Big Think – Augmented evolution: Why the definition of “human” is about to change | Michelle Thaller

Augmented evolution: Why the definition of “human” is about to change | Michelle Thaller

View on YouTube
If there are intelligent alien civilizations out there, would they look like us? To answer that question, we first have to ask another: Is our species about to take an evolutionary leap? “I think that the definition of being human is about to change a lot in the next century,” says Michelle Thaller, astronomer and Assistant Director for Science Communication at NASA. Over the next few decades, Thaller speculates that humanity’s augmented evolution will begin as we start to merge with A.I.s. Our biological bodies might just be a first step in human evolution, says Thaller, and high-tech implants and neural interfaces may make it possible for us to design our own bodies. “When you design your own body to suit any environment you want, why look like a human? Maybe you want to—[or] maybe you want to be a piece of foil that spreads itself across square kilometers to fly on solar winds and actually move around through solar systems. Maybe you look nothing like a human. Maybe you have nothing like a human life.” So what does this have to do with aliens? Thaller posits that any advanced civilization that is more evolved than us would also have left its biological evolution behind. Expecting humanoid extraterrestrials might be too narrow minded. Maybe aliens are algorithms. Maybe we shouldn’t even be looking for DNA and microbial life. Perhaps ET is a flat sheet of foil cruising through the universe on solar winds.

Read more at BigThink.com:

Follow Big Think here:
YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5
Facebook: http://ift.tt/1qJMX5g
Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink

Transcript: You know, one of oldest questions I think humankind has asked is: “If there’s other life in the universe, is it very, very different from us, or is it very similar?”

And even when it comes to the microbial level, even like very small bacteria things—you know, right now we’re exploring the solar system looking for evidence of life on Mars or on some of the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn. There are oceans underneath the ice, and even if we found a microbe I think one of the first questions is: Does it have something like DNA? Is it similarly put together the way we are, or is it something very different, even at the microbial level?
And then you take that question and you move even farther. I mea,n what would aliens that are more evolved look like? Aliens that maybe even have advanced civilizations? And this is one of these things where I’m very aware of the limits of human imagination. Einstein famously said ‘the universe is not stranger than we do imagine—it’s stranger than we can imagine.’

And I think that a lot of times people say, Well, we have one evidence of how life started and how life can exist, and it sort of makes sense that maybe something similar would have started on different planets. I think actually when you think about civilizations, aliens out there that are advanced—that maybe even have more advanced civilizations than we do—the thing that I really can’t get around is, that I think that the definition of being human is about to change a lot in the next century.

I think that humans and A.I.s and computers will begin to merge and actually become somewhat indistinguishable from each other. This is not some Terminator scenario of the A.I.s taking over and destroying everything. But, for example, I have a friend who has cochlear implants. He was profoundly deaf and then had cochlear implants put in. And I’ve gone to classical music concerts with him—I remember we went to go see Carmen, and there were tears rolling down his face as he was listening to Carmen. And he knows that he doesn’t hear like a human being hears. There are wires that are directly implanted into his brain that stimulate the auditory section; it never goes through an ear. And he upgrades his software every now and then and then he hears differently. All of a sudden the sounds are different and he actually hears different ranges depending on how his software has been updated. But he always reminds me that what technology did for him was make him more connected, more emotional. I remember somebody was color blind but they actually have an auditory cue as to color, and so it sort of changed the way their brain responds. The implants that are coming, and they will be coming soon, you know.

Once you could implant artificial ears in people, why just hear with the range of a human, right? Why not hear with the range of a dog or a whale or a bird that can hear much higher and lower pitched frequencies than we can? That will come soon. And then when we can augment our eyes, why just see visible light? Why not see x-rays and ultraviolet and infrared light and everything that’s out there? I don’t think there’s any way around this. The aliens we’re going to encounter, if they are advanced from us by many centuries of technology, are going to be indistinguishable from A.I.s.

