Tesla’s new ‘mind of car’ UI signals a future we’re not prepared for – UX Collective As far as we’re concerned, everything we need to know and understand about empathy extends only towards sentient life — from stepping inside the shoes of real people we look to understand their needs, goals, pain points and desires. However, that’s beginning to change. In the same way we’ve seen in the example above, we have to stomach the idea of extending that same patience, understanding and empathy towards an AI system. Does it sound crazy? A little bit, yes. But, like a child, a new AI system learns through trial and error in an effort to reach a mature understanding to discern what is right and wrong.
A dog’s inner life: what a robot pet taught me about consciousness – The Guardian I spent the afternoon reading the instruction booklet while Aibo wandered around the apartment, occasionally circling back and urging me to play. He came with a pink ball that he nosed around the living room, and when I threw it, he would run to retrieve it. Aibo had sensors all over his body, so he knew when he was being petted, plus cameras that helped him learn and navigate the layout of the apartment, and microphones that let him hear voice commands. This sensory input was then processed by facial recognition software and deep-learning algorithms that allowed the dog to interpret vocal commands, differentiate between members of the household, and adapt to the temperament of its owners. According to the product website, all of this meant that the dog had “real emotions and instinct” – a claim that was apparently too ontologically thorny to have flagged the censure of the Federal Trade Commission.
Here’s something I wasn’t expecting to be reading about this week — the search for meteorites at the South Pole.
Polar Light, by Barry Lopez – Harper’s Magazine These field quarters are a National Science Foundation (NSF) deep-remote cold camp, in the Transantarctic Mountains, 220 miles from the South Pole. We’re encamped near the base of Graves Nunataks, an isolated set of mountain peaks standing proud of a massive ice sheet. (“Nunatak” is an Iñupiaq word, imported from the Northern Hemisphere, describing rock exposed above an ice sheet.) Except for our cookstoves we have no source of heat, and the four men and two women in our party have been here for nearly two weeks. Our camp is at the edge of the Polar Plateau that forms Antarctica’s vast interior, an ice cap four times the size of Greenland, a region of the world I have been chronicling for the past thirty years. On this frigid summer day in mid-January, 1999, the six of us are many hundreds of miles from any other human, except for those at the South Pole.
Once taken in hand and placed under a microscope each meteorite is revelatory. The overwhelming majority of them come from the asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter, and are so distinctive, one from the other, that scientists have been able to create a kind of geography of the asteroid belt, a geologic map that allows them to push deeper into our still hazy understanding of how the solar system evolved. In short, every meteorite represents an important contribution to the unraveling of the mystery of Earth’s origin. Therefore, though the six of us will find only 186 meteorites, our weather-compromised effort will still be viewed as successful.
But it was this image from the article that I first saw on the TYWKIWDBI blog that caught my eye, as it reminded me of that looping mathsy animation I found earlier. It’s a multiple-exposure photograph showing the sun orbiting the South Pole one afternoon, through the night and into the next morning — a midnight sun.
Time doesn’t stand still, even at the South Pole. Towards the end of their expidition, the scientists ponder the shift to the more quantative, less hands-on approach they’ve noticed over the years.
Back in McMurdo we’ve both witnessed changes as the hallways of the old science building, perennially crowded with camping gear, have given way to the antiseptically tidy and brightly lit hallways of the Crary Science and Engineering Center. The corridors of the building buzz with the ceaseless clicking of keyboards, a kind of white noise, accompanied by the electronic beeps that signal a task has been completed or information is now awaiting retrieval. The numerical results of a theoretical approach, of someone’s plumbing the nimbus of numbers surrounding a little-understood event, are both esoteric and arcane; and the speed with which they’re produced, and the sheer volume of them, is intimidating. The process suggests that knowledge has been obtained, but in fact there is not much more here than staggering specificity and a quantity of numbers significant enough to support statistical probability. Massive data sets, for some, represent irrefutable truth, or insights that transcend previously established boundaries, but the data might be no more than intensely self-referential. Impressive but unconvincing.
