ATG’s Thinker Thoughts

Welcome to ATG’s “Thinker Thoughts”, an initiative intended to help us THINK more deeply and deliberately amid the hurried pace of life’s existence.
Every Friday, we’re posting our “Thinker Thoughts”, a short quote to reflect on from a recent commentary. Give it a think and let us know your thinker thoughts!
This week’s Thinker Thoughts comes from a May 15th article in The Atlantic, “All the Other Julie Becks and Me: What a quest for my namesake taught me about the meaning of names in the internet age“:

Online, names are more significant than they are when they’re worn by a person you can see. The internet has created ‘a whole class of name-only interactions,’ [Laura] Wattenberg says [a name researcher and creator of BabyNameWizard.com], emails and Google searches being prime examples. Even on social media, where there are pictures, much of a person’s existence is textual.

It makes sense that in this environment, parents would be motivated to give their kids more unique names. But in order to really precisely identify people on the internet, we’d have to move beyond names as they’re currently conceived, [Judith] Donath says [author of “The Social Machine: Designs for Living Online]…

Donath says she could see a future world where ‘an email is something that’s yours at birth, and in perpetuity,’ as a way of assigning people a permanent online identity. ‘But we’re not there yet.’

But Wattenberg thinks people focus too much on creating a unique identity through names. ‘A name is a social signifier more than anything, and we might be making a mistake in treating it like a username that has to be unique in a network,’ she says. ‘Day to day, having a name that is perceived as attractive and intelligent and strong is so much more important than having a name that nobody else on the internet has.'”

Keep thinking with our previous Thinker Thoughts on:
lifelong learners
star sanctuaries
artificial intelligence
the intellectual life
learning from early humans
and the importance of generosity of spirit

Thinker Thoughts: “Lifelong Learners”

Welcome to ATG’s “Thinker Thoughts”, an initiative intended to help us THINK more deeply and deliberately amid the hurried pace of life’s existence.
Every Friday, we’re posting our “Thinker Thoughts”, a short quote to reflect on from a recent commentary. Give it a think and let us know your thinker thoughts!
This week’s Thinker Thoughts comes from The New York Times op-ed, “Owning Your Own Future” (May 10, 2017), written by Thomas L. Friedman:

The notion that we can go to college for four years and then spend that knowledge for the next 30 is over. If you want to be a lifelong employee anywhere today, you have to be a lifelong learner. And that means: More is now on you. And that means self-motivation to learn and keep learning becomes the most important life skill.

…That’s why education-to-work expert Heather E. McGowan likes to say: ‘Stop asking a young person WHAT you want to be when you grow up. It freezes their identity into a job that may not be there. Ask them HOW you want to be when you grow up. Having an agile learning mind-set will be the new skill set of the 21st century.’

…thriving countries today won’t elect a strongman. They’ll elect leaders who inspire and equip their citizens to be strong people who can own their own futures.”

Keep thinking with our previous Thinker Thoughts on:
star sanctuaries
artificial intelligence
the intellectual life
learning from early humans
and the importance of generosity of spirit

ATG’s Thinker Thoughts: “Star Sanctuaries”

Welcome to ATG’s “Thinker Thoughts”, an initiative intended to help us THINK more deeply and deliberately amid the hurried pace of life’s existence.
Every Friday, we’re posting our “Thinker Thoughts”, a short quote to reflect on from a recent commentary. Give it a think and let us know your thinker thoughts!
This week’s Thinker Thoughts comes from an article in the May 2017 issue of Discover Magazine, “Protecting America’s Last Dark Skies” (not available online), written by Eric Betz:

Before the spread of electricity, humans across the planet knew the stories written in the skies. Sitting around smoldering campfires, people looked to the stars and relived the tales of their heroes. Now those experiences are confined to star sanctuaries like Grand Canyon National Park…

‘Every human being once shared this experience of looking up into the night sky and seeing it filled with stars, [says John Barentine, International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) astronomer]…[t]he human brain saw patterns in those stars. And we translated all of our human hopes and our fears and our dreams and our worries onto those stars…[t]he natural night sky inspires. We are losing this thing – ‘the night’ – that has been our common shared experience for so much of the history of humanity…[a]s a result, these common stories from our past have faded like the constellations that cradled them.'”

