Anxiety Is Even Worse For You Than You Were Afraid It Was


“Anxiety, this research shows, uniquely interferes with ‘perspective-taking’ – that is, people’s capacity to put themselves in others’ shoes.The idea that anxiety impairs perspective-taking is important because it is just this sort of nervousness that crops up when an empathic connection is most sorely needed.”

Can Your Brain Fill Up With Too Much Stuff?

Cross Section of a Brain

“Each day you accumulate fresh memories—kissing new people, acquiring different phone numbers and (possibly) competing in pi-memorizing championships (we would root for you). With all those new adventures stacking up, you might start worrying that your brain is growing full. But, wait—is that how it works? Can your brain run out of space, like a hard drive? It depends on what kind of memory you’re talking about.”

Why We Cling To The Culture Of Our Youth


“Baby boomers pursue perpetual youth into retirement. Gen-Xers hold fast to their skateboards, their Pixies T-shirts and their Beastie Boys CDs. Nobody wants to be an adult anymore, and every so often someone writes an article blaming Hollywood, attachment parenting, global capitalism or the welfare state for this catastrophe.”

Distraction – And Why We Drive Ourselves To It


“Ever since the Enlightenment, Western societies have been obsessed with autonomy, and in the past few hundred years we have put autonomy at the center of our lives, economically, politically, and technologically … Unfortunately, we’ve taken things too far: we’re now addicted to liberation, and we regard any situation – a movie, a conversation, a one-block walk down a city street – as a kind of prison. Distraction is a way of asserting control; it’s autonomy run amok.”

Can You Consciously Design A Metaphor To Change Someone’s Mind?

metaphor design

“I’m here to tell you that they can, and are. … They aren’t supposed to make someone remark: ‘That’s beautiful.’ They’re meant to make someone realise that they’ve only been looking at one side of a thing.” Michael Erard (“For five years I worked full-time as a metaphor designer at the FrameWorks Institute, a think tank in Washington, DC … I continue to shape and test metaphors for private-sector clients and others”) explains how it’s done.

Remember The Notorious ‘Stanford Prison Experiment’? It Didn’t Necessarily Tell Us What Everyone Thought It Did


Back in 1971, a group of Stanford students participated in a role-playing experiment, with some taking the role of guards in a make-believe prison and others playing inmates. The latter became so passive, and the former so abusive, that the experiment was called off halfway through. Most people concluded that the project demonstrated the darker sides of human nature, but Maria Konnikova suggests that the results were more about institutions and rules.

The Family That Watches TV Together …

African American family watching television together

A longitudinal study “found positive outcomes for families that used media such as TV, movies and the Internet ‘as a tool — to laugh together, to become informed, to connect, to spark discussion.’ Such shared activities led to greater levels of personal disclosure for adolescent boys, more positive family functioning for adolescent girls and greater parental involvement for both.”

We’re Addicted To Creating Content, But It Doesn’t Make Us Happy


“Once we buy into a specific apparatus, it’s awfully hard to leave it. Your cultural artifact is locked within that system, constrained by its programming. Notice how another user’s Instagram photo can’t be resized, emailed, or downloaded to your hard drive. It can’t exist within any other ecosystem than Instagram’s.”

Remember Esperanto?


“He used Esperanto while traveling when he was younger, bicycling between Esperanto-speaking homes in Korea. He used a free hospitality network, called Pasporta Servo, which lists Esperanto speakers willing to open their homes to fellow Esperantists. Pasporta Servo still exists today.”

Is There Any Subject That Is Never Acceptable To Joke About?

is there any subject not acceptable to laugh about

Curtis Brown: “No. There isn’t. It might be a bit more complicated than that but not much. I was about to write ‘child molestation’ when I remembered the comic novel generally regarded as America’s greatest after Huck Finn (which, for its part, joked about slavery).”

What’s The Key To A Happy, Fulfilling Life? Don’t Ask An Intellectual


“In this sense, a philosopher, academic, or any kind of writer is the worst person to ask about how to live a fulfilling life. Their obligation to themselves is not to resolve their own problems, but to plumb the depths of their own discontent, seeking after a truth in unhappiness. It is not likely that anything that can be articulated in an intellectually honest essay can bestow a fulfilling life on you.”

Researcher: Gossiping Is Good For Your Health


“The best predictor of good health was the quality of the social contact they had with others. The only thing that came close was giving up smoking. It came way above body weight, whether they were obese or not, what medication they were on or treatments they had had, whatever therapy they had had, the exercise they took or alcohol they consumed. What was a much bigger factor in their recoveries was the size and vibrancy of their social network.”

