• But suddenly his existence seemed unsatisfying. Looking inward, he felt “a disconcerting mixture of nostalgia, regret, claustrophobia, emptiness, and fear”; looking forward, he saw only “a projected sequence of accomplishments stretching through the future to retirement, decline, and death.” What was the point of life? How would it all end? The answers appeared newly obvious. Life was pointless, and would end badly…On the other, he learns that the term itself wasn’t coined until 1965, when a psychologist named Elliott Jaques wrote an essay called “Death and the Mid-life Crisis.” (Jaques quotes a patient’s eloquent lament: “Up till now, life has seemed an endless upward slope, with nothing but the distant horizon in view. Now suddenly I seem to have reached the crest of the hill, and there stretching ahead is the downward slope with the end of the road in sight.”) John Updike published “Rabbit Redux” in 1971. (“What you haven’t done by thirty you’re not likely to do.”) Richard Ford published “The Sportswriter” in 1986. (“You can dream your way through an otherwise fine life, and never wake up.”) In between, Gail Sheehy’s book “Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life,” published in 1977, explored the midlife crisis from a psychological point of view…On the whole, though, research on the frequency of midlife crises tends to be equivocal. Many long-term studies of well-being show that people actually get happier as they age. (This lends credence, Setiya suggests, to Aristotle’s view that we grow into a “prime of life,” with the body achieving its fullest development at thirty-five and the mind at forty-nine.) Other studies show that there is a “U-shaped curve” to life satisfaction, such that we’re happiest when we’re young and old and unhappiest in between. (There are even studies of great apes, conducted by zoologists, which show that they get sad in middle age.) “Shit happens in midlife,” Setiya writes, “with kids and parents, work and health.”…Still, having experienced a midlife crisis himself, Setiya ends up convinced that they are an ordinary part of a well-lived life. He identifies a number of intellectual traps into which even the most levelheaded people can fall. Many have to do with the way we think about freedom and choice. Because the lives of middle-aged people have settled into more or less permanent shapes, for instance, people in midlife often become nostalgic for the feeling of choosing: they think, I want to do my job because I want to do my job, not because I need to pay the bills. With philosophical exactitude, Setiya explains the flaws in this kind of thinking. Suppose, he writes, that you can have just one of three desirable things—A, B, or C, in order of preference. Because there’s value in having a choice, there are situations in which a choice between B and C is actually preferable to A. Even so, the satisfaction offered by choice has a limit. Most of the time, the value of B or C plus the value of choosing won’t actually add up to the value of A. It’s exciting to choose a new career, but you’ll probably end up with an inferior job; it’s fun to date again, but your new spouse probably won’t be better than your current one….Setiya points out that the decisions that vex us most in retrospect also tend to be choices between “incommensurable goods.” Should you have worked on your novel or spent time with your family? Become a musician or an engineer? In Setiya’s view, regrets over such choices are good signs, since they reflect a healthy, multidimensional appreciation of life. “To wish for a life without loss is to wish for a profound impoverishment in the world or in your capacity to engage with it,” he writes. (Someone with a darker sensibility might have put it differently: there is no escaping loss, no matter how rich your life is.) …To many people, the increasing proximity of death is the worst thing about middle age. It doesn’t seem to bother Setiya very much: he points out that immortality would probably get frustrating after a while, and suggests getting over your own death in advance by imagining yourself coming to terms with the death of a friend. Instead, what really unnerves him is midlife ennui—the creeping sense of aimlessness and exhaustion that sometimes overtakes people as they age. The problem, Setiya finds, is that there’s something intrinsically self-defeating about getting things done. Once you’ve done them, you can’t do them anymore. “Having a child, writing a book, saving a life—the completion of your project may be of value, but it means that the project can no longer be your guide,” he writes. ….In an effort to evade this conundrum, Setiya brings out the philosophical heavy artillery. He draws on an Aristotelian distinction between “incomplete” and “complete” activities. Building yourself a house is an incomplete activity, because its end goal—living in the finished house—is not something you can experience while you are building it. Building a house and living in it are fundamentally different things. By contrast, taking a walk in the woods is a complete activity: by walking, you are doing the very thing you wish to do. The first kind of activity is “telic”—that is, directed toward an end, or telos. The second kind is “atelic”: something you do for its own sake.The secret to avoiding Schopenhauerian ennui, Setiya argues, is either to do things that are complete and atelic or to find ways of engaging with your projects atelically. Setiya cautions against the “false allure of early retirement,” since “there is nothing inherently telic about work”; instead of quitting your job, you might find ways to engage with it atelically, as a practice rather than a project. Certain middle-aged habits—golf, yoga, gardening—can help to create an atelic mind-set. Setiya recommends mindfulness meditation; buying a sports car may also be permissible, if it includes “a switch in focus from the value of getting there to the value of being on the way.”

    tags: midlifecrisis life writing example clarity bookreview philosophy psychology culture freedom choice identity

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  • But a team of technologists and academics, including Mr Lanier, has published a paper challenging that conception. They argue that data are better viewed as the product of labour, rather than the byproduct of leisure.The data economy has developed by accident rather than design, is inefficient, unfair and unproductive, and should be radically rethought, they contend. They draw a distinction between what they call our existing Data as Capital (DaC) model, which treats data as the “exhaust” products of consumption and the feedstock for surveillance capitalism, and a theoretical Data as Labour (DaL) model, which would treat data as user-generated possessions that should primarily benefit their owners…To shunt the data economy in the right direction, they suggest we need to strengthen three countervailing powers. First, greater competition and innovation are essential for stimulating real data markets. Big Tech should not be allowed to stifle smaller upstarts. Indeed, it may even take one of the big technology companies to break ranks and champion a new data economy given the daunting economies of scale. Second, governments need to update and enforce competition policy, encouraging data portability and the growth of the DaL economy. Stricter regulatory regimes, such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, which comes into effect in May, should help. Finally, we consumers should wise up to our role as digital workers and — in Marxist terminology — develop “class consciousness”. Data labour unions need to emerge to fight for our collective rights. The historic approach of labour to overmighty capital has been to strike. We may know the DaL movement is serious when we start digitally picketing social media groups under the slogan: “No posts without pay!”

    tags: data information internet web socialmedia economics competition consumer fairness marketfailure theory JaronLanier

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  • It might be impossible to stop the advance of this kind of technology. But the relevant algorithms here aren’t only the ones that run on computer hardware. They are also the ones that undergird our too easily hacked media system, where garbage acquires the perfumed scent of legitimacy with all too much ease. Editors, journalists and news producers can play a role here — for good or for bad…

    It already feels as though we are living in an alternative science-fiction universe where no one agrees on what it true. Just think how much worse it will be when fake news becomes fake video. Democracy assumes that its citizens share the same reality. We’re about to find out whether democracy can be preserved when this assumption no longer holds.

    tags: fake news journalism trust truth reality democracy publicopinion ethics editorialpolicy politics corruption

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Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

  • Using these data, the researchers set about the daunting task of analysing the marriages of 19,715 adopted children, to see how often these ended in divorce and whether that divorce rate bore any relationship to divorces among their adoptive and biological parents. This analysis showed that such children were 20% more likely to divorce if their biological parents had divorced than if those parents had stayed together, but no more (and no less) likely to do so if their adoptive parents had split up.

    With this result under their belt, Dr Salvatore and Dr Kendler then looked at adopted and biological siblings brought up in the same households. As expected, they found that individuals showed a similar tendency to divorce to that of their biological siblings but not to that of their adopted siblings. They also discovered that if one biological sibling divorces, the others are 20% more likely to do so than would otherwise be the case. This is not true for adoptive siblings.

    tags: divorce relationship marriage genes genetics DNA correlation causation research psychology biology

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