Aeon: G-K
Hains (Brigid) & Hains (Paul)
This Page provides (where held) the Abstract of the above Book and those of all the Papers contained in it.
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BOOK ABSTRACT:

Website “About”1

  1. Since 2012, Aeon has established itself as a unique digital magazine, publishing some of the most profound and provocative thinking on the web. We ask the big questions and find the freshest, most original answers, provided by leading thinkers on science, philosophy, society and the arts.
  2. Aeon has three channels, and all are completely free to enjoy:
    1. Essays – Longform explorations of deep issues written by serious and creative thinkers
    2. Ideas – Short provocations, maintaining Aeon’s high editorial standards but in a more nimble and immediate form. Our Ideas are published under a Creative Commons licence, making them available for republication.
    3. Video – A mixture of curated short documentaries and original Aeon productions
  3. Through our Partnership program, we publish pieces from university research groups, university presses and other selected cultural organisations.
  4. Aeon was founded in London by Paul and Brigid Hains. It now has offices in London, Melbourne and New York. We are a not-for-profit, registered charity, operated by Aeon Media Group Ltd.
  5. We are committed to big ideas, serious enquiry and a humane worldview. That’s it.



In-Page Footnotes ("Hains (Brigid) & Hains (Paul) - Aeon: G-K")

Footnote 1:
BOOK COMMENT:



"Ganeri (Jonardon) - The tree of knowledge is not an apple or an oak but a banyan"

Source: Aeon, 23 June, 2017


Author’s Introduction1
  1. In European societies, knowledge is often pictured as a tree: a single trunk – the core – with branches splaying outwards towards distant peripheries. The imagery of this tree is so deeply embedded in European thought-patterns that every form of institution has been marshalled into a ‘centre-periphery’ pattern. In philosophy, for example, there are certain ‘core’ subjects and other more marginal, peripheral, and implicitly expendable, ones. Likewise, a persistent, and demonstrably false, picture of science has it as consisting of a ‘stem’ of pure science (namely fundamental physics) with secondary domains of special sciences at varying degrees of remove: branches growing from, and dependent upon, the foundational trunk.
  2. Knowledge should indeed be thought of as a tree – just not this kind of tree. Rather than the European fruiter with its single trunk, knowledge should be pictured as a banyan tree, in which a multiplicity of aerial roots sustains a centreless organic system. The tree of knowledge has a plurality of roots, and structures of knowledge are multiply grounded in the earth: the body of knowledge is a single organic whole, no part of which is more or less dispensable than any other.

Author’s Conclusion
  1. The toolkit of the responsible enquirer contains
    1. empirical observation,
    2. logical techniques of deduction, induction and inference to the best explanation, and
    3. the pooling of discovery through testimony.
    But there is no single correct way of using those tools in one’s interrogation of reality.
  2. Epistemic stances are not exactly like routes up a mountain. It is not so much that each stance interrogates a part of reality as that each aspires to interrogate the whole of reality, but does so in a particular manner. …. It would be an error to dogmatically infer now that reality is only structure or that it is only category. Similarly, modern science is an epistemically plural undertaking, despite the official narrative. Science excels in producing descriptions of causal connections and providing for their explanation; but there are other ways to interrogate the reality we share.
  3. The picture of knowledge as a banyan tree encourages a certain epistemic ideal: that these different but commensurably valuable sources of epistemic nutrition can belong within a single epistemic organism. Of all the departments of knowledge within a modern university, it is philosophy that seems most addicted to the centre-periphery picture of enquiry, to the old European tree. Were it able to re-imagine itself according to this new ideal, its practitioners would find themselves freed from their terror of not being quite ‘at the centre’, and the profession might finally emerge from its long struggle to overcome its inability to conceptualise diversity in content and composition.


COMMENT: See Web Link.




In-Page Footnotes ("Ganeri (Jonardon) - The tree of knowledge is not an apple or an oak but a banyan")

Footnote 1:
  • There’s much good stuff in this paper that deserves consideration, and I hope to consider it in due course.
  • The author shows his bias towards Jainism, and his beef about some sub-disciplines of philosophy – especially his own – being marginalised, but these aspects can be excised from the argument.



"Garfinkel (Simpson L.) - Whatever you do, don’t call this an ‘interesting’ idea"

Source: Aeon, 20 February, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Garrett (Neil) - Dishonesty gets easier on the brain the more you do it"

Source: Aeon, 07 March, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Gerrans (Philip) & Letheby (Chris) - Model hallucinations"

Source: Aeon, 08 August, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Psychedelics have a remarkable capacity to violate our ideas about ourselves. Is that why they make people better?"
  • See Web Link



"Gershon (Ilana) - The quitting economy"

Source: Aeon, 26 July, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "When employees are treated as short-term assets, they reinvent themselves as marketable goods, always ready to quit."
  • See Web Link



"Gershon (Livia) - The future is emotional"

Source: Aeon, 22 June, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Human jobs in the future will be the ones that require emotional labour: currently undervalued and underpaid but invaluable."
  • See Web Link



"Gildea (Robert) - Resist or collaborate?"

