Aeon: T-Z
Hains (Brigid) & Hains (Paul)
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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: T-Z")

Footnote 1:

"Tadros (Victor) - It is sometimes right to fight in an unjust war"

Source: Aeon, 28 April, 2017

  1. What should soldiers do in a war that ought not to be fought? Should they take part? If it’s wrong for one country to declare war on another, isn’t it also wrong for members of the armed forces to fight in that war? This is often true – but, surprisingly, it isn’t always true.
  2. … it is quite common for people who oppose a war to support the troops that fight in them. This was often the attitude of those opposed to British involvement in the 2003 war in Iraq, for example. While many thought it wrong for the country to go to war, they didn’t condemn the professional soldiers who fought in that war.
  3. One explanation for this attitude is that it can seem unreasonable to expect soldiers to evaluate whether the war they are involved in is unjust.
  4. Here’s another explanation. When people join the military, they commit themselves to follow their government’s decisions to go to war, irrespective of their own judgment about whether that war is unjust. And they get paid on that basis.
  5. But now consider an individual combatant. Whether she participates or not, the war will go ahead. The central questions for her are about the difference that her acts will make to the lives of others, not about the difference that all the war’s acts will make.
  6. For example, an individual soldier who participated in the Iraq war might have decreased the war’s destruction. By making the invasion of Iraq more effective, she might have shortened the war, and her presence at its end might have helped to rebuild society from the chaos that inevitably results from war. If she did have these effects, her individual acts would not have been wrong, whatever the injustice of the war as a whole. Overall, she might have had good grounds for believing that her contributions would be positive.
  7. If it is wrong for a government to go to war, it is often wrong to fight in it. But sometimes, just sometimes, it can be right to fight in an unjust war to avoid a worse outcome.

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Tampio (Nicholas) - Stuck on one idea of truth or beauty? Rhizomes can help"

Source: Aeon, 09 May, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Tampio (Nicholas) - Teaching ‘grit’ is bad for children, and bad for democracy"

Source: Aeon, 02 June, 2016

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Tasiouas (John) - Are human rights anything more than legal conventions?"

Source: Aeon, 11 April, 201

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Tessman (Lisa) - Sometimes giving a person a choice is an act of terrible cruelty"

Source: Aeon, 09 August, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Theil (Stefan) - Why the Human Brain Project Went Wrong - and How to Fix It"

Source: Scientific American, 1st October 2015


"Thomas (Ben) - Eating people is wrong – but it’s also widespread and sacred"

Source: Aeon, 04 April, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Thomas (Ben) - Far-distant days: the past has a dizzying power to ground us"

Source: Aeon, 07 August, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Tobia (Kevin Patrick) - Change becomes you"

Source: Aeon, 19 September, 2017

  • "Being the same person over time is not about holding on to every aspect of your current self but about changing purposefully."
  • See Web Link

"Todorov (Alexander) - First impressions count"

Source: Aeon, 30 May, 2017

  • Sub-title: "A judgment of competence is made in a tenth of a second on the basis of facial features. Thus political decisions are made."
  • See Web Link

"Tosi (Justin) & Warmke (Brandon) - Moral grandstanding: there’s a lot of it about, all of it bad"

Source: Aeon, 10 May, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Tracy (Gene) - Sky readers"

Source: Aeon, 23 December, 2015


"Truschke (Audrey) - A much-maligned Mughal"

Source: Aeon, 05 April, 2017

Author’s Introduction
  1. Aurangzeb Alamgir, the sixth ruler of the Mughal Empire, is the most hated king in Indian history. He ruled for nearly 50 years, from 1658 until 1707, the last great imperial power in India before British colonialism. According to many, he destroyed India politically, socially and culturally.
  2. Aurangzeb’s list of alleged crimes is long and grave. He is charged with fighting protracted, pointless wars in central and southern India and thereby fatally weakening the Mughal state. He is envisioned as a cruel despot who brutally murdered enemies, including his own brothers. He is regarded as a cultural dolt, uninterested in the extraordinary arts of south Asia, even hostile to them.

