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Sharing economy, not power

Researchers Alex Rosenblat and Luke Stark´s paper “Uber’s Drivers: Information Asymmetries and Control in Dynamic Work” looks into labor relations in Uber.

There is evidence that automated performance and rating systems bring more power to Uber than traditional ‘non sharing’ way.

If one consider the possibility down the road of replacing human drivers for autonomous fleet it looks like our brave new economy will play old inequality plot.

Free will strikes back

The point of no return in vetoing self-initiated movements, published at PNAS by german researchers Matthias Schultze-Krafta, Daniel Birmana et al. brings evidence that people can stop ‘spontaneous’ movements even after brain is ready to execute this.

Even if it is the case that brain activity is ready as-if movement decision from 0,5 to a few seconds before awareness, conscious will may overrule this readiness and block movement as late as 200 ms before action.

Free will is on constant attack.  Apparently as soon as men were able to reason they sought scape goats.  Fate, wrath of gods, astrology, determinism, historical materialism, psychologism, providence, so on always look for arguments for their case.

Following contemporary trend, recent neurological studies are used in this debate.  If brain activity preceded awareness of some movements, our conscious ‘decisions’ would not be such at all.  Not only it was not conscious, since action was triggered before us being aware, arguably it was not our decision to begin with; ‘mere’ synaptic determinism.

Above mentioned researches focus on simpler processes when compared to typical free will debate, such as moral and social options.  Nothing of the sort about other decision making, from choosing one’s socks to dress to moral or political issues.

Read their research and their engineous approach to the matter.

“Women’s Works” by Peter Adamson

“Despite the ancient Oracle’s advice to ‘Know Thyself’, it’s only relatively recently that we philosophers have started wondering why so few of us are women. In fact, gender disparity among professional academic philosophers has now become something of a scandal. (…)  in the earlier ages studied by those historians, women were even more shut out of the discipline than they are today.

(…) The early modern period especially featured numerous prominent female thinkers, such as Margaret Cavendish and Anne Conway. They were active in the mid-1600s, more than a century before Mary Wollstonecraft’s 1790 work Vindication of the Rights of Women (I’m guessing that this is the earliest philosophical treatise by a woman that most philosophers would be able to name).

If we look further back, we find that the history of women in philosophy is as old as the history of philosophy itself. In the time of the Pre-Socratics (6th C. BCE) there was Theano, an associate of and possibly the wife of Pythagoras. Plato famously argues in his Republic that women would be philosophers in his ideal city. (…)

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By the way, non-European traditions have also featured women. We find several female disputants in theUpanisads (6th C. BCE onwards), for example.

Of course, it is not enough to acknowledge the existence of these women thinkers and then turn back to studying only their more famous male contemporaries. (…) After all, when we study Aristotle or Kant, we don’t usually start with the observation that they were men; so why should we see Hipparchia or Hildegard as women first and philosophers second? (…)

If female philosophers are to be rescued from their undeserved obscurity, it will be by using the same tools that can illuminate male historical figures.(…) And if this richer historical picture gives encouragement to women who are considering whether to devote their lives to philosophy, then an improvement in our understanding of philosophy’s past might just help improve philosophy’s future.”

read full article

the rise of consciousness as a problem

In “I feel therefore I am“, an essay published in aeon, Margaret Wertheim sketches the history of consciousness as a problem.

“In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), John Locke wondered if ‘the same object should produce in several men’s minds different ideas at the same time; for example, the idea, that a violet produces in one man’s mind by his eyes, were the same that a marigold produced in another man’s, and vice versa.’ Now known to philosophers of mind as the inverted spectrum argument, Locke’s query points us to the mystery of subjective experience and its attendant problem of ‘consciousness’.(…)

First coined in 1995 by the Australian philosopher David Chalmers, this ‘hard problem’ of consciousness highlights the distinction between registering and actually feeling a phenomenon. (…)

As one of the founders of empiricism, Locke believed that knowledge comes primarily from sensory experience, with real knowledge beingfelt by conscious beings. In the 17th century, René Descartes had also insisted on the irreducible centrality of subjective experience (…)

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The idea that the laws of nature might be able to account for conscious experience – a position known as physicalism – steadily gained supporters in the 19th century and was given a particular boost with the advent of Maxwell’s equations and other powerful mathematical frameworks devised by physicists in their golden age. (…)

Yet, as some philosophers of the early 20th century began to point out, physicalism contains a logical flaw. If consciousness is a secondary byproduct of physical laws, and if those laws are causally closed – meaning that everything in the world is explained by them (as physicalists claim) – then consciousness becomes truly irrelevant. (…)

These are fighting words. And some scientists are fighting back. In the frontline are the neuroscientists who, with increasing frequency, are proposing theories for how subjective experience might emerge from a matrix of neurons and brain chemistry. A slew of books over the past two decades have proffered solutions to the ‘problem’ of consciousness. Among the best known are Christof Koch’s The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach (2004); Giulio Tononi and Gerald Edelman’s A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination (2000); Antonio Damasio’s The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness (1999); and the philosopher Daniel Dennett’s bluntly titled Consciousness Explained (1991).

It has been said that, if the 20th century was the age of physics, the 21st will be the age of the brain. Among scientists today, consciousness is being hailed as one of the prime intellectual challenges. My interest in the subject is not in any particular solution to the origin of consciousness – I believe we’ll be arguing about that for millennia to come – but rather in the question: why is consciousness perceived as a ‘problem’? How exactly did it become a problem? And given that it was off the table of science for so long, why is it now becoming such a hot research subject? (…) ” read full essay

“Perfect Circles: Why We Can Spot Them, But Can’t Draw Them” by Rachel Nuwer

Article featured in BrainDecoder

“(…) Most people can quickly pick out an imperfect circle, but the ability to draw a perfect one freehanded seems to elude all but the legendary Giotto and similarly accomplished masters. This is because the seemingly complimentary tasks of recognizing imperfection and then correcting it to produce perfection actually have little to do with each other—at least so far as our brains are concerned. While the visual cortex handles image processing involved in detecting off-kilter spheres, completely different parts of the brain responsible for coordination and fine muscle control, combined with the complexity of the arm’s structure, are to blame for our inability to draw a perfectly round sphere.Continue reading

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