The belief that one can reach a state of certainty, about anything, acts as a goad for those who regard the anomalies that inevitably turn up in their data not as a caution but as an inconvenience.
“I had a theology professor once,” I say to John, “who told us that religion was not about being certain but about living with uncertainty. It was about being comfortable with doubt, and maintaining the continuity of one’s reverence for a profound mystery.”
I’m not sure John hears me. He is reclined on his sleeping bag with only his lower legs visible to me past a pile of gear. Perhaps he’s fallen asleep. It’s been a long day.
“We gain deeper knowledge,” he finally responds. “But no guarantee that we’re any closer to wisdom.”
Antarctica is certainly a remarkable place. It’s strange to think that we knew more about the far reaches of the solar system than the bottom of our own planet. Perhaps you fancy a trip there yourself? Noproblem — if you have a spare $50,000 or so. Best be quick, though.
Miles of ice collapsing into the sea – The New York Times The acceleration is making some scientists fear that Antarctica’s ice sheet may have entered the early stages of an unstoppable disintegration. Because the collapse of vulnerable parts of the ice sheet could raise the sea level dramatically, the continued existence of the world’s great coastal cities — Miami, New York, Shanghai and many more — is tied to Antarctica’s fate.
Via It’s Nice That (and slightly reminiscent of Stine Deja’s work), lessons from a world-renowned performance artist on how to develop your powers of attention.
The Abramović Method – WeTransfer’s digital experience My name is Marina Abramović and I am a performance artist. To be a performance artist, it’s a very difficult task. You need lots of preparation in order to make long durational performance work. So I developed different exercises to help myself for generating big willpower and concentration, crossing physical and mental limits. Later on, I understood these exercises can serve not just me but anybody else in any profession in the world. So I turned these exercises into something I call The Abramović Method.
But then again…
Sometimes, paying attention means we see the world less clearly – Psyche Ideas Taken as a whole, these results suggest that, sometimes, attention can mislead us about the world. This is not to say that attention always distorts our knowledge of the world, but it does suggest that it might not be the unproblematic guide to knowledge that we originally thought. In order to unravel the complex link between attention and knowledge, we might need to change the way we think about both of these faculties.
Hot on the heels of that Second Life/digital identity documentary I shared earlier is news of another documentary exploring virtual themes, but of a very different kind. Have you heard of simulation theory? It’s like Second Life, but instead of being outside looking in, we’re on the inside wanting to look out.
Are we all living in the Matrix? Behind a documentary on simulation theory – The Guardian Coincidences we accept as quirks of chance are just imperfections in the system we’ve been plugged in to, whatever shape it might take. We could be brains in a vat, receiving electrical stimuli through wires manipulated by scientists, or perhaps we’re nothing more than bytes of data on some intelligent being’s hard drive. Plato posited that we could be shackled in a cave, mistaking the shadows on the wall for the things casting them. From VR video games to pop culture, any number of metaphors speak to the core concept of a dimension that can be seen through by those who know how to look. In the case of the more adventurous psychonauts accepting these figurative ideas as literal fact, some even attempt to control the illusion.
What is Simulation Theory? Do we live in a simulation? – Built In New York University philosophy professor David Chalmers has described the being responsible for this hyper-realistic simulation we may or may not be in as a “programmer in the next universe up,” perhaps one we mortals might consider a god of some sort — though not necessarily in the traditional sense. “[H]e or she may just be a teenager,” Chalmers said, “hacking on a computer and running five universes in the background… But it might be someone who is nonetheless omniscient, all-knowing and all-powerful about our world.”
Yes, as conspiracy theories go, it’s pretty out there. But think of it as just another whacky creation myth. I mean, do you really understand superstring theory and quantum entanglement? Nah, me neither.
Today marks a year of Covid-19 – Kottke According to an unpublicized report by the Chinese government, the first documented case of Covid-19 was a 55-year-old person living in Hubei province on November 17, 2019. That makes today the first anniversary of the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A year later, and 1,340,000 people have died. That might not be enough for some, though.
