A Harvard philosopher’s argument for not loving yourself just as you are

‘The importance of loving yourself is a common catchphrase among feel-good gurus and the subject of countless self-help books.

‘But Harvard University’s Michael Puett argues that loving yourself—and all your flaws—can actually be quite harmful. Puett, who earlier this year published a book on what Chinese philosophy can teach us about the good life, suggests that ancient Chinese philosophers would strongly disapprove of today’s penchant for self-affirmation.

‘Quartz spoke to Puett as part of an occasional series that attempts to apply serious thinking from the world of philosophy to everyday life. What can great thinkers teach us about how to navigate your career path? Do people ever really change? Can philosophy inform our search for true love? The Chinese philosophy Puett studies raises questions about whether we should we accept and celebrate ourselves as we are or strive to change and improve upon our fundamental nature. And, for that matter, does our “fundamental nature” even exist?’

Read the rest of Olivia Goldhill’s article at Quartz

Would it be immoral to send out a generation starship?

‘If human beings are ever to colonise other planets – which might become necessary for the survival of the species, given how far we have degraded this one – they will almost certainly have to use generation ships: spaceships that will support not just those who set out on them, but also their descendants. The vast distances between Earth and the nearest habitable planets, combined with the fact that we are unlikely ever to invent a way of travelling that exceeds the speed of light, ensures that many generations will be born, raised and die on board such a ship before it arrives at its destination.


‘As well as the technological and social challenges confronting the designers of such ships, there are fascinating philosophical and ethical issues that arise. The issue I want to focus on concerns the ethics of a project that locks the next generation into a form of living, the inauguration of which they had no say over, and that ensures their options are extremely limited.’

Read the rest of Neil Levy’s article at Aeon

Artificial Intelligence’s White Guy Problem

‘ACCORDING to some prominent voices in the tech world, artificial intelligence presents a looming existential threat to humanity: Warnings by luminaries like Elon Musk and Nick Bostrom about “the singularity” — when machines become smarter than humans — have attracted millions of dollars and spawned a multitude of conferences.

‘But this hand-wringing is a distraction from the very real problems with artificial intelligence today, which may already be exacerbating inequality in the workplace, at home and in our legal and judicial systems. Sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination are being built into the machine-learning algorithms that underlie the technology behind many “intelligent” systems that shape how we are categorized and advertised to.’
Read the rest of Kate Crawford’s article at The New York Times

Has Physics Gotten Something Really Important Really Wrong?

‘Sometimes the most important step one can take in science is back.

‘When the path towards progress in a field becomes muddied, the best response may be to step away from all the technical specifics that make up day-to-day practice and begin pulling up the floorboards. In other words, rather than continuing to push on the science, it may be best to ask about the unspoken philosophies supporting that research effort.

‘This week, I have the immense privilege of attending a workshop asking about this approach in the storied domains of foundational physics and cosmology.

‘Two of the workshop organizers, physicist Lee Smolin and philosopher Roberto Unger, published a book last year called “The Singular Universe and The Reality of Time“. It represented their own attempt to rewire the philosophical underpinnings of physics. As the workshop gets underway, I thought it might be useful for 13.7 readers to get an overview of its main ideas.’

Read the rest of Adam Frank’s article at NPR