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My Immortal: The Quest To Live Forever – KRCU

Posted: February 18, 2020 at 5:50 pm

For years, Silicon Valley hasfundedgroundbreakingscientific research about extending the human lifespan.

From gene therapy,tomolecular biology, toartificial intelligence,we know more about the aging process than we ever have. And perhaps, were close to knowinghow toeliminate aging entirely.

From The Guardian:

Funded by Silicon Valley elites, researchers believe they are closer than ever to tweaking the human body so that we can finally live forever (or quite a bit longer), even as some worry about pseudoscience in the sector.

Scientists and entrepreneurs are working on a range of techniques, from attempting to stop cells aging, to the practice of injecting young blood into old people a processdenounced as quackeryby the Federal Drug Administration [last year].

Theres millions of people now who wont see death if they choose, said James Strole, the director of theCoalition of Radical Life Extension, an organization which brings together scientists and enthusiasts interested in physical immortality.

Is immortality closer to reality than science fiction? And if humans could live forever or at least, for a long time how would that shape what it means to be alive?

Originally posted here:
My Immortal: The Quest To Live Forever - KRCU

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith

The Good Place finale: What was it really about? – Deseret News

Posted: February 18, 2020 at 5:50 pm

Note: This article contains spoilers for all seasons of The Good Place.

The Good Place explored a lot of questions over its four-year run: Did Aristotle actually know what he was talking about? Is drinking almond milk a sin? Is it noble to fix a broken tricycle for a child who is indifferent to tricycles? And just what are the ethical consequences of buying a tomato?

But the biggest and most controversial question came during the shows finale last month: Is finitude necessary for life to have meaning?

The answer to that question is a solid no for Pamela Hieronymi, who was a philosophy adviser for the NBC sitcom.

Theres an ongoing philosophical debate about immortality and whether it would be a good thing or a bad thing, the UCLA professor told the Deseret News. The view that was taken by the show, namely that an infinite trouble-free life would be meaningless I disagree with that.

But Hieronymi made her mark on the show in other ways. Her influence began early on, as showrunner Michael Schur (Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) was developing the idea for The Good Place a story NBC gave him absolute freedom to create.

As he was reading Aristotle and toying with different conceptions of the afterlife, Schur cold-emailed the UCLA professor and asked if shed be interested in talking about the philosophy behind his show.

Hieronymi isnt much of a TV watcher, but she rarely turns down an opportunity to chat about ethics. So she said yes. A few days before her meeting with Schur, she Googled his name.

Oh wow, this is a big deal TV guy, she said.

The NBC sitcom about four people navigating the afterlife put an entertaining twist on philosophy. It also came with a lot of plot twists.

Twist No. 1: At the end of season 1 we learn that Michael, the charming architect played by a bow tie-wearing Ted Danson, is actually a demon. The self-absorbed Eleanor (Kristen Bell), indecisive ethics professor Chidi (William Jackson Harper), celebrity name-dropping Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and clueless Jason (Manny Jacinto) were in the Bad Place all along, selected by Michael to torture each other for eternity.

Twist No. 2: The four humans designed to torture each other had actually helped each other become better people. The rest of The Good Place follows the unlikely friends as they try to make it to the real Good Place.

Twist No. 3: The Good Place isnt that good.

In the shows penultimate episode, the group reaches its destination and quickly discovers that everyone in the Good Place is bored. Turns out having every desire instantly fulfilled is only exciting for so long. After some thought, Eleanor proposes an afterlife solution that the longtime Good Place residents approve with ecstatic cheers: the chance to leave.

Good Place residents can stay as long as they like, waiting for friends and family on Earth to join them. But when theyre ready, they can walk through a doorway that will presumably end their existence. Just having that option seems to immediately lift the residents spirits.

Hieronymi said that storyline reflects the view of the shows other philosophy consultant, Clemson professor Todd May, who writes in his book Death that the fact that we die is what makes what we do and who we do it with matter.

