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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.

Safe spaces: Where should the line of censorship be drawn?

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18 hours ago

How inequality destroys the future by focusing on the past | Timothy Snyder

Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink So starting with the objective part, with the facts, the United States is a country which is among the least equal in the world. According to Credit Suisse, which is a Swiss bank and not some kind of crazy left wing organization, we are second in the world in wealth inequality after the Russian Federation. In the United States since the 1980s basically 90 percent of the American population has seen no improvement in either wealth or income. Almost all the improvement in wealth and income has been in the top ten percent, and most of that has been in the top one percent, and most of that has been in the top .1 percent, and most of that has been in the top .01 percent, which means that not only are people not moving forward objectively, but the way they experience the world—and this is very powerful—is that other people are on top. So if you and I have the same thing over the course of 30 years, but we watch as our neighbor suddenly has 20 times as much, we’re not going to say “Everything’s fine because we have the same,” we’re going to say “Gosh, our neighbor has more than we do, and has so much more than we do he could probably reach in and take everything we have away,” which is, of course, true—and that’s the condition that people call oligarchy. So the politics of inevitability says “the market has to lead to democracy, and therefore there’s no reason to correct for what the market does.” If you don’t correct what the market does, if you don’t support trade unions, if you don’t build up some kind of a welfare state, if you don’t support public education and so on, then you’re going to have a situation where citizens spread apart in wealth and spread apart in income, which is what’s happening. And that in turn may be the most powerful way that the politics of inevitability breaks into the politics of eternity. Because if there is massive inequality of wealth and income, individuals and families no longer think “I’ve got a bright future,” they no longer believe—and this is something Mr. Trump got right even if he has no solution and he’s making things worse on purpose—they no longer believe in the American dream, and they’re correct not to do so. If you were born in 1940 your chances of doing better than your parents were about 90 percent. If you were born in 1980 your chances were about one in two, and it keeps going down. So wealth inequality means the lack of social events, it means a totally different horizon, it means that you see life in a completely different way. You stop thinking time is an arrow which is moving forward to something better and you start thinking, “Maybe the good old days were better. Maybe we have to ‘make America great again,’”and you get caught in these nostalgic loops. You start thinking “it can’t be my fault that I’m not doing better, so who’s fault is it?” And then the clever politicians instead of providing policy for you provide enemies for you, they provide language for you with which you can explain why you’re not doing so well. They blame the Other, whether it’s the Chinese or the Muslims or the Jews or the blacks or the immigrants, and that allows you to think “Okay time is a cycle, things used to be better, but other people have come and they’ve taken things away from me.” And that’s how the politics of inevitability becomes the politics of eternity: wealth inequality, income inequality are one of the major channels by which that happens. So one of the fundamental problems with our American right wing “politics of inevitability” is that it generates income-and wealth-inequality and it explains away income and wealth inequality. And so you get this cycle where objectively people are less and less well-off and subjectively we keep telling ourselves this is somehow okay, because in the grand scheme of things this is somehow “necessary,” when it’s not.

1 day ago

How the United Nations is leading the world’s next moonshot | Jeffrey Sachs

Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Jeffrey Sachs: When I was a kid the greatest thing imaginable for me was the moonshot. President John F. Kennedy said to the U.S. Congress in May 1961, “I believe this country should commit itself to the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” Well, how cool was that? And President Kennedy’s vision not only rallied the country but was fulfilled when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in the summer of 1969. In our time we’ve had a different kind of moonshot in my opinion, and that is the moonshot to make our world safe, fair and sustainable. And Kofi Annan, then Secretary-General of the United Nations in the year 2000, a great man, at the start of the new millennium said to the world leaders, “Let’s also take a goal, a goal to fight global poverty and wrestle it down to size.” And he put on the agenda of the world the Millennium Development Goals. These were adopted in a summit of the heads of state in the year 2000, and they said “Let’s get extreme poverty, the kind of poverty that kills, let’s get that down at least by half by the year 2015.” Well, despite all the noise in the world, and the uncaring and the distractions and the confusion and the war in Iraq and all the rest, there was some focus finally on this kind of moonshot in our time of fighting extreme poverty and major initiatives were undertaken. For example, establishing the global fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria and those diseases started to really get under control for the first time; big successes, even in a distracted and confused world. Well, fast-forward 12 years after those Millennium Development Goals were adopted to 2012, yet again world leaders came together on the anniversary of the Earth Summit, which had been a 1992 meeting, to try to tackle climate change, environmental crisis, and so on in Rio de Janeiro. Twenty years later when governments got together again they looked and they said “We’re not doing very well. Climate change is running out of control, we’re destroying other species, we’re chopping down the Amazon. You look around, we’ve got serious problems.”

