Steven Pinker

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pages: 281 words: 79,464

Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion by Paul Bloom

affirmative action, Albert Einstein, Asperger Syndrome, Atul Gawande, Columbine, David Brooks, Donald Trump, effective altruism, Ferguson, Missouri, impulse control, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Paul Erdős, period drama, Peter Singer: altruism, publication bias, Ralph Waldo Emerson, replication crisis, Ronald Reagan, social intelligence, Stanford marshmallow experiment, Steven Pinker, theory of mind, Walter Mischel, Yogi Berra

I’ve argued elsewhere that this capacity for moral reason has had dramatic consequences. As scholars like Steven Pinker, Robert Wright, and Peter Singer have noted, our moral circle has expanded over history: Our attitudes about the rights of women, homosexuals, and racial minorities have all shifted toward inclusiveness. Most recently, there has been a profound difference in how people in my own community treat trans individuals—we are watching moral progress happen in real time. But this is not because our hearts have opened up over the course of history. We are not more empathic than our great-grandparents. We really don’t think of humanity as our family and we never will. Rather, our concern for others reflects a more abstract appreciation that regardless of our feelings, their lives have the same value as the lives of those we love. Steven Pinker put this nicely: The Old Testament tells us to love our neighbors, the New Testament to love our enemies.

Hambrick and Christopher Chabris, “Yes, IQ Really Matters,” Slate, April 14, 2014, http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2014/04/what_do_sat_and_iq_tests_measure_gen eral_intelligence_predicts_school_and.html. 233 professional moral philosophers Eric Schwitzgebel and Joshua Rust, “The Moral Behavior of Ethics Professors: Relationships Among Self-Reported Behavior, Expressed Normative Attitude, and Directly Observed Behavior,” Philosophical Psychology 27 (2014): 293–327. 234 Walter Mischel investigated For a review, see Walter Mischel, The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control (Boston: Little, Brown, 2014). studies of exceptional altruists Abigail A. Marsh et al., “Neural and Cognitive Characteristics of Extraordinary Altruists,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111 (2014): 15036–41. Steven Pinker has argued Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (New York: Penguin Books, 2011). 235 Smith discusses the qualities Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (Lawrence, KS: Digireads.com, 2010), 130. studies run by Geoffrey Cohen Geoffrey L. Cohen, “Party Over Policy: The Dominating Impact of Group Influence on Political Beliefs,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 85 (2003): 808–22. 236 Other studies have found Philip M.

There are many who have made the case for the unreliability of empathy, such as Richard Davidson, Sam Harris, Jesse Prinz, and Peter Singer, and those who have argued for the centrality of reason in everyday life, such as Michael Lynch and Michael Shermer. It’s reassuring to have these scholars on my side. Others have done the work of outlining empathy’s limits and of carefully distinguishing empathy from other capacities, such as compassion and a sense of justice. I’m thinking here of Jean Decety, David DeSteno, Joshua Greene, Martin Hoffman, Larissa MacFarquhar, Martha Nussbaum, and Steven Pinker. I am particularly impressed by the research of Tania Singer, a cognitive neuroscientist, and Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk—two scholars working together to explore the distinction between empathy and compassion. I’ve been influenced as well by a novelist, Leslie Jamison, and a literary scholar, Elaine Scarry, both of whom have fascinating things to say about empathy and its limits. This book contains six chapters and two interludes.


pages: 363 words: 109,374

50 Psychology Classics by Tom Butler-Bowdon

1960s counterculture, Albert Einstein, cognitive dissonance, conceptual framework, corporate governance, delayed gratification, fear of failure, feminist movement, global village, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, lateral thinking, Mikhail Gorbachev, Milgram experiment, Necker cube, Ronald Reagan, social intelligence, Steven Pinker, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

Despite the difficulty of some of the concepts, people have a deep hunger for knowledge on how the mind works, human motivation, and behavior, and in the last 15 years there has been something of a new golden age in popular psychology writing, with authors such as Daniel Goleman, Steven Pinker, Martin Seligman, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi fulfilling that need. Below is a brief introduction to the titles covered in 50 Psychology Classics. The books are divided into seven categories that, although unconventional, may help you to choose titles according to the themes that interest you most. At the rear of this book you will find an alternative list of “50 More Classics.” Again, this is not a definitive list, but it may assist in any further reading you wish to do. Behavior, biology, and genes: A science of the brain Louann Brizendine, The Female Brain William James, The Principles of Psychology Alfred Kinsey, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female Anne Moir & David Jessel, Brainsex Jean Piaget, The Language and Thought of the Child Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate V.

Ramachandran Phantoms in the Brain (p 232) * * * CHAPTER 40 Steven Pinker The well-worn debate about “nature vs nurture” concerns whether we come into the world already wired to have certain traits or talents, or are totally molded by our culture and environment. In the 1960s and 1970s, parents took on board the expert advice of behavioral psychologists, anthropologists, and sociologists that environment was everything. They did their bit in creating a more peaceful, less sexist world by not letting their boys play with toy guns and giving them dolls instead. Anyone who has had children, however, knows that from day one each child is innately different to their siblings. Leading experimental and cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker wrote The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature to correct many wild claims about how malleable the human mind is, and to expose the myth that all our behaviors are the result of socialization.

The Blank Slate is a big, fat book that will take you a while to read and fully understand. It is an intellectual tour de force, and may well shatter some of your cherished opinions or shift them to firmer scientific ground. It is easy to see why Pinker is in the top echelon of popular science writers today—his work combines scientific gravitas with a highly enjoyable style. Steven Pinker Born in 1954 in Montreal, Canada, Steven Pinker has degrees from McGill University and Harvard, where he obtained his PhD in experimental psychology. He is best known for his research into language and cognition. Other books include The Language Instinct (1994), How the Mind Works (1997), Visual Cognition (1985), Lexical and Conceptual Semantics (1992), and Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language (1999). Until 2003 Pinker was a professor of psychology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and director of its Center for Cognitive Neuroscience.


pages: 262 words: 66,800

Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future by Johan Norberg

agricultural Revolution, anti-communist, availability heuristic, Bartolomé de las Casas, Berlin Wall, British Empire, business climate, clean water, continuation of politics by other means, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, demographic transition, desegregation, Donald Trump, Flynn Effect, germ theory of disease, Gini coefficient, Gunnar Myrdal, Haber-Bosch Process, Hans Island, Hans Rosling, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, income inequality, income per capita, indoor plumbing, Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, John Snow's cholera map, Kibera, Louis Pasteur, Mahatma Gandhi, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mikhail Gorbachev, more computing power than Apollo, moveable type in China, Naomi Klein, Nelson Mandela, open economy, place-making, Rosa Parks, sexual politics, special economic zone, Steven Pinker, telerobotics, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transatlantic slave trade, very high income, working poor, Xiaogang Anhui farmers, zero-sum game

We tend to think about new or current conflicts, like the civil war in Syria, but we forget the conflicts that ended in countries such as Sri Lanka, Angola and Chad during the same time. We often think of the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have killed around 650,000 people, but we rarely talk about the conflicts in those countries between 1979 and 1989, which killed more than two million people. War and violence used to be the natural state of humanity. The cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, on whose exhaustive research on the history of violence I draw heavily in this chapter, writes that the dramatic reduction in violence ‘may be the most important thing that has ever happened in human history’.2 A tour through our cultural heritage, our myths, proverbs and even our language reveal how much of an everyday occurrence brutal violence was. The old folktales that the Grimm Brothers collected and retold in the early nineteenth century were filled with murder, cannibalism, mutilation and sexual abuse.

Torture and mutilation have been regularly applied in all great civilizations, from the Assyrians, Persians and Chinese to the African kingdoms and the Native American tribes, but the medieval Christian culture was more creative than most, and some of that era’s best minds were occupied with coming up with ways of inflicting as much pain as possible on people before they confessed or died. As Steven Pinker summarizes it: Torture was meted out by national and local governments throughout the Continent, and it was codified in laws that prescribed blinding, branding, amputation of hands, ears, noses and tongues, and other forms of mutilation as punishments for minor crimes. Executions were orgies of sadism, climaxing with ordeals of prolonged killing such as burning at the stake, breaking on the wheel, pulling apart by horses, impalement through the rectum, disembowelment by winding a man’s intestines around a spool, and even hanging, which was a slow racking and strangulation rather than a quick breaking of the neck.5 We know that torture is practised today as well, especially in dictatorships, but even in some advanced democracies like the United States.

In a world of sudden early death, violence and hunger, it was easy to assume that the gods were bloodthirsty, and if this was the case, why not try to appease them by sacrificing someone else rather than wait for them to take you? But human sacrifice was also abolished in all cultures, often at first replaced by animal sacrifice. It could be that knowledge of history and other cultures provides evidence to counter such beliefs. It could be that greater wealth, along with longer and more predictable lives, erodes fatalism and generally leads people to value the lives of others more. According to Steven Pinker’s sources, the average annual rate of violent death for non-state societies – and this includes everything from hunter-gatherer tribes to gold rush societies in California – is 524 per 100,000. If we add all the deaths from wars, genocide, purges and man-made famines in the twentieth century, we still don’t get a rate higher than 60 per 100,000 annually.6 The first step in the pacification process was associated with the early agricultural civilizations.


pages: 661 words: 187,613

The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language by Steven Pinker

Albert Einstein, cloud computing, David Attenborough, double helix, Drosophila, elephant in my pajamas, finite state, illegal immigration, Joan Didion, Loebner Prize, mass immigration, Maui Hawaii, meta analysis, meta-analysis, MITM: man-in-the-middle, natural language processing, out of africa, phenotype, rolodex, Ronald Reagan, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, Saturday Night Live, speech recognition, Steven Pinker, theory of mind, transatlantic slave trade, Turing machine, Turing test, twin studies, Yogi Berra

., 58–60, 468 X-bar theory, 99–105, 124, 127–129, 239, 289, 432, glossary Xhosa, 168 Yamanashi, M., 168, PS14 Yiddish, 56, 170, 253, 263, 378 Yourcenar, M., 135 Yngve, V, 457 Zurif, E., 321 P.S. Insights, Interviews & More… About the author Meet Steven Pinker About the book On Writing The Language Instinct Frequently Asked Questions The Language Instinct Today Read on Author’s Picks: Suggested Reading Have You Read? More by Steven Pinker Notes to P.S. Material References to P.S. Material About the author Meet Steven Pinker © 2005 by Rebecca Goldstein THE LANGUAGE INSTINCT is dedicated to my parents, “who gave me language”; the ambiguity between nature and nurture was, of course, intentional. As someone who believes that nature has been underestimated in intellectual life, I must begin my life story not with the supportive environment they provided me but earlier, with the kind of people they are.

Steven Pinker The Language Instinct How the Mind Creates Language for Harry and Roslyn Pinker who gave me language Contents Preface 1. An Instinct to Acquire an Art 2. Chatterboxes 3. Mentalese 4. How Language Works 5. Words, Words, Words 6. The Sounds of Silence 7. Talking Heads 8. The Tower of Babel 9. Baby Born Talking—Describes Heaven 10. Language Organs and Grammar Genes 11. The Big Bang 12. The Language Mavens 13. Mind Design Notes References Glossary Searchable Terms P.S. Insights, Interviews & More… About the Author Praise Other Books by Steven Pinker Credits Copyright About the Publisher Preface I have never met a person who is not interested in language.

A history of the world through the history of its languages. Maryanne Wolf, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain (2007). Last-minute addition: another excellent book on the science of reading. Have You Read? More by Steven Pinker WORDS AND RULES: THE INGREDIENTS OF LANGUAGE How does language work, and how do we learn to speak? Why do languages change over time, and why do they have so many quirks and irregularities? In this original and totally entertaining book, written in the same engaging style that illuminated his bestselling classics, The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works, Steven Pinker explores the profound mysteries of language. By picking a deceptively simple phenomenon—regular and irregular verbs—Pinker connects an astonishing array of topics in the sciences and the humanities: the history of languages; the theories of Noam Chomsky and his critics; the attempts to create language using computer simulations of neural networks; what there is to learn from children’s grammatical “mistakes”; the latest techniques in identifying genes and imaging the brain; and major ideas in the history of Western philosophy.


pages: 677 words: 121,255

Giving the Devil His Due: Reflections of a Scientific Humanist by Michael Shermer

Alfred Russel Wallace, anthropic principle, anti-communist, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, Boycotts of Israel, Chelsea Manning, clean water, clockwork universe, cognitive dissonance, Colonization of Mars, Columbine, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, creative destruction, dark matter, Donald Trump, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, Flynn Effect, germ theory of disease, gun show loophole, Hans Rosling, hedonic treadmill, helicopter parent, hindsight bias, illegal immigration, income inequality, invisible hand, Johannes Kepler, Joseph Schumpeter, laissez-faire capitalism, Laplace demon, luminiferous ether, McMansion, means of production, mega-rich, Menlo Park, moral hazard, moral panic, More Guns, Less Crime, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, positional goods, race to the bottom, Richard Feynman, Ronald Coase, Silicon Valley, Skype, social intelligence, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transaction costs, WikiLeaks, working poor, Yogi Berra

First published 2020 Printed in the United Kingdom by TJ International Ltd, Padstow Cornwall A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library. ISBN 978-1-108-48978-2 Hardback Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate. This book is dedicated to my friends Christopher Hitchens and Steven Pinker, peerless champions of liberty who have always given the devil his due … for our own safety’s sake. Contents Acknowledgments IntroductionWho Is the Devil and What Is He Due? Part IThe Advocatus Diaboli: Reflections on Free Thought and Free Speech1Giving the Devil His Due: Why Freedom of Inquiry and Speech in Science and Politics Is Inviolable 2Banning Evil: In the Shadow of the Christchurch Massacre, Myths about Evil and Hate Speech Are Misleading 3Free Speech Even If It Hurts: Defending Holocaust Denier David Irving 4Free to Inquire: The Evolution–Creationism Controversy as a Test Case in Equal Time and Free Speech 5Ben Stein’s Blunder: Why Intelligent Design Advocates Are Not Free Speech Martyrs 6What Went Wrong?

When I argue that free speech is inviolable and sacrosanct, I mean this in the broadest sense, even while acknowledging that some restrictions are both legally and morally necessary, such as leaking the nuclear codes to an enemy nation, libeling someone in a way that damages their reputation and income, extorting others to give up money or freedom, and fraudulently stealing from others what isn’t rightfully yours through persuasion. But as the Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker explained, these exceptions must be strictly delineated and individually justified; they are not an excuse to treat speech as one fungible good among many. Despots in so-called “democratic republics” routinely jail their opponents on charges of treason, libel, and inciting lawlessness. Britain’s lax libel laws have been used to silence critics of political figures, business oligarchs, Holocaust deniers, and medical quacks.

He coined the meme in a 1919 Supreme Court case that upheld the conviction of a man who distributed leaflets encouraging men to resist the draft during World War I, a clear expression of opinion in a democracy. And if you object to these arguments – if you want to expose a flaw in my logic or a lapse in my accuracy – it’s the right of free speech that allows you to do so.13 It is for these reasons – and many others – that this book is dedicated to my friends Christopher Hitchens and Steven Pinker, peerless champions of liberty who have always given the devil his due … for our own safety’s sake. Part I The Advocatus Diaboli: Reflections on Free Thought and Free Speech Chapter 1 Giving the Devil His Due Why Freedom of Inquiry and Speech in Science and Politics Is Inviolable Preamble This article was originally published in the November/December 2018 issue of the Journal of Criminal Justice as a “Special Issue on the Study of Ethnicity and Race in Criminology and Criminal Justice,” addressing a target article by the psychologist James Flynn on “Academic Freedom and Race,” dealing with the always-controversial topic of racial group differences in IQ scores.


pages: 579 words: 183,063

Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice From the Best in the World by Timothy Ferriss

23andMe, A Pattern Language, agricultural Revolution, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, Bayesian statistics, bitcoin, Black Swan, blockchain, Brownian motion, Buckminster Fuller, Clayton Christensen, cloud computing, cognitive dissonance, Colonization of Mars, corporate social responsibility, cryptocurrency, David Heinemeier Hansson, dematerialisation, don't be evil, double helix, effective altruism, Elon Musk, Ethereum, ethereum blockchain, family office, fear of failure, Gary Taubes, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, Google Hangouts, Gödel, Escher, Bach, haute couture, helicopter parent, high net worth, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, income inequality, index fund, Jeff Bezos, job satisfaction, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Kevin Kelly, Lao Tzu, Law of Accelerating Returns, Lyft, Mahatma Gandhi, Marc Andreessen, Marshall McLuhan, Mikhail Gorbachev, minimum viable product, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, Naomi Klein, non-fiction novel, Peter Thiel, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ray Kurzweil, Saturday Night Live, side project, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart cities, smart contracts, Snapchat, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, TaskRabbit, Tesla Model S, too big to fail, Turing machine, uber lyft, web application, Whole Earth Catalog, Y Combinator

(They seem to want to bring messages to Winterfell.) Oh, that’s right, I love treating the neighbors’ dogs. Also, I love playing with babies, mostly staring at each other and smiling. Drooling is also involved, and sometimes it’s the baby. “If it’s already common knowledge, it’s probably too late to make a major contribution. If you’re the only one excited, you may be deluding yourself.” Steven Pinker TW: @sapinker FB: /Stevenpinkerpage stevenpinker.com STEVEN PINKER is a Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. He conducts research on language and cognition, writes for publications such as The New York Times and The Atlantic, and is the author of ten books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate, The Better Angels of Our Nature, and most recently, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.

Money Mustache David Lynch Nick Szabo Jon Call Quotes I’m Pondering (Tim Ferriss: Feb. 3–Feb. 24, 2017) Dara Torres Dan Gable Caroline Paul Darren Aronofsky Evan Williams Quotes I’m Pondering (Tim Ferriss: March 10–March 24, 2017) Bram Cohen Chris Anderson Neil Gaiman Michael Gervais Temple Grandin Quotes I’m Pondering (Tim Ferriss: March 31–April 21, 2017) Kelly Slater Katrín Tanja Davíðsdóttir Mathew Fraser Adam Fisher Aisha Tyler Quotes I’m Pondering (Tim Ferriss: April 28–May 12, 2017) Laura R. Walker Terry Laughlin Marc Benioff Marie Forleo Drew Houston Scott Belsky Quotes I’m Pondering (Tim Ferriss: May 19–June 2, 2017) Tim McGraw Muneeb Ali How to Say No: Neal Stephenson Craig Newmark Steven Pinker Gretchen Rubin Whitney Cummings Quotes I’m Pondering (Tim Ferriss: June 9–June 16, 2017) Rick Rubin Ryan Shea Ben Silbermann Vlad Zamfir Zooko Wilcox Stephanie McMahon Quotes I’m Pondering (Tim Ferriss: June 23–July 7, 2017) Peter Attia Steve Aoki Jim Loehr Daniel Negreanu Jocko Willink Quotes I’m Pondering (Tim Ferriss: July 14–July 27, 2017) Robert Rodriguez Kristen Ulmer Yuval Noah Harari Some Closing Thoughts Breathe Recommended Resources The Top 25 Episodes of The Tim Ferriss Show Extended Conversations Mentor Index Question Index Subject Index Acknowledgments Sample Chapter from TOOLS OF TITANS Buy the Book About the Author Connect with HMH Footnotes Copyright © 2017 by Timothy Ferriss All rights reserved.

The people I interview have read hundreds or thousands of books, so it’s a labor-intensive question for them, and they rightly worry about picking a “favorite,” which then gets quoted and put in articles, Wikipedia, etc. “Most gifted” is lower risk, an easier search query (easier to recall), and implies benefits for a broader spectrum of people, which the idiosyncratic “favorite” does not. For the curious and impatient among you, here are a few books (of many) that came up a lot: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari Poor Charlie’s Almanack by Charlie Munger If you’d like to see all of the recommended books in one place, including a list of the top 20 most recommended from this book and Tools of Titans, you can find all the goodies at tim.blog/booklist 2. What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)?


pages: 270 words: 71,659

The Right Side of History by Ben Shapiro

Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Filter Bubble, illegal immigration, income inequality, Internet Archive, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, labor-force participation, longitudinal study, means of production, Peace of Westphalia, Ronald Reagan, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, white picket fence, women in the workforce

Allum Bokhari, “Lawsuit: Google Instructed Managers That ‘Individual Achievement’ and ‘Objectivity’ Were Examples of ‘White Dominant Culture,’” Breitbart.com, April 18, 2018, http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2018/04/18/lawsuit-google-instructed-managers-that-individual-achievement-and-objectivity-were-examples-of-white-dominant-culture/. 30. Joshua Loftus, “Steven Pinker’s Radical Centrism and the ‘Alt-right,’” Medium.com, January 11, 2018, https://medium.com/@joftius/steven-pinkers-radical-centrism-and-the-alt-right-b261fde5a24f. 31. Twitter, January 9, 2018, https://twitter.com/jbouie/status/950794932066947072?lang=en. 32. Eric Turkheimer, Kathryn Paige Harden, and Richard E. Nisbett, “Charles Murray Is Once Again Peddling Junk Science about Race and IQ,” Vox.com, May 18, 2017, https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2017/5/18/15655638/charles-murray-race-iq-sam-harris-science-free-speech. 33.

According to economics professors at Stanford and Brown, political polarization is taking place more for “demographic groups least likely to use the internet and social media.”19 Polarization seems to cross demographic boundaries, without reference to level of technological use.20 Finally, there’s the most basic argument of all: for whatever reason, human nature has kicked back in. We’re naturally tribal, naturally possessive, naturally angry. For a while, we suppressed those instincts; we called that the “Enlightenment.” Jonah Goldberg, in his masterful Suicide of the West, calls that overthrow of human instinct “The Miracle.”21 Steven Pinker, author of Enlightenment Now, makes a similar case: he says that the Enlightenment changed everything—that it brought about science and humanism, reason and progress. Enlightenment thinking substituted rationality for irrationality, and the effect was the creation of the modern world.22 Goldberg, arguing that Enlightenment ideals are unnatural, says that our current dissolution looks like a reversion to our tribal, reactionary nature.

If the new science had called into question the possibility of universal human truths, advocates of scientism were willing to overlook that, too. Instead, these neo-Enlightenment thinkers returned to the premises of the Enlightenment in the name of science: the same Enlightenment that had brought about scientific progress, they argued, had ushered in an age of universal morality as well. Take, for example, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker. Pinker’s book Enlightenment Now is a powerful ode to Enlightenment values. Where Wilson discards Kant as antiscientific, Pinker embraces Kant’s call to “understand.” He also endorses in glowing terms the power of reason: “The Enlightenment principle that we can apply reason and sympathy to enhance human flourishing may seem obvious, trite, old-fashioned. . . . I have come to realize that it is not.”20 And Pinker is obviously correct in celebrating in voluminous fashion the outgrowth of human reason—the material gains that are its products.


pages: 284 words: 84,169

Talk on the Wild Side by Lane Greene

Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Albert Einstein, Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, ending welfare as we know it, experimental subject, facts on the ground, framing effect, Google Chrome, illegal immigration, invisible hand, meta analysis, meta-analysis, moral panic, natural language processing, obamacare, Ronald Reagan, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, Snapchat, speech recognition, Steven Pinker, Turing test, Wall-E

Berit Brogaard, “The Feral Child Nicknamed Genie”, Psychology Today, July 10th 2017. 9. Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language. First published 1994. Harper Perennial edition published 2000, p. 62. 10. At the time of this writing, April 2018, the papers were available online at http://originsofman.angelfire.com/pdf/galileo.pdf; http://originsofman.angelfire.com/pdf/newton.pdf; and http://originsofman.angelfire.com/pdf/einstein.pdf 11. See the discussion at Merriam-Webster’s webpage: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/is-it-wrong-to-say-between-you-and-i 12. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, pp. 262–3. 13. Bryan Garner, “Shall We Abandon ‘Shall’?”, ABA Journal, August 1st 2012, at http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/shall_we_abandon_shall/ 14. Steven Pinker, The Sense of Style, Viking Penguin (2014), pp. 112–13. 3.

