Discover more from Mortals
Weekly Review Issue No. 12
On the limits of knowledge, social curiosity, cartographies of ageing and letting the mystery be
Hello and welcome back to another Review. For new subscribers, thanks for signing up! I hope you’ll at least one thing you find interesting, useful or enjoyable. If something particularly resonated, I’d love to know about it.
This is the first issue that I’ve written in Notion that has utilised their AI tool. I’ve been playing with it this week. I don’t think I’ll use it beyond early sketches/organising of thoughts, but its an interesting experiment to try this week: one of the summaries has been written by an AI (with a minor edit & addition by me) can you tell which one?
If you've been forwarded this by someone else, why not subscribe to get it every week?
This week for me
You might have noticed that you didn’t get a Weekly Review from me last week. Sorry about that! I was away hiking (or was it walking, we couldn’t decide) with my good friend Marco in the south of France. I have started doing some of the pilgrim trails in Europe, and though we decided not to do a pilgrim trail this time, we somehow, by some divine intervention (??) ended up on one. Weird. I am writing something up about this as a longer piece, I hope to send out soon.
In the meantime, let’s get onto the links!
Research on the edges
Stephanie is a wonderful person with an incredible mind, another fellow traveller from the New Constellations programme I went on last year. Stephanie argues that the rise of generative AI and the increasing difficulty of distinguishing fact from fiction may be leading us towards a post-truth world. While our inability to determine fact from fiction has led to disastrous consequences in the past, the AI industry continues to operate under the premise that we can finally know everything. However, AI systems optimise for statistical significance, not accuracy, and can reinforce the illusory truth effect. The article suggests that to prevent the rise of a post-truth world, we need to classify data as known, not yet known, or cannot be known and build AI a backbone of established laws, policies, treaties, and scientific principles.
To save the world, AI must solve mankind’s central challenge: the inability to distinguish fact from fiction. But today’s most prominent applications - from Google Search to ChatGPT - make the distinction between truth and falsehoods harder to pinpoint. Are we ready for the consequences?
It may seem obvious to some, but having effective, qualified moderators in the fast growing peer-to-peer mental health space is very important. This study I think adds an important dimension to this idea. I think many people just need the understanding, support and container of a group to help them with life problems, but this idea of ‘shaping force’ is an important skill that can be provided by a moderator.
An overarching intention in providing experienced and professionally trained mental health practitioners as moderators is that all of the processes above result, cumulatively, in the active shaping of a healthy space. This active ‘shaping force’ brings a cohesive culture of expressed empathy, sensitivity and care that helps to deliver a healthy and safe community. The successful achievement of this kind of anonymous, non-judgemental and supportive space sits in stark contrast to non-moderated online forums, which can become unhealthy and effectively unsafe as a result.
I loved learning about ‘social curiosity’ - an interest to obtain new information and knowledge about the social world, which is important for relationships and interactions. I’m also very interested in the various ways we can explore reducing death anxiety, which plays a fundamental part in our wellbeing, and I believe, how we live with the problems of the 21st century (I think we all know what those are…) Fascinating stuff!
As a representation of symbolic immortality, social curiosity had characteristics that buffer death anxiety. Memories about death make people feel uncertain, because death cannot be predicted, which then raises the anxiety related to death. When people experience death anxiety, then negative effects rise in the form of fear, threat, unease, and discomfort. Experiencing these various discomforts make people unable to tolerate uncertainty and try to reduce it by increasing the drive to believe in immortality.
Slightly off-piste diversion, but I thought this was very interesting piece on electromagnetic pollution. If you have a smartphone, you probably are aware that you shouldn’t use them before bed. But why is that? Also, what are the impacts of so much of our environment flooded with electric and magnetic fields (EMFs)? I’ve wondered about the fact that the rise of the semi-conductor in the mid-20th century set in motion a huge amount of changes to our environment that just haven’t really been discussed widely. I find this powerful because the more conspiracy-minded folk of the world have kind of hijacked any meaningful conversation about this (‘5G is mind control’ type-stuff), but this evidence-based piece changes that, and I think its significant.
Man-made electromagnetic fields range from extremely low frequency (associated with electricity supplies and electrical appliances) to low, medium, high, and extremely high frequency (mostly associated with wireless communication). The potential effects of these anthropogenic electromagnetic fields on natural electromagnetic fields, such as the Schumann Resonance that controls the weather and climate, have not been properly studied.
I was forwarded this great piece from Gesturing Towards Decolonial Future (GTDF) by my colleague, Pip. GTDF are an arts/research collective that collaborates around different kinds of artistic, pedagogical, cartographic, and relational experiments that aim to identify and de-activate colonial habits of being, and to gesture towards the possibility of decolonial futures. Their work on cartographies of ageing is great, and challenges our mindsets on what it means to age. It reminds me of Alan Watts and his thoughts around life and music.
Cartographies of aging are tools to start conversations about how we approach aging within western culture in general, and more specifically in our context in North America. We do this in the hopes that we can begin to identify these narratives in ourselves, so we might push ourselves and those we work with to imagine a different future.
If these topics I talk about seem a bit much sometimes, or raise uncomfortable emotions, this song can act as a good reminder about the limits of trying to answer the big questions, and trying to get a grab on all the things that we have to live with.
Everybody is a wonderin' what and where they all came from
Everybody is a worryin' 'bout where
They're gonna go when the whole thing's done
But no one knows for certain and so it's all the same to me
I think I'll just let the mystery be