Are Ethics Professors Particularly Good People? No More Than Most Of Us, And They Don’t Really Try Any Harder (That’s A Good Thing)

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In an essay titled “Cheeseburger ethics,” Eric Schwitzgebel argues, “We – most of us – actually aim at mediocrity. The cheeseburger ethicist is perhaps only unusually honest with herself about this. We aspire to be about as morally good as our peers … B+ on the great moral curve of white middle-class college-educated North Americans. Let others get the As.”

Are Human Beings The Only Political Animals? (Nope)

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“If all social life is political, won’t it be necessary to think of the designation ‘political animal’ as a genus name, including many species, rather than as something unique to human beings? After all, and as Aristotle knew well enough, there are many highly social species of animals.”

There’s No Such Thing As A Psychopath

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“Unlike discrete psychological disorders such as schizophrenia or depression, psychopathy is a disorder sustained by rhetoric rather than by science – ‘psychopath’ is just a strong word for a deviant, in the same way that ‘jerk’ describes someone you don’t like but reveals little about that person’s psychology.”

A Rant Against “Critical Thinking”

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It involves a chain of “and/or” activities that can happen in so many contexts (including the most ordinary “experience”) that one would be hard pressed to find a place where it isn’t happening, on some level. It is a sort of mental Swiss Army Knife, able to unfold a range of analytic tools depending on the circumstances.

When DIY Education Came From Someplace Other Than YouTube

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“Self-education went beyond solitary reading. For many, literary societies — called ‘the literary’ — marked the highlight of intellectual and social life, as young men and women gathered at night to debate, mingle and flirt. One young woman surveyed her entertainment options in rural Kansas and concluded: ‘We just have the jolliest, best times at the Literary.'”

When New York Vanished

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“Prior to the landmarks law there was no legal means for protecting historic sites like the Roxy. Many had fallen into disrepair. … It took the destruction of many beloved places before the law gained the political support it needed.

Noticed You’re Not Getting As Much Spam Lately? Google’s New Neural Networks “Teach” Themselves To Filter

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“Roughly speaking, these neural networks are vast collections of machines that mimic the networks of neurons in the brain. At Google, Jeff Dean and a core group of other AI engineers oversee these networks and provide software libraries that allow other Google teams, including the Gmail team, to use them.”

ISIS Is Brutal And Barbaric. But It Appeals To An Old Mythology

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“Tolkien’s mythology, unlike that of ISIS, is steadfastly un-apocalyptic. But many readers, it seems, thrill to the notion of finding a king to whom they can pledge their swords without scruple or hesitation. Indeed, it is sometimes claimed that the patently adolescent politics of Tolkien’s Middle Earth represent a true and valid model for real-world humans.”

How You Lie – And Whether You Think You’re Lying – Depends On Your Culture

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“Some aspects of lie detection, especially those elements measured by lie detector tests, might be cultural. For instance, what if the person who might be lying is speaking a second language? What if she grew up in a different place than you, with different social norms? How difficult is it to spot a liar then? Is there any hope for a scientific approach?”

It Seems There Are Four Kinds of Introversion

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“As more regular, non-scientist types started to talk about introversion, psychologist Jonathan Cheek began to notice something: The way many introverts defined the trait was different from the way he and most of his academic colleagues did.”

Why Childhood Memories Disappear

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“For the memory to remain accessible, my younger self had to remember those concepts in the same language-based way that my adult self remembers information. I formed earlier memories using more rudimentary, pre-verbal means, and that made those memories unreachable as the acquisition of language reshaped how my mind works, as it does for everyone.”

When Hippie Musicians Are The Most Tech-Savvy In The Biz

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“The Grateful Dead remains one of the most innovative and tech-savvy bands in pop history. Long before it became necessary (or cool) to do so, the band embraced a DIY ethos in everything from manufacturing its own gear to publishing its own music to fostering a decentralized music distribution system. The Dead’s obsession with technology was almost inseparable from the band’s psychedelic ambition and artistic independence.”

Are The Arts Dying Because Of Indifference?

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“For while the fine arts can survive a hostile or ignorant public, or even a fanatically prudish one, they cannot long survive an indifferent one. And that is the nature of the present Western response to art, visual and otherwise: indifference.”

How Your Personality Affects Your Creativity

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Researchers “found that focused attention generally decreased people’s creative performance, but focused individuals still did better than mind-wanderers when both personality types tried to solve problems analytically.”

Talent Spotting: Which Would You Trust, The Data Or The Hunch?

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“The gift for talent-spotting is mysterious, highly prized and celebrated. We like to believe that certain people—sometimes ourselves—can just sense when a person has something special. But there is another method of spotting talent which doesn’t rely on hunches. In place of intuition, it offers data and analysis. Rather than relying on the gut, it invites us to use our heads. It tends not to make for such romantic stories, but it is effective—which is why, despite our affection, the hunch is everywhere in retreat.”

Why “Smart” Kids Often Don’t Turn Into Smart Adults

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“When people perform well (academically or otherwise) at early ages and are labeled smart or gifted, they become less likely to challenge themselves. They become less likely to make mistakes, because they stay in their comfortable comfort zone and stop growing. And their fixed mindset persists through adulthood. The simple and innocent praising of a smart kid feeds an insidious problem that some researchers track all the way up to gender inequality in STEM careers.”

It’s Leap-Second Day. Do You Know Where Your Computer Is?

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“About 50 years ago, we started keeping time with atomic clocks—clocks that operate according to the oscillations of a tiny atom.—and in order to keep these clocks in step with the earth, we add an extra second every now and again. The trouble is: the world’s computers, often running on ancient software code, aren’t always configured to accommodate this extra second. And that can cause problems.”