Keep thinking with our previous Thinker Thoughts on artificial intelligence, the intellectual lifelearning from early humans, and the importance of generosity of spirit

Bob Dylan: Through His Life and Ours, A Poet for the Ages

“I consider myself a poet first and a musician second. I live like a poet and I’ll die like a poet.”
bob dylan nobel prize
Photo credit: back cover of my college book, “Writings and Drawings by Bob Dylan”, 1973

It has been quite a journey through the month of April with Bob Dylan. It was my desire to do a little piece on him as the recipient of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature in recognition of National Poetry Month, and so I retrieved all things Bob Dylan – books, CDs, albums, magazine articles, etc. – and started digging in. And now, many days later, I am still going strong, ever more moved and ever more amazed by his body of work, his art, and his genius.

Dylan is a modern day Shakespeare, as Neil McCormick expresses so well in his article for The Telegraph (Oct. 13, 2016):

“He is our greatest living poetic voice, the Bard of the Age, our rock and roll Shakespeare….[t]he Nobel committee say they are honoring Dylan ‘for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition’ but he did way more than that. Dylan utterly exploded the form, enabling the simple song to become a vehicle for every shade and nuance of human thought and expression, unleashing incredible forces of creativity on this ancient sturdy folk medium – and did it with a flowing electrifying word smithery and innate, almost mystical wisdom that has created a body of mind-blowing work that will resonate for centuries to come.” Read more

ATG’s Thinker Thoughts: Man vs. Machine

Welcome to ATG’s “Thinker Thoughts”, an initiative intended to help us THINK more deeply and deliberately amid the hurried pace of life’s existence.
Every Friday, we’re posting our “Thinker Thoughts”, a short quote to reflect on from a recent commentary. Give it a think and let us know your thinker thoughts!
This week’s Thinker Thoughts comes from an article in the April 2017 issue of Vanity Fair entitled, “Elon Musk’s Billion-Dollar Crusade to Stop the A.I. Apocalypse“, written by Maureen Dowd.
While it’s an article that should be read in its entirety for a greater understanding of the opposing views on A.I., we’ve selected two quotes below to spur some thinking:

At the World Government Summit in Dubai, in February, [Elon] Musk again cued the scary organ music, evoking the plots of classic horror stories when he noted that ‘sometimes what will happen is a scientist will get so engrossed in their work that they don’t really realize the ramifications of what they’re doing.’ He said that the way to escape human obsolescence, in the end, may be by ‘having some sort of merger of biological intelligence and machine intelligence.’ This Vulcan mind-meld could involve something called a neural lace—an injectable mesh that would literally hardwire your brain to communicate directly with computers. ‘We’re already cyborgs,’ Musk told me in February. ‘Your phone and your computer are extensions of you, but the interface is through finger movements or speech, which are very slow.’ With a neural lace inside your skull you would flash data from your brain, wirelessly, to your digital devices or to virtually unlimited computing power in the cloud. ‘For a meaningful partial-brain interface, I think we’re roughly four or five years away.'”

Maureen Dowd goes on to write:

Here is the nagging thought you can’t escape as you drive around glass box to glass box in Silicon Valley: the Lords of the Cloud love to yammer about turning the world into a better place as they churn out new algorithms, apps, and inventions that, it is claimed, will make our lives easier, healthier, funnier, closer, cooler, longer, and kinder to the planet. And yet there’s a creepy feeling underneath it all, a sense that we’re the mice in their experiments, that they regard us humans as Betamaxes or eight-tracks, old technology that will soon be discarded so that they can get on to enjoying their sleek new world. Many people there have accepted this future: we’ll live to be 150 years old, but we’ll have machine overlords.”

Keep thinking with our previous Thinker Thoughts on:
the intellectual life
 learning from early humans
and the importance of generosity of spirit

ATG’s Thinker Thoughts: Intellectual Enlightenment

Welcome to ATG’s “Thinker Thoughts”, an initiative intended to help us THINK more deeply and deliberately amid the hurried pace of life’s existence.
Every Friday, we’re posting our “Thinker Thoughts”, a short quote to reflect on from a recent commentary. Give it a think and let us know your thinker thoughts!
This week’s Thinker Thoughts come from New York Times‘ David Brooks’ April 11, 2017 column, “This Age of Wonkery“:

People today seem less likely to give themselves intellectual labels or join self-conscious philosophical movements. Young people today seem more likely to have their worldviews shaped by trips they have taken, or causes they have been involved in, or the racial or ethnic or gender identity group they identify with. That’s changed the nature of the American intellectual scene, the way people approach the world and the lives they live.”

