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futurists and historians
What best distinguishes our species is an ability that scientists are just beginning to appreciate: We contemplate the future. Our singular foresight created…
history  future  mind  animal  human  question  opinion  futurism  historian 
march 2019 by aries1988
The Story of the Iberian Peninsula, Told in DNA - The New York Times

The team was able to identify pieces of North African DNA in people across Spain. The researchers estimated that the subjects’ North African ancestors lived about 800 years ago, during Muslim rule.

The researchers were also able to group Spaniards into five genetic clusters. On a map, these groups form five strips running north to south. Those strips line up neatly with history.

At the height of the Muslim rule, a few small Christian states survived on the northern coast of Spain. As Muslims lost power, those states expanded their southern borders, starting roughly 900 years ago.
Iberia  genetics  archaeology  origin  europe  human  migration 
march 2019 by aries1988
Last hominin standing – charting our rise and the fall of our closest relatives
Through genome sequencing, we now know that chimpanzees are our closest living relatives, sharing nearly 99 per cent of our DNA. But in the roughly 7 million years since our ancestors split from chimps, Homo sapiens has existed alongside a wide variety of closer evolutionary cousins. This video from the American Museum of Natural History tracks scientists’ current best guess at a timeline of hominin species, including when and where they lived, and how extinctions and interbreeding led to Homo sapiens becoming the last hominin on Earth. And yet, due to gaps in the timeline and continued fossil discoveries, it seems we've found only fragments of our evolutionary past, leaving much still to be learned about our family tree.
video  human  origin  evolution 
january 2019 by aries1988
Jared Diamond: ‘Humans, 150,000 years ago, wouldn’t figure on a list of the five most interesting species on Earth’

It was a painful thought for someone who recalled being told, by an admiring teacher at his Massachusetts school, that one day he would “unify the sciences and humanities”. Clearly, he needed a larger canvas. Even so, few could have predicted how large a canvas he would choose.

1997’s Guns, Germs and Steel – which ask the most sweeping questions it is possible to ask about human history.

Diamond, who describes himself as a biogeographer, answers them in translucent prose that has the effect of making the world seem to click into place, each fact assuming its place in an elegant arc of pan-historical reasoning.

Why? Because 8,000 years ago – to borrow from Guns, Germs and Steel – the geography of Europe and the Middle East made it easier to farm crops and animals there than elsewhere.

vicious jousting between Diamond and many anthropologists. They condemn him as a cultural imperialist, intent on excusing the horrors of colonialism while asserting the moral superiority of the west.

In person, Diamond is a fastidiously courteous 77-year-old with a Quaker-style beard sans moustache, and archaic New England vowels: “often” becomes “orphan”, “area” becomes “eerier”. There’s no computer: despite his children’s best efforts, he admits he’s never learned to use one.

What changed, Diamond argues, was a seemingly minor set of mutations in our larynxes, permitting control over spoken sounds, and thus spoken language; spoken language permitted much of the rest.

It won a Pulitzer prize and has sold more than 1.5m copies in 36 languages. Mitt Romney quoted it admiringly in his 2012 presidential campaign, garbling its message entirely.

he found himself accused of “geographic determinism”: in his critics’ opinion, his arguments squeeze out any role for human agency and decision-making, thereby sparing history’s colonisers – and today’s elites – any responsibility for having created our grotesquely unjust world.

Each of the two books has the unusual distinction of having another book dedicated largely to demolishing it: Yali’s Question, which offers a different answer from Diamond’s New Guinean acquaintance, and Questioning Collapse, which calls the Easter Island “ecocide” a myth.

Whenever I hear the phrase ‘geographic determinism’,” he says, “I know I’m about to waste time discussing with someone who has no right to be discussing [how human societies developed]. Because the fact is that geography has a strong influence on humans. It doesn’t determine everything, but it has a strong influence
bio  book  leader  human  development  inequality  world  history  biology  environment  debate  theory  geography  opinion 
october 2018 by aries1988
Stretch Genes

the genomes of various human beings fall into several reasonably well-defined clusters when analyzed statistically, and these clusters generally correspond to continent of origin. In this statistical sense, races are real.

To Wade, the implications are big. While behavioral differences among races would surely be subtle, they can, he insists, become amplified at the level of entire societies. Slight differences in behavioral predisposition—to cooperation, aggression, trust, propensity to follow rules, and so on—probably pushed different races in directions that led to different social institutions. Indeed the seeds of difference between the world’s great civilizations were perhaps present from the first settlements.

the evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker. (Evolutionary psychologists, while acknowledging that human behavior has a partly genetic basis, generally assume that all people share the same predispositions. They then try to explain these human universals.)

This sends Wade into paroxysms of righteous indignation and he declares that whether or not a thesis might be politically incendiary should have no bearing on the estimate of its scientific validity. What Wade doesn’t tell you is that this is what Pinker himself says in his very next sentence: The fact that a hypothesis is politically uncomfortable does not mean that it is false, but it does mean that we should consider the evidence very carefully before concluding that it is true.
book  critic  gene  human  race  biology  political  opinion  debate  society  evolution  racism 
october 2018 by aries1988
Paul Bloom on Cruelty – Econlib
I think that's one of the biggest mistakes we make about morality. I think that the reality is that fully appreciating someone's humanity opens up so many positive things--you can't be human without it; you can't have a decent relationship. It's the foundation of love, and friendship. But, it carries with it so many terrible risks. Really loving somebody, really knowing somebody opens up the possibility for love; but it also opens up the possibility for hatred.

we need to respect the fact that often we had no bad intentions and we will be right; and yet we can appreciate that our own small acts when accumulated makes people's lives miserable. And so we should stop these small acts.

The first point is that the robots are probably sentient. I mean, it's impossible to know. It's the standard, you know, undergraduate dormitory argument at 2 in the morning, how can I know you're conscious? How can you know that I'm conscious? But, these robots are of such sophistication, complexity, it beggars belief that they don't have feelings.
utilitarianism  human  cruel  thinking  movie  culture  debate  mind  other  love  family  morality  anger  incel  mob  robot 
october 2018 by aries1988
Homo sapiens devient-il homo informaticus ?
oisif, oisive

adjectif et nom
(ancien français oidif, avec l'influence de oiseux)

Qui n'exerce aucune activité permanente et dispose de nombreux loisirs, qui vit sans travailler.
human  workforce  future  book  français  opinion  work  self  ai  data 
september 2018 by aries1988
人类社会的差异是由基因决定的吗?
他的目标是“正视种族在基因层面的差别,探究人类较晚近时期的进化对历史以及人类社会特质有怎样的揭示。”他的结论是:种族不但真实存在,而且不同种族在基因层面也有常人意想不到的差异。
韦德的主要观点是:人类晚近时期所发生的进化导致不同族群在基因层面出现差异,并进而表现出不同的社会行为。这些在社会行为上的细微差异可以解释为何不同族群所建立的社会制度大相径庭

在对人们的基因组进行统计分析后,相同族群的人的基因组会在一个聚类中,每个聚类又对应一个大洲。种族在这样的统计学意义上是真实存在的。

韦德如此论述道:一旦人类进入定居生活,富人的孩子比穷人的孩子存活的机会大,所以,让富人成为富人的行为之基因将得以传播。因而通过这种自然选择,“精英的某些社会行为将得以逐渐向全社会扩散”。

不同族群在行为倾向(如合作,攻击行为,信任,遵守规则)上丝毫的不同都可能会让各个族群做出不同选择,建立不同的社会制度。“世界上伟大文明之间的差异可能自各文明发源之初便已显现。”

韦德无法做出区分的是:说政治上的敏感性不应当歪曲科学真理当然没错,是事实就是事实;然而,正如平克尔所指出,这不意味着我们可以毫无顾忌地谈论种族问题。历史告诉我们,这是个尤其危险的问题,围绕这个问题的讨论曾经导致了巨大的灾难。认识到这一点并且做到小心翼翼并非什么不科学。
genetics  society  civ  human  debate  race 
september 2018 by aries1988
Yuval Noah Harari on Why Technology Favors Tyranny - The Atlantic

- In 2018 the common person feels increasingly irrelevant.
By 2050, a useless class might emerge, the result not only of a shortage of jobs or a lack of relevant education but also of insufficient mental stamina to continue learning new skills.

