Big Think
Big Think is the leading source of expert-driven, actionable, educational content -- with thousands of videos, featuring experts ranging from Bill Clinton to Bill Nye, we help you get smarter, faster. We aim to help you explore the big ideas and core skills that define knowledge in the 21st century, so you can apply them to the questions and challenges in your own life.

1306 videos
How machine intelligence is remaking the American economy How machine intelligence is remaking the American economy
1 day ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Michael Li: We hear a lot about data science, AI, machine learning. These are all things that are in the milieu right now. I think they fundamentally point at the same idea, the same concept, around you might call it machine intelligence—where it’s about how do you use computers and the vast amount of data that’s out there, that kind of big data, and then leverage that to make more intelligent decisions as an organization, as a government, as a nonprofit. This really comes from a few major secular trends that are happening. One is the plummeting cost of computation and the plummeting cost of storage. So now we have the capacity to store that data relatively cheaply and be able to process that data relatively cheaply. And then the other major trend is that everyone’s walking around with smartphones. Everyone’s interacting with the internet for a large portion of the day. And so we’re able to capture huge parts of the human experience and digitize that information and store it in the cloud. So when we have all these connected devices that are measuring us, we can actually say a lot about human behavior. And that’s actually really, really fascinating. And from that we’re able to create products, services that are so much more rich and so much more personalized than we’ve been able to do before. And so if you think about maybe even the simplest example, it might be something like Netflix with a recommendation engine that’s able to serve up content in a very targeted way so that they give you, they show you out of their library (of probably millions of possible videos for you to watch) the five to ten that you’re most likely to want to watch. And they can do this from what’s called “look-alike analysis” where they would look at what other people, who have watched a similar set of videos as you have, how have they rated those videos. How much they’ve liked those videos. And then see what other videos those people have liked that you haven’t yet watched. And that’s probably a good candidate for a video that you should watch. So that kind of look-alike analysis—or if you’re a data scientist you probably call that a recommendation engine—That’s actually a very powerful technique and it’s sort of very fundamental to a business that has tens of millions of videos and they know you’re only going to watch one tonight. How do you pick out that one good video so that’s not such a huge search problem for a consumer but it’s actually a pleasurable experience for them? And that has implications beyond Netflix. If you think about a company like Amazon, that’s incredibly important for them. They have billions of items in their store. You need to be able to figure out what to buy and so they can tell you the right item that can maybe get you to buy something that you otherwise wouldn’t have purchased. And that has a direct impact on their bottom line. And it also makes consumers happier, right? It helps you reduce the amount of time you spend searching for products and services. So I think these kind of data-enabled services where companies can give you what you want when you want it, that’s becoming increasingly powerful within the kind of consumer market and it’s becoming increasingly the standard. So I think what we’ve seen is that for a lot of legacy enterprises that are not digital first, that haven’t been able to embrace data and data science, there’s an almost a kind of an adversarial relationship between the consumer and that product or service, where you’re saying as a consumer, “Hey, I have this great experience when I’m interacting with Google or Netflix. They seem to give me what I want. Why can’t you give me what I want?”
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Inside bias: Why so many companies make big hiring mistakes Inside bias: Why so many companies make big hiring mistakes
2 days ago En
AI doesn’t have to be scary. It can augment our intelligence, says venture capitalist and best-selling author Scott Hartley. What AI can also do is help us fight our own biases, starting with the prejudices inherent in the hiring process "algorithms”. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/inside-bias-why-so-many-companies-make-big-hiring-mistakes-2 Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Scott Hartley: In this world where we focus so much on what we’re building, how we’re building it, I think we need to take a step back and reconsider why we’re building, and really humanize our technology, really bring together diverse teams of methodologies and people and mindsets so that we can take our technology and actually apply it to the most fundamental human problems. Today the conversation is largely about artificial intelligence, and one of the concepts that I like to discuss in the book The Fuzzie and the Techie is this concept of intelligence augmentation—so: thinking about using AI but using it in a way that’s augmenting the ability of humans. So Paul English, who was the creator of Kayak.com, he is a techie through and through, but he also calls himself an AI realist; he’s somebody who believes in the promise of artificial intelligence, but also realizes that this is not something that tomorrow or next year or maybe perhaps in the next decade is going to completely take away from the characteristics and the qualities of what a human can provide. And so he’s now creating a company called Lola that’s based in Boston, and Lola is sort of Kayak 2.0, where rather than trying to take the travel industry and put it online he’s actually taking travel and putting it back into the hands of travel agents, real people that are working on the phones dealing with people that are calling in to book travel. And what he’s doing is he’s supplementing those travel agents with technology, with artificial intelligence, really “flipping the letters” and trying to use intelligence augmentation as an AI realist to sort of better the service that a travel agent can provide. Eric Colson, who is the Chief Algorithms Officer at Stitch Fix, he uses machine learning—he uses artificial intelligence, but to augment the human stylist. So they have 60 or 70 data scientists working on creating machine learning algorithms, but those are used to supplement the 3400, 3500 stylists who have their own propensities for delivering fashion, they have their own biases as to the geography or the age or the style preferences of somebody they might be serving clothing to. And so the machine learning actually learns the bias of the human over time and tries to mitigate that bias by offsetting the selection of clothing that they provide at that particular stylist. And I think that’s a really interesting example of artificial intelligence not necessarily taking away from that stylist but actually augmenting, improving, helping them perform better. And I think that flipping the letters from AI to IA is really something that we should be thinking more about today in the context of the AI debate. I think it starts with job requisition and writing sort of the job descriptions that we want to hire for. And I think we are bombarded by applicants, we’re bombarded by new resumes and “data driven processes”, and so the quick answer is to use natural language processing and screen for keywords, to run things through a filter and draw out the resumes that really hit the five key words that relate to your team. And I think what this does is it creates sort of an “inside bias,” where you’re creating and you’re bringing together people that all have sort of the same perspective, the same backgrounds, and it can really sort of create in the sense of what Daniel Kahneman, the 2006 Nobel Prize winner and behavioral economics talks about as “inside bias”. And I think to the extent that we can think about inside/outside bias and trying to bring say 20 percent of the team from a different perspective, from a different vector, from a different methodology or background, that can really bring diversity to a team where, if you have a data science team, 80 percent of the people may make perfect sense to have them have complete backgrounds in data science—but what’s to say that 20 percent of the team shouldn’t be philosophers or psychologists or anthropologists? And I think that sort of mentality of almost “Google 20 percent time,” thinking about it for 20 percent people time, 20 percent difference of methodology or difference of perspective.
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What we know for certain about the universe—and what we don't | Michelle Thaller What we know for certain about the universe—and what we don't | Michelle Thaller
3 days ago En
If we ever discover the true size of the universe—is it infinite or just too big to measure?—we'll likely have galaxies to thank. The trillions of massive star clusters we've observed are sending light from the early universe back to us. But our measuring instruments—the strongest of which is NASA's Hubble Space Telescope—aren't powerful enough to detect light from furthest points of the universe. But in 2020, the James Webb Telescope should be able to, revealing a truer number of galaxies and perhaps the boundaries of the universe itself. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/ask-a-nasa-astronomer-how-many-galaxies-are-out-there-2 Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Michelle Thaller: Evie, you ask a wonderful question: how many galaxies are there? And this is something that we actually don’t know the answer to, but I can tell you a wonderful story about what we do know. So let me first talk about what a galaxy is. And a galaxy is a family of stars, but usually in the hundreds of billions of stars. We live in a galaxy called the Milky Way and there are about 500 billion stars, we think, in the Milky Way Galaxy. Galaxies are absolutely huge. The Milky Way Galaxy is about 100,000 light-years across, and that’s not really a number I can get my mind around, seeing as one light-year is about six trillion miles, so our single galaxy is 100,000-times-six-trillion miles across. It’s absolutely huge. The best analogy I know is that if you think about the sun—the sun is a giant thing, the sun is so big you can fit a million Earths inside it. It’s really, really big. And if we made the sun the size of a dot of an “i”, so pretend that the sun is only the size of—like take a regular page of a book, look at the dot of an “i”, if the sun were that big, how big would our one Milky Way Galaxy be? It would be about the size of the earth. So that’s how big a single galaxy is. If the sun were the dot of an “i”, the Milky Way galaxy would be roughly the size of our planet. Now how many galaxies do we know of? And this is a wonderful result from the Hubble Space Telescope. The Hubble Space Telescope decided to try to answer that question, and what it did is it looked at an area of the sky that, as far as we knew, was blank, it was just black; we couldn’t see many stars there, we didn’t see any galaxies there, and it decided to take a very, very deep distant look at the universe. Now, the way the Hubble Space Telescope (and any camera) works is it works kind of like a “light bucket.” You can actually open up the eyes of the telescope and tell it to just keep staring, and the longer it stares the fainter and more distant objects you can see. For those of you that like photography, it’s called doing a time exposure. You leave your camera open for a certain amount of time and you can see fainter and fainter things. Well, incredibly, the Hubble Space Telescope kept its eyes open on this one little part in the sky for more than a month, and it just let any light come and build up this beautiful image, and what we discovered is that in this empty part of the sky—empty we say!—we counted over 5000 galaxies. Five thousand galaxies we didn’t even know were there. They were just so faint we’d never seen them before. When we finally had a sensitive enough telescope up in space and we were able to keep it staring at a tiny little part of the sky for a month 5000 galaxies turned out to be hiding there that we’d never seen. So, how much of the sky was this tiny little part that the Hubble Space Telescope looked at? So let’s go back to the dot of an “i”. So think about the dot of an “i” in a book, and now hold of that book at arm’s length. It’s a tiny little point, you can almost barely see the dot of an “i” held at arm’s length. That’s how much of the sky the Hubble Space Telescope counted 5000 galaxies in. And if you do the statistics, if you take that little dot in the sky, and by the way we’ve done this, we’ve taken other deep images in different regions of the sky, and we get about the same count of galaxies anywhere we look. If you do the math, tiny little dot all over the sky, 5000 galaxies in each dot, there are actually several trillion galaxies that we can see with the Hubble Space Telescope if we had the time to observe the entire sky. So we know that there are several trillion galaxies that the Hubble Space Telescope can see, but is that really the number? Is that how many galaxies there really are? The universe we think is far larger than we’re able to see right now.
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Did Trump abandon South Korea at the North Korea summit? | Eugene Gholz Did Trump abandon South Korea at the North Korea summit? | Eugene Gholz
4 days ago En
Eugene Gholz, an associate professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, argues that President Trump's decision to suspend the U.S. military's training exercises on the Korean peninsula is a lot more nuanced—and a lot more strategic to foreign policy—than perhaps many people realize. Will South Korea be left in the lurch if the US suspends military exercises? Hardly. Eugene is brought to you today by The Charles Koch Foundation. The Charles Koch Foundation aims to further understanding of how US foreign policy affects American people and societal well-being. Through grants, events, and collaborative partnerships, the Foundation is working to stretch the boundaries of foreign policy research and debate by discussing ideas in strategy, trade, and diplomacy that often go unheeded in the US capital. For more information, visit charleskochfoundation.org. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/did-trump-abandon-south-korea-at-the-north-korea-summit Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Eugene Gholz: So recently President Trump, as part of a diplomatic opening with North Korea, agreed to cancel or at least suspend for some time what he called “U.S. war games” with South Korea, so training exercises that the United States does with its allies in the Pacific to prepared to defend them potentially against attacks. And this shocked a lot of people, both because we’ve been doing these exercises for many, many years and people feel, in fact, President Trump had built up the potential threat from North Korea persistently that said “North Korea is very dangerous and we need to be ready to defend against North Korea”. Now we’re saying “we don’t have to practice anymore”?! And lots of our other allies with whom we engage in exercises in the region, not just with South Korea, are saying if the United States can so blithely write off its willingness and commitment to practice, to show that it’s ready to defend us, they’re wondering if they can trust the United States. U.S. military exercises are one of our main signals of commitment to defend other countries, to take care of these countries that we’ve made alliances with over the years, but these alliances are very asymmetric alliances. These alliances are really the United States promise to defend these other countries—not that the Philippines are going to come defend the United States if somebody ever attacks us—It’s a one-sided agreement. But to give the Philippines confidence that we would really defend them, for years we have a said, “Well, look, we always show up, we do these practice runs with you, we help train your militaries, we make it easier to operate together, such that if we did have to defend you we would be in a position to defend you.” And President Trump, without seeming to think through the military implications or the political signal that he was sending to our other allies, leapt way ahead on making an arrangement with North Korea that said, “Hey, if it looks like North Korea is not going to attack South Korea, it will make North Korea feel better and more willing to make that commitment if the United States doesn’t seem to practice something that the North Koreans think involve the United States preparing to attack North Korea.” And so while I think it’s actually perfectly reasonable for the other countries in Asia to believe, especially given the defensive oriented trajectory of military technology, that they can defend themselves without regular U.S. military exercises and a regular U.S. commitment in the region, that’s going to take some preparation. The other militaries in this region need to adapt their technology investments, adapt their training programs, prepare themselves for a time when they’re going to take care of more of their own defense. And President Trump seems to have just sort of skipped over that and made a very North-Korea-focused offer as opposed to a broad offer understanding its regional implications. So South Korea is much more powerful than North Korea. South Korea, the GDP is more than 30 times bigger. If you think about just the ability to use its wealth to buy equipment and prepare its military to defend itself it’s vastly greater than North Korea’s military capability. And South Korea’s population is more than twice as big; they can mobilize to be much bigger than North Korea. We‘re not leaving South Korea in the lurch. South Korea is a very technologically sophisticated country with a capable government that can take care of itself and, of course, there’s a long background capability of South Korea and the United States working together to practice and prepare their militaries to defend South Korea. At the same time, North Korea’s military—North Korea has not substantially invested in conventional military capability in a number of years.
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Don't sacrifice what you love just to achieve your dreams | Nick Offerman Don't sacrifice what you love just to achieve your dreams | Nick Offerman
5 days ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/nick-offerman-dont-sacrifice-what-you-love-just-to-achieve-your-dreams Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Nick Offerman: One of the great secrets to maintaining a discipline in one’s life is that it has an incredible meditative or Zen quality to it. My character in this film, Frank, is a little bit obsessed with playing music and creating music. It comes out in sort of an ugly way in the scene on the porch at Toni Collette’s house where he just simply says—but it’s kind of nicely underwritten—he says “I don’t want to sell music.” And what I take from that is, he’s saying “I don’t want to be the salesman of other people’s albums. I want to be making my album. Even if nobody buys it, that’s what I should be doing.” And I know that feeling firsthand. As somebody in the performing arts, when—it’s an ugly business, we’ve all kind of heard stories about, that are true about how much rejection and how superficial the business is. It’s very seldom merit based. So, for example, I’ve done very well. I’m very grateful for all the wonderful good fortune I’ve had. But me and my wife and all of our friends who have done well, we all have friends that we think are more talented than we are and it didn’t work out the same way for them. And so one of them is teaching college; Their life took them on different paths. And so knowing that, people often ask me, how can I get my kid involved in show business? And the same might be asked of Frank, you know. How can we make it? How can our band make it as musicians? And I always say, I would advise that you take up woodworking, because it’s addictive. It’s an addictive craft that is so satisfying, that doesn’t require the input of any corporate entities. So quite frequently in Los Angeles when I would go to a big audition for like a TV pilot or something that like really would change my life, it’s incredibly stressful. You’re just doing your best for days to keep your cool. You go do the thing and it’s invariably for a room full of bankers. It’s a terrible room. Usually with me I’m trying to get a laugh and they’re all like—they all have their abacuses out and are like, “Well in Maxim magazine…. he has a mustache…. that’s 17 points….” And you leave, and it’s just inscrutable. You’re like, “I have no idea how I did,” which gives you a lot of stress and a lot of agita. So I would go straight to my shop and just start sanding a walnut table. And after just an hour of that (and put on some music) and I would see the tangible result of this work that I had done. That’s the thing is there’s no way to describe the sensation. There’s magic in it, whether you’re working with glass or metals or food or knitting or wood. You’re making something better than it was. It was a pile of stuff, and now it’s a lasagna. And you’ve done that with your magic powers. And so that sensibility, that Zen I find so incredibly healthy. Again, as a human being with foibles, when left to my own devices I will happily, especially when I was younger. I’d be like “Oh, I suddenly have the day off unexpectedly. Let’s go get drunk and go to the movies.” And that’s fun once in a while. I don’t disparage it, but it should be a special occasion. When you get to doing it with any regularity, that’s when it becomes unhealthy. And so anything in this realm I have found it to be lifesaving. And the thing is it’s antithetical to what we’re talking about business. And especially about show business. Show business, you’re supposed to hustle all the time. You’re supposed to beat people’s doors down and be flashy and selling yourself. And I was never able to do that stuff. If people weren’t going to give me jobs based on the merit of the work I was doing I wasn’t interested in selling myself beyond that.
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Why capitalism entails a moral obligation to share your wealth | Ken Lagone Why capitalism entails a moral obligation to share your wealth | Ken Lagone
6 days ago En
"A rising tide lifts all boats," says Ken Langone, one of the co-founders of Home Depot as he makes his case for capitalism being the being the best economic model. He co-founded The Home Depot with his friends Arthur Blank, Bernard Marcus, Pat Farrah, and Ron Brill back in 1978, and today it's a multibillion-dollar company. And while he agrees that capitalism has its downsides, he says that he can point to 3,000 people who started out with an entry-level position at a Home Depot that rose through the ranks and are now millionaires. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/ken-langone-why-capitalism-will-always-outperform-other-economic-models Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Very simply, I could not have accomplished what I’ve accomplished, including my own net worth and including job creation, if I was raised in a country where free enterprise was not encouraged and free enterprise was not the order of the day. It wouldn’t happen. There are people who legitimately can say they’re self-made, they did it all themselves. I went out of my way in the book to point out the exact opposite, in my case and only my case, that I was anything but self-made. I can think back all the way to my childhood to the people that were there that helped me, that encouraged me, that stimulated me, that motivated me, that picked me up when I was down, and maybe sat on me when I got a little too full of myself. So I make reference to “self-made” as it relates to me and me alone. I am not self-made. That is not false humility, that’s just the truth. I think a good start is: define self-made. That’s a good start. And I don’t want to go there because we could spend five hours arguing what it means. In my case I know that, where I am today, without question, only happened because along the way I had any number of episodes in my life where if it weren’t for the intervention of somebody else, where it weren’t for the encouragement, whether it was my mom and dad, whether it was my wife, whether it was a professor, whether it was the guy that ran the liquor store in Roslyn, I can go on and on and on, I know each of those episodes was a building block for where I am today. And I go out of my way not to determine who is self-made and who is not; I think that’s for each person to decide themselves. I’m very comfortable saying that I have literally hundreds of thousands of people – you look at Home Depot, for example, I’m one of the cofounders. Why are we so successful? We’re so successful principally because when you go to a Home Depot store you feel wanted, you feel “I can get help”, you feel like these people care about you. There’s 400,000 of them! They all helped to make me successful. Without them Home Depot would not have been the successful it is, and probably I wouldn’t have been known, and probably I wouldn’t have written the book. Look, I’m not stretching, I’m saying I look at the thing objectively, but again I swear off saying who is “self-made” and who’s “not self-made”. That’s all. Well, I think capitalism will always do better than everything else for a variety of reasons. One, there is a downside, in other words nothing is certain and there’s a price to pay in failure in capitalism. You lose your business, your business doesn’t succeed, whatever. The other thing is capitalism I think is a dynamic effort that can result—Bernie, Arthur and I and Pat Farrah founded Home Depot. Our hard work, our creativity, our ability to raise the money to start the company, all those things has resulted in 400,000 people having great jobs today. But a better number for me: we have 3000 kids—and by the way, so nobody gets offended I’m 82, if you’re under 82 you’re a kid—So we have 3000 kids who started working for us fresh out of high school, didn’t go to college, pushing carts in, that’s the entry-level job, pushing carts in from the parking lot, we have 3000 kids today who are multimillionaires. That’s how capitalism is supposed to work. It’s a shared effort and the results should be shared. I happen to think we all live better—the old saying a rising tide lifts all boats, I happen to say all of us live better in this country because we have a capitalistic system, a capitalistic system underpinning the whole nation. I would say that most of us that have benefited mightily by capitalism I think there’s a moral obligation on our part to make sure we bring as many people to the party with us as we can. Now, this is not judgmental, I’m not suggesting for a minute that what I do is the “right thing” and what everybody else does is the “wrong thing”, what I’m saying is simply this: I feel a strong moral imperative to share my wealth.