Big Think – Augmented evolution: Why the definition of “human” is about to change | Michelle Thaller

Augmented evolution: Why the definition of “human” is about to change | Michelle Thaller

View on YouTube
If there are intelligent alien civilizations out there, would they look like us? To answer that question, we first have to ask another: Is our species about to take an evolutionary leap? “I think that the definition of being human is about to change a lot in the next century,” says Michelle Thaller, astronomer and Assistant Director for Science Communication at NASA. Over the next few decades, Thaller speculates that humanity’s augmented evolution will begin as we start to merge with A.I.s. Our biological bodies might just be a first step in human evolution, says Thaller, and high-tech implants and neural interfaces may make it possible for us to design our own bodies. “When you design your own body to suit any environment you want, why look like a human? Maybe you want to—[or] maybe you want to be a piece of foil that spreads itself across square kilometers to fly on solar winds and actually move around through solar systems. Maybe you look nothing like a human. Maybe you have nothing like a human life.” So what does this have to do with aliens? Thaller posits that any advanced civilization that is more evolved than us would also have left its biological evolution behind. Expecting humanoid extraterrestrials might be too narrow minded. Maybe aliens are algorithms. Maybe we shouldn’t even be looking for DNA and microbial life. Perhaps ET is a flat sheet of foil cruising through the universe on solar winds.

Read more at BigThink.com:

Follow Big Think here:
YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5
Facebook: http://ift.tt/1qJMX5g
Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink

Transcript: You know, one of oldest questions I think humankind has asked is: “If there’s other life in the universe, is it very, very different from us, or is it very similar?”

And even when it comes to the microbial level, even like very small bacteria things—you know, right now we’re exploring the solar system looking for evidence of life on Mars or on some of the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn. There are oceans underneath the ice, and even if we found a microbe I think one of the first questions is: Does it have something like DNA? Is it similarly put together the way we are, or is it something very different, even at the microbial level?
And then you take that question and you move even farther. I mea,n what would aliens that are more evolved look like? Aliens that maybe even have advanced civilizations? And this is one of these things where I’m very aware of the limits of human imagination. Einstein famously said ‘the universe is not stranger than we do imagine—it’s stranger than we can imagine.’

And I think that a lot of times people say, Well, we have one evidence of how life started and how life can exist, and it sort of makes sense that maybe something similar would have started on different planets. I think actually when you think about civilizations, aliens out there that are advanced—that maybe even have more advanced civilizations than we do—the thing that I really can’t get around is, that I think that the definition of being human is about to change a lot in the next century.

I think that humans and A.I.s and computers will begin to merge and actually become somewhat indistinguishable from each other. This is not some Terminator scenario of the A.I.s taking over and destroying everything. But, for example, I have a friend who has cochlear implants. He was profoundly deaf and then had cochlear implants put in. And I’ve gone to classical music concerts with him—I remember we went to go see Carmen, and there were tears rolling down his face as he was listening to Carmen. And he knows that he doesn’t hear like a human being hears. There are wires that are directly implanted into his brain that stimulate the auditory section; it never goes through an ear. And he upgrades his software every now and then and then he hears differently. All of a sudden the sounds are different and he actually hears different ranges depending on how his software has been updated. But he always reminds me that what technology did for him was make him more connected, more emotional. I remember somebody was color blind but they actually have an auditory cue as to color, and so it sort of changed the way their brain responds. The implants that are coming, and they will be coming soon, you know.

Once you could implant artificial ears in people, why just hear with the range of a human, right? Why not hear with the range of a dog or a whale or a bird that can hear much higher and lower pitched frequencies than we can? That will come soon. And then when we can augment our eyes, why just see visible light? Why not see x-rays and ultraviolet and infrared light and everything that’s out there? I don’t think there’s any way around this. The aliens we’re going to encounter, if they are advanced from us by many centuries of technology, are going to be indistinguishable from A.I.s.

Big Think – Augmented evolution: Why the definition of “human” is about to change | Michelle Thaller

Augmented evolution: Why the definition of “human” is about to change | Michelle Thaller

View on YouTube
If there are intelligent alien civilizations out there, would they look like us? To answer that question, we first have to ask another: Is our species about to take an evolutionary leap? “I think that the definition of being human is about to change a lot in the next century,” says Michelle Thaller, astronomer and Assistant Director for Science Communication at NASA. Over the next few decades, Thaller speculates that humanity’s augmented evolution will begin as we start to merge with A.I.s. Our biological bodies might just be a first step in human evolution, says Thaller, and high-tech implants and neural interfaces may make it possible for us to design our own bodies. “When you design your own body to suit any environment you want, why look like a human? Maybe you want to—[or] maybe you want to be a piece of foil that spreads itself across square kilometers to fly on solar winds and actually move around through solar systems. Maybe you look nothing like a human. Maybe you have nothing like a human life.” So what does this have to do with aliens? Thaller posits that any advanced civilization that is more evolved than us would also have left its biological evolution behind. Expecting humanoid extraterrestrials might be too narrow minded. Maybe aliens are algorithms. Maybe we shouldn’t even be looking for DNA and microbial life. Perhaps ET is a flat sheet of foil cruising through the universe on solar winds.