- whatever liberal democracy’s philosophical appeal, it has gained strength in no small part thanks to a practical advantage: The decentralized approach to decision making that is characteristic of liberalism—in both politics and economics.
In the late 20th century, democracies usually outperformed dictatorships, because they were far better at processing information.
Democracy distributes the power to process information and make decisions among many people and institutions, whereas dictatorship concentrates information and power in one place.
- If you disregard all privacy concerns and concentrate all the information relating to a billion people in one database, you’ll wind up with much better algorithms than if you respect individual privacy and have in your database only partial information on a million people.

- What will happen to this view of life as we rely on AI to make ever more decisions for us?
once we begin to count on AI to decide what to study, where to work, and whom to date or even marry, human life will cease to be a drama of decision making, and our conception of life will need to change. Democratic elections and free markets might cease to make sense. So might most religions and works of art.
If we are not careful, we will end up with downgraded humans misusing upgraded computers to wreak havoc on themselves and on the world.

- For starters, we need to place a much higher priority on understanding how the human mind works—particularly how our own wisdom and compassion can be cultivated.
- More practically, and more immediately, if we want to prevent the concentration of all wealth and power in the hands of a small elite, we must regulate the ownership of data.
advice  future  crisis  ai  society  politics  people  life  work  mentality  human  democracy  dictatorship  competition  liberalism 
september 2018 by aries1988
张经纬:《四夷居中国》意在构建完整的东亚大陆人类史
“东亚大陆的人类史”(本书原稿书名为“四夷居中国——东亚大陆的人类史”。)是个有趣的题目,顾名思义,这个题目基本浓缩了本书写作的主要意图。 在很大程度上,“东亚大陆”等价于历史上的“中国”,但就所指…
trailer  book  asia  human  history 
july 2018 by aries1988
Lifelong learners will appreciate this book about the history of everything

Understanding where humanity comes from is crucial to shaping where we go next. Origin Story is an up-to-date history of everything that will leave you with a greater appreciation of our place in the universe.
book  origin  human  bighistory 
july 2018 by aries1988
The False Allure of Group Selection | Edge.org

I want to point out a potentially important example of group selection that Pinker overlooks: human languages. The function of language is to build communities and groups, as I have argued in many places. If an individual lacks the ability to talk, he or she will still survive. But a group of Homo sapiens that cannot talk will not be competitive with another group that can.

Dawkins, for instance, opines in the opening pages of The Selfish Gene, "We are survival machines—robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.... a predominant quality to be expected in a successful gene is ruthless selfishness. This gene selfishness will usually give rise to selfishness in individual behavior.... Anything that has evolved by natural selection should be selfish."
gene  debate  evolution  concept  groupe  biology  human  society  to:marginnote 
april 2018 by aries1988
A Brand-New Version of Our Origin Story - The New York Times
It turns out that those herders contributed about half the genes of Northern European and British skeletons beginning around 5,000 years ago. Evidently, the herders somehow outbred or exterminated most of Europe’s original farmers. How on earth could small numbers of herders have overwhelmed dense farmer populations?

Archaeological and linguistic evidence had already shown that Polynesians can be traced back to the island of Taiwan.
book  human  origin  research  today  gene 
april 2018 by aries1988
The Case Against Civilization
We don’t give the technology of fire enough credit, Scott suggests, because we don’t give our ancestors much credit for their ingenuity over the long period—ninety-five per cent of human history—during which most of our species were hunter-gatherers.

To demonstrate the significance of fire, he points to what we’ve found in certain caves in southern Africa. The earliest, oldest strata of the caves contain whole skeletons of carnivores and many chewed-up bone fragments of the things they were eating, including us. Then comes the layer from when we discovered fire, and ownership of the caves switches: the human skeletons are whole, and the carnivores are bone fragments. Fire is the difference between eating lunch and being lunch.

Anatomically modern humans have been around for roughly two hundred thousand years. For most of that time, we lived as hunter-gatherers. Then, about twelve thousand years ago, came what is generally agreed to be the definitive before-and-after moment in our ascent to planetary dominance: the Neolithic Revolution. This was our adoption of, to use Scott’s word, a “package” of agricultural innovations, notably the domestication of animals such as the cow and the pig, and the transition from hunting and gathering to planting and cultivating crops.

His best-known book, “Seeing Like a State,” has become a touchstone for political scientists, and amounts to a blistering critique of central planning and “high modernism,” the idea that officials at the center of a state know better than the people they are governing. Scott argues that a state’s interests and the interests of subjects are often not just different but opposite.

The big news to emerge from recent archeological research concerns the time lag between “sedentism,” or living in settled communities, and the adoption of agriculture.

The evidence shows that this isn’t true: there’s an enormous gap—four thousand years—separating the “two key domestications,” of animals and cereals, from the first agrarian economies based on them.

It was the ability to tax and to extract a surplus from the produce of agriculture that, in Scott’s account, led to the birth of the state, and also to the creation of complex societies with hierarchies, division of labor, specialist jobs (soldier, priest, servant, administrator), and an élite presiding over them.

The web of food sources that the hunting-and-gathering Ju/’hoansi use is, exactly as Scott argues for Neolithic people, a complex one, with a wide range of animal protein, including porcupines, kudu, wildebeests, and elephants, and a hundred and twenty-five edible plant species, with different seasonal cycles, ecological niches, and responses to weather fluctuations.

The secret ingredient seems to be the positive harnessing of the general human impulse to envy.
history  culture  agriculture  debate  human  choice  farming  animal  book  opinion 
april 2018 by aries1988
How the Fencing Reflex Connects Life and Death - Issue 59: Connections - Nautilus
Doctors talk of patients who, under heavy sedation, grasp someone’s finger, root for a breast to suckle, or twist into the archer’s pose.
biology  human  body  baby  neurology 
april 2018 by aries1988
Why did we start farming?
What if the origin of farming wasn’t a moment of liberation but of entrapment? Scott offers an alternative to the conventional narrative that is altogether more fascinating, not least in the way it omits any self-congratulation about human achievement.

The perfectly formed city-state is the ideal, deeply ingrained in the Western psyche, on which our notion of the nation-state is founded, ultimately inspiring Donald Trump’s notion of a ‘city’ wall to keep out the barbarian Mexican horde, and Brexiters’ desire to ‘take back control’ from insurgent European bureaucrats.
CPR 都市帝国 宫崎市定

His account of the deep past doesn’t purport to be definitive, but it is surely more accurate than the one we’re used to, and it implicitly exposes the flaws in contemporary political ideas that ultimately rest on a narrative of human progress and on the ideal of the city/nation-state.

domesticated goats had begun to eat up the local vegetation – the first step to today’s barren landscape.

although farming would have significantly increased mortality rates in both infants and adults, sedentism would have increased fertility. Mobile hunter-gatherers were effectively limited by the demands of travel to having one child every four years. An increase in fertility that just about outpaced the increase in mortality would account for the slow, steady increase in population in the villages.

Collapse could mean nothing more than the abandonment of the centre and the redistribution of the population into independent settlements, to be followed by the next cycle of annexation.

According to Scott, the period of early states was the Golden Age for the barbarians.
book  agriculture  human  debate  evolution  question  civ  idea  invention  destiny  whatif  history  origin  state  read  instapaper_favs 
february 2018 by aries1988
The red and green specialists: why human colour vision is so odd | Aeon Ideas
Most mammals rely on scent rather than sight. Look at a dog’s eyes, for example: they’re usually on the sides of its face, not close together and forward-facing like ours. Having eyes on the side is good for creating a broad field of vision, but b...
comparison  human  eye  color  perception  biology  insect  evolution  research  theory 
february 2018 by aries1988
Kazuo Ishiguro - Nobel Lecture: My Twentieth Century Evening – and Other Small Breakthroughs
As the only foreign boy in the neighbourhood, a kind of local fame followed me around. Other children knew who I was before I met them. Adults who were total strangers to me sometimes addressed me by name in the street or in the local store.

