The Intellectual Dark Web

You might say members of the Intellectual Dark Web don't fit in. They might say, "exactly."

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They lie on towels, blankets and mattresses, without wind screens, but under umbrellas.

Deep in thought, they stand up to their knees in the water. Some build sandcastles and collect shells. Others play cards, backgammon, volleyball or badminton. Some are reading. They rub themselves with oils and are damp from the water or bone dry from the sun. The old and middle-aged, young people and children. They nibble on sunflower seeds, slice up watermelon and drink beer. They don't look at each other. They lie beyond a rock, behind a bush or just past the tributary of the river. The other side of some unspoken border.

For now, I just observe them. In order to join them, I have to meet one condition: I must take off my clothes! But I don't have the nerve.

A run-in with nakedness

My tummy's too big and I've got cellulitis and uneven breasts. My swimming costume gives me a sense of security. So I sit on my towel and, from behind the scrawny bushes, I follow the movements of people who don't bother to suntan their clothes. I lie in wait for the first people to leave the naked zone. I still believe I will get away with writing this article fully-clothed.

The first to emerge are two elderly ladies. I pull on my beach tunic and make my way over to them. Poles. Basia and Hanka. Sisters from Warsaw. I've hit the jackpot. We go for a beer.

"But how are you supposed to write about it if you don't know what it's like?" demands Hania, the older one, more as a statement than a question. "It's simply an un-journalistic approach. You have to try it, otherwise it won't be fair."

"It's unlike anything else. It's full-on freedom," adds Basia. "I've been coming regularly to Sozopol in Bulgaria for 10 years. I've got an apartment here. I like it because it's understated. It's mainly Bulgarians that come to our beach. It's quiet and peaceful. Recently, my sister has started coming with me. Our husbands are traditionalists. They don't share our passion. They sit in the café and we're here, the other side of the unspoken border."

But their experience with nudism didn't begin on the Black Sea. Hania saw nudists for the first time on the banks of Lake Balaton in Hungary, and Basia in Sweden. Brought up under the rules of communist Poland's socialist morality, neither of them could get enough of the sight of naked bodies.

"We got to Balaton sometime during the night and I was horribly tired. When I woke up in the morning, I couldn't believe my eyes. Nothing but naked people: fat ones, thin ones, old, young…" recalls Hania.

While Basia reckons her experience in Sweden is one of the funniest.

"I remember the shock. I was sitting by a lake and every so often people in super white swimsuits would jump into the water. And because I'd never seen swimsuits like this, I started looking at them. Well, it turned out that they were naked," she recalls. And after that it just happened. Hanka was living in Sweden, Basia in Canada, and they both understood that there was no need to be ashamed of their own bodies.

"I was surrounded mainly by Protestants," says Hanka. "And they say that God created us in His own image. You are how you are, so just accept it and don't make a fuss. Adam and Eve should be an example to us. And I really like that."

Basia started to appreciate the convenience and the feeling of freedom that you get from being naked.

"I can't sit in a wet swimsuit even for a moment. Straight away I get inflamed ovaries or some other unpleasant ailment. And I want to go into the water often because it's hot. How many swimsuits would I need to take with me? And it goes without saying that taking off that soggy piece of cloth is no fun, because it sticks to the body. And then you have to put on a dry one. And on top of that find a changing room. It's too much work. The whole performance of taking off a wet swimsuit is so unsightly that I don't want to do it."

Moreover, both ladies appreciate the etiquette of the nudist beach: no one stares, nobody makes fun of anyone else, and no one hides behind screens. It's quiet and nobody hassles you.

"Everyone respects each other," says Basia. "A naturist beach is much more civilized than a normal beach. There's no showing off and no public displays of intimacy, which is why there are usually no screens."

"And there's also a rule that we get dressed when we leave the beach," adds Hanka. "You have to respect each other and not cross any lines. Society doesn't accept nudists, so I can't imagine a situation where I'd go stark naked to a restaurant, or even onto a normal beach. That goes for the men as well as the women. When I see a massive, sweaty, sticking out gut in a restaurant it puts me right off my food, and this happens all the time."

I arrange to meet up with the girls the next day. I'm supposed to practice 'nuding' with them. But I'm really not convinced, although I already know that I won't get out of it.

Clothes bore

I am held back by my Catholic family upbringing and a sense of shame, although I know very well that even the ancient Romans had no problem with nudity. I am held back by Chałupy – the mecca of Polish nudists, close to where I was brought up – and the stories of the fines issued to the shameless people there. And the mutiny of the Kaszubian people after Wodecki's hit song brought not just fans of skinny dipping, but also voyeurs with binoculars flocking to the fishing village. And every flavour of pervert too.

But I have no option. It's my job.

