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Javier E

Why Amy Cooper's Use of 'African-American' Stung - The New York Times - 0 views

  • In November, the company held an event called the “Check Your Blind Spots” tour at its California headquarters, described in a news release as a “series of immersive and interactive elements including virtual reality, gaming technology and more, to take an introspective look at the unconscious biases people face on a daily basis.”
  • Implicit bias training begins with the premise that we are essentially benevolent in our intentions, but are all subject to maintaining conditioned prejudices, the acquisition of which is often beyond our control.
  • Embedded in this view is the assumption that within the contours of civil society, at least, we should be beyond explicit expressions of hostility of the kind Ms. Cooper displayed.
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  • Patrica G. Devine, a social psychologist at the University of Wisconsin who studies unintended bias, argues that there has been little rigorous evaluation of the training strategies deployed to combat it, and as a result we simply don’t know enough about what makes a difference.
  • “It often has the feeling of being a one-and-done kind of thing: ‘We did it,’
  • “if people are hostile to the training, it’s like fingers being wagged at you, and if you are not at all open to that, it can fuel negativity to the point of backlash.”
  • The Covid crisis, in a sense, has provided a test case, and the results have been dispiriting. Between mid-March and early May, of the 125 people arrested for violations of social-distancing rules and other regulations related to the coronavirus, 113 were black or Hispanic
  • The problem with implicit bias work is that it too often fails to acknowledge the realities of instinctive distaste, the powerful emotions that animate the worst suppositions. It presumes a world better than the one we actually have.
  • Ms. Cooper’s transgression was not a mistaken perception or an insensitive statement.
  • The language — “African-American” — she seemed to have down. It was the deeper impulse for retaliation that she couldn’t suppress.
Javier E

Andrew Sullivan: Nature, Nurture, and Weight Loss - 0 views

  • In his brilliant encyclopedia of “critical studies,” James Lindsay explains the core argument: “Like disability studies, fat studies draws on the work of Michel Foucault and queer theory to argue that negative attitudes to obesity are socially constructed and the result of systemic power that marginalizes and oppresses fat people (and fat perspectives) and of unjust medicalized narratives in order to justify prejudice against obese people.
  • Fatness — like race or gender — is not grounded in physical or biological reality. It is a function of systemic power. The task of fat studies is to “interrogate” this oppressive power and then dismantle it.
  • take the polar opposite position: Fatness is an unhealthy lifestyle that can be stopped by people just eating less and better. We haven’t always been this fat, and we should take responsibility for it, and the physical and psychological damage it brings. Some level of stigma is thereby inevitable, and arguably useful. Humans are not healthy when they are badly overweight; and the explosion in obesity in America has become a serious public-health issue.
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  • “When did it become taboo in this country to talk about getting healthy?” my friend Bill Maher asked in a recent monologue. “Fat shaming doesn’t need to end; it needs to make a comeback. Some amount of shame is good. We shamed people out of smoking and into wearing seat belts. We shamed them out of littering and most of them out of racism.”
  • On one side are helpless victims, who react to any debate with cries of oppression, and take no responsibility for their own physical destiny; on the other are brutal realists, with a callous touch, often refusing to see the genetic, social, and psychological complexity of fatness, or that serious health issues are not universal among heavier types
  • This is our reality. We are neither angels nor beasts, but we partake of both. We can rarely make the ugly beautiful, and if we do, it’s a moral achievement. However much we try, we will never correct the core natural inequalities and differences of our mammalian existence. But we can hazard a moral middle, seeing beauty in many ways, acknowledging the humanity of all shapes and sizes, while managing our health and weight in ways that are not totally subject to the gaze of others.
  • is to grapple with complexity in a way that can be rigorously empirical and yet also humane.
  • We are all driven by instinctive attraction, but men are particularly subject to fixed and crude notions of hotness. Beauty will thereby always be the source of extraordinary and extraordinarily unfair advantage, even if it captures only a tiny slice of what being human is about.
  • the two stances reflect our two ideological poles — not so much left and right anymore as nurture and nature. One pole argues nature doesn’t independently exist and everything is social; and one blithely asserts that nature determines everything. Both are ruinous attempts to bludgeon uncomfortable reality into satisfying ideology.
  • What we needed, in some ways, for our collective mental health, was a catalyst for greater physical socialization, more human contact, and more meaningful community. What we’re getting, I fear, is the opposite
Javier E

