Big Think
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1420 videos
How to be a better leader: Offer guidance, not instruction | Robert Langer How to be a better leader: Offer guidance, not instruction | Robert Langer
1 week 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 I think that the teacher and the leader they’re all together. I don’t think of them as distinct parts of what I do. When I run the lab I feel like I’m teaching the graduate students and the postdocs partly by example, partly “we’re all in this together.” And I think that they go together. My hope is that when people leave this lab they’re stronger, better people. That they’re leaders themselves—and that, in fact, has happened. I mean we have over 300 people who have left the lab who are professors who lead their own lab; We’ve had many people leave the lab who’ve become presidents of companies, who’ve started their own companies, who’ve become CEOs. So they’ve become leaders, and that’s what I love to see. Well I don’t know that there’s any one set of qualities. I’ve seen leaders succeed in different ways, but to me the kinds of things I think I probably do are try to impart to the people who work for me or work with me the fact that you want to make an impact on the world, you want to make it a better place, you want to treat people well. And you want to really think that almost anything is possible. And I guess finally the way I try to deal with people for the most part is try to provide what I’ll call positive reinforcement. If somebody does something good I want to let them know it rather than, say, yelling at them and saying, “You should work harder!” I want people to work hard because they want to, not because they have to. Well the way I try to foster this idea of discovery and invention is partly by example. If somebody comes in and they’re doing a thesis I try to get them to think about “Well, what will be important?” I might shape it in some very general way, but I want people to just think. I don’t want to just say, “Here, do this,” I want to be a guide. Another way I sometimes think about it is this—because I’m dealing with graduate students and postdocs—So the way I often think about it is if somebody is a graduate student or a postdoctoral fellow, almost their entire life up until then they’ve been judged (say by grades or other means) by how well they give answers to other people’s questions. But in life, in my opinion, what’s really important is not the answers that you might give (though that’s important) but the really important thing is the questions you ask. Are you asking really important questions, or are you asking medium-important questions, or unimportant questions? I think the key to it is to help somebody go from “somebody who gives good answers” to “somebody who asks good questions.” Because in the end questions are going to be what’s key. So that’s really want I want to see.
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Capitalism 2.0: How natural laws can create a more equal economy | John Fullerton Capitalism 2.0: How natural laws can create a more equal economy | John Fullerton
1 week ago En
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Perpetual flight: The incredible technology behind non-stop drones | Fatema Hamdani Perpetual flight: The incredible technology behind non-stop drones | Fatema Hamdani
1 week ago En
*Special Note: At 0:54 in the video Fatema says "not defense", but she intended to say "not military." Kraus Aerospace is a private company that consults in security and defense.* 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 Fatema Hamdani: So when we look at UAV platforms (or drones as we call them commonly) there are multiple different types of platforms. There’s rotary devices or multi-rotor. And then there’s fixed-wing UAV platforms. Fixed-wing cover the larger use cases where you’re talking about flying them anywhere from 2,000, 16,000 going up to 35,000 feet, which is the regular airspace under which aircrafts operate as well. And fixed-wing UAVs are categorized by their size and weight starting from Group 1 which is the smallest going up to Group 5, which are the larger ones which carry way larger payloads and might also be used for offensive purposes that might carry missiles and other things. So these groupings actually we, for example, Kraus Aerospace, it’s a private company, not defense. So we only play within that Group 1 to Group 4 platforms, where they’re primarily focused or Group 3 platforms. They’re primarily focused on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or payload that provide things like communication, signal intelligence. You are talking about radio relay or payloads that do lidar or electrical optical or infrared camera. So any kind of visual payloads that allow and facilitate for decision-makers to make rapid decisions on the ground. So this conversation is very timely. Everybody is hearing about Space Force and what the government is doing there, there are articles all over. DARPA is talking about it and DARPA is investing in it. Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, others are kind of coming in together to help us. So essentially if you take a look at it we are fairly dependent on the satellites that are out there – to launch a satellite, to repair a satellite, to do maintenance around a satellite, this is an extremely expensive proposition. And those are also very easy to take out, so if there is a certain missile that attacks (and there are four or five countries in the world that actually have anti-satellite missiles), that could take out a satellite. But that’s not the only way of crippling a satellite. You could do jamming, you could do multiple things where the receivers are, the signal, other components that are associated with satellites—You mess with any of that, it kind of takes out a satellite. So, for example, I think it was back in January of 2016 that we have 13 or 14 GPS satellites out there and we were taking down one of them, and there was a really minor 100 millisecond or 300 millisecond difference in sync, because there were some components that were introduced that caused a lapse in the time, and because from a GPS or when you use GPS to guide you time is extremely important, and syncing up of that—wherever you were before and where you are now, that’s how GPS can guide you. And so there is a break in that sync you suddenly will go off and we experienced that in January of 2016 for a very small period. But that shows you even the smallest things can literally bring down an entire country to their knees when some of these critical satellites are taken down. But when you think of persistent platforms or long-endurance or nonstop platforms, redundancy is a key component that actually has to be covered across multiple of these components: redundancy in communication, redundancy in energy sources. That’s where the multiple energy sources comes in. So we utilize a RAM air turbine which essentially would drop down and can utilize the wind energy to give that push that the aircraft might need to carry it through the night, so that when the solar panels take over they’re able to charge. We would use similar batteries like lithium ion (which goes into a Tesla) or a lithium polymer battery. Then combine that and what we have done is we’ve written code that allows us to detect thermals or uplift, similar to what a bird would do. Birds don’t get tired, they soar, they keep soaring and they identify thermals. And that’s how they do it. We’ve captured that from an AI perspective and taught the machine or the autopilot to detect these thermals algorithmically using a linear quadratic equation Kalman filter. What that means is even the slightest movement that happens on the wings, it’s detected, and then the center of that thermal is detected so that the aircraft can stay up pretty much with no amperages used from the lithium ion battery or the lithium polymer battery that is on board. So now what you’ve done is you’re utilizing natural energy sources for nonstop performance.
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Why only individual thinking can reunite America | Tim Snyder Why only individual thinking can reunite America | Tim Snyder
2 weeks 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 Timothy Snyder: Well, the whole idea of best interests in the question, “Why do people vote against their best interests?” is not an objective thing in nature. It’s one of the very problems in the politics of inevitability, is that we think like economists and we say, “Well, everybody is rational in the narrow economical sense, everybody knows what’s good for them.” And that’s just not true, or rather the ability of people to discern what their interests are depends upon a process of education, which includes not just reasoning mathematically, which is very important, but also it has to include some kind of humanistic side where people learn to criticize or think critically about what they hear, learn to make distinctions among various kinds of media. Because that notion of “one’s best interest” is not at all natural, it’s the product of a certain kind of education. And that kind of education can be undone, first of all it can not be done, but it can also be undone, one can deliberately appeal to the parts of the mind which aren’t concerned with the future, with math, with critical thinking, but to the parts of the mind which think in terms of “us and them,” “friend and enemy,” and you can draw people into these cycles. And the less—and this is how it fits together with inequality—the less people see a good future for themselves if they think in terms of interests, the more they’re drawn into a different way of thinking where it’s not about their individual interests, but it’s more about feeling like they’re on the “right team,” they’re on the “right side.” For a lot of people in the U.S. now I think it’s a little bit like they want to ride the bench for the winning team. They know that things aren’t going well for them personally, but they want to feel like they’re on the right side. And that helps to explain the appeal of someone like a Donald Trump who, of course, himself is a failure but has the skills to present himself as a success and can get people thinking, “Yeah, I want to be on that team. I’m not going to do any better economically, but I’m going to feel better about myself, because I’m on the winning team, I’m on what it feels like the winning team.” So the whole thing about best interests has to be seen as a project. You have to educate people, you have to take anxiety away by providing certain basic things like schooling and pensions and vacations so people can pause and think a little bit about themselves and their future. If you don’t provide those basic elements of (I would say) political civilization then people are too anxious, it’s hard for them to get their minds around what their interest actually are. And beyond that if you don’t educate them positively towards thinking with both math and with the humanities they’re not going to get there anyway. So it’s a project. A basic thing that we Americans forget—and a basic thing that politics of inevitability shrouds—is that creating the individual is a project. It takes a lot of work to create an individual. I mean we want to have thinking individuals. We want to have people who know what their best interests are. We want to have people who go thoughtfully into that ballot box, but that’s a project; we’re not born that way. I mean as a father I can assure you that we are not born that way. I think it’s the noblest and best thing we do, to try to create individuals, but we can’t just leave it to chance, and I think that’s where we go wrong. One of the basic ways we go wrong with the politics of inevitability, we think, “Okay, automatically we’re going to be those kinds of rational people,” but we’re not automatically those kinds of rational people. I mean the irony is if you want to create individuals who can think about their own best interests you have to, as a society, say, “We agree to make it a project to educate and form such individuals.”
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Why “I’m not racist” is only half the story | Robin DiAngelo Why “I’m not racist” is only half the story | Robin DiAngelo
2 weeks 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 Robin DiAngelo: All systems of oppression are highly adaptive, and they can adapt to challenges and incorporate them. They can allow for exceptions. And I think the most powerful adaptation of the system of racism to the challenges of the civil rights movement was to reduce a racist to a very simple formula. A racist is an individual—always an individual, not a system—who consciously does not like people based on race—must be conscious—and who intentionally seeks to be mean to them. Individual, conscious, intent. And if that is MY definition of a racist, then your suggestion that anything I’ve said or done is racist or has a racist impact, I’m going to hear that as: you just said I was a bad person. You just put me over there in that category. And most of my bias anyway is unconscious. So I’m not intending, I’m not aware. So now I’m going to need to defend my moral character, and I will, and we’ve all seen it. It seems to be virtually impossible based on that definition for the average white person to look deeply at their socialization, to look at the inevitability of internalizing racist biases, developing racist patterns, and having investments in the system of racism—which is pretty comfortable for us and serves us really well. I think that definition of a racist, that either/or, what I call the good/bad binary is the root of virtually all white defensiveness on this topic because it makes it virtually impossible to talk to the average white person about the inevitable absorption of a racist world-view that we get by being literally swimming in racist water. White fragility is meant to capture the defensiveness that so many white people display when our world views, our identities or our racial positions are challenged. And it’s a very familiar dynamic. I think there’s a reason that term resonated for so many people. I mean even if you yourself are to explain white fragility it’s fairly recognizable that in general white people are really defensive when the topic is racism and when they are challenged racially or cross racially. So the fragility part is meant to capture how easy it is to trigger that defensiveness. For many white people the mere suggestion that being white has meaning will set us off. Another thing that will set us off is generalizing about white people. Right now I’m generalizing about white people, and that questions a very precious ideology, which is: most white people are raised to see ourselves as individuals. We don’t like being generalized about. And yet social life is patterned and observable and predictable in describable ways. And while we are, of course, all unique individuals, we are also members of social groups. And that membership is profound. That membership matters. We can literally predict whether my mother and I were going to survive my birth and how long I’m going to live based on my race. We need to be willing to grapple with the collective experiences we have as a result of being members of a particular group that has profound meaning for our lives. We live in a society that is deeply separate and unequal by race. I think we all know that. How we would explain why that is might vary, but that it’s separate and unequal is very, very clear. While we who are white tend to be fragile in that it doesn’t take much to upset us around race, the impact of our response is not fragile at all. It’s a kind of weaponized defensiveness, weaponized hurt feelings. And it functions really, really effectively to repel the challenge. As a white person I move through the world racially comfortable virtually 24/7. It is exceptional for me to be outside of my racial comfort zone, and most of my life I’ve been warned not to go outside my racial comfort zone. And so on the rare occasion when I am uncomfortable racially it’s a kind of throwing off of my racial equilibrium, and I need to get back into that. And so I will do whatever it takes to repel the challenge and get back into it. And in that way I think white fragility functions as a kind of white racial bullying, to be frank. We make it so miserable for people of color to talk to us about our inevitable and often unaware racist patterns that we cannot help develop from being socialized into a culture in which racism is the bedrock and the foundation. We make it so miserable for them to talk to us about it that most of the time they don’t, right? We just have to understand that most people of color that are working or living in primarily white environments take home way more daily slights and hurts and insults than they bother talking to us about.
