Bringing the country together

Bringing the country together

The United States seems as divided today as it has ever been. Racial, economic, religious, and intellectual divisions have spread us further and further apart. And while it’s in the country’s DNA to be divisive, things are seemingly at a breaking point. Politicians call for the country to come together. Is it even possible? Is it possible for there to be “one” America?  Or maybe a better question is, has there ever been one America? A country founded on dissent, based on bringing different cultures together. The term “melting pot” has been used over and over. When imagining the “great” America that Donald Trump seeks to return to, something painted by Norman Rockwell comes to mind. That is one part of the U.S., and it is the one that dominated politics and society for much of recent memory. This is where the problems arise. The idealistic/idyllic white families sitting around a dinner table and talking swap meets with a dog dreaming at their feet and a white picket fence around the front yard only worked for one portion of the country. That is no longer the predominant culture (whether symbolically or otherwise). The painting pictured right, aptly titled Freedom From Want, depicts the only piece of the country that could actually afford freedom from want. This is the demographic that had it all/everything, and they feel as though it is slipping away. As in the video posted by the Atlantic, the U.S. is no longer a white, Christian nation. But the notion that it is only the subjects of those paintings struggling with the social progress and equality embraced by modern society...
The philosopher and the party

The philosopher and the party

Tonight, the sun will sink below the horizon as it always does. Streetlights will blink on, one by one. Overstated neons will glow in the darkness. Bars, clubs, dance halls, music venues, and house parties all across the world will fill with people looking to leave the world behind. The nihilistic nature of partying Nihilism rejects the “higher powers” of religion and morality. It is often discussed in terms of extreme skepticism (i.e. a questioning or doubt toward knowledge) and relativism (i.e. there is no certain truth; only our perceptions exist). For most of the 20th century it has been associated with the belief that life is meaningless. So what is the point of living? While this is often seem as a negative thing, especially by those with religious faith, it doesn’t have to be. “Meaningless” doesn’t mean life without joy; nihilism doesn’t mean without activity. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP), defines a “true nihilist” as one who “would believe in nothing, have no loyalties, and no purpose other than, perhaps, an impulse to destroy.” Staying up, partying all night, watching the sunrise through a haze from the floor of a hotel room or some random house or the street is a way to destroy; to break from normalcy, reject anything greater than ourselves, and affirm that nothing really matters. In this age of information, we grew up knowing that nothing is forever. Uncertainty can be  something of a security blanket, i.e. “ignorance is bliss,” and fuels a hope that because we don’t know for certain, there might still be meaning to all of this. There might be a greater purpose,...
Everybody sucks (except for you)

Everybody sucks (except for you)

You’re feeling awesome today. You woke up on the right side of the bed, your hair is on point, the weather is beautiful, work is going well. And then, in an instant, someone comes along and ruins it.  It might be the person that cut you off on the highway, or the coworker who just doesn’t know when to shut up, or especially, especially that @sshole on the internet who knows exactly how to push your buttons. Staying in a good mood is usually easier if you avoid the internet, or at least the comments section of any article on the internet (really, any article. You can find the most positive topic and there will be someone to spin it wrong). In addition to the keyboard warriors looking to hit you with their “knowledge”, there are the people who get paid to start fights online. And of course you have the trolls who do it just for kicks. But you shouldn’t have to stay away from your favorite sites. You’re awesome, after all. You know why you support the things you do, why you love what you love. And you’re confident that no matter what someone throws at you, they won’t be able to shake your conviction. But then there’s that annoying quip, that backwards belief, that mind-bogglingly asinine quote, that gets you right in the gut.   It can be hard to feel awesome  Even when you know that you’re right. You can’t get into the minds of others (best X-Men power). It doesn’t even have to be a stranger; it could be someone you know, an old friend or lover, that...
You’re an @sshole: Being right in the Digital Age

You’re an @sshole: Being right in the Digital Age

The Digital Age is the current period of human history in which we moved  from the industry-based society of the Industrial Revolution to a focus on computerizing information and creating a knowledge-based society. Also known as the Age of Information, the Digital Age’s greatest achievement is the internet. With the internet (connecting computers through a series of networks) comes access to things we may never have gotten our hands on, and certainly not all at once. Information has, throughout human history, been a priceless commodity and has never before been so readily available as it is today. So when we ask the question, Have we become more intelligent or less in the Digital Age? the knee jerk response is of course we’re smarter now. We have access to a wealth of information (a seemingly unlimited amount). We can connect cultures, and all of the learning therein, with the click of a button. And what’s more, we have the opportunity to share/spread that knowledge in the most revolutionary way since the printing press. But as has also been discussed (in the article Why facts won’t help win an argument, for example), we often latch only onto the things that we agree with, or, more importantly, the things that agree with us. With the amount of half-truths, unfounded claims, and falsehoods on the internet, it has become too easy to trade truth for misinformation. We’re not always getting the truth or the right information, and then we pass it along thinking we’re doing the world a favor. And, even if we are more informed, we’re not necessarily smarter. The convergence of computer ability, data storage, and network ubiquity have...
Don’t try to live before you die

Don’t try to live before you die

“I want to live life to the fullest.” “I want to reach for the stars.” “I want to…” “I want to live life before I die.” These are not real goals. These are meta goals, and should not be your focus. The same as sitting down to come up with the most brilliant idea to change the world or attain happiness and wealth, they are intangible. And it doesn’t work that way. Set real goals Before you say “I’m going to give it my all,” know what “it” is. It doesn’t matter how big or small. If you want to read all of the published Game of Thrones books by the end of the year, do it. If you want to join a Zumba class by next week, do that. If you want to ask out that cute coworker before the end of the day, that’s all you. These are tangible accomplishments. It doesn’t matter at all what the activity is, it matters how much of yourself you put into it. Engage yourself to the fullest, dive in and make it your everything. Don’t listen to anyone who tries to judge you based on how sophisticated your goals are, what is worthy or unworthy of your time, or what you should be doing. Only you know what you want/need to accomplish. What is should?  Too many people give in to what they (think they) should be doing. You should be doing this, you should be doing that. You should be doing things the way everyone else is doing them. “Should” isn’t a real word. Well technically it is. But it’s just an auxiliary verb “used to indicate...
You and A.I.

You and A.I.

Public perception of A.I. and robots has changed often in the last 100 years. A.I. robots have been represented in pop culture as both friendly helpers like Wall-E, and sentient computer killers like HAL 9000. But now that actual homes and automobiles run on smart technology, it’s no longer just pop culture. As robots are starting to look an awful lot like humans, science fiction is starting to look a lot less like fiction. If true A.I. (i.e. a machine/robot as smart and with behavior capabilities as skillful and flexible as ours) becomes a reality, is a world where humans have been replaced as dominant species nigh? We have to start thinking seriously about what this reality will look like for humans. We’re not just talking about simple robots. We have already been living with “robots” for ages. Your car, cell phone, TV, etc. are all extensions of your human body. The roof of your home is an extension of your head/skull. Your shoes extend the abilities of your feet. Your clothes are the result of adaptations to different weather conditions; every time you put on a jacket you’re more or less putting on a robot. The arrival of the computer adds a complexity which we don’t yet fully understand, but our first instinct is to classify it as an extension of our brain. At the University of Minnesota’s Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Vision Laboratory (AIRVL), they’re studying things like Intelligent Transportation Systems and building mini-robots (including adorable Lego-based mini-robots). These inventions range from incredibly useful on multiple levels to simply being really cool toys. Infusing already commonplace things with A.I. has thus far only been positive for humans....