No Silver Bullets

Humans are lazy, short-sighted creatures, and that makes perfect evolutionary sense.  When you’re starving to death in an unfamiliar forest, you don’t have time or energy to make plans for ten years later, or to waste on superfluous activities.  In evolutionary terms, laziness is just another word for efficiency.  Long term planning and the capacity for delayed gratification came with the development of the higher reasoning cortex and the capacity for complex thought, and our brains have a constant battle between the impulsive, instinctual brain and the reasoned, thoughtful brain.  It’s no surprise, then, that we are always looking for silver bullets.

The Fallacy of Regret

Queue swirling lights and rushing sound effects as we go back in time to stop regretting things and make our lives go how we wish they could have gone, with all of the wisdom and hindsight of our later years.  After an arbitrary passage through time and space, we find our former self, and we say something like “hey, don’t invest your money there, use it to start the business you’ve always dreamt of.”  Then, ignoring all considerations of paradox, physics, entropy, and causality, we zip back to the present time to see how much better our life us now that we made the choice we always wished we had.

What is Life?

This might sound like a philosophical question, but I intend it more like a scientific question.  We’ve discussed this somewhat before, like in our post about the universe’s habitable zone, but I want to focus in a little closer on what life really is, on what makes one thing alive and one thing not alive, how we might go about defining the difference, and whether what we call life deserves the distinction we have hitherto applied.

Writing 21st Century Fiction Review

I wish that the human brain was a better tool for diagnosing itself, because I would be very interested to know how much of my distaste for this book arose from the writing style, rather than the contents.  To be honest, the writing sounded juvenile.  It is my hope that the author adopted this style in an attempt to appeal to a broader audience, rather than it being an actual reflection of their intellectual capacity, but I found it quite off-putting, and rather undermining to those parts of the book that are valid.  While I realize that an inaccurate understanding of electromagnetism does not preclude wisdom in the area of fiction writing, making a blatantly invalid analogy does make me question how well the rest of the book was thought through before being published.  And that was just the most obvious example; the whole tone of the book conveyed a similar impression.