Incredible as it may seem, the end of March marks 20 years since the release of the first film in the Matrix franchise directed by the Wachowski siblings. This “cyberpunk” sci-fi movie was a box office hit with its dystopian futuristic vision, distinctive fashion sense, and slick, innovative action sequences. But it was also a catalyst for popular discussion around some very big philosophical themes.
The film centers on a computer hacker, “Neo” (played by Keanu Reeves), who learns that his whole life has been lived within an elaborate, simulated reality. This computer-generated dream world was designed by an artificial intelligence of human creation, which industrially farms human bodies for energy while distracting them via a relatively pleasant parallel reality called the “matrix.”Continue reading “The Plato-infused philosophy of “The Matrix” still feels timely 20 years later”
I HAVE a friend who teaches at a posh private school on the upper east side of Manhattan. During the glory days of high finance she saw a man in an expensive suit dropping his five-year-old son off at school. “Play to win,” he told the child. “In this life, the best bleed the suckers dry.” We figured the saddest thing about this episode was that it may have been the only time the man saw his son all day.Continue reading “Beware of the alpha dad”
Robert Sapolsky in Foreign Affairs:
He never stood a chance. His first mistake was looking for food alone; perhaps things would have turned out differently if he’d been with someone else. The second, bigger mistake was wandering too far up the valley into a dangerous wooded area. This was where he risked running into the Others, the ones from the ridge above the valley. At first, there were two of them, and he tried to fight, but another four crept up behind him and he was surrounded. They left him there to bleed to death and later returned to mutilate his body. Eventually, nearly 20 such killings took place, until there was no one left, and the Others took over the whole valley.
The protagonists in this tale of blood and conquest, first told by the primatologist John Mitani, are not people; they are chimpanzees in a national park in Uganda. Over the course of a decade, the male chimps in one group systematically killed every neighboring male, kidnapped the surviving females, and expanded their territory. Similar attacks occur in chimp populations elsewhere; a 2014 studyfound that chimps are about 30 times as likely to kill a chimp from a neighboring group as to kill one of their own. On average, eight males gang up on the victim.
If such is the violent reality of life as an ape, is it at all surprising that humans, who share more than 98 percent of their DNA with chimps, also divide the world into “us” and “them” and go to war over these categories?
From the shadows of a cityscape, street photographer Alan Schaller composes narratives out of the chaos around him. Limiting the noise of his surroundings, he imagines the stories that spaces want to tell. Searching for contrast—a striking person passing in a crowd or a flock of birds suddenly taking flight—Alan captures the harmony of life’s unpredictability by simply observing.
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