Hammerbacher grew restless. He figured that much of the groundbreaking computer science had been done. Something else gnawed at him. Hammerbacher looked around Silicon Valley at companies like his own, Google (GOOG), and Twitter, and saw his peers wasting their talents. “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads,” he says. “That sucks.” (…)
"Any generation of smart people will be drawn to where the money is, and right now it’s the ad generation," says Steve Perlman, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who once sold WebTV to Microsoft for $425 million and is now running OnLive, an online video game service. ” (…)
Hammerbacher: “If instead of pointing their incredible infrastructure at making people click on ads,” he likes to ask, “they pointed it at great unsolved problems in science, how would the world be different today?” ”—Jeff Hammerbacher, founder and the Chief Scientist of Cloudera, one of Facebook’s first 100 employees, cited in Ashlee Vance, This Tech Bubble Is Different, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, April 14, 2011
“Steven Pinker: ‘Today we are probably living in the most peaceful moment of our species’ time on Earth’
“Drawing on the work of the archaeologist Lawrence Keeley, Steven Pinker recently concluded that the chance of our ancient hunter-gatherer ancestors meeting a bloody end was somewhere between 15% and 60%. In the 20th century, which included two world wars and the mass killers Stalin and Hitler, the likelihood of a European or American dying a violent death was less than 1%.
Pinker shows that, with notable exceptions, the long-term trend for murder and violence has been going down since humans first developed agriculture 10,000 years ago. And it has dropped steeply since the Middle Ages. It may come as a surprise to fans of Inspector Morse but Oxford in the 1300s, Pinker tells us, was 110 times more murderous than it is today. With a nod to the German sociologist Norbert Elias, Pinker calls this movement away from killing the “civilising process”.”—Andrew Anthony, journalist, author, Steven Pinker: the optimistic voice of science, The Observer, 18 Sept 2011 See also: ☞ Steven Pinker on the History and decline of Violence
“ "I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding of a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me." ”—Isaac Newton, English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, (1642-1727), cited in Morris Kline, Mathematics and the physical world, Courier Dover Publications, 1981, p. 228.
“Yo-Yo Ma: “Perhaps neuroscience can create bridges because the brain is the crucible within which art, science and culture are forged.
This is the seat of the creativity that we channel into discovery and expression: looking out and looking in. For Ma, the work of neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, a professor at the University of Southern California, reveals something of where these creative impulses come from. Damasio is interested in homeostasis – the tendency of all living things to maintain the internal conditions necessary for their continuation. He considers all non-conscious aspects of this self-preservation to be forms of emotion, whether they are basic reflexes, immune responses or feelings such as joy. “Life forms are always looking for homeostasis, equilibrium,” says Ma.
Ma’s experiences among the Kalahari bushmen of southern Africa, who he visited for a documentary 15 years after he had studied them in his anthropology courses, convinced him that music can perform that stabilising function. “They do these trance dances that are for spiritual and religious purposes, it’s for medicine, it’s their art form, it’s everything. That matches all I’ve learnt about what music should be or could do.”
But how does that magic work? I suggest that music is exploiting our instincts to make sense of our environment, to look for patterns, to develop hypotheses about our environment. It’s setting us puzzles. (…)
I mention Damasio’s insistence, in Descartes’ Error (1994), that the self cannot be meaningfully imagined without being embedded in a body. This must be resonant for a musician? He concurs and suggests that the role of tactility in our mental wellbeing is under-appreciated: “That’s our largest organ.” Ma sees this separation of intellect and mechanism, of the self and the body, as pernicious. “We’ve based our educational system on it. At the music conservatory there’s a focus on the plumbing, not [on the] psychology. It’s about the engineering of sound, how to play accurately. But then, going to university, the music professor would say ‘you can play very well, but why do you want to do it?’ Music is powered by ideas. If you don’t have clarity of ideas, you’re just communicating sheer sound.” (…)
How can music be made central to education, rather than an option at the periphery? His response makes the vision he has hinted at already a little more concrete: it is about finding ways to communicate ideas in a manner that yields the greatest harvest of creativity. “There is nothing more important today than to find a way to be knowledge-based creative societies. My job as a performer is to make sure that whatever happens in a performance lives in somebody else, that it’s memorable… If you forget tomorrow what you heard yesterday, there’s really not much point in you having been there – or me, for that matter. Now, isn’t that the purpose of education too? That’s when I realised that education and culture are the same. Once something is memorable, it’s living and you’re using it. That to me is the foundation of a creative society.”
