Hugh Hefner died a year ago on September 27, 2017. For several years now, I imagined I would comment on Hefner’s life once he died. But then my Dad died that October of 2017, and it didn’t seem fitting to address both in the same breath. For a reflection on my Dad’s life and death, see here. I loved my Dad and thought he lived a good life. Hefner’s life, by contrast, struck me as troubled and troubling.
I’m not going to moralize here about Hefner. He’s been widely labeled and insulted, especially by Christians who loathed his lifestyle. Here, however, I’m interested in the man, what drove him, and what made him a prophetic voice of our age, even if a false prophet.
I’m no Hefner scholar (yes, such exist, for instance Steven Watts), though I’ve read a few things about him. Indeed, he was a man who loved to be in the news, so it was hard over the nearly six decades of my own life not to have heard about him periodically, especially when he did something newly outrageous.
Yet if it was just that I had read a few things about him, I wouldn’t be writing about him here. Hefner was born in 1926 in Chicago, my home town. He went to high school in Chicago. My Dad was from Chicago as was his friend G.N., both born in 1923. Hefner, G.N., and my Dad were in the service in World War II. All three went to and overlapped at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana after the war as students. G.N. even remembered Hefner as selling magazine subscriptions on campus. [Read more…] about Hugh Hefner, Making Sense of His Life
Nike’s decision to enlist Colin Kaepernick as a spokesperson and then ascribe to him the words “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” has elicited a large reaction, to which I’ll contribute here.
Speaking for myself, I find it wearisome when companies that make products with no conceivable political implication decide to weigh into politics, take a partisan position, provoke controversy, and then shove their point of view in the public’s face.
ESPN does this, but I will still watch ESPN. Yet Nike has not been content simply to engage in partisan politics. In addition, it has decided to stake out so bone-headed and indefensible an ad campaign as to insult the intelligence of the public and especially its customers.
It’s as though Nike were saying, “We’re going to make completely stupid and outrageous claims, and you’re going to keep buying our stuff, and because you do even though we insulted your intelligence, you’ll be our consumer slaves forever!” [Read more…] about The Sidelining of Nike
The Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence was launched in Seattle the evening of July 11, 2018. The launch was streamed live, and here is the YouTube record of it:
The new center has two websites:
Here is the text of my remarks, delivered in my stead by Robert Marks because I was unable to attend on account of my Mom’s impending death (she passed away July 15):
Good evening. Thank you for attending this launch of the Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence. In my talk tonight, I’m going to address three points: (1) why the work of this center is important, (2) what its impact is likely to be, and (3) why it is appropriately named after Walter Bradley.
First, however, I want to thank friends and colleagues of Seattle’s Discovery Institute for their vision in forming this center and providing a secure home for it. Thanks go especially to Bruce Chapman and Steven Buri for making this center a full-fledged program of Discovery; to John West for working through the many crucial details that an initiative like this entails; to Robert Marks for his towering presence in the field of computational intelligence and his willingness to lead the center; and finally to Walter Bradley for giving us not only his name but also his example and inspiration (more on this later).
The Walter Bradley Center, to the degree that it succeeds, will not merely demonstrate a qualitative difference between human and machine intelligence; more so, it will chart how humans can thrive in a world of increasing automation. Such a vision ought to be praiseworthy and non-controversial. But in an age of computational reductionism inspired by scientific materialism, where so much of the mainstream academy views our humanity as unexceptional and even obsolete, such a vision is anything but. [Read more…] about Launch of the Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence
On Friday, October 27, 2017, we laid to rest my Dad at a graveside service (see previous post). My Dad was a WWII vet, and men from the local VFW showed up to present my Mom with a flag (which initially was draped over the casket), as well as to give a gun salute and play Taps. These military honors were deeply moving.
But what struck me most was when the retired officer who presented my Mom with the flag, after he had properly folded it, “took a knee.” In other words, he kneeled in front of my Mom to present her with the flag for my Dad’s honorable service to our nation.
After he kneeled to give my Mom the flag, I couldn’t help but think of the NFL. I thought how shameful it was that the NFL has allowed players to continue to disrespect our anthem, flag, and nation by kneeling. And I also thought how doubly shameful it was that funerals of our vets, where flags are rightly presented to grieving family from a kneeling position, now call into contrast the dishonorable behavior of the NFL.
I now make a point of not only refusing to watch NFL games or highlights, but also changing the channel when anything involving the NFL is on TV.
UPDATE 5/23/18: Looks like the NFL ownership and administration are now going to require players and personnel on the field to stand (see here). It awaits to be seen if the players will abide by this.
I was a big fan of the Doors in high school and, after Jim Morrison’s death, kept my eyes open to what his fellow band mates were doing. I remember buying Ray Manzarek’s 1973 album THE GOLDEN SCARAB and enjoying his song “The Purpose of Existence Is?” The vinyl of that album has long since been lost and it’s been over 35 years since I last heard that song. It was fun listening to it again today. Here are the lyrics:
Do you think the purpose of existence is to pass out of existence
Is the purpose of existence
Do you think the reason for your being is to give up all your being
Is the reason for your being
Then why are you living, what did you come here for?
You must have wanted something, here you are back for more
Life and its treasures, love sweet pleasure
Don’t let it end, try it again, over and over again
Birth and death, full circle and another incarnation
Life is sweet and oh so neat, the greatest of temptations
Is your world so empty that you want off this cosmic wheel
Is your soul so weary that you think the life you feel is illusion and pain
Ha! You’re just lazy and afraid of life and its danger
To love you’re a stranger.