Source: Aeon, 22 May, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "The Nazis have occupied France. It’s easy to condemn the collaborators. But be honest: what would you really do?"
  • See Web Link



"Gillon (Michaël) & Triaud (Amaury) - Dwarf planetary systems will transform the hunt for alien life"

Source: Aeon, 02 May, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Gilster (Paul) - Distant ruins"

Source: Aeon, 10 September, 2013

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Scientists used to scan the skies for messages from alien civilisations. Now they go looking for their ruins."
  • See Web Link



"Giubilini (Alberto) - Why vegetarians should be prepared to bend their own rules"

Source: Aeon, 04 August, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Glinert (Lewis) - Language dreams: an ancient tongue awakens in a Jewish baby"

Source: Aeon, 06 September, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Goff (Philip) - Panpsychism is crazy, but it’s also most probably true"

Source: Aeon, 01 March, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Goodman (Jonathan R.) - How statistics are twisted to obscure public understanding"

Source: Aeon, 11 July, 2016


Author’s Conclusion
  1. The sociologist Joel Best argues that we ought to avoid calling statistics ‘lies’, and instead educate ourselves so that we can question how and why statistical data are generated. Statistics are often used to support points that aren’t true, but we tend to attack only the data that conflict with some pre-existing notion of our own. The numbers themselves – unless purposefully falsified – cannot lie, but they can be used to misrepresent the public statements and ranking systems we take seriously.
  2. Statistical data do not allow for lies so much as semantic manipulation: numbers drive the misuse of words. When you are told a fact, you must question how the terms within the fact are defined, and how the data have been generated. When you read a statistic, of any kind, be sure to ask how – and more importantly, why – the statistic was generated, whom it benefits, and whether it can be trusted.


COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Goodman (Rob) & Soni (Jimmy) - The bit bomb"

Source: Aeon, 30 August, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "It took a polymath to pin down the true nature of ‘information’. His answer was both a revelation and a return."
  • See Web Link



"Grant (Angela) - The bilingual brain: why one size doesn’t fit all"

Source: Aeon, 13 March, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Grant (Sandy) - How playing Wittgensteinian language-games can set us free"

Source: Aeon, 24 January, 2017


Author’s Introduction
  1. We live out our lives amid a world of language, in which we use words to do things. Ordinarily we don’t notice this; we just get on with it. But the way we use language affects how we live and who we can be. We are as if bewitched by the practices of saying that constitute our ways of going on in the world. If we want to change how things are, then we need to change the way we use words. But can language-games set us free?
  2. It was the maverick philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein who coined the term ‘language-game’. He contended that words acquire meaning by their use, and wanted to see how their use was tied up with the social practices of which they are a part. So he used ‘language-game’ to draw attention not only to language itself, but to the actions into which it is woven. Consider the exclamations ‘Help!’ ‘Fire!’ ‘No!’ These do something with words: soliciting, warning, forbidding. But Wittgenstein wanted to expose how ‘words are deeds’, that we do something every time we use a word. Moreover, what we do, we do in a world with others.
  3. With this spotlight on language-games, Wittgenstein asks readers to try to see what they are doing. But if we are entranced by our linguistic practices, can we even see what we’re doing? Wittgenstein’s attempts to see met with the charge that he was stopping us from seeing anything else, from perceiving new possibilities: his linguistic obsessions were a distraction from real politics. The chief accuser was Marcuse (Herbert), who in his blockbuster One-Dimensional Man (1964) declared that Wittgenstein’s work was reductive and limiting. It could not be liberatory, for the close focus on how we use words misses what’s really going on.
  4. These objections are serious. But do they succeed?

Author’s Conclusion
  1. Marcuse’s objections are unfounded. He fails to show that Wittgenstein’s astonishing scrutiny of language-games is either pointlessly stupid or enslaving. In fact, his efforts only heighten regard for Wittgenstein’s relevance in the darkness of these times.
  2. Using language is an integral part of the human condition. We live within language, yet our way of life is something we find hard to see. Wittgenstein is not peddling ready answers to this predicament. Indeed as long as there is language it will bewitch us, we will face the temptation to misunderstand. And there is no vantage point outside it. There is no escape from language-games then, but we can forge a kind of freedom from within them. We might first need to ‘be stupid’ if we are to see this.


COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Graziano (Michael) - Build-a-brain"

Source: Aeon, 10 July, 2015

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "We could build an artificial brain that believes itself to be conscious. Does that mean we have solved the hard problem?"
  • See Web Link



"Graziano (Michael) - Endless fun"

Source: Aeon, 18 December, 2013


Notes
  1. This article seems to me to be wrong-headed in so many ways – and thereby so seminal – that it’s worth analysing passage-by-passage.
  2. Eventually I’ll write a Note on the topic, but for now I’ll content myself with a collection of footnotes.