When I look back to this period, and remember it was less than twenty years from the end of a world war in which the Japanese had been their bitter enemies, I'm amazed by the openness and instinctive generosity with which our family was accepted by this ordinary English community. The affection, respect and curiosity I retain to this day for that generation of Britons who came through the Second World War, and built a remarkable new welfare state in its aftermath, derive significantly from my personal experiences from those years.
japan  immigration  gaijin  story  childhood  children  uk  literature  writer  memory  politics  today  world  human  future  manifesto 
february 2018 by aries1988
What Happens If China Makes First Contact?

Science fiction is sometimes described as a literature of the future, but historical allegory is one of its dominant modes. Isaac Asimov based his Foundation series on classical Rome, and Frank Herbert’s Dune borrows plot points from the past of the Bedouin Arabs. Liu is reluctant to make connections between his books and the real world, but he did tell me that his work is influenced by the history of Earth’s civilizations, “especially the encounters between more technologically advanced civilizations and the original settlers of a place.” One such encounter occurred during the 19th century, when the “Middle Kingdom” of China, around which all of Asia had once revolved, looked out to sea and saw the ships of Europe’s seafaring empires, whose ensuing invasion triggered a loss in status for China comparable to the fall of Rome.

Every so often, a Hans Zimmer bass note would sound, and the glass pane would fill up with the smooth, spaceship-white side of another train, whooshing by in the opposite direction at almost 200 miles an hour.

seti does share some traits with religion. It is motivated by deep human desires for connection and transcendence. It concerns itself with questions about human origins, about the raw creative power of nature, and about our future in this universe—and it does all this at a time when traditional religions have become unpersuasive to many.

China could rightly regard itself as the lone survivor of the great Bronze Age civilizations, a class that included the Babylonians, the Mycenaeans, and even the ancient Egyptians. Western poets came to regard the latter’s ruins as Ozymandian proof that nothing lasted. But China had lasted. Its emperors presided over the planet’s largest complex social organization. They commanded tribute payments from China’s neighbors, whose rulers sent envoys to Beijing to perform a baroque face-to-the-ground bowing ceremony for the emperors’ pleasure.
astronomy  seti  china  alien  chinese  project  state  scientist  scifi  technology  development  2017  future  human  discovery  history  Space  interview 
november 2017 by aries1988
The AI That Has Nothing to Learn From Humans - The Atlantic
From all accounts, one gets the sense that an alien civilization has dropped a cryptic guidebook in our midst: a manual that’s brilliant—or at least, the parts of it we can understand.

You can see Go as a massive tree made of thousands of branches representing possible moves and countermoves. Over generations, Go players have identified certain clusters of branches that seem to work really well. And now that AlphaGo’s come along, it’s finding even better options. Still, huge swaths of the tree might yet be unexplored. As Lockhart put it, “It could be possible that a perfect God plays [AlphaGo] and crushes it. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s already there. We don't know.”

“Generally the way humans learn Go is that we have a story,” he points out. “That’s the way we communicate. It’s a very human thing.”

After all, people can identify and discuss shapes and patterns. Or we can argue with each other about the reasons a killer move won the game. Take a basic example: When teaching beginners, a Go instructor might point out an odd-looking formation of stones resembling a lion’s mouth or a tortoiseshell (among other patterns) and discuss how best to play in these situations. In theory, AlphaGo could have something akin to that knowledge: A portion of its neural network might hypothetically be “sounding an alarm,” so to speak, whenever that lion’s-mouth pattern appears on the board. But even if that were the case, AlphaGo isn’t equipped to turn this sort of knowledge into any kind of a shareable story. So far, that task is one that still falls to people.
ai  human  comparison  game  go  2017 
october 2017 by aries1988
Wolf Puppies Are Adorable. Then Comes the Call of the Wild.

As close as wolf and dog are — some scientists classify them as the same species — there are differences. Physically, wolves’ jaws are more powerful. They breed only once a year, not twice, as dogs do. And behaviorally, wolf handlers say, their predatory instincts are easily triggered compared to those of dogs. They are more independent and possessive of food or other items. Much research suggests they take more care of their young. And they never get close to that Labrador retriever I-love-all-humans level of friendliness. As much as popular dog trainers and pet food makers promote the inner wolf in our dogs, they are not the same.

Dog puppies will quickly attach to any human within reach. Even street dogs that have had some contact with people at the right time may still be friendly.

Some recent research has suggested that dog friendliness may be the result of something similar to Williams syndrome, a genetic disorder in humans that causes hyper-sociability, among other symptoms. People with the syndrome seem friendly to everyone, without the usual limits.

As I was emphatically told in a training session before going into an enclosure with adult wolves, the one thing you definitely do not do is look them in the eye.

whether a delay in social development in a dog’s early life could explain the difference between wolves and dogs

That’s very important, because both wolves and dogs go through a critical period as puppies when they explore the world and learn who their friends and family are.

With wolves, that time is thought to start at about two weeks, when the wolves are deaf and blind. Scent is everything.

In dogs, it starts at about four weeks, when they can see, smell and hear. Dr. Lord thinks this shift in development, allowing dogs to use all their senses, might be key to their greater ability to connect with human beings.

Perhaps with more senses in action, they are more able to generalize from tolerating individual humans with a specific scent to tolerating humans in general with a scent, sight and sound profile.

When the critical period ends, wolves, and to a lesser extent dogs, experience something like the onset of stranger anxiety in human babies, when people outside of the family suddenly become scary.
quebec  wolf  zoo  dog  biology  gene  animal  evolution  human  comparison  research  scientist  experiment  development  baby 
october 2017 by aries1988
Wolf Puppies Are Adorable. Then Comes the Call of the Wild. - The New York Times
No one will run to make one of these wolves chase him for fun. No one will pretend to chase the wolf. Every experienced wolf caretaker will stay alert. Because if there’s one thing all wolf and dog specialists I’ve talked to over the years agree on, it is this: No matter how you raise a wolf, you can’t turn it into a dog.

And behaviorally, wolf handlers say, their predatory instincts are easily triggered compared to those of dogs. They are more independent and possessive of food or other items. Much research suggests they take more care of their young. And they never get close to that Labrador retriever “I-love-all-humans” level of friendliness. As much as popular dog trainers and pet food makers promote the inner wolf in our dogs, they are not the same.

As I was emphatically told in a training session before going into an enclosure with adult wolves, the one thing you definitely do not do is look them in the eye.

When the critical period ends, wolves, and to a lesser extent dogs, experience something like the onset of stranger anxiety in human babies, when people outside of the family suddenly become scary.

Even with fur, teeth and claws, the pups were still hungry and helpless, and I couldn’t help but remember holding my own children when they took a bottle. I suspect that tiger kittens and the young of wolverines are equally irresistible. It’s a mammal thing.
wolf  story  reportage  zoo  animal  human  dog  comparison  research 
october 2017 by aries1988
Are We Ready for Intimacy with Robots?

Hiroshi Ishi­guro builds robots. Beautiful, realistic, uncannily convincing human replicas. His quest? Untangle the ineffable nature of human connection.

in Japan: the Advanced Telecommuni­cations Research Institute International in Nara and the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory on the campus of Osaka University.

Hiroshi Ishi­guro

the capacity to imbue such a machine with humanness—that ineffable presence the Japanese call sonzai-kan.

Ishi­guro believes that since we’re hardwired to interact with and place our faith in humans, the more humanlike we can make a robot appear, the more open we’ll be to sharing our lives with it.