Hartmann was convinced this was the purpose of creation: that our universe exists in order to evolve beings compassionate and clever enough to decide to abolish existence itself. He imagined this final moment as a shockwave of deadly euthanasia rippling outwards from Earth, blotting out the “existence of this cosmos” until “all its world-lenses and nebulae have been abolished”.
This time last year the Action for Happiness people were encouraging us to be optimistic. Well, they’re at it again — a positive attitude is needed now more than ever!
Optimistic October – Action for Happiness Life is far from perfect, but there are lots of reasons for optimism. Setting positive goals for the future gives our lives a sense of direction and purpose. And although we face many challenges there are also lots of reasons to stay hopeful. By consciously choosing our priorities we can overcome issues, make progress and focus on what really matters.
About 40 universities report coronavirus cases – BBC News Health minister Helen Whately said “it must be really tough” for students, but they wanted outbreaks “under control”. Universities were working hard to be able to resume some face-to-face learning, the health minister said. But some students have questioned why they were told to leave home when most teaching is being done remotely.
Students ‘scared and confused’ as halls lock down – BBC News Up to 1,700 students at Manchester Metropolitan University and hundreds at other institutions, including in Edinburgh and Glasgow, are self-isolating following Covid-19 outbreaks. In Manchester, students are being prevented from leaving by security.
It’s difficult dealing with all this uncertainty, but perhaps I just need to re-think things?
The value of uncertainty – Aeon Understanding our own relationship with uncertainty has never been more important, for we live in unusually challenging times. Climate change, COVID-19 and the new order of surveillance capitalism make it feel as if we are entering a new age of global volatility. Where once for many in the West there were just pockets of instability (deep unpredictability) in a sea of reliability – albeit sometimes in disagreeable structures and expectations – it lately seems as if there are just pockets of stability in a swirling sea of hard-to-master change.
One certainty I’m still clinging to is that everything will be OK in the end. If it’s not OK yet, it just means we’re not yet at the end. I was happy to jump to the end of this roundup of expert opinion on how the next year may unravel unfurl.
“Online art school is not art school”: The future of creative higher education in the age of Covid-19 – It’s Nice That Amid much controversy, institutions began digitising all interactions and creative output months ago as part of their emergency response to the global crisis. Aside from the exam results fiasco of last month, students and tutors alike have been told to embrace the “new normal” this coming term, even if their creative futures depend on it. We’ve seen an uproar from students around the world questioning how teachers are able to measure creativity through a screen. It begs the question: if online learning proves to be successful, what does that mean for the future of creative higher education?
Ed-tech mania is back – The Chronicle of Higher Education [The] problem for today’s charismatic technologists is that the types of disruption they envisioned haven’t happened. MOOCs, adaptive tutors, chatbots, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, learning analytics, and other recent innovations have played very minor roles in higher ed’s crisis pivot to online learning. Instead, the pandemic has seen us embrace two dominant technologies. The first is the learning-management system — a place to distribute and collect resources online. Learning-management systems were theorized in the ‘60s and ‘70s, commercialized in the ‘90s, and made open source in the ‘00s. The other major technology we’ve embraced is similarly old school: it was called “videotelephony” when it debuted in the 1930s, and it has gradually morphed into today’s videoconferencing. Faculty members have simply turned from the classroom lectern to their home-office webcam without the assistance of chatbots or AI tutors.
Seth argues that it’s not just that our perceptions provide flawed accounts of the outside world, but that our brains aren’t in the business of recovering the outside world to begin with. So it’s more accurate to think of our conscious experience as a series of predictions that we’re incessantly and subconsciously fine-tuning – a world we build from the inside out, rather than the outside in.
And here, with plenty of visual illusions to illustrate the point, is another take on the same issue.
If we relied solely on this outdated information, though, we wouldn’t be able to hit baseballs with bats, or swat annoying flies away from our faces. We’d be less coordinated, and possibly get hurt more often.
