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

1245 videos
Why a more diverse workplace is a more talented one | Ram Charan
2 days ago En
Ram Charan has spent his working life as a business mentor and consultant to CEOs of global companies. He's the guy that Coca-Cola, KLM, GE, and Bank of America (just to name a few) call when they need help. And he's a firm believer in a diverse workplace. If a 90-year-old can do the job the best, then why not hire them? Raw talent doesn't just exist in ivy league business schools, he says, and that applies to the whole company... from the work floor to the boardroom. Ram's latest book is Talent Wins: The New Playbook for Putting People First , and he is brought to you today by Amway. Amway believes that ​diversity and inclusion ​are ​essential ​to the ​growth ​and ​prosperity ​of ​today’s ​companies. When woven ​into ​every ​aspect ​of ​the talent ​life ​cycle, companies committed to diversity and inclusion are ​the ​best ​equipped ​to ​innovate, ​improve ​brand image ​and ​drive ​performance. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/ram-charan-why-a-more-diverse-workplace-is-also-a-more-talented-one Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: A leader who does not get the talent no matter where it comes from is not likely to succeed. Talent exists beyond the Ivy schools. Talent exists in “lower” schools. Talent exists in people who have never gone to school. Whether you’re a woman, whether you’re some other ethnicity, it’s the talent we ought to look into. So my first item is to look into raw talent. So we say there is talent in diverse people. Age has nothing to do with it. A 90-year-old can do the algorithmic planning today from India, so no discrimination of age either. You can be young, you can be very senior. If you have energy, great. Now we ask the question: why these are not progressing fast enough? First I want to tell you about the boards. If you have a hundred men, not all the hundred are going to be on the boards. They’re going to be a small percentage. Why? Because there are certain characteristics in these people that make them good board members. Now, there could be some mistakes, but the fact is only a few of the hundred are going to be on the boards, and they develop certain kind of skills, so I want to tell you what those skills are. And if you don’t have those skills you’re not going to get there. The first and foremost skill of a board member is to be able to ask the right questions. Most people don’t know how to ask the right questions. Number two is to be able to understand the financial side of the business. Business acumen is mandatory. To be able to read in a proper way the balance sheet, the P&L, the competitions, the trends, it’s a special skill how to diagnose them to the root. If you don’t have it you’re not going to succeed. Women succeed to the board who have these skills, and they become chairpersons of the audit committee. They are in high demand. This is the route. And then obviously you have to have leadership skills and poise doing that. So we need to create these training programs inside over time, get these people to run a profit and loss statement, company product line, country as soon as possible and give them coaching. Once they get to P&L and succeed they will be eligible to move up very fast. We are not doing that. Search for raw talent and train them separately, but on those items. Because you have to work a little bit more to find this talent that can be molded. In the men’s side it’s been going on for decades, but again, it’s going to be very few out of a lot of people who are going to get there. The talent is in shortage. Look for the talent. Seek the talent, and develop the talent.
Why even CEOs need to ask for help: How Alan Mullaly turned Ford around | Dennis Carey
3 days ago En
When you're at the top of a business, you might be tempted to say to your employees that everything is fine because you're in charge and have all the solutions to all the problems. Dennis Carey, author and Vice Chairman of the incredibly influential corporate recruiting agency Korn/Ferry International, thinks that that is the wrong approach. Ego can often stand in the way of asking for help, and if your ego is hurting your business, you'd better put that ego aside and be truthful. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/dennis-carey-why-honesty-at-work-is-more-valuable-that-a-brave-face Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink I think the most important part of any CEO running a major global corporation is to be on the ground in those geographies—to the extent that he or she is able to do so—and also to build a team, a trusted advisory team which is having ongoing communications. A good case in point would be Alan Mulally at Ford when he took over in a very, very tumultuous time in the auto industry. He established his own War Room. Everyone on deck around the globe on screens around the world to weigh in on challenges, opportunities, and he had a grading system: green light, yellow light, red light. Not too difficult to understand in concept. But he would go around and ask each one of the leaders around the world whether things were going really well, if there was a yellow light if there was some caution and a red light indicating that there were problems that needed to be addressed. If someone, especially during the calamitous period of time that Ford was going through, if someone gave a green light, which we’re all prone to try to do especially near performance appraisal time, he would typically ding them by saying, “Wait a minute. We all need help. Nothing is ever perfect, so tell us how we can help you in a collaborative way around the world to support you.” And by the fifth or sixth meeting, virtually everyone was giving yellow and red lights. And what that did was it forced employees, the senior executives from every corner of the globe to not be afraid to ask for help and to acknowledge that they needed help. And the fear factor of the next performance evaluation went away because they recognized that if they were asking for help they would get rewarded. And in fact over a period of time, this cross-cultural collaboration began to develop and grow. And people, whether it be from China or Singapore or Malaysia, London, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, Mexico City or New York City, they began to speak effectively with the same tone. Now clearly, language is interpreted differently around the world so there typically would be at least a second or third translation of what was actually implied or meant in those discussions, but over time that team developed a sense, a bonded collaborative spirit and they were rewarded economically for working together.
Is the Trump presidency a religious cult? | Reza Aslan
4 days ago En
Are fundamentalist Christians a dangerous religious cult? Possibly. The controversial author and religious scholar Reza Aslan posits that President Donald Trump has much of his evangelical fan-base believing that he's somehow been anointed by God to become President. Nevermind the Russian election scandal, his affairs with porn stars and unwarranted sexual acts towards women, or his inability to remember even a single Bible verse when asked. Evangelical Christians are abandoning their core moral beliefs to follow, as Reza suggests, someone who exhibits every trademark of a cult leader. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/reza-aslan-how-religion-changed-the-presidency-and-vice-versa Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Eighty-one percent of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump in the previous election. That’s a record. That’s more white evangelicals than voted for George W. Bush—and George W. Bush was a white evangelical. This makes no sense to people, especially when you consider that Trump is not just the most irreligious president in modern history, that his entire worldview makes a mockery of core Christian values like humility and empathy and care for the poor; That this individual who couldn’t even name a single verse in the bible when asked to do so, and yet - and yet - received a record number of votes by white evangelicals. Scholars of religion—normal, rational, people—have been trying to figure out why. Why? What happened? And I think that there’s a couple of things to keep in mind. Number one, it’s white evangelicals. Eighty-one percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump, but 67 percent of evangelicals of color supported Hillary Clinton. Now, these are people who believed the exact same thing, whose only real difference is that.. is the color of their skin. So let’s not ignore the fact that there is a racial element to this support. Jim Wallace, the head of the Sojourners, a liberal evangelical group, said it best when he said that these white evangelicals “acted more white than they did evangelical.” And I think he’s right. The second reason I think has to do with the pernicious influence of something called the prosperity gospel, which has gripped the imaginations of white evangelicals. This is that version of Christianity preached by these charlatans like Joel Olstein and T.D. Jakes, the essential gist of which is that God wants you to drive a Bentley, that what Jesus really wants for you is material prosperity—and indeed that’s how you know God has blessed you, is by your material prosperity. Many white evangelicals looked at Donald Trump, and what they saw was a wealthy man. And that wealth, as far as they were concerned, was just a sign of God’s blessings. And so that freed Trump from having to do what every other candidate, certainly every other Republican candidate for president has had to do, and that is: actually prove his spiritual bonafides. Trump never had to do that. All he had to do was just keep talking about how rich he was. And for a large swathe of white evangelicals that was enough. Thirdly, Donald Trump did something that no other president, not even any Republican president courting the evangelical vote ever did. He expressly promised secular power to these white evangelical groups. In his speeches to them and in the conferences that he had, both private and public, he very clearly and very explicitly said that if they voted for him that he would give them “their power back,” even if he didn’t agree with their pet causes that he would just allow them to have those causes. And you can see as president he’s talking now about removing, for instance, the Johnson Amendment, which is an amendment that prohibits preachers and churches from actually engaging directly in politics and preaching politics from the pulpit. It’s why they get to keep their tax break. No one has ever thought about removing this requirement until Donald Trump. And now he is very seriously moving towards allowing churches to take part directly in political activism as churches. But none of this, none of this explains the most important phenomenon about white evangelicals in America, and that is this: In the span of a single election cycle, white evangelicals have gone from being the group in America that is most likely to say that a politician’s morality matters to the group that is now least likely to say that. Atheists in America think that a politician’s morality matters more than white evangelicals in America do—White evangelicals who continue to refer to themselves as value voters.
How to reboot your life with the Japanese philosophy of Ikigai | Rob Bell
5 days ago En
What gets you out of bed in the morning? If your only answer to that question is: 'My alarm clock,' then firstly, that's detention, and secondly: where is your sense of purpose? Spiritual teacher Rob Bell explains how his discovery of Ikigai—a Japanese life philosophy—crystilized a problem he was seeing too often, in most people he met. In your late teens or early twenties, you typically land on a path that you follow for the rest of your life. You picked a degree and now you're stuck. You made a decision and now it seems too late to choose again. That can lead us to a deeply unsatisfying place, where today is just a repeat of yesterday. Ikigai contains "this really interesting idea, that when you no longer have something that gets you out of bed in the morning, then you’re kind of dead, even if you’re still alive," says Bell. Your reason for being should shift many times over the course of your life, and looking at your life as containing many seasons— rather than one long stretch—can be a better way to frame and find fulfillment. Ikigai asks four key questions, at the center of which you can find your purpose: 1) What do you love? 2) What are you good at? 3) What does the world need from you? 4) What can you get paid for? Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/rob-bell-how-ikigai-can-give-your-life-meaning Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Rob Bell: I’ve met more people who, essentially, somewhere along the way picked up: 'You go to school, you get trained in something, then you go get a job in that and then you do that job and that’s your career and then you die.' But then they got into this thing and realized they don’t actually want to do this with their life. Or nobody wants this particular trade anymore. You make eight-track players; people aren’t buying eight-tracks anymore. There’s this weird thing about the market where if you go in with, 'Well, this is a thing that I do,' there may be forces beyond you that like: 'No one wants to pay for that anymore.' And so over the years, I kept meeting people who had this very single track 'this is what I’m supposed to do' thing and then it disappointed them for reasons out of their control or simply, “I got trained to do this thing that I don’t like to do.” Then I stumbled on this Japanese word “ikigai” and ikigai essentially is that which gets you out of bed in the morning. Sometimes it’s translated as 'your reason for being'. And in Japanese culture they have this very well thought through idea of ikigai: that you never stop working out your ikigai—what it is that gets you out of bed in the morning. And so in this season of life, this is what you’re doing but that may change. It may shift. Somebody you love may get sick and so you need to care for them. You used to do this and now that industry is sort of dried up but now you need to go back to school because you need to now go do this. And they had this really interesting idea that when you no longer have something that gets you out of bed in the morning, then you’re kind of dead, even if you’re still alive. And the reason why I find that fascinating is you can be successful, you can have a nice job, you can have a nice house, you can do all the stuff that everybody says, “Hey, you’ve made it,” and yet wake up in the morning with a profound sense of dread like, “Ugh, another day?” And despair is a spiritual disease. Despair is when you believe that tomorrow will simply be a repeat of today. Despair is when you look ahead into the future and each day is just another version of this. What we really want, no matter how educated, sophisticated, accomplished we are, we want to wake up in the morning with this sense of anticipation. Like, “Look what I get to do today!” The great Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “I didn’t ask for success, I asked for wonder.”
3 new jobs A.I. is creating: Trainers, explainers, and sustainers | Paul Daugherty
1 week ago En
Where will you work in the future? As automation revs its engine and academic institutions take up megaphones to predict the end of the human workforce, we may have overlooked a vast area of employment where human intelligence and machine intelligence collaborate, says Paul Daugherty, chief technology and innovation officer at Accenture. Daugherty calls this the "missing middle"—an employment-rich zone for people in humanities, STEM, and service jobs. There are three specific kinds of jobs that A.I. is creating right now: trainers, explainers, and sustainers. Here, Daughtery explains each type of job and delves further into how A.I. will change the future of work for people in design, customer service, and medicine. Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/paul-daugherty-job-automation-where-will-you-work-in-the-future Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: One of our fundamental premises with 'Human + Machine' is really the “plus” part of human plus machine. There’s been a lot of this dialogue about polarizing extremes, that the machines can do certain things and humans can do certain things, and as a result we end up with this battle, kind of pitting what the machines will do versus the humans. We think that creates the wrong dynamics. So with 'Human + Machine' we’re trying to reframe the dialogue to: what’s the real interesting space, and really the big space, where humans and machines collaborate—we call it collaborative intelligence—and come together and help provide people with better tools powered by A.I. to do what they do more effectively? And if you think about it that way, we really believe that with A.I. we’re not moving into a more machine-oriented age, we’re actually moving into an age that’s a more human age, where we can accentuate what makes us human, empowered by more powerful tools that are more humanlike in their ability, and that creates these new types of jobs. So we call that the 'missing middle' because there hasn’t been a lot of discussion about these jobs in the middle where people and machines collaborate. And we’ve come up with two sets of jobs. On one side you have the jobs where people are needed to help machines, and that’s not a category that too many people focus on. We think it’s an important one and I’ll come back to that in a minute. On the other side, we have a set of jobs where machines help people, machines give people new superpowers. And those are the two broad categories of jobs we see in the 'missing middle'. So in that set of jobs where people are needed to help machines, there are a few interesting, novel, new categories of jobs we found that people don’t often think about and we call those trainers, explainers, and sustainers, and they’re very important things for all organizations to think about as you think about how to deploy artificial intelligence in your organization. So think about a trainer. What we mean by a trainer is it’s a new type of job where a person is needed to train A.I. or train the machines that we’re using in businesses. We’re not talking about simple things like tagging data for supervised learning—that’s included, but that’s just the start of it. What we’re really talking about here is more sophisticated forms of training that are needed so that our artificial intelligence and our systems behave properly. For example, for companies we’re working with that are developing chatbots and virtual agents, if you’re a bank you might want a very different type of personality than a media company or a gaming company or a casino, and embodying the personality, the behavior, the culture, the characteristics, the nature of the response in your A.I. is a really important consideration for companies. Because we talk about the idea that with A.I., you know, A.I. becomes the brand of your company because it’s the face of the company and how your company is perceived by your customers. So this idea of a trainer that brings in skills to develop that kind of behavioral response for your A.I. is a really important skill. And we’re hiring people to do these jobs today, people with backgrounds in things like sociology, psychology and other areas. Not a technical skill but a new type of role that’s very important to get A.I. right as you apply it to your organization. Another type of job where we see people needed to help machines are explainers and sustainers, and I’ll talk about these two a little bit together. Explainers are new roles where we need people in roles where they can explain the implications of artificial intelligence.
Hungry for meaning: Why there is no conflict between science and spirituality | Rob Bell
1 week ago En
Spirituality plays a different ballgame than science, so the language used in either of them doesn't often match up to the other side. New York Time bestselling author and spiritual teacher Rob Bell posits that the two need each other to help describe this modern world. Whereas science deals with explaining cold hard facts, spirituality deals in vagueries that can often help the human side of us a lot more. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/rob-bell-hungry-for-meaning-is-there-a-conflict-between-science-and-spirituality Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Ah, yes. That word: “spiritual”. I think the reason why many people run away from it is because lots of what has been done in the name of spiritual or spirituality has been completely crazy. So the problem with that word is it’s easy for a lot of really bizarre unfounded—sometimes even destructive and toxic—ideas can hang out under this word spiritual because you’re talking essentially about that which isn’t accessed through the five senses. When somebody says, “Well, I just had a spiritual feeling.” Well, you can’t really put that on a spreadsheet. You can’t really take a picture of that. My understanding of spirituality is that this life that we’ve each been given, the very breath that we took and we’re about to take, is a gift. That life is a gift and how you respond to it, what you do with it matters. So you’ll find in a business people working very hard and making lots of money and yet at some point asking these questions like, what is the point of what we’re doing? Why are we here? Why are we giving this kind of energy to this? Which is fundamentally a spiritual question, because the answer to that question won’t show up in the second quarter financials, and yet why people get up in the morning and come work here is the driving question behind the question behind the question. So I begin with life is a gift and what you do with it, how you respond to it matters. And when we talk about it mattering we are talking about something that’s true but can’t be accessed in the ways that we normally access things. And I think a lot of scientists have run from the word spiritual because a scientist deals with hard facts. And when you get into language of the heart, language of the soul, when you start talking about transcendence you are talking about more than literal truth. So like if somebody asks me why I fell in love with my wife and I said, “Well because she’s five seven, she’s from Arizona and she drives a Honda,” that’s kind of a weird answer. But if you say to me “Why’d you fall in love with your wife?” and I said, “I fell in love with Kristen because when we got together it was like I found my other half.” Something within you is like okay, now that’s an answer that I get. I understand that answer. And yet it’s not like I was limping. It’s not like suddenly I actually literally found my other half. I shifted to a different kind of language to describe a different kind of reality. And so oftentimes in my experience the scientist is fine with spirituality when we understand the terms that we’re working with. This idea somehow that faith and science are at opposition I’ve always found to be complete insanity. Both are searching for the truth. Both have a sense of wonder and an expectation and exploration. They’re each simply naming different aspects of the human experience. One thrives in naming exteriors – height, weight, gravitational pull, electromagnetic force. The other is about naming interiors – compassion, kindness, suffering, loss, heartache. They’re both simply different ways of exploring different dimensions of the human experience. Well if you think about the past like let’s say 300-400 years of human history, especially the history of the Western world we’ve had this explosion. Some call it the age of certainty, the explosion of scientific rationalism. I mean we have 10,000 songs in our pockets. We have airports and hospitals. We don’t have polio anymore. I mean we have had this explosion of rational, stand-at-a-distance and study and analyze it with a clipboard and a lab coat—I guess now it would be an iPad—But we’ve had this explosion of knowledge about how the world actually works.