He is convinced that human emotions, whether empathy or romantic love, are nothing more than responses to stimuli, subject to manipulation. Through the fluid interplay of its pneumatic joints, the arch of its mechanical brow, the tilt of its plastic skull, the many subtle movements achieved through years of research studying the human template, the android becomes more able to span that gap, to form a perfectly engineered bond with us. An elaborate metaphysical trick, perhaps—but what does that matter, if it fills a need? If it feels real?

Designed with the physical proportions that its human owner prefers, the preferred voice timbre and eye color and personality type, and the ability to recall and riff on its owner’s personal stories and little jokes, android will captivate human.

someone would be left alone in their advanced age to relive the joy of having a child through the cradling of a robot with stunted limbs.

The countless ways in which we judge someone based on their appearance all evaporate in the face of this neutral appearance, as Hiroshi calls the Telenoid’s blank, abstract body. And what is left in its place is that ineffable thing he has been trying to define: a distinctly human presence, free of the uncanny. It is an outsider, like its maker—but one who manages to trigger our affection. While holding the android, it hardly matters that this humanness is emitting from something that barely resembles a human at all.
human  body  android  idea  research  thinking  history  japan  japanese  reportage  interview  invention  story  emotion  office  journalism 
october 2017 by aries1988
LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman: ‘Board games inspired my business strategy’

Settlers of Catan is part of a group of so-called “German-style board games” which reward strategy rather than luck and are less centred on themes of conflict than many US board games. Devised in 1995 by designer Klaus Teuber, it has also been reimagined as a very popular app. Set on a fictional island in Viking times, the aim is to collect and trade commodity cards (such as wool, grain and brick), before exchanging them for plastic roads and settlements to occupy the board. Points are awarded for things like having the longest road, and the first player to reach 10 points wins.

He says he prefers games to that other great standby of American males, hanging out watching sports. “People are bad about social stuff. They get uncomfortable in silence. One of the benefits of a board game is it replaces the silence, it keeps the momentum of the conversation going.”

Discussing books he has read recently, he enthuses about Nonzero by Robert Wright — “one of my favourite intellectual authors. Basically, his theory is you have cultural evolution because you have a preference for non-zero sum games.” As society evolves, there are more and more interactions where both sides come out a winner.
game  comparison  technology  siliconvalley  american  entrepreneurial  politics  human  ai  thinking  future 
october 2017 by aries1988
Aerodynamics For Cognition | Edge.org
By studying how birds fly and the structure of their wings, you can learn something important about aerodynamics. And what you learn about aerodynamics is equally relevant to then being able to make jet engines.                                 

The kind of work that I do is focused on trying to identify the equivalent of aerodynamics for cognition. What are the real abstract mathematical principles that constrain intelligence? What can we learn about those principles by studying human beings? 

We already do this to some extent. If you’ve ever used the strategy of gamification, where you’re using an app or something that gives you points for completing tasks, or if you make a to-do list and you get satisfaction from checking things off, what you’re doing is essentially using this external device as a mechanism for changing the environment that you’re in.

What machine-learning algorithms do when they're solving this problem is recognize that the thing you should be doing is exploring more when you first arrive in the city and exploiting more the longer you are in the city. The value of that new information decreases over time. You're less likely to find a place that is better than the places you've seen so far, and the number of opportunities that you're going to have to exploit that knowledge is decreasing.

My colleague Alison Gopnik, who has been pursuing this, has a hypothesis about cognitive development. When we look at children, that variability and randomness that we see is exactly a rational response to the structure of the problems they're trying to solve. If they're trying to figure out what are the things in their environment that they will most enjoy, then putting everything in their mouth is a pretty good strategy in terms of maximizing their exploration.

In the first half of the 20th century, it was disreputable to try to study how the mind works because minds were things that you never saw or touched or intervened on. What you could see was behavior and the environment that induces that behavior, so the behaviorist psychologists said, "Let's get rid of the mind. Let's just focus on these mappings from environment to behavior." That's where a lot of behavioral data science is. If I show you this, then you click on this. If you've seen these webpages, then you're likely to go to this webpage. It's a very behaviorist conception of what underlies the way that people are acting.

In Australia, in the last year of high school, you have to make a decision about what you want to study at university. It was 1994, I was sixteen years old, and I had no idea what I wanted to do. I knew that I liked math, but I certainly didn't want to make a commitment to doing that for the rest of my life. I said, "Okay, I'll study the things that we don't know anything about—philosophy, psychology, anthropology." That was what I went to university to do.

One of the ways in which human beings still outperform computers is in being able to solve problems of reasoning about why you did the thing you did, what you're going to do next, what the underlying reasons were behind things that you did.

We as human beings are used to being surrounded by intelligent systems whose thoughts are opaque to us. It's just that normally those intelligent systems are human beings.
ai  thinking  research  human  interaction  communication  motivation  consciousness  brain  maths 
october 2017 by aries1988
The school beneath the wave: the unimaginable tragedy of Japan’s tsunami
The trick is to preserve compassion without bearing each individual tragedy as your own;

In ancient times, this region of Japan, known as Tōhoku, was a notorious frontier realm of barbarians, goblins and bitter cold. Even today, it remains a remote, marginal, faintly melancholy place, the symbol of a rural tradition that, for city-dwellers, is no more than a folk memory.

Then darkness overcame him. Everyone who experienced the tsunami saw, heard and smelled something subtly different. Much depended upon where you were, and the obstacles that the water had to overcome to reach you. Some described a waterfall, cascading over sea wall and embankment. For others, it was a fast-rising flood between houses, deceptively slight at first, tugging trippingly at the feet and ankles, but quickly sucking and battering at legs and chests and shoulders. In colour, it was described as brown, grey, black, white.

A clock in a second-floor classroom at Okawa elementary school, which stopped at 3.36pm, about 50 minutes after the earthquake.
japan  earthquake  tsunami  school  human  error  children  death  japanese  2011  instapaper_favs  management  fail  2011/3/11 
october 2017 by aries1988
Analysis | We have a pretty good idea of when humans will go extinct

That radical notion — that we are not, in fact, at the center of the universe — gives rise to what modern scientists call the Copernican Principle: We are not privileged observers of the world around us. We don't occupy a unique place in the universe. We are profoundly ordinary. We are not special.

Assuming that you and I are not so special as to be born at either the dawn of a very long-lasting human civilization or the twilight years of a short-lived one, we can apply Gott's 95 percent confidence formula to arrive at an estimate of when the human race will go extinct: between 5,100 and 7.8 million years from now.
probability  fun  example  human  disaster  berlin  future  prediction  earth  question 
october 2017 by aries1988
The Sucker, the Sucker!
Other Minds: The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligent Life by Peter Godfrey-Smith Collins

octopuses – and to some extent their cephalopod cousins, cuttlefish and squid – frustrate the neat evolutionary division between clever vertebrates and simple-minded invertebrates. They are sophisticated problem solvers; they learn, and can use tools; and they show a capacity for mimicry, deception and, some think, humour.

Consciousness – the possession of an ‘inner’ model of the ‘outer’ world, or the sense of having an integrated, subjective perspective on the world – is, on his view, just a highly evolved form of what he calls ‘subjective experience’.

the Medawar effect: natural selection tends to weed out mutations whose harmful effects appear early in an animal’s life, but it is less likely to weed out mutations whose harmful effects manifest later on.
instapaper_favs  animal  ocean  intelligence  human  sea  biology  nature  book 
october 2017 by aries1988
How ‘white people’ were invented by a playwright in 1613 | Aeon Ideas

By this criterion, Caliban is part of the prehistory of ‘how the Irish became white’, as the historian Noel Ignatiev put it in 1995. None of this is to say that Caliban is actually any of these particular identities, nor that the Dark Lady should literally be identified as belonging to any specific group either, rather that both examples provide a window on the earliest period when our current racial categorisations began to take shape, while still being divergent enough from how our racialised system would ultimately develop.

there are compelling reasons to think that many in a Jacobean audience would rather understand Caliban as being more akin to the first targets of English colonialism, the Irish.

