Bert Olivier

Does humanity have enough redeeming features to deserve to survive?

The short answer is a resounding ‘NO!’ The long answer takes a bit longer to formulate, but here goes. Humanity does have redeeming features, or virtues, if you like – of course it does. The human species is a very creative bunch. Humans created the Parthenon, the Taj Mahal, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel,…

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A stream of consciousness: Art, consciousness, self-consciousness and the unconscious

What is a ‘stream of consciousness’? This presupposes that one knows what consciousness is, and how it differs from the unconscious, and from self-consciousness. Briefly, consciousness means an awareness of something, most broadly your environment. In this sense, even plants are conscious, as shown by the phenomenon of phototropism. Self-consciousness, by contrast, denotes not just…

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Theoretical psychology in Tokyo

Tokyo is a wonderful city. It is also beyond huge. I thought that Seoul in Korea was huge, with its 16 million inhabitants in the greater metropolitan area, but the equivalent metropolitan area of Tokyo packs approximately 40 million people (a UN report of 2014 put it at 38 million). From the viewing deck of…

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The lost sense of community: Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’

Christopher Nolan’s recently released feature film Dunkirk not only fills a long-existing gap in cinematic coverage of important historical (particularly wartime) events; it also highlights something of contemporary significance: the glaring difference between the world of the 1940s and that of today, namely the strong sense of community that animated people back then, and which,…

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‘Only when the last fish has been caught, will you realise that you cannot eat money’

‘Only when the last fish has been caught, will you realise that you cannot eat money’. We are moving perilously close to the actualisation of my paraphrase of these words from the well-known saying attributed to Alanis Obomsawin of the Abenaki tribe northeast of Montreal in Canada. The usual wording of the saying is: “When…

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Selfies, the disappearance of the natural world and nihilism

I don’t like shopping malls; they remind me of the weakness of our species when it comes to commodities that they ‘must have’, according to the spurious ethos of the prevailing economic system. Hence, when the woman in my life asked me to accompany her to that monstrosity known as the Baywest mall, outside the…

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Are you an agnostic?

What is agnosticism? Broadly speaking, it is the position that claims that human beings cannot ‘know’ whether God (or gods) exists or not. We simply do not have the means to have such knowledge. I put ‘know’ in scare quotes because that is where an agnostic puts the emphasis. The ancient Greek word, ‘gnosis’, means…

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Why does celebrity online behaviour affect ordinary people?

In a recent article on the Yahoo website, Marie Claire Dorking claims that when so-called celebrities – the contemporary kitsch counterparts of ancient Greek Olympians – ‘behave badly’ online, their behaviour has a recognisable impact on the behaviour of ordinary people, including children. In other words, the bad example they set has consequences when it…

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The technology that is threatening life as we know it

We are currently witnessing a pervasive and accelerating recording, modelling and processing of data pertaining to human beings as well as other living species (and even inorganic things) on a scale that surpasses what most of us can imagine. This has been made possible by bio-technologies which seem as if they are the incipient actualisation…

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Our troubled world

A number of things have struck me since we arrived in Europe to attend a number of conferences, travelling from Ghent in Belgium through Munich in Germany to beautiful Venice in the Veneto of Italy, and they do not augur well for the future of human society or the planet. These range from observations in…

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