Is "Hipster" Pejorative?
Jonathan Lethem is a novelist and essayist known for his genre-bending work that draws on science fiction and detective fiction. He was born in 1964 to an artist father and an activist mother, who moved their family into Brooklyn before it was fashionable. His mother, Judith Lethem, died of cancer when he was 13, an experience which Letham says has haunted him and his writing ever since. In high school, Jonathan followed in his father's footsteps, attending the alternative High School of Music & Art in New York. He matriculated at Bennington College in Vermont before dropping out in his sophomore year to move to California and pursue writing.
Lethem's first novel "Gun, With Occasional Music," a sci-fi/hard-boiled detective hybrid met with enthusiastic reviews and was a finalist for the 1994 Nebula Award. His fifth novel, "Motherless Brooklyn," won a National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 1999, and 2003's "The Fortress of Solitude" was listed as one of The New York Times's editor's choice books from that year. His most recent novel is "Chronic City," which is set in a surreal version of Manhattan's Upper East Side.
In 2010, Lethem was hired as the Roy Edward Disney '51 Chair of Creative Writing at Pomona College, a position formerly held by the late novelist David Foster Wallace.
Question: Are hipsters ruining Brooklyn?
Jonathan Lethem: Well you know I’m really strangely tone-deaf about certain things, just as I think in the '50s the word "beatnik" was made up to try to put something obnoxious or pretentious in its place and then there were people who came along, the Maynard G. Krebses of the world who were like "Hey I’m a beatnik" and they, just almost in a kind of idiot savant way they made it a good thing to be a beatnik because they liked to be one.
It took me a little while to understand how much nastiness people generally intended when they used the word hipster. It just sounds sort of attractive to me, a hipster. I thought yeah, I guess that is sort of my culture. Those are my people and I was just about able to go on thinking that it was a perfectly nice thing to be until someone pointed out to me or it finally sank in that it was meant contemptuously and I really I’m not sure I accept the premise that I think it’s a self-loathing term and I’ve come to be very alert to this self-loathing propensity that surrounds certain kinds of cultures of what are essentially connoisseurship, generational affiliation.
Recorded on September 25, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller
Jonathan Letham used to think he was a hipster—until he realized the amount of nastiness people intended when they used that word.
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- Neuroscientists use mini-brains to conduct research and experiments that help them learn about the brain.
- As scientists generate increasingly complex mini-brains, however, some are concerned they might be experiencing pain.
The results have startling implications about the evolution of psychopathy in humans.
- The researchers asked about 50 male university students to participate in a mock dating scenario.
- Men with more psychopathic traits were seen as significantly more desirable by women who watched videos of the encounters.
- Psychopathic traits may help men to mimic the qualities women are looking for, but it's a short-term strategy that comes at a cost.
A review of the multifaceted questions we'll ask to determine whether robots have a felt quality of experience — an "inner feel."
- The reason we entertain thought experiments such as reincarnation and an afterlife is because we're sentient beings. These concepts are innate to our experiences as conscious human beings.
- The ACT test probes A.I. to examines whether it can grasp these questions — i.e., the mind existing separately from the body, or the system without the computer. If so, then there's reason to believe it's a conscious being.
- For machines to develop consciousness, they will need to have the right architectural features. For instance, for humans we possess a working memory, attention, and brain stems — all of which serve as the neural basis of our conscious experience. If there is a machine analog to these things, then it may suggest that the machines are conscious as well.