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Posts Tagged ‘future’

How Do We Care For Future People? by J. Hughes

In biology, ethics, humanities, medicine, religion, society, theory on December 9, 2013 at 19:45

From: How Do We Care For Future People?
 Buddhist and Jain Ideas for Reproductive Ethics by J. Hughes, IEET, http://ieet.org

Link to Part 1, Link to Part 2, Link to Part 3

Many questions in contemporary bioethics turn on views about the nature of personhood and which creatures possess it. Christians and many other faiths believe that humans, and only humans, possess a supernatural soul that confers moral significance, that they possess it from conception to death, and that it is not capable of evolution or improvement. Modern secular bioethics, on the other hand, focuses on the emergence and dissolution of a psychological self dependent on the brain. For secular bioethics humans share elements of this psychological self with other animals, the self changes throughout the life course, and it is open to improvement through the use of science and technology. Jainism and Buddhism stand between these views on the self and humanity in ways that can contribute to contemporary bioethical thought.

Buddhism and Jainism can connect with and illuminate contemporary bioethics around a shared belief in an evolutionary trajectory and moral continuity from animal to human to posthuman.

* Buddhism and Jainism differ radically in how they connect with bioethical debates on personhood, with Jains adopting substance dualism and Buddhists closer to neuroscientific reductionism.

* Liberal Buddhists and Jains could, however, set aside literal interpretations of ensoulment and adopt a materialist, neuroscientific view of ensoulment that would permit some abortion and distinguishes between the karma incurred from harming different kinds of animals.

* While some secular bioethicists believe it is permissible to genetically enhance humans and animals, and Abrahamic faiths generally oppose genetic enhancement, Jains and Buddhists would use virtue consequentialism to judge genetic enhancements, approving of those that give future generations maximal opportunity for spiritual growth, meaning not only that enhancement for health and cognitive ability might be obligatory, but also enhancement for moral and spiritual traits.

* Jains and Buddhists are more open to the radical optimism of the Enlightenment that we may transcend our humanness.

Read the articles: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Reposted with permission from: IEET

 

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The Past is What Matters by Edan Lepucki

In books, literature, review, society, writers on October 13, 2013 at 18:37

From: The Past is What Matters: On Margaret Atwood’s Vision of the Future by Edan Lepucki, The Millions, http://www.themillions.com

I still recall the day I started The Handmaid’s Tale. It swept me away even as I underlined sentence after sentence, convinced that the narrator’s musings on language and storytelling would be discussed later in class. ”My self is a thing I must now compose as one composes a speech,” Offred narrates early on. “What I must present is a made thing, not something born.” I haven’t since found another book that captures as well as Atwood’s does the power of language and storytelling, how our identities are made and unmade by narrative.

That first time, I read for hours: on my narrow bed, and then on the floor, in the middle of my dorm room. Later that same evening, or maybe the next, I read some of the book aloud to my roommate, who kept falling asleep as I did so. Every few minutes, she’d wake up and describe to me her dreamscape, altered by Atwood’s descriptions. ”Keep going,” she’d say and close her eyes again.

(Years later, I would dream that I was Offred, trapped on a large cruise ship, trying to escape some unseen threat. The memory of those dark, wood-paneled hallways, and my robe and wimple, still gives me the chills.)

I’ve since returned to The Handmaid’s Tale three more times, and on each read, it astonishes me. I love the novel’s insistence on back story, on Offred’s need to conjure a time when she still had her old identity, her “shining name,” when she and her best friend Moira were allowed to go to college, and smoke cigarettes, and make tasteless jokes (“It sounds like a dessert. Date rapé“). The novel imagines America as a totalitarian Christian state that has stripped the rights of women, and although it does so vividly and powerfully, the dystopian premise is never central to my reading experience. I always fixate instead on Offred’s language play, and on the way she comprehends herself — and her female body — in this new world. Stories pass the time, yes, but they’re also a lifeline to the past, and they allow Offred to function in this terrible new world: ”One detaches oneself,” she narrates, “one describes.”

