topic: limits

a limit on human creativity?

With our creativity, we explore a space of art and culture, of science and technology, that expands outwards in all directions. By perceiving reality more clearly, we develop more sophisticated skills and tools that, in turn, deepen our perception of reality. It seems natural to believe that this virtuous circle is accelerating us towards an infinite horizon. But is this true and, if so, in what way? The further back we look, the less has […]

giving up our first prize

Eating meat adjusts how we think about other animals, could that in turn carry over to how we treat each other? Meat eating is playing a part in the various ecological crises that we are intensifying. We became major predators when we first brought down a large animal and devoured it. A prey species, we have become the greatest predators of all. Is it time that we should give up being predators altogether? A lion […]

China’s One Child Policy

Much of the reaction to the recent change in China’s ‘one child policy’ seemed to focus on human rights: specifically the right of a woman to have as many children as she wants. A woman’s control of her own fertility has been dearly bought – for most of history women’s bodies have been controlled by men. In many places today they still are. Nevertheless, it seems to me that this issue has another side that needs […]

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 […]

the intelligence trap

Many believe that human intelligence has escaped the gravity well of ‘animal stupidity’, and that now we roam an unlimited space of thought where everything must eventually come within our understanding. Beneath this belief lies another: that humans are set apart from other animals – an idea that may be an expression of species neuroticism, and that finds its clearest expression in many religions. This special pleading has been eroded by the discoveries of science, […]

the once in a 100 million year experiment

As we consume fossil fuels, we humans are carrying out a once in a 100 million year experiment. The coal, oil and gas we have burned so profligately in the past 200 years or so are a legacy of ancient sun energy laid down in the Earth’s crust by organisms at least 100 million years ago (300 million in the case of coal). We began exploiting these reserves where they were easy to reach; at […]