Both Hieronymi and May have cameos in the shows finale. Mays brief moment in the spotlight shows him discussing a line from Death with Chidi.

Hieronymi, who stands firmly on the other side of the debate, said she considers May to be an immortality curmudgeon.

I dont understand why you would think that removing the limit of life would suddenly deprive it of meaning, she said.

The final episode of The Good Place, which aired Jan. 30, shows Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani and Jason living through thousands of Jeremy Bearimys. They each live out their personal versions of paradise and resolve the issues they had on Earth. And eventually, they each peacefully come to the decision that their time in the Good Place is up.

But its Tahanis choice that Hieronymi said she respects the most. Instead of walking through the door, the socialite who spent her mortal life bragging about her faux philanthropy actually chooses to become a philanthropist, designing afterlife tests that will help more people make it to the Good Place.

In my opinion, Tahani got the right answer, Hieronymi said. I think thats the way I wouldve ended the show, is let it be this ongoing process of becoming better yourself and then facing the challenges of also helping other people as they come in.

Hieronymi has one line in The Good Place finale: Bring ponchos. It gets messy.

Its the warning she gives when Chidi who even in the Good Place continues to teach people ethics tells his class theyll be studying the trolley problem the following week.

Its the perfect line for the professor, who had a lot to do with The Trolley Problem episode from the shows second season in fact, at the start of that episode, Hieronymis name is written on the blackboard Chidi uses for his lessons.

To prepare for the episode, Schur invited Hieronymi to the writers room to break down the moral dilemma the trolley problem poses. Yes, most people would agree that its best to pull the runaway trolleys lever and switch tracks in order to kill only one person and save five, Hieronymi told the writers.

But what about a scenario where a transplant surgeon has five ailing patients each in need of a different organ? Do you sacrifice one healthy patient to save the other five?

Thats the Trolley problem, Hieronymi said. Why is it that were getting one answer in one case and the opposite answer in the other case? And thats used to sort of reveal that in the first case youre focused on outcomes like a consequentialist or utilitarian and in the second case you tend to focus on rights and respect what gets called a deontologist.

Those contradictions literally come to life in The Good Place. And the professor is right it gets really messy.

Throughout The Trolley Problem episode, Michael creates and recreates the experiment for Chidi and Eleanor and it turns out the problem is a lot more complex than it is on paper.

Its just a simulation; I would never make you kill real people, Michael calmly tells a traumatized Chidi, whose indecisiveness has caused him to run the trolley over five people.

Oh well thats reassuring because some of the parts of the fake people flew into my mouth! Chidi responds.

The Trolley Problem, in all of its hilarious messiness, is one of the shows most popular episodes. But it isnt Hieronymis only mark on the show.

Hieronymi almost stood Schur up for their first meeting back in the fall of 2015. A self-described absent-minded professor, she got lost in her musings and lost track of time. A phone call from Schur brought her out of that world, and she rushed down the street to the coffee shop to meet him 45 minutes late.

Over coffee, the pair talked for more than three hours, covering everything from utilitarianism to contractualism. Hieronymi liked the overall idea of The Good Place, but there were some aspects she disagreed with like Schurs idea of a point system that ascribes value to good and bad deeds determining who ends up in the Good Place (Example from the show: Hugging a sad friend gets you 4.98 points while stiffing a waitress costs you -6.83 points).

It absolutely generates this problem about the motives for doing the things that get you points, Hieronymi said. You cant aim at the points and earn them at the same time.

So Hieronymi introduced Schur to T.M. Scanlons What We Owe to Each Other, a book about contractualism that Schur has since called the spine of his show (the book is both a conversation piece and a literal prop throughout the series).

The professor used the example of a driver cutting off another driver to explain why its important to consider the implication of an action and not just the good or bad result of that action.