How regulation today could avoid tomorrow’s A.I. disaster | Joanna Bryson
1 week ago En
Joanna Bryson isn't a fan of companies that can't be adults and hold themselves responsible. Too many tech companies, she argues, think that they're above the law and that they should create what they want, no matter who it hurts, and have society pick up the pieces later. This libertarian attitude might be fine in theory, or if you're a college philosophy major. But if you're a major company releasing something like unmanned flying machine guns upon the world, perhaps there should be some oversight. Tech companies, she argues, could potentially create something catastrophic that they can't take back. Which is why regulation over these tech behemoths is needed now more than ever. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/joanna-bryson-creation-without-consequence-how-silicon-valley-made-a-hot-mess-of-progress Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink If we're coding AI and we understand that there's moral consequences does that mean the programmer has to understand it? It isn't only the programmer, although we do really think that we need to train programmers to be watching out for these kinds of situations, knowing how to whistle blow, knowing when to whistle blow. There is a problem of people being over-reactive and that costs companies and I understand that, but we also have sort of a Nuremberg situation that we need everybody to be responsible. But ultimately it isn't just about the programmers, the programmers work within the context of a company and the companies work in the context of regulation and so it is about the law, it's about society. One of the things, one of the papers that had come out in 2017 was Professor Alan Winfield was a thing about how if legislatures can't be expected to keep up with the pace of technological change, what they could keep up with is which professional societies do they trust. And they already do this in various disciplines; it's just new for AI. You say you have to achieve the moral standards of at least one professional organization so when they give their rules about what's okay. And that sort of allows you kind of a loose coupling because it's wrong for professional organizations to enforce the law to go after people to sue them, whatever. That's not what professional organizations are for. But it's also sensible it is what professional organizations are for is to keep up with their own field and to set things like codes of conduct. So that's why you want to bring those two things together the executive government and the professional organizations and you can kind of have the legislature join those two together. This is what I'm working hard to keep in the regulations that it's always people in organizations that are accountable and so then they will be motivated to make sure that they can demonstrate they followed due process, so both of the people who are operating the AI and the people who developed the AI. Because it's like a car, when there's a car accident normally the driver is at fault, sometimes the person they hit is at fault because they did something completely unpredictable. But sometimes the manufacturer did something wrong with the brakes and that's a real problem. So we need to be able to show that the manufacturer followed good practice and it really is the fault of the driver. Or sometimes that there really isn't a fact of the matter like it was an unforeseeable thing in the past, but of course now it's happened so in the future we'll be more careful. That just happened recently in Europe there was a case where somebody was on... it wasn't like a totally driverless car, but I guess it was cruise control or something it had some extra AI and unfortunately somebody had a stroke. Now what happens a lot and what automobile manufacturers have to look for is falling asleep at the wheel, but this guy had a stroke, which is different from falling asleep. So he was still kind of holding on semi in control but couldn't see anything, hit a family and killed two of the three of the family. And so the survivor was the father and he said he wasn't happy only to get money from insurance or whatever the liability or whatever, he wanted to know that whoever had caused this accident was being held accountable.
Who is God? One religion answers this question better than the others.
1 week ago En
We project upon God our own biases and bigotries," says religious scholar and author Reza Aslan. God is, by definition, unhuman and is therefore impossible to conceive of—but we humans have a psychological itch that must be scratched: we're compelled to know what our god is really like so we fill in the blanks with what we know best: ourselves. One religion satisfies this urge to know better than the rest: in the birth of Jesus, God literally becomes a human being. "That, I think more than anything else, explains why Christianity is the most successful religion in the world," says Aslan. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/reza-aslan-how-religious-believers-describe-god Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Reza Aslan: There’s a cognitive psychologist by the name of Justin Barrett who did a series of really fascinating studies about the way in which people think about God. He asked a group of devoutly religious people—Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus—he basically gave them a form to fill out about the ways in which they think about the divine. And for the most part what he found was that they answered in theologically correct ways when talking about God as being, say, omniscient or omnipresent. But then he began to engage the same subjects in conversation. He asked them to start describing in regular language how they think about God. And what he discovered is that almost every single person, when forced to start talking about God, violated those core theological principles of God being, for instance, omnipresent and omniscient. In fact, what he discovered is that the more they talked about God, the more it sounded like they were describing some person that they met on the street. And this goes to a fundamental aspect about the way that we think about the divine, whether we are ourselves believers or not. And that is that, unconsciously, we can’t help but to imagine God as essentially a divine version of ourselves. When we conceive of God we unconsciously, innately, impose upon God our own personality, our own virtues, our own vices, our own strengths, our own weaknesses. We project upon God our own biases and bigotries. We implant in God human characteristics, human personality, human desires all along with superhuman powers. And so, as a result, what we really do—again, whether we’re aware of it or not—is we divinize ourselves. If you believe in God then what you believe in is something that is, by definition, utterly unhuman. And so the question becomes: how do you talk about that thing, how do you think about that thing, how do you form a relationship with something that is utterly unhuman? Well, the way you do so is by humanizing that thing. In fact, the entire history of human spirituality can be viewed as one long, intimately linked and remarkably cohesive narrative in which human beings increasingly humanize the divine. Until, of course, in the person of Jesus, God literally becomes a human being. .
Sex and Power: How an Old Relationship Is Changing—Anita Hill to Harvey Weinstein | Esther Perel
1 week ago En
In 1991, U.S. attorney Anita Hill testified against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas for sexual harassment, and nevertheless, the United States Senate confirmed Thomas to the Supreme Court. In 2017, after many women broke the silence on Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein with a horrifying number of allegations of sexual abuse, Weinstein was fired from his own company. Actor Kevin Spacey was fired from various productions after allegations of his transgressions surfaced. The same for comedian Louis C.K. And so on and so on in this monumental landslide. So what's changed between 1991 and 2017? Why are institutions no longer protecting accused abusers? Psychotherapist Esther Perel believes it's not the accused who have changed over time—they are not worse today or more prevalent than they were then—but rather it's the accuser who has changed. In the past women did not speak out against sexual abuse because of the fear that they would not be believed. It was "part of the deal" of life as a woman, says Perel. Women today, however, finally have enough social power to withstand the forces of denial. "And so the system, for the first time, has to reckon and has to act with consequence to the allegations that are being made," says Perel. The old dynamic between men and women is shifting, and there is rising proof that women will no longer tolerate having to ignore or manage sexually violent or unwarranted interactions. So where do we go from here? Perel champions increased understanding between men and women, rather than demonization, and recommends a shift in gender socialization that begins in childhood—meaning no more pink for girls and blue for boys. No more divisive constructs that make men and women feel as though they are from different planets. Esther Perel is the author of The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity. See more at estherperel.com. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/esther-perel-sex-and-power-how-an-old-relationship-is-changing Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: Sexuality and power are tightly interwoven, and this is not the first time that people have taken on the abuses of power that are inflicted upon people through the currency of sex. Anita Hill, not that long ago, took on Clarence Thomas. But maybe what changed is not so much the accused as much as the accuser. That perhaps women today have enough 'massa' and enough power themselves to withstand the forces of denial. And so the system, for the first time, has to reckon and has to act with consequence to the allegations that are being made. The big question is not why is there anything more happening today; it’s that people have not spoken out—women, children, lots of people who often were disempowered and humiliated—did not speak out because of the fear that they would not be believed. This is what is changing. That the burden of proof is switching a little bit and a certain norm is shifting. One of the very good examples for me when I look at shifting norms is corporal punishment. For a long time parents and teachers could hit their children. It was part of discipline and part of childrearing. A norm shifted that said: “This is no longer possible. This is actually not a means for education. This is not a decent pedagogy. This is harmful and this is violent.” Similarly, something is shifting in the conduct between men and women. It’s a given that power and sex are intertwined, but sometimes they are intertwined in a way where it becomes power to, and therefore there is a power to feel affirmed, to feel desired, to feel strong, et cetera, versus a power over, and that is a form of humiliation, of oppression in which it is very little about sex and a lot more about violence. So I think, first of all, we’re using the word 'misconduct' and we are lumping in that word a number of different behaviors. We are talking about harassment, we are talking about assault, we are talking about rape. These are very different experiences, degrees of experiences, first of all. Second: I think that before we only focus on misconduct we need to talk about male sexuality, male sexual conduct rather than only the misconduct. There needs to be a context to this. So it is true that in a different context women of a certain generation accepted a certain kind of banter or a certain kind of conversation, vocabulary, sexualization, use of power that they themselves participated in as well, that allowed women to actually be told all kinds of things for which they would have had probably different reactions than the younger generation today. It just was part of the deal. That’s what you have to contend with, and you know that some of them are vulgar and some of them have utter poor taste and some of them are creepy, and you just manage it. You manage a culture like that.
Jordan Peterson: Inequality and hierarchy give life its purpose
2 weeks ago En
Criticized by the left and claimed by the right, Jordan Peterson's ideas are a defense of traditional morality and leading a purpose-driven life. The Canadian psychology professor has become a YouTube and IRL sensation, garnering tens of millions of views seemingly overnight. His claim that hierarchies help individuals create goals for themselves (and that goal-setting is a good life skill) seems to deprioritize equality—at least equality of outcome—as the primary goal of society. Such counterintuitive ideas run throughout his newest book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/jordan-peterson-improve-your-life-quit-resenting-inequality Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: If you don’t have anything to look up to, you don’t have anything to do, right? A lot of the meaning that people find in their lives is purpose driven. And in order to put effort into something, to work towards something, you have to assume axiomatically that what you’re working towards is better than what you have. Because why else would you do it? And there’s a relationship, like, if it’s way better than what you have, it’s obviously proportionally difficult. So you try to balance difficulty with positivity, let’s say, something like that. But you’re always aiming up if you’re aiming. And if you’re not aiming then you don’t really have any purpose, and that deprives your life of meaning, and that’s not good because if your life is deprived of meaning then what you’re left with is the suffering. It’s not neutral, right, it’s negative. So now the problem with having to aim up is that produces a hierarchy, because if you posit and aim then everyone arrays themselves along a hierarchy of “better at it” to “worse at it”. And it doesn’t matter—if you create basketball as a game, 100 years later you create people who are hyperspecialized at basketball and they’re great at it, and virtually everyone else is bad. So it doesn’t matter. As soon as you produce a value proposition, you produce a hierarchy. The problem with a hierarchy is it produces inequality. The problem with inequality is it produces resentment. Right, but you can’t get rid of the damn hierarchy just because they produce inequality and resentment, because then you don’t have anywhere to go. So that’s not an answer. Okay, so let’s say you’re trying to deal with the fact that you have to put up with a hierarchy if you’re going to have any values. Well, how do you escape from the resentment trap? And the answer is you do an intelligent multidimensional analysis of your life. It’s like, by the time you’re 30, I would say, you’re a pretty singular person. You’re unique and particular and your life has multiple dimensions. And you’re more or less successful—or not—along many of those dimensions. But it’s a completely ridiculous game to pick someone else arbitrarily, who’s doing much better than you on one of those dimensions, to assume that you’re a failure because of that, or that the world is unfair because of that, without knowing in full detail all of the rest of the elements of their lives. I mean, look, we’re absolutely awash in stories of unhappy celebrities mired in interminable divorces or in affairs or in addictions. And that’s par for the course. It’s not helpful. It’s helpful to have a goal. It’s necessary to have a hierarchy. It’s not particularly useful to compare yourself to other people. But it is useful to compare yourself to yourself. That’s the right baseline, right? That takes everything else into account. And it’s really practically useful. And I’ve done this in my clinical practice very frequently. It’s like okay, let’s take stock of where you are and then let’s hypothesize about where you would like to be. It’s a complex conversation because we want to figure out what’s not so good about your present situation—exactly, precisely—and then come up with a hypothesis about what your life would look like if it was better. And then we can work on incremental improvement. And the idea would be there’s some step you could take, that you would take, that would make today or tomorrow fractionally better than yesterday. And then you can iterate that. And that’s actually unbelievably powerful. You hit the effect of compounding interest, let’s say, very, very rapidly if you do that. So there’s real utility in incremental progress. And you don’t have to improve your life much in increments to start hitting the effect of compounding interest. You make one thing slightly better, and that increases the probability that you’ll make the next thing slightly better—as well as having its positive side effects.
Why great sermons aren't just for the religious | Rob Bell
2 weeks ago En
A great sermon doesn’t mean setting props on fire—but it sure doesn’t hurt, says Rob Bell. Having gone into preaching after being in a band, Bell's methods are unorthodox—and the world is a better place for it. Rather than use the sermon as a belief-affirmation device, or to sway votes and donations, Bell uses his sermons to connect dots of meaning into a universal narrative. "A sermon is for everyone. The sermon isn’t for a particular people who have already agreed that they all believe a particular, narrow set of things. A sermon is about what it means to be human... You think about Martin Luther King—"I have a dream". Now that’s a sermon... It was dangerous and comforting and healing and provocative and you learned something and it gave you a new vision for what might be possible—that the sermon is an art form." Here, Bell shares his three-step process for how to tell a powerful story. Rob Bell is the author of How to Be Here: A Guide to Creating a Life Worth Living. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/rob-bell-why-great-sermons-arent-just-for-the-religious Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: Yeah, that’s how it all started for me, is I was in a band and the band broke up—like college bands do, because everybody had to get jobs—and I was teaching water skiing at this camp and they said there’s going to be a religious service and who wants to give the sermon? And I said, "I will." And all of a sudden, you know, you say something and the words come out of your mouth and then you’re like, "Wait, what? Give a sermon?" I had heard a few sermons growing up and I always thought that the sermon raised that existential question, 'What’s for lunch?', you know, it was just boring. But I came out of band world where you engaged an audience, where there was something happening in the room from the back row to the front; let’s all go somewhere together. And so I remember doing my first sermon and thinking this is why I’m here. I’m going to reclaim the sermon as this lost art form. For many people in our culture, the sermon is just a belief-affirmation device. Just tell people what they already think so you all can feel smug in your rightness. For other people, the sermon is how you convince people to give money so you can build bigger buildings. For some people, the sermon is just how you get people to vote a certain way. But you think about Martin Luther King—"I have a dream". Now that’s a sermon. Nobody heard that sermon and then thought, 'I don’t know, he’s usually funnier.' Do you know what I mean? You were either there or you weren't. It was dangerous and comforting and healing and provocative and you learned something and it gave you a new vision for what might be possible—that the sermon is an art form. And in many ways, in our culture, it’s been lost and some of us are trying to reclaim it as this art form that’s somewhere between performance art and guerrilla theater and a TED talk and a recovery meeting and a revival. And that a sermon is for everyone. The sermon isn’t for a particular people who have already agreed that they all believe a particular, narrow set of things. A sermon is about what it means to be human. And so a sermon is poetry. A sermon is science. A sermon is visual. A sermon is experiential; I’ve set stuff on fire, I’ve had actors planted in the audience, I’ve built solar systems out of exercise balls that we hung from the roof, I’ve used live animals. I’ve done the sermon backward and then forward to make a larger point about time. Everything you can think of I’ve probably tried in relation to a sermon. And right now I do a residency at a club in West Hollywood near where I live, a comedy club called Largo, and I do these hour-and-15-minute, hour-and-30-minute sermons—I guess you call it a sermon, a one-man show, and I want to take you somewhere. And it’s history and it’s anthropology and it’s theology and sometimes it’s funny, and it’s pop culture and it’s data about all kinds of things, and it all mashes together. But we want to be inspired. We want new insight into who we are and who "we" are—we as human beings. Meaning is like oxygen for the soul; we want to know what it means. We want to know where it’s headed. We want to make sense of our past. We want to know how to forgive. We’re looking to make connections because, otherwise, the world is fragmented and fractured. It just comes at you with no narrative thread. And one of the things a sermon does is it connects this to this to this and you walk out of there with a little more sense of centered grounding, like, 'Oh, yeah, that is who we are. That is who I am. That is what we’re doing here.' And that’s, to me, a sermon.
The communication error we all make, and how it intensifies conflict | Esther Perel
2 weeks ago En
Ever had an argument that never ends? There's a reason for that. Esther Perel, the Belgian-born psychotherapist and author, posits that in order to be heard correctly you have to approach the other party as neutral. Too often, she says, people approach conversations with agendas and expectations. Because of this, arguments can easily fracture into two sides parroting what their talking points are without actually listening to each other. Esther says that the best way to communicate is to sincerely listen to the other person as you would want to be listened to. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/esther-perel-the-communication-error-we-all-make-and-how-it-intensifies-conflict Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: There are conversations that will intensify conflict or the potential thereof. And there are conversations who will intensify understanding, potentially even resolution. Conversations that are sure to polarize in which for everything you say I come back with what I have to say, without ever taking into account what you just said. You know what happens. When people disagree they literally have the capacity to listen to ten seconds of what the other side has to say. Ten seconds – that’s three sentences. And by then they already are busy creating their rebuttal. They are no longer listening. They are just preparing their return, their retort. When you have that kind of conversation here is what happens. One is I am constantly just going to come back at you. I am not integrating what I heard from you and it doesn’t influence anything of what I’m saying. So basically you’re saying the same thing over and over again and I’m saying the same thing over and over again and those two never meet. And the more I say X, the more I make you say Y. It’s like I’m going to – it’s me who is reinforcing you saying the fundamental thing with which you disagree with. I come with expectations of what I think you think or may say or may want. All relationships are colored with expectations about myself and about the other. My expectations influence that which I then see or hear. It is a filter as well as my mood is a filter. We in communication have the ability to set the other people up because we will draw from them the very things with which we expect from them even when it’s the opposite of what we really want. We create the others in relationships and in communication. It isn’t just that’s who they are and that’s who we are. That is one of the most important things to understand about relationships and communication is how people actually co-create each other in the context of a relationship and why we are not the same person with different people. Because those people make part of who we are. When we are in conflictual relationships we will often be prone to negative attributions which is that when you speak to me a certain way it’s because you have a bad temper or you have a nasty personality. When I speak to you in a certain way it’s because I had a lot of traffic getting here this morning and because I’m having a bad day. You are a bad person, I have just bad circumstances. I essentialize you and I contextualize me. All of these things will intensify conflict. It’s the opposite that will create the potential for understanding. Is my ability to take in what you say, to mull it over, to include it in my response so that I make you feel that you matter, that what you say makes a difference, that it enters me, that you’re not just talking to the wind. What is lacking is the ability to see that speaking is entirely dictated by the quality of the listening that is reflected back on us. If I’m talking to someone who is on their phone I will be expressing myself and experiencing the communication completely different than if I am speaking to someone who is looking at me in the eyes, who is shaking their head, who says to me I get it, I understand. Not necessarily I agree. So when you listen to me the first thing I need to know is that I have your attention. The second thing I need to know is that maybe you can acknowledge the validity of my point of view. That doesn’t mean you agree with my point of view but my point of view makes sense. And potentially you may even empathize with my point of view. You can understand why I would think or feel or experience things the way I do. That reflecting back, acknowledging, validating, empathizing. That sequence is where the depth of communication takes place. Because ultimately if I speak to you and in the end I leave feeling even more alone I’m literally in an existential crisis. There is nothing worse than to be alone in the presence of another.
