Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘video’

21 DECEMBER, 2011

Steve Jobs on Why Computers Are Like a Bicycle for the Mind (1990)


A 20-year-old antidote to modern-day digital pessimism.

The future of libraries — and of information, curiosity, and knowledge at large, of which the library has always been a bastion — is something I think about a lot, particularly the struggles of intellectual institutions like libraries and museums in bringing their vast analog archives into the digital sphere in an intelligent and useful way. In this excerpt from the film Memory & Imagination: New Pathways to the Library of Congress, essentially an extended 1990 infomercial for The Library of Congress starring such icons as Francis Ford Coppola, Julia Child, Penn & Teller, and Gore Vidal, Steve Jobs talks about the future of libraries in the digital age, video games as simulated learning environments, and why a computer is like a bicycle for the mind — a metaphor that I, as a bike lover, a curiosity jockey, and a techno-optimist, want to shake in the face of every false prophet pedaling techno-dystopia.

I think one of the things that really separates us from the high primates is that we’re tool builders. I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. And, humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing, about a third of the way down the list. It was not too proud a showing for the crown of creation. So, that didn’t look so good. But, then somebody at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle. And, a man on a bicycle, a human on a bicycle, blew the condor away, completely off the top of the charts.

And that’s what a computer is to me. What a computer is to me is it’s the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with, and it’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.” ~ Steve Jobs

For a related treat, don’t miss this recently uncovered 1995 interview, in which Steve Jobs opens the door to his philosophy on life and failure.

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21 NOVEMBER, 2011

The Silver Fox Experiment: How Dogs Became Dogs


Half a century of Siberian science, or why your furry best friend is really a developmentally stunted wolf.

Last week, we took a breathtaking look at animals through the lens of fine art photography. But how does science look at them? How much do we really know about them, even those most familiar to us, “man’s best friend”? In 1959, a Russian scientist by the name of Dmitri Belyaev embarked upon an ambitious experiment in Siberia, seeking to unravel the secret of domestication. He and his team spent many hears breeding the silver fox, a domesticated dog-like fox whose breeding the scientists controlled by selecting only those that showed the most positive response to humans. The experiment continues to this day, resulting in a fox quasi-species with dramatically different behavior and appearance that offers unprecedented insight into how wolves may have become dogs.

This fascinating 10-minute segment explores the inner workings of the Silver Fox Experiment, what its drawbacks might be, what it means for the future of how science understands domestication, and what it tells us about the kinds of people we are through the kinds of traits we’ve come to like in dogs.

The theory is that dogs are in many ways like juvenile wolves. It explains how dogs could’ve begun to look so different from the wolves they came from.”

The video is an excerpt from BBC’s excellent The Secret Life of the Dog, gathered in the below playlist for your edutainment:

Every owner will spend an average of [$31,500] on their beloved dog in its lifetime. We treat them as if they’re fellow human beings, with all the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of a family member. It’s an incredibly close relationship — we share our lives, our homes, even our beds with them.”

For more on the domestication of the dog, see Mark Derr’s fantastic new book, How the Dog Became the Dog: From Wolves to Our Best Friends. NPR has a sneak peek.

HT It’s Okay To Be Smart

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14 NOVEMBER, 2011

Onward to the Edge: Another Symphony of Science Remix Gem


A mashup ballad for the mystery of the universe.

As a general believer in remix culture and a particular fan of John Boswell‘s Symphony of Science mashup series, I’m all over Onward to the Edge — his latest brilliant installment, featuring the auto-tuned voices of rockstar particle physicist Brian Cox, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, and planetary scientist Carolyn Porco, mashing up material from Tyson’s My Favorite Universe video course, Cox’s BBC series Wonders of the Solar System, Porco’s TED talk, and scenes from National Geographic‘s A Traveler’s Guide to the Planets. It’s exquisite — enjoy:

Grab a download of the audio here, free or for a pay-what-you-will price, in which I too am a believer.

via Open Culture

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