Anthropology

Abrahamic

A class of religion(s), including (in order of age) Judaism, Christianity and Islam, share a common ancestor in the story of Abraham. These religions are similar in that they hypothesise an all-powerful god (in heaven) and an antagonistic devil (in hell). They also speak of heaven, a place of eternal bliss, where the souls of the chosen or believers will live on after death; the opposite to heaven is hell, a place of eternal suffering. These religions tend to have a book (e.g. tanakh, the bible, koran) which is considered to have been directly delivered or inspired by God. In reality, there may be a series of later edits or modifications e.g. the apocrypha is a set of books said to have […]

Apocrypha

The apocrypha are books deleted from the Abrahamic old testament: Tobias Judith Jubillees – mentions the nephilim Enoch – mentions the nephilim Esther Baruch Sirach Maccabees

Artificial intelligence

We humans put a lot of stock in our intelligence and self-awareness: it’s taken as a measure of our superiority over other species, that we (alone?) are able to reason about our current circumstances, build tools to change our environment as we see fit, and think about thinking itself. We are self-aware, “conscious”, we say — ignoring the fuzziness of the concept — and it is this particular cerebral quirk that separates us from (or elevates us above) the animals. Imagine, then, a “created intelligence”: self-aware software that demonstrates at least some of the characteristics that we associate with human(-level) consciousness and intelligence. Wait But Why has an awesome series on the Artificial Intelligence Revolution, which you should definitely read if you haven’t. […]

Bardo

“Bardo” (བར་དོ, Sanskrit: antarabhāva) refers to an “intermediate state” between death and rebirth, a concept which supposedly arose shortly after the Buddha’s death. According to Tibetan tradition, after death and before one’s next birth, when one’s consciousness is not connected with a physical body, one experiences a variety of phenomena. These usually follow a particular sequence of degeneration from, just after death, the clearest experiences of reality of which one is spiritually capable, and then proceeding to terrifying hallucinations that arise from the impulses of one’s previous unskillful actions. For the prepared and appropriately trained individuals the bardo offers a state of great opportunity for liberation, since transcendental insight may arise with the direct experience of reality, while for others it can become a place of […]

Bede

Saint Bede, or “Bede the venerable” (Latin: Bēda Venerābilis), was a Benedictine monk (CE 672/3-735) at the monastery of St. Peter and its companion monastery of St. Paul in the Kingdom of Northumbria of the Angles (contemporarily Monkwearmouth–Jarrow Abbey in Tyne and Wear, England) who gained the title “The Father of English History” for his authorship of the Ecclesiastical History of the English People. (Interesting to me: “Monkwearmouth” refers to the Wear river; a nearby area was known as “Bishopwearmouth”. Modern day Sunderland.)

Beer

Ah, beer — the great civiliser. As noted in the New York Times: Current theory has it that grain was first domesticated for food. But since the 1950s, many scholars have found circumstantial evidence that supports the idea that some early humans grew and stored grain for beer, even before they cultivated it for bread. Brian Hayden and colleagues at Simon Fraser University in Canada provide new support for this theory in an article published this month (and online last year) in the Journal of Archeological Method and Theory. Examining potential beer-brewing tools in archaeological remains from the Natufian culture in the Eastern Mediterranean, the team concludes that “brewing of beer was an important aspect of feasting and society in […]

Cerberus

Cerberus¹ (pronounced /ˈsɜrbərəs/), or Kerberos, (Greek: Κέρβερος) in Greek and Roman mythology, is a multi-headed hound (usually three-headed) which guards the gates of Hades, to prevent those who have crossed the river Styx from ever escaping. Cerberus featured in many works of ancient Greek and Roman literature and in works of both ancient and modern art and architecture, although, the depiction and background surrounding Cerberus often differed across various works by different authors of the era. The most notable difference is the number of its heads: Most sources describe or depict three heads; others show it with two or even just one; a smaller number of sources show a variable number, sometimes as many as 50. 1. Also known as […]

Chthonic

Chthonic (from Greek χθόνιος — chthonios, “in, under, or beneath the earth”, from χθών — chthōn “earth”; pertaining to the Earth; earthy; subterranean) designates, or pertains to, deities or spirits of the underworld, especially in relation to Greek religion. Greek khthon is one of several words for “earth”; it typically refers to the interior of the soil, rather than the living surface of the land (as Gaia or Ge does) or the land as territory (as khora (χώρα) does). It evokes both “abundance” and “the grave”.

Commonplace Book

Commonplace books (from Latin locus communis, in turn from Greek tópos koinós) are a personal repository of thoughts, knowledge and insight; they are essentially scrapbooks filled with information of every kind (recipes, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas – Wikipedia). Each is unique to its creator’s particular interests, and may be organised and cross-referenced in various ways. They became significant in Early Modern Europe. (Compare to R. Buckmister Fuller’s chronofiles, which consist of a time-series record of his life from 1920 through to 1983.) In a lot of ways, this lexicon is my commonplace book. I should probably put more effort into it, as always, but I’m just one man.

Cybernetics

Cybernetics is the interdisciplinary the study of the structure of regulatory systems. Cybernetics is closely related to control theory and systems theory. Both in its origins and in its evolution in the second-half of the 20th century, cybernetics is equally applicable to physical and social (that is, language-based) systems. The term cybernetics stems from the Greek κυβερνήτης (kybernētēs, steersman, governor, pilot, or rudder — the same root as government). Cybernetics is a broad field of study, but the essential goal of cybernetics is to understand and define the functions and processes of systems that have goals and that participate in circular, causal chains that move from action to sensing to comparison with desired goal, and again to action. Studies in […]