So the brain predicts the path of motion before it happens. It tells us a story about where the object is heading, and this story becomes our reality. […]
In Hantman’s view, what we experience as consciousness is primarily the prediction, not the real-time feed. The actual sensory information, he explains, just serves as error correction. “If you were always using sensory information, errors would accumulate in ways that would lead to quite catastrophic effects on your motor control,” Hantman says. Our brains like to predict as much as possible, then use our senses to course-correct when the predictions go wrong.
Going a little crazy stuck indoors? Get some advice from the experts.
How Mandela stayed fit: from his ‘matchbox’ Soweto home to a prison cell – The Conversation
He’d begin with running on the spot for 45 minutes, followed by 100 fingertip push-ups, 200 sit-ups, 50 deep knee-bends and calisthenic exercises learnt from his gym training (in those days, and even today, this would include star jumps and ‘burpees’ – where you start upright, move down into a squat position, kick your feet back, return to squat and stand up). Mandela would do this Mondays to Thursdays, and then rest for three days. This continued even during his several spells in solitary confinement.
Jacob Solome survived the Holocaust by hiding in a small basement for two years with up to 15 others.
My cousin Jack survived the unimaginable. Here’s his advice for right now. – The Cut
This is my philosophy, and so far it has helped. Because I compare myself to other people who worry all the time, and always when you see them, they are telling you about their tsuris and their problems. Some people are optimistic, but some people are more pessimistic. I am in the first category. Really, that’s the nature of a person. I’m always thinking how worse it was when we were under the German occupation, where every minute, our lives were at risk; literally, being in the ghetto and being in hiding. So if I was able to live through that, what the heck is coronavirus?
And from The Economist, advice from a former hostage, a writer with chronic fatigue and an astronaut.
Stories of an extraordinary world – Notes on isolation, from those who know it well – The Economist
When I was in space, Mission Control scheduled my days to the minute. Every evening the information they sent would come out like a fax machine, a long thin bit of paper telling me exactly what time I should get up, when I should eat, what experiments I should do and when. I didn’t mind – it was efficient – but I did get comfort from the small things that I could control, like what juice I drank and the time after dinner when I really could do whatever I wanted. Now my days are restricted like everyone else – my speaking engagements have been cancelled and my work for Imperial College London is moving online – but I still take pleasure in the small things; deciding my morning run and what path I take. I remember that lesson from space, letting go of what you can’t control and focusing on what you can. We have all been told to stay at home – but we can still decide how we use our time.
TLS reviews a number of recent books on our best friends.
The ways of dog to Mann: Various responses to canine companions – TLS
For several of the contributors, the most prominent thread that runs through the book is love – both the love dogs have for people and the love that people return. Our love of dogs is in part a response to their happiness but also, as the legendary French actor and animal welfare activist Brigitte Bardot observes, to their wanting us to be happy. Our love, in effect, responds to their love. “Response”, perhaps, is not the ideal word. Certainly, love for a dog need not be an unconsidered, mechanical reaction to their affection. As Monty Don pointed out in his book on his golden retriever Nigel, a dog is an “opportunity” for a person to develop, shape and manifest love for a being that is not going to reject or betray this love. […]
For other contributors, admiration stems less from canine virtue than canine wisdom – what, in other words, do dogs teach us? Alice Walker learns from the ease with which Marley bounces back after a telling-off that, when we behave badly, it is “because we are temporarily not ourselves”. Several other writers express admiration for the dog’s ability to “live in the moment”.
That reminded me of that line by Iris Murdoch about paying attention, to watch “as a dog watches”. The review continues:
This is an element perhaps in the wisdom that Mark Alizart attributes to dogs in Dogs: A philosophical guide to our best friends. It is an ability, identified by Stoics, Buddhists and Spinozans alike, of “accommodating oneself, with simplicity and gratitude, to what life has to offer”. “The dog is joyous because it made man”, he concludes, and since “the human descends from the dog”, its joy is like that which parents take in their offspring. Alizart makes no attempt to elaborate, or even to state in less paradoxical terms, what I take to be the familiar truth behind this rhetoric: namely, that dogs played a significant role in the origins and development of human society. Indeed, the book is certainly not the guide to understanding our best friend that its sub-title promises.