Middleton’s play indicates the coalescing of another racial pole in contrast to blackness, and that’s whiteness – but which groups belonged to which pole was often in flux.
history  ethnic  race  invention  mentality  theater  human  identity  racism 
october 2017 by aries1988
Yuval Noah Harari : « La technologie nous laisse le choix, à condition d’être imaginatifs »
je propose une vision globale des phénomènes. Les gens sont submergés par les informations nouvelles. Ils n’en veulent donc pas davantage, mais souhaitent que quelqu’un les structure. Je suis un peu comme Google et son moteur de recherche qui organisent la Toile !

Les dictatures à venir, nourries par une masse de données, n’oppresseront plus ces groupes mais les individus eux-mêmes, dont on saura tout. Il sera plus difficile de résister à des discriminations pour l’accès au logement, au crédit, à l’emploi, car on sera seul et non plus membre d’un groupe maltraité. En plus, l’algorithme aura sans doute raison ! On est piégé. Bref, nous devrons affronter des crises bien avant l’avènement d’une superintelligence qui remplacerait les hommes.

Quelle que soit la réponse, ce n’est pas très important : ce qui compte, c’est que des gens y croient. Ce ne serait pas la première fois que des idées fausses mènent le monde. Au XXe siècle, le darwinisme social a eu des effets politiques et sociaux très importants, alors que des scientifiques savaient que cette pensée était fondée sur une conception erronée du darwinisme en biologie. De même, toutes les religions proposent une vue déformée de la réalité, mais elles convainquent les gens et ont changé le monde.
book  buy  interview  ai  future  human 
september 2017 by aries1988
Superintelligence: a space odyssey

No one knows what the next blockbuster substrate will be but Tegmark is confident that the doubling of computing power every couple of years will continue indefinitely. The fundamental limit imposed by the laws of physics is a billion trillion trillion times more powerful than today’s best computers.

The message at the heart of Life 3.0 and Tegmark’s beneficial AI movement is that, since super-AI is almost inevitable, we should make every effort now to ensure that it emerges in a way that will be as friendly as possible to human beings — primed to deliver the cosmic inheritance we want. If we wait too long, we may be too late.

At present no one has a clear idea how to achieve this. On the moral and political level we need to discuss what goals and qualities to incorporate. On the technical and scientific level, researchers must figure out how to build our chosen human values into AI in a way that will preserve them after we have lost direct control of its development. Tegmark advances various options and scenarios in which superintelligence plays roles ranging from gatekeeper to protector god, zookeeper to enslaved god.
ai  book  opinion  future  human 
august 2017 by aries1988
The Future of Intelligence
In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Max Tegmark about his new book Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. They talk about the nature of intelligence, the risks of superhuman AI, a…

Max Tegmark is a professor of physics at MIT and the co-founder of the Future of Life Institute. Tegmark has been featured in dozens of science documentaries. He is the author of Our Mathematical Universe and Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.
intelligence  ai  human 
august 2017 by aries1988
How Checkers Was Solved
“From the end of the Tinsley saga in ’94–’95 until 2007, I worked obsessively on building a perfect checkers program,” Schaeffer told me. “The reason was simple: I wanted to get rid of the ghost of Marion Tinsley. People said to me, ‘You could never have beaten Tinsley because he was perfect.’ Well, yes, we would have beaten Tinsley because he was only almost perfect. But my computer program is perfect.”

And then there is his most quotable line: “Chess is like looking out over a vast open ocean; checkers is like looking into a bottomless well.”
ai  competition  duel  engineering  game  genius  human  maths  story 
august 2017 by aries1988
Interview with Ornithologist Richard Prum: What Duck Sex Reveals about Human Nature - SPIEGEL ONLINE - International

Prum: To understand this, you have to consider the evolutionary mechanisms involved: If the female gets the mate she likes, then her offspring will inherit the green head and the quack-quack-quack, all those displays that she likes so much. And since all other females have coevolved to prefer those same traits, her sons will be very successful and she will have lots of grandchildren from him. But if she's fertilized by force, then some random male will father her kids, which means that her offspring are less likely to inherit the attractive traits that she and other females like. That means fewer grandkids. Therefore, evolution will favor any mutation that allows her to get her own choice -- for example by protecting her vagina against forced sex.

Unlike ducks, 97 percent of birds cannot be forcibly fertilized, because the males don't have a penis. Copulation in most birds is achieved by a cloacal kiss, just an apposition (or touching) of orifices. So, to be fertilized, the female has to actively take up the sperm, which means that she retains full control of her sexual choice. By the way, I think this is the essential reason why birds are so beautiful. Since they have the freedom of choice, females exhibit aesthetic preferences. And, as a result of these preferences, males developed amazingly elaborate ornaments.

SPIEGEL: You are suggesting that women were attracted to small teeth?

Prum: Yeah, and I even think that this is where our smile comes from. It is a sexual symbol advertising one's state of de-weaponization.

SPIEGEL: And females made them give up this bad habit by choosing more good-natured males?

Prum: Yes. Solving the infanticide problem was the biggest hurdle in human evolution. Infanticide is the single largest source of infant mortality in gorillas and chimpanzees. Approximately 30 percent of all infant deaths are the result of infanticide by males. On the other hand, everything that is special about human biology requires greater investment in longer childhoods -- whether it's complex cognition, language, culture or technology. None of that could possibly have evolved if a large portion of babies are being murdered by sexual violence.
bird  sex  human  animal  evolution  interview  opinion  research  duck  penis 
july 2017 by aries1988
中国人为什么不性感? - 中国文化的深层结构
中国文化的深层结构的书评。性感的人是什么人?如果按“某国人是性感的人”的句法来表述,那么第一反应一般就是法国人、意大利人、西班牙人、阿根廷人。。。。。。。。数来数去,一般也数不到中国人。 作为一个中国人,我感兴趣于为什么人...
book  notes  chinese  human  philosophy 
july 2017 by aries1988
Shakespeare’s Cure for Xenophobia | The New Yorker
This is hardly an arrangement to celebrate in the twenty-first century, but it was an early attempt in modern history at a form of modus vivendi that would permit Venetians to live in proximity to an intensely disliked but useful neighbor. The usefulness was not universally acknowledged. At the time, in Italy and elsewhere, itinerant preachers were stirring up mobs to demand the expulsion of the Jews, as had been done recently in Spain and Portugal and, centuries earlier, in England. A scant generation later, Martin Luther, in Germany, urged the Protestant faithful to raze the Jews’ synagogues, schools, and houses, to forbid their rabbis on pain of death to teach, and to burn all Jewish prayer books and Talmudic writings. At the time that the ghetto was created, there were people still living who could remember when three Venetian Jews, accused of the ritual killing of Christians for their blood, were convicted of this entirely fantastical crime and burned to death. In Venice, locking the Jews up at night may have given them a small measure of protection from the paranoid fears of those with whom they dealt during the day. The ghetto was a compromise formation, neither absorption nor expulsion. It was a topographical expression of extreme ambivalence.

Even after a lifetime of studying Shakespeare, I cannot always tell you precisely how he achieved this extraordinary life-making. I sometimes picture him attaching his characters like leeches to his arms and allowing them to suck his lifeblood.
shakespeare  italia  jew  human  theater 
july 2017 by aries1988
Musée de l'Homme
Inauguré en juin 1938, le musée de l’homme présente l’évolution de l’homme et des sociétés, en croisant les approches biologiques, sociales et culturelles selon la pensée de Paul Rivet : « l’humanité est un tout indivisible, non seulement dans l’espace, mais aussi dans le temps ». Situé dans l’aile Passy du Palais de Chaillot (Paris 16e) dans un bâtiment construit à l’occasion de l’Exposition Universelle de 1937, il rouvre en 2015 après 6 ans de travaux en réaffirmant le concept de musée-laboratoire voulu par son fondateur.
kid  paris  discovery  idea  moi  human  history  museum 
may 2017 by aries1988
The race to build the world’s first sex robot
something as lifelike as possible – it’s his brand’s USP (unique selling point).

