robertogreco + evolution   335

Mary Midgley - The Gifford Lectures
"An interviewer from the Guardian newspaper once wrote that Mary Midgley ‘may be the most frightening philosopher in the country: the one before whom it is least pleasant to appear a fool’. In a series of books, particularly Beast and Man (1978), Evolution as a Religion (1985),Science as Salvation (1992; her 1990 Edinburgh Gifford Lectures) and Science and Poetry(2001), Midgley offers a trenchant critique of science’s pretence to be much more than it actually is, of the ways in which science often becomes a religion.

Perhaps appropriately, Midgley the scourge of ‘science as religion’ was born to an army and Cambridge college chaplain, Canon Tom Scrutton, and educated in a boarding school in Charles Darwin’s old home, Downe House. Perhaps Midgley’s fascination with science came from her mother’s side; Lesley Hay’s father was an engineer who built the Mersey tunnel. It was in the Downe House library that Midgley first picked up Plato, and, in her own words, ‘thought it was tremendous stuff’ (although in later life perhaps Aristotelian questions have proved more fascinating). By this time, Midgley also realised that she was not a Christian, a position her clergyman father accepted rather matter-of-factly. Nevertheless, Midgley remains convinced that ‘the religious attitude’ is essential to human thriving, and in her work has repeatedly defended the place of religious belief (rather than particular religious beliefs) against its arrogant critics from the sciences.

A number of Midgley’s contemporaries at Somerville College, Oxford, went on to achieve philosophical distinction in later life, including Iris Murdoch, another Edinburgh Gifford Lecturer, with whom Midgley became a close friend. Midgley relished doing philosophy in wartime Oxford, partly because there wasn’t ‘an endless gaggle of young men’ to offer distraction. But she considered it ‘providential’ that she did not get the post she applied for at St. Hugh’s College, and left Oxford, since she thought that the then-prevailing climate of Oxford philosophy would have destroyed her as a philosopher.

She met Geoffrey Midgley while at Oxford. They married in 1950 at Newcastle, where Geoffrey had a job. She then raised a family and did not take up a post in the Department of Philosophy in Newcastle until 1962, where she remained until she retired as Senior Lecturer when the department closed.

Midgley’s animated critique of scientism—science become religion—has been taken by some, especially scientists, as an attack on science itself. This may partly be because Midgley seems much more adept at demolishing others’ positions than in stating her own clearly. In fact, Midgley’s critique of science should be seen against her own metaphor of the philosopher as plumber: the philosopher, like the plumber, engages in an activity that civilisation depends on, but it is an activity which people only notice and require when certain rather essential workings have gone wrong. At her best, Midgley is a ‘science critic’ (using the word ‘critic’ in the way it is used in ‘literary critic’), seeking dialogue with the important activity called science to enable it to do more good and less harm in the modern world. Midgley’s contribution to this project is perhaps largely that of negative criticism. However, her friendship with and support for James Lovelock, the scientist who developed the Gaia hypothesis (that the planet earth as a whole is a living system), tells us a lot about her positive beliefs. Presumably, in Lovelock, she finds a scientific approach that is more congenial and conducive to human flourishing."
marymidgley  scientism  2018  philosophy  behavior  humans  richarddawkins  eowilson  evolution  thinking  science  religion  theselfishgene  selfishness  society  feminism  cognition  humannature  animals  sociobiology  reductionism  christianity 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Mary Midgley, 99, Moral Philosopher for the General Reader, Is Dead - The New York Times
"The biologist Stephen Rose, writing in The Times Literary Supplement in 1992, called Dr. Midgley “a philosopher with what many have come to admire, and some to fear, as one of the sharpest critical pens in the West.”

Andrew Brown, writing in The Guardian in 1981, called her “the foremost scourge of scientific pretension in this country.”

Dr. Midgley unhesitatingly challenged scientists like the entomologist Edward O. Wilson and the biologist, and noted atheist, Richard Dawkins. By her lights they practiced a rigid “academic imperialism” when they tried to extend scientific findings to the social sciences and the humanities.

In place of what she saw as their constricted, “reductionistic” worldview, she proposed a holistic approach in which “many maps” — that is, varied ways of looking at life — are used to get to the nub of what is real.

One challenge came in 1978 in her first book, “Beast and Man: The Roots of Human Nature,” based on a conference she had organized on that slippery, perennial subject as a visiting scholar at Cornell University.

She was later asked to revise her original manuscript to reflect her critical reaction to Professor Wilson’s best-selling 1975 book, “Sociobiology: The New Synthesis” (“a volume the size of a paving stone,” she wrote later in a well-received 2005 autobiography, “The Owl of Minerva”). She described the field of sociobiology as a kind of reactionary “biological Thatcherism.”

Sociobiology — the application of gene-centered theories of natural selection to the social life of organisms — was not itself overly controversial, especially, as Professor Wilson originally used it, in the study of ants and insects. Dr. Midgley, given her own interest in emphasizing humans’ animal nature — that “we are not, and do not need to be, disembodied intellects” — praised parts of Professor Wilson’s book.

What provoked her and others was his hypothesis that the tenets of sociobiology could be applied to humans. That idea, according to scholars, threatened to radically revise generally accepted notions of human nature.

“The term ‘human nature’ is suspect because it does suggest cure-all explanations, sweeping theories that man is basically sexual, basically selfish or acquisitive, basically evil or basically good,” Dr. Midgley wrote in “Beast and Man.”

In “The Owl of Minerva,” she wrote that the need to address Professor Wilson’s concepts had distracted readers from her crucial topic: “the meaning of rationality itself — the fact that reason can’t mean just deductive logic but must cover what makes sense for beings who have a certain sort of emotional nature.”

She added that “Beast and Man” remained “the trunk out of which all my various later ideas have branched.”

Dr. Midgley took pains to distinguish between the important contributions of science and the philosophy of “scientism,” in which “prophets,” she wrote, decree that science is “not just omnicompetent but unchallenged, the sole form of rational thinking.”

“We do not need to esteem science less,” she continued. “We need to stop isolating it artificially from the rest of our mental life.”

Dr. Midgley did not align herself with any specific school of thought: She wrote that moral philosophy and plain “common sense” often covered the same ground. She targeted what she saw as some of the basic errors of modern scientific orthodoxy, including misplaced objectivity, the exclusion of purpose and motive, and the propensity to depersonalize nature.

The very titles of her books — among them “Science as Salvation: A Modern Myth and Its Meaning” (1992) and “Evolution as a Religion” (1985) — and even irreverent chapter headings, like “Knowledge Considered as a Weed Killer,” conveyed her stance against what she called the “parsimonious” worldview of science.

In 1979, in the journal Philosophy, she issued a scathing critique of Professor Dawkins’s widely popular book “The Selfish Gene,” taking issue with what she called his “crude, cheap, blurred genetics.”

In that book, Professor Dawkins suggested that evolution is a product of an innate drive in genes to perpetuate themselves, “selfishly,” through the vehicle of a given species, and that the behavior of living things is in service to their genes.

Dr. Midgley explained her disagreement years later in The Guardian, writing: “Selfish is an odd word because its meaning is almost entirely negative. It does not mean ‘prudent, promoting one’s own interest.’ It means ‘not promoting other people’s’ or, as the dictionary puts it, ‘devoted to or concerned with one’s own advantage to the exclusion of regard for others.’”

She refuted the notion that selfishness underpinned all life.

“Just as there would be no word for white if everything was white, there could surely be no word for selfish if everyone was always selfish,” she wrote, adding, “Selfishness cannot, then, be a universal condition.”

In a long career as a published philosopher, Dr. Midgley addressed a great number of subjects. Evolution, the importance of animals, the role of science in society, cognitive science, feminism and human nature all came under her scrutiny.

She ranged more widely in “Science and Poetry” (2001), in which she considered the place of the imagination in human life. She found excesses of materialism and fatalism in human life, discussed the unusual compatibility of physics and religion, and approved of philosophical and metaphorical aspects of the Gaia hypothesis, which looks at the earth as a living system.

“With this book,” Brian Appleyard wrote in The Sunday Times of London, “Professor Midgley establishes herself as the most cool, coherent and sane critic of contemporary superstition that we have.”"
marymidgley  scientism  2018  philosophy  behavior  humans  richarddawkins  eowilson  evolution  thinking  science  religion  theselfishgene  selfishness  society  feminism  cognition  humannature  animals  sociobiology  reductionism  christianity 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Mary Midgley obituary | Education | The Guardian
"Philosopher who brought a sharp critical intelligence and a gift for vivid metaphor to her writing on human behaviour"

"In 1931, Mary was sent to Downe House. This progressive boarding school started in Charles Darwin’s old home, although by the time Mary was a pupil it had moved to Ash Green, near Newbury. She won a scholarship to Oxford to read Classical Greats and, arriving at Somerville College in 1938, became one of a strikingly able and forceful group of women philosophers. Elizabeth Anscombe had arrived at Oxford the year before, Iris Murdoch, who became a close friend, was an exact contemporary, and Philippa Foot arrived a year later. The work of this interesting quartet of thinkers has recently become the object of revived interest in the contribution of women to philosophy during the last century.

Mary graduated with a first in 1942 and for the remainder of the war worked mainly as a civil servant. From 1945-47 she was secretary to the classical scholar Gilbert Murray, after which she returned to philosophy, starting a thesis on the psychology of Plotinus. She tutored at Somerville and lectured at the University of Reading from 1948 until 1950.

At this point it looked as if an academic career of a familiar shape might be opening up. But instead, in 1950, she married a fellow philosopher, Geoffrey Midgley, whom she had first met in Oxford in 1945. He was lecturing at what later became the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, but was then King’s College of the University of Durham. He and Mary set up house together in Newcastle and had three sons over the next five years.

Mary turned to journalism, reviewing children’s books and novels for the New Statesman and the BBC Third Programme. She also read extensively in (among other things) psychology, anthropology, evolutionary theory and animal behaviour, becoming particularly interested in the views of such pioneers of ethology as Lorenz and Tinbergen. Her excellent autobiography, The Owl of Minerva (2005), gives a vivid account of this first half of her life.

It is unlikely that she would ever have become a professional philosopher in quite the mould of many of her contemporaries, since she had little taste for the logical and linguistic issues that were the focus of mainstream work in the 1950s and 1960s, and which remain the focus of much contemporary work. She said later that she was glad to have escaped when she did from the ambience of Oxford, finding it overly narrow and competitive.

The break in her career kept her very much aware of the need for philosophy in wider debate and, as she said herself, she was concerned “to bring academic philosophy back into its proper connection with life, rather than letting it dwindle into a form of highbrow chess for graduate students”.

In 1965 she returned to teaching philosophy, as a lecturer and later senior lecturer at Newcastle. It was not until this point, when she was over 50, that she began to publish the work for which she later became famous.

In 1980 she took early retirement to have more time to write and travel, and she was writing up to the end. Her final book What is Philosophy For? was published last month. Her work had already begun to be widely known at the time she retired, and she was invited to address numerous conferences and festivals. She became involved in campaigning for animal welfare (and for several years she chaired the RSPCA’s committee on animal experimentation), for environmental awareness and against the arms trade. She also appeared frequently on television and radio, presenting the case for animals and the environment and against scientific hubris. Her speaking and writing were always direct and vigorous and were informed by wide reading, a sharp critical intelligence and a gift for vivid metaphor. The drive of her thought is throughout sane and humane."
marymidgley  scientism  2018  philosophy  behavior  humans  richarddawkins  eowilson  evolution  thinking  science  religion 
october 2018 by robertogreco
foone on Twitter: "So, programmers, you know those systems that have been maintained for TOO LONG? that are just too expensive (in terms of technical debt) to replace, that are just hacks on hacks on hacks at this point, are a never ending maintenance nig
"So, programmers, you know those systems that have been maintained for TOO LONG? that are just too expensive (in terms of technical debt) to replace, that are just hacks on hacks on hacks at this point, are a never ending maintenance nightmare that can't be killed?

That's life. Not in the sense of "your life", but Life in general.
Life was a moderately scoped novel idea for a single-celled lifeform that consumed chemicals spewing out of deep sea vents. simple, easy, ship by christimas, we'll be done and can move onto other projects.



with evolution, there's no second system. there's only iterative development over billions of years. it's frankly lucky that anything works at this point.

it'd be a fun idea for a comedy sketch. an anthropomorized God comes to reverse how the "Life" project is doing, and Evolution has to present their work.

"So, how are those sulfur-eaters doing? I know you had some schedule slips, but I bet they're really optimized now."
"Well... let's focus on the positives. They made it to the Moon!"
"The... Moon?"

"And they built global communication network! They can transmit messages around the world in milliseconds, and they use this for all sorts of things. Entertainment, commerce, diplomacy..."

"Let's not focus on the 'Human' branch so much. Check this branch out: The Blue Whale! Largest animal, EVER, even bigger than those award winners back before we had that crash back 65 million years ago. we're talking 190 tons, 100 feet long."

"Amazing. Well, at least you're sticking with the sea-bound branch. I never really believed in that 'land-based' fork."
"Uh, well, about that"
"They're descended from land animals..."

"You're telling me that you took my design for single-celled life, built it up into multi-cellular life, build the whole "fish" branch, then they developed that into land-based animals, developed mammals as a specialized sub-class of land-mammals, then PUT THEM BACK IN THE SEA?"

"Yeah. They're actually related to giraffes."
"Steven, can you bring in the Giraffe?"

"Check out the long neck on this baby!"
"Why? Why would you do this?"
"Well, we thought it'd be useful for eating leaves higher up in the trees, but it turns out they don't really do that. Instead they mainly use it for watching for predators and keeping track of other giraffes."

"Wait, wait. I remember seeing an earlier document on this. How'd you handle the
recurrent laryngeal nerve problem?"
"Yeah, yeah, in vertebrates the left nerve goes under the aortic arch. You clearly had to redesign that for an animal as long-necked as this 'Giraffe'"

"uhh... well, you see..."
"Don't tell me that you didn't..."
"We ran out of time, and couldn't do a full redesign of that system. We just had to hack it into a working state, so we just..."
"You just what?"
"... made it longer?"

"You made it longer? but it only goes from the larynx to the vagus nerve! those are both up there in the top of the neck!"
"Yeah, but for historical reasons we designed it to go around the aortic arch in the heart. It made sense back in the early tetrapod era, with fish"

"So how long is it now? In Giraffes?"
"Uh... it's about 15 feet long"
"yeah. Man, you should have seen some of those sauropod designs back in the day! We're talking 92 feet, 30 meters!"

"No wonder we canceled that project."

"Don't worry. The 'human' branch is working on canceling the rest of the projects for us, so we'll finally be free of this mess."
"Good. I've been meaning to start working on the Europa site, it looks like it'll be a lot more fun. No "land", just miles and miles of sea.""
coding  evolution  humor  life  2018  nature  biology 
september 2018 by robertogreco
Whale Fossils Reveal Bizarre Evolution, Amazing Adaptations
"Pakicetus fits into the bestiary of these early whales that are experimenting with various ecological modes. It may have looked more like a dog or a wolf—others looked more like otters or sea lions—but all these variations ended extinct. Those branches begat nothing, but there was one that did beget the whales we have today, and those were the ones that went fully aquatic, divorcing themselves from the land. That one branch then radiated into the 80-odd species of cetaceans we see today. Not just the big ones. Dolphins and porpoises all descend from that ancestral whale that went back to the water full time."
whales  animals  multispecies  evolution  dolphins  porpoises  via:lukeneff  foreden 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Opinion | Wrap Your Mind Around a Whale - The New York Times
"The facts of a blue whale seem improbable; it is hard to wrap your mind around an animal with jaws the height of a football goal post. Those jaws are not just the ocean’s utmost bones (to borrow from Melville) but the utmost bones in the history of life on Earth.

And yet these superlative whales haven’t been huge that long. In fact, they emerged just about 4.5 million years ago, coinciding almost perfectly with the human era.

We are living right now in the age of giants. Blue whales, fin whales, right whales and bowhead whales are the largest animals, by weight, ever to have evolved. How did this happen? And what does this tell us about how evolution works?

Fossils show that the earliest whales were more obviously mammalian — they had four legs, a nose, maybe even fur. They had bladelike teeth and lived in habitats that ranged from woodlands with streams to river deltas, occasionally feeding in the brackish waters of shallow equatorial coasts. And they were the size of a large dog."
whales  nature  multispecies  history  naturalhistory  evolution  scale  size  oceans  mammals  via:lukeneff  foreden 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Why, in China and Japan, a copy is just as good as an original | Aeon Essays
"In the West, when monuments are restored, old traces are often particularly highlighted. Original elements are treated like relics. The Far East is not familiar with this cult of the original. It has developed a completely different technique of preservation that might be more effective than conservation or restoration. This takes place through continual reproduction. This technique completely abolishes the difference between original and replica. We might also say that originals preserve themselves through copies. Nature provides the model. The organism also renews itself through continual cell-replacement. After a certain period of time, the organism is a replica of itself. The old cells are simply replaced by new cell material. In this case, the question of an original does not arise. The old dies off and is replaced by the new. Identity and renewal are not mutually exclusive. In a culture where continual reproduction represents a technique for conservation and preservation, replicas are anything but mere copies."
china  japan  copying  originality  evolution  copies  culture  2018  byung-chulhan  history  museums  cloning  korea  southkorea  buddhism  christianity  life  death 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Camilla Power: Did Gender Egalitarianism Make us Human? or, if Graeber and Wengrow won’t talk about sex … 15 March 2018 on Vimeo
"Camilla Power: Did gender egalitarianism make us human? or, if David Graeber and David Wengrow won't talk about sex and gender, it's not surprising they have almost nothing to say about equality or what drives change. Talk given on the picket line in the lobby of the Anthropology Building, 14 Taviton Street, London WC1H 0BW on 13 March 2018, organised by Anthrostrike: students supporting UCU lecturers' dispute.

Responding to Graeber and Wengrow's recent article 'How to change the course of human history (at least, the part that's already happened)' (Eurozine, 2018) and their earlier piece in JRAI 'Farewell to the "childhood of man": ritual, seasonality, and the origins of inequality' (2015), Camilla Power assesses their confusing claims about human 'origins' (or is that rather: some examples of upper palaeolithic archaeology in Europe and some old suppositions about where we come from), and highlights the question of equality as the crucial preliminary for a serious examination of the spread of social inequality. Power shows how, for evolutionary anthropology in this century, the recognition of female strategies and perspectives has become central to the understanding of how humans became what they are. A balance of power between the sexes was critical to the origin of symbolic culture and gender as our species emerged in Africa.

Camilla recommends for further reading:

'Introduction' to Human Origins: Contributions from Social Anthropology, edited by Camilla Power, Morna Finnegan and Hilary Callan, Berghahn, New York/Oxford, 2016

'Egalitarianism and Machiavellian Intelligence in Human Evolution' by David Erdal and Andrew Whiten, in Modelling the Early Human Mind, edited by Paul Mellars and Kathleen Gibson, McDonald Institute, Cambridge, 1996, 139–150

'Egalitarianism, Evolution of' by Cathryn Townsend in The International Encyclopaedia of Anthropology, edited by Hilary Callan Wiley Blackwell, Oxford, 2018 "
camillapower  egalitarianism  davidgraeber  davidwengrow  inequality  hunter-gatherers  equality  gender  humans  sex  archaeology  power  anthropology  mornafinnegan  hilarycallan  paulmellars  communism  mutualaid  evolution  kathleengibson  cathryntownsend  autonomy  independence  women  feminism  hierarchy  horizontality 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Stowe Boyd — However problematically the notion of...
"However problematically the notion of “responsibility” has been reappropriated for neoliberal purposes, the concept remains a crucial feature of the critique of accelerating inequality. In the neoliberal morality, each of us is only responsible for ourselves, and not for others, and that responsibility is first and foremost a responsibility to become economically self-sufficient under conditions when self-sufficiency is structurally undermined. Those who cannot afford to pay for health care constitute but one version of a population deemed disposable. And all those who see the increasing gap between rich and poor, who understand themselves to have lost several forms of security and promise, they also understand themselves as abandoned by a government and a political economy that clearly augments wealth for the very few at the expense of the general population. So when people amass on the street, one implication seems clear: they are still here and still there; they persist; they assemble, and so manifest the understanding that their situation is shared, or the beginning of such an understanding. And even when they are not speaking or do not present a set of negotiable demands, the call for justice is being enacted: the bodies assembled “say” “we are not disposable,” whether or not they are using words at the moment; what they say, as it were, is “we are still here, persisting, demanding greater justice, a release from precarity, a possibility of a livable life."
Judith Butler, Notes Toward a Peformative Theory of Assembly (p. 25)

"The Human Spring is coming, I predict 2023. The time when we, the people, actually understand our situation is shared.

Because of the nature of things in the post-everything, postnormal era, we will have to rely on fluidarity – cooperative action around a small set of core issues – rather than the historical solidarity – collective action around a comprehensive platform – but if it is the right 4 or five things, that will be enough."
judithbutler  stoweboyd  neoliberalism  economics  democracy  inequality  justice  socialjustice  precarity  healthcare  health  change  evolution  solidarity  collectivism  care  caring  morality  persistence  assembly 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Scientists Still Can't Decide How to Define a Tree - The Atlantic
"So far, there is no standout gene or set of genes that confers tree-ness, nor any particular genome feature. Complexity? Nope: Full-on, whole-genome duplication (an often-used proxy for complexity) is prevalent throughout the plant kingdom. Genome size? Nope: Both the largest and smallest plant genomes belong to herbaceous species (Paris japonica and Genlisea tuberosa, respectively—the former a showy little white-flowered herb, the latter a tiny, carnivorous thing that traps and eats protozoans).

A chat with Neale confirms that tree-ness is probably more about what genes are turned on than what genes are present. “From the perspective of the genome, they basically have all the same stuff as herbaceous plants,” he said. “Trees are big, they’re woody, they can get water from the ground to up high. But there does not seem to be some profound unique biology that distinguishes a tree from a herbaceous plant.”

