• The Animist and the AI, Part I: ChatGPT’s Knowledge of Self

    The Animist and the AI, Part I: ChatGPT’s Knowledge of Self

    ChatGPT is a fascinating artifact. At time of writing, it has only been released a few weeks, but society at large is desperately grappling with it, almost as if it were an existential threat. What is it? Is it a sentient being? Is it a plagiarist? Does it enable cheating on essays? Is it an… Continue reading

  • Things Fall Apart: Why We Think Everything’s Getting Worse

    Things Fall Apart: Why We Think Everything’s Getting Worse

    Most Americans, year after year, continue to think that the country is on the wrong track. The older you are (i.e, the more experienced you are, and the more of history you’ve seen), the more likely you are to think everything is falling apart. And it’s not just in America: worldwide, people tend to think… Continue reading

  • Big Data Will Blind You

    Big Data Will Blind You

    Not all of us are scientists, but all of us today are consumers of science. And I mean science, not technology. When we want to lose weight, or make more money, or find that perfect someone, we don’t go to gurus, and we don’t go with our guts. We look at the latest studies. It’s… Continue reading

  • The Toxic Society

    The Toxic Society

    I stumbled on an old, ignored piece of news the other day, which struck me powerfully. Apparently crime rates in the United States continue to plummet, despite the ongoing recession. While I had assumed that the drop in crime rate was related to our insanely high rate of incarceration, apparently that doesn’t really explain it.… Continue reading

  • Gaus: Freedom, Morality, and the State

    Ok, here’s another book I desperately want to have (and while I’m wishing, it sure would be great to have the time to read it as well): The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom and Morality in a Diverse and Bounded World by Gerald Gaus. It’s about large-scale human societies — how they… Continue reading

  • The Cat Cure: Animal Husbandry and Human Civilization

    I do love my cat. Gods, do I love my cat. Cu Gwyn is his name, meaning “White Dog” in Welsh; we chose it for him because he’s a black cat, and that’s the kind of sense of humor we have. Cu wanders the house at random, mostly sleeping or looking out the window or… Continue reading

  • Temperance, Terror, Torch, Torture

    My old blog, the Word of the Day, is defunct, and I’m getting ready to take it down. Before I do, though, I’m going to repost some of the best words here over the next few weeks. Enjoy! Temperance Ultimately, temperance comes from Latin tempus, “time”. No one knows where Latin picked up tempus –… Continue reading

  • The Tie that Binds: a Meditation on Love and War

    Why are people violent? Years ago, during a visualization meditation on physical violence (I wanted to try and get at the root of it, to understand where it came from), I found myself on a path edged with tall, tangled bushes. Their branches were bowed with huge blossoms and masses of matted leaves. The air… Continue reading

  • Nature and Social Insanity

    I’ve been talking with Alison a lot over the past week about insanity — particularly insanity in societies. Obviously individual people can be insane — usually broadly defined as mental or emotional distress that interferes with functioning normally in society. But what would it mean for a whole community to be insane? Is that even… Continue reading

  • At Death’s Door: Thoughts on Immortality and Spirituality

    At Death’s Door:  Thoughts on Immortality and Spirituality

    A few months ago there was another breakthrough in geriatrics. This time, scientists were actually able to reverse aging in mice. The very thought of reversing aging has been considered insane for most of the history of science. Getting old happens — to animals, plants, buildings, planets, and stars. Bodies, like everything else, just wears… Continue reading