What all the critics of "Unorthodox" are forgetting - The Forward - 0 views

  • The series has garnered glowing reviews
  • It also has its critical critics
  • both those who have celebrated the series and those who lambasted it are missing something. Something important.
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  • intelligent assessors of artistic offerings never forget that truth and beauty are not necessarily one and the same. At times they can even diverge profoundly. There is a reason, after all, why the words “artifice” and “artificial” are based on the word “art.”
  • something obvious but all the same easily overlooked. Namely, that art and fact are entirely unrelated
  • Not only is outright fiction not fact, neither are depictions of actual lives and artistic documentaries, whether forged in words, celluloid or electrons
  • A brilliant artistic endeavor that has been a mainstay of college film studies courses is a good example. The 1935 film has been described as powerful, even overwhelming, and is cited as a pioneering archetype of the use of striking visuals and compelling narrative. It won a gold medal at the 1935 Venice Biennale and the Grand Prix at the 1937 World Exhibition in Paris. The New York Times’ J. Hoberman not long ago called it “supremely artful.”
  • And it was. As well as supremely evil, as Mr. Hoberman also explains. The film was Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will”
Javier E

Yes, Economics Is a Science - The New York Times - 0 views

  • if you ask three economists a question, you’ll get three different answers.
  • What kind of science, people wondered, bestows its most distinguished honor on scholars with opposing ideas?
  • the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science was awarded to three economists, two of whom, Robert J. Shiller of Yale and Eugene F. Fama of the University of Chicago, might be seen as having conflicting views about the workings of financial markets. At first blush, Mr. Shiller’s thinking about the role of “irrational exuberance” in stock markets and housing markets appears to contradict Mr. Fama’s work showing that such markets efficiently incorporate news into prices.
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  • But the headline-grabbing differences between the findings of these Nobel laureates are less significant than the profound agreement in their scientific approach to economic questions, which is characterized by formulating and testing precise hypotheses
  • I’m troubled by the sense among skeptics that disagreements about the answers to certain questions suggest that economics is a confused discipline, a fake science whose findings cannot be a useful basis for making policy decisions.
  • It is true that the answers to many “big picture” macroeconomic questions — like the causes of recessions or the determinants of growth — remain elusive.
  • As is the case with epidemiologists, the fundamental challenge faced by economists — and a root cause of many disagreements in the field — is our limited ability to run experiments
  • economists have recently begun to overcome these challenges by developing tools that approximate scientific experiments to obtain compelling answer
  • Other economic studies have taken advantage of the constraints inherent in a particular policy to obtain scientific evidence
  • Even when such experiments are unfeasible, there are ways to use “big data” to help answer policy questions
Javier E

