Classical liberalism and three of its founders: explained

Most people seem to enjoy liberalism and its spin offs, but what is it exactly? Where did the idea come from?

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  • Liberalism, for all its influence, is only a few hundred years old.
  • Many great philosophers formulated the ideology, but their arugments often don't make it into popular discourse.
  • While classical liberalism endures, modern liberalism dominates current political discussions.
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When does an idea die? Plato and string theory clash with data

How long should one wait until an idea like string theory, seductive as it may be, is deemed unrealistic?

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  • How far should we defend an idea in the face of contrarian evidence?
  • Who decides when it's time to abandon an idea and deem it wrong?
  • Science carries within it its seeds from ancient Greece, including certain prejudices of how reality should or shouldn't be.
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‘A Glitch in the Matrix’ documentary explores the dark side of simulation theory

What happens when simulation theory becomes more than a fascinating thought experiment?

Credit: A Glitch in the Matrix / Rodney Ascher
  • Simulation theory proposes that our world is likely a simulation created by beings with super-powerful computers.
  • In "A Glitch in the Matrix," filmmaker Rodney Ascher explores the philosophy behind simulation theory, and interviews a handful of people who believe the world is a simulation.
  • "A Glitch in the Matrix" premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and is now available to stream online.
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Can cats teach us the meaning of life?

And if they could, would they care, asks philosopher John Gray in his new book.

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  • In "Feline Philosophy," philosopher John Gray argues that self-awareness isn't the epitome of evolution—and it leads to suffering.
  • Gray investigates Pascal, Spinoza, and Lao Tzu to understand why humans are so uncomfortable with themselves.
  • Whether or not humans aspire to become like cats, Gray says nature teaches us the lessons felines inherently know.
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How sci-fi helps humanity avoid species-level mistakes

Technology of the future is shaped by the questions we ask and the ethical decisions we make today.

  • Robots (from the Czech word for laborer) began appearing in science fiction in the early 1900s as metaphors for real world ideas and issues surrounding class struggles, labor, and intelligence. Author Ken MacLeod says that the idea that robots would one day rebel was baked into the narrative from the start. As technologies have advanced, so too have our fears.
  • "Science fiction can help us to look at the social consequences, to understand the technologies that are beginning to change our lives," says MacLeod. He argues that while robots in science fiction are a reflection of humanity, they have little to do with our actual machines and are "very little help at all in understanding what the real problems and the real opportunities actually are."
  • AI has made the threat of "autonomous killer robots" much more of a possibility today than when Asimov wrote his three laws, but it's the decisions we make now that will determine the future. "None of these developments are inevitable," says MacLeod. "They're all the consequences of human actions, and we can always step back and say, 'Do we really want to do this?'"

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