Agents of revolution: How 500 years of social networks shaped humanity | Niall Ferguson
2 weeks ago En
Facebook might be the biggest social network but it's far from the first, despite what those in Silicon Valley will have you believe. Stanford University fellow and Oxford University historian Niall Ferguson argues that social networks have been around for centuries and the most prominent of which — the Freemasons — could very well be responsible for democracy as we know it. Started in the 1700s in England and carried over to what would later become America, it was a place where class and social strata didn't count and people could exchange ideas freely... and its members included none other than George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. Niall's latest book is the tantalizing The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/niall-ferguson-agents-of-revolution-how-500-years-of-social-networks-shaped-humanity Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: When I first moved to Stanford from Harvard I got my first close-up view of Silicon Valley; this was about a year and a half ago. And what most struck me was the hubris, the arrogance that I encountered there. The general view of a reasonably high up computer scientist is that history began around about the Google IPO or maybe the founding of Facebook and everything before that is the Stone Age and is of no possible interest to the world that has been transformed by Silicon Valley. And I had a hard time persuading people that they didn't invent social networks, social networks have always existed and all that they did was to create large indeed vast online social networks bigger and faster really that anything that has existed before, but not I think fundamentally different in the way that they work. And a good illustration of this is that extraordinary era of networks that I think began right back in the early 1500s almost exactly 500 years ago with the reformation, that network driven revolution wouldn't have happened without the printing press and it's the beginning of a succession of waves of network revolution. For example, the scientific revolution of the 17th century is essentially the result of there being a distributed network of scholars all over Europe and beyond innovating in the realm of natural science. The enlightenment is a comparable network driven revolution in political thought. And one part of that 18th century network, which is tremendously important, is Freemasonry. Now, most people have heard of Freemasonry, probably know where there's a Masonic lodge in their town, but in my experience, not many people know that much about the history of Freemasonry. That's partly because the Masons themselves have a kind of fake history that dates freemasonry back to the very ancient times. In truth it something that got going in the British Isles in the 18th century and was a kind of Facebook like phenomenon of male sociability in 18th century Europe and indeed it crossed the Atlantic and became a big part of American life in the colonial era. Masonic lodges were essentially clubs. They were clubs that stood apart from the existing structures of social order. The early modern division of society into ranks or estates was set aside, religious divisions were set aside and in Masonic lodges, at rather ritualistic dinners men of all classes and men of different denominations could meet and mingle and exchange ideas. And often these ideas were drawn from the prevailing ideas of the 18th century. So it's quite hard to understand the enlightenment and indeed the American and French Revolutions without recognizing that a structure within which ideas spread was the structure of Masonic lodges. If you look at the people who signed the Declaration of Independence, look at some of the key players in the American Revolution it's surprising how many were Freemasons, including George Washington himself. I tell the story in the Square and the Tower of Paul Revere, he of the famous ride and another Bostonian revolutionary Joseph Warren and show that one reason they were able to exert a very important leadership role when the revolution began was that they were so well connected in Boston society through their membership of a Masonic lodge as well as other more political clubs. So I think that illustrates one important point and that is that you don't need the Internet to have an international network that can be really quite powerful when it is mobilized. The other point that's worth adding is that as so often in the history of social networks conspiracy theories have sprung up around the Freemasons and if you go online and Google freemasonry you'll get a kind of interesting mix of content produced by Masons and content produced by people who suspect Freemasons of being some kind of sinister conspiracy.
Chris Hadfield: The astronaut's guide to flat Earth theory
2 weeks ago En
To the average person, there appears to be a growing number of people who believe — somehow — that the world is actually flat and that we are all being "lied" to by world governments. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield has actually been to space and has seen that the world is round, but is unphased by these so-called "flat-earthers." Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/chris-hadfield-chris-hadfield-the-astronauts-guide-to-flat-earth-theory Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink When the very first balloon was launched that could carry people it was in Paris in the late 1700s and it was Montgolfier the brothers, they had hydrogen balloons and hot air balloons and it was the cutting edge of science. It was the cutting edge of technology. We just learned how to capture a gas like hydrogen that would be lighter than air as you could take a balloon and the first balloon rose and Ben Franklin was there and it was huge and magnificent, all of those scientists. And it rose but it got out of control and it went and landed out in the countryside 15 miles away from Paris and the peasants there attacked it with pitchforks because they thought it was an alien coming from space. The schism between learned understanding and scientific pursuit and the common perception of what was normal was that close just 15 miles away. It was an enormous gap between what we knew and what we were doing and what a lot of folks knew yet or what had become part of common knowledge. So there's nothing new about the speed with which we're inventing things and the ability for people to understand what's going on. There's a recent populous sort of wave of anti-science as if that's something new. It's mostly because social media has given everybody what appears to be an equal voice. On the corner of Hyde Park in London there's Speakers Corner and that used to be the Internet where you could go stand there and yell any stupid thing you wanted and if people wanted to gather around and listen that was their choice, but if you weren't interested in whatever that person was spouting then you didn't need to listen. But now the Internet has sort of turned everything into the Speakers Corner so you really have to just decide what are you going to listen to and what aren't you. And if someone decides to put forward some stupid idea that is patently false like if somebody says the sky is orange, you can have an argument about it if you want, but it's obviously not true so there's really no point in even engaging in conversation. Or if somebody says the world is flat, it's patently untrue so there's no point in engaging in conversation because all you're doing is giving that person credibility for something that we've known for thousands of years to not be truth. I don't even worry about it. The world is full of fascinating interesting new discoveries and we're pushing the very boundaries of what we know. Stephen Hawking, who just recently died, the work that he did in trying to understand how the universe works the original thinking there's so many brilliant motivated people around that's why would you engage with someone who is being deliberately ignorant? I don't mind people that just don't know when they're just in the process of learning, but if someone has chosen to take the facts and be deliberately stupid about them then I think they've discounted themselves from rational conversation so I don't bother. If you wrestle with a pig the best you can be is a pig wrestler; I want to do better than that. So just because somebody says something, no matter how big their megaphone is, it doesn't mean that they deserve conversation. Just use your own brain, that's why we each have one, and choose who you're going to disregard.
How to make a great movie | Stanley Tucci on collaboration, creativity and thrift
2 weeks ago En
"The most crucial part of filmmaking is that it's a collaboration," says Stanley Tucci, as he opens the door on this seven-minute crash course on what it takes to make a great film. Tucci is a lauded character actor, three-time Emmy winner, two-time Golden Globe winner, and Oscar nominee who has appeared in films such as The Hunger Games, The Lovely Bones, and Spotlight. Tucci also has a life behind the camera, where he has most recently written and directed Final Portrait (2018) starring Geoffrey Rush and Armie Hammer. In this behind-the-scenes look at filmmaking, Tucci lets us in on the dynamics of creative partnerships, how restrictions fuel imagination, and why you should try to yell "Cut!" as little as you possibly can. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/how-to-make-a-movie-stanley-tucci Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink The most crucial part of filmmaking is that it's a collaboration and the actors and the director and the designers, and the DOP, everybody has to be on the same page and they have to be able to communicate. They have to be able to give feedback to one another, accept that feedback, throw out more feedback so on and so forth. It has to be a give and take. You're constructing something, you're building something, you're building towards something, but then as you go through that process you're tearing it down again, you're deconstructing it, you're building it back up again in a different way. You have to be prepared, whenever you're going to make a movie, to just throw anything and everything out of the window at any point during that process. That's your primary—not obligation, but it's of absolute necessity that you be prepared to do that as a filmmaker. Don't be precious. And during that process, you find that the thing that you're trying to create is always changing, it's always in flux and that, ultimately, it really is never really finished. I'm also a big fan of not cutting—unless I really feel it's necessary—and forging ahead and having somebody repeat lines. I'll say, "Okay now go back to the beginning of that monologue and just do it again. Do it again and just do the whole thing with your eyes closed," or whatever. Just to keep the camera rolling, otherwise what happens is people start to think too much and thought can be the absolute death of creativity and then everybody else on the set starts doing this: they start grabbing their thing and they start adjusting it and the guy comes over with the makeup and the thing comes in with the hair and blah, blah, blah and that's ten minutes and all the energy is gone, and that actor's concentration is gone, and we've lost time. You hope for a certain budget, you usually don't get it. You get maybe close to it, but you know what your bottom line is. You know, like, okay I can make his movie for blah, blah, blah. I really can't make it for less than that because then it just becomes—it won't look good, it just won't work. So you have to know what your bottom line is and that's basically what you usually end up with on a movie like this. Once you have that you have to stick to it, and I'm very happy to overspend my own money, but I'm not interested in overspending somebody else's money. I'm only interested in coming in under- or on-budget. And I rather like those restraints because throwing money at a problem doesn't always solve that problem, as is evidenced in so many bigger films. The idea of restraints, constrictions, restrictions—they only engender creativity, as far as I'm concerned. And again, if you have the right team who go, 'I know what to do, I know what to do. Just give me that pillar that we used for the set on blah, blah, blah, we'll take it, paint it green, stick it over here and put the bush in front of it and nobody will ever know.' And this is what's done—and people don't know; I mean, if you have really good people they don't know, if you have really bad people you can sort of go, 'Oh that's at same pillar painted green with a bush in front of it.' But I think it's really just all about imagination. It's about imagination and creativity.
Talent drives success: Why HR leaders are as important as CEOs | Ram Charan
3 weeks ago En
Why should organizations aim to be talent-driven? “People compete, numbers don’t," says top leadership consultant Ram Charan. His new book, Talent Wins (co-authored with Dominic Barton and Dennis Carey), is a playbook that can lift companies out of outdated, 20th thinking. "Today, and in the past, most companies are paying too much attention to finance, numbers, money; but they forget it’s people who conceive strategy, who execute, who deliver numbers," says Charan. Here he introduces the G3 concept, which turns conventional thinking and business planning on its head. Charan argues that Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) should have equal power to the CFO and CEO, and that this team of three should allocate capital and assign talent at the same time—two processes that are usually kept in separate silos. "A great person assigned to a great job may use less funds and create more value," says Charan, as he argues for a more holistic view that deals with people as valuable human capital, "not a pink slip on a Friday afternoon." Ram Charan is the author of Talent Wins: The New Playbook for Putting People First. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/ram-charan-why-hr-leaders-are-as-important-as-ceos Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: In my earlier book, we wrote about a gentleman in GE: he came in early, did evening work, succeeded, and became Vice President of Engineering. He got a bigger job. He began to falter. His boss decided to fire him, but Jack Welch said no. He intervened, he said, “This is a great talent.” He split the job in two; he gave him a portion of it. He succeeded. The other portion was given to another person who retired three years later. The jobs got combined. Later, Welch had retired under Jeff Immelt. This man became the head of total GE R&D. Deal with people as a resource, not as a pink slip on a Friday afternoon. The basic idea is that people design strategies. People execute them. People before strategy. People before numbers. People compete; numbers don’t. That was the central idea. In working in the companies, the talent and the people equation must to be at par or ahead—in terms of timing—with the financial function. Today, and in the past, most companies are paying too much attention to finance, numbers, money; but they forget it’s people who conceive strategy, who execute, who deliver numbers. So we are saying the CHROs, the chief human resource people, need to be brought up at the same power, and at the same time both CFO and CHROs need to work as a team with the CEO to drive the corporation’s perpetuity, its long-term health—and the competition is always among leaders and people. Company’s competition comes later. The G3 concept comes from my observations in a few companies that actually say the company has only two resources: people and money. In most companies they’re in silos and they’re not together. Assignment of the right people makes a big difference to what money is to be allocated and how to evaluate performance. So G3 concept is that the CEO and the CFO and the CHRO, the three of them together, really thinking about the future, assigning people and the funds at the same time, seeing the interaction between the two when they’re evaluating monthly, quarterly, annual performance. They should do it together and see: what is the diagnosis? What is the cause? And together they should see where the competition is going, if the competition’s talent is better or worse. Are they assigned the right way? Are their KPIs and compensation the right way? How does it compare with us? These two functions are relatively politically neutral compared to other functions, and you break the silos between the two of them now. This is a different way to lead, to create value for customers and to compete more effectively. Compare that to what we have done: they first allocate capital, they do the numbers, and then later they talk about talent and people assignment. It should be together, and not separate. In this radically different age of digitization, most of the work is done by talent, and we have three tools. Tool number one is G3: CEO, CHRO, CFO together should be doing the strategic planning because people create a strategy, they should be doing capital allocation, but capital allocation must be done in conjunction with people assignment. A great person assigned to a great job may use less funds and create more value. And the three people together do the diagnosis and do the re-planning if conditions change. That’s tool number one.
Why being politically correct is using free speech well | Martin Amis
3 weeks ago En
Freedom of speech is absolute, says novelist Martin Amis, and as such it must be defended absolutely—even when you don't agree with it. Free speech is what keeps democracies from descending into totalitarian states, but how you exercise your right is as important as having it. "I feel nothing but unease when it’s done lightly... You have to be able to back it up. So I would urge civilized standards of moderation on both sides," says Amis, who admits he's a fan of political correctness—although he's clear to discount the extreme policing of outer-fringe PC culture. Free speech and political correctness are not mutually exclusive, as many presume, and Amis argues that being PC is actually a responsible use of that freedom. Do we really want to just "get away" with saying things, or do we want to raise the standard of discourse? Saying something repugnant without much thought or consideration may not have legal consequences, but there are social ones. Martin Amis' latest book is a collection of essays entitled The Rub of Time: Bellow, Nabokov, Hitchens, Travolta, Trump: Essays and Reportage, 1994-2017. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/martin-amis-political-correctness-and-free-speech-arent-mutually-exclusive Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: I think it’s indivisible, freedom of speech: I mean, either you’ve got it or you haven’t. And every diminution of freedom of speech diminishes everyone and lessens the currency of freedom of speech. But I feel nothing but unease when it’s done lightly. It has to be earned. The controversial statement has to be earned. It can’t just be tossed off. You have to be able to back it up. So I would urge civilized standards of moderation on both sides. It has to be understood that freedom of speech isn’t just a sort of decadent frippery that we gather around us like all our other comforts and privileges. Democracy can’t work without freedom of speech. It’s an absolute cornerstone of democracy. So we have to be very responsible about this freedom but there’s no giving it up or modifying it, even. I would say it’s an offshoot of what’s solidified under political correctness, and I’m a fan of political correctness. No one ever says, 'Oh, I’m very politically correct,' but, in fact, it’s good that we are—not the outer fringe PC, but raising of the standards about what can be said, and exclusion of things you could have said and got away with it 10 or 20 years ago and now seems discordant. And who wants to go back to being opposed to gay marriage? The ease with which that became the orthodoxy was, I thought, tremendously encouraging, and the idea that Donald Trump has cast off these “shackles” and we can go back to being brutes again is a terrible prospect. PC has been an agent for certain sort of evolutionary acceleration towards progressive ideas, and I think that’s been very good. I mean, when I look back at my very early fiction of 40-odd years ago I’m shocked and made uneasy by some of the liberties I took that I certainly wouldn’t take now. It doesn’t interfere with the freedom of writers, political correctness—it gives you challenges every now and then, you have to sort of work around it a bit. But I never resent that, and I think it’s self-improvement on a general scale that we’ve all responded to.
Huts for Peace: How homeless, ousted women in Uganda rebuilt their lives | Agnes Igoye
3 weeks ago En
Agnes Igoye works as Uganda’s Deputy National Coordinator for Prevention of Trafficking in Persons. She also initiated the Huts for Peace program with the Clinton Global Initiative. Here, Agnes tells us about the start of the idea: visiting a community in Uganda where 15 women had become homeless because of brutal acts of war in the region. She helped the women get organized and build huts on church land, turning their lives around in the course of just a couple of weekends. Through the Clinton Global Initiative University, Igoye is committed to building care centers for survivors of human trafficking and training law enforcement to better recognize and combat the illegal activity. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/agnes-igoye-female-survivors-of-war-how-homeless-ousted-women-in-uganda-rebuilt-their-lives Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: One thing about making commitments of action is, I keep telling people: don’t make it cast in stone. When you go to the field keep asking questions. And I remember I was responding to the children who were abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army. I was in northern Uganda and then I just kept asking questions. Then I asked, “What happened to the women who went through the war?” Because there was a lot of, you know, rape, as a weapon of war. And the local concert chairman told me okay, there are 15 women. So I took a bus to meet these 15 women because some of them were raped, homeless. So I just went to meet with them and I just started asking questions. First of all I said you are fifteen people, you have one man in the group. How is that? And they told me that this man knows how to read and write, so that’s why they have him in the group. Because when they talk about their issues and all that there’s somebody who can read and write. So for me, that was already communication—that the women do not know how to read and write. So I thanked the gentleman for being part of the team and I asked them which villages they come from. That’s when I started hearing stories of homelessness. One woman told me how her husband was abducted and then the rebels used him to come and kill his own people. So in retaliation, his people sent her away with her six daughters. So you can imagine, every night they have to look for where to sleep, to stay. And woman after woman told me how they are homeless. So then I asked them a question: what does it take to have a house? Because those are, you know, grass thatched houses. And then they started to tell me it takes grass, it takes water, it takes this. I’m like, where can we get those things? And then they started to tell me—so it’s them actually getting their own ideas. Then I told them, what do we require that needs money? So it came to nails, you know, things like wood to make the doors and stuff like that. But most of the things, the materials would come from their own communities. And for me I remember that day I said okay, I’ll leave money for two huts—because those are the houses. And I say okay, in which order are we going to get this housing? So they also knew which woman was more desperate. “Okay, this one who has more children and this one doesn’t have anything.” So they made their own decisions. And then we started dividing roles: “Okay, this is the money I have, so who will keep this money?” So we already got an accountant. We had somebody in charge of water. We had somebody in charge of cooking food while the others are building. And the next weekend —because it was urgent—it dawned on us that some of the women did not have land. And we said okay, who can we ask for land? Who has land in this village? And they said oh, there’s a church. So we went to see the head of the church. We said okay, we need land. So great enough so he offered some land for women who didn’t have. I started going back over weekends and actually building the huts and through that mud while others are collecting water. So it was a scene in the village.