Full Text
  1. In the late 1700s, machinists started making music boxes: intricate little mechanisms that could play harmonies and melodies by themselves. Some incorporated bells, drums, organs, even violins, all coordinated by a rotating cylinder. The more ambitious examples were Lilliputian orchestras, such as the Panharmonicon, invented in Vienna in 1805, or the mass-produced Orchestrion that came along in Dresden in 1851.
  2. But the technology had limitations. To make a convincing violin sound, one had to create a little simulacrum of a violin — quite an engineering feat. How to replicate a trombone? Or an oboe? The same way, of course. The artisans assumed that an entire instrument had to be copied in order to capture its distinctive tone. The metal, the wood, the reed, the shape, the exact resonance, all of it had to be mimicked. How else were you going to create an orchestral sound? The task was discouragingly difficult.
  3. Then, in 1877, the American inventor Thomas Edison introduced the first phonograph, and the history of recorded music changed. It turns out that, in order to preserve and recreate the sound of an instrument, you don’t need to know everything about it, its materials or its physical structure. You don’t need a miniature orchestra in a cabinet. All you need is to focus on the one essential part of it1. Record the sound waves, turn them into data, and give them immortality.
  4. Imagine a future in which your mind never dies. When your body begins to fail, a machine scans your brain in enough detail to capture its unique wiring. A computer system uses that data to simulate your brain. It won’t need to replicate every last detail. Like the phonograph, it will strip away the irrelevant physical structures, leaving only the essence of the patterns. And then there is a second you, with your memories, your emotions, your way of thinking and making decisions, translated onto computer hardware as easily as we copy a text file these days.
  5. That second version of you could live in a simulated world and hardly know the difference. You could walk around a simulated city street, feel a cool breeze, eat at a café, talk to other simulated people, play games, watch movies, enjoy yourself. Pain and disease would be programmed out of existence. If you’re still interested in the world outside your simulated playground, you could Skype yourself into board meetings or family Christmas dinners.
  6. This vision of a virtual-reality afterlife, sometimes called ‘uploading’, entered the popular imagination via the short story ‘e Tunnel Under the World’ (1955) by the American science-fiction writer Frederik Pohl, though it also got a big boost from the movie Tron (1982). Then the Matrix (1999) introduced the mainstream public to the idea of a simulated reality, albeit one into which real brains were jacked. More recently, these ideas have caught on outside fiction. The Russian multimillionaire Dmitry Itskov made the news by proposing to transfer his mind into a robot, thereby achieving immortality. Only a few months ago, the British physicist Stephen Hawking speculated that a computer-simulated afterlife might become technologically feasible.
  7. It is tempting to ignore these ideas as just another science-fiction trope, a nerd fantasy. But something about it won’t leave me alone. I am a neuroscientist. I study the brain. For nearly 30 years, I’ve studied how sensory information gets taken in and processed, how movements are controlled and, lately, how networks of neurons might compute the spooky property of awareness. I find myself asking, given what we know about the brain, whether we really could upload someone’s mind to a computer. And my best guess is: yes, almost certainly. That raises a host of further questions, not least: what will this technology do to us psychologically and culturally? Here, the answer seems just as emphatic, if necessarily murky in the details.
  8. It will utterly transform humanity, probably in ways that are more disturbing than helpful. It will change us far more than the internet did, though perhaps in a similar direction. Even if the chances of all this coming to pass were slim, the implications are so dramatic that it would be wise to think them through seriously. But I’m not sure the chances are slim. In fact, the more I think about this possible future, the more it seems inevitable.
  9. If did you want to capture the music of the mind, where should you start? A lot of biological machinery goes into a human brain. A hundred billion neurons are connected in complicated patterns, each neurone constantly taking in and sending signals. The signals are the result of ions leaking in and out of cell membranes, their flow regulated by tiny protein pores and pumps. Each connection between neurons, each synapse, is itself a bewildering mechanism of proteins that are constantly in flux.
  10. It is a daunting task just to make a plausible simulation of a single neurone, though this has already been done to an approximation. Simulating a whole network of interacting neurons, each one with truly realistic electrical and chemical properties, is beyond current technology. Then there are the complicating factors. Blood vessels react in subtle ways, allowing oxygen to be distributed more to this or that part of the brain as needed. There are also the glia, tiny cells that vastly outnumber neurons. Glia help neurons function in ways that are largely not understood: take them away and none of the synapses or signals work properly. Nobody, as far as I know, has tried a computer simulation of neurons, glia, and blood flow. But perhaps they wouldn’t have to. Remember Edison’s breakthrough with the phonograph: to faithfully replicate a sound, it turns out you don’t also have to replicate the instrument that originally produced it.
  11. So what is the right level of detail to copy if you want to capture a person’s mind? Of all the biological complexity, what patterns in the brain must be reproduced to capture the information, the computation, and the consciousness? One of the most common suggestions is that the pattern of connectivity among neurons contains the essence of the machine. If you could measure how each neurone connects to its neighbours, you’d have all the data you need to re-create that mind. An entire field of study has grown up around neural network models, computer simulations of drastically simplified neurons and synapses. These models leave out the details of glia, blood flow, membranes, proteins, ions and so on. They only consider how each neurone is connected to the others. They are wiring diagrams.
