Summary of “The Four Desires Driving All Human Behavior”

Anyone who has much to do with children knows how they are constantly performing some antic, and saying “Look at me.” “Look at me” is one of the most fundamental desires of the human heart.
Love of power is closely akin to vanity, but it is not by any means the same thing.
What vanity needs for its satisfaction is glory, and it is easy to have glory without power Many people prefer glory to power, but on the whole these people have less effect upon the course of events than those who prefer power to glory Power, like vanity, is insatiable.
Love of power is greatly increased by the experience of power, and this applies to petty power as well as to that of potentates.
In any autocratic regime, the holders of power become increasingly tyrannical with experience of the delights that power can afford.
Since power over human beings is shown in making them do what they would rather not do, the man who is actuated by love of power is more apt to inflict pain than to permit pleasure.
A thinker of exceptional sensitivity to nuance and to the dualities of which life is woven, cautions against dismissing the love of power as a wholesale negative driver – from the impulse to dominate the unknown, he points out, spring such desirables as the pursuit of knowledge and all scientific progress.
Complement Nobel Writers on Writing with more excellent Nobel Prize acceptance speeches – William Faulkner on the artist as a booster of the human heart, Ernest Hemingway on writing and solitude, Alice Munro on the secret to telling a great story, and Saul Bellow on how literature ennobles the human spirit – then revisit Russell on immortality and why science is the key to democracy.

The orginal article.

Summary of “To Automate Is Human”

According to the historian Yuval Noah Harari in Sapiens, it was only with the burgeoning of Enlightenment humanism that we established our metaphysical difference from and instrumental approach to animals, as well as enshrining the supposed superiority of the human mind.
While such technology represents a formidable upheaval to the world of labour and markets, the goal of these inventions is very old indeed: exporting a task to an autonomous system or independent set of tools that can finish the job without continued human input.
It follows that there are two kinds of automation: those that are energetically independent, requiring human guidance but not much human muscle power, and those that are also independent of human mental input.
None of these early automations are ‘smart’ – they all serve to export the business of human muscles rather than human brains, and without of a human controller, none of them could gather information about the trajectory, and change course accordingly.
We might even include carts and ploughs drawn by beasts of burden, which exported from human backs the weight of carried goods, and from human hands the blisters of the farmer’s hoe.
Cognitive automation – exporting the human guidance and mental involvement in a task – is newer, but still much older than vacuum tubes or silicon chips.
We didn’t suddenly invent a new concept of human behaviour – we merely combined two deep-seated human proclivities with origins stretching back to before recorded history.
Tasks such as photo-editing, gaming or browsing the web are more complex, but are ultimately layers of human instructions, committed to external memory being carried out by machines that can read it.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Deficient Animal”

The “Science of man,” as David Hume put it-understanding human beings as human beings, both individually and collectively-has been something of an embarrassment.
What Darwin and neo-Darwinians achieved was rooted in a concern with continuities among species, in showing how human beings evolved from animal predecessors.
This increasingly exclusive focus on biological similarities tended, on the one hand, to fold the human being entirely within the continuum of the animal order and, on the other hand, to minimize, downplay, or ignore altogether the distinguishing characteristics of the human species.
The philosophical anthropologists argued, in Arnold Gehlen’s words, that “For a human’s situation to correspond with that of true mammals, pregnancy would have tolast approximately 21 months.”2 The persistence of such infantile features was related to other human peculiarities, including the long period of helplessness at the infant stage, the similarly protracted stage of development preceding sexual maturity, and, most important, the curious but undeniable absence of a well-developed structure of instincts.
In the late eighteenth century, Johann Gottfried Herder had called the human being “The deficient being”; others, following Herder, described humans as animals “Not yet determined,” “Unfinished,” “Incomplete,” “Physiologically premature,” and “Organically deficient”-and ever malleable.
In sum, human beings must of necessity make up for their instinctual impoverishment by actively transforming the world to suit their own ends, mastering and re-creating nature rather than merely adapting to it.
By nature, the human animal is a language animal, and upon this symbolic frame is built the entire interconnected edifice of culture.
The conclusion is unavoidable: The human animal is, like no other, a cultural animal.

