Archive for July, 2010

3 Novels To Read if You Liked Inception

3 Novels To Read if You Liked Inception

Maze of Death

Maze of Death by Philip K. Dick.

Inception seems to owe more than a little to Philip K. Dick’s reality-bending sci-fi yarns. In Maze of Death, which takes place in a world in which god seems to be an objectively real entity, several down-and-out misfits are assigned to work on a harsh, mostly uninhabited planet. But after losing radio contact with their employer they find themselves stranded without even knowing what their assignment is.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland

Japanese author Haruki Murakami is a master of writing surreal, dream-like novels. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World revolves around a “calcutec,” who uses his brain as a type of encrypted storage. Companies hire him to store securely store trade secrets. Until, of course, something goes wrong.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

Neuromancer by William Gibson

Neuromancer by William Gibson.

I thought of Inception initially as a Dickian film, but my friend Ian pointed out it’s actually more of a Gibsonian film. Neuromancer, Gibson’s first novel, is a heist story taking place in virtual reality. Inception fans should feel right at home.

July 30, 2010 24 comments
Study Finds Relationships Help You Live Longer

Study Finds Relationships Help You Live Longer

No man is an island, and if he tries to be one, he may die sooner, according to a new BYU analysis.

Researchers have discovered that people with greater social relationships are 50 percent more likely to live longer than their socially reclusive counterparts.

In fact, a lack of friends is as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic. It’s also twice as damaging as obesity and more harmful than not exercising, according to the study.

“We’re not in any way trying to downplay the seriousness of these other risk factors, (which) are very important,” said author Julianne Holt-Lunstad, associate professor of psychology at BYU. “Rather, we’re trying to make the point that we need to start taking our social relationships just as seriously as we take these other factors.”

The researchers combed through thousands of studies since 1900 to find 148 that dealt with their research questions. Those studies asked more than 300,000 subjects about relationships and then tracked their health outcomes for an average of 7.5 years.

Deseret News: BYU study finds relationships help you live longer

(Via Theoretick)

This post rounds up previous posts on this subject.

July 30, 2010 1 comment
So-Called “Digital Natives” Not So Net Savvy After All

So-Called “Digital Natives” Not So Net Savvy After All

“In Google we trust.” That may very well be the motto of today’s young online users, a demographic group often dubbed the “digital natives” due their apparent tech-savvy. Having been born into a world where personal computers were not a revolution, but merely existed alongside air conditioning, microwaves and other appliances, there has been (a perhaps misguided) perception that the young are more digitally in-tune with the ways of the Web than others.

That may not be true, as it turns out. A new study coming out of Northwestern University, discovered that college students have a decided lack of Web savvy, especially when it comes to search engines and the ability to determine the credibility of search results. Apparently, the students favor search engine rankings above all other factors. The only thing that matters is that something is the top search result, not that it’s legit.

On the other hand, they do seem to be quite savvy when it comes to Facebook privacy settings.

Previously: Why “digital natives” don’t exist

Does the Internet Make us Better Informed?

July 30, 2010 0 comments
Watch Primer Online for Free

Watch Primer Online for Free

Shane Carruth, director of Primer, put the entire movie on Google Video for free. It’s a favorite of mine.

(via Planet Damage, who calls it “Just like Inception, only weirder”)

July 27, 2010 1 comment
Medieval Cyborgs – Artificial Memory as Mindware Upgrade

Medieval Cyborgs – Artificial Memory as Mindware Upgrade

Fuckin' RIFTS

Abstract:

The philosopher and cognitive scientist Andy Clark has argued that humans have always been ‘natural-born cyborgs,’ that is, they have always collaborated and merged with non-biological props and aids in order to find better environments for thinking. These ‘mindware’ upgrades (I borrow the term ‘mindware’ from Clark, 2001) extend beyond the fusions of the organic and technological that posthumanist theory imagines as our future. Moreover, these external aids do not remain external to our minds; they interact with them to effect profound changes in their internal architecture. Medieval artificial memory systems provide evidence for just this kind of cognitive interaction. But because medieval people conceived of their relationship to technology in fundamentally different ways, we need also to attend to larger epistemic frameworks when we analyze historically contingent forms of mindware upgrade. What cultural history adds to our understanding of embedded cognition is not only a recognition of our cyborg past but a historicized understanding of human reality.