How the science community can end sexual harassment | Hope Jahren
3 weeks ago En
Women make up 47% of the U.S. workforce, but only (on average) 23.75% of the science-based jobs out there. Geobiologist and author Hope Jahren wants to change that and make that number higher. She argues that there aren't enough safeguards in place to ensure a safe working environment for women. Are the adequate sexual harassment policies in place, and will the workplace uphold them if needs be? Talking about these issues and making them a public issue will inevitably draw more women to positions in science, she posits, and thus raise the average. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/hope-jehren-the-science-community-has-a-problem-its-institutions-are-failing-women Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink I think as you move to the upper ranks of science—ranks being positions of influence and access—you see fewer female faces. And I think the basic reason is the same reason that you don't see a lot of female faces in Congress or on the Supreme Court or on the directing board of Fortune500 companies. I think there are fundamental power imbalances between the sexes that play themselves out in society. And I think science is just not immune to that—which actually isn't a very controversial stance if you think about it. Science is performed by people, and it's subject to all the various foibles that plague the rest of our social dynamics. Believe it or not, I don't have very controversial views on the subject. I always go back to basic questions we ask about women's labor—because working in science is performing labor, and performing it as a woman is woman's labor. And one of the very first questions always asked about women's labor is: is it safe? And so I've spoken about how women laboring in a science are not working in safe spaces all of the time. That's just question number one: Are we safe while we're trying to learn? Are we safe while we're trying to work? There are a few things about science that are special. Women live in a world where we are forced to consider our safety at every turn. We minimize risk while we maximize activity. It's this constant balancing act that we do. Now, in science we also go to unfamiliar places and we do things that haven't been done before, and we work alone in buildings late at night, and we move through groups of people that are largely dominated by men. And all of those things present special consideration for the safety of women in spaces. So I think there are some specific things in science that come into play. I think step number two, after we ask whether women are safe, is: what are the legal protections that are in place? What are the institutional and civil protections in place to defend women's safety within their work spaces? I think young women often don't know what the sexual harassment policy is at their university or is at their place of work. They may not know the details of Title IX how Title IX protects their educational experience. I would say that learning those details and considering what recourse might be is a useful exercise. It's probably more useful than some kind of seminar that advises you on how to modify your behavior so that you're less likely to provoke harassing behavior, something like that. Learn what the regulations and laws are that protect you so that if you have to you can make difficult choices with awareness. I think that's the responsible advice to give women as they start to labor within these spaces. We are more open about sexual harassment and sexual assault than we used to be. And I think that can be regarded as a victory in its own right. I think combating isolation around these issues is important, and I think the Internet, for example, has connected women in ways in which they weren't connected before.
Chris Hadfield: How looking at 4 billion years of Earth’s history changes you
3 weeks ago En
What is it like to see humanity from space? Imagine being able to tour our 4 billion-year-old planet 16 times a day, and see a sunset every 45 minutes. Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian astronaut to walk in space, has done just that—and it has opened his eyes and his mind to the idea that, from above, we're not so different at all. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/chris-hadfield-how-space-travel-expands-your-mind Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Chris Hadfield: When we are born we have a very small view of the world: our mother’s womb and the delivery room. And, as you’re raised, your parents are probably trying to control the environment that you’re in and so you end up with a very centralized, tiny little view of the world—naturally. As you get older, as you travel more, as you read more, you start to understand a little more of the world around you; and all of those influences affect your choices in life. What are you going to imagine that you could be? If you’ve never left Main Street, small town, Ohio, then you’re probably not going to visualize yourself doing something that is wildly different than that. You’re never going to be the head of a religious sect in Pakistan; it’s not inside your worldview. You can only draw your own aspirations and hopes and decisions based on the things that you even know exist. It’s easier now to understand and see the world than ever in history. Our ability to communicate and our ability to travel has greatly improved. But space travel is sort of like the wildly exaggerated version of that, where you can go around the whole world in the time it takes to eat supper, and see everywhere, see the whole world 16 times a day. That widens and deepens your worldview like nothing we’ve ever seen before in history. And it’s very difficult to maintain artificially drawn biases like nationalistic borders and “my little tribe”, “my little street”, “my little gang”, “my little town”, my little whatever when, 15 minutes later, you’re over at the exact same-looking sort of town—but it’s in Africa, and 40 minutes later the exact same-looking sort of town and it’s in Australia—and then you come up to Indonesia—and you go, “Man, it’s all the same. They build their towns just like we build our towns, and how are they “They” then? It’s just sort of all “Us”. We’re all doing this thing together, and everyone has got the same sort of hopes and dreams amongst themselves. And that pervasive sense of the shared collective experience of being a human being, that seeps into you onboard a spaceship. Not the first time around. The first time is overwhelming, but somewhere, you know, a hundred times around, 500 times around, suddenly the world becomes one place in your mind. It’s not very big, and that I think is a really important worldview to have. Life can be full of magnificent experiences. Being at the wedding of a loved one in a beautiful, big house of worship somewhere where there’s the sound and the beauty and the structure—it affects how you feel that day, and you act a little bit differently. Or walking into a gigantic ancient redwood forest, your head is naturally drawn upwards and you think a little different. It’s not the same as just walking down your street. Imagine what it’s like on a spaceship, where you’re floating weightless at a window, where you see an entire continent in the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee, where you go from L.A. to New York in nine minutes and you see all of that history and culture and climate and geography and geology, and it’s all right there underneath you. And you see a sunrise or a sunset every 45 minutes; you see the world for what it actually is. It has that same sort of personal effect on you, of a feeling of privilege and sort of a reverence, an awe that is pervasive. When we’re floating in the bulging window, the Cupola of the space station—normally it’s just one person because everybody is busy, but if there is two of you in there—you talk in hushed tones to each other just because you feel like you’re just wildly lucky to even be there to see this happening.
How coders are creating software that's impossible to hack | Kathleen Fisher
4 weeks ago En
Hackers thrive on human error, but a new method of coding is ending that. Recent developments by the HACMS (High-Assurance Cyber Military Systems) program at DARPA has allowed computer scientists to use mathematical proofs to verify that code—up to 100,000 lines of it at a time—is functionally correct and free of bugs. Kathleen Fisher, professor of computer science and former program manager at DARPA, explains how this allows coders to build a thin base of hyper-secure code that is verified to be functionally correct, "and then you can have lots of software running on top of it that doesn’t have that same level of assurance associated with it but that you can prove: it doesn’t matter what it does, it’s not going to affect the operation of the overall system." To illustrate this technology in the real world, Fisher tells the story of how this new method of coding defended a Boeing Little Bird helicopter from a "red team" of hackers charged with causing havoc in the system and bringing that baby down. So is there anything hackers can't hack? Now there is, thanks to the beauty (and rigor) of formal mathematics. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/kathleen-fisher-how-coders-are-creating-software-thats-impossible-to-hack Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: HACMS is a program at DARPA that ran for four-and-a-half years that was focused on using techniques from what is called the 'formal methods community', so techniques based on math more or less, to produce software for vehicles that came with proofs that the software had certain desirable properties; that parts of it were functionally correct, that there were no certain kinds of bugs in the software. And the consequence of those proofs is that the system is much harder to hack into. So the formal methods community has been promising for, like, 50 years that they could produce software that proveably didn’t have certain kind of vulnerabilities. And for more or less 50 years they have failed to deliver on that promise. Yes, they could produce proofs of correctness for code but for ten lines of code or 100 lines of code—not enough code to make a difference for any kind of practical purpose. But recently there have been advances in a bunch of different research areas that have changed that equation, and so now formal methods researchers can prove important properties about code bases that are 10,000 or 100,000 lines of code. And that’s still small potatoes compared to the size of Microsoft Windows or the size of Linux which are millions, hundreds of millions of lines of code. But when you start to get to 10,000 or 100,000 lines of code there are really interesting software artifacts that fit in that size. Things like compilers and microkernels, and you can leverage those kinds of exquisite artifacts to build much more complex software systems where only a small part of the system has to be verified to be functionally correct, and then you can have lots of software running on top of it that doesn’t have that same level of assurance associated with it but that you can prove: it doesn’t matter what it does, it’s not going to affect the operation of the overall system. So, for example, HACMS researchers used the high-assurance code and put it on a Boeing Unmanned Little Bird which is a helicopter that can fly completely autonomously or it can fly with two pilots. And this helicopter has two computers on it: one is the mission control computer that controls things like 'fly over there and take a picture' or 'fly over there and take a picture', and communicate to the ground station or the operator who’s telling the helicopter what to do. It also has a flight control computer that controls things like altitude hold and stability, sort of the mechanics of flying the helicopter at any given time period. So the researchers put seL4 microkernel, which is a verified microkernel guaranteed to be functionally correct, on the mission control computer, and they used it to create different software partitions. So one of those partitions was responsible for communicating with the ground station. Another one of those partitions was responsible for operating the camera that the helicopter had. The researchers verified that the code in the 'communicate with the ground station' was functionally correct and isolated from the software in the 'control the camera' part. So the camera part was all the legacy software that had previously been on the helicopter to control camera operation.
The 14th Amendment: The best idea in humanity’s 10,000-year history | Van Jones
4 weeks ago En
In 1868, three years after slavery was abolished, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted, granting equal protection under the law to every born and naturalized U.S. citizen. For CNN news commentator Van Jones this amendment is, in his words, the "whole enchilada." It's not the most popular amendment—it doesn't get name-dropped in TV courtroom dramas, or fiercely debated before elections—but to Jones it is a weighty principle that was far ahead of its time. "It doesn’t say equal protection under the law unless you’re a lesbian. That’s not what it says. It doesn’t say equal protection under the law unless you’re African American. That’s not what it says. It says if you’re in the jurisdiction you get equal protection under the law. That’s radical. In 10,000 years of human history, that's radical." Van Jones is the author of Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/van-jones-14th-amendment-is-one-of-historys-most-radical-ideas Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: This is the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. I’m not going to read the whole thing, I’m just going to read the first section: 'All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.' Any person within its jurisdiction cannot be denied the equal protection of its laws. To me, the 14th Amendment, especially this idea of equal protection under the law, is the whole enchilada—for me. First of all, when you talk about protection that implies that there must be a harm someplace that you’re trying to protect someone from. That opens a door to have a whole discussion about reality. A lot of this stuff floats above reality, it’s all abstract principle, but to have equal protection under the law means that you’re going to have some permission for some activism from the government. You’re going to have some permission to talk about inequality, unequal treatment, unfair treatment for—they were contemplating African Americans—but they say everybody. So it doesn’t say equal protection under the law unless you’re a lesbian. That’s not what it says. It doesn’t say equal protection under the law unless you’re African American. That’s not what it says. It says if you’re in the jurisdiction you get equal protection under the law. That’s radical. In 10,000 years of human history, that's radical. And I think it's very, very important that we uphold the 14th Amendment. We talk about the First Amendment, we talk about the Second Amendment, we talk about sometimes the Fifth Amendment, but we don't talk about the 14th Amendment enough. Equal protection under the law.
Kids on the Internet: Why parenting must keep up with the digital revolution
1 month ago En
Should kids be on social media? The kneejerk reaction, for some parents, is to control what they do. But journalist Virginia Heffernan thinks that how children and teenagers use social media is how we all use social media — we're just too proud to admit it. Those of us that use social media inevitably are painting an avatar of personality online, testing what works and what doesn't, and through fine-tuning our own selves in the process. It is absolutely true that you can fall victim to narcissism if you follow the "like" economy to its fullest, but a healthy attitude towards social media can lead to some old-fashioned self-exploration that many older folks may have forgotten about. Because young people know... perhaps more than adults... that you have to try on a lot of metaphorical hats before you find the one that fits. Virginia Heffernan's latest book is Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/virginia-heffernan-dont-raise-fools-how-to-prepare-kids-for-life-on-social-media Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: Watching children in early adolescence and in adolescents is always internally heartbreaking for adults. There was a great article in The Times magazine about Christmas maybe 20 years ago that the power of the Christmas mystery is when you look at a child the same way in the story that the Virgin Mary looked at her new son the Christ child and thought simultaneously, “This child might save the world and he's going to die.” So this huge amount of hope we have for our children and this terror that they're going to die. If my mother looked at me at 13, if she read my diaries about how eagerly I wanted to be popular it would sound very like someone courting likes on Instagram. I knew if my outfit didn't go over well and I knew the way that a 13-year-old might pull down a photograph of it on Instagram if it doesn't get enough likes not to wear that again. Or I decided not to wear that again because being liked was the most important thing in the world to me at that age and for a reason. You want to know how you're going to play in the world. You want to know how to be in the world, how to show up in the world and you're testing and learning what works for you. And by the way, it's heartbreaking. It's heartbreaking when people don't like you or invite you to a party. And similarly it's heartbreaking now when you don't get the response you crave online, or you get a response that's out of proportion to what you did. But taking the risk – let's just take the simple Instagram brings up fears of narcissism because we're in a heyday of self-portraiture, which we've been in before. There have been other times where people sat for portraits or painted themselves. Van Gogh's self-portrait is rarely regarded as a work of narcissism. But let's say that we have this popular form that is these self-portraits. Staging them; taking the photograph; taking many photographs; choosing the right photograph; cropping it; coloring it; and then distributing it immediately to this giant gallery space. And then, like every artist, trying to see who buys it, trying to see who's interested in it, trying to see if it sells and trying to see what kind of commentary they get on it. A lot of people who post self-portraits, and this was true in the early days of YouTube with musicians, are actually looking in some cases for critical feedback. Remember the hot or not thing where photographs were posted and you could decide I like I don't like it? That, which also plays in the right and left swipe of Tinder, is something that we're courting like does this work? Does this work? I'm in beta right now. Do I talk loud enough? Do I talk too loud? That incredible self-consciousness of are my bangs a little too short? Are my eyes big enough? Or how can I inhabit this body that I'm in and fit the exigencies of social life, fit the exigencies of a party or a workspace or, by the way, opt out of it? There are plenty of kids who are dialing back and we see them in millennials a return to flip phones or to abstinence from computers from the Internet and I think that's very interesting. The last thing I'll say when you talk about teaching my own kids, I feel very strongly that we can't adopt a "true love waits" abstinence program about screens. The idea is not to teach your kids never go to parties; never live in social space; avoid other people. Like learning to live in digital space is not unlike learning to live in social space. And it's what kids want help doing. I remember my mother teaching me this incredibly subtle social lesson, which is when you're describing a party that you went to but another friend didn't get invited to, don't say the party was terrible. Don't say they missed nothing.
Why the First Amendment is America in a nutshell | Monica Duffy Toft
1 month ago En
The ability to say whatever we want about whomever we want is a big deal, which is why free speech is the cornerstone of American democracy. But what if that free speech incites hate or violence? Bring it on, says Monica Duffy Toft, Professor of International Politics at Tufts University. After all, you can't throw out the whole idea of free speech just because you don't agree with what someone is saying — that's the whole point of the First Amendment of the Constitution. Even if it's hate speech, the idea that it can happen is more important to uphold than the words themselves. Toft posits to "Let them assemble, let them have their freedom of speech, and redouble your efforts and take measures to ensure that that can happen.” Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/monica-duffy-toft-why-the-first-amendment-is-america-in-a-nutshell Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Monica Duffy Toft: So I’ve been asked to choose an amendment that I think is important and valuable, and so I think: the First Amendment. And it’s not only because it’s the First Amendment, it’s what it says. And it says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” And I think from the Constitution this sets up the rest of the Constitution about what it means to be an American citizen and the value of our individual liberties because it sets us apart. As individuals we have the right to speech, we have the right to association, we have the right to religion, we can think, we can act, we can associate freely. And as a scholar of international relations, when you poll people around the world and they ask, “What is it that you think is most important about the United States that you think sets the United States apart,” more often than not people point to the First Amendment and to the freedom of speech, the freedom of assembly, the freedom of religion as first and foremost what makes the United States special—that we privilege individuals as citizens, and our Constitution protects that. We need to keep that in mind as citizens, and I have to tell you around the world people acknowledge that and respect that about the United States. I really have a hard time with this this idea of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech regardless of the nature of that speech. I mean there are exceptions to that, about whether it promulgates violence or potentially promulgates violence, and I tend to come down on the liberal side, that people should have freedom of speech—and that as defender of the First Amendment of the Constitution that then you need to redouble your efforts to make sure that, if you fear that this is going to lead to violence, conflict, that you redouble your efforts and have police and you make arrests and you say “you’ve overstepped your boundaries.” So I tend to be somebody who says, “Let them assemble, let them have their freedom of speech, and redouble your efforts and take measures to ensure that that can happen.”