Read more at BigThink.com:

Follow Big Think here:
YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5
Facebook: http://ift.tt/1qJMX5g
Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink

Transcript: You know, one of oldest questions I think humankind has asked is: “If there’s other life in the universe, is it very, very different from us, or is it very similar?”

And even when it comes to the microbial level, even like very small bacteria things—you know, right now we’re exploring the solar system looking for evidence of life on Mars or on some of the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn. There are oceans underneath the ice, and even if we found a microbe I think one of the first questions is: Does it have something like DNA? Is it similarly put together the way we are, or is it something very different, even at the microbial level?
And then you take that question and you move even farther. I mea,n what would aliens that are more evolved look like? Aliens that maybe even have advanced civilizations? And this is one of these things where I’m very aware of the limits of human imagination. Einstein famously said ‘the universe is not stranger than we do imagine—it’s stranger than we can imagine.’

And I think that a lot of times people say, Well, we have one evidence of how life started and how life can exist, and it sort of makes sense that maybe something similar would have started on different planets. I think actually when you think about civilizations, aliens out there that are advanced—that maybe even have more advanced civilizations than we do—the thing that I really can’t get around is, that I think that the definition of being human is about to change a lot in the next century.

I think that humans and A.I.s and computers will begin to merge and actually become somewhat indistinguishable from each other. This is not some Terminator scenario of the A.I.s taking over and destroying everything. But, for example, I have a friend who has cochlear implants. He was profoundly deaf and then had cochlear implants put in. And I’ve gone to classical music concerts with him—I remember we went to go see Carmen, and there were tears rolling down his face as he was listening to Carmen. And he knows that he doesn’t hear like a human being hears. There are wires that are directly implanted into his brain that stimulate the auditory section; it never goes through an ear. And he upgrades his software every now and then and then he hears differently. All of a sudden the sounds are different and he actually hears different ranges depending on how his software has been updated. But he always reminds me that what technology did for him was make him more connected, more emotional. I remember somebody was color blind but they actually have an auditory cue as to color, and so it sort of changed the way their brain responds. The implants that are coming, and they will be coming soon, you know.

Once you could implant artificial ears in people, why just hear with the range of a human, right? Why not hear with the range of a dog or a whale or a bird that can hear much higher and lower pitched frequencies than we can? That will come soon. And then when we can augment our eyes, why just see visible light? Why not see x-rays and ultraviolet and infrared light and everything that’s out there? I don’t think there’s any way around this. The aliens we’re going to encounter, if they are advanced from us by many centuries of technology, are going to be indistinguishable from A.I.s.

Big Think – Augmented evolution: Why the definition of “human” is about to change | Michelle Thaller

Augmented evolution: Why the definition of “human” is about to change | Michelle Thaller

View on YouTube
If there are intelligent alien civilizations out there, would they look like us? To answer that question, we first have to ask another: Is our species about to take an evolutionary leap? “I think that the definition of being human is about to change a lot in the next century,” says Michelle Thaller, astronomer and Assistant Director for Science Communication at NASA. Over the next few decades, Thaller speculates that humanity’s augmented evolution will begin as we start to merge with A.I.s. Our biological bodies might just be a first step in human evolution, says Thaller, and high-tech implants and neural interfaces may make it possible for us to design our own bodies. “When you design your own body to suit any environment you want, why look like a human? Maybe you want to—[or] maybe you want to be a piece of foil that spreads itself across square kilometers to fly on solar winds and actually move around through solar systems. Maybe you look nothing like a human. Maybe you have nothing like a human life.” So what does this have to do with aliens? Thaller posits that any advanced civilization that is more evolved than us would also have left its biological evolution behind. Expecting humanoid extraterrestrials might be too narrow minded. Maybe aliens are algorithms. Maybe we shouldn’t even be looking for DNA and microbial life. Perhaps ET is a flat sheet of foil cruising through the universe on solar winds.

Read more at BigThink.com:

Follow Big Think here:
YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5
Facebook: http://ift.tt/1qJMX5g
Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink

Transcript: You know, one of oldest questions I think humankind has asked is: “If there’s other life in the universe, is it very, very different from us, or is it very similar?”