Matt McMullen says he’s helping the socially isolated, but once it becomes possible for a man to own a companion whose sole reason for existing is to give him pleasure, without the inconvenience of its own ambitions and needs, menstrual cycles and jealous passions, bathroom habits and in-laws, he may turn away from human relationships altogether.
reportage  robot  manufacturing  captor  industry  emotion  human  love  sex  money 
may 2017 by aries1988
There’s a big problem with AI: even its creators can’t explain how it works

In 2015, researchers at Google modified a deep-learning-based image recognition algorithm so that instead of spotting objects in photos, it would generate or modify them. By effectively running the algorithm in reverse, they could discover the features the program uses to recognize, say, a bird or building. The resulting images, produced by a project known as Deep Dream, showed grotesque, alien-like animals emerging from clouds and plants, and hallucinatory pagodas blooming across forests and mountain ranges.
ai  health  medical  cancer  problem  communication  today  human  google  art  visualization  algorithm 
april 2017 by aries1988
Yuval Noah Harari challenges the future according to Facebook
If Facebook really attempts to formulate a set of universal values, it will enjoy one big advantage over many previous institutions that attempted to do so. Unlike the early Christian church, or Lenin’s Communist party, Facebook is a truly global network with close to 2bn users. Yet Facebook also suffers from one big disadvantage. Unlike the Christian church and the Communist party, it is an online network.

Physical communities have a depth that virtual communities cannot hope to match, at least not in the near future.

People estranged from their bodies, senses and physical environment are likely to feel alienated and disoriented.

People feel bound by elections only when they share a basic bond with most other voters. The ancient tribes along the Yellow River lacked a common set of values, and consequently they were unable to unite through a peaceful democratic process. It took a lot of violence to hammer them together into a single empire.

If something exciting happens, the gut instinct of Facebook true-believers is to draw their smartphones, take a picture, post it online, and wait for the “likes”. In the process they hardly pay attention to what they actually feel. Indeed, what they feel is increasingly determined by the online reactions rather than by the actual experience.

(A blueprint of such an alternative model has actually been suggested recently by Tristan Harris, an ex-Googler and tech-philosopher who came up with a new metric of “time well spent”.)
2017  future  thinking  opinion  Facebook  community  human  social-network  online  body  comparison 
march 2017 by aries1988
John Green: Author of An Abundance of Katherines and Looking for Alaska

in my opinion, the central problem of human existence: I am stuck in my body, in my consciousness, seeing out of my eyes. I am the only me I ever get to be, and so I am the only person I can imagine endlessly complexly.

That’s not the problem, actually. The problem is you. You are so busy taking in your own wondrousness that you can't be bothered to acknowledge mine.

On some level, I have to take it on faith that you are as complex as I am, that your pain and joy and grief are as real and as meaningful as my own.

I would argue that books, more than other media, allow us to live inside the lives of others because we have to translate scratches on a page into ideas and make the story ours.

nonliteral ways constantly—in fact, it’s impossible for me to imagine something so endlessly fascinating and complex as myself without symbol and simile and metaphor.
thinking  human  society 
january 2017 by aries1988
Joseph Henrich on cultural evolution, WEIRD societies, and life among two strange tribes

To anthropologist Joseph Henrich, intelligence is overrated. Social learning, and its ability to influence biological evolution over time, is what really sets our species apart.

If we look at the earliest human societies, the first time you see monumental architecture, it’s always religious. It’s always a temple or a tomb. This seems to help consolidate power and expand this fear of reliable social interactions.

If we look at the smallest-scale human societies, hunter-gatherers, they still rely on all kinds of social norms and beliefs to cooperate even when they’re cooperating in relatively small bands.

We learn about ourselves by seeing ourselves projected in other peoples and other cultures and other societies.

HENRICH: In my latest project I’m really looking at the kind of spread of the Western church into Europe and how it transformed the social structure in ways that I think led to individualism, it led to a different kind of cultural psychology that would eventually pave the way for secular institutions and economic growth. The church is the first mover in that account.
thinking  culture  evolution  human 
january 2017 by aries1988
What Nutmeg Can Tell Us About Nafta

neither cosmopolitanism nor parochialism is a virtue in itself. We need to ask: cosmopolitanism in the service of what? Protectionism to what end?

Cloves from around 1700 B.C. have been found at the site of a settlement in Tell Ashara, Syria. To get there, they would have had to travel more than 6,000 miles, through the ports of the Indian Ocean and overland through Mesopotamia.
human  history  world  globalization  commerce  spice  indonesia  europe  netherlands 
december 2016 by aries1988
What the death of an oak tree can teach us about mortality | Aeon Ideas
For humans, ageing invariably leads to loss of function and eventual death. When we lose a limb, it’s a major loss. In the terrible event that we lose a head, it’s game over. For trees, it is almost the opposite: the older they get, the better they get at being trees. The rate at which they sequester carbon increases each year, and the amount of life they can sustain increases proportionally. Scientists know of no fundamental reason why trees must inevitably die, and many times one or more genetically identical ‘scions’ grow where a mature tree once stood. There is no equivalent reincarnation in the human world.
tree  biology  human  comparison  life 
december 2016 by aries1988
A Culture of Growth by Joel Mokyr — why did the Industrial Revolution happen?

A Culture of Growth, by the equally distinguished historian Joel Mokyr, also sees economic growth as the result of ideas rather than material conditions or political and economic institutions.

Mokyr’s new book seeks to identify the conditions that turned the inventions of the late 18th and early 19th centuries into sustained, modern economic growth. There had been earlier significant waves of invention in China and the Islamic world, for example, but none snowballed into a world-changing industrial revolution. Mokyr argues that in western Europe at the time of the Enlightenment, a set of conditions happened to coincide to create a Republic of Letters, a ferment of public debate and innovation we might now label as open science. Knowledge, from deep scientific insight to more practical technological know-how and tinkering, became a common resource. Leading scientists and thinkers corresponded with counterparts around the continent, and were helped by the political fragmentation of Europe, which led to rulers competing to attract the most prominent intellectual stars to their own territories.
book  history  development  opinion  knowledge  culture  modernity  human 
december 2016 by aries1988
How domestication changes species, including the human | Aeon Essays

The overall picture is that domestication was a gradual affair, full of pitfalls and false starts. It took thousands of years of tinkering before agriculture as we know it came into being, and for much of that time, the border between wild and tame remained fluid. At the outset, this probably didn’t matter much. Early sea-faring pioneers who travelled from the Middle East to Cyprus brought wheat, barley and pigs, according to archaeological investigations of village sites dating back 10,000 years. But they also took with them species that weren’t domesticated, such as fallow deer and foxes. They didn’t distinguish between wild and tame. Instead of transporting just a few valuable species, they took with them a whole ecological niche. As Zeder writes: ‘They simply took with them the world that they knew.’

Brains of domestic pigs are 35 per cent smaller than those of boars, for example, while dogs’ brains are around 30 per cent smaller than those of wolves.

it was probably advantageous for domestic animals to have reduced sensory acuity. In the wild it paid to be skittish, while under human management, those individuals who could handle stress with equanimity did best.

Known as ‘lactase persistence’, a term that refers to the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk, it’s one of the greatest evolutionary adaptations in any species of the past few thousand years. Tolerance developed in humans at least five times, once in Europe and four times in areas of sub-Saharan Africa.
human  biology  evolution  animal  culture  instapaper_favs 
december 2016 by aries1988
If Animals Have Rights, Should Robots?

In a paper, she names three factors: physicality (the object exists in our space, not onscreen), perceived autonomous movement (the object travels as if with a mind of its own), and social behavior (the robot is programmed to mimic human-type cues).