Here’s a look at a new photography book from Martin Usborne, The Silence of Dogs in Cars. They’re not the only ones who can feel a little sad and dejected sometimes.
Martin Usborne’s heartbreaking photos of dogs in cars speak to humans’ fear of abandonment – It’s Nice That
Featuring rejected, lonely and expectant pups, often meeting the lens of the camera with unbearable sadness, the series extrapolates from his very personal experience while commenting on the way humans treat voiceless animals more widely. “The dog in the car is a metaphor, I suppose, not just for the way that animals (domestic and wild) are so often silenced and controlled by humans but for the way that we so often silence and control the darker parts of ourselves: the fear, the loneliness that we all feel at times,” Martin explains.
It’s described as a new book, but this 2013 article from The Independent suggests otherwise. Not that it matters. Perhaps just a new edition.
The silence of dogs in cars – The Independent
Usborne didn’t frequent supermarket car parks in order to photograph dogs left in cars. He set everything up in a studio with careful planning. He says he even chose cars which “matched the dog”, for maximum impact.
“The camera is the perfect tool for capturing a sense of silence and longing,” Usborne says. “The silence freezes the shutter forever and two layers of glass are placed between the viewer and the viewed: the glass of the lens, the glass of the picture frame and, in this instance, the glass of the car window further isolates the animal. The dog is truly trapped.”
Yesterday’s post from Jeremy in Hong Kong was about William Irvine’s A Guide to the Good Life, a book that shows how ancient Stoic philosophy is still relevant and needed today. And yesterday’s Wintergatan Wednesday video also included a review of William Irvine’s book, coincidentally.
Intrigued, I knew I had this book on my Kindle somewhere, so I thought I should re-read it and maybe blog a review of this book myself.
The doorbell rings. I think: this can’t be good. Then I think: stop that. The man at the door has a package for me. My wife passes through the kitchen as I’m opening it.
“What’s that?” she says.
“It’s my gratitude journal,” I say, holding up a slim notebook with the words “Start with gratitude” written on the cover in a self-helpy calligraphic font.
“Stupid,” my wife says.
“If you’re not going to be positive about my journey,” I say, “then you and I might have to stop hanging out.”
“That can be arranged,” she says.
Ok, so perhaps the Guardian columnist Tim Dowling wasn’t taking the venture too seriously. Let’s see how Jessica Pan, author of Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come, gets on over the course of a year, rather than just a week.
Can you fake being an extrovert? – Sydney Morning Herald I had a lot of time to ponder: what did I want from life? I wanted a job, new friends I felt truly connected to, and more confidence. So what were other people out there with jobs and close friends and rich, fulfilling lives doing that I wasn’t? Eventually, and with mounting fear, I realised: they were having new experiences, taking risks, making new connections. I knew what I had to do.
I would talk to new people. I would travel alone and make new friends on the road. I would say yes to social invitations. I would go along to parties and not be the first to leave. It would be like jogging: sweaty and uncomfortable but possibly good for me in the long term. In other words, I would become an extrovert. I gave myself a year.
So how did she get on?
It was fear that if I never changed I would never know what it was like to live a bigger life that propelled me. I’d spent most of my life telling myself I was one kind of person, not believing I could do things that I saw other people doing. Then I spent a year doing all of those things that petrified me. A small part of me thought I’d undertake all these challenges and emerge as a socially savvy, articulate, gregarious social butterfly. Or wind up hiding in a ditch. But I am still who I was at the beginning of this year. Only I know more now.
I feel like co-opting a Stonewall slogan — Some of us are introverts. Get over it!