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Emotional intelligence at work: Why IQ isn’t everything Emotional intelligence at work: Why IQ isn’t everything
2 weeks 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 Since I started writing about and researching emotional intelligence in business, I found that data in support of it has only gotten stronger. I saw recently a study, this surprised me, engineers, software coders and so on were evaluated by their peers, people who work with them day-to-day on how successful they were at what they do. This turns out to be one of the strongest predictors of success in any field. And that was correlated with their IQ in one hand and their emotional intelligence on the other. And when I say emotional intelligence they were evaluated on a 360 that looks at all 12 of the key emotional intelligence competencies that distinguish star performers from average. The surprise was this: IQ correlated zero, zero with their success as rated by peers.Emotional intelligence correlated very, very highly. Well, why would that be? Well consider this, in order to be an engineer you have to have an IQ about a standard deviation or more above average, that’s an IQ of about 115 or so. And another recent paper shows that there’s no relationship between career success and an IQ above 120. The reason is this: there is a strong floor effect for IQ in any role. All engineers have an IQ of 115 or more, so the range of variance is very reduced for IQ and success. Emotional intelligence however varies radically. So emotional intelligence means: How well you manage yourself. Can you work toward your goals despite obstacles? Do you give up too soon? Do you have a negative outlook or a positive outlook? These are all emotional intelligence competencies that matter for success. Then there’s the relationship competencies: Can you tune in to other people? Do you notice other people? I remember hearing about two MIT grads who went into a giant tech company, one of them went around to other members of her team and asked, “What are you doing? How can I help? The other stayed in his office and wrote code all day. It’s very clear who was going to get ahead; it was the one who wanted to be a team player. You don’t write code in isolation anymore; everyone works on projects together. You may write the code but you have to coordinate, you have to influence, you have to persuade, you have to be a good team member. All of those are emotional intelligence competencies that distinguish outstanding from average performers. So when you think about it that way, it makes sense that even among engineers emotional intelligence will predict who is a star and who’s just mediocre. And when you think about this at the organizational level it means you want to be sure to include emotional intelligence when you consider hiring people. I have a friend at an executive recruiting company that specializes in C-level hires, CEOs, CFOs and so on. And they once did a study internally of people they had recommended who turn out to be bad and were so bad they were fired. So these were failures, they were surprised to have failures, but they realized when they looked more carefully that these were people who were hired because of business expertise and IQ and fired because of a deficiency in emotional intelligence, so it’s more important than ever these days. And so in hiring it needs to be considered, and in promoting people, of course, it needs to be considered. And it should be part of HR. It should be what you help people develop for their strengths. Because the good news about emotional intelligence is: It’s learned and learnable, and you can upgrade it at any point in life if you’re motivated.
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Dear Jeff Bezos: What are you going to do with all that money? | Jeffrey Sachs Dear Jeff Bezos: What are you going to do with all that money? | Jeffrey Sachs
2 weeks 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 Jeffrey Sachs: One of the astounding facts of our time is the gusher of wealth going to the very top; of the wealth distribution in the world. It’s mind-boggling. Mind-boggling to think about Jeff Bezos, for example, with a net worth—personally, individual net worth of… hold onto your chair, how about $163 billion? That’s a lot of money. I am myself an Amazon user. I think it’s an awfully good service and product that he’s developed, but $163 billion in a world where a lot of his workers struggle to get by, a lot of the people in Seattle (where Amazon is headquartered) are homeless, where there are incredible needs, that a tiny fraction of that wealth could keep millions of kids alive and in school. You have to say, “all right, world economy is dynamic, but it’s not really exactly fair, and it’s not really oriented towards addressing everyone’s basic human rights and needs.” What’s happened to the wealth at the top, it’s amazing. Back in 2006 there were about 700 billionaires or so, that was a lot, and they had a net worth, if you added up all of their stocks and bonds and other assets, of something on the order of about $3 trillion, and we’d sit there and say oh my god can you imagine this? And in just a dozen years—a dozen years! Even in a dozen years with a mega financial crisis in between, the billionaires went from about 700 or so to now 2,208 on the most recent Forbes magazine list of billionaires. And their net worth went from around three trillion, which was absolutely mind-boggling to begin with, to $9.1 trillion at the start of 2018 when Forbes published the list (and now almost surely well above it $10 trillion), including this phenomenal wealth of Mr. Bezos the richest person in the world, but many others. Now Bill Gates, who is far and away the world’s leading philanthropist because he was long the richest person in the world and he and Melinda Gates very rightly, generously, wisely, boldly, in a visionary way, said “We’re going to give this away,” created the biggest foundation in the world: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They’ve been putting in several billion dollars a year to fighting disease and doing a fantastic job. But consider this, in 2010 Bill Gates called on other billionaires join in and make a pledge, called A Giving Pledge, to give away at least half of your wealth during your lifetime. And Bill Gates took that pledge himself. At that point his net worth was about $50 billion. He’s been giving away roughly $4 billion a year since then, and you might think his net worth has gone down a bit given that generosity, but his net worth now is $93 billion. So the wealth is such a gusher that you could give billions away and it just keeps growing and growing and growing beyond anything that most of us mortals can even imagine. What I know—as an economist that has worked all over the world, including in the poorest places in the world—little bits can save lives and make futures for the children of this world at unbelievably low costs, and it just gets me that we have $10 trillion here and we have kids who are hungry, dying and out—no school over here, and can’t we make the connection? And the answer is we have to. So my thought is at a minimum ten trillion, come on! And put in at least one percent. That’s such a tiny amount because your wealth grows at much more than that—put in one percent of your net worth, per year, minimum, to help the kids. One percent of ten trillion is $100 billion. And if you take out your paper and pencil—or your Excel spreadsheet—you can show that for $100 billion a year, one percent of the net worth of just 2,208 individuals, you could get every kid in school all the way through upper-secondary education and you could establish universal health coverage for everybody in every low-income country in the world. That’s a pretty good gig for 2,208 people, but they’ve got to get on with it. I think they have enough yachts, enough mansions, enough of everything, and it’s really time for that wealth to be deployed for the purposes of our generation, of children who utterly and desperately need it. And I say do it voluntarily, or if you don’t do it voluntarily, fine: we’ll put on a levy, and SDG levy, a Sustainable Development Goals levy of one percent of your net worth, because we’re going to get this job done, we’re going to get every child healthcare, we’re going to get every child into school.
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5 traits that boost your connectional intelligence | Erica Dhawan 5 traits that boost your connectional intelligence | Erica Dhawan
2 weeks ago En
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How Pfizer is supporting SDG #3: Good Health and Well-being How Pfizer is supporting SDG #3: Good Health and Well-being
2 weeks ago En
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are a set of 17 directives to be completed by a 2030 deadline, with the aim of significantly improving quality of life for all people on Earth. Pfizer’s commitment to the UN's SDG #3, Good Health and Well-being, is exemplified by its mission to improve global health through a combination of local and global programs catalyzed by innovative health leaders. In 1998, Pfizer embarked on a 22-year mission to eradicate trachoma by 2020. Trachoma is an infectious eye disease that can cause irreversible blindness or vision impairment. So far, it has been eradicated in six countries. Pfizer is a committed partner in improving global health, helping to provide a number of critical cancer medications to six African countries where an estimated 44 percent of all cancer cases in sub-Saharan Africa occur each year. 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
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Career advice from the "Edison of medicine" | MIT's Robert Langer Career advice from the "Edison of medicine" | MIT's Robert Langer
2 weeks 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 Robert Langer: I do advise my students to be broad and open-minded in their thinking when it comes to careers. I mean basically what you want is somebody to have a great career and to be happy; and so my advice to students is to don’t do what’s going to make you the most money or the most security, but do something that will make you happy—whatever that is. Well when I got done with graduate school or when I was finishing graduate school this was the 1970s and there was this gas shortage just like a few years ago and the prices of gas kept going up. So what that meant if you were a chemical engineer (like I was) is you’d get a lot of job offers from oil companies. And pretty much all my classmates went to oil companies and worked there and they got very high-paying jobs. I did get 20 job interviews from these companies, and I got 20 offers too, but I wasn’t very excited about doing that. I remember one interview where they told me if I could just increase the yield of this one petrochemical by .1 percent that would be worth billions of dollars, and I just wasn’t excited about the impact that that would have, and I kept looking for ways where I guess I felt I could have more of an impact on the world. Well let me give an example of one thing we did. Actually when I was a postdoctoral fellow with Judah Folkman one of the questions that we asked was: could molecules exist that could stop blood vessels from growing in the body? A lot of people didn’t believe that that could happen, but my boss at the time, Dr. Folkman, did; and he hired me and we found that cartilage was able to block blood vessels. This was done with Henry Brem as well. And then we found what—we wanted to see if we could find an extract. In other words what are the real substances that could stop blood vessels from growing that might exist. And well there’s a lot of things—you have to break up the things into different parts. So first where might a molecule exist that could stop blood vessels? The answer to that was possibly cartilage, which doesn’t have blood vessels. Then you have to have a way to study it, and that was very, very hard because blood vessels actually grow slowly over time, and we needed what we call as a bioassay. And to develop a bioassay we needed something that could release these substances for a very, very long time. So a little polymer or microsphere or microparticle. So we developed those but none of those had ever been able to slowly release molecules that were really big. And the molecules that we thought would stop blood vessels were really big. So we had to actually then create ways to release these molecules slowly even though they were big, and release them for months. And that was something people never thought was possible. But I spent several years working on it, experimenting with different techniques, and eventually I figured out a way to do it. And when we did that we published a paper in Nature showing that for the first time you could release molecules of any size from these little microparticles. And then we used that to create the bioassay and we isolated the first substances that could stop blood vessels from growing in the body. Both of those discoveries, the polymer slow-release systems and the substances that could stop blood vessels from growing led to major industries. Well when I first gave lectures and on the work we did on slowly releasing these large molecules from polymers and we first published this work pretty much everybody in the scientific community didn’t believe it. And the consequence of that is that I didn’t get any grants. My first nine grants were rejected. Also when I started to apply for faculty positions—I’m a chemical engineer and no chemical engineering department in the world would hire me. I ended up going into a nutrition department, but the problem there was that the people in the department didn’t think very much of what I was doing, and they basically told me I should start looking for another job. So it was not very pleasant in the beginning. I think if I’d moved away from it—you know, I don’t know what would have happened. I mean it’s very hard to figure out alternative paths. I think if you give up too easily that’s not good. Obviously you don’t want to keep banging your head against the wall forever, so I think there’s some compromises you have to make. But I think if I gave up on something like that maybe I’d give up on other things that were important too. I just don’t know. I’m glad I didn’t.