Intelligent people with a certain bent seem to have no trouble thinking logically, when they set their minds to it. But speaking in real time is a different matter. While experienced Lojbanists write without too much trouble, they seem to struggle in speech. What’s going on? One possibility is that Lojban does not fit the template of the kind of languages humans are supposed to learn. This is the “language instinct” hypothesis, whose most famous proponents are Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker. They claim that all human languages share underlying features that the brain is primed to learn. This could be one reason why children speak so fluently by age five despite little instruction, and while highly intelligent adults seem to struggle mightily with Lojban: the brain doesn’t want inflexible predicates and arguments. It wants nouns and verbs, or something like them.6 Perhaps Lojban can be acquired as a second language, but not as a first one, because it doesn’t fit the brain’s template of a language.

In other words, she could clearly think.8 So can people with a condition called Broca’s (or agrammatic) aphasia, who have lost the ability to use grammar normally. Their stories, like Genie’s, come out as a mess of content words that give a clear gist but which do not form grammatical sentences. They are nonetheless comprehensible; Broca’s aphasia affects only language production. Indeed, sufferers often show frustration that they can’t express what is obviously clear in their minds. People can even solve complex intellectual problems without words. Steven Pinker, in The Language Instinct, lists a host of scientists from Michael Faraday (electromagnetism) to James Watson and Francis Crick (the helical structure of DNA) whose breakthroughs were visual, not verbal. Pinker concludes with a quotation from Einstein, who described the thought experiments that led to some of his breakthroughs: “this combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought – before there is any connection with logical construction in words or other kinds of signs which can be communicated to others.”9 Of course, people do think in language sometimes.


pages: 420 words: 130,714

Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist by Richard Dawkins

agricultural Revolution, Alfred Russel Wallace, anthropic principle, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Boris Johnson, David Attenborough, Donald Trump, double helix, Drosophila, epigenetics, Fellow of the Royal Society, Google Earth, John Harrison: Longitude, Kickstarter, lone genius, Mahatma Gandhi, mental accounting, Necker cube, nuclear winter, out of africa, p-value, phenotype, place-making, placebo effect, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, twin studies

Only humans can say things like: ‘The leopard who has cubs, and who normally sits in the tree by the river in the direction of the mountain, is now crouching in the long grass beyond the hut belonging to the father of the chief.’ Theoretically there is no limit to the depth of embedding of relative and prepositional clauses within one another, although keeping track of deep, multiple embedding makes demands on the brain’s computational machinery. Steven Pinker’s The Language Instinct is a beautifully written, evolutionarily slanted introduction to such matters. *31 The seminal book on evolutionary psychology, with chapters by many of its leading practitioners, is the volume edited by J. H. Barkow, L. Cosmides and J. Tooby, The Adapted Mind. Not long after this lecture was given, Steven Pinker’s masterly How the Mind Works appeared. Evolutionary psychology, for reasons I don’t understand, arouses incandescent hostility in quarters where I wouldn’t expect it. The complaints seem to centre on particular studies that are poorly conceived or executed.

AFTERWORD Although the onus is not on me to say where religious people find the modern consensus whereby they decide which are the good verses of the Bible and which the horrible ones, there is nevertheless a genuinely interesting question lurking here. Where do our twenty-first-century values come from, as opposed to the relatively nasty ones of earlier centuries? What has changed, such that in the 1920s ‘votes for women’ was a daringly radical proposal, leading to riots in the streets, whereas now to forbid women the vote is regarded as an obvious outrage? Looking back to earlier centuries, Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of our Nature and Michael Shermer’s The Moral Arc document inexorable improvements in our values. Improvements by whose standards? By the standards of modern times, of course – a line of reasoning which, although circular, is not viciously so. Think of the slave trade, think of killing as a spectator sport in the Roman Colosseum; of bear-baiting, burning at the stake, treatment of prisoners including prisoners of war before the Geneva Convention.

‘In science, “fact” can only mean “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.” I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms’ (‘Evolution as fact and theory’, in Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes). *4 Professors of ‘Women’s Studies’ are occasionally given to lauding ‘women’s ways of knowing’ as if these were different from, even superior to, logical or scientific ways of knowing. As Steven Pinker rightly said, such talk is an insult to women. *5 Quoted in Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, p. 234. See also Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt, Higher Superstition, for a chilling collection and justifiably savage indictment of similar drivel including ‘Cultural Constructivism’, ‘Afrocentric Science’, ‘Feminist Algebra’ and ‘Science Studies’, not forgetting Sandra Harding’s ‘stirring assertion that Newton’s Principia Mathematica Philosophae Naturalis is a “rape manual” ’


Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? by Bill McKibben

23andMe, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, American Legislative Exchange Council, Anne Wojcicki, artificial general intelligence, Bernie Sanders, Bill Joy: nanobots, Burning Man, call centre, carbon footprint, Charles Lindbergh, clean water, Colonization of Mars, computer vision, David Attenborough, Donald Trump, double helix, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, ending welfare as we know it, energy transition, Flynn Effect, Google Earth, Hyperloop, impulse control, income inequality, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, life extension, light touch regulation, Mark Zuckerberg, mass immigration, megacity, Menlo Park, moral hazard, Naomi Klein, Nelson Mandela, obamacare, off grid, oil shale / tar sands, pattern recognition, Peter Thiel, plutocrats, Plutocrats, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ray Kurzweil, Robert Mercer, Ronald Reagan, Sam Altman, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, smart meter, Snapchat, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, strong AI, supervolcano, technoutopianism, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, traffic fines, Travis Kalanick, urban sprawl, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Y Combinator, Y2K, yield curve

Recent years have seen the publication of a dozen high-profile books and a hundred TED talks devoted to the idea that everything in the world is steadily improving. They share not only a format (endless series of graphs showing centuries of decreasing infant mortality or rising income) but also a tone of perplexed exasperation that any thinking person could perceive the present moment as dark. As Steven Pinker, the author of the sanguine Enlightenment Now, explained, “None of us are as happy as we ought to be, given how amazing our world has become.” People, he added, just “seem to bitch, moan, whine, carp and kvetch.”1 I’m grateful for those books because, among other things, they remind us precisely how much we have to lose if our civilizations do indeed falter. But the fact that living conditions have improved in our world over the last few hundred years offers no proof that we face a benign future.

Even compared to the twentieth century, violence is now far less likely to kill us—of the more than 55 million people who died around the world in 2012, war killed just 120,000 of them.2 Eighty-five percent of adults can read now, a staggering increase inside two generations.3 Women, with more education and at least a modicum of equality, have gone from having more than five kids apiece on average in 1970 to having fewer than two and a half today, probably the most rapid and remarkable demographic change the planet has ever witnessed. In the year 1500, humans managed to produce goods and services worth $250 billion in today’s dollars—five hundred years later, that number is $60 trillion, a 240-fold increase.4 The chorus of affirmation swells, from Steven Pinker insisting we’re in an age of unprecedented enlightenment to Donald Trump tweeting, “There is an incredible spirit of optimism sweeping the country right now—we’re bringing back the JOBS!” We’re quite accustomed to this idea of progress, so accustomed that some can’t imagine anything else: the former chief economist of the World Bank, Kaushik Basu, recently predicted that, in fifty years, global GDP will be growing 20 percent a year, meaning that income and consumption will be doubling every four years or so.5 There are, each day, more ideas hatched, more songs sung, more pictures taken, more goals scored, more schoolbooks read, more money invested

Economists calculated that it would take twenty-six years for the island’s economy to get back to where it had been the day before the storm hit40—if, of course, another hurricane didn’t strike in the meantime. Or look at people living so close to the margin that small changes make a huge difference. I noted earlier that we’ve seen a steady decline in extreme poverty and hunger. “Our problem is not too few calories but too many,” Steven Pinker wrote smugly.41 But late in 2017, a UN agency announced that after a decade of decline, the number of chronically malnourished human beings had started growing again, by 38 million, to a total of 815 million, “largely due to the proliferation of violent conflicts and climate-related shocks.”42 In June 2018, researchers said the same sad thing about child labor: after years of decrease, it, too, was on the rise, with 152 million kids at work, “driven by an increase in conflicts and climate induced disasters.”43 Those “conflicts,” too, are ever more closely linked to the damage we’ve done to the climate.


pages: 306 words: 82,765

Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

availability heuristic, Benoit Mandelbrot, Bernie Madoff, Black Swan, Brownian motion, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Cass Sunstein, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, cognitive dissonance, complexity theory, David Graeber, disintermediation, Donald Trump, Edward Thorp, equity premium, financial independence, information asymmetry, invisible hand, knowledge economy, loss aversion, mandelbrot fractal, mental accounting, microbiome, moral hazard, Murray Gell-Mann, offshore financial centre, p-value, Paul Samuelson, Ponzi scheme, price mechanism, principal–agent problem, Ralph Nader, random walk, rent-seeking, Richard Feynman, Richard Thaler, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, Rory Sutherland, Silicon Valley, Steven Pinker, stochastic process, survivorship bias, The Nature of the Firm, transaction costs, urban planning, Yogi Berra

It made my bull***t detector so sensitive that listening to well-marketed nonsense (by verbalistic people, especially academics) had the same effect as being put in a room with instances of randomly occurring piercing and jarring sounds, the type that kill animals. I am never bothered by normal people; it is the bull***tter in the “intellectual” profession who bothers me. Seeing the psychologist Steven Pinker making pronouncements about things intellectual has a similar effect to encountering a drive-in Burger King while hiking in the middle of a national park. It is under such an oversensitive bull***t detector that I have been writing this book. THE BOOK REVIEWERS And since we are talking about books, I close this introductory section with that one thing I’ve learned from my time in that business.

It is a straightforward mathematical property. The mean-field approach is when one uses the average interaction between, say, two people, and generalizes to the group—it is only possible if there are no asymmetries. For instance, Yaneer Bar-Yam has applied the failure of mean-field to evolutionary theory of the selfish-gene narrative trumpeted by such aggressive journalistic minds as Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker, with more mastery of English than probability theory. He shows that local properties fail and the so-called mathematics used to prove the selfish gene are woefully naive and misplaced. There has been a storm around work by Martin Nowack and his colleagues (which include the biologist E. O. Wilson) about the terminal flaws in the selfish gene theory.fn2 The question is: could it be that much of what we have read about the advances in behavioral sciences is nonsense?

The IYI has been wrong, historically, about Stalinism, Maoism, GMOs, Iraq, Libya, Syria, lobotomies, urban planning, low carbohydrate diets, gym machines, behaviorism, trans-fats, Freudianism, portfolio theory, linear regression, HFCS (High-Fructose Corn Syrup), Gaussianism, Salafism, dynamic stochastic equilibrium modeling, housing projects, marathon running, selfish genes, election-forecasting models, Bernie Madoff (pre-blowup), and p-values. But he is still convinced that his current position is right.fn1 NEVER GOTTEN DRUNK WITH RUSSIANS The IYI joins a club to get travel privileges; if he is a social scientist, he uses statistics without knowing how they are derived (like Steven Pinker and psycholophasters in general); when in the United Kingdom, he goes to literary festivals and eats cucumber sandwiches, taking small bites at a time; he drinks red wine with steak (never white); he used to believe that dietary fat was harmful and has now completely reversed himself (information in both cases is derived from the same source); he takes statins because his doctor told him to do so; he fails to understand ergodicity, and, when explained to him, he forgets about it soon after; he doesn’t use Yiddish words even when talking business; he studies grammar before speaking a language; he has a cousin who worked with someone who knows the Queen; he has never read Frédéric Dard, Libanius Antiochus, Michael Oakeshott, John Gray, Ammianus Marcellinus, Ibn Battuta, Saadia Gaon, or Joseph de Maistre; he has never gotten drunk with Russians; he never drinks to the point where he starts breaking glasses (or, preferably, chairs); he doesn’t even know the difference between Hecate and Hecuba (which in Brooklynese is “can’t tell sh**t from shinola”); he doesn’t know that there is no difference between “pseudointellectual” and “intellectual” in the absence of skin in the game; he has mentioned quantum mechanics at least twice in the past five years in conversations that had nothing to do with physics.


pages: 339 words: 94,769

Possible Minds: Twenty-Five Ways of Looking at AI by John Brockman

AI winter, airport security, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, autonomous vehicles, basic income, Benoit Mandelbrot, Bill Joy: nanobots, Buckminster Fuller, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Danny Hillis, David Graeber, easy for humans, difficult for computers, Elon Musk, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, finite state, friendly AI, future of work, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, gig economy, income inequality, industrial robot, information retrieval, invention of writing, James Watt: steam engine, Johannes Kepler, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, Laplace demon, Loebner Prize, market fundamentalism, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, Norbert Wiener, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, personalized medicine, Picturephone, profit maximization, profit motive, RAND corporation, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, self-driving car, sexual politics, Silicon Valley, Skype, social graph, speech recognition, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, strong AI, superintelligent machines, supervolcano, technological singularity, technoutopianism, telemarketer, telerobotics, the scientific method, theory of mind, Turing machine, Turing test, universal basic income, Upton Sinclair, Von Neumann architecture, Whole Earth Catalog, Y2K, zero-sum game

And don’t hesitate to speak the truth, even if your voice trembles. Chapter 10 TECH PROPHECY AND THE UNDERAPPRECIATED CAUSAL POWER OF IDEAS STEVEN PINKER Steven Pinker, a Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, is an experimental psychologist who conducts research in visual cognition, psycholinguistics, and social relations. He is the author of eleven books, including The Blank Slate, The Better Angels of Our Nature, and, most recently, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. Throughout his career, whether studying language, advocating a realistic biology of mind, or examining the human condition through the lens of humanistic Enlightenment ideas, psychologist Steven Pinker has embraced and championed a naturalistic understanding of the universe and the computational theory of mind.

Frank Wilczek: The Unity of Intelligence The advantages of artificial over natural intelligence appear permanent, while the advantages of natural over artificial intelligence, though substantial at present, appear transient. CHAPTER 8. Max Tegmark: Let’s Aspire to More Than Making Ourselves Obsolete We should analyze what could go wrong with AI to ensure that it goes right. CHAPTER 9. Jaan Tallinn: Dissident Messages Continued progress in AI can precipitate a change of cosmic proportions—a runaway process that will likely kill everyone. CHAPTER 10. Steven Pinker: Tech Prophecy and the Underappreciated Causal Power of Ideas There is no law of complex systems that says that intelligent agents must turn into ruthless megalomaniacs. CHAPTER 11. David Deutsch: Beyond Reward and Punishment Misconceptions about human thinking and human origins are causing corresponding misconceptions about AGI and how it might be created. CHAPTER 12. Tom Griffiths: The Artificial Use of Human Beings Automated intelligent systems that will make good inferences about what people want must have good generative models for human behavior.

I commissioned essays from a wide range of contributors, with or without references to Wiener (leaving it up to each participant). In the end, twenty-five people wrote essays, all individuals concerned about what is happening today in the age of AI. Possible Minds is not my book, rather it is our book: Seth Lloyd, Judea Pearl, Stuart Russell, George Dyson, Daniel C. Dennett, Rodney Brooks, Frank Wilczek, Max Tegmark, Jaan Tallinn, Steven Pinker, David Deutsch, Tom Griffiths, Anca Dragan, Chris Anderson, David Kaiser, Neil Gershenfeld, W. Daniel Hillis, Venki Ramakrishnan, Alex “Sandy” Pentland, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Alison Gopnik, Peter Galison, George M. Church, Caroline A. Jones, and Stephen Wolfram. I see the Possible Minds Project as an ongoing dynamical emergent system, a presentation of the ideas of a community of sophisticated thinkers who are bringing their experience and erudition to bear in challenging the prevailing digital AI narrative as they communicate their thoughts to one another.


pages: 145 words: 41,453

You Are What You Read by Jodie Jackson

delayed gratification, Filter Bubble, framing effect, Hans Rosling, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, New Journalism, race to the bottom, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, yellow journalism

., BuzzFeed: The top 10 examples of BuzzFeed doing native advertising, Native Advertising Institute, 2018, assssssvailable at: https://nativeadvertisinginstitute.com/blog/10-examples-buzzfeed-native-advertising/ RESOURCES News organisations: ‘BBC World Hacks’ BRIGHT Magazine The Correspondent Delayed Gratification INKLINE Monocle News Deeply The Optimist Daily Positive News Solutions Journalism Network Sparknews ‘The Upside’ (by the Guardian) The Week ‘What’s Working’ (by the Huffington Post) YES! Media Books: The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity by Steven Pinker Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters Now by Alan Rusbridger Broadcasting Happiness: The Science of Igniting and Sustaining Positive Change by Michelle Gielan Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress by Steven Pinker Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling, with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund A Force for Good: How the American News Media Have Propelled Positive Change by Rodger Streitmatter The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption by Clay A.

Patterson ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This book would not have been possible to write without the wealth of researchers who have gone before me to investigate the impact of the news. I stand on their shoulders in order to share my insights with the world. I also owe thanks to the pioneering news organisations that value and practise solutions journalism. It is by learning from them and their audience that I have been able to craft a collective experience of my own. I would like to personally thank Danielle Batist, Michelle Gielan, Sean Dagen-Wood, Steven Pinker, David Bornstein and Ulrik Haagerup. It has been through your support, encouragement and example that I have found my voice in the conversation for a more constructive media. Thank you to everyone who has pledged for this book. When I set out to write it, I wanted to bring people together in the quest for a more constructive, healthy and balanced media diet. And here we are, gaining momentum together.

Cronin Massimo Curatella Richard D’Souza Neal Davies Joshua Davis Libby Davy Evan De Barra Maddie De Bois Jean Philip De Tender Jenny Demetriou Joanne Douglas Jonathan Dransfield Charlie Drayson Paul Driver Fiona Durkin Fiona Edgerley Henry Edwards Ruairi Edwards Ruhi Habib Edwards-Behi Terence Egalton Deborah Eleazar Will Ellner Thomas Emmet James Erskine Amélie Escudier Sue Finch Molly Flatt Darren Forrester Yasmin Forrester David Foster Aaron Fullerton Ariana Gabr Eva Gabr Nadia Gabr Tariq Gabr Hilary Gallo Philippa Garety Daisy Geddes Marion Gibbs Daniele Gibney Barrie Glibbery Fiona Gollan Katie Goodall Shukuri Graham Sarah Gray Miriam Great Giselle Green Paul Greengrass Gemma Greenwood Dave Gunn Rin Hamburgh Diana Hamilton Bunny Hankers Christine Hawe David Head Jack Hellewell Jenny Hitchens Matt Hitchens Amy Hobbs Linda Horsfield Simon Howard Val Hudson Ailsa Hughes Helle Ibsen Jonathan Irons Beata Ivarsson Alison Jackson Charlie Jackson Christopher Jackson Daniel Jackson Jemma Jackson Jonny Jackson Leila Jackson Josie Jacobs Caroline Jaine Dawn Jones Nicholas Jones Laura Keating Nick Keegs Nina Kelly Ella Kennedy Ebbie Khadem Mohsin Khan Dan Kieran Heidi King Hilary King Jenny King Mike King Charlotte Kirkham Janet Kirkham Andy Kitching Nick Koutsoudis Christi Kraft Anna Kunnenkeril Pierre L’Allier Elisa Lapenna Mauri Liebendörfer London School of Ecomonics LSE Jonathan Long Kyser Lough David Lush Elizabeth Lyons Lucy Lyons Séamus Mac An Airchinnigh Cassie Madge Paul Main Silvio Malvolti Karen McIntyre Ailsa McNab Juliet Menager Louisa Mercer Jane Mew Lottie Mew Dave Minchin Joseph Mishon Veronique Mistiaen Jeremy Mitchell John Mitchinson Christopher Moger Joanna Moncreiffe Sally Musgrave Jawwad Mustafa Carlo Navato Juliet Newth Gary Nicol Luke Niggemann Gabriela Nóra Johan Norberg Anthony Norton Anne-Sophie Novel Denis O’Keeffe Kate O’Connor Jenny Oakley CJ Obi James Ovenden Raquel Paiva Kirstin Papworth-Smyth Josh Parrack Sabrina Passos Pete & Irene Catherine and Karl Phillips Steven Pinker The team at piqd www.piqd.com Justin Pollard Ana Prudente Kathryn Puch Prudence Quicke Janakan Ratnarajan Valentina Recla Kate Reinecke Lucie Resteau Emily Reynolds James Richardson Sean Richardson Chloe Rigby Glynis Robertson JE Robins Lucy Robinson Stuart Robinson Justine Rose Tom Rose Ola Rosling Helen Rule Yann Say Cyndy Schlaepfer-Youker Stephanie Scott Megan Sheer Peter Silva-Jankowski Hasina Silvester Patricia Silvester Nicola Slawson Kirsty Sleep Bubs Smith Dr Mike Smith Jason Smith Nigel Smith Tim Smith Pippa Sophia Kirsten Sparre Caroline Sproule William Squire Kirsty Stanley Björn Staschen JP Stead Cathy Stewart Heather Stewart Daniel Strombom Jane Taylor Victor Temple Peter ten Wolde Grahame Terry Joe Thompson Graham Tomlinson Milly Toovey Kristen Truempy Truuli Property Sophie Turner Vicky Unwin Bart van der Vliet Chared Verschuur Lynda Vowles Connie Waddell Anna Wallace Howard Walters Yelena Walters James Warner Margaret Warren Frances Watson Amy White Jan Wifstrand Antonia Williams Helen Williams Jan Williams Seán Wood Carolanne Wright Jessie Zhu First published in 2019 Unbound 6th Floor Mutual House, 70 Conduit Street, London W1S 2GF www.unbound.com All rights reserved © Jodie Jackson, 2019 The right of Jodie Jackson to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with Section 77 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.


pages: 303 words: 83,564

Exodus: How Migration Is Changing Our World by Paul Collier

Ayatollah Khomeini, Boris Johnson, charter city, Edward Glaeser, experimental economics, first-past-the-post, full employment, game design, George Akerlof, global village, guest worker program, illegal immigration, income inequality, informal economy, mass immigration, moral hazard, open borders, risk/return, Silicon Valley, sovereign wealth fund, Steven Pinker, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transaction costs, University of East Anglia, white flight, zero-sum game

Within economics my key influences have been the writings of George Akerlof through his innovative ideas on identity, and Frédéric Docquier for his rigorous investigation of the migration process, and especially discussion with Tony Venables both on economic geography and as a sparring partner for the model that is the analytic workhorse of this book. In social psychology I have drawn on discussions with Nick Rawlings and the works of Steven Pinker, Jonathan Haidt, Daniel Kahneman, and Paul Zak. In philosophy I have learned from discussions with Simon Saunders and Chris Hookway and from the writings of Michael Sandel. The book is an attempt to answer this question: what migration policies are appropriate? Even to pose this question requires a degree of courage: if ever there was a hornet’s nest it is migration. Yet while the topic is regularly around the top of voter concerns, with rare exceptions, the literature on it is either narrow and technical or heavily filtered by advocacy for some strongly held opinion.

In a violent society the rule of law keeps getting overridden: households and firms must divert effort into safety, and in the limit they seek safety through choosing to remain poor so they are less of a target.5 The capacity to cooperate is fundamental to prosperity: many goods and services are “public goods” that are most efficiently supplied collectively. So the social foundations of peace and cooperation matter for growth and are not direct corollaries of formal institutions. Steven Pinker has convincingly suggested that norms concerning violence have evolved quite radically in distinct steps over many centuries.6 An early step is the passage from anarchy to centralized power: a passage that Somalia has yet to make. Another is the passage from power to authority: a step that many regimes have yet to manage. A more recent step has been the enhanced ability to empathize with the suffering of others and the demise of codes of clan and family honor, making the infliction of violence less acceptable.