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Why working at NASA is amazing | Michelle Thaller Why working at NASA is amazing | Michelle Thaller
1 week ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/ask-a-nasa-astronomer-whats-it-like-to-work-at-nasa-2 Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Michelle Thaller: Hey Eleya, thank you for asking me about my day. What do I do at NASA. One of the things that I love about being a scientist is that I don’t really have a typical day; I do lots of different things. So for example, one of my duties at NASA is thinking about the communications, thinking about all of our websites and our Twitter accounts and our Instagram feeds all of the ways that we get our information out to the public. Right now at NASA we have over 100 active science missions, everything from rovers on Mars to the Hubble Space Telescope, to missions to Jupiter, to earth science missions that are tracking, for example, how the ice is melting in Greenland. And every single one of those 100 missions is putting out wonderful information and making discoveries. And I want people to know about them. I want people to meet the scientists that are doing this wonderful work. So I actually try to manage all of the different information that’s coming in from all these missions find a good way to get it out to the public. And then I track and see how many people are liking us on Facebook, and “Was that press release particularly successful?” So I’m a scientist that has specialized in communications. Sometimes I go on trips, I’ll be doing talks, for example, at a conference somewhere in Europe. I actually love coming to the United Kingdom. Sometimes rarely for me, but I still do some scientific research, so I’ve been to telescopes all over the world. When I was getting my doctorate I mainly used telescopes that were in Australia and South America and also in Arizona at Kitt Peak, and I used things like the Hubble Space Telescope. So sometimes you’re actually traveling somewhere to make your own discoveries and then going back to your office with your data and working on all of the different measurements you took and trying to make discoveries out of that. It’s also very important for scientist to share their discoveries. If you make a wonderful discovery at a telescope but nobody ever hears about it, then that was basically a waste of time and money for you to do that. So we write about our discoveries in scientific journals, other scientists read them, and then we can collaborate and science moves forward, because we always work together as a group. And nothing in science happens individually, you’re always working with people. So you’re going to meetings, you’re talking about strategy: “How are we going to fund a new spacecraft?” We’ve just been on a wonderful observing campaign where we observed a new kind of star, “What happens next? Who is going to make follow up discoveries?” One of the things I love about being a scientist is working with really passionate, wonderful, friendly people and planning how we’re going to continue the science that we started. So I love not having a typical day. My husband, for example, is an engineer and he actually builds and tests spacecraft. So normally in his day he’s wearing something called a clean suit and that is a white plastic suit that covers all of you, your hair, your face and everything, so that as you work on spacecraft the spacecraft keep entirely clean. And he always texts me on his iPhone a little bunny symbol when he’s putting on his bunny suit. We call that a bunny suit, your clean suit. So he’s always building and testing spacecraft. I do you have friends who are astronauts, and the astronauts will spend their day often training for a mission. And this is wonderful to watch. I’ve had a chance to watch some of this. One of the best ways you can train for working in zero gravity—actually floating around in space—is you train in water because water allows astronauts to float as if they were weightless. And so in Houston we have an entire full-sized mock up of the space station in a giant pool of water. And the astronauts go down in spacesuits to practice how they’re going to fix the space station or how they’re going to install a new instrument on the outside. And so you can actually watch them going underwater with a team of divers to help them and make sure that they’re safe and practicing what they’re going to do in space. So there's a wonderful range of things to do. I mean I joke and it really is true that I bet 80 percent of my job is the same as practically any other job. There are meetings, there are budgets, there are weekly reports to do, there's answering email, there's all kinds of stuff that isn’t very dramatic.
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Does your job match your personality? | Jordan Peterson Does your job match your personality? | Jordan Peterson
1 week ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/how-important-is-it-that-your-job-matches-your-personality-extremely Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink It’s not that easy to categorize jobs but here’s a categorization scheme that’s kind of general but that’s actually accurate. Okay, so the first dimension is complexity. Jobs range from simple to complex. A simple job is one that you can learn and then repeat. You don’t need high levels of cognitive function for a simple job. If you have high levels of cognitive function you’ll learn the job faster, but once you learn it you won’t necessarily do it better. Now, a complex job is one where the requirements change on an ongoing basis. So most managerial jobs are like that, and all executive jobs are like that. And that requires a high level of general cognitive ability. That’s the best predictor of success in complex jobs. Okay, so that’s axis number one. Axis number two is creative/entrepreneurial versus managerial/administrative. Okay, so for creative/entrepreneurial jobs you need people who are high in the personality trait “openness to experience,” Big Five personality trait that’s associated with lateral and divergent thinking. Those are creative types. And for managerial and administrative jobs, and those are jobs that are more algorithmic—So imagine the guardrails. You’re a train on a track and you want to go down the track fast. You don’t have to be creative to go down a track that’s (already laid down) fast. You have to be conscientious. And so the best personality predictor for managerial and administrative jobs is trait “conscientiousness”. Okay, so there’s a tension in organizations between lateral and divergent thinking and efficient movement forward. Now if you know what you’re doing, what you want is conscientious people. Because if you know what you’re doing you should just do it as efficiently as you can. But the problem is is the world changes around you unexpectedly. And so if you don’t have people who can think divergently when the marketplace shifts on you—which it most certainly will—then you don’t have anybody who can figure out where to lay new tracks. Now it’s really, really difficult for people, for corporations to get the balance between the entrepreneurial/creative types and the managerial/administrative types correct. And what I think happens—and I don’t know this for sure and the research on this isn’t clear yet—What seems to happen is that when a company originates the creative/entrepreneurial types predominate, and they have to be flexible and move laterally to get the company established to begin with and take risks and break rules and do all sorts of things that conscientious people are much less likely to be able to tolerate (let alone think up). But as the company establishes itself the managerial/administrative types pour in and take over. But if they take over too much then the company gets so rigid it can’t— it has no flexibility. Okay, so the first thing you need to do to manage a large enterprise is to understand that these are actually different people. So first of all everyone is NOT creative. That’s a lie. So we established this measurement instrument called the creative achievement questionnaire which is very widely used in creativity research now. And what you see – so what it does is it breaks down creativity into 13 dimensions – entrepreneurial, architectural, literary, dramatic, inventions, et cetera, business, you can imagine—Painting, et cetera. You imagine the 13 potential dimensions of creativity. And then it ranks order levels of creativity from “Zero, I have no training or talent in this area,” to “Ten, I have an international reputation in this area.” And then we plotted the scores. This is the distribution. It’s not a normal distribution. Sixty percent of the people who take the creative achievement questionnaire score zero. A tiny minority have high scores, and that’s a pareto distribution. It’s a classic distribution of human productivity. So you always get a pareto distribution, not a normal distribution when you’re talking about productivity. Creative people are a distinct minority. They’re a different kind of person, and they’re a pain. They’re a pain because you can’t evaluate them. It’s like, how the hell do you evaluate a creative person? Because they keep changing the rules of evaluation! So they’re a handful to manage, and they’re always trying to play a new game. Well that’s a real pain if you want to get somewhere fast.
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Is everyone's voice being heard? How majorities can be allies to minorities | Bill Doherty Is everyone's voice being heard? How majorities can be allies to minorities | Bill Doherty
1 week ago En
Read more at BigThink.com: Bill Doherty, the former president of the National Council on Family Relations, knows that everybody should get a chance to speak. It results in more people being heard, and the more everybody gets heard, the better the overall success of the group. And there are ways to get those people that might be quieter in meeting settings to have a voice, without making a scene. He's involved with a non-profit, Better Angels, who believe in a bipartisan approach to unite the country. Bill is brought to you today by Amway. Amway believes that diversity and inclusion ​are ​essential ​to the ​growth ​and ​prosperity ​of ​today’s ​companies. When woven ​into ​every ​aspect ​of ​the talent ​life ​cycle, companies committed to diversity and inclusion are ​the ​best ​equipped ​to ​innovate, ​improve ​brand image ​and ​drive ​performance. Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Bill Doherty: We now have much more diverse workforces than we used to in the old days, when they were mostly men, for example—not many women and more white people than people of color—and so here’s a question that’s a little bit riskier, but I think could be an interesting one for people to think about: ask the question, “Are we using all of the people resources we have? Is everybody getting a chance?” And you could do this at a workshop, you could be asking people to think about whether the diversity we have around the table whether enough voices or all the voices are coming to play. For example, it’s not uncommon that the larger the group the more men are more apt to speak up than women. I don’t approach that by saying, “Men you should shut up more and women you should talk up more,” but are we accessing the voices, the knowledge and the energy, and the wisdom of everybody here? So I was in a work setting as a peer and people sort of looked at me as a process person and I began to realize at one point that the three women on the team were not getting a lot of airtime. And I just commented that we seem to have kind of an imbalance in who’s speaking, and I’m just inviting us to consider that as we go forward. I wasn’t putting anybody down. The men were all making useful comments and it wasn’t that there was anything wrong with the women, but that’s an example of a process comment you try to make neutrally and descriptively. And then I didn’t end that by saying “Okay Donna, speak up.” And then what happened was there was a sort of a tilting that occurred, because what I began to notice was that when there was an instantaneous—when the gap opened up there was a man immediately filling it, and that some of the women weren’t like beating him to the punch. And so just that little process comment at the team (it was an all-day kind of retreat) served the purpose of just some rebalancing, with nobody being the bad guy.
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On the show "Friends", why a harassment claim was dismissed from court | Nell Scovell On the show "Friends", why a harassment claim was dismissed from court | Nell Scovell
1 week ago En
Hollywood writer's rooms are notorious boys clubs: men often outnumber the women by 8 to 1. TV writer Nell Scovell has defied that depressing statistic her entire career. She's written for an incredible list of shows: Friends, Late Night with David Letterman, The Simpsons, just to name a few. Here, she talks about a time in the Friends room where a lewd joke was taken a little too far — but also sparked an idea for an entire episode of the show. Nell's new book is the hilarious and illuminating Just the Funny Parts: ...And a Few Hard Truths About Sneaking into the Hollywood Boy's Club. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/nell-scovell-how-hollywood-blurs-the-line-between-workplace-jokes-and-harassment Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Nell Scovell: So in 2006 an assistant who worked on Friends, a writer’s assistant, sued the show for harassment. It wasn’t physical/sexual harassment. I think it was verbal harassment. And what that show was able to prove to the judge was that all that lewd talk in the room did sometimes lead to story ideas. I think there was a story where Ross is like masturbating when one of the women walks in, and he switches the channel so it looks like he’s masturbating to a shark video. And that starts a whole thing, and that came out of people in the room talking about jerking off. So in that sense the TV writers’ room isn’t like most workplaces, and that’s I think sometimes hard for people outside to understand; that it can get personal and it can get weird and sexual, and sometimes all three things at the same time. But the judge said that the assistant had not been in any danger and that they could justify this language. People have, I think, misread that in Hollywood to mean “you can say anything you want in the room,” which is not true. And I think if you want to have a non-hostile work environment you obviously have to be aware of other people’s feelings and levels of comfort and making sure that everybody, you know, feels that the show is mission-based and you’re all working hard to make the best, funniest episode you can. When you’re on a set you know the difference when a crew member brushes by you because you’re in some tight cranny and when a crew member presses up against you in a sexual way. And I feel the writers’ room it’s the same thing. I know when someone I work with is making a joke—is just commenting on a woman’s body in order to make a joke or a man’s body in order to make a joke—and when it gets threatening. So I’ve gotten more vocal as I’ve gotten older at going to people outside the writers’ room and saying, “Okay, that made me feel uncomfortable.” Now the problem with that is Hollywood is one of those places where if someone acts inappropriately and you call them on it, YOU’RE the asshole. So that’s one of the things that I would love to see change, where you could tell someone, “That made me feel uncomfortable,” and instead of them being defensive and saying, “I was joking,” they just went “Oh, well thank you for telling me. I’ll be more aware of that in the future.”
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What duck sex teaches us about humans, incels, and feminists | Richard Prum What duck sex teaches us about humans, incels, and feminists | Richard Prum
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Did you know that male ducks often force sex on female ducks that aren't their mates, to the point where female ducks' genitalia has evolved to try and counteract what biologists have politely termed "forced copulation"? The lady ducks have found a way to shut out sexual predators. In other words: the power of the female's choice has literally advanced the species. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/sexual-evolution-what-duck-mating-reveals-about-relationships-social-movements-and-politics Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Richard Prum: According to aesthetic evolution, animals are agents in their own evolution; that is, through their choices they end up shaping their own species. One of the implications of this idea is a new perspective on what happens when mate choice is infringed or violated by sexual violence or by coercion in animal species. One prominent example of this, from our own research, is on duck sex. Ducks are unusual among birds in having both a typical mate choice situation—where male and females pair up on the basis of display and preferences—and simultaneously other individuals that force copulations on female ducks as they approach reproduction. So what that means is that as the eggs are being laid, females have to defend themselves from forced copulations by males. Now “forced copulation” is the word that biologists use now, but for over a century biologists used the word “rape” in biology. Now that was abandoned back in the 1970s in response to the feminist movement and Susan Brownmiller and her work Against Our Will, proposing and articulating a specifically social context for rape in humans. This led to the creation of a euphemism, “forced copulation,” in biology. Unfortunately, articulating sexual violence in the animal world with these euphemistic terms has led to scientists losing track of the fact that forced copulation is against the will of the ducks. And by taking the aesthetic perspective and trying to understand what it is that individual females—in this case ducks—want we have arrived at a new perspective on what it means when they don’t get what they want. So in some ways using socially sensitive euphemisms has led to imprecision or fuzziness in the science. In the case of duck sex what we find is that males can force themselves on females because they’re among the few birds that still have a penis. And what we find in ducks is, as a result of female resistance and male sexual violence, we find a co-evolutionary arms race between male capacity to force and female resistance. In this case it takes place in the form of a genital arms race: the males evolve more elaborate and more elaborately armed penises, and the females evolve convoluted vaginal morphologies that exclude the penis during forced population. So among the many weird things of duck penises is that they’re counter-clockwise coiled. Well, the female vagina (in ducks that have high rates of resistance) actually coils in the opposite direction, so they have literally evolved an “anti-screw” device in their vaginal tract that obstructs the intromission of the penis during forced population. What that means is that what that tea party Senate candidate Todd Akin from Missouri said about women “have a way of shutting that whole thing down” in reference to rape is actually true of ducks. But in a way that exposes something fundamentally new and interesting about evolutionary biology, which is that sexual autonomy matters to animals. Freedom of choice is not merely a political concept discovered by suffragettes and feminists in the 19th and 20th centuries, but is actually an evolved feature of the social and sexual lives of other species, especially in ducks. How does this work? Well if the female mates with the male she prefers, that is she gets the green head and the “quack, quack, quack,” that she likes, and then her male offspring will share those traits and be sexually preferred by other female ducks who have coevolved those same aesthetic preferences. But if she’s forcibly fertilized, then her male offspring will either inherit a random trait or one that she specifically rejected, which means that her offspring will be less attractive to other females. So anything the female duck can do to prevent forced fertilization, through physical resistance or behavior, will evolve because she will be rewarded with more grandkids. So what this means is that aesthetic norms, the shared ideas about what is beautiful among ducks, gives female ducks the evolutionary leverage to advance their freedom of choice in the environment of persistent sexual coercion and sexual violence. This is really stunning.
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3 ways America is doing politics all wrong 3 ways America is doing politics all wrong
2 weeks ago En
When was the last time the U.S. saw meaningful innovation in its political system? Economist and author Dambisa Moyo thinks politics needs to keep up with every other industry and evolve. She outlines three proposals that would help American politicians be better at their jobs, drawing on examples from Singapore, the U.K., Mexico and Brazil. First up, Moyo suggests—brace yourself—that American politicians earn higher salaries and receive bonuses based on metrics like increased life expectancy and GDP growth. The U.S. president earns $400,000 a year. In comparison, the prime minister of Singapore earns $1.4 million. Moyo's second recommendation is to set minimum standards for entry into politics: experience in sectors beyond politics should be more heavily valued. And lastly, she recommends longer terms in office to avoid the perils of short-term thinking and counterproductive voter appeasement. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/dambisa-moyo-how-to-make-american-politicians-better Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink So I am an eternal optimist about how and why we should continue to innovate every aspect of our lives. And that’s science and technology imbuing more efficiencies in how we run businesses, but also how we deliver healthcare and education. So as far as I’m concerned I’ve adopted this same lens as we think about the political process. So just to give you some flavor for some of the proposals, on the politician side I consider the argument that we should perhaps increase the pay of politicians and actually force them to justify their compensation. Singapore is a great example of this model. In Singapore the head of state, the prime minister earns over $1.4 million a year in compensation. But, to me, what’s even more interesting is that the ministers who are responsible for education and healthcare and infrastructure, et cetera, earn 30 to 40 percent bonuses based on certain metrics and outcomes—So how GDP performs, whether life expectancy increases, whether inflation declines. I think that that is a very interesting model for us to explore because I think it could impose discipline. By the way a discipline around reward for performance which we already see, and it applies to many of us as we work in the private sector. So certainly worth of a consideration. I think that could actually force politicians to think a little bit more long term. Another proposal on the politician side is to basically think about minimum standards for politicians. And this is an idea that really, for me, stuck out as I thought about how the British Parliament looked back in the 1950s and 60s. In that period the average age was higher, on average about 60 years old. But also the skill set was incredibly varied. They had teachers, lawyers, doctors, farmers. And so people had had other careers and had a better understanding of how the economy works because they came to become parliamentarians having experienced different sectors of the economy. Today, some of the citations that I reference in the book, the average age is closer to 40 years old and many politicians actually have no experience except having been professional politicians. And I think that can be quite a disservice in terms of not really understanding the complexity of how an economy works. A third – I’ll just very quickly give you one more example of what we might consider in terms of politicians is we might think about extending the terms of political office. This is essentially to get away from this idea of having elections every two years as we do in the United States. Mexico is an example of a country where the president is in office only once for six years. And so I think you get away from this desire of politicians to constantly court or tempt and try to seduce voters with policies that may be short term appealing but over the long term incredibly damaging for the economy (and ultimately for generations to come). Brazil, the senators have eight- to nine-year terms. Again it’s really picking on this theme of extending the thinking to better match the economic challenges and economic headwinds that the global economy faces.
