Friday, May 27, 2016

Geoff Dyer’s Creative Boredom

According to a book review in Time Magazine, the writer has two great gifts – he is easily bored in places everyone else finds exciting, and can cleverly convey his sense of insufferable boredom. Beijing’s Forbidden City? “Jeez, it went on forever, and every bit looked axactly the same as every other bit.” Time spent in a small Norwegian town promising a unique view of the northern lights? “It was like a lifetime of disappointment compressed into less than a week, which actually felt like it had lasted the best – in the sense of worst – part of a lifetime.” Polynesia? It “translates as ‘many islands,’ all of which you wish you were on instead of the one you actually are on.” Apparently, this goes on and on. So what would it take to get Mr. Dyer mildly excited? More dopamine binding in his mesolimbic pathway, I guess – though this could get in the way of his wry humor. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Individualism’s Final Victory?

A story on the NYT web site hails “The End of the Office Dress Code.” Its strapline clarifies the message: “In the sartorial battle between the individual and the corporation, the individual is winning.” I searched for the slightest whiff of irony in the text, but found none. So it must be true – for better or worse. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Matrix in reverse?

A team of psychologists have identified a mathematical network in the brain – distinct from the one recruited for language-mediated thinking. It is activated when we juggle or simply see numbers. Needless to say, this network must be more developed in mathematicians – or, more generally, in individuals who are better with numbers rather than words. Needless to say, this may be the network you need to have beefed up in your brain in order to be taken seriously as a social scientists these days (and soon it may give you a leg up in the humanities, too). So, unlike Cypher who says he sees people when he looks at numbers, you will be able to see numbers and equations when you think of people and social “interactions.”