Notwithstanding the difficulty in defining them, being a tree has undeniable advantages—it allows plants to exploit the upper reaches where they can soak up sunlight and disperse pollen and seeds with less interference than their ground-dwelling kin. So maybe it’s time to start thinking of tree as a verb, rather than a noun—tree-ing, or tree-ifying. It’s a strategy, a way of being, like swimming or flying, even though to our eyes it’s happening in very slow motion. Tree-ing with no finish in sight—until an ax, or a pest, or a bolt of Thanksgiving lightning strikes it down."
biology  botany  classification  trees  2018  verbs  rachelehrenberg  plants  science  genetics  multispecies  wood  longevity  andrewgroover  ronaldlanner  evolution  davidneale  genomes  complexity 
april 2018 by robertogreco
What prehistoric toys can tell us about human evolution - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
"In Many ways children shape our future — through their love of new things (particularly technology), ability to think outside the box and the ease with which they greet many new experiences and situations.

Now scientists are considering the importance of children in shaping not only the development of our complex cultures, but our evolution as a species.

To explore the possibilities, psychologists, primatologists, anthropologists, and archaeologists alike are studying how children learn, how they interpret and influence the world around them and how long ago such behaviour may have begun.

At this time, it appears that "kids have been kids" for many thousands of years — at the very least — and perhaps for much longer."
toys  history  human  humans  play  children  evolution  2018  michellelangley  archaeology  anthropology  srg 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Survival of the Kindest: Dacher Keltner Reveals the New Rules of Power
"When Pixar was dreaming up the idea for Inside Out, a film that would explore the roiling emotions inside the head of a young girl, they needed guidance from an expert. So they called Dacher Keltner.

Dacher is a psychologist at UC Berkeley who has dedicated his career to understanding how human emotion shapes the way we interact with the world, how we properly manage difficult or stressful situations, and ultimately, how we treat one another.

In fact, he refers to emotions as the “language of social living.” The more fluent we are in this language, the happier and more meaningful our lives can be.

We tackle a wide variety of topics in this conversation that I think you’ll really enjoy.

You’ll learn:

• The three main drivers that determine your personal happiness and life satisfaction
• Simple things you can do everyday to jumpstart the “feel good” reward center of your brain
• The principle of “jen” and how we can use “high-jen behaviors” to bootstrap our own happiness
• How to have more positive influence in our homes, at work and in our communities.
• How to teach your kids to be more kind and empathetic in an increasingly self-centered world
• What you can do to stay grounded and humble if you are in a position of power or authority
• How to catch our own biases when we’re overly critical of another’s ideas (or overconfident in our own)

And much more. We could have spent an hour discussing any one of these points alone, but there was so much I wanted to cover. I’m certain you’ll find this episode well worth your time."
compassion  kindness  happiness  dacherkeltner  power  charlesdarwin  evolution  psychology  culture  society  history  race  racism  behavior  satisfaction  individualism  humility  authority  humans  humanism  morality  morals  multispecies  morethanhuman  objects  wisdom  knowledge  heidegger  ideas  science  socialdarwinism  class  naturalselection  egalitarianism  abolitionism  care  caring  art  vulnerability  artists  scientists  context  replicability  research  socialsciences  2018  statistics  replication  metaanalysis  socialcontext  social  borntobegood  change  human  emotions  violence  evolutionarypsychology  slvery  rape  stevenpinker  torture  christopherboehm  hunter-gatherers  gender  weapons  democracy  machiavelli  feminism  prisons  mentalillness  drugs  prisonindustrialcomplex  progress  politics  1990s  collaboration  canon  horizontality  hierarchy  small  civilization  cities  urban  urbanism  tribes  religion  dogma  polygamy  slavery  pigeons  archaeology  inequality  nomads  nomadism  anarchism  anarchy  agriculture  literacy  ruleoflaw  humanrights  governance  government  hannah 
march 2018 by robertogreco
Facebook is wrong, text is deathless
[resurfaced because:

"Welcome to the Post-text Future ]

"Maybe this is coming from deep within the literacy bubble, but:

Text is surprisingly resilient. It’s cheap, it’s flexible, it’s discreet. Human brains process it absurdly well considering there’s nothing really built-in for it. Plenty of people can deal with text better than they can spoken language, whether as a matter of preference or necessity. And it’s endlessly computable — you can search it, code it. You can use text to make it do other things.

In short, all of the same technological advances that enable more and more video, audio, and immersive VR entertainment also enable more and more text. We will see more of all of them as the technological bottlenecks open up.

And text itself will get weirder, its properties less distinct, as it reflects new assumptions and possibilities borrowed from other tech and media. It already has! Text can be real-time, text can be ephemeral — text has taken on almost all of the attributes we always used to distinguish speech, but it’s still remained text. It’s still visual characters registered by the eye standing in for (and shaping its own) language.

Because nothing has proved as invincible as writing and literacy. Because text is just so malleable. Because it fits into any container we put it in. Because our world is supersaturated in it, indoors and out. Because we have so much invested in it. Because nothing we have ever made has ever rewarded our universal investment in it more. Unless our civilization fundamentally collapses, we will never give up writing and reading.

We’re still not even talking to our computers as often as we’re typing on our phones. What logs the most attention-hours — i.e., how media companies make their money — is not and has never been the universe of communications.

(And my god — the very best feature Facebook Video has, what’s helping that platform eat the world — is muted autoplay video with automatic text captions. Forget literature — even the stupid viral videos people watch waiting for the train are better when they’re made with text!)

Nothing is inevitable in history, media, or culture — but literacy is the only thing that’s even close. Bet for better video, bet for better speech, bet for better things we can’t imagine — but if you bet against text, you will lose."
timcarmody  2016  text  facebook  canon  communication  evolution  resilience  efficiency  elegance  adaptability  simplicity 
february 2018 by robertogreco
How birds' genes influence adaptation to climate change
"As Earth’s climate changes, species must adapt, shift their geographical ranges, or face decline and, in some cases, extinction. Using genetics, biologists involved in the Bird Genoscape Project are racing against time to find out the potential for adaptation and how best to protect vulnerable populations of birds.

The project’s most recent study, published in Science, focuses on the yellow warbler. Found across most of North America, the bird spends its winters in Central and South America, and flies as far north as Alaska and the Arctic Circle in the summer, filling wildlands and backyards with color and song along the way.

Using more than 200 blood, tissue and feather samples from across the breeding range, the researchers discovered genes that appear to be responding to climate, and found that bird populations that most need to adapt to climate change are experiencing declines.

Senior author Kristen Ruegg, a research scientist at UC Santa Cruz and adjunct assistant professor at UCLA, said previous studies focused on how long-term changes in temperature and precipitation cause bird species to shift their geographic ranges. Genetic mapping offers the opportunity to look at another option—the capacity to adapt to climate change.

“With this research, we can say, based on these gene-environment correlations, here’s how populations will have to adapt to future climate change, and here are the populations that have to adapt most,” said Ruegg, who also is co-director of the Bird Genoscape Project.

Whether the yellow warbler will be able to adapt is another matter. “That’s our next big question,” Ruegg said.

Valuable information for conservationists

The new study uncovered some of the challenges yellow warblers already face. In some populations, genes associated with climate adaptation are mismatched to environments. These populations will likely have the hardest time adapting quickly enough to future climate shifts.

That’s been the case in the past, too. Comparing the genetic findings to breeding bird surveys dating back to the 1960s that track changes in bird abundance, the researchers determined that the populations that need to adapt most are already in decline. Using genetic maps, the habitats of the populations most vulnerable to climate change can now be targeted for protection, said Rachael Bay, lead author of the study and a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow. The findings offer valuable information for conservationists who hope to protect species like the yellow warbler in the future, she said.

“Evolution has the potential to matter a lot when it comes to climate change response,” Bay said. “It’s a process we should start to integrate more when we make decisions, and it’s shown a lot of promise that hasn’t been realized yet.”

The yellow warbler is not currently endangered. It was selected for the study to give researchers a better understanding of how genes relate to climate variables across its broad range. But the bird may serve as a canary in the coal mine for species that are more at risk.

“This is an alarm bell,” said Tom Smith, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCLA and director of the Center for Tropical Research. “We spend a lot of time asking what is going to happen under climate change, what the effects will be and what we need to do to manage it. Our results shocked us—it’s happening now.”

The study sets the stage for two important next steps, Smith said. First, it means additional studies need to be done to learn how other species adapt to climate change. Second, the findings can be used now to tailor and inform future conservation management."
birds  nature  climatechange  adaptation  genetics  genes  evolution  survival  globalwarming  2018  animals  anthropocene  multispecies  morethanhuman  kristenruegg 
january 2018 by robertogreco
The Fantastically Strange Origin of Most Coal on Earth – Phenomena: Curiously Krulwich
"This is a story about trees—very, very strange looking trees—and some microbes that failed to show up on time. Their non-appearance happened more than 300 million years ago, and what they didn’t do, or rather what happened because they weren’t there, shapes your life and mine.

All you have to do is walk the streets of Beijing or New Delhi or Mexico City: If there’s a smog-laden sky (and there usually is), all that dust blotting out the sun is there because of this story I’m going to tell.

It begins, appropriately enough, in an ancient forest …"

[See also:
"How Fungi Saved the World"

"This was the one and only time in the last 300 million years that the wood-rotting ability evolved. All the fungi today that can digest wood (and a few that can't) are the descendants of that enterprising fungus. Its strategy may have been inelegant, but wood decay played a crucial role in reversing the loss of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and bringing about the end of the Carboniferous period.

What would have happened if white rot fungi had never evolved? We can only speculate, but it's possible the world of today would look a lot like the world at the end of the Carboniferous period – cooler, high in oxygen, and with a denser atmosphere. Dragonflies with foot-and-a-half wingspans might still roam the forests, but the plant life might still be primeval, stifled by the lower carbon dioxide concentrations. Many a homeowner may disagree, but we're lucky wood-rotting fungi evolved. "]


"For 40 million years, trees were not biodegradable.
430 million years before present, the first vascular plants emerged from early tide pools. In order to stay upright, these plants employed cellulose, a chain of simple sugars ... it was easy to make and offered rigid yet flexible support

This is from How Fungi Saved the World.

90 million years later, heralding the Carboniferous period,
plants developed a new kind of support material, called lignin. Lignin was an improvement development over cellulose in several ways: it was harder, more rigid, and, being more complex, almost impossible to digest, which made it ideal for protecting cellulose. With lignin, plants could make wood, and it lead to the first treelike growth form.

But lignin made the lycopod trees a little too successful. Because their leaves were lofted above many herbivores and their trunks were made inedible by lignin, lycopods were virtually impervious to harm.

Dead trees piled up without decomposing. Compacted by weight, they turned to peat and then to coal. 90% of all today's coal is from this period.

Wood pollution lasted 40 million years.
Finally, however, a fungus belonging to the class Agaricomycetes - making it a distant cousin of button mushrooms - did find a crude way to break down lignin. Rather than devise an enzyme to unstitch the lignin molecule, however, it was forced to adapt a more direct strategy. Using a class of enyzmes called peroxidases, the fungus bombarded the wood with highly reactive oxygen molecules, in much the same way one might untie a knot using a flamethrower. This strategy reduced the wood to a carbohydrate-rich slurry from which the fungus could slurp up the edible cellulose.

Which leads me to think:

There's a ton of plastic in the ocean. Why not engineer a fungus to rot it? Having this magical material that lasts forever is absurd. This is a controversial idea I admit. But although I agree that we need to reduce plastic pollution (via social change and by regulatory intervention), cybernetics tells me that's a fragile solution. Homeostasis is to be found in a ecosystem of checks and balances: instead of eternal plastic, we need plastic plus a plastic-rotting fungus plus an effective-but-hard-to-apply fungicide. Then balance can be found."
2016  coal  plants  trees  fungi  science  evolution  classideas  naturalhistory  decomposition  srg  plastic 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Conner Habib on Twitter: "13 I learned not just about science from Lynn, but a whole new way of thinking. One that allows me to stand back and see the big picture - G…"
"I learned not just about science from Lynn, but a whole new way of thinking. One that allows me to stand back and see the big picture - Gaia - and to lean forward and see the tiniest details - the microcosm.

She is one of the most brilliant visionaries of our time."

I want to tell you about an amazing woman who changed my life, and who you need to know about if you don't already: biologist Lynn Margulis.

She died on this day, 6 years ago.
She was my main intellectual mentor in life, my friend, my second mom.

Lynn made quite a few major scientific discoveries.
She's best known for proving that organisms and cells that have nucleuses have symbiotic origins - that they originate from the coming together of different bacteria (and sometimes protoctists/protozoa)

She also discovered, with James Lovelock, that the Earth regulates itself quite a bit like an organism - particularly through the interactions of bacteria and the abiota (the non-living aspects of the environment). This is called the Gaia Theory or biogeochemistry.

She created a whole new theory of evolution, of which Lewis Thomas said, "Darwin was wrong, and Lynn Margulis is right." That theory is in her book Acquiring Genomes with co-author Dorion Sagan.

When offered potentially millions of dollars by the US govt to do research on bacteria that could help with defense, Lynn Margulis hung up on the phone on them. She said, "If it's not public, it's not science."

If you've heard anything about gut biomes, that is a direct result of Lynn's tireless work, yet she is rarely credited.

Lynn's theory of evolution came from rejecting the capitalistic cost-benefit analysis version of evolution adopted by ppl like Richard Dawkins (who has almost no lab experience comparatively). She rediscovered the science of symbiotic evolution, pioneered by Russian scientists.

She was well-versed in postmodern theory and studied philosophy. She was fond of saying, "the first thing scientists need to learn is that there's no objective truth."
She knew hundreds of Emily Dickinson poems by heart and lived in the house next to hers in Amherst.

She won just about every science award you could ever win, except the Nobel, which she no doubt would have won had she not died of a stroke on this day in 2011.

In spite of her being one of the most influential and profound minds of our time, she is often overshadowed by her late husband, Carl Sagan. He was a fine person, but nowhere near as arduous in his efforts or profound in his thinking as Lynn Margulis.

I approached her after I started my grad studies as an MFA student. Lynn tried to dismiss me at first. "What does this have to do with environmental evolution?" was the first thing she said to me.

"I want to take your classes," I said.
She was thrilled that I was in the humanities&wanted to take science courses. I studied with her for three yrs.
She became my closest teacher. She took me to science conferences and gave me my most profound educational experiences.

I learned not just about science from Lynn, but a whole new way of thinking. One that allows me to stand back and see the big picture - Gaia - and to lean forward and see the tiniest details - the microcosm.
She is one of the most brilliant visionaries of our time.

Lynn was a huge supporter of my decision to be in gay porn. She was lustful and sexual and very much a proponent of sexual liberation.

Please join me in honoring this tremendous intellect today.
I wrote an essay summarizing her work shortly after her death. It's under my Birthname so that her colleagues would recognize me as the author.
Here it is: "
lynnmargulis  zoominginandout  earth  perspective  connerhabib  details  systemsthinking  bigpicture  gaia  microcosm  science  andrekhalil  carlsagan  postodernism  philosophy  principles  bacteria  evolution  richarddawkins  charlesdarwin  doriansagan 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Writing Nameless Things: An Interview with Ursula K. Le Guin - Los Angeles Review of Books
"How do you feel about ebooks these days?

When I started writing about ebooks and print books, a lot of people were shouting, “The book is dead, the book is dead, it’s all going to be electronic.” I got tired of it. What I was trying to say is that now we have two ways of publishing, and we’re going to use them both. We had one, now we have two. How can that be bad? Creatures live longer if they can do things in different ways. I think I’ve been fairly consistent on that. But the tone of my voice might have changed. I was going against a trendy notion. There’s this joke I heard. You know what Gutenberg’s second book was, after the Bible? It was a book about how the book was dead."

"You once clarified your political stance by saying, “I am not a progressive. I think the idea of progress an invidious and generally harmful mistake. I am interested in change, which is an entirely different matter.” Why is the idea of progress harmful? Surely in the great sweep of time, there has been progress on social issues because people have an idea or even an ideal of it.

I didn’t say progress was harmful, I said the idea of progress was generally harmful. I was thinking more as a Darwinist than in terms of social issues. I was thinking about the idea of evolution as an ascending staircase with amoebas at the bottom and Man at the top or near the top, maybe with some angels above him. And I was thinking of the idea of history as ascending infallibly to the better — which, it seems to me, is how the 19th and 20th centuries tended to use the word “progress.” We leave behind us the Dark Ages of ignorance, the primitive ages without steam engines, without airplanes/nuclear power/computers/whatever is next. Progress discards the old, leads ever to the new, the better, the faster, the bigger, et cetera. You see my problem with it? It just isn’t true.

How does evolution fit in?

Evolution is a wonderful process of change — of differentiation and diversification and complication, endless and splendid; but I can’t say that any one of its products is “better than” or “superior to” any other in general terms. Only in specific ways. Rats are more intelligent and more adaptable than koala bears, and those two superiorities will keep rats going while the koalas die out. On the other hand, if there were nothing around to eat but eucalyptus, the rats would be gone in no time and the koalas would thrive. Humans can do all kinds of stuff bacteria can’t do, but if I had to bet on really long-term global survival, my money would go to the bacteria."
usulaleguin  2017  evolution  progress  change  diversity  differentiation  diversification  complication  difference  ebooks  publishing  writing  sciencefiction  scifi 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Nicky Case: Seeing Whole Systems - The Long Now
"Nicky Case is an independent game developer who creates interactive games and simulations including Parable of the Polygons (02014), Coming Out Simulator (02014), We Become What We Behold (02016), To Build A Better Ballot (02016), and LOOPY (02017).

Nicky Case’s presentations are as ingenious, compelling, and graphically rich as the visualizing tools and games Nicky creates for understanding complex dynamic systems.

Case writes: “We need to see the non-linear feedback loops between culture, economics, and technology. Not only that, but we need to see how collective behavior emerges from individual minds and motives. We need new tools, theories, and visualizations to help people talk across disciplines.”

Nicky Case is the creator of Parable of the Polygons (02014), Coming Out Simulator (02014), We Become What We Behold (02016), To Build A Better Ballot (02016), and LOOPY (02017).

How to finesse complexity

HE BEGAN, “Hi, I’m Nicky Case, and I explain complex systems in a visual, tangible, and playful way.” He did exactly that with 207 brilliant slides and clear terminology. What system engineers call “negative feedback,” for example, Case calls “balancing loops.” They maintain a value. Likewise “positive feedback” he calls “reinforcing loops.” They increase a value

Using examples and stories such as the viciousness of the board game Monopoly and the miracle of self-organizing starlings, Case laid out the visual basics of finessing complex systems. A reinforcing loop is like a ball on the top of a hill, ready to accelerate downhill when set in motion. A balancing loop is like a ball in a valley, always returning to the bottom of the valley when perturbed.

Now consider how to deal with a situation where you have an “attractor” (a deep valley) that attracts a system toward failure:


The situation is precarious for the ball because it is near a hilltop that is a reinforcing loop. If the ball is nudged over the top, it will plummet to the bottom of the balancing-loop valley and be stuck there. It would take enormous effort raise the ball out of such an attractor—which might be financial collapse or civil war. Case’s solution is not to try to move the ball, MOVE THE HILLS—identify the balancing and reinforcing loops in the system and weaken or strengthen them as needed to reconfigure the whole system so that the desired condition becomes the dominant attractor.

Now add two more characteristics of the real world—dense networks and chaos (randomness). They make possible the phenomena of emergence (a whole that is different than the sum of its parts) and evolution. Evolution is made of selection (managed by reinforcing and balancing loops) plus variation (unleashed by dense networks and chaos). You cannot control evolution and should not try--that way lies totalitarianism. Our ever popular over-emphasis on selection can lead to paralyzed systems—top-down autocratic governments and frozen businesses. Case urges attention to variation, harnessing networks and chaos from the bottom up via connecting various people from various fields, experimenting with lots of solutions, and welcoming a certain amount of randomness and play. “Design for evolution,” Case says, “and the system will surprise you with solutions you never thought of.”

To do that, “Make chaos your friend.”

--Stewart Brand"
systems  systemsthinking  nickycase  2017  illustration  visualization  longnow  maps  mapping  stewartbrand  games  gaming  gamedesign  capitalism  socialism  monopoly  economics  technology  culture  precarity  chaos  networks  evolution  socialtrust  voting  design  complexity  abstraction  communication  jargon  unknown  loopiness  alinear  feedbackloops  interconnectedness  dataviz  predictions  interconnected  nonlinear  linearity  interconnectivity 
august 2017 by robertogreco
MLE or multi-cultural London English - YouTube
"MLE or Multi-cultural London English is a mixture of accents for both British an foreign English speakers in the UK. This comes from the BBC's One show"
language  england  london  change  2013  linguistics  mle  cockney  evolution  english 
march 2017 by robertogreco
crap futures — A Crap Futures Manifesto
"Challenge #1: reverse this statement

‘We must shift America from a needs, to a desires culture, people must be trained to desire, to want new things even before the old had been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality in America. Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.’

Paul Mazur, Lehman Brothers, 1927

Challenge #2: reclaim the means - stop obsessing with the ends

‘Modern anthropology … opposes the utilitarian assumption that the primitive chants as he sows seed because he believes that otherwise it will not grow, the assumption that his economic goal is primary, and his other activities are instrumental to it. The planting and the cultivating are no less important than the finished product. Life is not conceived as a linear progression directed to, and justified by, the achievement of a series of goals; it is a cycle in which ends cannot be isolated, one which cannot be dissected into a series of ends and means.’