The further north one goes, the more the 'hairstyles' of the Black Sea nudists change. It depends which country they come from. So, while in Bulgaria they shave themselves bald, Romania isn't so restrictive and various styles are permitted. Even playful little plaits. Ukraine mixes it up a bit. Sometimes one sees accessories: colourful turbans on the head, bracelets made from shells on wrists or ankles, or long feather earrings. And since Nessebar, my tummy, breasts and the back of my body are less and less pale.

But Rome wasn't built in a day.

Setting aside the health benefits of swimming naked, sunbathing wasn't always trendy. It was generally associated with agricultural work. It was Coco Chanel herself who started the whole fashion for it in 1923 when she skipped off a yacht sporting a golden tan, causing shock and scandal. She surely never imagined that she would launch the trend for the mass rejection of knitted swimming armour.

Beach fashion began to change. Men gave up wearing pantaloons and instead wore vests with swimming trunks, while women went for two-piece costumes. The 1940s saw high-waist knickers and bras from France and, after World War II, the territory occupied by material started to shrink rapidly.

In fashion salons, or rather on the beach, the bikini quietly started to creep in. It was designed by Louis Réard in 1946, but he got slightly ahead of himself because he couldn't find any models for his show. An erotic dancer finally agreed to do it. The bikini caused a furore 10 years later when Brigitte Bardot appeared in one on the French Riviera. And another French star, Simone Silva, was accidentally photographed topless by Robert Mitchum. After that it was a breeze.

\u201cThe Yellow Sands\u201d, 1888, John Reinhard Weguelin

"The Yellow Sands", 1888, John Reinhard Weguelin; source: Wikimedia Commons

Naked revolution

Yet long before anyone knew about beach fashion, naturism was trendy. Bathing naked in the sea was going on in England as early as 1840. However, during the reign of Queen Victoria, this pleasure was outlawed. But it popped up again among the conservative Germans. In 1898, the first Naturist Club was founded in Essen and in 1900 the Wandering Birds group (Wandervögel) was scouring the country for uninhabited places and naked sunbathing. In the same year, Heinrich Pudor wrote The Cult of the Nude, winning the hearts of contemporary supporters of naturism.

In the 1920s, on the back of this, members of the Movement for Natural Healing (Naturheilbewegung) organized naked sunbathing for the improvement of health. Persuaded by Pudor's theory of the healing properties of the sun and wind, which could be absorbed through the skin, they launched the naked revolution.

Pudor's book became the naturists' manifesto and soon after, not far from Hamburg, the Free Body Culture (Freikörperkultur, or FKK) movement was founded. This spread through other German centres and brought together thousands of people. The FKK still operates under the same name today.

The cult of the naked body even wrote itself into the ideology of fascist Germany, which advocated a pure, Aryan race. But in 1933, Hermann Göring issued an order that defined nudity as "the greatest threat to the German soul" and, with that, criminalized naturist organizations. But this wasn't the end of the movement. The naturists went underground, continuing their activities under the guise of improving physical fitness.

In 1936, the idea was even floated of having a naturist display to open the Berlin Olympic Games. It was quickly dropped. Despite this, in 1939 the naturists managed to organize their own Games in the Swiss village of Thielle.

Not only the rotten West

The first state to see a true revolution in behaviour was the Soviet Union. And this was from the very outset of its existence, as it started to destroy the supposedly prudish, bourgeois order.

Homosexuality was decriminalized, mocking the West for not understanding how such behaviour was natural. It became a mecca for free sex, the results of which were eliminated with abortion – the first country to legalize this – and it welcomed naturists.

From 1924, naked people started appearing all around Moscow, decorated with a ribbon bearing the slogan 'Out with shame!' They travelled on the trams, hung out in the parks and wandered the streets. Riding the wave of enthusiasm to build a new society, they threw themselves into eradicating all the values of the old world: family, marriage, tradition. Everything from the past was stuffed into the same box, labelled 'bourgeois relics' and they enthusiastically put into practice their innovative ideology.

The followers of this new group preached that they were descended from apes, and therefore were animals and so had no need of clothes. "We are the children of the sun and the air! We don't need clothes which conceal the beauty of our bodies. Shame is the bourgeois past of the Soviet nation," they pronounced.

And they created the first Soviet nudist beach – just beneath the walls of the Kremlin, on the banks of the Moskva River. People threw off their workers overalls, exposing their pale bodies to the sun and the water. This allowed them a moment's respite from the grey reality, to liberate themselves from routine and also from the unremitting supervision.

But the story of this intense freedom in the Soviet Union is a short one. Within a few years, the People's Commissar of Public Health, Nikolai Semashko, issued an edict banning such practices, justifying it by declaring that society was not ready for this type of change. For the capitalist 'leftovers' of hooliganism and prostitution still persisted. Sadly, not much documentary material remains from that period. At least officially.

In the Black Sea resorts of Crimea and Georgia, however, they still managed to set up nudist beaches.