Why etiquette governs the art of writing: Lolita, Ulysses, and the arrogance of genius
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Martin Amis has made a name for himself by being an unafraid writer, having published over a dozen novels over 40 years. Here, he eviscerates James Joyce and others by explaining that stream-of-consciousness style writing rarely (if ever) works and that most writers need to better understand their role in the storytelling process. After all, he posits, "the writer is like a host and the reader is like a guest." Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/martin-amis-the-etiquette-of-good-writing-why-nabokov-is-wine-and-joyce-is-a-feral-brew Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Decorum as a concept means “not offending”, “good taste”, and all that. And decorum in writing is a completely different concept. And all it means is that the content should suit—the style should suit the content. It has nothing to do with good taste. No writer worth anything is bothered by good taste. What is good taste? It’s a shallow consensus of a certain kind of right thinking individual or group of individuals. It’s measuring what you’re saying to how you’re saying it and tremendously foundational principle for writing. And the experimental writer will, of course, instinctively transgress against these rules. But you’ve got to realize that all your guide ropes are being jettisoned, and the goodwill of the reader is not infinite. It’s usually very high as you open a novel but if you mess around with the reader at your whim that goodwill is very quickly used up. Stream of consciousness—even Joyce has a very low success rate with it. You have to be a genius to write stream of consciousness, and even the supreme genius, Joyce, wrote his long novel —he spent 15 years on Finnegan’s Wake—which is flat out unreadable. And even Ulysses, only about 25 percent of Ulysses works. And I’ve come more and more to the conclusion that if it’s social realism, your writing, and it obeys—it means the novel is a sociable form. And the writer is like a host and the reader is like a guest. And if you, when you visit a Nabokov novel it’s as if he has given you his best chair nearest the fire and given you his best wine and given you his full attention in the most tactful and sensitive way. If you went around to Joyce’s house you’d find the address didn’t exist. And you would find some sort of outbuilding where Joyce lives, and that he wouldn’t be in, apparently. And then you would shout for him and eventually, a figure would appear, and he would talk to you in a language you’d never heard of before. And instead of giving you a delicious dinner, as Nabokov does, Joyce would give you two slabs of peat around a conger eel and some repulsive drink he’d made himself. To leave social realism—and I’ve done it, and most writers do it a couple of times in their career—is a great statement of arrogance and introversion, and there are huge risks involved in leaving the path of social realism. And writers will be tempted to do it every now and then, and sometimes you can bring it off. But you say goodbye to all those—all the etiquette of social intercourse which governs the novel, as it governs all our dealings.
Bryan Cranston to non-voters: Don’t let cynicism get in the way of your voice / your rights
1 month ago En
Is a 55.7% voter turnout really enough? Bryan Cranston was disappointed with the 2016 presidential election, not for the outcome but for the process. According to Census Bureau figures it was a bumper year for voter engagement with 137.5 million total ballots cast—but is just over half of the eligible voters really that impressive? The Pew Research Center shows that the U.S. still trails behind most developed nations in voter registration and turnout. "I think we’ve devalued the honor and privilege of voting and we’ve become complacent, and maybe a bit cynical about our place and rights as citizens and our duties and responsibilities," says Cranston. The good news? Millennials and Gen Xers are on an upward trend in civic engagement, casting more votes than Boomers and older generations in the 2016 election. Cranston reminds us of how empowering the 26th Amendment is in granting voting rights to Americans over the age of 18. "We can’t take that lightly," says Cranston. It's a timely reminder too, as 40 million people are expected to drop off that 55.7% figure for the midterm elections, mostly from the millennial, unmarried women and people of color demographics. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/bryan-cranston-the-right-to-vote-and-the-need-to-stay-vigilant Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Ready? All right. This is the 26th Amendment to the Constitution. Section One. ‘The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.’ I think that’s really great. And this was only passed in 1971 – 1971! I was 15 years old in 1971. I was close to that [minimum voting] age. I hope it’s an empowerment. I was disappointed, I must say, in the last election. Whichever person you may choose to be your elected official. I think that’s a societal thing. I think we’ve devalued the honor and privilege of voting and we’ve become complacent, and maybe a bit cynical about our place and rights as citizens and our duties and responsibilities. And I think we need to reinforce that to realize we’re damn lucky to be able to be citizens of a country that allows free and independent—when working at its best—Free and independent elections. And we can’t take that lightly. And I hope that we realize just how important it is and support the privilege to be able to say you voted in an election. And I hope you do. Thank you.
How America’s celebrity obsession weakens the fight against inequality | Amy Chua
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Deepening inequality is escalating a tribal conflict between the haves and the have-nots in America. But it's not playing out in the most obvious way: the beef of working-class, blue-collar Americans isn't with Manhattan-born billionaires and Instagram influencers—it's with garden variety professional elites. "If you look at the surveys, Pew Foundation studies, you find that most Americans, including working-class Americans, actually love capitalism," says Yale professor Amy Chua. "They don’t want socialism. They still want a system where if you can work hard you can strike it rich, and they want it to be fine to be rich." Why did low-income America elect a billionaire president? It's no puzzle, says Chua. Despite the data on inequality and the dismal stats on upward mobility, Americans are still sold on the American Dream. It's the narrative peddled by American Idol, the Kardashians, and jet-setting celebrities—that you too can somehow climb the ladder. The richest of the rich are adored, not scorned. Chua points out a glaring irony: while the overly privileged Occupy Wall Street movement was trying to raise up America's poor, America's poor were flocking to the enormously popular prosperity gospel. Its creed? That God blesses the wealthy, and if you pray hard enough the money will come. "The desire for the American Dream is so powerful that people will cling to it even when they have no chance," says Chua. It's that dream that sustains inequality from the bottom up. Amy Chua is the author of Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/amy-chua-how-the-american-dream-sustains-inequality Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: Well, I happen to be a fan of democracy. I think it has flaws, but there was just no other better system for one simple reason and that is: you can often get a beneficent dictator. A lot of people think that Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore was such a person. He was not corrupt. He actually alleviated a lot of the ethnic conflict. But here’s the problem: You can never ensure that the dictator will stay beneficent. The better thing about democracy is that, eventually, you can vote them out. If you don’t like the policies, if you don’t like the leaders, you can vote them out. So, on balance, I think that democracy is the best system. What I think is wrong is that America treats democracy like a panacea. We romanticize it. We think somehow that oh, there’s all this civil war and tribalism and sectarian warfare there—let’s just have some elections! What they don’t realize is that in very divided countries—ethnically divided, tribally divided—democracy can sometimes catalyze group conflict rather than softening it. A lot of people have puzzled over how so many blue-collar and working-class Americans could possibly have voted for a billionaire born to wealth, born in Manhattan. But it’s actually not a puzzle at all. What a lot of working-class Americans resent is the idea that there’s a rigged system. That there are these people—arrogant people—controlling the levers of power from afar, somewhere in D.C. and on Wall Street and Silicon Valley. If you look at the surveys, Pew Foundation studies, you find that most Americans, including working-class Americans, actually love capitalism. They don’t want socialism. They still want a system where if you can work hard you can strike it rich, and they want it to be fine to be rich. Studies show that many working-class Americans actually resent the professional elites more: the very polished, well-educated, snobby professors and journalists and pundits speaking on TV, and that they don’t actually dislike the Kardashians so much—or the billionaires that are jet-setting around. That’s why shows like 'The Apprentice' are so popular. The Occupy movement did many important things, highlighting the urgency of inequality in this country. But one problem with the Occupy movement is that it was a movement that purported to want to help the poor that didn’t actually include any members of the poor. It was, overwhelmingly, an extremely privileged movement. Not necessarily wealthy, but highly educated and largely from cosmopolitan, urban areas. And if you look at the interviews of people from other parts of the country, working-class people, blue collar people, it’s not just that they didn’t participate in these activist, anti-inequality movements. They actually were very suspicious of them, and even a little scornful. The interviews have people saying, “Don’t these people have jobs? Don’t they have to work? I’m working three jobs just to put food on the table! How can they be marching and protesting all the time?”
How success and failure co-exist in every single one of us | Michelle Thaller
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When it comes to success and failure, the message is loud but overwhelmingly simple: do one and not the other. However, NASA's Michelle Thaller thinks pitching these concepts as absolutes is problematic when there is so much gray area between them. Thaller knows this personally: she has a doctorate in astrophysics but is NASA's assistant director of science communication. To career physicists, she's sometimes looked upon as a failed scientist who crossed over to the humanities. To members of the public, she's a shining example of scientific success. Who is correct here? There's a problem with hingeing our self-worth on external evaluations: success and failure are actually rather vague, impractical metrics to give young people. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/michelle-thaller-how-success-and-failure-co-exist-in-every-single-one-of-us Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: I have a slightly different career in the sciences in that I am a professionally trained scientist—I have a doctorate in astrophysics and I’ve done my own astrophysical research—but I decided to emphasize science communication and actually go more into education and policy and trying to communicate science to the public. And the interesting thing to me is that means that there are a lot of people that don’t know me very well that have seen me on television that assume that I’m a brilliant scientist. You know: “the reason this person is on television, she must be the best astronomer of the day,” and that’s certainly not true at all. And then I have a lot of professional colleagues, you know, who are not necessarily cruel but they really view me as a bit of a failure: I didn’t become a publishing scientific professor, a research professor—which is what I was really trained to be. And especially in these days of social media, a television show will come out and all of a sudden I’ll get messages from strangers who say that they love me and strangers that say that they hate me. I often get questions from young students and they say, “Well, how did you become a success?” Or another great question these days is, “How did you overcome failure?” And the funny thing is I found myself really kind of at a loss because the very concepts of success and failure I think are words that never really meant anything. And actually, I strongly suspect they have a lot to do with privilege: that if you can make yourself in the model of a research professor of 100 years ago, that’s defined as a success, and if you do something different, it’s defined as a failure. There’s never been any time in my life where, even after having received an award or having been on a television show, I sat back and said, “Boy, I really feel like a success.” It was always wrapped up in feelings of, “I should have done something differently, I should have had a different career path.” There’s never been a time where I felt like a success. And at the same time the idea that you ever really fail at something. There are plenty of times that I very nearly failed differential equations and calculus, you know. There were things that I was not very good at, but I eventually got them on, say, the third or fourth try. And the problem was just, you know, staying around and telling yourself that, “I really want to learn this and I’m just not going to leave until I do.” There wasn’t any really true failure either. It was always kind of twisted up with things I was proud of that I was actually working through and trying to learn. So this idea that at some point in your life you’re going to stop and feel like a success. “Yes, I am successful now.” I get very, very nervous when people ask me about that, about, “How did you become a success?” I want to sit them down and tell them all the things I screwed up and all the things I did wrong and all the reasons I’m not a success. Now at the same time when anybody calls me a failure, it’s like, I want to sit you down and explain why what I’m doing is actually getting your money and your funding for the rest of science, you know. I’m not a failure either. Everything in life is going to be a flow between those two things. Everything is going to be a jumble of success and failure. Your personal life, your professional life, the way you feel about yourself. And it’s a strange model we give young people. “Try to be a success. Try to overcome failure.” All I can do is just kind of breathe and just realize that at no point in my life am I going to separate those two.
The 13th Amendment: Slavery is still legal under one condition
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The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery—but it still remains legal under one condition. The amendment reads: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." Today in America, big corporations profit of cheap prison labor in both privatized and state-run prisons. Shaka Senghor knows this second wave of slavery well—he spent 19 years in jail, working for a starting wage of 17 cents per hour, in a prison where a 15-minute phone call costs between $3-$15. In this video, he shares the exploitation that goes on in American prisons, and how the 13th Amendment allows slavery to continue. He also questions the profit incentive to incarcerate in this country: why does America represent less than 5% of the world's population, but almost 25% of the world's prisoners? Shaka Senghor's latest venture is Mind Blown Media. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/shaka-senghor-the-13th-amendment-slavery-is-still-legal-under-one-condition Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: So prisons in America specifically are some of the biggest, most dysfunctional businesses we have in our society, and they are a business because of the cheap and free labor. When you read the 13th Amendment—that basically was the amendment that broke through slavery and freed the men and women who were enslaved at the time—there is a clause in there that allows for the re-enslavement of people in the event that they’re convicted of a crime. And so in prisons throughout our country, you have people who are working for basically free, and if they’re not working for free they’re working for wages that, if we saw that happening in another country, we would be very critical of. When I was in prison I worked for $0.17 an hour; that was my starting rate working in the kitchen. But there are also big corporations who invest in prison labor because they can get this labor for $1.50 an hour. The sad part about it is that, in turn, they don’t even hire these men and women when they’re actually released from prison. Everything in prison has inflated costs. It costs us—inside prison, when I was inside—anywhere between $3 and $15 for a 15-minute phone call. We don’t have to pay that out here in free society. There is a way that we can send emails to men and women inside prison, and it cost five cents every time we send that, whereas out here in society we can send emails without any charge. And so there are so many ways that the prison is exploited: the cheap labor, the cost of services and goods, and it’s a model that, sadly and unfortunately, has affected a large segment of our society. I think most people aren’t aware of why the business models of prison exist, because most of our society has been left clueless in regards to how our judicial system works. And it’s largely been through the effect of campaigns that politicians have run for years, this whole idea that one of the greatest fears you should have is crime in America. When you’re operating out of a space of fear you’re not thinking clearly, so you’re not willing to examine things that are right in front of us. And so the way that the prison system has developed and evolved over the years, is it originally started as government-run, state-run institutions, and then people started seeing investment opportunities when the states and couldn’t keep up with the budgetary cost of incarcerating so many people. We currently have over two million men and women incarcerated throughout the country, and we represent five percent of the world population, yet we incarcerate 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated people. And so, at some point, states could no longer keep up with those budgets, private investors moved in and seized an opportunity, and then they started structuring laws in a way that ensured that people continue to be incarcerated for the most frivolous things. Like, 40 years ago we didn’t have as many laws on the books that we have now, and when you look at how the war on drugs itself impacted incarceration rates, if you follow that pathway you’ll see how people seized on that opportunity and began to invest in private businesses.
The Fifth Amendment: Stopping American chaos before it starts | Amaryllis Fox
1 month ago En
The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution is often talked about but rarely read in full. The reason? Counterterrorism expert Amyryllis Fox explains that it has, these days, simply become shorthand for not saying anything in court to incriminate yourself. But the full text states how important the due process of law is to every American. So perhaps learning the full text, not just the shorthand, is an important step to being an American citizen. You can find out more about Amaryllis Fox here. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/amaryllis-fox-the-fifth-amendment-do-not-break-in-case-of-emergency Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: The fifth amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America says no person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury except in cases arising in the land or naval forces or in the militia when an actual service in time of war or public danger. Nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb. Nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself nor be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. Nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation. So for me, the fifth amendment is really the big Kahuna. I have lived and worked in many countries where the seizing of life and liberty and property without due process of law was an everyday event. And we fought that kind of tyranny in order to establish this young upstart of a country that we all treasure. And this is not an easy amendment to enforce and it’s one that really requires our constant vigilance. I mean, we have seen in times of challenge and war in this country this amendment be compromised from Japanese internment camps during the war to the drone assassination of an American citizen al-Awlaki in Yemen in 2011. We see extrajudicial killings happen with alarming regularity on the streets of our county in law enforcement contexts. And when I look at extrajudicial killings in other parts of the world and the ease with which law enforcement become judge and jury on behalf of the citizens and take that power over somebody’s life and liberty and property to themselves. It’s a slippery slope and it’s a slope that always begins with some sense of emergency, some contingency situation where just now, just this once, just until we resolve this emergency it’s warranted. But it is exactly those instances that we have these amendments for. It’s very difficult to make the right decision in moments of fear and that’s why we did the thinking in advance. And when we look at what we’re called to protect in the fifth amendment it wasn’t drafted with the intention that it should only be exercised when life on the streets of the United States is peaceful and tranquil. There’s no need to protect an American citizen against being murdered by their government when things are peaceful and tranquil. The only need for that protection is in times of great tension, strife, conflict, fear, and threat. And those are the times when this amendment is most important. We’re in one of those periods of our history right now and I really believe that it’s the duty of every American to honor the beauty and power of that amendment by being constantly vigilant that we enforce it.
Every middle class worker should get a $6,000 raise | Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes
1 month ago En
It's no secret that American income inequality is at its worst point since the gilded age. To break it down for you, there's a very small yet super-rich class at the top (the 1%), and there's the rest of us (the 99%) who are duking it out in a type of capitalist serfdom. Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder, will be the first to tell you that he's a super lucky guy that happened to benefit massively from this system that makes the rich richer and the poor stay the same. He's come with a plan — give $500 a month to every working adult making less than $50,000 a year — to help reinvigorate the American economy and the American dream that we can pull ourselves up. If the American dream is dead, he says, then what are we fighting for in the first place? Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/chris-hughes-facebook-co-founder-every-middle-class-worker-should-get-a-6000-raise Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink I think the American dream is safe to say if not dead it’s on life support. It’s this idea that if you do well you can get ahead in life and if you have family and kids they can perhaps do a little bit better than you did. And what we know by the numbers is that the median wages in this country hasn’t budged meaningfully in nearly 40 years, and yet the cost of living has increased by some counts by up to 30 percent. So there’s a sense that people are working hard but only a small group of people are getting extremely lucky while everybody else is really staying in place. And I think that we have the power to change that. That’s the key idea that I talk a lot about in the book is that we’ve created an economy that is structured this way we made specific decisions around how to encourage automation, globalization and the rise of finance that have created a small group of very lucky people and we have the power to change it to make sure that economic prosperity is much more broadly shared. So, when it comes to the position we’re in now I don’t think there was one single moment or one single event that got us here, I think instead it was the collection of a lot of different decisions that begin to be made in the late 1970s and early 1980s and we’ve continued to make, in fact all the way up through, for instance, the end of last year. The tax code is one of the most important things. We’ve consistently lower tax rates on corporations and the one percent while not giving a break to the people who need it the most. At the same time we’ve ushered in an era of globalization, which by all accounts has created economic growth but without fundamental worker protections to make sure that people who are in industries that have moved overseas have been protected. And we’ve also made positive decisions, obviously like investing in the Internet, for instance, which was a government investment initially, which has created the opportunity for companies like Facebook and Google and many others to rise precipitously. But all the fruits of that innovation and of all the positive things that come with that growth have not been evenly distributed. A small group of people are doing extremely well and at the same time as everybody else is trying to make ends meet. And just as we have the power to create the economy in this current configuration, I do believe we have the power to change it. There has been debate for decades about whether trickle down economics is the way to go. And we can talk a lot about economic theory, but in some ways I don’t think we really have to we can just use a little bit of commerce sense. If you put $100 in the pockets of someone who’s working hard to make ends meet they’re going to spend a lot of that money, most of that money on things like childcare, housing, health care wherever their bills are the highest. You give someone who is in the one percent an extra $100 they might spend one or two, but the vast majority of that money is going to get parked in a bank account and not really become part of the productive economy. One study by the Roosevelt Institute showed that if you provided $500 to every American every month it would increase gross domestic product by about seven points over the next eight years. So this idea is not just about making sure that the wealthy pay their share, it’s also about creating a kind of broad based prosperity that’s good for all Americans, the poor, middle class and wealthy alike.