That person has maybe cost us 15 seconds in our attempt to exit the freeway. So the actual cost of that, the thing they actually brought about, wasnt a big deal, she said. But they think theyre special. The disrespect that they have shown is all out of proportion with the actual cost theyve incurred to us.

The central wrongdoing is thinking youre special, thinking that you get to make an exception for yourself, Hieronymi continued. That was actually the thing that Mike (Schur) was most interested in.

And that became the heart or spine of the show. As the series goes on, the flaws and limitations of the point system are revealed, leading to the shocking discovery that no one has made it to the Good Place in 521 years. Contractualism reigns supreme as new afterlife tests give people the chance to help each other and redeem themselves.

That storyline has Hieronymis name written all over it, but the professor still takes issue with the skeptical view of immortality put forth by the ending although she feels a little better about it when she thinks of it in the context of a TV show coming to an end.

If a TV show keeps going on forever it becomes meaningless; that seems correct to me, she said. Bringing the show to the end, and bringing the show to the end when Mike Schur was ready to, and not due to external forces thats a really nice angle on it.

Ending aside, though, Hieronymi values The Good Place for doing something few, if any, TV shows have done before: Finding an entertaining way to bring philosophy into the mainstream.

Its such a feel-good show. Its hard not to enjoy watching it, she said. The storyline is exploring philosophical questions rather than explaining philosophical theories, and that to me was the more interesting part.

Continued here:
The Good Place finale: What was it really about? - Deseret News

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith

Put Yourself In The Hard Boiled Sleeve Of Altered Carbon – Forbes

Posted: February 18, 2020 at 5:50 pm

The first season of Netflixs Altered Carbon had everything you could want from a cyberpunk detective story; a twisty mystery, a hardboiled hero and fantastic technology that contrasts the haves and the have nots. Fans of the show and the series of books have two things to look forward to in February. The second season of the show drops at the end of the month and Hunters Entertainment is running a Kickstarter for an RPG set in the world.

I first listened to the Altered Carbon series shortly after college, said Ivan Van Norman, lead designer from Hunters Entertainment, when my boss at the time unloaded something like 75 audiobooks into my iPod. I enjoyed the rich and descriptive world that was described to me, and how unapologetically it dumped me into the world to fend for myself. It was a dystopian sci-fi world that I felt was gladly took the horns of what our world could turn into - and showed us the black shadows of 'what could be'. It also was just a damn good neo-noir book.

The curious have access to a quickstart guide that shows off elements of the game right away. Character traits are rated as die types; the lower the size of the die the better as players must roll under difficulty numbers to succeed. These elements will also change as players change their bodies in a process known as re-sleeving from Altered Carbon.

I really enjoy how we've done our best to make by default a really crunchy world really accessible for narrative play, said Van Norman. We've mixed some elements of Savage Worlds, Kids on Bikes and Outbreak: Undead to make something that really feels like you're given agency as a player - while still discardable enough to not get in the way of the story. Also, i'm particularly proud how we've approached 'Noire storytelling' where you may not even know the 'who dun it?' yourself when you start the game! Noir on its own is so easy to railroad in a Tabletop RPG session, but we wanted to break that mold and make something that felt really fun and unique in the Tabletop RPG world.

Both the show and the RPG come at something of a resurgent time for the cyberpunk genre. The video game Cyberpunk 2077 from the same team that made the Witcher a successful franchise is due out this year as well as a new edition of the tabletop game upon which it is based, Cyberpunk Red. The setting of Altered Carbon plays up the class struggle of the genre by highlighting the near-immortality of Meths, the ultra rich who can afford to resleeve and jump from body to body.

I think we're all in a place right now where we are really thinking about our future, said Van Norman, and what that means in not only the immediate - but 300 years from now. The world of Altered Carbon is as far away from us as the founding of our nation, and there is something both alien andfamiliarwith that. We're excited and terrified about what the future holds, and as we've always done as long as humans have existed - we tell stories to help us cope with that.

The Kickstarter for the Altered Carbon RPG runs through Wednesday, March 4th.

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Put Yourself In The Hard Boiled Sleeve Of Altered Carbon - Forbes

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith

New World Developer Diary Shows New Lore and Factions – SegmentNext

Posted: February 18, 2020 at 5:50 pm

Amazon Game Studios recently released a New World developer diary. The diary reveals story elements and different groups that reside in the massively multiplayer RPG.

The 3-minute video called Fight the World shows the developers talking about New Worlds huge map called Aeternum. They wanted to create a map that provided players the possibility to explore and create their own narrative. Players will find themselves washed up on shore with nothing to their name. Then the exploration will begin and you will find other players roaming around the map.

No one can really die in the game as no soul can leave the body according to the devs. This immortality is granted via a magical source on the island called Azoth. The developers then introduce three main factions present in the game. The first faction is the Lost. They are the undead ghouls of the island that are half-dead and half-alive. The Lost consists of dead sailors and pirates that died a gruesome death and wander the island as straggling creatures.

The next faction is called the Angry Earth. These are beings of pure nature taking the form of humans and animals. They personify nature and have risen up to battle the forces that are trying to corrupt the island. The final faction is that of the Ancients. The Ancients had taken hold of the power of Azoth and used it to further their technological advancements. They are a hidden civilization that met their downfall due to mysterious reasons.

The New World developer diary also has mentions of the Corrupted. These entities will be the players main adversaries. They can block roads or summon a portal to teleport enemies to your location.

Players will be able to take over territories on Aeternum and build them up to their liking. Bear in mind that the more established your territory gets, the more it is likely to come under siege by other players and enemies.

Amazon Game Studios New World is shaping up to be quite an immersive sandbox MMO experience. New World is set to release in May 2020 for Microsoft Windows. There is no news on console release for the time being.

Read more:
New World Developer Diary Shows New Lore and Factions - SegmentNext

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith

Review: ‘The Man In The Red Coat,’ By Julian Barnes – NPR

Posted: February 18, 2020 at 5:50 pm

Want a great antidote to distress over current events? Julian Barnes found it in his immersive plunge into the incredible flowering of sexual and artistic expression in Belle Epoque France, and into one man's mostly admirable life in particular. His 24th book (and eighth volume of nonfiction) The Man in the Red Coat, is a wonderful demonstration of the sort of free-range intellectual curiosity Barnes feels has been stymied by the xenophobia and national chauvinism behind Brexit.

In part a biography of Samuel Jean Pozzi, a celebrated French gynecologist and Don Juan who is the red-robed subject of John Singer Sargent's sumptuous full-length portrait, "Dr. Pozzi at Home," Barnes' book expands into an erudite, entertaining, and beautifully illustrated disquisition on the period between 1870 and 1914, which actually bears some interesting parallels with our own times.

The son of two French language teachers and a longtime Francophile who sealed his literary stature with his third novel, Flaubert's Parrot (1984), Barnes is in his element writing about Dr. Pozzi's dazzling circle of contemporaries, which included Guy de Maupassant, Colette, Stphane Mallarm, Joris-Karl Huysmans, and Marcel Proust. Sarah Bernhardt was a patient and lover, who called him "Dr. Dieu." Close medical colleagues included Proust's father and brother. Most of these notables made it onto collectible photographic cards that were included with Flix Potin chocolate bars between 1898 and 1922, rather like baseball trading cards, and are reproduced throughout Red Coat.

The book begins with what at first seems to be the start of a joke: Three Frenchmen a prince, a count, and a celebrity gynecologist head to London in 1885 for some "intellectual and decorative shopping." But this is no joke. They're all aesthetes, and they've crossed the Channel to bask in Handel at the Crystal Palace and stock up on Liberty curtain fabric. They come bearing an introductory letter from Sargent to Henry James.