2 days ago

The extraordinary effect of mindfulness on depression and anxiety | Daniel Goleman

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3 days ago

Why meritocracy is America’s most destructive myth | DeRay Mckesson

Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink DeRay Mckesson: I wanted to write about what it means that some people seemingly have to “earn” or do something to deserve access to things that we think about as basic necessities. So how hard can you work to earn access to a meal every night, or like what do you have to do to “deserve” a good education? What do you have to do to deserve to have housing? And that’s one of the ways that race sort of works in this country, is that there’s some people that are deemed “inherently worthy.” So we think about the way whiteness works and white supremacy, white people are just deemed worthy of things, but there’s this notion that you need to work extra hard to deserve a great public education. I am from Baltimore and when you think about the school system Baltimore City is not funded equitably at all and it’s like, what do those kids have to do to like earn equitable funding? They actually don’t need to do anything besides just be alive! And one of the things that we need to do is make sure that we set up a system where people just have the basic necessities like food, water, education. We can guarantee that. There’s no reason why we don’t have it. I actually think about the difference between equality and equity. Equality is “everybody gets the same thing,” equity is that “people get what they need and deserve.” And the work of justice, we’re almost always fighting for equity. So we think about things like school funding, we are not asking for equal funding, we know that it just costs more to educate kids who grow up in poverty, it costs more to educate kids with special needs, and we know that we need to pay that cost, that those kids deserve that. We’re not saying that every kid it costs the same to educate every kid, that’s just not true. We want a world of equity where people get what they need and deserve. We know the disparities around criminal justice, that there are disparities around race and we want an equitable system that doesn’t penalize people for where they live, how they show up, what ZIP Code they come from. So the difference between equity and equality is an important distinction, and the only way to get to equality—equality of access, whatever metric of equality you want—is by having equity of resources, equity of experiences, that the equity piece says that “you need something different and you deserve something different, and from a system level I’m going to make sure that you have access to that.” So I was talking to somebody about food stamps once and she was like, “People should have to work for food stamps because if they work for it they’ll have dignity.” Like, not eating, I think, is pretty like—not having food is a lack of dignity right there. Food is one of those basic things— we have enough food that we could feed everybody, we have enough water that everybody can have three meals every single day, like we can guarantee those things, we don’t need to artificially create this “requirement” that people work so they can earn food. Like we can actually guarantee these basic things for people. And one of the things that we have to do as we fight for social justice is talk about these things, as basic as they are. That it’s not radical to believe that we can live in a world that police don’t kill people. It’s not radical to say that every kid should be able to read and write. It’s not radical or extreme to say that we can feed every single person every single day. The only radical thing about it is that we have to say it in the first place! Like that is actually where the radical part comes in.

5 days ago

How diplomacy saves American lives | Ronan Farrow

Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink There’s a lot of theater to old school diplomacy. Someone like Richard Holbrook; during the Bosnia negotiations at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio he had luggage delivered (prominently) outside of the doors of the American diplomats present so that the other side would think, “Oh no! The clock is ticking, the Americans are going to pull out.” And it was a complete feint, but it worked and it got people back to the table at a tough time in the talks. And diplomacy isn’t a dovish endeavor always, and in that case this was a state department official who was fully leveraging the threat of NATO strikes and doing a lot of saber rattling, a lot of larger than life bellowing and threatening and cajoling. Diplomacy doesn’t always look pretty or neat, but it is absolutely an antidote to and an alternative to military intervention. There are some fundamental misunderstandings about what diplomats do around the world and I think that’s been exploited by politicians of both parties to characterize these brave men and women as dusty bureaucrats who don’t get a lot done. In fact these are individuals who get very little pay to uproot their families and move them around the world and work in dangerous places specifically to ensure our security as a nation. And they do everything from screening the dangerous individuals that seek to enter the United States of America to brokering the high-level political settlements that hopefully can spare our service men and women from being thrown into the line of fire as a first resort every time we encounter a conflict. One of the consequences of sidelining diplomacy is you see a lot more of the work that was once the domain of diplomats coming out of the Pentagon and the CIA. You end up with the military industrial complex taking over the work of development. I served as a state department official in Afghanistan, for instance, and in that conflict, which was a particularly militarized setting—if you wanted to do just about anything, if you wanted to start a conversation with local leaders on the ground, if you wanted to build a well, you had to do it through the Army Corps of Engineers or through the various teams around the country—they were called PRTs, these provincial reconstruction teams where the military was stationed on the ground and had access to those communities. We have created a universe in which if you try to get something done through the state department or USAID you end up with a cumbersome, lengthy process where they put out a request for applications, you wind up with a contract with a huge contractor based out of Washington DC who then subcontracts three times, and then finally brings in people from outside of Afghanistan to build a well in a spot where the ground water is salty, and no one is going to use the well. We saw these kinds of boondoggles play out over and over again, and what I take away from that is that we have eviscerated the expertise and capacity on the diplomacy and development side, and we need to fix it. Not that we need to throw this out, not that the answer is running everything through the military—which totally, appropriately has different goals, is designed to effect change on the battlefield in a short-term tactical sense. We need a separate core of experts who know the regions and know the pressure points and are specifically tasked with looking at the long-term implications years down the line. I think one of the reasons that there is so much denigration of the diplomat in our political conversation is that the results of diplomacy do require patience and can be less immediate than things going “boom.” And I say that without any aspersion casts on things going boom and the brave men and women who dodge those explosions and are in the line of fire. But we need both, and both are important kinds of public servants. And Americans, I hope when they read this book and when they look at the history of diplomatic endeavor of recent American events they see that the diplomat deserves the patience that they need to be afforded—that if you give it the time and understand that the results might look imperfect and buckle down and say, “Okay, we’re going to keep talks going no matter how tough they get,” you very often end up with results and results that can save lives.

