Review of The Dawn of Everything from LARB

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Published on: January 27, 2022

Came across this interesting review of book on human history – The Dawn of Everything, A New History of Humanity by Graeber and Wengrow. Recently had read the books from Y. Harari on this topic, which was refreshing. Looks like this could be an interesting book to check on.

Brief summary: “Nevertheless, The Dawn of Everything is a thoroughly mesmerizing book. Its new story about human history is provocative, if not necessarily comprehensive. The book’s great value is that it provides a much better point of departure for future explorations of what was actually happening in the past. There are almost unlimited possibilities here to build upon, and a much more fruitful critical perspective from which to think about human history.”

 

Also has a passage, which summarize the current thinking of human history, a teleological model. ” … Human societies varied a lot. Now they don’t vary as much, but the technology they employ is wildly more complex. People live longer, but they aren’t necessarily healthier or happier during their long lives. The overall average levels of violence may have decreased (although the massive variability in early human societies suggests that “average levels” is not a particularly useful way to think about violence, or really anything else in the archaeological record), but the violence that does happen is more spectacularly destructive. Most importantly: We can now fail on a global scale, and we seem to be in the process of failing.

 

More of this article from LARB here: [The Link]

 

[Harpers]: Routine maintenance: embracing habit in modern world

Categories: Articles, SciTech
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Published on: January 14, 2022

Habit & Routine can be very helpful in some aspects but also can be crippling in other aspects. Came across this very interesting & thoughtful article about habits, its history, its relevance in social lifes from past and present, but also some thoughts on role of automation in society.

An interesting passage towards the end for balance & reflection:

“…But even the most ingrained human behaviors are accompanied by sensations that prompt us to pause and recalibrate when something goes wrong—a truth well known to anyone who has caught themselves driving home to a previous residence or gagging on the hemorrhoid cream they’ve mistaken for toothpaste. Ravaisson calls habit the “moving middle term,” a disposition that slides along the continuum between rote mechanism and reflective freedom. Weil, who similarly saw habit as a continuum, believed that we should strive to remain on the reflective side of that spectrum. The Stoics advised nightly meditation, so as to judge the virtue of the actions they’d taken that day, and Charles Sanders Peirce, the father of pragmatism, noted that in cases where habits have begun to work against a person’s interests, “reflection upon the state of the case will overcome these habits, and he ought to allow reflection its full weight.” It is this connection to thought that allows habits to remain fluid and flexible in a way that machines are not. Habits are bound up with the brain’s plasticity, a term James describes as “a structure weak enough to yield to an influence, but strong enough not to yield all at once.” Unlike algorithms, which lock in patterns and remain beyond our understanding, habits allow us to negotiate a livable equilibrium between thought and action, maintaining, as Weil puts it, “a certain balance between the mind and the object to which it is being applied.” .. ”

 

More about this article here: [The Link]

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