”—Yo-Yo Ma, French-born American cellist, virtuoso, orchestral composer of Chinese descent, and winner of multiple Grammy Awards, interviewed by Philip Ball, In pursuit of neuroscience: Yo-Yo Ma, The Financial Times, Sept 16, 2011
“ “And here, according to Trout, was the reason human beings could not reject ideas because they were bad: “Ideas on Earth were badges of friendship or enmity. Their content did not matter. Friends agreed with friends, in order to express friendliness. Enemies disagreed with enemies, in order to express enmity.” ”—Kurt Vonnegut, American writer (1922-2007), Breakfast of Champions, Delacorte Press, 1973
“Is there a need for a focus on nonviolent alternatives and the study of peace and justice in schools?
"Having begun my thirtieth year of teaching high school, college and law school courses on the philosophy of pacifism and the methods of nonviolent conflict resolution, I was challenged again to decide where to begin this year’s course. Should I use the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks to discuss nonviolent alternatives to the Bush/Cheney bents for bombs and bullets? Or pose this: would members of Congress, left or right, have voted to increase military spending so dramatically during the Bush years if they had studied peace and nonviolence in college? Would Barbara Lee of California’s 9th District have been the only member of Congress — one out of 535 — to vote against the Bush war plans on September 14, 2001?
Should I discuss the influence of nonviolence on the protests of the Arab Spring, from Egypt to Bahrain? Or explore alternatives to more than a dozen forms of violence that put one or another group of victims at risk every day: military violence, economic violence, environmental violence, corporate violence, racial violence, homophobic violence, verbal violence, emotional violence, sexual violence, structural violence, street violence, religious violence, legal or illegal violence, video game violence, violence toward animals? Or how about a quiz? Identify: (a) Emily Greene Balch; (b) Jeannette Rankin; (c) Dorothy Day. (…)”
”—Colman McCarthy, American journalist, teacher, lecturer, and long-time peace activist, directs the Center for Teaching Peace in Washington, D.C. From 1969 to 1997, he wrote columns for The Washington Post, Teaching Peace, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, August 30, 2011
“Robert Bellah on human evolution, culture and religion
"“Nothing is ever lost” means that what we are now goes all the way back through natural history. We are biological organisms and not simply computerized brains. By focusing totally on the present, thinking only about science and computers, and forgetting four billion years of life on this planet, we are losing perspective on who and what we are. We’re running great risks of doing things that will not be good for us. The cost can be very high indeed if we reach the point where we can’t adapt to our own increasingly rapid adaptations. We run the risk of early extinction. So this certainly isn’t a triumphalist story, but it is trying to get at what, in the very long run, leads to the amazing creatures that we are. (…)
I discovered the cognitive neuroscientist Merlin Donald’s notion that human culture, in evolutionary terms, moves from episodic, to mimetic, to mythic, to theoretic—that made all kinds of sense. To some extent, ontogeny repeats phylogeny, because children go through something like the same thing. So it’s a deeply interdisciplinary study. I’m drawing on biologists, evolutionary psychologists, and child-development researchers all in order to understand the deep roots of what would ultimately become religion.”
“ “There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization. If there are such things as angels, I hope that they are organized along the lines of the Mafia.” ”—Kurt Vonnegut, American writer (1922-2007), The Sirens of Titan, Dell, 1959
“The Three Passions of Bertrand Russell: Love, Truth, and Justice
“Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a deep ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair. (…)
I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved. (…)
Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to Earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.
This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me. (…)
I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy - ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness - that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. (…)
This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what—at last—I have found. (…)
I had supposed until that time that it was quite common for parents to love their children, but the war persuaded me that it is a rare exception. I had supposed that most people liked money better than almost anything else, but I discovered that they liked destruction even better. I had supposed that intellectuals frequently loved truth, but I found here again that not ten per cent of them prefer truth to popularity. (…)
As a lover of truth, the national propaganda of all the belligerent nations sickened me. As a lover of civilization, the return to barbarism appalled me. (…)
He asked my religion and I replied “agnostic.” He asked how to spell it, and remarked with a sigh: “Well, there are many religions, but I suppose they all worship the same God.” (…)
I have lived in the pursuit of a vision, both personal and social. Personal: to care for what is noble, for what is beautiful, for what is gentle; to allow moments of insight to give wisdom at more mundane times. Social: to see in imagination the society that is to be created, where individuals grow freely, and where hate and greed and envy die because there is nothing to nourish them. These things I believe, and the world, for all its horrors, has left me unshaken.”