6 days ago

Data makes you smart, but it doesn't make you wise | Timothy Snyder

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1 week ago

An astronaut’s guide to risk taking | Chris Hadfield

Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Chris Hadfield: Everything worth doing in life has risk. Learned to ride a bike, learn to walk. When I was a kid learning to walk I fell and cracked my skull, but I needed to learn to walk. Taking a test, getting married, getting a drivers license, all of those things, they give you an approved capability or an improved richness in life, but they all come with a degree of risk. That is exaggerated if the thing that you want to do is fly a rocket ship. Rocket ships are dangerous. It’s a controlled explosion. If you drew a cartoon of a rocket what it would be would be a bomb with six seats on the top. I mean rocket ships are crazy dangerous. On the first flight of the Space Shuttle when Bob Crippen and John Young were sitting there back in 1981 and they blasted off out of Florida, now that we go back and we look at what the actual history of the Space Shuttle was, their odds of dying that day in the first eight-and-a-half minutes were one in nine! Terrible odds, one in nine. I mean look around you at ten people and realize: just to try that one in nine times they would have died. They got away with it, and we learned a lot from it, but even when I flew on my first shuttle flight on the 74th shuttle flight we learned enough things, we had improved it, but the odds of dying that day for my crew were still one in 38, which—no insurance company would be happy. It’s hard to get life insurance as an astronaut actually. But the question you really need to ask that is do I want to learn to walk? Do I want to ride this bike? Do I want to get married? Do I want to learn to drive a car? What risks are worth taking in my life? Because even if you decide “Okay I’m going to take no risk, I’m going to stay at home and hide under my pillow,” there’s still risk with that and you’re still going to die eventually anyway! So it’s kind of a measure of what was worth doing in your life, and therefore what was worth taking a risk for? Once you’ve got that behind you and said “Okay I’m going to be an astronaut, I’m going to fly a rocket ship, that’s a risk I’m going to take,” now it changes your whole job. Your job is not to be afraid, your job is not to be an incompetent nervous passenger, your job now is to defeat the risk, like when you learned to ride a bike. If you just stay as a passenger on the bike you’re never going to know what to do with the handlebars and you’re never going to master riding a bike. And once you can ride a bike you’ve got a freedom you’ve never had before. And rocket ships are just the same, you have to decide what risks are worth taking and then start changing who you are, learning how to turn the handlebars so that you can make this thing do something that otherwise might hurt you or kill you. And then once you’ve got that done it can take you to places and give you richnesses in your life that you never would have had access any other way. And in my case when you make it through that launch, when you’ve guided that rocket up through the atmosphere and the engine shut off, suddenly you’re in the rarest of human experiences. You’re weightless, and the world is pouring by at five miles a second, and you can see across an entire continent and you’re peering into something that is brand new for humanity. So I think it’s worth asking yourself: “What risks are worth taking?” And once you’ve decided to take them, then change who you are so that you can win, you can defeat, you can master that thing and open a door for yourself that otherwise was just shut.

1 week ago

Minimalism is killing us: Re-awaken your senses, bring back joy | Ingrid Fetell Lee

Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Ingrid Fettell Lee: I think one of the reasons we don’t feel joy as much as we might like is because we have a culture in which joy is judged often as frivolous, as childish, as superficial. And it’s interesting to think about where this actually comes from. It has pretty deep roots in our culture. So if you look in 1810 Goethe wrote in his Theory of Color that “savage nations”, uneducated people, and children typically prefer bright colors whereas “people of refinement” avoid color in their dress and try to banish color from the objects about them. And what happens in this equation is that we’re seeing the equivalency between “savage nations”, so uncivilized people, primitiveness, a lack of sophistication or education and children. And those are being equated to the sort of aesthetics, the tangible manifestations of joy in our culture. And when you look at the roots of this a lot of it stems from colonialism. So you had a bunch of Europeans getting on boats going around the world trying to conquer other people’s and when they found these sort of “uninhibited” displays of emotion, when they found festivals and dancing and drumming and colorful dwellings and outfits they felt a need to distance themselves from those behaviors. And so what happened was European culture became more and more emotionally repressed as a result. So we had to get rid of the color in our surroundings because that was “uncivilized”. We had to get rid of our sort of exuberant and playful displays. And you actually see this when in certain colonies when settlers would arrive they would bring their pretty raucous festivals—I mean Carnival originated in Europe and it was a pretty raucous festival there. They would bring it to these colonies like In Trinidad and Tobago, for example. And then once they got there they realized the had to stop visibly celebrating and they started having formal balls instead of, you know, wild celebrations, because that made the seem “too close” to the natives. And so joy became repressed within our culture, and in its place we got this sense of seriousness that this is what is valued. And that became reflected in our aesthetic culture as well. Over the past few years the dominant aesthetic has been an aesthetic of minimalism. And we’ve been encouraged to sort of simplify and strip back our possessions in our homes and sort of get to very simple gray, beige interiors. And in a way this has been described as sort of reaction to all of the overstimulation that’s going on in our devices, that it sort of helps us relax. But, in fact, what we find is that minimalist interiors actually can be very stressful. That when you look at our sort of natural love of abundance and lushness and textures and sensation, when you actually deprive us of sensations we go a little bit crazy. And a study I love that sort of explores this had a bunch of people sitting in a room, and all they had to entertain themselves was a machine that gave electric shocks. And after only a few minutes of sitting alone in a bare, unadorned room they started giving themselves quite painful electric shocks rather than sit without any stimulation. So the brain seeks and craves stimulation. And when it doesn’t have that it will sort of seek it out even in ways that maybe aren’t so adaptive.

