Suggested reading: A.I. is not sentient. Why do people say it is?

[Articles I come across that strike me as being of general interest. Suggestions welcome, using the Contact form on this site.]

As the sun set over Maury Island, just south of Seattle, Ben Goertzel and his jazz fusion band had one of those moments that all bands hope for — keyboard, guitar, saxophone and lead singer coming together as if they were one.

Dr. Goertzel was on keys. The band’s friends and family listened from a patio overlooking the beach. And Desdemona, wearing a purple wig and a black dress laced with metal studs, was on lead vocals, warning of the coming Singularity — the inflection point where technology can no longer be controlled by its creators.

“The Singularity will not be centralized!” she bellowed. “It will radiate through the cosmos like a wasp!” … (continue at The New York Times)

Suggested reading: Study finds another condition that vitamin D pills do not help

[Articles I come across that strike me as being of general interest. Suggestions welcome, using the Contact form on this site.]

by Gina Kolata

The idea made so much sense it was almost unquestioningly accepted: Vitamin D pills can protect bones from fractures. After all, the body needs the vitamin for the gut to absorb calcium, which bones need to grow and stay healthy.

But now, in the first large randomized controlled study in the United States, funded by the federal government, researchers report that vitamin D pills taken with or without calcium have no effect on bone fracture rates. The results, published Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine, hold for people with osteoporosis and even those whose blood tests deemed them vitamin D deficient.

These results followed other conclusions from the same study that found no support for a long list of purported benefits of vitamin D supplements. … (continue at The New York Times)

Suggested reading: What is philosophy as a way of life?

[Articles I come across that strike me as being of general interest. Suggestions welcome, using the Contact form on this site.]

by Stephen R. Grimm and Caleb Cohoe

Despite a recent surge of interest in philosophy as a way of life, it is not clear what it might mean for philosophy to guide one’s life, or how a “philosophical” way of life might differ from a life guided by religion, tradition, or some other source. We argue against John Cooper that spiritual exercises figure crucially in the idea of philosophy as a way of life—not just in the ancient world but also today, at least if the idea is to be viable. In order to make the case we attempt to clarify the nature of spiritual exercises, and to explore a number of fun- damental questions, such as “What role does reason have in helping us to live well?” Here we distinguish between the discerning and motivational powers of reason, and argue that both elements have limitations as guides to living well. … (continue at Research Gate)

Suggested reading: Text your friends. It matters more than you think

[Articles I come across that strike me as being of general interest. Suggestions welcome, using the Contact form on this site.]

by Catherine Pearson

Calling, texting or emailing a friend just to say “hello” might seem like an insignificant gesture — a chore, even, that isn’t worth the effort. Or maybe you worry an unexpected check-in wouldn’t be welcome, as busy as we all tend to be.

But new research suggests that casually reaching out to people in our social circles means more than we realize.

“Even sending a brief message reaching out to check in on someone, just to say ‘Hi,’ that you are thinking of them, and to ask how they’re doing, can be appreciated more than people think,” said Peggy Liu, Ben L. Fryrear Chair in Marketing and an associate professor of business administration with the University of Pittsburgh Katz Graduate School of Business. … (continue at The New York Times)

Suggested reading: What it takes to live philosophically

[Articles I come across that strike me as being of general interest. Suggestions welcome, using the Contact form on this site.]

by Caleb M. Cohoe and Stephen R. Grimm

We present an account of what it takes to live a philosophical way of life: practitioners must be committed to a worldview, structure their lives around it, and engage in truth- directed practices. Contra John Cooper, it does not require that one’s life be solely guided by reason. A philosophical way of life does involve reflection and the use of reason, but it does not require perfection or solitary achievement. Religious or tradition-based ways of life can count as truth-directed as long as their practices are reasons-responsive and would be truth-directed if the claims made by their way of life are correct. We argue that our three conditions can be met by progressors as well as sages. Making progress in how one acts in the world and improving one’s understanding and direction through being part of a community is living a philosophical way of life. Our view acknowledges more ways to develop the art of living and enables a broader range of people to count as living philosophically. … (continue at Metaphilosophy)

Suggested reading: In defense of whataboutism

[Articles I come across that strike me as being of general interest. Suggestions welcome, using the Contact form on this site.]

by Robert Wright

Twice over the past two decades I’ve felt outraged by a massive invasion that violated international law. One time was last week, when Russia invaded Ukraine. The other time was in 2003, when the US invaded Iraq.

You’re not supposed to talk like that! To bring up America’s past wrongdoing as if it’s comparable to some other country’s wrongdoing is called “whataboutism”—as in “Yeah, they did something bad, but what about the time America did something that was bad in kind of the same way?” Most American foreign policy elites hate whataboutism, and they especially hate it at times like this, when a war is going on and you’re expected to focus all your rhetorical firepower on the enemy.