“ "What is the self? How does the activity of neurons give rise to the sense of being a conscious human being? Even this most ancient of philosophical problems, I believe, will yield to methods of empirical science. It now seems increasingly likely that the self is not a holistic property of the entire brain; it arises from the activity of specific sets of interlinked brain circuits. But we need to know which circuits are critically involved and what their functions might be. It is the ‘turning inward’ aspect of the self — its recursiveness — that gives it its peculiar paradoxical quality.” ”—V.S. Ramachandran, neuroscientist best known for his work in the fields of behavioral neurology and psychophysics, a Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, San Diego, The Neurology of Self-Awareness, Edge, Aug 1, 2007
“ "I live on Earth at present, and I don’t know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing — a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process – an integral function of the universe." ”—R. Buckminster Fuller, American engineer, systems theorist, author, designer, inventor, futurist and second president of Mensa International (1895-1983), I Seem to Be a Verb, (1970)
“ "The discovery of mirror neurons in the frontal lobes of monkeys, and their potential relevance to human brain evolution — which I speculate on in this essay — is the single most important ‘unreported’ (or at least, unpublicized) story of the decade. I predict that mirror neurons will do for psychology what DNA did for biology: they will provide a unifying framework and help explain a host of mental abilities that have hitherto remained mysterious and inaccessible to experiments.” ”—V.S. Ramachandran, neuroscientist best known for his work in the fields of behavioral neurology and psychophysics, a Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, San Diego, Mirror neurons and imitation learning as the driving force behind “the great leap forward” in human evolution (pdf) (2000)
“What is the significance of the Internet and today’s communications revolution for the evolution of the mind?
Steven Pinker: “Probably not much. (…) In terms of strict biological evolution, it’s impossible to know where, if anywhere, our species is going. Natural selection generally takes hundreds of thousands of years to do anything interesting, and we don’t know what our situation will be like in ten thousand or even one thousand years. Also, selection adapts organism to a niche, usually a local environment, and the human species moves all over the place and lurches from life style to life style with dizzying speed on the evolutionary timetable. Revolutions in human life like the agricultural, industrial, and information revolutions occur so quickly that no one can predict whether the change they will have on our makeup, or even whether there will be a change.
The Internet does create a kind of supra-human intelligence, in which everyone on the planet can exchange information rapidly, a bit like the way different parts of a single brain can exchange information. This is not a new process; it’s been happening since we evolved language. Even non-industrial hunter-gatherer tribes pool information by the use of language. (…)
That has given them remarkable local technologies—ways of trapping animals, using poisons, chemically treating plant foods to remove the bitter toxins, and so on. That is also a collective intelligence that comes from accumulating discoveries over generations, and pooling them amongst a group of people living at one time. Everything that’s happened since, such as writing, the printing press, and now the Internet, are ways of magnifying something that our species already knew how to do, which is to pool expertise by communication. Language was the real innovation in our biological evolution; everything since has just made our words travel farther or last longer.” ”—Steven Pinker, Canadian-American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist and linguist, ☞ Organs of Computation, Edge, January 11, 1997
“Steven Pinker: ‘The mind doesn’t work by fluid under pressure or by flows of energy; it works by information’
“Most of the assumptions about the mind that underlie current discussions are many decades out of date. Take the hydraulic model of Freud, in which psychic pressure builds up in the mind and can burst out unless it’s channeled into appropriate pathways. That’s just false. The mind doesn’t work by fluid under pressure or by flows of energy; it works by information.