The researchers suggest that the transmission mechanism is the lack of trust created by violence that echoes down the decades. Noncooperation can be reinforced by its own moral code of honor: the vendetta, in which wrongs are repaid with wrongs. Vendettas are a normal aspect of clan-based societies. Historically, clans have been the most common basis for social organization, and in many poor countries they continue to be so.4 As Steven Pinker shows, vendettas are reinforced because wrongs are systematically exaggerated by victims and minimized by perpetrators, so that the retaliation regarded as justified by victims of the initial wrong creates a fresh wrong in the eyes of the new victims.5 Vendettas only end once the entire moral code of honor is abandoned. A classic instance of such a transition is the demise of dueling in western Europe during the nineteenth century: it was ended by a cultural revolution that made it look ridiculous.


pages: 286 words: 90,530

Richard Dawkins: How a Scientist Changed the Way We Think by Alan Grafen; Mark Ridley

Alfred Russel Wallace, Arthur Eddington, bioinformatics, cognitive bias, computer age, conceptual framework, Dava Sobel, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, epigenetics, Fellow of the Royal Society, Haight Ashbury, interchangeable parts, Isaac Newton, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John von Neumann, loose coupling, Murray Gell-Mann, Necker cube, phenotype, profit maximization, Ronald Reagan, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, theory of mind, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Yogi Berra, zero-sum game

Professor, Department of Zoology, and Principal, Jesus College, Oxford University; former chairman, Food Standards Agency. Marek Kohn, Visiting Fellow at the School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex, author of A Reason for Everything, As We Know It: Coming to Terms with an Evolved Mind, The Race Gallery, and other books. Randolph M. Nesse, Professor of Psychiatry and Professor of Psychology, University of Michigan, author of Why We Get Sick and other books. Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor, Department of Psychology, Harvard University, author of The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate, and other books. Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials trilogy, Ruby in the Smoke, and other books. Andrew F. Read, Professor of Natural History, Edinburgh University. Matt Ridley, writer and former journalist, author of Nature via Nurture, Genome, The Red Queen, and of a forthcoming biography of Francis Crick.

Thus the knowledge-laden structures are big, in the multiverse, while many of the objects, such as galaxies, that have large-scale structure in any one universe, have little or none in the multiverse. It is only the ‘neo-Darwinist’ version of evolution theory that has turned out to illuminate other fields in this way. That is smoking-gun evidence of a good explanation. Deep commonalities between life and mind Steven Pinker US television talk-show host Jay Leno, interviewing a passerby: How do you think Mount Rushmore was formed? Passerby: Erosion? Leno: Well, how do you think the rain knew to not only pick four presidents—but four of our greatest presidents? How did the rain know to put the beard on Lincoln and not on Jefferson? Passerby: Oh, just luck, I guess. I am a cognitive scientist, someone who studies the nature of intelligence and the workings of the mind.

To live, we need to cooperate with others; we need to coordinate with others, and to coordinate without being exploited by freeloaders and shysters too severely. So we need to be able to read the intentions and emotions of others. We need to be, and are, superb intuitive psychologists. Poor psychologists would rarely have got to be parents of further inept judges of character, emotion, intention. Many of the typical problems of human life are demanding in similar ways, yet we respond effortlessly and successfully to most of those challenges. Steven Pinker and his allies suggest that we can do this because we have evolved a collection of special purpose cognitive machines, each of which is innately equipped to solve demanding but repeated and predictable problems of human life; he develops this view in his How The Mind Works.2 As Pinker reads the human story, we are good intuitive psychologists because we have built into our minds a human psychology program—a system designed to read the thoughts and intentions of others—on which we rely as we navigate our way through the storms of our social world.


pages: 271 words: 77,448

Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will by Geoff Colvin

Ada Lovelace, autonomous vehicles, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, Black Swan, call centre, capital asset pricing model, commoditize, computer age, corporate governance, creative destruction, deskilling, en.wikipedia.org, Freestyle chess, future of work, Google Glasses, Grace Hopper, industrial cluster, industrial robot, interchangeable parts, job automation, knowledge worker, low skilled workers, Marc Andreessen, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Narrative Science, new economy, rising living standards, self-driving car, sentiment analysis, Silicon Valley, Skype, social intelligence, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Steven Pinker, theory of mind, Tim Cook: Apple, transaction costs

Now Google translates written language for free . . . See https://translate.google.com/. Regarding Skype, see “Skype Update Translates English and Spanish in Real Time,” Christian Science Monitor, 15 December 2014. Economists Frank Levy and Richard J. Murnane . . . Levy and Murnane, The New Division of Labor: How Computers Are Creating the Next Job Market (Princeton University Press, 2004). Steven Pinker observed in 2007 . . . Steven Pinker, The Stuff of Thought: Language As a Window Into Human Nature (Penguin Books, 2007). Yet iRobot soon thereafter . . . For product descriptions, see www.irobot.com. And yet, in 2014, when I asked Dominic Barton . . . Personal interview, 24 September 2014. Judges make parole decisions . . . The research is described in Dan Ariely, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions (HarperCollins, 2008).

Other anthropologists investigated and found that the Samoans, New Guineans, and !Kung San were as bloodcurdlingly violent as any culture you’ve ever heard of. Years of research by psychologists, anthropologists, neuroscientists, and others has pretty well sunk the blank-slate view. The full scope of the argument is beyond our needs here (it is elucidated brilliantly in the Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature), but it’s worth our while to examine a list of “human universals” compiled by the anthropologist Donald E. Brown and published in 1991. These are, Brown said, “features of culture, society, language, behavior, and psyche for which there are no known exceptions.” They show up in every culture on earth. Some are highly relevant to our subject: Empathy is universal.

Hubert Dreyfus of MIT, in a 1972 book called What Computers Can’t Do, saw little hope that computers could make significant further progress in playing chess beyond the mediocre level then achieved; but a computer beat the world champion, Garry Kasparov, in 1997. Economists Frank Levy and Richard J. Murnane, in an excellent 2004 book called The New Division of Labor, explain how driving a vehicle involves such a mass of sensory inputs and requires such complex split-second judgments that it would be extremely difficult for a computer ever to handle the job; yet Google introduced its autonomous car six years later. Steven Pinker observed in 2007 that “assessing the layout of the world and guiding a body through it are staggeringly complex engineering tasks, as we see by the absence of dishwashers that can empty themselves or vacuum cleaners that can climb stairs.” Yet iRobot soon thereafter was making vacuum cleaners and floor scrubbers that find their way around the house without harming furniture, pets, or children, and was also making other robots that climb stairs; it could obviously make machines that do both if it believed demand was sufficient.


pages: 481 words: 125,946

What to Think About Machines That Think: Today's Leading Thinkers on the Age of Machine Intelligence by John Brockman

agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, algorithmic trading, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, basic income, bitcoin, blockchain, clean water, cognitive dissonance, Colonization of Mars, complexity theory, computer age, computer vision, constrained optimization, corporate personhood, cosmological principle, cryptocurrency, cuban missile crisis, Danny Hillis, dark matter, discrete time, Douglas Engelbart, Elon Musk, Emanuel Derman, endowment effect, epigenetics, Ernest Rutherford, experimental economics, Flash crash, friendly AI, functional fixedness, global pandemic, Google Glasses, hive mind, income inequality, information trail, Internet of things, invention of writing, iterative process, Jaron Lanier, job automation, Johannes Kepler, John Markoff, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, loose coupling, microbiome, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, natural language processing, Network effects, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, planetary scale, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Republic of Letters, RFID, Richard Thaler, Rory Sutherland, Satyajit Das, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart contracts, social intelligence, speech recognition, statistical model, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, strong AI, Stuxnet, superintelligent machines, supervolcano, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, Turing machine, Turing test, Von Neumann architecture, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Y2K

DEDICATION To Marvin Minsky CONTENTS DEDICATION ACKNOWLEDGMENTS PREFACE: THE 2015 EDGE QUESTION MURRAY SHANAHAN Consciousness in Human-Level AI STEVEN PINKER Thinking Does Not Imply Subjugating MARTIN REES Organic Intelligence Has No Long-Term Future STEVE OMOHUNDRO A Turning Point in Artificial Intelligence DIMITAR D. SASSELOV AI Is I FRANK TIPLER If You Can’t Beat ’em, Join ’em MARIO LIVIO Intelligent Machines on Earth and Beyond ANTONY GARRETT LISI I, for One, Welcome Our Machine Overlords JOHN MARKOFF Our Masters, Slaves, or Partners? PAUL DAVIES Designed Intelligence KEVIN P. HAND The Superintelligent Loner JOHN C. MATHER It’s Going to Be a Wild Ride DAVID CHRISTIAN Is Anyone in Charge of This Thing? TIMO HANNAY Witness to the Universe MAX TEGMARK Let’s Get Prepared!

I suspect we won’t find out how to answer this question until confronted with the real thing. Only when more sophisticated AI is a familiar part of our lives will our language games adjust to such alien beings. But of course by that time it may be too late to change our minds about whether they should be brought into the world. For better or worse, they’ll already be here. THINKING DOES NOT IMPLY SUBJUGATING STEVEN PINKER Johnstone Family Professor, Department of Psychology, Harvard University; author, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the Twenty-First Century Thomas Hobbes’s pithy equation of reasoning as “nothing but reckoning” is one of the great ideas in human history. The notion that rationality can be accomplished by the physical process of calculation was vindicated in the twentieth century by Alan Turing’s thesis that simple machines can implement any computable function, and by models from D.

We don’t yet know how to program human-level intelligence and creativity into these computers, but in twenty years desktop computers will have the power of today’s supercomputers, and the hackers of twenty years hence will solve the AI programming problem long before any carbon-based space colonies are established on the moon or Mars. The AIs, not humans, will colonize these places instead, or perhaps take them apart. No human, no carbon-based human, will ever traverse interstellar space. There’s no reason to fear the AIs and human uploads. Steven Pinker has established that as technological civilization advances, the level of violence decreases.2 This decrease is clearly due to the fact that scientific and technological advance depend on free, nonviolent interchange of ideas between individual scientists and engineers. Violence between humans is a remnant of our tribal past and the resulting static society. AIs will be “born” as individuals, not as members of a tribe, and will be born with the nonviolent scientific attitude, otherwise they’d be incapable of adapting to the extreme environments of space.


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The Ape That Understood the Universe: How the Mind and Culture Evolve by Steve Stewart-Williams

Albert Einstein, battle of ideas, carbon-based life, David Attenborough, European colonialism, feminist movement, financial independence, gender pay gap, invisible hand, Jeff Bezos, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, moral panic, out of africa, Paul Graham, phenotype, post-industrial society, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, theory of mind, twin studies

And thanks to everyone else who’s helped out in one way or another, either with the book itself or with my thinking on these topics, including Pat Barclay, Chloe Bradley, Andrew Clark, Jerry Coyne, Oliver Curry, Greg Dingle, Céline Durassier, Martie Haselton, Adam Hooper, Stephanie Huitson, Toko Kiyonari, Danny Krupp, Claire Lehmann, Andrew Loughnan, James McKellar, Stewart McWilliam, Randy Nesse, Nikki Owen, Adam Perrott, Steven Pinker, John Podd, David Schmitt, Delia Shanly, Christina Hoff Sommers, Phil Tucker, Alison Walker, Abigail Walkington, Lee White, Barbara Williams, and Brian Williams. Last but not least, thanks to John Anderson for the plant genitals joke (see the Alien’s Report). 1 The Alien’s Challenge This book is about the strangest animal in the world – the animal that’s reading these words and the animal that wrote them: the human animal.

When evolutionary psychologists argue that sex is about making babies, they’re talking about the evolutionary function of the behavior, not what people want. The critics have failed to distinguish the ultimate from the proximate, the evolutionary mode of explanation from the psychological. The generalized form of this error is the idea that, according to evolutionary psychologists, people have an innate motivation to pass on their genes, and that we’re all constantly scheming about how we might achieve this. As the Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker points out, though, “If that’s how the mind worked, men would line up outside sperm banks and women would pay to have their eggs harvested and given away to infertile couples.”30 Rather than having a very general motivation to propagate our genes, humans have a portfolio of more specific motivations – motivations to eat and drink, to run away from predators, to have sex and care for our young.

As a result, we often feel affectionate and protective toward these individuals as well – not because it’s adaptive, but just because adaptations aren’t perfect. By the way, as you might already have noticed, the spillover hypothesis doesn’t just explain our fondness for cute animal videos. It also hints at an explanation for a much older and more pervasive phenomenon: our habit of keeping pets. There’s another way to cash out the by-product hypothesis – one that may prove useful in solving the alien’s dilemmas. This is Steven Pinker’s strawberry cheesecake hypothesis.74 Cheesecake is one of the world’s most popular desserts. Unless we’re watching our weight, most of us would choose it over fruit. This is curious, though, because we evolved to eat fruit but we didn’t evolve to eat cheesecake. The explanation, of course, is that, like much of our food today, cheesecake is a supernormal stimulus: an artificial concoction that presses our evolved buttons more strongly than any natural substance, and that therefore packs more of a punch.


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Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room by David Weinberger

airport security, Alfred Russel Wallace, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Berlin Wall, Black Swan, book scanning, Cass Sunstein, commoditize, corporate social responsibility, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, David Brooks, Debian, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, Exxon Valdez, Fall of the Berlin Wall, future of journalism, Galaxy Zoo, Hacker Ethic, Haight Ashbury, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, invention of the telegraph, jimmy wales, Johannes Kepler, John Harrison: Longitude, Kevin Kelly, linked data, Netflix Prize, New Journalism, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, openstreetmap, P = NP, Pluto: dwarf planet, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Republic of Letters, RFID, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, semantic web, slashdot, social graph, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, technological singularity, Ted Nelson, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, Whole Earth Catalog, X Prize

., Continental Philosophy of Science (Wiley-Blackwell, 2005), pp. 211–223, http://www.alcoff.com/content/foucphi.html. 49 See Juan Carlos Castilla-Rubio and Simon Willis, “Planetary Skin: A Global Platform for a New Era of Collaboration,” March 2009, http://www.cisco.com/web/about/ac79/docs/pov/Planetary_Skin_POV_vFINAL_spw_jc_2.pdf. 50 Interview with Juan Carlos Castilla-Rubio, March 17, 2010. 51 Interview with Timo Hannay, February 12, 2010. 52 Interview with John Wilbanks, December 14, 2009. 53 Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton University Press, 2009). 54 Richard Rorty, Consequences of Pragmatism (University of Minnesota Press, 1986), p. xvii. 55 “Climate of Fear,” Nature 464, no. 141 (March 11, 2010), DOI:10.1038/ 464141a, http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v464/n7286/full/464141a.html. 56 See Mary Elizabeth Williams, “Jenny McCarthy’s Autism Fight Grows More Misguided,” Salon, January 6, 2011, http://www.salon.com/life/feature/2011/01/06/jenny_mccarthy_autism_debate. 57 Steven Pinker, “Mind over Mass Media,” New York Times, June 10, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/11/opinion/11Pinker.html. For a rebuttal, see Nicholas Carr’s blog post, “Steven Pinker and the Internet,” June 12, 2010, http://www.roughtype.com/archives/2010/06/steven_pinker_a.php. 58 David Quammen, The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution (W. W. Norton, 2007), p. 84. 59 Ibid., p. 76. 60 Ibid., p. 141. 61 Ibid., p. 137. 62 Ibid., p. 162. 63 Ibid., p. 172. 64 Jean-Claude Bradley, “Dangerous Data: Lessons from My Cheminfo Retrieval Class,” January 2, 2010, http://usefulchem.blogspot.com/2010/01/dangerous-data-lessons-from-my-cheminfo.html. 65 “Eggs Good for You This Week,” The Onion, April 28, 1999, http://www.theonion.com/articles/eggs-good-for-you-this-week,4144/.

The new network makes that truth unavoidable. 6. Hyperlinked science If electronic media were hazardous to intelligence, the quality of science would be plummeting. Yet discoveries are multiplying like fruit flies, and progress is dizzying. Other activities in the life of the mind, like philosophy, history and cultural criticism, are likewise flourishing.57 So wrote cognitive scientist Steven Pinker in an op-ed in the New York Times in the summer of 2010. It would be difficult to find scientists who would disagree with this assessment overall, although every scientist would likely point to some pain point: lack of funding, government ineptitude, media sensationalism.... Still and all, this is a great age for science. But on paper (so to speak) it shouldn’t be. Not only are we overwhelmed with data, the filters that kept bad ideas on the fringes are failing.

Indeed, the final product of science is now neither final nor a product. It is the network itself—the seamless connection of scientists, data, methodologies, hypotheses, theories, facts, speculations, instruments, readings, ambitions, controversies, schools of thought, textbooks, faculties, collaborations, and disagreements that used to struggle to print a relative handful of articles in a relative handful of journals. So, Steven Pinker is right: Science is doing better than ever thanks to the Net. There is more information than ever. More of it is available than ever. Computers can discover patterns that humans would never have noticed. Commons are forming from clouds of Linked Data. Collaborative tools allow scientists to work together across all boundaries. Because of all this, we are able to investigate entire systems of nature—including simple cells—that were beyond us even a few years ago.


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The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success by Kevin Dutton

Asperger Syndrome, Bernie Madoff, business climate, corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, delayed gratification, epigenetics, Fellow of the Royal Society, G4S, impulse control, iterative process, John Nash: game theory, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Nicholas Carr, Norman Mailer, place-making, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, theory of mind, ultimatum game

Make Me a Psychopath 1 “And I read a report the other day that linked a significant rise in the number of all-female gangs …” To get a flavor of what Hare is talking about, see Tom Geoghegan, BBC News Magazine. May 5, 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7380400.stm. For a more academic slant on things, see Susan Batchelor, “Girls, Gangs, and Violence: Assessing the Evidence,” Probation Journal 56, no. 4 (2009): 399–414, doi:10.1177/0264550509346501. 2 Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker has recently flagged this … See Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (New York: Viking, 2011). 3 Trawling through the court records of a number of European countries.. See Manuel Eisner, “Long-Term Historical Trends in Violent Crime,” Crime and Justice 30 (2003): 83–142. 4 Similar patterns have elsewhere been documented … Michael Shermer, “The Decline of Violence,” Scientific American, October 7, 2011, www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?

In China, following an incident in which a two-year-old baby was left stranded in the middle of a marketplace and run over, not once but twice, as passersby went casually about their business, an appalled electorate has petitioned the government to pass a “Good Samaritan” law to prevent such a thing from ever happening again. On the other hand, however, bad things have always happened in society. And no doubt always will. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker has recently flagged this in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature. In fact, he goes one step further. Far from being on the increase, Pinker argues, violence is actually in decline. The reason that vicious slayings and other horrific crimes make the front pages of our papers isn’t because they’re commonplace. But rather, the complete reverse. Take homicide, for instance. Trawling through the court records of a number of European countries, scholars have computed that rates have fallen dramatically down the years.

The subject of neurolaw came up in the context of a wider discussion about the field of cultural neuroscience: the study of how societal values, practices, and beliefs shape, and are shaped by, genomic, neural, and psychological processes across multiple timescales and cultures. If society was becoming increasingly psychopathic, I wondered, was there a gene already at work out there churning out more psychopaths? Or was it a case, as Steven Pinker had elucidated in his “culture of dignity” argument, of customs and mores becoming ever more socialized until they end up second nature? Hare suggests that it’s probably a little of both: that psychopaths, right now, are on a bit of a roll, and that the more of a roll they get on, the more normative their behavior becomes. He points to the emergence of epigenetics—a hot new offshoot from the field of mainstream genetics, which, put simply, looks at changes in gene activity that don’t actually involve structural alterations to the genetic code per se, but still get passed on to successive generations.


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Human Compatible: Artificial Intelligence and the Problem of Control by Stuart Russell

3D printing, Ada Lovelace, AI winter, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Alfred Russel Wallace, Andrew Wiles, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, basic income, blockchain, brain emulation, Cass Sunstein, Claude Shannon: information theory, complexity theory, computer vision, connected car, crowdsourcing, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, Ernest Rutherford, Flash crash, full employment, future of work, Gerolamo Cardano, ImageNet competition, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, invention of the wheel, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John Nash: game theory, John von Neumann, Kenneth Arrow, Kevin Kelly, Law of Accelerating Returns, Mark Zuckerberg, Nash equilibrium, Norbert Wiener, NP-complete, openstreetmap, P = NP, Pareto efficiency, Paul Samuelson, Pierre-Simon Laplace, positional goods, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, profit maximization, RAND corporation, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, RFID, Richard Thaler, ride hailing / ride sharing, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Rodney Brooks, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Shoshana Zuboff, Silicon Valley, smart cities, smart contracts, social intelligence, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, superintelligent machines, Thales of Miletus, The Future of Employment, Thomas Bayes, Thorstein Veblen, transport as a service, Turing machine, Turing test, universal basic income, uranium enrichment, Von Neumann architecture, Wall-E, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, web application, zero-sum game

A diagnosis of AI control problems arising from an excess of testosterone: Steven Pinker, “Thinking does not imply subjugating,” in What to Think About Machines That Think, ed. John Brockman (Harper Perennial, 2015). 30. A seminal work on many philosophical topics, including the question of whether moral obligations may be perceived in the natural world: David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature (John Noon, 1738). 31. An argument that a sufficiently intelligent machine cannot help but pursue human objectives: Rodney Brooks, “The seven deadly sins of AI predictions,” MIT Technology Review, October 6, 2017. 32. Pinker, “Thinking does not imply subjugating.” 33. For an optimistic view arguing that AI safety problems will necessarily be resolved in our favor: Steven Pinker, “Tech prophecy.” 34. On the unsuspected alignment between “skeptics” and “believers” in AI risk: Alexander, “AI researchers on AI risk.”

Robert Atkinson, director of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (the very same foundation that gives out the Luddite Award), made a similar argument in a 2015 debate.20 While there are valid questions about precisely how risks should be described when talking to the media, the overall message is clear: “Don’t mention the risks; it would be bad for funding.” Of course, if no one were aware of the risks, there would be no funding for research on risk mitigation and no reason for anyone to work on it. The renowned cognitive scientist Steven Pinker gives a more optimistic version of Atkinson’s argument. In his view, the “culture of safety in advanced societies” will ensure that all serious risks from AI will be eliminated; therefore, it is inappropriate and counterproductive to call attention to those risks.21 Even if we disregard the fact that our advanced culture of safety has led to Chernobyl, Fukushima, and runaway global warming, Pinker’s argument entirely misses the point.

Thus, for example, Yann LeCun, a pioneer of deep learning and director of AI research at Facebook, often cites this idea when downplaying the risk from AI:28 There is no reason for AIs to have self-preservation instincts, jealousy, etc. . . . AIs will not have these destructive “emotions” unless we build these emotions into them. I don’t see why we would want to do that. In a similar vein, Steven Pinker provides a gender-based analysis:29 AI dystopias project a parochial alpha-male psychology onto the concept of intelligence. They assume that superhumanly intelligent robots would develop goals like deposing their masters or taking over the world. . . . It’s telling that many of our techno-prophets don’t entertain the possibility that artificial intelligence will naturally develop along female lines: fully capable of solving problems, but with no desire to annihilate innocents or dominate the civilization.


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The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values by Sam Harris

Albert Einstein, banking crisis, Bayesian statistics, cognitive bias, end world poverty, endowment effect, energy security, experimental subject, framing effect, hindsight bias, impulse control, John Nash: game theory, longitudinal study, loss aversion, meta analysis, meta-analysis, out of africa, pattern recognition, placebo effect, Ponzi scheme, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, scientific worldview, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, theory of mind, ultimatum game, World Values Survey

This study was a joint effort at every stage, and Jonas’s involvement was essential to its completion. In addition to my dissertation committee at UCLA, several outside scholars and scientists reviewed early drafts of this book. Paul Churchland, Daniel Dennett, Owen Flanagan, and Steven Pinker read the text, in whole or in part, and offered extremely helpful notes. A few sections contain cannibalized versions of essays that were first read by a larger circle of scientists and writers: including Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Owen Flanagan, Anthony Grayling, Christopher Hitchens, and Steven Pinker. I am pleased to notice that with friends like these, it has become increasingly difficult to say something stupid. (Still, one does what one can.) It is an honor to be so deeply in their debt. My editor at the Free Press, Hilary Redmon, greatly improved The Moral Landscape at every level, through several stages of revision.

