Nevada assemblyman Steven Brooks (D) is in jail, arrested for threatening Democratic Speaker-elect Marilyn Kirkpatrick, the Las Vegas Sun reports.
“A source said he was arrested with a loaded gun after threatening to shoot Kirkpatrick… Another Democratic source with knowledge of the situation said Brooks publicly threatened to harm Kirkpatrick because he was unhappy with the committee assignments given to him by Kirkpatrick.”
TMI- Too much information- is a concept we are all familiar with.
With a keyboard, a mouse click or two, we can access just about any bit of information we might need. What was once a long term investment in term of time and commitment, information can now be readily absorbed in a matter of moments. Is that a bad thing?
Maybe, maybe not.
As access to knowledge increases there will inevitably be problems and culture shock as one ‘regime’ replaces another- but that may very well be a small price to pay.
The same argument was made with the advent of the printing press and encyclopedias and other reference books. Prescribed avenues of study were upended as students could rely on books to search out information for themselves. The advent of books allowed students to become with related and non related disciplines and as a result research yielded fantastic results. As literacy and books came into wide purview (and not controlled by religious or aristocratic classes) our knowledge- and freedom- expanded exponentially. Education didn’t just empower a few individuals. Education empowers a nation, a culture and a society.
In nations where intellectual pursuits are encouraged, societies are free and advanced. In nations where intellectual pursuits are stifled, cultures and societies remain backward and constrained. A society and culture which fights to keep racism and bigotry institutionalized are lesser societies and cultures. A society and culture which fights and resists racism and bigotry are far healthier.
As revolutions rock the beginning of the 21st century we can only hope the revolutionaries who access to global information networks choose to embrace the elevation of their populations, societies and cultures. Those revolutionaries who choose to rearrange the deckchairs on what is a sinking ship will themselves be overthrown and be soon be forgotten.
Once unleashed, an educated class and those with access to education and knowledge cannot be kept down.
We now live in the early part of an age for which the meaning of print culture is becoming as alien as the meaning of manuscript culture was to the eighteenth century. “We are the primitives of a new culture,” said Boccioni the sculptor in 1911. Far from wishing to belittle the Gutenberg mechanical culture, it seems to me that we must now work very hard to retain its achieved values.
—Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy, 1962
Technological revolutions are far less obvious than political revolutions to the generations that live through them. This is true even as new tools, for better and worse, shift human history more than new regimes do. Innovations offer silent coups. We rarely appreciate the changes they bring until they are brought. Whether or not we become the primitives of a new culture, as the Futurist Umberto Boccioni observed, most of us still live behind the times and are content to do so. We expect the machines of the present to fulfill the needs of the past even as they deliver us into a future of unknowns.
World-changing inventions almost always create new roles rather than fill old ones. It’s a great invention, but who would ever want to use one?was the classic response to the telephone, variously attributed to Ulysses S. Grant or Rutherford B. Hayes but probably said by neither of them. Life-altering technologies often start as minor curiosities and evolve into major necessities with little reflection on how they reform our perceptions or even how they came to be.
In the eighteenth century, Edmund Burke could see the significance of the French Revolution while observing its developments in real time. Yet “in the sixteenth century men had no clue to the nature and effects of the printed word,” writes Marshall McLuhan in The Gutenberg Galaxy, his 1962 book on the printing revolution and the dawning of the electronic age. It wasn’t until nearly 200 years on that Francis Bacon located the printing press alongside gunpowder and the compass as changing “the whole face and state of things throughout the world.” Writing in his 1620 book Novum Organum (“New Instrument”), Bacon maintained that “no empire, no sect, no star seems to have exerted greater power and influence in human affairs than these mechanical discoveries.” In the nineteenth century, Victor Hugo called the invention of printing the “greatest event in history” and the “mother of revolution.” Political revolution began in this technological upheaval.
