I read a lot. In this weekly post I present a summary of some of the things which have caught my eye this week, along with a few thoughts about each of them. By doing this I hope to live a more authentic life and improve my level of self-knowledge:
If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants.
- Isaac Newton
Another week, another opinion piece: TV comics – casually chauvinist and populist:
So, Christmas is long gone but I did have a few programs recorded which I’ve just got round to watching. One such gem the Channel 4 Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2012 on which a self-satisfied drunken Jack Whitehall and James Corden vomited out a series of inane misogynistic witticisms
I’ve also been reading a paper from the Journal of Positive Psychology which made a light bulb go off in my head about the distinction between happiness and meaning in life. I’ve summarised the main differences in the table below:
|The Happy Life
||The Meaningful Life
||Integrates the past, present, and future.
|Selfish behavior – “taker”
||Altruistic behaviour – “giver”
|Low levels of worry, stress, and anxiety
||High levels of worry, stress, and anxiety
|No concerns with personal identity and expressing the self
||Concerns with personal identity and expressing the self
|Satisfying one’s needs and wants
||Not interested in satisfying one’s needs and wants
|Happiness is all about giving the self what it wants.
||Meaning transcends the self
In short, a meaningful life involves suffering for a greater cause; a cause where you use your strengths and aptitude to belong to and serve something you believe is larger than the self. So, as stated in this article:
People whose lives have high levels of meaning often actively seek meaning out even when they know it will come at the expense of happiness. Because they have invested themselves in something bigger than themselves, they also worry more and have higher levels of stress and anxiety in their lives than happy people. Having children, for example, is associated with the meaningful life and requires self-sacrifice, but it has been famously associated with low happiness among parents, including the ones in this study. In fact, according to Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert, research shows that parents are less happy interacting with their children than they are exercising, eating, and watching television.
This is something which I hadn’t really appreciated before; the fact that a happiness life and meaning life may look something like this:
Read any great articles this week? Leave a comment below.
Inspiring photo of the week
Quotes of the week
From here, here and here:
Videos of the week
All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace is a 2011 BBC documentary series by filmmaker Adam Curtis. The series argues that computers have failed to liberate humanity and instead have distorted and simplified our view of the world around us.
After a gentle start looking at Ayn Rand and her disciple Alan Greenspan, All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace moves into areas that might make some people feel uncomfortable – as it should do. For two of the programmes tackle “what it means to be a human” – particularly with popular ideas of humans as a node in a networked system, or as a robot for genes.
As posted here:
Little Atoms recorded this illuminating interview with Adam on the new show, which examines power and political organisation.
Little Atoms’ interview with Adam Curtis: MP3
Adam Curtis – All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace 1/3 – Love and Power Subs Español Spanish from avefenix1954 on Vimeo.
1. Love and Power. This is the story of the dream that rose up in the 1990s that computers could create a new kind of stable world. They would bring about a new kind global capitalism free of all risk and without the boom and bust of the past. They would also abolish political power and create a new kind of democracy through the Internet where millions of individuals would be connected as nodes in cybernetic systems – without hierarchy.
Adam Curtis – All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace 2/3 – The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts – Subs Español Span from avefenix1954 on Vimeo.
2. The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts. This is the story of how our modern scientific idea of nature, the self-regulating ecosystem, is actually a machine fantasy. It has little to do with the real complexity of nature. It is based on cybernetic ideas that were projected on to nature in the 1950s by ambitious scientists. A static machine theory of order that sees humans, and everything else on the planet, as components – cogs – in a system.
Adam Curtis – All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace 3/3 – The Monkey in the Machine and the Machine in the Monkey – Subs from avefenix1954 on Vimeo.
3. The Monkey in the Machine and the Machine in the Monkey. This episode looks at why we humans find this machine vision so beguiling. The film argues it is because all political dreams of changing the world for the better seem to have failed – so we have retreated into machine-fantasies that say we have no control over our actions because they excuse our failure.
I found the message that attempting to apply the idea of rational system as found in machines to humans and life in general will causes problems as illuminating: the systems become manipulated, abused and ultimately distorted by those in power. It’s a similar message to that suggested by The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom.
The book debunks the myth of cyber-utopianism, and the idea that the freedom of information initiated by the internet will bring about real global democratic change. It’s argued that rather than empowering the internet merely entertains and that technological determinism ratifies current culture worldwide.
What do you think? Leave a comment below: