Category: the mind

The Delphic Oracle, In Our Time – BBC Radio 4

The Delphic Oracle, In Our Time – BBC Radio 4:

Not a lunchtime lecture, but a very cool listen. Dive deep into the history of the Delphic Oracle.

The Digital Human, Series 13, Episode 6 – Oracle

How to Tell The Future(s) – Facts So Romantic …

How to Tell The Future(s) – Facts So Romantic – Nautilus:

In 1972 the Club of Rome, an international think tank, commissioned four scientists to use computers to model the human future. The result was the infamous Limits toGrowth that crashed into world culture like an asteroid from space. Collapse, calamity and chaos were the media take-aways from the book, even though the authors tried hard to explain they weren’t making predictions but only exploring what would happen if population and economies continued their exponential growth. People, however, wanted predictions even if the book wasn’t really offering them. That gap between the authors’ intentions and the book’s reception tells us something critical about flaws in the way we think about the long-term future. Just as important, it points to new and different ways to think about the future at this strange moment in human history, when that future is so uncertain.

The real point to emerge from the crude (by today’s standards) simulations in The Limits of Growthwas that…duh… growth had limits. Using the language of coupled non-linear differential equations, the authors modeled the interaction between population and resources on a finite planet. The stunning prediction of those models was that collapse, rather than steady state, was one very real “solution” to the system. The visual cue to this nasty future was the simple trajectory of black line on a printout of population vs. time. That was really all folks needed. Follow the line. If it leveled off things would be great. If it plummets we are, by definition, all doomed.

What happened next was a battle over the details of that line and its trajectory. Would it really plummet, and if so, when, exactly, would it do that—i.e., how many years left till collapse? Economists, environmentalists, political scientists, and politicians began duking it out over these questions, and they haven’t stopped yet. But as climate change and resource depletion began spreading from scientific journals to headlines, it became clear these kinds of fights are missing the point. For the boots-on-the-ground folks—urban planners who must start planning and building now—something very different is needed.

That is a great irony of the challenge human culture must deal with now. On the one hand we canpredict the future. Our science makes it pretty damn clear that a rapidly changing planet is in the cards over thenext 30 to 50 to 100 years. On the other hand, there is no way to accurately predict all the ways a city like New York or Seattle will be affected those changes. For folks charged with ensuring the specifics of human culture are resilient in the face of those changes, the Club of Rome-style computer models can’t deal with the way uncertainty spreads the further we look into the future. It’s hard enough to predict snowpack a year in advance; how is a city to understand and plan for changes given changing climate conditions and population levels 50 years in advance?

To make that leap we need to go beyond predicting the future and begin telling the future.

We need to begin thinking in terms of “scenarios.”

The Digital Human, Series 13, Episode 6 – Oracle

Ancient prophecy: oracles and the gods

Ancient prophecy: oracles and the gods:

An oracle was a gateway to knowing the will of the gods, a cosmic information super highway for understanding what lay ahead. The most famous oracle was the priestess of the temple of Apollo at the sanctuary of Delphi.

So important was this sanctuary and its oracle that Delphi even became known as the omphalos – the belly button – of the ancient Greek world. Individuals, cities and kings would come from across the ancient world to put their questions about their future plans to the Delphic oracle and wait to receive a response about what the gods thought of them.

Delphi became so busy that long queues would form on the certain days of the month on which the priestess could be consulted and, in later times, several oracular priestesses would operate at once. But consultants had to be careful how they interpreted the, often unclear, answers of the oracle.

King Croesus of Lydia (modern-day south-western Turkey) asked the oracle whether or not he should go to war on his neighbouring kingdom. The oracle replied that if he went to war, a great kingdom would fall. Croesus interpreted this as being his enemy’s… it turned out to be his own.

But Delphi was not the only site of oracular consultation in ancient Greece. In north western Greece was the oracular site of Dodona, where consultants wrote their questions on small lead tablets, which still survive today. In the deserts of Egypt, at the oasis of Siwah, lay the oracle of Ammon, which Alexander the Great make the journey to visit during his conquests.

And if a long journey wasn’t an option, then the ancient Greeks could consult one of the many ‘chresmologoi’ or ‘manteis’ (‘oracle-sellers’ and ‘seers’) who lived in the cities or travelled with armies, and who promised (for a fee) to translate the will of the gods by reading the signs of animal entrails, the flight of birds, the ripples of water or by using books of prophecy amongst a myriad of other mechanisms.


The Digital Human, Series 13, Episode 6 – Oracle

A Grim And Gruesome History Of Public Shaming …

A Grim And Gruesome History Of Public Shaming In London: Part 1:

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Confirmed criminals were thus clamped in a position of acute and pitiful vulnerability in full view of the jeering mob to whom they proved irresistible targets and who were at liberty — encouraged, even — to chuck whatever they could get their hands on; clumps of earth, rotten eggs, cucumbers, turnips, offal and in their less charitable moments dead cats, paving stones, shards of glass and bricks at the victim’s head. The stakes were high; an unlucky few died in the pillory (around 10 in the course of the 18th century, according to the historian Robert Shoemaker). Aside from sodomites who fared particularly badly, no creature was more despised than false-accusers who, for reward money, swore robberies against innocent parties. John Valler stood the pillory for just that in June 1732 and a pamphlet gleefully described how ‘the mob began to pelt him with cabbage, cauliflowers and artichoke stalks …[then] they pulled down the pillory, by which the skull of this unhappy wretch was fractured’. Still not satisfied, ‘as he lay on the ground, they stamped so hard upon his body that they broke his ribs’. He was dead within the hour. This had not been the authorities’ intention; two members of the crowd were convicted of his murder three months later.