The orginal article.

Summary of “About Your Skin”

Once she started investigating the science of skin color, Jablonski was pulled into the sordid history of racism, and she saw how even great thinkers like Kant and Thomas Jefferson believed people with dark skin were innately inferior to light-skinned people like themselves.
Today, she’s an anthropologist at Penn State University with a long string of published articles and two books, Skin: A Natural History and Living Color: The Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Color.
Humans probably evolved naked skin around a million and a half years ago, and at the same time they mostly lost their coat of fur.
So early humans in equatorial Africa developed dark skin as protection against the sun?
Skin color is evolving insofar as we see all sorts of exciting new mixtures of people coming together and having children with new mixtures of skin color genes.
If we’re going to talk about skin color, we also have to talk about how we separate people into racial categories.
Do we know when people of darker skin color started to be seen as socially inferior?
In the earliest recorded interactions between people of different skin color-in ancient Egypt between 4,000 and 7,000 years ago-we see a history of felicitous trading interactions between peoples along the Nile, darkly pigmented and lightly pigmented people trading with one another and having mutual respect for each other’s cultures.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Yuval Noah Harari Is Worried About Our Souls”

One of the most important forces in history is human stupidity.
Experiments are already under way to augment the human immune system with an inorganic, bionic system.
Almost all traffic accidents are because of humans making bad decisions.
That’s not impossible because human beings very often make terrible mistakes, even in the most important decisions of their lives.
Then the question is, “What is human life all about?” For thousands of years we have constructed this idea of human life as a drama of decision-making.
The liberal story is based on the ideal and the notion of free will, that the free will of individual humans is the ultimate source of authority in the world.
Yes, the way that Cambridge Analytica and all these companies and bots behaved is they hacked humans.
One of the most important forces in human history is human stupidity.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How Relationships Refine Our Truths: Adrienne Rich on the Dignity of Love”

From her stirring poetry to her timeless wisdom on love, loss, and creativity, beloved poet and feminist Adrienne Rich endures as one of the most celebrated poets of the twentieth century, a remarkable woman of equal parts literary flair and political conviction.
In a monumental manifestation of both, when Rich was awarded prestigious National Medal of Arts in 1997, the highest honor bestowed upon an individual artist on behalf of the people of the United States, she famously became the first and only person yet to decline the honor in a protest against the monopoly of power and the government’s proposed plan to end funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.
Rich was also a masterful writer of prose at the intersection of the philosophical, the political, and the deeply personal.
An honorable human relationship – that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word “Love” – is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.
It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation.
It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity.
How beautifully this lends itself to paraphrasing Rich’s memorable words from two decades later – “I don’t think we can separate art from overall human dignity and hope.” – to “I don’t think we can separate love from overall human dignity and hope.”
Complement it with Rich on what “Truth” really means and her spectacular commencement address on claiming an education.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Fellow Passengers”

An anthropologist from Mars might regard us humans as singularly insecure animals, curiously obsessed with identifying some quality that decisively distinguishes us from the rest of animal creation.
If we were more reflective creatures, we might realize that the answer has been staring us in the face all along: We are the animals curiously obsessed with distinguishing ourselves from the rest of animal creation.
So the available evidence seems to indicate that phenomenal consciousness is correlated with “Widespread., relatively fast., low-amplitude. interactions in the thalamocortical. region of the brain.”7 The case for phenomenal consciousness in animals is straightforward: We find precisely the same kind of neural activity in many other animals, including, as stated in the Declaration, “All mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses.” The neural correlates of phenomenal consciousness in humans are also found in these other species, suggesting very strongly that they are conscious also.
The tests are all variations on a single theme: An animal is presented with two opaque cups, A and B. The animal is initially shown two empty cups, then sees an experimenter baiting one of the cups.
26.Are Animals Moral? Can animals be moral? That is, can they have motivations that are genuinely moral, and can they act because of these motivations? Someone who is tempted by a positive answer to this question is likely to find little succor among scientists and philosophers; the possibility of moral behavior in animals has been dismissed by almost all of this demographic.
We like to kill animals that like to eat animals that we like to eat.
Animals are our fellow passengers on this bus to who knows where.
“Consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect, mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it.”34 When the animal on the bus looks at us, we must, with all our heart and sinew, try to look back, and see her for what she really is: a fellow passenger who is really not that different from us.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Are You Developing Skills That Won’t Be Automated?”

