Bert Olivier

Is humanity a rational species?

Most readers’ gut reaction to the question, above, would probably be something like: ‘Yes, of course!’ But please consider that the question is not whether humans are, on occasion, capable of rational behaviour. As it stands, the question bears on what would, if it could be answered affirmatively, be the supposed overriding quality of the…

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The actress who should have won the Oscar this year

Although I have come across quite a few people who dismiss the richly ambiguous La La Land as an unsuccessful attempt at a musical – no doubt implicitly comparing it to traditional musicals like My Fair Lady or The Sound of Music – I do not share their view. It is an outstanding film that…

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The early 21st century: Taking stock

We live in a society in transition – a process rooted in a technological revolution that stretches back to the middle of the previous century, with the invention of television, followed by other innovations in the media, and culminating in the invention of the internet, initially conceived as a military tool of sorts. Although the…

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Technocratic culture: ‘Disconnect’

If you don’t like thinking for yourself, don’t read this post. If you prefer playing around on your mobile device or smartphone, don’t bother reading further. The phone is definitely smarter than you are if you have relinquished your own memory and thinking-ability to its functionality. But if you would like to know something more…

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Has humankind really “progressed”, in the Enlightenment sense of the word?

In philosophy, there is a saying, by Hegel, that the owl of Minerva only spreads its wings at dusk. Hence, when we take stock of our situation today, with the benefit of such hindsight, what do we perceive? Has humankind really “progressed”, in the Enlightenment sense of the word? In fact, does “progress” make any…

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Stop killing our wild animals!

In 2005 I spent three weeks in China, attending conferences in Nanjing and Beijing, and travelling to several other cities. At one point I participated in a hike about 90 kilometres outside Beijing, in an area where the great wall of China is quite dilapidated, unlike in the more touristy areas. It was an enjoyable…

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Far more than a thriller writer

It is easy to misjudge a writer, particularly if the blurbs on the cover of his or her books proclaim something like: “Impossible to put down. Another mind-blowing story!” Or: “Wow…Blockbuster perfection. An exhilaratingly brainy thriller…” Not that these blurbs are inaccurate regarding the novels I have in mind; up to a certain point they…

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The automatic society

It should come as no surprise to learn that we live, and have in a sense always lived, in an “automatic society”. But – and this is a big “but” – digitalisation has not only made it more conspicuous; it has also brought us to the point where this “automatism” confronts human beings with a…

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The biggest cover-up of all time?

After seeing the film based on Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, and not having read the novel, I was somewhat prejudiced against his work as being just another kind of thriller, spruced up with a high-art context in which the action unfolds. Until I read his novel, Inferno, named after the first part of…

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The ‘happiest’ nations in the world – what do they have in common?

Some of you probably know about the so-called “happiness index” that has been published on a regular basis for some time now. It lists the countries of the world on the basis of their ‘happiness’ and obviously, the index has a way of establishing such ‘happiness’ – a number of criteria, that is. This is…

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