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Safe spaces: Where should the line of censorship be drawn? Safe spaces: Where should the line of censorship be drawn?
3 weeks ago En
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How inequality destroys the future by focusing on the past | Timothy Snyder How inequality destroys the future by focusing on the past | Timothy Snyder
3 weeks 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 So starting with the objective part, with the facts, the United States is a country which is among the least equal in the world. According to Credit Suisse, which is a Swiss bank and not some kind of crazy left wing organization, we are second in the world in wealth inequality after the Russian Federation. In the United States since the 1980s basically 90 percent of the American population has seen no improvement in either wealth or income. Almost all the improvement in wealth and income has been in the top ten percent, and most of that has been in the top one percent, and most of that has been in the top .1 percent, and most of that has been in the top .01 percent, which means that not only are people not moving forward objectively, but the way they experience the world—and this is very powerful—is that other people are on top. So if you and I have the same thing over the course of 30 years, but we watch as our neighbor suddenly has 20 times as much, we’re not going to say “Everything’s fine because we have the same,” we’re going to say “Gosh, our neighbor has more than we do, and has so much more than we do he could probably reach in and take everything we have away,” which is, of course, true—and that’s the condition that people call oligarchy. So the politics of inevitability says “the market has to lead to democracy, and therefore there’s no reason to correct for what the market does.” If you don’t correct what the market does, if you don’t support trade unions, if you don’t build up some kind of a welfare state, if you don’t support public education and so on, then you’re going to have a situation where citizens spread apart in wealth and spread apart in income, which is what’s happening. And that in turn may be the most powerful way that the politics of inevitability breaks into the politics of eternity. Because if there is massive inequality of wealth and income, individuals and families no longer think “I’ve got a bright future,” they no longer believe—and this is something Mr. Trump got right even if he has no solution and he’s making things worse on purpose—they no longer believe in the American dream, and they’re correct not to do so. If you were born in 1940 your chances of doing better than your parents were about 90 percent. If you were born in 1980 your chances were about one in two, and it keeps going down. So wealth inequality means the lack of social events, it means a totally different horizon, it means that you see life in a completely different way. You stop thinking time is an arrow which is moving forward to something better and you start thinking, “Maybe the good old days were better. Maybe we have to ‘make America great again,’”and you get caught in these nostalgic loops. You start thinking “it can’t be my fault that I’m not doing better, so who’s fault is it?” And then the clever politicians instead of providing policy for you provide enemies for you, they provide language for you with which you can explain why you’re not doing so well. They blame the Other, whether it’s the Chinese or the Muslims or the Jews or the blacks or the immigrants, and that allows you to think “Okay time is a cycle, things used to be better, but other people have come and they’ve taken things away from me.” And that’s how the politics of inevitability becomes the politics of eternity: wealth inequality, income inequality are one of the major channels by which that happens. So one of the fundamental problems with our American right wing “politics of inevitability” is that it generates income-and wealth-inequality and it explains away income and wealth inequality. And so you get this cycle where objectively people are less and less well-off and subjectively we keep telling ourselves this is somehow okay, because in the grand scheme of things this is somehow “necessary,” when it’s not.
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How the United Nations is leading the world’s next moonshot | Jeffrey Sachs How the United Nations is leading the world’s next moonshot | Jeffrey Sachs
3 weeks 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 Jeffrey Sachs: When I was a kid the greatest thing imaginable for me was the moonshot. President John F. Kennedy said to the U.S. Congress in May 1961, “I believe this country should commit itself to the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” Well, how cool was that? And President Kennedy’s vision not only rallied the country but was fulfilled when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in the summer of 1969. In our time we’ve had a different kind of moonshot in my opinion, and that is the moonshot to make our world safe, fair and sustainable. And Kofi Annan, then Secretary-General of the United Nations in the year 2000, a great man, at the start of the new millennium said to the world leaders, “Let’s also take a goal, a goal to fight global poverty and wrestle it down to size.” And he put on the agenda of the world the Millennium Development Goals. These were adopted in a summit of the heads of state in the year 2000, and they said “Let’s get extreme poverty, the kind of poverty that kills, let’s get that down at least by half by the year 2015.” Well, despite all the noise in the world, and the uncaring and the distractions and the confusion and the war in Iraq and all the rest, there was some focus finally on this kind of moonshot in our time of fighting extreme poverty and major initiatives were undertaken. For example, establishing the global fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria and those diseases started to really get under control for the first time; big successes, even in a distracted and confused world. Well, fast-forward 12 years after those Millennium Development Goals were adopted to 2012, yet again world leaders came together on the anniversary of the Earth Summit, which had been a 1992 meeting, to try to tackle climate change, environmental crisis, and so on in Rio de Janeiro. Twenty years later when governments got together again they looked and they said “We’re not doing very well. Climate change is running out of control, we’re destroying other species, we’re chopping down the Amazon. You look around, we’ve got serious problems.”
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The extraordinary effect of mindfulness on depression and anxiety | Daniel Goleman The extraordinary effect of mindfulness on depression and anxiety | Daniel Goleman
3 weeks ago En
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Why meritocracy is America’s most destructive myth | DeRay Mckesson Why meritocracy is America’s most destructive myth | DeRay Mckesson
3 weeks 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 DeRay Mckesson: I wanted to write about what it means that some people seemingly have to “earn” or do something to deserve access to things that we think about as basic necessities. So how hard can you work to earn access to a meal every night, or like what do you have to do to “deserve” a good education? What do you have to do to deserve to have housing? And that’s one of the ways that race sort of works in this country, is that there’s some people that are deemed “inherently worthy.” So we think about the way whiteness works and white supremacy, white people are just deemed worthy of things, but there’s this notion that you need to work extra hard to deserve a great public education. I am from Baltimore and when you think about the school system Baltimore City is not funded equitably at all and it’s like, what do those kids have to do to like earn equitable funding? They actually don’t need to do anything besides just be alive! And one of the things that we need to do is make sure that we set up a system where people just have the basic necessities like food, water, education. We can guarantee that. There’s no reason why we don’t have it. I actually think about the difference between equality and equity. Equality is “everybody gets the same thing,” equity is that “people get what they need and deserve.” And the work of justice, we’re almost always fighting for equity. So we think about things like school funding, we are not asking for equal funding, we know that it just costs more to educate kids who grow up in poverty, it costs more to educate kids with special needs, and we know that we need to pay that cost, that those kids deserve that. We’re not saying that every kid it costs the same to educate every kid, that’s just not true. We want a world of equity where people get what they need and deserve. We know the disparities around criminal justice, that there are disparities around race and we want an equitable system that doesn’t penalize people for where they live, how they show up, what ZIP Code they come from. So the difference between equity and equality is an important distinction, and the only way to get to equality—equality of access, whatever metric of equality you want—is by having equity of resources, equity of experiences, that the equity piece says that “you need something different and you deserve something different, and from a system level I’m going to make sure that you have access to that.” So I was talking to somebody about food stamps once and she was like, “People should have to work for food stamps because if they work for it they’ll have dignity.” Like, not eating, I think, is pretty like—not having food is a lack of dignity right there. Food is one of those basic things— we have enough food that we could feed everybody, we have enough water that everybody can have three meals every single day, like we can guarantee those things, we don’t need to artificially create this “requirement” that people work so they can earn food. Like we can actually guarantee these basic things for people. And one of the things that we have to do as we fight for social justice is talk about these things, as basic as they are. That it’s not radical to believe that we can live in a world that police don’t kill people. It’s not radical to say that every kid should be able to read and write. It’s not radical or extreme to say that we can feed every single person every single day. The only radical thing about it is that we have to say it in the first place! Like that is actually where the radical part comes in.
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How diplomacy saves American lives | Ronan Farrow How diplomacy saves American lives | Ronan Farrow
3 weeks 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 There’s a lot of theater to old school diplomacy. Someone like Richard Holbrook; during the Bosnia negotiations at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio he had luggage delivered (prominently) outside of the doors of the American diplomats present so that the other side would think, “Oh no! The clock is ticking, the Americans are going to pull out.” And it was a complete feint, but it worked and it got people back to the table at a tough time in the talks. And diplomacy isn’t a dovish endeavor always, and in that case this was a state department official who was fully leveraging the threat of NATO strikes and doing a lot of saber rattling, a lot of larger than life bellowing and threatening and cajoling. Diplomacy doesn’t always look pretty or neat, but it is absolutely an antidote to and an alternative to military intervention. There are some fundamental misunderstandings about what diplomats do around the world and I think that’s been exploited by politicians of both parties to characterize these brave men and women as dusty bureaucrats who don’t get a lot done. In fact these are individuals who get very little pay to uproot their families and move them around the world and work in dangerous places specifically to ensure our security as a nation. And they do everything from screening the dangerous individuals that seek to enter the United States of America to brokering the high-level political settlements that hopefully can spare our service men and women from being thrown into the line of fire as a first resort every time we encounter a conflict. One of the consequences of sidelining diplomacy is you see a lot more of the work that was once the domain of diplomats coming out of the Pentagon and the CIA. You end up with the military industrial complex taking over the work of development. I served as a state department official in Afghanistan, for instance, and in that conflict, which was a particularly militarized setting—if you wanted to do just about anything, if you wanted to start a conversation with local leaders on the ground, if you wanted to build a well, you had to do it through the Army Corps of Engineers or through the various teams around the country—they were called PRTs, these provincial reconstruction teams where the military was stationed on the ground and had access to those communities. We have created a universe in which if you try to get something done through the state department or USAID you end up with a cumbersome, lengthy process where they put out a request for applications, you wind up with a contract with a huge contractor based out of Washington DC who then subcontracts three times, and then finally brings in people from outside of Afghanistan to build a well in a spot where the ground water is salty, and no one is going to use the well. We saw these kinds of boondoggles play out over and over again, and what I take away from that is that we have eviscerated the expertise and capacity on the diplomacy and development side, and we need to fix it. Not that we need to throw this out, not that the answer is running everything through the military—which totally, appropriately has different goals, is designed to effect change on the battlefield in a short-term tactical sense. We need a separate core of experts who know the regions and know the pressure points and are specifically tasked with looking at the long-term implications years down the line. I think one of the reasons that there is so much denigration of the diplomat in our political conversation is that the results of diplomacy do require patience and can be less immediate than things going “boom.” And I say that without any aspersion casts on things going boom and the brave men and women who dodge those explosions and are in the line of fire. But we need both, and both are important kinds of public servants. And Americans, I hope when they read this book and when they look at the history of diplomatic endeavor of recent American events they see that the diplomat deserves the patience that they need to be afforded—that if you give it the time and understand that the results might look imperfect and buckle down and say, “Okay, we’re going to keep talks going no matter how tough they get,” you very often end up with results and results that can save lives.
