Dreaming the dream

What are the chances “you’re an isolated brain floating lonely through the vast expanse of the Universe with all your thoughts, memories and perceptions just figments of your imagination.” Consider Boltzmann brains. How would you know whether you’re one or not?

Not so foolish

“Humanity’s achievements and its self-perception are today at curious odds. We can put autonomous robots on Mars and genetically engineer malarial mosquitoes to be sterile, yet the news from popular psychology, neuroscience, economics and other fields is that we are not as rational as we like to assume. We are prey to a dismaying variety of hard-wired errors.” And so we exploit these hard-wired errors to nudge people into making the right choices. But Steven Poole claims there are ethical questions about nudging if only because “there is less reason than many think to doubt humans’ ability to be reasonable.”

A better ice-bucket challenge

No one can doubt the decency of people who have support the ice-bucket challenge. Michael Specter doesn’t. And yet he asks if there is a better way to combat disease. “Once again, let me stress that I don’t think it is possible to question the good intentions of those who have anted up for A.L.S. But outcomes are another matter.” Yes, again it’s intentions v. consequences.