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Posts tagged with ‘quotations’

The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.

Richard Dawkins

There’s an interesting thing about ancient China, because if you read through the history, almost every single major invention of the world was invented in China first, and sometimes it took hundred of years for each to either it to make it’s way to Western Europe or to be reinvented in Western Europe. That includes paper, printing, steel, gunpowder, the compass, rudder, suspension bridges, etc. It’s almost everything, and for a long time China led the world in civilization because it was able to make these things long before anyone else. But there was one invention that China did not invent, and it would turn out to be the most important invention, and that was the invention of the scientific method.

There’s still a question about why China didn’t invent that, which was invented in the West. Because of that one invention, the West suddenly had a method for inventing new things and finding new things that was so superior that it just blew past all the great inventions of China and invented so many more things because of the power of this one invention. And that invention—the scientific method—is not a single thing. It’s actually a process with many ingredients, and the scientific method itself has actually been changing. In the very beginning it was very simple, a couple of processes like a controlled experiment, having a control, being able to repeat things, having to have a proof. We tend to think of the scientific method as sort of a whole—as fixed in time with a certain character. But lots of things that we assume or we now associate with the scientific method were only invented recently, some of them only as recently as 50 years ago—things like a double blind experiment or the invention of the placebo or random sampling were all incredibly recent additions to the scientific method. In 50 years from now the scientific method will have changed more than it has in the past 400 years just as everything else has.

So the scientific method is still changing over time. It’s an invention that we’re still evolving and refining. It’s a technology. It’s a process technology, but it’s probably the most important process and technology that we have, but that is still undergoing evolution refinement and advancement and we are adding new things to this invention. We’re adding things like a triple blind experiment or multiple authors or quantified self where you have experiment of N equals one. We’re doing things like saving negative results and transmitting those. There’s many, many things happening with the scientific method itself—as a technology—that we’re also improving over time, and that will affect all the other technologies that we make.

Kevin Kelly

(Source: inthenoosphere)

Implants and wearables will replace tools we carry or purchase. Technology will be biological in the sense that those who can afford it will ‘receive’ it as children. It will be part of our body and our minds will not function well without it. We will be dependent on it. There will probably be new forms of addiction and theft. It will also redefine what a ‘thought’ is, as we won’t ‘think’ unassisted.
I’m definitely not down on utopian narratives in general — in fact, I think they’re a vital tool for thinking about the future, so long as they’re always informed by a sense of their essential impossibility. Or, to put it another way: utopias are terrible as blueprints for a better world, but brilliant as sandboxes in which to play with ideas for a better world.
The worst work I did was from 2001 to 2004. And the company paid a price for bad work. I put the A-team resources on Longhorn, not on phones or browsers. All our resources were tied up on the wrong thing.

Steve Ballmer, speaking to Vanity Fair about his tenure atop Microsoft.

parislemon:

It’s a telling quote. A big part of Microsoft’s current predicament isn’t that they lacked the talent to do what their rivals did — it’s that the talent was directed to focus on the wrong things (or just as bad: the right things at the wrong time). 

The Nelson Mandela rule: You can get what you want by showing people ordinary respect. When Mr. Mandela heard that an Afrikaner general was arming rebels to prevent multiracial elections, he invited the general over for tea. The journalist John Carlin writes that Gen. Constand Viljoen “was dumbstruck by Mandela’s big, warm smile, by his courteous attentiveness to detail” and by his sensitivity to the fears of white South Africans. The general abandoned violence.

Pamela Druckerman, A Cure for Hyper-Parenting

Our society constantly proclaims that anyone can make it if they just try hard enough, all the while reinforcing privilege and putting increasing pressure on its overstretched and exhausted citizens. An increasing number of people fail, feeling humiliated, guilty and ashamed. We are forever told that we are freer to choose the course of our lives than ever before, but the freedom to choose outside the success narrative is limited. Furthermore, those who fail are deemed to be losers or scroungers, taking advantage of our social security system.

A neoliberal meritocracy would have us believe that success depends on individual effort and talents, meaning responsibility lies entirely with the individual and authorities should give people as much freedom as possible to achieve this goal. For those who believe in the fairytale of unrestricted choice, self-government and self-management are the pre-eminent political messages, especially if they appear to promise freedom. Along with the idea of the perfectible individual, the freedom we perceive ourselves as having in the west is the greatest untruth of this day and age.

The sociologist Zygmunt Bauman neatly summarised the paradox of our era as: “Never have we been so free. Never have we felt so powerless.” We are indeed freer than before, in the sense that we can criticise religion, take advantage of the new laissez-faire attitude to sex and support any political movement we like. We can do all these things because they no longer have any significance – freedom of this kind is prompted by indifference. Yet, on the other hand, our daily lives have become a constant battle against a bureaucracy that would make Kafka weak at the knees. There are regulations about everything, from the salt content of bread to urban poultry-keeping.

Our presumed freedom is tied to one central condition: we must be successful – that is, “make” something of ourselves. You don’t need to look far for examples. A highly skilled individual who puts parenting before their career comes in for criticism. A person with a good job who turns down a promotion to invest more time in other things is seen as crazy – unless those other things ensure success. A young woman who wants to become a primary school teacher is told by her parents that she should start off by getting a master’s degree in economics – a primary school teacher, whatever can she be thinking of?

There are constant laments about the so-called loss of norms and values in our culture. Yet our norms and values make up an integral and essential part of our identity. So they cannot be lost, only changed. And that is precisely what has happened: a changed economy reflects changed ethics and brings about changed identity. The current economic system is bringing out the worst in us.
Counterculture giants of the time, like Stewart Brand, Buckminster Fuller and Ivan Illich, championed vernacular tools as a way to give people the personal autonomy and choices they craved. But the consumerist version of this ultimately vision prevailed, such that the decentralized empowerment that networked computers provided has been a mixed bag.
The idea that every portrait of a woman should be an ideal woman, meant to stand for all of womanhood, is an enemy of art — not to mention wickedly delicious Joan Crawford and Bette Davis movies. Art is meant to explore all the unattractive inner realities as well as to recommend glittering ideals. It is not meant to provide uplift or confirm people’s prior ideological assumptions. Art says “Think,” not “You’re right.”
I don’t know what happened to the Future. It’s as if we lost our ability, or our will, to envision anything beyond the next hundred years or so, as if we lacked the fundamental faith that there will in fact be any future at all beyond that not-too- distant date. Or maybe we stopped talking about the Future around the time that, with its microchips and its twenty-four-hour news cycles, it arrived.

Michael Chabon, The Omega Glory

Futurelessness is an attribute of the postnormal era. We are confronted with so much fog — from a cascade of ambiguities, the dissolution of institutions and the collapse of solidarity, and the growing complexities of an incestuously interconnected world — that we are blocked from envisioning some extrapolated arc of history over the event horizon. And there is so much appearing and smacking us in the face everyday, it’s as if the present has been colonized by the future. As William S. Burroughs put it, 

When you cut into the present the future leaks out.


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