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Data makes you smart, but it doesn't make you wise | Timothy Snyder Data makes you smart, but it doesn't make you wise | Timothy Snyder
4 weeks ago En
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An astronaut’s guide to risk taking | Chris Hadfield An astronaut’s guide to risk taking | Chris Hadfield
4 weeks 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 Chris Hadfield: Everything worth doing in life has risk. Learned to ride a bike, learn to walk. When I was a kid learning to walk I fell and cracked my skull, but I needed to learn to walk. Taking a test, getting married, getting a drivers license, all of those things, they give you an approved capability or an improved richness in life, but they all come with a degree of risk. That is exaggerated if the thing that you want to do is fly a rocket ship. Rocket ships are dangerous. It’s a controlled explosion. If you drew a cartoon of a rocket what it would be would be a bomb with six seats on the top. I mean rocket ships are crazy dangerous. On the first flight of the Space Shuttle when Bob Crippen and John Young were sitting there back in 1981 and they blasted off out of Florida, now that we go back and we look at what the actual history of the Space Shuttle was, their odds of dying that day in the first eight-and-a-half minutes were one in nine! Terrible odds, one in nine. I mean look around you at ten people and realize: just to try that one in nine times they would have died. They got away with it, and we learned a lot from it, but even when I flew on my first shuttle flight on the 74th shuttle flight we learned enough things, we had improved it, but the odds of dying that day for my crew were still one in 38, which—no insurance company would be happy. It’s hard to get life insurance as an astronaut actually. But the question you really need to ask that is do I want to learn to walk? Do I want to ride this bike? Do I want to get married? Do I want to learn to drive a car? What risks are worth taking in my life? Because even if you decide “Okay I’m going to take no risk, I’m going to stay at home and hide under my pillow,” there’s still risk with that and you’re still going to die eventually anyway! So it’s kind of a measure of what was worth doing in your life, and therefore what was worth taking a risk for? Once you’ve got that behind you and said “Okay I’m going to be an astronaut, I’m going to fly a rocket ship, that’s a risk I’m going to take,” now it changes your whole job. Your job is not to be afraid, your job is not to be an incompetent nervous passenger, your job now is to defeat the risk, like when you learned to ride a bike. If you just stay as a passenger on the bike you’re never going to know what to do with the handlebars and you’re never going to master riding a bike. And once you can ride a bike you’ve got a freedom you’ve never had before. And rocket ships are just the same, you have to decide what risks are worth taking and then start changing who you are, learning how to turn the handlebars so that you can make this thing do something that otherwise might hurt you or kill you. And then once you’ve got that done it can take you to places and give you richnesses in your life that you never would have had access any other way. And in my case when you make it through that launch, when you’ve guided that rocket up through the atmosphere and the engine shut off, suddenly you’re in the rarest of human experiences. You’re weightless, and the world is pouring by at five miles a second, and you can see across an entire continent and you’re peering into something that is brand new for humanity. So I think it’s worth asking yourself: “What risks are worth taking?” And once you’ve decided to take them, then change who you are so that you can win, you can defeat, you can master that thing and open a door for yourself that otherwise was just shut.
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Minimalism is killing us: Re-awaken your senses, bring back joy | Ingrid Fetell Lee Minimalism is killing us: Re-awaken your senses, bring back joy | Ingrid Fetell Lee
1 month 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 Ingrid Fettell Lee: I think one of the reasons we don’t feel joy as much as we might like is because we have a culture in which joy is judged often as frivolous, as childish, as superficial. And it’s interesting to think about where this actually comes from. It has pretty deep roots in our culture. So if you look in 1810 Goethe wrote in his Theory of Color that “savage nations”, uneducated people, and children typically prefer bright colors whereas “people of refinement” avoid color in their dress and try to banish color from the objects about them. And what happens in this equation is that we’re seeing the equivalency between “savage nations”, so uncivilized people, primitiveness, a lack of sophistication or education and children. And those are being equated to the sort of aesthetics, the tangible manifestations of joy in our culture. And when you look at the roots of this a lot of it stems from colonialism. So you had a bunch of Europeans getting on boats going around the world trying to conquer other people’s and when they found these sort of “uninhibited” displays of emotion, when they found festivals and dancing and drumming and colorful dwellings and outfits they felt a need to distance themselves from those behaviors. And so what happened was European culture became more and more emotionally repressed as a result. So we had to get rid of the color in our surroundings because that was “uncivilized”. We had to get rid of our sort of exuberant and playful displays. And you actually see this when in certain colonies when settlers would arrive they would bring their pretty raucous festivals—I mean Carnival originated in Europe and it was a pretty raucous festival there. They would bring it to these colonies like In Trinidad and Tobago, for example. And then once they got there they realized the had to stop visibly celebrating and they started having formal balls instead of, you know, wild celebrations, because that made the seem “too close” to the natives. And so joy became repressed within our culture, and in its place we got this sense of seriousness that this is what is valued. And that became reflected in our aesthetic culture as well. Over the past few years the dominant aesthetic has been an aesthetic of minimalism. And we’ve been encouraged to sort of simplify and strip back our possessions in our homes and sort of get to very simple gray, beige interiors. And in a way this has been described as sort of reaction to all of the overstimulation that’s going on in our devices, that it sort of helps us relax. But, in fact, what we find is that minimalist interiors actually can be very stressful. That when you look at our sort of natural love of abundance and lushness and textures and sensation, when you actually deprive us of sensations we go a little bit crazy. And a study I love that sort of explores this had a bunch of people sitting in a room, and all they had to entertain themselves was a machine that gave electric shocks. And after only a few minutes of sitting alone in a bare, unadorned room they started giving themselves quite painful electric shocks rather than sit without any stimulation. So the brain seeks and craves stimulation. And when it doesn’t have that it will sort of seek it out even in ways that maybe aren’t so adaptive.
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Social anxiety: How to rewire your confidence and be a better communicator | Andrew Horn Social anxiety: How to rewire your confidence and be a better communicator | Andrew Horn
1 month 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 One of the most important aspects of meaningful conversation is listening. If you’re asking important questions and not listening, you’re not having a conversation at all; you are giving a soliloquy. So one of the easiest ways that we can practice active listening and avoid a conversation dead-end is to make sure that we are “turning” the conversation more than we’re “taking” it. So I’ll give you a quick example. So my sister just comes back from Thailand and she says, “I had amazing trip. We went to the north and the beaches in the south.” So here’s what a “take” would sound like. It’s like, “Oh I went to Thailand last year. We went to the beaches too.” So do you see what you just did? You just directed that thing right into a dead-end, and now it’s going to stop. So what a “turn” looks like is you get to say, “Oh wow I went to the beaches as well! What was your favorite part?” And so that simple turn shows them two things: that you heard what they said and that you care enough to ask a follow-up question. And I promise you that the best conversationalists always turn the conversation more than they take it. Because often times what happens is that it’s not our first question that is going to get the answer or the depth that we desire, so if we commit to turning the conversation back three and four times we’re going to peel off those layers and get more depth out of our conversations. So always remember turn the conversation more than you take it, and you’re going to avoid those conversation dead ends. When we move past asking better questions we move into the “metamorphic two-step”. And this is all about presence. And presence is so important in conversation. You’ve all said this before, “She has such presence.” “He has such presence.” Presence is that embodied existence in the moment, it’s when you’re only responding and reacting to what’s happening right now. There’s no story from the past, there’s no fear of the future, and it’s a magical thing when we can create that in conversation. And one of the easiest ways to do that is something called the metamorphic two-step. And the metamorphic two-step is actually a hypnosis technique that will help you to identify how you want to feel in social situations. So I learned this from my friend Andrew who is a hypnotherapist here in New York City, he works with a lot of the Fortune 500 brands, the quickest growing startups. And basically what he talks about with some of these leaders is helps them to identify where they have anxiety in their leadership roles and helps them to overcome that and really achieve peak performance. And so when I first met him I said, “Okay so how would you use hypnosis to alleviate something like a social anxiety?” And so what he would tell me is he’d say, “Okay, so what I want you to do is think about a social situation where you might have some anxiety.” And I would say, “Okay I’m going into a big tech conference with a bunch of really influential people and I might be nervous.” And he’d say, “Articulate the undesired state of being. What is that?” And so I’d say, “I’m worried that I won’t have anything to say, I’m worried that they won’t think that I’m high up enough to actually care about what I’m going to say, I’m not going to add value.”
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How power affects the way you behave—and the way you’re punished | Michele Gelfand How power affects the way you behave—and the way you’re punished | Michele Gelfand
1 month 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 Michele Gelfand: Yes, so I wrote this book to give a lens to people to view the world differently. It’s something that we take for granted every day, the kind of rules that we follow. They’re omnipresent but they’re invisible. So from the moment we wake up until the moment we go to sleep we’re following rules. Most of us put clothes on before we go out in the street, most of us ride on the right side or the left side depending on where we live, we say hello and goodbye on the phone, we follow these rules all the time. But some groups have very strong rules. They’re what I call “tight cultures” where there’s strong rules and little tolerance for deviance, and other groups—what I call “loose groups”—are much more permissive, and they have a wide range of behavior that’s seen as appropriate. And this lens is really very powerful. It helps us to understand things from politics to parenting, from nations to neurons. A general principle about tight and loose is that groups that have more power live in looser worlds. They have more latitude. And groups that have less power – women, minorities, other identities that are stigmatized – they live in tighter worlds. They’re subject to stronger punishments for the same exact behavior. And I’ve shown this actually with some research we published in Psych Science, a journal in my field, some years ago. But you can see other evidence of it all the time. You saw it in the U.S. Open this past weekend with Serena Williams who argued that these refs would never call the same kinds of punishments and penalties on a white male tennis player. Cultural intelligence is more than just knowledge about other cultures. That’s certainly part of it, one dimension that’s clearly just about knowledge of the culture. But it’s also about your motivation to interact with people in different cultures. That’s actually one of the most important parts of cultural intelligence, is having that kind of openness to see diversity as opportunity versus a threat. That predicts people doing much better when they’re crossing cultures. And there’s also a sense of “metacognition,” which is a fancy way of saying, “thinking about what you know about culture, questioning what you know about it.” So there’s multiple dimensions of cultural intelligence and we can assess it. We can measure it, and we can use it to predict how well people will do on international assignments, in negotiations that are cross-cultural. So it’s really an incredibly important construct. And again in this globalized era we really need to move beyond IQ and EQ. You can have great intelligence but have no cultural intelligence. You can have emotional intelligence but you can also fail on CQ. So it’s really an incredibly important attribute to cultivate. And the kids have been noticing this. As females they say, “You know mom, we’re living in a tighter world than our male counterparts.” When they play sports you hear the referee’s whistle going off way more. And so I think it’s also important to train them to think about the worlds they’re living in, to think about how they themselves are going out in the world, are going to be subject to the strength of norms and to try to think about how to negotiate that.