1 week ago

Social anxiety: How to rewire your confidence and be a better communicator | Andrew Horn

Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink One of the most important aspects of meaningful conversation is listening. If you’re asking important questions and not listening, you’re not having a conversation at all; you are giving a soliloquy. So one of the easiest ways that we can practice active listening and avoid a conversation dead-end is to make sure that we are “turning” the conversation more than we’re “taking” it. So I’ll give you a quick example. So my sister just comes back from Thailand and she says, “I had amazing trip. We went to the north and the beaches in the south.” So here’s what a “take” would sound like. It’s like, “Oh I went to Thailand last year. We went to the beaches too.” So do you see what you just did? You just directed that thing right into a dead-end, and now it’s going to stop. So what a “turn” looks like is you get to say, “Oh wow I went to the beaches as well! What was your favorite part?” And so that simple turn shows them two things: that you heard what they said and that you care enough to ask a follow-up question. And I promise you that the best conversationalists always turn the conversation more than they take it. Because often times what happens is that it’s not our first question that is going to get the answer or the depth that we desire, so if we commit to turning the conversation back three and four times we’re going to peel off those layers and get more depth out of our conversations. So always remember turn the conversation more than you take it, and you’re going to avoid those conversation dead ends. When we move past asking better questions we move into the “metamorphic two-step”. And this is all about presence. And presence is so important in conversation. You’ve all said this before, “She has such presence.” “He has such presence.” Presence is that embodied existence in the moment, it’s when you’re only responding and reacting to what’s happening right now. There’s no story from the past, there’s no fear of the future, and it’s a magical thing when we can create that in conversation. And one of the easiest ways to do that is something called the metamorphic two-step. And the metamorphic two-step is actually a hypnosis technique that will help you to identify how you want to feel in social situations. So I learned this from my friend Andrew who is a hypnotherapist here in New York City, he works with a lot of the Fortune 500 brands, the quickest growing startups. And basically what he talks about with some of these leaders is helps them to identify where they have anxiety in their leadership roles and helps them to overcome that and really achieve peak performance. And so when I first met him I said, “Okay so how would you use hypnosis to alleviate something like a social anxiety?” And so what he would tell me is he’d say, “Okay, so what I want you to do is think about a social situation where you might have some anxiety.” And I would say, “Okay I’m going into a big tech conference with a bunch of really influential people and I might be nervous.” And he’d say, “Articulate the undesired state of being. What is that?” And so I’d say, “I’m worried that I won’t have anything to say, I’m worried that they won’t think that I’m high up enough to actually care about what I’m going to say, I’m not going to add value.”

1 week ago

How power affects the way you behave—and the way you’re punished | Michele Gelfand

Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Michele Gelfand: Yes, so I wrote this book to give a lens to people to view the world differently. It’s something that we take for granted every day, the kind of rules that we follow. They’re omnipresent but they’re invisible. So from the moment we wake up until the moment we go to sleep we’re following rules. Most of us put clothes on before we go out in the street, most of us ride on the right side or the left side depending on where we live, we say hello and goodbye on the phone, we follow these rules all the time. But some groups have very strong rules. They’re what I call “tight cultures” where there’s strong rules and little tolerance for deviance, and other groups—what I call “loose groups”—are much more permissive, and they have a wide range of behavior that’s seen as appropriate. And this lens is really very powerful. It helps us to understand things from politics to parenting, from nations to neurons. A general principle about tight and loose is that groups that have more power live in looser worlds. They have more latitude. And groups that have less power – women, minorities, other identities that are stigmatized – they live in tighter worlds. They’re subject to stronger punishments for the same exact behavior. And I’ve shown this actually with some research we published in Psych Science, a journal in my field, some years ago. But you can see other evidence of it all the time. You saw it in the U.S. Open this past weekend with Serena Williams who argued that these refs would never call the same kinds of punishments and penalties on a white male tennis player. Cultural intelligence is more than just knowledge about other cultures. That’s certainly part of it, one dimension that’s clearly just about knowledge of the culture. But it’s also about your motivation to interact with people in different cultures. That’s actually one of the most important parts of cultural intelligence, is having that kind of openness to see diversity as opportunity versus a threat. That predicts people doing much better when they’re crossing cultures. And there’s also a sense of “metacognition,” which is a fancy way of saying, “thinking about what you know about culture, questioning what you know about it.” So there’s multiple dimensions of cultural intelligence and we can assess it. We can measure it, and we can use it to predict how well people will do on international assignments, in negotiations that are cross-cultural. So it’s really an incredibly important construct. And again in this globalized era we really need to move beyond IQ and EQ. You can have great intelligence but have no cultural intelligence. You can have emotional intelligence but you can also fail on CQ. So it’s really an incredibly important attribute to cultivate. And the kids have been noticing this. As females they say, “You know mom, we’re living in a tighter world than our male counterparts.” When they play sports you hear the referee’s whistle going off way more. And so I think it’s also important to train them to think about the worlds they’re living in, to think about how they themselves are going out in the world, are going to be subject to the strength of norms and to try to think about how to negotiate that.

