The Atlantic, December 2010

Several interesting pieces this month.  I’d mention three.

Kenneth Brower is the son of environmentalist David Brower and has for decades been close to physicist and all-around genius Freeman Dyson.  In the last few years, Dyson has become the most prominent of scientists who are unconvinced that human-caused global warming represents a significant threat.  Brower’s piece in this issue asks what went wrong with Dyson.  I can’t entirely suppress a suspicion that Brower is being less than fair to Dyson, but the article is fun to read nonetheless.

James Parker wonders what the deal is with all those late-night talk shows where there’s a host who comes out, delivers a monologue, then chats with celebrities who take turns sitting on a couch next to his desk while the house band plays and the studio audience cheers.  Isn’t that an awfully tired format?  Evidently not too tired for the tastes of the American viewing public, as many such shows now command millions of eyeballs nightly.

At the end of a column about internet dating sites, Alexis Madrigal says that “It’s when people deviate from what we predict they’ll do that they prove they are individuals, set apart from all others of the human type.”  I tend to disagree.  If others are to work with us, they must be able to predict our behavior well enough to know our next move.  If we are to accomplish anything new by working together, that predictability will have to be the result of a deliberate creative process.  Indeed, I would say that the greatest of all creative challenges is the creation of predictability.

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