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Reposted according to copyright notice from: The Millions website

Neo – Humanism by Roland Benedikter

In ethics, humanities, information science, philosophy, research, science, society on May 11, 2013 at 19:15

From: Neo-Humanism by Roland Benedikter, The European: The Transhumanist Delusion, http://www.theeuropean-magazine.com

Technological changes have turned discussions about human self-perception from a peripheral topic into a substantive one. Our conditio humana, that which we have thus far embraced as the essence of human identity, is being put into question. For example, neurotechnologies of the newest generation aim to increase human freedom by transcending established boundaries of human capability. They do so by entering into our own flesh and blood: Brain implants have made it possible to link man and machine at the neural level and have produced simple patterns of neural-technological interaction. Some advocates harbor the ultimate hope of constructing a system of interactivity on a global level: It promises universal agency without the need to even get up from our chair.

While we can measure the degree to which technologies transcend physical and physiological boundaries, we can merely speculate about the ethical consequences of these developments and about their effect on human self-perception. The merging of human consciousness and technology changes not only the latter, but also the former. And the question is whether technology will become more human in the long run, or whether humans will become more technical.

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Reposted with permission from: The European

Video: The Last Bookshop

In books, culture, Europe, society, video on April 27, 2013 at 20:07

Video: The Last Bookshop, https://thelastbookshop.wordpress.com/

joe-halls-bookshop

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The Last Bookshop imagines a future where physical books have died out. One day, a small boy’s holographic entertainment fails, so he heads out to explore the streets of abandoned shops outside. Down a forgotten alley he discovers the last ever bookshop. And inside, an ancient shopkeeper has been waiting over 25 years for a customer…
Produced by The Bakery in the South-East of England, filming took place in 2011, with post-production completed in 2012. The music was composed by Owen Hewson and performed by Arlet. Veteran actor Alfred Hoffman stars alongside youthful co-star Joe Holgate. It is written by Richard Dadd, who also co-directs alongside Dan Fryer.
We love bookshops. But we saw that many are going through tough times. We wanted to contribute to the cultural debate with our own celebration in support of these glorious independents and their shelves of treasures. So with the help of some remarkable independent bookshops, and a lot of talented friends, we have been able to make our idea for The Last Bookshop into a reality. We hope you enjoy this film and share it with your friends…

Permissions: Standard YouTube Licence

Featured Essay: Happiness by John Zerzan

In anthropology, civilisation, Featured, nature, philosophy, society, theory on March 12, 2013 at 15:24

Featured Essay: Happiness by John Zerzan, http://www.johnzerzan.net

Reposted in full with permission from: John Zerzan

Is happiness really possible in a time of ruin? Can we somehow flourish, have complete lives? Is joy any longer compatible with the life of today?

A deep sense of well-being has become an endangered species. How often does one hear “It is good to be here”? (Matthew 17:4, Luke 9:5, Luke 9:33) or Wordsworth’s reference to “the pleasure which there is in life itself”[1] ? Much of the prevailing condition and the dilemma it poses is expressed by Adorno’s observation: “A wrong life cannot be lived rightly.”[2]

In this age happiness, if not obsolete, is a test, an opportunity. “To be happy is to be able to become aware of oneself without being frightened.”[3] We seem to be desperate for happiness, as bookshelves, counseling rooms, and talk shows promote endless recipes for contentment. But the well-worn, feel-good bromides from the likes of Oprah, Eckhart Tolle, and the Dalai Lama seem to work about as well as a Happy Meal, happy hour, or Coke’s invitation to “Pour Happiness!”

Gone is the shallow optimism of yesteryear, such as it was. The mandatory gospel of happiness is in tatters. As Hélène Cixous put it, we are “born to the difficulty in taking pleasure from absence.”[4] We sense only “a little light/in great darkness,” to quote Pound, who borrowed from Dante.[5]

How do we explore this? What is expected re: happiness? In light of all that stands in its way or erodes it, is happiness mainly a fortuitous accident?[6]

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The Future of the Internet by Vint Cerf

In government, information science, internet, interview, politics, privacy, society, space on February 26, 2013 at 05:28

From: The Future of the Internet “Freshwater Will Be the New Oil” by Vint Cerf, The European Magazine, http://www.theeuropean-magazine.com

The European: When you started working on the Internet, did you have an idea of how big it would become one day?
Cerf: Bob Kahn and I had a sense of how powerful technology is. But we couldn’t possibly imagine what it would be like when 1/3 of the world’s population would be online. When we came up with an original design in 1973, we knew that new communication technologies would come along. At that time we couldn’t think of what they would be like – but we wanted the Internet to work on top of them.