1 week ago

Superhumans: The remarkable brain waves of high-level meditators | Daniel Goleman

Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Daniel Goleman: My co-author of the book Altered Traits is a neuroscientist, Richard Davidson. He has a lab at the University of Wisconsin. It’s a very large lab, he has dedicated scanners, he has about 100 people working there, and he was able to do some remarkable research where he flew Olympic level meditators—who live in Nepal or India typically, some in France—he flew them over to the lab and put them through a protocol in his brain scanners and did state-of-the-art tests and the results were just astounding. We found, for example, or he found that their brain waves are really different. Perhaps the most remarkable findings in the Olympic level meditators has to do with what’s called a gamma wave. All of us get gamma for a very short period when we solve a problem we’ve been grappling with, even if it’s something that’s vexed us for months. We get about half second of gamma; it’s the strongest wave in the EEG spectrum. We get it when we bite into an apple or imagine biting into an apple, and for a brief period, a split-second, inputs from taste, sound, smell, vision, all of that come together in that imagined bite into the apple. But that lasts very short period in an ordinary EEG. What was stunning was that the Olympic level meditators, these are people who have done up to 62,000 lifetime hours of meditation, their brainwave shows gamma very strong all the time as a lasting trait just no matter what they’re doing. It’s not a state effect, it’s not during their meditation alone, but it’s just their every day state of mind. We actually have no idea what that means experientially. Science has never seen it before. We also find that in these Olympic level meditators when we asked them, for example, to do a meditation on compassion their level of gamma jumps 700 to 800 percent in a few seconds. This has also never been seen by science. So we have to assume that the special state of consciousness that you see in the highest level meditators is a lot like something described in the classical meditation literatures centuries ago, which is that there is a state of being which is not like our ordinary state. Sometimes it’s called liberation, enlightenment, awake, whatever the word may be we suspect there’s really no vocabulary that captures what that might be. The people that we’ve talked to in this Olympic level group say it’s very spacious and you’re wide open, you’re prepared for whatever may come, we just don’t know. But we do know it’s quite remarkable.

1 week ago

Coparenting: A lifestyle innovation from our broke middle class | Alissa Quart

Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Alissa Quart: So part of why this is such a problem in America right now is the cost of childcare. Right now it can be up to 30 percent, even 38 percent of a middle class family’s salary. We’re talking in New York City or in New York, $10,000 to $30,000 per year. So if you thinking oh a middle class salary is between $42,000 and $125,000 that’s a huge chunk of anybody’s earnings, so how are we going to take care of our kids? How can we actually pay to have children? So one strategy to some of the people that I spoke to they just had one child or some of the people I spoke to weren’t parents yet and they wanted to be. Like a schoolteacher who drove Uber on the side in San Francisco, and what—he made what in other places would be a middle class salary, but because of the cost of living and the cost of rent he had to take a roommate, he had to put off having a family, he was in his 40s and he had to drive Uber where he was grading papers while he was at a stoplight. I talked to a black educator and someone—she calls herself indigenous, other people would call her Native American—and they both had started this something they call co-family life, which would mean that they’re living in collective housing with other families with children. And partially the reason they did this was because their parents, having been working class African-Americans and indigenous people, didn’t own homes due to the history of racism. So they had to instead rent in expensive cities like outside Boston. So what they did was they shared their homes with other families and raised their kids together, fed their kids together, did pick-up and drop-off together. None of them were involved romantically. And this went on for many years. And it’s a new trend called the co-parenting that I write about in Squeezed. There’s one way we can say “Oh this is bespoke and depressing,” like “We’re throwing back on ourselves, we have to parent collectively and barter and trade because our government doesn’t take care of us.” But another way to think about it is it could be revolutionary, like this is a new family formation where you don’t have to be romantically or biologically connected to other parents but you could still live together in a community with them and share cost of living but also responsibility. I met a bunch of them and I was actually really envious it’s like – a lot of middle-class life is pretty isolated, so I think things like co-parenting in some ways it’s two birds with one stone, because it’s like there’s the isolation and then there’s the economic frugality of being a middle class family. So it’s an economic necessity, co-parenting; there will be people who are computer programmers who I met, or a teacher, or other kinds of professions. Like they weren’t a social worker, they were classic middle-class jobs. But because of the expense of these cities and also because of some of the isolation of being part of a middle-class family now, where you might not be near your biological family, these co-parenting formations were like really kind of beautiful in a lot of ways. I mean I also saw the dark side, because definitely some of those collectives didn’t last. It was hard.

