Steven Pinker has this to say in the New York Times about “How to Get Inside a Student’s Head!“ The sciences of the mind can also provide a sounder conception of what the mind of a child is inherently good and bad at. Our minds are impressively competent at problems that were challenges to our evolutionary ancestors: speaking and listening, reading emotions and intentions, making friends and influencing people. They are not so good at problems that are far simpler (as gauged by what a computer can do) but which are posed by modern life: reading and writing, calculation, understanding how complex societies work.
There’s nothing quite so fun as seeing other people on a rant against PowerPoint. Julia Keller gives a blow-by-blow account of how PowerPoint can destroy your thinking and put creativity into boxes. But PowerPoint has a dark side. It squeezes ideas into a preconceived format, organizing and condensing not only your material but - inevitably, it seems - your way of thinking about and looking at that material. A complicated, nuanced issue invariably is reduced to headings and bullets.
Locus Magazine is running an essay called Minor Futurism: Where SFF is Headed by Gabe Chouinard predicting the coming changes, decay and rebirth of science fiction in the new century. We begin here: As a society, we’ve passed through our era of technological progress, and have moved into an era of technological refinement. We’ve abandoned looking outward toward the stars, and have turned our gazes inward. From self-help pop psychology to biotechnology, our focus has undeniably changed.
Neal Gabler wrote a very interesting book, Life the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality, a few years ago. Today he’s working as a commentator on Fox News and writing op-eds. The Media Bias Myth deserves to be read because it describes accurately the real clash between advocacy journalism and objective journalism. Objectivity may always be suspect, but at least in journalism the goals of objectivity were a noble response to a media that seemed too partisan in the last century.
Peter Merholz puts up a critique of the canard that ‘kids’ are better at understanding new technology than adults.
Peter Lindberg, blogger at tesugen.com, linked to an intriguing interview with Richard Gabriel, a Distinguished Engineer at Sun, about the poetry of programming. Writing software should be treated as a creative activity. Just think about it – the software that’s interesting to make is software that hasn’t been made before. Most other engineering disciplines are about building things that have been built before. People say, “Well, how come we can’t build software the way we build bridges?
Dennis Dutton in Philosophy and Literature reviews Richard Posner’s Public Intellectuals: a Study in Decline. On the ‘jeremiad school’ of argument: The chapter on the “Jeremiad School” of public intellectual traces the varieties of public pessimism back to The Education of Henry Adams and Spengler’s Decline of the West. Posner identifies the jeremiad as showing up on both the right and left sides of the political divide, although it is primarily a right-wing phenomenon, where it assumes that (1) the 1950s were America’s last echo of a golden age, (2) the 1960s began the slide into barbarism, that (3) the present is an era of decadence, and (4) the future is bleak.
Virginia Postrel has an interesting column and comment in her weblog regarding the success of the Industrial Revolution. Joel Mokyr, author of The Lever of Riches, has a new book The Gifts of Athena in which he argues the success of the Industrial Revolution was due to cultural encouragements to share information. Through most of human history, periods of invention did not create sustained economic growth. Population might increase because, say, agricultural yields improved.