And even when it comes to the microbial level, even like very small bacteria things—you know, right now we’re exploring the solar system looking for evidence of life on Mars or on some of the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn. There are oceans underneath the ice, and even if we found a microbe I think one of the first questions is: Does it have something like DNA? Is it similarly put together the way we are, or is it something very different, even at the microbial level?
And then you take that question and you move even farther. I mea,n what would aliens that are more evolved look like? Aliens that maybe even have advanced civilizations? And this is one of these things where I’m very aware of the limits of human imagination. Einstein famously said ‘the universe is not stranger than we do imagine—it’s stranger than we can imagine.’

And I think that a lot of times people say, Well, we have one evidence of how life started and how life can exist, and it sort of makes sense that maybe something similar would have started on different planets. I think actually when you think about civilizations, aliens out there that are advanced—that maybe even have more advanced civilizations than we do—the thing that I really can’t get around is, that I think that the definition of being human is about to change a lot in the next century.

I think that humans and A.I.s and computers will begin to merge and actually become somewhat indistinguishable from each other. This is not some Terminator scenario of the A.I.s taking over and destroying everything. But, for example, I have a friend who has cochlear implants. He was profoundly deaf and then had cochlear implants put in. And I’ve gone to classical music concerts with him—I remember we went to go see Carmen, and there were tears rolling down his face as he was listening to Carmen. And he knows that he doesn’t hear like a human being hears. There are wires that are directly implanted into his brain that stimulate the auditory section; it never goes through an ear. And he upgrades his software every now and then and then he hears differently. All of a sudden the sounds are different and he actually hears different ranges depending on how his software has been updated. But he always reminds me that what technology did for him was make him more connected, more emotional. I remember somebody was color blind but they actually have an auditory cue as to color, and so it sort of changed the way their brain responds. The implants that are coming, and they will be coming soon, you know.

Once you could implant artificial ears in people, why just hear with the range of a human, right? Why not hear with the range of a dog or a whale or a bird that can hear much higher and lower pitched frequencies than we can? That will come soon. And then when we can augment our eyes, why just see visible light? Why not see x-rays and ultraviolet and infrared light and everything that’s out there? I don’t think there’s any way around this. The aliens we’re going to encounter, if they are advanced from us by many centuries of technology, are going to be indistinguishable from A.I.s.

Big Think – 3 Brain Tricks That Will Help You Make Better Decisions | Dean Buonomano

3 Brain Tricks That Will Help You Make Better Decisions | Dean Buonomano

View on YouTube
Pop quiz, hot shot! What do cows drink? If you’re like the vast majority of people, you probably just had the word “milk” flash in your brain. That’s natural, as ‘cow’ plus ‘drink’ to most people equals ‘milk’. But that’s your automatic system talking, and that, as neuroscientist Dean Buonomano points out, is usually the part of the brain that makes most of the bonehead decisions in life like forgetting people’s names and missing easy math problems. The reflective system, on the other hand, is the more logical and computational part of the brain. It takes a little longer to arrive at the answer but that’s because it’s doing a much deeper dive than your other system. It’s a fascinating topic, and Dean explains it perfectly. And if you’re still wondering what the answer to the pop quiz was, your reflective system should’ve told you that cows drink water. Dean Buonomano’s new book is Your Brain is a Time Machine.

Read more at BigThink.com: http://ift.tt/2n2rDtJ

Follow Big Think here:
YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5
Facebook: http://ift.tt/1qJMX5g
Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink

Transcript: So the brain is the most complicated computational device in the known universe. The brain is indeed the most complex device in the known universe. But it’s far from perfect, and the human brain, despite all its amazing features and abilities, has many glitches and problems and brain bugs.

One ability that the brain has is to store memories, and we store memories of many different shapes and forms. But the human brain is also very fallible when it comes to memory. And there’s some things that the brain is very ill-suited to remember.

And those things are like long lists of numbers or long lists of unrelated words—or names, for that matter.

And one of the reasons why is: it goes a bit beyond this notion that we didn’t evolve to remember numbers or we didn’t evolve to remember names, which is certainly true. But it’s a bit deeper than that in terms of the architecture of the brain.

So one of the operational principles—to the extent that we understand how the brain works, we can refer to one of its principles. One of its sort of design principles, if you will, is what I’ll call an “associative architecture”.

Much of what we understand about the brain is based on associations.

If somebody says, “What’s a zebra?” you know what a zebra is in part because what that concept is associated with. You might associate it with Africa, with black and white stripes, with “it looks like a horse”. So we understand to a certain degree the world around us based on associations.