1 week ago

The biology of Alzheimer’s – and what we might do to cure it | Lou Reese

Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Why do people get Alzheimer’s? How do you differentiate amongst the different types, and what’s really going on? With imaging now we can see the accumulation of certain toxic proteins in people’s brains. There is general consensus that there are a number of these that are implicated in the disease. A-beta (or Beta-Amyloid), tau, alpha synuclein, and others. I would say those are the three primary culprits. Now there are people that argue that it’s all microbiome based, and there are people that argue that it’s 100 percent diet and exercise-based, unrelated to the microbiome. And there are people that have a whole variety of approaches to this, none of which I believe are accredited or discredited in a conclusive way. That’s one of the main reasons why I focus on this ecosystem and this village that it takes to solve these problems. I don’t think this is a silver bullet disease. I think this is a finding out and unveiling and uncovering the different pieces that define it. And just very recently we couldn’t image for A-beta or beta amyloid, so there was no way to know that. Very recently we couldn’t – there are new serum based biomarkers that are coming along to measure tau levels that are really, really interesting. All of this gives us insight into the accumulation and the timing of the accumulation of these toxic proteins. So I don’t know, the one, two, three biological assessment, this is the analogy that I always use: Imagine you go into a sports bar and there’s a little guy with glasses and he walks up to the biggest guy in that place and the guy is just all steroided up and he’s got veins popping out of his neck. And he walks up to the guy (and he doesn’t know him) and he just pokes him right in the chest. There’s going to be a cascade of events caused by that poke. Maybe he’ll get his jaw broken. Maybe he’ll have some ribs cracked. Maybe he’ll be thrown out of a window. Maybe the cops will come. Maybe they’ll have to write up a police report. Maybe they’ll have to go to a court case after that. All these things could happen. Now depending on where you saw that fight, what started it? You would have no idea. And all of your assessments, all your assumptions would be wrong if you didn’t see that guy unprovoked poke that person in the chest. So where is the poke with Alzheimer’s? There’s a lot of debate around that. But where that cascade of events occurs there’s becoming more clarity around that. So I hope that’s helpful. If you look a it from a disease progression state these toxic proteins are building up in your brain 10, 15, 20 years before you have any symptoms. So this is something that is laying there in a lot of us and just waiting for its chance to jump up. And so knowing that and having seen that in lots and lots of people—there’s a lot of studies that walk through this but the general thought is that you have the beta amyloid levels rising. Thereafter you have the tau levels rising. Thereafter, and consequence and in concert with the tau level rising there’s some correlation with the actual cognitive impairment. Now that doesn’t mean that that’s the biology of Alzheimer’s conclusively. That means that this is an evolving story and this ties back into this village and ecosystem. The reason I’m so excited is because we actually have answers to some of these questions now. So at least we know that these are toxic or mis-folded or in some way non-advantageous proteins. So we’re starting to understand that and being able to see it and track its growth, intervene earlier. All of those things are really compelling. So the goal is to create endobodies naturally that cross the blood brain barrier and engage the toxic forms of A-beta plaque. And the way that I think about it is like this: A-beta is naturally occurring in everyone. Beta amyloid is made by every person’s body. It’s when it starts to get stuck together that it becomes a problem.

2 weeks ago

Artificial general intelligence: The domain of the patient, philosophical coder | Ben Goertzel

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2 weeks ago

Overcome anxiety: Articulate your rationale, quell your doubts | Jordan Peterson

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2 weeks ago

Political outrage: Why all sides get it wrong about the arc of history | Timothy Snyder

Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink I think the word “history” is a lot more demanding of us than we think. We spend much of our time dwelling in things that aren’t history. We have notions of the way time flows that are comfortable but basically wrong and allow us to sleepwalk and drift away from what’s actually confronting us and what we should actually be seeing and feeling. One of those is what I call the “politics of inevitability,” or for short we could call it progress, and that’s the idea “we know the rules of history, A is always going to lead to B, the world is pretty good as it is and it’s only going to get better. That idea has been very present in the U.S. in the form of “history is over, there are no alternatives, liberal democracy is inevitable, the market is just going to bring about democracy, so there’s nothing that we really have to do.” And of course that’s a core problem: this kind of thinking takes you out of history and it says you’re not responsible, what you do as an individual doesn’t really matter very much. Now the problem with that, or one of the many problems, is that eventually you’re going to get some kind of a shock. You might get shocked in 2008 when you figure out you can’t own a house, or you might get shocked in 2016 when somebody you don’t expect wins a presidential election, but something is going to happen in your life which is going to shock you, and suddenly this story about inevitability, about progress is no longer going to make sense to you. And then you’re going to be vulnerable to what I call the “politics of eternity,” which is another way of dwelling in time, which isn’t history. In the politics of eternity we say “it’s not my fault; I’m an innocent victim; everything which is wrong comes from enemies from the outside, those others, those enemies over and over again come for us, attack us, try to penetrate us, hurt us. And history then just becomes a cycle where over and over and over again the innocent people are attacked by the bad guys,” basically. And the politics of eternity what also happens is that the news cycle, the daily cycle overwhelms you and it instructs you who you’re supposed to be afraid of, how you’re supposed to feel. So the danger that we’re in right now in the U.S. is we’re shifting from a politics of inevitability to a politics of eternity, and then along the way we won’t notice how we’re in history. History demands of us that we understand that it’s not inevitable to become better, it’s also not inevitable to become worse. There are certain structures and what we do within those structures of matters, and what history teaches us is what those structures are. The Europeans have a different politics of inevitability. So the structure is the same, the overall structure is that “things are pretty good, they’re going to get better; there are rules to history we know what those rules are therefore it doesn’t matter what we do.” But the particulars are very different. The European myth goes something like this: “European nations are old; European nations are wise; European nations learned from the second world war that war was a bad thing and therefore cooperate economically to form this thing called the European Union.” Now that’s completely false. It’s just as bogus as the American idea that “the market is going to bring about capitalism and there are no alternatives.” Not a word of that European story is true, even though pretty much all Europeans believed in it. European nations are not old. European nation states have generally not really existed. The whole story of European history is actually empires breaking apart and the fragments of those empires coalescing in this unit called the European Union. There’s never really a moment in most cases where there was actually a nation state deciding for or against Europe. In fact empires shatter. There are bloody wars. If Europeans learn anything it’s that colonial wars are a bad thing and then at that point you dodge the difficulty and even the atrocity of those lost colonial wars, and you start telling yourself this story of about how you’re Europeans, and you’re peaceful, you’ve always had the nation state, et cetera.

