Recently there has been some robust progress in AI (Artificial Intelligence), with some scientists even successfully uploading the mind of a roundworm into a Lego robot. Although this seems to be a rather small step, it is significant since the software was in place without any prior programming and the robot started to behave like a worm, including in its response to food. “I think big leaps have been made in the last few years,” said Geoffrey Hinton, a distinguished researcher at Google and a professor at the University of Toronto. “A.I. is undergoing a growth spurt. We’re beginning to solve problems that a few years ago we couldn’t solve, like recognising images.” Continue reading
The Sydney Morning Herald contacted me for a comment on former judge Anthony Whealy’s suggestion to imprison terrorists and terrorist advocates indefinitely till proven de-radicalised. A short quote from my interview can be read here. Yet I wish to explain my strong objection, as a scholar whom knows well the process of radicalisation within prison, against that advice. Continue reading
The debate, particularly in Australia, about whether Muslims should apologise or not for the acts of terrorism of some individuals whom are identified or identify themselves as Muslims, is in full spin. Recently a Twitter hashtag was developed where Muslims started to apologise for everything you may imagine. Some, during conversations with me, expressed their strong viewpoints:
Recently a piece of news from an otherwise internationally unknown college attracted the attention of social media, news, and created a huge twitter and blog response. The object of such (probably unwanted) attention is the South Puget Sound Community College where staff members decided to hold a ‘happy hour’ to ‘build support and community’ for ‘people of color’ (interesting how this terminology is back by the way) as long as the color was not White. The exclusion of White people provoked the expected reaction of the ‘happy hour’ being canceled and the activity labelled racist in itself. Yet the organisers — after apologies — insisted that their request to exclude Whites originated from a rational and not racist fact: members of an in-group communicate and understand each other better. Continue reading
Yesterday, the British Parliament debated the ban of a garment, something that the British Parliament had not discussed since Victorian times. This time it was not the length of skirts or sleeves that the honorable parliamentarians addressed, but rather the well known (but rarely seen in western cities) burqa; banned in France, threatened in the rest of Europe, and now also under threat in the UK.
As other attempts, however, yesterday’s debate failed in imposing a burqa ban in the UK, and as the minister confirmed, Great Britain will not follow France.
The burqa is not an Islamic fashion per-se, but rather a tradition not opposed by Islamic teaching, which is probably the best way to present it. Covering the face, and in particular the mouth, has a geographical and environmental genealogy (such as the protection of skin and eyes from the dust and sand of, for instance, the Afghan desert). If such a garment is anything in Islam, it is a scholarly theological diatribe, with some sheikhs ready to wrap a baby in it, and others stating that it is not Islamic dress per-se. Continue reading
As some of you may have noticed, not only has my blog shifted from a specialist focus within the field of anthropology to a more generally anthropological one, but the new name of the blog wishes to challenge how we do anthropology.
Overall my aim now is to push towards a different way of doing anthropology. When I say a different way, I do not mean a ‘new’ way. Indeed, the roots of my attempt have a rather well established pedigree in the field. Yet long years of self-criticism and reflection within the discipline known in the US as ‘cultural anthropology’ have caused many to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.
The established pedigree I am referring to originates with Malinowski and perceives anthropology as a scientific effort aimed to explain or to highlight facts about cultures and in particular, in my case, humans. Within this tradition, I can also mention another anthropologist whom has greatly influenced my work, Gregory Bateson, and another, whose theoretical discussion of anthropology and relativism I appreciate despite my strong criticisms of his study of Islam (Marranci 2008), Ernest Gellner. Surely in the case of Malinowski and most of the anthropology of those times, the issue of colonialism had an impact and should be considered. Yet in the attempt to get rid of the bath water (the moral mistake of colonialism), during the 1970s and in particular 1980s, anthropologists threw out the baby itself by adopting post-modernism and relativism as an approach to reality. Continue reading
Think Tanks, often linked to a party in the nation’s political system, are becoming increasingly popular (particularly in the US and the UK), receive funds, and produce very easily digestible research, ready-made for the rushed politician. Think Tanks do not have to adhere to the same quality standards that university research has to or, when they are supposed to meet similar standards, there is no effective means of monitoring it. Ethical issues, ethical conduct of research and often methodology remains unexplained in reports written to impress more than explain complex issues. In an era where simplification often resembles “The Complete Idiot’s” guides, Think Tanks provide a fast, public friendly, easy to use policy support for difficult decisions.