Author’s Conclusion
  1. Aurangzeb is a critical figure to understanding India’s past. However, many in modern India are uninterested in recovering the historical Aurangzeb, preferring instead to slander a distorted memory of the king. This approach to history as a blank slate that can reflect our modern ideas – even to the extreme of entirely rewriting the past – is dangerous. Often, the true purpose of ahistorically condemning Aurangzeb is to galvanise anti-Muslim sentiments.
  2. We must embrace the project of understanding Aurangzeb on his own terms in order to gain a more accurate perspective on this influential emperor and the world he helped to create. Studying Aurangzeb also helps to challenge modern ignorance and hate by presenting us with a complicated man that we cannot explain by simple reference to modern categories and biases. Knowing more about Aurangzeb is important, both for India’s past – and India’s present.

  • Sub-title: "The great king Aurangzeb is among the most hated men in Indian history. A historian claims he’s been unjustly demonised."
  • See Web Link

"Tsakiris (Manos) - The brain-heart dialogue shows how racism hijacks perception"

Source: Aeon, 14 April, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Ungar (Peter) - It’s not that your teeth are too big: your jaw is too small"

Source: Aeon, 30 June, 2017

Author’s Argument
  1. So why don’t our teeth fit properly in the jaw? The short answer is not that our teeth are too large, but that our jaws are too small to fit them in. Let me explain. Human teeth are covered with a hard cap of enamel that forms from the inside out. The cells that make the cap move outward toward the eventual surface as the tooth forms, leaving a trail of enamel behind. If you’ve ever wondered why your teeth can’t grow or repair themselves when they break or develop cavities, it’s because the cells that make enamel die and are shed when a tooth erupts. So the sizes and shapes of our teeth are genetically pre-programmed. They cannot change in response to conditions in the mouth.
  2. But the jaw is a different story. Its size depends both on genetics and environment; and it grows longer with heavy use, particularly during childhood, because of the way bone responds to stress. The evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman at Harvard University conducted an elegant study in 2004 on hyraxes fed soft, cooked foods and tough, raw foods. Higher chewing strains resulted in more growth in the bone that anchors the teeth. He showed that the ultimate length of a jaw depends on the stress put on it during chewing.
  3. Selection for jaw length is based on the growth expected, given a hard or tough diet. In this way, diet determines how well jaw length matches tooth size. It is a fine balancing act, and our species has had 200,000 years to get it right. The problem for us is that, for most of that time, our ancestors didn’t feed their children the kind of mush we feed ours today. Our teeth don’t fit because they evolved instead to match the longer jaw that would develop in a more challenging strain environment. Ours are too short because we don’t give them the workout nature expects us to.

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Vannini (Walter) - Coding is not ‘fun’, it’s technically and ethically complex"

Source: Aeon, 23 September, 2016

Full Text
  1. Programming computers is a piece of cake. Or so the world’s digital-skills gurus would have us believe. From the non-profit’s promise that ‘Anybody can learn!’ to Apple chief executive Tim Cook’s comment that writing code is ‘fun1 and interactive2’, the art and science of making software is now as accessible as the alphabet.
  2. Unfortunately, this rosy portrait bears no relation to reality. For starters, the profile of a programmer’s mind is pretty uncommon3. As well as being highly analytical and creative4, software developers need almost superhuman focus to manage the complexity of their tasks. Manic attention to detail is a must; slovenliness is verboten. Attaining this level of concentration requires a state of mind called being ‘in the flow’, a quasi-symbiotic relationship between human and machine that improves performance and motivation.
  3. Coding isn’t the only job that demands intense focus. But you’d never hear someone say that brain surgery is ‘fun’, or that structural engineering is ‘easy’. When it comes to programming, why do policymakers and technologists pretend otherwise?
    1. For one, it helps lure people to the field5 at a time when software (in the words of the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen) is ‘eating the world’ – and so, by expanding the labour pool, keeps industry ticking over and wages under control6.
    2. Another reason is that the very word ‘coding7’ sounds routine and repetitive, as though there’s some sort of key that developers apply by rote to crack any given problem.
    It doesn’t help that Hollywood has cast the ‘coder’ as a socially challenged, type-first-think-later hacker, inevitably white and male, with the power to thwart the Nazis or penetrate the CIA.
  4. Insisting on the glamour and fun of coding is the wrong way to acquaint kids with computer science. It insults their intelligence and plants the pernicious notion in their heads that you don’t need discipline in order to progress. As anyone with even minimal exposure to making software knows, behind a minute of typing lies an hour of study8.
  5. It’s better to admit that coding is complicated, technically and ethically. Computers, at the moment, can only execute orders, to varying degrees of sophistication. So it’s up to the developer to be clear: the machine does what you say, not what you mean9. More and more ‘decisions’ are being entrusted to software, including life-or-death ones: think self-driving cars; think semi-autonomous weapons; think Facebook and Google making inferences about your marital, psychological or physical status, before selling it to the highest bidder. Yet it’s rarely in the interests of companies and governments to encourage us to probe what’s going on beneath these processes.
  6. All of these scenarios are built on exquisitely technical foundations. But we can’t respond to them by answering exclusively technical questions. Programming is not a detail that can be left to ‘technicians’ under the false pretence that their choices will be ‘scientifically neutral’. Societies are too complex: the algorithmic is political. Automation has already dealt a blow to the job security of low-skilled workers in factories and warehouses around the world. White-collar workers are next in line. The digital giants of today run on a fraction of the employees of the industrial giants of yesterday, so the irony of encouraging more people to work as programmers is that they are slowly mobilising themselves out of jobs.
  7. In an ever-more intricate and connected world, where software plays a larger and larger role in everyday life, it’s irresponsible to speak of coding as a lightweight activity. Software is not simply lines of code, nor is it blandly technical. In just a few years, understanding programming will be an indispensable part of active citizenship. The idea that coding offers an unproblematic path to social progress and personal enhancement works to the advantage of the growing techno-plutocracy that’s insulating itself behind its own technology.