With the doctor, Barnes has found an unusual, largely forgotten hero. Pozzi, Barnes writes, was a pathbreaking surgeon, the person to call to extract a bullet or suture intestinal lesions after a duel (an all-too-common occurrence at the time, and, Barnes notes, cheaper than today's libel suits) or to remove a massive ovarian cyst, as he did from Bernhardt. In his seminal textbook, Treatise of Gynaecology, Pozzi established guidelines for gynecological exams with the patient's comfort in mind. He also saved countless lives by introducing British surgeon Joseph Lister's antiseptic methods to colleagues who didn't see the need to wash their hands before operating.

But Dr. Pozzi wasn't all work and no play, as Barnes makes clear. Rational, energetic, and personable, he was also an unhappily married Lothario who seduced many of his female patients, earning him the sobriquet Dr. Love ("L'Amour mdicin"). In one of many delicious tidbits, Barnes reports that the Princess of Monaco dubbed Pozzi "disgustingly handsome." Barnes doesn't shy from discussing the doctor's sexual transgressions including a decades-long affair with a married Austrian Jew or his daughter's distress over her strained relationship with her father, which she wrote about in her intimate and often histrionic diaries, from which Barnes quotes at length. But he cautions that it is inappropriate to judge Pozzi by today's standards.

The two aristocratic chums who accompanied Pozzi on that cultural jaunt to London are less admirable but no less interesting. Prince Edmond de Polignac was one of many Belle Epoque gold diggers who married American heiresses to refill their financial coffers. He was also a closeted gay man whose "aristocratic horse trade" with sewing heiress Winnaretta Singer, a lesbian 31 years his junior, turned out to be a win-win (or Winn-Winn) situation she got a title, he got funding for his lavish lifestyle, and they got along.

Barnes flits through the sexual gossip, petulant duels, violent outbursts, medical advances, anti-English jibes, and lurid excesses of the Belle Epoque, seasoning it all with wry interjections on art and literature.

The flamboyant Count Robert de Montesquiou personified dandyism. A mediocre poet and avid collector of curiosities, he found a measure of immortality in other artists' work including James Whistler, Giovanni Boldini, and Proust. He was also the model for the central character in Huysmans' dark, fantastical "bible of French Decadence,"Against Nature (A Rebours) (1884).

Like his meditations on death and grieving, Nothing to Be Frightened Of (2008) and Levels of Life (2013), there's both an elegance and informality to Red Coat rather like Pozzi's dashing dressing gown in Sargent's famous portrait. But this is a more cheerful book which, although deeply researched, announces itself as a freewheeling study by eschewing the usual trappings of scholarship, including bibliography, footnotes, and even chapters.

Barnes flits through the sexual gossip, petulant duels, violent outbursts, medical advances, anti-English jibes, and lurid excesses of the Belle Epoque, seasoning it all with wry interjections on art and literature. He reminds us that "there are more uncertainties in nonfiction than in fiction" and so much we cannot know. He declares memorably, "Biography is a collection of holes tied together with string, and nowhere more so than with the sexual and amatory life."

Among the unanswerable questions Red Coat raises: "Do gynecologists make better lovers?" (Barnes admits this sounds like a bumper sticker.) Was Sarah Bernhardt, purportedly a nymphomaniac, anorgasmic? What actually happened to cause the chill between Pozzi and his wife? He writes, "All of these matters could, of course, be solved in a novel."

Barnes also considers Pozzi's violent end from a novelist's point of view:

A Don Juan shot dead by a man who blamed him for not curing his impotence. What sort of morality tale is that? In fiction, it would seem cutely snug. Nonfiction is where we allow things to happen because they did which are glib and implausible and moralistic.

Nothing glib about this delightful, consummately open-minded book.