ROUGH TYPE | Nicholas Carr's blog - 0 views

  • Harvard Business School professor emerita Shoshana Zuboff argues in her new book that the Valley’s wealth and power are predicated on an insidious, essentially pathological form of private enterprise—what she calls “surveillance capitalism.” Pioneered by Google, perfected by Facebook, and now spreading throughout the economy, surveillance capitalism uses human life as its raw material. Our everyday experiences, distilled into data, have become a privately-owned business asset used to predict and mold our behavior, whether we’re shopping or socializing, working or voting.
  • By reengineering the economy and society to their own benefit, Google and Facebook are perverting capitalism in a way that undermines personal freedom and corrodes democracy.
  • Under the Fordist model of mass production and consumption that prevailed for much of the twentieth century, industrial capitalism achieved a relatively benign balance among the contending interests of business owners, workers, and consumers. Enlightened executives understood that good pay and decent working conditions would ensure a prosperous middle class eager to buy the goods and services their companies produced. It was the product itself — made by workers, sold by companies, bought by consumers — that tied the interests of capitalism’s participants together. Economic and social equilibrium was negotiated through the product.
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  • By removing the tangible product from the center of commerce, surveillance capitalism upsets the equilibrium. Whenever we use free apps and online services, it’s often said, we become the products, our attention harvested and sold to advertisers
  • this truism gets it wrong. Surveillance capitalism’s real products, vaporous but immensely valuable, are predictions about our future behavior — what we’ll look at, where we’ll go, what we’ll buy, what opinions we’ll hold — that internet companies derive from our personal data and sell to businesses, political operatives, and other bidders.
  • Unlike financial derivatives, which they in some ways resemble, these new data derivatives draw their value, parasite-like, from human experience.To the Googles and Facebooks of the world, we are neither the customer nor the product. We are the source of what Silicon Valley technologists call “data exhaust” — the informational byproducts of online activity that become the inputs to prediction algorithms
  • Another 2015 study, appearing in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, showed that when people hear their phone ring but are unable to answer it, their blood pressure spikes, their pulse quickens, and their problem-solving skills decline.
  • The smartphone has become a repository of the self, recording and dispensing the words, sounds and images that define what we think, what we experience and who we are. In a 2015 Gallup survey, more than half of iPhone owners said that they couldn’t imagine life without the device.
  • So what happens to our minds when we allow a single tool such dominion over our perception and cognition?
  • Not only do our phones shape our thoughts in deep and complicated ways, but the effects persist even when we aren’t using the devices. As the brain grows dependent on the technology, the research suggests, the intellect weakens.
  • he has seen mounting evidence that using a smartphone, or even hearing one ring or vibrate, produces a welter of distractions that makes it harder to concentrate on a difficult problem or job. The division of attention impedes reasoning and performance.
  • internet companies operate in what Zuboff terms “extreme structural independence from people.” When databases displace goods as the engine of the economy, our own interests, as consumers but also as citizens, cease to be part of the negotiation. We are no longer one of the forces guiding the market’s invisible hand. We are the objects of surveillance and control.
  • Social skills and relationships seem to suffer as well.
  • In both tests, the subjects whose phones were in view posted the worst scores, while those who left their phones in a different room did the best. The students who kept their phones in their pockets or bags came out in the middle. As the phone’s proximity increased, brainpower decreased.
  • In subsequent interviews, nearly all the participants said that their phones hadn’t been a distraction—that they hadn’t even thought about the devices during the experiment. They remained oblivious even as the phones disrupted their focus and thinking.
  • A second experiment conducted by the researchers produced similar results, while also revealing that the more heavily students relied on their phones in their everyday lives, the greater the cognitive penalty they suffered.
  • the “integration of smartphones into daily life” appears to cause a “brain drain” that can diminish such vital mental skills as “learning, logical reasoning, abstract thought, problem solving, and creativity.”
  •  Smartphones have become so entangled with our existence that, even when we’re not peering or pawing at them, they tug at our attention, diverting precious cognitive resources. Just suppressing the desire to check our phone, which we do routinely and subconsciously throughout the day, can debilitate our thinking.
  • They found that students who didn’t bring their phones to the classroom scored a full letter-grade higher on a test of the material presented than those who brought their phones. It didn’t matter whether the students who had their phones used them or not: All of them scored equally poorly.
  • A study of nearly a hundred secondary schools in the U.K., published last year in the journal Labour Economics, found that when schools ban smartphones, students’ examination scores go up substantially, with the weakest students benefiting the most.
  • Data, the novelist and critic Cynthia Ozick once wrote, is “memory without history.” Her observation points to the problem with allowing smartphones to commandeer our brains
