Making magical machines

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We live in the age of robots, where machines powered by AI can drive your car, deliver you breakfast in your hotel room, or reorder you diapers on Amazon.

But automata isn’t new. As craftsman François Junod points out in the video, “the oldest known automatons date back to the Egyptians.” They gained popularity as entertainment for royalty in the 18th century.

Obsessed with mechanics and automatons at a younger age, Junod felt compelled to make what he calls ‘animated sculptures’ himself. Today he works out of his studio in Switzerland and ships out all over the world.

“It’s that I’ve always liked automatons because we can create new things…There really isn’t a limit. We can continue and discover new things. We can always go further.”

Find out more about Junod’s work here.

Images courtesy François Junod


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Faulty attention

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gif via Katy Wang

We cultivate boredom the same way we incubate attention, that is, we latch on to things until we no longer see them. They camouflage into our awareness.

The internet user runs into the cornucopia of visuals on Instagram. Liking becomes desultory, numb to the perpetual sting of dopamine. Are we not entertained?

We are sloppy internet users

But we are also creatures of habit, where behaviors online and off are one of the same. In reality, we visit the same people, talk to the same friends, and share similar viewpoints. Yet, simplicity is often in the sophistication of an opposing view.

Challenges make us reconsider our everyday perceptions. We don’t need to keep refreshing into a ludic loop of variable results. Instead, we need to expect completely different answers. Such novelty is how we stay curious, albeit sane.


Make a one-time donation

Contributing to the blog would help me immensely. For every contributed dollar, I can keep the blog running and continue to provide you interesting links.

$1.00

Fearing a loss of mind

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gif via Fool’s Gold

There are very few moments in the day when we pause. Instead, we latch onto the sugary obsession of tech and its distractions, awaiting the next shock of dopamine.

But we can have tea with ourselves, going through what our worries and wishes are in the quest for ever-fleeting presence.

Man is more versatile than a machine. Robots are one-trick ponies unable to combine disciplines, like doing the dishes or driving to work, all the while contemplating the color blue. Yet, we too become blinded by linear thinking.

We confuse busyness with productivity. We falsely believe that money brings wisdom while in reality, it cultivates hubris. Humans are smart, agile, but fragile thinkers.

The search for meaning starts with a face-to-face conversation with ourselves to bring life back to our senses. Thinking about thinking verifies that the noise in our head is more than just alive.

Alien Hand Syndrome

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via NPR

What if you woke up one day and had a brand new second hand that moved on its own?

This is what happened to Karen after she had brain surgery to help cure her epilepsy. After her operation, her left hand immediately took on a life of its own. For starters, it immediately began to unbutton her shirt on the hospital bed while the surgeon pleaded her to stop.

After she went home the hand started to do other things like slapping her, which reminded me of the self-beating Jim Carrey famously gives himself in the movie Liar Liar.

What caused her alien hand syndrome?

Apparently, the surgery had to split her brain and removed her Corpus callosum, which ties the left and right brain hemisphere together. Basically, the operation caused the opposing sides of her brain to switch roles.

Fortunately, Karen has come to appreciate the moral authority her left hand tries to impose on her decision-making. Any time she tries to smoke, for example, her left hand puts the cigarette out and even flicks the ashes around.

Karen’s come to appreciate the magic discipline of her hand. However, she still gets in a smoke or two. “I understand you want me to quit,” she tells her hand, “but cut the crap!”

The self promotion dilemma

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via kingpalewave

By all means, show your work. The internet is a great place to get feedback and build up your confidence. Just keep in mind, it’s all about you until it isn’t.

“It’s a total catch-22: if you don’t self-promote, you won’t be known to those who hold the keys to whatever kingdom you’re interested in unlocking. If you do self-promote, you might catch the gatekeepers’ attention, but pray they don’t read your self-promotion as needy or navel-gazing. Pray you don’t violate some unwritten code of class conduct or seem too eager. You have to appear to have a lot to offer without appearing to need anyone to take it. What a strange psychic and social predicament we’ve put ourselves in.”

Read The Case for Self-Promotion

The simple technique that boosts your short and long-term memory

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via giphy

Want to remember more of what you read? Give your brain a 10-15 minute rest. No phones, no distractions, just pure boredom, a quiet room and dimmed lights.

