The personal genetic information service, 23andMe, just announced that it will merge with a Virgin Group shell corporation to become a public company. The purpose is a “more personalized and proactive approach to healthcare … [via] innovation and disruption.” This might not be a completely good thing.
The merger comes a year after a slump in the consumer genetic testing industry and layoffs at the company. The company has in the past raised considerable private capital but says it now needs the flexibility of going public to reach its goals.
You can browse through 23andMe’s press releases since its 2007…
“I think therefore I am.” Consciousness is the most private of private things. Yet arguably we develop consciousness primarily in interaction with other people, and the intensely human nature of our consciousness evolved in response to a striking rise in complexity of primate social life.
There’s strong support from science and philosophy that social evolution favored three expanding levels of our being: a basic conscious self-model, its extension into a lifelong sense of self, and the self’s anchoring of social commitments into a personal identity.
There’s been a rise in belief in unfounded conspiracy theories. At the end of 2020 some claim that these elaborate fictions are dangerously increasing our American political schism. Multiple causes have been suggested, including triggers from social stress and the amplifying effect of social media.
We’ll look at some aspects of human nature that leave us susceptible. And there’s a theory that these factors, working together, might even change the nature of consciousness.
When human endeavors so often go wrongly, we blame people for making bad decisions, whether from a moral, or political, or scientific point of view. This only raises our emotional temperature without fixing problems or heading off future catastrophes. However, there are recent theories that explain that many failures stem from general dynamical patterns. Let’s look at two of these patterns. They might someday be part of a science of how to get things done, a kind of moral philosophy of the practical.
First, let’s consider what we’re up against. As in, what are the given background conditions for any…
Until 9/11 I thought that the days were over when people could be immolated for having the wrong ideas about the soul. People have long been controlled by a fear that their immortal essence could suffer for eternity if they did not obey certain spiritual authorities.
“One of these mornings, the chain is gonna break.” — Aretha Franklin, Chain of Fools
While those chains have now crumbled for a lot of us, belief in a soul is still pretty common. …
American individualism is ingrained and goes way back. Social media are just an amplifier.
Once there was a planet with people on it. It was on the verge of that stage where kingdoms would disappear, so that any tyrants remaining would need an ideology to get and hold their power.
But, in these turbulent times, there was a land where the rulers of North and South fought again and again. The people who lived on the lowlands between these two kingdoms (call them the Borderers) were accustomed to being tormented and slaughtered by the contending armies, and so developed a…
Every human bliss and kindness, every suspicion, cruelty, and torment ultimately comes from the whirring 3-pound “enchanted loom” that is our brain and its other side, the cloud of knowing that is our mind.
It’s an odd coincidence that serious study of the mind and the brain bloomed in the late 20th century when we also started to make machines that had some mind-like qualities.
Now, with information technology we have applied an untested amplifier to our minds, and cranked it up to eleven, running it around the clock, year after year. Because we have become a culture of crisis…
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with elves and goblins, though we dared to build
gods and their houses out of dark and light,
And sow the seed of dragons, ’twas our right
(used or misused).
— J.R.R. Tolkein, Mythopeia
Do you like Loki? Are you enamored of elves? Scared of Satan?
We careen into a techno-materialist future, clinging to avatars of our primitive past while busily inventing new ones. We are friends with Frodo and besotted with Batman.
Our collective catalog of supernatural beings is vast and still growing, probably because of basic brain abilities that…
“We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.” — Anaïs Nin
“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear as it is, infinite.” — William Blake
The above quotes are often on dormitory posters. They also represent two opposed explanations of the Hard Problem of Consciousness: how can a lump of meat have subjective experience?
One camp says that the brain creates consciousness as a model or simulation of its own activity. …
“Let’s have a moment of silence for all those people dying for attention.” — the Internet
My performance artist friend, Omiros, would always attribute someone’s misbehavior to their wanting “attention”, an idea that made no sense to an introvert like me.
Now I’ve learned that attention might be the key to consciousness itself.