The problem with torturing a robot, in other words, has nothing to do with what a robot is, and everything to do with what we fear most in ourselves.
right  robot  animal  human  essay  debate 
november 2016 by aries1988
Joel Mokyr: Progress Isn't Natural - The Atlantic
How and why did the modern world and its unprecedented prosperity begin? Many bookshelves are full of learned tomes by historians, economists, political philosophers and other erudite scholars with endless explanations. One way of looking at the question is by examining something basic, and arguably essential: the emergence of a belief in the usefulness of progress.

This was a departure from the beliefs of most societies in the past, which were usually given to some measure of “ancestor worship”—the belief that all wisdom had been revealed to earlier sages and that to learn anything one should peruse their writings and find the answer in their pages.
essay  human  history  technology  science  knowledge  development 
november 2016 by aries1988
Crash: how computers are setting us up for disaster | Tim Harford

The psychologist James Reason, author of Human Error, wrote: “Manual control is a highly skilled activity, and skills need to be practised continuously in order to maintain them. Yet an automatic control system that fails only rarely denies operators the opportunity for practising these basic control skills … when manual takeover is necessary something has usually gone wrong; this means that operators need to be more rather than less skilled in order to cope with these atypical conditions.”

Bonin seemed nervous. The slightest hint of trouble produced an outburst of swearing: “Putain la vache. Putain!” – the French equivalent of “Fucking hell. Fuck!” More than once he expressed a desire to fly at “3-6” – 36,000 feet – and lamented the fact that Air France procedures recommended flying a little lower.

In any case, Bonin silently retook control of the plane and tried to climb again. It was an act of pure panic. Robert and Dubois had, perhaps, realised that the plane had stalled – but they never said so. They may not have realised that Bonin was the one in control of the plane. And Bonin never grasped what he had done. His last words were: “But what’s happening?”
airplane  airline  accident  psychology  computer  technology  human  error 
october 2016 by aries1988
SpaceX's Big Fucking Rocket – The Full Story - Wait But Why
The moon has few natural resources, a 28-day day, and with no atmosphere to either provide protection against the sun during the day or warm things up at night, both day and night become murderous.

We’re currently pretty close to Mars, since the last Mars opposition happened on May 22, 2016. That’s why, if you happen to be an “oh shit there’s a way-too-bright star let me take out my Sky Guide app and figure out which planet that is and then tell everyone I’m with and find that, yet again, no one cares, because everyone is a horrible person” nerd like me, you know that all summer, Mars has been super prominent and bright in our night sky.11 A year from now, Mars will be on the other side of the sun from us, and we won’t see it in our night sky at all.
explained  future  human  leader  planet  project  tesla 
october 2016 by aries1988
What makes clowns, vampires and severed hands creepy? – David Livingstone Smith | Aeon Essays

Like McAndrews and Koehnke, Jentsch held that Unheimlichkeit was the upshot of a kind of uncertainty leading to cognitive paralysis; but he did not think that paralysis was prompted by uncertainty about threat. Instead, he made the case that when we regard a thing as creepy it’s because we are uncertain about what kind of thing it is.

Monsters are, by definition, malevolent creatures that violate the natural order of things. Monsters are not merely terrifying. They are horrifying – because they are also creepy.

anthropologist Mary Douglas – in particular, her celebrated book Purity and Danger (1966) – is relevant here. Douglas points out that every culture possesses some conception of the natural order of things – a system of categories to make sense of the world. Any such system of meaning is inevitably confronted with anomalies that don’t fit into the scheme. When anomalies appear to transgress the natural order, they are branded as abominations.

pigs, which have cloven hoofs but do not chew their cud, do violence to the taxonomy. Like other interstitial beings, pigs are felt to be impure or unclean in a sense that goes well beyond merely physical dirtiness. They are, so to speak, metaphysically polluted.

human beings are inclined to think of every member of an animal species as sharing a deep feature or ‘essence’ that only members of that species possess; possessing the essence is what makes it the case that an animal is a member of its species.

It’s part of the notion of essences that if a thing possesses an essence, it possesses it completely.

It’s because we essentialise them that categorically ambiguous animals pull our minds in two directions at once, rather than causing us to take a middle path, and this cognitive paralysis is what generates the sensation of creepiness.
animal  human  research  psychology  instapaper_favs 
september 2016 by aries1988
Man v rat: could the long war soon be over? | Jordan Kisner | Science | The Guardian
Why? How is it that we can send robots to Mars, build the internet, keep alive infants born so early that their skin isn’t even fully made – and yet remain unable to keep rats from threatening our food supplies, biting our babies, and appearing in our toilet bowls?

Rats have the same taste preferences as humans – they love fat and sugar – though Dyer’s experiments with various flavour profiles indicated that their appetite for both exceeds ours.
biology  animal  ecosystem  city  human  trash  food  scientist 
september 2016 by aries1988
Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari review – how data will destroy human freedom
human nature will be transformed in the 21st century because intelligence is uncoupling from consciousness.

Homo Deus is an ¡°end of history¡± book, but not in the crude sense that he believes things have come to a stop. Rather the opposite: things are moving so fast that it¡¯s impossible to imagine what the future might hold.
In 1800 it was possible to think meaningfully about what the world of 1900 would be like and how we might fit in. That¡¯s history: a sequence of events in which human beings play the leading part. But the world of 2100 is at present almost unimaginable.

Harari thinks the modern belief that individuals are in charge of their fate was never much more than a leap of faith. Real power always resided with networks.

The future could be a digitally supercharged version of the distant past: ancient Egypt multiplied by the power of Facebook.

Harari cares about the fate of animals in a human world but he writes about the prospects for homo sapiens in a data-driven world with a lofty insouciance.

Homo Deus makes it feel as if we are standing at the edge of a cliff after a long and arduous journey. The journey doesn’t seem so important any more. We are about to step into thin air.
human  ai  book  debate  future 
september 2016 by aries1988
Planet of the apps — have we paved the way for our own extinction? — FT.com
Harari’s skill lies in the way he tilts the prism in all these fields and looks at the world in different ways, providing fresh angles on what we thought we knew. No matter how scary and incomplete, the result is scintillating.

He points to the success of the Montreal Protocol of 1987 as a great model of international co-operation and solidarity. This treaty, ratified by 197 countries, played a vital role in reducing the release of harmful ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons from aerosols and refrigeration systems.

For the moment, the rise of populism, the rickety architecture of the European Union, the turmoil in the Middle East and the competing claims on the South China Sea will consume most politicians’ attention.
human  future  biology  technology  challenge  environment  book  ai  debate  crisis 
september 2016 by aries1988
The kindness paradox: Why be generous? | New Scientist
“You’re exchanging the possibility of a catastrophic loss for the certainty of a small, controllable loss,” says Lee Cronk at Rutgers University, who heads up the Human Generosity Project with Aktipis.

This may also explain how the Ik got their reputation for selfishness, says Cronk. When anthropologist Colin Turnbull visited in the 1960s, he described them as “unfriendly, uncharitable, inhospitable and generally mean as any people can be”.
trust  human  research 
august 2016 by aries1988
Yuval Harari on big data, Google and the end of free will - FT.com
For thousands of years humans believed that authority came from the gods. Then, during the modern era, humanism gradually shifted authority from deities to people. Jean-Jacques Rousseau summed up this revolution in Emile, his 1762 treatise on education. When looking for the rules of conduct in life, Rousseau found them “in the depths of my heart, traced by nature in characters which nothing can efface. I need only consult myself with regard to what I wish to do; what I feel to be good is good, what I feel to be bad is bad.” Humanist thinkers such as Rousseau convinced us that our own feelings and desires were the ultimate source of meaning, and that our free will was, therefore, the highest authority of all.
human  god  evolution 
august 2016 by aries1988
许纪霖:没有政治正确,这个世界将变得更加野蛮_爱思想
人生的意义不再与神圣的终极价值关联,工具理性替代了价值理性,世俗的快乐与幸福成为了去魅化人生的追求目标。公共生活也与特定的宗教价值脱钩,国家在各种宗教信仰之中保持中立,每个公民可以按照自己的自由意志选择自己的信仰、群体归属和个人偏好。
politics  religion  life  human  ideology  state  opinion  government 
august 2016 by aries1988
An Exoplanet Too Far - The New Yorker
Anglada-Escudé and his colleagues estimate that Proxima b is at least 1.3 times as big as Earth and is most likely a terrestrial planet, with a surface. It orbits its star at a dizzying pace, once every eleven days, at a distance twenty times closer than Earth is to the sun. But, because the star is much dimmer than the sun, the average temperature on Proxima b could potentially be temperate and the orbit “is within the range where water could be liquid on its surface,” the researchers write in their Nature paper.