It’s okay if you’re not resilient – Elemental “This story has emerged that if you fail or are struggling, it’s because you lack this characteristic that other people possess,” says Mark Seidenberg, a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Not only is this an unhelpful form of “victim blaming,” but it also confuses effect for cause, he says. People don’t fail because they lack resilience; they lack resilience because circumstances have set them up for failure. “Success is very motivating, and failure is discouraging,” Seidenberg explains.
There’s a balance to be had here, though.
While pointing to a lack of resilience as the cause of a person’s problems is both unhelpful and unfair, teaching a person how to be more resilient in certain contexts is beneficial and, according to some research, achievable. “I think both sides of this debate have a point,” Tabibnia says. “Just as we shouldn’t oversell the potential of behavioral and psychosocial strategies for boosting resilience, lest it should lead to further feelings of disappointment and failure, nor should we take a completely passive and helpless approach.”
She says the research so far points to three broad categories of intervention that seem to bolster resilience. The first involves downregulating negative thought patterns through approaches like exposure therapy and cognitive reappraisal. (Basically, these teach your brain to think about sources of stress in new and less-troubling ways.) The second category involves taking steps to improve optimism and social connectedness, both of which encourage positive feelings. And the third involves mindfulness, religious engagement, and other practices that help people “transcend the self,” Tabibnia says.
If so, then a person’s inability to learn and recognise faces may lead them to become more introverted, to avoid potentially embarrassing social situations. Alternatively, introverted people may meet fewer people and therefore never develop good face recognition skills.
It may also work both ways. If you are slightly worse at recognising faces to start with you may end up meeting fewer people, and therefore becoming even worse at it over time. It could also be that both extroversion and face recognition are related to yet another factor that we still don’t know about.
This video struck a chord recently. It was shown to us as part of a Wellbeing Day at work a few weeks ago and—as well as being quite funny—I thought its practical, down-to-earth steps to a more positive mindset made a lot of sense.
One of his slides summarises the ways you can train your brain to become more positive.
I’ve been following these steps for a few weeks now, and writing down three new things I’m grateful for and a positive experience I’ve had that day does help me focus on looking for the positives.
That video was published in 2012, but one that contained a very similar message coincidentally appeared just a few days ago, from Kurzgesagt.
An antidote to dissatisfaction – YouTube
Everybody is familiar with the feeling that things are not as they should be. That you are not successful enough, your relationships not satisfying enough. That you don’t have the things you crave. In this video we want to talk about one of the strongest predictors of how happy people are, how easily they make friends and how good they are at dealing with hardship. An antidote against dissatisfaction so to speak: Gratitude.
This video, too, discussed the benefits of a simple gratitude journal, “sitting down for a few minutes, one to three times a week, and writing down five to ten things you’re grateful for.”
In the end, how you experience life is a representation of what you believe about it. If you attack your core beliefs about your self and your life, you can change your thoughts and feelings, which automatically changes your behaviour. It’s pretty mind-blowing that something as simple as self-reflection can hack the pathways in our brain to fight dissatisfaction. And if this is no reason to be optimistic, what is?
I’m sure we all occasionally find ourselves thinking about nothing in particular. But here’s an invitation from Aeon to think specifically about nothing.
Is a hole a real thing, or just a place where something isn’t? It seems indisputable that there are holes. For example, there are keyholes, black holes and sinkholes; and there are holes in things such as sieves, golf courses and doughnuts. We come into the world through holes, and when we die many of us will be put into specially dug holes. But what are these holes and what are they made of? One of the big philosophical questions about holes is whether they are actually things themselves or, as the German-Jewish writer Kurt Tucholsky suggested in ‘The Social Psychology of Holes’ (1931), whether they are just ‘where something isn’t’.
Any conclusions? I know about the holes in space, and the ones in speakers and even in photographs, but after reading this, there remains a hole in my understanding.
I think it’s pretty obvious to those that know me that I’m a glass-half-empty kind of guy.
The bright and dark sides of optimism and pessimism
Many psychologists classify the population as predominantly optimistic — some claiming 80% of people are optimistic, others stating that 60% of us are somewhat optimistic. This seems an optimistic appraisal to me. Some experts agree — they believe that optimism itself may affect the validity of research on positivity.