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Nick Offerman defines good luck—and how to make your own Nick Offerman defines good luck—and how to make your own
2 weeks ago En
Nick Offerman's new film is Hearts Beat Loud, in cinemas June 8. Watch the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXNOg_SK7Vs and visit https://www.heartsbeatloudmovie.com for all the details. To explain what good luck is and how to create your own, Nick Offerman leans on the wisdom of Tom Waits, Socrates, Tom Jefferson and Nick Offerman. Luck is one part preparation and one part opportunity. And contrary to popular notions of luck as fate, both preparation and opportunity are things you can actively create. To achieve either, however, it's important to trust yourself and your abilities, and to take risks that may take you out of your comfort zone. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/luck-has-two-sides-one-you-can-control-and-one-you-can-also-control Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink What are my feelings about serendipity versus gumption, luck versus elbow grease. When do you give up on your dream? When do you throw in the towel, et cetera? There’s an old quote that I attribute to Tom Waits but I believe it might go back to Socrates. “Luck is when opportunity meets with preparation.” And I’ve always found that deeply moving because Megan and I talk a lot, my wife and I talk a lot about how lucky we are. We’re both blessed with whatever it is: She’s beautiful and an incredible actor and smart as a whip and a really talented singer. I can carry a great deal of luggage and I can experience extreme temperatures for a long time without any sustenance. We have our gifts, and somehow our paths have taken us to places where people said “We were looking for someone who can carry luggage. We’re doing a play about a donkey. You’re the guy.” And so I mean, so much serendipity plays into it. I lived, I chose to live like an asshole for some years and it’s a tough choice. It borders on irresponsibility. I would be just this side of broke. So sometimes I’d run out of money and I’d have to borrow a month’s rent from my friend. But I would then find carpentry work and pay my friend back. So I was just this side of being a deadbeat. I was flirting with deadbeatism. And it’s a big question in Hollywood, and a lot of people make a lot of money off of people’s dreams. You can pay a great deal of money for headshots and for acting classes and coaching and life coaching and personal training and all that stuff. And they’ll all tell you – and there are really gross people who claim to have the secret. “Come to my acting workshop and I’ll have three casting directors there from, you know, one of them was an assistant on 50 Shades of Gray Matter.” And whatever the case may be, it’s a question people wrestle with all the time. Will I ever make it? Is it ever going to happen for me? When should I throw in the towel and move back to Cleveland and see my family and my children and my congregation, because I’m a priest with kids in Cleveland? And so all I can say is it’s a very personal thing; to each their own. You’ve got to keep working hard. We’ve talked about having a discipline. If acting is your bag, you know, I always tell people if they say “How can I get my kid to where you are?” I say take up woodworking but also find whatever stage, find the biggest stage you can that you can get onto and perform in front of an audience, whether you’re doing standup or theater or musicals or sketch comedy. Or start shooting stuff. Now we live in an age where you can literally start your own TV channel right now using your gadgets. And just let the world tell you. Shoot videos. Show them to people. And they’ll tell you if you should keep doing it. And if you’re good, if something’s meant to happen when people see you on stage or they see your videos they’ll say “Holy, you know what? I’m going to somehow help you. That was amazing. You can tap dance, you can play the tuba. That face you make.” Whatever it is. “I’ve never seen anyone drink that much beer in 90 seconds. I’m going to call my friend. He has a show called Jackass. We’re going to get you on your way.” And so I mean I started in the theater. I was terrible at acting. I wanted to be an actor. I thought I had something that I could entertain people, so I got into theater school in Illinois and I was terrible! I couldn’t get cast—with good reason.
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Rap battles: Why cognitive friction is the engine of innovation | Shane Snow Rap battles: Why cognitive friction is the engine of innovation | Shane Snow
2 weeks ago En
Want to learn about innovation? Study hip hop. Tech journalist and co-founder of Contently Shane Snow explains that what helped hip hop take over the world is a foolproof innovation strategy called cognitive friction. "It’s the friction between different ideas or different ways of doing something that actually produce a path forward that helps any industry become innovative," he explains. In the 1970s, deejays in dancehalls competed to pull the dance party to their side of the room. Then, their MCs began to say more and more interesting things over the beat to help out. Then and there, rap battles and hip hop was born, and competition pushed innovation dramatically. Snow points out that cognitive friction is also how the Wu-Tang Clan arguably became the greatest hip hop group of all time. Nine alpha males collaborating in harmony? Unlikely. They nearly tore each other apart until founding member Robert Diggs (aka RZA) devised a way for them to compete with each other to get on certain tracks and channel their aggressive energy into competitive creativity. Hip hop’s collaborations may be greater than its famous feuds after all. Dream Teams: Working Together Without Falling Apart Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/shane-snow-why-hip-hop-history-is-a-crash-course-in-innovation Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Shane Snow: Fascinatingly, the story of how hip hop happened is actually the story of how innovation has happened in kind of every dimension, every industry you can think of. And it’s this thing called cognitive friction. It’s the friction between different ideas or different ways of doing something that actually produce a path forward that helps kind of any industry become innovative. I was especially fascinated by the story of the Wu-Tang Clan and how they did this, in particular when they got nine guys, nine alpha males with big egos together to form a rap group. Which, on the face of it, actually sounds like a terrible idea. Their different styles of rap (in the sort of early days of hip hop) were kind of all over the map. Now some were more emotional. Others were more lyrical. And they were all very different, and so you can just imagine the conflict that erupts out of this. And this was because they were ostensibly enemies, or at least didn’t have a whole lot of trust between them. The main guy who got them together, his name was Robert Diggs, he came up with this very clever plan. Basically he said, “I will make a beat. I’ll make a song, and then everyone has to show up and compete for the song. So you show up with your lyrics, with your rhymes, and you get on the microphone, and whoever does the best job you’re on the track or you’re on this part of the track.” And he did this and he basically channeled this aggressive energy and all of these sort of different ways of operating in hip hop and he got them all to instead of fighting with each other to fight for the record and to kind of elevate this music. And what came out of this sort of laboratory – it’s like atoms smashing together and creating this great heat and this great energy. And out of this was born the greatest hip hop group of all time – many consider it that. And this is actually exactly what happened with hip hop in general. Hip hop started with deejays throwing these parties where everyone who showed up to the party—you danced on one side of the dance hall or the other depending on which music you liked the best. So the deejays would bring different music every week to try and lure the party to their side or the other. And this is a sort of fun party game. And what happened is when the deejays announcers started competing over the best way to sort of drag people to their side of the party suddenly that turned into a battle where week after week the announcers, the MCs, would try and come up with more clever things to say, and it eventually turned into this kind of war of words and music and, in fact, also a war of dance. And what was awesome about it is everyone was in it for the party, for making this party better, making this event awesome and people started bringing tape recorders to record this music that was being invented essentially on the spot because it was so great.
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Why truly successful people don’t wait their turn | Alex Banayan Why truly successful people don’t wait their turn | Alex Banayan
2 weeks ago En
What's the difference between making it and faking it? Getting it done. Author Alex Banayan walks us through what actually separates the pros from the rest of the world: it's less about networking and more about finding your way in. Knowing people helps, but it takes a certain mindset to walk into an industry uninvited. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/alex-banayan-why-truly-successful-people-dont-wait-their-turn Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink One of the best pieces of advice I got on this journey was the difference between a linear life and an exponential life. A linear life is: you get an internship; you get a job; you get a promotion; you save up for a vacation, and you just go step by step slowly and predictively your whole way through. And again, there’s nothing wrong with that, but you have to be clear with yourself about what you want. An exponential life is about deciding that you’re not going to wait around, you’re not going to hope someone just hands you what you’re hoping for, it’s about grabbing onto it for what you want. So over the course of this seven year journey, whether it was tracking down Bill Gates, which took two years, or Lady Gaga, which took three years, in every industry possible—Maya Angelo for poetry, Jane Goodall for science, Pitbull, Quincy Jones, Tim Ferriss, Larry King—they all couldn’t have been more different on the outside. But as I heard their stories and started to dissect how they launched their careers, I realized there was this common melody to everyone’s story. And the analogy that came to me—because I was 21 at the time—was that it’s sort of like getting into a nightclub. So there’s always three ways in: there’s the first door, the main entrance where the line curves around the block, where 99 percent of people wait in line hoping to get in. And then there’s the second door, the VIP entrance where the billionaires or celebrities go through. And school has this way of making us feel like those are the only two ways in: you’re either born into it or you wait your turn like everybody else. What I’ve learned is that there is always, always the third door, and it’s the door where you jump out of line, run down the alley, bang on the door 100 times, crack open the window, go through the kitchen, there’s always a way in. And it doesn’t matter if that’s how Gates sold his first piece of the software or how Lady Gaga got her first record deal, they all took the third door. So The Third Door isn’t a prescription or a recipe, it’s really a mindset. So if you look at Steven Spielberg, the way he did it was: he was rejected from film school, so instead of giving up on his dream he decided he would take his education into his own hands. So the way the story goes, according to Spielberg, is that one day when he was around 19 years old he jumped onto a tour bus at Universal Studios, rides around the lot on this tour, jumps off the bus, hides in the bathroom, waits for the bus to drive away and starts walking around the lot. And as he’s walking around he bumps into this man named Chuck Silvers who works at Universal Television. And Chuck Silvers sees this kid and says, “What are you doing here?” And Spielberg tells him his dream. And they end up talking for a while and Silver goes, “Do you want to come back on the lot?” And Spielberg goes, “That would be a dream.”
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Why diversity and inclusion aren’t about race but everyone thinks they are | Michael Bush Why diversity and inclusion aren’t about race but everyone thinks they are | Michael Bush
2 weeks ago En
What makes a job a great place to work? A sense of equity and ownership, says Michael Bush, the CEO of the conveniently named Great Place to Work. They're a global consulting and analytics firm that produces the annual Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list, the 100 Best Workplaces for Women list, the Best Workplaces for Diversity list, and dozens of other distinguished workplace rankings around the world. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/michael-bush-when-data-drives-diversity-and-inclusion-good-things-happen Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink We choose not to talk a lot about diversity and inclusion. We’re not running from the topic. We actually feel like we’re addressing it head on using analytics and revenue and profit to drive the conversation versus some moral imperative. And what that means is that it’s not about fairness and equality alone, it’s about equity, which is about people getting – if you treat someone as a person they need a little more of something than perhaps someone else. And actually if you treat everyone the same you are not going to get the best out of everyone. So equality can be used, in fact, to exclude people and to make the environment a place that certain groups of people don’t want to be in because you’re treating everyone the same. That’s just not the way humans work. You know, I have two kids. One of them might need (when they were young) violin lessons. Another one might need dental care. Well the dental care costs a lot more than the violin lessons, but they both got something that they needed but it wasn’t necessarily ever equal. But it’s addressing people where they are. We also find that diversity and inclusion, once you bring up those words tension goes up in the room, because what happens is when you say that what people think is race but they don’t want to talk about it because they don’t know how to talk about that. So they awkwardly talk about diversity and inclusion and the problem that needs to be addressed gets diluted. We begin to talk about – we can’t talk about race so then we just say “people of color” and “people majority” because we can’t say “race”. And then we talk about men and women because that’s easier than race. And then what about the disabled? “Oh well we can’t really bring that up.” And all these buttons go off that stops the conversation. What we pursue is called a Great Place to Work For All. That’s the way we do it. So we think every employee regardless of who they are, what they are, or what they do for the organization should have a great experience at work. So that includes everyone. It does not separate anyone to say, “One group should have a really great experience and one can have a less great experience.” It means all. It turns into something positive, and people then get engaged and they go, “Yeah, it should be a great place to work for me too. Absolutely. For everybody here, so let’s talk about how to do that.” And you find the whole room starts to lean forward. Rather than “the other topic”, people can’t wait to get out of the room. And talking about the other topic for, you know, I heard that conversation for about 40 years. It hasn’t gotten us very far at all. What we should want is for everybody to be like it is at the top of an organization. Excited about coming to work and doing something that you really, really care about. You’re paying for it. It doesn’t cost you any more money, so you’re just getting more for what you’re paying for. Most businesspeople get that. They get it and they go okay, what’s getting in the way? And we have the analytics to help them know what’s getting in the way. It’s the way they’re being spoken to gets in the way. It’s if you’re listening to them or not, you know. Are you sincerely caring about what they’re saying and using it to innovate and to make business decisions? We asked, “Does management involve you in their decision making? Do you feel informed about how management makes decisions?” The reason we ask these is so we can understand what a person is experiencing, and we know a certain type of experience that makes people say, “I love it here,” because we asked “Do you plan to work here for a long long time?” and people will say yes. And you can predict it based on whether people are listening to them, whether people are welcoming them, whether people are rewarding them, whether people are recognizing them, whether people address them personally rather than an employee in mass communications. You can actually predict these two things, and then you see it in the result of the company in terms of the employee experience the number is very high, and we’ve proven that the revenue growth of the company, we have a hunch it’s going to be higher than others, and we look at the data and, in fact, that is true.
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Bitcoin: A buyer's and seller's guide | Bill Barhydt Bitcoin: A buyer's and seller's guide | Bill Barhydt
2 weeks ago En
When it comes to Bitcoin it's all about the long game, says Abra founder and CEO Bill Barhydt. By and large, people who have Bitcoin are holding on to it, just like precious metals like gold and silver. Once more of it is mined, we'll start to see the market become less volatile. It might take a decade, but that pay-off could be enormous. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/bill-barhydt-bitcoin-a-buyers-and-sellers-guide Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink I think there’s a few things that need to happen for cryptocurrencies to become kind of a global replacement for either reserve currencies, global money transfer vis-à-vis like swift wires via your bank. First of all the system needs to be massively liquid. If you think about dollar as a reserve currency, there’s trillions of dollars in circulation. It’s globally liquid across tens of thousands of banks, across 185 countries, et cetera, et cetera. That’s not totally true of cryptocurrencies yet. If you take Bitcoin, which is the most successful cryptocurrency, its market cap is around $200 billion as of today. It’s tradable in 100 plus countries, but the liquidity of bitcoin versus even the U.S. dollar is relatively low, which means it needs to be worth a lot more if it would become let’s say a “digital gold”. Gold is worth trillions of dollars in the aggregate. Bitcoin is not yet worth that much. And that’s important because if it’s not worth trillions of dollars and billions of people want to use it there’s not enough to go around. So you need to be able to break it up into tiny pieces so everyone can use it, just like gold. And that’s not true until it’s worth a lot more money than it is today. But it becomes a circular discussion because the usage will also drive the price higher, just like speculation sometimes can drive the price higher. So over time it should get there by its ability to be fungible with fiat via these exchanges as kind of an onramp into digital currency, but also it should meet the liquidity requirements that we need, meaning the price should be high enough, the ability to get in and out via traditional money should be reasonable globally over the next few years, and then I believe you can really have a viable discussion about using a cryptocurrency like bitcoin as a viable reserve currency. So cryptocurrencies eventually will look like traditional commodities in my opinion, whether it’s gold or platinum or other metals is probably the best. But it could look like oil and gas and things like that. And so they are starting to trade in a fashion that’s more and more similar to traditional commodities. But the difference right now is they’re not as liquid yet. So that means that the price is very inefficient, or the markets for cryptocurrencies are very inefficient. So most people who are holding cryptocurrencies are long term holders, they’re not selling. So that actually means that the price of Bitcoin and Ether, for example, is largely driven by the volume of buyers. So if there’s large volumes of buyers coming into the market it drives the price higher, because there’s not a lot of sellers. But if the buyers dry up then the price goes down regardless, because there’s still not a lot of sellers. So that will change over time because if the price skyrockets – so, for example, if institutional money starts to come into the cryptocurrency market in large numbers—which I think it will—that will force the price higher because there’s not enough cryptocurrency to go around. And that will also cause some of the holders to loosen up their purse strings because they’re going to want to reap the profits that they’ve been waiting for for 10-15 years by the time that happens. And that will also create more liquidity in the system which will create a really positive feedback loop which should drive the price even higher. The other thing that I think is very relevant is you’re starting to see more traditional types of financial products being applied to cryptocurrencies – derivatives, options, nondeliverable forward contracts, things like that that actually will help make the cryptocurrency market more efficient over time, close a lot of what we call arbitrage loopholes which is kind of like free money in the system for traders. And as those loopholes get closed the market becomes more efficient, more liquid, and it becomes better for everyone. This, I think, is a common misunderstanding with how bitcoin works: Bitcoin itself is what we call deflationary, which means that over time the amount of Bitcoin in circulation if you look at a chart would actually approach a fixed value of 21 million – never quite approach it but it will asymptotically in math terms approach that line of 21 million over time. And it does that by the amount of Bitcoin being mined or created being cut in half every so often.
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Is human nature evil? Or is the violence of nature to blame? | Steven Pinker Is human nature evil? Or is the violence of nature to blame? | Steven Pinker
3 weeks ago En
When we see problems in the world, we're quick to blame someone—anyone—who should be providing peace, love, and harmony: politicians, celebrities, parents, etc. But the universe actually bends toward chaos and decay. That's the second law of thermal dynamics. And the most we humans can do is stave off the inevitability of decline through the organization of resources and information. So next time you're feeling particularly outraged, just remember that it's an uphill battle that civilization is fighting. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/against-chaos-the-world-is-a-hard-place-but-maybe-humans-arent-to-blame Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink As Bertolt Brecht said, “Grub first, then ethics.” A lot of people have an expectation that society ought to work in uniform harmony and affluence, and any deviation from that is an outrage that requires identifying which bad people made it possible. And when I began Enlightenment Now I wanted to really orient the reader in a very different mindset about the human condition. Namely, as we find ourselves in the universe nothing is expected to work in our favor, beginning with what many scientists consider one of the most fundamental of scientific discoveries, namely the Second Law of Thermodynamics, or the law of entropy. Namely, that in a closed system—one that isn’t receiving inputs of energy or information—disorder naturally increases. The ability to do useful work/life-enabling structure. Just because there are astronomically so many more ways for things to go wrong than things to go right by any definition of things going right. So right from the start we don’t have any right to expect that the universe is going to be particularly kind to us. Indeed, the universe is not out to get us, but it just doesn’t care about us, and there’s a lot of ways for things to go wrong unless we deploy energy and information to carve out local zones of beneficial order that keep us alive and healthy and happy. That’s a different way of just thinking about the human predicament, namely we constantly have to expend effort, intelligence, knowledge in order to make things work, and our background expectation should be that things fall apart. It’s advances in energy capture that lead to the beneficial complexity of life. Perhaps back to the axial age, the period of about 800 years in the first millennium B.C. which saw the emergence of a number of moralistic philosophies arising in different parts of the world around the same time. The age of classical Greek philosophy, the age of the Hebrew prophets, of Confucius, of Buddha, a kind of uncanny coincidence seemingly of movements that went from merely propitiating gods and making sacrifices and begging him for victory and better weather and relief from misfortunes to a more universal system of human betterment, human flourishing. So what led to this development seemingly in different parts of the world at the same time? According to one hypothesis by a team of scholars including Ian Morris and Pascal Boyer and Nicolette Molnar, there were gains in energy capture in the ability to use the products of agriculture – oil and fiber and calories from food to allow for a priestly cast separate from the people who actually have to scratch out a living from the ground. And also, once people’s minds are elevated from just putting a roof over their head—or to keeping the wolf at the door, where their next meal is coming from—they have the cognitive luxury to think about, “What’s it all about? Why are we here? What do we strive for?” And according to this theory it was something as mundane—but really not mundane—as energy capture: Not mundane given that the second law of thermodynamics determines our fate unless we can push it back. And so perhaps it’s not such a homely pedestrian explanation for how so many civilizations made this leap to further moral horizons.
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Astronaut Chris Hadfield’s 3 rules for going into space Astronaut Chris Hadfield’s 3 rules for going into space
3 weeks ago En
So you want to be starman? You're going to need a few things along the way. Three things to be precise, according to astronaut Chris Hadfield. Good health (because there are no hospitals in space), the ability to learn complicated things (because it actually is rocket science), and the ability to make good decisions under pressure (because the stakes are pretty high in outer space). It's essential to always remain a student if you're an astronaut (in training), because science and technology advance at a very fast rate, and you've got to keep up because plenty of other people want to be astronauts too. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/a-starmans-guide-to-becoming-an-astronaut Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Chris Hadfield: If you want to be an astronaut there are three main things that are important: number one is simple, just physical. How healthy is your body? If you’re going to get on a spaceship and leave earth then it’s really difficult to go see a doctor or to get to a hospital, and so we need people to be healthy. Part of that is just a roll of the dice; what sort of make up is your body? Are you a person with a problem you were born with? If so then maybe you’re not going to be an astronaut. Maybe you’re not going to be in the NBA, maybe you’re not going to be whatever, you are who you are. But given that you have a certain body you can do a few things obviously: think about what you eat. You get a choice every time you put something in your mouth, so eat food that’s good for you. And then exercise a little bit. Take the stairs. Don’t drag your bad carry your bag. Walk. Climb. Go for a run. Do something everyday a little bit physical. It doesn’t take much, but if you’re careful about what you eat and you do a couple physical things everyday, then you’re taking care of your body. That’s step one. Number two is: flying spaceships is complicated, it’s technical, and so if NASA is saying “who are we going to pick to be an astronauts” you want to pick someone who has proven their ability to learn complicated things. You don’t want to pick someone “what you don’t know how to learn this?” But if you pick someone that has a doctorate in astrophysics and also repairs their 1955 Thunderbird in their own garage, this is a person that knows how to do technical things. They can learn complex theory and they can get in there with their hands and do stuff. So the second part is plan to always be a student learning complicated things. Try and gain qualifications that show that you can learn complicated stuff, so plan on an advanced technical university agree. It’s just like your ticket of entry. The third though, we don’t just want to hire healthy students, the third is can you make good decisions and stick with them, especially when there’s very high consequence? If something really serious is happening, are you the person that can make the right call, make the right decision? And that’s a skill. Learning to make decisions is a skill. You can get better at it, or you can always go, “that’s above my pay grade” or “nah I don’t need to decide that”. You can do that, but then you are not learning how to actually make a decision and stick with your own convictions. So you can start small; just decide “next month on the first of the month I am going to do something different with my life.” “I’m going to wear black every day for the whole month.” “I’m going to do 100 push-ups every day for the whole month.” “I’m going to read 20 pages of Shakespeare every month.” “I’m going to learn five words of Japanese every day this month.” Make a decision; stick with it. By the end of the month you will have changed you are. And if you choose not to, you will have also changed who you are, but in some random direction. So learning how to make decisions and stick with them as the stakes get higher and higher is also something we’re really looking for in astronaut selection. So those are the three main things: take care of your body, get advanced complex technical training (preferably to at least a masters degree at the university level), and make decisions and stick with them, show that you’re a person that can make the right call when the chips are down, and then hopefully NASA will give you a call.
