39 posts tagged culture
I was recently reading Sexual Behavior in the United States: Results from a National Probability Sample of Men and Women Ages 14–94. At N ~ 6,000 it’s a large sample of American sexual behavior around 2010. There was one descriptive result which I thought was interesting, though not surprising. Before the age of 25 it seems that women are more likely to have sex in a given year than an equivalent age man. After the age of 25 this starts to reverse, and men are more likely to be having sexual intercourse in a given year. The dynamics underlying this phenomenon seem to be easily subject to various speculations, so I’ll leave that to readers. Rather, I offer the graph (data drawn from the paper linked above): (via The sex gap : Gene Expression)
Kids raised by gay parents are ‘doing just fine’
Three decades of research suggest that kids of gay parents are faring well, a new report argues.
When the Supreme Court took up the issue of gay marriage recently, Justice Antonin Scalia claimed that experts debate whether same-sex parents are bad for children.
“There’s considerable disagreement among sociologists as to what the consequences are of raising a child in a … single-sex family, whether that is harmful to the child or not,” Scalia declared.
“Many studies have demonstrated that children’s well-being is affected much more by their relationships with their parents, their parents’ sense of competence and security, and the presence of social and economic support for the family than by the gender or the sexual orientation of their parents,” Benjamin Siegel, a Boston University School of Medicine professor of pediatrics, and co-authors write in a report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics the week before the court case. (via Futurity.org – Kids raised by gay parents are ‘doing just fine’)
What the Brain Can Tell Us About Art
THIS month, President Obama unveiled a breathtakingly ambitious initiative to map the human brain, the ultimate goal of which is to understand the workings of the human mind in biological terms.
Many of the insights that have brought us to this point arose from the merger over the past 50 years of cognitive psychology, the science of mind, and neuroscience, the science of the brain.
The discipline that has emerged now seeks to understand the human mind as a set of functions carried out by the brain.
This new approach to the science of mind not only promises to offer a deeper understanding of what makes us who we are, but also opens dialogues with other areas of study — conversations that may help make science part of our common cultural experience.
Consider what we can learn about the mind by examining how we view figurative art. In a recently published book, I tried to explore this question by focusing on portraiture, because we are now beginning to understand how our brains respond to the facial expressions and bodily postures of others.
The portraiture that flourished in Vienna at the turn of the 20th century is a good place to start. Not only does this modernist school hold a prominent place in the history of art, it consists of just three major artists — Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele — which makes it easier to study in depth.
As a group, these artists sought to depict the unconscious, instinctual strivings of the people in their portraits, but each painter developed a distinctive way of using facial expressions and hand and body gestures to communicate those mental processes. (via What the Brain Can Tell Us About Art - NYTimes.com)
DC Introduces First Transgender Character in Mainstream Comics
Once banned from the world of mainstream comic books by the infamous Comics Code Authority, LGBT characters now have a stronger presence in the world of superhero comics than ever before, with gay and lesbian heroes like Batwoman, Northstar and Green Lantern Alan Scott openly declaring who they are — and even getting married. Today, DC Comics told Wired that it will continue to expand the LGBT diversity of its superhero universe by introducing the first openly transgender character in a mainstream superhero comic.
In Batgirl #19, on sale today in both print and digital formats, the character Alysia Yeoh will reveal that she is a transwoman in a conversation with her roommate, Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl). Taking care to distinguish Yeoh’s sexual orientation from her gender identity, Batgirl writer Gail Simone noted that the character is also bisexual.
Simone attributed the inspiration for the character to a conversation she had with fellow comic book writer Greg Rucka several years ago at the Wondercon convention, after a fan asked why there were fewer gay male superheroes than lesbian ones. Rucka, who co-created (and rebooted) Batwoman as a lesbian character, replied that it would be a real sign of change for a gay male character to appear on a comic book cover — and an even bigger step for a transgender character to do the same.
“I looked out into the audience, saw dozens of faces I knew well — LGBTQ folks, mostly — all avid comics readers and superhero fans and DC supporters,” said Simone. “And it just hit me: Why was this so impossible? Why in the world can we not do a better job of representation of not just humanity, but also our own loyal audience?”