What makes you vulnerable to a gambling addiction? | Maia Szalavitz
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Author and neuroscience journalist Maia Szalavitz says that your brain doesn't necessarily choose to become addicted to gambling. Rather, it just really wants to figure out a pattern. This 'want' doesn't need any foreign chemicals in order to make it work. In the mind of a serious gambler, their brain wants to find order in the game's structure so bad that it will keep the person playing, telling itself that it will figure it out and that it's just one step away from becoming rich. This doesn't happen to everyone — on the contrary, addictive gamblers are a small yet potent percentage of all gamblers — but their brains mimic that of a severe drug addict trying to get their next fix. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/maia-szalavitz-understanding-addiction-why-your-brain-gets-hooked-on-gambling Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink
Why libertarianism is a marginal idea and not a universal value | Steven Pinker
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Is conflict humanity's natural state? Could we ever agree on a set of values? The knee-jerk response for any student of history would be 'no', but the data tells a different story. Psychologist and author Steven Pinker offers proof in the form of Wagner's law: "One development that people both on the Left and the Right are unaware of is almost an inexorable force that leads affluent societies to devote increasing amounts of their wealth to social spending, to redistribution to children, to education, to healthcare, to supporting the poor, to supporting the aged." Until the 20th century, most societies devoted about 1.5% of their GDP to social spending, and generally much less than that. In the last 100 years, that's changed: today the current global median of social spending is 22% of GDP. One group will groan most audibly at that data: Libertarians. However, Pinker says it's no coincidence that there are zero libertarian countries on Earth; social spending is a shared value, even if the truest libertarians protest it, as the free market has no way to provide for poor children, the elderly, and other members of society who cannot contribute to the marketplace. As countries develop, they naturally initiate social spending programs. That's why libertarianism is a marginal idea, rather than a universal value—and it's likely to stay that way. Steven Pinker is the author of Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/steven-pinker-why-there-are-no-libertarian-countries Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: Sometimes people say that in the absence of religion there can be no moral values and, in fact, for that reason, there can never be values that everyone agrees upon. “We are inherently conflictual. The human condition is conflict among peoples because they could just never agree on values.” Well, putting a lie to that are developments like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and the Millennium Development Goals where the nations of the world agreed on a number of milestones that humanity should strive for—having to do with health and longevity and education—and some of which were met years early, such as reduction of extreme poverty, usually defined as more or less what a person would need to support themselves and their family, which was met several years ahead of schedule. Right now, less than ten percent of the world lives in a state of extreme poverty, and the successor to the Millennium Development Goals, called the Sustainable Development Goals, calls for the elimination of extreme poverty by the 2030s. An astonishing goal, one that is by no means out of reach. One development that people both on the Left and the Right are unaware of is almost an inexorable force that leads affluent societies to devote increasing amounts of their wealth to social spending, to redistribution to children, to education, to healthcare, to supporting the poor, to supporting the aged. Until the 20th century, most societies devoted, at most, one-and-a-half percent of their GDP to social spending, and generally much less than that. But starting in the 1930s with the New Deal in the United States and accelerating in Europe after World War II with the welfare state, now the median across societies of social spending is 22 percent of GDP. The United States is a little bit below that, but even that’s misleading because we’ve got a lot of welfare that’s done by our employers. That’s how we get our health insurance. That’s how we get our retirement. Other countries, it’s the government that mediates that. But if you add the private social spending onto the public portion the United States is actually second highest of the entire world. But this is a development sometimes called Wagner’s law, and it just seems that resistance is futile. Even conservative politicians like George W. Bush presided over another expansion of the welfare state with his Medicare drug benefit. And the attempts by the Trump administration to repeal Obamacare, for example, were stymied by pitchfork-and-torch-bearing angry constituents. People like social spending despite their protestations, even in libertarian America. And, in fact, it's probably not a coincidence that the number of libertarian paradises in the world—that is developed states with no substantial social spending—is zero. And as developing countries develop, as they start to become affluent, they get on the bandwagon and they start to develop programs of social spending.
What is good luck? Weak Ties Theory, Charlize Theron, and luck circles | Janice Kaplan
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"It’s the people who you aren’t necessarily closest to who often can do the most for you," says Janice Kaplan, author of How Luck Happens. Sociologists call this Weak Ties Theory, which describes the powerful effect random connections can have on your life. "Your very close friends, your family members tend to know the same people that you do, they know the same opportunities that you do. But it’s that next circle, that slightly wider circle that’s likely to bring in new opportunities for you," Kaplan says. This isn't about adding more friends on Facebook, making vision boards a la The Secret, or seeing if your barista has heard of any great jobs lately. Specificity is absolutely key—you have to know what you want. Then, when you have the opportunity to talk to someone in outside your circle—your hairdresser, or someone at the gym—and you mention a specific goal, you might be surprised at who or what they know that can help you out. Luck is a random phenomenon, but Kaplan insists that building your own luck circle and putting yourself in the right places will result in unexpected and fantastic opportunities. Here, she shares an example from her book about how Charlize Theron got her first break after a traumatic childhood and a series of professional failures. Janice Kaplan is the author of How Luck Happens: Using the Science of Luck to Transform Work, Love, and Life. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/janice-kaplan-what-is-good-luck-weak-ties-theory-and-charlize-theron Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: It’s probably not a big surprise that luck is often other people; luck is created by other people helping us out, and sociologists have that wonderful term of “weak ties”, which means that it’s the people who you aren’t necessarily closest to who often can do the most for you. Your very close friends, your family members tend to know the same people that you do, they know the same opportunities that you do. But it’s that next circle, that slightly wider circle that’s likely to bring in new opportunities for you. I’m not talking about Facebook friends here, I’m talking about having colleagues and friends of friends, who you meet, who you talk to, who you bring into your circle, and who are very likely then to help you find other opportunities. One thing we found is that often people who cross over in different categories, in different social classes, in different economic classes—like fitness trainers or hairdressers—tend to be really interesting people for bringing luck, because they know so many different people from so many different categories. So it may be a surprise that while you’re there trying to improve your biceps you happen to mention a job you'd like and the guy who is helping you hold the weights happens to know somebody who might be able to help. Again, what’s really important as you build those bigger circles, as you build those luck circles, is to know very specifically what you’re looking for. Because if you put out that general idea it’s not going to go anywhere, but if you can be very specific about what you’re wanting sometimes those weak ties really can lead to something very unexpected and very important. In the book I talk about Charlize Theron, the Academy Award-winning actress, who came to America when she was about 19, and she came after a series of unfortunate events in South Africa. She had a pretty traumatic and difficult childhood growing up, including her mother murdering her father, and she went to Italy first, she wanted to be a dancer, and then her knees gave out. It’s just one piece of bad luck after another in a life, but Charlize knew what she wanted to do, and she came to America, she came to Los Angeles to give herself one last chance to put herself in the place where luck could find her. Well, it wasn’t doing such a great job at finding her—she was in a bank, the teller wouldn’t cash a check that her mom had sent from South Africa, and she had a meltdown and a fit. Well, guess what? Somebody who was standing near her in the bank happened to be a talent agent, handed her his card, and the rest is Oscar-winning history.
We don't need God or religion to know right from wrong | Michael Shermer
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Do we really need God or religion to tell us what's right and wrong? Michael Shermer, the publisher of Skeptic Magazine, says that this kind of celestial-spiritual guidance really isn't necessary. Or particularly effective. He makes a great case for being a moral realist — for example, studying past examples of war or slavery to learn morals from them — is much more effective than going back to mysticism like, say, The Bible, a fantastical book written by committee some 2,000 years ago and hardly updated since. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/michael-shermer-how-we-know-right-from-wrong-without-god-or-religion Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Science and good and evil, good and bad, right and wrong, murder, all these things... human moral values. Well, I wrote a book about this, The Moral Arc. I am what’s called a moral realist: I think there are real moral values out there to be discovered. Now, not “out there” in the cosmos for astronomers to discover, I’m talking about in human nature, in human social nature. And I’ll just give you a super simple example that I can’t believe anybody would disagree with, uh, this. And it begins with Abraham Lincoln’s defense of why slavery is wrong. And he said simply, “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” And I would agree and go further with a more recent example, if the Holocaust is not wrong, nothing is wrong. Now, moral relativists or moral philosophers who are not moral realists, they don’t want to be called relativists—there’s other positions, but let’s just leave it at there’s other positions then moral realism. Are you seriously going to argue that there’s some condition in which the Holocaust was okay, that it was acceptable? Now, now, mind you I’m talking about all of us in this category here talking about this are not thinking that God is the answer, that there’s some outside deity telling us what’s right and wrong, most of us that are in science or philosophy already reject that—going all the way back to Plato who debunked that idea in the first place—which is to say that if murder is really wrong or the Holocaust is really wrong or slavery is really wrong, why do we need God to tell us that? I mean if those moral principles are out there and God is just telling us what it is, then why do we need the middleman? Just tell us the reasons why it’s wrong and okay. And if it’s just because God said it what if he didn’t say murder was wrong, would that make it right? No, it would still be wrong. So either way, you don’t need God, so here we are in our bubble of just us trying to figure out what’s right and wrong. I argue in The Moral Arc that in fact we are already understanding what is right and wrong through the study of human nature and human culture and human history by saying there are certain things that are really better than other things, in the same way, that Kepler discovered planetary orbits are elliptical and not circular—given that he was doing his calculations correctly and given that planetary orbits really are elliptical and not circular he could hardly have discovered anything else. We would eventually discover that democracies are better than theocracies or dictatorships just in terms of what the people want based on their survival and flourishing as sentient beings. And that’s my moral foundation: survival and flourishing of sentient beings. We all want to survive and flourish. It’s in our nature. It’s what evolution designed us to desire. That is our moral foundation, our nature, that is who we are and what we want. Okay, building from there: ok, so certain economic systems are really better toward of that than others, you will discover that if you are a rational being trying to figure out what’s the best way to structure things. Now it’s true that we can’t solve every moral issue by just running an experiment, but if you think about it every nation with a different constitution is an experiment. Every state in the United States, 50 different states have 50 different constitutions. They have 50 different laws about gun control or abortion—well not quite that but they have different variations on how it’s allowed. But just take anything. So these are 50 different experiments. Every Supreme Court Justice decision is an experiment. Let’s see what happens now that they’ve decided this let’s measure the consequences of this. The 19th Amendment of abolishing alcohol, this was an experiment, a failed experiment. If your goal is to reduce the amount of drinking, that didn’t work, so the 21st Amendment abolished the 19th Amendment—those are all experiments.
What emotions does this music make you feel? It probably depends on your culture. | Anthony Brandt
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We've been conditioned to believe that music taste is based on personal preference. But it might just be a lot more complex than that. Ask any random person what kind of music they love and they'll most likely give you one, two, or maybe three genres. We're actually born to appreciate all music but whittle our broader tastes away as we get older. Composer, writer, and Rice University​ professor Anthony Brandt posits that music is like language; if you don't expose yourself to it, you'll lose understanding of it. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/anthony-brandt-why-not-everyone-feels-the-same-emotions-from-the-same-music Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink So one of the cool things about the human brain is that we’re born into the world able to learn any of the world’s languages. And, in fact, babies when they’re born they babble using all the possible phonemes, and then gradually those are pruned away mirroring their parents just to be limited to the phonemes of their native language. And in the same way with music: we’re literally born able to enjoy, appreciate any of the incredibly rich diversity of musics all over the world. But through exposure, we become conditioned and familiar with things to the point that it’s second nature and it almost feels absolute to us in terms of the certainty we feel in our reactions. What’s wonderful and so inspiring and great is also that we can constantly stretch and expand that. And just as we can learn a second and a third and even a fourth and fifth language, we can constantly be broadening our tastes through exposure and growing what we love. And often people are afraid, “Oh, does that mean that I give up what I loved before?” No, it’s just like having more children. You just have more love and you love more music. So I want to do a little experiment with you. I’m going to play you two arias and I want you to grade them on an emotional scale, where number one would be the depth of tragedy and ten is ecstatic joy. And so we’ll play you the first clip and then just take a few seconds to write down your response to it. And now we’ll play you the second clip and again do the same thing. One is the depth of tragedy, ten is ecstatic joy. Okay, now let’s have a look at how you responded. And the answer to what those arias are is that they’re actually both arias telling about the exact same point in the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. It’s the moment when Orpheus looks back at Eurydice when he’s leaving the underworld. And by making that mistake he will never see her again. And so it’s the moment of greatest sadness in the piece. But I strongly suspect that you graded the first one as being quite sad, but you graded the second one as being happier even though they’re representing exactly the same part of the story. And the reason for that is that the first one is in the minor mode which we, in the West, are conditioned to experience as meaning sad and a negative affect. And the second one was written before that idea of “minor is sad and major is happy” was actually solidified in Western culture. And so that second aria is actually in major even though Orpheus is singing about exactly the same thing. And it’s a great example of how tuned we are to our culture to respond almost instantaneously and effortlessly to the emotional cues that we get in Western music. But that’s based on exposure and conditioning. It’s not something absolute. And so there are cultures in the world that get married to music in minor. The Jewish song Hava Nagila, which is about celebrating life, that’s a song in minor. Again, one is just astounded looking across world cultures at the way we reinterpret musical expression and constantly come up with our own angles and visions which eventually get solidified within a certain cultural sphere. So we think about Beethoven as the most visionary experimental composer of his day. And yet he never wrote a piece which used the noise characteristics of the instruments as expressive features. He never wrote the piece where the pulse was completely flexible and you didn’t have a steady beat at all. He didn’t write a piece where there were all of a sudden silences interspersed in odd ways or people could play the same music all at their own speed. And the point is that half a world away, that was the music of the culture. That was actually what was considered normative. That was how people expressed themselves in music. And so we all move in these narrow channels, but actually when you take the broad view music is an open frontier, not a closed system. And that’s just a model for all human imagination in general.
Depression and anxiety: How inequality is driving the mental health crisis | Johann Hari
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Expressions like "feeling down" or "feeling low" are more literal than we think, says Lost Connections author Johann Hari. A 30-year field study of wild African baboons by the incredible Stanford University professor Robert Sapolsky has shown that there is a remarkable relationship between depression, anxiety, and social hierarchies. Male baboons—who live in a very strict pecking order—suffer the most psychological stress when their social status is insecure, or when they are on the bottom rung, looking up at the luxuries of others. Does it sound familiar yet? "If you live in the United States... we’re at the greatest levels of inequality since the 1920s," says Hari. "There’s a few people at the very top, there’s a kind of precarious middle, and there’s a huge and swelling bottom." It's no coincidence that mental health gets poorer as the wealth gap continues to widen: depression and anxiety are socioeconomic diseases. The silver lining is that this relationship has been discovered. Could an economic revolution end the depression epidemic? And, most curiously, what can we learn from the Amish on this front? Johann Hari is the author of Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/johann-hari-inequality-is-a-driver-of-depression-and-anxiety Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: When I feel depressed, like loads of people I say, “I feel down,” right? And as I was learning about the causes of depression and anxiety for my book 'Lost Connections' I started to realize—I don’t think that’s a metaphor. There’s this amazing professor at Stanford called Robert Sapolsky who, in his early twenties, went to live with a troop of baboons in Kenya. And it was his job to figure out: when are baboons most stressed out? So his job was to hit them with little tranquilizer darts and then take a blood test and measure something called cortisol, which is a hormone that baboons and us release when we’re stressed. And baboons live in this hierarchy—so the females don’t, interestingly—but the men live in a very strict hierarchy. So if there’s 30 men, number one knows he’s above number two. Number two knows he’s above number three. Number 12 knows he’s above number 13. And that really determines a lot; it determines who you get to have sex with, it determines what you get to eat, it determines whether you get to sit in the shade or you’re pushed out into the heat. So really it's significant where you are in the hierarchy. And what Professor Sapolsky found is that baboons are most stressed in two situations. One is when their status is insecure. So if you’re the top guy and someone’s circling which comes for you, you will be massively stressed. And the other situation is when you feel you’re at the bottom of the hierarchy, you’ve been kind of humiliated. And what Professor Sapolsky noticed—and then it was later developed by other scientists—is, when you feel you’ve been pushed to the bottom, what you do is you show something called a submission gesture. So you, baboons will raise— I say “you,” I assume no baboons are watching this, maybe they are—a baboon will put its body down physically or put it’s head down or put its bottom in the air and it will cover its head. So it’s clearly seems to be communicating: “Just leave me alone. You’ve beaten me, okay? You’ve beaten me.” And what lots of scientists, like Professor Paul Gilbert in Britain and Professor Kate Pickett and Professor Richard Wilkinson, also in Britain, have really developed is this idea that actually what human depression is, in part—not entirely, but in part—is a form of a submission gesture. It’s a way of saying, “I can’t cope with this anymore,” right. Particularly people who feel they’ve been pushed to the bottom of hierarchies. Or who feel, if you remember the other stressful situations when your status is insecure, it’s a way of just going, “Okay, I retreat. I don’t want this fight anymore. You’ve beaten me.” It’s a kind of very strong evolutionary impulse where you feel you’re under attack, to just submit in the hope that the stress and anxiety will then go away, that the sources of the stress and anxiety will then go away. And one thing that’s so important, and that’s what Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson really developed, is they’ve shown that as inequality grows, depression and anxiety grow. They’ve shown this is a very robust effect, right. This helps us to explain it. If you live in Norway your status is relatively secure, right. No one’s that high, no one’s that low. Movement between where you are is not so extreme.