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Superhumans: The remarkable brain waves of high-level meditators | Daniel Goleman Superhumans: The remarkable brain waves of high-level meditators | Daniel Goleman
1 month 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 Daniel Goleman: My co-author of the book Altered Traits is a neuroscientist, Richard Davidson. He has a lab at the University of Wisconsin. It’s a very large lab, he has dedicated scanners, he has about 100 people working there, and he was able to do some remarkable research where he flew Olympic level meditators—who live in Nepal or India typically, some in France—he flew them over to the lab and put them through a protocol in his brain scanners and did state-of-the-art tests and the results were just astounding. We found, for example, or he found that their brain waves are really different. Perhaps the most remarkable findings in the Olympic level meditators has to do with what’s called a gamma wave. All of us get gamma for a very short period when we solve a problem we’ve been grappling with, even if it’s something that’s vexed us for months. We get about half second of gamma; it’s the strongest wave in the EEG spectrum. We get it when we bite into an apple or imagine biting into an apple, and for a brief period, a split-second, inputs from taste, sound, smell, vision, all of that come together in that imagined bite into the apple. But that lasts very short period in an ordinary EEG. What was stunning was that the Olympic level meditators, these are people who have done up to 62,000 lifetime hours of meditation, their brainwave shows gamma very strong all the time as a lasting trait just no matter what they’re doing. It’s not a state effect, it’s not during their meditation alone, but it’s just their every day state of mind. We actually have no idea what that means experientially. Science has never seen it before. We also find that in these Olympic level meditators when we asked them, for example, to do a meditation on compassion their level of gamma jumps 700 to 800 percent in a few seconds. This has also never been seen by science. So we have to assume that the special state of consciousness that you see in the highest level meditators is a lot like something described in the classical meditation literatures centuries ago, which is that there is a state of being which is not like our ordinary state. Sometimes it’s called liberation, enlightenment, awake, whatever the word may be we suspect there’s really no vocabulary that captures what that might be. The people that we’ve talked to in this Olympic level group say it’s very spacious and you’re wide open, you’re prepared for whatever may come, we just don’t know. But we do know it’s quite remarkable.
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Coparenting: A lifestyle innovation from our broke middle class | Alissa Quart Coparenting: A lifestyle innovation from our broke middle class | Alissa Quart
1 month 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 Alissa Quart: So part of why this is such a problem in America right now is the cost of childcare. Right now it can be up to 30 percent, even 38 percent of a middle class family’s salary. We’re talking in New York City or in New York, $10,000 to $30,000 per year. So if you thinking oh a middle class salary is between $42,000 and $125,000 that’s a huge chunk of anybody’s earnings, so how are we going to take care of our kids? How can we actually pay to have children? So one strategy to some of the people that I spoke to they just had one child or some of the people I spoke to weren’t parents yet and they wanted to be. Like a schoolteacher who drove Uber on the side in San Francisco, and what—he made what in other places would be a middle class salary, but because of the cost of living and the cost of rent he had to take a roommate, he had to put off having a family, he was in his 40s and he had to drive Uber where he was grading papers while he was at a stoplight. I talked to a black educator and someone—she calls herself indigenous, other people would call her Native American—and they both had started this something they call co-family life, which would mean that they’re living in collective housing with other families with children. And partially the reason they did this was because their parents, having been working class African-Americans and indigenous people, didn’t own homes due to the history of racism. So they had to instead rent in expensive cities like outside Boston. So what they did was they shared their homes with other families and raised their kids together, fed their kids together, did pick-up and drop-off together. None of them were involved romantically. And this went on for many years. And it’s a new trend called the co-parenting that I write about in Squeezed. There’s one way we can say “Oh this is bespoke and depressing,” like “We’re throwing back on ourselves, we have to parent collectively and barter and trade because our government doesn’t take care of us.” But another way to think about it is it could be revolutionary, like this is a new family formation where you don’t have to be romantically or biologically connected to other parents but you could still live together in a community with them and share cost of living but also responsibility. I met a bunch of them and I was actually really envious it’s like – a lot of middle-class life is pretty isolated, so I think things like co-parenting in some ways it’s two birds with one stone, because it’s like there’s the isolation and then there’s the economic frugality of being a middle class family. So it’s an economic necessity, co-parenting; there will be people who are computer programmers who I met, or a teacher, or other kinds of professions. Like they weren’t a social worker, they were classic middle-class jobs. But because of the expense of these cities and also because of some of the isolation of being part of a middle-class family now, where you might not be near your biological family, these co-parenting formations were like really kind of beautiful in a lot of ways. I mean I also saw the dark side, because definitely some of those collectives didn’t last. It was hard.
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The biology of Alzheimer’s – and what we might do to cure it | Lou Reese The biology of Alzheimer’s – and what we might do to cure it | Lou Reese
1 month 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 Why do people get Alzheimer’s? How do you differentiate amongst the different types, and what’s really going on? With imaging now we can see the accumulation of certain toxic proteins in people’s brains. There is general consensus that there are a number of these that are implicated in the disease. A-beta (or Beta-Amyloid), tau, alpha synuclein, and others. I would say those are the three primary culprits. Now there are people that argue that it’s all microbiome based, and there are people that argue that it’s 100 percent diet and exercise-based, unrelated to the microbiome. And there are people that have a whole variety of approaches to this, none of which I believe are accredited or discredited in a conclusive way. That’s one of the main reasons why I focus on this ecosystem and this village that it takes to solve these problems. I don’t think this is a silver bullet disease. I think this is a finding out and unveiling and uncovering the different pieces that define it. And just very recently we couldn’t image for A-beta or beta amyloid, so there was no way to know that. Very recently we couldn’t – there are new serum based biomarkers that are coming along to measure tau levels that are really, really interesting. All of this gives us insight into the accumulation and the timing of the accumulation of these toxic proteins. So I don’t know, the one, two, three biological assessment, this is the analogy that I always use: Imagine you go into a sports bar and there’s a little guy with glasses and he walks up to the biggest guy in that place and the guy is just all steroided up and he’s got veins popping out of his neck. And he walks up to the guy (and he doesn’t know him) and he just pokes him right in the chest. There’s going to be a cascade of events caused by that poke. Maybe he’ll get his jaw broken. Maybe he’ll have some ribs cracked. Maybe he’ll be thrown out of a window. Maybe the cops will come. Maybe they’ll have to write up a police report. Maybe they’ll have to go to a court case after that. All these things could happen. Now depending on where you saw that fight, what started it? You would have no idea. And all of your assessments, all your assumptions would be wrong if you didn’t see that guy unprovoked poke that person in the chest. So where is the poke with Alzheimer’s? There’s a lot of debate around that. But where that cascade of events occurs there’s becoming more clarity around that. So I hope that’s helpful. If you look a it from a disease progression state these toxic proteins are building up in your brain 10, 15, 20 years before you have any symptoms. So this is something that is laying there in a lot of us and just waiting for its chance to jump up. And so knowing that and having seen that in lots and lots of people—there’s a lot of studies that walk through this but the general thought is that you have the beta amyloid levels rising. Thereafter you have the tau levels rising. Thereafter, and consequence and in concert with the tau level rising there’s some correlation with the actual cognitive impairment. Now that doesn’t mean that that’s the biology of Alzheimer’s conclusively. That means that this is an evolving story and this ties back into this village and ecosystem. The reason I’m so excited is because we actually have answers to some of these questions now. So at least we know that these are toxic or mis-folded or in some way non-advantageous proteins. So we’re starting to understand that and being able to see it and track its growth, intervene earlier. All of those things are really compelling. So the goal is to create endobodies naturally that cross the blood brain barrier and engage the toxic forms of A-beta plaque. And the way that I think about it is like this: A-beta is naturally occurring in everyone. Beta amyloid is made by every person’s body. It’s when it starts to get stuck together that it becomes a problem.
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Artificial general intelligence: The domain of the patient, philosophical coder | Ben Goertzel Artificial general intelligence: The domain of the patient, philosophical coder | Ben Goertzel
1 month ago En
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Overcome anxiety: Articulate your rationale, quell your doubts | Jordan Peterson Overcome anxiety: Articulate your rationale, quell your doubts | Jordan Peterson
1 month ago En
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Political outrage: Why all sides get it wrong about the arc of history | Timothy Snyder Political outrage: Why all sides get it wrong about the arc of history | Timothy Snyder
1 month 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 I think the word “history” is a lot more demanding of us than we think. We spend much of our time dwelling in things that aren’t history. We have notions of the way time flows that are comfortable but basically wrong and allow us to sleepwalk and drift away from what’s actually confronting us and what we should actually be seeing and feeling. One of those is what I call the “politics of inevitability,” or for short we could call it progress, and that’s the idea “we know the rules of history, A is always going to lead to B, the world is pretty good as it is and it’s only going to get better. That idea has been very present in the U.S. in the form of “history is over, there are no alternatives, liberal democracy is inevitable, the market is just going to bring about democracy, so there’s nothing that we really have to do.” And of course that’s a core problem: this kind of thinking takes you out of history and it says you’re not responsible, what you do as an individual doesn’t really matter very much. Now the problem with that, or one of the many problems, is that eventually you’re going to get some kind of a shock. You might get shocked in 2008 when you figure out you can’t own a house, or you might get shocked in 2016 when somebody you don’t expect wins a presidential election, but something is going to happen in your life which is going to shock you, and suddenly this story about inevitability, about progress is no longer going to make sense to you. And then you’re going to be vulnerable to what I call the “politics of eternity,” which is another way of dwelling in time, which isn’t history. In the politics of eternity we say “it’s not my fault; I’m an innocent victim; everything which is wrong comes from enemies from the outside, those others, those enemies over and over again come for us, attack us, try to penetrate us, hurt us. And history then just becomes a cycle where over and over and over again the innocent people are attacked by the bad guys,” basically. And the politics of eternity what also happens is that the news cycle, the daily cycle overwhelms you and it instructs you who you’re supposed to be afraid of, how you’re supposed to feel. So the danger that we’re in right now in the U.S. is we’re shifting from a politics of inevitability to a politics of eternity, and then along the way we won’t notice how we’re in history. History demands of us that we understand that it’s not inevitable to become better, it’s also not inevitable to become worse. There are certain structures and what we do within those structures of matters, and what history teaches us is what those structures are. The Europeans have a different politics of inevitability. So the structure is the same, the overall structure is that “things are pretty good, they’re going to get better; there are rules to history we know what those rules are therefore it doesn’t matter what we do.” But the particulars are very different. The European myth goes something like this: “European nations are old; European nations are wise; European nations learned from the second world war that war was a bad thing and therefore cooperate economically to form this thing called the European Union.” Now that’s completely false. It’s just as bogus as the American idea that “the market is going to bring about capitalism and there are no alternatives.” Not a word of that European story is true, even though pretty much all Europeans believed in it. European nations are not old. European nation states have generally not really existed. The whole story of European history is actually empires breaking apart and the fragments of those empires coalescing in this unit called the European Union. There’s never really a moment in most cases where there was actually a nation state deciding for or against Europe. In fact empires shatter. There are bloody wars. If Europeans learn anything it’s that colonial wars are a bad thing and then at that point you dodge the difficulty and even the atrocity of those lost colonial wars, and you start telling yourself this story of about how you’re Europeans, and you’re peaceful, you’ve always had the nation state, et cetera.
