Bovids, equids and, in particular, canids, were put to work by H. sapiens; felids always took a slightly different view of the matter, but were indulged for their rodent-catching talents.
—The Economist, in ‘Pets have gained the upper paw over their so-called owners’
Hagfish produce slime the way humans produce opinions—readily, swiftly, defensively, and prodigiously.
— The Atlantic, in ‘No One Is Prepared for Hagfish Slime’
We have mechanical ventilators to breathe for you if your lungs fail, dialysis machines if your kidneys fail, and the heart is mostly just a pump, so we have an artificial heart. But if your liver fails, there’s no machine to replace all its different functions, and the best you can hope for is a transplant.
— Anna Lok, Director of clinical hepatology at the University of Michigan, in the New York Times
Consider the words we use to describe the result: human error, distraction, lack of attention, sloppiness–all negative terms, all implying the inferiority of people. Distraction, in particular, is the byword of the day–responsible for everything from poor interpersonal relationships to car accidents.
Curiosity: It’s a natural human trait. My curiosity frequently leads me to insights that have helped me in my career. So why is this wonderful, creative trait of curiosity given the negative term “distraction”?
—Dan Norman, in ‘Why bad technology dominates our lives‘
Cognitive scientists (I am one) have long known that the human nervous system is very sensitive to changes in the environment. As a result, we are naturally curious. This sensitivity keeps us alert to environmental changes, both good and bad, that might affect us. It also allows us to notice novel patterns and opportunities. Curiosity is a great source of creativity, as studies have shown.
Curiosity is, on the whole, a virtue. We have evolved to be curious. Our nervous system is especially sensitive to change, and changes in the environment attract attention. But the technology-centered view labels this natural, creative trait as a liability: Curiosity is renamed as distraction. A human virtue is now turned into a liability.
If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them you will not know them and what you do not know, you will fear. What one fears, one destroys.
—Chief Dan George (read in this week’s hacker newsletter)