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What Stephen Hawking would have discovered if he lived longer | NASA's Michelle Thaller What Stephen Hawking would have discovered if he lived longer | NASA's Michelle Thaller
3 weeks ago En
Stephen Hawking was one of the greatest scientific and analytical minds of our time, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. She posits that Hawking might be one of the parents of an entirely new school of physics because he was working on some incredible stuff—concerning quantum entaglement— right before he died. He was even humble enough to go back to his old work about black holes and rethink his hypotheses based on new information. Not many great minds would do that, she says, relaying just one of the reasons Stephen Hawking will be so deeply missed. You can follow Michelle Thaller on Twitter at @mlthaller. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/michelle-thaller-ask-a-nasa-astronomer-how-did-stephen-hawking-change-the-world Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Michelle Thaller: Yes Jeremy, a lot of us were really sad with the passing of Stephen Hawking. He was definitely an inspiration. He was one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists in the world, and of course he overcame this incredible disability, his life was very difficult and very dramatic and I for one am really going to miss having him around. And I certainly miss him as a scientist too. He made some incredible contributions. Now, Stephen Hawking was something that we call a theoretical physicist, and what that means is that people use the mathematics of physics to explore areas of the universe that we can’t get to very easily. For example, conditions right after the Big Bang the beginning of the universe, what were things like when the universe was a fraction of a second old? That’s not something we can create very easily in a laboratory or any place we can go to, but we can use our mathematics to predict what that would have been like and then test our assumptions based on how the universe changed over time. And one of the places that is also very difficult to go to is, could we explore a black hole? And this is what Stephen Hawking was best known for. Now, black holes are massive objects they’re made from collapsed dead stars, and the nearest black hole to us is about 3000 light years away. That one is not particularly large, it’s only a couple times the mass of the sun. The biggest black hole that’s in our galaxy is about four million times the mass of the sun and that actually sits right in the heart of the Milky Way Galaxy. And right now you and I are actually orbiting that giant black hole at half a million miles an hour. These are incredibly exotic objects. The reason we call them black holes is that the gravity is so intense it can suck in everything, including light. Not even light, going through space freely at the speed of light, can escape a black hole, so talk about dramatic exotic objects that are difficult to do experiments on. Stephen Hawking laid down some of our basic understanding of how a black hole works. And one of the things he actually did was he even predicted that black holes can die. You would think that a collapsed star that forms a bottomless pit of gravity would exist forever, but Stephen Hawking used the laws of quantum mechanics and something called thermodynamics, how heat behaves in the universe, to prove that maybe black holes can evaporate over time. And of course, that’s a hugely significant thing. One of the reasons I think it’s very unfortunate he died is we’re actually right on the cusp of being able to do actual experiments with black holes. And I know that sounds like a strange thing to say, but there are some particle accelerators, I mean specifically the Large Hadron Collider, which is in Europe, that are about to get to high enough energies they’re going to smash particles together so hard that so much energy is generated they might be able to make tiny little black holes. And by the way, this is entirely safe. Don’t worry about it at all. Stephen Hawking showed us that black holes evaporate, they actually die away and the smaller a black hole is the faster this happens. So these little black holes—we’ll probably be lucky if we can detect them, they’re going to die in millionths of a second. And the Large Hadron Collider gets nowhere up to the energy of natural events all around us. Right now there are high energy particles slamming into our atmosphere a couple miles above our heads, and they are many, many hundreds of times the energy that the Large Hadron Collider will ever be able to get up to. So I am saying actually that there are probably tiny little black holes forming all around us, they evaporate away so quickly they’re very hard to detect. Stephen Hawking predicted the exact energy that black holes give off when they evaporate, and it may be that in just a few years time we’re going to observe that in a particle accelerator and realize he was right.
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Why creating AI that has free will would be a huge mistake | Joanna Bryson Why creating AI that has free will would be a huge mistake | Joanna Bryson
3 weeks ago En
AI expert Joanna Bryson posits that giving artificial intelligence the same rights a human has could result in pretty dire consequences... because AI has already proven that it can pick up negative human characteristics if those characteristics are in the data. Therefore, it's not crazy at all to think that AI could scan every YouTube comment in one afternoon and pick up all the negativity we've unloaded there. If it's already proven it's not only capable of making the wrong decision but eventually will make the wrong decision when it comes to data mining and implementation, why even give it the same powers as us in the first place? Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/joanna-bryson-why-creating-an-ai-that-has-free-will-would-be-a-huge-mistake Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Joanna Bryson: First of all there’s the whole question about why is it that we in the first place assume that we have obligations towards robots? So we think that if something is intelligent, then that’s their special source, that’s why we have moral obligations. And why do we think that? Because most of our moral obligations, the most important thing to us is each other. So basically morality and ethics are the way that we maintain human society, including by doing things like keeping the environment okay, you know, making it so we can live. So, one of the way we characterize ourselves is as intelligent, and so when we then see something else and say, “Oh it’s more intelligent, well then maybe it needs even more protection.” In AI we call that kind of reasoning heuristic reasoning: it’s a good guess that will probably get you pretty far, but it isn’t necessarily true. I mean, again, how you define the term “intelligent” will vary. If you mean by “intelligent” a moral agent, you know, something that’s responsible for its actions, well then, of course, intelligence implies moral agency. When will we know for sure that we need to worry about robots? Well, there’s a lot of questions there, but consciousness is another one of those words. The word I like to use is “moral patient”. It’s a technical term that the philosophers came up with, and it means, exactly, something that we are obliged to take care of. So now we can have this conversation. If you just mean “conscious means moral patient”, then it’s no great assumption to say “well then, if it’s conscious then we need to take care of it”. But it’s way more cool if you can say, “Does consciousness necessitate moral patiency?” And then we can sit down and say, “well, it depends what you mean by consciousness.” People use consciousness to mean a lot of different things. So one of the things that we did last year, which was pretty cool, the headlines, because we were replicating some psychology stuff about implicit bias—actually the best one is something like “Scientists Show That A.I. Is Sexist and Racist, and It’s Our Fault,” which that’s pretty accurate, because it really is about picking things up from our society. Anyway, the point was, so here is an AI system that is so human-like that it’s picked up our prejudices and whatever… and it’s just vectors! It’s not an ape. It’s not going to take over the world. It’s not going to do anything, it’s just a representation; it’s like a photograph. We can’t trust our intuitions about these things. We give things rights because that’s the best way we can find to handle very complicated situations. And the things that we give rights are basically people. I mean some people argue about animals, but technically, and again this depends on whose technical definition you use, but technically rights are usually things that come with responsibilities and that you can defend in a court of law.
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Which mental 'deficits' are really hidden strengths? | Heather Heying Which mental 'deficits' are really hidden strengths? | Heather Heying
3 weeks ago En
There are many different ways in which the brain is rewired differently than the norm. But Heather Heying, evolutionary biologist and former Professor at The Evergreen State College, is saying that these so-called differences are really strengths. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/heather-heying-neurodiversity-many-mental-deficits-are-really-hidden-strengths Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Neurodiversity is a pretty new term, and I’m grateful—very grateful for it. It gets to something that is absolutely real and has been hard to discuss before it existed. That said, I’m not sure I have a perfect definition. It recognizes a fact that we are not singular, that we are not all identical, that we have a variation of brains, of connectivity, of aptitudes, of weaknesses, of blind spots, and of sensitivities, and of capabilities. People on the autism spectrum who are very functional, in my experience, tend to have extraordinary analytical skills and also often, actually, insight into social interactions so long as they’re not the ones participating. And so you have, I’ve had a number of autistic students actually point out to me dynamics that were emerging in classrooms that I hadn’t yet seen, and once they were pointed out I could see, and these are the same students who have a very hard time recognizing when it is or is not time to speak or get up or walk through the middle of the classroom and such. There are a number of ways to be neurodiverse. We have names for some conditions that actually represent ends of continuum. Dyslexia is a big one. These are going to sound like they’re coming out of left field, but color blindness, left-handedness... in each of those cases being what in evolutionary biology we call the non-dominant phenotype. Sorry. I’m a lefty. That’s the one of those that I belong to as a group. And about ten percent of people across all cultures (that have been studied) are left-handed. It’s a persistent, stable, rare phenotype, which suggests that it’s adaptive, that it’s persistent, it’s complex, and it provides the different wiring of the brain associated with being a left-hander provides benefit in the social group in which left-handers show up. I mean we can put together analyses for why being a left-hander might allow you to approach a physical problem differently than a right-hander would have a harder time solving, but the different wiring of the brain allows for different approaches as well. Similarly with color blindness that it might be really easy to say, “Well, okay, that just is going to give you some ability to see past color and to see patterns that aren’t color based,” perhaps, but I suspect that there’s wiring in the brain that is associated with color blindness that also allows for enhanced abilities that are different from those who are color-sighted. Dyslexia for sure. Dyslexia is obviously a very modern condition because writing is a very modern condition. So as an evolutionary biologist when I say modern I mean thousands of years. So dyslexia is modern in terms of thousands of years, and language was always about sound and never about writing until recently, and so the lessened ability—it’s almost never an inability, but the lessened ability—to process written symbols into meaning in your head looks to me like it’s a trade-off relationship with the ability to engage in real time and speech. And that’s not to say that all of us can’t learn through practice to be better at any number of these skills, but that being born with what the world is calling a deficit is almost always going to exist in a trade-off relationship with some often hidden strength.
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Don't want A.I. to take your job? Learn to use it as a tool. | Paul Daugherty Don't want A.I. to take your job? Learn to use it as a tool. | Paul Daugherty
3 weeks ago En
As the Chief Technology Officer for global management consulting firm Accenture, Paul Daugherty knows that there's a lot of people out there, in many industries, who are afraid of losing their jobs to artificial intelligence. Here, he offers some sage advice in dealing with AI: lean into the change. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/paul-daugherty-dont-want-ai-to-take-your-job-learn-to-use-it-as-a-tool Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink As you think about your talent and your workforce for the age of AI and where we’re moving to, there’s a few things that are very important to think about. I think about two broad categories of skills that you need to prepare for. One is what I’d call the Talent or the skills – the people that “do” AI. Who’s going to develop the AI? Those are the machine learning experts, the data scientists, the people with the STEM skills and coding skills that are going to build the technology of the future. And that is an important area that every organization needs to be preparing for in developing and building those types of skills. And that’s one important thing. The bigger set of skills that I think every organization needs to think about are the people who use AI. Not the ones who do and build it, but the people who use AI. And that’s going to be basically everybody in the workforce, or almost everybody in the workforce, in your workforces or organization. And I think that’s an area where organizations haven’t spent enough time. Everybody knows they have to develop and hire the AI experts and the coding experts; I think how the rest of your organization is going to adapt and use AI is the big question that we’re really trying to address in Human + Machine. There’s a few things that I’d say that are really important there. One is you need to think about the learning platforms that you’re developing for your organization. One thing that we found in the survey in the research work we did is two-thirds of organizations, roughly, believe that their workforce isn’t ready for AI, broadly for using AI – a big number. Only three percent of organizations plan to increase their training spending to account for that, which isn’t appropriate. That means that generally, people think it’s somebody else’s problem to prepare the workforce. And we believe that that’s not the right answer. At Accenture, we’re investing about a billion dollars a year in training and retraining our workforce, in developing talent platforms that continually retrain people. And we think that that’s the approach you need to take because we’re in an age of continuous innovation. The roles of your workforce are going to continue to change, and you can’t flush and replace the workforce, and that’s not the right way to view it. How do you look at your employees as an investable resource, where you’re investing in the talent and developing the right learning platforms that they can learn how to use AI in the initial applications you’re rolling out now, and continue to learn so that their skills are relevant and they’re productive contributors to your organization as you continue to progress? Another area that we really overlooked and where there’s huge potential is using AI itself to help prepare the workforce. And I think there’s huge opportunities for innovation here. We’re starting to see some real interesting possibilities coming. One experiment we’ve done as an organization, and this is still in the research and development stage, we’ve looked at all of our employees in our Accenture organization (and we have over 430,000 people, so it’s a large workforce). We’ve developed a machine learning model using artificial intelligence that can take the resumes and experience of any one of our employees – and this is something our employees can use to understand how their job will be impacted by AI. So it might say that as you feed in all of your information, it’ll compare it to external job postings and trends in the marketplace. And it might say “Well, your skills are at risk in about one to three years.” And it doesn’t stop there, but it says “and based on what you know here’s the adjacent types of jobs that you should start looking to train yourself for.”
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Machines playing God: How A.I. will overcome humans | Max Tegmark Machines playing God: How A.I. will overcome humans | Max Tegmark
3 weeks ago En
AI needs thousands of pictures in order to correctly identify a dog from a cat, whereas human babies and toddlers only need to see each animal once to know the difference. But AI won't be that way forever, says AI expert and author Max Tegmark, because it hasn't learned how to self-replicate its own intelligence. However, once AI learns how to master AGI—or Artificial General Intelligence—it will be able to upgrade itself, thereby being able to blow right past us. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/max-tegmark-superintelligence-how-ai-will-overcome-humans Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Max Tegmark: I define intelligence as how good something is at accomplishing complex goals. So let’s unpack that a little bit. First of all, it’s a spectrum of abilities since there are many different goals you can have, so it makes no sense to quantify something’s intelligence by just one number like an IQ. To see how ridiculous that would be, just imagine if I told you that athletic ability could be quantified by a single number, the “Athletic Quotient,” and whatever athlete had the highest AQ would win all the gold medals in the Olympics. It’s the same with intelligence. So if you have a machine that’s pretty good at some tasks, these days it’s usually pretty narrow intelligence, maybe the machine is very good at multiplying numbers fast because it’s your pocket calculator, maybe it’s good at driving cars or playing Go. Humans on the other hand have a remarkably broad intelligence. A human child can learn almost anything given enough time. Even though we now have machines that can learn, sometimes learn to do certain narrow tasks better than humans, machine learning is still very unimpressive compared to human learning. For example, it might take a machine tens of thousands of pictures of cats and dogs until it becomes able to tell a cat from a dog, whereas human children can sometimes learn what a cat is from seeing it once. Another area where we have a long way to go in AI is generalizing. If a human learns to play one particular kind of game they can very quickly take that knowledge and apply it to some other kind of game or some other life situation altogether. And this is a fascinating frontier of AI research now: How can we have machines—how can we can make them as good at learning from very limited data as people are? And I think part of the challenge is that we humans aren’t just learning to recognize some patterns, we also gradually learn to develop a whole model of the world. So if you ask “Are there machines that are more intelligent than people today,” there are machines that are better than us at accomplishing some goals, but absolutely not all goals. AGI, artificial general intelligence, that’s the dream of the field of AI: to build a machine that’s better than us at all goals. We’re not there yet, but a good fraction of leading AI researchers think we are going to get there maybe in a few decades. And if that happens you have to ask yourself if that might lead to machines getting not just a little better than us, but way better at all goals, having super intelligence. The argument for that is actually really interesting and goes back to the ‘60s, to the mathematician I. J. Goode, who pointed out that the goal of building an intelligent machine is in and of itself something that you can do with intelligence. So once you get machines that are better than us at that narrow task of building AI, then future AIs can be built by not human engineers but by machines, except they might do it thousands or a million times faster. So in my book I explore the scenario where you have this computer called Prometheus, which has vastly more hardware than a human brain does, and it’s still very limited by its software being kind of dumb.
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What if you were paid to vote—and fined if you didn’t? | Dambisa Moyo What if you were paid to vote—and fined if you didn’t? | Dambisa Moyo
4 weeks ago En
Voting. It's important. But we don't exactly make it a priority, do we? Other democracies have outshone the United States when it comes to innovating ways to encourage democratic participation. Instead of giving voters a narrow window of time on a Tuesday, how about a voting week? Or paper ballots for all elections? What if citizens got paid to vote, and fined if they didn't? Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/what-if-you-were-paid-to-vote-and-fined-if-you-didnt Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Dambisa Moyo: My book, Edge of Chaos, offers ten proposals to improve democracy. Roughly six of them are targeting the politician. Four of them are targeting the voter. It is critically important that people appreciate, as we go through these very challenging proposals, that all the proposals, all ten of them, have precedent somewhere in the world. So to put it more simply, every proposal that I offer in the book for consideration—not for wholesale consumption but for us to consider as we think about our unique democratic circumstances in whatever country we may be—All of these proposals do exist already somewhere around the world. For instance, I offer the idea of mandatory voting. There are about 27 countries today that have mandatory voting, including Australia, Belgium, Greece, and many countries in South America. The idea is very simple. It’s essentially an endowed civic duty of every citizen to participate in the electoral process, and it’s critically important that people do participate. And so what they do in Australia is that they find you—and actually in many countries I should say for where the mandatory voting is the case—you either get a monetary fine or you could be blocked from public services, such as you may not be able to get a job in the government if you do not vote and if you do not have proof that you vote. Of course there are many other things we can think about. Trying to enhance voter participation rates, especially to the extent that people are not voting because they’re too poor to leave, say, an hourly wage job to go and stand in line. It could be the case that we might see more people vote on a weekend instead of on a Tuesday in November. We might actually subsidize some of those workers in the day of the election so that they don’t feel like they’re losing income. So some of these initiatives are already underway in other places, across Europe as an example. I do think that we should think about trying to enhance the participation of voters. I mean frankly this idea of mandatory voting does fly in the face of the first amendment in the United States, which is the right to choose. But I do think that this is actually harming us, especially if we at stealth are essentially moving to an environment where fewer and fewer people vote and essentially then dictate, if albeit implicitly, dictate public policy. So I do think we should be open to questions around mandatory voting, but nevertheless it is worth saying that I think that might be a hard pill to swallow for Americans who do believe in the first amendment. One of the other proposals for voters is this idea of weighted voting. And it has already been misunderstood. My book has been reviewed a number of times, and it’s quite a pity that people are misconstruing and misunderstanding what it’s about. It is about allocating greater or less weight to people based on their engagement. This is not about ascribing higher weights to people based on any adjective such as race or gender or land ownership or IQ or education. It has absolutely nothing to do with that, just to be absolutely clear. But there are, of course, contextual issues, because we would not want to return to an era of where certain groups are essentially disadvantaged or banished from voting because of their backgrounds or race or education. I have to say as an immigrant, as somebody who’s immigrated to Europe but also to the United States, I am required to take a civics test. Every immigrant regardless of background, economic standing, or education background is required to take a basic test to show that engagement.
