Bert Olivier

Some thoughts on the crisis in higher education

The recently released Council on Higher Education (CHE) report on the state of higher education in South Africa is ringing alarm bells all over the country at universities, as may be expected, given the dismal picture it paints of the higher education landscape. Understandably, school education is implicated, and identified as the main reason for…

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Total Recall and the neverending dream of liberation from oppression

I sometimes wonder whether people have noticed that many movies (as well as novels and short stories, which are not my concern here) thematise the fight for liberation from some or other dictatorial regime that oppresses people, often depicted as the working class. Just off the top of my head I can think of several:…

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A world where time replaces money as currency

Isn’t it amazing how a huge money-spinner of a film, made on a budget of millions, obviously in anticipation of making a sizeable profit in moviehouse-attendance and on DVDs, can tap into something that goes diametrically against the grain of its own production rationale? What it taps into, is the latent desire on the part…

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From science fiction to fact? “I, Robot” and real robotics.

In Alex Proyas’s I, Robot, a relatively recent science fiction neo-noir film, Spooner, the noir detective tasked to solve the suspected murder of a brilliant scientist and robotics expert in the not-too-distant future, hates robots. The reason? When he was involved in a car accident some time before, he was rescued from his sinking car…

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Is there a need for cyber-ethics?

The recent spate of events where governments, magazine-employees and various other social actors have acted in ways that have invited spirited debate about the justifiability of their actions, lead to an unavoidable question: Is there a need for cyber-ethics? It all depends on what one means by “cyber-ethics”, of course. If this means the need…

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Was Heidegger right about technology?

When reading a text by Martin Heidegger, who died in 1976 at age 86, one is usually – provided one reads it carefully and attentively – startled by the almost tangible way in which one can sense the “unfolding” of the thinking that is embodied in it. I find it exhilarating. There are few philosophers…

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The network: Towards a new way of life

In his insightful study of ancient philosophy, Philosophy as a Way of Life (Blackwell, 1995), Pierre Hadot disabuses one of the notion that philosophy was for the ancients what it has become in modernity (and postmodernity) since Kant, namely a specialised theoretical practice. Rather, he argues — citing many passages from ancient philosophers during the…

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Dan Brown’s Inferno: This might be fiction, but it’s a wake-up call

“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” (Dante Alighieri, 1265-1321) With this epigraph from Dante, Dan Brown begins his recently published novel, Inferno, which deliberately takes its name from one of the three parts of Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century masterpiece, The Divine Comedy. It is…

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Climate change: Red alert in the Anthropocene

It is fitting that “Anthropocene”, the term coined just more than ten years ago by Paul Crutzen, a Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist, denotes the new ecological period, following the end of the Holocene, when humans became the principal force driving changes in the planetary system. I say this because the Holocene (“New Whole”), or stable…

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Capitalism, calling a spade a spade

Today I had the privilege of listening to two of the best conference keynote addresses I have heard at an international conference for a long time. They formed part of the same plenary session, here at Dublin City University in Ireland, where members are gathered for the annual conference of the International Association for Media…

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