John Carroll

Challenge #3: (as things become increasingly automated) facilitate action not apathy

‘[W]hen it becomes automatic (on the other hand) its function is fulfilled, certainly, but it is also hermetically sealed. Automatism amounts to a closing-off, to a sort of functional self-sufficiency which exiles man to the irresponsibility of a mere spectator.’

Jean Baudrillard, The System of Objects

Challenge #4: bring an end to this vacuous celebrity designer BS

‘My juicer is not meant to squeeze lemons; it is meant to start conversations.’

Philippe Starck

Challenge #5: interrupt legacy thinking and product lineages

‘All inventions and innovations, by definition, represent 
an advance in the art beyond existing base lines. Yet, most advances, particularly in retrospect, appear essentially incremental, evolutionary. If nature makes no sudden leaps, neither it would appear does technology.’

Robert Heilbroner

Challenge #6: rather than feed the illusion of invincibility, work from the reality of uncertainty and transience

‘Everywhere gold glimmered in the half-light, transforming this derelict casino into a magical cavern from the Arabian Nights tales. But it held a deeper meaning for me, the sense that reality itself was a stage set that could be dismantled at any moment, and that no matter how magnificent anything appeared, it could be swept aside into the debris of the past.’

J.G. Ballard, The Miracles of Life

Challenge #7: set aside the easier work of critique and take up the more difficult challenge of proposing viable alternatives

‘It is true that I can better tell you what we don’t do than what we do do.’

William Morris, News from Nowhere

Challenge #8: ask yourself (before putting things in the world): am I qualified to play God?

‘It’s not right to play God with masses of people. To be God you have to know what you’re doing. And to do any good at all, just believing you’re right and your motives are good isn’t enough.’

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven

Challenge #9: design ecologically

‘One merges into another, groups melt into ecological groups until the time when what we know as life meets and enters what we think of as non-life: barnacle and rock, rock and earth, earth and tree, tree and rain and air. And the units nestle into the whole and are inseparable from it … all things are one thing and one thing is all things – plankton, a shimmering phosphorescence on the sea and the spinning planets and an expanding universe, all bound together by the elastic string of time. It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.’

John Steinbeck, The Sea of Cortez

Challenge #10: adopt a khadi mentality

‘True progress lies in the direction of decentralization, both territorial and functional, in the development of the spirit of local and personal initiative, and of free federation from the simple to the compound, in lieu of the present hierarchy from the centre to the periphery.’

Pyotr Kropotkin

Challenge #11: be patient for the quiet days

‘Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.’

Arundhati Roy

Challenge #12: start building the future you want, with or without technology

‘People ask me to predict the future, when all I want to do is prevent it. Better yet, build it. Predicting the future is much too easy, anyway. You look at the people around you, the street you stand on, the visible air you breathe, and predict more of the same. To hell with more. I want better.’

Ray Bradbury, Beyond 1984: The People Machines"
manifestos  crapfutures  paulmazur  desires  needs  anthropology  johncarroll  means  ends  jeanbaudrillard  apathy  action  philippestarck  celebrity  legacy  robertheilbroner  invention  innovation  evolution  invincibility  jgballard  uncertainty  transience  ephemeral  ephemerality  critique  williammorris  viability  making  ursulaleguin  ecology  environment  johnsteinbeck  khadi  decentralization  function  functionality  arundhatiroy  patience  quiet  raybradbury  future  futurism  technology  utopia  resistance  peterkropotkin 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Adults Have Become Shorter in Many Countries - The New York Times
"Average adult heights in many countries appear to have peaked 30 to 40 years ago and have declined slightly since then, according to a new study that the authors say is based on the largest set of such data ever gathered.

They combined results from 1,472 studies in 200 countries looking at the measured — rather than self-reported or estimated — heights of about 18.6 million people born from 1896 to 1996. The study was published in eLife.

Dutchmen born before 2000 were the world’s tallest, and Guatemalan women born before 1900 were the shortest, the study found. South Korean women and Iranian men had the greatest gains in height over the last century. But Guatemalan women also grew, rising from 4 feet 7 inches to 4 feet 11 inches, on average.

Latvian women are now the world’s tallest.

Height is strongly influenced by the mother’s nourishment during pregnancy, and the child’s during infancy. Height is also linked to overall health and well-being.

Taller people tend on average to live longer and to have fewer cardiac and respiratory problems. Some studies have shown that they receive more education and are paid higher salaries.

American men reached their maximum average height in 1996, and women in 1988. Two of the study’s authors, James Bentham and Majid Ezzati, both of Imperial College, London, speculated that the decline could be because of worsening nutrition standards for poor Americans but conceded that they had not measured the effects of immigration from, for example, Central American countries with substantially shorter citizens.

Average heights in North America, Western Europe and Japan rose quickly in the 20th century, then plateaued or shrank slightly, the authors said. African and South Asians have not grown very much and, in some countries, have shrunk slightly.

Africans were taller when the colonial era ended in the 1960s. They may have lost height because of collapsing health care systems, rising population density and less dietary diversity among urbanites, the authors said."

[See also: ]
humans  evolution  height  netherlands  latvia  2016  korea  iran  nourishment  1996  1988  1960s  health  japan  europe  us  asia  guatemala  jamesbentham  majidezzati 
july 2016 by robertogreco
When my dog died, I didn’t understand why it felt like a human had died. Then I read the research. - Vox
"The reason it felt like a human died is because, in so many ways, dogs are like us. They spend much of their life caring for us, and letting us care for them. Their life arc is our life arc, from suburb to city, from hardship to bliss. I didn’t know how to say goodbye. But in the moment, there was only one thing I actually wanted to say to Rainbow, my white dog: Thank you."
pets  dogs  multispecies  human-animalrelationships  human-animalrelations  animals  2016  alvinvhang  history  evolution  psychology  companions  companionship 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Jef Sewell on Twitter: ""…the next great division of world will be between people who wish to live as creatures & people who wish to live as machines” #WendellBerry"
"…the next great division of world will be between people who wish to live as creatures & people who wish to live as machines” —WendellBerry
wendellberry  humans  humanism  machines  creatures  life  living  cyborgs  future  evolution 
june 2016 by robertogreco
From A Pedagogy for Liberation to Liberation from Pedagogy [.pdf]
Gustavo Esteva
Madhu S. Prakash
Dana L. Stuchul

"At the end of his life, Freire wrote a short book, Pedagogía de la autonomía. (Freire, 1997) In it, he offers a meditation on his life and work, while returning to his most important themes. Freire reminds us that his education, his pedagogy, is pointedly and purposively ideological and interventionist. It requires mediators. Here again, it addresses those mediators: a final call to involve them in the crusade.
The leitmotiv of the book, the thread woven through every page as it occurred everyday in the life of Freire, is the affirmation of the universal ethic of the human being --- universal love as an ontological vocation. He recognizes its historical character. And he reminds us that it is not any ethic: it is the ethic of human solidarity. (Freire, 1996, p.124) Freire promotes a policy of human development, privileging men and humans, rather than profit. (Freire, 1996, p.125) He proclaims solidarity as a historical commitment of men and women, as one of the forms of struggle capable of promoting and instilling the universal ethic of the human being. (Freire, 1997, p.13)

Similar to liberation theology (an option for the poor) courageously adopted by an important sector of the Catholic Church in Latin America, Freire finds a foundation and a destiny for his theory and practice in the ideal of solidarity. Solidarity expresses an historical commitment based on a universal ethics. Solidarity legitimizes intervention in the lives of others in order to conscienticize them. Derived from charity, caritas, the Greek and Latin word for love, and motivated by care, by benevolence, by love for the other, conscientization becomes a universal, ethical imperative.

Certainly, Freire was fully aware of the nature of modern aid; of what he called false generosity. He identified clearly the disabling and damaging impact of all kinds of such aid. Yet, for all of his clarity and awareness, he is unable to focus his critique on service: particularly that service provided by service professionals. Freire's specific blindness is an inability to identify the false premises and dubious interventions --- in the name of care --- of one specific class of service professionals: educators.

In its modern institutional form, qua service, care is the mask of love. This mask is not a false face. The modernized service-provider believes in his care and love, perhaps more than even the serviced. The mask is the face. (McKnight, 1977, p.73) Yet, the mask of care and love obscure the economic nature of service, the economic interests behind it. Even worse, this mask hides the disabling nature of service professions, like education.

All of the caring, disabling professions are based on the assumption or presupposition of a lack, a deficiency, a need, that the professional service can best satisfy. The very modern creation of the needy man, a product of economic society, of capitalism, and the very mechanism through which needs are systematically produced in the economic society, are hidden behind the idea of service. Once the need is identified, the necessity of service becomes evident. It is a mechanism analogous to the one used by an expert to transmogrify a situation into a "problem" whose solution --- usually including his own services --- he proposes.

In this way, Freire constructed the human need for the conscience he conceived. In attributing such need to his oppressed, he also constructed the process to satisfy it: conscientization. Thus, the process reifies the need and the outcome: only conscientization can address the need for an improved conscience and consciousness and only education can deliver conscientization. This educational servicing of the oppressed, however, is masked: as care, love, vocation, historical commitment, as an expression of Freire's universal ethic of solidarity. Freire's blindness is his inability to perceive the disabling effect of his various activities or strategies of conscientization. He seems unaware that the business of modern society is service and that social service in modern society is business. (McKnight, 1997, p.69) Today, economic powers like the USA pride themselves in being post-industrial: that is, the replacement of smoke stacks and sweatshops moved to the South, with an economy retooled for global supremacy in providing service. With ever increasing needs, satisfaction of these needs requires more service resulting in unlimited economic growth.

Freire was also unaware that solidarity, both the word and the idea, are today the new mask of aid and development, of care and love. For example, in the 1990s, the neoliberal government of Mexican president Carlos Salinas used a good portion of the funds obtained through privatization to implement the Programa Nacional de Solidaridad. The program was celebrated by the World Bank as the best social program in the world. It is now well documented that, like all other wars against poverty, it was basically a war waged against the poor, widening and deepening the condition it was supposed to cure, a condition that, in the first place, was aggravated by the policies associated with the neoliberal credo.

Freire could not perceive the corruption of love through caring, through service. Furthermore, he was unable to perceive that the very foundation of his own notion of universal, globalized love, God's love for his children through Christ, is also a corruption of Christianity. (Cayley, 2000)

Freire was particularly unable to perceive the impact of the corruption which occurs when the oppressed are transformed into the objects of service: as clients, beneficiaries, and customers. Having created a radical separation between his oppressed and their educators, Freire was unsuccessful in bringing them together, despite all his attempts to do so through his dialogue, his deep literacy --- key words for empowerment and participation. All these pedagogical and curricular tools of education prove themselves repeatedly to be counterproductive: they produce the opposite of what they pretend to create. Instead of liberation, they add to the lives of oppressed clients, more chains and more dependency on the pedagogy and curricula of the mediator.iii.

During the last several centuries, all kinds of agents have pretended to "liberate" pagans, savages, natives, the oppressed, the under-developed, the uneducated, under-educated, and the illiterate in the name of the Cross, civilization (i.e. Westernization), capitalism or socialism, human rights, democracy, a universal ethic, progress or any other banner of development. Every time the mediator conceptualizes the category or class of the oppressed in his/her own terms, with his/her own ideology, he is morally obligated to evangelize: to promote among them, for their own good, the kind of transformation he or she defines as liberation. Yet, a specific blindness seems to be the common denominator among these mediators: an awareness of their own oppression. In assuming that they have succeeded in reaching an advanced level or stage of awareness, conscience, or even liberation (at least in theory, in imagination, in dreams), and in assuming, even more, that what their oppressed lack is this specific notion or stage, they assume and legitimate their own role as liberators. Herein, they betray their intentions.

In response to colonization, Yvonne Dion-Buffalo and John Mohawk recently suggested that colonized peoples have three choices: 1) to become good subjects, accepting the premises of the modern West without much question, 2) to become bad subjects, always resisting the parameters of the colonizing world, or 3) to become non-subjects, acting and thinking in ways far removed from those of the modern West. (Quoted in Esteva and Prakash, 1998, p.45)"

"In his denunciation of the discrimination suffered by the illiterate, Freire does not see, smell, imagine or perceive the differential reality of the oral world. While aspiring to eliminate all these forms of discrimination from the planet, he takes for granted, without more critical consideration, that reading and writing are fundamental basic needs for all humans. And, he embraces the implications of such assumptions: that the illiterate person is not a full human being.

Freire's pedagogic method requires that literacy should be rooted in the socio- political context of the illiterate. He is convinced that in and through such a process, they would acquire a critical judgement about the society in which they suffer oppression. But he does not take into account any critical consideration of the oppressive and alienating character implicit in the tool itself, the alphabet. He can not bring his reflection and practice to the point in which it is possible, like with many other modern tools, to establish clear limits to the alphabet in order to create the conditions for the oppressed to critically use the alphabet instead of being used by it."

"IV. Resisting Love: The Case Against Education

Freire's central presupposition: that education is a universal good, part and parcel of the human condition, was never questioned, in spite of the fact that he was personally exposed, for a long time, to an alternative view. This seems to us at least strange, if not abhorrent.
Freire was explicitly interested in the oppressed. His entire life and work were presented as a vocation committed to assuming their view, their interests. Yet, he ignored the plain fact that for the oppressed, the social majorities of the world, education has become one of the most humiliating and disabling components of their oppression: perhaps, even the very worst.

"For clarifying the issues of this essay, we chose to reflect on the life, the work, and the teachings of Gandhi, Subcommandante Marcos and Wendell Berry. Purposely, we juxtapose them to exacerbate their radical and dramatic differences. Is it absurd to even place them under the umbrella of public and private virtues we dwell on as we … [more]
gustavoesteva  madhuprakash  danastuchul  liberation  pedagogy  pedagogyoftheoppressed  wendellberry  solidarity  care  love  caring  carlossalinas  neoliberalism  teaching  howweteach  education  conscientization  liberationtheology  charity  service  servicelearning  economics  oppression  capitalism  mediators  leadership  evangelization  yvonnedion-buffalo  johnmohawk  legibility  decolonization  colonialism  karlmarx  ivanillich  technology  literacy  illegibility  bankingeducation  oraltradition  plato  text  writing  memory  communication  justice  modernism  class  inequality  humility  zapatistas  comandantemarcos  parochialism  globalphilia  resistance  canon  gandhi  grassroots  hope  individuality  newness  sophistication  specialization  professionalization  dislocation  evolution  careerism  alienation  self-knowledge  schooling  schools  progress  power  victimization  slow  small 
may 2016 by robertogreco
American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs | POV | PBS
[Quotes from the film (watched on Netflix), all are Grace Lee Boggs, with the exception of the one noted as being from filmmaker Grace Lee:

“The Montgomery Bus Boycott was about not only transforming the system, but an example of how we ourselves change in the process of changing the system.”

“The word power strikes white power as something dangerous, threatening, and we were only talking about blacks being in office.”

“We realized a rebellion is an outburst of anger, but it’s not a revolution. Revolution is evolution toward something much grander.”

“Ideas matter and when you take a position you should try and examine what it’s implications are. It is not enough to say, “This is what I think, this is what I feel.””

Grace Lee: “It all goes back to Hegel — for Grace, conversation is where you try to honestly confront the limits of your own ideas in order to come to a new understanding.”

“There are times when expanding our imaginations is what is required. The radical movement has overemphasized the role of activism and underestimated the role of reflection. ”

“One of the difficulties when you are coming out of oppression and out of a bitter past is that you get a concept of the Messiah and you expect too much from your leaders. And I think we have to get to that point that we are the leaders we have been looking for. One learns very soon that the changes we need are not going to come from the top by electing somebody else.”

“Why is non-violence such an important, not just a tactic, not just a strategy, but an important philosophy? Because it respects the capacity of human beings to grow. It gives them the opportunity to grow their souls. And we owe that to each other.”]

"Grace Lee Boggs, 98, is a Chinese American philosopher, writer, and activist in Detroit with a thick FBI file and a surprising vision of what an American revolution can be. Rooted for 75 years in the labor, civil rights and Black Power movements, she challenges a new generation to throw off old assumptions, think creatively and redefine revolution for our times. Winner, Audience Award, Best Documentary Feature, 2013 Los Angeles Film Festival. A co-presentation with the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM)."

"Grace Lee Boggs, 98, is a Chinese American philosopher, writer and activist in Detroit with a thick FBI file and a surprising vision of what an American revolution can be. Rooted in 75 years of the labor, civil rights and Black Power movements, she continually challenges a new generation to throw off old assumptions, think creatively and redefine revolution for our times.

Right at the start of American Revolutionary, director Grace Lee makes clear that she isn’t related to Grace Lee Boggs. She met the older woman through her earlier documentary, The Grace Lee Project, about the shared name of many Asian American women and the stereotypes associated with it. Philosopher, activist and author Grace Lee Boggs, then in her vigorous 80s and very much a part of Detroit’s social fabric, began applying a spirited analysis to the film project itself. She habitually turned the tables on the filmmaker with a grandmotherly smile that belied her firm resolve, probing the younger woman’s ideas and suggesting she consider things more deeply. Thus began a series of conversations over the next decade and beyond.

Director Grace Lee always knew she’d make a film about the woman with a radical Marxist past, intimidating intellectual achievements and enduring engagement in the issues — a sprightly activist who can gaze at a crumbling relic of a once-thriving auto plant and say, “I feel so sorry for people who are not living in Detroit.”

In some ways, the radicalization of Grace Lee Boggs typifies an experience many people shared during America’s turbulent 20th century. Yet she cut an extraordinary path through decades of struggle. As Angela Davis, an icon of the 1960s Black Power movement, puts it, “Grace has made more contributions to the black struggle than most black people have.” Actor Danny Glover and numerous Detroit comrades, plus archival footage featuring Bill Moyers, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee and Boggs’ late husband and fellow radical, James Boggs, all testify to Boggs’ highly unusual position.

How a smart, determined, idealistic Chinese American woman became a civil rights movement fixture from its earliest post-war days and, later, a spokesperson for Black Power (often the only non-black — and only woman — in a roomful of unapologetic activists planning for a revolution they believed inevitable) is a riveting and revealing tale.

American Revolutionary shows that Boggs got in on the action — and the action got going — long before the turbulent 1960s. As she reminds a group of students, “I got my Ph.D. in 1940. Just imagine that.” Born in 1915 in Providence, R.I. to Chinese immigrants who moved to New York and prospered in the restaurant trade — Chin Lee’s opened in Manhattan in 1924 — she grew up relatively privileged and excelled at the nearly all-white Bryn Mawr and Barnard Colleges.

Then two things happened. First, she read the works of German philosopher Hegel, the founder of “dialectical thinking” whose work influenced Marxism, which steered her into philosophy and a more critical stance toward society. Then, after finishing school with doctorate in hand, she found herself blocked by “We don’t hire Orientals” signs. So she took a train to Chicago, where she found a job at the University of Chicago’s philosophy library and an apartment on the South Side and began organizing her new neighborhood against rat-infested housing.

The rest is a people’s history of the American left. American Revolutionary deftly follows Boggs’ path from her first community campaign — as a tenants’ rights organizer — through the 1941 March on Washington movement, which demanded jobs for African Americans in defense plants; her mentorship under the West Indian Marxist writer and theorist C.L.R. James; her move to Detroit; her 1953 marriage to Alabama-born James Boggs (auto worker and author of The American Revolution: Pages From a Negro Worker’s Notebook); her split with orthodox Marxism in favor of Black revolution; her preference for the ideas of Malcolm X over those of Martin Luther King, Jr.; and her emergence as a spokesperson for Black Power.

Along the way, she studied, wrote influential books, engaged in protest and, together with her husband (who died in 1993), discovered increasing tolerance for what they saw as revolutionary violence in the face of violent repression. Then Detroit exploded in the 1967 riots, which, as American Revolutionary reveals, were watershed events for Boggs. Indeed, she instructed PBS’s Bill Moyers to call them “a rebellion.” After a short period of community solidarity, disorder and lawlessness took over the streets. Rebellion did not become revolution. Boggs and her husband began to reexamine their ideas in the light of experience. Though there are many who would argue with her, and she’d be ready for the argument, Boggs has maintained her dedication to humanist and even radical ideals, while tempering her understanding of revolution as an evolutionary process.

Grace Lee Boggs can feel hopeful about Detroit not despite the city’s unstable financial and social condition but because of it. She retains the radical’s abiding faith that a new way of living can dawn. “We are in a time of great hope and great danger,” she tells Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman. Yet, as American Revolutionary chronicles, this faith has also been tempered by mistakes, lost battles, unintended consequences, age itself and the sheer evolutionary force of social change. “It’s hard when you’re young to understand how reality is constantly changing because it hasn’t changed that much during your lifetime,” says Boggs. Still, channeling Hegel, she challenges people to “not get stuck in old ideas. Keep recognizing that reality is changing and that your ideas have to change.”

Boggs’ approach is radical in its simplicity and clarity: Revolution is not an act of aggression or merely a protest. Revolution, Boggs says, “is about something deeper within the human experience — the ability to transform oneself and transform the world.”

“From the moment I met Grace Lee Boggs in 2000, I knew I would have to make a longer film just about her,” says director Grace Lee. “Over the years, I would return to Detroit, hang out and watch her hold everyone from journalists to renowned activists to high school students in her thrall. I recognized myself in all of them — eager to connect with someone who seemed to embody history itself.

“This is not an issue film, nor is it about a celebrity or an urgent injustice that rallies you to take action,” she continues. “It’s about an elderly woman who spends most of her days sitting in her living room thinking and hatching ideas about the next American revolution. But if you catch wind of some of those ideas, they just might change the world.”"

[See also: ]
via:caseygollan  activism  civilrights  detroit  dissent  graceleeboggs  documentary  hegel  2014  gracelee  nonviolence  understanding  conversation  evolution  revolution  rebellion  anger  change  systems  systemschange 
march 2016 by robertogreco
When chickens go wild : Nature News & Comment
"The feral chickens of Kauai provide a unique opportunity to study what happens when domesticated animals escape and evolve."

