The secret intellectual history of mathematics | Aeon Essays


One of the many damaging results of this intellectual division is that most of us – that is, those of us who are not mathematicians, physicists or engineers – adopt a view of mathematics that is primarily the product of our encounter with it in grade school.

For most people, unfortunately, mathematics is a set of confusing, repetitive, formalistic and abstract techniques. Yet this is exactly the opposite of how mathematicians see their own work.

Rather, what attracts them, in the words of The Mathematics Lover’s Companion (2017) by the graph theorist Ed Scheinerman, are ‘joyful, beautiful’ theorems and proofs, which they arrive at through the sweat of intellectual play. Akin to the best poems, they contain truths about the world perfectly expressed.

Source: The secret intellectual history of mathematics | Aeon Essays

Bipartisanship is a greater danger than political polarization | TheHill


While the red and blue teams seem to be fighting each other, they are allied in their war on the rest of us. Among the most subtle and insidious frauds perpetrated by the united political class is the notion that citizens are in a kind of agreement with the government.

If we are in fact in an agreement with the government, it is one of a very strange kind. Consider entitlement programs. These programs do not in fact entitle any individual to anything, just as funding police departments through tax dollars doesn’t entitle one to protection, just as paying for government schools doesn’t entitle one to a serviceable education.

You’re not in a contractual agreement with the government that creates obligations for it — only for you.

Source: Bipartisanship is a greater danger than political polarization | TheHill

UN climate report: How to deal with despair over climate change | Vox


Things are already bad. They are already getting worse.

This report reveals  —  and, for many of us, confirms  —  that we’re not doing nearly enough to stop things from getting damn apocalyptic.

Source: UN climate report: How to deal with despair over climate change – Vox

Why the world is full of bullshit jobs | Vox


Do you have a job that you secretly believe is pointless?

If so, you have what anthropologist David Graeber calls a “bullshit job.” A professor at the London School of Economics and a leader of the early Occupy Wall Street movement, Graeber has written a new book called Bullshit Jobs: A Theory.

He argues that there are millions of people across the world — clerical workers, administrators, consultants, telemarketers, corporate lawyers, service personnel, and many others — who are toiling away in meaningless, unnecessary jobs, and they know it.

Source: Why the world is full of bullshit jobs – Vox

Words have soul: on the Romantic theory of language origin | Aeon Essays


The English philosopher Owen Barfield, a member of the Oxford Inklings in the 1930s and ’40s, whose work as a philologist convinced him that the Romantic tradition was broadly right, put it succinctly.

Words have soul, he said. They possess a vitality that mirrors the inner life of the world, and this connection is the source of their power. All forms of language implicitly deploy it. Poets are arguably more alert to it because they consciously seek it out.

It’s an insight with radical implications for theories about the origins of language, primarily because the dominant hypotheses in modern science regard words very differently, as soulless signs that act as labels for objects and symbols that facilitate cognitive agility.

Source: Words have soul: on the Romantic theory of language origin | Aeon Essays

‘I Would Prefer Not To’: The Origins of the White Collar Worker


When does the office begin? It’s a question without an easy answer.

One can associate the origins with the beginning of paperwork itself—until recently, the most common mental association with office work (think of the derogatory phrase “paper pusher”).

In other words, since the invention of writing and the corresponding ability to keep records in a systematic manner, there have always been places that resemble offices: monasteries, libraries, scholars’ studies. Banking furnished an especially large amount of paperwork; the Uffizi, an incomparable gallery of Renaissance art in Florence, was also one of the first office buildings—the bookkeeping offices of the Medici family’s groundbreaking financial operations. Clerks, too, have existed for ages, many of them unclinching themselves from their desks to become quite famous: from Samuel Pepys, the British government diarist who reported on the gossipy world of seventeenth-century England, to Alexander Hamilton, who had cut his teeth as a merchants’ clerk before he became the first secretary of the Treasury of the United States; Benjamin Franklin, paragon of pecuniary restraint and bourgeois self-abnegation, started out as a dry goods clerk in 1727.

Source: ‘I Would Prefer Not To’: The Origins of the White Collar Worker

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Critical Update: Government’s Not Prepared for the Social Media War | Nextgov


Peter Singer, a fellow at the New America think tank, opens his book with the twin tales of Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory and the Islamic State’s 2014 drive into northern Iraq—two feats that would have been impossible absent a masterly use of social media, he argues.

Political and military leaders, however, have been slow to grasp, let alone respond to, this seismic shift, Singer writes.

Source: Critical Update: Government’s Not Prepared for the Social Media War – Nextgov

The First Two Questions to Ask When Your Team Is Struggling | Nextgov


Struggling teams also commonly suffer from a sense of overload. Often this is very unevenly distributed across the team—some people are exceptionally relaxed, whereas others seem alarmingly overwhelmed.

If you view your team as a system, you’ll see where you have bottlenecks that, if cleared, would increase the overall capacity of the team.

Perhaps you have teams that are working on too many disparate things (this usually involves people working alone).

How do you streamline, focus, and make progress?

Source: The First Two Questions to Ask When Your Team Is Struggling – Nextgov

The First Christian Creed: Solidarity Across Race and Gender | Time

In Acts, each of Paul’s original churches is founded by a woman, or a woman and a man working together.

But the Roman Empire was strongly patriarchal.

By the second century most churches were mirroring the patriarchal culture around them.

The same forger of Paul who put slaves in their place did the same for women, writing, “Let a woman learn in silence and all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men” (also 1 Timothy—2:11-12). That word still stands today in most churches.

So the first Christian creed was forgotten and its vision of solidarity across lines of race, class, and gender fell victim to banal human divisiveness.

Source: The First Christian Creed: Solidarity Across Race and Gender | Time

How Women’s Anger Is Influencing Politics in 2018 | Time


A country where a resurgence of white supremacy proves that for many, black lives don’t matter.

In 2018, no one needs to ask a woman, “Why are you so angry?” She’s an anomaly if she’s not.

Source: How Women’s Anger Is Influencing Politics in 2018 | Time