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Rethinking college education: Put the student first, not the university | Dan Rosensweig Rethinking college education: Put the student first, not the university | Dan Rosensweig
1 month 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 Dan Rosensweig: There’s a really interesting question which is: what are the ramifications of the college education system—potentially, and we believe—in a bubble that’s likely to burst (and is already bursting), and with parents and employers looking to find alternative ways to get their kids or their students the skills they need to be able to be successful citizens and successful in business? So what was interesting about the education system is everything in the education system was designed to support the existing system, like most businesses—designed to serve the publisher, the professor, the administrator, all the people that worked at the school. But you looked at the student and you said they’re forced to live in a dorm they don’t want to live in, pay a price they don’t want to pay. They’re forced to use a cafeteria the first year or so because it’s in the best interest of the school, not the student. They have to pay a fortune for books that they don’t want to buy and subjects they don’t want to take. You just think of all the things. You go to an ATM on a college campuses, the kid takes out $10 and they pay $3.50 as a fee. And so we realized very quickly that the biggest problem with the education system was that it served everybody in it but its core constituent, which was the student. And so one day I wrote on the bottom of my email to the staff – I just put it in as a tagline – “We put students first.” And that became the way in which every decision we get made gets filtered through it. What we do, why we do it, when we’re going to do it. What we can charge for it. The order in which we offer it. How many different modalities or languages or devices can it be on? All of those things are if you put the student first what would the student want? Now some people say, “Well if you do that, Dan, they’d all want it for free.” The truth is they wouldn’t if they didn’t think they could get it for quality for free. So, for example, there are free alternatives to Chegg Study but they all prefer to pay for Chegg Study, because what we give is not free—We give overwhelming value for the money. And so by putting the student first the choices that we make become limited. The definition of success becomes clearer. How does this help the student and can we benefit by doing that? The order in which you do it, how much you’re willing to invest and the return on that investment become much clearer by putting the customer first. And look, we live in a world now where everybody in the middle is being cut out if possible. So we’re living in a much clearer world of direct consumer if you will. So think about it. If you can’t satisfy your customer you don’t have a business. If your customer is forced to use you it’s easier to disrupt you. But if your customer looks at you and says they know who I am, they understand my problems, they care about me, they give me overwhelming value then you build a giant moat versus your competitor. So the best way I can put it to quote or paraphrase I should say Marc Andreessen, software is eating the world. So think about it this way. Colleges are a lot like movie theaters. You go to the movie theater and you have to wait in a line or if you get the ticket you get to go in, but you’re still going to sit next to somebody you don’t know to watch a movie you may or may not want to see. You’re going to pay a fortune for popcorn… or would you rather be sitting at home on your couch watching Netflix, what you want to watch, when you want to watch it, how you want to watch it with the people you want to watch it with, at a price you can afford? And college is the same way. Why do you want to go to a campus which takes an hour to get to, an hour to get home to take a single class? So that’s half a day when you need money, when you’re hungry. So the consequence of this ultimately has to play out in a pretty dramatic way. There’s no sort of incremental fixes. There are things that colleges are doing that can sustain some of them for a while. They’re working with really good organizations like 2U or companies that allow them to build new lines of revenue by putting their graduate schools or specific classes online. But overall if you were to interview (and we have and we’ve read the surveys and you can find the surveys), 50 percent of college presidents and their CFOs feel that their college is on shaky financial footing.
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3 steps to money mastery: Would you rather have freedom or stuff? | Vicki Robin 3 steps to money mastery: Would you rather have freedom or stuff? | Vicki Robin
1 month 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 So let’s take a look at financial independence and what that really means. It means, you know, if you haven’t thought about it at all you just think “Oh, that’s for rich people” or “I could never do that.” And so first of all I’d like to distinguish between independence and freedom. So financial freedom is like freeing your mind. Financial freedom is understanding that I’m me and there’s an economy out there, and I have a relationship with it but it doesn’t run my life. It’s freeing my mind from the messages of the consumer culture, the messages of the economy. The message is that, you know, a house is a “starter house.” No, that’s MY HOUSE! I could die in my house, you know. It’s like there’s so many presumptions that drive us into wage slavery, debt, and it doesn’t matter whether you are at the low end or at the high end. If you are engaged in that sort of ancient process of “more, more, more” you are not free. So the first layer of financial independence I talk about is this freedom of the mind, this freeing your mind, of saying like “I’m sovereign, the economy is secondary. I will move my sovereign self into the economy for my own purposes.” Rather than “I’m a schlump and the economy is my mega boss and, I don’t know – my boss seems to be as big as the sky and so I will just let my life be run by my boss and the tax system. I’m just going to let myself be run by this thing.” No, so you’re a sovereign being! So that’s your first layer of financial independence is your own sovereignty. And then the second layer is to get out of debt. And for some people debt feels endless. And the first step to getting out of debt is stop going into debt. Really. It’s like – and so there are many organizations. There’s Debtors Anonymous. There’s many ways that people can help them with this addiction to constantly spending and spending beyond their means. However you do that you just stop increasing your debt and start whittling your way through it. And with the approach in Your Money or Your Life I mean there’s many people who have written to us who flatten their debt in a couple of years—impossible debt, debt that was going to be endless. They would die with this debt. And once they see what the debt is doing to them in terms of the actual opportunities, the future opportunities of their lives, once they see that, once they have a taste for, a yen for the kind of sovereignty, authenticity, autonomy, freedom, whatever you want to call it, you know, mastery over your own time, ability to write your novel or take your sailing cruise or play with your grandkids—Whatever it is that you want more than you want stuff that’s what we’re trying – that’s the sort of link that we try to get people to make, so that something in the future is more important than the immediate pleasure of buying one more tchotchke that you’re never going to use. We call them “gazingus pins”, the things you buy repeatedly and you never use, and they go into the gazingus-pin-drawer and yet when you’re in the store you buy another one. And just look in your drawers, look in your closets, you’ll find it. So getting, flattening your debt is the second level of financial independence, and the third level really is to get those six months of savings in liquid assets, whether it’s bank accounts—Someplace where you can actually within 24 to 48 hours you could realize that money. So that you have an emergency fund so that you are not tumbled back into debt as soon as something happens; You lose a job which many people now feel that even their very, very important and significant jobs are precarious. So you want to get out of the zone of precariousness. And part of how you get out of that precariousness is savings. And then over time the next layer of financial independence is you start to see that surplus savings can be invested in such a way that it throws off an income. And over time if you become a systematic and sometimes obsessive saver, you know, there are people who save up to 80 or 90 percent of their income whether it’s in their 401K or in a Roth IRA. There’s all these instruments for saving money. You become a super saver and you can see, you could chart it. You can watch your passive income grow, and you can start to see because you track your daily expenses based on the mechanics of this whole thing, of knowing money is your life energy. You track everything you buy. And an easy way to do it—if you don’t like, you know, like writing in a little notebook every time you do a transaction—is just use your debit card. I said debit, not credit.
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How to be a great parent or friend to transgender kids | Elijah Nealy How to be a great parent or friend to transgender kids | Elijah Nealy
1 month 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 Elijah Nealy: It is true that transgender youth, gender diverse youth, youth who don’t necessarily transition but whose gender expression is diverse or considered nonconforming or fluid are at higher risk of verbal harassment and even physical bullying within a school context. That’s been consistently demonstrated in surveys over the last 10 to 15 years. So what I’d say to trans youth who are experiencing bullying is that it’s absolutely important that you talk to an adult in your life about what’s happening. That you don’t need to navigate harassment or bullying by yourself. In fact it’s critical to reach out and let someone safe in your life, another adult, know what’s happening, and that you can identify who that safe person is whether it’s a teacher, a school counselor, a school social worker, a parent, an extended family member. But it’s important to let someone know what’s happening because you have a right to be able to go to school and be safe and be free from the experience of bullying. What the research is telling us in the last ten years is that family acceptance, a young person’s, a teenager’s experience of being accepted by their families is the critical mediating variable in queer young adult risk factors. So teenagers, queer teenagers, lesbian, gay, bi, trans teenagers growing up in families they experience as rejecting are eight-and-a-half times more likely to have attempted suicide by the time they’re 21 to 24. And they’re three-and-a-half times more likely to be at risk of HIV, to be using drugs and alcohol in an addictive way or problematic way, much higher rates of anxiety and depression, and that by contrast those risks are much lower for adolescents growing up in families that they experience as accepting. The important piece about that for parents is the degree to which we can have an impact in lowering the risk factors that trans youth already face in a world that sometimes is still hostile or discriminatory, and that even in the face of external discrimination or harassment by peers or other adults or discriminatory laws family acceptance shows up as the critical mediating variable for young adult risks among trans youth. So one best practice is to recognize that everyone of us as a human being has a right to define who we are, and that gender identity is not necessarily about our body parts but it’s about our own understanding of who we are as male or female, both or neither. It’s what’s in our brains. It’s what we know to be true about ourselves. And so if we begin with that understanding and an acknowledgement that every human being deserves to be acknowledged and respected for who they know themselves to be that sets a real foundation in working with trans youth: That each trans young person like any other young person deserves to be acknowledge and treated with respect for who they are. That means things like using a young person’s affirmed name and pronouns regardless of whether or not that matches your understanding or knowledge of that young person. But if I say my pronouns are male and my name is Elijah, then part of respect is respecting my understanding of myself. From a treatment perspective that means what’s been emerging as best practices in the last ten years is an understanding of gender expression within young children and adolescents as gender diversity (and not gender variance or gender nonconformity)—And that all children experiment with gender expression, that children can have diverse and different ways of expressing their gender—young boys might like to play house, young girls might like to play with trucks—and that that’s simply gender diversity, and while it may not be “the norm” to have a boy who has feminine gender interests it is within the realm of normal; and that there’s nothing inherently abnormal or pathological. It’s simply gender diversity, and may or may not mean that that young child grows up to identify as trans.