Now when we’re memorizing long lists of numbers or random names, they don’t come with any built-in associations. So this results in something that sometimes we call the Baker Baker paradox.

And the Baker Baker paradox is that it’s easier to remember somebody’s profession—if they tell you “I am a baker”—than it is to remember their name if they tell you “My name is Mr. Baker.”

It’s the same word but the brain is better able to store that information in the context of a profession.

So why is that? Because when somebody says “I am a baker,” implicitly and unconsciously the brain has a number of associations that are already built in with that concept.

So maybe you think of getting up early, maybe you think of funny hats, maybe you think of bread.

Now when somebody says “I am Mr. Baker,” that name by itself doesn’t have any implicit connections. So it’s sort of standing alone, so you don’t tap into the associative architecture of the brain, of your neural circuits, which have all these links and connections between concepts and words and images and knowledge.

So the brain as a computational device is well-suited for certain types of information storage and processing, and ill-suited for others.

And understanding what our natural strengths and weaknesses are certainly makes us capable of making better decisions.

Many of the decisions we make end up being good decisions, but many of the decisions we make are poor decisions, and sometimes we make decisions that are not in our own best interests.

In order to understand how the brain makes decisions, of course, is a mystery—we don’t fully understand how the brain works or where our decisions come from—but as a simplifying rule we do have, we often simplify it into having two systems within our brain.

Sometimes we call those the automatic system and the reflective system.

The automatic system is sort of quick, and sometimes you can think of that as your intuition. It’s associative in nature. It’s emotional. It makes quick sort of heuristic decisions.

Big Think – Are You Cool or Are You Crazy? How Sociologists Define Healthy Rebellion | Derek Thompson

Are You Cool or Are You Crazy? How Sociologists Define Healthy Rebellion | Derek Thompson

View on YouTube
Are you cool? Senior Editor of The Atlantic Derek Thompson could probably tell you. He’s hardly The Fonz, but he’s established a definition of cool that holds up in a sociological way. He posits that coolness is a measured rebellion against an established mainstream, or societal norm. A good way to think of cool is how creative some kids could be by rebelling within the rules of a school uniform — it would be silly to show up naked, for instance, but how cool was the kid who popped his collar and wore sunglasses between classes? Super cool. Derek Thompson defines “cool” as bending the rules as far as they’ll go without necessarily breaking them, and his talk with us is as fascinating as it is concise.

Read more at BigThink.com: http://ift.tt/2F08CiW

Follow Big Think here:
YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5
Facebook: http://ift.tt/1qJMX5g
Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink

It’s an interesting question: what is coolness? And it’s sort impossible to define, but sociologists have tried. And their definition I think is really useful. Their definition is that coolness is a measured positive rebellion against an illegitimate mainstream.

And thinking of that all in one big pile is a little bit complicated, but when you disentangle it it makes a lot of sense.

It is a measured small rebellion—a little difference or distinction—from a mainstream that is considered illegitimate or bad. Coolness is a response to a mainstream.

It is in many ways very similar to the sociological definition of a cult. A cult is also a measured rebellion to a mainstream that is considered illegitimate.

Maybe the best way to think about this definition is to think about it through the lens of dress codes for high schools.

Lots of high schoolers, when they attend a school that has a dress code, they try to break from that code, but only in ways that are measured and positive.

So if the dress code says you have to wear a coat with a tie and a buttoned-up shirt, maybe they’ll undo the tie a bit or wear a hat or undo their buttoned up shirt, they’ll have measured rebellions to that illegitimate mainstream.

But it’s not cool to go to school naked. It’s not cool to go to school dressed like some sort of weird superhero for Tuesday.

That’s not a measured rebellion, that is outright rebellion, and that is not considered “cool”.

So you need a measured rebellion, number one, but number two, the mainstream has to be considered illegitimate in the first place in order for the action to be considered cool.

So in one study these researchers did something really clever: they told a bunch of students who were departing from the mainstream dress code in various ways, they told them the dress code was initiated to honor a high school graduate who had died overseas in a war.

Now, suddenly that dress code wasn’t illegitimate. It was a completely legitimate way for people to honor a fallen soldier, and fewer students considered departing from that dress code to be “cool”.

So it’s very important to think, when defining coolness, that you need two parts: first you need a mainstream that is considered bad—people need to agree that the mainstream is bad—and two, you need the rebellion to be positive and measured. It can’t be crazy. It can’t be insane. And when you have those two things together you have cool.

