Towards a cyborg future, and other questions

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I have trouble keeping up with my blog, not because there’s a lack of subjects I want to explore, but because of lack of resources – in both time and knowledge, to find a satisfactory ending to the questions at hand.  Here are some thoughts that never got finished and made it to the blog.  Maybe in 2010, I’ll be able to figure out a better way to articulate them in full.  I cannot be the first to ask such questions.  So, please share if you have opinions, theories, or answers to the below.

– What drives one country or region to excel in painting, and others to writing, and yet another to, say, architecture? What kind of geo-political, cultural, social, and economic tour de force were in place to allow for one area of arts to flourish over another?  For its size and population, Ireland has produced a disproportionate number of brilliant poets, playwrights and writers, known for their caustic wit and insight into human nature.  Is literary genius somehow correlated with economic misery?  That could explain how Russia also pumped out a whole generation of writers that produced account of sufferings and tragedies on an epic scale.  While for Germany, philosophers ruled in the 18th century, in response to the nation building tasks or merely a coincidence resulting from a cluster of highly intelligent and timely chatters within a single linguistic group at that time?  I would like to know what makes Scandinavians such greater designers, is there a history of industrial design in the region?

– There are books I read for the pure linguistic pleasures rather than the stories.  For books like, say, Lolita, what would translation into another language mean?  On the flip side, how much of the nuance, wordplay, and irony is lost when we read books translated from Russian, French, or German literature?  If our mother tongue do not belong to one of the more widely published languages in the world, and much of our readings is dependent on the success of translations, then how much gets lost in translation?

– Musing more on linguistics, are English-speakers increasingly living on the inside of a one-way looking glass, where rest of the world is able to access and understand our vantage points, but our inability to master or penetrate others’ cultures, en masse, will increasingly prevent us from communicating with the rest of the world on equal footing?

– Developed countries seem like they are run by politicians that climbed up the system through careers in law and local politics (US, UK), whereas many prominent developing countries (China, India) are run by technocrats.  Power at the top seem to dictated choices the next generation makes in universities.  What does this mean for the future?  Will there be a dichotomy where the west will increasingly focus on social progress, approaching global issues from the perspective of justice and political frameworks, where others will make decisions based on more quantitatively defined metrics?

– You’ve heard of the guy in Japan that married a video game character?  This set off a whole set of science fiction-esque questions for me.  What if (and in my view, inevitably) robotic technology one day can produce an extension of a virtual character?  In inanimate-object friendly Japan, where a hybrid society of human and robots seem more palatable than one that must integrate immigrants, where will this lead?  If the idea that inanimate objects can also possess a soul, then human-robot alliances, including eventual marriages in physical forms, is not out of the question.  Artificial insemination and adoptions will no doubt be possible for children to exist within those marriages.  So what will a child raised by a human-robot hybrid think like?  How will that affect their reproductive choices in the future?  These are not altogether implausible in Japanese society, where masturbation has become a sport, where human contacts are increasingly marginalized by interaction with machines or payment-driven relationships (hosts and hostesses), where women are reluctant to wed and bear children, single men and women ages continue to rise through the roof, and gender issues are on the rise, where adults sleep with pretend-partners in the form of plush pillows, and where wedded couples have sex at less than half the global average, where robotic technology is on its way to perfect human movements, and the population at large impassive at the challenges on hand.  Will Japan show us the way?

– Everyday, some minority culture, or cultural practice disappears from the world.  Do you know about the story of “burnesh” in Albania?  Me neither, until I heard this podcast (search for burnesh, and open the podcast, it’s not broken out from the rest of the report). And Googling “burnesh”, the podcast was the only link, in English, that I can find.  I don’t know what commercial value there is in capturing cultural tidbits like these.  But it’s kind of an obsession with me.  How many more of these practices don’t we hear about?

– How self-critical are countries of themselves?  Self-awareness is most likely not even across all cultures, and I would really like to know how a country’s perception of itself may impede or push along progress.

– I know English is now the minority language on the web.  But it doesn’t stop me from feeling like it’s the only one that matters.  I have access to endless sources of awesome content in every subject imaginable, and operates with the subconscious prejudice that English-language content triumph above all others in quantity and quality.  I’m sure that’s not the case, but I wonder if the same is felt by native Russian, Chinese, Spanish, or German speakers.

– Things happen, everywhere, all the time, whether they make it to the front page of the newspaper of our choice or not.  I would like to know what’s going on across the world at any point in time.  BBC Europe checks out what major papers across Europe talk about every morning.  More news outlets should be doing it.  This is less a question, and more of a challenge.  Is there anyone out there doing it?  I would love to know.

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