Philosophers known as “virtue epistemologists” claim that the goods of the intellectual life—knowledge, wisdom, understanding, etc.—are more easily obtained by persons possessing mature traits of intellectual character, such as open-mindedness, teachability, and intellectual courage, than by persons who lack these virtues or who are marked by their opposing vices. Here I focus on the virtue of “intellectual humility” and ask what relevance it has for the pursuit of scientific knowledge. I argue that intellectually humble scientists have a stronger likelihood of winning knowledge and other intellectual goods than those lacking this virtue. Intellectual humility leads indirectly to scientific insight. It does not super-charge our cognitive powers or improve scientific techniques, so much as it changes scientists themselves in ways that allow them to direct their abilities and practices in more effective ways.
Humility is a contested term. Some thinkers wrongly describe it as thinking oneself as more lowly or less accomplished than is the case. We do not think a surgeon intellectually virtuous who enters the operating theater overcome with humility in this sense. Others describe humility as the capacity to conduct a frank and sober assessment of one’s true strengths and weaknesses. This is not humility, but honesty or truthfulness, which are no doubt aided by humility’s power to suppress forms of pride that obstruct honest self-appraisal.
Humility is a deeply anchored disposition that marks persons remarkably free from pride, or inordinate self-love in its many forms—selfish ambition, snobbishness, conceit, arrogance, and presumption, to name just a few. This is often because excessive self-regard is swamped by a more virtuous concern for knowledge, wisdom, or the well being of others. Humility also works to detect and check the stirrings of pride, where persons might yet be tempted by pride, though in its most mature form, humility does not need to overcome contrary inclinations.
What makes humility intellectual humility, in contrast to the moral humility that suppresses our everyday desires to seek the spotlight? Intellectual virtues, including intellectual humility, are so designated because they are most obviously at work in our intellectual endeavors, in our research, writing, academic conferences, and in everyday forms of intellectual exchange, so that we might obtain intellectual goods—knowledge, understanding, warrant, etc. Intellectual humility opposes forms of pride such as undue concern to dominate others, or excessive resistance to criticism, which often frustrate our quest for the various intellectual goods.
How do we know what we think we know? That the Earth is round, for example, and rotates around the Sun, or that Napoleon’s armies retreated from Moscow 200 years ago, or that Renoir was an Impressionist and Anthony Blunt a spy? On what grounds, for that matter, are we inclined to deny what others have believed to be true, such as that certain ‘races’ are inherently superior to others, that skull shapes suggest various levels of intelligence or that a house is haunted? My ‘knowledge’ (like yours, I suspect) is mostly based on information I have received from sources I trust. But that was true of people in earlier times, too. So by what paths did we reach our present state of collective knowledge? This is the question Peter Burke sets out to answer.
The result is a glittering cabinet of intellectual curiosities, a systematic study of the collecting, analysing, disseminating, storing, accessing, using and losing of knowledge in the western world from the mid-18th century to the ‘information overload’ of today. You might expect a book about the social history of knowledge to consist of a broadly chronological account of what sort of people knew what and when. But Burke, one of our foremost cultural historians, has long been driven to seek connections across time, place and intellectual field. This cross-disciplinarity has marked much of his oeuvre, from a comparison of elites in Venice and Amsterdam and books on the sociology of the Renaissance and the ‘fabrication’ of Louis XIV to histories of popular culture and of the media. And it is evident in his latest book, formally the second part of a two-volume study (the first dealt with the period from Gutenberg to Diderot).
The Dawn mission has been orbiting the asteroid Vesta since July 2011. It’s taken thousands of images of the 500 kilometer-wide (300 mile) rock since then, and JPL just released an amazing video which uses real data from Dawn to simulate flying over the asteroid.
Wow. The animation at Marcia Crater (the bottom crater making up the Snowman triple impact) is especially beautiful and realistic!
Dawn is scheduled to leave Vesta in August and then take a long, slow voyage to the even-larger asteroid Ceres, arriving in 2015. So we still have several months of riveting images of Vesta to look forward to.