The planet is also likely tidally locked, like our moon, with one side permanently in light; good luck to anyone doomed to live on the frigid dark side.

In fact, it wouldn’t even be there by the time we arrived. Stars wander ever so slightly, and the cosmos as a whole is expanding; in the next eighty thousand years, Proxima Centauri and its planet will have moved two light-years farther from Earth, adding another forty thousand years to the trip. “The universe is moving,” Pedro Amado, of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, said yesterday.
cosmos  opinion  human  earth  discovery  future 
august 2016 by aries1988
The Great American Obstacle Course - The New Yorker
At the heart of Esquire’s “American Ninja Warrior” is the Great American Obstacle Course, and its obstacles, like those of American life, are meant to teach us…
challenge  sports  human  self  ninja  tv  american  instapaper_favs 
july 2016 by aries1988
Why We Like What We Like
In short, tastes are overdetermined, the upshot of many influences, and underdetermined, susceptible to change at, for example, the sight of the word toasted. Some combination of inputs including, but not limited to, reasons, hunches, bodily needs, past experiences, unconscious desires, social pressures, mystic chords of memory, and price point is behind every preference; they are weighted differently in almost every case; and they are highly malleable.

Still, Heffernan believes that we are living through a revolution. The Internet is the great masterpiece of civilization, she says. As an idea it rivals monotheism. And: If it’s ever fair to say that anything has ‘changed everything,’ it’s fair to say so about the Internet. Analog is dead. To understand the new regime, she argues, we need a new aesthetics, a new hierarchy of values. This is what she proposes to provide.

It might be the sensation that sites like those are incomprehensibly large, that we can never exhaust them. Ultimate unreadability is part of the aura of the Internet itself, the postmodern sublime, to use a term that Heffernan avoids. I can’t see all the books in a library at the same time, but I can go outside and look at the building. The Internet is a building that you can never look at.

Vanderbilt is able to identify two factors that have repeatedly been shown to have a significant influence on taste. One is social consensus; the other is familiarity. We get attracted to things that we see other people are attracted to, and we like things more the longer we like them.
taste  human  book  ad  internet  aesthetics  art  advertising  instapaper_favs 
june 2016 by aries1988
How disgust made humans cooperate to build civilisations | Aeon Essays
I tell my class: as a heterosexual male, it’s not as if I won’t be disgusted if you show me pictures of certain sexual acts between two males. The task for me is to say: what the hell does this have to do with my ethical beliefs? I tell them, the thought of two very ugly people having sex also revolts me, but that does not lead me to consider legislating against ugly people having sex.

People who are reminded of the threat of infectious disease are more inclined to espouse conventional values and express greater disdain for anyone who violates societal norms. Disease cues might even make us more favourably disposed toward religion. In one study, participants exposed to a noxious odour were subsequently more likely to endorse biblical truth than those not subjected to the polluted air.
essay  human 
june 2016 by aries1988
The End of Reflection
If you are awake for 16 hours, turning on or checking your phone 85 times means doing so about once every 11 minutes (and doesn’t account for internet use on a computer), and 5.05 hours is over 30 percent of the day.

Being distracted by the second task didn’t hurt actual performance on the first task, but it did impair the subjects’ ability to be introspective (again, by accurately self-reporting how they did). The finding supports previous widespread evidence that multitasking leads to lower cognitive performance. (With, again, other studies showing some beneficial effects of multitasking.)

Finding moments to engage in contemplative thinking has always been a challenge, since we’re distractible, said Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows. But now that we’re carrying these powerful media devices around with us all day long, those opportunities become even less frequent, for the simple reason that we have this ability to distract ourselves constantly.

Nevertheless, he sees our current direction as indicative of the loss of the contemplative mind, he said. We’ve adopted the Google ideal of the mind, which is that you have a question that you can answer quickly: close-ended, well-defined questions. Lost in that conception is that there’s also this open-ended way of thinking where you’re not always trying to answer a question. You’re trying to go where that thought leads you. As a society, we’re saying that that way of thinking isn’t as important anymore. It’s viewed as inefficient.
thinking  research  today  reading  brain  device  human  google  zeitgeist 
june 2016 by aries1988
How Did Humans Get Smart?
Still, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in a fun, engaging look at early human history. Like Big History, it left me with an overarching historical structure which I can build on as I learn more. At the same time, Harari tells our history in such an approachable way that you’ll have a hard time putting it down. He uses vivid language, photos, and diagrams to illustrate his points. He’s also an agile writer, deftly weaving in entertaining historical stories, like the importance of sauerkraut in sea exploration and why the earliest known written words from 5,000 years ago are a bit underwhelming.
human  history  book  idea 
may 2016 by aries1988
How humans evolved language, and who said what first | New Scientist
What’s more, language is inherently symbolic – sounds stand for words that stand for real objects and actions. But there is scant evidence that Neanderthals had art or other symbolic behaviour – a few pieces of pigment and some disputed etchings. By comparison, the humans who lived alongside them in Western Europe painted beautiful murals, made musical instruments and had a wide variety of tools and weapons.
human  history  evolution  language 
may 2016 by aries1988
How to change the face of Europe - FT.com
‘Europe today faces a problem: it lacks a clear creation myth with unifying heroes’
https://www.instapaper.com/read/721544683
europe  crisis  opinion  currency  people  nation  globalization  leader  myth  human  concept  instapaper_favs 
may 2016 by aries1988
Afrique du Sud: la découverte homo Naledi - RFI
Retour un événement important en Afrique du Sud. La découverte d’un nouvel ancêtre de l’homme, baptisé homo Naledi, qui a été présenté à grand public il y a quelques...
paleo  human  origin  discovery  africa 
january 2016 by aries1988
Moon Launch Was Man's Shining Hour
I found myself waving to the rocket involuntarily, I heard people applauding and joined them, grasping our common motive; it was impossible to watch passively, one had to express, by some physical action, a feeling that was not triumph, but more the feeling that that white object's unobstructed streak of motion was the only thing that mattered in the universe.
essay  human  space 
december 2015 by aries1988
Head count: executions by country
Many countries have given up capital punishment: 101 had abolished it by July, says Amnesty International, up from 59 in 1995. Some may be getting less keen: in America—the only rich country other than Japan still practising the death penalty—28 prisoners have been executed this year, the fewest since 1991. Yet plenty of enthusiasts remain. The global toll is unknown, because thousands are believed to be executed annually in China, where official figures are a state secret and there are 55 capital crimes, including corruption and drug offences. The war on drugs is eagerly waged elsewhere too, accounting for half the executions in Iran and Saudi Arabia; Indonesia reinstated the death penalty for drug crimes in 2015. Pakistan reversed a moratorium on executions last December, after the massacre of 149 people, including 132 children, at a school. Since then over 300 prisoners have been put to death, by no means all for terrorist crimes.
death  government  law  human 
december 2015 by aries1988
Book extract: ‘The Brain: The Story of You’, by David Eagleman - FT.com
This mirroring sheds light on a strange fact: couples who are married for a long time begin to resemble each other, and the longer they’ve been married, the stronger the effect. Research suggests this is not simply because they adopt the same clothes or hairstyles but because they’ve been mirroring each other’s faces for so many years that their patterns of wrinkles start to look the same.
brain  society  human 
november 2015 by aries1988
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