  12. Simple computer models of neurons, hooked together by simple synapses, are capable of enormous complexity. Such network models have been around for decades, and they differ in interesting ways from standard computer programs. For one thing, they are able to learn, as neurons subtly adjust their connections to each other. They can solve problems that are difficult for traditional programs, and are particularly good at taking noisy input and compensating for the noise. Give a neural net a fuzzy, spotty photograph, and it might still be able to categorise the object depicted, filling in the gaps and blips in the image — something called pattern completion.
  13. Despite these remarkably human-like capacities, neural network models are not yet the answer to simulating a brain. Nobody knows how to build one at an appropriate scale. Some notable attempts are being made, such as the Blue Brain project and its successor, the EU-funded Human Brain Project, both run by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. But even if computers were powerful enough to simulate 100 billion neurons — and computer technology is pretty close to that capability — the real problem is that nobody knows how to wire up such a large artificial network.
  14. In some ways, the scientific problem of understanding the human brain is similar to the problem of human genetics. If you want to understand the human genome properly, an engineer might start with the basic building blocks of DNA and construct an animal, one base pair at a time, until she has created something human-like. But given the massive complexity of the human genome — more than 3 billion base pairs — that approach would be prohibitively difficult at the present time. Another approach would be to read the genome that we already have in real people. It is a lot easier to copy something complicated than to re-engineer it from scratch. The human genome project of the 1990s accomplished that, and even though nobody really understands it very well, at least we have a lot of copies of it on file to study.
  15. The same strategy might be useful on the human brain. Instead of trying to wire up an artificial brain from first principles, or training a neural network over some absurdly long period until it becomes human-like, why not copy the wiring already present in a real brain? In 2005, two scientists, Olaf Sporns, professor of brain sciences at Indiana University, and Patric Hagmann, neuroscientist at the University of Lausanne, independently coined the term ‘connectome’ to refer to a map or wiring diagram of every neuronal connection in a brain. By analogy to the human genome, which contains all the information necessary to grow a human being, the human connectome in theory contains all the information necessary to wire up a functioning human brain. If the basic premise of neural network modelling is correct, then the essence of a human mind is contained in its pattern of connectivity. Your connectome, simulated in a computer, would recreate your conscious mind.
  16. Could we ever map a complete human connectome? Well, scientists have done it for a roundworm. They’ve done it for small parts of a mouse brain. A very rough, large-scale map of connectivity in the human brain is already available, though nothing like a true map of every idiosyncratic neurone and synapse in a particular person’s head. The National Institutes of Health in the US is currently funding the Human Connectome Project, an effort to map a human brain in as much detail as possible. I admit to a certain optimism toward the project. The technology for brain scanning improves all the time. Right now, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is at the forefront. High-resolution scans of volunteers are revealing the connectivity of the human brain in more detail than anyone ever thought possible. Other, even better technologies will be invented. It seems a no-brainer (excuse the pun) that we will be able to scan, map, and store the data on every neuronal connection within a person’s head. It is only a matter of time, and a timescale of five to 10 decades seems about right.
  17. Of course, nobody knows if the connectome really does contain all the essential information about the mind. Some of it might be encoded in other ways. Hormones can diffuse through the brain. Signals can combine and interact through other means besides synaptic connections. Maybe certain other aspects of the brain need to be scanned and copied to make a high-quality simulation. Just as the music recording industry took a century of tinkering to achieve the impressive standards of the present day, the mind-recording industry will presumably require a long process of refinement.
  18. That won’t be soon enough for some of us. One of the basic facts about people is that they don’t like to die. They don’t like their loved ones or their pets to die. Some of them already pay enormous sums to freeze themselves, or even (somewhat gruesomely) to have their corpses decapitated and their heads frozen on the off-chance that a future technology will successfully revive them. These kinds of people will certainly pay for a spot in a virtual afterlife. And as the technology advances and the public starts to see the possibilities, the incentives will increase.
  19. One might say (at risk of being crass) that the afterlife is a natural outgrowth of the entertainment industry. Think of the fun to be had as a simulated you in a simulated environment. You could go on a safari through Middle Earth. You could live in Hogwarts, where wands and incantations actually do produce magical results. You could live in a photogenic, outdoor, rolling country, a simulation of the African plains, with or without the tsetse flies as you wish. You could live on a simulation of Mars. You could move easily from one entertainment to the next. You could keep in touch with your living friends through all the usual social media.
  20. I have heard people say that the technology will never catch on. People won’t be tempted because a duplicate of you, no matter how realistic, is still not you. But I doubt that such existential concerns will have much of an impact once the technology arrives. You already wake up every day as a marvellous copy of a previous you, and nobody has paralysing metaphysical concerns about that. If you die and are replaced by a really good computer simulation, it’ll just seem to you like you entered a scanner and came out somewhere else. From the point of view of continuity, you’ll be missing some memories. If you had your annual brain-backup, say, eight months earlier, you’ll wake up missing those eight months. But you will still feel like you, and your friends and family can fill you in on what you missed. Some groups might opt out — the Amish of information technology — but the mainstream will presumably flock to the new thing.