But the USSR started to fall into a civilizational coma. Men accused of homosexuality were sent to the gulags and their property confiscated. The same happened with abortion. Kissing scenes were cut from films, and prostitution, being a bourgeois relic of course, no longer existed. In 1986, Lyudmila Nikolaevna Ivanova, on the programme TV Space Bridge Leningrad—Boston, announced to the world that: "There is no sex in the Soviet Union!"

So how could there possibly be any talk about nudists? And yet, there was.

"Here in Odessa, there was always a nudist beach," says Marina. "I'm seventy years old and I've been a nudist all my life. Because one is born naked. I don't think I've ever bathed in clothing. The only thing that bothers me slightly is the fact that there are no beach sellers on our beaches. You can't buy any corn on the cob, or samiczek [sunflower seeds – author's note], and not even a cold beer or an ice cream. You have to get dressed and go somewhere. I don't go to Koktebel in Crimea any longer, because it's difficult for Ukrainians to enter the territory. Only Odessa-Mama beach is left. A year ago, my husband persuaded me to try Georgia. But there's no freedom there anymore. I mutinied and refused to go in the water. Scandal."

But it wasn't always like that.

In the mid-1930s, the towns of Gagra in Abkhazia and Batumi in Adjara got permission to open 'medicinal beaches for women'. These were specially fenced off areas for "the conduct of therapeutic and prophylactic procedures including sun and sea bathing under medical supervision." Ladies were treated here for tuberculosis and anaemia, as well as for vitamin D deficiency. Heliotherapy was considered an excellent treatment for ulcers and wounds, and helped encourage the regrowth of broken bones. Similar beaches were available for men, too. They stopped functioning in the early 1990s. The Batumi beach no longer exists, but the Gagra one is still there, although no one looks after it.

And even though today the Black Sea coast abounds with nudist beaches, it is a waste of time to look for one in the South Caucasus.

That said, despite the strict, puritan bans imposed by Big Brother, nudists were able to penetrate the Iron Curtain.

Naked beauties from East Germany

"I was working as an Orbis tourist guide on Sunny Beach [Bulgaria]," recounts Ivan. "Hell, those East German beauties! At that time the Bulgarians didn't sunbathe nude as often as today. Basically, that fashion came from the West. And it was a sight worth seeing. There were separate beaches for women and for men."

In the 1950s, nudism got a new lease of life in the West, and this exotic wind of change also had an effect on the closed-off region of Central and Eastern Europe. Tourists from France and Germany, choosing cheaper holidays on the Baltic Coast, the Black Sea or Lake Balaton, smuggled nudity onto the beaches of the Soviet bloc. There were fines, obviously, but the wave was unstoppable. It was the call of freedom. An absurd game of cat and mouse; uniformed authority against people without underpants.

"In Romania it wasn't so easy. We had a severe regime," says Gabriel, whose family I caught up with on the most famous nudist beach at Vama Veche. "But at night, a few of us would get together and go skinny dipping. Today it's very easy. We do it because we can. There's no great philosophy behind it."

Gabriel is relaxing with his wife, Maria, their seven-year-old daughter, Cristina and their 16-year-old son, Ioan. I watch the family from my towel. First, they play cards, then the brother and sister play with a beach ball, from time to time going to cool off in the sea. When they head off for lunch, I go after them.

It's awkward chatting with naked people. Even when I'm naked myself. It's easier clothed. We go together, but Gabriel is the only one who speaks some English.

"Every year the whole family comes to Vama Veche," he says. "We can't afford to go abroad, but that doesn't matter. It's fantastic here. We've got freedom and joy. There's nothing to be ashamed of. We've known our children since birth and they know us. A body's a body. Everyone's got the same thing. You can only relax on a beach like this because no strangers watch us."

But this staring business didn't always follow the rules. At least not during the socialist era. Young boys on the beach in Chałupy were normally there out of curiosity.

"As a rule, we lay on our stomachs, because when you are eighteen years old, you tend to overreact," says Irek about his holidays on the Baltic coast. "Once we went to look at the East German girls, obviously, and all of a sudden a clothed one comes onto the beach. And she's got no blanket. She comes past us and sits down right on the sand, not far away. First, she takes her knickers off, then her bra. We invite her to join us, because there's three of us and we're happy to share our space. I don't remember now which of us had to move but we went to bathe. She said she couldn't swim and I promised that I'd rescue her if need be. Well, of course she started to drown. I pulled her out of the water and then my friend turned up. 6'3"… So, she goes off on a date with him."

The milicja [Poland's communist-era police – ed. note] went after the nudists, but today, thankfully, they can sunbathe in peace. As long as they are out of the way. The mayor of Jastarnia, Tyberiusz Narkowicz, claims that he has no intention of playing the role of a gendarme in The Troops of St.Tropez and, as long as the nudists don't breach the conventions, they are quite safe.

"We don't have an official nudist beach, but there's a regular spot they use. Everyone knows about it and if they don't want to go there, they don't. Personally, it doesn't bother me. The nudists normally choose secluded spots. They don't go where the beach is full of people."

