Consciousness, Agriculture, Kissinger, Saving, Transition, Vegans

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The Hard Problem Of Consciousness

Science Briefing | The Economist | 12th September 2015 | | Read with 1Pass

Scientists are getting better at identifying brain activity associated with consciousness, but that is not the same as understanding consciousness itself. We have no theory of consciousness which explains self-awareness in terms something else. To call it the "hard problem", as philosophers do, is an understatement. At our present state of knowledge consciousness is the impossible problem (1,700 words)

An Interview With James C. Scott

James Scott | Gastronomica | 24th August 2015

Interview with the author, political anthropologist, and part-time sheep raiser James C. Scott. On academia: "anything interesting that happens in political science is probably an import from some exotic place outside political science." On the World Bank's development projects: "It’s a formula. Any officials, I suppose, can send, oh…, $49.99 and a cereal box top to the World Bank, and they will send them back a land titling kit" (7,250 words)

Restoring Henry

Michael O'Donnell | Washington Monthly | 26th August 2015

Critique of Niall Ferguson's authorised biography of Henry Kissinger, who helped scupper the Johnson administration's peace negotiations with North Vietnam to win the election for Nixon. "When the talks were set to resume, the United States needed to show its resolve—so it began bombing Cambodia." In secret, killing 100,000 civilians. By painting Kissinger in a positive light, "Ferguson has made himself a hypocrite’s bullhorn" (2,950 words)

Saving For A Daughter But Not A Son

Paul Ford | Elle | 8th September 2015

Paul Ford has 3 year old twins, and he's starting a saving account for the girl and not for the boy. "If [our son] were hurt in some way that required special technology to move around.... We'd sell the apartment to buy the technology if we had to. But we can't predict that. We can predict that, because of the systematic economic inequities, our daughter will not be on the same financial footing as our son" (3,900 words)

Why Transgender Kids Should Wait To Transition

Debra W. Soh | Pacific Standard | 1st September 2015

"My point of view is controversial, but it is one that concerned parents need to hear." "Research has shown that most gender dysphoric children outgrow their dysphoria ... by adolescence: Most will grow up to be happy, gay adults, and some, like myself, to be happy, straight adults." While "a small proportion of trans kids ... would benefit from medical intervention," it's hard to "[predict] whom these ideal candidates will be" (677 words)

The Ethical Case For Eating Oysters And Mussels

Diana Fleischman | Sentientist | 20th May 2013

Claims that most vegans should be happy to eat cultivated mussels and oysters, because they do not feel pain and are farmed in ways that do not harm other animals. "Bivalves do not have hardware or response consistent with the ability to feel pain. Because they have no brain, or central processing unit for stimuli, there is no ‘there’, there. Just like a disembodied finger" (1,430 words)

Video of the day: Western Spaghetti

What to expect: Surrealist stop-motion animation (1'41")

Thought for the day

Punch a feather and it goes on floating
Kerry Howley (

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