Immediately I have to break a rule, shatter it into shards and let it drop around me, with no umbrella, accepting the consequences like the desert accepts more sand. It’s more than a rule, really. It’s a paradigm, dug into our brains deep as a battle trench, a myth turned common sense, Santa Claus as a scholarly god. It’s more than a bad idea because it keeps us from truth. It’s gentle as a muon, passing through us, around us, up us, down us, unnoticed, unfelt, unheard. But because it keeps us from truth, it hits us like a mugger, a baseball bat to our thoughts, demanding not money but out hearts.
Look how innocuous this rule is. When discussing a novel, only analyze what’s on the page, do not try to guess what the author is thinking or feeling. How simple is this? How speck-of-dustlike?
But it’s the difference between thinking that Walter Mosley is out of his mind or thinking that Walter Mosley is a serious and courageous writer. So it’s not so simple after all. And since Mosley wrote a book about slavery, it could mean understanding the difference between freedom and slavery, not then, but now, today, in the mirror. Or whether we miss it, the message, completely. It is the difference, therefore, between understanding spiritual life and spiritual death. The importance of the question is a clue right there. In real life, insanity and wisdom do not go together. The gravitas of the question tells us how intensely we must examine this book.
The book, 47, is a novel about American slavery, it is a science fiction novel about American slavery. And now you see, hopefully, why we have to break this rule.
Curious choices dot this novel like stars in a city sky. These choices are so curious, it brings into doubt whether this book is even about the realities of American slavery. And yet, there is no question this is about slavery. One question, why is our main character named ‘47’? In the book, the answer is simple, that slaves were not allowed to have names, they were closer to entries in a ledger. In reality, slaves did have names, as parents named their children according to African traditions. But, is the fiction more real than the reality? Absolutely. Another curiosity—47 begins as a young house slave, ages and then is moved out with the field slaves. Mosely gives 47 first person narrative voice, though not from the perspective of a child, nor of a young man. Mosely allows 47 to speak from the perspective of a 170 year old man, that is, 47 has outlived slavery, outlived Jim Crow, outlived Dr. King—and yet his body hasn’t aged past the physicality of his late teens. In this case, the advanced age is a sign of wisdom, because this book is ultimately about wisdom and applying this wisdom to the subject of slavery.
What happens when one applies wisdom to slavery, as opposed to combining the art of creating knowledge with slavery? I’m not sure if anyone has raised this question. There is no shortage of books and web pages devoted to the knowledge of slavery, the facts of slavery. But wisdom—this book might be it.
Last month a little announcement appeared on the Department of Education website. It explained that although applications had been solicited for the hundreds of doctoral research grants funded by the Fulbright-Hays Program, at a total cost of $5,600,000, the program had now been suspended due to Congressional budget cuts.
This has drawn so little attention that even I, who advise many PhD students, had heard nothing about it. But it’s a big deal, and a travesty. The Fulbright fellowships were by far the largest source of money for American students to pursue research about foreign cultures. $5,600,000 is a tiny amount in the US budget but this program has been a huge success for the past 65 years, operating in 155 countries worldwide, and spreading lots of apolitical goodwill and respect for the United States. The grants were specifically targeted at students who otherwise had no opportunity to learn about other cultures. Fulbrighters I’ve met in Holland have come from Kansas, Iowa, Texas—not from Yale and Harvard. It’s been a great, great program.
Note that other aspects of the Fulbright Program, which fall under the Department of State, are still going — just not the international research fellowships.
**43 Fulbright Alumni have won Nobel Prizes.
**Some famous Fulbrighters:
A frog with fangs, a blind snake and a round-headed dolphin are among more than 1,000 new species recently found on the incredible Melanesian island of New Guinea, environment group WWF said.
Today’s video, while funny at first glance, is really a sad commentary on what the current crop of college students is learning, or not learning. We think it’s important that they have accurate information about Jews, Israel, and the Middle East, since many of them will go into careers in international relations, and take that information with them as they assume positions of leadership.