[L]ook at the commentaries on human affairs by pundits and social critics. They say we’re “conditioned” to do this, or “brainwashed” to do that, or “socialized” to believe such and such. Where do these ideas come from? From the behaviorism of the 1920’s, from bad cold war movies from the 1950’s, from folklore about the effects of family upbringing that behavior genetics has shown to be false. The basic understanding that the human mind is a remarkably complex processor of information, an “organ of extreme perfection and complication,” to use Darwin’s phrase, has not made it into the mainstream of intellectual life. (…)
You can’t understand the mind only by looking directly at the brain. (…) The difference comes from the ways in which hundreds of millions of neurons are wired together to process information. I see the brain as a kind of computer—not like any commercial computer made of silicon, obviously, but as a device that achieves intelligence for some of the same reasons that a computer achieves intelligence, namely processing of information. (…)
I also believe that the mind is not made of Spam—it has a complex, heterogeneous structure. It is composed of mental organs that are specialized to do different things, like seeing, controlling hands and feet, reasoning, language, social interaction, and social emotions. Just as the body is divided into physical organs, the mind is divided into mental organs.” ”—Steven Pinker, Canadian-American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist and linguist, ☞ Organs of Computation, Edge, January 11, 1997
“ "Science does not purvey absolute truth, science is a mechanism. It’s a way of trying to improve your knowledge of nature, it’s a system for testing your thoughts against the universe and seeing whether they match.” ”—Isaac Asimov, American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books (1920-1992), interviewed by Bill Moyers in 1988, cited in Maria Popova, Isaac Asimov on Science and Creativity in Education, Brain Pickings
“ "Boswell: But, Sir is it not somewhat singular that you should happen to have Cocker’s Arithmetic about you on your journey?
Dr. Johnson: Why, Sir if you are to have but one book with you upon a journey, let it be a book of science. When you read through a book of entertainment, you know it, and it can do no more for you; but a book of science is inexhaustible.” ”—James Boswell Scottish lawyer, author, biographer of Samuel Johnson, (1740-1795), cited in Lock Haven University
“ "The scientist is a practical man and his are practical (i.e., practically attainable) aims. He does not seek the ultimate but the proximate. He does not speak of the last analysis but rather of the next approximation. His are not those beautiful structures so delicately designed that a single flaw may cause the collapse of the whole. The scientist builds slowly and with a gross but solid kind of masonry. If dissatisfied with any of his work, even if it be near the very foundations, he can replace that part without damage to the remainder. On the whole he is satisfied with his work, for while science may never be wholly right it certainly is never wholly wrong; and it seems to be improving from decade to decade.” ”—Gilbert N. Lewis, American physical chemist known for the discovery of the covalent bond, (1875-1946), quoted in Leonard K. Nash, Stochiometry, Addison-Wesley 1966. p. vii.).
“ "For more than five hundred years, the envoys of civilization sailed through storms and hacked through jungles, startling in turn one tribe after another of long-lost human cousins. For an instant, before the inevitable breaking of faith, the two groups would face each other, staring—as innocent, both of them, as children, and blameless as if the world had been born afresh." ”—Adam Goodheart, historian, journalist, and critic, The Lost Island of the Savages, The American Scholar, Autumn 2000
“Daniel Kahneman on the power of settings, the power of priming, and the power of unconscious thinking
“We became completely identified with the idea that people are generally wrong. (…) We demonstrated that people are not rational. (…) There is no sharp line between intuition and perception. (…) Perception is predictive. (…)
The main thing in the evolutionary story about intuition, is whether intuition grew out of perception, whether it grew out of the predictive aspects of perception. If you want to understand intuition, it is very useful to understand perception, because so many of the rules that apply to perception apply as well to intuitive thinking. Intuitive thinking is quite different from perception. Intuitive thinking has language. Intuitive thinking has a lot of world knowledge organized in different ways than mere perception. But some very basic characteristics that we’ll talk about of perception are extended almost directly into intuitive thinking. (…)
The confidence that people have in their beliefs is not a measure of the quality of evidence, it is not a judgment of the quality of the evidence but it is a judgment of the coherence of the story that the mind has managed to construct. Quite often you can construct very good stories out of very little evidence, when there is little evidence, no conflict, and the story is going to end up good. People tend to have great belief, great faith in stories that are based on very little evidence.