"Chicken and egg

“You won't see a bird as healthy-looking as that,” Wright says of the hen that he and Henriksen had captured at Opaekaa Falls. “Her plumage is perfect.” In the basement of a rented house on Kauai, the researchers have set up a makeshift laboratory where they photograph the bird, draw its blood and then kill it and prepare it for dissection. Wright starts with the hen's Brazil-nut-sized brain.

Their unpublished research has shown that the brains of domestic chickens are smaller than those of junglefowl, relative to their body size, and organized differently. The team hopes to identify the genes responsible for these changes and others, such as the diminished visual-processing systems of domestic birds. Life in the wild has also altered the reproductive systems of the feral chickens. Domestic breeds lay eggs almost daily, but breeding seasonally could allow feral chickens to reapportion the minerals devoted to eggs (which come from spongy tissue in the centre of their bones) to making their skeletons more robust. The researchers sample the hen's femur and also find that its ovaries are empty of egg follicles, which could be a sign of seasonal breeding.

Feralization has garnered much less attention from scientists than domestication (which gets a nod in chapter one of Charles Darwin's 1859 On the Origin of Species). But swapping of domestic and wild genes has been happening all over the world for thousands of years. A feral-sheep population that has lived on the island of St Kilda in the Scottish Outer Hebrides for as long as 4,000 years acquired beneficial alleles that determine coat colour from a modern domestic sheep breed some 150 years ago2. A 2009 study in Science3 found that some wolves in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, carry a domestic-dog version of a gene linked to dark coats that shows hallmarks of positive selection, possibly helping wolves from the Arctic to adapt to forested environments. “People would have thought that genes to live in a farm and house aren't going to be any good in the wild, but that's not necessarily true,” says Jonathan Losos, an evolutionary ecologist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

And like Kauai's feral chickens, other feral animals such as dingoes in Australia and urban pigeons practically everywhere have not evolved back to the state of their wild ancestors — even if certain traits may trend in that direction.

Like chickens, other domesticated animals tend to have smaller brains than their wild cousins, relative to body size (see 'Free bird'). And brain regions involved in processing things such as sight, sound and smell are among the most diminished, perhaps because humans bred animals to be docile and less wary of their surroundings. Feral pigs in Sardinia seem to have regained large brains and high densities of neurons involved in olfaction, but not the abilities that come with them: their neurons do not express a protein that has been linked to the exquisite sense of smell in closely related wild boars4. Likewise, feral dogs, cats and pigs often lack the savvy of their wild brethren and still depend on human niches for their survival, notes Melinda Zeder, an archaeologist at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. Packs of feral dogs, for instance, do not form the complex hierarchies that make wolves such fearsome predators. “There's no leadership the way you get in a wolf pack. It's just a bunch of shitty friends ,” says Greger Larson, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Oxford, UK, who is part of a team examining the mixed ancestry of Kauai's feral pigs."
feral  chickens  kauai  nature  birds  anthropocene  science  evolution  2016  ewencalloway  feralization  via:anne 
february 2016 by robertogreco
crap futures — constraint no. 2: legacies of the past
"We are locked into paths determined by decisions or choices made in previous eras, when the world was a much different place. For various reasons these legacies stubbornly persist through time, constraining future possibilities and blinkering us from alternative ways of thinking.

Here, sketched as usual on a napkin over coffee and toast, are some thoughts on legacies of the past that exercise power over our future.

Infrastructure. Take energy, for example. Tesla’s invention of alternating current became the dominant system - rather than Edison’s direct current - essentially because it allowed electricity generated at power stations to be capable of travelling large distances. Tesla’s system has, for the most part, been adopted across the world - an enormous network of stations, cables, pylons, and transformers, with electrical power arriving in our homes through sockets in the wall. This pervasive system dictates or influences almost everything energy related, and in highly complex ways: from the development of new energy generation methods (and figuring out how to feed that energy into the grid) to the design of any electrical product.

Another example is transportation. As Crap Futures has discovered, it is hard to get around this volcanic and vertiginous island without a car. There are no trains, it is too hilly to ride a bike, buses are slow and infrequent, and meanwhile over the past few decades the regional government - one particular government with a 37-year reign - poured millions into building a complex network of roads and tunnels. People used to get to other parts of the island by boat; now (and for the foreseeable future) it is by private car. This is an example of recent infrastructure that a) perpetuated and was dictated by dominant ideas of how transportation infrastructure should be done, and b) will further constrain possibilities for the island into the future.

Laws and insurance. There is a problematic time-slip between the existence of laws and insurance and the real-life behaviour of humans. Laws and insurance are for the most part reactive: insurance policies, for example, are based on amassed data that informs the broker of risk levels, and this system therefore needs history to work. So when you try to insert a new product or concept - a self-driving car or delivery drone - into everyday life, the insurance system pushes back. Insurance companies don’t want to gamble on an unknown future; they want to look at the future through historical data, which is by nature a conservative lens.

Laws, insurance, and historical infrastructure often work together to curb radical change. This partly explains why many of the now technologically realisable dreams of the past, from jetpacks to flying cars, are unlikely to become an everyday reality in that imagined form - more likely they will adapt and conform to existing systems and rules.
"No great idea in its beginning can ever be within the law. How can it be within the law? The law is stationary. The law is fixed. The law is a chariot wheel which binds us all regardless of conditions or place or time." — Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays (1910)

It is true that laws sometimes outstay their welcome or impede progress. The slow pace at which laws change becomes more and more apparent as the pace of innovation increases. But there are positive as well as negative constraints, and laws often constrain us for good (which of course is their supposed function). At best, they check our impulses, give us a cooling off period, prevent us from tearing everything down at a whim.

So the law can be a force for good. But then of course - good, bad, or ineffectual - there are always those who find ways to circumvent the law. Jonathan Swift wrote: ‘Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.’ With their shock-and-awe tactics, companies like Uber manage to overcome traditional legal barriers by moving faster than local laws or simply being big enough to shrug off serious legal challenges.

Technology is evolutionary. (See Heilbroner’s quote in the future nudge post.) Comparisons between natural and technological evolution have been a regular phenomenon since as far back Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859). Darwin’s revolutionary work inspired philosophers, writers, and anthropologists - Marx and Engels, Samuel Butler, Augustus Pitt-Rivers - to suggest that technological artefacts evolve in a manner similar to natural organisms. This essentially means that technological development is unidirectional, and that radical new possibilities do not happen.

Viewing technology in evolutionary terms would appear to constrain us to only the possibilities that we could reasonably ‘evolve’ into. But this does not have to be the case: natural evolution works by random mutation and natural selection with no ‘plan’ as such, whereas technological innovation and product design are firmly teleologic (literally ‘end-directed’). In other words, the evolutionary model of technological change ignores basic human agency. While natural organisms can’t dip into the historical gene pool to bring back previous mutations, however useful they might be, innovators and designers are not locked into an irreversible evolutionary march and can look backward whenever they choose. So why don’t they? It is a case - circling back to constraint no. 1 - of thinking under the influence of progress dogma."
2015  crapfutures  constraints  darwin  evolution  innovation  future  progress  progressdogma  transportation  infrastructure  law  legal  time  pace  engels  friedrichengels  technology  californianideology  emmagoldman  anarchism  insurance  policy  electricity  nikolatesla  thomasedison  systems  systemsthinking  jonathanswift  samuelbutler  karlmarx  longnow  bighere  augustuspitt-rivers 
january 2016 by robertogreco
What’s a Species, Anyways? | New Republic
"The search for the red wolf's origins have led scientists to a new theory about how evolution actually works."

"Evolution had always been represented as a “tree of life,” with animals diverging from each other until each species slotted into a terminal bud. In recent years, however, scientists have begun to adopt a more dynamic view of what constitutes a species. In 2011, Frank Rheindt and Scott Edwards, two researchers at Harvard, published a paper about hybridization in the scientific journal The Auk. They argued that “introgression”—the scientific term for when genes of one species enter the genome of another species through hybridization—had long been “underappreciated” and was, in fact, an “important and pervasive mechanism” in evolution. It allowed for the rapid introduction of “advantageous novelty” into a species’ gene pool. For example, the Neanderthal genes in the human genome affect the outer skin cells that produce hair, which researchers have suggested might have helped Homo sapiens adapt to colder climates when they migrated out of Africa some 60,000 years ago. Another research paper indicated that Tibetans gained the genes that help them breathe at high altitudes from the Denisovans, another ancient and extinct member of the Homo genus.

It is possible, certainly, for distinctive forms to be lost through hybridization. Non-native rainbow trout, for instance, have overwhelmed some of their idiosyncratic relatives in Western streams. But it is also possible for new forms to arise. No animal has demonstrated the rapid evolutionary advantages of hybridization better than the coyote. The coyote was native to the Great Plains but pushed eastward in the twentieth century into wolves’ former range along a front from Texas to southern Canada. The expansion, however, was not in lockstep. The coyotes that spread via Canada colonized new territory at a rate five times faster than their southern counterparts. A research team at the New York State Museum in Albany found that the northern coyotes encountered and hybridized with Algonquin wolves in Canada, producing larger offspring that could more easily hunt deer in Northeastern forests. These hybrid “coywolves” then spread into New York and Maine, states that had lacked wild canids since the nineteenth century. Evolution, a process that typically took thousands of years, had created a new form in a matter of decades. Hybridization held the key."

"To some biologists, the red wolf demonstrates how wrongheaded it is for the Fish and Wildlife Service to organize its conservation efforts around species in the first place, given how fuzzy the concept has proven. “I think it’s nonsensical for us to argue conservation-management practices on the basis of genomes that haven’t been impacted by genes from other species,” said Michael Arnold, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Georgia. “If we do that ... then there won’t be anything conserved.”

Instead, Arnold suggested a whole new paradigm for the natural world: not a “tree of life,” with its ever-multiplying and distinct branches, but a “web of life,” with species continually diverging and recombining over time —a truer picture of what actually happens in nature. He proposed that rather than spending conservation money to preserve what we have defined as a species, the U.S. government should buy up tracts of land and let natural evolutionary processes—including hybridization—run their course.

Scientists had hoped that DNA testing would yield clear definitions for animal species. Instead, it’s revealed just how impossible such precise determinations are. And yet few would suggest jettisoning the concept of a species altogether: It is, as E.O. Wilson wrote, too fundamental to human ideas of nature. The difference would be recognizing that a species is a human construction rather than a biological reality—a shift in perspective that would, if anything, give conservationists more flexibility to pursue their goals. “The Endangered Species Act is tied to typology, where it should be more oriented toward process,” Wayne said.

In this view, the red wolf need not be a paragon of genetic purity in order to deserve protection; it need only fill a niche in its ecosystem that no other animal does. Jenks echoed this point as well. “It should be about what an animal does in its habitat, and preserving that habitat, that ecology,” she said.

What that would mean for conservation efforts on the ground in North Carolina remains unclear. For the Fish and Wildlife Service, rescuing the red wolf from extinction is one of its greatest accomplishments. But as the agency continues to deliberate about the future of the recovery program, it has also signaled that it doesn’t have much heart left in the red wolf fight. This summer, a female red wolf wandered onto a landowner’s property in Hyde County. Typically, Fish and Wildlife employees trapped and removed unwanted red wolves from private property, but the wolves often journeyed back, and fed-up landowners have started to deny the agency access to their land. Rather than skirmish with another angry resident, the agency capitulated. It gave the man permission to shoot and kill the red wolf—a decision that drew the ire of environmental groups, who launched a lawsuit against the agency. On June 17, the man picked up a gun and, for the first time since the 1960s, intentionally took aim at and lawfully killed the red wolf. When he handed the corpse over to the Fish and Wildlife Service, they discovered that the wolf was nursing. Her pups would not survive without her care. "
biology  evolution  science  species  wolves  bencrair  joelsartore  animals  redwolves  coyotoes  dogs  hybrids  hybridism  wildlife  eowilson 
december 2015 by robertogreco
It’s Not Climate Change — It’s Everything Change — Matter — Medium
"Two writers have recently contributed some theorizing about overall social and energy systems and the way they function that may be helpful to us in our slowly unfolding crisis. One is from art historian and energetic social thinker Barry Lord; it’s called Art and Energy (AAM Press). Briefly, Lord’s thesis is that the kind of art a society makes and values is joined at the hip with the kind of energy that society depends on to keep itself going. He traces the various forms of energy we have known as a species throughout our pre-history — our millennia spent in the Pleistocene — and in our recorded history — sexual energy, without which societies can’t continue; the energy of the body while hunting and foraging; wood for fire; slaves; wind and water; coal; oil; and “renewables” — and makes some cogent observations about their relationship to art and culture. In his Prologue, he says:
Everyone knows that all life requires energy. But we rarely consider how dependent art and culture are on the energy that is needed to produce, practice and sustain them. What we fail to see are the usually invisible sources of energy that make our art and culture(s) possible and bring with them fundamental values that we are all constrained to live with (whether we approve of them or not). Coal brought one set of values to all industrialized countries; oil brought a very different set… I may not approve of the culture of consumption that comes with oil… but I must use [it] if I want to do anything at all.

Those living within an energy system, says Lord, may disapprove of certain features, but they can’t question the system itself. Within the culture of slavery, which lasted at least 5,000 years, nobody wanted to be a slave, but nobody said slavery should be abolished, because what else could keep things going?

Coal, says Lord, produced a culture of production: think about those giant steel mills. Oil and gas, once they were up and running, fostered a culture of consumption. Lord cites “the widespread belief of the 1950s and early ’60s in the possibility of continuing indefinitely with unlimited abundance and economic growth, contrasted with the widespread agreement today that both that assumption and the world it predicts are unsustainable.” We’re in a transition phase, he says: the next culture will be a culture of “stewardship,” the energy driving it will be renewables, and the art it produces will be quite different from the art favored by production and consumption cultures.

What are the implications for the way we view both ourselves and the way we live? In brief: in the coal energy culture — a culture of workers and production — you are your job. “I am what I make.” In an oil and gas energy culture — a culture of consumption — you are your possessions. “I am what I buy.” But in a renewable energy culture, you are what you conserve. “I am what I save and protect.” We aren’t used to thinking like this, because we can’t see where the money will come from. But in a culture of renewables, money will not be the only measure of wealth. Well-being will factor as an economic positive, too.

The second book I’ll mention is by anthropologist, classical scholar, and social thinker Ian Morris, whose book, Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels: How Human Values Evolve, has just appeared from Princeton University Press. Like Barry Lord, Morris is interested in the link between energy-capture systems and the cultural values associated with them, though in his case it’s the moral values, not only the aesthetic ones — supposing these can be separated — that concern him. Roughly, his argument runs that each form of energy capture favors values that maximize the chance of survival for those using both that energy system and that package of moral values. Hunter-gatherers show more social egalitarianism, wealth-sharing, and more gender equality than do farmer societies, which subordinate women — men are favored, as they must do the upper-body-strength heavy lifting — tend to practice some form of slavery, and support social hierarchies, with peasants at the low end and kings, religious leaders, and army commanders at the high end. Fossil fuel societies start leveling out gender inequalities — you don’t need upper body strength to operate keyboards or push machine buttons — and also social distinctions, though they retain differences in wealth.

The second part of his argument is more pertinent to our subject, for he postulates that each form of energy capture must hit a “hard ceiling,” past which expansion is impossible; people must either die out or convert to a new system and a new set of values, often after a “great collapse” that has involved the same five factors: uncontrolled migration, state failure, food shortages, epidemic disease, and “always in the mix, though contributing in unpredictable ways–- climate change.” Thus, for hunting societies, their way of life is over once there are no longer enough large animals to sustain their numbers. For farmers, arable land is a limiting factor. The five factors of doom combine and augment one another, and people in those periods have a thoroughly miserable time of it, until new societies arise that utilize some not yet exhausted form of energy capture.

And for those who use fossil fuels as their main energy source — that would be us, now — is there also a hard ceiling? Morris says there is. We can’t keep pouring carbon into the air — nearly 40 billion tons of CO2 in 2013 alone — without the consequences being somewhere between “terrible and catastrophic.” Past collapses have been grim, he says, but the possibilities for the next big collapse are much grimmer.

We are all joined together globally in ways we have never been joined before, so if we fail, we all fail together: we have “just one chance to get it right.” This is not the way we will inevitably go, says he, though it is the way we will inevitably go unless we choose to invent and follow some less hazardous road.

But even if we sidestep the big collapse and keep on expanding at our present rate, we will become so numerous and ubiquitous and densely packed that we will transform both ourselves and our planet in ways we can’t begin to imagine. “The 21st century, he says, “shows signs of producing shifts in energy capture and social organization that dwarf anything seen since the evolution of modern humans.”"
climate  climatechange  culture  art  society  margaretatwood  2015  cli-fi  sciefi  speculativefiction  designfiction  capitalism  consumerism  consumption  energy  fossilfuels  canon  barrylord  coal  anthropology  change  changemaking  adaptation  resilience  ianmorris  future  history  industrialization  egalitarianism  collapse  humans  biodiversity  agriculture  emissions  environment  sustainability  stewardship  renewableenergy  making  production  makers  materialism  evolution  values  gender  inequality  migration  food  transitions  hunter-gatherers 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Bill Moyers Journal . Watch & Listen | PBS
"GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, I had no idea what I was gonna do after I got my degree in philosophy in 1940. But what I did know was at that time, if you were a Chinese-American, even department stores wouldn't hire you. They'd come right out and say, "We don't hire Orientals." And so the idea of my getting a job teaching in a university and so forth was really ridiculous. And I went to Chicago and I got a job in the philosophy library there for $10 a week, And so I found a little old Jewish woman right near the university who took pity on me and said I could stay in her basement rent-free. The only obstacle was that I had to face down a barricade of rats in order to get into her basement. And at that time, in the black communities, they were beginning to protest and struggle against rat-infested housing. So I joined one of the tenants' organizations and thereby came in touch with the black community for the first time in my life.

BILL MOYERS: One of her first heroes in that community was A. Philip Randolph, the charismatic labor leader who had won a long struggle to organize black railroad porters. In the 1930s. on the eve of World War II, Randolph was furious that blacks were being turned away from good paying jobs in the booming defense plants.

When he took his argument to F.D.R., the president was sympathetic but reluctant to act. Proclaiming that quote 'power is the active principle of only the organized masses,' Randolph called for a huge march on Washington to shame the president. It worked. F.D.R. backed down and signed an order banning discrimination in the defense industry. All over America blacks moved from the countryside into the cities to take up jobs — the first time in 400 years — says Grace Lee Boggs, that black men could bring home a regular paycheck.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: And when I saw what a movement could do, I said, "Boy, that's what I wanna do with my life."

GRACE LEE BOGGS: It was just amazing. I mean, how you have to take advantage of a crisis in the system and in the government and also press to meet the needs of the people who are struggling for dignity. I mean, that's very tricky.

BILL MOYERS: It does take moral force to make political decisions possible.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Yeah. and I think that too much of our emphasis on struggle has simply been in terms of confrontation and not enough recognition of how much spiritual and moral force is involved in the people who are struggling.

BILL MOYERS: Well, that's true. But power never gives up anything voluntarily. People have to ask for it. They have to demand it. They have-to--

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, you know as Douglas said, "Power yields nothing without a struggle." But how one struggles I think is now a very challenging question.

BILL MOYERS: She would learn a lot more about struggle from the man she married in 1952 — Jimmy Boggs, a radical activist, organizer, and writer. They couldn't have been outwardly more different — he was a black man, an auto worker and she was a Chinese-American, college educated philosopher — but they were kindred spirits, and their marriage lasted four decades until his death.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I think that I owe a great deal of my rootedness to Jimmy because he learned to write and become a writer because in his illiterate community nobody could read and write. He picked cotton, and then went to work in Detroit. He saw himself as having been part of one epoch, the agriculture epoch, and now the industrial epoch, and now the post-industrial epoch. I think that's a very important part of what we need in this country, is that sense that we have lived through so many stages, and that we are entering into a new stage where we could create something completely different. Jimmy had that feeling. "

"BILL MOYERS: And you think that this question of work was at the heart of what happened-- or it was part of what happened in Detroit that summer?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I don't think it's that they were conscious of it, but I thought-- what I saw happen was that young people who recognized that working in the factory was what had allowed their parents to buy a house, to raise a family, to get married, to send their kids to school, that was eroding. They felt that-- no one cares anymore.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: And what we tried to do is explain that a rebellion is righteous, because it's the protest by a people against injustice, because of unrighteous situation, but it's not enough. You have to go beyond rebellion. And it was amazing, a turning point in my life, because until that time, I had not made a distinction between a rebellion and revolution. And it forced us to begin thinking, what does a revolution mean? How does it relate to evolution?"

"BILL MOYERS: The conundrum for me is this; The war in Vietnam continued another seven years after Martin Luther King's great speech at Riverside here in New York City on April 4th, 1967. His moral argument did not take hold with the powers-that-be.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I don't expect moral arguments to take hold with the powers-that-be. They are in their positions of power. They are part of the system. They are part of the problem.

BILL MOYERS: Then do moral arguments have any force if they--

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Of course they do.

BILL MOYERS: If they can be so heedlessly ignored?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I think because we depend too much on the government to do it. I think we're not looking sufficiently at what is happening at the grassroots in the country. We have not emphasized sufficiently the cultural revolution that we have to make among ourselves in order to force the government to do differently. Things do not start with governments--

BILL MOYERS: But wars do.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: There's big changes--

BILL MOYERS: Wars do. Wars do.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Wars do. But positive changes leaps forward in the evolution of human kind, do not start with governments. I think that's what the Civil Rights Movement taught us.

