Summary of “We are more than our brains: on neuroscience and being human”

The mystique is expressed in multiple forms, ranging from ubiquitous depictions of supernatural, ultra-sophisticated brains in science fiction and the popular media to more sober, scientifically supported conceptions of cognitive function that emphasise inorganic qualities or confine mental processes to neural structures.
Brains are undoubtedly somewhat computer-like – computers, after all, were invented to perform brain-like functions – but brains are also much more than bundles of wiry neurons and the electrical impulses they are famous for propagating.
Another remarkable study showed that transplantation of human glial cells into mouse brains boosted the animals’ performance in learning tests, again demonstrating the importance of glia in shaping brain function.
Some of the most perspicacious animals are the corvids – crows, ravens, and rooks – which have brains less than 1 per cent the size of a human brain, but still perform feats of cognition comparable to chimpanzees and gorillas.
The more we feel that our brains encapsulate our essence, the less sensitive we’ll be to the role of environment.
The most extreme direction in futuristic brain technology is the drive to achieve immortality through the postmortem preservation of human brains.
The more we feel that our brains encapsulate our essence as individuals, and the more we believe that our thoughts and actions simply emanate from the bundle of flesh in our heads, the less sensitive we will be to the role of the society and environment around us, and the less we will do to nurture our shared culture and resources – whether in the context of criminal behaviour, creativity, mental illness or any other aspect of human life.
We must realise that we are much more than our brains.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Karl Marx’s birthday was born 200 years ago, and capitalism is unfolding exactly as he predicted”

One hundred and sixty years ago, at a time when the light bulb was not yet invented, Karl Marx predicted that robots would replace humans in the workplace.
Gradually, in the century and a half since Marx wrote those words, machines have taken on more and more jobs previously done by humans.
The 20th century political movements that attempted to make Karl Marx’s ideas reality may have failed but, 200 years since the philosopher’s birth on May 5, 1818, his analysis and foresights have repeatedly proven true.
We are, in many ways, living in the world Marx predicted.
Marx analyzed capitalism as a social system, rather than a purely economic one.
Marx predicted that capitalism would lead to “Poverty in the midst of plenty,” a scenario that’s depressingly familiar today.
As Harvard Business Review points out, contemporary society is characterized by a sense of alienation among workers distanced from the output of their labor, and the fetishization of commodities-both predicted by Marx.
Workers across the world held aloft images of Marx on May 1, international Labor Day; his work is still the crucial reference point for those protesting the injustices of capitalism and demanding change to benefit the 99%. Every major historical advance in technology has destroyed human jobs, with some leaving many unemployed for long periods at a time.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How Tesla “shot itself in the foot” by hyper-automating Model 3 production”

Investors and fans of Tesla are anxious to hear what the company has to say about the production ramp of the Model 3, the main driver of future profits and cash-flow, when it releases its first-quarter results on May 2.
Analysts at Bernstein and UBS recently released reports that focus specifically on the problems with “Over-automation” of the Model 3 line, production of which is now approximately 2,000 vehicles per week-nowhere near the company’s target of 5,000 vehicles per week.
Founder and CEO Elon Musk, for years one of strongest proponents of a future where there are no people in the production process and his factory looks like an alien spaceship, is now acknowledging that the optimal level of automation remains a complex balancing act of design, productivity, quality, and human and machine skills.
In the Bernstein analysis, Toni Sacconaghi and Max Warburton offer some explanation as to why it’s proving so difficult to ramp up production on an overly automated line.
Warburton’s background includes time spent benchmarking vehicle-assembly plants and he states that, in attempting to hyper-automate Model 3 production at its Fremont plant in California, Tesla “May have shot itself in the foot.”
One of the important ways that simple design contributes to simpler final assembly is in how many parts and how much space is required alongside the assembly line.
Robots aren’t as flexible as humans; they aren’t as good as humans at adapting to product variants nor can they handle as many complex movements as humans.
As we enter an age of machines that can learn directly from data rather than being programmed by humans, Tesla’s experience with a hyper-automated production process is important to understand.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Code Has Been in Control For Much Longer Than You Might Think”

