My dad predicted Trump in 1985 – it's not Orwell, he warned, it's Brave New World

>"The central argument of Amusing Ourselves is simple: there were two landmark dystopian novels written by brilliant British cultural critics – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell – and we Americans had mistakenly feared and obsessed over the vision portrayed in the latter book (an information-censoring, movement-restricting, individuality-emaciating state) rather than the former (a technology-sedating, consumption-engorging, instant-gratifying bubble).
... back in 1931, the dystopia my father believed we should have been watching out for. He wrote:
Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture.
Today, the average weekly screen time for an American adult – brace yourself; this is not a typo – is 74 hours (and still going up). We watch when we want, not when anyone tells us, and usually alone, and often while doing several other things. The soundbite has been replaced by virality, meme, hot take, tweet. Can serious national issues really be explored in any coherent, meaningful way in such a fragmented, attention-challenged environment?
Our public discourse has become so trivialized, it’s astounding that we still cling to the word “debates” for what our presidential candidates do onstage when facing each other. Really? Who can be shocked by the rise of a reality TV star, a man given to loud, inflammatory statements, many of which are spectacularly untrue but virtually all of which make for what used to be called “good television”?
Who can be appalled when the coin of the realm in public discourse is not experience, thoughtfulness or diplomacy but the ability to amuse – no matter how maddening or revolting the amusement?
... Did he also predict that the leader we would pick for such an age, when we had become perhaps terminally enamored of our technologies and amusements, would almost certainly possess fascistic tendencies? I believe he called this, too.
For all the ways one can define fascism (and there are many), one essential trait is its allegiance to no idea of right but its own: it is, in short, ideological narcissism. It creates a myth that is irrefutable (much in the way that an image’s “truth” cannot be disproved), in perpetuity, because of its authoritarian, unrestrained nature."

Is Willpower a Finite Resource, or a Myth?

>"For example, some behavioral economists argue that self-control should not be seen as simply suppressing short-term urges but instead understood through the lens of “intrapersonal bargaining”: the self as several different decision making systems often in conflict with one another. This model allows for shifting priorities and motivations over time—which is what happened with my patient John, ..."


Welcome to the Speakularity, Where Everything You Say Is Transcribed and Searchable

"It will make incredible things possible. Think of all the reasons that you search through your email. Suddenly your own speech will be available in just the same way. “Show me all conversations with Michael before January of last year ... What was the address of that restaurant Mum recommended? ... When was the first time I mentioned Rob’s now-wife? ... Who was at that meeting again?” Robin Hanson, an economist at George Mason University and a co-author of a forthcoming book on evolutionary psychology, has speculated that we might all get in the habit of peppering our speech with keywords, to help us look it up later. Or, while you’re talking, a software agent could search your old conversations for relevant material. Details would come to your attention at just the moment that you needed them.

"Much of what is said aloud would be published and made part of the Web. An unfathomable mass of expertise, opinion, wit, and culture—now lost—would be as accessible as any article or comment thread is today. You could, at any time, listen in on airline pilots, on barbershops, on grad-school bull sessions. You could search every mention of your company’s name. You could read stories told by father to son, or explanations from colleague to colleague. People would become Internet-famous for being good conversationalists. The Record would be mined by advertisers, lawyers, academics. The sheer number of words available for sifting and savoring would explode—simply because people talk a lot more than they write."

How White People Got Made — The Message — Medium

"As the aristocrats and their successors traveled around the world through the colonial age, Europeans all over would find or define a group within the colonial territory and elevate it above the other groups, give it some privileges, though never enough to challenge the intruding rulers. In exchange for this slightly elevated status, the rulers would make those people do the colonial dirty work, and usually keep them slightly more well off than their fellows. Over time, these slightly elevated people often tried to keep their European masters in power even after the people realized how evil colonialism was, maintaining the system both to keep above their fellows and out of fear of retaliation for the dirty work they’d done. The most familiar contemporary case of this practice people will recognize is the Belgian categorization of Tutsis and Hutus, and the tragedy that still hangs over that arrangement over a century later. But really, the idea started in Virginia."

The Gay Guide to Wedded Bliss

Some snippets ...