BILL MOYERS: But Martin Luther King was ignored then on the war. In fact, the last few years of his life, as he was moving beyond the protest in the South, and the end of official segregation, he was largely ignored if not ridiculed for his position on economic equality. Upon doing something about poverty. And, in fact, many civil rights leaders, as you remember, Grace, condemned him for mixing foreign policy with civil rights. They said; That's not what we should be about.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: But see, what I hear in what you're saying is a separation of the anti-war speech of the peace trajectory, from the other things that Martin said. He was talking about a radical revolution of values. And that radical revolution of values has not been pursued in the last forty years. The consumerism, and materialism, has gotten worse. The militarism has continued, while people are going around, you know just using their credit cards. All that's been taking place. And so, would he have continued to challenge those? I think he would. But on the whole, our society has not been challenging those, except in small pockets.

BILL MOYERS: He said that the three triplets of society in America were; Racism, consumerism or materialism and militarism. And you're saying those haven't changed.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I'm saying that not only have those not changed, but people have isolated the struggles against each of these from the other. They have not seen that they're part of one whole of a radical revolution of values that we all must undergo. "

"BILL MOYERS: Yes, but where is the sign of the movement today?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I believe that we are at the point now, in the United States, where a movement is beginning to emerge. I think that the calamity, the quagmire of the Iraq war, the outsourcing of jobs, the drop-out of young people from the education system, the monstrous growth of the prison-industrial complex, the planetary emergency, which we are engulfed at the present moment, is demanding that instead of just complaining about these things, instead of just protesting about these things, we begin to look for, and hope for, another way of living. And I think that's where the movement -- I see a movement beginning to emerge, 'cause I see hope beginning to trump despair.

BILL MOYERS: Where do you see the signs of it?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I see the signs in the various small groups that are emerging all over the place to try and regain our humanity in very practical ways. For example in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Will Allen, who is a former basketball player has purchased two and a half acres of land, with five greenhouses on it, and he is beginning to grow food, healthy food for his community. And communities are growing up around that idea. I mean, that's a huge change in the way that we think of the city. I mean, the things we have to restore are so elemental. Not just food, and not just healthy food, but a different way of relating to time and history and to the earth.

BILL MOYERS: And a garden does that for you?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Yes. A garden does all sorts of things. It helps young people to relate to the Earth in a different way. It helps them to relate to their elders in a different way. It helps them to think of time in a different way.


GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, if we just press a button, and you think that's the key to reality, you're in a hell of a mess of a human being."

"BILL MOYERS: You know, a lot of young people out there would agree with your analysis. With your diagnosis. And then they will say; What can I do that's practical? How do I make the difference that Grace Lee Boggs is taking about. What would you be doing?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I would say do something local. Do something real, however, small. And don't diss the political things, but understand their limitations.

BILL MOYERS: Don't 'diss' them?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Disrespect them.

BILL MOYERS: Disrespect them?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Understand their … [more]
via:jackcheng  2007  graceleeboggs  activism  gardens  gardening  civilrightsmovement  us  prisonindustrialcomplex  education  climatechange  protest  change  revolution  democracy  struggle  rebellion  racism  socialism  occupation  riots  righteousness  injustice  justice  martinlutherkingjr  jimmyboggs  aphiliprandolph  detroit  evolution  changemaking  consumerism  materialism  militarism  vietnamwar  morality  power  grassroots  war  economics  poverty  government  systemsthinking  values  christianity  philosophy  karlmarx  marxism  humanevolution  society  labor  local  politics  discussion  leadership  mlk 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Superwolves, new butterflies, and all the hybrid species evolving before our eyes - Quartz
"Some scientists and conservationists see the coywolf as a nightmare of the Anthropocene—a poster child of mongrelization as plants and animals reshuffle in response to habitat loss, climate change and invasive species. Golden-winged warblers increasingly cross with blue-winged warblers in the U.S. Northeast and eastern Canada. Southern flying squirrels hybridize with northern flying squirrels as the southern species presses northward in Ontario. Polar bears mate with grizzlies in the Canadian Arctic along the Beaufort Sea to produce “pizzly bears.”

All of this interbreeding upsets the conventional notion of species as discrete, inviolable entities. Moreover, some scientists and conservationists warn that hybridization will degrade biodiversity as unusual species are lost to genetic homogenization.
Partly scientists fear hybrids will be less fit than organisms that have evolved in place over eons. And often that is true, but the problem solves itself over time as hybrids lose out in the competitive race for survival.

Sometimes, however, the hybrids are more fit. Gradually they outcompete distinctive strains and species, wiping out biological diversity that has evolved over millennia. Often it is a common generalist species that swamps and essentially obliterates a rare, specialized and localized species. Many biologists view such occurrences as a net loss of biodiversity."

"“Hybridization is one of the overlooked but clearly very, very important causes of species’ going extinct,” says Stuart Pimm, professor of conservation ecology at Duke University. “Hybridization is a major problem. It comes from our moving species around, it comes from our changing habitat.”"

"Scientists who view hybridization as a driver of evolution and biodiversity say it even has a role to play in future conservation. Rather than try to protect rare species, such as the red wolf, from hybridization at all costs, biologists should consider the advantages of “the potential adaptive benefits from genomic transfers,” Arnold says.

Opponents of hybridization “might argue it’s less fit if it’s a hybrid,” says Arnold. “My argument would be, well, maybe it’s more fit. They would argue that hybridization is destroying biodiversity. And I would argue that maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s adding to it.”
The coywolf is as good an example as any—a combination of coyote stealth and wolf robustness that has helped it adapt to a rapidly changing landscape.

This more tolerant view of hybridization has already scored one huge conservation success story. Faced with an isolated and severely inbred population of Florida panthers, wildlife managers in the state reinvigorated the population by releasing eight female cougars of a different subspecies captured in Texas. Opponents of the move were concerned that hybridization between subspecies would destroy what was unique about the Florida panther. But the infusion of new genes saved the population.

Scientists and conservationists shouldn’t reflexively try to enforce distinctions between species and subspecies, says Arnold. “I really don’t like this idea of purity, because if we really push that to its nth degree, we are a hybrid. So we need to get rid of us.”"
2015  evolution  nature  climatechange  hybrids  gregbreining  interbreeding  coywolf  anthropocene  hybridization  animals 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Post-PyCon 1: A proposal for a standard maintaner status
"Why is it appropriate EVER for ANYONE to be in charge of something for life? We need graceful ways to acknowledge our "elders", our experienced, our pioneers. But we do not need dictators for life.

There's a fine distinction between someone who arbitrates disputes and someone who is relied upon FOR LIFE to dictate direction and design."
selenadeckelmann  2015  maintainers  elders  dictators  change  evolution  burdens  design  ephemerality  ephemeral  torchpassing  maintenance 
april 2015 by robertogreco
There is no language instinct – Vyvyan Evans – Aeon
"For decades, the idea of a language instinct has dominated linguistics. It is simple, powerful and completely wrong"

"In the 1960s, the US linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky offered what looked like a solution. He argued that children don’t in fact learn their mother tongue – or at least, not right down to the grammatical building blocks (the whole process was far too quick and painless for that). He concluded that they must be born with a rudimentary body of grammatical knowledge – a ‘Universal Grammar' – written into the human DNA. With this hard-wired predisposition for language, it should be a relatively trivial matter to pick up the superficial differences between, say, English and French. The process works because infants have an instinct for language: a grammatical toolkit that works on all languages the world over.

At a stroke, this device removes the pain of learning one’s mother tongue, and explains how a child can pick up a native language in such a short time. It’s brilliant. Chomsky’s idea dominated the science of language for four decades. And yet it turns out to be a myth. A welter of new evidence has emerged over the past few years, demonstrating that Chomsky is plain wrong.

But let’s back up a little. There’s one point that everyone agrees upon: our species exhibits a clear biological preparedness for language. Our brains really are ‘language-ready’ in the following limited sense: they have the right sort of working memory to process sentence-level syntax, and an unusually large prefrontal cortex that gives us the associative learning capacity to use symbols in the first place. Then again, our bodies are language-ready too: our larynx is set low relative to that of other hominid species, letting us expel and control the passage of air. And the position of the tiny hyoid bone in our jaws gives us fine muscular control over our mouths and tongues, enabling us to make as the 144 distinct speech sounds heard in some languages. No one denies that these things are thoroughly innate, or that they are important to language.

What is in dispute is the claim that knowledge of language itself – the language software – is something that each human child is born with. Chomsky’s idea is this: just as we grow distinctive human organs – hearts, brains, kidneys and livers – so we grow language in the mind, which Chomsky likens to a ‘language organ’. This organ begins to emerge early in infancy. It contains a blueprint for all the possible sets of grammar rules in all the world’s languages. And so it is child’s play to pick up any naturally occurring human language. A child born in Tokyo learns to speak Japanese while one born in London picks up English, and on the surface these languages look very different. But underneath, they are essentially the same, running on a common grammatical operating system. The Canadian cognitive scientist Steven Pinker has dubbed this capacity our ‘language instinct’.

There are two basic arguments for the existence of this language instinct. The first is the problem of poor teachers. As Chomsky pointed out in 1965, children seem to pick up their mother tongue without much explicit instruction. When they say: ‘Daddy, look at the sheeps,’ or ‘Mummy crossed [ie, is cross with] me,’ their parents don’t correct their mangled grammar, they just marvel at how cute they are. Furthermore, such seemingly elementary errors conceal amazing grammatical accomplishments. Somehow, the child understands that there is a lexical class – nouns – that can be singular or plural, and that this distinction doesn’t apply to other lexical classes.

This sort of knowledge is not explicitly taught; most parents don’t have any explicit grammar training themselves. And it’s hard to see how children could work out the rules just by listening closely: it seems fundamental to grasping how a language works. To know that there are nouns, which can be pluralised, and which are distinct from, say, verbs, is where the idea of a language instinct really earns its keep. Children don’t have to figure out everything from scratch: certain basic distinctions come for free."

"In his book The Language Instinct (1994), Steven Pinker examined various suggestive language pathologies in order to make the case for just such a dissociation. For example, some children suffer from what is known as Specific Language Impairment (SLI) – their general intellect seems normal but they struggle with particular verbal tasks, stumbling on certain grammar rules and so on. That seems like a convincing smoking gun – or it would, if it hadn’t turned out that SLI is really just an inability to process fine auditory details. It is a consequence of a motor deficit, in other words, rather than a specifically linguistic one. Similar stories can be told about each of Pinker’s other alleged dissociations: the verbal problems always turn out to be rooted in something other than language."

"Stop and think about this: it is a very weird idea. For one thing, Chomsky’s claim is that language came about through a macro-mutation: a discontinuous jump. But this is at odds with the modern neo-Darwinian synthesis, widely accepted as fact, which has no place for such large-scale and unprecedented leaps. Adaptations just don’t pop up fully formed. Moreover, a bizarre consequence of Chomsky’s position is that language couldn’t have evolved for the purpose of communication: after all, even if a grammar gene could have sprung up out of the blue in one lucky individual (already vanishingly unlikely), the chances of two individuals getting the same chance mutation, at exactly the same time, is even less credible. And so, according to the theory of the language instinct, the world’s first language-equipped human presumably had no one to talk to."

"According to the US comparative psychologist Michael Tomasello, by the time the common ancestor of Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis had emerged sometime around 300,000 years ago, ancestral humans had already developed a sophisticated type of co‑operative intelligence. This much is evident from the archaeological record, which demonstrates the complex social living and interactional arrangements among ancestral humans. They probably had symbol use – which prefigures language – and the ability to engage in recursive thought (a consequence, on some accounts, of the slow emergence of an increasingly sophisticated symbolic grammar). Their new ecological situation would have led, inexorably, to changes in human behaviour. Tool-use would have been required, and co‑operative hunting, as well as new social arrangements – such as agreements to safeguard monogamous breeding privileges while males were away on hunts.

These new social pressures would have precipitated changes in brain organisation. In time, we would see a capacity for language. Language is, after all, the paradigmatic example of co‑operative behaviour: it requires conventions – norms that are agreed within a community – and it can be deployed to co‑ordinate all the additional complex behaviours that the new niche demanded.

From this perspective, we don’t have to assume a special language instinct; we just need to look at the sorts of changes that made us who we are, the changes that paved the way for speech. This allows us to picture the emergence of language as a gradual process from many overlapping tendencies. It might have begun as a sophisticated gestural system, for example, only later progressing to its vocal manifestations. But surely the most profound spur on the road to speech would have been the development of our instinct for co‑operation. By this, I don’t mean to say that we always get on. But we do almost always recognise other humans as minded creatures, like us, who have thoughts and feelings that we can attempt to influence.

We see this instinct at work in human infants as they attempt to acquire their mother tongue. Children have far more sophisticated learning capacities than Chomsky foresaw. They are able to deploy sophisticated intention-recognition abilities from a young age, perhaps as early as nine months old, in order to begin to figure out the communicative purposes of the adults around them. And this is, ultimately, an outcome of our co‑operative minds. Which is not to belittle language: once it came into being, it allowed us to shape the world to our will – for better or for worse. It unleashed humanity’s tremendous powers of invention and transformation. But it didn’t come out of nowhere, and it doesn’t stand apart from the rest of life. At last, in the 21st century, we are in a position to jettison the myth of Universal Grammar, and to start seeing this unique aspect of our humanity as it really is."
language  linguistics  instinct  languageinstinct  2014  vyvyanevans  noamchomsky  michaeltomasello  behavior  psychology  evolution  cooperation  howwelearn  languages  communication  universalgrammar  stevenpinker  genetics  languageacquisition 
december 2014 by robertogreco
"A few years ago, our cat Mimi broke her leg. We freaked out when we learned it would cost about $5,000 to repair it. Our only other option, it seemed, was to kill her. We payed for the surgery (they even used pins to set her bones) and she turned out fine.

The whole experience helped me understand the evolutionary function of love. I’d heard about how our emotions had their roots in some biological necessity, but I didn’t understand what necessity love fulfilled. Now it’s obvious to me.

We love Mimi. Which is to say we don’t want her to die (among other things). We certainly can’t imagine killing her. When she broke her leg, I learned that when we get people to love us, we win protectors. We gain people who don’t want us to die. They’ll work to keep us from dying.

That might sound mercenary, but I think it’s beautiful. Most of us can think of several people who love us. All of our love for one another weaves a safety net that we can all fit in. Caring for people and being cared for feel good. I’m glad this is one way humans (and cats and dogs) have figured out how to survive.

We have a primal need to know that we’re loved. Infants learn early on to make eye contact and play games to get attention. It’s the simplest way to get the reassurance that, “yes, there’s a person here who probably won’t let me die.”

I think this need for attention creates one of the most pernicious things about social media. Follows, friend requests, comments, shares and likes all satisfy this basic need to feel like people are paying attention to you. I’m not sure they are.

The other week, I shared these thoughts with my friend Marcin as we walked around a neighborhood in Louisville. It was nighttime and balmy. The sidewalk was dark in front of dark houses. Trees still thick with leaves eclipsed the street lights.

I said, “People see that little red number on Facebook, or they see that they got retweeted, and they’re like ‘Yes! They won’t let me die!’”

And Marcin said, “But, of course, that’s the thing. They will.”

And we laughed."

[via: ]
jedsundwall  love  socialmedia  anthropology  humans  relationships  sacrifice  attention  survival  social  care  caring  emotions  biology  evolution  protection 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Junot Diaz - Art, Race and Capitalism - YouTube
"Despite what we think, we're more isolated and atomized than ever before. […] The fact is that most poor people are more segregated and isolated than they've ever been. […] There's something really bewildering about the fact that we feel so rhizomatically interconnected to people, but we've never been more isolated. Classes no longer come into contact with each other in any way that's meaningful. I look at my mom and people are like “oh, she's that old generation.” My mom had more interclass contact than the average person has today. Because these great barriers — what we would call the networked society in which we live — hadn't been put into place yet. Think about how much public space my mother inhabited where she was going to encounter people from different cultures and different classes every day. There's almost no public space left at all. And any public space that we have is so patrolled and under so much surveillance and has been schematized and culturalized in certain ways that we're not really coming into contact with anyone who isn't like us. […] You basically encounter people in your network. So that if you are of a certain class, that's who you're encountering in the village. If you come from a certain educational background or from a certain privilege, that's who you're encountering in Williamsburg, these quote-unquote diverse spaces."


quoting these lines: “You gotta remember, and I’m sure you do, the forces that are arrayed against anyone trying to alter this sort of hammerlock on the human imagination. There are trillions of dollars out there demotivating people from imagining that a better tomorrow is possible. Utopian impulses and utopian horizons have been completely disfigured and everybody now is fluent in dystopia, you know. My young people’s vocabulary… their fluency is in dystopic futures. When young people think about the future, they don’t think about a better tomorrow, they think about horrors and end of the worlds and things or worse. Well, do you really think the lack of utopic imagination doesn’t play into demotivating people from imagining a transformation in the society?”]
junotdíaz  capitalism  race  class  segregation  dystopia  utopia  hope  faith  humans  2013  humanism  writing  literature  immigration  life  living  classism  activism  ows  occupywallstreet  punk  hiphop  compassion  identity  failure  guilt  imperfection  politics  self  work  labor  courage  howtobehuman  forgiveness  future  oppression  privilege  society  change  changemaking  futures  schools  education  business  funding  policy  resistance  subversion  radicalpedagogy  burnout  teaching  howweteach  systemschange  survival  self-care  masculinity  therapy  cultureofcare  neolithic  optimism  inventingthefuture  humanconstructs  civilization  evolution  networkedsociety  transcontextualism  paradigmshifts  transcontextualization 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Snarkmarket: A Concise History of the Future
"Tim: I used to have a rule, that I would never just link to stuff. I always had to comment just as much.
That’s why in my first year, I had about fifteen posts.
Robin: a blog is like an article of clothing. a weird one, like a futuristic pointy hat or silver pants.
you don’t know how to wear it at first…
but then you break it in — you get comfortable with it
Tim: but suddenly you go to a party where everyone’s rocking it
and you say… oh, that’s how you do it
Matt: when we started, I just thought it would be a good way to keep in touch w/ Robin. which it has been. but it ended up much awesomer, which was a plus.
Robin: well i credit snarkmarket to essentially changing my trajectory in journalism entirely.
because, almost overnight,
it was so much more FUN than writing normal articles,
and getting feedback in the normal way.
which is to say, not at all.
your party metaphor applies here, tim.
Tim: Snarkmarket easily made me much more interested in, um, now than I ever would have been.
Reminds me of the Nietzsche quote — the trouble with scholars is that by thinking backward, eventually you believe backward too.
Robin: mmm i like that!
Tim: SM has helped me orient my thinking forward.
Robin: a blog — and all the things that surround & support it, like a well-stocked rss reader, and commenters — are an anchor to the present
sometimes to a fault
but even so
Tim: The real trouble is thinking that backwards is the last forwards
like, the real break is the printing press
or the french revolution
or the advent of the computer
some epoch-making change that fixes everything forever
so you don’t see how things are changing now
Matt: it took me a moment to process “backwards is the last forwards.”
Tim: thinking backwards to find beginnings
rather than closures or ruptures
Matt: I eventually got it. I like it.
Tim: which in a way is a blinder to optimism
Matt: I’m going to toss that at a curmudgeonly academic one of these days.
Robin: honestly we’ve waited too long to refresh/reboot/rethink snarkmarket —
partly as a result of, you know, having jobs and lives and things —
but at its ideal it is changing a lot more frequently, a lot more fluidly.
so we should think of this evolution not as an epoch-maker
but the first beat in a new, faster tempo
Matt: amen.
Tim: right, throwing the finish line ahead so you can run past it
Matt: the other day, I was thinking about how I’ve never kept a diary. and there was a moment of regret - all those thoughts and memories that have just been scattered to the ages.
but then I remembered Snarkmarket. which is the oddest type of diary. ‘cause it’s not about me, but it’s about how I view the world.
Robin: yes! actually matt, you just linked to an old 2006 post of mine today —
and i clicked over and went: “wait… who wrote this?”
it struck me in the best possible way
Tim: a diary of public preoccupations
So, like, what are the big moments in SM history?
It seems like Robin targeting Al Gore TV is a big one
EPIC is undoubtedly a big one
which, in a way, is more consequential.
Matt: I remember four years ago, a while after Dean’s Presidential candidacy went up in flames, when I posted about a story I intended to report in ten years. (when his records from office in VT would be made public.)
Robin: love that. i feel that we must endeavor to make snarkmarket a reliable repository for ten-year ideas.
Matt: Snarkmarket seemed the most enduring document in which to declare that intent. there was no better way to send a message to myself in 10 years.
Robin: we’re halfway there already which isn’t bad.

Matt: blogging = destiny.
Robin: welcome to the snarkmatrix officially, tim
Tim: thanks kids.
Matt: yes, we are very glad to have you.
Tim: good to be aboard this leaky rocketship into the future."
snarkmarket  2008  timcarmody  mattthompson  robinsloan  blog  blogging  optimism  writing  howwewrite  howwethink  forwardthinking  backwardthinking  evolution  progress  inventingthefuture  genesis  future 
november 2014 by robertogreco
How urbanisation can be a friend to birds – John M Marzluff – Aeon
"Human sprawl is usually a threat to wildlife, but birds buck the trend. Can we help biodiversity take wing in our suburbs?"

"I am not claiming that suburban sprawl is the answer to our conservation prayers: many species of sensitive and rare birds could never survive in our ’burbs. Even fewer animals that crawl or walk, such as mammals, reptiles and amphibians, manage to live long among us. And, where terrestrial biological diversity is greatest – in the magnificent tropical rainforests – biodiversity is steadily lost with progressive development. But development can enrich local areas by providing what many tolerant species require. Although ensuring global diversity still requires that we leave undisturbed space elsewhere for sensitive species, even then, the political will to create such reserves depends on our experiences with local diversity."

"The response of birds to urbanisation is only just beginning. Humans began living in cities around 5,000 years ago. Today, more than half of all people are urbanites. As exploiters and adapters learn and evolve strategies to survive among us, I expect to see new and stronger co-evolved relationships between people and other city animals. As well as kindling a diverse urban biota, it might even create unforeseen species.

