You invest so much in it, don't you? It's what elevates you above the beasts of the field, it's what makes you special. Homo sapiens, you call yourself. Wise Man. Do you even know what it is, this consciousness you cite in your own exaltation? Do you even know what it's for?
Dr. Peter Watts
is no stranger to MetaFilter. But look past his sardonic nuptials
, heartbreaking eulogies
, and agonizing run-ins with fascists
) and you'll find one of the most brilliant, compelling, and disquieting
science fiction authors at work today. A marine biologist skilled at deep background research, his acclaimed
2006 novel Blindsight [full text]
-- a cerebral "first contact" tale led by a diverse crew of bleeding-edge post-humans -- is diamond-hard and deeply horrifying, wringing profound existential dread from such abstruse concepts as the Chinese Room
, the Philosophical Zombie
, Chernoff faces
, and the myriad quirks and blind spots
that haunt the human mind.
's last, shattering insight is not the end of the story -- along with crew
, a blackly funny in-universe lecture on resurrecting sociopathic vampirism
), and a rigorously-cited (and spoiler-laden) reference section
, tomorrow will see the release of
Dumbspeech State of Grace Echopraxia [website]
, the long-delayed
"sidequel" depicting parallel events on Earth. Want more? Look inside for a guide to the rest of Watts' award-winning (and provocative) body of work. [more inside]
Carlos Slim calls for a three-day working week
"We've got it all wrong, says Carlos Slim, the Mexican telecoms tycoon and world's second-richest man: we should be working only three days a week." also btw
: The four-day work week
In Praise of Leisure
- "Imagine a world in which most people worked only 15 hours a week. They would be paid as much as, or even more than, they now are, because the fruits of their labor would be distributed more evenly across society. Leisure would occupy far more of their waking hours than work. It was exactly this prospect that John Maynard Keynes conjured up in a little essay published in 1930 called 'Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren
.' Its thesis was simple. As technological progress made possible an increase in the output of goods per hour worked, people would have to work less and less to satisfy their needs, until in the end they would have to work hardly at all... He thought this condition might be reached in about 100 years — that is, by 2030." (via
) [more inside]
Swimming around in a mixture of language and matter, humans occupy a particular evolutionary niche mediated by something we call 'consciousness'. To Professor Nicholas Humphrey we're made up of "soul dust
": "a kind of theatre... an entertainment which we put on for ourselves inside our own heads." But just as that theatre is directed by the relationship between language and matter, it is also undermined by it
. It all depends how you think it.
Philosopher Alvin Plantinga discusses the evolutionary argument against naturalism with philosopher Stephen Law.
Plantinga, now retired from his position at Notre Dame, is one of the most well known analytic philosophers
of recent times. The podcast
is targeted at a non academic audience and keeps things on a fairly basic level in non-technical language. Plantinga and Law conduct a congenial, mutually respectful discussion of the issue. Previously
. [more inside]
How did life arise? What is information? In his recent dispatches
from The Technium
, Kevin Kelly would say extropy
). [previously 1
On Truth and Reality.
Despite several thousand years of failure to correctly understand physical reality (hence the current postmodern view that this is impossible
) it is actually very simple to work out how matter exists and moves about in Space. The rules of Science (Occam's Razor / Simplicity)
and Metaphysics (Dynamic Unity of Reality)
require that reality be described from only one single source existing, as Leibniz wrote: "because of the interconnection of all things with one another." [more inside]
How Google Is Making Us Smarter:
Humans are "natural-born cyborgs," and the Internet is our giant "extended mind."
A New State of Mind.
"New research is linking dopamine
to complex social phenomena and changing neuroscience in the process."
Rutgers professor of philosophy Jerry Fodor created a bit of a stir
last October when he wrote an article for the London Review of Books arguing that natural selection may not be such a great theory after all, and that a "major revision of evolutionary theory... is in the offing." Not many fellow philosophers and academics agree
, it seems. Fodor responds to his critics here
. Six months later, it's still not entirely clear whether his argument is, as Justin E.H. Smith put it
, "irresponsible and stupid or so subtle that none of his adversaries, defending a status quo interpretation of the theory of natural selection, have been able to get it yet."
The Moral Instinct.
"Evolution has endowed us with ethical impulses. Do we know what to do with them?" [Via The Mahablog.]
, a new book by Marc Hauser
, is based on research by Hauser and colleagues such Josh Greene
and John Mikhail
. In it, he posits that an innate moral sense is analogous to "universal grammar
from Chomskyan linguistics. As reviewed by a Science Times staff member
. ...And a philosopher.
Writing has been around for a long time
, but that doesn't mean
we've mastered it yet. Want to make fiction
? Perhaps it makes itself
, perhaps it makes you
... Self reference
breeding infinite hyperrealities
. Which world
will you choose?
The first Transhuman Conference On the Law of Transhuman Persons:
Whether or not you believe humans are set to evolve into gods, or AI is destined to achieve self-awareness
the idea of the Transhuman
is a thought provoking concept. Philosophers have debated the nature of the self
, of the human for millennia. Is it time to start drafting new laws to govern all
possible sentient beings on this planet? or is it all just a science
? a comfortable humanist illusion
Did the discovery of evolution lead to Darwin's agnosticism, as claimed
? Carl Zimmer wonders
. More importantly, can evolution be reconciled