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3 questions to kickstart your entrepreneurial empire | Miki Agrawal 3 questions to kickstart your entrepreneurial empire | Miki Agrawal
4 weeks ago En
Why do you put up with things that an entrepreneur wouldn’t? For Miki Agrawal, her entrepreneurial empire started with one question: "What sucks in my world?" Since then, Agrawal has made a habit of disrupting industries—especially in the taboo space. Her farm-to-table gluten-free pizza concept Wild is in its 13th year, her period-proof underwear Thinx shook up the $15 billion feminine-hygiene market (and famously rocked the advertising world), and her latest company Tushy is bringing bidets back. Here, Agrawal explains the three-question test that helps her decide what ideas she wants to pursue, and she makes a case for social entrepreneurship over a pure profit model: she knows from experience that your motivations really matter when times get tough. Miki Agrawal's latest venture is revolutionizing the American toilet with Tushy, at http://hellotushy.com. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/miki-agrawal-how-to-become-a-successful-social-entrepreneur Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Miki Agrawal: So, when I think about what ideas that I want to pursue, I think about three questions. The first question that I ask myself is, “What sucks in my world?" Does this thing suck in my world so much that I want to do something about it? Like, for example, having period accidents every month. Having to literally like—when I was going to the bathroom, prior to bringing Tushy into the world, I would have to go to the bathroom, take—the average American uses 57 sheets of toilet paper per day; I was that person using probably more—I would take two wads of toilet paper, put them under the sink, so I would have two wet wads of toilet paper—because I wouldn't buy wet wipes, because they're are bad for the plumbing system and bad for the environment—so I’d get two wads of wet paper, then I would go to the bathroom and then I would take the first wet wad and I would like wipe. And then I would take dry paper and I would wipe. Then I’d take the second wet wad and I would wipe. Then I would get more dry paper and wipe, and I would do this whole thing to just make sure I’m clean down there. So what sucked in my world? Going through that process. What sucked in my world? Having stomach aches every time I ate pizza—regular, conventional pizza. You know, bleached flour, processed cheese, sugar-filled sauces, processed toppings. That was hurting me, but I loved pizza and I wanted to keep it in my life, but I couldn’t eat that kind of pizza. And so that sucked in my world. The second question is, “Does it suck for a lot of people?” Because if it sucks for just you and you’re like a diva, then sorry, but that’s probably not a great business idea. But if it sucks for a lot of people, then: business opportunity. One in five Americans eat gluten-free whether they’re gluten intolerant or not. Gluten does require a lot of energy for your body to break down. It’s not really great for your body to digest. And so to be able to eat gluten-free actually does keep you lighter. And so 20 percent of Americans eat gluten-free. That’s a pretty big market. Okay, we can start this business in this category. In the bidet world or in the bathroom world wiping your butt with dry paper kind of sucks for a lot of people, specifically the 30 million combined cases of chronic UTIs, hemorrhoids, yeast infections, those who suffer from those, and just everyone that has to sit on fecal matter all day long, which is pretty much everyone. And so it sucks for everyone. And the final question, which is the most important one, is: “Can I be passionate about this issue, cause or community for a really long time?” It takes ten years to be an overnight success. We often think like, “Oh my god, Dollar Shave Club sold in two years for a billion dollars. Oh, look at Instagram. It had ten people and sold for a billion dollars. I can do this.” Those are literally like winning the lottery. You have to feel like you can sit in that discomfort for ten years. Can you sit in that, “Oh god, am I going to succeed or not? Am I going to like, just hand to mouth, figuring it out how to live during that period?” Can you do it for ten years? Can you be passionate about that issue for ten years?
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Is tech addictive? It won't be for long. | Joscha Bach Is tech addictive? It won't be for long. | Joscha Bach
4 weeks ago En
Do we want to be at the mercy of our devices, or do we want to be fulfilled? Cognitive scientist Joscha Bach explains how the big decision we're coming to in tech ethics will mimic another moment in tech history: the battle of the search engines. In the late 1990s, AltaVista was one of the world's most used search engines—at least until a "small and inconsequential" startup called Google came along. AltaVista served ads, and Google didn't (not back then). For the public, the choice was easy; there's a reason you "Google" the weather rather than "AltaVista" it. We face the same decision now: will we choose tech that harvests our attention and sells it, like highly addictive social media apps; or will we choose tech that is useful to us—products that help us achieve our own goals? "Right now we mostly build applications that utilize the cravings of people, that make them addicted. People start checking their smartphones every few seconds to see if a new email arrived. But this new email is not going to make them more happy and fulfilled." In the long run, says Bach, technology that aligns with what people want wins. As long as we want the right things, the days of addictive tech are numbered. Joscha Bach's latest book is Principles of Synthetic Intelligence PSI: An Architecture of Motivated Cognition (Oxford Series on Cognitive Models and Architectures) Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/joscha-bach-is-technology-addictive-it-wont-be-for-long Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Joscha Bach: I remember when the first search engines came around, and back then AltaVista was a very big thing. AltaVista tried to strike a balance between the inconveniences—in terms of advertising and so on that could put off the user—and the utility had for the user. So it would, for instance, mix search results with advertising. And at this point Google came along. Google was very small and inconsequential, and nobody really took it seriously. But it did an amazing thing: it did give people exactly what they wanted. It gave them a pretty much ad-free experience. It gave them exactly the search results that they wanted, the best ones, the closest ones to what people wanted to have. And Google dramatically outperformed AltaVista. AltaVista disappeared. That was an amazing insight, to see that if you are in the dramatically scalable economy, like the Internet, where you have the biggest amount of competition that you can possibly have, you need to build a product that is optimally aligned with the interest of the users—unless you manage to get some kind of monopoly and can drive out other competition. And so when we build new products in that space we have to think about how to build the most useful product. Not necessarily just the product that is going to make the biggest amount of money, that is going to have the most efficient business model in some sense or the best business case. Eventually, it’s going to be the product that is getting the most use by people. And people will find out that they will use what is most useful to them. In the long run, that’s going to be the stuff that is not addictive, that is hygienic, that serves the actual needs, that makes them more happy and fulfilled. And right now we mostly build applications that utilize the cravings of people, that make them addicted. People start checking their smartphones every few seconds to see if a new email arrived. But this new email is not going to make them more happy and fulfilled. Instead, it takes away their attention. So I believe the next big movement in how we build technical systems will be hygienic technology. It will be how to build systems that are careful with our attention and how we use it, and that is careful with our way of living and what we want to achieve with the tools that we are building.
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3 proofs that debunk flat-Earth theory | NASA's Michelle Thaller 3 proofs that debunk flat-Earth theory | NASA's Michelle Thaller
1 month ago En
Hey flat Earthers, it's time to put your theory to bed once and for all! A curious stargazer by the name of Oscar has submitted a question to Big Think's 'Ask an astronomer' series with NASA's Michelle Thaller. Oscar wants to know: "What would be the easiest proof that the Earth isn’t flat, that I could come back with whenever I get challenged on this issue?" Thaller sets the record straight. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/michelle-thaller-how-to-disprove-flat-earth-theory Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink So, Oscar, you asked the question, “What are some of the easiest ways that you can prove that the Earth is round?” Because apparently, this is something that we’re debating—I have no idea why. That’s a hard thing for me to even start talking about because there are so many proofs that the Earth is round, it’s difficult to know where to start. And it’s not okay to think that the Earth is flat. This is not a viable argument. I have friends who have been on the International Space Station, they have orbited the Earth once every 90 minutes; I've had personal experience with people who have been up in space and can see with their own eyes that the Earth is round. And of course, we‘ve taken all of these amazing pictures from space; they’re so beautiful, all those pictures of the Earth. So I don’t really know what’s going on right now with this 'Earth is flat' thing, but I will tell you that this is one of the things I really enjoyed teaching my own astronomy class about because there are proofs all around you. It is not difficult to know that the Earth is round. In fact, people have known of this for way more than 2,000 years. The ancient Greeks actually had a number of really elegant, wonderful proofs that the earth was a sphere. So let’s start from the simple to the slightly more complicated. One of the things you can see yourself, with a pair of binoculars, is if you actually go out to a lake and there are boats on that lake, the farther away a boat is the more the bottom of the boat will disappear, and you’ll basically just see the mast of the boat. And as a boat goes farther and farther away the last thing you will see is the very top of the mast of that boat, and that’s because the boat is actually going over the horizon that’s curved—and that means that as it goes farther and farther away you see less and less of the bottom of it, and more of the top of that. You can see that with binoculars by an ocean, by a lake, it’s really easy. That wouldn’t happen if the Earth were flat—you would simply see the boat getting smaller and smaller and smaller as it went farther away, but you’d be able to see the whole thing with the same proportions. Now, another way that you can tell that we’re on a sphere is to think about how there’s something called the tropics on the Earth, and the tropics are places near the equator of the earth were sometimes the sun is overhead in the sky. This was actually something that the Greeks used, not only to prove that the Earth was round about 2000 years ago, but they actually measured the circumference of the Earth, accurate to within just a couple percent. 2,000 years ago we’ve known that the Earth was round. There was a really brilliant Greek scientist called Eratosthenes, and Eratosthenes noticed that there was a town called Syene, and on a certain date the sun would actually shine straight down to the bottom of a well. That meant the sun was directly overhead; you could look down a well and see the sun shining back at you. And on the very same date, farther away in the city of Alexandria, that didn’t happen. The sun was not directly overhead, it was a slight angle, and all that Eratosthenes did was he measured the difference in the angle of the sun. It was straight overhead in Syene; in Alexandria it was a little bit less than overhead, and he rationed that that change in angle from one city to another was probably indicative of us being on a curved surface, and you could make all kinds of measurements even between those two cities and see that the angles were different—the sun was at a different place in the sky. Using this, he actually measured the circumference of the Earth, and he got it right 2,000 years ago. So another really simple proof is that on any given date, at different cities and different places around the world, the sun is at different angles in the sky. That wouldn’t happen if the Earth wasn’t round.
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How experiencing discrimination in VR can make you less biased | Jeremy Bailenson How experiencing discrimination in VR can make you less biased | Jeremy Bailenson
1 month ago En
What would it be like to live in the body of someone else? Since the dawn of mankind, people have imagined what it would be like to inhabit another body, just for a day or even for a few minutes. Thanks to the magic of VR, we can now do that. Jeremy Bailenson, the creator of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab, has designed a VR experience called 1000 Cut Journey that may change the way people see race: by experiencing it firsthand. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/jeremy-bailenson-how-experiencing-discrimination-in-vr-can-make-you-less-biased Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Most psychologists agree the best way to have somebody increase empathy is to engage in something called perspective taking. Imagining that you’re someone else trying to cognitively and emotionally understand some event from their perspective. It’s hard to do that. Often we don’t have the facts, meaning I don’t know what’s going on through your mind. I don’t have an experience of what it’s like to be you. And it’s also very effortful. It’s hard to actually imagine what it’s like to be someone else. And, in fact, when it comes to empathy we’re often thinking about unpleasant things, for example, what it’s like to be homeless, and the brain doesn’t want to go there. So VR is a really neat tool because it takes that cognitive effort out. It increases accuracy so you’re not operating on stereotypes you may have in your mind, where you can actually experience the life of someone else as that person lives. Since 2003 I’ve been running experiments that take a person, puts her in virtual reality and gives her an experience that you couldn’t have in the real world. This could be being in a different place or it could actually be becoming a different person. So the first study we ran was about ageism and we took college-age students, and they walked up to a virtual mirror. And the reason we have a virtual mirror is to show the person they become different via a process called body transfer. This is a neuroscientific process where if you move your physical body and you have an avatar that moves what’s called synchronously, that means at the same time that you move your arm, you see its arm move and you see that in a mirror as well as in the first person. Over time the part of the brain that contains the schema for the self expands and includes this external representation as part of the body. So by using a virtual mirror and showing somebody moving with the mirror, you can literally feel like you’ve become someone else. You can be a different gender, a different age. You can become disabled. You can have a different skin color. And our first study took college-age students. We had them become older, about 60 to 70 years old. We then networked a second person into virtual reality and there was a conversation between the two. Over time the conversation turned to stereotypical concepts about being older. So perhaps you didn’t have a good memory, and these stereotypes were activated in the conversation. So while wearing the body of someone else who’s an older person I felt discrimination firsthand as a subject. And what we showed in that first study published in 2005 was that subjects who had gone through this treatment became less ageist when they came out. For example, if you asked them to list words about the elderly they were less likely to list words that were stereotypical. Since that first study, we’ve run dozens of studies. We’ve looked at empathy in terms of becoming a different race, becoming a different gender, even becoming a different species. If you become a cow, how does that make you think about animals? And what our research has shown is VR is not a magic tool. It doesn’t work every single time but in general, across all of our studies, VR tends to outperform control conditions. For example, imagining you’re someone else via role playing or reading about case studies. This experience of walking a mile in someone’s shoes tends to be more effective at causing empathy and behavior change towards others.
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Right-wing politics has a new secret weapon. Can the Left harness it? | Jeremy Heimans Right-wing politics has a new secret weapon. Can the Left harness it? | Jeremy Heimans
1 month ago En
The election of Donald J. Trump surprised many, most of all the Democrats. Jeremy Heimans, a political activist and the Founder of the online media company Purpose, explains it simply: Donald Trump won the internet, and thus won the presidency. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/jeremy-heimans-crowd-power-how-online-intensity-wiped-out-traditional-politics Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink The game of politics for many decades has been played as one in which you’re supposed to keep your head down, you’re supposed to be bland, you’re supposed to be uncontroversial; your job is to court as many people as you can in the middle. Donald Trump from the very beginning took a different posture, everything he did was about unleashing the agency of a small number of intense supporters. This was going to be a campaign in which you could unleash the things that you’d been thinking—maybe your mad uncle muttering at the television—and suddenly every mad uncle muttering at the television was empowered—was sent a signal by this man that those private thoughts could now be made public. As Donald Trump’s candidacy unfolded he built and created a symbiotic relationship with what we think of as a vast, decentralized social media army that did his bidding during the campaign. These were mostly young white men on forums like Reddit and 4chan and they developed a kind of culture of competing with each other, vying with each other, to produce the most creative, the most sticky, the most intrusive meme or message that would penetrate social media and then seep into the mainstream media. So every day they would do this and in response to the events of the news cycle, be it Hillary Clinton’s latest comments, be it Donald Trump’s latest policy pronouncements, they would go take that moment and elevate it. The mainstream media were generally confident that Hillary would win the election: she was ahead in the polls fairly consistently and because she had much higher favorables. While both candidates were unpopular, Hillary’s favorables in public opinion polls were generally about ten points higher than Donald Trump’s. But the people doing social media sentiment analysis, firms like ForeSee, were tracking and finding something very different. Their job is to track net sentiment on social media in connection to political debates. And what they were finding throughout the campaign was that while Donald Trump’s favorables were about ten points lower than Hillary, his net favorability on social media was about ten points higher than Hillary. One of the most striking facts we discovered when researching this book was that the day that Donald Trump had the highest net favorability on social media was his darkest day of the campaign. It was the day of the Access Hollywood tape being released. And it was because at that day his supporters, who had such intensity of commitment to him, rallied around him. They surged to his defense. And even though it seemed in the mainstream media like this was the day that was all losing for Donald Trump, on social media that day Donald Trump actually won. He was elected because he intuitively understood what we call New Power. And New Power is this ability to harness the energy of a connected crowd. And while Hillary Clinton had a very traditional relationship with her crowd, Donald Trump had a relationship that reflects what we now know you need to do in order to really build depth of commitment politically. So the NRA understands intensity in the same way that Donald Trump does. One of its great strengths is, in addition to its old power brand (the fact that it’s a feared institution that politicians kind of quiver at the thought of), it also has an incredibly powerful New Power arm. And that arm goes beyond just its membership, it actually has been very effective at cultivating the most extreme elements of its support base.
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How VR can dissolve your ego and unlock your empathy | Danfung Dennis How VR can dissolve your ego and unlock your empathy | Danfung Dennis
1 month ago En
VR could very well be a greater storytelling medium than video games and TV. By being someone else, and seeing and discovering the world through the eyes of other people, that can only increase our empathy... and decrease our own egocentric view of the world. Documentarian Danfung Dennis thinks that virtual reality is an untapped resource that we should keep our eyes on (literally and figuratively), as the right story at the right time could change the world. Imagine a congressman from Texas watching climate change happen at the polar ice caps before their very eyes. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/danfung-dennis-how-vr-can-dissolve-your-ego-and-unlock-your-empathy Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink VR has this unique ability to really take you there and that’s sort of something I’ve been trying to do in traditional still images and documentary film. And those mediums have great power to influence, but I was always frustrated with the inability to really take a first-person subjective experience and let someone see it for themselves. And VR can start to do that. I can place people into worlds that they may never otherwise see and experience something firsthand in a way that is very different than watching a film. You recall it as a memory. Instead of “I saw a movie,” “I actually was there in this experience.” And so those memories actually code in a stronger way. And I think that allows us to reflect and process them in a more personal way. You have an emotional connection and you get as close to being in their position as possible. It’s not completely a first-person perspective—and there is some testing and research around that where it could actually embody someone else, that’s a little bit harder. But right now we know we can at least be very close. And when you are very close to someone and you’re seeing what they’re experiencing, you start to internalize that. We have these mirror neurons that we can feel what other people are feeling. And that reflection that I think is invoked from these powerful experiences can start to foster empathy for the other. And it can dissolve your own ego and help you take the perspective of someone else. And I think this special ability of VR is really important for the urgent crises that we’re facing, especially climate change, which can be hard to dig into, to really lean into, because it seems so big and abstract. But when you are experiencing climate change right in the places that it’s happening you feel like it’s here, that you’re getting this glimpse into the future of a world of extreme weather. Of dried out drought desert conditions. Of refugees. Of pristine ecosystems collapsing and being destroyed. And so when you can actually experience these events as if you were there, you internalize them. And I think that starts to lead to this process of, “Well am I participating in it? Am I consuming fossil fuels that I don’t need to? Can I divest from some of the industries that are responsible for this crisis?” And so I think that reflection is really important because it leads to, or is necessary to lead to, action in one’s own life. And there’s a whole threshold of different actions one can take to engage with this incredible environmental problem that we’re facing. And so this chain of events I think can be triggered through a singular powerful experience. And so with this medium, we can convey not just information. We can convey emotional fidelity in a way that we haven’t been able to do with such clarity. And so we can really feel what it’s like to be a mother in the deserts of Somalia trying to find food for her children and having to flee to the outskirts of cities and to huge camps—and seeing that they’re really just trying to care for their families just as we would do if we were there. And so I think it has this ability to help us invoke the empathy that we all have and cultivate the compassion and the action that is needed to address so many of the world's problems.
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The fascist philosopher behind Vladimir Putin’s information warfare The fascist philosopher behind Vladimir Putin’s information warfare
1 month ago En
Yale University Professor Timothy Snyder gives a crash course in Ivan Ilyin's philosophy of fascism and explains why this worldview is so appealing to Putin: it defines freedom as knowing your set place in society, asserts that democracy is a ritual and not a reality, and maintains that there are no facts in the world. Perhaps the most fascinating part of this is how new technology—like Facebook—is turning old fascism into political warfare. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/timothy-snyder-the-fascist-philosopher-behind-vladimir-putins-russia Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Ivan Ilyin was a fascist philosopher of the '20s, '30s, and '40s, but he’s probably the most important example of how old ideas can be brought back in the 21st century or in a postmodern context. Ilyin had three very important ideas. The first was that social advancement was impossible because the political system, the social system, is like a body. So you’re a cell, you’re an embryo, you’re an organ, you have a place in this larger body, and freedom means knowing your place. That’s what freedom means. A second idea that he had is that democracy is a ritual. So we can vote, but we only vote in order to affirm our collective support for a leader. The leader is not legitimated by our votes or chosen by our votes, the voting is just a ritual by which we collectively, every couple of years, endorse a leader who has emerged from some other place, from some—in fascism, a leader is some kind of hero who emerges from fiction, who emerges from myth. The third idea Ilyin had, which is very useful, is that the factual world doesn’t count. It’s not real. Ilyin says that God created the world, but that was a mistake. The world was a kind of aborted process. The world is a horrifying thing because it’s full of this and that and the other thing, what we call facts, and those facts can’t be unified into some kind of larger whole so the world is actually horrifying, and those facts are disgusting and of no value whatsoever. So, if you were Vladimir Putin and you’re governing as the head of an oligarchical clan it’s very comfortable to be able to say, “Well, look, freedom consists in knowing your place in society. There’s no possibility for social advance.” If you’re Vladimir Putin and you don’t have serious democracy or you don’t want to have it, it’s very comfortable to do, as he, in fact, has done, it’s very comfortable to transform elections into a kind of ritual. And, likewise, if you can’t have the rule of law and if Russians are basically stuck in a certain place economically and politically, the idea that the world is not factual, that the world is just subjective, that it’s just a matter of this opinion, that opinion and the other opinion, is very comfortable. And Ilyin adds the even more comfortable conclusion that the only true thing is Russian nationalism. The only hope to bring the whole world together is that somehow Russia—which is an innocent victim of the rest of the world—will somehow restore itself in some totalitarian form and then bring order back to the world. So interestingly—it’s not the only thing which is going on—but interestingly these kinds of ideas help Mr. Putin as he consolidates a certain kind of authoritarianism by spectacle at home and also help him as he broadcasts it abroad. The fundamental way that Russia works in American politics is by transmitting the idea that’s nothing is real. So it’s true that the Russians did support Trump. It’s true that there were all kinds of very specific interventions in the election of 2016. But the fundamental idea is to take new technology and transmit this old idea that we can’t really trust ourselves, that there aren’t really facts out there in the world, that the only thing that really matters is our preferences, or really our biases, or really our hatreds.
