NPR Politics presents the Lunchbox List: our favorite campaign news and stories curated from NPR and around the Web in digestible bites (100 words or less!). Look for it every weekday afternoon from now until the conventions.

Convention Countdown

The Republican National Convention is in 4 days in Cleveland.

The Democratic National Convention is in 11 days in Philadelphia.

NASA has released the first picture of Jupiter taken since the Juno spacecraft went into orbit around the planet on July 4.

The picture was taken on July 10. Juno was 2.7 million miles from Jupiter at the time. The color image shows some of the atmospheric features of the planet, including the giant red spot. You can also see three of Jupiter's moons in the picture: Io, Europa and Ganymede.

The Senate is set to approve a bill intended to change the way police and health care workers treat people struggling with opioid addictions.

My husband and I once took great pleasure in preparing meals from scratch. We made pizza dough and sauce. We baked bread. We churned ice cream.

Then we became parents.

Now there are some weeks when pre-chopped veggies and a rotisserie chicken are the only things between us and five nights of Chipotle.

Parents are busy. For some of us, figuring out how to get dinner on the table is a daily struggle. So I reached out to food experts, parents and nutritionists for help. Here is some of their (and my) best advice for making weeknight meals happen.

"O Canada," the national anthem of our neighbors up north, comes in two official versions — English and French. They share a melody, but differ in meaning.

Let the record show: neither version of those lyrics contains the phrase "all lives matter."

But at the 2016 All-Star Game, the song got an unexpected edit.

At Petco Park in San Diego, one member of the Canadian singing group The Tenors — by himself, according to the other members of the group — revised the anthem.

School's out, and a lot of parents are getting through the long summer days with extra helpings of digital devices.

How should we feel about that?

Police in Baton Rouge say they have arrested three people who stole guns with the goal of killing police officers. They are still looking for a fourth suspect in the alleged plot, NPR's Greg Allen reports.

"Police say the thefts were at a Baton Rouge pawn shop early Saturday morning," Greg says. "One person was arrested at the scene. Since then, two others have been arrested and six of the eight stolen handguns have been recovered. Police are still looking for one other man."

A 13-year-old boy is among those arrested, Greg says.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

After an international tribunal invalidated Beijing's claims to the South China Sea, Chinese authorities have declared in no uncertain terms that they will be ignoring the ruling.

The Philippines brought the case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, objecting to China's claims to maritime rights in the disputed waters. The tribunal agreed that China had no legal authority to claim the waters and was infringing on the sovereign rights of the Philippines.

Donald Trump is firing back at Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after she disparaged him in several media interviews. He tweeted late Tuesday that she "has embarrassed all" with her "very dumb political statements" about the candidate. Trump ended his tweet with "Her mind is shot - resign!":


The Worst Way To Stay Alive Forever

Aug 7, 2012

Some say it will happen soon.

Critics say it will take a long, long, time.

Many neuroscientists and philosophers think it ain't gonna happen, ever.

We're talking about building a machine that functions as the equivalent, or maybe as superior to, a human mind.

A synthetic brain doesn't have to be the exact equivalent of a human brain, but there are humans, the brilliant inventor Ray Kurzweil in particular, who hope one day to dump their minds into such a machine, boot up and go on living, disembodied, but mentally intact, forever.

Maybe a machine with an enormous number of connections can simulate some of what human brains do, but the most remarkable thing we do seems hard to build — or rather, hard to build using computer logic. And that is: to feel joy, to feel pain, to feel the feeling of feeling ... here's the argument in a single paragraph from a lecture delivered back in 1949, by neurosurgeon Sir Geoffrey Jefferson:

Not until a machine can write a sonnet or compose a concerto because of thoughts and emotions felt, and not by the chance fall of symbols, could we agree that machine equals brain — that is, not only write it, but know that it had written it. [No machine can feel] pleasure at its successes, grief when its valves fuse, be warmed by flattery, be made miserable by its mistakes, be charmed by sex, be angry or miserable when it cannot get what it wants."

Can we teach a brain in a machine to do that? We don't know how it works in our own brains, so artificial intelligence enthusiasts say, let's just build a computer that has neuron-equivalents that rival in number and complexity the neurons in our brain, turn it on, and see what it can do. (That oversimplifying, I know, but in a brute way, that's what they're saying.)

The Pain Experiment

Why don't I think that's going to work? These brains may be able to calculate, reason, even explore, but, as Jefferson asked, "will they know they had done it?"

In his new book Why Does The World Exist, science writer Jim Holt talks to a number of philosophers about what's real, what's knowable, and in a chapter about computers, he describes how a computer-like machine might experience pain.

A computer, he says, creates a world using logic. The logic, he says, looks like an if/then flow-chart. If this happens, then that can happen. There are inputs and outputs. One leads to the other. So to experience what you and I would call pain (I'm not sure about you, actually, so I'll just stick to me), here's what Jim says my Pain Flow Chart would look like:

First, my skin might encounter "tissue damage."

Second, that would cause "withdrawal behavior."

Third would follow certain vocalizations, like "Ouch!"

That's a computer's "experience" of pain. (Maybe there'd be a lot of subchapters, but at its heart it would be One Thing Leading To Another.) What Jim Holt wants to know, is:

"Would this simulation duplicate what seems most real to us about pain: the horrible way it feels?"

Can we get from an information sequence to our (subjective) experience of pain?

Holt then quotes philosopher John Searle who says to think a flow chart is the same thing as being in pain is "frankly quite crazy." "Why on earth," Searle asks, "would anyone in his right mind suppose a computer simulation of mental processes actually had mental processes?"

The China Phone Call Experiment

Holt then cites another thought experiment, this one from philosopher Ned Block.

What would happen, Block asks, if the everybody in China were asked to be a neuron, and the whole country decided to simulate a brain? Brain cells send messages to each other, so in this experiment, everyone in China would have a telephone, and when they got a call, they'd relay the message to someone else. That's more than a billion calls (or cells) transmitting. (That's around a hundredth of the number of cells in a human brain, but this is just a thought experiment.)

Now the question: "Would the nation of China, if it were to mimic the brain's software in this way, then have conscious states over and above those of its individuals?" Or to put it more simply:

"Could it experience, say, the taste of peppermint?"

Woah! I didn't see that coming! Even if everybody calling everybody else was chewing on a peppermint drop, still, would an independent sensation of pepperminty-ness emerge from the crowd, the way a new thought emerges from brain cells?

The lesson here (I guess) is that there is more to consciousness than the mere processing of information.

Something Else is Necessary

So if a machine is going to duplicate a human brain, connections alone won't do it. A brain has (and a machine needs) something else.

What that something else is, nobody knows. Sir Roger Penrose, who's thought long and hard about this, imagines it needs to be some kind of deep, widely distributed "quantum consciousness" that pervades everything. Daniel Dennett says there's no such thing.

I don't know enough to choose. All I'd say is, if someone's going to dump my brain into a computer and once inside, my mind can count, see, talk, learn, remember and dream, but not know there's a "me" in there doing all that, I'd rather be dead.

I want to know I'm here. That's what Being is about.

Jim Holt's new book Why Does The World Exist? is not about computer technology, it's about what why there is anything at all. Why are there atoms? Matter? How come there's not...nothing? A question that big sends him in many directions, and I just carved out a little piece here.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit