A Prequel to Gattaca?

The 1997 film Gattaca, written and directed by Andrew Niccol, portrays a futuristic society where babies are genetically engineered according to parental references.  The film features a society that consists almost exclusively of such artificially built individuals, with those who are born in the archaic, natural manner occupying the fringes of this society.  In order to protect the rights of what are referred to as the “valids” and thereby keep out the inferior “invalids,” each individual’s genetic material is constantly sampled and monitored.  Every person’s DNA is stored in a database, making multiple scans and random genetic sweeps in the workplace very efficient.  The story follows an “invalid” who has a dream of becoming an astronaut, a job open only to the genetically enhanced elite.

But my intention here is not to provide a synopsis of the film, which is very good and is certainly well worth the time it takes to watch.  Rather, I wanted to Continue reading

On Being (a student) and (having enough) Time

There is a very funny and insightful Youtube cartoon video up by Seferin that covers terrain in philosophy that is not my own, but that raises some general issues that I’m very familiar with in graduate student education.  It doesn’t have regular captions, but some accessibility is made possible here via the automatic translation program that Youtube is still putting through it’s paces–more on this below if you want to check it out).  Here’s the video:

But MUCH funnier and insightful, and I think a minor work of genius, is Serefin’s recent follow up post:

Constructing this entirely from the comments on the first video is more than a nice touch.   To understand it, of course, you’ll have to read Heidegger’s Being and Time.  And who, really, has enough of either to do that … except a graduate student?

Direct access and captioning. Continue reading

What its like … to be

h/t to Graham Oddie, who tips in turn to Mason Cash, completing the Alberta-NZ-Alberta circle of truth and well-being:

This is John Weldon’s To Be, and you can also get it on Youtube directly here.  We’ve actually submitted a large-scale grant to get one of these machines, but with the economic downturn, I’m not optimistic about our chances.

10 bits of Fun Stuff

Here are 10 of the things I reckon to be at least a little bit funny that I’ve posted on What Sorts since May, starting with

New Dawkins Vid Reveals Intelligent Design

Coming Out, by See Hear

Two Birds, One Stone

Standing Corrected: Why is there no apostrophe in “Hells Angels”?

Is your dog on Prozac?

Atoms are … mostly empty space

Gay Diver Makes a Splash

The War in Iraq: An Australian Perspective

PZ Meyers on the Enhancement of Sexual Morality

Parental Disorders

Ableist language alternatives

Iris: A Gaming Network is a discussion board that seeks to subvert the status quo in gaming in attempt to find ways to rid the gaming industry of it’s strong racist/homophobic/sexist/ableist biases with a particular focus on feminist concerns. In my travels there, I noticed this discussion. It offers some alternatives to ableist or otherwise bigoted language, with some interesting discussion on regional variation following. I’ve appended the list of alternative slurs for your reference.

For more on Ableist language, check out this recent post from Feminist Philosophers. In both places, the discussion around language seems to get people quite excited. I’m not sure what it is- it is as if asking someone to avoid being an ass is somehow like putting a barrier on their freedoms which is offensive in it’s own right. Although they may believe in principle that being an ass ought to be avoided, they also believe in principle that restricting one’s freedom to be an ass is ethically indefensible. I’m not sure how to help people to get out of this particular bind in reasoning. Any suggestions?

General Non-bigoted Slurs
Waste of space
Asswipe Continue reading

Here be dragons

If you could make a one hour video explaining science vs. pseudoscience to the masses, what would you say? What examples would you call on, and what tools would you want to give people to carry on into the rest of their lives? Here Be Dragons is a short introduction to critical thinking for the uninitiated by someone who hoped to offer just this. The problem, he says isn’t wacky products and services, it’s all the wacky reasons we buy into them. Closes off with a recommended reading list. There’s some questionable progress rhetoric happening here, and it’s certainly not how I would write my skeptic’s handbook, but it’s interesting to think of what you might want to do differently. Check out the website for more details. I’ve put in a request for a closed captioned version, I’ll keep you posted if I find one, but for now this is audio only.