—Ian McEwan, author of Atonement and winner of the Man Booker Prize for Amsterdam “A lively, provocative, and timely new look at one of the deepest problems in the world of ideas. Harris makes a powerful case for a morality that is based on human flourishing and thoroughly enmeshed with science and rationality. It is a tremendously appealing vision, and one that no thinking person can afford to ignore.” —Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and author of How the Mind Works and The Blank Slate “Beautifully written as they were (the elegance of his prose is a distilled blend of honesty and clarity) there was little in Sam Harris’s previous books that couldn’t have been written by any of his fellow ‘horsemen’ of the ‘new atheism.’ This book is different, though every bit as readable as the other two.

While the possibilities of human experience must be realized in the brains that evolution has built for us, our brains were not designed with a view to our ultimate fulfillment. Evolution could never have foreseen the wisdom or necessity of creating stable democracies, mitigating climate change, saving other species from extinction, containing the spread of nuclear weapons, or of doing much else that is now crucial to our happiness in this century. As the psychologist Steven Pinker has observed,21 if conforming to the dictates of evolution were the foundation of subjective well-being, most men would discover no higher calling in life than to make daily contributions to their local sperm bank. After all, from the perspective of a man’s genes, there could be nothing more fulfilling than spawning thousands of children without incurring any associated costs or responsibilities.


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More From Less: The Surprising Story of How We Learned to Prosper Using Fewer Resources – and What Happens Next by Andrew McAfee

back-to-the-land, Bartolomé de las Casas, Berlin Wall, bitcoin, Branko Milanovic, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, call centre, carbon footprint, clean water, cleantech, cloud computing, Corn Laws, creative destruction, crony capitalism, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, decarbonisation, dematerialisation, Deng Xiaoping, Donald Trump, Edward Glaeser, en.wikipedia.org, energy transition, Erik Brynjolfsson, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Haber-Bosch Process, Hans Rosling, humanitarian revolution, hydraulic fracturing, income inequality, indoor plumbing, intangible asset, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Snow's cholera map, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Khan Academy, Landlord’s Game, Louis Pasteur, Lyft, Marc Andreessen, market fundamentalism, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, oil shale / tar sands, Paul Samuelson, peak oil, precision agriculture, profit maximization, profit motive, risk tolerance, road to serfdom, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, Scramble for Africa, Second Machine Age, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, telepresence, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Davenport, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, total factor productivity, Uber and Lyft, uber lyft, Veblen good, War on Poverty, Whole Earth Catalog, World Values Survey

We kept heedlessly plundering and polluting it for almost two centuries after the Industrial Revolution started. Let’s look more closely at how this pattern of mistakes and corrections unfolded. People as Property It has been acceptable in many societies throughout history for people to own other people, especially if they come from a different ethnic group, religion, or tribe. The cognitive scientist Steven Pinker writes that sentiment toward slavery began to change in the late 1700s with the rise of humanism, or the belief that “the universal capacity of a person to suffer and flourish… call[s] on our moral concern.” As Pinker writes in his book Enlightenment Now, “The Enlightenment is sometimes called the Humanitarian Revolution, because it led to the abolition of barbaric practices [such as slavery] that had been commonplace across civilizations for millennia.”

But instead of also causing greater use of natural resources, they instead sparked dematerialization, something truly new under the sun. The fuel of interest in eliminating costs was added to the fire of the computer revolution, and the world began to dematerialize. The economic historian Joel Mokyr argues that the Industrial Era was made possible by the values of the Enlightenment. This intellectual movement began in the second half of the eighteenth century with many societies in the West embracing what Steven Pinker characterizes as four values: reason, science, humanism, and progress. According to Mokyr, the Enlightenment created a “culture of growth” that let both capitalism and technological progress flourish. I see an interesting inversion taking place now. If the Enlightenment led to the Industrial Era, then the Second Machine Age has led to a Second Enlightenment—a more literal one. We are now lightening our total consumption and treading more lightly on our planet.

These things still happen all over the world far too often, but they’re happening less often. Governments abuse their own people less and have become more effective at halting abuses. You Have Our Sympathies The last of the four horsemen of the optimist is public awareness: awareness both that we should take better care of each other and of our planet, and of good ways to do so. In Enlightenment Now Steven Pinker uses the image of an expanding “circle of sympathy” to convey that the first kind of public awareness is increasing. He makes an optimistic argument: “Given that we are equipped with the capacity to sympathize with others, nothing can prevent the circle of sympathy from expanding from the family and tribe to embrace all of humankind, particularly as reason goads us into realizing that there can be nothing uniquely deserving about ourselves or any of the groups to which we belong.


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From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds by Daniel C. Dennett

Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Andrew Wiles, Bayesian statistics, bioinformatics, bitcoin, Build a better mousetrap, Claude Shannon: information theory, computer age, computer vision, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Elon Musk, epigenetics, experimental subject, Fermat's Last Theorem, Gödel, Escher, Bach, information asymmetry, information retrieval, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, iterative process, John von Neumann, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, Necker cube, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, phenotype, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, self-driving car, social intelligence, sorting algorithm, speech recognition, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, strong AI, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, theory of mind, Thomas Bayes, trickle-down economics, Turing machine, Turing test, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Y2K

Alternatively, we could consider words, and memes more generally, to be the result of variable, temporally extended processes of reproduction (as if father’s contribution was not made “at conception” but at some later time, after mother had already given birth), an imaginable variation on our normal mode of sexual reproduction. So there are several ways we could consider cultural evolution to be Lamarckian without thereby erecting a barrier against the imperialistic forays of dread Darwinism into the sacred precincts of culture. Steven Pinker—no friend of memes—has candidly acknowledged: “To say that cultural evolution is Lamarckian is to confess that one has no idea how it works.” He goes on, however, to say quite a bit about how he thinks it works: The striking features of cultural products, namely their ingenuity, beauty, and truth (analogous to organisms’ complex adaptive design), come from the mental computations that “direct”—that is, invent—the “mutations,” and that “acquire”—that is, understand—the “characteristics.” (1997, p. 209) This perfectly expresses the traditional view that it is comprehension, by inventors, by intelligent designers, that accounts for the improvements—the “ingenuity, beauty, and truth”—we observe in cultural items.

Then the niche their descendants operate in can be importantly different from the niche their ancestors coped with. Niche construction is not just an effect of the selective pressures of natural selection; it is also an important, even destabilizing, cause of new selective pressures, a crane of considerable lifting power in Design Space. There is no doubt that our species has engaged heavily in niche construction. Steven Pinker (2003, 2010) calls our world the “cognitive niche,” stressing that it is a product of human comprehension. Boyd, Richerson, and Henrich (2011) disagree with Pinker, proposing that it would better be called the “cultural niche,” a platform of competences on which comprehension can grow. As we will see, the R&D that has constructed the niche we inhabit today is a changing blend of both Darwinian, bottom-up processes and top-down intelligent design.

Everybody wants to “go viral” with their pet messages, while finding new ways of ignoring the surfeit of attention-grabbers that assault them. This fluidity of information transmission in human culture, and its use in combatting, discrediting, discarding, but also revising, improving, adapting and spreading, new memes pushes Darwinian meme evolution into the background. Have I just admitted that memetics cannot be a valuable theoretical tool in modeling today’s (and tomorrow’s) cultural evolution? Consider again the claim by Steven Pinker, quoted in chapter 11: The striking features of cultural products, namely their ingenuity, beauty, and truth (analogous to organisms’ complex adaptive design), come from the mental computations that “direct”—that is, invent—the “mutations,” and that “acquire”—that is, understand—the “characteristics.” (1997, p. 209) This is close to the truth about some cultural products, but, as we have seen, by insisting that invention and understanding are the sole phenomena at work, Pinker restricts our attention to cultural treasures only, and exaggerates the role of intelligent design in creating these.


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You Are What You Speak: Grammar Grouches, Language Laws, and the Politics of Identity by Robert Lane Greene

anti-communist, British Empire, centre right, discovery of DNA, European colonialism, facts on the ground, haute couture, illegal immigration, Mahatma Gandhi, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela, Parag Khanna, Ronald Reagan, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, Steven Pinker, Yogi Berra, zero-sum game

Recursion is the ability to fit one kind of syntactic unit into another of the same type; “the cat” is a noun phrase, and “the cat in the hat” is a noun phrase that has noun phrases (“the hat” and “the cat”) within it. But though once upon a time everyone in linguistics seemed to be responding to the dominant “classical” Chomskyan paradigm, today the minimalist program has put the titan himself into a smaller, more controversial camp, against, for example, his fellow “innatist” (a believer that some elements of grammar are wired in the brain), Steven Pinker. All this should dispel the notion that descriptivists don’t believe in rules. But they see their role as discovering, not pronouncing, them. Some (like Pullum) use real-world evidence. Others (like Chomsky) construct artificial examples to illustrate their points. But what neither does is sit in a chair saying “This is how it is, by Jove, and anyone who doesn’t know this rule is a fool.” Remember our analogy of linguistics to social science.

Boroditsky points out that groups living near the Kuuk Thaayorre, in nearly identical conditions but without this feature in their languages, also lack the ability to stay constantly oriented. Boroditsky’s work puts her in a camp of neo-Whorfians. She strongly believes that different languages train the mind in different ways. Boroditsky rejects the notion—prominently expounded by Noam Chomsky, Steven Pinker, and others—that human language is fundamentally a single phenomenon, with interesting surface variations but much deeper universals. But the neo-Whorfians argue that language steers—it does not govern—what we perceive and think. Some languages, such as Chinese, have no word for “brother,” only “older brother” and “younger brother.” These languages surely force people to pay more attention to birth order.

Patel in London will think of himself primarily as an Indian, a British citizen, a Hindu, a Gujarati-speaker, an ex-colonist from Kenya, a member of a specific caste or kin-group, or in some other capacity depends on whether he faces an immigration officer, a Pakistani, a Sikh or Moslem, a Bengali-speaker, and so on. There is no single platonic essence of Patel. He is all these and more at the same time. —ERIC HOBSBAWM Steven Pinker, in his book The Stuff of Thought, has a fascinating chapter about metaphors. “The Metaphor Metaphor” is about cognition itself: some people think that to think is to think in metaphors or that metaphorical thinking is a metaphor for thought. It is a powerful idea. He begins with the famous first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence and finds it rife with metaphors: to “dissolve … the bands which have connected them with another” is a metaphor: alliances are bonds.


pages: 416 words: 106,582

This Will Make You Smarter: 150 New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking by John Brockman

23andMe, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, banking crisis, Barry Marshall: ulcers, Benoit Mandelbrot, Berlin Wall, biofilm, Black Swan, butterfly effect, Cass Sunstein, cloud computing, congestion charging, correlation does not imply causation, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dark matter, data acquisition, David Brooks, delayed gratification, Emanuel Derman, epigenetics, Exxon Valdez, Flash crash, Flynn Effect, hive mind, impulse control, information retrieval, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, lifelogging, mandelbrot fractal, market design, Mars Rover, Marshall McLuhan, microbiome, Murray Gell-Mann, Nicholas Carr, open economy, Pierre-Simon Laplace, place-making, placebo effect, pre–internet, QWERTY keyboard, random walk, randomized controlled trial, rent control, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Richard Thaler, Satyajit Das, Schrödinger's Cat, security theater, selection bias, Silicon Valley, Stanford marshmallow experiment, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, the scientific method, Thorstein Veblen, Turing complete, Turing machine, twin studies, Vilfredo Pareto, Walter Mischel, Whole Earth Catalog, WikiLeaks, zero-sum game

George Church Non-Inherent Inheritance We are well into an unprecedented new phase of evolution, in which we must generalize beyond our DNA-centric worldview. Paul Kedrosky Shifting Baseline Syndrome We don’t have enough data to know what is normal, so we convince ourselves that this is normal. Martin Seligman PERMA The elements of well-being must be exclusive, measurable independently of one another, and—ideally—exhaustive. Steven Pinker Positive-Sum Games In a positive-sum game, a rational, self-interested actor may benefit the other actor with the same choice that benefits himself or herself. Roger Highfield The Snuggle for Existence Competition does not tell the whole story of biology. Dylan Evans The Law of Comparative Advantage At a time of growing protectionism, it is more important than ever to reassert the value of free trade.

We think of the Bloomsbury Group in London during the early twentieth century. We think of the New York intellectuals who wrote for little magazines like Partisan Review in the 1950s. The most influential thinkers in our own era live at the nexus of the cognitive sciences, evolutionary psychology, and information technology. This constellation of thinkers, influenced by people like Daniel Kahneman, Noam Chomsky, E. O. Wilson, Steven Pinker, Steve Jobs, and Sergey Brin, do a great deal to set the intellectual temper of the times. They ask the fundamental questions and shape debates outside of their own disciplines and across the public sphere. Many of the leaders of this network are in this book. They are lucky enough to be at the head of fast-advancing fields. But they are also lucky enough to have one another. The literary agent and all-purpose intellectual impresario John Brockman gathers members of this network for summits.

For each of the anniversary editions of Edge, I have asked contributors for their responses to a question that comes to me, or to one of my correspondents, in the middle of the night. It’s not easy coming up with a question. As the late James Lee Byars, my friend and sometime collaborator, used to say: “I can answer the question, but am I bright enough to ask it?” I’m looking for questions that inspire answers we can’t possibly predict. My goal is to provoke people into thinking thoughts they normally might not have. This year’s question, suggested by Steven Pinker and seconded by Daniel Kahneman, takes off from a notion of James Flynn, intelligence researcher and emeritus professor of political studies at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, who defined shorthand abstractions (SHAs) as concepts drawn from science that have become part of the language and make people smarter by providing widely applicable templates. “Market,” “placebo,” “random sample,” and “naturalistic fallacy” are a few of his examples.


pages: 193 words: 51,445

On the Future: Prospects for Humanity by Martin J. Rees

23andMe, 3D printing, air freight, Alfred Russel Wallace, Asilomar, autonomous vehicles, Benoit Mandelbrot, blockchain, cryptocurrency, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, decarbonisation, demographic transition, distributed ledger, double helix, effective altruism, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, global village, Hyperloop, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, Jeff Bezos, job automation, Johannes Kepler, John Conway, life extension, mandelbrot fractal, mass immigration, megacity, nuclear winter, pattern recognition, quantitative hedge fund, Ray Kurzweil, Rodney Brooks, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, smart grid, speech recognition, Stanford marshmallow experiment, Stanislav Petrov, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, Stuxnet, supervolcano, technological singularity, the scientific method, Tunguska event, uranium enrichment, Walter Mischel, Yogi Berra

Martin Rees combines his deep scientific insights and compassion for humanity’s welfare to address, in clear and elegant prose, the major issues facing human civilization today, some of which are not now commonly considered. Whether or not you agree with all the points he makes, you must take them very seriously indeed.” —ROGER PENROSE, author of Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe “An engaging analysis of the most important issues facing the world, sprinkled with insight and suffused with wisdom and humanity.” —STEVEN PINKER, author of Enlightenment Now “Are we heading for a utopian or dystopian future? Martin Rees believes it’s down to us. But the one thing we must not do is put the brakes on technology. Science, applied wisely, offers humanity a bright future, but we must act now. In this visionary book, and despite his many fears, Rees adopts a refreshing and cautiously optimistic tone.” —JIM AL-KHALILI, author of Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Physics “A breathtaking journey through thrilling advances in science and technology that may address society’s most vexing challenges, On the Future is ideal reading for all citizens of the twenty-first century.”

In contrast to the elaborate and conspicuous special-purpose equipment needed to create a nuclear weapon, biotech involves small-scale dual-use equipment. Indeed, biohacking is burgeoning even as a hobby and competitive game. Back in 2003 I was worried about these hazards and rated the chance of bio error or bio terror leading to a million deaths as 50 percent by 2020. I was surprised at how many of my colleagues thought a catastrophe was even more likely than I did. More recently, however, psychologist/author Steven Pinker took me up on that bet, with a two-hundred-dollar stake. This is a bet that I fervently hope to lose, but I was not surprised that the author of The Better Angels of Our Nature6 should take an optimistic line. Pinker’s fascinating book is infused with optimism. He quotes statistics pointing to a gratifying downward trend in violence and conflict—a decline that has been obscured by the fact that global news networks report disasters that would have been unreported in earlier times.

Noyce of the University of Alberta, is in PLOS One and is discussed in Science News on January 19, 2018. Ryan S. Noyce, Seth Lederman, and David H. Evans, ‘Construction of an Infectious Horsepox Virus Vaccine from Chemically Synthesized DNA Fragments’, PLOS One (January 19, 2018): https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0188453.   5.  Chris D. Thomas, Inheritors of the Earth (London: Allen Lane, 2017).   6.  Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (New York: Penguin Books, 2011).   7.  Freeman Dyson, Dreams of Earth and Sky (New York: Penguin Random House, 2015).   8.  An overview of these developments is given in Murray Shanahan, The Technological Singularity (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015); and Margaret Boden, AI: Its Nature and Future (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016).


pages: 222 words: 53,317

Overcomplicated: Technology at the Limits of Comprehension by Samuel Arbesman

algorithmic trading, Anton Chekhov, Apple II, Benoit Mandelbrot, citation needed, combinatorial explosion, Danny Hillis, David Brooks, digital map, discovery of the americas, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, Flash crash, friendly AI, game design, Google X / Alphabet X, Googley, HyperCard, Inbox Zero, Isaac Newton, iterative process, Kevin Kelly, Machine translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." to Russian and back, mandelbrot fractal, Minecraft, Netflix Prize, Nicholas Carr, Parkinson's law, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, software studies, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, superintelligent machines, Therac-25, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, urban planning, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Whole Earth Catalog, Y2K

the writer Scott Rosenberg notes: Scott Rosenberg, Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2008), 6–7. “suddenly become opaque and bewildering”: Homer-Dixon, The Ingenuity Gap, 186. 100 billion sentences: Actually, to avoid duplicate sentences, it’s really 10,000 nouns × 1,000 verbs × 9,999 nouns. It would still take more than 30,000 years to go through these sentences. from the linguist Steven Pinker: Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language (New York: William Morrow, 1994; repr. HarperPerennial, 1995), 205. “This is the cheese”: Quoted in Ray Kurzweil, The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence (New York: Penguin, 1999), 95. Consider Kant Generator: Program via Mark Pilgrim, Dive into Python: Python from Novice to Pro, updated 2004.

It’s silly to say that language allows for an arbitrarily large number of embedded clauses: that may be technically feasible according to the rules of grammar, but our brains simply can’t parse that much recursion. As much as we would like our languages to be infinite and variegated, we can’t handle sentences with a recursion depth of much more than two or three. Here are some sentences from the linguist Steven Pinker that not only are hard to understand, they don’t even look syntactically correct: The dog the stick the fire burned beat bit the cat. The rapidity that the motion that the wing that the hummingbird has has has is remarkable. Each of these has only a small amount of nesting. For example, the first sentence means that the dog—the one that was beaten by a burnt stick—bit the cat. It is constructed by modifying “the dog”—of “The dog bit the cat”—with a description of the stick.


pages: 511 words: 148,310

Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide by Joshua S. Goldstein

Albert Einstein, Ayatollah Khomeini, Bartolomé de las Casas, Berlin Wall, Black Swan, business cycle, colonial rule, cuban missile crisis, Doomsday Clock, failed state, immigration reform, income inequality, invention of writing, invisible hand, land reform, long peace, microcredit, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela, purchasing power parity, RAND corporation, selection bias, Steven Pinker, Tobin tax, unemployed young men, Winter of Discontent, Y2K

Then again, besieging armies often did not allow surrender on terms, since they “stood to lose all they might gain by loot from a storm attack.” All in all, medieval warfare was not a model of civilized chivalry compared with today’s barbarous warfare—quite the opposite. ANCIENT WARFARE Catch the time machine back to the ancient empires. They lived by war. In fact, for most of human history, writes Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, “unexceptional features of life” included human sacrifice, slavery, conquest, genocide, assassination, rape as a spoil of war, and “homicide as the major form of conflict resolution.” Pinker concludes that “violence has been in decline over long stretches of history, and today we are probably living in the most peaceful moment of our species’ time on earth.” In 143 B.C., after conquering Carthage, the Romans burned the city to the ground, slaughtered 150,000 inhabitants out of a total of 200,000, and sold the rest into slavery.

Similarly, sociologist Evan Luard excludes from his grand survey of war all past wars in Asia and Africa, since they are probably not proper wars and information is “in any case inadequate to provide a proper record or basis for comparison.” But then in his conclusion Luard declares that wars in these places are more costly now than in the past. He “assumes that the modern events he knows about are larger and more frightening than past events of which he is not aware.” Chapter 2 described these actual trends; the point here is the importance of chronological bias. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker adds that we miss long-term declines in violence because “the decline of violent behavior has been parallelled by a decline in attitudes that tolerate or glorify violence.... From a contemporary vantage point, we see [today’s atrocities, mild by historical standards] as signs of how low our behavior can sink, not of how high our standards have risen.” Payne also notes that various groups have vested interests in portraying the world as more violent than it really is.

An observer who points out that violence is declining “seems to lack moral concern” and seems “insensitive, implying that the wars and genocides . . . weren’t all that bad and that we shouldn’t worry about a repetition. . . .” And thus “peace organizations obey the same imperative: if they report that the world is getting more peaceful, they make their mission seem less necessary, and donations to them will slack off.” As journalist Gregg Easterbrook puts it, “Most contemporary fund-raising turns on high-decibel assertions that everything’s going to hell. It is not. . . .” Steven Pinker adds, “No one ever attracted followers and donations by announcing that things keep getting better.” In addition, people have trouble thinking realistically about war trends because war is so traumatic and horrible. Psychological trauma interferes with the ability to measure and compare information accurately. Traumatic memories are frozen in isolated snapshots that do not connect with the metrics of daily life.


pages: 322 words: 88,197

Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson

Ada Lovelace, Alfred Russel Wallace, Antoine Gombaud: Chevalier de Méré, Berlin Wall, bitcoin, Book of Ingenious Devices, Buckminster Fuller, Claude Shannon: information theory, Clayton Christensen, colonial exploitation, computer age, conceptual framework, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Drosophila, Edward Thorp, Fellow of the Royal Society, game design, global village, Hedy Lamarr / George Antheil, HyperCard, invention of air conditioning, invention of the printing press, invention of the telegraph, Islamic Golden Age, Jacquard loom, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, John von Neumann, joint-stock company, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, land value tax, Landlord’s Game, lone genius, mass immigration, megacity, Minecraft, moral panic, Murano, Venice glass, music of the spheres, Necker cube, New Urbanism, Oculus Rift, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, pattern recognition, peer-to-peer, pets.com, placebo effect, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, profit motive, QWERTY keyboard, Ray Oldenburg, spice trade, spinning jenny, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, supply-chain management, talking drums, the built environment, The Great Good Place, the scientific method, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, trade route, Turing machine, Turing test, Upton Sinclair, urban planning, Victor Gruen, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, white flight, white picket fence, Whole Earth Catalog, working poor, Wunderkammern

Because music has such a long history in human society, some scientists believe that an appetite for song is part of the genetic heritage of Homo sapiens, that our brains evolved an interest in musical sounds the way it evolved color perception or the ability to recognize faces. The question of whether music is a cultural invention or an evolutionary adaptation has been a contentious one in the last decade or so, a debate initially triggered by Steven Pinker’s best-selling manifesto of evolutionary psychology, How the Mind Works. Pinker is famous for seeing the mind as a kind of toolbox with a set of specific attributes shaped by the evolutionary pressures of our ancestral environments. But music he considers to be a cultural hack, designed to trigger circuits in the brain that evolved for more pressing tasks. In one of the book’s most controversial passages, he compared music to strawberry cheesecake: We enjoy strawberry cheesecake, but not because we evolved a taste for it.

My brilliant new editor, Courtney Young, widened the scope of this book—and its cast of characters—in many significant ways. And I’m also very grateful to Helen Yentus and Ben Denzer for what may well be my favorite jacket design of all of my books. A number of people were gracious enough to read the book (or sections of it) in draft form. I’m deeply indebted to the comments, corrections, and encouraging words from Alex Ross, Ken Goldberg, Stewart Brand, Steven Pinker, Mike Gazzaniga, Filipe Castro, Jane Root, Fred Hepburn, Chris Anderson, Juliet Blake, Angela Cheng, and Jay Haynes. As always, my wife, Alexa Robinson, read every word—but only improved every other word—with her wisdom and line-editing mojo. Thanks to Franco Moretti for introducing me to the kleptomaniacs of Paris more than two decades ago. And thanks to Jay Haynes, Annie Keating, Alex Ross, and Eric Liftin for so many conversations about music and the mind over the years.