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How to build an A.I. brain that can conceive of itself | Joscha Bach How to build an A.I. brain that can conceive of itself | Joscha Bach
1 month ago En
A.I. can perform tricks, but can it truly think? Cognitive scientist Joscha Back explains where we are on the path to artificial general intelligence, and where we need to be. The human mind can invent its own code and create models of arbitrary things—including itself—but we don't know how to build a mind quite like that just yet. To achieve A.G.I., will programmers have to re-create every single functional mechanism of the human brain? Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/joscha-bach-what-will-it-take-to-build-a-conscious-ai-brain Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink If you look at our current technological systems they are obviously nowhere near where our minds are. They are very different. And one of the biggest questions for me is: What’s the difference between where we are now and where we need to be if we want to build minds—If we want to build systems that are generally intelligent and self-motivated and maybe self-aware? And, of course, the answer to this is 'we don’t know' because if we knew we’d have already done it. But there are basically several perspectives on this. One is our minds as general learning systems that are able to model arbitrary things, including themselves, and if there are this, they probably need a very distinct set of motivations, needs; things that they want to do. I think that humans get their specifics due to their particular needs. We have cognitive and social and physiological needs and they turn us into who we are. Our motivations determine where we put our attention, what we learn and what we actually do in the world—what we model, how we perceive, what we are conscious of. In a similar sense, it might be that it’s sufficient to build a general learning architecture and combine this with a good motivational system. And we are not there yet in building a general learning architecture. For instance, our minds can learn and create new algorithms that can be used to write code and invent code, programming code for instance, or the rules that you need to build a shop and run that shop if you’re a shopkeeper, which is some kind of programming task in its own right. We don’t know how to build a system that is able to do this yet. It involves, for instance, that we have systems that are able to learn loops and we have some techniques to do this, for instance, a long- and short-term memory and a few other tricks, but they’re nowhere near what people can do so far. And it’s not quite clear how much work needs to be done to extend these systems into what people can do. It could be that it’s very simple. It could be that it’s going to take a lot of research. The dire view, which is more the traditional view, is that human minds have a lot of complexity, that you need to build a lot of functionality into it, like in Minsky's society of mind, to get to all the tricks that people are up to. And if that is the case then it might take a very long time until we have re-created all these different functional mechanisms. But I don’t think that it’s going to be so dire, because our genome is very short and most of that codes for a single cell. Very little of it codes for the brain. And I think a cell is much more complicated than a brain. A brain is probably largely self-organizing and built not like clockwork but like a cappuccino—so you mix the right ingredients and then you let it percolate and then it forms a particular kind of structure. So I do think, because nature pulls it off pretty well in most of the cases, that even though a brain probably needs more complexity than a cappuccino—dramatically more—it’s going to be much simpler than a very complicated machine like a cell.
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Aboard the ISS: Why cross-cultural communication is a matter of life or death | Chris Hadfield Aboard the ISS: Why cross-cultural communication is a matter of life or death | Chris Hadfield
1 month ago En
Look up—you can see the greatest feat of human cooperation orbiting 254 miles above Earth. As commander of Expedition 35 aboard the International Space Station (ISS), Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield understands the difficulty of cultural barriers in team work, and the life or death necessity of learning to communicate across those divides. The ISS is a joint project between five space agencies, built by people from 15 different nations—and each of them has a different take on what is "normal". Hadfield explains the scale of cultural differences aboard the spaceship: "What do you do on a Friday night? What does “yes” mean? What does “uh-huh” mean? What is the day of worship? When do you celebrate a holiday? How do you treat your spouse or your children? How do you treat each other? What is the hierarchy of command? All of those things seem completely clear to you, but you were raised in a specific culture that is actually shared by no one else." Here, Hadfield explains his strategy for genuine listening and communication. Whether it's money, reputation, or your life that's at stake, being sensitive and aware of people's differences helps you accomplish something together—no matter where you’re from. Amway believes that ​diversity and inclusion ​are ​essential ​to the ​growth ​and ​prosperity ​of ​today’s ​companies. When woven ​into ​every ​aspect ​of ​the talent ​life ​cycle, companies committed to diversity and inclusion are ​the ​best ​equipped ​to ​innovate, ​improve ​brand image ​and ​drive ​performance. Chris Hadfield features in the new docuseries One Strange Rock and is the author of An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/chris-hadfield-how-astronauts-work-together-on-the-iss Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: High above our heads is the International Space Station. It’s an amazing, complex thing—the most complicated thing we’ve ever built in space, one of the most complex international projects ever conceived and ever completed. But the keyword of that is international. It is a place built by people from all around the planet, 15 different countries. And that just sounds sort of theoretical, until you start thinking: different languages, different units measurement systems—is it inches or is it meters? Different electrical systems—is it 220, is it 110, is positive ground, is it negative ground? But the most complex problem to deal with, often, is just people who have come from a wildly different cultural background, a completely different sense of what is normal. What do you do on a Friday night? What does “yes” mean? What does “uh-huh” mean? What is the day of worship? When do you celebrate a holiday? How do you treat your spouse or your children? How do you treat each other? What is the hierarchy of command? All of those things seem completely clear to you, but you were raised in a specific culture that is actually shared by no one else. If you have brothers or sisters, ask your brother and sister in detail about some stuff and they will disagree with you. They have a different culture than you do, so imagine if the people that you’re flying a spaceship with come from a wildly different part of the world, trying to find a way to share a sense of purpose so that you can overcome the natural barriers of a difference of culture to do something really difficult—that’s one of the biggest tasks that an astronaut faces. You can start by just by learning language. It’s obvious if it’s as discrete as learning English or learning Russian or learning Japanese, that’s a clearly defined language, but have someone from Louisiana talk to someone from Brooklyn; they both speak English but the language is very different. And if you want to speak clearly and communicate with that person you have to recognize that the culture with which they interpret the world is absolutely necessary for you to understand if you want to clearly communicate with them. And for me the only real measure of clear communication and successful communication is a change of behavior of the listener. If all they did was go “uh-huh,” then you have no understanding of whether they actually comprehended and internalized what it was you were trying to communicate to them. But if you can see that their actions now reflect a different idea, then you can measure whether what you were intending actually got communicated across, then the loop is complete and you’ve successfully crossed whatever cultural barrier was there. And so that requires a lot of extra effort.
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Michio Kaku: Who is right about A.I.: Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk? Michio Kaku: Who is right about A.I.: Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk?
1 month ago En
In mid-2017, Elon Musk spoke these words at a National Governors Association meeting and sparked what is now a famous A.I. debate between himself and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg: “I keep sounding the alarm bell, but until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react.” Musk wants governors to legislate A.I. now, believing it to be an existential threat to humanity's future and likening it to “summoning the demon.” Zuckerberg, on the other hand, called Musk's predictions "pretty irresponsible" and made the case for A.I. as a tool to vastly improve people's quality of life, adding that tech companies should not slow down. To which Musk tweeted: I've talked to Mark about this. His understanding of the subject is limited. And that's the battle of the billionaires in a nutshell, a battle that has divided experts and pundits alike into many sides of an epic debate about the future of A.I. So where does theoretical physicist Michio Kaku stand? Kaku thinks both are right—Zuckerberg in the short term, and Musk in the long run. The tipping point from Team Zuck to Team Musk for Kaku is the moment A.I. achieves self-awareness, which he suspects could be at the end of this century. And what should we do then? "When robots become as intelligent as monkeys I think we should put a chip in their brain to shut them off if they begin to have murderous thoughts," says Kaku. What do you think of Kaku's take on the Musk vs. Zuckerberg A.I. debate and his solution? Michio Kaku's latest book is the awesome The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Our Destiny Beyond Earth Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/michio-kaku-on-elon-musk-mark-zuckerbergs-ai-debate Michio Kaku's Universe in a Nutshell: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NbBjNiw4tk Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: Recently, I was on the Richard Quest show on CNN TV and I was asked the question that we have the battle of the billionaires; on one hand we have Mark Zuckerberg saying, “Don’t worry, artificial intelligence will give us new jobs, new industries, create wealth, prosperity.” And then we have people like, well, Elon Musk, who says, “Watch out. They pose an existential threat to humanity.” Who knows, maybe one day they’ll put us in zoos and throw peanuts at us and make us dance, make us dance behind bars like we do with monkeys and with bears. Well, my personal point of view is that both points of view are in some sense correct. In the short term, I think Zuckerberg is right. Artificial intelligence will open up whole new vistas, it will make life more convenient, things will be cheaper, new industries will be created. I personally think the A.I. industry will be bigger than the automobile industry. In fact, I think the automobile is going to become a robot. You’ll talk to your car. You’ll argue with your car. Your car will give you the best facts, the best route between point A and point B; the car will be part of the robotics industry. Whole new industries involving the repair, maintenance, servicing of robots, not to mention robots that are software programs that you talk to and make life more convenient. However, let’s not be naïve. There is a point, a tipping point at which they can become dangerous and pose an existential threat. And that tipping point is self-awareness. You see, robots are not aware of the fact that they’re robots. They’re so stupid they simply carry out what they are instructed to do because they’re adding machines. We forget that. Adding machines don’t have a will. Adding machines simply do what you program them to do. Now, of course, let’s not be naïve about this, eventually adding machines may be able to compute alternate goals and alternate scenarios when they realize that they are not human. Right now, robots do not know that. However, there is a tipping point at which point they could become dangerous. Right now, our most advanced robot has the intelligence of a cockroach—a rather stupid cockroach. However, it’s only a matter of time before robots become as smart as a mouse, then as smart as a rat, then a rabbit, then a cat, a dog, and eventually as smart as a monkey. Now, monkeys know they are not human. They have a certain amount of self-awareness. Dogs, especially young dogs, are not quite sure. One reason why dogs obey their masters is because they think the master is the top dog, and so they’re a little bit confused about whether or not we humans are part of the dog tribe. But monkeys, I think, have no problems with that; they know they’re not human. So when robots become as intelligent as monkeys I think we should put a chip in their brain to shut them off if they begin to have murderous thoughts. When will that happen? I don’t know.
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Has our ability to create intelligence outpaced our wisdom? | Max Tegmark on A.I. Has our ability to create intelligence outpaced our wisdom? | Max Tegmark on A.I.
1 month ago En
Some of the most intelligent people at the most highly-funded companies in the world can't seem to answer this simple question: what is the danger in creating something smarter than you? They've created AI so smart that the "deep learning" that it's outsmarting the people that made it. The reason is the "blackbox" style code that the AI is based off of—it's built solely to become smarter, and we have no way to regulate that knowledge. That might not seem like a terrible thing if you want to build superintelligence. But we've all experienced something minor going wrong, or a bug, in our current electronics. Imagine that, but in a Robojudge that can sentence you to 10 years in prison without explanation other than "I've been fed data and this is what I compute"... or a bug in the AI of a busy airport. We need regulation now before we create something we can't control. Max's book Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence is being heralded as one of the best books on AI, period, and is a must-read if you're interested in the subject. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/max-tegmark-were-smart-enough-to-create-intelligent-machines-but-are-we-wise-enough Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: I’m optimistic that we can create an awesome future with technology as long as we win the race between the growing power of the tech and the growing wisdom with which we manage the tech. This is actually getting harder because of nerdy technical developments in the AI field. It used to be, when we wrote state-of-the-art AI—like for example IBM’s Deep Blue computer who defeated Gary Kasparov in chess a couple of decades ago—that all the intelligence was basically programmed in by humans who knew how to play chess and then the computer won the game just because it could think faster and remember more. But we understood the software well. Understanding what your AI system does is one of those pieces of wisdom you have to have to be able to really trust it. The reason we have so many problems today with systems getting hacked or crashing because of bugs is exactly because we didn’t understand the systems as well as we should have. Now what’s happening is fascinating, today’s biggest AI breakthroughs are a completely different kind where rather than the intelligence being largely programmed in an easy-to-understand code, you put in almost nothing except a little learning rule by which a simulated arc of neurons can take a lot of data and figure out how to get stuff done. This deep learning suddenly becomes able to do things often even better than the programmers were ever able to do. You can train a machine to play computer games with almost no hard-coded stuff at all. You don’t tell it what a game is, what the things are on the screen, or even that there is such a thing as a screen—you just feed in a bunch of data about the colors of the pixels and tell it, “Hey go ahead and maximize that number in the upper left corner,” and gradually you come back and it’s playing some game much better than I could. The challenge with this, even though it’s very powerful, this is very much “blackbox” now where, yeah it does all that great stuff—and we don’t understand how. So suppose I get sentenced to ten years in prison by a Robojudge in the future and I ask, “Why?” And I’m told, “I WAS TRAINED ON SEVEN TERABYTES OF DATA, AND THIS WAS THE DECISION,” It’s not that satisfying for me. Or suppose the machine that’s in charge of our electric power grid suddenly malfunctions and someone says, “Well, we have no idea why. We trained it on a lot of data and it worked,” that doesn’t instill the kind of trust that we want to put into systems. When you get the blue screen of death when your Windows machine crashes or the spinning wheel of doom because your Mac crashes, “annoying” is probably the main emotion we have, but “annoying” isn’t the emotion we have if it’s myself flying an airplane and it crashes, or the software controlling the nuclear arsenal of the U.S., or something like that. And as AI gets more and more out into the world we absolutely need to transform today’s packable and buggy AI systems into AI systems that we can really trust.
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Why bankers are like time travelers who grab value from the future | Yanis Varoufakis Why bankers are like time travelers who grab value from the future | Yanis Varoufakis
1 month ago En
Like it or not, banks — and the bankers they employ — hold incredible sway over the economy of the world. The former Finance Minister of Greece, Yanis Varoufakis, has a great way of describing how they continue to consolidate this huge amount of power. He posits that bankers time travel. Not by a DeLorean traveling at 88mph, but by taking value from the future—for instance, how much the housing market is going to be—and apply it to the present to essentially create value out of thin air. It's economic black magic. And it can lead to major consequences for the rest of us... but rarely for the bankers themselves. Yanis's new book is the fascinating Talking to My Daughter About the Economy: or, How Capitalism Works-and How It Fails. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/yanis-varoufakis-why-bankers-are-like-time-travelers-who-grab-value-from-the-future Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: Ever since humanity emerged, we've all had debts to one another. We are a collaborative species. We survived the evolutionary struggle in the jungle and in the steppes, in the desert only through collaboration. Collaboration requires reciprocity. I do something for you today, you do something for me tomorrow. That is a debt. It’s a form of debt but it’s a nonfinancial, noneconomic debt. It’s an ethical debt. It’s the good side of debt. As society became commodified and all activity started getting channeled through the anonymous market most of this reciprocity took the form of financial debt. What turbocharged the economy once the economy got separated from society through this process of commodification was banking. Because, let’s face it. Bankers have a fantastic power over the rest of society by definition, by way of existence, to create money. When you get a loan from a bank it is a crazy idea that you are getting it from “somebody else”. You’re not getting it from somebody else. It is not true. This is a major fallacy that occupies most people’s minds, infects most people’s minds, that you are being given money that somebody has saved. That is not true. What the bank does it creates money from thin air. It just types into your account, you know, $20,000 if you borrow $20,000. It comes literally out of thin air. And the hope of the banker is you will be able to repay it, because what happens is you take that $20,000, you buy equipment for your studio, you buy a new bicycle, a new car, whatever. So the money goes from your bank account to the bank account of the company or the person that sold you something. And the idea is that through this circular flow of income and through this economic activity a new income is going to begin, new value will be created. You will be able to repay the bank. The bank will have obtained the interest and therefore the bank is going to profit. So the more they lend to you the more profits they make. So it is a little bit—and that’s why I’m trying to explain to my daughter in the book—It’s a little bit like the bank is having a capacity to push their arm through the timeline into the future and grab value that has not been created yet, bring it to the present, invest it into some productive activity, hopefully to create the value that we need to replay the future. But to the extent that this is successful—and it has always been successful—bankers suddenly get the idea that the more they reach into the future, the more value they snatch from the future to bring it into the present, the greater their own personal profit. But when they overdo it—and, of course, they always overdo it, they overreach—they take too much value from the future, bring it into the present. That value is not realized, and then you have a banking crisis. And because they play such a crucial and powerful role in society they have the political clout – political clout that you and I don’t have because they usually are the ones for finance our politicians to get elected to congress and so on—that can use the political system in order to have themselves bailed out—you know, socialism for the bankers, and austerity for everybody else.
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Ronan Farrow: How my mom inspired me to think beyond myself Ronan Farrow: How my mom inspired me to think beyond myself
1 month ago En
Ronan Farrow isn't the only big name in the Farrow household. His mom, Mia Farrow, is a big-time actress (Rosemary's Baby, Hannah and Her Sisters, The Great Gatsby) and instilled some of the wisdom she learned along the way into her son. Here, on Mother's Day, Ronan shares the best piece of advice he learned from her. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/ronan-farrow-why-mia-farrows-best-advice-to-her-son-is-motherhood-in-a-nutshell Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink I think the most important piece of career advice I ever received was probably from my mother who used the phrase, “Be one with the target.” And what she meant when she said that was, when you are engaging in some kind of a high stakes professional gambit, whether it’s you’re giving a speech or a presentation at work or you’re breaking a big story, if you are fully invested in the goal and it’s a greater goal than yourself it’s not about you— there’s a certain kind of armor in that, and people can attack you personally (and they certainly do attack me a lot personally) and they can try to weaponize whatever they want against you, but if you are really one with the target and you know that what you’re doing contributes to goals that are bigger than yourself and you are 100 percent off of thinking about you and your self-consciousness and your self-interest and on thinking about the problem and how you’re going to make things better through your work and communicating that to the other people involved in whatever project you’re working on, there’s no time to get mired in the “self” piece of it, in the kind of self-consciousness and the worry about self-interest that can, I think, sideline and distract. That’s easier said than done. I don’t always live up to that, but it’s a great philosophy that I found really useful.
