The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life—A Review

A Review of The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life by Kevin Simler and Robin Hanson, Oxford University Press, (January 2, 2018) 418 pages.

“The elephant in the room” is any important and obvious fact that, for whatever reason, no one is willing to talk about. In their new book, The Elephant in the Brain, authors Kevin Simler and Robin Hanson extend the concept to one the most important and obvious, yet unspoken, facts about the human mind: that we are masters of self-deception, equipped by evolution with an “introspective blind spot” that hides our deeper, selfish motives, even when the same motives are easy to spot in others. The result is an entertaining and insightful book that sheds light on a diverse collection of perplexing human behaviors — from laughter to religion to the origin of language.

LINK: https://quillette.com/2018/01/28/elephant-brain-hidden-motives-everyday-life-review/

Apocalypse Now – Interview with John Milius

Apocalypse Now,” Francis Ford Coppola‘s 1979 Vietnam war, has attracted to it maybe the largest corpus of legends and anecdotes of any film ever made. Sort-of an adaptation of Joseph Conrad‘s “Heart of Darkness,” the production became a slog through natural disasters, directorial megalomania, and latter-day Marlon Brando‘s sprawling eccentricity. If you are a film student with an idea for a movie set in a jungle, take a quick look at the legends surrounding “Apocalypse Now,” and similar films like those of Werner Herzog, and write a new script, for God’s sake.

But if you just enjoy stories of hubris and chaos, then by all means dive in. We have here, courtesy of No Film School, a new window on the production, in the fascinating form of the director, Coppola, interviewing the writer, John Milius. Milius is a fascinating figure all to himself, a buddy of Coppola, Lucas, Spielberg and the rest of the “brat pack” from way back in the day who also wrote “Dirty Harry,” directed the original “Red Dawn” and created the HBO series “Rome” (check out our list of essential Milius films right here). Here he and Coppola delve back to the days before they shipped out to the jungle, when the only complexity facing them was Milius’ ten-draft, thousand-page monster-script. “What could possibly go wrong?” they must have been asking themselves…

LINK: https://www.indiewire.com/2013/08/watch-45-minute-interview-with-apocalypse-now-co-writer-john-milius-by-francis-ford-coppola-94844/

Dark web crackdown: Germans want to criminalize anyone providing a platform

Germany’s states have voted to introduce federal legislation that would criminalize the act of providing technical infrastructure for so-called dark-web marketplaces where illegal activities take place.

LINK: https://www.zdnet.com/article/dark-web-crackdown-germans-want-to-criminalize-anyone-providing-a-platform/

A Mass Murder of, and for, the Internet

Before entering a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, the site of one of the deadliest mass murders in the country’s history, the accused gunman paused to endorse a YouTube star in a video that appeared to capture the shooting.

“Remember, lads, subscribe to PewDiePie,” he said.

To an untrained eye, this would have seemed like a bizarre detour.

But the people watching the video stream recognized it as something entirely different: a meme.

LINK: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/15/technology/facebook-youtube-christchurch-shooting.html

The Brabant Killers

In 1982, a group of offenders began striking the Brussels area of Belgium. It began with a series of small robberies, but – by the end of the year – had progressed to full-blown murder. Though their criminal career was still in its apparent infancy, the Brabant Killers – also known as the Brabant Gang and the Gang Of Nivelles – would go on to become Belgium’s most violent and mysterious criminals. Over thirty years later, their identities and motives are still unknown.

How a Bitcoin Evangelist Made Himself Vanish, in 15 (Not So Easy) Steps

In October 2017, a SWAT team descended on Jameson Lopp’s house in North Carolina. Someone — it still isn’t clear who — had called the police and falsely claimed that a shooter at the home had killed someone and taken a hostage. After the police left, Mr. Lopp received a call threatening more mayhem if he did not make a large ransom payment in Bitcoin.

To scare off future attackers, Mr. Lopp quickly posted a video on Twitter of himself firing off his AR-15 rifle. He also decided he was going to make it much harder for his enemies — and anyone else — to find him ever again.

Mr. Lopp, a self-described libertarian who works for a Bitcoin security company, had long been obsessed with the value of privacy, and he set out to learn how thoroughly a person can escape the all-seeing eyes of corporate America and the government. But he wanted to do it without giving up internet access and moving to a shack in the woods.

LINK: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/12/technology/how-to-disappear-surveillance-state.html

Would Human Extinction Be a Tragedy?

There are stirrings of discussion these days in philosophical circles about the prospect of human extinction. This should not be surprising, given the increasingly threatening predations of climate change. In reflecting on this question, I want to suggest an answer to a single question, one that hardly covers the whole philosophical territory but is an important aspect of it. Would human extinction be a tragedy?

LINK: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/17/opinion/human-extinction-climate-change.html

Can You Spot a Liar?

Probably not. But here are some techniques grifters use, courtesy of Maria Konnikova and her new book about con artists.

In November, I came across a story that made absolutely no sense to me. A 33-year-old consultant named Niall Rice gave $718,000, little by little, to two Manhattan psychics who promised to reunite him with an old flame. How could someone be so gullible? Rice himself didn’t even seem to know: “I just got sucked in,” he told The New York Times later.

As it turns out, it’s much easier to fall for these types of cons than many people think. As Maria Konnikova, a psychologist and New Yorker contributor, explains in her new book, The Confidence Game, grifters manipulate human emotions in genius (and evil) ways, striking right when we feel lovelorn or otherwise emotionally vulnerable. I recently spoke with Konnikova about cons, why they happen, and if there’s any way to avoid becoming a fraudster’s next target. A lightly edited version of our conversation follows.

LINK: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/01/can-you-spot-a-liar/423588/

Will Climate Change Cause Human Extinction?

In the last few days an alarming article making the rounds on social media has revived the idea that our species might be doing itself in by changing the global climate. The article, by vice.com’s Nathan Curry, minces no words in its title: “Humanity Is Getting Verrrrrrry Close to Extinction,” with the extra rs in the original.

LINK: https://www.kcet.org/redefine/will-climate-change-cause-human-extinction