The difference between that which we consider cool and that which we consider cultish—because they’re relatively similar things they’re both departing from a mainstream—is essentially degree.

Cults are all designed around this idea that most human beings or most people in society “don’t get you” or they don’t get this important thing: They’re not religious enough; they’re not thoughtful enough, they’re not environmental enough; that has to be sort of the first principle of that cult.

But we reserve the word cult for essentially groups that are too far away from the mainstream to be considered a measured rebellion from it.

And so I think that’s exactly the right way to think about coolness versus cultishness, is that we’re all part of cults, we all disagree with some aspect of mainstream social or political thought.

But whether or not other people consider us cool or cultish essentially depends on whether they think that we are departing from that mainstream in a way that is measured and positive.

Big Think – Are You Cool or Are You Crazy? How Sociologists Define Healthy Rebellion | Derek Thompson

Are You Cool or Are You Crazy? How Sociologists Define Healthy Rebellion | Derek Thompson

View on YouTube
Are you cool? Senior Editor of The Atlantic Derek Thompson could probably tell you. He’s hardly The Fonz, but he’s established a definition of cool that holds up in a sociological way. He posits that coolness is a measured rebellion against an established mainstream, or societal norm. A good way to think of cool is how creative some kids could be by rebelling within the rules of a school uniform — it would be silly to show up naked, for instance, but how cool was the kid who popped his collar and wore sunglasses between classes? Super cool. Derek Thompson defines “cool” as bending the rules as far as they’ll go without necessarily breaking them, and his talk with us is as fascinating as it is concise.

Read more at BigThink.com: http://ift.tt/2F08CiW

Follow Big Think here:
YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5
Facebook: http://ift.tt/1qJMX5g
Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink

It’s an interesting question: what is coolness? And it’s sort impossible to define, but sociologists have tried. And their definition I think is really useful. Their definition is that coolness is a measured positive rebellion against an illegitimate mainstream.

And thinking of that all in one big pile is a little bit complicated, but when you disentangle it it makes a lot of sense.

It is a measured small rebellion—a little difference or distinction—from a mainstream that is considered illegitimate or bad. Coolness is a response to a mainstream.

It is in many ways very similar to the sociological definition of a cult. A cult is also a measured rebellion to a mainstream that is considered illegitimate.

Maybe the best way to think about this definition is to think about it through the lens of dress codes for high schools.

Lots of high schoolers, when they attend a school that has a dress code, they try to break from that code, but only in ways that are measured and positive.

So if the dress code says you have to wear a coat with a tie and a buttoned-up shirt, maybe they’ll undo the tie a bit or wear a hat or undo their buttoned up shirt, they’ll have measured rebellions to that illegitimate mainstream.

But it’s not cool to go to school naked. It’s not cool to go to school dressed like some sort of weird superhero for Tuesday.

That’s not a measured rebellion, that is outright rebellion, and that is not considered “cool”.

So you need a measured rebellion, number one, but number two, the mainstream has to be considered illegitimate in the first place in order for the action to be considered cool.

So in one study these researchers did something really clever: they told a bunch of students who were departing from the mainstream dress code in various ways, they told them the dress code was initiated to honor a high school graduate who had died overseas in a war.

Now, suddenly that dress code wasn’t illegitimate. It was a completely legitimate way for people to honor a fallen soldier, and fewer students considered departing from that dress code to be “cool”.

So it’s very important to think, when defining coolness, that you need two parts: first you need a mainstream that is considered bad—people need to agree that the mainstream is bad—and two, you need the rebellion to be positive and measured. It can’t be crazy. It can’t be insane. And when you have those two things together you have cool.

The difference between that which we consider cool and that which we consider cultish—because they’re relatively similar things they’re both departing from a mainstream—is essentially degree.

Cults are all designed around this idea that most human beings or most people in society “don’t get you” or they don’t get this important thing: They’re not religious enough; they’re not thoughtful enough, they’re not environmental enough; that has to be sort of the first principle of that cult.

But we reserve the word cult for essentially groups that are too far away from the mainstream to be considered a measured rebellion from it.

And so I think that’s exactly the right way to think about coolness versus cultishness, is that we’re all part of cults, we all disagree with some aspect of mainstream social or political thought.

But whether or not other people consider us cool or cultish essentially depends on whether they think that we are departing from that mainstream in a way that is measured and positive.