  21. And then what? Well, such a technology would change the definition of what it means to be an individual and what it means to be alive. For starters, it seems inevitable that we will tend to treat human life and death much more casually. People will be more willing to put themselves and others in danger. Perhaps they will view the sanctity of life in the same contemptuous way that the modern e-reader crowd views old fogeys who talk about the sanctity of a cloth-bound, hardcover book. Then again, how will we view the sanctity of digital life? Will simulated people, living in an artificial world, have the same human rights as the rest of us? Would it be a crime to pull the plug on a simulated person? Is it ethical to experiment on simulated consciousness? Can a scientist take a try at reproducing Jim, make a bad copy, casually delete the hapless first iteration, and then try again until he gets a satisfactory version? This is just the tip of a nasty philosophical iceberg we seem to be sailing towards.
  22. In many religions, a happy afterlife is a reward. In an artificial one, due to inevitable constraints on information processing, spots are likely to be competitive. Who decides who gets in? Do the rich get served first? Is it merit-based? Can the promise of resurrection be dangled as a bribe to control and coerce people? Will it be withheld as a punishment? Will a special torture version of the afterlife be constructed for severe punishment? Imagine how controlling a religion would become if it could preach about an actual, objectively provable heaven and hell.
  23. Then there are the issues that will arise if people deliberately run multiple copies of themselves at the same time, one in the real world and others in simulations. The nature of individuality, and individual responsibility, becomes rather fuzzy when you can literally meet yourself coming the other way. What, for instance, is the social expectation for married couples in a simulated afterlife? Do you stay together? Do some versions of you stay together and other versions separate?
  24. Then again, divorce might seem a little melodramatic if irreconcilable differences become a thing of the past. If your brain has been replaced by a few billion lines of code, perhaps eventually we will understand how to edit any destructive emotions right out of it. Or perhaps we should imagine an emotional system that is standard-issue, tuned and mainstreamed, such that the rest of your simulated mind can be grafted onto it. You lose the battle-scarred, broken emotional wiring you had as a biological agent and get a box-fresh set instead. This is not entirely far-fetched; indeed, it might make sense on economic rather than therapeutic grounds. The brain is roughly divisible into a cortex and a brainstem. Attaching a standard-issue brainstem to a person’s individualised, simulated cortex might turn out to be the most cost-effective way to get them up and running.
  25. So much for the self. What about the world? Will the simulated environment necessarily mimic physical reality? That seems the obvious way to start out, after all. Create a city. Create a blue sky, a pavement, the smell of food. Sooner or later, though, people will realise that a simulation can offer experiences that would be impossible in the real world. The electronic age changed music, not merely mimicking physical instruments but offering new potentials in sound. In the same way, a digital world could go to some unexpected places.
  26. To give just one disorientating example, it might include any number of dimensions in space and time. The real world looks to us to have three spatial dimensions and one temporal one, but, as mathematicians and physicists know, more are possible. It’s already possible to programme a video game in which players move through a maze of four spatial dimensions. It turns out that, with a little practice, you can gain a fair degree of intuition for the four-dimensional regime (I published a study on this in the Journal of Experimental Psychology in 2008). To a simulated mind in a simulated world, the confines of physical reality would become irrelevant. If you don’t have a body any longer, why pretend?
  27. All of the changes described above, as exotic as they are and disturbing as some of them might seem, are in a sense minor. They are about individual minds and individual experiences. If uploading were only a matter of exotic entertainment, literalising people’s psychedelic fantasies, then it would be of limited significance. If simulated minds can be run in a simulated world, then the most transformative change, the deepest shift in human experience, would be the loss of individuality itself — the integration of knowledge into a single intelligence, smarter and more capable than anything that could exist in the natural world.
  28. You wake up in a simulated welcome hall in some type of simulated body with standard-issue simulated clothes. What do you do? Maybe you take a walk and look around. Maybe you try the food. Maybe you play some tennis. Maybe go watch a movie. But sooner or later, most people will want to reach for a cell phone. Send a tweet from paradise. Text a friend. Get on Facebook. Connect through social media. But here is the quirk of uploaded minds: the rules of social media are transformed.
  29. In the real world, two people can share experiences and thoughts. But lacking a USB port in our heads, we can’t directly merge our minds. In a simulated world, that barrier falls. A simple app, and two people will be able to join thoughts directly with each other. Why not? It’s a logical extension. We humans are hyper-social. We love to network. We already live in a half-virtual world of minds linked to minds. In an artificial afterlife, given a few centuries and few tweaks to the technology, what is to stop people from merging into überpeople who are combinations of wisdom, experience, and memory beyond anything possible in biology? Two minds, three minds, 10, pretty soon everyone is linked mind-to-mind. The concept of separate identity is lost. The need for simulated bodies walking in a simulated world is lost. The need for simulated food and simulated landscapes and simulated voices disappears. Instead, a single platform of thought, knowledge, and constant realisation emerges. What starts out as an artificial way to preserve minds after death gradually takes on an emphasis of its own. Real life, our life, shrinks in importance until it becomes a kind of larval phase. Whatever quirky experiences you might have had during your biological existence, they would be valuable only if they can be added to the longer-lived and much more sophisticated machine.
  30. I am not talking about utopia. To me, this prospect is three parts intriguing and seven parts horrifying. I am genuinely glad I won’t be around. is will be a new phase of human existence that is just as messy and difficult as any other phase has been, one as alien to us now as the internet age would have been to a Roman citizen 2,000 years ago2; as alien as Roman society would have been to a Natufian hunter-gatherer 10,000 years before that. Such is progress. We always manage to live more-or-less comfortably in a world that would have frightened and offended the previous generations.
    → aeon.co 18 December, 2013


COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "The question is not whether we can upload our brains onto a computer, but what will become of us when we do."
  • See Web Link




In-Page Footnotes ("Graziano (Michael) - Endless fun")

Footnote 1:
  • This is suggesting an analogy: The phonograph is a nifty way of recording and preserving the sound of an orchestra, just as …
  • Indeed, just as what? As with all analogies, we need to be sure that the analogy stands up to scrutiny.
  • Even so, this is an interesting idea. Just what – if anything essential – is lost when the sound of an orchestra is recorded? In principle, nothing much … we can have closer and closer approximations.
  • Even so, what is recorded is the sound of the orchestra. Unlike the Panharmonicon, the phonograph makes no attempt to replicate or simulate the orchestra as such, only what the orchestra exists to do – to produce a co-ordinated sound.
  • So, … does this analogy carry over to the brain & mind?
Footnote 2:
  • You don’t need to go back that far.
  • We forget how quickly the computer age – let alone the internet age – has come upon us.
  • The Romans are closer to our own age than the mediaevals, the Tudors, the Stuarts, …?



"Graziano (Michael) - How the light gets out"

Source: Aeon, 21 August, 2013

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Consciousness is the ‘hard problem’, the one that confounds science and philosophy. Has a new theory cracked it?"
  • See Web Link



"Green (Nile) - Islam’s forgotten bohemians"

Source: Aeon, 29 March, 2016

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "With its subversive poetry, rejection of politics, and ecstatic rituals, Sufi Islam continues to surprise and to thrive."
  • See Web Link



"Green (Nile) - What happened when a Muslim student went to Cambridge in 1816"

Source: Aeon, 12 August, 2016

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Griffiths (Tom) - Queen of tides"

Source: Aeon, 13 December, 2012

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Once a route to riches and empire, the sea is now lapping at the future of Venice and other great maritime cities."
  • See Web Link



"Grossmann (Tobias) - How we learn to read another’s mind by looking into their eyes"

Source: Aeon, 12 July, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Haft (Helen) - Telling memories"

Source: Aeon, 09 February, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Jewish émigrés from the former Soviet Union tell inconsistent stories. What does this say about the nature of memory?".
  • See Web Link



"Hains (Brigid) & Hains (Paul) - Aeon: G-K"

Source: Various - Aeon: I-M



"Hajek (Alan) - Philosophy tool kit"

Source: Aeon, 03 April, 2017


Author’s Introduction
  1. Philosophers pride themselves on thinking clearly by seeing what follows from what, exposing sophisms, spotting fallacies, and generally policing our reasoning. Many have spent years honing their skills, often deploying them on arcane topics. But these skills are not the exclusive property of rarefied sages, accessed only with a secret handshake and insider training, as much as some philosophers wish this were so. Instead, some of these skills can be captured by generalisable, all-purpose techniques for the proper conduct of thought, whatever the topic. Many of these are easily taught and learned. As such, they can be utilised by non-philosophers too. At a time when we are bombarded more than ever with specious claims and spurious inferences, clear thinking provides a much-needed safeguard that we should all strive towards.
  2. Philosophers place a premium on certain tools for regimenting our thinking, especially logic and probability theory. However, there is a far richer toolbox at our disposal. Over the years, I have observed philosophers repeatedly using various argumentative moves or strategies, which can be encapsulated in rules of thumb that make their tasks easier. These are what might be called philosophical heuristics.

Author’s Conclusion
  1. To be sure, the heuristics have their limits. There are many distinct abilities that go into making a good philosopher, and I do not pretend to give heuristics for all that philosophers do, or even a tenth of what they do. In particular, there are no short-cuts to profundity, and I should add that there will always be a role for good judgment and insight – just as there is in mathematics and chess. That said, heuristics can make difficult reasoning tasks easier, as much in philosophy as in mathematics and chess.


COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Thinking like a philosopher need not be a strange and arcane art, if you get started with these tricks of the trade."
  • See Web Link



"Halpern (Paul) - The cosmology of Poe"

Source: Aeon, 04 May, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Drawing on intuition, Edgar Allan Poe offered some remarkably prescient ideas about the universe in his poem 'Eureka'."
  • See Web Link



"Hand (David) - What are the chances?"

Source: Aeon, 16 June, 2014
  • This paper starts off badly, in claiming that it’s less likely for you to win the lottery than to be killed by a meteorite. This seems to be such obvious nonsense that I thought I’d check it out. In a sense it’s true. The chance of winning the (UK National) lottery is 1 in 1 x 10^14 from a single ticket. The chance of being killed by a meteorite in your lifetime is 1 in 1.6 x 10^6. Also, the chance of meteorite death isn’t of you personally being smitten by a single meteorite, but being caught up in some mass killing of a “local / regional” event – ie. small to large events less dramatic than a mass extinction event. Your chance of being killed in a mass extinction event is 1 in 7.5 x 10^4. The reason the chances are relatively high is that when these very rare events happen, they kill an awful lot of people (everyone in the mass extinction case). One of the lessons of the paper is to understand what’s being said when such probability-claims are made.
  • There’s much of interest that I’ve not yet commented on.


COMMENT:



"Hanink (Johanna) - Even the ancient Greeks thought their best days were history"

Source: Aeon, 26 June, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Hanlon (Michael) - The mental block"

Source: Aeon, 09 October, 2013

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Consciousness is the greatest mystery in science. Don’t believe the hype: the Hard Problem is here to stay."
  • See Web Link



"Harrison (Peter) - Why religion is not going away and science will not destroy it"

Source: Aeon, 07 September, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Hartman (Robert J.) - Moral Luck"

Source: Aeon, 24 July, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Two people drive drunk at night: one kills a pedestrian, one doesn't. Does the unlucky killer deserve more blame or not?"
  • See Web Link



"Haussmann (Alexander) - Rainbows in nature: recent advances in observation and theory"

Source: European Journal of Physics 37 (2016) 063001 (30pp)


Author’s Abstract
  1. This topical review presents an overview of the common and less common observations of rainbows in natural rainfall, and the theoretical concepts that have been developed for their explanation.
  2. Mainly throughout the last 20 years, many new and intriguing effects have been photographed or documented for the first time, such as higher-order (tertiary, quaternary, etc) and twinned rainbows, as well as rainbows generated by nearby artificial light sources.
  3. In order to provide a sound explanation, the inclusion of natural non-spherical (i.e. oblate) raindrop shapes as well as natural broad polydisperse raindrop distributions into the classical rainbow theory (Lorenz–Mie and Debye scattering) is outlined.
  4. Thus, the article provides a condensed up-to-date synopsis complementing classical textbooks and earlier reviews on the physics of rainbows. It is intended to serve both active sky observers as well as physics teachers who want to keep up with current developments in the field.


COMMENT:



"Hawks (John) - Human evolution is more a muddy delta than a branching tree"

Source: Aeon, 08 February, 2016

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Hayden (Brian) - How the village feast paved the way to empires and economics"

Source: Aeon, 16 November, 2016


Author’s Conclusion
  1. Even today, it is remarkable that domestic animals in the tribal villages are almost never used for normal meals: they are universally reserved for sacrifice and consumption at feasts. Such a strong ethnographic pattern seems to imply that this was the original purpose for keeping and domesticating animals. Hill-tribe villages in Southeast Asia explicitly view the raising of domestic animals as similar to putting money in the bank. People use surpluses to raise animals that will profit them in the future through feasting benefits.
  2. The reliance on feasting to convert surpluses into power continued after the domestication of plants and animals into the Neolithic, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. Feasting was also integral to the early Sumerian city states as well as to Classical Roman elite culture and politics. It virtually ran the Incan Empire in South America. Far different from the gustatory and social entertainment of modern feasting, traditional feasts were entertainment with ulterior motives and binding debts that have produced the kind of surplus-based industrial society with all its inequalities that much of the world lives in today. Where would we be without feasts? I believe we would still be hunters and gatherers.


COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Heinze (Eric) - Free speech debates are more than ‘radicals’ vs ‘liberals’"

Source: Aeon, 05 January, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Henderson (Caspar) - Webs of perception"

Source: Aeon, 25 September, 2012

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "The ways in which jumping spiders see and map the world help to illuminate the mystery of human memory. "
  • See Web Link



"Henderson (Gretchen E.) - The history of ugliness shows that there is no such thing"

Source: Aeon, 08 March, 2016

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Heneghan (Liam) - We have a new word for that feeling when travel makes everything new"

Source: Aeon, 18 September, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Henry (Casey Michael) - The only line comedy shouldn’t cross is the no-laughter line"

Source: Aeon, 22 March, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Hilborn (Anne) - Bad mothers and why they make a difference to cheetah survival"

Source: Aeon, 06 June, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Hodgdon (Molly) - Natural, shmatural"

Source: Aeon, 05 June, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Mother Nature might be lovely, but moral she is not. She doesn’t love us or want what’s best for us."
  • See Web Link



"Holden (Joshua) - Quantum cryptography is unbreakable. So is human ingenuity"

Source: Aeon, 19 April, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Hossenfelder (Sabine) - Echoes of a black hole"

Source: Aeon, 29 March, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Ripples in space-time could herald the demise of general relativity and its replacement by a quantum theory of gravity."
  • See Web Link



"Hossenfelder (Sabine) - The superfluid Universe"

Source: Aeon, 01 February, 2016

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Quantum effects are not just subatomic: they can be expressed across galaxies, and solve the puzzle of dark matter. "
  • See Web Link



"Houston (Catriona) - Remote control of the brain is coming: how will we use it?"

Source: Aeon, 05 August, 2016

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Huenemann (Charlie) - If I teleport from Mars, does the original me get destroyed?"

Source: Aeon, 01 August, 2017

COMMENT:



"Huenemann (Charlie) - Who needs a perfect language? It’s already perfectly imperfect"

Source: Aeon, 30 May, 2017


Author’s Concluding Remarks
  1. To be sure, the danger of foggy thinking was (and is) quite real. But Carnap’s complete mishandling of Heidegger’s philosophy1 helps us to see what goes wrong in any attempt to create a perfect language.
  2. When ‘perfect’ means clear and unambiguous, then constructing a perfect language means clipping its expressive range so severely that nothing new and interesting can be said. What Carnap saw as language’s power to bewitch is also its creative power to present startling new ways of looking at the world.
  3. Anyone seeking to reorient our thinking by challenging our ordinary ways of thinking and talking about experience will have to use language in new ways, ways that might seem nonsensical to the language police. Think of William Shakespeare, James Joyce and Maya Angelou.
  4. The flexibility of language, its Protean twisty-turnyness, its quicksilvery spilloveritude (take that, Carnap!), allows us to reshape our experiences and see the world afresh. Language’s imperfection is its greatest perfection2.


COMMENT: See Web Link.




In-Page Footnotes ("Huenemann (Charlie) - Who needs a perfect language? It’s already perfectly imperfect")

Footnote 1:
  • His criticism of “Martin Heidegger’s provocative claim that ‘Das Nichts selbst nichtet’ (‘the Nothing itself nothings’)”.
Footnote 2:
  • I think this is to misunderstand Carnap’s programme. It is not to regulate all speech, only that for use in science and philosophy – to ensure that sense and not nonsense is spoken in those domains.
  • Where boundaries are broken, new – but precise – coinage is required.
  • This doesn’t apply to literature, where the coinage may be evocative, especially where precision is neither possible nor required.



"Hughes (Nick) - Do we matter in the cosmos?"

Source: Aeon, 29 June, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Humanity is nothing more than a microscopic blip in the universe. But does that mean we are insignificant?"
  • See Web Link



"Hulatt (Owen) - Has art ended again?"

Source: Aeon, 11 May, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Ever since Hegel, artists and critics alike have been claiming that art is finished. But what could that actually mean?"
  • See Web Link



"Humphrey (Nicholas) - Humans are the only animals who crave oblivion through suicide"

Source: Aeon, 28 July, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Irani (Tushar) - What is good rhetoric?"

Source: Aeon, 11 April, 201

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Plato said we ought to be suspicious of persuasive speakers and the appeal to emotions. But rhetoric can be a civic good."
  • See Web Link



"Jackson (Ruth) & Weibye (Hanna) - Can reason make room for religion in public life?"

Source: Aeon, 30 August, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Jaekl (Philip) - Sleepwalking is the result of a survival mechanism gone awry"

Source: Aeon, 03 March, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Jawer (Michael) - Do only humans have souls, or do animals possess them too?"