The European: How will we debate truth, or argue about what is most important to us?
Cerf: I would ask: what will be our utopia? We don’t know. People call me chief Internet envangelist. Some misunderstood this and thought that it meant I was using the Internet to promote religion. I have to explain that I’m geek-orthodox. I see many good things in the world, but I also see some bad things. I believe that we really have the choice to use technology and the infrastructure of the Internet towards very positive ends. But like any infrastructure, it is open to abuse. We are reaching a point now where governments are concerned about the impact of the Internet infrastructure on citizens and on society.

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Reposted with permission from: The European Magazine

Henry Miller on Art, War, and the Future of Mankind by Maria Popova

In art, civilisation, culture, history, literature, society, war, writers on February 4, 2013 at 19:16

From: Henry Miller on Art, War, and the Future of Mankind by Maria Popova, Brain Pickings, http://www.brainpickings.org

The problem of power, what to do with it, how to use it, who shall wield it or not wield it, will assume proportions heretofore unthinkable. We are moving into the realm of incalculables and imponderables in our everyday life just as for the last few generations we have been accustoming ourselves to this realm through the play of thought. Everything is coming to fruition, and the harvest will be brilliant and terrifying. To those who look upon such predictions as fantastic I have merely to point out, ask them to imagine, what would happen should we ever unlock the secret patents now hidden in the vaults of our unscrupulous exploiters. Once the present crazy system of exploitation crumbles, and it is crumbling hourly, the powers of the imagination, heretofore stifled and fettered, will run riot. The face of the earth can be changed utterly overnight one we have the courage to concretize the dreams of our inventive geniuses. Never was there such a plentitude of inventors as in this age of destruction. And there is one thing to bear in mind about the man of genius — even the inventor — usually he is on the side of humanity, not the devil. It has been the crowning shame of this age to have exploited the man of genius for sinister ends. But such a procedure always acts as a boomerang: ultimately the man of genius always has his revenge.

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Reposted with permission from: Maria Popova

Will the elderly be taken care of by robots? by Dick Pelletier

In science, society, technology on January 27, 2013 at 03:47

From: Will the elderly be taken care of by robots? by Dick Pelletier, IEET, http://ieet.org/

Two-legged robotic systems will also advance as we wind through the next two decades. Willow Garage, a Menlo Park, CA maker of robot hardware and software just released a test version of their personal robot platform, the PR2, designed to help senior citizens in their daily lives.

The machine follows the elderly around their homes, providing a number of essential services, which include enabling Internet access, medicine reminders, opening doors, grabbing the morning paper; and retrieving objects from drawers such as clothes, pill bottles, and other living necessities.

Today, this system sells for a whopping $400,000, but as technologies advance in the coming years, by as early as 2020, units like these could be reasonably priced and covered by insurance companies. In addition, tomorrow’s improved heavier-duty versions will even carry handicapped patients upstairs and help with bathing procedures.

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Reposted with permission from: IEET

Property Rights in Space by Rand Simberg

In economics, ethics, politics, research, science, science fiction, space, technology, transportation on January 5, 2013 at 05:42

From: Property Rights in Space by Rand Simberg, The New Atlantis, http://www.thenewatlantis.com

Space contains valuable resources. These provide a compelling reason for entrepreneurs, investors, and governments to pursue space exploration and settlement. Asteroids are known to be rich in valuable elements like neodymium, scandium, yttrium, iridium, platinum, and palladium, most of which are rare on Earth. Because of the high price that these minerals command, harvesting them from space could possibly justify even very costly mining expeditions. This is the hope of Planetary Resources, a company recently formed and funded by Google executives Larry Page and Eric Schmidt with the intent of mining asteroids. Similarly, Microsoft billionaire Naveen Jain has founded the company Moon Express, with plans to use robots to start mining the Moon — as early as next year, it claims. Meanwhile, Texas-based Shackleton Energy Company plans to mine ice in Shackleton Crater at the lunar south pole to provide propellant for planetary missions, and is raising funds for the venture now.