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How the NFL uses virtual reality to train for success | Jeremy Bailenson How the NFL uses virtual reality to train for success | Jeremy Bailenson
1 month ago En
Virtual reality isn't just for gamers and tech hobbyists anymore, it's also for NFL players. In 2015, Stanford professor Jeremy Bailenson and recent Stanford graduate Derek Blech co-founded a VR training company called STRIVR and in the first six months, they had signed five NFL teams on multiyear contracts as well as about a dozen college teams. What did this tech do for the NFL? It made football a game of the mind like never before, providing players a safe virtual space to make mistakes, learn from feedback, do mental repetitions, and practice communication and decision-making skills. Those same lessons apply to many jobs and industries, and where STRIVR went next was Walmart, implementing VR learning in 200 training academies around the U.S., helping over 150,000 employees improve their customer service skills, look for shoplifters, and prepare for the stress-fest that is the Black Friday sales. Whether you're a quarterback or a cashier, VR training can raise your potential and you can safely expect it to be part of your future job training in the coming years. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/jeremy-bailenson-how-vr-helps-nfl-players-score-more-touchdowns Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink If you think about where we get virtual reality from, there’s something called a flight simulator. In 1929, Edwin Link said he didn’t want to learn how to fly from a book, but flying a plane is very expensive in terms of making a mistake; make a mistake in a plane people die and. obviously, planes get lost. So Edwin Link developed the flight simulator so people could learn by doing in a safe environment. One of the ways the general public that people who aren't just gamers or technologists are seeing VR is in training. So one thing I've done for the last few years is I've used virtual reality to train athletes. The project began as a master's thesis by Derek Belch, who's a student at Stanford. We use virtual reality to train quarterbacks to look around, recognize a defensive pattern, make a decision by changing the play—they can keep the original play or they can kill, kill, kill and go down to the next play in the queue. When Derek graduated in 2015 he founded a company called STRIVR, and STRIVR in the first six months signed five NFL teams to multiyear contracts, about a dozen college teams. And what we've seen over the last few years is many teams adapting using VR so that players can get extra mental repetitions. Now, where this goes down to your everyday person, is the lessons that we learned by training athletes it turns out applies to just about every job. So think about your own job. You have to look around, you have to see stuff—we call this recognition, pattern recognition—then you have to make a decision and then you have to communicate that decision. So, for a quarterback, he looks around, spots the defense, sees a pattern, changes a play. When he changes the play he calls that out to his teammates. That lesson, that general pattern, applies to just about everybody's job, and the exciting thing for me has been to watch Walmart. So Walmart we began training one of their academies. So Walmart has 200 training academies and basically, if you work at Walmart at any time you can get in your car, drive a few hours and you get to go and train for a week or so at one of these academies. We started out in one of them where we put VR there and what we were training are things like holiday rush, Black Friday, where there are people everywhere running around and yelling at you and it's this really intense experience, giving employees a sense for what that's going to be like, or having them look around the store to spot safety violations or customers who haven't been helped. The same lessons that we use for quarterbacks in that first training academy, qualitatively we were finding that it was a good solution and that people were enjoying it, and the training was working. We then went up to 30 training academies and what we had was 30 training academies use VR and we paired that with 30 who were not and we could run a nice controlled experiment to see the efficacy, how well VR worked in terms of training, and we had really good data there. We're now in all 200 of Walmart's training academies and, to date, over 150,000 employees at Walmart have put on the virtual reality goggles to get better at their job. And it's a really nice use case; training to help you get better at what you do. One of the most useful things about virtual reality is the tracking data. So for a company who's training someone, what we can do is we can figure out how well you're learning as you're doing the behavior.
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Why a meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un could backfire on the U.S. | Ronan Farrow Why a meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un could backfire on the U.S. | Ronan Farrow
1 month ago En
Nobody hopes the eventual face-to-face meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un works out more than Ronan Farrow. Farrow's new book War on Peace in part details the history of diplomatic efforts between past White House administrations and the North Korean regime, and how fragile and fraught with lies that relationship has been. Trump's "saber-rattling" style may be fresh enough to inspire change, but there is a very good chance the U.S. will get played by North Korea's hollow promises. "We are going to need a core of experts who are experienced in the ways in which these regimes, one after another, are difficult and lie to the rest of the world and pose a threat to that region," says Farrow. The potential meeting between Trump and Jong-un will also be the first time a sitting American president will meet face-to-face with a leader of the North Korean regime, and in doing so, the U.S. might give North Korea what it wants most: legitimization. "The risk with this meeting is that we play into their hands and say, “Yeah, sure, we acknowledge you as an equal on the international stage,” and we give up some of our leverage in having them want that contact, want that leader-to-leader access, which could make the nitty-gritty work of actually implementing diplomacy and making sure that they are contained as a nuclear power that much more difficult," says Farrow. Ronan Farrow is the author of War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/ronan-farrow-should-donald-trump-and-kim-jong-un-meet Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: War on Peace tells the stories of a number of the diplomats who have been deeply engaged in North Korea diplomacy over the last several administrations. And I think it’s ahistorical when you hear people say, “Those were all failures, we didn’t get anything done.” Under the Clinton administration, we had a really substantive framework agreement with the North Koreans where they made a lot of commitments that would have been very important in the long-term to slowing their progress as a nuclear power, and the United States actually reneged on a lot of the commitments that we made on our end. We were in no small part responsible for the collapse of that deal. Then subsequently during the George W. Bush administration, you had a situation where Bush, after the disasters of Iraq, set about doubling down on diplomacy and they lead six-party talks. A career diplomat named Chris Hill went over there and spent countless hours talking to all of the players, and they actually shut down some of the reactors for the first time in years. They were starting to give us some information about their nuclear development. In the end, they did cheat, it did fall through, and that wasn’t our fault, but we did make some inroads. Particularly in our conversation with China about North Korea, which is going to be a pivotal part of any solution going forward. Now you see the Trump administration coming in with this kind of madcap approach: diplomacy by tweet, all of this saber rattling, and now potentially a meeting between leaders. And the reality is, we don’t know how that’s going to pan out. Could it work? Sure. And I, and I think everyone else invested in this problem, sincerely hope that it does. But what those experts whose stories are in War on Peace say, one after another, is we are flying blind now and we don’t have to be. You can have the same kind of saber-rattling and tough approach, you could have the same kind of leader-to-leader meeting and also insulate yourself against some of these pitfalls. Make sure that we are not accidentally legitimizing the North Koreans as a nuclear power. Make sure that we are hip to the fact that they very often lie about the kinds of commitments they’re making now and have done so in the past. There is a real risk here that we get played. Look, North Korea will continue to be perilous. It was perilous under the previous regime; it is perilous now. I think that the thaw in relations between the North and the South is one of the most positive developments to come along, and that’s due to a number of factors, not just what’s happening in the United States right now. But ultimately, regardless of who is in the seat of power there, we are going to need a core of experts who are experienced in the ways in which these regimes, one after another, are difficult and lie to the rest of the world and pose a threat to that region. And I have complete confidence in one thing, which is: whoever comes along next in terms of North Korean leadership, we’re going to need some people who are really well-versed in dealing with that region if we want to keep them contained.
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What brands can learn from the failure of Boaty McBoatface | Henry Timms What brands can learn from the failure of Boaty McBoatface | Henry Timms
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In March 2016, the British Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) decided to crowdsource the name of its new $300 million arctic explorer vessel. It hoped the public would suggest something like 'Shackleton' or 'Endeavor', but the moment someone suggested the name 'Boaty McBoatface', it went viral and shot to the top of the poll. The NERC had the right idea in harnessing the power of crowds, explains Henry Timms, director of the 92nd Street Y in New York, but it lacked the skills needed to pull it off. Instead of turning Boaty McBoatface into an opportunity to revive science education and merchandise Boaty, it shut the idea down, canceled the competition and named the ship 'Sir David Attenborough'. "There’s a set of very clear skills in how you go about harnessing the crowd. And you look around the world right now, any corporation, any nonprofit, any leader who wants to come out on top needs to think a lot more carefully about how they negotiate with the crowd," says Timms. Here, he shares the four key components of successful crowdsourcing and brand building, and explains how Lego used those methods to pull itself out of near-bankruptcy and up to new heights. Henry Timms is the co-author of New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World-and How to Make It Work for You Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/henry-timms-how-to-build-a-great-brand-from-lego-to-boaty-mcboatface Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: So there’s this scientific agency in Britain called the Natural Environment Research Council. They’re a big government body and they’ve got a new ship coming. They’ve got a $300 million new arctic explorer vessel and they’re very excited about it, and they recognize that we’re living in this world of crowds where everyone wants to participate and we’re all finding a way to express ourselves, and they have this idea. They say, "Let’s launch a campaign called #NameOurShip." Now, this campaign is off to a slightly worrying start because they launch it with a press release, and the press release says, '#NameOurShip. Maybe you, the public, would like to name it something like Shackleton, or Endeavor, or Adventurer.' Now, these aren’t the kinds of names the public come up with. Within a day someone has tweeted in, “We should call this ship Boaty McBoatface.” And Boaty McBoatface is immediately and virally popular. I should say that in tenth place—Boaty McBoatface was first, but in tenth place, and I thought this was somewhat neglected, was: 'I Like Big Boats and I Cannot Lie'. But in any case, Boaty McBoatface does terrifically well. It goes viral. Everyone is talking about it. It’s on all the front pages of the newspapers. There are literally hundreds of millions of Twitter impressions about this. They’re in the pubs, they’re at dinner tables, the whole nation and, in fact, the whole world—it crosses the ocean, it’s covered by The New York Times and CNN—the whole world gets excited and obsessed with Boaty McBoatface. But there’s a problem. The science minister takes a very dim view of this. 'This is a very big investment of government money. This is not a serious name for a boat. This must be put down immediately and things must be put back in their place.' And this government agency is in a really tough spot. So, on one hand, they’ve got the public who is incredibly excited about the idea of Boaty McBoatface, on the other hand, the science minister is saying this is not taking science seriously. And they end up, really, in a moment which tells us something about our age, which is what they were trying to do. They were trying to work out, 'Okay, there’s a crowd out there, we want to harness their energy.' They want to do that in a powerful way. They were trying to do that, but they had none of the skills you might need to think about harnessing the crowds. In the end what they do is they call it ‘Sir David Attenborough’ who is this very famous British scientist, which no one could really complain about too much. And they named one of the small submarines on top of this boat ‘Boaty McBoatface’. So they literally sunk Boaty at sea. So here’s the question: What could they have done differently? You think about this moment. You think about this huge surge of enthusiasm around science and just imagine if instead of putting Boaty out to the side, instead they leaned into it and they’d said: 'Let’s embrace this. Let’s think about how we could engage a generation of kids in maritime science. Let’s think about how we could merchandise this. Let’s think about all the different moments that Boaty could dock around the nation and you could imagine whole groups of people coming out to learn more about Arctic exploration.'
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The incredible reason spotted hyena society is ruled by females | Lucy Cooke The incredible reason spotted hyena society is ruled by females | Lucy Cooke
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When the allegations against Harvey Weinstein were revealed in October 2017, an opinion writer for The New York Times likened him to a hyena, writing: “Hyenas cannot help their own nature.” Ironically, as zoologist Lucy Cooke reveals, the qualities of a hyena couldn’t be further from the nature of Weinstein’s sexual misconduct. "The truth about hyenas is that they are really, I think, more like the feminist icons of the animal kingdom," says Cooke. "The spotted hyena is an extraordinary creature... The female’s genitalia is a facsimile of the male’s. She has what is described in polite zoological circles as a “pseudo-penis”, which is actually an eight-inch clitoris. And she also has a fake scrotum." This unusual appendage often suffocates cubs during labor and causes first-time spotted hyena moms to die in childbirth, so what is the evolutionary benefit? The most favored theory posits that it's a built-in anti-rape device, as the female's unique genitalia requires her full cooperation in mating. As Cooke explains in much more detail, hyena sex is not for the faint-hearted, and it's the female's power in this domain that helps her rule the entire society. Lucy Cooke is the author of The Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos, and Other Tales from the Wild Side of Wildlife. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/lucy-cooke-the-extraordinary-genitalia-of-female-spotted-hyenas Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: So, very recently, during the whole Harvey Weinstein scandal, Weinstein was compared to a hyena. This is one of those instances where I just shook my head and just thought, 'Well, that is just about the most least-appropriate animal to compare Harvey Weinstein to.' The reason why—I think it was The New York Times that was comparing Harvey Weinstein to a hyena—was because they are seen as these aggressive, unpleasant, cowardly, malicious, malevolent creatures. The truth about hyenas is that they are really, I think, more like the feminist icons of the animal kingdom. The spotted hyena is an extraordinary creature. They are the original “chicks with dicks” because they have extraordinary genitalia. The female’s genitalia is a facsimile of the male’s. She has what is described in polite zoological circles as a “pseudo-penis”, which is actually an eight-inch clitoris. And she also has a fake scrotum. And it’s an unusual piece of equipment for a female, because it’s a strange multitasking organ, the pseudo-penis, because the female hyena will actually copulate, urinate and give birth through it. So giving birth is a bit like squeezing a melon out of a hose pipe, and a large percentage of cubs suffocate on the way out, and a large amount of first-time moms die in childbirth. So you’ve got to think, 'Hello evolution, what were you thinking when you evolved the pseudo-penis in the hyena? What possible reason can there be for this structure?' And there are lots of theories as to why, but the most favored theory by Kay Holekamp—who’s the Jane Goodall of spotted hyenas, an amazing scientist who has been studying them in the wild for years and years and years—when I asked her, she said that she thought that it was all to do with the war between the sexes. So hyenas are unusual, the females; they don’t just have a pseudo-penis and a fake scrotum, but they’re also bigger than the males and they’re more aggressive. Hyena society is a strict matriarchy, with dominance passing down the female line. Males are reduced to the very outskirts of society where they are forced to beg for acceptance, food, and sex. So the females are really running the show, and they’re extremely aggressive. Now, if a male wants to mate with a female it’s almost impossible for him to do that without her cooperation because it’s kind of like trying to have sex with a sock—because he’s got to try and insert his erect actual-penis into her half-foot floppy pseudo-penis. I mean, it’s not for the faint-hearted. You can’t really do it unless the female is on your side. Now, amongst mammals rape is not uncommon. Dolphins—everybody loves them, look like they’re smiling—but they are not averse to boffing each other’s blowholes. There’s actually a fair amount of non-consensual sex, shall we say, that happens amongst dolphins.
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Is your office full of strangers? How real talk can elevate company culture. | Claire Groen Is your office full of strangers? How real talk can elevate company culture. | Claire Groen
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Most people approach talking about difficult subjects as if they were at a debate. That is, arriving at the table (metaphorically speaking) with preconceived notions and ideas. But Amway's VP of Global Litigation and Corporate Law, Claire Groen, knew there had to be a better way. She and the leaders at Amway devised what they call RealTalk, which brings people together to hold conversations on current topics. And when the topics happened to turn into hot-button issues like immigration, the racism at Charlottesville, and so forth, these talks became an incredible conduit to a more inclusive office. People were heard, and in turn, listened more to ideas outside of their comfort zone. This resulted in a better and more inclusive culture at Amway. Amway believes that diversity and inclusion are ​essential ​to the ​growth ​and ​prosperity ​of ​today’s ​companies. When woven ​into ​every ​aspect ​of ​the talent ​lifecycle, companies committed to diversity and inclusion are ​the ​best ​equipped ​to ​innovate, ​improve ​brand image ​and ​drive ​performance. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/claire-groen-real-talk-at-work-how-amway-created-a-better-office-for-more-people Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: As part of our drive towards developing an inclusive environment, we wanted to address both people's uniqueness and their sense of belonging. In order to do that we needed to be able to have conversations about somebody's uniqueness in order to achieve a sense of belongingness in the workplace. And therefore we felt like we needed to be able to put on the table conversations that were difficult topics – that people were wanting to shy away from maybe, because they were worried about asking questions, or they were worried about bringing up the topic. But yet those topics were critical to really understanding each other. And we launched a series called RealTalk series in order to be able to put those more difficult things on the table. It happened a little bit as a coincidence that there were a lot of current events that occurred as we were going through that RealTalk series. Things like natural disasters, a lot of the immigration changes that were happening in the U.S. And then also the events that happened in Charlottesville. And those became great platforms for us to be able to have some of these difficult conversations to understand how people view things differently. So people may see an event like Charlottesville and they feel badly about it. They're unhappy about it but they sort of go on about their way. Whereas other people in the workplace feel very personally affected by it. They may be angry. They may be very sad about it. And they need to be able to come into a workplace where people could recognize those emotions and show that they cared that they felt that way. We wanted to have our participants get comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable. And that was the guidance that we gave to the leaders for those sessions to make sure that we were raising up issues where people understood that it wasn't going to necessarily be an easy conversation. And people had to come prepared to be vulnerable and open to some level of discomfort. One of the things we asked for from the participants was to assume a positive intent. And a positive intent is simply necessary if you want to have these difficult conversations and have them be productive. It's so easy to go in and actually become defensive. That's usually the issue that creates the obstacles in having a productive conversation. It's not so much that people go negative but it's that they become defensive. And so we really asked people to come in and say let's assume a positive intent on the part of the other person so that we didn't go to an area of defensiveness immediately. As we engaged in this series we wanted people to understand that it was a dialogue and not a debate. Dialogue is open-ended. It's a conversation about how I might experience something and understanding how you might experience that exact same thing but in a different way. In a debate you're looking to win. You're looking to convince and have the final say in something. And that's not the purpose of these conversations. The purpose is to make sure that we can understand each other better and become better advocates for each other. All the experiences that we had going through the RealTalk series really summed up to leading people to commit to having ongoing conversations about things that matter even apart from the series. And it really led to a practical takeaway for people to just simply say "I'm going to sit down with somebody. I'm going to ask their perspective on an event that happened. I
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How to build an A.I. brain that can surpass human intelligence | Ben Goertzel How to build an A.I. brain that can surpass human intelligence | Ben Goertzel
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Artificial intelligence has the capability to far surpass our intelligence in a relatively short period of time. But AI expert Ben Goertzel knows that the foundation has to be strong for that artificial brain power to grow exponentially Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/ben-goertzel-how-to-build-an-ai-brain-that-can-surpass-human-intelligence Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink If you think much about physics and cognition and intelligence it’s pretty obvious the human mind is not the smartest possible general intelligence any more than humans are the highest jumpers or the fastest runners. We’re not going to be the smartest thinkers. If you are going to work toward AGI rather than focusing on some narrow application there’s a number of different approaches that you might take. And I’ve spent some time just surveying the AGI field as a whole and organizing an annual conference on the AGI. And then I’ve spent a bunch more time on the specific AGI approach which is based on the OpenCog, open source software platform. In the big picture one way to approach AGI is to try to emulate the human brain at some level of precision. And this is the approach I see, for example, Google Deep Mind is taking. They’ve taken deep neural networks which in their common form are mostly a model of visual and auditory processing in the human brain. And now in their recent work such as the DNC, differential neural computer, they’re taking these deep networks that model visual or auditory processing and they’re coupling that with a memory matrix which models some aspect of what the hippocampus does, which is the part of the brain that deals with working memory, short-term memory among other things. So this illustrates an approach where you take neural networks emulating different parts of the brain and maybe you take more and more neural networks emulating different parts of the human brain. You try to get them to all work together not necessarily doing computational neuroscience but trying to emulate the way different parts of the brain are doing processing and the way they’re talking to each other. A totally different approach is being taken by a guy named Marcus Hutter in Australia National University. He wrote a beautiful book on universal AI in which he showed how to write a superhuman infinitely intelligence thinking machine in like 50 lines of code. The problem is it would take more computing power than there is in the entire universe to run. So it’s not practically useful but they’re then trying to scale down from this theoretical AGI to find something that will really work. Now the approach we’re taking in the OpenCog project is different than either of those. We’re attempting to emulate at a very high level the way the human mind seems to work as an embodied social generally intelligent agent which is coming to grips with hard problems in the context of coming to grips with itself and its life in the world. We’re not trying to model the way the brain works at the level of neurons or neural networks. We’re looking at the human mind more from a high-level cognitive point of view. What kinds of memory are there? Well, there’s semantic memory about abstract knowledge or concrete facts. There’s episodic memory of our autobiographical history. There’s sensory-motor memory. There’s associative memory of things that have been related to us in our lives. There’s procedural memory of how to do things. And we then look at the different kinds of learning and reasoning the human mind can do. We can do logical deduction sometimes. We’re not always good at it. We make emotional intuitive leaps and strange creative combinations of things. We learn by trial and error and habit. We learn socially by imitating, mirroring, emulating or opposing others. These different kinds of memory and learning that the human mind has – one can attempt to achieve each of those with a cutting-edge computer science algorithm, rather than trying to achieve each of those functions and structures in the way the brain does. So what we have in OpenCog we have a central knowledge repository which is very dynamic and lives in RAM on a large network of computers which we call the AtomSpace. And for the mathematicians or computer science in the audience, the AtomSpace is what you’d call a weighted labeled hypergraph. So it has nodes. It has links. A link can go between two nodes or a link could go between three, four, five or 50 nodes. Different nodes and links have different types and the nodes and links can have numbers attached to them. A node or link could have a weight indicating a probability or a confidence. It could have a weight indicating how important it is to the system right now or how important it is in the long term so it should be kept around in the system’s memory.
