Should You Tell Everyone They’re Honest? – Issue 61: Coordinates

Here is the predicament that most of us seem to be in. We are not virtuous people. We simply do not have characters that are good enough to qualify as honest, compassionate, wise, courageous, and the like. We are not vicious people either-dishonest, callous, foolish, cowardly, and so forth. Rather we have a mixed character with some good sides and some bad sides. This is the most plausible interpretation of what psychology tells us. It is also true to our lived experience in the world.

Those are the facts as I see them. Now comes the value judgment-this is a real shame. It is very unfortunate that our characters are this way. It is a good thing-indeed, a very good thing-to be a good person. Excellence of character, or being virtuous, is what we should all strive for.

Admittedly, the news is not all bad. It would be a lot worse if most of us were vicious people. Imagine what it would be like to live in a world full of mostly cruel, self-centered, dishonest, and hateful people. It would be hell on earth.

Nevertheless, at this point we are confronted with a significant gap:

What strategies are there to…

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Your Brain’s Music Circuit Has Been Discovered – Facts So Romantic

The discovery that certain neurons have “music selectivity” stirs questions about the role of music in human life. Illustration by Len Small

Before Josh McDermott was a neuroscientist, he was a club DJ in Boston and Minneapolis. He saw first-hand how music could unite people in sound, rhythm, and emotion. “One of the reasons it was so fun to DJ is that, by playing different pieces of music, you can transform the vibe in a roomful of people,” he says.

With his club days behind him, McDermott now ventures into the effects of sound and music in his lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is an assistant professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. In 2015, he and a post-doctoral colleague, Sam Norman-Haignere, and Nancy Kanwisher, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at MIT, made news by locating a neural pathway activated by music and music alone. McDermott and his colleagues played a total of 165 commonly heard natural sounds to ten subjects willing to be rolled into an fMRI machine to listen to the piped-in sounds. The sounds included a man speaking, a songbird, a car horn, a flushing toilet, and a dog barking.…

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Waiting For the Robot Rembrandt – Issue 57: Communities

The cellist Jan Vogler famously claimed that art is what makes us human. But what if machines start making art too?

Here’s an example of a piece of art made by an artificial intelligence (AI):

A bit of art: A computer trained with images of graffiti produces its own art by spraying water onto concrete. The exhibit, titled About a Theory of ‘Graffiti’, was created by the artist yang02 and shown at the Artificial Intelligence Art and Aesthetics Exhibition in Okinawa this year.Courtesy of the Artificial Intelligence Art and Aesthetics Research Group

On the right side of the picture is a computer running an AI that has been trained with images of graffiti. It controls a plotting head that sprays water onto concrete blocks, on the left. The resulting patterns are a form of computer-generated art.

Is this fine art in the true sense? If it is, we would need to confront the possibility that some part of our humanity-the part that Vogler was referring to-has been captured by machines. The fact is, however, that while the output of the machine may be artistic, it is not making fine art.

When art is made to satisfy the needs of a third…

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