Ghost In The Shell: Identity in Space

Nerdwriter discusses Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell after last week’s exploration of Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men. Both video essays look at the backgrounds of these films and what they reveal about their respective worlds.

Children of Men: Don’t Ignore The Background

YouTube: The Medium Is The Message

It’s no surprise that the great triumph of television is the triumph of advertising. What could possibly be more attuned to the medium of television than commercials?

The largest ingredient of online video is the awareness that every consumer is a possible creator.

Sam Harris
Shape of things to come

Sam Harris on the problem of artificial intelligence

“The fact that we seem to be hastening towards some sort of digital apocalypse poses several intellectual and ethical challenges. For instance, in order to have any hope that a super-intelligent AGI would have values commensurate with our own we would have to instil those values in it, or otherwise get it to emulate us. But whose values should count? Should everyone get a vote in creating the utility function of our new colossus?

“If nothing else the invention of an AGI would force us to resolve some very old and boring arguments in moral philosophy.

“It’s interesting that once you imagine having to build values into a super-intelligent AGI, you then realise that you need to get straight about what you think is good, and I think the advent of this technology would cut through moral relativism like a laser. I mean, who is going to want to engineer into this thing the values of theocracy?”

Sam Harris in the most recent episode of his podcast.

See also: Sam Harris on the mechanics of defamation and other posts tagged ‘philosophy’

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The Buddha Dordenma statue in Thimphu
Humans and other animals

“You need to think about death for five minutes every day”

“It is this thing, this fear of death, this fear of dying before we have accomplished what we want or seen our children grow. This is what is troubling you.”

Advice given to a western traveller by Karma Ura, director of the Centre for Bhutan Studies.

“Rich people in the West, they have not touched dead bodies, fresh wounds, rotten things. This is a problem. This is the human condition. We have to be ready for the moment we cease to exist.”

BBC Travel: Bhutan’s dark secret to happiness, by Eric Weiner, a self-described “recovering malcontent and philosophical traveler”.

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Rachel Levit
Humans and other animals

The Moral Bucket List

David Brooks in his New York Times column:

It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?

We all know that the eulogy virtues are more important than the résumé ones. But our culture and our educational systems spend more time teaching the skills and strategies you need for career success than the qualities you need to radiate that sort of inner light. Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character.

I came to the conclusion that wonderful people are made, not born — that the people I admired had achieved an unfakeable inner virtue, built slowly from specific moral and spiritual accomplishments.

If we wanted to be gimmicky, we could say these accomplishments amounted to a moral bucket list, the experiences one should have on the way toward the richest possible inner life. Here, quickly, are some of them:

  • The humility shift: “…all the people I’ve ever deeply admired are profoundly honest about their own weaknesses.”
  • Self-defeat: “…character is built during the confrontation with your own weakness.”
  • The dependency leap: “We all need redemptive assistance from outside. Character is defined by how deeply rooted you are.”
  • Energized love: Dorothy Day — “No human creature could receive or contain so vast a flood of love and joy as I often felt after the birth of my child. With this came the need to worship, to adore.”
  • The call within the call: “We all go into professions for many reasons: money, status, security. But some people have experiences that turn a career into a calling.”
  • The conscience leap: “In most lives there’s a moment when people strip away all the branding and status symbols, all the prestige that goes with having gone to a certain school or been born into a certain family. They leap out beyond the utilitarian logic and crash through the barriers of their fears.”

Although I’ve excerpted much more than I usually would from this column, you should absolutely read it in its entirety:
David Brooks — The Moral Bucket List

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Nietzsche
Miscellany

Nietzsche’s Angel Food Cake

By Rebecca Coffey:

  1. Allow the angel to reach room temperature. Then kill it.
  2. Kill God. Set Him aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  4. Ecstatically whip, as if possessed by a storm-wind of freedom, 1-1/2 cups of excellent egg whites with 1/4 tsp. salt and 1-1/2 tsp. cream of tartar. Continue until peaks are as if raised to their own heights and given wings in a fine air, a robust air.
  5. Gradually add 3/4 cup sugar, about 3 tbsp. at a time.
  6. You are brilliant.
  7. Now, add 1 tsp. vanilla and 1/4 tsp. almond extract, and then sift together 1-1/4 cups flour and 3/4 cup sugar.
  8. Blend in God and the angel. Emboldened, add the egg mixture.
  9. Gaze into the überbatter. The überbatter will gaze into you.
  10. While prancing about in a frenzy of self-satisfaction and anticipation, use a rubber scraper to push the überbatter into an ungreased 10” tube pan, for it is destined to be there.
  11. Bake on a lower rack until done, usually 35-40 minutes, while reciting to the upper rack a long, convoluted anecdote about your childhood.
  12. Invert the tube pan over a bottle for a few hours. Then impetuously rap the pan. Shout, “Aha!” and slide a knife along the pan’s insides.
  13. Call what tumbles out a cake if you dare. Call it miraculous even.
  14. Eat it. It is delicate, morbid, loveable, and you will die depressed, delirious, and overweight.

From Nietzsche’s Angel Food Cake: And Other “Recipes” for the Intellectually Famished, by Rebecca Coffey

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