Barcelona Salon Materials. Most of the things below are outside economics. They were designed to be discussed with friends (and lots of wine).
Christof Koch on Consciousness at the MIT in a debate about his work on consciousness and what it means for artificial intelligence. For a more serious treatment of his ideas see this article in Nature.
Koch also has a book called: Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist. In the Salon we talked about one of the last chapters in the book where he gets really speculative and really fun.
THEOLOGY AND FALSIFICATION, from the University Discussion
A great discussion on religion and tautologies.
Psychologist Barry Schwartz takes aim at a central tenet of western societies: freedom of choice. In Schwartz's estimation, choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied.
Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell gets inside the food industry's pursuit of the perfect spaghetti sauce -- and makes a larger argument about the nature of choice and happiness.
Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, challenges the idea that we’ll be miserable if we don’t get what we want. Our "psychological immune system" lets us feel truly happy even when things don’t go as planned. Natural vs synthetic happiness.
An interview series with mythologist Joseph Campbell. Somewhat of an eye-opener for me personally.
At what point does a society have the right/responsibility to intervene against a different culture on moral grounds?
Cultural Relativism is a concept developed to maintain respect for cultures whose morality system differs from our own in some meaningful way. However as members of a morality-driven culture we will always find ourselves in situations where we feel obligated to interfere against an act that severely contravenes our own moral code. Should we act on that impulse or learn to respect cultures that follow practices well outside our own code of conduct?
The first step is to come to some definition of culture that we can adhere to for the purposes of the debate. A favorite is “Culture is everything you learn after birth,” but others are provided in an attached document which offer a little further nuance.
Next comes an article that discusses the basics of cultural relativism. A web address to a more complete description can be found in the Further Resources section below.
Finally there is a case study of an isolated island in the Pacific called Pitcairn. In 2004 it was seen in the news concerning serious accusations of child abuse and pedophilia. Since the island was under the rule of Commonwealth law a trial against the perpetrators took place and was overseen by New Zealand authorities. Due to the trial and its verdict the Island´s culture and way of life was threatened. Under Commonwealth law there were crimes committed that needed to be punished. Under the Island´s legal and moral code, nothing wrong had been done.
The article about Pitcairn is a little long, so for the purposes of the discussion important passages have been left in dark black ink, while the rest has been included but greyed out. There is also an audio file from an NPR interview with the author of a topical book in the Further Resources section.
For cultural relativism:
For Pitcairn Island case:
You are WRONG:
Since the end of the Enlightenment, the nature of knowledge has become increasingly uncertain, and the idea of a metaphysical truth or perfection has been all but eradicated. Of course this applies to matters that lie at the threshold of opinion, but the very foundation of truth itself is a shifting quagmire. All of which is a fancy way of saying: YOU ARE WRONG!
To start off with and to set an appropriate tone, a quick video.
A helpful tool in this discussion is a meaningful definition of truth. Instead I offer you this one:
(From this site: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/postmodernism/)
So the concept of responsibility enters the conversation, even in such a vaporised reality.
However there has to be a mechanism that would allow us to process information in a mutually significant way. There are a couple of structures that I found that discuss this issue:
To begin with, who better to explain the complexities of our thought processes than a informercial salesman (it’s not too long and you can skip the last minute). Of special interest are the definitions of perceptual, design, and creative thinking:
And attached are a few pages to read which outline imposed vs inherent structures of knowledge, in the file marked Concept of Structure.
So we have a few elements that start our discussion:
1) The nature of the truth we are trying to ascertain.
2) The systems by which we try to ascertain it
3) The responsibility of the user to function within a shifting system.
And, of course, the indisputable fact that you are all completely and irrevocably wrong. In the interest of keeping this a fun discussion I encourage any creative means of communicating the wrongness of everyone else in the room.