One of the world’s oldest and largest cities illustrates what the future might hold for birds. Crows, which are supremely intelligent and innovative, thrive in most northern cities. In Japan’s capital Tokyo, the jungle crow has developed an array of cultural traditions well-suited to city life. Some crows gather walnuts, but because their shells are too tough to crack open by beak, the crows place them where passing cars can become nutcrackers. Other crows that live in the inner city, where the sticks necessary for nest-building are rare, routinely pilfer clothes hangers that they bend and weave into unique nests.

In A Sand County Almanac (1949), Aldo Leopold, the founding father of wildlife science, noted that, because we view land as a commodity rather than a community to which we belong, we're incapable of loving and respecting it. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in our cities and suburbs, where a small parcel of land and the home built on it is a substantial investment. But the economic value of land need not be incompatible with its ecological value; after all, houses fetch higher prices in tree-filled subdivisions where birds flourish. Letting your lawn go wild (which benefits butterflies) reduces the cost of maintenance. And surrounding metropolitan areas with a healthy, vegetated watershed saves millions of dollars every year in water purification costs.

Even without monetary incentives, experiencing nature right outside the door builds empathy. In East Brunswick, New Jersey, and Palo Alto, California, residents appalled at the roadway slaughter of newts and salamanders, created safe passageways for them in the form of small tunnels or temporary road closures. Scientists at the Smithsonian Institution have stirred up a passion for conservation in Washington, DC, by involving residents in their suburban bird research. The more personal a bird becomes to a human – by tagging it, or simply discovering its nest – the easier it is to make sacrifices on its behalf."

"My enthusiasm for wilderness remains intact, but it’s become part of a broader conservation ethic that places equal value on nearby nature. Wondering and learning from our urban ecosystem teaches us to value nature in its broadest sense. In our cities and backyards, we experience how natural processes pay economic, spiritual and biological dividends. Noticing the responses of animals and plants to our actions provides a glimpse into the creative power of natural selection. As our appreciation for nature and the ecological and evolutionary processes that shape it grows from direct experience, our gardens work symbiotically with wilderness to inform our land ethic and conserve the full range of life."
nature  birds  animals  cities  biodiversity  adaptation  evolution  wildlife  2014  johnmarzluff  crows  corvids  aldoleopold  empathy  urban  urbanism  conservation  suburbs  subirdia  suburbia  ecology 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Urbanicide in all good faith
"A serial killer of cities is wandering about the planet. Its name is UNESCO, and its lethal weapon is the label “World Heritage”, with which it drains the lifeblood from glorious villages and ancient metropolises, embalming them in a brand-name time warp."

"It is heartrending to watch the death throes of so many cities. Glorious, opulent and hectic for centuries and in some cases millennia, they survived the vicissitudes of history, wars, pestilence and earthquakes. But now, one after the other, they are withering and becoming steadily less populated, reduced to theatrical backdrops against which a bloodless pantomime is performed. Where life once throbbed, and cantankerous humans elbowed their way through the world, pushing and shoving and trampling on one another, now you will find only ubiquitously similar snack bars and stalls selling quaint specialities and muslins, batiks and cottons, beach wraps and bracelets. What was once a bustling din of loud excitement is now all conveniently listed in travel brochures.

The death warrant for these cities is delivered at the end of a lengthy bureaucratic process held in a building in Paris, in Place Fontenoy, in the seventh arrondissement. The verdict is an indelible label, a branding iron that marks you forever.
The label I refer to is that of the World Heritage Sites, issued by UNESCO. Its touch is lethal: wherever the UNESCO hallmark is applied to a city, the city dies out, becoming the stuff of taxidermy.

This veritable urbanicide (an ugly word, nevertheless better than the horrible “femicide”) is not deliberately perpetrated. On the contrary, it is committed in all good faith and with the loftiest intentions, to preserve examples of heritage for the benefit of humanity. But, as the word says, to preserve means to embalm, or freeze, to rescue from wear and tear and the scars of time; it means to halt time and fix it in a snapshot, to prevent it from changing and evolving.

The urbanistic dilemma offered by UNESCO is an irksome one. There are of course, monuments that need to be defended and protected. But it is also true that, if in 450 BC the Acropolis in Athens had been protected just the way it was then, we would have neither the Propylaeum nor the Parthenon, nor the Erectheum. UNESCO would have turned its nose up in horror at Rome as it was in the 16th and 17th centuries, which produced an admirable pot-pourri of antiquity, mannerism and baroque. Thank heavens the Marais in Paris was not declared a World Heritage site, otherwise we could forget the Beaubourg.

A balance needs to be struck between constructing and preserving. We want to live in cities that include museums and works of art, not in mausoleums with dormitory suburbs attached. It is an inhuman punishment to spend one’s life in the guest-quarters of an endless museum. I recently went back to San Gimignano after a 30-year absence. Within its walls there is not a butcher, not a greengrocer, nor genuine baker to be found. Why so? After the bars, restaurants and souvenir shops have closed, you won’t find the locals sleeping in the city centre any more – they all live outside, in modern condos. Within the city walls, everything has become a set for medieval costume movies, with the inevitable products of “invention of tradition” for commercial uses. The smaller the city the quicker its demise.

Not only in Italy. In Laos, Luang Prabang has suffered the same fate, and its historic centre is now a tourist trap, its houses all converted into hotels and restaurants, with the usual street market – identical the world over – selling the same old necklaces, canvas handbags and leather belts. To find out where the Laotians really live, you have to pedal a couple of kilometres out to Phothisalath Road, beyond Phu Vao Road.

If you walk through Porto, Portugal, you will immediately perceive the invisible frontier of the declared World Heritage area: the variegated and heterogeneous humanity of its urban fabric gives way as if by magic to a monotonous monoculture of innkeepers, bar-tenders and waiters touting for customers recognisable by their hiking boots worn in the city, by their hideously short shorts and hairy legs (why on earth do human beings on a tourist mission feel authorised to dress as they would never dream of doing at home?). Likewise, the World Heritage brand acts as an ideological diploma issued to the hotel industry, as the cultured and humanitarian face of the worldwide tourist machine.

With two aggravating circumstances. The first is what might be called “chronological integralism”, or “temporal fundamentalism”, whereby what dates from an earlier time is worthier of merit. If a site happens to be a thousand years older, the excavation of a Roman wall is justification for tampering with a magnificent medieval cloister (as happened in Lisbon Cathedral). The second aggravating circumstance is of a general philosophical nature: since UNESCO is multiplying its world heritage sites and since humanity continues to produce works of art (or so we hope), if after 2000 years we are already immobilised by innumerable pieces of heritages, what will happen in another 1000 or 2000 years’ time? Will we all be living on the moon and buying tickets to visit the planet Earth?

Let us remember how it has gone so far: in 1972, after several years of discussions, the UNESCO General Conference adopted the World Heritage Convention, which to date (2014) has been adopted by 190 countries. In 1976 the World Heritage Committee was established, and in 1978 it identified its first site. By 2014, after 38 ordinary and 10 extraordinary sessions, it had defined 981 sites in 160 countries. Of these world heritage sites, 759 are cultural, 193 natural, and 29 mixed.

The 759 cultural heritage sites include 254 cities (entire or partial, one district only or the historic centre only). The absolute majority (138) of these art-cities are situated in Europe. In turn, almost half of the European art cities are in just four countries: Italy (29 art cities, including Vatican City and the Republic of San Marino), Spain (17), France and Germany (11 each). Considering its relatively small surface, Italy is the country with the world’s highest density of world heritage sites.

The fact is that the branding just keeps rolling on. One might have thought that what there was to be declared heritage in a country like ours, so packed with history, ought to have already been branded by now. On the contrary: proceeding by decades, in Italy in the ‘70s just one site had been declared a world heritage; in the ‘80s, 5 more were added; and the ‘90s witnessed the biggest explosion, with 25 new heritage sites. But even in the first decade of our millennium a further 14 were identified; joined by 6 more in the first four years of the current decade. That makes a total of no less than 51 natural and art sites.

It is tragic moreover, that cities, towns and regions are queuing up and canvassing to get themselves embalmed. Like the countries aspiring to host the Olympics, unaware of the consequent ruination that will drag them into the abyss (see Greece), so our mayors, councillors and tourist offices strive to obtain the coveted status. We are terrified at the prospect of our country being reduced to one vast museum, where we will have to buy a ticket in order to walk around, while desperately looking for a way out. They’ll make a movie called Escape from the Museum to provide us with a breath of fresh air, a splash
of life, and the spectacle of cities changing before we return to our mothballed environs."
unesco  workdheritage  gentrification  population  development  change  unintendedconsequences  marcod'eramo  2014  worldheritageconvention  preservation  conservation  evolution  porto  portugal  urbanicide  urban  urbanism  cities 
september 2014 by robertogreco
When Wild Animals Use Human Technology… and the End of Times » Sociological Images
"Forgive me, because this is probably better left to Cyborgology, but something amazing is happening here. In the video below, nesting swallows become trapped in a building when they add doors. The birds soon learn, though, that they can get the doors to automatically open by triggering the motion sensors. This is a story, obviously, of how smart birds are, but here’s what struck me: we often think about human technology as for humans. In this case, however, birds adapted the technology for their own very similar needs (to get in and out).

[Video embedded here: ]

If the workers had installed an older human technology — plain old doors — the birds would have been out of luck because they don’t have thumbs and the strength to manipulate an environment built for humans. But motion activated doors make both thumbs and strength irrelevant, so now birds are our functional equals.

This is fascinating, yeah? Our technology has advanced to the point where we’re potentially undermining our own evolutionary advantages. I’m not putting a moral judgment on it. I think morality is firmly on the side of non-fitness based decisions (eh em, social Darwinism). If one wants to theorize the relationship between animals, technology, and what it means to be human, however, this looks like gold to me."
via:anne  animals  birds  technology  accessibility  2014  lisawade  evolution 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Should You Fear the Pizzly Bear? -
"In New England today, trees cover more land than they have at any time since the colonial era. Roughly 80 percent of the region is now forested, compared with just 30 percent in the late 19th century. Moose and turkey again roam the backwoods. Beavers, long ago driven from the area by trappers seeking pelts, once more dam streams. White-tailed deer are so numerous that they are often considered pests. And an unlikely predator has crept back into the woods, too: what some have called the coywolf. It is both old and new — roughly one-quarter wolf and two-thirds coyote, with the rest being dog.

The animal comes from an area above the Great Lakes, where wolves and coyotes live — and sometimes breed — together. At one end of this canid continuum, there are wolves with coyote genes in their makeup; at the other, there are coyotes with wolf genes. Another source of genetic ingredients comes from farther north, where the gray wolf, a migrant species originally from Eurasia, resides. “We call it canis soup,” says Bradley White, a scientist at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, referring to the wolf-coyote hybrid population.

The creation story White and his colleagues have pieced together begins during European colonization, when the Eastern wolf was hunted and poisoned out of existence in its native Northeast. A remnant population — “loyalists” is how White refers to them — migrated to Canada. At the same time, coyotes, native to the Great Plains, began pushing eastward and mated with the refugee wolves. Their descendants in turn bred with coyotes and dogs. The result has been a creature with enough strength to hunt the abundant woodland deer, which it followed into the recovering Eastern forests. Coywolves, or Eastern coyotes, as White prefers to call them, have since pushed south to Virginia and east to Newfoundland. The Eastern coyote is a study in the balancing act required to survive as a medium-size predator in a landscape full of people. It can be as much as 40 percent larger than the Western coyote, with powerful wolflike jaws; it has also inherited the wolf’s more social nature, which allows for pack hunting. (In 2009, a pack of Eastern coyotes attacked and killed a 19-year-old Canadian folk singer named Taylor Mitchell in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.) But it shares with coyotes, some 2,000 of which live within Chicago’s city limits, a remarkable ability to thrive in humanized landscapes.

“We’re kind of privileged in the last 100 years to watch the birth of this entity,” White told me, “and now the evolution of this entity across this North American landscape that we’ve modified.” Evolutionarily speaking, coyotes diverged from gray wolves one million to two million years ago, and dogs from wolves roughly 15,000 years ago. Yet over the past century, as agriculture moved to the Midwest and California, farmland in the East reverted to woodlands. The rise of fossil fuels reduced the demand for firewood. Forests spread, and deer and other prey proliferated, while human intolerance for wolves kept a potential competitor at bay.

Thus did humans inadvertently create an ecological niche for a predator in one of the most densely populated regions of the country. In an exceedingly brief period, coyote, wolf and dog genes have been remixed into something new: a predator adapted to a landscape teeming with both prey and another apex predator, us. And this mongrel continues to evolve. Javier Monzon, an evolutionary biologist at Stony Brook University, has found that Eastern coyotes living in areas with the highest densities of deer also carry the greatest number of wolf genes. Another scholar of the Eastern coyote — Roland Kays, a zoologist at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh — estimates that the Eastern coyote’s hybrid ancestry has allowed it to expand its range five times as fast as nonhybrid coyotes could have. In the urbanized Northeast, of all places, an abundance of large prey seems to have promoted a predator whose exceptional adaptability has derived, in large part, from the hodgepodge nature of its genome."

"The widespread evidence of intermixing has spurred a reassessment of the notion that hybrids are born failures. In its place a more nuanced view has taken hold: While hybridization can certainly be destructive, it may also expedite adaptation. New creatures may emerge seemingly overnight from cross-species mating. “Long after speciation, even nonsister species can actually exchange genes, some of which are useful,” James Mallet, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard, told me.

Indeed, today’s hybrids may signify more than just the erosion of biodiversity. They may signal a kind of resilience in the face of sudden environmental change."
biology  evolution  species  nature  animals  hybrids  hybridity  anthropocene  climatechange  crossbreeding  via:javierarbona  science  2014  biodiversity  genetics  environment  ecology  ecosystems 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Donna Haraway, "Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene: Staying with the Trouble", 5/9/14 on Vimeo
[transcript: ]

"Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene: Staying with the Trouble

Sympoiesis, not autopoiesis, threads the string figure game played by Terran critters. Always many-stranded, SF is spun from science fact, speculative fabulation, science fiction, and, in French, soin de ficelles (care of/for the threads). The sciences of the mid-20th-century “new evolutionary synthesis” shaped approaches to human-induced mass extinctions and reworldings later named the Anthropocene. Rooted in units and relations, especially competitive relations, these sciences have a hard time with three key biological domains: embryology and development, symbiosis and collaborative entanglements, and the vast worlds of microbes. Approaches tuned to “multi-species becoming with” better sustain us in staying with the trouble on Terra. An emerging “new new synthesis” in trans-disciplinary biologies and arts proposes string figures tying together human and nonhuman ecologies, evolution, development, history, technology, and more. Corals, microbes, robotic and fleshly geese, artists, and scientists are the dramatis personae in this talk’s SF game."
donnaharaway  2014  anthropocene  capitalocene  chthulucene  lichen  ursulaleguin  sciencefiction  multispecies  symbiosis  life  biology  collaboration  reworlding  speculativefiction  soindeficelles  sympoiesis  autopoiesis  synthesus  transdisciplinary  art  arts  glvo  ecologies  ecology  evolution  development  history  technology  humans  coral  corals  microbes  robots  animals  scottgilbert 
july 2014 by robertogreco
The Trees That Miss The Mammoths | American Forests
"Trees that once depended on animals like the wooly mammoth for survival have managed to adapt and survive in the modern world."

"Warning: Reading this article may cause a whiplash-inducing paradigm shift. You will no longer view wild areas the same way. Your concepts of “pristine wilderness” and “the balance of nature” will be forever compromised. You may even start to see ghosts.

Consider the fruit of the Osage-orange, named after the Osage Indians associated with its range. In the fall, Osage-orange trees hang heavy with bright green, bumpy spheres the size of softballs, full of seeds and an unpalatable milky latex. They soon fall to the ground, where they rot, unused, unless a child decides to test their ballistic properties.

Trees that make such fleshy fruits do so to entice animals to eat them, along with the seeds they contain. The seeds pass through the animal and are deposited, with natural fertilizer, away from the shade and roots of the parent tree where they are more likely to germinate. But no native animal eats Osage-orange fruits. So, what are they for? The same question could be asked of the large seed pods of the honeylocust and the Kentucky coffeetree.

To answer these questions and solve the “riddle of the rotting fruit,” we first need to go to Costa Rica. That is where tropical ecologist Dan Janzen of the University of Pennsylvania noticed that the fruits of a mid-sized tree in the pea family called Cassia grandis were generally scorned by the native animals, but gobbled up by introduced horses and cattle. Janzen, who received the Crafoord Prize (ecology’s version of the Nobel) for his work on the co-evolution of plants and animals, had the idea that the seeds of Cassia grandis, and about 40 other large-fruited Costa Rican trees, were adapted to be dispersed by large mammals that are now extinct. He teamed up with Paul Martin, a paleoecologist at the University of Arizona, to develop the concept of ecological anachronisms.

An anachronism is something that is chronologically out of place: a typewriter or floppy disc in a modern office. Leather helmets at the Super Bowl. Or, hopefully, the internal combustion engine in the near future. An ecological anachronism is an adaptation that is chronologically out of place, making its purpose more or less obsolete. A tree with big fruits to attract huge mammals as dispersers of its seeds is anachronistic in a world of relatively small mammals.

In the case of Cassia grandis, Janzen and Martin figured that the foot-long woody seed pods were eaten for their sweet pulp by giant ground sloths and elephant-like gomphotheres. These multi-ton animals had such big gullets that they didn’t need to chew a lot, so most of the seeds passed through the animals unharmed and ready to propagate more Cassia grandis trees. However, the gomphotheres and giant groundsloths disappeared about 13,000 years ago, toward the end of the last Ice Age of the Pleistocene.

Gomphotheres and ground-sloths? The Ice Age? What, you may be wondering, do they have to do with Osage-oranges, honeylocusts, and coffeetrees today?"

"Now let’s return to the forlorn fruit of the Osage orange. Nothing today eats it. Once it drops from the tree, all of them on a given tree practically in unison, the only way it moves is to roll downhill or float in flood waters. Why would you evolve such an over-engineered, energetically expensive fruit if gravity and water are your only dispersers, and you like to grow on higher ground? You wouldn’t. Unless you expected it to be eaten by mammoths or ground-sloths.

According to my field guide, Osage-orange has a limited natural range in the Red River region of east-central Texas, southeastern Oklahoma, and adjacent Arkansas. Indians used to travel hundreds of miles for the wood, prized as the finest for making bows. Then European settlers planted it widely as living fences, taking advantage of the tree’s ability to spread via shoots from lateral roots. But Osage-orange persisted, and became widely naturalized long after the invention of barbed wire rendered them useless to farmers. The tree can now be found in 39 states and Ontario. If Osage-orange does so well elsewhere, why was it restricted to such a small area?

The answer likely lies in the disappearance of its primary disperser. Without mammoths, groundsloths, and other megafauna to transport its seeds uphill, the range of the species gradually shrank to the Red River region. In fact, fossils tell us that Osage-orange was much more widespread and diverse before the megafaunal extinctions. Back then, Osage-oranges could be found north up to Ontario, and there were seven, not just one, species in the Osage-orange genus, Maclura."

"Today, the evidence of human impact is all around us, but now we know that even the most pristine of wilderness areas have many missing pieces. We’ve learned to see the ghosts of the lost megafauna in the rotting fruit, poor dispersal, and useless thorns of Osage-orange, Kentucky coffeetree, honeylocust, and others. But what are we still missing?"

"The first Americans could not have known they were causing extinctions, and they could not have understood the implications. But we no longer have such an excuse. As Aldo Leopold has advised, “The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save all the pieces.” We have tinkered, lost some of the most important pieces, and tried to put many where they don’t belong. That we will continue to tinker there is no doubt. Everything will depend on how intelligently we do it. And that will depend, in part, on our ability to see the ghosts that haunt our trees."

[See also: ]
ecology  evolution  via:vruba  whitbronaugh  animals  plants  mammoths  extinction  trees  mastadons  giantgroundsloths  anachronisms  iceage  pleistocene 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Education Rethink @edrethink: Lost and Found
"I lost my faith.

Lost is the right word. I know that other people speak of the process as if they tossed it aside. However, that's not how it happened to me. My faith sort-of evaporated for me. It was so slow I didn't see it happening. The moments were tiny and never felt significant at the time.

I think it started when I was holding a newborn and loving the child so much that I couldn't fathom sending anyone I love to a place like Hell. I just couldn't see a loving God doing this. Then there was the longterm effects of studying science and realizing that I couldn't justify the seven day literalist creation. It didn't help when I met really good atheists whose lives were not the mess that I was told they would be. Add to this all my gay friends who, I was sure, were created that way and I was starting to rethink everything I was taught.

It was more than that, though. I remember praying to a God who would never answer back and knowing that trying to "look" for an answer felt about as silly as reading tea leaves or jumping across the carcass of a goat. At least the Magic 8 Ball answered backI continued to pray and to read my Bible and to go through the motions, but it felt . . . gone. That assurance that I had felt before, that sense that I had the answers, was gone. Totally gone.

I hit a point where I couldn't justify it anymore. I wasn't an atheist. I wasn't anti-Christian. The truth is that I was agnostic. I didn't have the answers anymore. More than anything else, I missed my faith. I missed believing that God was present. I missed having an answer instead of waiting in agnosticism, unsure about what's real or true.

I'm not sure how long this period lasted. I just knew that it evaporated. I wasn't depressed about it. I wasn't hopeless. Unlike all the warnings about "backsliders" I didn't go on a crazy sin binge. The truth is that it felt lighter. I felt, for the first time ever, like I had the freedom to go explore.

Then it happened. There were little moments that caused me to reconsider my agnosticism. It started with realizing that, to my core, I believe that there is a spark of the divine in people and that they are inherently valuable and that they are also totally broken. I couldn't shed what I believed about humanity. It was the only story that still made sense.