"When the Iron Curtain fell, rebellion against the authorities, in all its various forms, ceased," says 69-year old Jerzy, who I'm meeting in Odessa. "Then, I thought that nudity was my way of rebelling, but it turned out not to be so. I'm a nudist because I can be, not because I'm rebel. It's got nothing to do with fighting the system, or the milicja any more. Now we're just left with real nudists. But I don't go to the Baltic. The Poles are very intolerant."

This is true. In 2007, the Public Opinion Research Centre (CBOS) conducted a survey among Polish people about their views on nudism and toplessness. Barely 5% of those surveyed are happy with the presence of naked people on the beach, and 96% of them have never tried nude sunbathing.

There are 51 naturist organizations around the world, of which 33 are in Europe. The largest is in Holland. In 2008, the Federation of Polish Naturists was founded. It has 115 members, although they point out that the true number of nudists is much higher.

For the next 11 days, I cast off my embarrassment along with my clothes. Never have I experienced such pleasure from bathing in the sea. What's more, I've never come back from the seaside with such an even tan.

Translated by Annie Krasińska

Reprinted with permission of Przekrój. Read the original article.

  • In 2016, "Harmony", the world's first AI sex robot was designed by a tech firm called Realbotix.
  • According to 2020 survey data, more than one in five Americans (22 percent) say they would consider having sex with a robot. This is an increase from a survey conducted in 2017.
  • Robots (and robotic tech) already play a vital role in speeding up manufacturing, packaging, and processing across various industries.

    From homemade dildos to Harmony, the AI sex robot

    "...amid an economic crisis, with restaurants and retailers closing their doors and larger companies laying off and furloughing employees, the sex tech industry is booming."

    A Bustle article published in April 2020, weeks after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, explored the drastic boost in the sex tech industry. According to the research, Dame Products (a popular sex toy retailer) experienced a 30 percent increase in sales between the months of February to April, and popular sexual wellness brand Unbound reported selling twice as many toys as normal in this period.

    While the new coronavirus was crashing the economy in other ways, the sex tech industry was one of the few that actually saw improvements, likely due to people all over the world being advised, encouraged, and in some instances forced to stay at home.

    Something similar happened in 2008, during the recession: the sex toy industry was one of the only industries at the time that didn't gravely suffer.

    The evolution of sex tech from stone dildos to artificial intelligence.

    The history of sex toys is quite interesting. A 28,000-year-old siltstone dildo was uncovered in Germany in 2005. Luxury bronze dildos have also been found in China that are at least 2,000 years old.

    Aside from various materials being shaped into dildos, there has always been an interest in how to advance sex technology, even before it involved actual technology at all.

    • The 1700s: Steam-powered vibrators (such as the Manipulator).
    • The 1800s—1900s: The invention of the first electric vibrator (the Pulsoson) and "beauty tools" being used for sexual satisfaction (such as the Polar Cub massager)
    • The 1920s—1940s: The introduction of hand-held massagers (the Andis Vibrator) and compact devices (such as the Oster Stim-U-Lax)
    • The 1940s—1960s: Japan introduced the "Cadillac of Vibrators" (The Hitachi Magic Wand), which eventually made it's way to America.
    • 1965: The invention of silicone, which most modern sex toys are made of.
    • The 1980s—1990s: The invention of the rabbit-style vibrator, made more popular with one of the first showings of a sex toy on television ("Sex and the City").
    • The 2000s: Visual porn website Pornhub launched and sex toys became increasingly popular. Erotic literature also became more common and popular, with "50 Shades of Grey" and others like it.
    • The 2010s and beyond: Sex toys and technology start to blend, and the world's first internet-controlled sex toy was launched in 2010 by Lovense.

    In 2016, "Harmony", the world's first AI sex robot was designed by a tech firm called Realbotix.

    human and robot reaching out hands to each other

    From television shows to real-life applications, artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming more and more popular in all areas of human life.

    Credit: Willyam Bradberry on Shutterstock

    In 2020, more than one in five Americans (22 percent) say they would consider having sex with a robot. YouGov conducted a study in February 2020 that compared results from a similar study from 2017.

    According to the results, 6 percent more people in 2020 are comfortable with the idea of having sex with a robot than in 2017.

    YouGov points out that the increase in consideration is particularly significant among American adults between the ages of 18-34 years old. Additionally, how people feel about having sex with a robot has also changed. In 2020, 27 percent of Americans said they would consider it cheating if they had a partner who had sex with a robot during the relationship, compared to the 32 percent reported in 2017.

    "If you had a partner who had sex with a robot, would you consider it cheating?"

    The results from this interesting study also reveal that many people (42 percent) believe having sex with a robot is safer than having sex with a human stranger.

    Robots (and robotic tech) already play a vital role in speeding up manufacturing, packaging, and processing across various industries. From television shows to real-life applications, artificial intelligence is becoming more and more popular in all areas of human life.

