“For more than 2,000 years, from the time of Thucydides to the middle of the 20th century, one of the primary purposes of learning about the past was to orient oneself towards the future.”
Zadie Smith: “To find your beach you have to be ruthless. Manhattan is for the hard-bodied, the hard-minded, the multitasker, the alpha mamas and papas. A perfect place for self-empowerment — as long as you’re pretty empowered to begin with. As long as you’re one of these people who simply do not allow anything — not even reality — to impinge upon that clear field of blue.”
“Every moment, our brains are bombarded with information, from without and within. The eyes alone convey more than a hundred billion signals to the brain every second. … How do our brains select the relevant data? How do we decide to pay attention to the turn of a doorknob and ignore the drip of a leaky faucet? How do we become conscious of a certain stimulus, or indeed ‘conscious’ at all?”
“What if the omnipresence of cameras and the act of recording helps some people to be more firmly in the moment than if they weren’t documenting it? Maybe it isn’t so much about the result of that documentation – the arguably inflationary numbers of selfies, time-lapses and photos – but about the mere act of consciously documenting?”
“The name of [this] ‘new attention disorder’ sounds like an Onion-style parody … It also sounds like a classic case of disease mongering: blurring normality with sickness to boost drug companies’ bottom lines. … Disease mongering is a tough concept to define – but if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. What we have here seems to be a duck egg.”
“A new generation of tech companies, however, have made Silicon Valley’s political needs less theoretical, and more immediate. They are taking on pre-existing, real-world industries. (The purely virtual ideas — search, portals, email — have been taken.) It’s harder to ignore politics when you’re changing the world, not just the web. And so these companies — Uber and Airbnb are the most obvious — have found a sweet spot where founders’ disdain for politics and regulators meets the smartest political strategy money can buy.”
“Even some of the most seemingly unemotional forms of trust can be deeply emotional. In other words, policymakers who want to improve our faith in others should take a page from the self-help crowd and do more to build a sense of social intimacy and promote what neuroeconomist Paul Zak once called the ‘empathic human connection’.”
“Every minute she’s asked to spend serving that function, valuable and necessary as it is, and perfectly understandable as it is that people are curious about her experiences, is a minute she’s not answering the same questions Damon Lindelof gets, or Joss Whedon gets, or Chuck Lorre gets. She’s not talking about her process, she’s not talking about her characters, she’s not telling her silly show business stories.”
The term “genius” in its modern sense was first adopted in the eighteenth century and it involved a conflation of two Latin terms: genius, which for the Romans was the god of our conception, imbuing us with particular personality traits but nevertheless a supernatural force external to us, and ingenium, a related noun referring to our internal dispositions and talents, our inborn nature.
“Over the last 50 years, the ‘Marshmallow Test’ has become synonymous with temptation, willpower, and grit. Walter Mischel’s work permeates popular culture.” In a Q&A, Mischel discusses “what the [test] really captures, how schools can use his work to help problem students, why men like Tiger Woods and President Bill Clinton may have suffered ‘willpower fatigue'” – and whether to worry if your pre-schooler flunks the test.
“If you go to the Boston Review Web site, you’ll find the slogan ‘Ideas Matter’ gracing the top of the homepage. … But in the social sciences, the idea that ideas matter has always been controversial. How much do ideas really matter? Do they affect individuals and societies more or less than do material circumstances such as economic incentives, physical constraints, and military force?” (In one way, definitely.)
“Relying on empathy to motivate charity means that it is not enough that the needy are humans, but they must also be lucky … The needy must also not be repulsive, but preferably be adorable. … The Abrahamic tradition has a different approach to altruism. The New and Old Testaments largely command people who are comfortable to give to people who aren’t – unconditionally.”
“The incentives are meant, in part, to encourage cultural activity among immigrants and other New Yorkers who may feel they cannot afford to visit the symphony or ballet. That anyone can sign up is by design: The de Blasio administration clearly hopes the cards will be embraced by a wide swath of residents, reducing any potential stigma they may carry.”