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Review: 'The Man In The Red Coat,' By Julian Barnes - NPR

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith

Rizal and Galds The Manila Times – The Manila Times

Posted: February 18, 2020 at 5:50 pm

Jorge Mojarro

IT is well-known that Jos Rizal was, unavoidably, an avid reader. He explains in some of his letters how he preferred to spend his money on books rather than food. His curiosity was more typical of an humanist from Renaissance times that of a middle-class man from 19th-century Calamba. There was no topic that was of no interest for him: ancient languages, medicine, anthropology, history, religion, etc. His mind was in a permanent state of effervescence, always willing to be fed with new intellectual stimuli.

Rizal accepted with superb serenity his martyrdom, but he was not certainly looking for immortality through his unfair execution, but through his writings. I have argued elsewhere that the genius of Noli Me Tangere did not come from, lets say, divine inspiration, but from a life devoted to books, especially literature of fiction.

The topic of an impossible love between two beautiful souls, both of impeccable moral standards, was very common in 19th-century Latin American novels. The most well-known among those was Mara (1867) by the Colombian Jorge Isaacs, a novel so successful that it has obtained more than 200 editions until the present. We do not have any evidence of Rizal reading Latin American novels, but ultimately, the most relevant issue here is that the Spanish-speaking intellectual class shared the same worldview and very similar political and artistic concerns.

Nnay (1885) by Pedro Paterno, a Filipino novel that certainly needs more credit, was surely an influence on Rizal, who probably did the proofreading before going to print. What in Nnay is a lachrymose romance between two lovers in a very idealized and exoticized Philippines, peppered with adventurous scenes and information regarding local customs, Rizal transformed into a literary masterpiece where all social classes are mercilessly criticized. The parallelisms between Nnay and Mara Clara, Carlos Mabagsic and Crisstomo Ibarra are quite evident, but more relevant even is the parallelism between two original, enigmatic and very likeable characters: Berto and Elas.

But who was the most popular, most read and most prestigious novelist in Madrid in the second half of the 19th century? Benito Prez Galds, whose life is being commemorated this year in Spain as he passed away exactly 100 years ago. And certainly, Galds must have been a major literary influence on Jos Rizal. Galds was born in the Canary Islands and moved to Madrid at 19 years old in search of literary glory. His career began when he was allowed to publish his first pieces in the most important newspapers. He published more than 80 novels, 20 dramas, plus several travel books, essays and a collection of his pieces as a journalist. Most importantly, he was a staunch anticlerical novelist, and priests are generally given a very negative role in all his novels. With the exception of Miguel de Cervantes, there is no novelist like Galds in Spanish literature; his novels keep being read until today and some of them have even become popular movies. Belonging to the realist trend, there is something in the plots and characters of Galds that still appeal pleasantly to the readers of today.

Rizal, who was in Madrid while Galds was in the summit of his literary career and was extremely updated in literary novelties, should have read some of his works. Moreover, there is a novel by Galds whose plot reflects somehow one of the problems pointed out by Rizal in Noli Me Tangere: the dramatic and persistent interference of priests in extra-religious issues. The novel is titled Doa Perfecta (1876), and the plot is as follows: a marriage of convenience is arranged by Doa Perfecta between her daughter Rosario and her cousin, Pepe Rey, in order to keep the properties of the family united. What was supposed to be a cold relationship led by mutual interest becomes unexpectedly a passionate true love. However, the priest, Inocencio, had better plans for Rosario: to marry his nephew. Doa Perfecta, a devoted believer, accepts the plan of the priest against the will of the two lovers, and a tragedy ensues. It seems that this Inocencio could very well have served as an inspiration to Rizal to create his evil Padre Dmaso. It wouldnt be difficult for us to imagine Rizal reading the novel while thinking about his mother country and its problems.

The fact that Rizal found inspiration in many books is not an accusation of a lack of originality, not at all, but an acknowledgment of his creative impetus. Reading the most popular novelists of his century, he was able to create something completely new and perfectly shaped to the situation of the Philippines. More importantly, it wouldnt be an exaggeration to claim that Noli Me Tangere came to be a masterpiece superior to the previous novels that may have inspired it.

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Rizal and Galds The Manila Times - The Manila Times

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith


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