Ideas

Mindfulness, Shmindfulness – Zoning Out Is Good For You (Within Reason)

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“One of the biggest misconceptions people have about mindfulness is that you can train yourself to stay in this mindful state all of the time. … Even if you spent 20 years in a Tibetan monastery, you would not be able to stay in a mindful state. We are not, evolutionarily, designed to stay in this blissful, present-moment awareness state.”

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Positive Thinking Isn’t Always So Powerful – It Might Even Hold You Back

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“As a German citizen who came to the United States relatively late in life, I was initially struck by how much more positive thinking was valued in the United States than back in Europe.” Research psychologist Gabriele Oettingen had presumed this was a good thing – until she started doing some studies. It seems that some kinds of positive thinking are a lot less helpful than others.

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Paris Has Been A Capital Of The Arts For Centuries – And Now It Has To Change

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“France’s leadership is struggling to pay for the government it provides. While the capital remains a global magnet of culture, it increasingly risks becoming a playground for the world’s elite, detached from its midsize cities, villages and countryside, where rising hardships stoke resentments and widen the opening for far-right parties.”

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We Are All Confident Idiots

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“In many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.” (And every one of us is incompetent at something.)

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It’s Time To Retire The Idea Of “Genius”

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“From the ‘genius bar’ at the local Apple Store to bestselling books that trumpet ‘the genius in all of us,’ geniuses seem to abound. But if we consider the idea of ‘genius’ as it has evolved across history, it starts to look like we don’t really need geniuses as we once did. … The increasing banality of genius in the contemporary world has begun to dissolve it as a useful category.”

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Neanderthals Weren’t Actually So “Neanderthal”

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The idea of homo sapiens‘ predecessors having been “savage” and “primitive”, in contrast to our own intelligence and ingenuity, has been fundamental to our species’s modern idea of itself. “[Yet] Neanderthals created complex tools, buried their dead, had an organized use of space, probably cared for the infirm, and perhaps even conversed vocally.”

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Information Is Power (How We Go To War?)

Dwindling Newspaper Sales Echo Through Economy

“Global information warfare is not virtual. It is mostly latent; that is, it is in the world but not experienced as part of the world. It is a war without shadows. You cannot see it, and you cannot hear it; it happens silently every day, can hit anyone anywhere, and we can all be its unsuspecting victims.”

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Why Has Innovation Become A Religion?

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“I’ve decided that the champions of innovation-speak are as confused by the subject as anyone. To them, technology is a thing with a life of its own. And it can evidently only be understood via the ministrations of a class of reverent spiritual adepts, duly catechized in treating its essence as holy and its creators as demigods. And so their tales are ultimately as simple, as explicit in their lessons, as a sacred text.”

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Learning Narrative From Your Pet Wolf

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“Depending on the details I selected, the story could be comic or sad. My parents could be painted as reckless or heroic. I could accept one teller’s version over another. I could create my own. Fiction, through fabrication, finds the truth that real life tends to cover up.”

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How Do You Build A Beer Pipeline Under A Medieval World Heritage Site?

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“Even under roads and public parks, there are centuries-old historic sites to avoid. There are more practical obstacles, too, like canals, major traffic crossings, and sites where things like underground garages will be built in the future. … Then there’s the chance the drilling process will stumble across something like the ruins of an unknown ancient castle.”

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The Conscious Unconscious (What Science Is Learning)

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“After a severe brain injury, some people remain in a vegetative or minimally conscious state, unable to speak or move intentionally, and seemingly unaware of the world around them. In recent years, however, neuroscientists have found signs that some of these patients may be conscious, at least to a degree.”

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Are We Merely The Product Of Neurons Firing And Cells Replicating? (Or Is There Something Bigger?)

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“What people don’t like, apparently, is the idea, borne in on them every day as science marches through their genetics and into their brains, that a person is merely a slub in the fabric of the universe, no more than a complicated and clever bulge amid the threads of causation, rather than a free-wheeling, free-choosing, autonomous, responsible initiator of deeds.”

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Animals Can Also Be Heroes, Of Course

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Sure, we know about dogs who’ve rescued people and the cat that chased a dog away from a toddler, but seals, hippos, and rats are among the many animals who’ve been observed displaying altruistic behavior. (Especially rats, some of whom have learned to locate land mines.)

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The “Culture” Of Big Data (And What It Doesn’t Mean)

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“Operating beyond normal science’s simple accumulation of more information, Big Data is touted as a different sort of knowledge altogether, an Enlightenment for social life reckoned at the scale of masses. As with the similarly inferential sciences like evolutionary psychology and pop-neuroscience, Big Data can be used to give any chosen hypothesis a veneer of science and the unearned authority of numbers.”

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Are You A Multi-Tasker? Oh, Oh…

Absent-minded businessman using cell phone and dropping necktie in soup

Study: “They found that heavy multitaskers—those who multitask a lot and feel that it boosts their performance—were actually worse at multitasking than those who like to do a single thing at a time. The frequent multitaskers performed worse because they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, and they were slower at switching from one task to another. Ouch.”

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Free Versus Anti-Free – Artists Should Get Paid. (And Yet…)

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“If the conversation is reduced to money alone, then all writing is reduced to content, all artists to content producers, and part of our utopia is lost. One did not become a writer in order to starve, but nor did one become a writer in order to get rich. So why did one become a writer?”

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