“avenues of horror”: Quoted in Malcolm Gladwell, “The Terrazzo Jungle. Fifty Years Ago, the Mall Was Born. America Would Never Be the Same,” The New Yorker 15 (2004). “Southdale was not a suburban alternative”: Ibid. “The service done by the Fort Worth”: Quoted in Hardwick, 181. “giant shopping machine”: Quoted in Hardwick, 211. Chapter 2. Music “We enjoy strawberry cheesecake”: Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works (New York: Norton, 1999), 535. “The presence of music”: Nicholas J. Conard, Maria Malina, and Susanne C. Münzel, “New Flutes Document the Earliest Musical Tradition in Southwestern Germany,” Nature 460:7256 (2009), 739. Others take the sexual conquests: A fine overview of the arguments for the evolutionary roots of music can be found in Daniel J. Levitin’s This Is Your Brain on Music: Understanding a Human Obsession (London: Atlantic Books Ltd., 2011).


pages: 443 words: 125,510

The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities by John J. Mearsheimer

affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Ayatollah Khomeini, Cass Sunstein, Chelsea Manning, Clive Stafford Smith, Donald Trump, drone strike, Edward Snowden, failed state, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, full employment, global village, Gunnar Myrdal, invisible hand, laissez-faire capitalism, liberal world order, Monroe Doctrine, mutually assured destruction, Peace of Westphalia, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, South China Sea, Steven Pinker, Ted Kaczynski, Thomas L Friedman, transaction costs

Progressive liberalism has its roots in the Enlightenment, which, as Isaac Kramnick notes, “valorized the individual and the moral legitimacy of self-interest,” but also trumpeted the importance of “unassisted human reason, not faith or tradition.”26 As Jeremy Waldron put it, “The relationship between liberal thought and the legacy of the Enlightenment cannot be stressed too strongly. The Enlightenment was characterized by a burgeoning confidence in the human ability to make sense of the world, to grasp its regularities and fundamental principles, to predict its future, and to manipulate its powers for the benefit of mankind.”27 The most prominent progressive liberals over the past fifty years include Ronald Dworkin, Francis Fukuyama, Steven Pinker, and John Rawls. Fukuyama’s famous 1989 article “The End of History?,” which argued that with the fall of communism the question of the ideal form of government had largely been answered in favor of liberal democracy, is an outstanding example of this genre. Rawls, of course, was one of the most influential political philosophers of modern times, while Dworkin was a giant among legal philosophers.

Realist logic also applies in frontier areas that are outside the reach of the state, because there is no 911 that an individual can call if she is threatened with violence. In that setting, it makes good sense for people to be well armed and to shoot first and ask questions later if someone comes toward them in menacing ways. The growing reach of the various political entities that have populated the planet since the beginning of human history seems to explain in good part why violence around the world has steadily declined over time. As Steven Pinker notes, “The reduction of homicide by government control is so obvious to anthropologists that they seldom document it with numbers.”28 Finally, the story Thomas Hobbes tells in Leviathan is largely consistent with structural realism. Individuals in the state of nature, which is an anarchic system, cannot know each other’s intentions, and they all have the capability to kill each other. That basic structure gives them powerful incentives to fear each other, and sometimes even kill other people to enhance their own survival prospects.

See William Finnegan, “The Candidate: How the Son of a Kenyan Economist Became an Illinois Everyman,” New Yorker, May 31, 2004. 52. Jack Knight, Institutions and Social Conflict (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992). 53. Harold D. Lasswell, Politics: Who Gets What, When, How (New York: Whittlesey House, 1936). 54. I discuss the limits of rules under anarchy in John J. Mearsheimer, “The False Promise of International Institutions,” International Security 19, no. 3 (Winter 1994/95): 5–49. 55. Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (New York: Viking, 2011), chaps. 2–3. 56. The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War, ed. Robert B. Strassler (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998), p. 352. 57. Joseph M. Parent, Uniting States: Voluntary Union in World Politics (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011); Sebastian Rosato, Europe United: Power Politics and the Making of the European Community (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2011); Ashley J.


pages: 578 words: 131,346

Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman

Airbnb, Anton Chekhov, basic income, Berlin Wall, bitcoin, Broken windows theory, call centre, David Graeber, Donald Trump, experimental subject, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Frederick Winslow Taylor, Hans Rosling, invention of writing, invisible hand, knowledge economy, late fees, Mahatma Gandhi, mass incarceration, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, Nelson Mandela, New Journalism, placebo effect, sharing economy, Shoshana Zuboff, Silicon Valley, social intelligence, Stanford prison experiment, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, transatlantic slave trade, tulip mania, universal basic income, World Values Survey

In 1968, the anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon came along with a study on the Yanomami people of Venezuela and Brazil that really shook things up. Title? The Fierce People. It described a society ‘in a chronic state of war’. Worse still, it revealed that men who were killers also had more wives and children – makes sense then that violence is in our blood. But the argument wasn’t truly settled until 2011, with the publication of Steven Pinker’s monumental book The Better Angels of Our Nature. It’s the magnum opus of a psychologist who was already ranked among the world’s most influential intellectuals: a massive doorstop of a book with 802 pages in extra-small font and packed with graphs and tables. Perfect for knocking your enemies out cold. ‘Today,’ writes Pinker, ‘we can switch from narratives to numbers.’9 And those numbers speak for themselves.

In fact, we’re the most warmongering creatures on the planet. Fortunately, Pinker reassures his readers, we’ve been ennobled by the ‘artifices of civilization’.11 The invention of farming, writing and the state have served to rein in our aggressive instincts, applying a thick coat of civilisation over our nasty, brutish nature. Under the weight of all the statistics trotted out in this hefty tome, the case seemed closed. For years, I thought Steven Pinker was right, and Rousseau cracked. After all, the results were in and numbers don’t lie. Then I found out about Colonel Marshall. 3 It’s 22 November 1943. Night has fallen on an island in the Pacific, and the Battle of Makin has just begun. The offensive is unfolding as planned when something strange happens.12 Samuel Marshall, colonel and historian, is there to see it. He’s accompanied the first American contingent ashore as they try to take the island, which is in Japanese hands.

After all, if Hobbes was right, we should all take pleasure in killing another person. True, it might not rate as high as sex, but it certainly wouldn’t inspire a deep aversion. If, on the other hand, Rousseau was right, then nomadic foragers should have been largely peaceable. In that case, we must have evolved our intrinsic antipathy towards bloodshed over the tens of thousands of years that Homo puppy went about populating the earth. Could Steven Pinker, the psychologist of the weighty tome, be mistaken? Could his seductive statistics about the high human toll of prehistoric wars – that I eagerly cited in earlier books and articles – be wrong? I decided to go back to square one. This time, I steered clear of publications intended for a popular readership and delved deeper into the academic literature. It wasn’t long before I discovered a pattern.


pages: 901 words: 234,905

The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Steven Pinker

affirmative action, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, anti-communist, British Empire, clean water, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, conceptual framework, correlation coefficient, correlation does not imply causation, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Defenestration of Prague, desegregation, epigenetics, Exxon Valdez, George Akerlof, germ theory of disease, ghettoisation, glass ceiling, Hobbesian trap, income inequality, invention of agriculture, invisible hand, Joan Didion, long peace, meta analysis, meta-analysis, More Guns, Less Crime, Murray Gell-Mann, mutually assured destruction, Norman Mailer, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, plutocrats, Plutocrats, Potemkin village, prisoner's dilemma, profit motive, QWERTY keyboard, Richard Feynman, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, Robert Bork, Rodney Brooks, Saturday Night Live, social intelligence, speech recognition, Stanford prison experiment, stem cell, Steven Pinker, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, the new new thing, theory of mind, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, twin studies, ultimatum game, urban renewal, War on Poverty, women in the workforce, Yogi Berra, zero-sum game

It is beautifully written, and addresses profound issues with courage and clarity. There is nothing else like it, and it is going to have an impact that extends well beyond the scientific academy.” —Paul Bloom, Trends in Cognitive Sciences “Steven Pinker has written an extremely good book—clear, well argued, fair, learned, tough, witty, humane, stimulating. I only hope that people study it carefully before rising up ideologically against him. If they do, they will see that the idea of an innately flawed but wonderfully rich human nature is a force for good, not evil.” —Colin McGinn, The Washington Post “Steven Pinker is a man of encyclopedic knowledge and an incisive style of argument. His argument in The Blank Slate is that intellectual life in the West, and much of our social and political policy, was increasingly dominated through the twentieth century by a view of human nature that is fundamentally flawed; that this domination has been backed by something that amounts to academic terrorism (he does not put it quite so strongly): and that we would benefit substantially from a more realistic view.

PENGUIN BOOKS THE BLANK SLATE Steven Pinker is Johnstone Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. His research on visual cognition and the psychology of language has earned prizes from the National Academy of Sciences and the American Psychological Association. Pinker has also received many awards for his teaching at MIT and for his books How the Mind Works (which was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize) and The Language Instinct. He is an elected fellow of several scientific societies, associate editor of Cognition, and a member of the usage panel of the American Heritage Dictionary. He has written for The New York Times, Time, The New Yorker, The New Republic, Slate, and Technology Review. For The Blank Slate, Pinker received the 2004 William James Book Prize and the Eleanor Maccoby Book Prize, both from the American Psychological Association, as well as the Yorkshire Post Book Prize.

And how courageous to buck the liberal trend in science, while remaining in person the best sort of liberal. Pinker is a star, and the world of science is lucky to have him.” —Richard Dawkins, The Times Literary Supplement “The Blank Slate is not dismal at all, but unexpectedly bracing. It feels a bit like being burgled. You’re shocked, your things are gone, but you can’t help thinking about how you’re going to replace them. What Steven Pinker has done is break into our common human home and steal our illusions.” —John Morrish, The Independent “As a brightly lighted path between what we would like to believe and what we need to know, [The Blank Slate] is required reading. Pinker presents an unanswerable case for accepting that man can be, as he is, both wired and free.” —Frederic Raphael, Los Angeles Times “Pinker’s thinking and writing are first-rate; maybe even better than that.


pages: 346 words: 101,255

The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters by Rose George

American Society of Civil Engineers: Report Card, Anton Chekhov, Bob Geldof, Celtic Tiger, clean water, glass ceiling, indoor plumbing, informal economy, job satisfaction, John Snow's cholera map, joint-stock company, land reform, low cost airline, Nelson Mandela, New Urbanism, Pepto Bismol, Potemkin village, Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, Steven Pinker, urban planning

The diminished power of “damn” explains why the climax of Gone With the Wind is always a bit of a puzzle. When church influence weakened, the products of the body—which Puritan influence has successfully turned into a foul, shameful thing—stepped in instead to give us our worst words. There must be something wrong with it, after all, when all we do is get rid of it as fast as possible. Meanwhile, a plentiful supply of euphemisms can serve as linguistic stand-ins. The cognitive scientist Steven Pinker lists a dozen categories of euphemism, including taboo (shit), medical (stool, bowel movement) and formal (feces, excrement, excreta, defecation, ordure). The category that’s missing is “conversational.” There is no neutral word for what humans produce at least once a day, usually unfailingly. There is no defecatory equivalent of the inoffensive, neutral “sex.” I wish that “shit” didn’t shock.

Not in society, not quite out of it. Needed but rarely demanded. A place where all sorts of human needs and habits intersect: fear, disgust, conversation, grooming, sex. It’s an ambiguous space that is not quite in the public eye, though the public uses it. A place of refuge and sociability, of necessity and criminality. How we are allowed to behave in a public necessity even influences everyday speech. Steven Pinker, in his explanation of taboo words, quotes a spectrum of excreta-related swearing. Shit is less acceptable than piss, which is less acceptable than fart. And so on through to snot and spit, “which is not taboo at all. That’s the same order as the acceptability of eliminating these substances from the body in public.” To be uninterested in the public toilet is to be uninterested in life. In the absence of academic curiosity, I will ask the experts.

Thomas J. Borody, “Flora Power: Fecal Bacteria Cure Chronic C. difficile Diarrhea,” American Journal of Gastroenterology 11 (August 1995): 3028–29. You don’t ever see or smell a thing Megan Levy, “Grandma Saved by Daughter’s Poo,” Daily Telegraph, November 29, 2007. Once people got talking about bathrooms “Examining the Unmentionables,” Time, May 20, 1966. A dozen categories of euphemism Steven Pinker, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature (London: Allen Lane, 2007), p. 351. Without talking frankly about shit WSSCC, Listening (Geneva: WSSCC, 2004), p. 44. [Humanity’s] wiser course Freud quotes from the last scene of Faust, where the “more perfected angels” lament “Uns bleibt ein Erdenrest/zu tragen peinlich/und wär’ er von Asbest/er ist nicht reinlich” (We still have a trace of the Earth, which is distressing to bear; and though it were of asbestos, it is not cleanly).


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Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, From Atoms to Economies by Cesar Hidalgo

"Robert Solow", Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, assortative mating, business cycle, Claude Shannon: information theory, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Douglas Hofstadter, Everything should be made as simple as possible, frictionless, frictionless market, George Akerlof, Gödel, Escher, Bach, income inequality, income per capita, industrial cluster, information asymmetry, invention of the telegraph, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, job satisfaction, John von Neumann, Joi Ito, New Economic Geography, Norbert Wiener, p-value, Paul Samuelson, phenotype, price mechanism, Richard Florida, Ronald Coase, Rubik’s Cube, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Skype, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, The Market for Lemons, The Nature of the Firm, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, total factor productivity, transaction costs, working-age population

Iris and Anna are the biggest sources of strength in my life, and even if they don’t actively help me bleed ink on paper, I owe it all to them. NOTES INTRODUCTION: FROM ATOMS TO PEOPLE TO ECONOMIES 1. In this context, the word atom is used to refer mainly to discrete particles, which could be either atoms or molecules. 2. Two great books describing the interaction between evolution and behavior are Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), and Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (New York: Penguin, 2003). 3. Information theory also has a quantum version, known as quantum information theory. The existence of quantum information theory, however, does not invalidate the claim that classical information is a concept that works at a range of scales that is unusual for other theories. 4. Friedrich Hayek, “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” American Economic Review 35, no. 4 (1945): 519–530. 5.

In general, the existence of social learning speeds up other learning—it is faster to learn from experts. The point here is that the need for social learning slows down knowledge accumulation because it is hard for individuals to find the social learning opportunities they require to acquire each specific chunk of knowledge. 10. A great book eloquently describing the role of genes on human behavior is Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (New York: Penguin, 2003). 11. During the last couple of decades the political scientists and biologists working in the field of genopolitics have amassed an impressive amount of evidence connecting political preferences and genetics. These studies have hinged largely on exploiting data on identical and nonidentical twins, which they have matched with voter records and political party affiliations.

There, Hayek identified money as an information revelation mechanism that helped uncover information regarding the availability and demand of goods in different parts of the economy. 18. J. C. Scott, Seeing like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998). 19. M. Pagel, “Human Language as a Culturally Transmitted Replicator,” Nature Reviews Genetics 10, no. 6 (2009): 405–415. 20. Ronen Shahar, Bruno Goncalves, Kevin Hu, Alessandro Vespignani, Steven Pinker, and César A. Hidalgo, “Links That Speak: The Global Language Network and Its Association to Global Fame,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, (10.1073/pnas.1410931111(2014)). 21. G. F. Davis, Managed by the Markets: How Finance Re-shaped America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009). 22. L. P. Casalino et al., “What Does It Cost Physician Practices to Interact with Health Insurance Plans?


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A Time to Build: From Family and Community to Congress and the Campus, How Recommitting to Our Institutions Can Revive the American Dream by Yuval Levin

affirmative action, Airbnb, assortative mating, barriers to entry, Bernie Sanders, conceptual framework, David Brooks, demand response, Donald Trump, hiring and firing, Jane Jacobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, Silicon Valley, Snapchat, Steven Pinker, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the scientific method

These data certainly suggest slowed growth in the incomes of many working Americans, but they do not reveal a pattern that aligns with the pattern of social and cultural breakdown we have seen in any straightforward way. Economic pressures are clearly part of the story, but they do not explain the whole. 5. According to the US Justice Department’s Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics, the nationwide violent-crime rate in 2017 was the lowest since 1970. 6. Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress (New York: Viking, 2018); Steven Pinker, “The Enlightenment Is Working,” Wall Street Journal, February 10, 2018. 7. This view has long been identified with the communitarian Left (the work of Harvard’s Michael Sandel offers some examples), but it has also expressed itself in recent years on the Right in a series of sharp critiques of the liberal tradition as a foundation for American life.

Some demographic groups have seen their health decline a little in this century, although in general Americans are healthier. But even those declines don’t come close to explaining the source of people’s anxiety (and as noted above, they actually seem to be symptoms as much as causes of a crisis of isolation and despair).5 In fact, some observers have argued that the frustration and anxiety that seem to overwhelm us are rooted in imaginary grievances and are themselves the problem. Harvard’s Steven Pinker takes the complaints that roil our social life to be just irritable gestures of self-indulgent ingratitude. In a recent book, he reviews mountains of data on wealth, health, safety, and choice and concludes that populist outrage on all sides of our politics is detached from reality. And it is dangerous too, he says. “Indiscriminate pessimism can lead to fatalism: to wondering why we should throw time and money at a hopeless cause.


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Unweaving the Rainbow by Richard Dawkins

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Arthur Eddington, complexity theory, correlation coefficient, David Attenborough, discovery of DNA, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, Mahatma Gandhi, music of the spheres, Necker cube, p-value, phenotype, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Solar eclipse in 1919, Steven Pinker, Zipf's Law

This follows by extrapolation from Wolpert's observation that 'there are many more molecules in a glass of water than there are glasses of water in the sea'. Newton's law that objects stay in motion unless positively stopped is counter-intuitive. So is Galileo's discovery that, when there is no air resistance, light objects fall at the same rate as heavy objects. So is the fact that solid matter, even a hard diamond, consists almost entirely of empty space. Steven Pinker gives an illuminating discussion of the evolutionary origins of our physical intuitions in How the Mind Works (1998). More profoundly difficult Eire the conclusions of quantum theory, overwhelmingly supported by experimental evidence to a stupefyingly convincing number of decimal places, yet so alien to the evolved human mind that even professional physicists don't understand them in their intuitive thoughts.

The compatibility of guanine with cytosine, the glove-like fit of adenine with thymine, and especially the intimate mutual twining of the left spiral around the right, all speak to us of loving, caring, nurturing relationships...' Well, I'd be surprised if it quite came to that, and not only because the double helix model is now very unlikely to be disproved. But in science, as in any other field, there really are dangers of becoming intoxicated by symbolism, by meaningless resemblances, and led farther and farther from the truth, rather than towards it. Steven Pinker reports that he is troubled by correspondents who have discovered that everything in the universe comes in threes: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; protons, neutrons and electrons; masculine, feminine and neuter; Huey, Dewey, and Louie; and so on, for page after page. How the Mind Works (1998) Slightly more seriously, Sir Peter Medawar, the distinguished British zoologist and polymath whom I quoted before, invents a great new universal principle of complementarity (not Bohr's) according to which there is an essential inner similarity in the relationships that hold between antigen and antibody, male and female, electropositive and electronegative, thesis and antithesis, and so on.

But 'typically' is not the same thing as 'universally', and the scientific truths that men and women eventually discover (albeit there may be statistical differences in the kinds of research that they are drawn to) will be accepted equally by reasonable people of both sexes, once they have been clearly established by members of either sex. And no, reason and logic are not masculine instruments of oppression. To suggest that they are is an insult to women, as Steven Pinker has said: Among the claims of 'difference feminists' are that women do not engage in abstract linear reasoning, that they do not treat ideas with skepticism or evaluate them through rigorous debate, that they do not argue from general moral principles, and other insults. How the Mind Works (1998) The most ridiculous example of feminist bad science may be Sandra Harding's description of Newton's Principia as a 'rape manual'.


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An Optimist's Tour of the Future by Mark Stevenson

23andMe, Albert Einstein, Andy Kessler, augmented reality, bank run, carbon footprint, carbon-based life, clean water, computer age, decarbonisation, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Elon Musk, flex fuel, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Hans Rosling, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, invention of agriculture, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, Kevin Kelly, Law of Accelerating Returns, Leonard Kleinrock, life extension, Louis Pasteur, low earth orbit, mutually assured destruction, Naomi Klein, off grid, packet switching, peak oil, pre–internet, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, smart cities, social intelligence, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, strong AI, the scientific method, Wall-E, X Prize

But the big elephant in the room for this kind of AI research is that Elephants Don’t Play Chess (this being the title of a paper Brooks wrote in 1990), but they do do any number of ‘common-sense’ things that machines can’t – as can dogs, cats and preschool children. Sure Deep Blue can occasionally beat grandmasters (and no doubt elephants) at chess, but it’ll never be able to find shade or express its political views on Vladimir Putin. So, does Deep Blue think? Well, sort of. A bit. But we still haven’t got anything like Star Wars’ C-3PO, the multipurpose smart machine that we consider a real personality. Or as Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, wrote: The main lesson of thirty-five years of AI research is that the hard problems are easy and the easy problems are hard. The mental abilities of a four-year-old that we take for granted – recognising a face, lifting a pencil, walking across a room, answering a question – in fact solve some of the hardest engineering problems ever conceived.

The world is getting less violent? Have you seen the news? But the figures speak for themselves and they speak volumes. It’s an astonishing and underreported fact that violence is declining and has been for centuries. This goes against popular sentiment that the past was somehow safer and simpler – a time without nuclear weapons or helicopter gunships, with no violent movies or 18-rated computer games. Steven Pinker sums up this misconception when he describes it as ‘the idea that humans are peaceable by nature and corrupted by modern institutions.’ In the last thirty-five years, anthropologists like Carol Ember and Lawrence Keeley have been scouring the archaeological record and studying tribal cultures with results that seriously question the idea that the trappings of civilisation corrupt us toward violence.

Recent research by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Washington and Harvard Medical School suggests that in some cases war deaths may be three times more than WHO estimates. All that said, the long view is that the underlying trend in violent deaths is steeply downward. Even if we double, triple or quadruple the recorded rates of slaughter for the last century we’re still killing far fewer people per capita than our ancestors. As Steven Pinker says, ‘We must have been doing something right. And it would be nice to know what, exactly, it is.’ My hunch is that one of the things we’re getting right is becoming increasingly connected, and being so we find it harder to kill each other. It’s a popular view and one that seems to make instinctive sense. I’m conscious, though, that belief and truth should never be confused. I call some notable academics to see if there is any research that proves or debunks the theory.


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Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender, and Identity―and Why This Harms Everybody by Helen Pluckrose, James A. Lindsay

affirmative action, Albert Einstein, barriers to entry, battle of ideas, centre right, cognitive dissonance, colonial rule, conceptual framework, desegregation, Donald Trump, equal pay for equal work, European colonialism, feminist movement, germ theory of disease, Isaac Newton, late capitalism, meta analysis, meta-analysis, moral panic, neurotypical, phenotype, sexual politics, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, transatlantic slave trade, white flight, women in the workforce

While some on the far right might want to halt progress or even consider it to have gone too far already, and some on the far left consider progress a myth and insist that life in liberal democracies is still as oppressive as it ever has been (thanks, Foucault), liberalism both appreciates progress and is optimistic that it will continue. Within the liberal spectrum, which encompasses people on both the political right and left, everyone agrees that liberalism implies progress, though the speed and means of that progress are up for debate. For cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, it is vital that we appreciate how much progress we have made in liberal democracies—and that we owe that progress to Enlightenment humanism—if we wish it to continue: A liberal democracy is a precious achievement. Until the messiah comes, it will always have problems, but it’s better to solve those problems than to start a conflagration and hope that something better arises from the ashes and bones.