    According to YouGov, "a Bloomberg report outlining Amazon's plans for an Alexa-powered robot that follows and helps you around the home may redefine how these machines service humans in the near future."

    On Wednesday 30th May, billionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX company launched its first human passengers into orbit from Florida's Kennedy Space Center, opening a door to the commercialization of space.


    With the National Aeronautics and Space Administration astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, and the SpaceX-manufactured manned orbital rocket, this was the first time that a private firm had carried humans into space orbit. For Musk, it was "a dream come true", as he took a small step towards his ultimate goal: the colonization of Mars. But he is not alone, soon the billionaires Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson will follow suit with their respective commercial space exploration companies, Blue Origin and Virgin Orbit.

    When the erstwhile USSR launched Sputnik into space in 1957, it was the first time that "an earth-born object made by man was launched into the universe." Those were the times of the Cold War and the 'space race', with both the Soviet Union and the United States seeking to gain a technological edge over each other. This space expansionist ideology initiated by the two great powers of the era marked the beginning of what Hannah Arendt called "earth alienation".

    In 1963, soon after the first human expeditions to space and amid NASA's plans to launch the Apollo 11 lunar mission, Hannah Arendt participated in the contest "Symposium on Space", organized by The Great Ideas Today. She was asked whether "Man's conquest of space increased or diminished his stature?" "The Conquest of Space and the Stature of Man" was the essay that she published as a consequence of that contest. It was later included in the second edition of her book Between Past and Future (1961). The essay stemmed from and resonated with the prologue and the latter part of her book The Human Condition (1958). In both of these works, she writes of how science had transformed what it meant to be a human in the modern world. Arendt believed that technology was moving us away from communal participation in society; that it was uprooting the masses as it advanced individualism and execrated interdependence, pushing more and more people into the dungeon of loneliness. Ultimately, in her eyes, science was creating a type of human being who finds satisfaction merely in labour and consumption.

    The essay thus begins with the question of whether man's conquest of space had increased or diminished his stature. The seemingly obvious answer would be that it had increased his stature, but Arendt did not subscribe to this popular notion. To her, if we went to space and began to control the heavens in the sky and the humans on the Earth, then we would simply become another entity; from "subjects" of the Earth we would become "objects" of the Earth, and cease to be the great, dignified human beings we are now. If we began to understand ourselves not as human beings on Earth but cosmically, we would get smaller.

    Arendt believed that science is antithetical to anthropocentrism and humanism, and that it has taken us away from earthly, sensible reason. As she writes in her essay: "It has been the glory of modern science that it has been able to emancipate itself completely from all such humanistic concerns." What we learn from science is a truth that is not apparent in the world of sensory experience and "only by renouncing the explanation of life in the ordinary science" do we get to learn the scientific truth. It teaches us to deeply question our ability to have a common-sense view of the world, in which we can trust our senses.

    Arendt was deeply frustrated by the idea of human departure from Earth into space. In The Human Condition (1958), she writes: "At the same time, we have begun to populate the space surrounding the earth with man-made stars, creating as it were, in the form of satellites, new heavenly bodies, and we hope that in a not very distant future we shall be able to perform what times before us regarded as the greatest, the deepest, and holiest secret of nature, to create or re-create the miracle of life. I use the word 'create' deliberately, to indicate that we are actually doing what all ages before ours thought to be the exclusive prerogative of divine action." Here, she sought to convey that the science used by men to change or manipulate our understanding and improve our world had now reached a breaking point in which universal sciences were remaking our world as artificial on the principles of not only physics but also political and anthropological sciences, which were designed to create a man-made world instead of one created by God.

    The human condition

    Arendt called the Sputnik launch the most important event of the modern era, because it represented the ability of mankind to leave and flee the Earth. This desire to flee the Earth has been central to the human condition for millennia: "The most radical change in the human condition we can imagine would be an emigration of men from the earth to some other planet. Such an event, no longer totally impossible, would imply that man would have to live under man-made conditions, radically different from those the earth offers him."

    At the core of her argument, Arendt suggests that "the earth is the very quintessence of the human condition". If we, humans, were to be uprooted from Earth, it would create an alienation from that same Earth, having its roots in the development of science and technology. The advancement of science into outer space exploration would transform life itself, which was not artificial and yet, for some time now, we had been trying to make artificial. "Great many scientific endeavours have been directed toward making life also 'artificial' toward cutting the last tie through which even man belongs among the children of nature."