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A short history of knowledge, from feudalism to the Internet | Alice Dreger A short history of knowledge, from feudalism to the Internet | Alice Dreger
1 month ago En
Crowdsourcing as an idea isn't anything new, says historian and sex researcher Alice Dreger. She tells us about the history of public gathering of information from the medieval era to today. The enlightenment period was a big boon to the arts and sciences, but also an even bigger help to how knowledge is organized and distributed. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/alice-dreger-a-short-history-of-knowledge-from-feudalism-to-the-internet Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Peer review is not a simple thing because humans do it and so whenever there’s humans there will be bias introduced, relationships get complicated with regard to peer review. We have a fantasy that peer review will be totally anonymous on both ends – you won’t know who the person you’re reviewing is and they won’t know who you are and it will all be blind. But in reality people figure out in peer review who is who and biases do get introduced. But that said, the idea of peer review is a really important one and we can sort of approach it and that’s the idea that we have people who are qualified judging each other’s work. It allows us to essentially crowd source knowledge and to have an opportunity where blind spots are picked off, where errors are picked up and where we can make work better. So it’s essentially a way to crowd source knowledge. I want to point out by the way that peer review is historically really interesting. It came out of the enlightenment period. So this was the period when thinkers were beginning to really appreciate the idea that humans together could know more. And what’s fascinating is that democracy and science grew up together and they both use peer review. So science uses peer review because scientific ideas are put forth and then scientists are qualified to do so, judge that work. And in democracy peer review is used in things like voting systems so when we do voting that’s a peer review form. When we do judging of criminal or non-criminal acts in courts that’s a form of peer review when we have a jury. And so it’s not a coincidence because what was happening was the thinkers of the enlightenment were beginning to figure out that more people looking at a problem could to get you better knowledge. Before the enlightenment the concept was knowledge came from above, it came from the church, from the state, from God, it came from an external higher authority. But the real revelation of the enlightenment was the idea that people could do this themselves they didn’t have to rely on the church, the state, God, an external authority, they could to do it themselves. And so they began to have the idea that they would reject the king and they would essentially reject the teachings of the church and they would reject the state being run by the king; that they would take back control of knowledge. And that was true in democracy and in science. So, it’s no coincidence that a lot of the founding fathers were science geeks. They were thinking about crowdsourcing. It is what we call crowdsourcing. There are more checks and balances on bad knowledge going forward so there’s accountability at some level. When you’re doing pier review the editor at least knows who you are. When you’re doing voting theoretically you’re not allowed to vote more than once. When you’re on a jury you have got a judge keeping track of whether or not information should be admissible in court whether it’s fair to admit it in court. The internet is crowdsourcing gone wild. It has no limits on it and so you can have things like bots like things until it actually is noticed by real human beings, you can have situations where something looks incredibly real but it’s not real and it will take off much faster than we can stop it. So the internet really is a beautiful thing in many ways. It allows people to find each other who never could have found each other before, for example, people with very unusual medical conditions can find each other, people with very unusual interests can find each other. The problem is that you have a situation where there are no checks and balances and so you get a phenomenon whereby things that are not real can go forward. But there are some places on the Internet where there are checks and balances. So Wikipedia is a great example actually. Wikipedia actually has people who function as editors and they will talk to each other, fight with each other and all the discussions get externalized. That allows a level of accountability that much of the Internet doesn’t have. It’s also the case that Wikipedia paid editors can actually stop people from editing in some circumstances or stop people from messing with pages. So there are places on the Internet that have been born of crowdsourcing but that do have some checks and balances built in.
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A four-step method for giving foolproof feedback | Michelle Tillis Lederman A four-step method for giving foolproof feedback | Michelle Tillis Lederman
1 month ago En
Want to motivate your team? Learn to give useful feedback. Leadership expert Michelle Tillis Lederman explains her four-step method that can make feedback conversations go smoothly and funnel toward growth. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/michelle-tillis-lederman-how-to-give-feedback-that-works Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink I love thinking about leveraging the laws of likability when giving feedback. Because feedback is only effective if somebody can receive it. So you want to present feedback, I say, on a silver platter and not on a garbage can lid. You have to remember it’s not about your communication style, It’s about theirs. The best way to develop your people is to flex to them, to empower them, to adapt your style to what they need. That’s a manager. That’s a leader. That’s a coach. So if they’re somebody who really likes direct feedback even if it’s something you’re not comfortable with they will respect and be able to take it in better if you can just get to the point. If you’re somebody who’s really direct and they need a little bit more tact and diplomacy, then you’re going to need to massage your messaging so, again, it can be heard. There’s a correlation between the speed at which somebody receives that feedback and the importance that they place on it. When you delay feedback, you delay the value you’re placing on it. So, immediacy is important. Now, not in the exact moment; let them have a moment to breathe. But don’t wait more than a day, if you can, if it’s really crucial. You had that weekly meeting; sometimes it will fade from your memory by that point. It becomes less important to you and to them. So make sure you give that feedback quickly and specifically. Don’t just say, 'Oh, I think it went well.' Tell them why you thought it went well. What specifically they did that you thought went well. And then challenge them with the next opportunity. Give them something to keep growing from. So if you think about the most important law of likability it’s the law of curiosity. And I have a model that you can use to walk through any challenging or feedback conversation that will leverage these laws of likability, starting with curiosity. Curiosity creates connections and connection is important in these conversations because when you are receiving feedback you’re considering your source. And when you don’t value, trust or like source then you might not be really willing to take that information in. So the model has four parts: ask, elaborate, empower, collaborate. 'Ask' is going to leverage that law of curiosity. Start with a question and make sure that question is open-ended. It’s not, you know: 'Do you think that went well?' Which is implying that you don’t think that went well. Instead, you ask: 'How do you think it went? What do you think went well? What do you think could have gone better?' And get them talking. That’s the key to opening up a feedback conversation, it’s to get the information from them. It actually makes it easier on you as a manager because you see where they’re at, what they already know. They’re bringing information in the room and you can determine, 'Oh, we’re about on the same page,' or 'We have completely different views of the situation.' And that will help kind of tweak the information that you need to bring into the room. Oftentimes people are much harder on themselves than you will ever be on them. When you ask, the next law of likability is the most important thing: you have to listen. So, listen for the understanding, listen for the concern, listen for a different view or interpretation of the situation. Because we know we’re coming in with a belief about what happened. We need to try to check that assumption at the door and listen for other possibilities, other narratives.
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A.I. economics: How cheaper predictions will change the world | Ajay Agrawal A.I. economics: How cheaper predictions will change the world | Ajay Agrawal
1 month ago En
When most of us look at A.I. we see magical capabilities. When economists look at A.I. they see something very different. Economist Ajay Agrawal explains: "What economists bring to the conversation is that they are able to look at a fascinating technology like artificial intelligence and strip all the fun and wizardry out of it and reduce A.I. down to a single question, which is, 'What does this technology reduce the cost of?'" Never has one person taken such delight in stripping the fun from something awesome. But what does A.I. lower the cost of? Predictions, says Agrawal. Intelligent machines can take information we have and use it to generate information we need. Uncertainty is the single biggest hurdle in good decision making, and A.I. can drastically increase certainty in many areas, like automated vehicles, language translation, human resources and medical diagnostics. As A.I. becomes a cheaper technology, its use will become even more widespread. "Where I think it’s really interesting is that when it becomes cheap, we’ll start using it for things that weren’t traditionally prediction problems but we’ll start converting problems into prediction problems to take advantage of the new, cheap prediction." Ajay Agrawal is the co-author of Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/ajay-agrawal-why-predictive-ai-leads-to-better-decision-making Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: I think economics has something to contribute in terms of our understanding of artificial intelligence because it gives us a different view. So, for example, if you ask a technologist to tell you about the rise of semiconductors they will talk to you about the increasing number of transistors on a chip and all the science underlying the ability to keep doubling the number of transistors every 18 months or so. But if you ask an economist to describe to you the rise of semiconductors they won’t talk about transistors on a chip, instead they’ll talk about a drop in the cost of arithmetic. They’ll say, what’s so powerful about semiconductors is they substantially reduced the cost of arithmetic. It’s the same with A.I., everybody is fascinated with all the magical things A.I. can do and what economists bring to the conversation is that they are able to look at a fascinating technology like artificial intelligence and strip all the fun and wizardry out of it and reduce A.I. down to a single question, which is, “What does this technology reduce the cost of?” And in the case of A.I. the recent economists think it’s such a foundational technology and why it’s so important it stands in a different category from virtually every other domain of technology that we see today, is because the thing for which it drops the cost is such a foundational input, we use it for so many things; in the case of A.I., that’s prediction. And so why that’s useful is that as soon as we think of A.I. as a drop in the cost of prediction, first of all, it takes away all the confusion of well, what is this current renaissance in A.I. actually doing? Is it Westworld? Is it C-3PO? Is it a Hal, what is it? And really what it is, it’s simply a drop in the cost of prediction. And we define prediction as taking information you have to generate information you don’t have. So it’s not just through the traditional form of forecasting like taking last months sales and predicting next months sales. It’s also taking, for example, if we have a medical image and we’re looking at a tumor and the data we have is the image and what we don’t have is the classification of the tumor as benign or malignant, the A.I. makes that classification, that’s a form of prediction. And so when something becomes cheap—from economics 101 most people remember there’s a downward sloping demand curve—and so when something becomes cheaper that means we use more of it. And so in the case of prediction as it becomes cheaper we’ll use more and more of it. And so that will take two forms: one is that we’ll use more of it for things we traditionally use prediction for like demand forecasting and supply chain management. But where I think it’s really interesting is that when it becomes cheap, we’ll start using it for things that weren’t traditionally prediction problems but we’ll start converting problems into prediction problems to take advantage of the new, cheap prediction. So one example is driving. We’ve had autonomous cars for a long time, or autonomous vehicles, but we’ve always used them inside a controlled environment like a factory or a warehouse. And we did that because we had to control the number of—think of it as the if/then statement.
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Why victimhood is attractive to white men, religions, and other majority groups | Bill Doherty Why victimhood is attractive to white men, religions, and other majority groups | Bill Doherty
1 month ago En
Just saying the words 'identity politics' can cause an orchestra of eye rolls, but historically these tribal movements have been a net good for the country, helping to elevate marginalized groups such as African Americans, women in the workforce and LGBTQ people. However, there's an unhealthy trend emerging, says Professor Bill Doherty. You can somehow be in the majority and be a victim of an oppressed minority. "Now we have a culture in which there is competition for victimhood and white men—now many white men are calling themselves victims; victims of affirmative action, victims of the liberal left," says Doherty. Everyone from major religious groups to bankers on Wall Street are competing to be the biggest victims. These warped identity politics don't serve anyone, says Doherty. What they do is make it impossible for groups to work together to solve the common problems we face, like poverty, education, healthcare, and environmental collapse. For the majority, victimhood is a short-term win with long-term costs. Bill Doherty is a senior fellow at Better Angels, a bipartisan nonprofit movement that aims to depolarize the United States. Find out more at better-angels.org. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/bill-doherty-how-identity-politics-made-everyone-a-victim Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: We live in a very interesting time where we have, I think, a combination of what’s called expressive individualism, which is about the importance of me, my experience, what makes me happy. What we now have is something additional and that is identity and tribal identifications where we have—and I want to say there’s a good part of this, for one thing—that we have historically marginalized groups, women certainly in the workforce, in the public sphere, gay people, African-Americans, other minorities, we’ve had a lot of folks who have been in the margins of power in our society who have said uh-uh this isn’t working anymore. So these movements towards individual and group liberation have, in net, been very positive for our country. But we always tend to turn things towards a kind of individualistic focus. Now we have a culture in which there is competition for victimhood and white men now, many white men are calling themselves victims; victims of affirmative action, victims of the liberal left. And you have religious groups that have tens of millions of people in this country who are victims of outsiders who want to destroy them. So what’s happened then is, I think, this expressive individualism has been combined with sort of the benefits of being in an oppressed group, you know, the moral high ground that comes with that and the strong identification that comes with being in a victimized group. And now, everybody is in a victimized group. After the great recession in 2007/2008, bankers were the new victimized group. And so there’s an unhealthy trend towards tribal competition for victim status in our country and I want to go back and again say, there is something to the victim, there is something to it. This is hard to talk about without saying: okay everybody should just get along and stop complaining. I'm not saying that at all. But there is something unhealthy, and what it keeps us from doing—this is my main problem with it —it keeps us from working across identity groups to solve the problems that we have together. Because all of our major problems related to poverty, to education, to healthcare, to the environment—just take any of our problems—they require cross-identity group coalitions to work on together. And when we divide into identity groups we can’t work across coalitions. Martin Luther King, just before he died, was working on poverty on a cross-racial coalition. He knew that the civil rights laws needed to be changed and it had to be a black leadership to change those Jim Crow laws. The next step was poverty and poverty is not just racial. And he knew that you needed to have a broad coalition. That’s going to be hard nowadays. Some are trying it, but that is much harder to do in an identity-based society.
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Why religion is literally false and metaphorically true | Bret Weinstein Why religion is literally false and metaphorically true | Bret Weinstein
1 month ago En
Where do your beliefs come from? There's a school of thought that sees religion as a mind virus that wastes the time and effort of human beings, but evolutionary biologist Bret Weinstein offers a more reasonable explanation: "belief systems have flourished because they have facilitated the interests of the creatures involved," he says. Religious people are evolutionarily fitter than non-believers, not because they are protected by a deity but rather because religion is a form of adaptive evolution. Religion is so widespread because it has massive survival advantages beneath the supernatural elements—that's what Weinstein refers to as "literally false and metaphorically true". For example, believing in heaven is literally false—there is no such place—but believing in it keeps your descendants in good standing in the religious community after you're gone, thus setting your lineage up to continue. The thought itself may be untrue, but the result of the thought is evolutionarily effective. "Despite the fact that human beings think that they have escaped the evolutionary paradigm, they’ve done nothing of the kind, and so we should expect the belief systems that people hold to mirror the evolutionary interests that people have," Weinstein says. For more from Bret Weinstein, visit http://www.bretweinstein.net. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/bret-weinstein-how-evolution-explains-religion Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: We have minds that are programmed by culture that can be completely at odds with our genomes. And it leads to misunderstandings of evolution, like the idea that religious belief is a mind virus, that effectively these beliefs structures are parasitizing human beings and they are wasting the time and effort that those human beings are spending on that endeavor rather than the more reasonable interpretation, which is that these belief systems have flourished because they have facilitated the interests of the creatures involved. Our belief systems are built around evolutionary success and they certainly contain human benevolence, which is appropriate to phases of history when there is abundance and people can afford to be good to each other. The problem is if you have grown up in a period in which abundance has been the standard state you don’t anticipate the way people change in the face of austerity. And so what we are currently seeing is messages that we have all agreed are unacceptable reemerging because the signals that we have reached the end of the boom times, those signals are everywhere, and so people are triggered to move into a phase that they don’t even know that they have. Despite the fact that human beings think that they have escaped the evolutionary paradigm they’ve done nothing of the kind, and so we should expect the belief systems that people hold to mirror the evolutionary interests that people have rather than to match our best instincts—when we are capable of being good to each other because there’s abundance, we have those instincts and so it’s not incorrect to say that human beings are capable of being marvelous creatures and being quite ethical. Now I would argue there’s a simple way of reconciling the correct understanding that religious belief often describes truths that, in many cases, fly in the face of what we can understand scientifically, with the idea that these beliefs are adaptive. I call it the state of being literally false and metaphorically true. A belief is literally false and metaphorically true if it is not factual but if behaving as if it were factual results in an enhancement of one’s fitness. To take an example, if one behaves in let’s say the Christian tradition in such a way as to gain access to heaven one will not actually find themselves at the pearly gates being welcomed in, but one does tend to place their descendants in a good position with respect to the community that those descendants continue to live in. So if we were to think evolutionarily, the person who is behaving so as to get into heaven has genetic interests. Those genetic interests are represented in the narrow sense by their immediate descendants and close relatives, in the larger sense they may be represented by the entire population of people from whom that individual came, and by acting so as to get into heaven, the fitness of that person, the number of copies of those genes that continue to flourish in the aftermath of that person’s death will go up. So the belief in heaven is literally false—there is no such place—but it is metaphorically true in the sense that it results in an increase in fitness.
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How equal parental leave can help close the gender pay gap | Lauren Smith Brody How equal parental leave can help close the gender pay gap | Lauren Smith Brody
1 month ago En
It's no small secret that America is far behind the rest of the world when it comes to maternal leave. But studies are finding that paternal leave shouldn't be overlooked, either. Lauren Smith Brody, former editor of Glamor magazine and now a full-time author and founder of The Fifth Trimester movement, makes the case here that dads need time off, too, to bond with their newborns, and that modern companies need to understand and appreciate that. Lauren's latest book is The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom's Guide to Style, Sanity, and Success After Baby. This video is brought to you by Amway. Amway believes that ​diversity and inclusion ​are ​essential ​to the ​growth ​and ​prosperity ​of ​today’s ​companies. When woven ​into ​every ​aspect ​of ​the talent ​life ​cycle, companies committed to diversity and inclusion are ​the ​best ​equipped ​to ​innovate, ​improve ​brand image ​and ​drive ​performance. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/lauren-smith-brody-how-equal-parental-leave-can-help-close-the-gender-pay-gap Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: It's really important for managers to model the kind of openness that they want to foster in their employees. Because if you're working for someone and they hide everything about their parenthood in the workplace, you think that that's the ideal and you don't feel welcome to share it yourself. But we all know that people who feel like whole human beings at work bring so much of their personal lives to work in a way that ultimately fuels the work that they do, that makes them more committed, more dedicated. And to be fair a lot of these managers are from potentially a generation before, even two generations before these current workers, who are primarily millennials. And they may have had—they're sort of a self-selected group. So in order for a female partner at a law firm to have made partner and now be the boss, she is one of their survivors. So she's not one of the 45 percent of the class that came in female. She is one of the 13 or 14 percent of female partners, right? So something happened there. She had either more support from her peers, her bosses. Maybe she has a spouse whose home with her kids, whatever it is. She had something special that made it work for her, and sometimes it can be hard for a manager in that position to not expect the people underneath her to be able to thrive in that same situation. You feel like "Oh, well I pledged parenthood, you should have to pledge parenthood too." It's a very natural instinct and I don't really blame people for it. However what we see, everything we know about millennial workers—who are going to be 75 percent of the workforce by the year 2025, so it's happening—is that they expect to bring their whole lives to work. And if you can't manage around that and you can't imagine what that is like, you're going to be outdated really, really quickly—as is your company. So the policies that are going to be most effective in helping you retain new parents and support them and grow your company and grow your industry are those that are completely untied to gender, that are fair for everyone, that don't even label – a couple of years ago there was sort of this trend toward "primary parent, secondary parent" until everybody realized oh gosh, well that tends to divide along gender lines, first of all. And secondly, isn't what we want actually an even balance or at least the right for parents to make that decision and decide for themselves how they want to split it down? And also any mothers who were breastfeeding, I think, kind of automatically felt like they had to be the primary parent, and then the secondary ended up being dad, and then dad didn't take as much leave. Anyway, so first and foremost it's about having the same amount of leave for adoptive parents, same sex parents, moms, dads across the board. Let individual families make their own decisions about what works in their home and in terms of their income. Because if you have dads in the workplace saying "I'm taking less leave," what they're really saying is "my salary is more important. My work in the workplace counts more and is worth more money." And that's a perpetuating problem that ultimately impacts women's paychecks and contributes to the "motherhood penalty". Furthermore, so this book was really the idea for The Fifth Trimester was born out of the idea that yes, six paid months is an ideal. We do not have that in our country right now and if you are expecting a baby you just need someone to tell you how to do it in the meantime, with the hope that you go back to work and you can either move up the ladder and change actual policies from within your workplace using the tools that are given by these hundreds of women
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