Demonstrating the impossibility of any “natural” sexuality, it calls into question even such apparently unproblematic terms as “man” and “woman.” (p. 3) 11.“Many psychological traits relevant to the public sphere, such as general intelligence, are the same on average for men and women…. [G]eneralizations about a sex will always be untrue of many individuals. And notions like ‘proper role’ and ‘natural place’ are scientifically meaningless and give no grounds for restricting freedom.” Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (London: Penguin, 2002), 340. 12.E. O. Wilson, “From Sociobiology to Sociology,” in Evolution, Literature, and Film: A Reader, ed. Brian, Joseph Carroll, and Jonathan Gottschall, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), 98. 13.Some trans scholars and activists have recently begun to call upon science, as neuroscience has increasingly provided evidence that trans people’s experience of their gender as different from their sex is biologically based.

Harding was perhaps most influential for developing the idea of “strong objectivity” in standpoint theory and is perhaps most famous for referring to Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica as a “rape manual” in her 1986 book, The Science Question in Feminism, which she later claimed to have regretted writing. Sandra G. Harding, The Science Question in Feminism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993). 53.Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress (Penguin Books, 2019). 54.Armin Falk and Johannes Hermle, “Relationship of Gender Differences in Preferences to Economic Development and Gender Equality,” Science 362, no. 6412 (2018): eaas9899. 7 Disability and Fat Studies 1.This strange notation is relatively common in disciplines that use postmodern methods and means.


How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett

airport security, Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Drosophila, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, framing effect, Google Glasses, Isaac Newton, longitudinal study, luminiferous ether, meta analysis, meta-analysis, phenotype, placebo effect, randomized controlled trial, Shai Danziger, Skype, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, theory of mind, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

This kind of internal battle between emotion and reason is one of the great narratives of Western civilization. It helps define you as human. Without rationality, you are merely an emotional beast. This view of emotions has been around for millennia in various forms. Plato believed a version of it. So did Hippocrates, Aristotle, the Buddha, René Descartes, Sigmund Freud, and Charles Darwin. Today, prominent thinkers such as Steven Pinker, Paul Ekman, and the Dalai Lama also offer up descriptions of emotions rooted in the classical view. The classical view is found in virtually every introductory college textbook on psychology, and in most magazine and newspaper articles that discuss emotion. Preschools throughout America hang posters displaying the smiles, frowns, and pouts that are supposed to be the universal language of the face for recognizing emotions.

There are many varieties of dog with differences in size, shape, color, gait, temperament, and so on, but these differences are considered superficial with regard to some essence that all dogs share. A dog is never a cat. Likewise, all varieties of the classical view consider emotions like sadness and fear to have distinct essences. The neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp, for example, writes that an emotion’s essence is a circuit in the subcortical regions of your brain. The evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker writes that emotions are like mental organs, analogous to body organs for specialized functions, and that an emotion’s essence is a set of genes. The evolutionary psychologist Leda Cosmides and the psychologist Paul Ekman assume that each emotion has an innate, unobservable essence, which they refer to as a metaphorical “program.” Ekman’s version of the classical view, called basic emotion theory, assumes that essences for happiness, sadness, fear, surprise, anger, and disgust are triggered automatically by objects and events in the world.

In construction, it has been the environment and then culture. But neither biology nor culture is responsible alone. Others have made this point before me, but it’s time to take it seriously. We don’t know every detail about how the mind and brain work, but we know enough to say definitively that neither biological determinism nor cultural determinism is correct. The boundary of the skin is artificial and porous. As Steven Pinker so nicely writes, “It is now simply misguided to ask whether humans are flexible or programmed, whether behavior is universal or varies across cultures, whether acts are learned or innate.” The devil is in the details, and the details give us the theory of constructed emotion.34 … Now that the final nails are being driven into the classical view’s coffin in this era of neuroscience, I would like to believe that this time, we’ll actually push aside essentialism and begin to understand the mind and brain without ideology.


Raw Data Is an Oxymoron by Lisa Gitelman

23andMe, collateralized debt obligation, computer age, continuous integration, crowdsourcing, disruptive innovation, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Filter Bubble, Firefox, fixed income, Google Earth, Howard Rheingold, index card, informal economy, Isaac Newton, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, knowledge worker, liberal capitalism, lifelogging, longitudinal study, Louis Daguerre, Menlo Park, optical character recognition, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, peer-to-peer, RFID, Richard Thaler, Silicon Valley, social graph, software studies, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, text mining, time value of money, trade route, Turing machine, urban renewal, Vannevar Bush, WikiLeaks

Guides differ, but usage authorizes both, and analogy to parallel Latin loan words gives no unambiguous guide.8 Indeed, it seems preferable in modern English to allow context to determine whether the term should be treated as a plural or as a collective singular, since the connotations are different. When referring to individual bits or varieties of data and contrasting them among one another, it may be sensible to favor the plural as in “these data are not all equally reliable”; whereas, when referring to data as one mass, it may be better to use the singular as in “this data is reliable.” According to Steven Pinker, in English today, the latter usage has become usual.9 The fact that a standard English dictionary defines a “datum” as a “piece of information,” a fragment of another linguistically complex mass noun, further strengthens this intuition.10 As Pinker argues, however much priggish pleasure professors may take in pointing out that the term data in Latin is plural, foreign plurals may be deployed in English as singulars.

On the usage of “data” in contemporary English, see American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 3rd ed. 37 38 Daniel Rosenberg Technical literature on the subject includes the following: Chaim Zins, “Conceptual Approaches for Defining Data, Information, and Knowledge,” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 58, no. 4 (2007): 479–493; Carter A. Daniel and Charles C. Smith, “An Argument for Data as a Collective Singular,” Business Communication Quarterly 45, no. 3 (September 1982): 31–33;Walter E. Meyers, College Composition and Communication 23, no. 2 (May 1972): 155–169. 9. Steven Pinker, Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language (New York: Basic Books, 1999), 178. 10. Oxford Dictionaries Online, “Datum,” http://oxforddictionaries.com (accessed February 10, 2012). See also Geoffrey Nunberg, “Farewell to the Information Age,” in The Future of the Book, ed. Geoffrey Nunberg (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), 103–138. 11. Pinker, Words and Rules, 55. The eighteenth-century usage question revolved mainly around the propriety of using foreign suffixes to create plurals for naturalized loan words.

In this vast literature, see, for example, Nicholson Baker, The Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper (New York: Vintage, 2002); Robert Darnton, The Case for Books (New York: PublicAffairs, 2009). 16. Jean-Baptiste Michel, Yuan Kui Shen, Aviva Presser Aiden, Adrian Veres, Matthew K. Gray, The Google Books Team, Joseph P. Pickett, Dale Hoiberg, Dan Clancy, Peter Norvig, Jon Orwant, Steven Pinker, Martin A. Nowak, and Erez Lieberman Aiden, “Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of Digitized Books,” Science 331 (2011), published online ahead of print: December 16, 2010; Erez Lieberman, Jean-Baptiste Michel, Joe Jackson, Tina Tang, and Martin Nowak, “Quantifying the Evolutionary Dynamics of Language,” Nature 449 (2007). See also http://www.culturomics.org. 17. Patricia Cohen, “Analyzing Literature by Words and Numbers,” New York Times, December 3, 2010; idem., “In 500 Billion Words, New Window on Culture,” December 16, 2010; idem., “Five-Million-Book Google Database Gets a Workout, and a Debate, in Its First Days,” December Data before the Fact 21, 2010; idem.; Ben Zimmer, “The Future Tense,” New York Times, February 25, 2011.


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In Our Own Image: Savior or Destroyer? The History and Future of Artificial Intelligence by George Zarkadakis

3D printing, Ada Lovelace, agricultural Revolution, Airbnb, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, animal electricity, anthropic principle, Asperger Syndrome, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, battle of ideas, Berlin Wall, bioinformatics, British Empire, business process, carbon-based life, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, combinatorial explosion, complexity theory, continuous integration, Conway's Game of Life, cosmological principle, dark matter, dematerialisation, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Edward Snowden, epigenetics, Flash crash, Google Glasses, Gödel, Escher, Bach, income inequality, index card, industrial robot, Internet of things, invention of agriculture, invention of the steam engine, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, job automation, John von Neumann, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Kickstarter, liberal capitalism, lifelogging, millennium bug, Moravec's paradox, natural language processing, Norbert Wiener, off grid, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, packet switching, pattern recognition, Paul Erdős, post-industrial society, prediction markets, Ray Kurzweil, Rodney Brooks, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, social intelligence, speech recognition, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, strong AI, technological singularity, The Coming Technological Singularity, The Future of Employment, the scientific method, theory of mind, Turing complete, Turing machine, Turing test, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Vernor Vinge, Von Neumann architecture, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Y2K

Dubbed ‘FOXP2’, it also became known as the ‘language gene’. Steven Pinker, the renowned MIT psychologist, has called the finding the smoking gun for the relationship between genes and language.18 The gene exists in other mammals too, including chimpanzees, but seems to have undergone a significant mutation in humans around 200,000 years ago, a period that roughly coincides with the advent of H. sapiens sapiens. The discovery of FOXP2 provides some validation of the language theory proposed by Noam Chomsky, about the connection between genes and language. Chomsky observed that children are born with an innate knowledge about language and grammatical structure, which had to be biologically determined. According to his language theory, we are hardwired for language, a notion shared and supported by Steven Pinker and other neurolinguists.

He writes: ‘… it is comparatively easy to make computers exhibit adult level performance on intelligence test or playing checkers, and difficult or impossible to give them the skills of a one-year-old when it comes to perception and mobility’.30 Although computational methods can reproduce high-level reasoning – as demonstrated in the case of expert systems – research in robotics has shown that sensorimotor skills remain a huge challenge. Coding cognition has proved to be an easy problem. The really hard problem in AI is coding sensing and action. According to cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, this is the most significant discovery about AI.31 It suggests that in the second machine age, while lawyers and doctors may struggle on social benefits, gardeners and janitors will remain in business and thrive. But why is this so? Many AI researchers, including former MIT professor and current robotics entrepreneur Rodney Brooks, point out that human sensorimotor skills are not related to cognition but are the product of millions of years of evolution.32 Despite the success achieved in AI by approaching the problem of intelligence from a different angle (the ‘aeroplane’ way), one would really need to reverse-engineer evolution in order to reproduce the full capabilities of a human brain including self-awareness and high-levels of consciousness.

It would be impossible to list all of them, but I would like to acknowledge in particular the contribution of my research supervisor, Ewart Carson, at City University, London and Janos Sztipanovits at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, where I validated my expert system and learned to love America; as well as acknowledge those whom I met at the Consciousness Conferences in Tucson, including Stuart Hameroff, David Chalmers, Daniel Dennett, Steven Pinker, John Searle and Christof Koch. In my years in Athens I was invited to participate in a very special circle of discussions about the mind at Athens University led by neuropsychologist Andrew Papanicolaou (currently based at the University of Tennessee). The circle included psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, philosophers of science and neuroscientists. It felt as if I were back in classical times – with the added advantage of hard scientific facts; a very enjoyable and productive experience indeed, for which I remain most grateful.


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The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity's Search for Meaning by Jeremy Lent

"Robert Solow", Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Atahualpa, Benoit Mandelbrot, Bretton Woods, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, cognitive dissonance, commoditize, complexity theory, conceptual framework, dematerialisation, demographic transition, different worldview, Doomsday Book, en.wikipedia.org, European colonialism, failed state, Firefox, Francisco Pizarro, Georg Cantor, happiness index / gross national happiness, hedonic treadmill, income inequality, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, invention of gunpowder, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Johannes Kepler, Lao Tzu, Law of Accelerating Returns, mandelbrot fractal, mass immigration, megacity, Metcalfe's law, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, oil shale / tar sands, out of africa, peak oil, Pierre-Simon Laplace, QWERTY keyboard, Ray Kurzweil, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, Scientific racism, scientific worldview, shareholder value, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, social intelligence, South China Sea, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, technological singularity, the scientific method, theory of mind, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, Turing test, ultimatum game, urban sprawl, Vernor Vinge, wikimedia commons

Coolidge and Thomas Wynn, “Working Memory, Its Executive Functions, and the Emergence of Modern Thinking,” Cambridge Archaeological Journal 15, no. 1 (2005): 5–26. See also Richard G. Klein, “Archeology and the Evolution of Human Behavior,” Evolutionary Anthropology 9, no. 1 (2000): 17–36, which argues that this sudden change must have been caused by a genetic mutation that permitted symbolic thought. 16. Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language (New York: Harper Perennial, 1994), 4–5. 17. Ibid., 44–73. 18. Steven Pinker and Paul Bloom, “Natural Language and Natural Selection,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13, no. 4 (1990): 707–84. 19. Daniel Margoliash and Howard C. Nusbaum, “Language: The Perspective from Organismal Biology,” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 13, no. 12 (2009): 505–10; Morten H. Christiansen and Nick Chater, “Language as Shaped by the Brain,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences, no. 31 (2008): 489–558.

Perhaps there's another way to approach the problem, by turning to that other controversy about whether or not there's a “language instinct.” Surely this would help resolve the issue? After all, if there is a language instinct, it must be embedded so deeply in the human psyche that we would have been talking to each other at least a few hundred thousand years ago. So let's see what light this other debate sheds on the problem. A Language Instinct? The Language Instinct is a popular book written by renowned cognitive scientist Steven Pinker. Pinker's title says it all, and he makes no bones about his position in the language debate. “Language is not a cultural artifact that we learn the way we learn to tell time or how the federal government works,” he writes. “Instead, it is a distinct piece of the biological makeup of our brains.” He uses the word “instinct,” he explains, “because people know how to talk in more or less the sense that spiders know how to spin webs.”

In time, attacking Sapir-Whorf became a favorite path to academic tenure, until the entire theory became completely discredited.9 In place of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis arose what is known as the nativist view, which argues that the grammar of language is innate to humankind. As discussed earlier, the theory of universal grammar, proposed by Noam Chomsky in the 1950s and popularized more recently by Steven Pinker, posits that humans have a “language instinct” with grammatical rules coded into our DNA. This theory has dominated the field of linguistics for decades. “There is no scientific evidence,” writes Pinker, “that languages dramatically shape their speakers’ ways of thinking.” Pinker and other adherents to this theory, however, are increasingly having to turn a blind eye—not just to the Guugu Yimithirr but to the accumulating evidence of a number of studies showing the actual effects of language on people's patterns of thought.10 Frustration…or Stenahoria?


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Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

affirmative action, AltaVista, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Asian financial crisis, Bernie Sanders, big data - Walmart - Pop Tarts, Cass Sunstein, computer vision, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, desegregation, Donald Trump, Edward Glaeser, Filter Bubble, game design, happiness index / gross national happiness, income inequality, Jeff Bezos, John Snow's cholera map, longitudinal study, Mark Zuckerberg, Nate Silver, peer-to-peer lending, Peter Thiel, price discrimination, quantitative hedge fund, Ronald Reagan, Rosa Parks, sentiment analysis, Silicon Valley, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Steven Pinker, TaskRabbit, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, working poor

DEDICATION To Mom and Dad CONTENTS Cover Title Page Dedication Foreword by Steven Pinker Introduction: The Outlines of a Revolution PART I: DATA, BIG AND SMALL 1. Your Faulty Gut PART II: THE POWERS OF BIG DATA 2. Was Freud Right? 3. Data Reimagined Bodies as Data Words as Data Pictures as Data 4. Digital Truth Serum The Truth About Sex The Truth About Hate and Prejudice The Truth About the Internet The Truth About Child Abuse and Abortion The Truth About Your Facebook Friends The Truth About Your Customers Can We Handle the Truth? 5. Zooming In What’s Really Going On in Our Counties, Cities, and Towns? How We Fill Our Minutes and Hours Our Doppelgangers Data Stories 6. All the World’s a Lab The ABCs of A/B Testing Nature’s Cruel—but Enlightening—Experiments PART III: BIG DATA: HANDLE WITH CARE 7.

And though I like to think that nothing can shock me, I was shocked aplenty by what the internet reveals about human sexuality—including the discovery that every month a certain number of women search for “humping stuffed animals.” No experiment using reaction time or pupil dilation or functional neuroimaging could ever have turned up that fact. Everybody will enjoy Everybody Lies. With unflagging curiosity and an endearing wit, Stephens-Davidowitz points to a new path for social science in the twenty-first century. With this endlessly fascinating window into human obsessions, who needs a cerebroscope? —Steven Pinker, 2017 INTRODUCTION THE OUTLINES OF A REVOLUTION Surely he would lose, they said. In the 2016 Republican primaries, polling experts concluded that Donald Trump didn’t stand a chance. After all, Trump had insulted a variety of minority groups. The polls and their interpreters told us few Americans approved of such outrages. Most polling experts at the time thought that Trump would lose in the general election.

He somehow knows everything about music, history, sports, politics, sociology, economics, and God only knows what else. He is responsible for a huge amount of what is good about the Times columns that have my name on them. Other players on the team for these columns include Bill Marsh, whose graphics continue to blow me away, Kevin McCarthy, and Gita Daneshjoo. This book includes passages from these columns, reprinted with permission. Steven Pinker, who kindly agreed to write the foreword, has long been a hero of mine. He has set the bar for a modern book on social science—an engaging exploration of the fundamentals of human nature, making sense of the best research from a range of disciplines. That bar is one I will be struggling to reach my entire life. My dissertation, from which this book has grown, was written under my brilliant and patient advisers Alberto Alesina, David Cutler, Ed Glaeser, and Lawrence Katz.


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It's Better Than It Looks: Reasons for Optimism in an Age of Fear by Gregg Easterbrook

affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, air freight, autonomous vehicles, basic income, Bernie Madoff, Bernie Sanders, Branko Milanovic, business cycle, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, clean water, coronavirus, David Brooks, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Exxon Valdez, factory automation, failed state, full employment, Gini coefficient, Google Earth, Home mortgage interest deduction, hydraulic fracturing, Hyperloop, illegal immigration, impulse control, income inequality, Indoor air pollution, interchangeable parts, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invisible hand, James Watt: steam engine, labor-force participation, liberal capitalism, longitudinal study, Lyft, mandatory minimum, manufacturing employment, Mikhail Gorbachev, minimum wage unemployment, obamacare, oil shale / tar sands, Paul Samuelson, peak oil, plutocrats, Plutocrats, Ponzi scheme, post scarcity, purchasing power parity, quantitative easing, reserve currency, rising living standards, Robert Gordon, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, short selling, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Slavoj Žižek, South China Sea, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, supervolcano, The Chicago School, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, the scientific method, There's no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home - Ken Olsen, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, transaction costs, uber lyft, universal basic income, War on Poverty, Washington Consensus, WikiLeaks, working poor, Works Progress Administration

Probably there is little relationship between public reaction and street crime, but public reaction is the purpose of terrorist crime. Resilience is the correct response. There is strong desire for a clear explanation of why nearly all forms of crime have moderated: especially, for a narrative tied to single causes. But it may be that no one can fully explain the remarkable decline of crime—a frustrating conclusion unless the theories of the cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, to be addressed at the close of this chapter, ultimately will provide the explanation. Why war is in decline seems, by contrast, straightforward. JOSHUA GOLDSTEIN, A RESEARCHER AT the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, has spent years swimming upstream against conventional wisdom by documenting the decline of combat: there has been no direct great-power combat since the Korean War armistice of 1953, and no proxy great-power combat since the Soviet Union folded in 1991.

At this juncture, it is essential to reiterate that positive trends in lesser frequency and intensity of war and in acquisition of national-scale wealth by economic production rather than conquest are only a quarter-century on. That is not long by the standards of history. Some awful reversal of fortune may be in our future; worse, one of the nuclear powers may make The Big Mistake. For now, we live in a world where all forms of violence are in at least mild decline—some in sharp decline—compared to population rise. And that leads to the theories of Michael Tomasello and Steven Pinker. * * * TOMASELLO STUDIES SOCIAL COGNITION AT Duke University and at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig. His research finds that although human beings are perceived as insensible to the needs of their fellows, men and women have incentives to behave altruistically: this not only makes for an improved society; it also increases the individual’s chance of getting ahead. Tomasello’s 2009 treatise Why We Cooperate might have been titled Selfish Reasons to Become a Better Person.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks this issue: See the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Military Expenditure Database maintained at www.sipri.org/databases/milex. Not long before her 1989 death, the eminent historian Barbara Tuchman wrote: Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978). Juan Manuel Santos, president of Colombia, said that year: Steven Pinker, “Colombia’s Milestone in World Peace,” New York Times, August 26, 2016. The Yale University historian Timothy Snyder has noted: Timothy Snyder, Black Earth (New York: Tim Duggan Books, 2015). The Polish writer Stanislaw Lem introduced the concept: Stanislaw Lem, Fiasco (New York: Harcourt, 1987). Fertility per woman remains highest in the warsphere nations: “Fertility Rate, Total Births per Woman” (Washington DC: World Bank).


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Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker

3D printing, access to a mobile phone, affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, anti-communist, Anton Chekhov, Arthur Eddington, artificial general intelligence, availability heuristic, Ayatollah Khomeini, basic income, Berlin Wall, Bernie Sanders, Black Swan, Bonfire of the Vanities, business cycle, capital controls, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, carbon footprint, clean water, clockwork universe, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, conceptual framework, correlation does not imply causation, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dark matter, decarbonisation, deindustrialization, dematerialisation, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, distributed generation, diversified portfolio, Donald Trump, Doomsday Clock, double helix, effective altruism, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, end world poverty, endogenous growth, energy transition, European colonialism, experimental subject, Exxon Valdez, facts on the ground, Fall of the Berlin Wall, first-past-the-post, Flynn Effect, food miles, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, frictionless, frictionless market, germ theory of disease, Gini coefficient, Hans Rosling, hedonic treadmill, helicopter parent, Hobbesian trap, humanitarian revolution, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, income inequality, income per capita, Indoor air pollution, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of writing, Jaron Lanier, Joan Didion, job automation, Johannes Kepler, John Snow's cholera map, Kevin Kelly, Khan Academy, knowledge economy, l'esprit de l'escalier, Laplace demon, life extension, long peace, longitudinal study, Louis Pasteur, Martin Wolf, mass incarceration, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mikhail Gorbachev, minimum wage unemployment, moral hazard, mutually assured destruction, Naomi Klein, Nate Silver, Nathan Meyer Rothschild: antibiotics, Nelson Mandela, New Journalism, Norman Mailer, nuclear winter, obamacare, open economy, Paul Graham, peak oil, Peter Singer: altruism, Peter Thiel, precision agriculture, prediction markets, purchasing power parity, Ralph Nader, randomized controlled trial, Ray Kurzweil, rent control, Republic of Letters, Richard Feynman, road to serfdom, Robert Gordon, Rodney Brooks, rolodex, Ronald Reagan, Rory Sutherland, Saturday Night Live, science of happiness, Scientific racism, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Simon Kuznets, Skype, smart grid, sovereign wealth fund, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, Stuxnet, supervolcano, technological singularity, Ted Kaczynski, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, total factor productivity, union organizing, universal basic income, University of East Anglia, Unsafe at Any Speed, Upton Sinclair, uranium enrichment, urban renewal, War on Poverty, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, women in the workforce, working poor, World Values Survey, Y2K

ALSO BY STEVEN PINKER Language Learnability and Language Development Learnability and Cognition The Language Instinct How the Mind Works Words and Rules The Blank Slate The Stuff of Thought The Better Angels of Our Nature Language, Cognition, and Human Nature: Selected Articles The Sense of Style EDITED BY STEVEN PINKER Visual Cognition Connections and Symbols (with Jacques Mehler) Lexical and Conceptual Semantics (with Beth Levin) The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2004 VIKING An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC 375 Hudson Street New York, New York 10014 penguin.com Copyright © 2018 by Steven Pinker Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture.