"The fact is, there is no such thing as traditional marriage. In various places and at various points in human history, marriage has been a means by which young children were betrothed, uniting royal houses and sealing alliances between nations. In the Bible, it was a union that sometimes took place between a man and his dead brother’s widow, or between one man and several wives. It has been a vehicle for the orderly transfer of property from one generation of males to the next; the test by which children were deemed legitimate or bastard; a privilege not available to black Americans; something parents arranged for their adult children; a contract under which women, legally, ceased to exist. Well into the 19th century, the British common-law concept of “unity of person” meant a woman became her husband when she married, giving up her legal standing and the right to own property or control her own wages.

"... we will be better able to tell which marital stresses and pleasures are due to gender, and which are not.

"In the end, it could turn out that same-sex marriage isn’t all that different from straight marriage. If gay and lesbian marriages are in the long run as quarrelsome, tedious, and unbearable; as satisfying, joyous, and loving as other marriages, we’ll know that a certain amount of strife is not the fault of the alleged war between men and women, but just an inevitable thing that happens when two human beings are doing the best they can to find a way to live together."

In my opinion the more gender is de-coupled from most things, including marital roles, the better. In the meantime, it's fascinating (still) how insidiously fundamental it is to so many dynamics.

The boy whose brain could unlock autism

CONSIDER WHAT IT MIGHT FEEL like to be a baby in a world of relentless and unpredictable sensation. An overwhelmed infant might, not surprisingly, attempt to escape. Kamila compares it to being sleepless, jetlagged, and hung over, all at once. “If you don’t sleep for a night or two, everything hurts. The lights hurt. The noises hurt. You withdraw,” she says.

Unlike adults, however, babies can’t flee. All they can do is cry and rock, and, later, try to avoid touch, eye contact, and other powerful experiences. Autistic children might revel in patterns and predictability just to make sense of the chaos.

At the same time, if infants withdraw to try to cope, they will miss what’s known as a “sensitive period”—a developmental phase when the brain is particularly responsive to, and rapidly assimilates, certain kinds of external stimulation. That can cause lifelong problems.

Language learning is a classic example: If babies aren’t exposed to speech during their first three years, their verbal abilities can be permanently stunted. Historically, this created a spurious link between deafness and intellectual disability: Before deaf babies were taught sign language at a young age, they would often have lasting language deficits. Their problem wasn’t defective “language areas,” though—it was that they had been denied linguistic stimuli at a critical time. (Incidentally, the same phenomenon accounts for why learning a second language is easy for small children and hard for virtually everyone else.)

This has profound implications for autism. If autistic babies tune out when overwhelmed, their social and language difficulties may arise not from damaged brain regions, but because critical data is drowned out by noise or missed due to attempts to escape at a time when the brain actually needs this input.

The intense world could also account for the tragic similarities between autistic children and abused and neglected infants. Severely maltreated children often rock, avoid eye contact, and have social problems—just like autistic children. These parallels led to decades of blaming the parents of autistic children, including the infamous “refrigerator mother.” But if those behaviors are coping mechanisms, autistic people might engage in them not because of maltreatment, but because ordinary experience is overwhelming or even traumatic.

The Markrams teased out further implications: Social problems may not be a defining or even fixed feature of autism. Early intervention to reduce or moderate the intensity of an autistic child’s environment might allow their talents to be protected while their autism-related disabilities are mitigated or, possibly, avoided.

The VPA model also captures other paradoxical autistic traits. For example, while oversensitivities are most common, autistic people are also frequentlyunder-reactive to pain. The same is true of VPA rats. In addition, one of the most consistent findings in autism is abnormal brain growth, particularly in the cortex. There, studies find an excess of circuits called mini-columns, which can be seen as the brain’s microprocessors. VPA rats also exhibit this excess.

Moreover, extra minicolumns have been found in autopsies of scientists who were not known to be autistic, suggesting that this brain organization can appear without social problems and alongside exceptional intelligence.

Like a high-performance engine, the autistic brain may only work properly under specific conditions. But under those conditions, such machines can vastly outperform others—like a Ferrari compared to a Ford.