It generates what Amos [Tversky] and I call “natural assessments”, that is, there are computations that get performed automatically. (…)
So there is a really important distinction between natural assessment and things that are not naturally assessed. There are questions that are easy for the organism to answer, and other questions that are difficult for the organism to answer, and that makes a lot of difference.” ”—Daniel Kahneman, Israeli-American psychologist and Nobel laureate. He is notable for his work on the psychology of judgment and decision-making, behavioral economics and hedonic psychology, ☞ Daniel Kahneman: The Marvels and the Flaws of Intuitive Thinking, Edge, July 17, 2011
“ "Are we being good ancestors?" ”—Jonas Salk, American medical researcher and virologist, best known for his discovery and development of the first safe and effective polio vaccine (1914-1995), in interview Man Evolving on Open Mind, 1985 (video)
"War must not be a means to achieve political ends. Wars must be eliminated, not merely limited. No national interest can today be isolated from collective responsibility for peace. This fact must be recognized in all foreign relations. As a means of achieving European and worldwide security, therefore, foreign policy must aim to reduce tensions and promote communication beyond frontiers. (…)
How to prevent war is a question which is part of the European tradition - Europe has always had reason enough to ask it. (…)
Our ethical and social concepts have been shaped by two thousand years of Christianity. And this means that, in spite of many aberrations under the flag of bellum justum, “the just war”, attempts have been made over and over again to achieve peace in this world, too.
Our second source of strength is humanism and classical philosophy. Immanuel Kant postulated his idea of a constitutional confederation of states in words that pose a very distinct question to today’s generations: Man, he said, will one day be faced with the choice of either uniting under a true law of nations or destroying with a few blows the civilization he has built up over thousands of years: then, necessity will compel him to do what he ought better to have done long ago of his own free reason.1 (…)
Peace policy is a sober task. I, too, try with the means at my command to pave the way for the prevalence of reason in my own country and in the world: that reason which demands that we seek peace because the absence of peace has come to mean extreme lack of reason.
War is no longer the ultima ratio but rather the ultima irratio. Even if this is still not a generally held view, I personally understand a policy for peace as a genuine Realpolitik of this epoch. (…)
Under the threat of mankind’s self-destruction, co-existence has become a question of the very existence of man. Co-existence became not one of several acceptable possibilities but the only chance of survival. (…)”
Martin Luther King on the Quest for Peace and Justice
"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers. (…)
Mankind’s survival is dependent upon man’s ability to solve the problems of racial injustice, poverty, and war; the solution of these problems is in turn dependent upon man squaring his moral progress with his scientific progress, and learning the practical art of living in harmony. Some years ago a famous novelist died. Among his papers was found a list of suggested story plots for future stories, the most prominently underscored being this one: "A widely separated family inherits a house in which they have to live together."
This is the great new problem of mankind. We have inherited a big house, a great “world house” in which we have to live together - black and white, Easterners and Westerners, Gentiles and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, Moslem and Hindu, a family unduly separated in ideas, culture, and interests who, because we can never again live without each other, must learn, somehow, in this one big world, to live with each other. (…)
We must now give an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in our individual societies. (…)”
”—Martin Luther King Jr., American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, (1929-1968), Nobel Lecture, December 11, 1964
“ "Computers: They are useless. They can only give you answers." ”—Pablo Picasso, Spanish painter, draughtsman, and sculptor (1881-1973), cited in William Fifield, In Search of Genius, 1982, p. 140, and p. 40.
“ "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within. The essential causes of Rome’s decline lay in her people, her morals, her class struggle, her failing trade, her bureaucratic despotism, her stifling taxes, her consuming wars." ”—Will Durant, American writer, historian, and philosopher (1885-1981), Caesar and Christ, Epilogue, p. 665 (1944)
“ “It seems to me that you can almost define civilization by saying it’s people who are not willing to hurt other people because the other people are different.” ”—Gene Wolfe, American science fiction and fantasy writer
“Zygmunt Bauman: Europe’s task consists of passing on to all the art of everyone learning from everyone
“Europe’s exceptional virtues, it is diversity, the wealth of variety, that he places above all others. Abundance of diversity is deemed by him as the most precious treasure which Europe managed to save from the conflagrations of the past, to offer to the world today.
To live with Another, live as Another for Another, is the fundamental task of man - both on the highest and the lowest level… therein perhaps dwells that specific advantage of Europe, which could and had to learn the art of living with others. (…) It is impossible to underestimate the weight of this task, or the determination with which Europe should undertake it, if (to echo Gadamer once more) the condition sine qua non, necessary for the solution of life problems of the contemporary world, is friendship and “cheerful solidarity”. (…)
For the ancient Greeks, the word “friend”, according to Gadamer, described the ”totality of social life”. Friends are people capable and desirous of an amiable mutual relationship unconcerned by the differences between them, and keen to help one another on account of those differences; capable and willing to act with kindliness and generosity without letting go of their distinctness - at the same time taking care that that distinctness should not create a distance between them, or turn them against one another. (…)
All of us Europeans (…) are perfectly suited to become friends in the sense given to friendship by Ancient Greeks, the fore-fathers of Europe: not by sacrificing that which is dear to our hearts, but by offering it to neighbours near and far, just as they offer us, as generously, that which is dear to their hearts.