Why do we need to reduce interference?

It takes longer for new information to encode and simply consuming more or squandering time on social media will make it even hard to remember.

When we let the mind wander, the brain works backward and connects the dots, cementing those memories that were previously unlinked.

So stop chasing extra stimulation and let your brain rest in its own presence. Your memory will thank you for it.

Read An effortless way to improve your memory

 

 

‘Some days, you’re just not creative. It’s OK….Don’t worry about it. It comes back.’

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via giphy

“This is important. Some days, you’re just not creative. It’s OK. Go read a book. Or take a walk. Don’t worry about it. It comes back.”

— [easyazon_link identifier=”1937137023″ locale=”US” tag=”wells01-20″]Brian Andreas[/easyazon_link]

Worrying is a waste of time. Greet your anxiety instead.

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gif via Jason Clarke

It is human nature to ponder anxieties that do not exist.

The mind is a fabrication machine, developing worries before they deserve any attention. Wrote Carlos Castaneda in [easyazon_link identifier=”0671732463″ locale=”US” tag=”wells01-20″]Journey to Ixtlan[/easyazon_link]“To worry is to become accessible… And once you worry, you cling to anything out of desperation; and once you cling you are bound to get exhausted or to exhaust whoever or whatever you are clinging to.”

The only way to assuage the nerves is to focus on what’s in front of you, to do the work regardless of the way you feel. Progress happens to the relaxed.


Don’t worry before it’s time

Writes Eric Barker on his life advice blog:

You’re not your brain; you’re the CEO of your brain. You can’t control everything that goes on in “Mind, Inc.” But you can decide which projects get funded with your attention and action. So when a worry is nagging at you, step back and ask: “Is this useful?”

As a survival mechanism, anxiety pushes us to take action — the most basic fear is that we need to eat and have a place to sleep for the night. But anxiety is also a thinking problem that needs to be neutralized by greeting it at the door where it appears wearing the same costume as it did before.

Everything is going to be alright, just like it was yesterday.

‘Never ask the doctor what you should do. Ask him what he would do if he were in your place’

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gif via Calum Heath

“The psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer has a simple heuristic. Never ask the doctor what you should do. Ask him what he would do if he were in your place. You would be surprised at the difference.”

[easyazon_link identifier=”0812979680″ locale=”US” tag=”wells01-20″]Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder[/easyazon_link] by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Go another click

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via giphy

Ask more questions, not because you want to be right but because you’re naturally curious and want to know more about the spaces inside, not the exterior of opinion. Wrote René Magritte: “Everything we see hides another thing; we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.

Every thought has one that precedes it. Opinions can be traced back to what you’ve seen, heard, or read in an effort to confirm bias. But loosen the emotional grip of sidedness. Said physicist Richard Feynman, “You must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.”


Have strong opinions, weakly held

It is not necessary to be confident in order to act. “Rightness,” wrote author Louis Menand, “will be, in effect, the compliment you give to the outcome of your deliberations.” Your gut instincts remain plastic. Dealing with conflict and uncertainty is what makes us human and non-robotic.

Going deeper provides more questions than answers. Curiosity stimulates the will for discovery. Things tend to only make sense in reverse.

The internet is peanuts

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via giphy

Said filmmaker Orson Welles in 1956: “I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can’t stop eating peanuts.”

We’re at a crossroads with the internet: How can something be so good but bad for us at the same time?

Part of the problem is that we use computers and phones for everything. We depend on technology to act as our wallet, camera, work, and entertainment device. Everything converges into the smartphone, yet we use it less to talk and more to navigate our everyday lives.


The addictive trills of the rectangular glow are just beginning. Tech promises to become more pervasive. From driving cars to learning languages, we will offload all our work into the unconscious but competent machines. AI portends to obviate human labor.

So what are we to do once the robots do it all for us? The line between productivity and doing nothing will blur. Some of us will entertain ourselves into inanition; others will work with automation to keep developing the future.

Either way, we are compelled to become the Jetsons. As long as we stay interested, we can keep the wave of the future interesting.

PS. I discovered the Orson Welles quote in Tim Wu’s fascinating new book [easyazon_link identifier=”0804170045″ locale=”US” tag=”wells01-20″]The Attention Merchants[/easyazon_link].