Our cyborg past: Medieval artificial memory as mindware upgrade

(via Adam Greenfield)

See also: My interview with cyborg anthropologist Amber Case

July 27, 2010 2 comments
Tony Robbins and the Cult of Aggressive Positivity

Tony Robbins and the Cult of Aggressive Positivity

Firewalk

Duff McDuffee writes about his experience as a follower of Tony Robbins:

Unfortunately few contexts are relevantly similar to firewalking, as I found out the hard way. Achieving most personal outcomes requires patience, persistence, and flexibility, not an intense emotional display and impulsive action.

I found the portion where he links aggressive positivity with depression interesting. He quotes the following passage from this article on creativity:

…creative people, for the most part, exhibit active moods and positive affect. They’re not particularly happy—contentment is a kind of complacency creative people rarely have. But they’re engaged, motivated, and open to the world.

The new view is that creativity is part of normal brain function. Some scholars go further, arguing that lack of creativity—not having loads of it—is the real risk factor [for anxiety and depression commonly thought to be a trait of creative people]. In his research, Runco asks college students, “Think of all the things that could interfere with graduating from college.” Then he instructs them to pick one of those items and to come up with as many solutions for that problem as possible. This is a classic divergent-convergent creativity challenge. A subset of respondents…quickly list every imaginable way things can go wrong. But they demonstrate a complete lack of flexibility in finding creative solutions. It’s this inability to conceive of alternative approaches that leads to despair. Runco’s two questions predict suicide ideation—even when controlling for preexisting levels of depression and anxiety.

And adds:

Here we come to understand a looping program for spiraling depression, if not bipolar—built into the very framework of the cult of aggressive positivity found in Tony Robbins’ workshop, but also found in other popular self-help workshops, books, CDs, blogs, eBooks, coaching programs, etc. As with most chronic psychological problems, the attempted solution makes the problem worse. The alcoholic drinks to make his hangover go away. The sweet-tooth eats sugar to reward himself for going all day without sugar. The unsuccessful self-helper pushes away fear only to then be more unprepared and therefore more likely to fail, becoming even more depressed with each failure. By not thinking about negative potential problems or future scenarios, one never develops the skill of being able to handle them. Of course as soon as you teach your people to think critically, you’ve lost most of your potential money as a guru—both because they get better and thus aren’t as eager to buy more of the same, but also because they think critically about your sales messages too. One can still make a respectable living this way, but will probably not reach the same dizzying heights of fame and fortune.

Robbins claimed in his public TED talk—with now over 2.1 million views on YouTube alone—that he has never lost a client to suicide. Since his organization doesn’t do followups with all of his thousands of seminar attendees (only a select few that are used for video testimonials), this claim is totally corrupted by confirmation bias. There have been many reports of suicide and psychosis following intensive weekend workshops like Robbins’ on anti-cult forums like Rick Ross. Were these caused by the workshops themselves, or would they have happened anyway? The question of causation is tricky business, especially with lawyers under the employ of seminar organizations actively suppressing such negative information (note to such lawyers: while I can neither confirm nor deny any claims as to whether anyone has ever committed suicide as a result of attending a Tony Robbins event or any other workshop, I won’t be removing this post which merely states my opinions and is protected free speech—see also.)

Beyond Growth: Tony Robbins and the Cult of Aggressive Positivity Part 1 and Part 2

My interview with Duff and Eric Schiller is here.

I did a guest post at Beyond Growth called Towards a Socially Conscientiousness Lifestyle Design Movement.

See also all previous posts tagged positive thinking or self help.

July 27, 2010 2 comments
Grant Morrison’s New Movie, SINATORO

Grant Morrison’s New Movie, SINATORO

SINATOTO-POSTER

Apparently just announced at San Diego Comic Con:

This is the poster for the psychedelic revenge thriller Sinatoro, for which comic book legend Grant Morrison will be writing the screenplay. [...]

