On Cortázar

In the work of the Argen­tine writer Julio Cortázar, the short­est dis­tances are often also the great­est: The space between self and oth­er can be mad­den­ing­ly dif­fi­cult to tra­verse. Full of mag­i­cal trans­for­ma­tions, rit­u­al sac­ri­fices, and tur­bu­lent prophet­ic dreams, Cortázar’s writ­ing abounds with trou­bled pair­ings, unlike­ly and uneasy dop­pel­gängers who come apart even as—especially as—they con­verge.

Fear of a smell can be passed down several generations

Mice whose father or grand­fa­ther learned to asso­ciate the smell of cher­ry blos­som with an elec­tric shock became more jumpy in the pres­ence of the same odour, and respond­ed to low­er con­cen­tra­tions of it than nor­mal mice.

The Real Value of a College Degree

Is the nar­row bina­ry of go to college/don’t go to col­lege, real­ly the
best option we have to offer stu­dents of the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry?

Introducing the idea of ‘hyperobjects

I’m an envi­ron­men­tal philoso­pher. In 2008, I invent­ed a word to describe all kinds of things that you can study and think about and com­pute, but that are not so easy to see direct­ly: hyper­ob­jects. Things like: not just a Sty­ro­foam cup or two, but all the Sty­ro­foam on Earth, ever. All that Sty­ro­foam is going to last an awful­ly long time: 500 years, maybe. It’s going to out­live me by a great extent. Will my family’s descen­dants even be relat­ed to me in any kind of mean­ing­ful way by 2514? There is so much more Sty­ro­foam on Earth right now than there is Tim­o­thy Mor­ton.

Notes (Rants) from Berlin: On Art and Engineering

On the open­ing night, one pan­el­list made mag­ic of the word, enforc­ing that idea that we don’t know what they do, we can’t con­trol them, and that they go on to invent them­selves like an ever repli­cat­ing organ­ism. This, I’m afraid, is a lit­er­al fairy­tale (oh, wouldn’t it be eas­i­er if it was? I’m kid­ding).

I realised that half the time, this is because the very use of the word ‘algo­rithm’, the weight of sup­posed mean­ing we place behind it by throw­ing it into these con­texts, removes the humans that cre­at­ed them entire­ly.