Humans are differentiated from other animals by our extensive use of tools. Yes, other animals use tools, but the use is relatively rare, and the tools are basic. What counts as a tool for an otter might just be the use of a rock to smash shellfish from their shells. A rock and a jackhammer are hardly comparable, though. Comparing basic animal tools to complex human tools is like comparing communicative animal cries to human language. Viewing the comparison that way, it’s clear that human tools are in a special category.
Human tools also have symbolic meaning. What is a dream catcher, a magic wand, or a ghost trap?
Keep reading to find out what makes human tool use special and what your attachment to tools says about you!
You love the arts and want your government to spend more on grants and public art, right? Well, even if you don’t, there are many good reasons for devoting effort and resources to the arts, such as cultural development, social activism and community engagement, and childhood education. The artists themselves insist that art is good for us as human beings.
But there are plenty of reasons to reject funding the arts, too. Top of the list: it costs a lot of money, it “does nothing”, and we can’t even agree on what counts as art. The alternative is to spend money on things that give us utility – we can all agree on what’s useful to society. In contrast, words probably never said about art: “That’s really useful.”
Let’s explore the Top 5 reasons to reject art as a concept and as a recipient of funding!
Who’s making up the ethical rules when it comes to AI and tech? Labs in America and China are racing to make AI ready for consumers, for economic growth, and for warfare. It’s clear that 21st century warfare will be fought with smart drones instead of humans. In the economy, AI robots are being sent on suicide missions to do jobs that humans do not want to do. How does it feel to know that your next intelligent, self-driving car is programmed to either kill you or a pedestrian when it encounters an imminent collision situation?
This is the mere tip of iceberg of ethical issues – issues that human beings have never had to think about before now.
Visit the post to get informed about the future. As usual, the daily journal prompts are here to help you mine your mind.
Let’s start by recognizing that we all care about fetuses and believe they have some moral status. Whether you’re discussing this issue with someone is pro-choice, pro-life, or declares undecided, take it for granted that s/he doesn’t wish harm on a fetus. I mean, it’s safe to say that protesters who are pro-choice aren’t pro-death; they’re protesting for what they believe are women’s rights. There’s a difference – like protesting in favor of job creation isn’t the same as protesting in favor of fossil fuel usage, even if increased workforce participation not-indirectly results in increase fossil fuels usage. The point: we all recognize that fetuses have a moral status but can’t agree on three things: first, when that moral status comes about, second, what that moral status should be called, and third, what rights it earns the fetus.
Visit the post for this week’s questions!
Personhood is a topic that bears legal and moral consequences. You might have heard about it in discussions of immigration or abortion. But even if those issues don’t relate to you personally, personhood is still an important topic for you. Your security and status in society require an entrenched concept of personhood developed over hundreds of years. Personhood relates to all rights, responsibilities, respect, citizenship, voting, and freedom.
The designation of personhood adds special significance to what would otherwise be regarded as a mere thing. The personhood designation says: [pointing to someone] That thing is not merely an object, but is a person. That means it requires special treatment and special ethical consideration – you can’t kill it and can’t treat it however you want, as you would a brick, or a computer, or a stuffed bear.
This week’s journal topic: Fame Being famous is a new career choice and a highly desirable one for Millennials and Gen Z. Twenty years ago, if you asked an elementary school student what she wanted to be when she grew up, she might have named veterinarian, scientist, or doctor as dream careers. The Barbie dolls of the 90’s reflect these choices. If you asked a student of the same age nowadays, you might hear the answer, “Famous!” Closely related are the “careers” of Instagrammer, vlogger, Youtuber, and Twitch star. Paris Hilton led the way of the tribe of women who are famous-for-being-famous. Kim Kardashian followed a few years later and continues to reign as a pop-culture Queen. And so-called “DJ” Khalid is known more for his social media presence than talent. Fame certainly has an appeal to our generation. Even though it’s clear that fame is a much tougher game than beautiful Instagram profiles make it seem, the number of young people throwing their entire lives into the ring keeps increasing. After the dust settles, …
(This post is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here!) This week’s topic: Race & Race Skepticism This week’s topic is contentious and avoided in polite conversation. However, the topic arises in political and social dimensions of life. For example, affirmative action is sometimes a legal requirement in the United States with respect to promotions or admissions criteria. In Canada, race is sometimes a requirement for prospective adoptive parents or for access to social programs. Despite the frequent appearance of the concept of race in politics and society, most people avoid speaking plainly and openly about it for fear of offending someone. Definitions are left to academics who nurture their thoughts while hidden in the safety of ivory towers. And since the rest of us are not openly speaking about it, there is little motivation to think deeply about it. If (quite shockingly) the topic arises, it’s polite to say, “I don’t have an opinion.” But that’s not honest with yourself, nor is it conducive to thinking …
(This post is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here!) Last week’s topic was fairly philosophical and abstract, so this week I’ll offer up something concrete and practical. We make food choices and encounter other peoples’ fanaticism, so what could be more useful than discussing food and meat? Lifestyles of the Rich and the Blameless In third world countries, vegetarianism is widespread because meat is very expensive. As the world’s poor earn more money, they eat more meat. (Economist, May 4th 2019) Meanwhile in the first-world, meat is plentiful and inexpensive while whole foods and organic produce are expensive. As people become richer in the West, it becomes a badge of honor to eat less meat. (Economist, October 13th 2018) (Nearly) Fifty Shades Vegetarianism – avoiding animal products except dairy and eggs Veganism – strictly avoiding all animal products (sometimes including honey) Meatatarianism – like Jordan Peterson’s daughter, who eats only beef! Pescatarianism – avoiding meats except fish Fruititarianism – eating only fruits Animals: Meat? Or …
(This post is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here!) This week’s journal topic: Objectivity and Subjectivity These terms seem frighteningly philosophical, right? What’s this? you ask. More stuffy classroom terms that serve scant purpose in everyday life? Actually, the terms objectivity and subjectivity are used fairly regularly in intelligent conversation about politics, science, and ethics. And if it’s not the specific terms that are invoked, the concepts behind them are nonetheless are. Objectivity Say you’re having an argument with someone who finishes his speech by saying, “I’m just reporting the objective facts – you have to accept that I’m right about this.” What does he mean by objective facts and why does stating them provide evidence to support his view? Simply defined, objectivity is the characteristic which expresses the idea that a statement is free of perspectives, value judgments, or bias from personal interests. To emphasize that a statement is an “objective fact” is to iterate to your listener that the statement is “faithful to the facts” …
(This post is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here!) This week’s journal topic: Fear You’ve undoubtedly received all kinds of contradictory information about fear. As a child, nauseous with nerves before stepping onstage in the school play, you probably heard your parents or teacher tell you that “there’s nothing to fear but fear itself” (FDR, former American president). If you’re a child of the 80’s or 90’s, you might remember the brand No Fear, whose edgy (at the time) T-shirts mocked fear. Fear: False Evidence Appearing Real These quotes tell us that fear is some kind of illusion; moreover, it’s an illusion that loses its power when we laugh at it and clearly see the illusion. Fear is like a rubber snake dropped into your lap. It’s impossible not to react, but when you see that it’s rubber, it’s funny. What is fear? Fear is really made up of two aspects: physiological and emotional. In an environment in which our bodies perceive fear, the body reacts …