“Not certainty but the kind of uncertainty that encourages us all to struggle with our convictions to some point of moral balance, played its part in engaging me emotionally with the past.”
“Most of the rest of the world shrugged. But conservatives noticed, and they were furious. The framework, resolved the Republican National Committee, is a ‘radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects.'”
“If you don’t know it already, you should: Many crosswalk and elevator door-close buttons don’t actually work as advertised. … Similarly, the progress bars presented on computer screens during downloads … maintain virtually no connection to the actual amount of time left … But these examples offer only a hint of what we’re liable to see in the near future. … Perhaps now is a good time to ask: How deceitful should our new technologies be?”
“Most people see the benefits of empathy as too obvious to require justification. This is a mistake.” Continuing the post-Sontag genre of “Against [Whatever]“, Paul Bloom hosts a forum featuring, among others, Sam Harris, Peter Singer, Marianne LaFrance, Barbara H. Fried, and Simon Baron-Cohen.
“But what does it mean to believe in evil? How do our attitudes about its existence shape our worldviews? While researchers stampeded over one another to understand evil behavior in the wake of the 20th century’s seemingly endless bloodletting … much less research has been done into how the idea of evil itself colors our understanding of the world and its inhabitants.”
A 17th-century thought experiment asks “about a person, blind from birth, who could tell apart a cube and a sphere by touch: If his vision were restored and he was presented with the same cube and sphere, would he be able to tell which was which by sight alone?” Dr. Pawan Sinha, who has organized sight-restoring surgery for hundreds of blind children in India, has an answer.
Adam Gopnik: “The best argument for reading history is not that it will show us the right thing to do in one case or the other, but rather that it will show us why even doing the right thing rarely works out. … What history generally ‘teaches’ is how hard it is for anyone to control it, including the people who think they’re making it.”
“When scientists have studied procrastination, they’ve typically focused on how people are miserable at weighing costs and benefits across time. … In the last few years, however, scientists have begun to think that procrastination might have less to do with time than emotion.” As one researcher says, “To tell the chronic procrastinator to just do it would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, cheer up.”
“As the rest of the society, from business and economics to journalism and art, wakes up to the power of big data, the world of research is, ironically, not doing nearly enough to embrace the power of information. A big-data mindset involves more than having a lot of petabytes on your hard drive, and science is falling short in three main areas.”
“The Internet does make it easier to gather – aggregate, as the jargon goes – information, but not necessarily to make sense of it. An overabundance of raw information devoid of context and interpretation can actually be detrimental to knowledge. Knowledge springs from the act – the art – of interpreting, digesting, and integrating new information with our existing understanding of the world.”
“The challenge is to understand how the world is changing, not how fast it is changing. No doubt the frequency of exchanges has grown thanks to the technologies associated with the information revolution. Even so, we perceive greater speed not only because of what technology allows, but also because much of what is occurring is unintelligible to us. This reproduces the same sense of exaggerated velocity we experience upon hearing spoken a language we do not understand.”
“All things being equal, a bunch of research has shown, the purchase of experiences appears to bring more happiness than the purchase of things.” A new paper suggests that “we also derive more pleasure from anticipating experiences than material objects … and offers a useful hint about how to ‘hack’ your purchases of experiences to maximize your enjoyment of them.”
“No matter what the crisis is — whether financial, emotional, spiritual, creative, physical or other — it is not the time to be setting future objectives or making determinations about how you’ll behave in a year, or two, or three. You don’t have objectivity in a crisis and your ability to be strategic is greatly diminished.”