Big Think – Are You Cool or Are You Crazy? How Sociologists Define Healthy Rebellion | Derek Thompson

Are You Cool or Are You Crazy? How Sociologists Define Healthy Rebellion | Derek Thompson

View on YouTube
Are you cool? Senior Editor of The Atlantic Derek Thompson could probably tell you. He’s hardly The Fonz, but he’s established a definition of cool that holds up in a sociological way. He posits that coolness is a measured rebellion against an established mainstream, or societal norm. A good way to think of cool is how creative some kids could be by rebelling within the rules of a school uniform — it would be silly to show up naked, for instance, but how cool was the kid who popped his collar and wore sunglasses between classes? Super cool. Derek Thompson defines “cool” as bending the rules as far as they’ll go without necessarily breaking them, and his talk with us is as fascinating as it is concise.

Read more at BigThink.com: http://ift.tt/2F08CiW

Follow Big Think here:
YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5
Facebook: http://ift.tt/1qJMX5g
Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink

It’s an interesting question: what is coolness? And it’s sort impossible to define, but sociologists have tried. And their definition I think is really useful. Their definition is that coolness is a measured positive rebellion against an illegitimate mainstream.

And thinking of that all in one big pile is a little bit complicated, but when you disentangle it it makes a lot of sense.

It is a measured small rebellion—a little difference or distinction—from a mainstream that is considered illegitimate or bad. Coolness is a response to a mainstream.

It is in many ways very similar to the sociological definition of a cult. A cult is also a measured rebellion to a mainstream that is considered illegitimate.

Maybe the best way to think about this definition is to think about it through the lens of dress codes for high schools.

Lots of high schoolers, when they attend a school that has a dress code, they try to break from that code, but only in ways that are measured and positive.

So if the dress code says you have to wear a coat with a tie and a buttoned-up shirt, maybe they’ll undo the tie a bit or wear a hat or undo their buttoned up shirt, they’ll have measured rebellions to that illegitimate mainstream.

But it’s not cool to go to school naked. It’s not cool to go to school dressed like some sort of weird superhero for Tuesday.

That’s not a measured rebellion, that is outright rebellion, and that is not considered “cool”.

So you need a measured rebellion, number one, but number two, the mainstream has to be considered illegitimate in the first place in order for the action to be considered cool.

So in one study these researchers did something really clever: they told a bunch of students who were departing from the mainstream dress code in various ways, they told them the dress code was initiated to honor a high school graduate who had died overseas in a war.

Now, suddenly that dress code wasn’t illegitimate. It was a completely legitimate way for people to honor a fallen soldier, and fewer students considered departing from that dress code to be “cool”.

So it’s very important to think, when defining coolness, that you need two parts: first you need a mainstream that is considered bad—people need to agree that the mainstream is bad—and two, you need the rebellion to be positive and measured. It can’t be crazy. It can’t be insane. And when you have those two things together you have cool.

The difference between that which we consider cool and that which we consider cultish—because they’re relatively similar things they’re both departing from a mainstream—is essentially degree.

Cults are all designed around this idea that most human beings or most people in society “don’t get you” or they don’t get this important thing: They’re not religious enough; they’re not thoughtful enough, they’re not environmental enough; that has to be sort of the first principle of that cult.

But we reserve the word cult for essentially groups that are too far away from the mainstream to be considered a measured rebellion from it.

And so I think that’s exactly the right way to think about coolness versus cultishness, is that we’re all part of cults, we all disagree with some aspect of mainstream social or political thought.

But whether or not other people consider us cool or cultish essentially depends on whether they think that we are departing from that mainstream in a way that is measured and positive.

Big Think – No Food, No Utopia: How Will Floating Cities Survive?

No Food, No Utopia: How Will Floating Cities Survive?

View on YouTube
Being able to look into the future is a skill that mankind has dreamed about for thousands of years. But seasteading expert Marc Collins believes that the future lies in floating cities where we’ll be able to grow meat in laboratories and drink desalinated sea water. It’s not that crazy (at all) to believe that once the sea levels rise far enough that humanity will have to either leave the planet or adapt to the new high waters. Marc Collins is the co-founder of Blue Frontiers, a company that aims to design these cities on the sea.

Read more at BigThink.com: http://ift.tt/2BfSms3

Follow Big Think here:
YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5
Facebook: http://ift.tt/1qJMX5g
Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink

The pilot project is quite modest. So before we go out and build huge floating structures for hundreds and thousands of people we’re building a small pilot which will be about the size if you can imagine a soccer field—It’s around 7500 square meters.

