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march 2018 by ballance
Bob Dylan - Nobel Lecture
I had all the vernacular down. I knew the rhetoric. None of it went over my head – the devices, the techniques, the secrets, the mysteries – and I knew all the deserted roads that it traveled on, too. I could make it all connect and move with the current of the day. When I started writing my own songs, the folk lingo was the only vocabulary that I knew, and I used it.

But I had something else as well. I had principles and sensibilities and an informed view of the world. And I had had that for a while. Learned it all in grammar school. Don Quixote, Ivanhoe, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver's Travels, Tale of Two Cities, all the rest – typical grammar school reading that gave you a way of looking at life, an understanding of human nature, and a standard to measure things by. I took all that with me when I started composing lyrics. And the themes from those books worked their way into many of my songs, either knowingly or unintentionally. I wanted to write songs unlike anything anybody ever heard, and these themes were fundamental.

Specific books that have stuck with me ever since I read them way back in grammar school – I want to tell you about three of them: Moby Dick, All Quiet on the Western Front and The Odyssey.
dylan  music  lit  bloggable 
june 2017 by ayjay
A revolt against deference | Books & Essays | spiked
Today’s elite angst about so-called post-fact or post-truth public discourse is but the latest version of an historical struggle – a struggle over the question of who possesses moral and intellectual authority. Indeed, the rejection of the values and outlook of the holders of cultural power in many Western societies has long been portrayed as a rejection of truth itself. The reason elite values have been enshrined as ‘the truth’, right from the Ancient Greeks onwards, is because the rulers of society need to secure the deference of the masses. The masses are being encouraged to defer not to the power of the elites, but to the truth of elite values. [...]

The flipside of the apotheosis of expertise is the idea of an incompetent public. This is why, historically, the ambiguous relationship between democracy and a reliance on expertise has led many commentators to draw pessimistic conclusions about the capacity of the public to play the role of a responsible citizenry. The public are seen as irrational, governed by emotion rather than reason. As a result, the public’s refusal to defer to the experts is perceived as a threat to the political order – because it promises the rule of unreason and emotion. The political elites do not see a decline in deference to their opinions for what it is – a rejection of their values; rather, they experience it as a rejection of the facts and even of truth itself!
april 2017 by ayjay
My life with Oliver Sacks: ‘He was the most unusual person I had ever known’ | Books | The Guardian
Not long after I moved to New York, Michael Jackson died. O had no idea who Michael Jackson was. “What is Michael Jackson?” he asked me the day after the news – not who but what – which seemed both a very odd and a very apt way of putting it, given how much the brilliant singer had transmuted from a human into an alien being. O often said he had no knowledge of popular culture after 1955, and this was not an exaggeration. He did not know popular music, rarely watched anything on TV but the news, did not enjoy contemporary fiction, and had zero interest in celebrities or fame (including his own). He didn’t possess a computer, had never used email or texted; he wrote with a fountain pen. This wasn’t pretentiousness; he wasn’t proud of it; indeed, this feeling of “not being with it” contributed to his extreme shyness. But there was no denying that his tastes, his habits, his ways – all were irreversibly, fixedly, not of our time.

“Do I seem like I am from another century?” he would sometimes ask me, almost poignantly. “Do I seem like I am from another age?”

“You do, yes, you do.”
tech  bloggable 
april 2017 by ayjay
The real danger in the Trump-Russia scandal
The danger, once again, is not that large numbers of Americans will begin believing untrue things. It's that they will begin to doubt the very possibility of ever determining what is true and what is false. Once a political culture crashes through that postmodern threshold, those in positions of power have far more freedom to act with impunity, secure in the knowledge that they are untouchable by vast swaths of public opinion. Some will call the president corrupt — but really, who can say for sure what he did or didn't do? He denies all of it unequivocally. Some say this, others say that. There are so many claims and counter-claims floating around. Shrug. Roll your eyes. Move along to the next crazy, baseless story.
bloggable  HTT 
march 2017 by ayjay
Weaponized Narrative Is the New Battlespace - Defense One
Weaponized narrative seeks to undermine an opponent’s civilization, identity, and will by generating complexity, confusion, and political and social schisms. It can be used tactically, as part of explicit military or geopolitical conflict; or strategically, as a way to reduce, neutralize, and defeat a civilization, state, or organization. Done well, it limits or even eliminates the need for armed force to achieve political and military aims.

The efforts to muscle into the affairs of the American presidency, Brexit, the Ukraine, the Baltics, and NATO reflect a shift to a “post-factual” political and cultural environment that is vulnerable to weaponized narrative. [...]

In the hands of professionals, the powerful emotions of anger and fear can be used to control adversaries, limit their options, and disrupt their functional capabilities. This is a unique form of soft power. In such campaigns, facts are not necessary because – contrary to the old memes of the Enlightenment – truth does not necessarily prevail. It can be overwhelmed with constantly repeated and replenished falsehood. Especially powerful are falsehoods or simplifications that the target cohort has been primed to believe by the underlying narratives with which they are also being supplied.
politics  tech  bloggable 
march 2017 by ayjay
Erratum to: Book Symposium on Peter Paul Verbeek’s Moralizing Technology: Understanding and Designing the Morality of Things. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011 | SpringerLink
With mediation theory functioning as the main engine of philosophical analysis, Moralizing Technology raises the following questions:

• How should the moral significance of technology be conceptualized? Are the intellectual resources found in mainstream meta-ethics and engineering ethics sufficient for answering this question? What is the most justified way to go beyond the commonplace instrumentalist perspective, which restricts the moral status of technologies to the causal role they play in realizing and impeding human moral intentions?