Source: Aeon, 15 September, 2016

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Jennings (Carolyn Dicey) - I attend, therefore I am"

Source: Aeon, 10 July, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "You are only as strong as your powers of attention, and other uncomfortable truths about the self "
  • See Web Link



"Jerryson (Michael) - Monks with guns"

Source: Aeon, 26 April, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Westerners think that Buddhism is about peace and non-violence. So how come Buddhist monks are in arms against Islam?"
  • See Web Link



"Johnson (David V.) - There’s a Green Card-holder at the heart of Greek philosophy"

Source: Aeon, 20 March, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Jonas (Sylvia) - Unspeakable things"

Source: Aeon, 17 January, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Life's most meaningful experiences can leave us tongue-tied. What can be said, let alone understood, about the unsayable?"
  • See Web Link



"Jones (Christopher) - New tech only benefits the elite until the people demand more"

Source: Aeon, 06 September, 2016

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Kaiser (David) - Operation: neutrino"

Source: Aeon, 20 July, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "How the neutrino went from ghost particle to vital physics tool – a tale of bombs, espionage and subtle flavours. "
  • See Web Link



"Kavanagh (Christopher) - People are intensely loyal to groups which abuse newcomers. Why?"

Source: Aeon, 16 January, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Kelly (Lynne) - This ancient mnemonic technique builds a palace of memory"

Source: Aeon, 20 September, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Kenny (Kevin) - The Irish diaspora"

Source: Aeon, 07 September, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "There are 70 million people around the world who claim Irish ancestry. What shaped and made the great Irish emigration?"
  • See Web Link



"Kent (Adrian) - Our quantum problem"

Source: Aeon, 28 January, 2014

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "When the deepest theory we have seems to undermine science itself, some kind of collapse looks inevitable."
  • See Web Link



"Kind (Amy) - Imagination is a powerful tool: why is philosophy afraid of it?"

Source: Aeon, 01 September, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"King (Barbara J.) - The pig on your plate"

Source: Aeon, 19 July, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "That pigs are smart and sensitive is not in doubt. How can we justify continuing to kill them for food? "
  • See Web Link



"Kochanek (Christopher) - What high-speed astronomy can tell us about the galactic zoo"

Source: Aeon, 19 July, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Konnikova (Maria) - The empathy machine"

Source: Aeon, 14 November, 2012

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Sherlock was right – new research shows that seeing through another's eyes takes a detached mind not just a warm heart."
  • See Web Link



"Koopman (Colin) - The power thinker"

Source: Aeon, 15 March, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Original, painstaking, sometimes frustrating and often dazzling. Foucault’s work on power matters now more than ever ."
  • See Web Link
  • See also Foucault (Michel).



"Koyama (Mark) - Ideas were not enough"

Source: Aeon, 28 August, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "Locke, Spinoza and Voltaire were all brilliant, but religious freedom in Europe was driven by statecraft not philosophy."
  • See Web Link



"Kozubec (Jim) - Billionaires say they’ll end disease: evolution says otherwise"

Source: Aeon, 06 February, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Krishna (Nakul) - Enid Blyton, moral guide"

Source: Aeon, 26 April, 2016

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "The unfashionable world of Blyton’s school stories still has much to say about what it means to live an ethical life."
  • See Web Link



"Kroupa (Pavel) - Has dogma derailed the scientific search for dark matter?"

Source: Aeon, 25 November, 2016

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Krznaric (Roman) - How ‘The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám’ inspired Victorian hedonists"

Source: Aeon, 12 May, 2017


Author’s Introduction
  1. How did a 400-line poem based on the writings of a Persian sage and advocating seize-the-day hedonism achieve widespread popularity in Victorian England? The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám was written by the eccentric English scholar Edward FitzGerald, drawing on his loose translation of quatrains by the 12th-century poet and mathematician Omar Khayyám.
  2. Obscure beginnings perhaps, but the poem’s remarkable publishing history is the stuff of legend. Its initial publication in 1859 – the same year as Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and J S Mill’s On Liberty – went completely unnoticed: it didn’t sell a single copy in its first two years.
  3. That all changed when a remaindered copy of FitzGerald’s 20-page booklet was picked up for a penny by the Celtic scholar Whitley Stokes, who passed it on to Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who subsequently fell in love with it and sang its praises to his PreRaphaelite circle.

Author’s Conclusion
  1. … the kind of hedonism1 popularised by the Rubáiyát can help to put us back in touch with the virtues of direct experience (Web Link) in our age of mediation, where so much of daily life is filtered through the two-dimensional electronic flickers on a smartphone or tablet. We are becoming observers of life rather than participants, immersed in a society of the digital spectacle.
  2. We could learn a thing or two from the Victorians: let us keep a copy of the Rubáiyát in our pockets, alongside the iPhone, and remember the words of wise Khayyám: ‘While you live Drink! – for, once dead, you never shall return.’


COMMENT:




In-Page Footnotes ("Krznaric (Roman) - How ‘The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám’ inspired Victorian hedonists")

Footnote 1:
  • This type seems to be rather gross – wine and spliffs.
  • The author refers us on to Wilde (Oscar)’s The Picture of Dorian Grey.
  • There’s no reference to Ecclesiastes, though maybe the emphasis here is – while agreeing on the transience of life – less on hedonism that on carpe diem, and maybe not even that.



"Kulikowski (Michael) - Christians were strangers"

Source: Aeon, 30 January, 2017

COMMENT:
  • Sub-title: "How an obscure oriental cult in a corner of Roman Palestine grew to become the dominant religion of the Western world."
  • See Web Link



"Kwak (Nancy) - This striking feature of Manila makes it an emblematic global city"

Source: Aeon, 11 September, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.



"Kyle (Earle) - Space exploration is still the brightest hope-bringer we have"

Source: Aeon, 19 May, 2017

COMMENT:



Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2017
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)



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