COMMENT: See Web Link.

In-Page Footnotes ("Vannini (Walter) - Coding is not ‘fun’, it’s technically and ethically complex")

Footnote 1:
  • It can be fun – as well as frustrating when you get stuck!
  • I’ve found it’s more fun when you’re solving a problem you find interesting, or can see fits into some wider context that is important.
  • It can be a bit like “playing”.
Footnote 2:
  • Well, it is – both in the sense that you’re writing an application that you have to interact with when you test it.
  • Also, modern debugging aids are interactive, and iterative.
Footnote 3:
  • This is true of those who have really “got it”, or who have to perform the really high-end “analytical and creative” tasks envisioned.
  • But must reasonable bright people can perform straightforward programming tasks – it’s just that they are much slower, more error prone, and get really stuck when things get more complicated.
  • There wouldn’t be aptitude tests if anyone could do it!
Footnote 4:
  • The element of creativity has been disputed. I seem to remember a line in "Pirsig (Robert M.) - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values" claiming this, and noting that it was commonly disbelieved.
  • Any complex development task can be performed more or less efficiently, and determining the best way is a creative process, not just relying on what you’ve been taught (if anything).
  • Creating software to address a problem or function of your own devising is also highly creative.
  • What isn’t (so) creative is the coder’s task of converting a very explicit specification into code in a formulaic manner – eg. using a code template.
Footnote 5:
  • Why “lure” rather than “attract”?
  • Is the author trying to suggest that the wrong sort of person is being “lured”?
Footnote 6:
  • I’m not sure what he means here.
  • While flooding the market with inappropriate people, the average salary – and maybe even the peak salary – may be depressed, but the total salary bill is vastly inflated.
Footnote 7:
  • “Coding” shouldn’t be confused with “encoding”, the algorithmic translation of one string into another.
  • The coding required for translating very detailed specifications into code can be like encoding, which is why it can be a bad thing motivationally to divide the analytical and coding tasks between different people. Neither the analyst nor the programmer has much fun.
Footnote 8:
  • This ought to be the case, but there’s a temptation just to get on with it, and muddle through.
Footnote 9:
  • This obvious point cannot be over-stretched.

"Wallace (Lary) - Now THAT was music"

Source: Aeon, 25 April, 2017

  • Sub-title: "One grim day (when youth is over) you find that new music gets on your nerves. But why do our musical tastes freeze over?"
  • See Web Link

"Walton (Stuart) - Theory from the ruins"

Source: Aeon, 31 May, 2017

  • Sub-title: "The Frankfurt school argued that reason is dangerous, mass culture deadening, and the Enlightenment a disaster. Were they right?"
  • See Web Link

"Wareham (Christopher) - How can life-extending treatments be available for all?"

