Neurotech, Fashion, Dreamscapes, Invisible Man, Idiocy

A weekly selection of fine writing from Conked


Wishing all our subscribers a wonderful start to the New Year!

The Ethical Challenges of Connecting Our Brains to Computers

Dario Gil | Scientific American | 26 DEC 2020

Neurotech could transform lives by connecting human brains to phones, computers or machines, enabling us to collect and interpret information via neural activity. It has already been used for patients with epilepsy or Parkinson’s Disease and could be used in the future by implanting into paralyzed people allowing them to control things with their thoughts. It has other health uses such as pain management and for those with language or movement challenges. The opportunities are extensive including education, gaming or transportation and more. As neurotech is developed, we need to have regulations to deal with the consequences for autonomy, consent and dignity of a person. (840 words)

When Your Outfit Is Made Illegal

Virginia Postrel | Reason | JAN 2021 edition

Our choice of what to wear is a form of personal expression as well as protecting ourselves from the elements. But did you know that for much of human history, rulers, dependant on their local culture, set codes on what people could wear? In China during the three centuries of Ming rule, the state banned commoners from wearing silk, gauze and cotton. In Edo Japan townspeople found new methods of skirting restrictions on what they could wear and hid luxurious fabrics in the linings. Italy between 1300 to 1500 limited women to two silk dresses and fined those with fancy fasteners. (2,506 words)

In exile from the dreamscape

Rubin Naiman | Aeon | 24 DEC 2020

Rapid eye movement sleep – REM sleep – is known as deep sleep, but dreaming is like “an ongoing dialogue between the waking world and the world of dreams”, occurring in the mind. In this article, psychologist Rubin Naiman explains how the concept of REM/dreaming is part-waking and part-sleep, where the body and mind become disengaged from the other, “a bridge to and from sleep”. There is scientific evidence that we are becoming dream-deprived, not just deprived of sleep, and often alcohol or medicinal sleep aids are the reason. The impacts result in a plethora of physical and mental health concerns, leading to increased mortality. (4,452 words)

“I Was Never More Hated Than When I Tried to Be Honest”

Samuel Kronen | Quillette | 28 DEC 2020

This essay explores how Ralph Ellison, author of the 1952 book, The Invisible Man, became one of the most forceful black literary voices of the 20th Century. It is likely that he would not have enjoyed the mention of his racial identity as he saw literature as a way to transcend this, using the universal human experience to overcome such barriers. With varying political beliefs throughout his life, he was a proud and complicated man. Talented, he was a visionary, but at a cost to him personally and professionally. Initially, he had an interest in music, but while in college, he was drawn to literature and eventually began writing. (6,489 words)

Making a Fool

Simon Jarrett | Lapham’s Quarterly | 23 DEC 2020

This article is an excerpt from Simon Jarrett's book Those They Called Idiots: The Idea of the Disabled Mind from 1700 to the Present Day, exploring how deeming a person idiotic, or mentally incapacitated, has been part of the legal language since antiquity. Idiocy was not seen as an issue for the poor, but more centred on the legal issues of wealth and property inheritance. Legal definitions of idiots eventually aligned with those of lunatics. Various legal definitions of idiocy have changed throughout the ages, with families at times in conflict with the state who appropriated lands and wealth. (2,151 words)


Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering 'it will be happier'...”

― Alfred Lord Tennyson

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