2 weeks ago

Rethinking college education: Put the student first, not the university | Dan Rosensweig

Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Dan Rosensweig: There’s a really interesting question which is: what are the ramifications of the college education system—potentially, and we believe—in a bubble that’s likely to burst (and is already bursting), and with parents and employers looking to find alternative ways to get their kids or their students the skills they need to be able to be successful citizens and successful in business? So what was interesting about the education system is everything in the education system was designed to support the existing system, like most businesses—designed to serve the publisher, the professor, the administrator, all the people that worked at the school. But you looked at the student and you said they’re forced to live in a dorm they don’t want to live in, pay a price they don’t want to pay. They’re forced to use a cafeteria the first year or so because it’s in the best interest of the school, not the student. They have to pay a fortune for books that they don’t want to buy and subjects they don’t want to take. You just think of all the things. You go to an ATM on a college campuses, the kid takes out $10 and they pay $3.50 as a fee. And so we realized very quickly that the biggest problem with the education system was that it served everybody in it but its core constituent, which was the student. And so one day I wrote on the bottom of my email to the staff – I just put it in as a tagline – “We put students first.” And that became the way in which every decision we get made gets filtered through it. What we do, why we do it, when we’re going to do it. What we can charge for it. The order in which we offer it. How many different modalities or languages or devices can it be on? All of those things are if you put the student first what would the student want? Now some people say, “Well if you do that, Dan, they’d all want it for free.” The truth is they wouldn’t if they didn’t think they could get it for quality for free. So, for example, there are free alternatives to Chegg Study but they all prefer to pay for Chegg Study, because what we give is not free—We give overwhelming value for the money. And so by putting the student first the choices that we make become limited. The definition of success becomes clearer. How does this help the student and can we benefit by doing that? The order in which you do it, how much you’re willing to invest and the return on that investment become much clearer by putting the customer first. And look, we live in a world now where everybody in the middle is being cut out if possible. So we’re living in a much clearer world of direct consumer if you will. So think about it. If you can’t satisfy your customer you don’t have a business. If your customer is forced to use you it’s easier to disrupt you. But if your customer looks at you and says they know who I am, they understand my problems, they care about me, they give me overwhelming value then you build a giant moat versus your competitor. So the best way I can put it to quote or paraphrase I should say Marc Andreessen, software is eating the world. So think about it this way. Colleges are a lot like movie theaters. You go to the movie theater and you have to wait in a line or if you get the ticket you get to go in, but you’re still going to sit next to somebody you don’t know to watch a movie you may or may not want to see. You’re going to pay a fortune for popcorn… or would you rather be sitting at home on your couch watching Netflix, what you want to watch, when you want to watch it, how you want to watch it with the people you want to watch it with, at a price you can afford? And college is the same way. Why do you want to go to a campus which takes an hour to get to, an hour to get home to take a single class? So that’s half a day when you need money, when you’re hungry. So the consequence of this ultimately has to play out in a pretty dramatic way. There’s no sort of incremental fixes. There are things that colleges are doing that can sustain some of them for a while. They’re working with really good organizations like 2U or companies that allow them to build new lines of revenue by putting their graduate schools or specific classes online. But overall if you were to interview (and we have and we’ve read the surveys and you can find the surveys), 50 percent of college presidents and their CFOs feel that their college is on shaky financial footing.