The Great Understanding: Solving The Universal Translation Puzzle


“Human translators, today, have virtually nothing to do with the work being done in machine translation. A majority of the leading figures in machine translation have little to no background in linguistics, much less in foreign languages or literatures. Instead, virtually all of them are computer scientists. Their relationship with language is mediated via arm’s-length protective gloves through plate-glass walls.”

Truth Based On Facts Is Losing In Our Modern Culture. It’s A Slippery Slope From Here


“It is sad that the modern attack on truth started in the academy — in the humanities, where the stakes may have initially seemed low in holding that there are multiple ways to read a text or that one cannot understand a book without taking account of the political beliefs of its author. That disrespect, however, has metastasized into outrageous claims about the natural sciences.”

Athletes And Singers Have Coaches. Do You?


“The concept of a coach is slippery. Coaches are not teachers, but they teach. They’re not your boss—in professional tennis, golf, and skating, the athlete hires and fires the coach—but they can be bossy. They don’t even have to be good at the sport. The famous Olympic gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi couldn’t do a split if his life depended on it. Mainly, they observe, they judge, and they guide.”

Falling Down A Rabbit Hole? Uh-Oh. We’re Not In Kansas Anymore


“These days when we say that we fell down the rabbit hole, we seldom mean that we wound up somewhere psychedelically strange. We mean that we got interested in something to the point of distraction—usually by accident, and usually to a degree that the subject in question might not seem to merit.”

Are Machines Becoming More Like Us, Or Are We Becoming More Like Them?

Are Machines Becoming More Like Us

“As machines become more humanlike, aren’t we humans meeting them halfway? Are computers not simply an extension of our brains? Our inventions may better resemble humans, but we are becoming more machine-like in the process. Are we no longer a natural species, or are we simply a part of nature that has evolved to become less ‘natural’?”

The Tragedy Of The Digital Commons – And What People Are Doing About It


“The designers of Turkopticon and its cousins draw attention to common problems, hoping to influence longer-term change on a complex issue. In time, the idea goes, requesters on Mechanical Turk might change their treatment of workers, Amazon might change its policies and software, or regulators might set new rules for digital labor. This is an approach with a long history in an area that might seem unlikely: the conservation movement.”

The Story Of Technology Is Actually The Story Of Textiles

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 8.31.57 AM

“‘Smart textiles’ originally developed for spacesuits use microencapsulated materials that melt when they get hot, keeping wearers comfortable by absorbing body heat; when temperatures fall, the materials solidify and warm the body.”

Dust On Our Furniture, Dust On Our Minds


“Dust is everywhere. We contribute to its multiplication through our polluting industries, by wearing clothes and using things around us, and in the course of merely living – shedding skin cells, hair, and other byproducts of our life. But we also are it. Both the Bible and William Shakespeare would have us believe as much.”

David Byrne: In A World Swimming In Choice – Algorithms Or Curation?


“Our past choices in all areas can be analysed to predict future choices. Our taste in music, movies, books, news articles and clothes can be analysed – but also our sexual proclivities, political alliances and moral decisions. Those can be deduced and used to make recommendations. Everything we think we are, it seems, can be predicted, the probabilities sifted – and the chances are that what we do will fall inside the bell curve of predicted behaviour. Free will? Are you kidding?”

Decline Of The French Intellectual


“Because of the end of Communism, which was deeply rooted among French intellectuals, the fading of structuralism, and anxiety about France’s identity in a globalised world, the French have come to doubt themselves and their intellectual destiny. This can be seen in the decline of France’s intellectual life and in its fading intellectual influence in the world.”

Neuroscience And Neighborhood Blight

neuroscience neighborhood blight

“Blocks and neighborhoods aren’t concrete concepts that mean the same thing to everyone, unlike, say, things like ‘apple’ or ‘sky.’ Points of reference shift depending on the person that’s using that reference, so blocks/neighborhoods are more like alternate realities laid atop one another, like plastic sheets on an overhead projector. There’s even a phrase for the study of this murky concept: mental maps. They can help us understand why some neighborhoods thrive, others die, and how changes are made.”

Some People Really Can Multitask – And Their Brains Are Different From Ours


For the past few years, scientists have been telling us that there’s not really any such thing as multitasking – that the best the human nervous system can manage is very fast task-switching, and that we get better results by concentrating on one thing at a time. Turns out there are a few exceptions – and researchers have been putting some of those individuals in a brain scanner.

How Bedbugs Get Under Our Skin And Into Our Psyches


They don’t transmit West Nile virus or Lyme disease or malaria, yet humans – especially city-dwellers – are terrified of them. Ashamed, too: If we get them, we’re reluctant to tell our friends, lest they avoid us. How and why do we give these critters such power over us?