The basic technology for space travel necessary for off-planet development has of course existed for several decades; the United States did, after all, put a man on the Moon in 1969. And recent advances in spacefaring technology, like the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launcher, promise to reduce the cost of transporting people and goods to and from outer space. This new rocket will deliver about fifty metric tons of payload to low-Earth orbit at a price of $120 million, allowing material to be shipped to space for about a thousand dollars per pound — far less than the tens of thousands of dollars per pound that technologies like NASA’s retired space shuttle cost to ferry cargo. And if SpaceX or some other company can achieve the goal of partial or full reusability, the price of launching goods into orbit will likely drop much further, especially if market forces bring more competitors into the field.

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Reposted with permission from: The New Atlantis

The Dark and Starry Eyes of Ray Bradbury by Lauren Weiner

In art, books, literature, writers on December 16, 2012 at 17:25

From: The Dark and Starry Eyes of Ray Bradbury by Lauren Weiner, The New Atlansis, http://www.thenewatlantis.com

The youthful experiences that made Bradbury into a writer preoccupied him throughout his life. Bradbury’s much-beloved novel Dandelion Wine is a thinly veiled fictionalization of many of his sweeter reminiscences — but even these could take an odd turn. “I loved to watch my grandmother eviscerate the turkey,” he once said, a memory that sums up his most characteristic literary trait: taking homey Americana and bending it in a violent or grotesque direction. His most seminal stories wrung terror out of common occurrences, such as going into a ravine that ran through the residential section of his native Waukegan, Illinois at nighttime. In the story “The Night,” an eight-year-old boy — the author’s alter-ego — simply scares himself. There is no ghost or criminal lurking, only the panic that wells up in all of us when we get lost in a dark, damp place and know we are alone in the universe, in the “vast swelling loneliness,” feeling the presence of “an ogre called Death.”

Bradbury spent his childhood goosing his imagination with the outlandish. Whenever mundane Waukegan was visited by the strange or the offbeat, young Ray was on hand. The vaudevillian magician Harry Blackstone came through the industrial port on Lake Michigan’s shore in the late 1920s. Seeing Blackstone’s show over and over again marked Bradbury deeply, as did going to carnivals and circuses, and watching Hollywood’s earliest horror offerings like Dracula and The Phantom of the Opera. He read heavily in Charles Dickens, George Bernard Shaw, Edgar Allan Poe, H. G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, L. Frank Baum, and Edgar Rice Burroughs; the latter’s inspirational and romantic children’s adventure tales earned him Bradbury’s hyperbolic designation as “probably the most influential writer in the entire history of the world.”

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Reposted with permission from: The New Atlantis

U.S. Grants License for Laser-Powered Uranium Enrichment by Sharon Weinberger

In news, North America, research, science, technology on November 19, 2012 at 22:50

From: U.S. Grants License for Laser-Powered Uranium Enrichment by Sharon Weinberger, Scientific American, https://www.scientificamerican.com

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) this week granted a licence to allow construction of a plant that uses a controversial uranium enrichment process — one that critics fear could pose a serious nuclear-proliferation risk. The plant, which would be built through a partnership between General Electric (GE) and Hitachi in Wilmington, North Carolina, could be used to enrich uranium to make fuel for nuclear reactors quickly and cheaply using a process that involves a laser.

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Reposted with permission from: Scientific American

The End, The End, The End by Chad Harbach

In books, ecology, economics, literature, nature, North America, writers on November 3, 2012 at 20:56

From: The End, The End, The End: Why bother dreaming up a devastated world when you live in one? Chad Harbach, n +1 Magazine, http://nplusonemag.com

It remains the method of most sci-fi novels to imagine a kind of heightened present, combining and extrapolating extant technologies (an MP3 player … in your brain!) to demonstrate their psychological and political effects. The post-catastrophe novel does the opposite; it takes away the MP3 player, and almost everything else. It liberates the violent potential of technology (and its enemy, nature) to create an altered world whose chief characteristic is a bewildering lack of technology. This in turn means a severely winnowed human population, and plenty of hardship and casual brutality. This future doesn’t intensify the present moment, it contradicts it: What would happen if we didn’t live in an overpopulated, technology-saturated world in which travel by foot is considered eccentric, tacos cost forty-nine cents, and the prerogative to commit violence—despite an amazing profusion of handheld weaponry—lies entirely with the state?