Then there were all the times when I read fiction with the hopes of escaping what I believed only to be drawn toward the stories of redemption and the battle between good and evil. It hit me that the ultimate archetype that I was drawn toward was the Jesus story. I'm sure he didn't intend it this way, but The Ocean at the End of the Lane drew me back toward my belief that God is a loving parent.

I remember re-reading the Bible with open eyes and realizing that there were things that it wasn't quite so clear about (including Hell). I kept finding myself being drawn to those stories, even when I wasn't sure how historically accurate it was.

Somewhere in the midst of it, I remember reading about the Pope and being drawn toward him and thinking, "If you like the current Pope, you'd probably be crazy about Jesus." I found myself quoting scripture in moments of crisis and realizing that it wasn't a crutch so much as a part of me that I couldn't shed. It was true. I was a new creation and the old was gone and I had changed and even though I didn't have all the answers, I was still crazy about Jesus.

So, I came back. To what, exactly, I wasn't sure. I just knew that the Jesus story was the greatest story ever told and that even if it felt crazy, I wanted it to be true. Maybe that's what hope meant. Maybe it wasn't about being absolutely sure that your belief is true, but rather holding onto the story, continuing to be drawn to it even when it sounds too good to be true.

Looking back on it, I don't think I lost my faith. I think I grew out of it. I don't think it evaporated on me, so much as it slipped away from me. My conservative evangelical background became the skin that I stepped out of like a snake. I realize now that I never left the faith. It's just that it evolved on me when I wasn't paying attention.

I know that some would say that I'm not a "real" Christian anymore (what with my doubt about Hell and my belief in universal grace). However, grace is the only thing that makes sense. Redemption is the only story that works. I may not be a "real" Christian anymore, but I don't care. I'm banking on the hope that God is crazy about us and wants to spend forever with us. If that makes me a heretic, I'm okay with that."
johnspencer  religion  faith  belief  evolution  2014  christianity  christians  freedom  jesus  atheism  agnosticism 
march 2014 by robertogreco
What’s the Point If We Can’t Have Fun? | David Graeber | The Baffler
"Generally speaking, an analysis of animal behavior is not considered scientific unless the animal is assumed, at least tacitly, to be operating according to the same means/end calculations that one would apply to economic transactions. Under this assumption, an expenditure of energy must be directed toward some goal, whether it be obtaining food, securing territory, achieving dominance, or maximizing reproductive success—unless one can absolutely prove that it isn’t, and absolute proof in such matters is, as one might imagine, very hard to come by.

I must emphasize here that it doesn’t really matter what sort of theory of animal motivation a scientist might entertain: what she believes an animal to be thinking, whether she thinks an animal can be said to be “thinking” anything at all. I’m not saying that ethologists actually believe that animals are simply rational calculating machines. I’m simply saying that ethologists have boxed themselves into a world where to be scientific means to offer an explanation of behavior in rational terms—which in turn means describing an animal as if it were a calculating economic actor trying to maximize some sort of self-interest—whatever their theory of animal psychology, or motivation, might be.

That’s why the existence of animal play is considered something of an intellectual scandal. It’s understudied, and those who do study it are seen as mildly eccentric. As with many vaguely threatening, speculative notions, difficult-to-satisfy criteria are introduced for proving animal play exists, and even when it is acknowledged, the research more often than not cannibalizes its own insights by trying to demonstrate that play must have some long-term survival or reproductive function.":

"Years ago, when I taught at Yale, I would sometimes assign a reading containing a famous Taoist story. I offered an automatic “A” to any student who could tell me why the last line made sense. (None ever succeeded.)
Zhuangzi and Huizi were strolling on a bridge over the River Hao, when the former observed, “See how the minnows dart between the rocks! Such is the happiness of fishes.”

“You not being a fish,” said Huizi, “how can you possibly know what makes fish happy?”

“And you not being I,” said Zhuangzi, “how can you know that I don’t know what makes fish happy?”

“If I, not being you, cannot know what you know,” replied Huizi, “does it not follow from that very fact that you, not being a fish, cannot know what makes fish happy?”

“Let us go back,” said Zhuangzi, “to your original question. You asked me how I knew what makes fish happy. The very fact you asked shows that you knew I knew—as I did know, from my own feelings on this bridge.”

The anecdote is usually taken as a confrontation between two irreconcilable approaches to the world: the logician versus the mystic. But if that’s true, then why did Zhuangzi, who wrote it down, show himself to be defeated by his logician friend?

After thinking about the story for years, it struck me that this was the entire point. By all accounts, Zhuangzi and Huizi were the best of friends. They liked to spend hours arguing like this. Surely, that was what Zhuangzi was really getting at. We can each understand what the other is feeling because, arguing about the fish, we are doing exactly what the fish are doing: having fun, doing something we do well for the sheer pleasure of doing it. Engaging in a form of play. The very fact that you felt compelled to try to beat me in an argument, and were so happy to be able to do so, shows that the premise you were arguing must be false. Since if even philosophers are motivated primarily by such pleasures, by the exercise of their highest powers simply for the sake of doing so, then surely this is a principle that exists on every level of nature—which is why I could spontaneously identify it, too, in fish.

Zhuangzi was right. So was June Thunderstorm. Our minds are just a part of nature. We can understand the happiness of fishes—or ants, or inchworms—because what drives us to think and argue about such matters is, ultimately, exactly the same thing.

Now wasn’t that fun?"

[See also: via @bobbyjgeorge ]
davidgraeber  fun  play  evolution  culture  psychology  economics  socialscience  2014  history  philosophy  living  life  freedom  homoludens  animals  behavior  multispecies 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Tunzelbots on Vimeo
"Ever since reading Richard Dawkins' book 'The Blind Watchmaker' I'd wanted to try my hand at some evolutionary programming. The idea is to model natural selection inside the computer by generating procedural creatures and allowing them to vary and improve over time without user intervention.

The code to build and rig the robots was written in Python, as was the code to run the rigid body simulation, using the Open Dynamics Engine to drive the sim. I wrote an importer for Side Effects' Houdini to read in my robot simulations so I could render them out as pictures.

If you enjoyed the Tunzelbots, here are some other videos you might like:

Karl Sims - Evolved Virtual Creatures, Evolution Simulation, 1994

Nick Cheney, Rob MacCurdy, Jeff Clune, Hod Lipson - Evolving Soft Robots with Multiple Materials

Thomas Geijtenbeek, Michiel van de Panne, Frank van der Stappen - Flexible Muscle-Based Locomotion for Bipedal Creatures

And there's a bit about Richard Dawkins' Biomorphs here: "
tunzelbots  eugénievontunzelmann  robots  evolution  naturalselection  2014  video 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Morals Without God? -
"Over the past few years, we have gotten used to a strident atheism arguing that God is not great (Christopher Hitchens) or a delusion (Richard Dawkins). The new atheists call themselves “brights,” thus hinting that believers are not so bright. They urge trust in science, and want to root ethics in a naturalistic worldview.

While I do consider religious institutions and their representatives — popes, bishops, mega-preachers, ayatollahs, and rabbis — fair game for criticism, what good could come from insulting individuals who find value in religion? And more pertinently, what alternative does science have to offer? Science is not in the business of spelling out the meaning of life and even less in telling us how to live our lives. We, scientists, are good at finding out why things are the way they are, or how things work, and I do believe that biology can help us understand what kind of animals we are and why our morality looks the way it does. But to go from there to offering moral guidance seems a stretch.

Even the staunchest atheist growing up in Western society cannot avoid having absorbed the basic tenets of Christian morality. Our societies are steeped in it: everything we have accomplished over the centuries, even science, developed either hand in hand with or in opposition to religion, but never separately. It is impossible to know what morality would look like without religion. It would require a visit to a human culture that is not now and never was religious. That such cultures do not exist should give us pause."

[See also: ]
animals  atheism  ethics  philosophy  religion  belief  fransdewaal  via:anne  sciene  evolution  morality  primates  relationships  giving  brain  denbosch  hieronymusbosch  life  living  darwin  altruism  empathy  pleasure  charity  inequity  inequityaversion  dogs  2010  charlesdarwin 
february 2014 by robertogreco
New Normal? - Radiolab
"Evolution results from the ability of organisms to change. But how do you tell the difference between a sea change and a ripple in the water? Is a peacenik baboon, a man in a dress, or a cuddly fox a sign of things to come? Or just a flukey outlier from the norm? And is there ever really a norm?

John Horgan examines how Americans seem to have a completely different attitude toward war than we did thirty years ago. He takes us on a stroll through Hoboken, asking strangers one of the great unanswerable questions: "Will humans ever stop fighting wars?" Strangely, everyone seems to know the answer. Robert Sapolsky brings us farther afield - to eastern Africa, where a population of baboons defies his expectations of violent behavior. Robert is surprised to feel hopeful for a gentler future, but then primatologist Richard Wrangham asserts that their aggressive nature is innate, unchanging, and hanging over them like a guillotine.

Stu Rasmussen, of Silverton, Oregon, is an avid metalworker, woodworker, and electrician - and in 2008 became our country's first transgendered mayor. News of his election swept the country, but what was it like at home?

Brian Hare tells us the story of Dmitri Belyaev, a geneticist and clandestine Darwinian who lived in Stalinist Russia and studied the domestication of the silver fox. Through generations of selectively breeding a captive population, Belyaev noticed not only increased docility, but also unexpected physical changes. Why did these gentler foxes necessarily look different than their wild ancestors? Tecumseh Fitch has a hypothesis, something about trailblazing cells and embryonic development. And Richard Wrangham takes it a step further, suggesting us humans may have domesticated ourselves."
behavior  radiolab  2009  robertsapolsky  change  normalcy  normal  richardwrangham  sturasmusssen  dmitribelyaev  tecumsehfitch  domestication  evolution  primates  baboons 
october 2013 by robertogreco
Hacking Nature — 5 Viridian Years — Medium
"Conservation by its nature idealises a picture of the wild from the past. But evolution by its nature is not static"

"In a rousing TED talk George Monbiot dreams of a re-wilded Western Europe where “mass restoration of ecosystems” would give a “portal into an enchanted kingdom” roamed by ancestral megafauna. In such a dream world the resurrection of woolly mammoths would be more than a scientific vanity project, and aurox, sabre-tooth tigers and the bizarre menagerie of paleolithic beasts could follow. But it’s a world without much room for human inhabitants and the alternative reality needn’t be a dystopian wasteland, devoid of life. We have the tools and knowledge to retain what exists, if carefully managed and cautiously approached. And what’s more, there is new wonder to be found in the ingenuity of life to exploit ecological niches of our own creation."
conservation  viridianmovement  2013  robinbisson  georgemonbiot  environment  sustainability  environmentalism  evolution  ecosystems  nature 
october 2013 by robertogreco
Wendell E. Berry Lecture | National Endowment for the Humanities
[via: ]

"“Because a thing is going strong now, it need not go strong for ever,” [Margaret] said. “This craze for motion has only set in during the last hundred years. It may be followed by a civilization that won’t be a movement, because it will rest upon the earth.
E. M. Forster, Howards End (1910)1"

"The economic hardship of my family and of many others, a century ago, was caused by a monopoly, the American Tobacco Company, which had eliminated all competitors and thus was able to reduce as it pleased the prices it paid to farmers. The American Tobacco Company was the work of James B. Duke of Durham, North Carolina, and New York City, who, disregarding any other consideration, followed a capitalist logic to absolute control of his industry and, incidentally, of the economic fate of thousands of families such as my own.

My effort to make sense of this memory and its encompassing history has depended on a pair of terms used by my teacher, Wallace Stegner. He thought rightly that we Americans, by inclination at least, have been divided into two kinds: “boomers” and “stickers.” Boomers, he said, are “those who pillage and run,” who want “to make a killing and end up on Easy Street,” whereas stickers are “those who settle, and love the life they have made and the place they have made it in.”2 “Boomer” names a kind of person and a kind of ambition that is the major theme, so far, of the history of the European races in our country. “Sticker” names a kind of person and also a desire that is, so far, a minor theme of that history, but a theme persistent enough to remain significant and to offer, still, a significant hope.

The boomer is motivated by greed, the desire for money, property, and therefore power. James B. Duke was a boomer, if we can extend the definition to include pillage in absentia. He went, or sent, wherever the getting was good, and he got as much as he could take.

Stickers on the contrary are motivated by affection, by such love for a place and its life that they want to preserve it and remain in it. Of my grandfather I need to say only that he shared in the virtues and the faults of his kind and time, one of his virtues being that he was a sticker. He belonged to a family who had come to Kentucky from Virginia, and who intended to go no farther. He was the third in his paternal line to live in the neighborhood of our little town of Port Royal, and he was the second to own the farm where he was born in 1864 and where he died in 1946."

"Because I have never separated myself from my home neighborhood, I cannot identify myself to myself apart from it. I am fairly literally flesh of its flesh. It is present in me, and to me, wherever I go. This undoubtedly accounts for my sense of shock when, on my first visit to Duke University, and by surprise, I came face-to-face with James B. Duke in his dignity, his glory perhaps, as the founder of that university. He stands imperially in bronze in front of a Methodist chapel aspiring to be a cathedral. He holds between two fingers of his left hand a bronze cigar. On one side of his pedestal is the legend: INDUSTRIALIST. On the other side is another single word: PHILANTHROPIST. The man thus commemorated seemed to me terrifyingly ignorant, even terrifyingly innocent, of the connection between his industry and his philanthropy. But I did know the connection. I felt it instantly and physically. The connection was my grandparents and thousands of others more or less like them. If you can appropriate for little or nothing the work and hope of enough such farmers, then you may dispense the grand charity of “philanthropy.”

After my encounter with the statue, the story of my grandfather’s 1906 tobacco crop slowly took on a new dimension and clarity in my mind. I still remembered my grandfather as himself, of course, but I began to think of him also as a kind of man standing in thematic opposition to a man of an entirely different kind. And I could see finally that between these two kinds there was a failure of imagination that was ruinous, that belongs indelibly to our history, and that has continued, growing worse, into our own time."

"It may seem plausible to suppose that the head of the American Tobacco Company would have imagined at least that a dependable supply of raw material to his industry would depend upon a stable, reasonably thriving population of farmers and upon the continuing fertility of their farms. But he imagined no such thing. In this he was like apparently all agribusiness executives. They don’t imagine farms or farmers. They imagine perhaps nothing at all, their minds being filled to capacity by numbers leading to the bottom line. Though the corporations, by law, are counted as persons, they do not have personal minds, if they can be said to have minds. It is a great oddity that a corporation, which properly speaking has no self, is by definition selfish, responsible only to itself. This is an impersonal, abstract selfishness, limitlessly acquisitive, but unable to look so far ahead as to preserve its own sources and supplies. The selfishness of the fossil fuel industries by nature is self-annihilating; but so, always, has been the selfishness of the agribusiness corporations. Land, as Wes Jackson has said, has thus been made as exhaustible as oil or coal."

"In such modest joy in a modest holding is the promise of a stable, democratic society, a promise not to be found in “mobility”: our forlorn modern progress toward something indefinitely, and often unrealizably, better. A principled dissatisfaction with whatever one has promises nothing or worse.

James B. Duke would not necessarily have thought so far of the small growers as even to hold them in contempt. The Duke trust exerted an oppression that was purely economic, involving a mechanical indifference, the indifference of a grinder to what it grinds. It was not, that is to say, a political oppression. It did not intend to victimize its victims. It simply followed its single purpose of the highest possible profit, and ignored the “side effects.” Confronting that purpose, any small farmer is only one, and one lost, among a great multitude of others, whose work can be quickly transformed into a great multitude of dollars."

"Statistical knowledge once was rare. It was a property of the minds of great rulers, conquerors, and generals, people who succeeded or failed by the manipulation of large quantities that remained, to them, unimagined because unimaginable: merely accountable quantities of land, treasure, people, soldiers, and workers. This is the sort of knowledge we now call “data” or “facts” or “information.” Or we call it “objective knowledge,” supposedly untainted by personal attachment, but nonetheless available for industrial and commercial exploitation. By means of such knowledge a category assumes dominion over its parts or members. With the coming of industrialism, the great industrialists, like kings and conquerors, become exploiters of statistical knowledge. And finally virtually all of us, in order to participate and survive in their system, have had to agree to their substitution of statistical knowledge for personal knowledge. Virtually all of us now share with the most powerful industrialists their remoteness from actual experience of the actual world. Like them, we participate in an absentee economy, which makes us effectively absent even from our own dwelling places. Though most of us have little wealth and perhaps no power, we consumer–citizens are more like James B. Duke than we are like my grandfather. By economic proxies thoughtlessly given, by thoughtless consumption of goods ignorantly purchased, now we all are boomers."

"In this age so abstracted and bewildered by technological magnifications of power, people who stray beyond the limits of their mental competence typically find no guide except for the supposed authority of market price. “The market” thus assumes the standing of ultimate reality. But market value is an illusion, as is proven by its frequent changes; it is determined solely by the buyer’s ability and willingness to pay."

"By now all thoughtful people have begun to feel our eligibility to be instructed by ecological disaster and mortal need. But we endangered ourselves first of all by dismissing affection as an honorable and necessary motive. Our decision in the middle of the last century to reduce the farm population, eliminating the allegedly “inefficient” small farmers, was enabled by the discounting of affection. As a result, we now have barely enough farmers to keep the land in production, with the help of increasingly expensive industrial technology and at an increasing ecological and social cost. Far from the plain citizens and members of the land-community, as Aldo Leopold wished them to be, farmers are now too likely to be merely the land’s exploiters."

"In thinking about the importance of affection, and of its increasing importance in our present world, I have been guided most directly by E. M. Forster’s novel, Howards End, published in 1910. By then, Forster was aware of the implications of “rural decay,”10 and in this novel he spoke, with some reason, of his fear that “the literature of the near future will probably ignore the country and seek inspiration from the town. . . . and those who care for the earth with sincerity may wait long ere the pendulum swings back to her again.”"

"“The light within,” I think, means affection, affection as motive and guide. Knowledge without affection leads us astray every time. Affection leads, by way of good work, to authentic hope. The factual knowledge, in which we seem more and more to be placing our trust, leads only to hope of the discovery, endlessly deferrable, of an ultimate fact or smallest particle that at last will explain everything."

"No doubt there always will be some people … [more]
wendellberry  capitalism  corporations  economy  imagination  stickers  boomers  2012  economics  land  place  memory  industrialists  philanthropy  charitableindustrialcomplex  culture  art  liberalarts  humanism  humanity  rural  farming  history  debt  affection  knowledge  materialism  howardsend  emforster  ruraldecay  agriculture  aldoleopold  environmentalism  environment  sustainability  destruction  destructiveness  local  scale  mobility  change  adaptability  adaptation  evolution  ecology  technology  machines  alberthoward  wesjackson  johnlukacs  growth  data  quantification  wealth  remoteness  jamesbduke  industialism  power  greed  consumerism  plannedobsolescence  nature  corporatism  allentate  property  ownership  effectiveownership  human  humans  limits  limitations  modesty  democracy  wallacestegner  via:markllobrera  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  babyboomers  control 
september 2013 by robertogreco
How So Many People Got Seamus Heaney's Last Words Wrong - Robinson Meyer - The Atlantic
"I was struck by that error, nolle and noli. Our organism of language mutates. It gets things wrong, by transcription or misunderstanding. Notice even this little clump of sentences that I’ve written: I’ve tried to respect Heaney, the ambiguity of his experience, the mourning ache of his family. (Is it an ache? Is such a word accurate? I don’t know.) But I’ve written about it all the same, and in doing so I have translated it. It is the same kind of translating, on a lesser, more vulgar scale, that Heaney did when he translated the Old English Beowulf into our present-day tongue.

It is a translation that his poetry will eventually require. We die and the language gets away from us, in little ways, like a dropped vowel sound, a change in prepositions, a mistaken transcription. Errors in transfer make a literature.

Like how an infant’s cells are replaced, throughout life, by other, identical versions of themselves, digital messages do not have an “original.” Did Heaney send noli timere? We can trust that his Latin was exemplary, but we have no original because there is no original. A copy of Heaney’s last words exists on his own phone. It exists on his wife’s phone. It likely exists on a server somewhere, an archive maintained by the cell provider, a stash no one will ever read. But the wires that carried it; the air through which it shimmered; the switches that transfigured it between kinds of invisible light: They have already forgotten it, for now they glow with the words of other children and children, parents and parents, and lovers and lovers."
robinsonmeyer  language  culture  mutation  time  evolution  2013  seamusheaney  poetry  literature  translation  confusion  theology  latin  subtlety  change  memory  forgetting  transcription 
september 2013 by robertogreco
Admiralty charts (maps) | The National Archives
One of the characteristics of an Admiralty chart is that it is continually updated and corrected.
Dates of survey and compilation are minutely recorded, as are those of the corrections continually made to maintain the accuracy and utility of the chart.
mapping  maps  updates  admiralitycharts  charts  corrections  change  accuracy  evolution  versioning  versions  via:litherland 
june 2013 by robertogreco
NPR Code Switch | When Our Kids Own America
"It’s much harder now to patrol the ramparts of our cultures, to distinguish between the appreciators and appropriators. Just who gets to play in which cultural sandboxes? Who gets to be the bouncer at the velvet rope?"

"If something is everywhere and everyone trafficks in it, who gets to decide when it’s real or not? What happens when hip-hop stops being black culture and becomes simply youth culture?"

"So once some piece of black American culture slips outside that culture, when does it stop being black and just become this new thing? Where do the borders of one culture end and another begin?"

"When young people inherit the new America, this reconfigured hip-hop will be part of their birthright: the code-switching, style-shifting, and swagger-jacking that’s always been there, mashed up with stories about thrift-shopping, border-crossing and rich South Koreans. Lest anyone get it twisted and think this new America will be some kind of Benetton ad, be forewarned: it’s going to be confusing and it’s going to be messy."

