How a 2001 video game warned us about the dangers of artificial intelligence and genetic engineering

More than just a game: the video game character Psycho Mantis breaks the fourth wall by speaking directly to the player. Similar to writer Kurt Vonnegut's addressing of the reader him/herself in "Breakfast of Champions," it serves to remind us the limits of video game technology in disseminating information: no matter what, we're still players in a game.
Long before the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal and the Russian interference  in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, a Japanese video game developer predicted society's issues of truth and reality. Over a decade before my posts on post-truth aphorisms and our struggles in constructing narratives, Hideo Kojima would create a game in which the archenemy was none other than the American government itself in 2001. In what would become the first postmodern video game, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty warns the player about the dark side of science and technology through stealth in an action-packed journey. In today's discussion of ethical issues surrounding gene editing techniques (like CRISPR-Cas9) as well as the growing power of artificial intelligence, the message holds true to today. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty for the Playstation 2 continues to be among the best messages about the dangers of our Information Age. 

The immortality of science writing


As I parse through "A Field Guide for Science Writers" on my Kindle cloud reader, I recognize how science writing is a craft that takes decades to hone. I also begin to hypothesize that, no matter what you write, there are always ways to improve it. In describing how writing differs from other activities, I draw an analogy between writing and immortality. The immortality shows when others are able to read our writing and understand what we wrote at moments later in time. If scribbles in sands are thoughts that succumb to waves, then the etches in concrete are the writing. In this sense, writing has a way to transcend the moment and become something that can be captured at other places in space and time. 

The science and philosophy of silence

Henry Fuselli's "Silence"
I wake up in the middle of the night. I wake up frequently, actually, because I can barely get any sleep. A solitary prisoner confined to a cell, the night marched on. My comfort is forced to the cold, dank concrete that carried me in and out of sleep. As I dreamt, the world would collapse in on itself leaving me at the hand of my subconscious. The darkness and silence filled the night. 

Winter approaches, and, with it, comes the deafening whiteness and frigidity of snow. In these settings, the concept of silence is powerful. Taking breaks from speaking or writing invites the reader to share a moment of silence. Silence in all forms, though is powerful. Even the near-instantaneous full-stops at the ends of sentences and our quiet moments as we process thoughts hold meaning in our rhetoric and art can be filled with introspection of many forms. Composer John Cage's (approximately) four and a half minutes of silence song forced us to listen to the ambient sound around us and question what we consider music itself. As it shed light on the ways musicians, writers, poets, and other scholars use pauses and breaks, silence of any form reveals these deeper natures within ourselves. Silence is a powerful force that lacks a moral direction in the general sense. For this reason, we can use it for both good and evil as equal as they are in one another. 

Art meets science: the limits and ethics of neuroaesthetics

The aesthetic value of Umberto Boccioni's "Dynamism of a Cyclist" helped shape the Futurist movement, an admiration of science and technology. The constant movement of the perceived world reveals how our minds conceive such speed and motion.
Beauty is truth, truth beauty, — that is all 
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know - John Keats "Ode to a Grecian Urn"

To some, beauty may be only in the eye of the beholder. But if there were an objective basis for it, researchers have only begun to uncover what it is and what it means. To find a philosophical and scientific basis of art, we can study how our brains respond to aesthetics itself. As the humanities and sciences seek different approaches, the former speculative and the latter empirical, to understanding art, they can be compared with one another to reveal how our brains process art, aesthetics, and, in some ways, morality. Since Philosopher Immanuel Kant's 1790 work Critique of Judgment, philosophers and scholars of aesthetics began studying the role of beauty in nature and in art. Though there remains debate among philosophers about his theories of aesthetics, we can reveal the connection of beauty with epistemology and ethics - from both neuroscience and philosophy. The potential for this area of research could hold benefits for art-based therapeutic treatments, the relationships to morality and justice, and the neuroscientific basis for what it means to be human.

The science, mathematics, and philosophy of rhythm

Zebra finches use a "critic" in the brain to differentiate between the rhythm of songs of other birds and, through this, learn songs.
Like the ebb and flow of the ocean, 

A rhythm emerges from the pen,

I capture it, imagine it,

before it disappears. 

Appropriate rhythm in writing means making sense of the relation between words and phrases. Stress, repetition, fluctuation, rhyme, meter, pattern, juxtaposition, and harmony all come together in the way aesthetic and intellectual properties of rhythm. For a philosopher examining the roots of semantics and language or neuroscientist uncovering our true nature, rhythm eludes us. I've written a bit on the subject with respect to symmetry. Let's delve into rhythm's secrets philosophically, mathematically, and scientifically.

"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close": Science, aesthetics, and ethics of trauma fiction

Picasso’s "Le coq saigné", painted in France in the mid-20th century could be seen as a response to the traumatic events of World War II.
It's miraculous that at the end of a century of two world wars, a Holocaust, a postmodern cold war, that "trauma fiction" was only coined in the 1990's. Trauma is fascinating, whether it's sexual, verbal, physical, or another form. It could be described as a force that captures all parts of an individual. Someone undergoing trauma could have their senses and perceptions fundamentally changed. When one tries to write about trauma, it's not uncommon that their languages fails them. How can someone write in such a paralyzed, detached state? And trauma itself can force an individual to repeatedly re-examine moments of their life that they can't seem to shake off. For fiction writers searching for narratives and themes, there are ways of identifying key concepts of trauma. Instead of focusing on what happened in the past, it's important to understand why we remember those things. 

"Overcoming my fear of poetry"

No! I won't! I won't write a poem! 

You can't make me! Nor will I succumb to my desires. No, no, no...


I'm a researcher. That's right. I seek knowledge and certainty. I seek soundness and completeness. I seek objective truths. 


For I see the world in black and white. Atop a ship in a sea of gray,


In absolutes, in truth and beauty I can describe the world.


Still, the mighty roar of the foggy ocean, surrounds me on all sides, 


through its cloudy mist light cannot penetrate. I fear what lies beneath the surface.


Einstein was the wisest man alive, as science gives us answers,


or Aristotle, a thinker like no other, with philosophy, more questions, 


I search for land, refuge from an infinite sea. I won't read Coleridge or Whitman or Thoreau. 


I'll remain willfully blind to what can't be described or learned.


I choose not to forsake my judgement in rhetoric and logic,


lest I should become overpowered by my desires within.


I won't. I'll lock the chest and throw away the key.


You won't get a poem out of me.