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Green Eyed, Blonde, and an Einstein

One of those controversies from last summer that somehow passed me by while I was teaching in Italy was the mash up over the Fertility Institutes decision first to offer a service allowing parents to choose basic traits for their children (hair and  eye color, etc.) and then its subsequent retreat in the face of…Read more Green Eyed, Blonde, and an Einstein Posted on 29 July 2010 | 6:32 am

Art, Science, and Anti-Humanism

I stopped in at the “Systematic” exhibit now on at the Zabludowicz Collection in London and received a tour by two of the gallery assistants, David Angus and Chloe Cooper. The exhibit, curated by Ellen Mara De Wachter, confronts the question of the place of the human being and the role of the artist at a time when individuals and humans are being subsumed by rational, social, and scientific systems. Featuring 18 works by 8 artists, the exhibit raises the fundamental question of our time: what does it mean to be human in an increasingly inhuman age? Posted on 21 July 2010 | 3:29 pm

Marilynne Robinson on Jon Stewart on Human Exceptionalism

Marilyn Robinson has a new book, Absence of Mind, which she discusses here with Jon Stewart. Her best line: I don’t think it’s scientific to proceed from the study of ants to a conclusion about the nature of the cosmos. Marilynne Robinson on the Daily Show A number of years ago Wyatt Mason, now Senior…Read more Marilynne Robinson on Jon Stewart on Human Exceptionalism Posted on 11 July 2010 | 11:32 pm

Chess and life

Rebecca Thomas comments: All that said, it seems correct to say that a more emotional, less rational approach to the game is losing a lot of ground, and there is something sad about that. On the other hand, we’re talking about a game. The stated goal is to win the game while playing within the…Read more Chess and life Posted on 11 July 2010 | 11:28 pm

Teachers Who Know Everything and Cost Nothing

This week I had lunch with an ex-student who is thinking about traveling to Korea to teach English. She told me that another of my students was in Korea now teaching English. And I just got an email from another former student asking for a law school recommendation. She has been, you guessed it, teaching…Read more Teachers Who Know Everything and Cost Nothing Posted on 11 July 2010 | 11:24 pm

Beautiful Chess played by Humans and Machines

Rebecca Thomas has a long and thoughtful response to my post on Gary Kasparov’s article on computers, chess, and humanity. The whole comment is worth reading. But here is how she begins: Regarding the first of the three comments, I have to take issue with the idea that a chess game played by a computer…Read more Beautiful Chess played by Humans and Machines Posted on 9 July 2010 | 11:36 pm

Kasparov on the Human and the Machine

One of the most reflective essays on the fate of Human Being in an Inhuman Age is Gary Kasparov’s NY Review of Books Essay, The Chess Master and the Computer. Kasparov respects the power of computers and knows that there already exist computer programs that play Checkers in a way that is unbeatable. Chess is…Read more Kasparov on the Human and the Machine Posted on 5 July 2010 | 12:04 pm

A Portal to the Future

The Times actually had two stories today in its “Smarter Than You Think” series on robots and social effects of the rise of smart machines. The first, on personal robots, is discussed below. The second has reporter Amy Harmon making conversation with a remarkably human looking Bina48, namesake of Bina Rothblatt, partner of the self-made…Read more A Portal to the Future Posted on 5 July 2010 | 11:30 am

Liberating the Animal

Roger Berkowitz has just published Liberating the Animal in Theory & Event (Project Muse, subscription required), a review of Vanessa Lemm’s new book Nietzsche’s Animal Philosophy. Lemm’s project is part of the now widespread attack on the traditional distinction between humans and animals. While the animality of humans has been a basic axiom of philosophical thinking…Read more Liberating the Animal Posted on 5 July 2010 | 4:55 am

Recharging Friendship

The New York Times today has an article about robotic friends and companions. Exhibit A is “Paro,” a robot seal with artificial intelligence that coos, blinks, wriggles and generally responds to basic linguistic stimuli. Paro is primitive as AI goes, but it has been a huge hit with elderly patients in nursing homes. Often it…Read more Recharging Friendship Posted on 5 July 2010 | 4:34 am