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Great Reads - 01

My list of “must reads” for this week.

  • Thought as a Technology - Michael Nielsen [link]

    The interface begins to disappear, becoming part of your consciousness. You have been, in some measure, transformed.

    A really mind-expanding read about designing new “interfaces” as cognitive mediums - new tools for thought. He gives a great example one for 1-D particle motion.

  • Keep Your Identity Small - Paul Graham [link]

    The more labels you have for yourself, the dumber they make you.

    A great (short) piece about how people internalize stances, making them part of their core identity, at the expense of open-mindedness. This one really resonated with me.

  • The Age of the Essay - Paul Graham [link]

    Essayer is the French verb meaning “to try” and an essai is an attempt. An essay is something you write to try to figure something out.

    Another great (long) piece about how we should use essay writing to explore topics, as opposed to conveying arguments. This one also really resonated with me.

  • Behind Our Anxiety, the Fear of Being Unneeded - Dalai Lama [link]

    The problem is not a lack of material riches. It is the growing number of people who feel they are no longer useful, no longer needed, no longer one with their societies.

    Concise, beautifully worded and thought provoking.

  • Jean Baudrillard - Wikipedia[link]

    Baudrillard argued that meaning (value) is created through difference—through what something is not (so “dog” means “dog” because it is not-“cat”, not-“goat”, not-“tree”, etc.). In fact, he viewed meaning as near enough self-referential: objects, images of objects, words and signs are situated in a web of meaning; one object’s meaning is only understandable through its relation to the meaning of other objects…Baudrillard developed theories in which the excessive, fruitless search for total knowledge leads almost inevitably to a kind of delusion. In Baudrillard’s view, the (human) subject may try to understand the (non-human) object, but because the object can only be understood according to what it signifies (and because the process of signification immediately involves a web of other signs from which it is distinguished) this never produces the desired results. The subject is, rather, seduced (in the original Latin sense, seducere, to lead away) by the object. He argued therefore that, in final analysis, a complete understanding of the minutiae of human life is impossible, and when people are seduced into thinking otherwise they become drawn toward a “simulated” version of reality, or, to use one of his neologisms, a state of “hyperreality”. This is not to say that the world becomes unreal, but rather that the faster and more comprehensively societies begin to bring reality together into one supposedly coherent picture, the more insecure and unstable it looks and the more fearful societies become. Reality, in this sense, “dies out”.

    I’m very fascinated by the concept of “The Society as Spectacle”, though I don’t really understand in. Right now, I more feel it, even in Academia. I hope to write a whole essai on this eventually. Ill leave a related link here: An Illustrated Guide to Guy Debord’s “The Society of the Spectacle”

  • Fuck work - James Livingston [link]

    Shitty jobs for everyone won’t solve any social problems we now face.

    So this Great Recession of ours – don’t kid yourself, it ain’t over – is a moral crisis as well as an economic catastrophe. You might even say it’s a spiritual impasse, because it makes us ask what social scaffolding other than work will permit the construction of character – or whether character itself is something we must aspire to. But that is why it’s also an intellectual opportunity: it forces us to imagine a world in which the job no longer builds our character, determines our incomes or dominates our daily lives.

    How would human nature itself change as the ancient, aristocratic privilege of leisure becomes the birthright of human beings as such?

    While reading this article, I also thought about the signaling effect that working has, as it relates to the “Spectacle” - that having a job, even one you hate signals to everyone that you have character, that you persevere, that you aspire. This was an fantastic essay and great introduction to even thinking about this topic.

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