  • The researchers recruited 520 undergraduates at UCSD and gave them two standard tests of intellectual acuity. One test gauged “available working-memory capacity,” a measure of how fully a person’s mind can focus on a particular task. The second assessed “fluid intelligence,” a person’s ability to interpret and solve an unfamiliar problem. The only variable in the experiment was the location of the subjects’ smartphones. Some of the students were asked to place their phones in front of them on their desks; others were told to stow their phones in their pockets or handbags; still others were required to leave their phones in a different room.
  • In a 2013 study conducted at the University of Essex in England, 142 participants were divided into pairs and asked to converse in private for ten minutes. Half talked with a phone in the room, half without a phone present. The subjects were then given tests of affinity, trust and empathy. “The mere presence of mobile phones,” the researchers reported in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, “inhibited the development of interpersonal closeness and trust” and diminished “the extent to which individuals felt empathy and understanding from their partners.”
  • The evidence that our phones can get inside our heads so forcefully is unsettling. It suggests that our thoughts and feelings, far from being sequestered in our skulls, can be skewed by external forces we’re not even aware o
  •  Scientists have long known that the brain is a monitoring system as well as a thinking system. Its attention is drawn toward any object that is new, intriguing or otherwise striking — that has, in the psychological jargon, “salience.”
  • even in the history of captivating media, the smartphone stands out. It is an attention magnet unlike any our minds have had to grapple with before. Because the phone is packed with so many forms of information and so many useful and entertaining functions, it acts as what Dr. Ward calls a “supernormal stimulus,” one that can “hijack” attention whenever it is part of our surroundings — and it is always part of our surroundings.
  • Imagine combining a mailbox, a newspaper, a TV, a radio, a photo album, a public library and a boisterous party attended by everyone you know, and then compressing them all into a single, small, radiant object. That is what a smartphone represents to us. No wonder we can’t take our minds off it.
  • The irony of the smartphone is that the qualities that make it so appealing to us — its constant connection to the net, its multiplicity of apps, its responsiveness, its portability — are the very ones that give it such sway over our minds.
  • Phone makers like Apple and Samsung and app writers like Facebook, Google and Snap design their products to consume as much of our attention as possible during every one of our waking hours
  • Social media apps were designed to exploit “a vulnerability in human psychology,” former Facebook president Sean Parker said in a recent interview. “[We] understood this consciously. And we did it anyway.”
  • A quarter-century ago, when we first started going online, we took it on faith that the web would make us smarter: More information would breed sharper thinking. We now know it’s not that simple.
  • As strange as it might seem, people’s knowledge and understanding may actually dwindle as gadgets grant them easier access to online data stores
  • In a seminal 2011 study published in Science, a team of researchers — led by the Columbia University psychologist Betsy Sparrow and including the late Harvard memory expert Daniel Wegner — had a group of volunteers read forty brief, factual statements (such as “The space shuttle Columbia disintegrated during re-entry over Texas in Feb. 2003”) and then type the statements into a computer. Half the people were told that the machine would save what they typed; half were told that the statements would be erased.
  • Afterward, the researchers asked the subjects to write down as many of the statements as they could remember. Those who believed that the facts had been recorded in the computer demonstrated much weaker recall than those who assumed the facts wouldn’t be stored. Anticipating that information would be readily available in digital form seemed to reduce the mental effort that people made to remember it
  • The researchers dubbed this phenomenon the “Google effect” and noted its broad implications: “Because search engines are continually available to us, we may often be in a state of not feeling we need to encode the information internally. When we need it, we will look it up.”
  • as the pioneering psychologist and philosopher William James said in an 1892 lecture, “the art of remembering is the art of thinking.”
  • Only by encoding information in our biological memory can we weave the rich intellectual associations that form the essence of personal knowledge and give rise to critical and conceptual thinking. No matter how much information swirls around us, the less well-stocked our memory, the less we have to think with.
  • As Dr. Wegner and Dr. Ward explained in a 2013 Scientific American article, when people call up information through their devices, they often end up suffering from delusions of intelligence. They feel as though “their own mental capacities” had generated the information, not their devices. “The advent of the ‘information age’ seems to have created a generation of people who feel they know more than ever before,” the scholars concluded, even though “they may know ever less about the world around them.”
  • That insight sheds light on society’s current gullibility crisis, in which people are all too quick to credit lies and half-truths spread through social media. If your phone has sapped your powers of discernment, you’ll believe anything it tells you.
  • Because smartphones serve as constant reminders of all the friends we could be chatting with electronically, they pull at our minds when we’re talking with people in person, leaving our conversations shallower and less satisfying.
  • When we constrict our capacity for reasoning and recall or transfer those skills to a gadget, we sacrifice our ability to turn information into knowledge. We get the data but lose the meaning
  • We need to give our minds more room to think. And that means putting some distance between ourselves and our phones.
Javier E