The word “Code” derives from the Latin codex, meaning “a system of laws.” Today “Code” is used in various distinct contexts-computer code, genetic code, cryptologic code, ethical code, building code, and so forth-each of which has a common feature: They all contain instructions that describe a process.
As code advances, higher-level technologies feed on more fundamental technologies in much the same way more complex organisms feed on simpler organisms in the food chain.
Platforms provide essential structures for the code economy: The infrastructure that underlies a city is a standardized platform.
In the past 200 years, the complexity of code has increased by orders of magnitude.
Death rates began to fall rapidly in the middle of the 19th century, due to a combination of increased agricultural output, improved hygiene, and the beginning of better medical practices-all different dimensions of the advance of code.
Greater numbers of people living in greater density than ever before accelerated the advance of code.
The second epochal change related to the advance of code is that we have, to an increasing degree, ceded to other people-and to code itself-authority and autonomy, which for millennia we had kept unto ourselves and our immediate tribal groups as uncodified cultural norms.
We depend for our survival on an ever-growing array of services provided by others, who in turn are ceding an increasing amount of their authority to code.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How to Write Personalities for the AI Around Us”

AI should be designed to complement humans and advance the human experience.
The Frankensteinian task of creating a personality for AI falls somewhere between the art of creating a fictional character and the science of the developing human personality.
One way to approach designing an AI character is to begin with humans.
Some chat bots have been fashioned after human personalities.
Human personalities provide an interesting template, but there are inherent limitations.
In I-That, there is a transparency about the expectations of the transaction that is lacking in I-It. Where does this leave AI? Well, I believe we should develop AI personalities to meet all three types of relationship.
Industry makers want AI to improve human life, and the public wants AI that will be useful.
As for the I-Thou relationship, I believe we can and should design AI to nudge humans toward the highest form of connection.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Researchers are keeping pig brains alive outside the body”

In a step that could change the definition of death, researchers have restored circulation to the brains of decapitated pigs and kept the reanimated organs alive for as long as 36 hours.
It also inaugurates a bizarre new possibility in life extension, should human brains ever be kept on life support outside the body.
During the event, Yale University neuroscientist Nenad Sestan disclosed that a team he leads had experimented on between 100 and 200 pig brains obtained from a slaughterhouse, restoring their circulation using a system of pumps, heaters, and bags of artificial blood warmed to body temperature.
“These brains may be damaged, but if the cells are alive, it’s a living organ,” says Steve Hyman, director of psychiatric research at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who was among those briefed on the work.
If a person’s brain were reanimated outside the body, would that person awake in what would amount to the ultimate sensory deprivation chamber, without ears, eyes, or a way to communicate? Would someone retain memories, an identity, or legal rights? Could researchers ethically dissect or dispose of such a brain?
Sestan told the NIH it is conceivable that the brains could be kept alive indefinitely and that steps could be attempted to restore awareness.
Devor thinks the ability to work on intact, living brains would be “Very nice” for scientists working to build a brain atlas.
“If people want to keep human brains alive post mortem, that is a more pressing and realistic problem,” says Hyman.

The orginal article.

Summary of “At Nike, Revolt Led by Women Leads to Exodus of Male Executives”

As women – and men – continue to come forward with complaints, Nike has begun a comprehensive review of its human resources operations, making management training mandatory and revising many of its internal reporting procedures.
Nike’s own research shows that women occupy nearly half the company’s work force but just 38 percent of positions of director or higher, and 29 percent of the vice presidents, according to an April 4 internal memo obtained by The Times.
While Nike executives have told investors that the women’s category was a crucial part of its revenue growth strategy, former employees said it was not given the budget it needed to roll out the sophisticated marketing campaigns that were the hallmark of traditional men’s sports, like basketball.
While women struggled to attain top positions at Nike, an inner circle of mostly male leaders emerged who had a direct line to Mr. Edwards.
Concerned about these departures, a group of women inside Nike started the behind-the-scenes survey that eventually ended up on Mr. Parker’s desk.
Over time, many women developed a deep skepticism of Nike’s human resources services.
“I think his general attitude toward women was just, subtly, that we were less capable,” said Ms. Amin, a junior designer on one of the Nike apps, who added that she had received positive performance reviews since becoming an employee in 2014.She eventually sought help from human resources, which told her that corrective action would be taken.
Nike recently named a woman, Kellie Leonard, as chief diversity and inclusion officer, and Mr. Wilkins said Nike is focused “on attracting, developing and elevating both women and people of color throughout the organization.

