The News About the Universe Isn't Good
Peter Lawler is Dana Professor of Government and former chair of the department of Government and International Studies at Berry College. He serves as executive editor of the journal Perspectives on Political Science, and has been chair of the politics and literature section of the American Political Science Association. He also served on the editorial board of the new bilingual critical edition of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, and serves on the editorial boards of several journals. He has written or edited fifteen books and over 200 articles and chapters in a wide variety of venues. He was the 2007 winner of the Weaver Prize in Scholarly Letters.\r\n\r\nLawler served on President Bush's Council on Bioethics from 2004 – 09. His most recent book, Modern and American Dignity, is available from ISI Books.\r\n\r\nFollow him on Twitter @peteralawler.
Let me remind you of why I think all the Singularity talk about making what used to be called personal immortality possible by turning each of us into conscious machines is ridiculous. We could only become immortal--or like the gods--by using our capacity for techno-control to impose our domination everywhere in the universe--aka cosmos. Chance and necessity would have to be completely replaced by our rational control. The laws of nature would have to be replaced by our laws--by our real autonomy.
That total control, I think, is the only way philosophy--or the pursuit of wisdom--could be replaced by wisdom, and that is the only we human beings--we members of a mere species--could become gods. That control is the only way we could know for sure that there are no gods but us.
But until we get that kind of control, the news about universe is getting worse: A new scientific study shows that, left to its own natural devices (so to speak), it is quite likely the universe will collapse. Our author shows more than a bit of wit in his summary of the implications: “To say that this would have disastrous consequences would be a gross understatement. Owing to tremendous gravitational forces, everything within the Universe would be squeezed into a tiny, hot, and heavy ball. For all practical purposes, it would be the end of the Universe.” The disastrous consequences, of course, aren’t for the universe; nobody, least of all the universe, cares about that. The big squeeze would be the end of every one of the members of our species--even those who have morphed into being conscious machines or whatever.
That big squeeze could happen at any time. It might be happening right now. According to Jens Frederik Colding Krog, co-author of the study in the top physics journal: "Maybe the collapse has already started somewhere in the universe and right now it is eating its way into the rest of the universe. Maybe a collapse is starting right now, right here. Or maybe it will start far away from here in a billion years. We do not know."
I’m sorry to have given you one more thing to worry about. Well, there’s also a simmering mega-volcano under Yellowstone Park that could wipe out all life on our continent at any time. Maybe I’ll talk about that next time. To think there are people who worry about “climate change” caused by the techno-efforts of our species. We can handle that in our quest to gain total control over the universe indifferent to our existence--the universe that is no fit home for you and me.
Or we might just explore ways of living well with the contingency and the mortality that are ineradicable features of self-conscious natural life.
Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In their findings the authors state:
to stop attempted speeches — raise issues of just how committed college students are to
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Most college students do not condone more aggressive actions to squelch speech, like
violence and shouting down speakers, although there are some who do. However, students
do support many policies or actions that place limits on speech, including free speech zones,
speech codes and campus prohibitions on hate speech, suggesting that their commitment
to free speech has limits. As one example, barely a majority think handing out literature on
controversial issues is "always acceptable."
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
A study on flies may hold the key to future addiction treatments.
- A new study suggests that drinking alcohol can affect how memories are stored away as good or bad.
- This may have drastic implications for how addiction is caused and how people recall intoxication.
- The findings may one day lead to a new form of treatment for those suffering from addiction.
A new AI-produced commercial from Lexus shows how AI might be particularly suited for the advertising industry.
- The commercial was written by IBM's Watson. It was acted and directed by humans.
- Lexus says humans played a minimal part in influencing Watson, in terms of the writing.
- Advertising, with its clearly defined goals and troves of data, seems like one creative field in which AI would prove particularly useful.
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