Archive for October 27th, 2010


October 27, 2010

Finishing This Will Change Everything today, beginning the World Series (Go Giants!), and celebrating Older Daughter’s birthday. No more storm warnings, please.

Jonathan Haidt predicts future wars over “ethnically linked genetic variations in the ease with which people can acquire specific virtues,” beginning in around 2012. What he means, precisely, is hazy; but he says the variations in question won’t break down along neat or familiar racial lines. Key point seems to be that we’re a diverse species, and we’re finally going to have to come to terms with that. If we do, or if we don’t, it’ll be a new ballgame.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, whose name (but not its spelling)  flows like the absorptive state he celebrates, reminds us that the Doomsday Clock is ticking and we must attend to all the consequences of our science and technology. Nothing we do is pure, or for its own sake. In other words: our facts and our values are two sides of a common coin. We must turn the coin over and look closely. [walk & flow]

Austin Dacey says please pass the “cultured , in vitro” meat, Aunt Bea.

Richard Foreman says humans living fully in the present  would nonetheless continue to possess a future, albeit one “that is always imaginary and beyond us.” I think he’s for that, and it surely is hard to resist an expanded and enriched “present moment.” (“The sufficiency of the present moment” is what William James called “The Sentiment of Rationality,” or the feeling of being at home in the universe.)

Happiness, the new “self-esteem.” Betsy Devine seems not entirely for that. She joins the trending backlash against Positive Psychology (Against Happiness,The Case Against Happiness, Bright-sided) but this shall pass. And I shall teach Happiness 101 again, in the future.

There will come a time, says the amazing and astonishing Aubrey de Grey, when mechanical & digital human invention will have crested and we’ll be content (as a species) to rest on our laurels– “not motivated to explore further sophistication in our technology,” we’ll “focus on enriching our lives” the old-fashioned ways.  “Human  nature” will be exposed, we’ll finally know ourselves, and Aubrey resolutely expects to be there when it happens. No matter how long it takes.

The last word in this volume is Nicholas Humphrey‘s. “Nothing has changed everything.” Human nature is no dark mystery, so “be prepared for more of the same.” Hmmm.

But also, FoLers, be prepared to discuss You Are Not a Gadget on Monday. Today, be prepared for a presentation or two and an exam whose extra credit question is: “What will change everything? What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?” Sound familiar?