"My generation started writing our chapters on race during the Crack Era — the time of of Rodney King, The Cosby Show, and Menace II Society. But that was 20-something years ago, and we’re still applying the templates that we created in 1992 and 1963 to the chapters that are being scripted now. Those old stories reflect a starkly different demographic reality than the one we now inhabit. It’s not that those stories are wrong, it’s that they’re incomplete. And so we find ourselves having to assimilate into these places we thought we knew and that we thought were ours.

The Afropunk skater in Philly, the Korean b-boy graffiti artist in Los Angeles, the bluegrass-loving Latino hipster in Austin — they’re all inheriting an America in which they’ll have access to even more hyphens in their self-definitions. That’s undoubtedly a good thing. But it’s important that those stories be complete as well. If you’re in Maricopa County, Ariz., and brown, the sheriff’s deputies won’t care whether you’re bumping Little Dragon in your ride when they pull you over. The way each of us experiences culture each day may be increasingly unmoored from genre, from geography, and yes, even from race, but America will not be easily untethered from the anchor of its history. We may be more equal, but mostly in our iPods.

How the country fares in the next century will depend in part on how it deals with these dissonances. It will be determined by whether we grapple with the complications of some basic assumptions about our spaces — who gets to play and work and live in them and how they get to do that.

And so, the “Harlem Shake” kerfuffle isn’t just about some hip-hop dance, but about these anxieties of ownership of the past and future, about generational tensions around acknowledgement, respect and reverence, about the understandable if futile impulse to want culture to retain something like purity, about disparities in power both real and perceived, about land and property, about realness and authenticity and race and history.

For good or ill, the country our kids are creating will work by new, confounding rules.

It’s the rest of us, those of us who’ve been here for awhile and who still find comfort with these old modes of viewing the world, who will start to face the discomfort of assimilating. A Minnesota suburb that looks more like a Brooklyn ‘hood. A “Harlem Shake” that looks nothing like Harlem."
codeswitch  codeswitching  2013  culture  appropriation  us  appreciation  gentrification  diversity  race  ethnicity  harlemshake  genedemby  rafaelcastillo  laurenrock  npr  harlem  nyc  oakland  brooklynpark  minnesota  discrimination  sterotypes  popularculture  hiphop  marginalization  teens  youth  youthculture  ebonics  ceciliacutler  civilrightsmovement  blackpanthers  joshkun  signaling  separateness  hsamyalim  language  communication  english  wealth  power  access  borders  repurposing  shereenmarisolmeraji  chantalgarcia  music  remixing  sampling  dumbfounded  jonathanpark  losangeles  biboying  breakdancing  messiness  stevesaldivar  hansilowang  karengrigsbybates  assimilation  generation  demographics  evolution  change  canon  remixculture  blackpantherparty 
april 2013 by robertogreco
Eike König, Hort, Berlin - YouTube
"my rules:

1. enjoy what you are doing
2. get paid
2. don't work with assholes
4. only accept work that challenges you and you can build up a relation to
5. don't work 'for' people but 'with'
6. be honest to your client and yourself
7. keep on searching and exploring
8. quit when you don't enjoy it anymore

I like to invest in relationships rather than money and success"

[Presentation outline]

"1. Who the **** is Eike König? [0:07:47]
2. How to create a creative space
3. Bauhaus is dead, long live Bauhaus. [0:30:44]
4. Is it magic? [0:45:36]
5. How can you reach excellence? [0:51:28]
6. Create your own future [0:59:39]
7. Don't fear the future [1:14:34]"

[The Hort Band]

"1. collaboration is essential
2. the Hort band is in a state of constant evolution
3. repetition dulls creativity
4. the moment is more important than the documentation"

[See also: ]
eikekönig  hort  making  2013  walkerartcenter  design  burnout  graphicdesign  openstudioproject  work  howwework  money  relationships  studios  education  learning  dropouts  studiodesign  openspaces  bauhaus  collaboration  glvo  presence  attention  documentation  evolution  change  repetition  creativity  arial  courier  typography  fonts  success  play  fun  community  risk  risktaking  fear 
april 2013 by robertogreco
How to Build a Dog - Pictures, More From National Geographic Magazine
"Scientists have found the secret recipe behind the spectacular variety of dog shapes and sizes, and it could help unravel the complexity of human genetic disease."
2012  dogs  evolution  animals  genetics  science  biology  health  medicine  breeding  pets 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Editing the Past | Swell Content
"I’m looking into ways of making my posts living, breathing things. I don’t feel like I have any of the answers yet, so I’m compiling some questions about the effects of editing the past.

Looking at the archive…

**As an evolution of feelings**

What’s the best way to update old blog posts? Does my audience care if I’ve changed the meaning of something from 2011 [ ] or simply removed the harshness of my tone? What about the fact that I often write to get it halfway there (or even 5% there), just to help myself understand my feelings?

What if my feelings turn inside out? What if I want to delete something, because it’s just plain bad?

Do I get to decide what’s important as the author? Why? Or do my readers get to decide with traffic, comments, or attention?

Is frequency important, or is all of this an exhaustive attempt at making order out of chaos? [ ] Maybe I should stop right now.

**As a written record**

What are the ethics of deleting something? Or hiding it? What if I just shove it in a corner or an armpit, only to be found by Google or someone with a link? Why bother keeping it there, if it’s not worth sharing openly?

Is it an archive if I don’t preserve my words as they were originally posted? Or does it break the web to think anything should be static for more than a month or two? Do we breathe here in minutes, months, or milliseconds?

**As a resource**

Is this helpful if it’s not updated? Should I announce every change I make, or put notes within each article? Do I get to summarize my own summaries, or is there a more programmatic way of showing changes, like a differential or commit?

Should I notify anyone of anything? Or is it annoying and uninteresting to know about teeny changes on a personal site? But isn’t everything connected? Even if my opinions are small and unsharpened, isn’t that the point of sharing them and working on them over a lifetime?"

[Recorded here ;]
archives  archiving  nicolejones  2013  addendums  changes  history  longnow  past  future  writing  sharing  web  digital  internet  personalarchives  evolution  recordkeeping  time  memory  persistence  change  nicolefenton 
february 2013 by robertogreco
The dog-human connection in evolution « Neuroanthropology
"Penn State anthropologist Prof. Pat Shipman argues that animal domestication is one manifestation of a larger distinctive trait of our species, the ‘animal connection,’ which unites and underwrites a number of the most important evolutionary advances of our hominin ancestors."
animals  evolution  2010  patshipman  anthropology  posthumanism  interspecies  humans  via:anne  domestication  dogs  human-animalrelations  human-animalrelationships  from delicious
january 2013 by robertogreco
The Technium: The Post-Productive Economy
"Civilization is not just about saving labor but also about "wasting" labor to make art, to make beautiful things, to "waste" time playing, like sports. Nobody ever suggested that Picasso should spend fewer hours painting per picture in order to boost his wealth or improve the economy. The value he added to the economy could not be optimized for productivity. It's hard to shoehorn some of the most important things we do in life into the category of "being productive." Generally any task that can be measured by the metrics of productivity -- output per hour -- is a task we want automation to do. In short, productivity is for robots. Humans excel at wasting time, experimenting, playing, creating, and exploring. None of these fare well under the scrutiny of productivity. That is why science and art are so hard to fund. But they are also the foundation of long-term growth. Yet our notions of jobs, of work, of the economy don't include a lot of space for wasting time, experimenting, playing, creating, and exploring."

"The are two senses of growth: scale, that is, more, bigger, faster; and evolution. The linear progression of steam power, railways, electrification, and now computers and the internet is a type of the former; just more of the same, but only better. Therefore the productivity growth curve should continue up in a continuous linear fashion.

I suggest the growth of this 3rd regime is more like evolutionary growth, rather than developmental growth. The apparent stagnation we see in productivity, in real wages, in debt relief, is because we don't reckon, and don't perceive, the new directions of growth. It is not more of the same, but different."
growth  robertgordon  industrialization  generativity  leisurearts  evolution  internet  networks  plumbing  china  future  technology  productivity  economics  kevinkelly  2013  technium  post-productiveeconomy  artleisure  from delicious
january 2013 by robertogreco
The Lives They Lived [Adam Yauch] -
"Of all the things the Beastie Boys rendered cool by association — ’70s cop-show mustaches, outlandish golf attire, throwing eggs at people — the idea that you could change, that in order to be cool you had to change, was the most important. The fact that they’d been unrepentant knuckleheads made their transformation into repentant knuckleheads seem heroic."
maturation  mindchanges  mindchanging  growth  evolution  cool  beastieboys  mca  2012  alexpappademas  adamyauch  change  from delicious
december 2012 by robertogreco
American Beuys: "I Like America & America Likes Me"
"During Sacred Time, the time of Creation, Coyote taught humans how to survive, and the incredible survival of the coyote, both mythologically and biologically, continues to be one of the great American mysteries."

"Mythologically and biologically, Coyote is a survivor and exemplar of evolutionary change. This is what attracted Beuys to Coyote."

"Many people feel that the Vietnamese mistake was the first war that the United States didn't win. That isn't true. For forty-five years, Uncle Sam has fought a war against coyotes...and lost!"

"Beuys's intentions in the Coyote action were primarily therapeutic. Using shamanic techniques appropriate to the coyote, his own characteristic tools, and a widely syncretic symbolic language, he engaged the coyote in a dialogue to get to ”the psychological trauma point of the United States' energy constellation”; namely, the schism between native intelligence and European mechanistic, materialistic, and positivistic values."
navajo  transformer  stephenjaygould  jamesgleick  lewisthomas  fritjofcapra  systemsthinking  holisticapproach  holistic  science  adaptation  adaptability  survival  jeannotsimmen  heinerbastian  christianity  semiotics  josémartí  standingbear  nomads  shamanism  anthroposophy  intelligence  evolution  pests  garysnyder  carolinetisdall  johnmoffitt  1974  benjaminbuchloh  susanhowe  davidlevistrauss  1999  ilikeamericaandamericalikesme  history  rudolfsteiner  environmentalism  animalrights  glvo  trickster  shamans  europe  us  art  myth  coyotes  josephbeuys  from delicious
november 2012 by robertogreco
Human Nature, Education, Ecology – Dewey, Darwin, Midgley, Kropotkin [Part I] « Lebenskünstler
[All but one of the parts in bold are here.]

"Our humanity is not expressed through developing our individual talents and abilities, but by building bonds outward into the world…"

"The good for the human species, like all species, emerges from within the evolutionary story, and is not independent or opposed to it."

"While education needs to foster growth, it also needs to help celebrate the meaning of the moment."

"The notion that we “have a nature,” far from threatening the concept of freedom, is absolutely essential to it."

"The very idea of dehumanization is predicated on the idea that there is a human essence which has, in some fundamental sense, been degraded."

"…equality is not sameness. A belief in sameness here is both irrelevant to the struggle for equal rights and inconsistent with the facts."

"We need the vast world…"

"Children, poets and scientists – that is, human beings who relate to life with a sense of humility and awe – have a particular prescience for wonder."
deschooling  unschooling  leisurearts  society  evolution  humans  human  equalrights  equality  variety  variation  humility  networks  peterkropotkin  marymidgley  community  connectivism  attention  presence  present  humanism  dehumanization  sameness  scientists  poets  curiosity  darwin  diversity  learning  education  ecology  wonder  religion  eilonschwartz  johndewey  2012  randallszott  neoteny  artleisure  charlesdarwin  from delicious
october 2012 by robertogreco
Futurist Stewart Brand Wants to Revive Extinct Species | Wired Enterprise |
"Most of the stuff that my fellow hippies tried turned out not to have legs. Communes didn’t. Dope didn’t!"

"Brand: I take my cue from technology historian George Dyson, who argues that, from the perspective of the real world, the digital universe is accelerating rapidly but, from the view of the digital universe, the biological world is slllllooooowwwwwiiing doooowwwwn. Since we humans are amphibians and live in both universes, we are being torn by acceleration on one side and deceleration on the other. That sounds rough, but it’s actually pretty exciting."

"Brand: I want them to know that de-extinction is coming. And I also want the eventual semi-amateur de-extinctors, as they start doing this out in the barn, to understand that there’s a framework of norms about ethics and transparency.

Kelly: What we all need is a manual on how to worry intelligently."
amateurresearch  acceleratingchange  psychadelics  drugs  communes  communitymanagement  trolls  netiquette  identity  pseudonyms  anonymity  stupidityofmobs  wisdomofcrowds  mooreslaw  well  digitalera  usergenerated  user-generated  biohacking  counterculture  geneticengineering  biotechnology  biotech  evolution  change  technology  transparency  ethics  science  georgedyson  2012  interviews  de-extinction  extinction  kevinkelly  stewartbrand  from delicious
october 2012 by robertogreco
Steven Berlin Johnson: Instead of building cathedrals in learning, we need to learn to build cathedrals | Creativity, Imagination, and Innovation in Education Symposium
"“Collaboration between different intelligences is the hallmark of innovative spaces,” he remarked. But it wasn’t always easy for Johnson, who has an undergraduate degree in semiotics from Brown University and a graduate degree in English Literature from Columbia, to see how science and the humanities could be entwined. It wasn’t until he was exposed to the work of former Columbia Professor Franco Moretti that he realized bridges could be built joining the two.

Moretti gained fame for controversially applying quantitative scientific methods to the humanities. Johnson mentioned reading Moretti’s Signs Taken for Wonders, and the mind-blowing impact the professor’s use of Darwinian techniques to analyze literature had on him. It was the first time he saw scientific procedures being employed to evaluate literature.

From that moment on, Johnson began researching iconic innovators."
cathedralsoflearning  everythingbadisgoodforyou  gaming  games  multidisciplinarythinking  connectivesyntheticintelligence  connectiveintelligence  multidisciplinary  interdisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  generalists  specialization  interconnectivity  patterns  conenctions  innovation  multipleintelligences  diversity  problemsolving  systemsthinking  parenting  videogames  teaching  schools  collaboration  gutenberg  crosspollination  feathers  exaptation  devonthink  evolution  stephenjaygould  commonplacebooks  creativity  darwin  francomoretti  semiotics  hunches  learning  2011  stevenjohnson  charlesdarwin  interconnected  from delicious
july 2012 by robertogreco
r/K selection theory - Wikipedia
"In ecology, r/K selection theory relates to the selection of combinations of traits in an organism that trade off between quantity and quality of offspring. The focus upon either increased quantity of offspring at the expense of individual parental investment, or reduced quantity of offspring with a corresponding increased parental investment, varies widely, seemingly to promote success in particular environments. In this context, r-selection makes a species prone to numerous reproduction at low cost per an individual offspring, while K-selected species expend high cost in reproduction for a low number of more difficult to produce offspring. Neither mode of propagation is intrinsically superior, and in fact they can coexist in the same habitat, as in rodents and elephants…

[Via: ]
naturalselection  selection  r/Kselectiontheory  strategy  sociology  theory  science  ecology  evolution  biology  via:charlieloyd  from delicious
july 2012 by robertogreco
Agnes Martin Interview (20:00 version, 1997) on Vimeo
"An interview done by Chuck Smith & Sono Kuwayama with painter Agnes Martin at her studio in Taos in Nov. 1997."

[Shorter version here: ]

[Via: ]

Some highlights:

“I paint with my back to the world.”

"I think education is wrong. Education wants us to think that we are capable and we can do anything, teaches us to be ambitious, but that's the way to failure. To think to win and be ambitious instead of thinking what you're doing. The people that think they're ambitious and capable, they don't know they're only capable of repeating something that's already been done."

"The worst thing you can think about when you're working at anything is yourself."

"You can't think about beating the rest of them when you are painting. You have to keep a picture in your mind."
glvo  brucenauman  self  clarity  agnesmartin  inspiration  howwecreate  howwework  vacanmind  ideas  sonokuwayama  chucksmith  via:caseygollan  interviews  1997  loneliness  alone  life  painting  art  evolution  education  ambition  failure  from delicious
july 2012 by robertogreco
Musical Evolution Shaped by Consumers | PRI's The World [Shared here: ]
"Musical styles have a way of evolving. They change with the times.

But who drives that process? Composers? Musicians?

The answer, says a team of British scientists, is consumers.

The scientists conducted an unusual experiment using what the researchers call a Darwinian Music Machine. It is a computer program designed by evolutionary biologist Armand Leroi…and his colleagues.

The program creates a population of short medleys, each about eight seconds long. “They’re just random bits of noise,” says Leroi.

Leroi says the program started off with a population of about a hundred such tunes.… then posted those tunes on a website and invited people to rate each tune on a five-point scale, ranging from “I can’t stand it” to “I love it.”

As people rated the music, the program picked the most popular medleys and allowed them to procreate."


[Related: ]
armandleroi  darwintunes  leroi  2012  evolution  music  from delicious
june 2012 by robertogreco
(SL) DISTIN 15 (This is what happens.)
"Looking, really looking, at art (some might say seeing…feeling) is like this: It is like all the other really amazing things in life…You do it too much & you forget how good it can actually be…you become jaded. You don’t get enough & it is all you can think about—the good & the bad. Then, there is one photo…drawing…performance & you want to know all there is to know about it…It is a little bit like falling in love. It’s best, most exciting, when you don’t know why you like something…the thing you are looking at is something you might usually be inclined to dislike…But, with this, you cannot stop looking, cannot stop thinking. And so, in every other thing that you think about, talk about, read about, talk about, read about, you start to see it in all of those other things, whether or not they, directly, have anything to do with that thing you are suddenly, entirely, falling for…all of those other things have changed. And everything that you thought you knew is no longer the same."
rabbitholes  looking  taste  feeling  artappreciation  interestedness  interest  interests  thinking  howwelearn  evolution  understanding  appreciation  art  love  2011  passion  obsession  wittgenstein  change  yearning  learning  noticing  seeing  saradistin  canon  interested  from delicious
february 2012 by robertogreco
George Dyson | Evolution and Innovation - Information Is Cheap, Meaning Is Expensive | The European Magazine
"We now live in a world where information is potentially unlimited. Information is cheap, but meaning is expensive. Where is the meaning? Only human beings can tell you where it is. We’re extracting meaning from our minds and our own lives…

I think that we are generally not very good at making decisions. Mostly, things just happen. And there are some very creative human individuals who provide the sparks to drive that process. History is unpredictable, so the important thing is to stay adaptable. When you go to an unknown island, you don’t go with concrete expectations of what you might find there. Evolution and innovation work like the human immune system: There is a library of possible responses to viruses. The body doesn’t plan ahead trying to predict what the next threat is going to be, it is trying to be ready for anything."
georgedyson  decisionmaking  culture  technology  internet  information  evolution  meaning  meaningmaking  adaptability  humanprogress  humans  progress  cognitiveautarchy  computers  computation  chaos  diversity  intelligence  survival  web  innovation  creativity  philosophy  science  google  uncertainty  life  religion  biology  space  time  ethics 
december 2011 by robertogreco
For Some Reason UC Davis Did Not Make Me Give Up On Humanity | xoJane
"A Gallup poll conducted after the shootings showed that 58% of respondents blamed the students for the massacre. Nixon’s prepared statement said that the protesters’ behavior “invite[d] tragedy” — in other words, they were asking for it. You can bet your ass that if there had been Internet comments sections in 1970, they would have been full of misspelled missives about how those hippies only got what they deserved. Since there weren’t, those people sent hate mail to the victims’ mothers instead.

Improbably, we’ve grown a little since then… We’ve evolved in other ways too…

…if we keep zooming back through time, we see this again and again: a group of people who reject the status quo, who frighten and anger the majority by refusing to accept ingrained injustices, but who in retrospect are understood to be the first wave of a better, gentler world, a society made incrementally more kind by their influence."
evolution  optimism  2011  ucdavis  occupywallstreet  ows  UCD  society  justice  socialjustice  statusquo  emergence  changemakers  change  changemaking  humanity  time  us  racism  warmongering  war  protest  kentstate  from delicious
november 2011 by robertogreco
Future Perfect » Mimic, Rote Learn, Evolve
"This photo may not seem like much – just another shot of Omotesando kiddies giving it the “niii”. Except that this was taken by my 22 month old daughter, using a Canon dSLR. That she can lift something that heavy, look through the viewfinder, align the shot, find the button and press it with enough force to trigger the shot, and then peers at the back screen to view what she’s taken is at first glance pretty amazing. Like a kid cocking a Magnum. This is not proud parent post – it merely follows in the wake of many parents commenting about their babies/infants use of tech – swiping/jabbing/drooling on touch screen devices, the ‘my kid can use an iPad’ moment.

This are the tools that make up our children’s landscape – and they are as natural as forks and electronic calculators and electric car windows are to you and me.

At that age we mimic, if there’s enough pay-off we rote learn, and if there’s enough payoff we evolve that learning."
janchipchase  technology  absorption  mimicry  learning  children  cameras  ipad  digitalnatives  observation  copycatkids  2011  evolution  rotelearning  rote 
november 2011 by robertogreco
Borderland › And corrupting our children every day
"Republican consultant and strategist, Noelle Nikpour: “Scientists are scamming the American people right and left for their own ‘finansual’ gain.”

It’s all too obvious: [The Daily Show clip, Science: What's It Up To?]"
dailyshow  jonstewart  science  noellenikpour  humor  republicans  evolution  globalwarming  2011  politics  policy  schools  education 
october 2011 by robertogreco
National Geographic Magazine -
"Moody. Impulsive. Maddening. Why do teenagers act the way they do? Viewed through the eyes of evolution, their most exasperating traits may be the key to success as adults."

[Photo series here: ]

[Via: ]
teens  adaptivebrain  science  psychology  teenbrain  adolescence  learning  2011  nationalgeographic  evolution  naturalselection  neuroscience  youth  from delicious
october 2011 by robertogreco
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