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In the News 03.11.16 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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In the News 03.11.16 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 03.11.16 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 03.11.16 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Steven Pinker on Language, Reason, and the Future of Violence

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Steven Pinker has spent an entire academic career thinking deeply about language, cognition, and human nature. Driving it all, he says, is an Enlightenment belief that the world is intelligible, science can progress, and through rational inquiry we can better understand ourselves.

He recently joined Tyler for a conversation not only on the power of reason, but also the economics of irrational verbs, whether violence will continue to decline, behavioral economics, existential threats, the merits of aerobic exercise, photography, group selection, Fermi’s paradox, Noam Chomsky, universal grammar, free will, the Ed Sullivan show, and why people underrate the passive (or so it is thought).

Read the rest of this article at Medium

The Moment Matthew McConaughey Decided to Disappear

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We’re on barstools inside a Hollywood joint on Vine. The Sassafras Saloon. The vibe is 1930s Deep South. Wicker furniture, a lot of dark wood, and potted ferns like you’d find hanging on a Charleston veranda. It’s 4:00 p.m. and doors don’t officially open till 5:00, so except for the sounds that come with the staff doing its thing to prepare for that evening’s crowd—a bucket of ice being dumped into a sink, the clinking of freshly cleaned glasses as they’re returned to a shelf—the bar is quiet.

McConaughey suggested we meet at the Sassafras. The manager let us in early, saying it was the least he could do after all the time and money McConaughey spent here shooting a TV commercial for Wild Turkey bourbon. This past summer, the Academy Award–winning actor signed a deal to be the Kentucky distillery’s creative director and brand ambassador.

McConaughey picked the Sassafras as our meeting spot because he’s no fool; he knows what can make or break a brand. He learned the hard way, with his own career. He made his brand, broke it, and then made it again. He’ll get to that story in a bit. Suffice it to say, the dude has learned enough to know that in choosing this bar, he’s done all he can to ensure that Wild Turkey will get some product placement here.

Read the rest of this article at Esquire

How Rom-Coms Undermine Women

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Here is one of the good things to come out of Donald Trump’s recent hot-mic revelations: The scandal, in its assorted horrors, furthered a much-needed national conversation about the shadowed contours of sexual violence. In response to Trump surrogates’ attempts to dismiss the candidate’s misogynistic comments as “locker-room talk,” media outlets and individual Facebook-opiners alike came forward to insist that, on the contrary, what Trump was describing in Access Hollywood’s recording was in fact a form of assault. Trump’s words, in spite of themselves, ended up bringing a bit of ironic clarity to a culture that is living in the aftermath of patriarchy—during a time in which feminism and Puritanism and sex positivity and sex-shaming and progress and its absence have mingled to make everything, to borrow Facebook’s pleasant euphemism, Complicated.

Read the rest of this article at The Atlantic

Mark Rothko’s Dark Palette Illuminated

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One evening in 1968, Mark Rothko regaled the art dealer Arne Glimcher, who had dropped by his studio on his way home from Pace Gallery in New York, with the story of a visit from a collector that day.

Pointing to an enormous painting of dark blue and black rectangles floating on a deep burgundy field, Rothko, the Abstract Expressionist painter, described offering his work to the woman, who had been pestering him for a canvas. “Mr. Rothko,” she had said with disappointment, “I want a happy painting, a red and yellow and orange painting, not a sad painting.” Amused, Rothko had responded: “Red, yellow, orange — aren’t those the colors of an inferno?” The woman left empty-handed.

The memory of this exchange now has inspired an exhibition that Mr. Glimcher hopes will “disprove the prevalent interpretation” by many critics, collectors and viewers that Rothko’s brilliantly colored paintings of the 1950s were sunny and joyous, while his darker-palette works in the 1960s reflected his progressing depression and foreshadowed his suicide in 1970.

Read the rest of this article at The New York Times

The Real Problem

It looks like scientists and philosophers might have made consciousness far more mysterious than it needs to be

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What is the best way to understand consciousness? In philosophy, centuries-old debates continue to rage over whether the Universe is divided, following René Descartes, into ‘mind stuff’ and ‘matter stuff’. But the rise of modern neuroscience has seen a more pragmatic approach gain ground: an approach that is guided by philosophy but doesn’t rely on philosophical research to provide the answers. Its key is to recognise that explaining why consciousness exists at all is not necessary in order to make progress in revealing its material basis – to start building explanatory bridges from the subjective and phenomenal to the objective and measurable.

In my work at the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science at the University of Sussex in Brighton, I collaborate with cognitive scientists, neuroscientists, psychiatrists, brain imagers, virtual reality wizards and mathematicians – and philosophers too – trying to do just this. And together with other laboratories, we are gaining exciting new insights into consciousness – insights that are making real differences in medicine, and that in turn raise new intellectual and ethical challenges. In my own research, a new picture is taking shape in which conscious experience is seen as deeply grounded in how brains and bodies work together to maintain physiological integrity – to stay alive. In this story, we are conscious ‘beast-machines’, and I hope to show you why.

Let’s begin with David Chalmers’s influential distinction, inherited from Descartes, between the ‘easy problem’ and the ‘hard problem’. The ‘easy problem’ is to understand how the brain (and body) gives rise to perception, cognition, learning and behaviour. The ‘hard’ problem is to understand why and how any of this should be associated with consciousness at all: why aren’t we just robots, or philosophical zombies, without any inner universe? It’s tempting to think that solving the easy problem (whatever this might mean) would get us nowhere in solving the hard problem, leaving the brain basis of consciousness a total mystery.

Those who turned out to support Abloh also reflected the unique position that he occupies within his field. His bow at the end was hijacked by Ian Connor – the stylist and creative director of A$AP Rocky who embodies the brash youthfulness of streetwear. Meanwhile,Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing watched on, embracing the designer at the end of the show. It was an unusual coming together of seemingly disparate fashion worlds, but then again, Off-White has always made a point of occupying a hard-to-define middle ground between high and low brow.

Reclining in a black leather office chair, Abloh considers his wayward path into the industry. “I never made the conscious decision to be a designer,” the 35-year-old Chicagoan admits (in fact, he formally trained in Engineering before earning a master’s degree in Architecture). “I just had an exorbitant amount of ideas; fashion design is a place for people like that because there are a lot of decisions to make.”

Read the rest of this article at aeon

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M. // Top images: @aurawra, @kristenmarienichols, @archdigest