We didn’t always live in this kind of world. Or rather, we always did, but not long ago even Americans and Western Europeans didn’t. They lived in the 19th century, before the full flowering of the petroleum age; they belong to history. So too, increasingly, do the residents of the 20th century, with their reliance on cheap oil and predictable climate patterns. The century just ended was full of anxiety and terror, but it was also a pampered time. Even while tens of millions were murdered by oil-driven technologies like incendiary bombs and gas chambers, other oil-dependent technologies like tractors, penicillin, and nitrogen fertilizers enabled the population to quadruple in a few generations, and produced unprecedented comfort and ease for unprecedentedly large numbers of people. Now we’ve burned half the available oil, or close to it, and burning it (along with so much coal) has altered the earth’s equilibrium. Our future, like our past, may be virtually free of oil, and global culture, and many of the social safeguards we enjoy. Thus the novel of future catastrophe threatens to become a version of the historical novel.

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Reposted with permission from: n + 1 Magazine

Utopia’s second coming by Antony Funnell with Craig Bremner and Erik Olin Wright

In audio, government, history, philosophy, politics, society, technology, theory on October 27, 2012 at 20:01

From: Utopia’s second coming by Antony Funnell with Craig Bremner and Erik Olin Wright,  ABC Radio National, http://www.abc.net.au

Excerpt from Thomas Moore documentary: In 1535 Thomas Moore is brought to trial. He is an embarrassment to the King, a living opposition to state policies. Henry must make an example of Moore.

Antony Funnell: Poor old Thomas Moore. He was a man of religion, of principle and of literature. But he lost his head, of course, for not doing the King’s bidding. Now, if you ask me, what he should have got the chop for, in my humble opinion, was for giving the world one of its great and enduring frustrations; the idea of Utopia.

Craig Bremner: Utopia is not about an ideal location, it’s about the location of ideas. And what I mean by that is that we’ve become transfixed by the description that Utopia is somewhere and can be, in a sense, attained, missing the point that it is both presented…the very, very first version, the book that Thomas Moore wrote, presented as both an ideal location, but also a location that we don’t necessarily want. And its real function is the ideas that it brings back to the here and now.

Nicole Pohl: What we have seen, certainly after 2008, with the economic collapse and now with the economic crisis, across the Western world at least, people are picking up on the study of Utopia again and are trying to imagine different forms of society’s blueprints that are precisely not either socialism or communism or capitalism.

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Reposted with permission from: ABC Radio National

The Brave New Battlefield by Shane Harris

In government, history, nature, North America, politics, science, science fiction, society, technology, war on October 3, 2012 at 06:42

From: The Brave New Battlefield by Shane Harris, Defining Ideas, A Hoover Institution Journal, http://www.hoover.org/publications/defining-ideas

While there is a tremendous amount of money and thought going towards the construction of new drones, comparatively less attention is being paid to managing the consequences of autonomous warfare. The proliferation of drones raises profound questions of morality, hints at the possibility of a new arms race, and may even imperil the survival of the human species. Many of the most important policy judgments about how to adapt the machines to a human world are being based on the assumption that a drone-filled future is not just desirable, but inevitable.

This dilemma is not restricted to the battlefield. Civilian society will eventually be deposited in this automated future, and by the time we’ve arrived, we probably won’t understand how we got there, and how the machines gained so much influence over our lives.

In any case, it is not an overstatement to say that the people building and flying these unmanned machines are wrestling now with the very fundamentals of what it means to be human. And while senior military officials and policymakers swear up and down that humans will always have at least a foot in the loop, and that the military would never deploy robots that can select and attack targets on their own, the evidence suggests otherwise.

