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Big Think Sits Down With Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky, longtime chronicler of the gap between political bombast and legislative boorishness, recently sat down with Big Think to discuss a variety of issues, from his thoughts on Obama, to linguistics, taxes, protesting, love, and the beauty of the “people whose names you’ll never hear.”

When asked to evaluate Obama’s leadership thus far, Chomsky, an avowed anarchist by the age of 12, was unimpressed with any of the president’s current accomplishments. For Chomsky, Obama’s main virtues are in a negative sense—as he has “retracted” some of the more “extreme Bush positions” on issues like nuclear policy or imposed conditions for Cuba . Obama, Chomsky, says, has proven to be exactly what the linguist had imaged always thought he was, not a beacon of change, but a “familiar center democrat.”

Chomsky also leveled against the president’s treatments of the American workforce and the energy crisis, namely his avoidance of the most necessary and efficacious way to solve the crisis—to actually harness the power of the American workforce as we did during WWII to construct high-speed transit. Currently, “the government and the corporate sector, [are] dismantling the sector of the industrial apparatus, that could very well produce high-speed transit. The automobile industry could be re-tooled for high-speed transit. Much more radical steps have been taken.

After discussing the great unknowables of language, Chomsky, whose wife of 59 years passed away last December, weighed in on the concept of love, describing its “unbreakable grip,” and the hard fact that “life is empty without it.”


Hints of the 4th dimension have been detected by physicists

What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?

Two different experiments show hints of a 4th spatial dimension. Credit: Zilberberg Group / ETH Zürich
Technology & Innovation

Physicists have understood at least theoretically, that there may be higher dimensions, besides our normal three. The first clue came in 1905 when Einstein developed his theory of special relativity. Of course, by dimensions we’re talking about length, width, and height. Generally speaking, when we talk about a fourth dimension, it’s considered space-time. But here, physicists mean a spatial dimension beyond the normal three, not a parallel universe, as such dimensions are mistaken for in popular sci-fi shows.

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Does conscious AI deserve rights?

If machines develop consciousness, or if we manage to give it to them, the human-robot dynamic will forever be different.

  • Does AI—and, more specifically, conscious AI—deserve moral rights? In this thought exploration, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, ethics and tech professor Joanna Bryson, philosopher and cognitive scientist Susan Schneider, physicist Max Tegmark, philosopher Peter Singer, and bioethicist Glenn Cohen all weigh in on the question of AI rights.
  • Given the grave tragedy of slavery throughout human history, philosophers and technologists must answer this question ahead of technological development to avoid humanity creating a slave class of conscious beings.
  • One potential safeguard against that? Regulation. Once we define the context in which AI requires rights, the simplest solution may be to not build that thing.

A new hydrogel might be strong enough for knee replacements

Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.

Lee Jae-Sung of Korea Republic lies on the pitch holding his knee during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group F match between Korea Republic and Germany at Kazan Arena on June 27, 2018 in Kazan, Russia.

Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • Duke University researchers created a hydrogel that appears to be as strong and flexible as human cartilage.
  • The blend of three polymers provides enough flexibility and durability to mimic the knee.
  • The next step is to test this hydrogel in sheep; human use can take at least three years.
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Technology & Innovation

Predicting PTSD symptoms becomes possible with a new test

An algorithm may allow doctors to assess PTSD candidates for early intervention after traumatic ER visits.

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