2 weeks ago

3 steps to money mastery: Would you rather have freedom or stuff? | Vicki Robin

Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink So let’s take a look at financial independence and what that really means. It means, you know, if you haven’t thought about it at all you just think “Oh, that’s for rich people” or “I could never do that.” And so first of all I’d like to distinguish between independence and freedom. So financial freedom is like freeing your mind. Financial freedom is understanding that I’m me and there’s an economy out there, and I have a relationship with it but it doesn’t run my life. It’s freeing my mind from the messages of the consumer culture, the messages of the economy. The message is that, you know, a house is a “starter house.” No, that’s MY HOUSE! I could die in my house, you know. It’s like there’s so many presumptions that drive us into wage slavery, debt, and it doesn’t matter whether you are at the low end or at the high end. If you are engaged in that sort of ancient process of “more, more, more” you are not free. So the first layer of financial independence I talk about is this freedom of the mind, this freeing your mind, of saying like “I’m sovereign, the economy is secondary. I will move my sovereign self into the economy for my own purposes.” Rather than “I’m a schlump and the economy is my mega boss and, I don’t know – my boss seems to be as big as the sky and so I will just let my life be run by my boss and the tax system. I’m just going to let myself be run by this thing.” No, so you’re a sovereign being! So that’s your first layer of financial independence is your own sovereignty. And then the second layer is to get out of debt. And for some people debt feels endless. And the first step to getting out of debt is stop going into debt. Really. It’s like – and so there are many organizations. There’s Debtors Anonymous. There’s many ways that people can help them with this addiction to constantly spending and spending beyond their means. However you do that you just stop increasing your debt and start whittling your way through it. And with the approach in Your Money or Your Life I mean there’s many people who have written to us who flatten their debt in a couple of years—impossible debt, debt that was going to be endless. They would die with this debt. And once they see what the debt is doing to them in terms of the actual opportunities, the future opportunities of their lives, once they see that, once they have a taste for, a yen for the kind of sovereignty, authenticity, autonomy, freedom, whatever you want to call it, you know, mastery over your own time, ability to write your novel or take your sailing cruise or play with your grandkids—Whatever it is that you want more than you want stuff that’s what we’re trying – that’s the sort of link that we try to get people to make, so that something in the future is more important than the immediate pleasure of buying one more tchotchke that you’re never going to use. We call them “gazingus pins”, the things you buy repeatedly and you never use, and they go into the gazingus-pin-drawer and yet when you’re in the store you buy another one. And just look in your drawers, look in your closets, you’ll find it. So getting, flattening your debt is the second level of financial independence, and the third level really is to get those six months of savings in liquid assets, whether it’s bank accounts—Someplace where you can actually within 24 to 48 hours you could realize that money. So that you have an emergency fund so that you are not tumbled back into debt as soon as something happens; You lose a job which many people now feel that even their very, very important and significant jobs are precarious. So you want to get out of the zone of precariousness. And part of how you get out of that precariousness is savings. And then over time the next layer of financial independence is you start to see that surplus savings can be invested in such a way that it throws off an income. And over time if you become a systematic and sometimes obsessive saver, you know, there are people who save up to 80 or 90 percent of their income whether it’s in their 401K or in a Roth IRA. There’s all these instruments for saving money. You become a super saver and you can see, you could chart it. You can watch your passive income grow, and you can start to see because you track your daily expenses based on the mechanics of this whole thing, of knowing money is your life energy. You track everything you buy. And an easy way to do it—if you don’t like, you know, like writing in a little notebook every time you do a transaction—is just use your debit card. I said debit, not credit.

2 weeks ago

How to be a great parent or friend to transgender kids | Elijah Nealy

Read more at BigThink.com: Follow Big Think here: YouTube: http://goo.gl/CPTsV5 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigthink Elijah Nealy: It is true that transgender youth, gender diverse youth, youth who don’t necessarily transition but whose gender expression is diverse or considered nonconforming or fluid are at higher risk of verbal harassment and even physical bullying within a school context. That’s been consistently demonstrated in surveys over the last 10 to 15 years. So what I’d say to trans youth who are experiencing bullying is that it’s absolutely important that you talk to an adult in your life about what’s happening. That you don’t need to navigate harassment or bullying by yourself. In fact it’s critical to reach out and let someone safe in your life, another adult, know what’s happening, and that you can identify who that safe person is whether it’s a teacher, a school counselor, a school social worker, a parent, an extended family member. But it’s important to let someone know what’s happening because you have a right to be able to go to school and be safe and be free from the experience of bullying. What the research is telling us in the last ten years is that family acceptance, a young person’s, a teenager’s experience of being accepted by their families is the critical mediating variable in queer young adult risk factors. So teenagers, queer teenagers, lesbian, gay, bi, trans teenagers growing up in families they experience as rejecting are eight-and-a-half times more likely to have attempted suicide by the time they’re 21 to 24. And they’re three-and-a-half times more likely to be at risk of HIV, to be using drugs and alcohol in an addictive way or problematic way, much higher rates of anxiety and depression, and that by contrast those risks are much lower for adolescents growing up in families that they experience as accepting. The important piece about that for parents is the degree to which we can have an impact in lowering the risk factors that trans youth already face in a world that sometimes is still hostile or discriminatory, and that even in the face of external discrimination or harassment by peers or other adults or discriminatory laws family acceptance shows up as the critical mediating variable for young adult risks among trans youth. So one best practice is to recognize that everyone of us as a human being has a right to define who we are, and that gender identity is not necessarily about our body parts but it’s about our own understanding of who we are as male or female, both or neither. It’s what’s in our brains. It’s what we know to be true about ourselves. And so if we begin with that understanding and an acknowledgement that every human being deserves to be acknowledged and respected for who they know themselves to be that sets a real foundation in working with trans youth: That each trans young person like any other young person deserves to be acknowledge and treated with respect for who they are. That means things like using a young person’s affirmed name and pronouns regardless of whether or not that matches your understanding or knowledge of that young person. But if I say my pronouns are male and my name is Elijah, then part of respect is respecting my understanding of myself. From a treatment perspective that means what’s been emerging as best practices in the last ten years is an understanding of gender expression within young children and adolescents as gender diversity (and not gender variance or gender nonconformity)—And that all children experiment with gender expression, that children can have diverse and different ways of expressing their gender—young boys might like to play house, young girls might like to play with trucks—and that that’s simply gender diversity, and while it may not be “the norm” to have a boy who has feminine gender interests it is within the realm of normal; and that there’s nothing inherently abnormal or pathological. It’s simply gender diversity, and may or may not mean that that young child grows up to identify as trans.

2 weeks ago