Mammalian life is social and relational. What defines the mammalian class, physiologically, is not dependence on the female mammary gland or egg-laying but the possession of a portion of the brain known as the limbic system, which allows us to do what other animals cannot: read the interior states of others of our kind. To survive, we need to know our own inner state and those of others, quickly, at a glance, deeply. This is the “something” we see in the eyes of another mammalian creature: the ability to look at the other and know that he or she has feelings, states, desires, that are different from our own; the ability to see the other creature looking back at us, both of us knowing we are separate beings who nonetheless communicate. This is what people mean when they say they communicate with their dogs or cats, horses or bunnies: mammals reading each other. We don’t go looking for this in ants or fish or reptiles; indeed, when we want to say that someone lacks that essential spark of life, we call him “reptilian.” What we mean by this is that he lacks emotions, the ability to relay and read the emotions of others; that he is, in short, robotic.
If sentience is a mammalian trait, and what distinguishes mammals is the capacity for social life, then sentience must have its root in the capacity for rich social and emotional interchange. That is, sentience begins with social life, with the ability of two creatures to transact their inner states—needs, desires, motivations, fears, threats, contentment, suffering, what we call “the emotions.” Moreover, the more avenues a creature has for understanding and expressing its emotional states, the more intelligent we say it is. Ants were not a good place to look for rich social interchange; the logical inference engines of early AI were a particularly poor choice of model; computer software running in the astringent purity of a machine won’t find it. To get at the heart of intelligence, we should have started by looking at the part of human life ordinarily considered “irrational,” the opposite of “logical,” that perennial problem for computers: emotions.
“Compared to the earlier releases, Gibson: Goin’ Cuckoo In Costa Rica lacks in both experimentation and instant gratification, containing neither new, colorful epithets nor revelatory versions of established hits. Instead, it’s mostly a tired retread of old material—“I am earning money for a filthy little cocksucker who takes advantage of me!” especially borders on self-pillaging—while the unimaginative repetition takes the now-familiar Mel Gibson formula and distills it to its most basic, dumbed-down elements. And yet, there’s an undeniable primal power to the way Gibson abandons all pretense and just begins screaming, “Fuck!” until he’s completely hoarse that reminds us why we started listening in the first place.”—Sean O’Neal, “Mel Gibson’s latest audiotape rant lacks the innovation of previous releases, but makes up for it with primal fury”, The Onion AV Club(one of my favorite AV Club news bulletins ever - haven’t laughed that hard in a while)
Radiohead’s members readily acknowledge the influence of the Pixies, R.E.M., Aphex Twin, Autechre and other forward-looking rock and electronic artists. But the Oxford-based band, which also includes rhythm guitarist Ed O’Brien and drummer Phil Selway, is unanimous in its admiration for Miles Davis, both pre- and post-Bitches Brew.
The tempestuous jazz icon profoundly affected Radiohead, both with his constant stylistic explorations and his outspoken disdain for convention. Davis’ take-no-prisoners attitude, like his unwavering refusal to pander to expectations, was similarly influential on Greenwood and his band mates.
“Discussing Miles makes you feel like a dimestore novelist talking about Shakespeare,” Greenwood says. “We feel uncomfortable talking about Miles as any kind of influence, because what he did is so much greater and different than anything we do. We’ve taken and stolen from him shamelessly, not just musically, but in terms of his attitude of moving things forward.”
What’s cognitively dissonant about “An Economist Gets Lunch” is that Mr. Cowen combines this needling with his own brand of chowhound hipsterism. His book is also a long, Calvin Trillin-like ode to tamale stands and strip-mall joints and ethnic food, the more exotic the better.
These cuisines appeal to the economist in him because they’re cheap and innovative. His book is packed with sentences like “Bolivian, Laotian and North Korean are staples of my dining out” and “I know how ‘Husband and Wife Lung Slices’ taste (not bad).”
This combination of elements takes some getting used to. Reading Mr. Cowen — he is a professor of economics at George Mason University near Washington, the author of a best-selling e-book titled “The Great Stagnation,” and a food blogger — is like watching a middle-aged man in a blue blazer play Hacky Sack at a My Morning Jacket concert.
“His favorite example is the rainbow. For the rainbow experience to happen we need sunshine, raindrops, and a spectator. It is not that the sun and the raindrops cease to exist if there is no one there to see them. Manzotti is not a Bishop Berkeley. But unless someone is present at a particular point no colored arch can appear. The rainbow is hence a process requiring various elements, one of which happens to be an instrument of sense perception. It doesn’t exist whole and separate in the world nor does it exist as an acquired image in the head separated from what is perceived (the view held by the “internalists” who account for the majority of neuroscientists); rather, consciousness is spread between sunlight, raindrops, and visual cortex, creating a unique, transitory new whole, the rainbow experience. Or again: the viewer doesn’t see the world; he is part of a world process.”—Tim Parks, “The Mind Outside My Head”, New York Review of Books(what a fantastic way of thinking about the world)
At some point late in my teens, in a spasm of post-adolescent resolve, I decided to renounce video games forever. They had, I recognized, a scary power over me — an opium kind of power — and I was hoping to cultivate other, more impressive ways of spending my time. I had aspirations of capital “c” culture, and so I started pouring my attention into books, a quieter and more socially respected form of escapism. I knew that, if I had daily access to video games, I would spend literally every day playing them, forever. So I cut myself off, more or less cold turkey, and as a result I was more or less happy and productive.
Then, midway through the dark forest of my adult life, the iPhone came out. This presented a unique problem. It was not only a phone and a camera and a compass and a map and a tiny window through which to see the entire Internet — it was also a pocket-size game console three times as sophisticated as anything I grew up with. My wife, who had never been a serious gamer, got one and became addicted, almost immediately, to a form of off-brand digital Scrabble called Words With Friends. Before long she was playing 6 or 10 games at a time, against people all over the world. Sometimes I would lose her in the middle of a conversation: her phone would go brinnng or pwomp or dernalernadern-dern, and she would look away from me, midsentence, to see if her opponent had set her up for a triple word score. I tried to stay good-humored. I told her I was going to invent something called the iPaddle: a little screen-size wooden paddle that I would slide in front of her phone whenever she drifted away, on the back of which, upside-down so she could read them, would be inscribed humanist messages from the analog world: “I love you” or “Be here now.”
”—Sam Anderson, “Just One More Game…”, New York Times Magazine(very enjoyable essay - the book:video game ratio definitely resonates with me)