What's behind the confidence of the incompetent? This suddenly popular psychological ph... - 0 views

  • To test Darwin’s theory, the researchers quizzed people on several topics, such as grammar, logical reasoning and humor. After each test, they asked the participants how they thought they did. Specifically, participants were asked how many of the other quiz-takers they beat.
  • Dunning was shocked by the results, even though it confirmed his hypothesis. Time after time, no matter the subject, the people who did poorly on the tests ranked their competence much higher. On average, test takers who scored as low as the 10th percentile ranked themselves near the 70th percentile. Those least likely to know what they were talking about believed they knew as much as the experts.
  • Dunning and Kruger’s results have been replicated in at least a dozen different domains: math skills, wine tasting, chess, medical knowledge among surgeons and firearm safety among hunters.
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  • Dunning-Kruger “offers an explanation for a kind of hubris,” said Steven Sloman, a cognitive psychologist at Brown University. “The fact is, that’s Trump in a nutshell. He’s a man with zero political skill who has no idea he has zero political skill. And it’s given him extreme confidence.”
  • What happens when the incompetent are unwilling to admit they have shortcomings? Are they so confident in their own perceived knowledge that they will reject the very idea of improvement? Not surprisingly (though no less concerning), Dunning’s follow-up research shows the poorest performers are also the least likely to accept criticism or show interest in self improvement.
Javier E

Next Stop: 100,000 Dead? - 0 views

  • A model is not a report sent back from the future. It's an exercise in taking what we know, what we think we know, and what we have no idea about, making some educated guesses about how those three pieces will interact, and coming up with a probabilistic set of possible future outcomes.
  • Models change as new data comes in (adding to the "stuff we know" inputs) and the universe of the other two inputs ("stuff we think we know" and "stuff we have no idea about") change.
Javier E