The "11 Americas"

From Tufts Magazine > "Up in Arms The Battle Lines of Today's Debates Over Gun Control, Stand-Your-Ground Laws, and other Violence-Related Issues Were Drawn Centries Ago by America's Early Settlers" by Colin Woodard (via Business Insider)

And here's what's inside each one:
The brains of America. This region has kept the Protestant ethics of its founders, valuing education, sacrificing for the greater good, and intellectual development. However, "many of the other nations... regard the Yankee Utopian streak with trepidation," Woodward writes.
"New Netherland"
This region retains the sophistication and commercial bent its Dutch founders exhibited in the 17th century. "Materialistic, with a profound tolerance for ethnic and religious diversity and an unflinching commitment to the freedom of inquiry and conscience."
"The Midlands"
Politically moderate though somewhat inward looking despite a fair amount of ethnic diversity, the legacy of having been settled by both Germans and English Quakers. "It shares the Yankee belief that society should be organized to benefit ordinary people, though it rejects top-down government intervention."
In the South but not of the South. Places a premium on tradition but today is "in decline" as Yankee values have breached through the Mason-Dixon line and have begun trickling into places like Charlotte.
"Deep South"
Rejects all forms of regulation, whether from taxes or through environmental policy, and occasionally shows signs of its historical penchant for restricting liberty.
"Greater Appalachia"
Founded by war-ravaged British subjects, this region has a mercurial set of values, having supported the Union during the Civil War but now favoring conservative ethics. 
"El Norte"
Though Spain once controlled the entire Western part of the country, its Latin influence has now been confined to this region. "... norteños have a reputation for being exceptionally independent, self-sufficient, adaptable, and focused on work." 
"The Far West"
The conservative west. Developed through large investment in industry, yet where inhabitants  continue to "resent" the Eastern interests that initially controlled that investment. 
"New France"
A pocket of liberalism nestled in the Deep South, where 18th century Enlightenment values still prevail. "Its people have emerged as down-to-earth, egalitarian, and consensus driven, among the most liberal on the continent."
"The Left Coast"
"A hybrid of Yankee Utopians and Appalachian self-expression and exploration" where farms and i-Pods can live side by side.
"First Nation"
Enjoys de facto independence thanks to its Native American legacy. Yet this often comes at an economic cost.

The Possibilian

Sounds like my kind of denomination! ...though he needs to work on the branding ("Possibilian sounds too similar to "Reptilian").

Eagleman was brought up as a secular Jew and became an atheist in his teens. Lately, though, he’d taken to calling himself a Possibilian—a denomination of his own invention. Science had taught him to be skeptical of cosmic certainties, he told me. From the unfathomed complexity of brain tissue—“essentially an alien computational material”—to the mystery of dark matter, we know too little about our own minds and the universe around us to insist on strict atheism, he said. “And we know far too much to commit to a particular religious story.” Why not revel in the alternatives? Why not imagine ourselves, as he did in “Sum,” as bits of networked hardware in a cosmic program, or as particles of some celestial organism, or any of a thousand other possibilities, and then test those ideas against the available evidence? “Part of the scientific temperament is this tolerance for holding multiple hypotheses in mind at the same time,” he said. “As Voltaire said, uncertainty is an uncomfortable position. But certainty is an absurd one.”One of the seats of emotion and memory in the brain is the amygdala, he explained. When something threatens your life, this area seems to kick into overdrive, recording every last detail of the experience. The more detailed the memory, the longer the moment seems to last. “This explains why we think that time speeds up when we grow older,” Eagleman said—why childhood summers seem to go on forever, while old age slips by while we’re dozing. The more familiar the world becomes, the less information your brain writes down, and the more quickly time seems to pass.

via The New Yorker

What a brush with death taught David Eagleman about the mysteries of time and the brain.


One of the seats of emotion and memory in the brain is the amygdala, he explained. When something threatens your life, this area seems to kick into overdrive, recording every last detail of the experience. The more detailed the memory, the longer the moment seems to last. “This explains why we think that time speeds up when we grow older,” Eagleman said—why childhood summers seem to go on forever, while old age slips by while we’re dozing. The more familiar the world becomes, the less information your brain writes down, and the more quickly time seems to pass.

via The New Yorker