• What conception of subjectivity is appropriate for understanding who human beings are when they inhabit a lifeworld of ubiquitous technological mediation? Does such a subject possess sufficient autonomy to qualify as a moral agent? Or, is the concept of “moral agency” in a need of rethinking so as to better accord with the phenomenological facts captured by mediation theory analyses of technological use?

• Should technologies be recognized as a new category of moral agents?

• Is moral reason giving a sufficient response to the fundamental problems posed by technology? Or, is the conception of the philosopher as the preeminent producer of archive friendly texts outdated and in need of replacement by a materialist ethics of social design?

• How can mediation theory be applied to the emerging fields of ambient intelligence and persuasive technology?

• Do structures of intentionality exist that fall beyond the scope covered by mediation theory? If so, what is their significance?
tech  bloggable 
july 2016 by ayjay
Anthropologies #21: Is There Hope for an Anthropocene Anthropology?
At the same time, climate change is leading other anthropologists right back to the Holocene. For them, this is not the time to abandon dualisms nor to theorise partial, emergent, hybrid worlds. Instead, we must entrench and purify the well-known anthropological categories of nature and culture, tradition and the local, and insist on the merits of holism. These anthropologists share theoretical affinities more with Julian Steward and Robert Netting than with, say, Latour or Tsing. Their scholarship is large and growing, and asks how climate change will impact local, traditional cultures. The story ordinarily goes like this: local, traditional cultures crucially depend on nature for their cultural, material and spiritual needs. They will therefore suffer first, worst and most directly from rapid climate change. These place-based peoples are somewhat resilient and adaptive, due to their local, indigenous or traditional ecological knowledge. Yet cultural adaptation has limits. Urgent anthropological interventions are thus required to mediate and translate between local and global worlds to help these cultures adapt. The Anthropocene figures here too: not as an opportunity to reconfigure and overcome Modern dualisms but as a way to underscore and holistically integrate them. Welcome to the Holocene!
september 2015 by ayjay
The Case for Teaching Ignorance - The New York Times
IN the mid-1980s, a University of Arizona surgery professor, Marlys H. Witte, proposed teaching a class entitled “Introduction to Medical and Other Ignorance.” Her idea was not well received; at one foundation, an official told her he would rather resign than support a class on ignorance.

Dr. Witte was urged to alter the name of the course, but she wouldn’t budge. Far too often, she believed, teachers fail to emphasize how much about a given topic is unknown. “Textbooks spend 8 to 10 pages on pancreatic cancer,” she said some years later, “without ever telling the student that we just don’t know very much about it.” She wanted her students to recognize the limits of knowledge and to appreciate that questions often deserve as much attention as answers. Eventually, the American Medical Association funded the class, which students would fondly remember as “Ignorance 101.”

Classes like hers remain rare, but in recent years scholars have made a convincing case that focusing on uncertainty can foster latent curiosity, while emphasizing clarity can convey a warped understanding of knowledge.
august 2015 by ayjay
Amazon is Cruel to be Kind | Matthew Schmitz | First Things
Put simply, I think the cruelties of Amazon’s corporate culture simply reflect the seriousness with which Bezos takes the progressive technological faith so many others only profess. If one assumes that the world is to be improved mostly through increases in efficiency (rather than acts of inefficient and gratuitous love), then the supreme duty of kindness is to advance technological progress. This is a quasi-religious “mission” (Amazon’s term) that demands heroic asceticism. Like the Society of Jesus, it may not be for everyone, but those who persist will have the pleasure of knowing they are serving the highest purpose. Ruthlessness may haunt the office culture, but kindness—understood by a certain technological logic—is the overarching goal.

Successful organizations will demand hustle and produce disgruntled employees: that is nothing new. What is different is the conceit of business as a kind of religion. It is telling that Bezos’s lecture was a baccalaureate and not a graduation speech, as Kantor and Streitfeld mistakenly write (the graduation speech is given every year by the Princeton University president). For Bezos rightly sees that the conception of progress and commerce common today means that we have a duty in kindness to treat business like a church—and not as one of those nice, friendly mainline denomination, but as a missionary order or doomsday cult. Sacrifices that it would be unreasonable to demand for a mere business look very different when they are expected in the service of a religious cause. The question remains whether the religion is true or false.
august 2015 by ayjay
Playing the Status Game | askblog
1. Lowering another group’s social status is the most powerful message of all. It is more powerful than raising the status of those who one likes.

2. It would be an interesting exercise in honesty for everyone who uses social media for political discussions to say, “My main purpose is to lower the status of the following three groups. . .” What would my answers be? MIT economists would be high on the list. Also progressives. And people who align entirely on one of the three axes.

3. How much of writing in the social sciences and the humanities (can you broaden this to other academic disciplines?), including research papers and journal articles, is motivated and made popular by the way that it affects relative group status?

You can take man out of tribal society, but you cannot take tribal society out of man.
august 2015 by ayjay

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