So much of what we see today appears strange to the universal eye of the generalist beholder. We cannot for the life of us fathom why a lot of lay folk do not want to believe in expert prognostication, choosing instead to rely on their own strong beliefs, which belie all evidence.
Scientists and journalists have lost their cachet to the amateur online peddler of all matters requiring detailed attention. The more we insist on the evidence-based truthfulness of a concept, the more the lay side resorts to Colbert’s ‘truthiness’. At this point in these kinds of arguments after we have hit a wall, all communication ceases.
Continue reading The confidence trick
But we will continue to insist it’s 2017 as we cannot ignore the calendar year, although we do consistently ignore what is going on around us. Loud, aggressive groupthink is spreading through the air waves and we have been subsumed. There are few left here to sound the voice of dissent or resistance. Even Bob Dylan has finally accepted his Nobel, that most establishment of awards.
Continue reading The loneliness of dissent
A fleeting look crossed Hillary Clinton’s face. A sagging of expression when she stepped out of her car in off-white into the damp of the Trump inaugural. Then she braced as always for the questions that would come flying. A second before the figurative veil fell there it was, a weary pain damped down quickly in the face of the public. She is not the easiest person to like, a nerd and a woman in a world where butch populism has devoured ethics, family values and democracy.
Continue reading Throwback to patriarchy returns in new guise: Populism
It was all quite innocuous, till it was not. Looking up crockpot chicken dinner recipes on YouTube would lead me to a puzzle at the heart of the modern world.
There is a theory doing the rounds that we all live in bubbles of our own making and this is supposedly behind the divisiveness of the present time. In an earlier post, I tried to work out the fundamental problems with the bubble theory. Social media is probably more responsible than we are for the bubbles of our own making. Although, it is true that we live in bubbles we fill with biased opinions and people that second these views, bubble-living isn’t unique to this or any other time period.
Continue reading Not yet Westworld: Do social media algorithms determine how we think?
People lie all the time. For an intuitive reflex, a survival strategy, aided by something called unethical amnesia, it is irreparably damaging when the people around us indulge in disingenuousness. The truth; now that is a whole other quantity. A paradigm, a learned habit touching the boundaries of ideology, it helped secure civilisation against the delusions of tribalism. And we had it pedastaled, venerated as dear and sacred. Today as with all things sacred, the very idea of truth is under siege. So what is truth, and why is it so important? In the dawning age of post-truth, we feel the need now more than ever to try and outline the importance of being earnest.
When as children we were told repeatedly to speak the truth, what did we think it was? At that age all we could comprehend was that truth had an aura of righteousness and it was attached to that other abstract thing goodness. We didn’t examine anything too closely. For instance, were we telling the truth when we described an event as we experienced it? The problem is that everyone has a different impression of the same experience. Everyone has a different version. Truth will be nebulous if the actual mechanics of it escapes us even in adulthood.
Continue reading The pernicious bubble theory and why the Truth is no longer self-evident
We have atavised. Once a globe, an earth. Now we are but a sum of our tribes. Vanished is that pale blue dot. Banished. Into the darkness.
Continue reading Gone is that pale blue dot
It’s the internet, stupid.
Horror became so quotidian, that when the trolls crawled out of their comment boxes and bayoneted away the experts and nerds, who had acquired their information through study, we didn’t blink. How did the ghost of uninformed opinion gain substantiation, corporalise and destroy nuanced perspective?
Perhaps we have always felt it, that slow, burning resentment against anyone who dares to know better, more than than us the average person. A troll is born in burning, silent resentment.
That resentful undercurrent ran through long-ago Friends episodes, where dumb Joey was always more popular than know-it-all Ross, it was why The Simpsons’ nerdy Lisa could never sell as many t-shirts as her prankster brother Bart. But whereas both Joey and Bart had heart, the troll is devoid of it.
Continue reading We the troll and the horror of a laterally inverted world
Hillary Clinton is no damsel in distress. Julia Gillard the former prime minister of Australia was called a witch during her tenure as that country’s leader. Listen to the former prime minister speaking in Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast. She talks of the gendered attack she faced while serving as the first woman prime minister of Australia. She famously called it out in the Australian parliament in what is now known as the ‘misogyny speech‘.
Continue reading Hillary Clinton and the hysterical he
Something very complicated happens when we speak. Vocal cord vibrations are modulated by the snaky movements of a little appendage called the tongue. Twisting around the mouth cavity, tapping on the roof or on teeth-backs up front, it shapes sounds before they exit the mouth’s mini echo chamber. The hewed-out sounds have travelled a long way from cords to eardrums and then brain. When these sounds at long last go through the brain’s transliteration engine other connotations are spliced in, en route to final meaning. The way we speak reveals a lot about us. Read the transcript or listen to Meghan Sumner, Associate Professor of Linguistics at Stanford University, speak in this Freakonomics podcast. The revelations that other people have about us can be biased. The accent of your speech may cause the person listening to reduce you to a stereotype.
Continue reading General Indian English: Much ado about an accent
Humans: we can be strange. Take for instance, how much we enjoy labelling ourselves then stage-managing our lives to adhere to chosen monikers. Clever, stupid, left-brained, right-brained, hindu, muslim, christian, brahmin, conservative, liberal. These labels like magical mantras possess subliminal powers of suggestion over us. But maintaining the personae suggested by said labeling is hard work, sometimes involving complex ritual and even violence. The reality is that we are a mix of so many changing characteristics it’s hard to adopt any one label at any given time.
Continue reading The strange case of the liberal conservative change-up