Charts rendered by Ilavenil Subbiah ISBN 9780525427575 (hardcover) ISBN 9780698177888 (ebook) ISBN 9780525559023 (international edition) Version_1 TO Harry Pinker (1928–2015) optimist Solomon Lopez (2017– ) and the 22nd century Those who are governed by reason desire nothing for themselves which they do not also desire for the rest of humankind. —Baruch Spinoza Everything that is not forbidden by laws of nature is achievable, given the right knowledge. —David Deutsch CONTENTS ALSO BY STEVEN PINKER TITLE PAGE COPYRIGHT DEDICATION EPIGRAPH LIST OF FIGURES PREFACE PART I: ENLIGHTENMENT CHAPTER 1. DARE TO UNDERSTAND! CHAPTER 2. ENTRO, EVO, INFO CHAPTER 3. COUNTER-ENLIGHTENMENTS PART II: PROGRESS CHAPTER 4. PROGRESSOPHOBIA CHAPTER 5. LIFE CHAPTER 6. HEALTH CHAPTER 7. SUSTENANCE CHAPTER 8. WEALTH CHAPTER 9. INEQUALITY CHAPTER 10.

The overall trend in the NSC dataset is similar to that in the figure; I chose not to show it because the rates are calculated as a proportion of the population rather than the number of workers, and because they contain an artifactual drop in 1992, when the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries was introduced. 64. United Nations Development Programme 2011, table 2.3, p. 37. 65. The example is from “War, Death, and the Automobile,” an appendix to Mueller 1989, originally published in the Wall Street Journal in 1984. CHAPTER 13: TERRORISM 1. Fear of terrorism: Jones et al. 2016a; see also chapter 4, note 14. 2. Western Europe as war zone: J. Gray, “Steven Pinker Is Wrong About Violence and War,” The Guardian, March 13, 2015; see also S. Pinker, “Guess What? More People Are Living in Peace Now. Just Look at the Numbers,” The Guardian, March 20, 2015. 3. More dangerous than terrorism: National Safety Council 2011. 4. Homicide in Western Europe versus the United States: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2013. The average homicide rate of the 24 countries classified as Western Europe in the Global Terrorism Database was 1.1 per 100,000 people per year; the figure for the United States in 2014 was 4.5.


The Kingdom of Speech by Tom Wolfe

Ada Lovelace, Alfred Russel Wallace, Bonfire of the Vanities, British Empire, complexity theory, Copley Medal, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, failed state, Isaac Newton, Nelson Mandela, Norman Mailer, Steven Pinker, Thomas Malthus

Radio, television, and the popular press picked up on it here and abroad. Germany’s biggest and most influential magazine, Der Spiegel, said the Pirahã, a “small hunting and gathering tribe, with a population of only 310 to 350, has become the center of a raging debate between linguists, anthropologists and cognitive researchers. Even Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Steven Pinker of Harvard University, two of the most influential theorists on the subject, are still arguing over what it means for the study of human language that the Pirahã don’t use subordinate clauses.”134 The British newspaper the Independent zeroed in on recursion. “The Pirahã language has none of [recursion’s] features; every sentence stands alone and refers to a single event.…Professor Everett insists the example of the Pirahã, because of the impact their peculiar culture has had upon their language and way of thinking, strikes a devastating blow to Chomskyan theory.

But in 2009, after Everett’s book was published, he went all out in a paper entitled “Universal Grammar Is Dead” for the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences and confronted Chomsky head-on: “The idea of a biologically evolved, universal grammar with linguistic content is a myth.”152 “Myth” became the new word. Vyvyan Evans of Wales’s Bangor University expanded it into a book, The Language Myth, in 2014. He came right out and rejected Chomsky’s and Steven Pinker’s idea of an innate, natural-born “language instinct.” In a blurb, Michael Fortescue of the University of Copenhagen added, “Evans’ rebuttal of Chomsky’s Universal Grammar from the perspective of Cognitive Linguistics provides an excellent antidote to popular textbooks where it is assumed that the Chomskyan approach to linguistic theory…has somehow been vindicated once and for all.”153 Thanks to Everett, linguists were beginning to breathe life into the words of the anti-Chomskyans of the twentieth century who had been written off as cranks or contrarians, such as Larry Trask, a linguist at England’s University of Sussex.


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The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt

affirmative action, Black Swan, cognitive bias, illegal immigration, impulse control, income inequality, index card, invisible hand, lateral thinking, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Monkeys Reject Unequal Pay, Necker cube, Nelson Mandela, out of africa, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, social intelligence, social web, stem cell, Steven Pinker, The Spirit Level, theory of mind, Thomas Malthus, Tony Hsieh, ultimatum game

Radical reformers usually want to believe that human nature is a blank slate on which any utopian vision can be sketched. If evolution gave men and women different sets of desires and skills, for example, that would be an obstacle to achieving gender equality in many professions. If nativism could be used to justify existing power structures, then nativism must be wrong. (Again, this is a logical error, but this is the way righteous minds work.) The cognitive scientist Steven Pinker was a graduate student at Harvard in the 1970s. In his 2002 book The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, Pinker describes the ways scientists betrayed the values of science to maintain loyalty to the progressive movement. Scientists became “moral exhibitionists” in the lecture hall as they demonized fellow scientists and urged their students to evaluate ideas not for their truth but for their consistency with progressive ideals such as racial and gender equality.14 Nowhere was the betrayal of science more evident than in the attacks on Edward O.

., intuition, and the little flashes of affect that will feature prominently in chapter 3. See Bargh and Chartrand 1999. 24. I date the rebirth to 1992 because that is when an influential volume appeared with the provocative title The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture. The book was edited by Jerome Barkow, Leda Cosmides, and John Tooby. Other leading figures in the field included David Buss, Doug Kenrick, and Steven Pinker. Morality (particularly cooperation and cheating) has been an important area of research in evolutionary psychology since the beginning. 25. I call this model “Jeffersonian” because it allows the “head” and the “heart” to reach independent and conflicting moral judgments, as happened in his letter to Cosway. But I note that Jefferson thought that the head was poorly suited to making moral judgments, and that it should confine itself to issues that can be determined by calculation.

But people who work with bees, ants, and other highly social creatures sometimes say that multilevel selection helps them see phenomena that are less visible when they take the gene’s-eye view; see Seeley 1997. 14. I’m oversimplifying here; species of bees, ants, wasps, and termites vary in the degree to which they have achieved the status of superorganisms. Self-interest is rarely reduced to absolute zero, particularly in bees and wasps, which retain the ability to breed under some circumstances. See Hölldobler and Wilson 2009. 15. I thank Steven Pinker for pointing this out to me, in a critique of an early version of this chapter. Pinker noted that war in pre-state societies is nothing like our modern image of men marching off to die for a cause. There’s a lot of posturing, a lot of Glauconian behavior going on as warriors strive to burnish their reputations. Suicide terrorism occurs only rarely in human history; see Pape 2005, who notes that such incidents occur almost exclusively in situations where a group is defending its sacred homeland from culturally alien invaders.


Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother's Boyfriend by Barbara Oakley Phd

agricultural Revolution, Alfred Russel Wallace, Barry Marshall: ulcers, cognitive dissonance, conceptual framework, corporate governance, Deng Xiaoping, double helix, impulse control, Mahatma Gandhi, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, Norbert Wiener, phenotype, Ponzi scheme, prisoner's dilemma, Richard Feynman, rolodex, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Stanford prison experiment, Steven Pinker, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, twin studies, union organizing, Y2K

Neuroscience is fleshing out the field nicely, but unfortunately, popular hard science–based books about the successfully sinister are rarer than frequent flyer mile seats to Hawaii at Christmas. It appears we'll have some time to wait before we start seeing popular books with titles like He Really Is Driving You Crazy: Understanding Theta Wave Activity, or Bitch: The Science behind the Savagery. But genetics is as important as neuroscience in understanding the successfully sinister. Groundbreaking books such as Judith Rich Harris's The Nurture Assumption and Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate have served as fulcrums to help swing researchers off their centuries-long love affair with the idea that people are naturally good.12 Under this well-intentioned ideology, “evil” people were believed to be created and shaped solely by their environment. The advantage of this belief is that it gives researchers the comfort of thinking that humans have direct control over evil—that by somehow reengineering the social environment, human evil can be eliminated.

Linguist Noam Chomsky used his ideas about the formation and learning of language to help pick apart flaws in Skinner's ideas, which helped begin the long overdue overthrow of Skinnerian behaviorism in psychology. Chomsky gave credence to the idea that the brain was composed of a modular set of units, with specialized, innately unique areas that were responsible for learning different things, such as language, mathematics, or the various motor skills. Another revolutionary investigator, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, cut his professional teeth on research related to language before moving on to write The Blank Slate. Pinker's brilliant book, along with the Judith Rich Harris's seminal The Nurture Assumption, was to help redefine psychology so that nature—genetics—was firmly shown to play an equal or even more crucial role than nurture—that is, the environment. Pinker, along with John Tooby and his wife, Leda Cosmides, and others, also stood on the shoulders of Chomsky's ideas to eventually conclude that the human brain, including its module for learning language, evolved by natural selection, just like other body parts.

Sonne, “On Tyrants as Abortion Survivors,” Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health 19, no. 2 (2004): 149–67. 9. As of February 21, 2007. 10. Glad, “Why Tyrants Go Too Far.” 11. Tony Becher and Paul Trowler, Academic Tribes and Territories, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia, PA: Open University Press, 2001); Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996). 12. Judith Rich Harris, The Nurture Assumption (New York: Free Press, 1998); Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (New York: Viking, 2002). CHAPTER 1: IN SEARCH OF MACHIAVELLI 1. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, in L. J. Peter, Peter's Quotations: Ideas for Our Time (New York: Bantam Books, 1979), p. 123. 2. Richard Christie, “Why Machiavelli?” in Studies in Machiavellianism, ed. Richard Christie and Florence Geis (New York: Academic Press, 1970), p. 2. 3. David M.


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Slowdown: The End of the Great Acceleration―and Why It’s Good for the Planet, the Economy, and Our Lives by Danny Dorling, Kirsten McClure

Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Berlin Wall, Bernie Sanders, Boris Johnson, British Empire, business cycle, capital controls, clean water, creative destruction, credit crunch, Donald Trump, drone strike, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Flynn Effect, full employment, future of work, gender pay gap, global supply chain, Google Glasses, Henri Poincaré, illegal immigration, immigration reform, income inequality, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, Isaac Newton, James Dyson, jimmy wales, John Harrison: Longitude, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, Mark Zuckerberg, market clearing, Martin Wolf, mass immigration, means of production, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, mortgage debt, nuclear winter, pattern recognition, Ponzi scheme, price stability, profit maximization, purchasing power parity, QWERTY keyboard, random walk, rent control, rising living standards, Robert Gordon, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, Scramble for Africa, sexual politics, Skype, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, structural adjustment programs, the built environment, Tim Cook: Apple, transatlantic slave trade, trickle-down economics, very high income, wealth creators, wikimedia commons, working poor

Jeremy Cushing, “Peace and Equality in the Bronze Age: The Evidence from Dartmoor Suggests That War and Rich Elites Were Unknown More Than 3,000 Years Ago,” Guardian, 24 August 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/aug/24/peace-and-equality-in-the-bronze-age. 13. F. H. King, Farmers of Forty Centuries: Organic Farming in China, Korea, and Japan (1911; repr., Mineola, NY: Dover, 2004). 14. Bill Gates, “My New Favorite Book of All Time,” Gates Notes Blog, 26 January 2018, https://www.gatesnotes.com/Books/Enlightenment-Now. 15. Jeremy Lent, “Steven Pinker’s Ideas about Progress Are Fatally Flawed. These Eight Graphs Show Why,” Patterns of Meaning, 17 May 2018, https://patternsofmeaning.com/2018/05/17/steven-pinkers-ideas-about-progress-are-fatally-flawed-these-eight-graphs-show-why/. 16. “Meaning of feitorias (Portuguese),” Wiktionary, accessed 3 July 2019, https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/feitoria#Portuguese. 17. Danny Dorling, Injustice: Why Social Inequality Still Persists, rev. ed. (Bristol: Policy, 2015), 18. 18. Timothy Hatton and Bernice E.

12 In the northern plains of China, over one hundred generations are thought to have lived much the same life, stable and sustainable, at a high population density, and that kind of society is only possible when the elites are controlled. Out-of-control elites lead to war.13 There are always a few people who seemingly can’t help sucking up to elites and who suggest that all will be well if we just allow a few people “who know what is best for us” to be in control. In 2018 Steven Pinker wrote a book, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, in which he suggested that the human race has never had it so good as it does today. Bill Gates promptly declared it his “new favorite book of all time.”14 It is not hard to see how Pinker’s story is wrong. Today many people other than Pinker know that we are consuming too much. They know that only the rich will benefit from Pinker’s ideas, such as pretending (or even actually believing) that trickle-down economics works.

Robert Grove and Alice Hetzel, Vital Statistics Rates in the United States, 1940–1960 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health Education and Welfare, 1968) table 19 (p. 138), table 80 (p. 876), http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/vsus/vsrates1940_60.pdf. 16. Max Roser and Mohamed Nagdy, “Nuclear Weapons,” Our World in Data, accessed 4 September 2019, https://ourworldindata.org/nuclear-weapons/#note-3. Figure 5-22 is based on Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (London: Penguin, 2011). 17. Statistics New Zealand, “Sure to Rise: Tracking Bread Prices in the CPI,” Stats NZ On-line, 2011, http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/economic_indicators/prices_indexes/tracking-bread-prices-in-the-cpi.aspx. 18. The term comes from the name of a fairground ride. The world’s first helter-skelter is a little older, apparently appearing at a fair in Hull in 1905, although whether that is true or not hardly matters for this particular story.


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The Goodness Paradox: The Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution by Richard Wrangham

agricultural Revolution, Alfred Russel Wallace, Defenestration of Prague, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, impulse control, income inequality, meta analysis, meta-analysis, out of africa, phenotype, Ronald Reagan, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), Steven Pinker, twin studies, ultimatum game

Whether or not their lives are consumed by war beyond their settlements, people can be strikingly peaceful when at home. My experience in the Congo seems to be the norm for our species. * * * — From a comparative perspective, the rate of physical aggression among humans “at home” may be low, although from a moral perspective, it is still higher than most of us would wish. The evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker, among others, has documented a decline in the probability of dying from violence within many countries over the past millennium, a trend for which we should all be grateful. Undoubtedly, life for millions of people would be more pleasant if the rate continued to decline.14 Nevertheless, from an evolutionary perspective, the human rate of physical aggression within social communities is already strikingly low.

Hunter-gatherers living with pastoralists do not get into wars. Proactive aggression is not produced by individuals in a fit of rage, or in an alcoholic haze, or out of a testosterone-induced failure of cortical control. It is a considered act by an individual or coalition that takes into account the likely costs. It has a strong tendency to disappear when it does not pay. The evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker testified to that effect. In his Better Angels of Our Nature, Pinker documented in detail the multiple ways in which violence has declined in the most recent decades, centuries, and millennia. Almost all of the iniquities that Pinker wrote about stemmed from coalitionary proactive violence. If we continue to improve the protections in our societies, the level of damage will continue to recede.

I only wish that I had been able to respond to all their observations. For reviewing individual chapters or sections, I similarly thank Ofer Bar-Yosef, Christopher Boehm, Fiery Cushman, Madeleine Geiger, Marc Hauser, Karl Heider, Rose McDermott, Dale Peterson, Matt Ridley, Kate Ross, John Shea, Barbara Smuts, Ian Wrangham, and Christoph Zollikofer. For advice on specific points, I am grateful to Johan van der Dennen, Paul Crook, Sylvia Kaiser, Steven Pinker, and Adrian Raine. For sharing unpublished data, I thank Cat Hobaiter, Nicole Simmons, Martin Surbeck, and Michael Wilson. In addition to those mentioned above, conversations and correspondence with numerous other friends, family, and colleagues over the years have been critically helpful. My benefactors include Bridget Alex, Adam Arcadi, Robert Bailey, Isobel Behncke, Alex Byrne, Rachel Carmody, Napoleon Chagnon, Richard Connor, Meg Crofoot, Lee Dugatkin, Melissa Emery Thompson, Lee Gans, Sergey Gavrilets, Alexander Georgiev, Ian Gilby, Tony Goldberg, Joshua Goldstein, Stephen Greenblatt, Stewart Halperin, Henry Harrison, Kim Hill, Carole Hooven, the late Gabriel Horn, Nick Humphrey, Kevin Hunt, Carrie Hunter, Dominic Johnson, James Holland Jones, Jerome Kagan, Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, Kevin Langergraber, Steven LeBlanc, Richard Lee, Zarin Machanda, Curtis Marean, Katherine McAuliffe, John Mitani, Mark Moffett, Michael Moran, Randolph Nesse, Graham Noblit, Kate Nowak, Nadine Peacock, Anne Pusey, Vernon Reynolds, Neil Roach, Lars Rodseth, Diane Rosenfeld, Elizabeth Ross, Graham Ross, Peter DeScioli, Lyudmila Trut, Carel van Schaik, Michael Tomasello, Robert Trivers, Vivek Venkataraman, Ian Wallace, Felix Warneken, David Watts, Polly Wiessner, Kipling Williams, David Sloan Wilson, Carol Worthman, David Wrangham, Ross Wrangham, Brazey de Zalduondo, and Bill Zimmerman.


Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All by Michael Shellenberger

Albert Einstein, Asperger Syndrome, Bernie Sanders, Bob Geldof, carbon footprint, Cesare Marchetti: Marchetti’s constant, clean water, Corn Laws, coronavirus, corporate social responsibility, correlation does not imply causation, cuban missile crisis, decarbonisation, deindustrialization, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, energy transition, failed state, Gary Taubes, global value chain, Google Earth, hydraulic fracturing, index fund, Indoor air pollution, indoor plumbing, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet Archive, land tenure, Live Aid, LNG terminal, long peace, manufacturing employment, mass immigration, meta analysis, meta-analysis, off grid, oil shale / tar sands, Potemkin village, purchasing power parity, Ralph Nader, renewable energy transition, Steven Pinker, supervolcano, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, too big to fail, trade route, union organizing, WikiLeaks, Y2K

They have moved to cities from the countryside not because the urban areas are utopian but because they offer many more opportunities for a better life. Urbanization, industrialization, and energy consumption have been overwhelmingly positive for human beings as a whole. From preindustrial times to today, life expectancy extended from thirty to seventy-three years.34 Infant mortality declined from 43 to 4 percent.35 Before 1800, notes Harvard University’s Steven Pinker, most people were desperately poor. “The average income was equivalent to that in the poorest countries in Africa today (about $500 a year in international dollars),” he writes, “and almost 95 percent of the world lived in what counts today as ‘extreme poverty’ (less than $1.90 a day).” The Industrial Revolution constituted what Pinker calls the “Great Escape” from poverty.36 The Great Escape continues today.

She recalled the day when a clothes wringer her mother had ordered from Sears arrived. It was little more than two rollers and a hand crank, but it spared my grandmother’s hands the hard labor of pulling, squeezing, and twisting clothes. Later came the electric-powered washing machines and dryers that fully liberated women from having to wash, wring, and hang out to dry the family’s clothes.41 Scholars including Harvard’s Benjamin Friedman and Steven Pinker find that rising prosperity is strongly correlated with rising freedom among, reduced violence against, and greater tolerance for, women, racial and religious minorities, and gays and lesbians. Such was the case in Indonesia.42 “My favorite singer is Morrissey,” Ipeh told me. “I went to his show last year and was nervous that [Islamic] extremists would threaten to bomb it, and the show would be canceled.

Max Roser, Hannah Ritchie, and Bernadeta Dadonaite, “Child and Infant Mortality,” Our World in Data, November 2019, https://ourworldindata.org/child-mortality. The world series for 1800 to 1960 was calculated by the authors on the basis of the Gapminder estimates of child mortality and the Gapminder series on population by country. For each estimate in that period a population-weighted global average was calculated. The 2017 child mortality rate was taken from the 2019 update of World Bank data. 36. Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress (New York: Penguin Publishing Group, 2019), 86–87. 37. “PovcalNet: An Online Analysis Tool for Global Poverty Monitoring,” World Bank Group, accessed October 29, 2019, http://iresearch.worldbank.org/PovcalNet/home.aspx. 38. Max Roser, Hannah Ritchie, and Esteban Ortiz-Ospina, “World Population Growth,” Our World In Data, May 2019, accessed January 16, 2020, https://ourworldindata.org/world-population-growth. 39.


pages: 294 words: 96,661

The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity by Byron Reese

agricultural Revolution, AI winter, artificial general intelligence, basic income, Buckminster Fuller, business cycle, business process, Claude Shannon: information theory, clean water, cognitive bias, computer age, crowdsourcing, dark matter, Elon Musk, Eratosthenes, estate planning, financial independence, first square of the chessboard, first square of the chessboard / second half of the chessboard, full employment, Hans Rosling, income inequality, invention of agriculture, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, James Hargreaves, job automation, Johannes Kepler, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, lateral thinking, life extension, Louis Pasteur, low skilled workers, manufacturing employment, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, Mary Lou Jepsen, Moravec's paradox, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, pattern recognition, profit motive, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Rodney Brooks, Sam Altman, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Skype, spinning jenny, Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, strong AI, technological singularity, telepresence, telepresence robot, The Future of Employment, the scientific method, Turing machine, Turing test, universal basic income, Von Neumann architecture, Wall-E, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, women in the workforce, working poor, Works Progress Administration, Y Combinator

Modern-day followers of Rousseau have a tendency to look back on this time through the rose-colored glasses of romanticism, harkening back to a simpler time, when humans lived in harmony with nature, uncorrupted by the trappings of the modern world. Most of us, if dropped back into that time to live out our days, would likely not conclude these were the good old days. To begin with, times were violent. The Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker estimates that, based on studies of ancient human remains, nearly one in six ancient hunter-gatherers met with a violent end at the hands of another human. Compare this with just the one in thirty who died such a death in the “bloody” twentieth century, with its two world wars. Thus we can confidently say that life as an ancient hunter-gatherer was short, painful, and harsh. But this was humanity’s proving ground, and with language, we embarked on the path that brought us to today. 2 * * * The Second Age: Agriculture and Cities After about 100,000 years of humans chatting away while they hunted and gathered their way through the day, something dramatic happened that profoundly altered humans and our society once again: we invented agriculture.

To some, it is proof, or at least suggests, that there must be something going on outside everyday physics. “After all,” they reason, “science doesn’t even have a way to describe how something like consciousness can exist, so how can it be a physical phenomenon?” Others interpret our lack of understanding as proving, or at least suggesting, that consciousness is just a mental process, and that absolutely nothing even hints otherwise. Harvard’s Steven Pinker writes that scientists “have amassed evidence that every aspect of consciousness can be tied to the brain.” He elaborates by pointing out, “Cognitive neuroscientists can almost read people’s thoughts from the blood flow in their brains.” For Pinker, it’s obvious that this is all just normal brain function. Will we ever get final resolution to this question? Perhaps. Perhaps scientists will “figure out” consciousness as we come to understand the brain better.

to fall off a cliff. In addition, the historian Yuval Noah Harari speculates on what else to expect: When brains and computers can interact directly, that’s it, that’s the end of history, that’s the end of biology as we know it. Nobody has a clue what will happen once you solve this. . . . We have no way of even starting to imagine what’s happening beyond that. There are many who say this can’t be done. Steven Pinker sums up some of the difficulties: Brains are oatmeal-soft, float around in skulls, react poorly to being invaded, and suffer from inflammation around foreign objects. Neurobiologists haven’t the slightest idea how to decode the billions of synapses that underlie a coherent thought, to say nothing of manipulating them. Three breakthroughs would be needed to accomplish a meaningful merger of people and machines, and they may not be possible.


pages: 336 words: 93,672

The Future of the Brain: Essays by the World's Leading Neuroscientists by Gary Marcus, Jeremy Freeman

23andMe, Albert Einstein, bioinformatics, bitcoin, brain emulation, cloud computing, complexity theory, computer age, computer vision, conceptual framework, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, dark matter, data acquisition, Drosophila, epigenetics, global pandemic, Google Glasses, iterative process, linked data, mouse model, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, personalized medicine, phenotype, race to the bottom, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, semantic web, speech recognition, stem cell, Steven Pinker, supply-chain management, Turing machine, twin studies, web application

The microarray revolution dramatically increased our ability to profile genes by hybridizing many gene probes on a single gene chip. Today rapid digital sequencing technology can count individual RNA fragments that can subsequently be mapped back to the genome once it is known for an organism. In 2001, Paul Allen, cofounder of Microsoft, assembled a group of scientists, including James Watson of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Steven Pinker, then at MIT, to discuss the future of neuroscience and what could be done to accelerate neuroscience research. During these meetings the idea emerged that a complete 3D atlas of gene expression in the mouse brain would be of great use to the neuroscience community. The mouse was chosen due to the wealth of existing genetic studies and for practical reasons. Of the potential possible techniques, the project chose a technique for mapping gene expression called in situ hybridization (ISH) (automated by Gregor Eichele of the Max Planck Institute and colleagues), which uses probes that bind to mRNA within sectioned but intact brain tissue and thereby preserves spatial context (see color plate 1).