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Reposted with permission from: Defining Ideas, A Hoover Institution Journal

Conquest in Space: Dreaming about Mars by Binoy Kampmark

In civilisation, ethics, literature, North America, politics, research, science, science fiction, space, war on October 1, 2012 at 01:51

From: Conquest in Space: Dreaming about Mars by Binoy Kampmark, The Montreal Review, http://www.themontrealreview.com

With NASA’s latest efforts on Mars with the Curiosity rover, humanity is now bracing itself for the hope of finding life past, present or future, on a distant plant. Much of this is drivel, suggesting a continued obsession of humankind’s “inner child” (“We discover ourselves through discovering others”) but the prospects are intriguing. Colonising Mars will enable us to export rapacity and problems and possibly unearth a few scientific gems on the way.

In a more specific way, the Mars mission – shall we say missions? – demonstrate again that science is as political as any pursuit of knowledge. The selfless scientist is an extinct species, or at the very least a rare one. Like sports personalities, they are guns for hire, hoping to receive the gold medal at the end of the race.

Naturally, the event of seeing the first colour photos of Mars has sent NASA administrators into a state of frenzy. In the words of Charles Bolden, “It is a huge day for the nation, it is a huge day for all of our partners who have something on Curiosity and it is a huge day for the American people.” Strikingly, the mission’s significance is framed, less in terms of humanity than in terms of America – the narrative of Independence Day and the space race. John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, affirmed it. “We are actually the only country that has landed surface landers on any other planet.”

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Reposted with permission from: The Montreal Review

Featured Essay: Dubai – A City Manufactured by Curiosity by Bilal Khbei

In aesthetics, architecture, Asia, culture, economics, Featured, politics on September 23, 2012 at 07:10

Featured Essay: Dubai – A City Manufactured by Curiosity by Bilal Khbei, e-flux, http://www.e-flux.com

Reposted in full with permission from: e-flux (Marianna Silva)

It is hard to distinguish individuals in a crowd. Citizens of the Gulf states appear to the visitor as crowds, with their identities as individuals momentarily suspended. Such a crowd is slightly different from the kind described by Elias Canetti. This is a crowd perceived as such by a visitor conscious of his individuality against the multitude. The crowd exerts no control over this visitor, nor does it repress his personality. Rather, this visitor exerts a form of authority—engaging in an exchange of power with the crowd. For him, the citizen is imprisoned within the crowd, incapable of assuming the authority of an individual.

Visual encounters between citizens and visitors take place primarily in neutral public spaces where the visitor’s behavior is less restricted. By entering a hotel lobby, for instance, the citizen declines the possibility of establishing authority and becomes helpless. The citizen can be neither a soldier nor a noble person, but is also incapable of becoming a barbarian, an indistinguishable part of a great multitude—a grain of sand along the seashore, as Ernest Renan described barbarians. Barbarians for Renan are numberless; they tirelessly procreate despite the numerous deaths they suffer. Furthermore, their deaths complement their procreation, which is why they appear countless to Renan and other nineteenth-century European racialist thinkers.


Burj Al Arab Hotel Dubai Lobby.

But this is not how the visitor perceives the citizen of the United Arab Emirates; this citizen is part of an absent crowd. In public he appears isolated and weak—lonesome in a colonized land. The citizen appears to be performing the role of an individual, summoning a display of mannerisms in the hope of finding a place for the national costume in public space. This “uniform” is a national disposition, or perhaps an assertion of loyalty to an identity in spite of knowing it is restrictive. It is a form of reconciliation between a constructed identity and a possible connection to a formalistic modernity. The modernity experienced in hotels is superficial, and this citizen seems to imply that his costume is but one extra mask in a stage full of masks.

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Goran Bregovic: Balkans is everything but cool! by Senka Korac

In art, culture, Europe, music, politics, society on September 3, 2012 at 19:38

 

From: Goran Bregovic: Balkans is everything but cool! by Senka Korac, cafebabel.com

If you would have to put a face to the Balkan music, an average European will most likely think of Goran Bregovic. The producer, composer and the leader of Wedding And Funeral Band has been featured as one the headliners of the Sziget festival several times until now. Talking to cafebabel.com reporters before his performance he commended the festival for not only featuring the mainstream music, but other stuff, as well.