Consider Michael McFaul, the highly hawkish former ambassador to Russia who has been a fixture on MSNBC lately. Last week, on the day Russia invaded Ukraine, he tweeted to no one in particular, “Keep your BS whataboutism off my @twitter feed tonight.” That got him more than 600 retweets and 6,000 likes. … (continue at Substack)

Suggested reading: How to argue with people

[Articles I come across that strike me as being of general interest. Suggestions welcome, using the Contact form on this site.]

by Paul Pardi

My wife and I had a conversation recently about how to talk to someone on a topic about which they disagreed. She and this person had many discussions on the topic but couldn’t seem to move toward any sort of a resolution. Both she and this other person had strong views with neither being clearly right or wrong and she asked how to change the context of the discussion so they could get beyond their impasse. I’ve taught logic for many years but in many cases, being “more logical” isn’t really the problem. Both she and the other person were making logical arguments.

The situation in which she found herself involved a lot of different factors including personality, background beliefs, how ideas were presented, and, of course, the rationality of what they both were saying. As I thought of the feedback I’d offer, I found myself drawing from my philosophical training but also my nearly two decades of experience as a manager at one of the top tech firms in the world. Working with very smart and passionate people means you’re constantly having to navigate disagreements to resolve them in the best way possible.

While every argument is as unique as the people having them and there is no cut-and-dried approach that will “always work” in finding a resolution, there are, I think, some general strategies that can at least help make a conversation more productive–or at least more interesting. … (continue at Philosophy News)

Suggested reading: When I First Saw Elon Musk for Who He Really Is

[Articles I come across that strike me as being of general interest. Suggestions welcome, using the Contact form on this site.]

by Edward Niedermeyer

On a beautiful day in May 2015, I drove the 13 hours from my home in Portland, Oregon, to Harris Ranch, California, halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. At the time, Tesla was touting a battery swap station that could send Tesla drivers on their way in a fully powered vehicle in less than the time it takes to fill up a car with gas. Overtaken by curiosity, I had decided to spend a long Memorial Day weekend in California’s Central Valley to see if Elon Musk’s latest bit of dream weaving could stand up to reality.

There, amid the pervasive stench of cow droppings from a nearby feedlot, I discovered that Tesla’s battery swap station was not in fact being made available to owners who regularly drove between California’s two largest cities. Instead, the company was running diesel generators to power additional Superchargers (the kind that take 30 to 60 minutes to recharge a battery) to handle the holiday rush, their exhaust mingling with the unmistakable smell of bullshit. … (continue at Slate)

Suggested reading: Aristotle goes to Hollywood

[Articles I come across that strike me as being of general interest. Suggestions welcome, using the Contact form on this site.]

by Philip Freeman

If you wanted to write a screenplay for a blockbuster film, Aristotle is the last person you might ask for advice. He lived more than 2,000 years ago, spent his days lecturing on ethics and earthworms, and never saw a movie in his life. But some of the best contemporary writers of stage and screen, such as Aaron Sorkin and David Mamet, think that this ancient Greek philosopher knew exactly how to tell a gripping story for any age. ‘The rulebook is the Poetics of Aristotle,’ Sorkin says. ‘All the rules are there.’

Aristotle seems like an unlikely guide for storytellers. He was born in the wild land of Macedonia in northern Greece where his father was serving as court physician to the local king, the grandfather of Alexander the Great. After his parents died while he was still a teenager, Aristotle travelled to Athens to study with Plato, the student of Socrates and most famous philosopher of the day. Plato was a brilliant theorist but had little interest in the practical and experimental work that Aristotle loved. The younger man dissected oysters and waded through swamps collecting tadpoles, basically inventing the science of biology, while Plato was busy discoursing on the invisible reality underpinning the cosmos. After Plato died, Aristotle returned to Macedonia for a time to become the tutor of young Alexander, then founded his own school in Athens called the Lyceum, devoted to research and teaching. … (continue at Aeon)

Suggested reading: How To Write History While It’s Happening, Lessons From Tacitus

[Part of an occasional series of articles I come across and that strike me as being of general interest. Suggestions welcome, using the Contact form on this site.]

by Richard Cohen

He has been called Rome’s greatest historian, the most acute analyst of the autocratic rule of its emperors. His actual last name means “silent,” yet Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a formidable and highly articulate orator and an outspoken author of several books. Born around AD 56 somewhere in the northern provinces, he was a boy in the time of Nero and spent his early career in public affairs. His father was probably an equestrian official and chief financial officer of Belgic Gaul, thus near the top of Roman society, although not an aristocrat. The equestrian order was like a club, entry to which was tied to personal wealth. Its members had many special privileges, although these were not quite as extensive as those of the senatorial class.

Tacitus himself was a praetor by the time he was thirty, was promoted to the Senate, then, after four years away from Rome with his new wife, the daughter of a consul, became consul. He was thus one of the two leading magistrates in the city, commanding the army and presiding over the Senate. He achieved particular celebrity in AD 100, when, working alongside his friend Pliny the Younger he successfully prosecuted a proconsul under Nero for bribery and extortion. … (continue at Literary Hub)