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How to spot unhealthy ideas that stop true happiness | Johann Hari How to spot unhealthy ideas that stop true happiness | Johann Hari
1 month 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 Johann Hari: Of the nine causes of depression and anxiety I learned about for my book Lost Connections, there were a few that were really challenging for me because I realized how much I recognized them in myself. So one of the hardest – I have to tell you a story about something else first, but when I was, in 2009 on Christmas Eve—it makes it even sadder that this story happened on Christmas Eve. So I use to live on junk food. I used to eat appallingly. And on Christmas Eve 2009 I went into my local KFC at lunchtime and I turned up and I gave my order—which is so disgusting I won’t even repeat it. And the guy behind the counter said “Oh Johann, I’m so glad you’re here! Wait a minute.” I was like, “Okay….” So he walked off and he came back with all the other staff and they’d bought me a massive Christmas card. And they’d written in it “To our best customer.” And so I was looking at this and my clogged heart sank. I thought, “This isn’t even the fried chicken shop I come to the most.” It was a very unfortunate low point. But we all know, right, junk food has taken over our diets. Not admittedly to the extreme that I was, but junk food is increasingly dominating our diets and it’s making us physically sick. One of the things that really shocked me in the research is that there’s really good evidence that something similar has happened with our minds. Our kind of junk values have taken over our minds and they’ve made us mentally sick. So for thousands of years now philosophers have said, if you think life is about, you know, money and status and showing off you’re going to feel terrible, right? From Confucius on down, people have been warning us of that. But weirdly nobody had actually scientifically investigated it, until an incredible man I got to know called Professor Tim Kasser who’s at Knox University in Illinois. So Professor Kasser knew when it comes to human motivation there’s basically—to put it crudely—two kinds of human motivation, right. Imagine you play the piano. If you play the piano in the morning because you love it and it gives you joy, that’s an intrinsic motivation. You’re not doing it to get something out of it. You’re just doing it because that thing gives you joy, right? Okay, now imagine you play the piano not because it gives you joy, but in a dive bar to pay the rent or because your parents are really pressuring you to be a piano maestro, or to impress a man, maybe some weird piano fetishist, right? That would be an extrinsic reason to play the piano. You’re not doing it for the experience itself. You’re doing it to get something out of it. You’re doing it one removed. You’re doing it to get something out of the experience. Now we’re all a mixture of intrinsic and extrinsic values obviously, and we change throughout our lives. But Professor Kasser discovered some really fascinating things. The first thing is, the more your life is dominated by extrinsic values—the more you’re doing things not because you think they’re important but because of how you’ll look to other people, how you’ll seem on the outside—the more likely you are to become depressed and anxious. It’s a quite significant effect that’s been found in 22 studies with depression and 14 studies with anxiety.
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How to achieve fame and fortune? Don't focus on them. | Renée Taylor How to achieve fame and fortune? Don't focus on them. | Renée Taylor
1 month ago En
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How to be a better listener | Chris Hadfield How to be a better listener | Chris Hadfield
1 month 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 Chris Hadfield: I’m certain my wife would not agree that I have good listening skills. It’s human nature: you get preoccupied with your own thoughts, and when I’m busy thinking about something I don’t hear very well, because my brain is sort of already engaged and I don’t necessarily turn noise into a cogent-enough thought that it gets in and I actually acknowledge what somebody is saying—so I’m just as guilty as anyone of not being a good listener. I think in order to overcome that you have to deliberately listen, and not just to the words, not just the text, but what was the reason behind the text? What do those words mean culturally? How did the person say them and why? Why did they say them now? What’s the sense of urgency? What is the actual message they’re trying to get across? And so, of course, the best way to verify all that is to engage in discussion. Repeat back what you think you heard. A really clinical example is where Mission Control is calling up something important to the spaceship and we know that communication is lousy—there’s little tiny speakers and it’s radios and it’s clipped and it’s digitized, and so we can’t just count on everybody immediately understanding and having good listening skills. So we have like, “Houston, station.” “Station, Houston, I’m listening.” “Okay Houston what I wanted to talk to you about was—whatever—the carbon dioxide removal equipment, and there’s a problem with the CDRA today and I’m in the checklist on page 221 part B, let me know when you’re there.” “Okay. All right. I’m open to that page now. Go ahead.” So think about how that communication is happening. You’ve gotten their attention, they’ve told you “okay you have my attention” and “now this is the thing I’m talking about are you on the same page as me?” “Yes. I am on the same page as you.” “Okay. Now that both of us are on the same page now let’s actually discuss why we’re trying to accomplish this thing. What are the details? What do we need to know? What do you know that I don’t know?” And then come to a mutual conclusion of “Okay this is what I’m going to do.” “Yep I agree that’s what you’re going to do.” It’s so incredibly formalized: we’re talking with the ground, but it’s a microcosm of a regular conversation between any two people, we just maybe aren’t quite as rigorous about it. But I think you should keep that in mind, if you’re trying to be a good listener, picture how the ground listens to a spaceship and try and be that person. Truly give them your attention. Try and get on the same page. Question, have a conversation. Make sure you understand the intent. Repeat it back. And then get your actions verified after you do them. And if you can manage to do all those things, even quickly, then I think you have the best chance of being a good communicator—and more importantly, a good listener.
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Does being beautiful mean dying sooner? In nature, it can. | Richard Prum Does being beautiful mean dying sooner? In nature, it can. | Richard Prum
1 month 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 Richard Prum: One of the most extraordinary examples of beauty happening in the natural world is the courtship display song of the Club-winged Manakin. The club-winged manakin is a South American bird that sings with its wings. The female club-winged does all the nesting and builds the nest and lays the eggs and takes care of them all on her own, but she chooses among available mates based on the songs they sing. But they sing with their wing feathers in a very special way: by shaking their wing feathers rapidly over their back they create an “electronic” sound that sounds like “Bip! Bip! WAAANG” that rings out of the forest, and yet this is actually produced by the wing feathers rubbing together. This is interesting because it shows that beauty can be innovative. Birds have been singing songs, vocal songs with their syrinx for something like 80 million years, but this bird has essentially abandoned vocal songs to create music in a whole new way with its wing feathers. Studies have shown that as we look inside the body of the male club-winged manakin the wing bones have been greatly altered in order to make this sound. What this means is that beauty is not only skin deep: in order to make these beautiful attractive sounds the wing bones have become elaborated and even solid like ivory. This is a big deal because all birds have hollow wing bones: even Velociraptor and T Rex have hollow arm bones, so this is a design that goes back prior to the origin of birds and prior to the origin of flight! But flying birds all maintained hollow wing bones, but somehow or other the male club-winged manakin has abandoned them in order to produce his wing song. This is interesting because his wing bones are actually made worse at flying by the compromise to be beautiful, in order to make the songs that females love. Then the male has been dragged off that optimal design toward a new design, which functions less well at flying; in other words the male has been made less capable at flight by female choice. That kind of investment or cost COULD be rationalized as another kind of “honesty,” a kind of handicap that indicates how good he is, that he can waste energy to make the wing bones. I wanted to test that idea by exploring what’s going on in female club-winged manakins. It turns out that female club wings have the same elaborate, thickened, or wider wing bones as the males, yet they will never sing a wing song. How does that work? Well, it turns out that the wing bones develop in the embryo in the egg before the embryo becomes either male or female. And as a result when the female selects on the males that she likes with the song that she likes, her female offspring will also inherit bizarre wing bones, and yet they won’t be made better by them. They will never profit from them. So in this case of the club-winged manakin, both males and females are made worse off as a result of mate choice. I call this the “evolution of decadence”. It’s an example of how mate choice or evolution by mate choice can work in an entirely opposite or opposing direction to natural selection. I think that’s a case where we are driven to accept the idea that beauty happens.
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A mental hack for surviving bad bosses | Beth Comstock A mental hack for surviving bad bosses | Beth Comstock
1 month 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 Beth Comstock: Yes, so “‘no’ equals ‘not yet’” is one of my kind of favorite mantras and a mental hack that was very helpful to me. I think early in my career I—like many people—worked for a classic “gatekeeper” boss and he “had all the answers,” and the team got quite frustrated. We thought we had a different way, different ideas to keep us contemporary and move forward, and he said no. I ended up leaving that job because I thought the gatekeeper was standing in my way. And what I came to realize is that gatekeepers exist everywhere. They’re probably even in our own head sometimes, where we just say we can’t do it. And so out of that experience I realized there were a lot of ways I could have kept going back and trying a different approach with the gatekeeper. And I learned that with other gatekeepers and that “no” is “not yet”. So just because you hear no the first time, it doesn’t mean no is final. And I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen in the course of my career – I’m talking people just starting out which may be a little bit more understandable because you don’t know yet—all the way up to CEOs. When they hear no from whatever person they’re pitching an idea to they leave and you never see them again with that idea. And you think well, you had all this passion. You had all this insight. Someone told you no and you just let it dissipate? It’s gone? So to me I had to learn like “no” perhaps is an invitation. An invitation to come back again to try it. I had a three time rule that I would often use with different bosses I had where I felt like I needed at least three times to go back with the idea. What I learned is two things. One is I’m testing the idea myself: I’m trying to like put the right words together. Sometimes it’s just the words are wrong; The story is not there; I’m not being clear. And I think if it’s the manager or someone is coming to you, you’re testing their passion for it. You’re testing how good an idea they think it is, because if somebody’s pitching you an idea but they’re not that excited about it you’re counting on them to go forward. So I think this idea of “no is not yet” is a resiliency test. It’s a way to say “how much do you care about that idea, how much do you want it to happen?” And it’s a sign of commitment to the idea. Disappointment is an inevitable part of making change, of pushing for innovation and I think we have this fantasy that we buy in that you just pitch a brilliant idea, you’re just so fantastic, fantastically suited for it. You just go forth and the idea gets green-lit and off you go. The reality is just because you’re well liked, your boss likes you, your team likes you, you’ve had a good track record doesn’t mean people are going to give you blind trust that the next idea is good. People want to know: what are you prepared to do to work for it? And I’ve found certainly in myself and in people I’ve worked with that often it’s those “try again” moments where you didn’t quite get off the right foot in pitching the idea or maybe you did a test of it and it didn’t work. And it’s when you come back and say, “I tried this and it didn’t work. Here, I’m disappointed. Here’s what I propose to do about it.” So I think a lot of this kind of resiliency building is a test of how do you deal with the disappointment? And I think disappointment is something you have to accept as part of the change-making process. I have a little belief for myself that there’s a time to be disappointed. “I’m really sad that that idea didn’t get bought. In a sense I couldn’t sell it. People didn’t like, they didn’t understand what I was saying. Am I crazy? Do I not communicate? And I’m upset. I’m upset.” And so I think you have to give yourself a little bit of time to kind of suck your thumb and say, “Ugh, I didn’t do as well as I wanted.” But then go, “Do I still believe in it? Is it still a good idea? How do I take that feedback? And now, I’ll go back and address some of those issues if they’re relevant.” And use that disappointment as a bit again of that kind of push, a kick in the butt to get out there. So just because you have a good track record doesn’t mean you’re going to be successful the next time. And use that disappointment to be a bit of rocket fuel for yourself. Learn from it, but also say “Hey, do I still want to do this?” So that’s how I think about disappointment and kind of using it as resiliency.