When it comes to music, people tend to think that everything is on MTV. Of course, that’s not the case. Different people listen to different music. The world is curious and smart. That’s why people travel from all over Europe to come to Sziget and hear unordinary things. Only naive people think that TV features all of the music. For instance, I sell millions of records and I’m never on TV.

The key to Bregovic’s international success was probably the fact that he was the pioneer of modernizing the ethno beats of Balkan and making them acceptable to other Europeans. Of course, it sure has helped that he has collaborated with Emir Kusturica by writing the music for some of his most prominent movies (’Time Of The Gypsies’, ’Arizona Dream’, ’Underground’). That kind of sound, based on brass band music and folk singing, opened the stage to many other bands with a similar performance. In fact, most of the acts on this year’s World Music Stage, whether they come from the Balkans, Eastern or even Western Europe, have played the simillar kind of music.

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Reposted with permission from: CafeBabel

Where Does Nature’s Wisdom Lie? by by R. Ford Denison

In biology, ecology, nature, research, science on August 28, 2012 at 21:56

 

From: Where Does Nature’s Wisdom Lie? by by R. Ford Denison, Berfrois, http://www.berfrois.com

My recent book, Darwinian Agriculture: How Understanding Evolution Can Improve Agriculture, asks where nature’s wisdom is to be found, but also whether nature can “lie” to us. In particular, can we mislead ourselves, when we try to apply ideas from nature to agriculture? I conclude, tentatively, that the overall organization of natural forests has not been improved as consistently, by any natural process, as the individual adaptations of wild species have been improved by natural selection. Therefore, it is probably safer to copy trees than forests. The available data aren’t entirely conclusive, however. Furthermore, natural communities and landscapes provide essential context for understanding the sophisticated adaptations of wild species. To predict whether something that works well in a forest will also work well in an orchard, we need a deeper understanding of both forests and orchards.

As well, biotechnology’s many promises will not be fulfilled anytime soon. Most of the “improvements” proposed by biotechnology have already been tested by natural selection, and rejected. For example, increasing the expression of a gene for “drought tolerance”? Tried and tested, but plants were less competitive under non-drought conditions. Turning chemical defenses against insect pests on all the time, even when pests are scarce? Tried also, but it scared away pollinators. The list continues.

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Reposted with permission from: Berfrois

What Is Normal? by Simon Critchley

In economics, philosophy, politics, society on July 2, 2012 at 18:32

 

From: What Is Normal? The surprising power of the political imagination by Simon Critchley, Adbusters Magazine, http://www.adbusters.org

We are living through a dramatic and ever-widening separation between normal state politics and power. Many citizens still believe that state politics has power. They believe that governments, elected through a parliamentary system, represent the interests of those who elect them and that governments have the power to create effective, progressive change. But they don’t and they can’t.

We do not live in democracies. We inhabit plutocracies: government by the rich. The corporate elites have overwhelming economic power with no political accountability. In the past decades, with the complicity and connivance of the political class, the Western world has become a kind of college of corporations linked together by money and serving only the interests of their business leaders and shareholders.

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Transitional Humanity – Gilbert Meilaender

In philosophy, science, sociology on May 4, 2012 at 01:00

 

Transitional Humanity – Gilbert Meilaender – The New Atlantis

The idea is to survive long enough to be around when hoped-for technological advances will make possible indefinite extension of life. Bailey reports that Ray Kurzweil, one of the visionary thinkers committed to this goal, stated at the summit that within roughly fifteen years we may have advanced to a point where we can add “more than one year of longevity per year to remaining life expectancy” — thereby getting out in front of time’s relentless arrow.

We are the creature that hopes,” the political scientist Hugh Heclo writes. The importance — perhaps the necessity — of hope for human life has long been known. The Victorian painter G. F. Watts’s Hope depicts a blindfolded woman holding a broken lyre on which only one string remains; yet that one string is evidently intended to evoke hope in those who view the painting, hope that there is music still to be made. Watts is drawing on classical mythology’s depiction of Pandora’s jar, in which only hope remained after she had released into the world the evils inside it. Whatever precisely the myth means — and it may mean many things — hope can help us to flourish only if it is something other than mere expectation, optimism, or confidence. What we hope for tells us a good bit about who we are.

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