The Crack Where the Light Comes InRoger Berkowitz
Jaron Lanier is “the godfather of virtual reality.” Always one of the most original thinkers on technology, Lanier takes on the recent obsession about Chat GPT and other “large language models” by arguing, provocatively, that AI does not exist: .”My attitude is that there is no AI. What is called AI is a mystification, behind which there is the reality of a new kind of social collaboration facilitated by computers. A new way to mash up our writing and art.”
The Conspiratorial MindDemocracy requires trust. Living together requires that we agree on some basic facts and beliefs about the world. For Arendt, the path to the common world is through politics, through talking with others. The institutions of politics—be they town halls, debating societies, congresses, or courts—are designed to bring a plurality of people together—each with their own ways of seeing the world—and encourage them to see something new that is common, that they share. But what about when the fundamental trust that allows such institutions to function fails? Phil Christman explores our snowballing sense that the “wrongness is pervasive.” At this moment of wrongness, we turn to conspiracy theories and paranoia that makes the exploration of a common world with others well nigh impossible. If you want to understand the conspiratorial mind of our moment, Christman is an able guide.
The Human Story
The Crisis of the humanities is one of those perennial crises that pops up every year, every decade, seemingly every century. In the last decade, there are now one-third as many as English majors as there were a decade ago and nearly 20% fewer students are taking humanities courses as were 10 years earlier. Nathan Heller sets out to ask why the humanities are in crisis.
Equity Language GuidesGeorge Packer argues that the proliferation of “Equity Language Guides” is a misguided attempt at salvation, one with negative consequences. The guides are being issued by colleges, non-profits, and corporations. They are largely lists of banned words often with suggested replacements.
The New Human-Machine WorldRoger Berkowitz
Henry Kissinger, Eric Schmidt and Daniel Huttenlocher have an important essay in which they argue that ChatGPT represents the potential of artificial intelligence “to transform the human cognitive process as it has not been shaken up since the invention of printing” and the enlightenment.
Our Friend/Enemy PoliticsRoger Berkowitz
In my seminar on “Truth and Politics” this semester we are grappling with the pure weaponization of claims to truthfulness and lying. And this this weekend I’m at colloquium on federalism where one theme is how federalism is embraced by whichever party or group doesn’t control political power. Principled ideas of governance and politics are fully sacrificed to the overriding goal of winning. These ideas are grounded in a larger nihilist worldview, and one thinker who understood the full implications of nihilist politics was Carl Schmitt.
Impartiality and ObjectivityRoger Berkowitz
Hannah Arendt reminded us of the importance of impartiality in history, journalism, and scholarship. For Arendt, every selection of facts is, as a selection, partial. Bret Stephens writes about the crisis of confidence in journalism.
The Lost Power of the PressRoger Berkowitz
Louis Menand asks what happened to the power of the press? He argues that the culprit is simple: the breakdown of a white, liberal, internationalist mainstream ideology that united the government and the press for decades in the 20th century.
Managing the ShockRoger Berkowitz
The apparent murder of Tyre Nichols by five Memphis police officers has once again thrust the issue of racialized policing into the spotlight. Juliette Kayyem argues that “because of the sheer number of times Americans have now confronted videos of police officers killing Black citizens, public officials have gotten better at managing the shock.”
Love and Hate at the MoviesRoger Berkowitz
Wyatt Mason revisits the 1987 action movie Predator and finds, to his horror, that it is a masterpiece and that he, in spite of himself, loves action movies. Amidst a tour de force romp through the history and structure of action movies and a romp through his personal history as a failed script writer, Mason reflects on the role of violence in film.