Gadamer pointed out that the path to understanding leads through a “fusion of horizons”. If that which each human agglomeration regards as truth, is the basis of their collective experience, then the horizons surrounding their field of vision are also the boundaries of collective truths. (…)
So much inaccessible human wisdom hides in the experiences written in foreign dialect. One of the most significant, though by no means the only component of this hidden wisdom. (…) How much wisdom we would have all gained, how would our co-existence have benefited, had part of Union’s funds been devoted to the translation of members’ writings… Personally I am convinced that it would have been perhaps the best investment into the future of Europe and the success of its mission.”—Zygmunt Bauman, Polish sociologist, Professor of sociology at the University of Leeds, Culture in Modern Liquid Times, 2011 (Translated by Lydia Bauman). More in ☞ Lapidarium notes
“ "Subtle rearrangements along its tiny, ancient [DNA] spiral will produce the majesty of a strolling sauropod 20 meters high, and also the delicate gem of an iridescent green dragonfly, and the frozen immaculacy of a white orchid petal, and of course the intricacies of the human mind. All from such a tiny semi-crystal." ”—Kevin Kelly, writer, the founding executive editor of Wired magazine, and a former editor/publisher of the Whole Earth Catalog, What Technology Wants, New York: Viking, The Penguin Group, 2010 See also: ☞ Kevin Kelly on Technology, or the Evolution of Evolution
"As fast as we remake our tools, we remake ourselves. We are co-evolving with our technology, and so we have become deeply dependent on it. (…)
Our human nature itself is a malleable crop that we planted 50,000 years ago and continue to garden even today. (…)
Homo sapiens is a tendency, not an entity. Humanity is a process. Always was, always will be. Every living organism is on its way to becoming. (…) The technium and its constituent technologies are more like a grand process than a grand artifact. Nothing is complete, all is in flux, and the only thing that counts is the direction of movement. (…)
Technologies are like organisms that require a sequence of developments to reach a particular stage. Inventions follow this uniform developmental sequence in every civilization and society, independent of human genius. You can’t effectively jump ahead when you want to. But when the web of supporting technological species are in place, an invention will erupt with such urgency that it will occur to many people at once. The progression of inventions is in many ways the march toward forms dictated by physics and chemistry in a sequence determined by the rules of complexity. We might call this technology’s imperative.”
“ "The task is, not so much to see what no one has yet seen; but to think what nobody has yet thought, about that which everybody sees." ”—Erwin Schrödinger, Austrian physicist and theoretical biologist who was one of the fathers of quantum mechanics, Nobel Prize laureate (1887-1961)
“ "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from Nature." ”—Arthur C. Clarke, British science fiction author, inventor, and futurist (1917-2008), BBC Horizon, 1964, cited in A. Daisy Ginsberg & S. Pohflepp, Growth Assembly (video)
“Freeman Dyson: ‘Some mathematicians are birds, others are frogs’
Joris Hoefnagel, Allegorie für Abraham Ortelius, c.1563
“Some mathematicians are birds, others are frogs. Birds fly high in the air and survey broad vistas of mathematics out to the far horizon. They delight in concepts that unify our thinking and bring together diverse problems from different parts of the landscape. Frogs live in the mud below and see only the flowers that grow nearby. They delight in the details of particular objects, and they solve problems one at a time. (…)
Mathematics needs both birds and frogs. Mathematics is rich and beautiful because birds give it broad visions and frogs give it intricate details. Mathematics is both great art and important science, because it combines generality of concepts with depth of structures. (…)
At the beginning of the seventeenth century, two great philosophers, Francis Bacon in England and René Descartes in France, proclaimed the birth of modern science. Descartes was a bird, and Bacon was a frog. Each of them described his vision of the future. Their visions were very different. Bacon said, “All depends on keeping the eye steadily fixed on the facts of nature.” Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” According to Bacon, scientists should travel over the earth collecting facts, until the accumulated facts reveal how Nature works. The scientists will then induce from the facts the laws that Nature obeys. According to Descartes, scientists should stay at home and deduce the laws of Nature by pure thought. (…)
For four hundred years since Bacon and Descartes led the way, science has raced ahead by following both paths simultaneously. Neither Baconian empiricism nor Cartesian dogmatism has the power to elucidate Nature’s secrets by itself, but both together have been amazingly successful.
