The Ashtray: Paradigm Shifts by Errol Morris

Errol Morris is at it again with a new essay called The Ashtray. The first part was published yesterday. The second appeared today.

The most important and most controversial aspect of Kuhn’s theory involved his use of the terms “paradigm shift” and “incommensurability.” That the scientific terms of one paradigm are incommensurable with the scientific terms of the paradigm that replaces it. A revolution occurs. One paradigm is replaced with another. And the new paradigm is incommensurable with the old one. He made various attempts to define it — changing and modifying his definitions along the way. In the 1962 edition of “Structure” incommensurability was likened to a Gestalt-flip. Presumably, it was about how we see the world.

Anosognosia: Lack of Knowledge of One’s Illness

Errol Morris has published his second part of his new five-parter. In this part, he explores anosognosia, the lack of knowledge of one’s illness. I really devoured this one. I think I need to read some of his earlier essays again, The Case of the Inappropriate Alarm Clock.

The Incredible Poetic Journey of Kristen Hoggatt

The incredible story of poet Kristin Hoggatt. She survived a terrible accident with brain damage, which affected her language center, but still became a poet and ESL teacher.

The Triumph of Default

Kevin Kelly explores the triumph of default.

On The Great Silk Road

Kristen Hoggat, of the Ask a Poet column at the Smart Set, gives us a glimpse into her life when she volunteered for the Peace Corps after recovering from a tragic car accident that killed two of her closest friends. She went from Arizona to Uzbekistan, hearing of Tamerlane and visiting Samarkand. It’s a beautiful story. I loved it.

J.J. Abrams on the Magic of Mystery

Lost creator J. J. Abrams on the magic of mystery in this month’s themed Wired issue.

How We Can Stop To Worry About The Recession

A great article by Manisha Verma over at 3QDaily about what we could do to improve the economic situation, with some great ideas and thoughtful analysis.

Thoughts on Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake is a dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. She calls it speculative fiction, but it’s clearly entrenched in dystopia.

[…] creation of a nightmare world, or dystopia, where utopian ideals have been subverted. Many novels combine both, often as a metaphor for the different directions humanity can take in its choices.


The subject of this novel isn’t a happy one. It deals to what happens to our world a few years into the future, when humanity is killed off by a weaponized virus. This isn’t a new concept in fiction. It’s been exploited by a variety of media for quite some time, from the British TV series from the 70s Survivors, which was recently remade by the BBC, to the Resident Evil series of video games.

Mad Max and 12 Monkeys are other great examples. More recent examples can be found in I Am Legend, the Will Smith The Omega Man remake and 28 Days. Charlton Heston starred in a few dystopian movies like Planet of the Apes and Soylent Green. Anything set in a post-apocalyptic setting has dystopian tendencies. For example, Terminator is most definitely dystopian, because that future is ruled by machines. The series and the movies tell the story of characters trying to stop Judgment Day. In essence, from that perspective, I believe that stopping Judgment Day in the Terminator-verse, is actually impossible. Humanity is heading toward a technological singularity with AIs, machines, and robots. There is no way for a few people to stop this. There will always be someone who will continue this research. In essence, the Terminator world is doomed by Judgment Day. Many authors and scientists believe that if machines ever become intelligent, it would hasten a technological singularity.

There is something perverse about reading this, since it’s possible, really possible, not something in some remote future. The characters are vivid and alive. Atwood starts her narrative after the catastrophe and explains through the pages how it came to be. It boils down to a love triangle between Snowman, our protagonist, Crake and Oryx.

Even though it seems that during most of the book, humanity is extinguished, there is still life on earth. Engineered lifeforms have taken over the wildlife since the original animals have all but disappeared.

Crake also genetically engineered humanity’s next step in evolution, which Snowman and Oryx call the Crakers. He tried to eliminate our flaws, but ended up destroying love and what made us human. The Crakers have no art, no love, no human feelings. They have their strange habits which have been imprinted on them by their genetic code. They are a mix between animal and human. They are perfect to Crake, but ultimately utterly flawed. A host of new genetic features are present in them, but they just serve to limit their freedom.

It’s a hard book to read.

Wait, that’s not true…

It’s an easy book to read, but it’s a hard book to digest. I finished it last week and I’m still thinking about it. The concept isn’t new, but Atwood is a superb writer and in as such, delivers a great story.

It all boils down to a love triangle gone wrong. Crake was so broken by love that he broke the world.

With my last breath, I spit at thee.
Khan-Noonien Singh, Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan

Crake did the same to Snowman, who had been seeing Oryx behind his back. At least, that’s what Crake things, since Snowman started dreaming of Crake years ago, when she was still starring in web videos.

I’m not sure if I should actually discuss from where Oryx came from. You’ll probably understand if you have read the book. Atwood touches upon the human trafficking of pre-pubescent girls in the sex trade. It’s disturbing. Needless to say that Snowman was marked by her in his teens. It was the haunting look no her face that stayed with him for 10 years. Crake stole her from Snowman, so Snowman stole her back in the last years before the fall.

I recommend this book. It’s a book that will make you think. At least, that’s what happened to me when I was reading it. I read it in two days.

Of Sleuths and Starships

Of Sleuths and Starships is David Schneider’s essay on Battlestar Galactica over at 3QDaily. He paints a portrait of the show, something that can only easily be seen if you watch a lot of the show in a short amount of time, since you are able to see all of the links. He also draws a parallel to literature, calling BSG and other shows VidLit

Now is Better than Never

Now is better than never.

It’s something that I’m trying to take to my heart for this new year. There are so many things that I need to work on this year. Thankfully, the end of the tunnel is near and I’ll soon be back with my wife in Asia.

Things have been plenty hard for her and me this year. Spending 9 months apart will do that to a relationship, but that’s not really true. There are other factors involved. Still, I miss her.

The holidays were hard. I had an OK Christmas, but I spent New Year’s playing video games. My family was away. My sister and her partner were at his family’s parties for the holidays. My parents were away in Toronto for the holidays. I was pretty much by myself. Most of my friends had their own parties and families to attend to.

So things are looking up and I have a right to feel good again. I can start running again and looking after myself, after some moody holidays.