I still struggle with the concept that a positive outlook is a choice, that I could simply choose to be optimistic. But then my better half just sent me this:
Optimistic October calendar
Let’s stay hopeful and focus on what really matters. This Optimistic October Action Calendar has daily suggested actions to do throughout October 2019 to help you be a realistic optimist and have goals to look forward to.
I’ve not come across Action for Happiness before, but it could be just what I was looking for.
Action for Happiness
Our patron is The Dalai Lama and our members take action to increase wellbeing in their homes, workplaces, schools and local communities. Our vision is a happier world, with fewer people suffering with mental health problems and more people feeling good, functioning well and helping others.
Octobers can be such gloomy months; summer has long gone, the nights draw in, the clocks go back. Perhaps that’s why these pick-me-ups are so necessary now. For instance, Stoic Week 2019 is starting up again next week, 7–13 October. I enjoyed it last year, and will give it another go.
And coincidentally, just as I was about to publish this post, a newsletter with links to these articles has just landed in my inbox.
A 60,000-year-old cure for depression
Traditional healers have been entrusted with the well-being of indigenous Australian communities for as long as their culture has been alive – yet surprisingly little is known of them.
Today (23rd June, 2019) is… Let It Go Day
Let It Go Day is another one of the bevy of holidays created by Thomas and Ruth Roy of Wellcat Holidays & Herbs. They knew the difficulty of living with a pocketful of regrets that haunts you during every quiet hour, and knew that letting them go was the only way to find peace and contentment in their lives. So it was that Let It Go Day was created, with the intent of encouraging others throughout the world to let go of their regrets and forgive themselves for actions taken in the past.
Perhaps file this under ‘Whatever will they think of next?’
It’s national Let It Go Day, so here are 8 things you should definitely… well, let go of
6. Regret. I believe in learning from mistakes but not getting mad at yourself for making them. We do what seems like the best decision in the present, and we can’t always know that our future perspective will look like. We also can’t know how the future would have turned out if we’d acted differently. The results of our “mistakes” are often blessings in disguise.
A mesmerising, meditative film introducing us to Faramarz, a London-based Iranian watchmaker. The world may seem chaotic, but “everything is in exactly the right place.”
The Watchmaker: A philosohy of craft and life
Filled with the pulses of numerous ticking watch hands, this short documentary from the UK filmmaker Marie-Cécile Embleton profiles a London-based Iranian watchmaker as he muses on the delicate and temporal nature of his work. As Faramarz meticulously polishes wood, shapes metal and positions springs, his personal philosophy emerges – one that values the minutiae of moment-to-moment experiences, and finds craft in all things.
Mitka Engebretsen is another watchmaker working in the UK. Here’s his set-up, somewhat shinier, though no less hypnotic.
He lets us follow along on his blog when he’s servicing his clients’ vintage watches. The intricacy and precision is wonderful to see, however out of my reach they may be. Not that there’s anything wrong with my current watch — I love it!
What would he make of this video from Watchfinder & Co on the level of expertise that goes into producing fake watches these days, fakes that will still set you back £1,000.
This fake Rolex is the most accurate yet Two years ago, we investigated just how far fake watches have come when we compared a real Rolex Submariner with a fake one. For anyone thinking that fake watches were the easy-to-spot domain of the seaside tat shop, we demonstrated that it’s harder to spot a fake than you might think. Two years on, and it’s got even harder.
One way round that, of course, is to not have a watch at all.
A Norwegian city wants to abolish time
“You have to go to work, and even after work, the clock takes up your time,” Hveding told Gizmodo. “I have to do this, I have to do that. My experience is that [people] have forgotten how to be impulsive, to decide that the weather is good, the Sun is shining, I can just live.” Even if it’s 3 a.m.
Some advice, via Daily Stoic, on how to better manage your mood that feels decidedly counter-intuitive.