A recent study from Forrester estimated that 10% of U.S. jobs would be automated this year, and another from McKinsey estimates that close to half of all U.S. jobs may be automated in the next decade.
The jobs that are likely to be automated are repetitive and routine.
While much has been written about the sorts of jobs that are likely to be eliminated, another perspective that has not been examined in as much detail is to ask not which jobs will be eliminated but rather which aspects of surviving jobs will be replaced by machines.
Consider the job of being a physician: It is clear that diagnosing illnesses will soon be accomplished better by machines than humans.
Like the physician, we can easily parse this job into two components: the repetitive and routine one and the more interactive, unpredictable one that involves listening to and talking with customers.
The functioning of emotion has proven challenging to understand scientifically, and is difficult to build into an automated system.
These are the very skills that employers across industries consistently report seeking in job candidates.
This is a new approach to characterizing the underlying nature of “Soft skills,” which are probably misnamed: These are the skills that are hardest to understand and systematize, and the skills that give – and will continue to give -humans an edge over robots.

The orginal article.

Summary of “You Are Already Living Inside a Computer”

Its remoteness might lessen the fear of an AI apocalypse, but it also obscures a certain truth about machines’ role in humankind’s destiny: Computers already are predominant, human life already plays out mostly within them, and people are satisfied with the results.
Turing then imagined a version in which one of the players behind the door is a human and the other a machine, like a computer.
The design, known as the universal Turing machine, became an influential model for computer processing.
Like how Turing’s original thinking machine strived to pass as a man or woman, a computer tries to pass, in a way, as another thing.
Grill as computer, bike lock as computer, television as computer.
Forget Ring, the doorbell has already retired in favor of the computer.
Another take, advocated by the philosopher of mind David Chalmers and the computer scientist Ray Kurzweil, is the “Singularity,” the idea that with a sufficient processing power, computers will be able to simulate human minds.
Computers already have persuaded people to move their lives inside of them.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Intelligence of Plants”

“Trees do not have will or intention. They solve problems, but it’s all under hormonal control, and it all evolved through natural selection.” These “Magical” notions of plant intelligence are worrisome, he says, because people “Immediately leap to faulty conclusions, namely that trees are sentient beings like us.”
Writing in The Power of Movement in Plants, he concluded that the root of a plant has “The power of directing the movements of the adjoining parts” and thus “Acts like the brain of one of the lower animals; the brain being seated within the anterior end of the body, receiving impressions from the sense organs and directing the several movements.” Darwin was talking about how plants react to shifts in vibrations, sounds, touch, humidity, and temperature-but these are just adaptive reactions.
Recently, more findings have seemed to support-or at least point toward-a more restrained version of plant intelligence.
Plants may not be capable of identifying murderers in a lineup, but trees share their nutrients and water via underground networks of fungus, through which they can send chemical signals to the other trees, alerting them of danger.
If the plants were just acting evolutionarily, it would follow that they would compete for resources; instead, they seem to be “Thinking” of the other plants and “Deciding” to help them.
If plants can “Learn” and “Remember,” as Gagliano believes, then humans may have been misunderstanding plants, and ourselves, for all of history.
If we respected nature more-the power it has to not only be destroyed by us but to destroy us in turn-would we see more clearly how imbricated we are? Would we be more hesitant about growing plants in monocultures, genetically manipulating them for our pleasure, destroying forests? Would we try harder to protect the environment, if we understood that by protecting plants and trees we are protecting ourselves?
Why not consider that plants have been doing the same for far longer than we have been around, with an intelligence that is radically different from ours?

The orginal article.