Sunday, December 8, 2019

№ 431. Black Mirror Reality

Globalization and the internet may have made the world smaller, but now we're experiencing a counterattack, the regionalization of truth.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

№ 430. Reading the Signs of the Times


The question for historians is not simply how a politician should be judged and commemorated today, but also how s/he should be understood within the context of his/her time.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

№ 428. Tipping Points

When is an emergency really an emergency?

If you’re the captain of the Titanic, approaching a giant iceberg with the potential to sink your ship becomes an emergency only when you realise you might not have enough time to steer a safe course.

And so it is, says Prof Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, when it comes to the climate emergency.

Knowing how long societies have to react to pull the brake on the Earth’s climate and then how long it will take for the ship to slow down is the difference between a climate emergency and a manageable problem.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

№ 427. The Art of Stringing Facts

"We all have one life, but books make that life richer by letting us experience the lives of others - real or imagined.... Lists are often boring, but stories strings facts together with an underlying logic that makes them both interesting and memorable.... I appreciate the logic that makes for a great scientific idea, as well as the art of thought that produces a great story.... Book makes the one life we live that much richer. Life isn't always beautiful and enjoyable, but good writing always is." --- Lisa Randall, theoretical physicist and writer.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

№ 426. Id & Ego

Trump is Calvin

"One might compare the relation of the ego to the id with that between a rider and his horse. The horse provides the locomotor energy, and the rider has the prerogative of determining the goal and of guiding the movements of his powerful mount towards it. But all too often in the relations between the ego and the id we find a picture of the less ideal situation in which the rider is obliged to guide his horse in the direction in which it itself wants to go." --- Sigmund Freud

Thursday, November 14, 2019

№ 425. The Social Media Coliseum

The philosophers Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke have proposed the useful phrase moral grandstanding to describe what happens when people use moral talk to enhance their prestige in a public forum. Like a succession of orators speaking to a skeptical audience, each person strives to outdo previous speakers, leading to some common patterns. Grandstanders tend to “trump up moral charges, pile on in cases of public shaming, announce that anyone who disagrees with them is obviously wrong, or exaggerate emotional displays.” Nuance and truth are casualties in this competition to gain the approval of the audience. Grandstanders scrutinize every word spoken by their opponents—and sometimes even their friends—for the potential to evoke public outrage. Context collapses. The speaker’s intent is ignored.

Christoph Niemann

Thursday, November 7, 2019

№ 424. The Crown

What, exactly, is the point of the royal family? Why, in a time of boisterous populism and expanding social consciousness, do the British continue to tolerate this emblem of entitlement and reaction? No one seems to know the answer, least of all the royals themselves, and herein lies the fundamental irony of Morgan’s show, which returns Nov. 17 for a third season. Constitutionally, the role of the monarch is to keep his or her mouth shut, to abjure what Elizabeth, in “The Queen,” calls “the sheer joy of being partial.” This sphinxlike silence is, in turn, conducive to a second, more intangible function: to serve as a conduit for mass emotion, a projection screen for national yearning or catharsis. In other words, the royals are celebrities. For about a thousand years, they were the only celebrities. As that began to change, around the midpoint of the last century, the House of Windsor found itself fumbling for a fresh raison d’être.