    Due to this, man "seems to be possessed by a rebellion against human existence" in wanting to remake everything that is not "good enough". Arendt writes that humanity has a "desire to become immortal", to live longer and faster in a way that would surpass biological processes; from a contemporary perspective, what we might understand as digitizing our bodies. The ultimate goal of this is to find another planet and settle there. But she continues that even if humans migrate from Earth to any other planet, it would still be an artificial one because it would be completely designed and created by humans. There would be no idea of "fate" because humans would be able to control everything. In that way, they would destroy natural processes, and be able to avert every natural thing they disliked. For Arendt, the artificial is not only something that is created by man, but something that is in man's control rather than God's. In living in such an artificial environment, humans would be treated as "objects", having less humanity and distinction; abandoning our earthliness. Arendt terms this the "loss of stature of man".

    Finding the Archimedean point

    Archimedes once said that if he had a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, he would shift the Earth from its position. In The Human Condition, Arendt quotes Kafka: "[Man] found the Archimedean point, but he used it against himself; it seems that he was permitted to find it only under this condition." Science may well have found such a point for us – a point from which we could think ourselves off the Earth to such an extent that we could look at the Earth not as our home but as some mechanical object; such that we could look at it from above by separating ourselves from it and making ourselves not those who are fated to live on Earth, but those who can create a new Earth.

    Arendt further explains this in her essay "The Conquest of Space and the Stature of Man" (1961): "The human brain which supposedly does our thinking is as terrestrial, earthbound, as any other part of the human body. It was precisely by abstracting from these terrestrial conditions, by appealing to a power of imagination and abstraction which would, as it were, lift the human mind out of the gravitational field of the earth and look down upon her from some point in the universe."

    The human brain is indeed earthly, yet science has allowed us to think from the Archimedean point. A point at which we could, in a sense, think from so far outside the Earth that we could remake it and see the Earth simply as something to be understood, not as a home but an "objective reality". If we apply this Archimedean point to ourselves, then our activities appear as no more than overt behaviour and we begin to study ourselves "with the same methods we use to study the behavior of rats."

    Earth alienation

    Arendt mentions that man has two competing parts. On the one hand, he is earthly, i.e. he is born into the world, and deals with fate and fortune, and with those things that are beyond his control. On the other hand, he is an artificer, one who can remake the world as he wills. This ability is the core of human freedom. We are not entirely free to make the world as we will, since it is natural, but we can in some sense make our world. In The Human Condition, Arendt queries what happens when we increasingly acquire the scientific and technological ability to remake not only parts of the world but the entire world; when we can create new planets, when we can clone, grow and design human beings who are made with human intent. What happens to human freedom in such a world?

    Arendt answers that we face something called 'Earth alienation' – flight from the Earth to the universe. Its roots were crystallized when Galileo recorded the first astronomical observations using a telescope. As the weekly publication of the Hannah Arendt Center, Amor Mundi, explains in its editorial essay Human Being in an Inhuman Age: "Earth alienation is experienced when mankind succeeds in making all things on the earth (including the earth and mankind himself) subject to human mastery and control. When all human beings and human events can be made and remade by human invention, we humans will have fulfilled our rebellion against our fateful birth on this planet. In this sense, earth alienation challenges the quintessential human condition of being earthbound."

    The scientific revolution increased our knowledge by giving us information about things we didn't have before. It taught us to distrust our senses and, in doing so, we started to think that universal science was more real than the things we encounter solely with our senses in our immediate world. We realized that we have never encountered reality and "instead of objective qualities, in other words, we find instruments, and instead of nature or the universe – in the words of Heisenberg – man encounters only himself."

    "Expansion is everything"

    The second part of Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism starts off with an epigraph by Cecil Rhodes, an English imperialist who exploited South African slaves and monopolized the diamond business in Africa. Arendt writes: "He had discovered the moving principle of the new imperialist era [that] expansion is everything." Rhodes famously claimed that "I would annex the planets if I could." As Rosa Luxemburg and others have suggested, imperialism is central to capitalism, because capitalists always need a downtrodden class as their subordinates whom they can oppress and exploit to keep capitalism growing – as Rhodes did in South Africa.

    In his essay "The Case Against Mars", Byron Williston, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada, writes: "The simple idea is that expansion is the next step in evolution and that we ought to push it forward." Elon Musk and his fellow billionaires have their intellectual forefather in Cecil Rhodes. They are implementing a new wave of expansion where they do not have to conform to political or economic quandaries. Rhodes only talked about annexing the stars, but Elon Musk is actually realizing it. This new imperialism, which aims to colonize space and the planets, would monopolize its targets even before they are inhabited. Evidently, after having destroyed the Earth's resources to the point where they will make the Earth uninhabitable, the rich will merely move to another planet, leaving the rest of us at the mercy of their destruction.

    If this happens, it will be because the wealthy elite have masqueraded their commercial interests as technological advancement, thereby luring us into dreaming the unimaginable. While such cosmic fantasies are easy to indulge, it is worth heeding Arendt's essay, so that we might avoid a situation of blind belief; where we "failed to think".

    Reprinted with permission of Przekrój. Read the original article.

    • Nobel-Prize-winning Soviet physicist Lev Landau used a scale to rank the best physicists of the 20th century.
    • The physicist based it on their level of contribution to science.
    • The scale was logarithmic, with each level being 10 times more valuable.

