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The Week in Ideas (8/20)

Posted by Josh Rothman  August 20, 2012 07:50 PM

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Who owns you after you die? Leon Neyfakh on a new law, currently up for a vote in the Massachusetts legislature, which aims to protect you from “posthumous exploitation.” It prevents unauthorized people from using your name, likeness, or even speech patterns for purposes you didn’t authorize. At first blush, it seems like a good idea—but it raises “the existential-sounding question of whether our public personas—the versions of ‘us’ we construct during our lives—are an ownable thing that can be bought and sold, or whether, after we’ve left the stage, they vanish into the air and essentially belong to history.”

So you want to build a universe? Daniel Hudon has a helpful checklist, designed to help you avoid the ultimate embarassment – “a half-built universe.”

How to measure consciousness: I talk with Giulio Tononi, a neuroscientist who may have come up with a way to measure how conscious you are. “I think consciousness is a fundamental part of the universe—just as fundamental as mass, charge, and so forth, and it’s just as real. In fact, I think conscious things are more real [than material things] like stones and cars and mountains and planets. Conscious things are really real. They don’t need an external observer. They exist in and of themselves. It’s a more real form of existence, because it’s observer-independent.”

Boston’s vanished New York streets: Christopher Marstall on a now-demolished part of the South End in which all of the streets were named after towns along New York State’s Erie Canal. “How did a neighborhood in the heart of the Massachusetts capital come to be named after our regional rival? The answer lies far back in the long battle for dominance between Boston and New York City.”

Plus, parents: the anti-anti-drug: Kevin Lewis on why talking to your kids about drugs might make them more likely to smoke pot, and more.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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