Strategic Allocation of Attention
In recent decades, psychology and neuroscience have severely eroded classical notions of free will. The unconscious mind, it turns out, is most of the mind. And yet we can still control the spotlight of attention, focusing on those ideas that will help us succeed. In the end, this may be the only thing we can control.
Human societies are already far more similar than ever before. And it would be very tempting to imagine that a modern democracy based on equal rights and opportunities is a system in equilibrium. This seems unlikely given our current energy footprint. More likely, if the total system energy is depleted too fast, is that modern democracies will be compromised if the system crashes to its lowest equilibrium too quickly for socially equitable evolution.
We don’t need to be 100 per cent sure that the worst fears of climate scientists are correct in order to act. All we need to think about are the consequences of being wrong. Let’s assume for a moment that there is no human-caused climate change, or that the consequences are not dire, and we’ve made big investments to divert it. What’s the worst that happens?
The Culture Cycle
No one explains what, exactly, culture is, how it works, or how to change it for the better. A cognitive tool that fills this gap is the culture cycle, a tool that not only describes how culture works but also prescribes how to make lasting change. The culture cycle is the iterative recursive process whereby people create cultures to which they later adapt, and cultures shape people so they act in ways that perpetuate the cultures.
Designing Your Mind
How can we use design thinking to change the way we think? Good design typically begins with some principles and functional objectives. You might wish to perceive and absorb information effectively, concentrate, remember, infer meaning, be creative, write, speak, and communicate well, and enjoy important collaborations and human relationships. How could we design our use of or abstinence from media to achieve these goals?
The Pareto Principle
You see the pattern everywhere: The top one percent of the population controls 35 % of the wealth. On Twitter the top 2 percent of users sends 60% of the messages. In the health care system, the treatment of the most expensive fifth of patients creates four fifths of the overall cost. This pattern was so common that Pareto called it a “predictable imbalance”. Despite this bit of century-old optimism, however, we are still failing to predict it, even though it is everywhere.
Much creativity emerges from constraint satisfaction. Creativity can also emerge when you decide to change, exclude, or add a constraint. Perhaps, paradoxically, adding constraints can actually enhance creativity, – if a task is too open or unstructured, it may be so unconstrained that it’s difficult to devise any solution
The Web of Causality
If we are trying to identify where the next transformation of our worldview will come from, we need to take a fresh look at our deep intuitions. Causality is usually understood as meaning that there is a single, preceding cause for an event. However, complex systems, such as financial markets or the Earth’s biosphere, do not seem to obey causality. For every event that occurs, there a multitude of possible causes, and the extent to which one contributes to the event is not clear, not even after the fact! One might say there is a web of causation.
Like keystone species, keystone consumers also have a disproportionate impact relative to their abundance. Biologists identify keystone species as conservation priorities because their disappearance could cause the loss of many other species. In the marketplace, keystone consumers should be priorities because their disappearance could lead to the recovery of the resource. Human should protect keystone species and curb keystone consumption. The lives of others depend on it.
The Principle of Empiricism
Empiricism is the deepest and broadest principle for explaining the phenomena in both the natural and social worlds. Empiricism is the principle that says we should see for ourselves instead of trusting the authority of others. Empiricism is the foundation of science.
In an ever more atomized culture, it’s the connectors of silos, the bridgers of worlds, that accrue the greatest value. So we need to promote the intellectual synapses, the journalistic synapses, the political synapses, – the rare individuals who pull down walls, who connect divergent ideas, who dare to link two mutually incompatible fixed ideas in order to promote understanding.
To understand earthquakes in Oklahoma, the earth’s sixth mass extinction, or the rapid melting of the Greenland ice sheet, we need the Anthropocene, – an epoch that acknowledges humans as a global geologic force. The Holocene is outdated because it cannot explain the recent changes to the planet: the now 400-parts-per-million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, the radioactive elements present in the earth’s strata from detonating nuclear weapons, or that one in five species in large ecosystems is considered invasive.
Ocean acidification, a stealthy side effect of rising anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, is a recently discovered, little recognized global climate-change threat that should be more widely known. Today the only viable way to slow ocean acidification on a global scale is to reduce human-induced carbon dioxide emissions.
Whether it’s to save more, to eat less, to be kind, or to reduce a carbon footprint, the resolutions we make will likely require forbearance. And promoting that forbearance means that all of us, scientists and non-scientists alike, should continue exploring in a multidisciplinary manner the mind’s inclination toward selfish, short term temptations and its many mechanisms to overcome them.
Algorithms are rules for determining outcomes. Stories are guides to decision-making along the way. A story teaches us to make new mistakes rather than recursively repeating the old. It reminds us that the reach of algorithms is perhaps more limited than we think. By beginning with rather than arriving at meaning, a story can overcome the determinism of chance.
Fallibilism is the guiding principle of free, open, liberal, secular societies. If the laws of nature can be wrong, then how much more fallible are our social and political arrangements? Even our morals, for example, don’t reflect some absolute truth, – god-given or otherwise. They too are hypotheses, – biological and cultural attempts to solve the problems of cooperation and conflict inherent in human social life.
Intellectual Honesty lets us stand outside ourselves and think in ways that others can, and should, find compelling. It rests on the understanding that wanting something to be true isn’t a reason to believe that it is true; rather it is a further cause to worry that we might be out of touch with reality in the first place. In this sense intellectual honesty makes real knowledge possible.
Russell conjugation, or emotive conjugation, is a currently obscure construction from linguistics, psychology, and rhetoric which demonstrates how our rational minds are shielded from understanding the junior role that factual information generally plays relative to empathy in the formation of opinions.
In order to understand the concept properly, you have to appreciate that most words and phrases are actually defined not by a single dictionary but rather by two distinct attributes
The great promise of the Internet was that more information would automatically yield better decisions. The great disappointment is that more information actually yields more possibilities to confirm what we believed anyway.