Tag Archives: Technology

Encountering Henri Bortoft

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This UNESCO World Philosophy Day, 2013, I thought it would be good to look for thinkers who are under appreciated. The (recently) late Henri Bortort is, I suspect, such a thinker. He was a phenomenologist whose major contributions revolve around our approach to complex systems, phenomena which find significance in environmental science, linguistics, business, and digital technology, among other disciplines. (Please excuse the few grammatical errors- it’s a great piece from a fascinating blog.)

Transition Consciousness

Now that I am beginning to lecture and teach complexity, many people are asking me about who I teach, and what my key references are. This is quite a difficult question to answer on a number of levels, especially when you are trying to teach people that “thinking” is just one of the ways of knowing the world, and that “sensing”, “feeling” and “intuition” are just as important.

One very key person who I admire greatly and who I base much of my work around is that of Henri Bortoft, author of the book “The Wholeness of Nature: Goethe’s Way of Science”.  I remember reading this book for the first time around February 2009, in preparation for my MSc in Holistic Science at Schumacher College.  I had been recommended this book since Henri teaches the first week of the MSc, and Henri’s philosophy provides one of the foundation stones for…

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Can you kill a goat by staring at it? A critical look at minimally invasive education

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Happy World Philosophy Day!! Here’s an excellent piece on educational innovation and the need for philosophical skills to supplement e-learning. Click through to the site to read the whole article.

philosophyfoundation

In his renowned ‘Hole in the Wall’ experiments in developing countries, Dr Sugata Mitra gave children access to an internet-connected computer and left them to learn what they could, unsupervised, with apparently remarkable results.

Photo 1 (Hole in the Wall 1)

At an internet kiosk in a New Delhi slum, local children figured out how to search the Web, learned English, gleaned information from a variety of websites and taught each other what they had learned. Similarly, with access to a streetside computer in a south Indian village, Tamil-speaking kids managed to figure out basic principles of DNA replication by playing around with English-language web material on their own. ‘Minimally invasive education’ is how Dr Mitra describes this method, alluding to the high-impact, low-disruption techniques of minimally invasive medicine.

Photo 2 (Hole in the Wall 2)

Hole in the Wall: Minimally Invasive Learning Stations designed by Dr Sugata Mitra. Top photo: source unknown. Bottom photo by Philippe Tarbouriech, Jaipur, Rajasthan.

This novel educational approach has garnered…

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Three trends that will create demand for an Unconditional Basic Income

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A most superlatively excellent post about the welfare/economic policy concept of ‘Unconditional Basic Income’ (UBI) (popularised in Anglophone philosophy by the non-Anglophone-sounding Philip Van Parijs), click through to the site to view properly. //

Just this evening I contributed to a friend’s discussion on Facebook over whether universal benefits were preferable to means tested ones because the latter lead to claimants being disrespected with stigma and suspicion. I wrote an essay on this for my degree which I plan to adapt for this blog some time, and my view tonight is the same as it was there: that the positives of means testing outweigh the negatives of the disrespect, since claimants are going to have to deal with that from other sources anyway, and they should just learn to put up with it as one of the less serious disadvantages of being poor. This position, however, is dependent upon there being a welfare state similar to the one we have now, whereas my top preference is for a radically different establishment in which we have UBI instead. //

Funnily enough, I also mentioned this in the aforementioned university essay and the reason I haven’t posted it is that I want to split up the topic of progressive approaches to social justice from that of means testing’s disrespect. But I didn’t make the link that the author of the Simulacrum article I’m blogging does, that UBI solves the respect dilemma by apparently making means testing redundant (-probably why I didn’t get a 1st class grade for that one…). Heading in the same direction as my post on Working Less, he says: “If we stop stigmatizing the non-employed, we can stop pushing people into jobs that offer little collective benefit.” //

This is also apt because I am about to welcome a second guest blogger in the form of Joey Jones (like Toby Coe and myself a University of Reading graduate) to share his philosophical ruminations on work, and The Partially Examined Life are about to podcast on work too.

Simulacrum

The digitization of our economy will bring with it a new generation of radical economic ideologies, of which Bitcoin is arguably the first.  For those with assets, technological savvy, and a sense of adventure, the state is the enemy and a cryptographic currency is the solution.  But for those more focused on the decline of the middle classes, the collapse of the entry-level jobs market, and the rise of free culture, the state is an ally, and the solution might look something like an unconditional basic income. Before I explain why this concept is going to be creeping into the political debate across the developed world, let me spell out how a system like this would look:

  • Every single adult member receives a weekly payment from the state, which is enough to live comfortably on.  The only condition is citizenship and/or residency.

  • You get the basic income whether or not…

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Žižek’s Concern with Transhumanism

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Detail from the poster for Zizek’s film, ‘The Pervert’s Guide To Ideology’.

This is a guest post by Toby Coe. Most readers will be at least aware of the Slovenian philosopher and intellectual cult figure Slavoj Žižek. The message of his 2011 book, Living In The End Times (published by Verso) is the prediction that has been repeated by almost every Marxist intellectual who has ever taken up a pen in anger, namely, that capitalism will inevitably collapse due to imbalances inherent in the system it creates. Living In The End Times does not really fulfill the promise of showing why this will happen, but is the umbrella under which several interesting discussions of various issues takes place. One of these concerns Transhumanism.

Žižek thinks that Transhumanism is a kind of “apocalypticism”, in other words an ideology that is parasitic on religious notions of an “end times” or “reckoning”, where the old order is brought violently to an end. Read the rest of this entry

Lewis’ Law

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Unfortunately a law that holds true, for the meantime.

Feminist Philosophers

A recent article entitled, “Donglegate: Why the Tech Community Hates Feminism” referenced Lewis’ Law, which is explained above.  What do people think?

Also, I really hope the article linked above is mistaken about the increased popularity of MRAs.

Also also, Lewis’ Law, if sound, definitely applies to the article linked above.

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A slightly deeper look at Storytelling

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A fascinating post in relation to a number of different issues. (Click through to the site to view the article properly.)

Transition Consciousness

While doing my masters degree at Schumacher College, I took part in the Transition Towns movement in Totnes, and spent time with the Transition Tales team, a small and pioneering team who formed part of Transition Towns Totnes, the first Transition Town in the world. One of the aims of this project is to raise awareness within Primary and Secondary School children of the transition solution of community led response to the twin challenges of Peak Oil and Climate Change by creating positive stories. This is done in partnership with local schools in the Totnes area, either as part of class time, or in after-school clubs.

I have written up the history of Transition Tales, how they formed, and how they worked with schools. You can read my essay here which was also published in the on-line journal Energy Bulletin.

Both Maria and I have a deep interest in education…

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Aside

With thanks to Adam Curtis © 2011.

ALL WATCHED OVER BY MACHINES OF LOVING GRACE

Introduction

This documentary takes its name from a 1967 poem of Richard Brautigan which called for a cybernetically-programmed ecological utopia consisting of a fusion of computers and mammals living in perfect harmony and stability. By contrast, the film implies that humans have been colonized by the machines they have built: although we don’t realize it, everything we see in the world today is through the eyes of the computers. Computers have failed to liberate us and instead have distorted and simplified our view of the world around us. Hugh Montgomery summarised the suggestions made by the film as follows: “By putting our faith in computers [or unfeeling bureaucracies more generally] to create a stable, democratic world order… we’ve become politically and economically naïve and dulled to the business of real social change.” Read the rest of this entry

Adam Curtis’ All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace, Part 1