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Carl Sagan's most important lesson about science | NASA's Michelle Thaller Carl Sagan's most important lesson about science | NASA's Michelle Thaller
1 month 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 Michelle Thaller: So when I was growing up as a young girl—in Wisconsin actually—I was ten years old when Carl Sagan’s show Cosmos came on public broadcasting. And as a ten year old kind of living in rural Wisconsin I had never really met an astronomer. That’s not someone you routinely meet. Whenever people tell me, you know, you don’t really seem like an astronomer. The wonderful next thing to ask is, “How many astronomers do you know?” So my vision of what an astronomer was was this man on this television show, on public television, Carl Sagan. And the thing that Carl did better than anybody else I’d ever seen was this emotional connection to the science. He loved to tell stories. He would tell stories about the history but also it was from him that I learned where all of the atoms in my body come from. The fact that they were all formed in stars. And when Carl talks about that on the show I mean we sort of made a joke that there are these things called “Carl moments” where Carl sort of gazes dramatically off into space and the camera sort of close up, you know, close up on his face. And you can see him sort of emoting at how wonderful this is. And these days, you know, decades later those scenes seem a little bit silly and a little bit contrived. But as a child I was taken along for this incredible emotional journey. Carl was a real rock star. He had this charisma and people would just listen to what he was saying and they would love to follow along with his stories. And that became to me the image of what a scientist was, what an astronomer was, was somebody that could tell the stories of the universe. So I never ended up meeting Carl. I always wanted to. He unfortunately died very young, he died in his early 60s and I was a graduate student at the time. I always figured I would see him at some astronomy conference, I’d somehow, you know, wander past him at one of these scientific meetings and tell him how much that his show had meant to me. But I never got that chance. I never left though that idea, that what a scientist really does is tell stories. It’s about the narrative and it’s about the emotions. And Carl did that better than anyone I’ve ever seen.
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What causes income inequality and tribal politics | Bill Drayton What causes income inequality and tribal politics | Bill Drayton
1 month 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 Bill Drayton: Maybe a good way to get into this is to ask: why are income distributions everywhere getting worse and worse, regardless of the nature of the economy, regardless of ideology? That’s just a fact. And the second question: why do we have “us versus them” politics (and all the pain and disruption that causes) spreading and spreading across the world? So that’s another fact. So this is not based on a personality or some economic peculiarity. There’s a deeper force at work. From 1700 to now, the rate of change and the degree of interconnection have both been going up each feeding the other exponentially. And the demand for repetition has been going down in a mirror curve. These curves have been going for 300 years, and we’re now at a point that much of the world is already functioning as an everything changing world where you must be a “change-maker” to be able to play and scale. And those are skills that are almost exactly the opposite of the skills that were appropriate in a world organized around efficiency and repetition. The old model was: you learned a skill – barber, banking, it doesn’t matter. And then you repeat it for life in workplaces with walls – assembly lines, law firms. And that world is basically gone, except a lot of people don’t know it yet. And in the world that is all around us, the successful parts of the world, you have to have very different skills. You’ve got to be able to live in a kaleidoscope of contacts that are all changing and are interconnected. And you have to be able to see new patterns and come together in new teams and work with teams of teams. This is very complex and it requires very specific skills. And the world is now increasingly divided by the new inequality between those that have the skills and are in the new game of change and those who don’t have the skills. And this is very bitter. The people who are in the game are helping one another get better as it speeds up because that’s what you do with teammates. You need your teammates to be really good. So that part of the world is getting better and better at a game that the other part doesn’t see, doesn’t have the skills, and is being pushed out. And we’re telling those people, “Go away. We don’t need you. It’s your fault. And by the way your kids don’t have much of a future.” So why do we have income distribution getting worse? Because there’s a bidding war for the people who are change-makers, who are in the change game, and there’s going-away demand for people who don’t have those skills. Economics 101. Why do we have us-versus-them politics? Because if you treat anyone—let alone large parts of humanity—in this really terrible way, “You can’t be a part of society; You can’t contribute; You are powerless”—This is terrible! This is what makes people profoundly unhappy. And of course you have opioids. And so we have to tear down the new inequality and therefore the income and equality and this outrageous way of treating a large part of the population. And the key is we have to help every single human being have the skills so they can contribute, so they can be powerful, so they are change-makers. That’s the heart of it.
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College education is failing us all. Can we design something better? College education is failing us all. Can we design something better?
1 month ago En
* This video was originally published on Saturday, August 25 2018 but had to be re-uploaded because of a spelling error in the video itself; apologies for any confusion or inconvenience! * Read more at BigThink.com: https://bigthink.com/videos/dan-rosensweig-how-to-design-universities-that-make-our-lives-better Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Dan Rosensweig: Fifty percent of high school students don’t go on to higher education. Of the 50 percent that do, 43 percent of them don’t graduate. Of those that do graduate the average graduation time is six years. The average age of a current college student today is about 25. And I think 25 percent of college students today actually have a child. So if you ask me those statistics suggest two things. The current system is not producing what it was designed to produce for the types of people that go, the number of people that go and what they need. And it has not kept up with the modern world in terms of how it makes itself available and what it charges students to be able to get what they need. So it’s a combination of availability; It doesn’t seem to work for the majority of students, because the number one reason that students don’t go on to further education or drop out of college, it’s a combination of two things which essentially means the same thing: It’s too expensive, or they can’t get the classes at the time of day they’re available. And that’s because: of the 70 percent of kids that go to state schools, 40 percent of them work 30 hours a week or more. All of this is to say that schools are no longer programmed at the right time. They take too long. They’re too expensive, and what they program is incomplete. It’s not necessarily bad. our view is the education system needs to evolve to the way we do everything. Everything we do today comes to us (rather than us go to them). An example, today we would never wait out in the rain for a car and hope that we can get a cab. We’ll just hail Uber and it comes and it takes us exactly where we want to go. Today we wouldn’t go rush home to watch a TV show at eight o’clock on a Thursday night. We watch it on the device we want to watch it, when we want to watch it, when it’s convenient for us. Only education continues to require you to come to it, pay a fortune to do it, and have it be a choice between eating or reading or learning and earning. And so what Chegg is trying to do is reverse it, is try to say let’s use what the internet does best. Let’s make it online, on demand. Let’s make it personalized. You do it the way you want to do it, not the way it’s taught singularly to everybody. Adaptive which means when we watch what you do and we learn about you, let’s actually adjust how we teach you or what we teach you, what we give you more of and what we give you less of based on your actual abilities. And then let’s make it exceptionally affordable. And if we do that you’d be amazed how many students need to learn, want to learn, are willing to learn. So we think that the modern university system has become too expensive; incomplete programming, inconvenient locations, inconvenient time of day for the modern workforce which doesn’t have the time to do both. So even if you look at for-profit colleges they were a mess because they became a scam for a lot of people. But if you realize 3.6 million people at one time were actually taking it, you realize the demand was there to be able to learn in your own environment in your own way. Why? Because the average person was a 30-year-old woman who could not leave her family or her workforce, or in some cases both. So I just think that the modern education system needs to acknowledge who the modern student is, what the demands on that modern student are—there’s more of them, they’re more broke, they have more diverse needs. They enter the system with different education, different backgrounds, different financial situations, and no “one size fits all” is going to work anymore.
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Artificial general intelligence: What it really takes to program the future | Ben Goertzel Artificial general intelligence: What it really takes to program the future | Ben Goertzel
1 month 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 Ben Goertzel: There’s aspects, yes. AGI has aspects of computer science, mathematics, engineering, philosophy of mind, linguistics, neuroscience. It’s quite cross disciplinary, and the education system isn’t really that way. It’s more that way in the U.S. than anywhere else on the planet actually. That’s a strength the U.S. has. Here as an undergraduate you can at least take courses in every department. And in many countries that’s not true. But even in the U.S. the education system is not nearly as cross disciplinary as it should be for grappling with a problem like AGI or with say quantum computing or nanotechnology or a lot of other cutting edge things. So what that means is if someone wants to really work in one of these cutting edge topics that has the highest probability of transforming the world, if they want to work on these things in the core capacity, they have to take their own time to study a bunch of other fields that they didn’t learn in school. And that also takes time. You can’t do that by reading a blog post. I mean you’ve got to, you know, take out a neuroscience textbook and go through it step by step. And not everyone has the patience for that. But again some people do, and I’d say Coursera, Udacity and MIT, the many universities that have put their courseware online have been a huge, huge asset in this process because those help lead people through the process of learning information from all the different disciplines that they need to attack something like AGI. We found these online courses incredibly useful in what we’ve been doing in Ethiopia. So in 2013 I cofounded with two others Ethiopia’s first AI and robotics development company. So we do some original R&D, some projects aimed at helping the African situation. Then a bunch of software and robotics outsourcing. The company is called iCog Labs based in Addis Ababa. And we have an internship program which we use for recruiting. So we take dozens of undergrad students each year and what we do is we give them some hands-on lessons in OpenCog and various other AI tools. We also have each of them take like seven Coursera courses. And they go through them very quickly and they teach them neuroscience, computational linguistics, bioinformatics, machine learning, a bunch of topics that are not offered in the university there. And this works much better than giving them a bunch of textbooks to read because it gives them a process and a community to enter into. It not only teaches them information but it weeds out people who don’t have the persistence to slog through stuff from a bunch of different disciplines and really stretch their brain in a deeper cross disciplinary way. So yeah, I’d say, as with everything else there’s pluses and minuses all tangled up, right? I mean the modern way of doing things in some ways eliminates people’s attention span because nobody has to think for themselves. They immediately look up the answer on the internet or download something instead of trying to solve a problem themselves. On the other hand there’s so much high quality educational material out there together with supportive communities for people who do want to plunge in deeper and get a more foundational understanding. But what we do in OpenCog is we’ve worked out a system where each of the cognitive processes can help the other one out when it gets stuck in some combinatorial explosion problem. So if a deep neural network trying to perceive things gets confused because it’s dark or it’s looking at something it never saw before, well maybe the reasoning engine can come in and do some inference to cut through that confusion. If logical reasoning is getting confused and doesn’t know what step to take next because there’s just so many possibilities out there and not much information about them, well, maybe you fish into your sensory motor memory and you use deep learning to visualize something you saw before, and that gives you a clue of how to pare through the may possibilities that the logic engine is seeing. Now you can model this kind of cognitive synergy mathematically using a branch of mathematics called category theory, which is something I’ve been working on lately. But what’s really interesting more so is to build a system that manifests this and achieves general intelligence as a result, and that’s what we’re doing in the OpenCog project.
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The science of music: Why your brain gets hooked on hit songs | Derek Thompson The science of music: Why your brain gets hooked on hit songs | Derek Thompson
1 month 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
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