Simone suggested the story to DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio at lunch one day, prepared to offer a passionate defense for the idea of a transgender character. ”I thought I might have to sell it, so to speak,” said Simone. “But he just paused for a moment, asked how this would affect Barbara’s story, and immediately approved it. And we went back to our excellent nachos.” (via DC Introduces First Transgender Character in Mainstream Comics | Underwire | Wired.com)
Beautiful Renaissance Paintings, All Done Up Real Handsome-Like as Photographs A project co-opts classic Italian art to challenge Europe’s xenophobia. (via Beautiful Renaissance Paintings, All Done Up Real Handsome-Like as Photographs - Rebecca J. Rosen - The Atlantic)
Artificial intelligence is arguably the most useless technology that humans have ever aspired to possess. Actually, let me clarify. It would be useful to have a robot that could make independent decisions while, say, exploring a distant planet, or defusing a bomb. But the ultimate aspiration of AI was never just to add autonomy to a robot’s operating system. The idea wasn’t to enable a computer to search data faster by ‘understanding patterns’, or communicate with its human masters via natural language. The dream of AI was — and is — to create a machine that is conscious. AI means building a mechanical human being. And this goal, as supposedly rational technological projects go, is deeply strange.
Consider the ramifications of a conscious machine: one that thinks and feels like a human, an ‘electronic brain’ that dreams and ponders its own existence, falls in and out of love, writes sonnets under the moonlight, laughs when happy and cries when sad. What exactly would it be good for? What could be the point of spending billions of dollars and countless hours of precious research time in order to arrive at a replica of oneself?
Go read it..
“By 2113 we’ll have gone through a dozen or so technosocial-fashion generations. Smartphones give way to tablets to phablets to wearables to implantables to swallowables to replaceable eyeballs to neo-sinus body-nanofab systems (using mucous as a raw material) to brainwebs to body-rentals … and those are increasingly considered “so 2110.” And with all of these (or whatever really emerges), there are shifting behavioral norms. Don’t look at your phone at the dinner table. Don’t replace your eyeball in public. Don’t reboot your neo-sinus in church …”
All indicators are pointing toward people living well past 100 years, and in good health and vitality. Aging is slowing down and will be reversed to a large degree … And during this timeframe, it will be not only customary but highly consequential to back up our brains on a moment-to-moment basis. Further, transferring and/or copying a person’s brain, including consciousness and mind, onto computational systems will become a trend. At this juncture, it will be optimal for a person to co-exist in real time (the physical world) and within simulations (virtual environments, for example).
In light of these changes, the very notion of death will be redefined to include new criteria for death, including a person who wants to drop out of society for a span of a year or tens of years and then reenter life. The very notion of time will be changed and become less linear and more exponential. This particular change – the change of the human predetermined biological and genetically programed life span – will be a major shift in consciousness for all humanity … A person could select to live longer or not. That will be an individual choice.
Amazon rainforest tribe at centre of new cultural storm
New book by outspoken US anthropologist inflames arguments over Yanomami Indians
It became one of the fiercest scientific arguments in recent times: are the Yanomami Indians of the Amazon rainforest a symbol of how to live in peace and harmony with nature or remnants of humanity’s brutal early history?
Now a debate that has divided anthropologists, journalists, human rights campaigners and even governments has been given a fresh burst of life by the publication of a lengthy memoir by outspoken US anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon.
Chagnon has spent decades studying and living with the Yanomami (also known as the Yanomamö) and wrote the best-selling – and hugely controversial – Yanomamö: The Fierce People. In that book, which came out in 1968, he portrayed the 20,000-strong tribe, who live in isolated jungle homelands in Venezuela and Brazil, as a warlike group whose members fought and battled each other in near-constant duels and raids. He described Yanomami communities as prone to violence, with warriors who killed rivals far more likely to win wives and produce children.
His analysis was criticised as a reductive presentation of human behaviour, seen as primarily driven by a desire to mate and eliminate rivals. Opponents of that view believed the Yanomami were still pursuing a lifestyle dating from mankind’s early past, when people lived mostly peacefully in smaller communities, free from modern sources of stress and far more in equilibrium with their surroundings. (via Amazon tribe at centre of new cultural storm | World news | The Observer)