In the middle of nothing—that is, nothing but sand stretching in every direction—there is a peculiar oasis. It has huge palm trees with thick rough trunks and wild leafy tops placed in a grid: six by six. No oasis anywhere in the desert has palm trees that grow in a grid like a Cartesian plane. But here at New York University (NYU)-Abu Dhabi, this oasis of sorts is both the center of a contemporary university campus and the perfect metaphor for the unique type of global education that the university offers. Is this the kind of global education that will bring together the next generation globally? I’m not sure.
I was visiting NYU-Abu Dhabi as a stopover to visit my mentor, Carol Gilligan, and her husband Jim, on the way home from a visit to India. The two contexts, side-by-side, present … Read More »
With the “new” atheism getting more and more publicity by the day, it seems important to amplify voices that recognize just how dangerous it is to lose touch with Spirit given the materialism and secularism of our postmodern era. Perhaps few have made this point more strongly or eloquently than Huston Smith in his epic 2001 book, Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief. I reviewed this book for a special EnlightenNext magazine supplement called WIE Extra (WIE for our former name What Is Enlightenment?). Since it was only distributed to a few thousand subscribers back then, I thought that it would make a good read for our online readers. I’m sure you’ll find that Smith’s message is as relevant today as it was when it was published. Enjoy!
Have you ever heard of the Turing test? Years ago, I encountered it in Daniel Dennett and Douglas Hofstadter’s 1981 book The Mind’s I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul. It’s bugged me ever since. Put forth by Alan Turing in a 1950 paper on computing and intelligence, Turing proposed a simple and apparently straightforward way to assess whether computers could actually think. Since defining “thinking” is tricky–because immediately we find ourselves grappling with questions about the nature of consciousness or intelligence–Turing suggested that we skip all of the deeper philosophical questions with an empirical test: if a human interviewer was to receive written answers to questions posed to two entities hidden from view, a computer and a person, would it be possible for the computer to “trick” the interviewer into believing that it was the human? If so, if the computer was able to convince someone that it is capable of doing what we (thinking … Read More »