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The Day's Allotment of Brain Nourishment

From goodluckfox: Jonathan Zittrain: The Future of the Internet — and How To Stop It

WARNING: Over an hour. But very interesting, particularly if you're an internet professional (like me).

From Arts & Letters Daily:

Newsweek: Faulty Powers
Despite the fact that humans have been known to be eaten by bears, sharks and assorted other carnivores, we love to place ourselves at the top of the food chain. And, despite our unwavering conviction that we are smarter than the computers we invented, members of our species still rob banks with their faces wrapped in duct tape and leave copies of their resumes at the scene of the crime. Six percent of sky-diving fatalities occur due to a failure to remember to pull the ripcord, hundreds of millions of dollars are sent abroad in response to shockingly unbelievable e-mails from displaced African royalty and nobody knows what Eliot Spitzer was thinking.

Are these simply examples of a few subpar minds amongst our general brilliance? Or do all human minds work not so much like computers but as Rube Goldberg machines capable of both brilliance and unbelievable stupidity? In his new book, "Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind," New York University professor Gary Marcus uses evolutionary psychology to explore the development of that "clumsy, cobbled-together contraption" we call a brain and to answer such puzzling questions as, "Why do half of all Americans believe in ghosts?" and "How can 4 million people believe they were once abducted by aliens?"

(If this seems familiar, I linked to an essay by the author of Kluge last week, in which he talked about the basic premise of the book.)

The New Republic: The Stupidity of Dignity — Conservative Bioethics' Latest, Most Dangerous Ploy
Kass has a problem not just with longevity and health but with the modern conception of freedom. There is a "mortal danger," he writes, in the notion "that a person has a right over his body, a right that allows him to do whatever he wants to do with it." He is troubled by cosmetic surgery, by gender reassignment, and by women who postpone motherhood or choose to remain single in their twenties. Sometimes his fixation on dignity takes him right off the deep end:

Worst of all from this point of view are those more uncivilized forms of eating, like licking an ice cream cone--a catlike activity that has been made acceptable in informal America but that still offends those who know eating in public is offensive. ... Eating on the street--even when undertaken, say, because one is between appointments and has no other time to eat--displays [a] lack of self-control: It beckons enslavement to the belly. ... Lacking utensils for cutting and lifting to mouth, he will often be seen using his teeth for tearing off chewable portions, just like any animal. ... This doglike feeding, if one must engage in it, ought to be kept from public view, where, even if we feel no shame, others are compelled to witness our shameful behavior.

And, in 2001, this man, whose pro-death, anti-freedom views put him well outside the American mainstream, became the President's adviser on bioethics--a position from which he convinced the president to outlaw federally funded research that used new stem-cell lines. In his speech announcing the stem-cell policy, Bush invited Kass to form the Council. Kass packed it with conservative scholars and pundits, advocates of religious (particularly Catholic) principles in the public sphere, and writers with a paper trail of skittishness toward biomedical advances, together with a smattering of scientists (mostly with a reputation for being religious or politically conservative). After several members opposed Kass on embryonic stem-cell research, on therapeutic cloning (which Kass was in favor of criminalizing), and on the distortions of science that kept finding their way into Council reports, Kass fired two of them (biologist Elizabeth Blackburn and philosopher William May) and replaced them with Christian-affiliated scholars.

-The Gneech


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 12th, 2008 06:04 pm (UTC)
Part 1: Politics
Part 2: Science
Part 3: Religion

Danger! Keep all parts separated at all times!
May. 12th, 2008 07:58 pm (UTC)
Politics, Science, and Religion! Will it Blend?

Lets put them in the Blendtec Total Blender. Lets use the Executive Advisor setting.


Inevitable Conclusion Smoke. Don't breath this!

May. 12th, 2008 08:00 pm (UTC)
How about we toss Chuck Norris in there, too?

May. 12th, 2008 10:11 pm (UTC)
Oh, yeah, there'll be plenty of badguys in there for him to beat up.
May. 12th, 2008 06:20 pm (UTC)
i think i used to juggle with gary marcus at cty, when we were both tas. :) (okay, it's not an impossibly uncommon name, but i bet there's a good chance it's the same guy. same field, anyway...)
May. 12th, 2008 09:15 pm (UTC)
Here's to hoping he gets abducted by aliens and probed.
May. 13th, 2008 05:34 am (UTC)
I'd be more interested in watching him for an hour if he would bloody well stand still! Moving around is one thing, but he's pacing like a caged tiger-- and he's clearly neither of those things! Gah!

May. 13th, 2008 07:23 am (UTC)
Logged and so noted for investigation, sir!
May. 16th, 2008 04:38 pm (UTC)
Hmm, I'm beginning to think that we may be seeing this increase of Darwin Award nominees simply because we're allowing civilization to try and protect everyone from everything. That means that the more we try and keep people from being killed, the less the people that need protecting are going to use their brains and the dumber the ways they're going to die. Save society, bring back the lawn darts. :)

As for the other fellow, not even right to control our own bodies? Yeah, I got a problem with that, if you can't even have right to your person, I'm sorry that sounds little better than slavery to the 'greater whole', and just a wee bit too Orwellian for my tastes. For what it's worth, I oppose government spending on stem cell research, not because I oppose the research, I just don't believe it's government's role to get involved in it.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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