Revenge of the tribes: How the American Empire could fall | Amy Chua
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Yale professor Amy Chua has two precautionary tales for Americans, and their names are Libya and Iraq. "We’re starting to see in America something that I’ve seen in other countries that is not good," says Chua. "We don’t want to go there. We don’t want to get to the point where we look at people on the other side of the political spectrum and we see them not just as people that we disagree with but literally as our enemy, as immoral, “un-American” people." Tribalism is innate to humanity, and it is the glue that holds nations together—but it's a Goldilocks conundrum: too much or too little of it and a nation will tear at the seams. It becomes most dangerous when two hardened camps form and obliterate all the subtribes beneath them. Chua stresses the importance of "dividing yourself so that you don’t get entrenched in just two terrible tribes." Having many identities and many points of overlap with fellow citizens is what keeps a country's unity strong. When that flexibility disappears, and a person becomes only a Republican or a Democrat—or only a Sunni Muslim or a Shia Muslim, as in Iraq—that's when it's headed for danger. In this expansive and brilliant talk on political tribes, Chua explains what happens when minorities and majorities clash, why post-colonial nations are often doomed to civil war, and why you can't just replace dictators with democracy. Amy Chua is the author of Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/amy-chua-how-hardened-tribalism-leads-to-civil-wars Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: I think a great example of group blindness in the United States is when Woodrow Wilson said in 1915—in a very famous speech—“There are no groups in America. America doesn’t consist of groups. And if you continue to think of yourself as belonging to a smaller group you’re not American.” It’s astonishing that he could say this—these universalist tones at a time when Native Americans were largely still denied citizenship, Mexican Americans were still being lynched, Asian Americans were barred from owning land, and African Americans were being subjected to violence and degradation virtually every day. And yet he was saying we don’t have any groups here. So that’s an example of almost willful blindness to groups. And sometimes this kind of universalist rhetoric, “Oh we’re all just one people,” is a way of hiding a lot of inequality and smaller kinds of group oppression. So if you look at a country like Libya they’re actually a little bit like the United States. That is, they are a wildly multi-ethnic nation. The problem is they don’t have a strong enough overarching national identity to hold it together. And the goal is a group—or a country, in this case—that has, on the one hand, a very strong overarching national identity: “We’re Americans,” but—importantly—at the same time allows individual, subgroup, and tribal identities to flourish. You should be a country where you can say, “I’m Irish American,” or, “I’m Libyan American,” and yet be intensely patriotic at the same time. So: “I’m Muslim American. I’m Chinese American. I’m Nigerian American.” So, at its best, in America, there should be a certain amount of porousness and fluidity across tribes. It’s when tribalism gets really entrenched that things can get very dangerous. Western democracies at their best—or just any democracies—are when people have crosscutting group identities. So it’s like okay, I’m a Democrat or I’m a Republican but I’m also Asian American or African American or straight or gay, wealthy or not wealthy. Just different ways of dividing yourself so that you don’t get entrenched in just two terrible tribes. It’s sort of like, if I’m talking about sports I’m with you, but if I’m talking about food preferences I’m with you, and you could have different groups that neutralize each other. One of the problems with what we’re seeing in America today is that it seems increasingly that certain tribes are hardening. In particular, you’ve got what is very misleadingly called the “coastal elites”. In a way, that’s misleading because coastal elites are not all coastal and they’re also not all elites in the sense of being wealthy. Often, in this term coastal elites is included professional elites or even students who have no money but they’re well-educated, they’re progressive, they are multicultural and cosmopolitan. And we’re starting to see in America something that I’ve seen in other countries that is not good.
How NASA averted the 2060 apocalypse | Michelle Thaller
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Pop quiz! Which NASA mission has been most critical to humanity? It's not the Moon landing. It's not the Apollo 8 mission, with its iconic Earthrise photo. It's not even spinoff tech like cell phones, baby formula, and GPS. "All those kind of fall flat, to tell you the truth," says Michelle Thaller, NASA's assistant director of science communication. "I think that people don’t understand." Thaller says the greatest mission NASA ever pulled off was saving your butt. While conducting blue sky research—curiosity-driven scientific investigation with no immediate "real-world" applications—that scientists in the 1980s discovered that the ozone layer was being depleted. Realizing the danger this posed to life on Earth, scientists—and NASA's crack team of science communicators—mobilized the public, the U.N., and governments to get the Montreal Protocol signed, and to ban ozone-depleting chemicals for good. "We’ve since done atmospheric models that show that we would have actually destroyed the ozone layer, had we done nothing, by the year 2060..." says Thaller. "That would have destroyed agriculture. Crops would have failed all over the world. You couldn’t have livestock outside. People couldn’t have lived outside. We very nearly destroyed civilization, and your grandchildren would have lived through that." The value of blue sky research is severely underestimated—especially when budgets are being drafted. But it has led to the best NASA spinoff Michelle Thaller can think of: grandchildren. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/michelle-thaller-nasas-blue-sky-science-averted-ozone-crisis Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: Well, I am one of the directors of science [at NASA], and my specialty is communications. There's the idea that a mission ends when you return the data, when you make the discoveries, when the scientists publish their papers. To me, the mission doesn’t end until you have some sort of public involvement, until you have some sort of public buy-in. I think that’s as important as any other part of the mission. I’ve been trying to tell people for years that a communications team on a mission is just like having your crack team of electrical engineers or your best computer programmers. You need to have people that really understand communications well. And it helps—I mean, in my case I started out as a research astrophysicist and so I understand a lot of the topics as well. But I do communications now at NASA. And as far as why NASA is important, I think this is one of these things that people have no idea: We run, at the moment, 108 science missions. Those are mostly spacecraft. Some of them are on balloons or sounding rockets or on the space station. Some of them are on the earth. We have people embedded with the Sami reindeer herders trying to understand how climate change is changing the migration of reindeer herds. I mean it’s amazing that NASA is all over. Everything from the disaster mitigation from all of those hurricanes—we actually sent staff to Puerto Rico when FEMA was overwhelmed, they had been setting up communication centers. I mean everything from determining what set off the Big Bang to where those wildfires are going to be spreading to in southern California. We have 108 missions and I’ve never seen any organization operate more efficiently. I’ve never worked with more brilliant people. I think people often don't understand what the real value is as far as blue sky research, you know. People talk about spinoffs and people joke about things like Velcro and Tang. I mean those are jokes, but the more intelligent people might notice things like microprocessors started at NASA. Cell phones. The reason you have computers, the reason the United States was poised to lead the computer revolution was because of the Apollo program. But all those kind of fall flat, to tell you the truth. I think that people don’t understand. It was a NASA satellite doing research just out of curiosity to see what gases were in the atmosphere that discovered that the ozone hole was being depleted in the 1980s. And the NASA scientists with a number of university scientists went running to the U.N. and said, “If we don’t do something, we are literally going to destroy the planet.” And they actually got the Montreal Protocol signed. They actually made treaties. They banned these chemicals that were depleting our ozone layer. And we’ve since done atmospheric models that show that we would have actually destroyed the ozone layer, had we done nothing, by the year 2060, which, if not in my lifetime, is probably in our children’s lifetime. And basically, that would have destroyed agriculture. Crops would have failed all over the world. You couldn’t have livestock outside. People couldn’t have lived outside.
If one person can change the world, imagine what a community can do | Chelsea Clinton
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As Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation, an activist, public health scholar, mom, and professor, Chelsea Clinton sure is pretty busy. Here, she explains to us that there is a divide between wanting to make the world a better place and actually having a direction and a unique goal to make it happen. In order to help others both see and meet their goals, the Clinton Foundation launched CGI U (Clinton Global Initiative University) to give mentorship to those looking to make positive change. This video, part one in a series, is a great introduction to CGI U and to Chelsea's overall worldview. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/chelsea-clinton-whats-your-commitment-how-to-become-an-effective-change-maker Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink So here at CGI U we bring together a group of student activists and change makers every year to help them think about how to maximize the work that they’re already doing or the work that they feel called to do, whether that is tackling a challenge on their campus or in their local community or around the world. And we also hope that here at CGI U that we help foster a community of changemakers so that they can trade ideas, share ideas, learn from each other, help each other get better and support each other when those inevitable challenges come as kind of the rubber meets the road and the hard work of making a positive difference in the world may be just a little bit harder some days than others. One of the areas that we really focus on here at CGI U is to try to be a platform and a resource for our CGI U students and alums. We think that’s really important because we want the CGI U students not only to hopefully kind of feel more empowered and affirmed but themselves to then help democratize what they’ve learned through the CGI U process to other students, other friends, the younger siblings or the kids that they may themselves mentor now or in the future. And so what does that mean. Well helping CGI U students understand better and hopefully feel more connected and empowered to do what they themselves are doing but also to really understand why at CGI U we ask them to make a specific commitment to action. Why we ask them to articulate how they’ll measure progress against that commitment to action; Why we do think it’s really important that it be something new and not redundant or repetitive to something that someone else may already be trying to do to tackle that problem kind of in that space in that place at this moment in time. Because we hope if students understand better not only how to kind of do the work that they feel called to do but also why we focus on what we do here at CGI U they’ll be able to help support more people to be more effective change-makers today and in the future. I think that millennials and Gen Z often get a bad rap as being kind of disinterested, disengaged, disincentivized, more curious about what’s popping up on Instagram than the headline of the day. And we’ve heard critiques like that kind of for time immemorial. And yet thankfully for time immemorial young people have said no. I mean we’re not going to be defined by kind of your stigma of us. We’re going to be defined by kind of what we stand up for, what we fight for or what we do, what we push forward. And I certainly think all the students here at CGI U not only provide a robust case for optimism every year and every day, and the work that they do that I think really repudiate that.
Why Michio Kaku wants to avoid alien contact at all costs
1 month ago En
If aliens do exist, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku posits, why would they want anything to do with us? It would be like a hunter talking to a squirrel, he suggests, and he has a great point. Hollywood and science fiction novels have conditioned us for years to believe that aliens either want to hang out on our intellectual level and learn from us... or destroy us. If alien life really does have the technology and know-how to make it all the way here, perhaps we should just play it cool and not assume that we are the top species in the universe. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/michio-kaku-michio-kaku-lets-not-advertise-our-existence-to-aliens Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink We have this mental image that a flying saucer will circle the White House lawn, land on the White House lawn and give us a bounty of all sorts of technological goodies to initiate an age of Aquarius on the planet earth. Personally, I don’t think that’s going to happen. For example, if you’re in the forest do you go out and talk to the squirrels and the deer? Maybe you do for a while, but after a while, you get bored because they don’t talk back to you because they have nothing interesting to tell you because they can’t relate to our values and our ideas. If you go down to an anthill do you go down to the ants and say I bring you trinkets; I bring you bees; take me to your aunt queen; I give you nuclear energy. So I think for the most part the aliens are probably not going to be interested in us because we’re so arrogant to believe that we have something to offer them. Realize that they could be thousands, maybe millions of years ahead of us in technology and they may have no interest in interacting with us in the same way that we don’t necessarily want to deal with the squirrels and the deer in the forest. Now some people say that we should not try to make contact with them because they could be potentially dangerous. For the most part, I think they’re going to be peaceful because they’ll be thousands of years ahead of us, but we cannot take the chance. So I personally believe that we should not try to advertise our existence to alien life in outer space because of the fact that we don’t know their intentions.
Why America is the world’s biggest cult | Rose McGowan
1 month ago En
Actress, author, and whistleblower Rose McGowan is here to tell you that American culture has been screwed up for a long, long time. She wonders how people can defend a culture that embraces sexual deviants (see: Woody Allen, Louis C.K.) and clearly racist imagery (see: the Washington Redskins name and logo). She muses, too, on why American culture seems to be so bent on putting complex and thoughtful women second place to the likes of, as she puts it, a "slovenly slob" like Adam Sandler. Women deserve better, she posits. And we're absolutely inclined to agree. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/rose-mcgowan-what-do-we-do-when-notorious-sex-offenders-make-beloved-art Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink The thing we should do with people who create art that have done terrible things… Well, if you found out that the head of Johnson & Johnson was a serial rapist that everybody at Johnson & Johnson knew, one way or another, would you still buy that baby powder? Sorry your heroes are going away. Wah, there are more important things to do. Okay. Sorry. Bummer for you. Wahh. The construct of society, the raping and killing of women, there’s a channel called ID it’s devoted to 24 hours a day of sexualizing murder victims. Ok? Stop it. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it. That’s my message: just knock it off. Wah, you don’t get to like Woody Alan. Oh, what a big huge loss for you. I’m sure that compares to the girl who has just been raped that now feels like she wants to hang herself from the balcony. Because that really balances out. So when people bitch about that, sorry, bummer for you. You don’t watch Birth of a Nation do you? Probably not, because you know it’s racist. So in time these people will be looked at like that. My job—and others’ jobs that work in kind of what I’m doing—is to put an asterisk next to these assholes' names for all time. And if people want to cry about not getting to like somebody they liked when they were kids? Well, get a fucking bigger problem. It’s not that complicated, people. It’s really not. It’s really not. It’s easy. Read a different book. That’s it. I have so many people fighting me because they want to stay in the system. The system benefits .0001 percent. My ultimate goal is smashing the 99 and the one percent. That’s what I’m here for. And I’m here to do that through thought and raising women up. And yes, in Children of God, the cult I was born into, and again it’s like oh make a big deal of the cult. I would be talking about Ohio if that happened to me my life, that just was not. But that’s a cult too, and I think you all know it. That’s the thing: it’s like, “Oh it’s so weird how you grew up.” I think it’s weird how you live. And I think it’s tragic. Because like ten percent, because there is a lot of free minds that are out there for sure, but we have to be vigilant. What if those ten percent of the world that you look at as the weirdos and the fringe people, what if it’s you guys?
How Pakistan's Violence Against Women Center is fighting a deadly cultural norm | Hafsa Lak
1 month ago En
Approximately 5,000 women die at the hands of domestic violence in Pakistan each year, and thousands more are maimed or disabled. In the socially conservative country, justice is heavily compromised as the reporting of rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence carries a social stigma, the prosecution process is biased and fragmented, and the conviction rate is just 1-2.5%. In 2014, global conflict advisor Hafsah Lak asked herself: what can we do to provide survivors a real and effective justice delivery system? While working at the Punjab Chief Minister’s Strategic Reforms Unit (formerly, known as Special Monitoring Unit - Law and Order) in Punjab, Pakistan, she co-drafted the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act of 2016 and Punjab Women Protection Authority Act 2017. When the former Act was passed into law, it was hit with heavy conservative backlash. Recognizing that reform cannot be carried out by people who do not share the vision, Lak worked as a project lead at the Strategic Reforms Unit to create Pakistan's first-ever Violence Against Women Center (VAWC), which opened on March 25, 2017 and has successfully resolved over 900 cases of violent crimes against women thus far. The VAWC has streamlined the case file process all under one roof (removing all roadblocks to reporting crimes) and is staffed by at least 60 all-female staff including 30 female police officers, 5 female medical officers, plus dedicated prosecutors and psychologists who were hired for their commitment to protecting women, and to providing a real deterrent for perpetrators of gender-based violent crimes. For more information, go to http://www.vawcpunjab.com. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/hafsah-lak-how-to-fight-pakistans-deadly-domestic-violence-norm Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: I am Hafsah Lak and for the past three years I’ve been working with the Strategic Reforms Unit at the Punjab Chief Minister's Office in Pakistan on violence against women and women involvement reforms. The existing case file process to give justice to these victims is so fragmented and disconnected. The victim first has to go to a police station to register a crime, then a medical treatment facility to get first aid treatment or medical examination conducted. The medical examination has to be conducted within 48 hours so that the evidence can actually be used in the court to prove that the violence has been taking place. They don’t have access to these medical facilities, and because they don’t have that there is no proof that the crime actually took place. Then there’s forensics, then the prosecution, then court and so forth. So the victims fail to actually go ahead and prosecute crimes. Reporting decreases tremendously because of the fragmented case process. I mean back in those days—this is the summer of 2014—we were hearing reports of how female victims were dousing themselves with petrol and then setting themselves on fire in front of police stations just to gain attention from the media and other stakeholders to get their voices heard, to get their cases registered in the police station in the first place, let alone an investigation into the case and getting the perpetrator to justice, but just getting a first information report, a police report registered. And that got us thinking: what can we do to facilitate the victims as much as possible, to provide them a comprehensive justice delivery system? And back then they decided to have discussions on our commitment to a violence against women center and what it should look like. Back in the summer of 2014 this was just an idea: providing all the victims justice delivery services under one roof to streamline the case and process to make sure that they’re getting justice—and then by providing them justice and increasing the conviction rate, creating a deterrence in society to prevent such crimes in the first place. And since 2014—we’ve been working on it since 2014—we launched our pilot Violence Against Women Center on March 25, 2017, and we’ve received more than a thousand victims in these last six months, and we’ve been providing them all sorts of services and we’ve actually successfully resolved more than 800 of these cases. That just shows the need for such centers and reforms in a conservative society like Pakistan or in regions like Pakistan where there is a high prevalence of gender-based violence crimes and there is a pertinent need to have a comprehensive strategic solution to address those issues.While we were in consultation deliberations of how to make the reform comprehensive we also decided to give the centers a legislative cover, and that’s when we started drafting the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act in 2016.