How to keep your cool: an interview with James Romm
My own favorite is summed up in the quote: “Do you want to be less angry? Be less aware.” Anger often starts from noticing too many subtleties of the way others interact with us. In many cases, we’d do better not to notice the slights and microaggressions that can drive us nuts if we let them. One can will oneself to ignore such things — a practice many long-married couples will instantly recognize!
The Matrix at 20: how the sci-fi gamechanger remains influential
Yet objects tend to shift during flight, and in the year 2019, The Matrix has endured as both touchstone and Rorschach blot, a way for people of vastly different ideologies to make sense of the world around them. The effects are still a marvel, but the film’s ideas have taken root in a destabilized culture where conspiracy theories flourish and individuals are defining for themselves what is and isn’t real, and what constitutes freedom in a heavily monitored, highly synthetic technological space. Neo may “follow the white rabbit” into a Wonderland of personal discovery, but we’re citizens of Wonderland now, having made a second home for ourselves where the laws of gravity don’t apply. […]
Yet the idea of the world as changeable seems far closer to what the film’s creators, the Wachowskis, had in mind. In the time between then and now, the Wachowskis have both gender transitioned and The Matrix seems at least a subconscious reference to the evolution to come. Much has been written about the film as trans allegory, and the reading bears out in the possibility for humans to define themselves however they like, outside the fixed identities enforced by the machines. Whenever Agent Smith snarls “Mr Anderson”, it feels like a menacing taunt, his refusal to allow Neo to untether himself from the matrix and discover who he actually is. That goes beyond red-pilling, which is about the authoritarian business of telling someone how things really are, and grants them the latitude to figure it out on their own.
The trans narrative escaped me then, and escapes me still. It’s certainly a philosophical film, though.
The Wachowskis had all the lead actors read Simulacra and Simulation by Jean Baudrillard, Out of Control by Kevin Kelly, and Introducing Evolutionary Psychology by Dylan Evans and Oscar Zarate in order to better understand the world of the movie. In the film, Neo actually hides his illegal computer files in a copy of Baudrillard’s book.
Not everyone’s a fan, however.
The Matrix’s male power fantasy has dated badly
It’s this attitude which now seems so antiquated – so glaringly late-20th Century. Anderson isn’t kept awake at night by war or climate change or the rise of fascism. He isn’t campaigning for equal rights – and he certainly isn’t doing any Kung-fu practice. He’s a white-collar worker whose most pressing problem is a slight dissatisfaction with ordinary office life. He is, fundamentally, a less witty brother of Chandler Bing from Friends. And they have plenty of other brothers. One is the unnamed narrator (Edward Norton) of Fight Club. The other is Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston), a disgruntled software programmer in Mike Judge’s cult comedy, Office Space. Both of those films came out in 1999, as The Matrix did. And as different as the three of them may appear, they all share a theme whose prevalence in 1990s pop culture culminated with the debut of the BBC2 sitcom The Office, in July 2001. The theme is that being a handsome, middle-class, thirtysomething professional is ultimately not very fulfilling. The Matrix may allude to Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, to Jean Baudrillard and Jesus, but its central thesis is right there on the Office Space poster: “Work Sucks”.
Perhaps those confusing sequels were to blame for souring it a little.
The ending of The Matrix trilogy finally explained
One major theme that came to the fore as the series reached its conclusion had to do with the similarities between humans and machines. In the original, they couldn’t seem more different, but by Revolutions, programs in the Matrix are portrayed as being almost more human than our heroes, loving and happy individuals, as worthy of existence as any person. Further, characters from the first film who were firmly human or machine are portrayed in the sequels as having a little bit of both. […]
The humanizing of the Machines and the complimentary mechanization of Neo made for a storytelling turn that audiences weren’t really ready for. People who saw The Matrix couldn’t be faulted for expecting an ending that saw Neo winning by doing his Superman thing and eradicating humanity’s robot overlords. Instead, Neo triumphed by becoming a bridge between man and machine, sacrificing his own life for the sake of securing the future.