…intellectual life was just seen as more central to progress. Intellectuals establish the criteria by which things are measured and goals are set. Intellectuals create the frameworks within which politicians operate. How can you have a plan unless you are given a theory? Intellectuals create the age. Doing that sort of work meant leading the sort of exceptional life that allowed you to emerge from the cave — to see truth squarely and to be fully committed to the cause. Creating a just society was the same thing as transforming yourself into a moral person.”

Keep thinking with our previous Thinker Thoughts on:
learning from early humans 
and the importance of generosity of spirit

ATG’s Thinker Thoughts: Learning from Early Humans

Welcome to ATG’s “Thinker Thoughts”, an initiative intended to help us THINK more deeply and deliberately amid the hurried pace of life’s existence.
Every Friday, we’re posting our “Thinker Thoughts”, a short quote to reflect on from a recent commentary. Give it a think and let us know your thinker thoughts!
This week’s Thinker Thoughts come from an article in the April 2017 issue of The Atlantic, “Professor Caveman: Why Bill Schindler is teaching college students to live like early humans“, by Richard Schiffman:

 Schindler is keen to correct the popular conception of our ancestors as ignorant cavemen. People today have ‘thoroughly domesticated themselves,’ he told me. Early humans, by contrast, had to be much more inventive, adept at problem-solving, and subtly attuned to changes in the natural environment. Their need to cooperate made them socially connected, as people nowadays are desperate to be…”

Above and beyond its applications to his scholarly work, Schindler says that his mastery of early-human technologies has given him a sense of personal competence. He believes that our overdependence on technologies we don’t fully understand and are incapable of creating is disempowering. ‘The true value of all this is not trying to live a prehistoric life,’ he told me. ‘It’s applying what we learn from the past to address contemporary problems.’ For example: how to be healthy and happy. Ancient peoples faced dangers, he points out, but little routine emotional stress, and few of the chronic illnesses that arise from poor diet and lack of physical activity. They can also teach us a lot about how to interact with the natural world, he says. ‘In the past, when people killed too many animals or overharvested plants, they saw the impact on the world,’ Schindler told me. But today, living apart from nature, we do not see the results of our food and energy choices.'”

Keep thinking with our previous Thinker Thoughts on the importance of generosity of spirit

ATG’s Thinker Thoughts: “Generosity of Spirit”

Welcome to ATG’s “Thinker Thoughts”, a new initiative intended to help us THINK more deeply and deliberately amid the hurried pace of life’s existence.
Every Friday, we’ll post our Thinker Thoughts, a short quote to reflect on from a recent commentary. Give it a think and let us know your thinker thoughts!
This week’s Thinker Thoughts come from the New York Times‘ op-ed, “Check This Box if You’re a Good Person” (April 4, 2017), written by Rebecca Sabky, a former admissions director at Dartmouth College:

Until admissions committees figure out a way to effectively recognize the genuine but intangible personal qualities of applicants, we must rely on little things to make the difference. Sometimes an inappropriate email address is more telling than a personal essay. The way a student acts toward his parents on a campus tour can mean as much as a standardized test score. And, as I learned from that custodian, a sincere character evaluation from someone unexpected will mean more to us than any boilerplate recommendation from a former president or famous golfer…Colleges should foster the growth of individuals who show promise not just in leadership and academics, but also in generosity of spirit.”

Let There Be Light

Genesis 1 commentary

“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good.” (Genesis 1:1-4)

Light is indeed good as we are reminded in the opening days of March that we will not be held forever frozen in the cold, dark abyss of winter. Around the 7th day of March each year, it begins to dawn on us that Daylight Savings time is just a wisp of wind around the corner and that the extra light will do us “good.” Good because it helps to bring us out of winter’s hibernating stupor and good because it reassures us that there is order in the universe – that we can find consistency and dependability in the rhythmic coming and going of seasons. Read more

For Lillie Belle and All Dogs Great & Small

Dog quotes
Lillie Belle
“Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” –Agnes Sligh Turnbull, American Novelist (1888-1982)
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
–Anatole France, French Novelist (1844-1924)

Anyone who has loved and lost a dog will appreciate Lucy Dawson’s sketches in her book, Dogs Rough & Smooth, originally published in 1937.

Dawson (1870-1954) was a popular British illustrator known for her paintings and sketches of a variety of dog breeds and was commissioned by the Royal Family to paint the Queen Mother’s favorite Corgi, Dookie. The book, her second of dog sketches following Dogs As I See Them, was republished in 2016 with a foreword by Susan Orlean, an author of several books including Rin Tin Tin and a contributor to several publications, including the New Yorker, Smithsonian Magazine and the New York Times. Read more