      Lev Landau (1908-1968) was one of Soviet Union's best physicists. He made contributions to nuclear theory, quantum field theory, and astrophysics, among others. In 1962, he won a Nobel Prize in Physics for developing the mathematical theory of superfluidity. Landau also wrote an immensely influential textbook on physics, teaching generations of scientists.

      A brilliant mind, Landau liked to classify everything in his life. He ranked people by their intelligence, beauty (he had a penchant for blondes), contributions to science, how they dressed, and even how they talked – often with a healthy dose of sarcasm.

      One of the most famous of Landau's classifications that has been passed down is his ranking of the greatest physicists of the 20th century. Of course, it wouldn't have later physicists, as he died in 1968, but these are arguably the most significant names.

      This scale is logarithmic, meaning people ranked as rank 1 contributed ten times more (according to Landau) than people ranked as class 2, and so forth. In other words, the higher the number, the less valuable the physicist.

      Here's how this scale broke down:

      Rank 0.5 – Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

      Einstein, the creator of the Theory of General Relativity, is in a class of his own. Landau thought he was by far the greatest mind among a very impressive group that redefined modern physics.

      Landau added, however, that if the list was to be expanded to scientists of the previous centuries, Isaac Newton (1643 - 1727), the titan of classical physics, would also join Einstein at first place with 0.5.

      Rank 0.5 – Albert Einstein

      Albert Einstein With Displaced Children From Concentration Camps. 1949.

      Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

      Rank 1 

      The group in this class of the smartest physicists included the top minds that developed the theories of quantum mechanics.

      Werner Heisenberg (1901 - 1976) - a German theoretical physicist, who's achieved pop-culture fame by being the name of Walter White's alter ego in Breaking Bad. He is known for the Heiseinberg Uncertainty Principle and his 1932 Nobel Prize award flatly states it was for nothing less than "the creation of quantum mechanics".

      Erwin Schrödinger (1887 - 1961) - an Austrian-Irish physicist who gave us the infamous "Schroedinger's Cat" thought experiment and other mind-benders from quantum mechanics. The Nobel-prize-winner's Schrödinger equation calculates the wave function of a system and how it changes over time.

      Erwin Schrödinger. 1933.

      Paul Dirac (1902 - 1984) - another quantum mechanics giant, this English theoretical physicist shared the 1933 Nobel Prize with Erwin Schrödinger "for the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory."

      Niels Bohr (1885 - 1962) - a Danish physicist who made founder-level additions to what we know of atomic structure and quantum theory, which led to his 1922 Nobel Prize in Physics.

      Satyendra Nath Bose (1894 - 1974) - an Indian mathematician and physicist, known for his quantum mechanics work. He collaborated with Einstein to develop the Bose-Einstein statistics and the theory of the Bose–Einstein condensate. Boson particles are named after him.

      Satyendra Nath Bose. 1930s.

      Eugene Wigner (1902 - 1995) - a Hungarian-American theoretical physicist who received the 1963 Nobel Prize in Physics for work on the theory of the atomic nucleus and the elementary particles. Famously, he took part in the meeting with Leo Szilard and Albert Einstein that led to them writing a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt which resulted in the creation of the Manhattan Project.

      Louis de Broglie (1892 - 1987) - a French theorist who made key contributions to quantum theory. He proposed the wave nature of electrons, suggesting that all matter has wave properties – an example of the concept of wave-particle duality, central to the theory of quantum mechanics.

      Enrico Fermi (1901 - 1954) - an American physicist who's been called the "architect of the nuclear age" as well as the "architect of the Atomic bomb". He also created the world's first nuclear reactor and won the 1938 Nobel Prize in Physics for work on induced radioactivity and for discovering transuranium elements.

      Enrico Fermi. 1950s.

      Wolfgang Pauli (1900-1958) - an Austrian theoretical theorist, known as one of the pioneers of quantum physics. He won the 1945 Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering a new law of nature – the exclusion principle (aka the Pauli principle) and developing spin theory.

      Max Planck (1858-1947) - a German theoretical physicist who won the 1918 Nobel Prize in Physics for energy quanta. He was the originator of quantum theory, the physics of atomic and subatomic processes.

      Rank 2.5

      Lev Landau. 1962.

      Rank 2.5 is where Landau initially ranked himself, rather modestly, thinking he didn't produce any foundational accomplishments. He later moved his prominence, as his achievement mounted, to the higher 1.5.

      • Anxiety levels are increasing due to the pandemic and political uncertainty right now.
      • Anxiety and depression cost the economy $50 billion in health care costs and lost work every year.
      • These six books cover anxiety's physiology, environmental factors, and potential treatments.

      With just over a month until the next presidential election, November is predicted to be a dark moment in American history. Numerous memes regarding the challenges of 2020 offer a cautious laugh, but it's not enough to stop rising rates of anxiety; one study found that depression rates have tripled during the pandemic as well.