For four hundred years English scientists have tended to be Baconian and French scientists Cartesian. Faraday and Darwin and Rutherford were Baconians; Pascal and Laplace and Poincaré; were Cartesians. Science was greatly enriched by the cross-fertilization of the two contrasting cultures. Both cultures were always at work in both countries. Newton was at heart a Cartesian, using pure thought as Descartes intended, and using it to demolish the Cartesian dogma of vortices. Marie Curie was at heart a Baconian, boiling tons of crude uranium ore to demolish the dogma of the indestructibility of atoms.”
”—Freeman Dyson, British-born American theoretical physicist and mathematician, famous for his work in quantum field theory, solid-state physics, astronomy and nuclear engineering, Birds and Frogs (pdf), Notices of the AMS, Vol 56, Nr 2, 2009
“ "The web essentially is a planetary-scale nervous system where individual minds take on the role of synapses, firing electrical pattern-signals to one another at light speed — the net effect being an astonishing increase in creative output." ”—Jason Silva, Venezuelan-American television personality, filmmaker, gonzo journalist and founding producer/host for Current TV, Connecting All The Dots, Dec 10, 2010
“ “The most important part about tomorrow is not the technology or the automation, but that man is going to come into entirely new relationships with his fellow men. He will retain much more in his everyday life of what we term the naïveté and idealism of the child. I think the way to see what tomorrow is going to look like is just to look at our children.” ”—R. Buckminster Fuller, American engineer, systems theorist, author, designer, inventor, futurist and second president of Mensa International (1895-1983) cited in Jason Silva, Connecting All The Dots, Dec 10, 2010
“Ray Kurzweil: “I describe myself as a patternist, and believe that if you put matter and energy in just the right pattern you create something that transcends it. Technology is a good example of that: you put together lenses and mechanical parts and some computers and some software in just the right combination and you create a reading machine for the blind. It’s something that transcends the semblance of parts you’ve put together. That is the nature of technology, and it’s the nature of the human brain. Biological molecules put in a certain combination create the transcending properties of human intelligence; you put notes and sounds together in just the rightcombination, and you create a Beethoven symphony or a Beatles song. So patterns have a power that transcends the parts of that pattern.” ”—Ray Kurzweil, American author, inventor and futurist, cited in Jason Silva, Connecting All The Dots, Dec 10, 2010
“ "Information pours upon us, instantaneously. And continuously. (…) Our electronically configured world has forced us to move from the habit of data classification to the mode of pattern recognition. We can no longer build serially, block-by-block, step-by-step, because instant communication insures that all factors of the environment and of experience co-exist in a state of constant, active interplay.” ”—Marshall McLuhan, Canadian educator, philosopher, and scholar, a literary critic, a rhetorician, and a communication theorist (1911-1980), The Medium Is the Massage
“For Fuller, the thinking process is not a matter of putting anything into the brain or taking anything out; he defines thinking as the dismissal of irrelevancies, as the definition of relationships” — in other words, thinking is simultaneously a form of filtering out the data that doesn’t fit while highlighting the things that do fit together… We dismiss whatever is an “irrelevancy” and retain only what fits, we form knowledge by ‘connecting the dots’… we understand things by perceiving patterns — we arrive at conclusions when we successfully reveal these patterns. (…)
“Fuller’s primary vocation is as a poet. All his disciplines and talents — architect, engineer, philosopher, inventor, artist, cartographer, teacher — are just so many aspects of his chief function as integrator. (…) The word “poet" is a very general term for a person who puts things together in an era of great specialization when most people are differentiating or taking things apart. (…)
For Fuller, the stuff of poetry is the patterns of human behavior and the environment, and the interacting hierarchies of physics and design and industry. This is why he can describe Einstein and Henry Ford as the greatest poets of the 20th century.” ”—E.J. White speaking about R. Buckminster Fuller, American engineer, systems theorist, author, designer, inventor, futurist and second president of Mensa International (1895-1983) cited in Jason Silva, Connecting All The Dots, Dec 10, 2010