The engineers are saying it shouldn’t be a single platform, it should be multiple smaller platforms. So maybe 12 platforms of 625 square meters. So imagine a platform 25 meters by 25 meters next to another one with connecting bridges.

And the reason for smaller structures is that we’re going to be inside the reef, within the lagoon of an island. And what you don’t want is to cast a shadow on the bottom of the lagoon that will obviously impact photosynthesis which means we’ll have a problem with the environment. So we needed smaller platforms in order for light to penetrate and we need deep lagoons.

So we had to literally do an inventory of all of the depths of the lagoons around the main islands we’re interested in. We found certain lagoons and the engineers are telling us and environmental consultants are saying that between 25 to 30 meters of depth we will be very—we won’t have an impact on the light situation. So that’s one of the elements of location.

Now in terms of size, because it’s a pilot we don’t anticipate being able to be completely self-sustaining on food. We can be completely autonomous on energy, on fresh water, completely recycle our gray and black water, do all of that and deal with our trash.

Big Think – How religion turned American politics against science | Kurt Andersen

How religion turned American politics against science | Kurt Andersen

View on YouTube
In the last 30 years religion has radicalized American politics and seriously harmed the perception of science, says journalist and author Kurt Andersen. This can be directly tied to the rise of the Christian Right in the 20th century. To see this, you only have to look at the response to the same question posed to Republican presidential candidates over three election cycles, from 2008 to 2016: “Do you believe in Darwinian biological evolution?” In 2008, the majority answered yes. In 2012, there were notably less. In 2016? There was only one of 17 candidates who said he did—Jeb Bush, and even he began to backpedal as he answered. “I don’t believe all those people believed what they said,” says Andersen, “I don’t think all of them disbelieve in evolution, just some of them—but they were all obliged to say ‘yes’ to falsehood and magical thinking of this religious kind, and that’s where it becomes problematic.” From climate change to Creationism and outright conspiracy theories, Andersen points to how the Republican party has come to increasingly incorporate fantasy and wishful untruths into its approach to social, economic, and foreign policy—and it’s turning America into an anti-science spectacle. Kurt Andersen is the author of Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire.

Read more at BigThink.com: http://ift.tt/2FTghkr

Follow Big Think here:
YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5
Facebook: http://ift.tt/1qJMX5g
Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink

Transcript: In 2008, the big Republican presidential candidates were asked: “How many of you believe in Darwinian biological evolution?” Two-thirds or three-quarters said, “I do.” In 2012, the same question was asked, same group of people—Republican presidential candidates—and it was already down to a third. In 2016, the 17 main candidates for the Republican nomination were asked: “Do you believe in evolution?” One, Jeb Bush, brave Jeb Bush, said he did—”but,” he said, walking it back even as he said it, “I’m not sure it should be taught in our public schools, and if it is, it should be taught along with Creationism.” So from 2008 to 2016, that was the change and that change is—I don’t believe all those people believed what they said; I don’t think all of them disbelieve in evolution, just some of them—but they were all obliged to say yes to falsehood and magical thinking of this religious kind and that’s where it becomes problematic.

America has always been a Christian nation. That meant a very different thing 100 years ago or even 50 years ago than it means today. I grew up not going to church very often at all and not with much religious education, but all of my friends were weekly, regular churchgoers of various kinds.

Christian Protestant religion became extreme, it became more magical and supernatural in its beliefs and practices in America than it had been in hundreds of years and more so than it is anywhere else in the developed world. So you have that happening. At the same time, not coincidentally, you have the Republican Party, beginning certainly about 30 years ago, becoming more and more a party of those religiously extreme Protestants. So one thing that has happened and one thing that has led, I think, the Republican Party to accept fantasy and wishful untruth more and more into its approach to policy—whether it’s climate change or the idea that a secret Muslim conspiracy is about to replace our constitutional judiciary system with Sharia law, or any number of other simply untrue tenants of republicanism—all these things which were nutty fringe ideas as recently as 30 years ago are now in the Republican mainstream. I think there’s a connection. I think once you have a political party, more and more of whose members believe in religious and supernatural fantasies of a more and more extravagant kind, it stands to reason or to unreason that you will have a party that is more and more inclined to embrace the fantastical in its politics and policy. Believe whatever you want in the privacy of your home, in the privacy of your family, in the privacy of your church, but when it bleeds over, as it inevitably has done in America, to how we manage and construct our economy and our society, we’re in trouble.