Capgras, Asquiths, Time Travel, Game Theory, Léon Werth


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To Understand Facebook, Study Capgras Syndrome

Robert Sapolsky | Nautilus | 10th November 2016

Sufferers from Capgras Syndrome believe that loved ones have been replaced by identical imposters. Robert Capgras, the psychiatrist who catalogued the disorder in 1918, interpreted it as a delusion. Later it was recategorised as an organic disease of the frontal cortex. But as we move through social media to virtual reality, Capgras may prove an evolutionary strength. “It’s not that loved ones and friends are mistaken for simulations, but that simulations are mistaken for them” (3,400 words)

A Little Talk In Downing Street

Bee Wilson | London Review Of Books | 9th November 2016

While Britain was plunging into the First World War, its “besotted” prime minister, Herbert Asquith, was scribbling love letters to Venetia Stanley, a socialite one-third his age. “Even by the standards of philandering old politicians, the outpouring of letters was extraordinary. During Venetia’s three months as a probationer nurse, Asquith, while leading the largest empire in the history of the world in a global war, wrote to her 147 times, occasionally sending four letters in a single day” (4,300 words)

Escape From Time

John Lanchester | New York Review of Books | 9th November 2016

Time-travel as a purposeful activity, not merely an inadvertent one, was imagined into being by H.G. Wells with The Time Machine in 1895. As James Gleick shows in Time Travel: A History, notions of time travel have since nourished a vast literature in science fiction, and much philosophy, but no real science. We still have no theory of time which might enable us to isolate or manipulate it. “A century-plus of fervent speculation and analysis of time and time travel have led to exactly no outcomes” (3,300 words)

The Cost Of Co-Operating

David Rand | Edge | 9th November 2016

Discussion of altruism and co-operation, much of it in terms of game theory. “If I see you co-operate without thinking whether it’s in your self-interest, when I interact with you later I count on you to co-operate. Whereas if I see you stop, and carefully consider, and then say, ‘Oh yes, I’ll help’, then I know that next time you might not help me. The desire to signal that you are a trustworthy partner, someone good to interact with, can motivate you to co-operate in an uncalculated way” (6,200 words)

No Small Events

Ian Beacock | The Point | 7th November 2016

When Germany invaded northern France in 1940, eight million French fled south. Among them was the novelist Léon Werth, who kept a journal, which was then lost for fifty years. Eventually rediscovered, and published in English as 33 Days, it is a masterpiece. While others debated the causes of the catastrophe, “Werth, with great prescience, was more interested in the moral choices and compromises that led individual men and women to accept their defeat and collaborate with the victors” (3,000 words)

Video of the day: Ciclope

What to expect:

Animation. A flying delivery drone carries a package across a ravaged world (3’20”)

Thought for the day

Hope is the confusion of the desire for a thing with its probability
Arthur Schopenhauer

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