Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘technology’

28 MAY, 2012

Alice in Wonderland, in 24 Vintage Magic Lantern Slides

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“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

As a lover of all things Alice in Wonderland, I was so taken with these glass lantern slides originally found in 100 Ideas That Changed Film that I thought they deserved individual attention. Created as a set of 24 slides based on Sir John Tenniel’s original illustrations for the Lewis Carroll classic but altered to avoid copyright conflicts, these gems were meant for viewing on a magic lantern, or Laterna Magica — a primitive projector dating back to the 17th century, consisting of a concave mirror in front of a light source. Though the exact year is unknown, the slides were created sometime between 1910 and 1925.

For a modern contrast, see Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama’s psychedelic recent illustrated adaptation of Alice.

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23 MAY, 2012

Prophetic Animation: Douglas Adams Traces the Evolution of the Book from Rock to Silicon and Predicts eBooks in 1993

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How we went from boulders to scrolls to screens.

In 1968, Arthur C. Clarke predicted the iPad; in 1991, Francis Ford Coppola predicted YouTube; in 1993, Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, recorded a short piece of audio for his then-publisher in the U.S. — Bob Stein of Voyager Expanded Books — tracing the evolution of the book from rock to silicone and predicting its transition into the digital age with astounding accuracy. This year, The Literary Platform hosted an international competition titled “Getting the Book Invented Properly,” inviting visual storytellers to animate Adams’s prophecy in interesting ways — a fine complement to these short videos on how books were made over the ages.

This entry by U.K. designer and illustrator Gavin Edwards takes the prize in my book.

The actual winners are being selected by a jury featuring the inimitable Stephen Fry and Bob Stein himself, and will be announced on Friday. You can vote for Edwards’s film here.

Thought You Should See This

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07 MAY, 2012

The Dalai Lama on Science and Technology

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Pain, pleasure, and what sets man apart from machine.

Last month, in response to the impossibly fantastic conversation between Einstein and Indian philosopher Tagore, reader Feña Avila recommended an intriguing collection of conversations between the Dalai Lama and prominent Western scientists across physics, neuroscience, biochemistry, mathematics, artificial intelligence, and cognitive psychology. Gentle Bridges: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on the Sciences of Mind is an extraordinary exchange of ideas in its entirety, but this particular excerpt from the Dalai Lama’s opening remarks articulates an incredibly important point, one C. P. Snow passionately addressed in 1959 and Jonah Lehrer called a “fourth culture” half a century later.

For quite some time I have had a great interest in the close relationship between Eastern philosophy, particularly Buddhism, and Western science. My basic aim as a human being is to speak always for the importance of compassion and kindness in order to build a better, healthier human society, and a brighter future.

[…]

Western civilization’s science and technology bring society tremendous benefit. Yet, due to highly developed technology, we also have more anxiety and more fear. I always feel that mental development and material development must be well-balanced, so that together they may make a more human world. If we lose human values and human beings become part of a machine, there is no freedom from pain and pleasure. Without freedom from pain and pleasure, it is very difficult to demarcate between right and wrong. The subjects of pain and pleasure naturally involve feeling, mind, and consciousness.

(This, of course, brings us to the grand question of what consciousness actually is, which is a whole different can of intellectual worms.)

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