Yet the crowd could be forgiving; sympathetic even, especially when they felt the defendant had been treated unfairly.

A pamphlet gleefully described how ‘the mob began to pelt him with cabbage, cauliflowers and artichoke stalks…

Famously, when Daniel Defoe was pilloried in 1703 after publishing a faux-bigoted rant against religious dissenters (of which he was one) on the orders of the pro-dissenter, irony-deaf whig government, the only thing anyone threw at him was flowers, while the very pamphlet itself was casually sold by his supporters. And in June 1763, the Post Boy reported how the crowd reacted to two elderly men in the New Palace Yard pillory for attempted buggery — ‘their tears, which flowed in great abundance, drew such compassion, that they treated them with the greatest lenity, and some money was collected for them’.

The most interactive and democratic of all of old London’s shaming rituals, audience responses could damage, destroy or save someone’s reputation or, in rare cases, kill them; in 1509, three pilloried offenders are recorded as ‘dying of shame’ — could they have been driven to suicide, like victims of online trolling in extreme cases?

Digital Human, Series 12, Episode 6 – Shame

Listening to shame | Brené Brown Digital …

Listening to shame | Brené Brown

Digital Human, Series 12, Episode 6 – Shame

Lunchtime lecture for you guys, with Aaron Bal…

Lunchtime lecture for you guys, with Aaron Balick on the Psychodynamics of Social Media –  just watch out for the opening music if you’re wearing headphones. Learn from my pain… meep.

Digital Human, Series 12, Episode 6 – Shame

Adaptive and Maladaptive Shame

Adaptive and Maladaptive Shame:

The bottom line is that humans come equipped with the potential to experience shame for good reason. Tempered, situationally-based shame and self-blame can functionally guide us toward humility, foster learning, and be socially sensitive. However, when shame and self-blame are characterological, there is a cancer at one’s core sense of self, perhaps hidden, but eating away in a destructive manner.

Digital Human, Series 12, Episode 6 – Shame

There’s an Evolutionary Reason Humans Develope…

There’s an Evolutionary Reason Humans Developed the Ability to Feel Shame:

In order to be treated well, others in your community had to value you enough to protect you, share food with you, and help take care of your children. If they found out you were diseased, physically weak, stealing stuff, acting sexually out of the mainstream, etc., they might not deem you worthy of their help — they would “devalue” you.

As far as biologists can tell, organisms on this planet have one job: to make more of ourselves before we die. The behaviors that go along with that — finding food, selecting mates, figuring out how to not die today — are all just ways we all support this one biological imperative.

But from there, things get complicated. It’s pretty clear, for instance, why a cheetah would have evolved lightning speed. But why would a panda, who at one point evolved the gut of a carnivore, sit around eating bamboo all day? And it’s fairly obvious how living in cooperative social groups has helped humans claw their way to the top of the pile, but a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looks at why we evolved one human behavior — feeling shame — that, at first glance, seems to do us more harm than than good.

Shame doesn’t make intuitive sense. It causes pain — a feeling usually reserved for helping us avoid damaging our physical body tissue — and often makes us act against our own best interests. Shame is an emotion responsible for the lies we tell, the paranoia and depression we feel, and can sometimes lead to dramatically self-damaging behavior.

But researchers at University of California Santa Barbara claim to have discovered an evolutionary root of human shame, and argue that it’s necessary for the complex navigation required by living in a tight-knit community.

“Our human ancestors in the African savanna lived in a world without nation states, a police force, supermarkets, social security or savings accounts,” says study lead author Dr. Daniel Sznycer, of the UC Santa Barbara’s Center for Evolutionary Psychology. “Because of this, your reputation was even more important 100,000 years ago than it is today.”

Digital Human, Series 12, Episode 6 – Shame

On the Ethics of Online Shaming

On the Ethics of Online Shaming:

Online shaming may also pose a conflict between justice concerns and virtue ethics. We might want to be the kind of people who stand up for ourselves or people we agree with — but do we want to be the kind of people who shame others, meting out (potentially disproportionate) vigilante justice? In fact, sometimes the people who start an online shaming “wave” later regret their actions. Regret, in this case, seems to be a recognition of the fact that their own actions didn’t match up with their values.

Digital Human, Series 12, Episode 6 – Shame

Does shame have a place in the climate fight? …

Does shame have a place in the climate fight? Jennifer Jacquet thinks so:

“For me, guilt is about an internal conversation you have with yourself, about your own moral standards and how you hold yourself to those. Whereas shame, the way I define it, means thinking about what others think about you, or concerning yourself with the way that others think about you.”

“The fundamental way in which guilt has risen in our society is through a very subtle but profound shift in focusing our attention from supply, and the way industries operate, to focusing on the demand side. That puts a lot of so-called decisions in the hands of consumers, individuals. So pesticide use or battery-raised hens or animal cruelty more broadly [or] unfair trade — this is now something that each and every one of us is asked to feel guilty about, because what we buy is contributing.”

“You can arguably shame people who are shameless, in a strange way, as long as you expose them to public opprobrium. Even if they don’t feel shame — and it’s very likely they may not — do they change their behavior in response to the stimuli, even if they don’t feel a certain way?”

Digital Human, Series 12, Episode 6 – Shame