The film’s producers are Zdonk with video director Adam Egypt Mortimer on board. Grant Morrison describes the film as “a hallucinatory road-trip into the American psyche, and it evolved into a unique and genre-busting project, worthy, we hope, of a new way of thinking about movies.”

Bleeding Cool: Grant Morrison’s New Movie, SINATORO. And You Will Be Invited To Get Involved.

Looks like a late 90s Vertigo title. We’ll see if it actually happens… here’s hoping!

July 24, 2010 1 comment
Can’t Find a Job in the States? Move to India

Can’t Find a Job in the States? Move to India

Landscape

I couldn’t find a job, but neither could anyone I knew. Now, more than a year after graduation, most of my college friends still live at home, and many of those who have moved out are borrowing money from their parents to eat and pay rent. A few have internships, but most of those are unpaid, and few are likely to lead to jobs. Two friends who studied psychology for four years now work off the books at a sandwich shop. Another, who got her master’s in development studies from Cambridge, became a barista at Starbucks.

Some are applying to grad school just to have something to do, but the prospect of racking up thousands more dollars in student debt is crushing. The rest are still looking, sending out résumés, going to career fairs, volunteering for experience, and networking. Some have given up. We are a whole generation graduating into a job market that has no room for us.

So I moved to India.

Two years earlier, I had spent a semester abroad in the Nepali-speaking regions of northeastern India, learning the language and culture through a fantastic study-abroad program at Pitzer College. In India, I met Pema Wangchuk, editor and publisher of Sikkim NOW, the most popular local English-language daily newspaper in the state of Sikkim. A couple months into my job hunt, I sent Pema an e-mail asking if he knew anyone who might be interested in hiring a young, enthusiastic American college graduate. “We’d be quite keen to have you here,” he wrote back.

Chronicle of Higher Education: What I Did When I Couldn’t Find a Job

The writer, Andrew Dana Hudson, asks “Why don’t more recent graduates move to the developing world to wait out the recession?” But he sort of ends up answering his own question: you can’t pay off your student loans while living abroad living cheaply (but as he points out, it’s still better than languishing in the States racking up credit card debt) and most people don’t have the sort of connections abroad that he had. I’d also point out that that the cost of getting somewhere, even if it’s really cheap once you’re there, is an obstacle.

The problem with finding somewhere to work/volunteer isn’t unsurmountable- but the “voluntourism” industry makes it difficult to find opportunities. Google “volunteer abroad” and you’re likely to find heaps of volunteer opportunities that cost a pretty penny.

Anyone have any experience or advice for doing something like this?

(via Bruce Sterling

July 23, 2010 5 comments
Second Volume of Cult of Zir with Ogo Eion’s Shortwave Theatre for Ministry Noir

Second Volume of Cult of Zir with Ogo Eion’s Shortwave Theatre for Ministry Noir

Shortwave Ministry 2

<a href="http://cultofzir.bandcamp.com/album/shortwave-theatre-for-ministry-noir">southeast by cult of zir</a>

“pay what you can, zero is acceptible. nobody will be turned away for an excess of funds…”

Cult of Zir with Ogo Eion’s Shortwave Theatre for Ministry Noir vol. 2

My interview with Cult of Zir and Ogo Eion is here.

July 23, 2010 0 comments
Alan Moore Turns Down Offer to Regain Rights to Watchmen in Exchange for Authorizing Sequels

Alan Moore Turns Down Offer to Regain Rights to Watchmen in Exchange for Authorizing Sequels

Watchmen

“They offered me the rights to Watchmen back, if I would agree to some dopey prequels and sequels,” the influential comics legend told Wired.com Wednesday by phone from his home in Northampton, England. The subject came up in a wide-ranging interview about his Moore’s multimedia spoken-word box set Unearthing (right) and other topics.

“So I just told them that if they said that 10 years ago, when I asked them for that, then yeah it might have worked,” he said. “But these days I don’t want Watchmen back. Certainly, I don’t want it back under those kinds of terms.”

Wired: Alan Moore: ‘I Don’t Want Watchmen Back’

July 23, 2010 0 comments