      Knowledge is power. While reading cannot combat unemployment or fix a broken health care system, books offer perspective. As frustrating as this moment is proving to be, humans have endured extreme challenges before. Understanding the mechanics of anxiety—its physiology, environmental factors, and methods for coping—is helpful under any circumstances.

      Mental health issues hurt us individually, and collectively as well: one study found that Americans lose 321 million work days every year due to anxiety and depression, costing the economy $50 billion. We don't want to quantify every metric, yet that type of figure points to a serious problem. With a potential depression coming in 2021, we need to be prepared now.

      Below are six books that address different facets of anxiety. They each offer important reminders that humans are resilient animals with the right training and mindset. Acquiring such knowledge is the first step in managing your anxiety. Perhaps, as some of these works suggest, you can even use it as fuel for transformation.

      You’re Wired for Anxiety. And You’re Wired to Handle It | Anne Marie Albano | Big Think

      Anxious: Using the Brain to Understand and Treat Fear and Anxiety - Joseph Ledoux

      Neuroscientist Joseph Ledoux has written the go-to book for understanding everything about anxiety. How it arises in consciousness, its physiological manifestation, reshaping psychotherapy, environmental stressors—you name it. Ledoux argues that you must treat the outward symptoms and inner causes if you want to holistically address anxiety. He points out that uncertainty about the future (and how to prepare for it) is a common trigger for anxiety disorders, which puts 2020 into perspective.

      "Patients with panic disorder…have a hypersensitive suffocation alarm system, which falsely detects a dangerous level of CO2 and lead to hyperventilation, which in turn produces an actual rise in CO2 (due to short, fast inspiration). The resulting dizziness and light-headedness lead the person to misinterpret the physiological changes and worry and dread follow in the panic-stick person."

      The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good For You, and How to Get Good At It - Kelly McGonigal

      Health psychologist Kelly McGonigal flips the anxiety script on its head in this inspiring and motivational work on the advantages of stress. Anxiety is part of life—we've known that since Freud, and intuitively, long before (Kierkegaard had a few things to say as well). What if you can reframe that physiological energy and use it as a catalyst for action? McGonigal offers plenty of ways you can do just that.

      "One of the effects of the biological stress response is to make you more open to your experience. You feel things more, and your ability to notice expands. You are more sensitive to other people and to your environment."

      My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind - Scott Stossel

      Scott Stossel, a longtime editor of The Atlantic, has suffered from crippling anxiety for years. This half-memoir, half-exposé offers a compassionate gaze into the personal and societal complications of anxiety. Stossel investigates the many attempts at therapy, from the common to the outlandish. Most importantly, he offers real-world advice for controlling and managing symptoms.

      "Conscientious people who were highly neurotic tended to be more reflective, more goal oriented, more organized, and better at planning than average; they tended to be effective, 'high-functioning' workers—and to be better at taking care of their physical health than other workers."

      person running on waterfall

      Credit: Lightspring / Shutterstock

      The Trauma of Everyday Life - Mark Epstein

      In this beautiful handbook for life, psychiatrist Mark Epstein puts Buddhism into action. He claims humans are all traumatized in some capacity, which creates lasting and often subconscious anxiety. Epstein uses the vast toolkit of Buddhist philosophy to reengineer trauma as a catalyst for transformation. The first step is not only striving for what is good and pleasant. You have to face trauma head-on. If you do, Epstein assures us, the world is yours.

      "The key, taught the Buddha, lies in not taking trauma personally. When it is seen as a natural reflection of the chaotic universe of which we are a part, it loses its edge and can become a deeper object of mindfulness."

      How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain - Lisa Feldman Barrett

      We don't react to situations, writes psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett. Rather, we constantly create our reality. It only feels like reacting because of how deeply our patterns are imprinted. Fortunately, patterns are malleable. In this spellbinding book about the nature of emotions and human consciousness, Barrett leads the reader through the historical construction of emotions, assuring you that you don't need to be the victim of your mind. You are the author of your experiences.

      "[Emotions] are not triggered; you create them. They emerge as a combination of the physical properties of your body, a flexible brain that wires itself to whatever environment it develops in, and your culture and upbringing, which provide that environment."

      Wayfinding: The Science and Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World - M.R. O'Connor

      There's something beautiful about getting lost. Not only does it make you notice your surroundings, it activates parts of your brain that remain silent when you default to using Waze for navigation. Science writer Maura O'Connor's exquisite book reminds us of what we've lost in an automated world and the anxiety this "ease" adds to our lives. Of course, she also offers solutions that keep you mentally engaged and emotionally healthy.

      "Mapping is an act of committing to memory the experience of bodily movement and reenacting it. It's a kind of performance, like telling a story."

      --

      Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter, Facebook and Substack. His next book is "Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."

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