When I was in high school, my grandparents took me on a trip across the country. Back then, I was firmly in the evangelical Christian camp. They were not, so we had some lively discussions.
During one of them, my grandfather asked what credentials one of my sources had earned. “Where had he gone to college? How about graduate school?”
“What does that matter?” I thought. “What’s important is whether his arguments are sound.”
Within 10 years, nobody will be able to lie. Or more precisely, all lies will be detected instantly, so people will stop lying. Can you imagine how that will change society!?
But hold on a second! How is this going to happen?
Think about it: the technology is all here. We’re only waiting for someone to put the following pieces together.
Have you ever seen an ancient map? Many of them showed the edge of the Earth, sea monsters, or coastlines that were more imaginary than real. Others, such as the one above, claimed to show the whole world but showed only Europe, Asia and Africa.
Yesterday, I took a hike in the woods with some philosophically minded friends. I wrote something for the occasion, in the spirit of Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
When you were a kid, I’m sure you wished for a superpower. Aside from the obvious ones, like the ability to fly, the superpower I wanted most frequently was to be able to extend my reach across a room without getting up. This was in the days before remote controls for TV, if you can believe there ever was such a time!
During the current presidential election cycle, I’ve added another superpower to my wish list: the ability to convince people of my political opinions. That leads to the question that is the subject of this post.
Which of these superpowers is best?
- The ability to control other people’s thoughts so they agree with us.
- The ability to make the most sound argument possible for our views, even if our audience won’t necessarily be persuaded.
To philosophize is to prepare to die. Or, to truly take your life with the seriousness that philosophy demands, you can’t take your life all that seriously. (Plato at the Googleplex, page 303)
What is that about? If I’m so serious-minded that I’m preparing to die, aren’t I taking life pretty darn seriously?
I’m a few days late to the party, but today I found myself rereading Frederick Douglass’s magnificent oration, What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? As with all great texts, you come away with something different each time you read it. Last time, its applicability to LGBT rights struck me. This time, I noticed his closing thoughts on the positive ways the world is changing.
Writing 164 years ago, he noticed trends which have happily extended to this day. They are some of the same themes Stephen Pinker sounded in one of my favorite books, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.
For your encouragement, and without further comment, I turn this post over to Frederick Douglass: