Scipsy

Elyn Saks: A tale of mental illness

Recently, a friend posed a question: If there were a pill I could take that would instantly cure me, would I take it? The poet Rainer Maria Rilke was offered psychoanalysis. He declined, saying, “Don’t take my devils away, because my angels may flee too.” My psychosis, on the other hand, is a waking nightmare in which my devils are so terrifying that all my angels have already fled. So would I take the pill? In an instant.

Jane Goodall on what separates us from the apes

[…] studying chimpanzees and the other great apes, and, as I say, other mammals with complex brains and social systems, we have found that after all, there isn’t a sharp line dividing humans from the rest of the animal kingdom. It’s a very wuzzy line. It’s getting wuzzier all the time as we find animals doing things that we, in our arrogance, used to think was just human. 

How simple ideas lead to scientific discoveries

I love the idea that different branches of science are called fields of study. Most people think of science as a closed, black box, when in fact it is an open field, and we are all explorers.

Susan Cain: The power of introverts

Let’s just pretend for a moment that I’m an introvert instead of a person who just don’t like stupid people. I can relate with some of the things Susan Cain says in her talk: I really feel the pressure to be in groups, and socialize, and connect and share with others as much as possible.

I don’t like all her talk, and I think she simplifies some things, for example I don’t believe that something like “freedom from the distortion of group dynamics” exists, but I like her praise of solitude:

”[…] we have known for centuries about the transcendent power of solitude, it’s only recently that we’ve strangely begun tof orget it.”

Daniel Wolpert: The real reason for brains

Think about the game of chess. How well are we doing determining what piece to move where? If you pit Garry Kasparov here, when he’s not in jail, against IBM’s Deep Blue, well the answer is IBM’s Deep Blue will occasionally win. And I think if IBM’s Deep Blue played anyone in this room, it would win every time. That problem is solved. What about the problem of picking up a chess piece, dexterously manipulating it and putting it back down on the board? If you pit a five year-old child’s dexterity against the best robots of today, the answer is simple: the child wins easily. There’s no competition at all.