How the Billboard Hot 100 explains the rise of Donald Trump | Derek Thompson
1 month ago En
As soon as Derek Thompson's book Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction came out, he started fielding one particular question over and over: Does your book explain the unforeseen popularity of President Donald J. Trump? Thompson looked through the historical ledger of popularity and found the perfect analogy: the Billboard Hot 100 music charts. From its inception in 1958 to 1991, the Billboard Hot 100 rankings were rigged, controlled from the top-down by studio execs, paid DJs, and record store owners who wanted to move certain stock. Then, in 1991, something changed: record sales and radio play data were tracked for the first time. "Immediately, taste in music changed overnight," says Thompson. Hip-hop boomed, as did country music—genres ignored by the white men on the coast. "Music went from being dictated top-down to being generated bottom-up. The exact same thing is happening in politics," explains Thompson. A similar technological disruption—social media, a notoriously bottom-up platform—meant the gatekeepers of political power could no longer control which presidential candidate became the party nominee. Republican leaders wanted establishment candidate Jeb Bush, but the disgruntled voters made their taste known: they wanted Donald J. Trump. The same phenomenon that transformed the music charts is now transforming politics—only in this instance, the stakes are much higher. Derek Thompson's latest book is Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction. 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 Transcript: The first question I got about my book when it came out in February, as I was going around the country talking about it, was, “Does your book explain Donald Trump?” So I had to come up with some sort of answer that addressed that issue. And the answer that I have is: Yes, the story of Donald Trump is the story of the Billboard Hot 100. So the Billboard Hot 100, invented in the 1950s, is the official register of popularity in music. And for a long time, it was essentially fake—it was fake news. They didn’t have live records of what albums and what vinyl was selling week by week, so instead what they did is they surveyed the DJs and the record store owners, and both parties would lie. The DJs would lie because they were being paid by the studios and the labels, and the record store owners would lie because they had scarcity. And once you’ve sold, say, all of your Bruce Springsteen and you have a lot of AC/DC, then it doesn’t make any sense to tell Billboard that Bruce Springsteen is selling, you need to sell more AC/DC so you tell them that that album is now number one in the charts. So the charts were biased toward the taste of the white man at the labels and toward churn. And then in 1991 all of that changed. Billboard introduced new technology to measure point of sales data of records and to measure radio play, and immediately taste in music changed overnight. Hip-hop and country, overlooked by white guys on the coast, soared up the charts and the churn of the Billboard Hot 100 slowed down dramatically—such that I think that 20 songs that have been in the Billboard Hot 100 for the longest period of time have all come out in the last 25 years. So essentially you could say that taste in music went from being dictated top-down to being generated bottom-up. The exact same thing is happening in politics. For a long time there was this theory of politics called “the party decides”. And this said that the way that we choose presidential candidates or presidential nominees with the parties is not that the public dictates who will be the party nominees, but rather that elites at the party level decide, and they distribute their messages through scarce media channels like television and radio and the public eats it up. Not altogether unlike the way the labels could dictate music popularity and then radio listeners would just eat it up and like those songs because of familiarity. But what happened with Donald Trump and Jeb Bush? The establishment candidate that all of the party people liked did terribly, and Donald Trump—who had basically no elite party support—did terrifically within the Republican Party. And so I think within the party structure you could also say that tastes, which used to be dictated top-down, are now being dictated bottom-up. And I think we are seeing a groundswell of the bottom across the entertainment and political landscape that, because of the distribution of media channels, is too difficult now for any gatekeeper to control the flow of information from a group of elite people to the masses. Instead, everybody has a blow horn, everybody can be a broadcaster, and as a result what you have instead is chaos.
Political Extremism in America: Don’t blame Russia, blame Facebook and Twitter | Niall Ferguson
1 month ago En
"I think the Facebook and Twitter have been configured to incentivize the expression and sharing of extreme opinions. It isn’t just fake news that we have to worry about, but we do have to worry about that, it’s also extreme views. Both are in fact incentivized by the structure of the network platforms as they existed. And I think looking back on 2016 the correct analysis of that election is not that the Russian network interfered and that’s why Trump won, I don’t think the Russian contribution was nearly big enough for that statement to be valid. What is true is that without the existence of Facebook and Twitter it would’ve been very hard for an outlier outside a candidate like Donald Trump to win." 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 Transcript: I don’t think the history of the 2016 election will be correctly written until it is clearly stated 'no Facebook, no Trump.' Anybody who expected a wonderful happy global community to form on the Internet in which everybody would share cat videos has been gravely disappointed. In fact, what’s happened has been an already quite polarized political scene has become even more polarized. Why? Well, remember rule number one of the networks, birds of a feather flock together, homophily operates. So people have naturally gravitated into two rival clusters if you want to put it this way, a liberal cluster, and a conservative cluster. But what’s fascinating is the way that peculiarities of today’s network platforms exacerbate this problem. For example, we now know that a tweet is 20 percent more likely to be read tweeted for every moral or emotional word that it uses. If you want to get retweeted you, therefore, are incentivized to use strong language. We can see that the legislators in the House of Representatives and the Senate who have the most Facebook followers are the most ideologically extreme according to their voting patterns. So I think the Facebook and Twitter have been configured to incentivize the expression and sharing of extreme opinions. It isn’t just fake news that we have to worry about, but we do have to worry about that, it’s also extreme views. Both are in fact incentivized by the structure of the network platforms as they existed. And I think looking back on 2016 the correct analysis of that election is not that the Russian network interfered and that’s why Trump won, I don’t think the Russian contribution was nearly big enough for that statement to be valid. What is true is that without the existence of Facebook and Twitter it would’ve been very hard for an outlier outside a candidate like Donald Trump to win. But those network platforms created opportunities for a populist that really had not existed before and his campaign knew how to use them and continues to know how to use them. Remember the algorithms are designed to give you more of what you engaged with before. You may not even notice it but as you like thing, as you share them you’re signaling two of the network platforms your preferences and it’s set up to give you more of that because the more engaged you are the more advertising they can sell. That’s how they make their money. So I think it’s time to kind of dial back our addiction, not only for political reasons but also because it’s addictive and addictions are bad for you. The more time you spend, and we all spend crazy amounts of time on our smartphones using these platforms, the less time you have to read Tolstoy or my book. And I think the books are actually much the best way for human beings to get high-level information. I think it’s better for your peace of mind and it will be better for our body politic if we all spend much less time on our smartphones using Facebook and Twitter and much more time reading books.
Loneliness kills: How to fight depression with social support | Johann Hari
1 month ago En
Thanks in no small part to the digitization of our social lives, depression is becoming a bigger and bigger issue in western societies. In the space of just one generation, we've closed ourselves off and now spend more time in front of screens — on average, 10 hours a day according to a Neilsen report — than we do with our loved ones. Author and journalist and author Johann Hari explains that this isn't at all how the human species is supposed to behave. He suggests more actual face time with people, more community, and above all: becoming the social creatures that we have been for millennia. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/johann-hari-the-best-treatment-for-depression-lies-in-our-evolutionary-history Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink There’s a really heartbreaking study that asked Americans, “How many close friends do you have that you can call on in a crisis?” And when they started doing it decades ago the most common answer was five. Today the most common answer is none. It’s not the average but it’s the most common answer. And I thought a lot about that in so many of the places I’ve been in the United States. I interviewed and got to know an incredible man called Professor John Cacioppo, a world expert on loneliness. He’s at the University of Chicago. And Professor Cacioppo explained to me, you know, if you think about the circumstances where human beings evolved, right, we evolved—the reason why you’re able to watch this through your laptop or wherever you’re watching it, the reason why we exist is because our ancestors on the savannahs of Africa were really good at one thing. They weren’t bigger than the animals they took down but they were much better at cooperating than them. Every human instinct human beings have is to be part of a cooperative tribe, right. Bees need a hive. Humans need a tribe. And if you think about the circumstances where human beings evolved, if you were separated from the group you would become depressed and anxious for an incredibly good reason. You were in terrible danger. You were probably about to die. Those are the instincts we still have. Yet we’ve told ourselves a story that we can live without tribes. We are the first human beings ever to try to live without communities, to imagine that like some cowboy on the horizon—and even the cowboys didn’t do it this way—we can live alone, we can be alone. That’s not the species we are. And it’s causing, and Professor Cacioppo has proven that this loneliness epidemic is one of the key causes of the epidemic of depression and anxiety that we have across our society. And I was really interested to find out well, who has acted on that? Who has tried to find an antidepressant for the loneliness crisis? I met an incredible man, one of the heroes of my book Lost Connections called Sam Everington. Sam is a doctor in East London, one of the poorest parts of East London actually where I lived for many years. And Sam was really uncomfortable because he had loads of patients coming to him who were depressed and anxious. And he had been told in his training even though he knew the science was much more sophisticated than this to tell people, “Well you feel this way because you’ve got a chemical imbalance in your brain,” and just give them drugs. Like me, Sam is not opposed to those drugs. He’s in favor of them but he just thought this is not enough. This isn’t solving the reason why these people are depressed and anxious. He could see how lonely and cut-off they were. So he pioneered a different approach. And I’ll tell you about it through one of the patients of his that I got to know. A woman called Lisa Cunningham came to Sam, and Lisa has been shut away in her home for seven years with crippling anxiety and depression. She came to Sam and Sam said to her, “Don’t worry Lisa, I’ll give you the drugs, whatever you need. I’m also going to prescribe something different. I’m going to prescribe for you to take part in a group. There was an area behind the doctor’s surgery that was known as “dog crap alley”, right. Because you can sense what it was like, they didn’t really use the word “crap,” I’m being polite. Just an area of scrubland.
How we'll find humanity's next home planet | Michio Kaku
2 months ago En
Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku doesn't just hope that humanity finds its way onto other planets... he's even picked out the ones we should be moving to — Proxima Centauri B, in the Alpha Centauri triple star system. He's even suggested that the next great space exploration could happen on a spaceship the size of a postage stamp, traveling 20% the speed of light, sent by using high-powered lasers. It sounds like a wild theory, but if anyone's wild theories could come true in the next 100 years, it's probably Michio Kaku. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/michio-kaku-how-a-spaceship-the-size-of-a-postage-stamp-could-find-humanitys-new-home-planet Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink We’ve been brainwashed into thinking—by Hollywood—that a starship has to be huge and gigantic, the size of the Enterprise. However, the laws of physics make possible sending postage stamp-sized chips to the nearby stars. So think of a chip perhaps this big on a parachute, and have thousands of them sent into outer space energized by perhaps 800 megawatts of laser power. By shooting this gigantic bank of laser energy into outer space, by energizing all these mini parachutes you could then begin to accelerate of them to about 20 percent the speed of light. This is with doable technology today; it’s just a question of engineering. It’s a question of political will and economics, but there’s no physics, there’s no law of physics preventing you from shooting these chips to 20 percent the speed of light. That means Proxima Centauri, part of the Alpha Centauri triple star system, could be within the range of such a device. Now think about that, that means that within 20 years, after 20 years of launch we might be able to have the first starship go to a nearby planet. And it turns out that Proxima Centauri B is an Earth-like planet that circles around the closest star to the planet Earth. What a coincidence. It means that we’ve already staked out our first destination for visitation by an interstellar starship and that is Proxima Centauri B, a planet that goes around one of the stars in the triple star system. And so this could be the first of many different kinds of starship designs. In my book The Future of Humanity, I go through many of the possible design including fusion rockets, ramjet fusion rockets, including antimatter rockets. Some of these rockets, of course, or technologies won’t be available till the next 100 years, but remember we’re talking about the future of humanity, and the future of humanity I think could be in outer space.
Amazing astronomy: How neutron stars create ripples in space-time | Michelle Thaller
2 months ago En
Michell Thaller, the Assistant Director of Science Communication at NASA, wanted to talk to us about a heavy subject matter. Specifically, super-dense neutron stars that are so dense that they're only the size of New York City but carry the weight of the sun. And when they circle each other in orbit for long enough, they collide with enough force to send ripples in both space and time. Those ripples alone are strong enough to alter the course of light. In fact, just a few years ago a rare astronomical event occurred where you'd have seen a star "blink" for a few minutes on and off before disappearing for good. Scientists are able to detect these gravitational ripples thanks to a LIGO, or a Laser Interferometric Gravitational-Wave Observatory, which measures the refraction of light based on gravity waves. Oh, and one more thing: Albert Einstein correctly deduced that this phenomenon years before it was ever recorded. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/michelle-thaller-amazing-astronomy-how-neutron-stars-create-ripples-in-space-time Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink A few decades ago we actually saw explosions in the sky somewhere out in space that we really didn’t understand at all. They gave intense bursts to something called gamma rays. And gamma rays are the highest energy kind of light that is possible. Now you probably heard of, you know, ultraviolet rays from the sun, they give you sunburn. And then there are things like x-rays. Gamma rays are even more energetic and more dangerous to us than that. But gamma rays are only created in the universe by things that are naturally in the billions of degrees. And we saw these little gamma ray pops going off in space. At first we wondered well are they nearby? Could they be in our own galaxy or are they very far away? We really didn’t know. And a few decades ago we actually realized that these gamma-ray bursts were coming from very, very distant galaxies. Galaxies that in most cases were billions of light-years away. A light-year is about six trillion miles, the distance that light travels in one year. So billions of light-years away. And so something was creating a lot of gamma rays because they were bright enough to measure from that distance. And incredibly some of these explosions were so intense – there was one I believe it was in 2007 that NASA observed. There was a little flash of visible light that came with the gamma rays and it was actually visible with the naked eye for a couple of minutes. If you were actually in the southern hemisphere on that night you would have seen a little star turn on and off for a couple of minutes and then it would have been gone. And that explosion happened about seven billion light-years away. Something blew up seven billion years ago on almost the other side of the observable universe and it was bright enough to see with the unaided eye. We had discovered something unbelievable. What could possibly be that bright? What could possibly be that violent? That little explosion for a few minutes outshone the rest of the observable universe. Just one thing. So we really didn’t know what could possibly create that much energy. And the theoretical physicists got to work and they started just kind of guessing. I mean what could explode that could make that much energy? And it turns out that if you have these things called neutron stars. Neutron stars are the leftover compressed cores of dead stars. They are amazing monsters. They’re about ten miles across and they have a density that if you had about a teaspoonful of the material that that would be about as much as the mass as Mount Everest crushed into a teaspoonful. They’re amazing things and we observe hundreds, thousands of these things in space. And so people sort of theorize that if two of these things spiral together and collided you would actually be able to get that much energy out. It seemed unlikely but, you know, maybe that does happen sometime in the universe, the two of these things collide. Now Einstein came up with this wonderful idea that space and time is almost kind of like a fabric that connects everything in the universe. And what gravity is is gravity is kind of a pulling and a stretching on that fabric. And if you have two really massive things moving around each other very fast before they collide.
The Second Amendment: How the gun control debate went crazy | Kurt Anderson
2 months ago En
The gun control debate has been at fever pitch for several years now, and as things fail to change the stats get grimmer. The New York Times reports that there have been 239 school shootings nationwide since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre, where 20 first graders and six adults were killed. Six years later, 438 more people have been shot in schools, and for 138 of them it was fatal. Here, journalist and author Kurt Anderson reads the Second Amendment, and explains its history from 1791 all the way to now. "What people need to know is that the Second Amendment only recently became such a salient amendment," says Andersen. It's only in the last 50 years that the gun debate has gone haywire, and it was the moment the NRA went from reasonable to absolutist. So what does the "right to bear arms" really mean? What was a firearm in the 1790s, and what is a firearm now? "Compared to [the] many, many, many rounds-per-second firearms that we have today, it’s the same word but virtually a different machine." Kurt Andersen is the author of Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire. Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/kurt-andersen-the-second-amendment-how-the-gun-control-debate-went-crazy Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Transcript: We all now know about the Second Amendment. We hear about it all the time. It is a huge driver of our politics on the Right. What people need to know is that the Second Amendment only recently became such a salient amendment. Here’s the Second Amendment: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state—“ Let me repeat that: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Well, first of all: what did that mean, the Second Amendment, back in the 1780s and 1790s when the Constitution and its first amendments were written? It meant, because the new United States would have no standing army, that any armed defense of the States or the United States would depend on militia who would be mobilized to fight the fights they needed to fight. So there’s that. Another important fact about the state of play when this amendment was written was the nature of arms themselves, of guns. A really good shooter could fire three or four rounds a minute—and that’s a really good one with these poorly aimed muskets and early rifles that they had. So that was what was being regulated. It was, “Oh, let’s have a militia and they can use these guns,” which were the state of the art, but compared to many, many, many rounds per second firearms that we have today, it’s the same word but virtually a different machine. So fast forward—or slow forward. For centuries of the Second Amendment didn’t really come up. People had guns; they hunted. Not everybody, but that’s what happened, they used them for protection in rare cases, but it wasn’t a big deal until starting in the 1960s when suddenly in a matter of months and a few years a presidential candidate, the great leader of African America and freedom Martin Luther King were killed, and other people attacked by assassins. Suddenly it seemed to reasonable people that, “Oh, we should have some controls on who can get guns how easily.” So we enacted some very modest regulations about registrations and limiting certain kinds of cheap weapons and so forth. And back then in the late '60s and even in the early ’70s the National Rifle Association was reasonable, was fine. Okay yeah they negotiated these laws but they were okay. Then, as so many things were going haywire in the national discourse in the late '70s, the National Rifle Association and the gun lobby more generally went out of its mind, to be blunt, and decided to be absolutists, that there would be no regulation of guns and we would fight any regulation of guns, and, moreover that was all driven by a fantasy that the Federal Government was about to confiscate all of our guns that every individual had. So suddenly the Second Amendment became a thing that people were aware of and it was driving this passionate, fervent political faction. The NRA, by the way, changed its motto from one about safe sporting and so forth to quoting the Second Amendment. But still for a while, for 20 years, the courts weren’t buying this idea that the Second Amendment meant that we could not regulate the ownership of guns or the sales of guns. And by the way, we'd allowed: ”Oh, you can’t buy machine guns, you can’t have a sawed-off shotgun.” Those things happened over the course of the 20th century, and nobody said boo.
The upside of rejection: How hearing “no” can lead to success | Matt Dixon
2 months ago En
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