Bert Olivier

Notre Dame, spirituality and technology

The recent devastating fire that nearly destroyed the more than 800 year-old Parisian Gothic cathedral, Notre Dame, has put something important in perspective. One could not but notice that the shock caused by this event was not restricted to Paris, or even France, which one might have expected. Understandably, Parisians have always loved this architectural…

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A question of balance…

Two days ago my partner and I went on a whirlwind visit to Gauteng and North-West Province – flying to Johannnesburg and driving from there in a rented car to the Potschefstroom campus of North-West University, where I had been invited to participate in a debate on the question: ‘Is God still necessary for morality?’…

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A world without electricity?

The prospect of living in a ‘world without electricity’ in South Africa has become a spectre that looms ever-larger by the day, as a mismanaged, looted-to-the-bone Eskom struggles to keep the ‘lights on’ — a misleading metaphor, insofar as it stands for the entire electricity-based economy of this country. In the era of fake news…

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Sex as ‘making’ love: Reitman’s ‘No Strings attached’

When is sex just sex, and when does it amount to ‘making love’? ‘Making love’ is an interesting construction, of course, and is usually a reference to having sex, but – considering the verb, ‘making’ in conjunction with the noun, ‘love’, implies much more than — even if it includes — sex. Ivan Reitman’s charming…

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Metaphors (as models), and our own ‘networked’ existence

In The Prison-House of Language (Princeton University Press, 1972) Fredric Jameson opens the Preface with the following thought-provoking remark (p. v): The history of thought is the history of its models. Classical mechanics, the organism, natural selection, the atomic nucleus or electronic field, the computer: such are some of the objects or systems which, first…

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‘Searching for an Electric Peanut (part II)’: Jonathan Silverman’s liminal art

Liminality is a strange phenomenon: The Encarta dictionary online defines it as ‘belonging to the point of conscious awareness below which something cannot be experienced or felt’, which is only one of the ways the term is used, but nevertheless gives a good idea of what is involved when you call something ‘liminal’. The point…

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The dynamics of complex systems: ‘Flight Behaviour’

Most people don’t know what complex systems (the word ‘complex’ is important) are, despite the fact that everyone one is enmeshed in several such complex systems every minute of the day and night. One such complex system is language, which we use more or less all the time, except when we sleep, and even then,…

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Breaking down South Africa?

In 2015, it was reported that Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, speaking to followers at Nongoma, criticised black South Africans for not building further on the country they had inherited from the National Party, opting instead to destroy or break down infrastructure, in this way cancelling out the (economic) progress made during a time when the…

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Sleepwalking into a geophysical storm?

In a recent article titled ‘The perils of short-termism: Civilisation’s greatest threat’, by Richard Fisher, he makes the following sober (and sobering) remark about the people — our children and grandchildren — who are likely to be alive when the iconic year, 2100, dawns: All the decisions we make, for better and worse, will be…

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‘Dark technology’ and human ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’?

In the later 19th century there was a protracted debate among thinkers of various stripes about the question, what ultimately determines human actions — ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’ — a debate that is still going on today. But while it was then influenced by the evolutionary theory of Charles Darwin, on the one hand, and empiricist…

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