Guns, Germs, and The Future of Us - Wyatt Edward Gates - Medium - 0 views

  • ared Daimond’s seminal work Guns, Germs, and Steel has many flaws, but it provides some useful anecdotes about how narrative and consciousness shapes human organization progresses
  • Past critical transformations of thought can help us see how we need to transform ourselves now in order to survive the future.
  • something both ancient and immediate: the way we define who is in our tribe plays a critical role in what kind of social organization we can build and maintain
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  • You can’t have a blood family of 300 million, nor even a large enough one to do things like build an agrarian society
  • In order to have large cities built on agrarianism it was necessary not only to innovate technology, but to transform our very consciousness as it related to how we defined what a person was, both ourselves and others
  • Instead of needing to have real, flowing blood with common DNA from birth, it was merely necessary to be among the same abstract family organized under a king of some kind — a kind of stand in for the father or patriarch. We developed law and law enforcement as abstract disembodied voices of the father. This allowed total strangers without any family ties to interact in the same society in a constructive and organized way. Thus: civilization as we know it
  • Those ancient polities have developed finally into the Nation, a kind of tribe so fully abstracted that you can be of any blood and language and religion and still function within it.
  • So, too, are all other forms of human separation — and the opposition and conflicts they spawn — illusory in nature. We moved beyond blood, but then it was language or religion or fealty that made it impossible to work together, and we warred over that
  • we’re told these borders mean everything, that they are real and urgent and demand constant sacrifice to maintain.
  • why is that border there? Why borders?
  • We’re stuck in a mode of thinking that’s no longer sensible. There isn’t a reason for borders. There never really was, but now more than ever we have no utility for them, no need for them
  • What humanity has to do is wake up to the reality of post-tribalism. This means seeing through all these invented borders to the truth that we are all people, we are all fundamentally the same, and we can all learn to live with one another.
  • It was the idea of necessary conflict based on blood that preceded the fights that appeared to justify the belief in that blood-based conflict.
  • Nations have saturated the entire globe. There are no more frontiers. It’s all Nations butting up against one another.
  • We are all people of a similar nature and we do have the option to relate to one another as people for the sake of saving our shared homes and futures. We all hunger and thirst and become lonely, we all laugh and weep in the same language. Stripped of confounding symbols we are undivided.
  • There are a lot of people upset about the illusion of borders. They want a different reality, one in which there are Good Tribes (their tribe) and Bad Tribes (all the other ones).
  • but the world is already so mixed together they can’t draw those borders anymore. Hence: fascism.
  • There are no firm foundations for defining this tribe, however, so he’s left to cobble together some kind of ad hoc notion of in- and out-group. Like a magpie he collects ways of dividing people as appeals to his caprice: race, sex, Nation, etc., but there’s no greater sense to it, so it’s all arbitrary, all a mess.
  • No amount of magical thinking from conservatives can change the reality of globalism, however; what one Nation does to pollute will affect us all, and that is according to the laws of physics. No political movement can change those physics. We have to adapt or perish.
  • a key part of it is a simple lack of imagination. He just doesn’t realize there’s an option to not have borders, because his entire consciousness is married to the idea of of-me and not-of-me, Us and Them, and if there is no Them there can’t be an Us, and therefore life stops making sense
  • What has to be true if there are no tribes? We have no need to discriminate among who we may love. Loving and caring for all people as if they were blood family is the path forward
  • There needs to be a new story for us to share. It’s not enough to stop believing in the old way of borders, we have to actively seek out a new way of thinking and speaking and living that reflects the world as it is and as it can be.
  • there are others who have more tangible investments in borders: Those who have grown fat off the conflicts driven by these invented borders don’t want us to see how pointless it all is. These billionaires and presidents and kings want us to keep fighting against one another over the borders they so lazily define because it gives them a means of power and control.
  • We have to be ready for their opposition, however. They’ll do what they can to force us to act as if their borders are real. We don’t need to listen, though we do need to be ready to sacrifice.
  • Without a globally-coordinated response we can’t resolve a globally-driven problem such as climate change. If we can grant the humanity of all people we can start to imagine ways of relating to one another that aren’t opposed and antagonistic, but which are cooperative and aimed at harmony.
  • This transformation of consciousness must happen in our own hearts and minds before it can happen in concert.
  • the Nation has already been shown to be unnecessary because of social globalism. Pick a major city on earth and you’ll find every kind of person living together in peace! Not perfect peace, but not constant and unavoidable war, and that is what counts.
  • We can’t keep pretending as if borders matter when we can so clearly see that they don’t, but we can’t just have no story at all, there must be a way of contextualizing a future without borders. I don’t know what that story is, exactly, but I believe it is something like love writ large. Once we’re ready to start telling it we can start living it.
Javier E

We should know by now that progress isn't guaranteed - and often backfires - The Washin... - 0 views

  • We assume that progress is the natural order of things. Problems are meant to be solved. History is an upward curve of well-being. But what if all this is a fantasy
  • our most powerful disruptions shared one characteristic: They were not widely foreseen
  • This was true of the terrorism of 9/11; the financial crisis of 2008-2009 and the parallel Great Recession; and now the coronavirus pandemic
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  • In each case, there was a failure of imagination, as Tom Friedman has noted. Warnings found little receptiveness among the public or government officials. We didn’t think what happened could happen. The presumption of progress bred complacency.
  • We fooled ourselves into thinking we had engineered permanent improvements in our social and economic systems.
  • To be fair, progress as it’s commonly understood — higher living standards — has not been at a standstill. Many advances have made life better
  • Similar inconsistencies and ambiguities attach to economic growth. It raises some up and pushes others down.
  • What we should have learned by now is that progress is often grudging, incomplete or contradictory.
  • Still, the setbacks loom ever larger. Our governmental debt is high, and economic stability is low. Many of the claims of progress turn out to be exaggerated, superficial, delusional or unattainable,
  • Sure, the Internet enables marvelous things. But it also imposes huge costs on society
  • Global warming is another example. It is largely a result of the burning of fossil fuels, which has been the engine of our progress. Now, it is anti-progress.
  • the lesson of both economic growth and technologies is that they are double-edged swords and must be judged as such.
  • What connects these various problems is the belief that the future can be orchestrated.
  • The reality is that our control over the future is modest at best, nonexistent at worst. We react more to events than lead them.
  • We worship at the altar of progress without adequately acknowledging its limits.
  • it does mean that we should be more candid about what is possible. If not, we might yet again wander over the “border between reality and impossibility.”
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