Silicon worship: AI, literature and religion

"Artificial intelligence, the technology that allows a computer to think like a human." These are the opening words of a recent story by the BBC focusing on the impact of robots on religion. A fascinating topic which has been insufficiently discussed in the media. Leaving aside the fact that artificial intelligence as it exists today,... Continue Reading →

Medieval streaming

A 12th-century streaming world chronicle. The news-stories appear year by year under/alongside red headings. Such works were often updated by subsequent scribes, and they could grow for centuries, Sarnen, Benediktinerkollegium¬†/¬†Cod. membr. 10 The entertainment 'industry' in the medieval period was huge, according to medieval standards. Dark or no dark ages, fun was aplenty. Especially on-the-line... Continue Reading →

Angels on pinheads

An angel playing and dancing on top of a manuscript's marginal arabesque decoration, @medievalbecky Why are angels circling the Heaven anticlockwise? Because they are left-wing. One of the myths about the Middle Ages which still finds traction and detraction - sorry, detractors today is that medieval thinkers were obsessed with angels. Also with pins. And... Continue Reading →

Renewal

To stay in circulation, books need copies. A book which stops being copied will slowly disappear. In the Middle Ages, the rate of disappearance of books copied by hand was extremely high. As the literate demand for books almost always outstripped the supply of manuscripts, books copied in insufficient numbers would quickly fall out of... Continue Reading →

The medieval availability bias

The Woman Clothed with the Sun, Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, MS Vitrina 14-2, 187r (11th century) The shortest way may not be the best, but it's the most convenient. A shortcut may not actually get you where you want, but the promise it makes is too hard to say no to. Humans are great shortcurt makers,... Continue Reading →

The emperor’s clothes

According to the Roman historian Suetonius, Julius Caesar used to conceal his receding hairline with a laurel wreath. A convenient trick of cosmetic and political proportions. Many autocrats have since sought to divert attention from their own insecurities by trying to promote the opposite idea: that the strength emanating from their own personalities and their... Continue Reading →

Finding Nero

Young Nero, long before everything went south for the emperor (2021, British Museum, my photo) There are two ways to rediscover ancient historical figures: the Humanist-critical way and the postmodern-revisionist way. The scholars of the Renaissance rediscovered, at least in their own mind, the figures of antiquity by returning to the sources. Our ages rediscovers,... Continue Reading →

An offal story

Prometheus by Theodoor Rombouts (1597-1637), in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium The first thing Prometheus did after he stole fire from the gods was to cook meat for everyone on Earth. He then tricked Zeus who had demanded his fair share of all meats consumed by offering him only offal. Retaliation was... Continue Reading →

Fact is fiction: Black Bear reviewed

The crash limit of reality is where fiction begins. This seems to be the thesis of Lawrence Michael Levine's latest film Black Bear, a twin-speed story about the challenges of film-making, when the dividing lines between writer, director and actor suddenly evaporate, rendering life captive to fiction and fiction a hostage to reality. When a... Continue Reading →

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