The orginal article.

Summary of “There’s no philosophy of life without a theory of human nature”

A strange thing is happening in modern philosophy: many philosophers don’t seem to believe that there is such a thing as human nature.
The existence of something like a human nature that separates us from the rest of the animal world has often been implied, and sometimes explicitly stated, throughout the history of philosophy.
Now, if human nature is real, what are the consequences from a philosophical perspective? Why should a philosopher, or anyone interested in using philosophy as a guide to life, care about this otherwise technical debate? Let’s explore the point by way of a brief discussion of two philosophies that provide particularly strong defences of human nature and that are aligned with cognitive science: existentialism and Stoicism.
The Stoics thought that there are two aspects of human nature that should be taken as defining what it means to live a good life: we are highly social, and we are capable of reason.
On closer examination, it is clear that for the Stoics, human nature played a similar role to that played by the concept of facticity for the existentialists: it circumscribes what human beings can do, as well as what they are inclined to do.
The parameters imposed by our nature are rather broad, and the Stoics agreed with the existentialists that a worthwhile human life can be lived by following many different paths.
It’s not only modern science that tells us that there is such thing as human nature, and it’s no coincidence that a number of popular modern therapies such as logotherapy, rational emotive behaviour therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy draw on ideas from both existentialism and Stoicism.
There is no single path to a flourishing human life, but there are also many really bad ones.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The New York Review of Books”

To explain what his book is about, West added the subtitle “The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies.” The title tells us that the universal laws the book lays down are scaling laws.
The word “Scale” is a verb meaning “Vary together.” Each scaling law says that two measurable quantities vary together in a particular way.
The scaling law then says that the percentage rate for quantity A is a fixed number k times the percentage rate for quantity B. The number k is called the power of the scaling law.
There is a scaling law in biology as important as Kepler’s third law in astronomy.
West is now making a huge claim: that scaling laws similar to Kepler’s law and the genetic drift law will lead us to a theoretical understanding of biology, sociology, economics, and commerce.
West’s first chapter, “The Big Picture,” sets the stage for the detailed discussions that follow, with a section called “Energy, Metabolism, and Entropy,” explaining how one of the basic laws of physics, the second law of thermodynamics, makes life precarious and survival difficult.
Since fractal structure is independent of scale, it leads naturally to scaling laws.
Optimal branching results in the observed scaling law, the total blood flow scaling with the three-quarters power of the mass.

The orginal article.

Summary of “A New Study Suggests There Could Have Been Intelligent Life on Earth Before Humans”

One author of the new study, leading climatologist Gavin Schmidt, wrote a work of fiction to explore its findings.
In our rush to search for life by peering into deep space, have we overlooked the merits of looking for it in deep time? Earth is the only planet that we’re absolutely certain can support a technologically advanced species, yet little thought has been lent to the possibility that during its 4.5 billion year lifespan, our own world might have produced more than one industrialized civilization.
Outside of some science fiction stories and a speculative paper by Penn State astronomer Jason Wright, little serious thought has been afforded to the possibility that we humans are not the first species to build an advanced civilization in the solar system’s history.
“It actually hasn’t been explored that much,” climatologist Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, told me over the phone.
Schmidt paired up with University of Rochester physicist Adam Frank to co-author a paper entitled “The Silurian Hypothesis: Would it be possible to detect an industrial civilization in the geological record?” The hypothesis borrows its “Silurian” title from the fictional reptilian species depicted in the science fiction franchise Doctor Who-these scaly Silurians flourished on Earth many millions of years before the dawn of our own society.
“You really have to dive into a lot of different fields and pull together exactly what you might see,” Schmidt said.
In this way, Schmidt’s paper and his short story both relate the Silurian hypothesis to the Drake equation, which is a probabilistic approach to estimating the number of intelligent civilizations in the Milky Way, developed by astronomer Frank Drake.
The same logic holds for any previous civilizations that may have flourished on Earth, only to either collapse in ruin or scale down on activities that threaten their lifespan.

The orginal article.