Source: Aeon, 02 August, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Weinberger (Sharon) - Web of war"

Source: Aeon, 09 March, 2017

  • Sub-title: "How the hair-trigger nuclear age and fears of Armageddon inspired visionary cold warriors to invent the internet."
  • See Web Link

"Weiscott (Eric) - The 13th-century revolution that made modern poetry possible"

Source: Aeon, 15 September, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Wertheim (Margaret) - How to Play Mathematics"

Source: Aeon, 07 February, 2017

  • Sub-title: "The world is full of mundane, meek, unconscious things embodying fiendishly complex mathematics. What can we learn from them?"
  • See Web Link

"Wheelwright (Julie) - Mata Hari uncovered"

Source: Aeon, 29 August, 2017

  • Sub-title: "Dancer, courtesan, spy: on the centenary of her execution, how much do we really know about the woman behind the legend?"
  • See Web Link

"Whitcroft (Katherine) - Scents and sensibility"

Source: Aeon, 05 July, 2017

  • Sub-title: "Our sense of smell gives flavour to food, emotion to memories, and connects us to each other. But how exactly does it work?"
  • See Web Link

"Whitelock (Anna) - Why the Tudors still rule"

Source: Aeon, 29 May, 2017

  • Sub-title: "The Tudors are always good box office, but their melodramatic lives distract from a much deeper legacy of civic nationhood."
  • See Web Link

"Whiteson (Daniel) - The most wonderful words in science: ‘We have no idea… yet!’"

Source: Aeon, 13 September, 2017

  • See Web Link
  • Really a plug for - and an excerpt from - "We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe" (by the author & Jorge Cham). This books is too "popular" for me, I think.

"Wilkinson (Dominic) & Doolabh (Keyur) - Which lives matter most?"

Source: Aeon, 12 June, 2017

Author’s Conclusion
  1. Finally, what does this mean for philosophy and practical ethics? The non-identity problem1 shouldn’t influence our choice of strategies for addressing Congenital Zika Syndrome. That is because of the complex and indeterminable mix of effects of our actions. That might be the case too for some other political decisions that we make, but it doesn’t mean that the non-identity problem isn’t important.
  2. As we contemplate some of the greatest ethical challenges that lie ahead in the 21st century – climate change, population policy, genetic engineering – the non-identity problem will continue to rear its head. What matters most ethically? How should we weigh harms and benefits to current and future people? What are our ethical obligations to people who might or might not exist? Those fundamental and formidable questions remain.
  3. What is your view on the non-identity problem? Take the quiz2: Web Link.

  • Sub-title: "Thinking about children who are not yet born confronts us with the question of our ethical obligations to future people."
  • See Web Link

In-Page Footnotes ("Wilkinson (Dominic) & Doolabh (Keyur) - Which lives matter most?")

Footnote 1:
  • This is Parfit (Derek)’s view that it makes no difference which set of people are impacted by our actions – we just tot up the consequences and act for the best.
  • It is contrasted with the “person affecting” view, or a hybrid supported by Rawls (John).
Footnote 2:
  • I took the quiz, and it claimed that my views were “person affecting” – which was a surprise to me – though it said I’d shift to “non-identity” if the benefits were sufficient.
  • Maybe this was something to do with time-discounting – not mentioned in the paper. That the impact on those closest to us – both temporally and spatially – ought to weigh somewhat more for us, though not to the exclusion of future generations.

"Yong (Ed) - Coincidental killers"

Source: Aeon, 01 January, 2014

  • Sub-title: "We assume that microbes evolved to attack humans when actually we are just civilian casualties in a much older war."
  • See Web Link

"Yurkiewicz (Ilana) - Medical disrespect"

Source: Aeon, 29 January, 2014

  • Sub-title: "Bullying doctors are not just unpleasant, they are dangerous. Can we change the culture of intimidation in our hospitals?"
  • See Web Link

"Zacks (Jeffrey M.) - Getting smarter"

Source: Aeon, 13 June, 2016

  • Sub-title: "Brain-training games won’t boost your IQ, but a host of strategies can improve your cognitive abilities one piece at a time."
  • See Web Link

"Zaretsky (Robert D.) - Return of the grotesque"

Source: Aeon, 03 July, 2017

  • Sub-title: "The postmodern carnival has arrived, and there are good reasons to prefer François Rabelais’s version. "
  • See Web Link

"Zarkadakis (George) - The economy is more a messy, fractal living thing than a machine"

Source: Aeon, 13 July, 2017

COMMENT: See Web Link.

"Zimmerman (Jess) - Young blood"

Source: Aeon, 27 August, 2014

  • Sub-title: "From teen-targeting vampires to Lady Báthory’s bloodbaths, we love stories of stolen youth. What if it were possible?"
  • See Web Link

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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