topic: capitalism

do we need a Butlerian Jihad?

humanity's inheritors

Assaulted by any number of articles on the rapid advance of ‘deep learning’, I have been awoken to the reality that the pattern recognition abilities of computers have galloped ahead, so that my cosy¬†complacency that computers were useless at recognising faces, understanding what was in a photograph etc – something that we are so brilliant at – has been overturned. Not only can computers understand what they’re seeing in a photograph, but they will soon […]

false dawns

To anyone worried about climate change the announcement by Lockheed Martin that it is developing a fusion reactor that will be ready for market within ten years could be seen as a cause for hope. Though I’ve yearned for this development for years, now I’m not so sure. Our technologies are causing ecological degradation and climate change. But what is technology except an amplifier of the effects that our minds have on the world? It […]

a new covenant with nature

God gives the spark of life to Adam

It is no surprise that human rights as a formal system, as legislation, should have arisen from the two cataclysms of ‘civil war’ that the Europeans brought upon themselves, and into which they drew so much of the rest of the world. As a way of trying to avoid descent into the horrors of the Rape of Nanking, of the Eastern Front, and of the Holocaust, it is essential, that at the heart of our […]

the trouble with skeuomorphs

Apple's skeuomorphic calendar design

“Skeumorph” is a term I only came across recently – and like many such terms, once you learn of its existence, it ties up a set of things you already knew about, in a bundle that gives you a better grasp on that issue than you had before. Once aware of it, you start to see it everywhere. Skeumorph is defined by the online Oxford Dictionary as: an object or feature which imitates the design […]

competition versus brotherhood

A mania for competition so possesses our societies that it is hard to imagine any other way of being, and yet I think it is critical that we free ourselves from its grip. In the West, the Christian churches, from long habit, had an explanation for everything. Alas, with the rise of science, these churches chose to cling to Old Testament ‘certainties’, with the result that, when the cosmology of ‘Creation’ was overturned, the New […]

the experimental past

The study of the history of non-Western societies – especially those that have ‘failed’ – may be one of the most valuable resources that we have to help guide us through the coming ‘time of difficulty’ that we seem to be heading for. Watching a good BBC documentary about Tiwanaku, I was struck by how pertinent to our present climate change woes was the story of these people, not only surviving, but flourishing in an […]

a bite of the cherry

policeman in front of a picture of Mao...

It seems that those of us who live in the West may need to get used to the fact that our economies are not going to return to constant growth. The belief that things are going to always continue to get better – at least in the sense of a constantly growing GDP – has always been a fantasy: constant growth of the kind we’ve experienced, that consists of consuming the Earth’s resources, presupposes that […]

consuming individuality

It occurs to me that, rather than individualism leading to consumer culture, it is the other way round. Perhaps this is obvious, but it is only recently that I have become aware how – with each choice I make; for the clothing I wear, the furniture I have in my home, the kind of soap I use, the kind of food I choose to eat – I distance myself from my fellow man. I see […]

buying it

Americanisms have been entering Britain for quite some time. It is natural for oldtimers like me to bemoan the language being pulled out from under us. However, I am well aware that it is inevitable that language should change constantly – and I am certainly not interested in being any kind of linguistic (proverbial) Canute. Further, I am also aware that it is an error to see American English as diverging from British English: the […]

sunflower seeds

Ai Weiwei's sunflower seeds...

Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds is currently showing at Tate Modern. A Chinese artist who has suffered severely for being politically outspoken, and who was the artistic consultant on the glorious Bird’s Nest Stadium at the recent Olympic Games, Ai Weiwei has produced a work that says much about China today and in the past. Consisting of 100 million sunflower seeds handmade from porcelain, fired at a high temperature, handpainted, then fired again. According to him: […]