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The last rhinos

9 minutes

The truth about algorithms

3 minutes

Lonesome Willcox

12 minutes

Jonah stands up

16 minutes

Want a whole new body? Ask this flatworm how

5 minutes

Can the market save an endangered species? South Africa’s rhino horn conundrum

Rhinoceros horns are worth more than their weight in gold – literally, about $65,000 per kilo. This is due to strong black-market demand in China and South Asia, where beliefs about the horn’s healing and aphrodisiac properties persist. The species is on the brink of extinction, with a global population under 30,000 and shrinking, while poaching increases in response to growing demand. As of late 2015, the extraordinary creature’s fate rests largely in the hands of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, the country’s highest judicial authority, which is considering a case brought by two rhino breeders, John Hume and Johan Kruger, to overturn the domestic ban on selling rhino horn. Supporters of a legalised horn trade argue that it would encourage investment in rhinos, spurring an increase in the population and more security to protect the valuable property the animals represent. Moreover, they say, the horns can be removed largely painlessly and grow back at a rate of a kilo a year. Critics counter that leaving the rhino’s fate to market forces is irresponsible, unethical and unlikely to succeed. Legalisation, they believe, would create more unsustainable demand, encourage false ideas about the horn’s medicinal value, and set an untenable precedent for conservation of all species based solely on their economic utility.

Nuanced and evenhanded, The Last Rhinos is a thought-provoking exploration of what it means to protect and live alongside wildlife in the 21st century.

Director: Brian Dawson

Algorithms are opinions, not truth machines, and demand the application of ethics

It can be easy to simply accept algorithms as indisputable mathematic truths. After all, who wants to spend their spare time deconstructing complex equations? But make no mistake: algorithms are limited tools for understanding the world, frequently as flawed and biased as the humans who create and interpret them. In this brief animation, which was adapted from a 2017 presentation at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) in London, the US data scientist Cathy O’Neil, author of Weapons of Math Destruction (2016), argues that algorithms can be useful tools when thoughtfully deployed. However, their newfound ubiquity and massive power calls for ethical conduct from modellers, regulation and oversight by policymakers, and a more skeptical, mathematics-literate public.

Director: Nice Shit Studio

Producer: Abi Stephenson

Dispatches from a cowboy past: a one-room classic country radio station (barely) holds on

Before KHIL was pulled off the air by its new owners in October 2018, the radio station for Willcox in Arizona had been broadcasting classic country music to the small town’s residents and passersby for more than half a century. While much of the United States has moved on from sparsely strummed songs of whiskey and heartbreak, such music still very much defines this remote place: the singer and Western star Rex Allen (1920-99) is Willcox’s most beloved native son, and the Rex Allen Arizona Cowboy Museum and Willcox Cowboy Hall of Fame its most notable attraction. In Lonesome Willcox, the US filmmakers Ryan Maxey and Zack Wright profile Mark Lucke, KHIL’s unlikely lone employee in the station’s waning days. Living and working from the studio, Lucke keeps the classic country crooners alive for the town’s mainly elderly population, who sense their heritage and way of life being buried beneath the Arizona dust. But while Lucke finds satisfaction in playing songs that lift the locals’ spirits, he has a complicated relationship with the boozy, ne’er-do-well characters that populate them, following his own abusive childhood.

Directors: Ryan Maxey, Zack Wright

Exit, pursued by Death: a young artist and rabble-rouser mines comedy from mortality

In her short documentary Jonah Stands Up, the US director Hannah Engelson profiles her friend Jonah Bascle: a creative, defiant spirit and New Orleans native who is dealing with a terminal heart condition related to his muscular dystrophy. The setup might sound familiar, but the short film and its subject are refreshingly subversive, refusing to fall into tired clichés about confronting disability and illness with bravery. A scrappy and heartfelt DIY production, the film uses animations inspired by Bascle’s artwork, footage of his standup comedy sets, and emotionally raw doctor’s visits to tell his story. Through Engelson’s tribute, Bascle is never presented as an inspirational force, but rather as the many things – a 20something artist, a disability-rights advocate, a rabble-rousing political candidate, a friend – he was in life.

Director: Hannah Engelson

The blob with a superpower: cut a flatworm in four pieces and watch it regenerate four-fold

Planarians are small flatworms that live in wet and humid areas around the globe. Although these creatures are relatively simple, their small, soft bodies possess one of the most amazing secrets in the animal kingdom. Cut a planarian into as many as 279 pieces and, within a few weeks, each bit will regenerate into a full new worm – head, eyes, digestive system and all. This incredible ability raises interesting questions for philosophers, who might wonder which, if any, of these worms is the ‘original’, and for medical researchers, who are hoping to harness the adaptability of planarian’s powerful regenerative stem cells to help regrow tissue, and potentially even limbs, on humans. Read more about this video at KQED Science.

Video by KQED Science

Producer and Writer: Gabriela Quirós

Narrator and Writer: Lauren Sommer

Can the market save an endangered species? South Africa’s rhino horn conundrum

Rhinoceros horns are worth more than their weight in gold – literally, about $65,000 per kilo. This is due to strong black-market demand in China and South Asia, where beliefs about the horn’s healing and aphrodisiac properties persist. The species is on the brink of extinction, with a global population under 30,000 and shrinking, while poaching increases in response to growing demand. As of late 2015, the extraordinary creature’s fate rests largely in the hands of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, the country’s highest judicial authority, which is considering a case brought by two rhino breeders, John Hume and Johan Kruger, to overturn the domestic ban on selling rhino horn. Supporters of a legalised horn trade argue that it would encourage investment in rhinos, spurring an increase in the population and more security to protect the valuable property the animals represent. Moreover, they say, the horns can be removed largely painlessly and grow back at a rate of a kilo a year. Critics counter that leaving the rhino’s fate to market forces is irresponsible, unethical and unlikely to succeed. Legalisation, they believe, would create more unsustainable demand, encourage false ideas about the horn’s medicinal value, and set an untenable precedent for conservation of all species based solely on their economic utility.

Nuanced and evenhanded, The Last Rhinos is a thought-provoking exploration of what it means to protect and live alongside wildlife in the 21st century.

Director: Brian Dawson

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Essay/
History
The people’s prince

His name has become synonymous with egotistic political scheming, yet Machiavelli’s work is effectively democratic at heart

Catherine Zuckert

Essay/
Gender & Sexuality
Transgender: a dialogue

The conversation about trans identities has been riven by bitter divisions. Two philosophers offer radically different perspectives

Sophie-Grace Chappell & Holly Lawford-Smith