Few people know that women were a significant presence in the early decades of computing in both the United States and Britain; programming in postwar years was considered woman’s work (perhaps in contrast to the more manly task of building the computers themselves).
Jill Stoner’s architect’s eye tracks differently from most, drawn not to the lauded and iconic but to what she calls “the landscape of our constructed mistakes”—metropolitan hinterlands rife with failed and foreclosed developments, undersubscribed office parks, chain hotels, and abandoned malls. In this BIT, Stoner introduces the idea of “minor architectures” that emerge from the bottoms of power structures and within the language of those structures.
Do we consciously cause our actions, or do they happen to us? Philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists, theologians, and lawyers have long debated the existence of free will versus determinism. This BIT, excerpted from an influential book by the late Daniel Wegner, offers an innovative view of one aspect of free will. Wegner argues that when people project action to imaginary agents, they create virtual agents, apparent sources of their own volition.
Parallax can be defined as the apparent displacement of an object, caused by a change in observational position. Slavoj Žižek is interested in the “parallax gap” separating two points between which no synthesis or mediation is possible, linked by an “impossible short circuit” of levels that can never meet. In this BIT, Žižek draws on Lacan, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Kant, Hegel, and Marx to explore the philosophical implications of parallax.
What links conscious experience of pain, joy, color, and smell to bioelectrical activity in the brain? How can anything physical give rise to nonphysical, subjective, conscious states? Christof Koch has devoted much of his career to bridging the seemingly unbridgeable gap between the physics of the brain and phenomenal experience.
Bestselling author Steven Pinker’s early works on language acquisition have become classics in cognitive science. The Secret Life of Verbs offers Pinker’s look back at this work and two pivotal chapters from Learnability and Cognition.
In South Korea, online gaming is a cultural phenomenon. Games are broadcast on television, professional gamers are celebrities, and youth culture is often identified with online gaming. This BIT examines the working conditions of professional gamers in the high-pressure world of the Korean online gaming industry.
Fund manager and former corporate buyout specialist Travis Bradford argues—on the basis of standard business and economic forecasting models—that over the next two decades solar energy will increasingly become the best and cheapest choice for most electricity and energy applications. In this BIT, Bradford provides the basic facts about solar energy and describes a variety of economic and political incentives that would encourage its use.
Can there be a Buddhism without karma, nirvana, and reincarnation that is compatible with the rest of knowledge—a “naturalized” Buddhism? In this BIT, Flanagan connects Buddhist wisdom to the compassion and lovingkindness that Buddhism endorses—linking Buddhism’s metaphysics to its ethics.
Why does rationality matter for democracy? In this BIT, Michael Lynch offers a spirited defense of reason and rationality in an era of widespread skepticism. Lynch investigates how our reason is affected by emotion and intuition, discussing, among other things, fMRIs of the brains of George Bush supporters, the Platonist ideal of reason, and Huck Finn’s moral dilemma.