But molecules and morphology are not enough to explain neuronal responses—a major role is played by neuronal connections, the synaptic links that tie neurons together into vast networks. Take away a neuron’s connections and it becomes deaf and mute, cut it off from inputs and it becomes unable to exert any influence whatsoever. The power of neurons derives from their collective action as part of brain networks, bound together by connections that allow them to interact, compete, and cooperate. “Brain cells fire in patterns,” as Steven Pinker once put it when challenged on the Colbert Report to explain brain function in five words. And these patterns are orchestrated by connections. Although we have known for a long time that neurons are connected into circuits, and that it is this circuit activity that drives all perception, thought, and action, I would argue that modern concepts of networks add an important new dimension. The more traditional way of thinking in terms of circuits is based on the notion of highly specific point-to-point interaction among circuit elements with each link transmitting very specific information, much like an electronic or logic circuit in a computer.

Then, like so many fads in psychology (Freud’s psychodynamic theory and Skinner’s behaviorism), neural networks begin to fade away, never quite making the transition from proofs of concept on toy problems (which were abundant) to realistic models of mind or brain. In the 1990s, journals and conferences were filled with demonstrations that showed how it was supposedly possible to capture simple cognitive and linguistic phenomena in any number of fields (such as models of how children acquired English past-tense verbs). But as Steven Pinker and I showed, the details were rarely correct empirically; more than that, nobody was ever able to turn a neural network into a functioning system for understanding language. Today neural networks have finally found a valuable home—in machine learning, especially in speech recognition and image classification, due in part to innovative work by researchers such as Geoff Hinton and Yann LeCun.


pages: 329 words: 88,954

Emergence by Steven Johnson

A Pattern Language, agricultural Revolution, Brewster Kahle, British Empire, Claude Shannon: information theory, complexity theory, Danny Hillis, Douglas Hofstadter, edge city, epigenetics, game design, garden city movement, Gödel, Escher, Bach, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, hypertext link, invisible hand, Jane Jacobs, Kevin Kelly, late capitalism, Marshall McLuhan, mass immigration, Menlo Park, Mitch Kapor, Murano, Venice glass, Naomi Klein, new economy, New Urbanism, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, pez dispenser, phenotype, Potemkin village, price mechanism, profit motive, Ray Kurzweil, slashdot, social intelligence, Socratic dialogue, stakhanovite, Steven Pinker, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, theory of mind, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, traveling salesman, trickle-down economics, Turing machine, Turing test, urban planning, urban renewal, Vannevar Bush

—Harvey Blume, The American Prospect “A fine new book . . . brainy but convivial.” —Erik Davis, The Village Voice “Thoughtful and lucid and charming and staggeringly smart, all of which I’ve come to expect from Steven Johnson. But it’s also important, I think—a rare, bona fide glimpse of the future.” —Kurt Andersen, author of Turn of the Century “A lucid discussion of a fascinating and timely set of ideas.” —Steven Pinker, professor of psychology, MIT, and author of How the Mind Works and Words and Rules “Emergence will make understanding ‘emerge’ in your own head, as Steven Johnson explains a lot of phenomena you may not even have noticed.” —Esther Dyson, author of Release 2.0 “Johnson’s clarity is a boon. . . . Thought-provoking—and deeply appealing to the inner iconoclast.” —Kirkus Reviews “Johnson skillfully weaves together the growth of cities, the organization of protest movements, and the limits and strengths of the human brain.”

The Web’s city would be more anarchic than any real-world city on the planet—no patches of related shops and businesses; no meatpacking or theater districts; no bohemian communities or upscale brownstones; not even the much-lamented “edge city” clusters of Los Angeles or Tyson’s Corner. The Web’s city would simply be an undifferentiated mass of data growing more confusing with each new “building” that’s erected—so confusing, in fact, that the mapmakers (the Yahoos and Googles of the world) would generate almost as much interest as the city itself. And if the Web would make a miserable city, it would do even worse as a brain. Here’s Steven Pinker, the author of How the Mind Works, in a Slate dialogue with Wright: The Internet is in some ways like a brain, but in important ways not. The brain doesn’t just let information ricochet around the skull. It is organized to do something: to move the muscles in ways that allow the whole body to attain the goals set by the emotions. The anatomy of the brain reflects that: it is not a uniform web or net, but has a specific organization in which emotional circuits interconnect with the frontal lobes, which receive information from perceptual systems and send commands to the motor system.

So, special props to Lee deBoer, Joey Anuff, Matt Goldberg, Michael Kolbrener, Freyja Balmer, Jon Phelps, Rob Francis, and J. J. Gifford. They deserve extra credit for suffering through all my overcaffeinated riffs on clusters and pointer nodes. This book was greatly enhanced by interviews I conducted with Manuel De Landa, Richard Rogers, Deborah Gordon, Rob Malda, Jeff Bates, Oliver Selfridge, Will Wright, David Jefferson, Evelyn Fox Keller, Rik Heywood, Mitch Resnick, Steven Pinker, Eric Zimmerman, Nate Oostendorp, Brewster Kahle, Andrew Shapiro, and Douglas Rushkoff. I recall more than a few casual conversations that also had an impact, primarily ones that involved David Shenk, Ruthie Rogers, Roo Rogers, Mitch Kapor, Kevin Kelly, Annie Keating, Nicholas Butterworth, Kim Hawkins, Rory Kennedy, Mark Bailey, Frank Rich, Denise Caruso, Liz Garbus, Dan Cogan, Penny Lewis, John Brockman, Rufus Griscom, Jay Haynes, Betsey Schmidt, Stephen Green, Esther Dyson, and my students at NYU’s ITP program, where Red Burns generously invited me to teach a graduate seminar on emergent software.


pages: 299 words: 92,782

The Success Equation: Untangling Skill and Luck in Business, Sports, and Investing by Michael J. Mauboussin

Amazon Mechanical Turk, Atul Gawande, Benoit Mandelbrot, Black Swan, Checklist Manifesto, Clayton Christensen, cognitive bias, commoditize, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, deliberate practice, disruptive innovation, Emanuel Derman, fundamental attribution error, Gini coefficient, hindsight bias, hiring and firing, income inequality, Innovator's Dilemma, Long Term Capital Management, loss aversion, Menlo Park, mental accounting, moral hazard, Network effects, prisoner's dilemma, random walk, Richard Thaler, risk-adjusted returns, shareholder value, Simon Singh, six sigma, Steven Pinker, transaction costs, winner-take-all economy, zero-sum game, Zipf's Law

And all the left hemisphere knew about was a chicken's foot and the image of a shovel that it inexplicably chose. How could he resolve the conflict? Make up a story. When the researchers asked the patient why he picked what he did, the interpreter in the left brain kicked into gear: “Oh, that's simple. The chicken claw goes with the chicken, and you need a shovel to clean out the chicken shed.” Rather than saying, “I don't know,” the left hemisphere made up a response based on what it knew.6 Steven Pinker, a psychologist at Harvard, calls this part of the left hemisphere the baloney-generator. He wrote, “The spooky part is that we have no reason to believe that the baloney-generator in the patient's left hemisphere is behaving any different from ours as we make sense of the inclinations emanating from the rest of our brains. The conscious mind—the self or soul—is a spin doctor, not the commander in chief.”7 Gazzaniga's patient simply reveals what's going on in all of our heads.

Gazzaniga, Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique (New York: HarperCollins, 2008), 294; see also Michael S. Gazzaniga, “The Split Brain Revisited,” Scientific American, July 1998, 50–55. For another outstanding source for this discussion, see Richard Nisbett and Lee Ross, Human Inference: Strategies and Shortcomings of Social Judgment (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1980). 7. Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (New York: Viking, 2002), 43. 8. Hayden White, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973), 5–7. 9. Arthur Danto, a professor of philosophy at Columbia University who has carefully analyzed what historians do, suggests that narrative sentences are fundamental to the craft.

(New York: Random House, 2010), 38–50; and Michael J. Mauboussin, Think Twice: Harnessing the Power of Counterintuition (Boston: Harvard Business Press, 2009), 107–108. 3. Matthew Rabin and Dimitri Vayanos, “The Gambler's Fallacy and Hot-Hand Fallacies: Theory and Application,” Review of Economic Studies 77, no. 2 (April 2010): 730–778. For a discussion of why the gambler's fallacy is not a fallacy in other areas of life, see Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997), 346–347. The classic paper on this topic is Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, “Belief in the Law of Small Numbers,” Psychological Bulletin 76, no. 2 (1971): 105–110. 4. The structure of the game is also very important. Phil Birnbaum illustrates this point by comparing professional basketball to baseball. In basketball, each team has about one hundred possessions and scores roughly half of the time; in baseball, each team has forty plate appearances and gets on base roughly 40 percent of the time.


pages: 325 words: 99,983

Globish: How the English Language Became the World's Language by Robert McCrum

Alistair Cooke, anti-communist, Berlin Wall, British Empire, call centre, Charles Lindbergh, colonial rule, credit crunch, cuban missile crisis, Deng Xiaoping, Etonian, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, invention of movable type, invention of writing, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, jimmy wales, knowledge economy, Livingstone, I presume, Martin Wolf, Naomi Klein, Norman Mailer, Parag Khanna, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Republic of Letters, Ronald Reagan, sceptred isle, Scramble for Africa, Silicon Valley, Steven Pinker, the new new thing, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transcontinental railway, upwardly mobile

So the Lord intervenes in the project, like the most disruptive shop steward, to ‘confound their language that they may not understand one another’s speech’. Even more vengeful, in best Old Testament style, He ‘scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel, because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth.’ This ancient tale is a timely reminder that the world remains a patchwork of some 5,000 separate and competing languages. As Steven Pinker reminds us in The Language Instinct, we are wise to concede Noam Chomsky’s perception that, aside from mutually unintelligible vocabularies, ‘Earthlings speak a single language’. Nonetheless, the conspicuous differences between English and some of its obvious rivals, like Russian or Japanese, only serve to emphasise the differences, not the similarities. In this situation, the role of Globish in the twenty–first century can never be more than to provide a default position, a language for those who wish to communicate globally, regardless of good times or bad.

., p. 133. 266 Bhagat’s latest novel: Guardian, 10 October 2008. 267 ‘In China it was bloody, but India needs to learn’: ibid. 268 ‘India’s entertainment industry is growing rapidly’: Observer, 5 July 2009. 269 Glenny’s catchy title: author interview, 7 October 2008. 270 ‘English has emerged as a backbone for growth and development’: ‘Rwanda’s decision to ditch French for English is yet another blow for the most wonderful language’, Guardian, 15 October 2008. 271 When the world’s press arrived in Nuuk: See New York Times, 22 June 2009. 272 ‘There is this naive belief’: interview with Lee Kuan Yew, in Robert McCrum, William Cran and Robert MacNeil, The Story of English (London, 1986). 273 ‘Speaking good English does not mean’: Mark Abley, The Prodigal Tongue: Dispatches from the Future of English (London, 2008), p. 66. Epilogue: ‘A Thoroughfare for All Thoughts’ 275 Consider the powers of the earth: see Stephen Pinker, The Language Instinct (London, 2004). 275 ‘the whole earth was of one language’: Genesis 11: 1-9. 276 According to the British Council: reported in The Economist, 16 December 2006. 276 ‘As Steven Pinker reminds us’: Pinker, ibid., pp. 231-61. 277 ‘a thoroughfare for all thoughts’: in The Letters of John Keats 1814-1821, ed. Hyder Edward Rollins (Cambridge, Mass., 1958), vol. 1, p. 193. 279 ‘There are more people’: Chris Patten, What Next? Surviving the Twenty-First Century (London, 2008), p. 427. 283 ‘to be born an English-speaker’: Sunday Times, 5 October 2008. 284 ‘when you are leading the world’: Serge Michel and Michel Beuret, China Safari: On the Trail of Beijing’s Expansion in Africa (New York, 2009), p. 11. 286 A new belief system is emerging: see James Boyle, The Public Domain (Yale, 2009). 287 Taha Mahmoud, a twenty-five-year-old computer programmer: reported in the Guardian, 30 July 2007.

Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father (New York, 2004). George Orwell, The Collected Works, 20 vols., ed. Peter Davidson (London, 1998). —, Nineteen Eighty–Four (London, 1949). George D. Painter, William Caxton (London, 1976). Patrick Parrinder, Nation and Novel: The English Novel from its Origins to the Present Day (Oxford, 2006). Chris Patten, What Next? Surviving the Twenty–First Century (London, 2008). Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct (London, 2004). David Reynolds, In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War (London, 2004). Mordechai Richler, Oh Canada! Oh Quebec! (London, 1992). Miri Rubin, The Hollow Crown (London, 2005). Donald Sassoon, The Culture of the Europeans: From 1800 to the Present (London, 2006). Simon Schama, Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution (London, 2005).


pages: 372 words: 101,174

How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed by Ray Kurzweil

Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, anesthesia awareness, anthropic principle, brain emulation, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, cloud computing, computer age, Dean Kamen, discovery of DNA, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, George Gilder, Google Earth, Isaac Newton, iterative process, Jacquard loom, John von Neumann, Law of Accelerating Returns, linear programming, Loebner Prize, mandelbrot fractal, Norbert Wiener, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, Peter Thiel, Ralph Waldo Emerson, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, reversible computing, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), self-driving car, speech recognition, Steven Pinker, strong AI, the scientific method, theory of mind, Turing complete, Turing machine, Turing test, Wall-E, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, X Prize

But all the while the world we feel and live in will be that which our ancestors and we, by slowly cumulative strokes of choice, have extricated out of this, like sculptors, by simply rejecting certain portions of the given stuff. Other sculptors, other statues from the same stone! Other minds, other worlds from the same monotonous and inexpressive chaos! My world is but one in a million alike embedded, alike real to those who may abstract them. How different must be the worlds in the consciousness of ant, cuttle-fish, or crab! —William James Is intelligence the goal, or even a goal, of biological evolution? Steven Pinker writes, “We are chauvinistic about our brains, thinking them to be the goal of evolution,”1 and goes on to argue that “that makes no sense…. Natural selection does nothing even close to striving for intelligence. The process is driven by differences in the survival and reproduction rates of replicating organisms in a particular environment. Over time, the organisms acquire designs that adapt them for survival and reproduction in that environment, period; nothing pulls them in any direction other than success there and then.”

For a historical perspective on how far we have advanced, I suggest people read Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan (1651), in which he describes the “life of man” as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” For a modern perspective, the recent book Abundance (2012), by X-Prize Foundation founder (and cofounder with me of Singularity University) Peter Diamandis and science writer Steven Kotler, documents the extraordinary ways in which life today has steadily improved in every dimension. Steven Pinker’s recent The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (2011) painstakingly documents the steady rise of peaceful relations between people and peoples. American lawyer, entrepreneur, and author Martine Rothblatt (born in 1954) documents the steady improvement in civil rights, noting, for example, how in a couple of decades same-sex marriage went from being legally recognized nowhere in the world to being legally accepted in a rapidly growing number of jurisdictions.4 A primary reason that people believe that life is getting worse is because our information about the problems of the world has steadily improved.

Then in the morning, let your mind go again as you review the strange ideas that your dreams generated. I have found this to be an invaluable method for harnessing the natural creativity of my dreams. Reader: Well, for the workaholics among us, we can now work in our dreams. Not sure my spouse is going to appreciate this. Ray: Actually, you can think of it as getting your dreams to do your work for you. Chapter 4: The Biological Neocortex 1. Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works (New York: Norton, 1997), 152–53. 2. D. O. Hebb, The Organization of Behavior (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1949). 3. Henry Markram and Rodrigo Perrin, “Innate Neural Assemblies for Lego Memory,” Frontiers in Neural Circuits 5, no. 6 (2011). 4. E-mail communication from Henry Markram, February 19, 2012. 5. Van J. Wedeen et al., “The Geometric Structure of the Brain Fiber Pathways,” Science 335, no. 6076 (March 30, 2012). 6.


pages: 334 words: 100,201

Origin Story: A Big History of Everything by David Christian

Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, butterfly effect, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Cepheid variable, colonial rule, Colonization of Mars, Columbian Exchange, complexity theory, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, creative destruction, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, demographic transition, double helix, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, Ernest Rutherford, European colonialism, Francisco Pizarro, Haber-Bosch Process, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, Marshall McLuhan, microbiome, nuclear winter, planetary scale, rising living standards, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, trade route, Yogi Berra

The world had not been this cold for 250 million years, since Pangaea itself had split apart at the end of the Permian period. Fifty million years ago, in this post-dinosaur, post-PETM world of chilly and erratic climate changes, our primate ancestors evolved. Part III * * * US Chapter 7 Humans: Threshold 6 A common language connects the members of a community into an information-sharing network with formidable collective powers. —STEVEN PINKER, THE LANGUAGE INSTINCT Humanity entire possesses a commonality which historians may hope to understand just as firmly as they can comprehend what unites any lesser group. —WILLIAM H. MCNEILL, “MYTHISTORY” The appearance of humans in our origin story is a big deal. We arrived just a few hundred thousand years ago, but today we are beginning to transform the biosphere. In the past, whole groups of organisms, such as the cyanobacteria, have changed the biosphere, but never before has a single species wielded such power.

Was it, as American neuroanthropologist Terrence Deacon has argued, a new ability to compress large amounts of information into symbols (deceptively simple words like symbol that carry a huge informational cargo)? Or was it the evolution of new grammar circuits in the human brain that helped us combine words according to precise rules so as to convey a great variety of different meanings, as the linguist Noam Chomsky has suggested? This is a tempting idea because, as another linguist, Steven Pinker, puts it, the really difficult trick was “to design a code that can extrude a tangled spaghetti of concepts into a linear string of words” and to do this so efficiently that the hearer could quickly re-create the spaghetti of concepts from the linear string.17 Was human language enabled by the increased space for thinking available in an enlarged cortex, which could hold enough complex thoughts in place to form syntactically complex sentences or let an individual memorize the meanings of thousands of words?

Hurford, The Origins of Language: A Slim Guide (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 68; Cheney and Seyfarth, Baboon Metaphysics, loc. 2408, Kindle: “Evidence for teaching by nonhuman primates … can be summarized by one word: scant.” 16. Tomasello, The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition, loc. 5, Kindle: “Faithful social transmission … can work as a ratchet to prevent slippage backward—so that the newly invented artifact or practice preserves its new and improved form at least somewhat faithfully until a further modification or improvement comes along.” Tomasello calls this collaborative learning. 17. Steven Pinker, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the Twenty-First Century (New York: Penguin, 2015), 110. 18. This idea is suggested by Roth, The Long Evolution of Brains and Minds, 264; on the unique human capacity to remember many words, see Hurford, The Origins of Language, 119. 19. See Terrence Deacon, The Symbolic Species: The Co-Evolution of Language and the Brain (New York: W.


pages: 341 words: 95,752

Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper

Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, index card, natural language processing, obamacare, Ronald Reagan, Steven Pinker, why are manhole covers round?

I don’t know how many of the Ph.D.s he had produced—there was [sic] sixty-eight by the time he left Harvard, an incredible number for a theorist, since each Ph.D. represents at least one publishable research idea—began to say ‘nucular’ and ‘We can effectively regard,’ two of the Schwinger standards.” Jeremy Bernstein, “Personal History,” New Yorker, Jan. 26, 1987. “I wish you would”: Quoted in transcripts from Charles Gibson, “Kennedy Letters: Insight into History,” ABC World News transcripts, Sept. 28, 2006. “I once asked a weapons specialist”: Geoffrey Nunberg, “Going Nucular,” Fresh Air, NPR, Oct. 2, 2002. Metcalf notes: Metcalf, Presidential Voices, 108. Steven Pinker, another linguist: Steven Pinker, “Pinker Contra Nunberg re Nuclear/Nucular,” Language Log, Oct. 17, 2008. But then we’d have to account: Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd ed., s.v. “thermonukes” and “nuclear.” “But which of these stories explains”: Nunberg, “Going Nucular.” NUDE: On Correspondence In 2015, BuzzFeed: “Black Women Try ‘Nude’ Fashion,” BuzzFeed, May 20, 2015. I clicked one lipstick image: Ashley Reese, “12 Nude Lipsticks That Are Actually Nude on Darker Skin,” Gurl.com, June 5, 2014.

Nunberg has talked to some of these people, who all manage to say “\ˈnu-klē-ǝr\ family” and “\ˈnu-klē-ǝr\ medicine,” but anything having to do with weaponry is \ˈnü-kyə-lər\. “I once asked a weapons specialist at a federal agency about this, and he told me, ‘Oh, I only say “nucular” when I’m talking about nukes.’ ” Metcalf notes the same general pattern, though he gives no anecdata*12 to support his contention. Steven Pinker, another linguist who got in something of a mild slap fight with Nunberg over \ˈnü-kyə-lər\, drops that in 2008 he spoke to the Strategic Studies Group at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, and heard \ˈnü-kyə-lər\ from two senior analysts there. Interestingly, the earliest print instances we have of “nucular,” the spelled-out variation of the pronunciation that everyone hates, are in stories about and bulletins from people in the military, government, or nuclear sciences.


pages: 347 words: 99,969

Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages by Guy Deutscher

Alfred Russel Wallace, correlation does not imply causation, Kickstarter, offshore financial centre, pattern recognition, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, Silicon Valley, Steven Pinker

Rather, serious researchers have looked for the consequences of the habitual use from an early age of certain ways of expression. For example, does the need to pay constant attention to certain aspects of experience train speakers to be especially sensitive to certain details or induce particular types of memory patterns and associations? These are exactly the questions we shall explore in the next chapters. For some critics, such as Steven Pinker, the fact that our mother tongue constrains neither our capacity to reason logically nor our ability to understand complex ideas is an irredeemable anticlimax. In his recent book, The Stuff of Thought, Pinker argues that since no one has ever managed to show that speakers of one language find it impossible, or even extremely difficult, to reason in a particular way that comes naturally to the speakers of another language, then any remaining effects of language on thought are mundane, unsexy, boring, even trivial.

And as this habit of mind will be inculcated almost from infancy, it will soon become second nature, effortless and unconscious. The causal link between language and spatial thinking thus seems far more plausible than the case of language and hair color. Still, plausibility by no means constitutes proof. And as it happens, some psychologists and linguists, such as Peggy Li, Lila Gleitman, and Steven Pinker, have challenged the claim that it is primarily language that influences spatial memory and orientation. In The Stuff of Thought, Pinker argues that people develop their spatial thinking for reasons unrelated to language, and that languages merely reflect the fact that their speakers think in a certain coordinate system anyway. He points out that it is small rural societies that rely primarily on geographic coordinates, whereas all large urban societies rely predominantly on egocentric coordinates.

On the similarity between ancient Greek and Hanunoo, see also Lyons 1999. page 93 From brightness to hue as a modern theory: MacLaury 1997; see also Casson 1997. the acquired aptitudes of one generation: Gladstone 1858, 3:426. “progressive education”: Gladstone 1858, 3:495. Naturalness in concept learning: See Waxman and Senghas 1992. Yanomamö kinship terms: Lizot 1971. The innateness controversy: The most eloquent exposition of the nativist view is Steven Pinker’s The Language Instinct (1994). Geoffrey Sampson’s The “Language Instinct” Debate (2005) offers a methodical refutation of the arguments in favor of innate grammar, as well as references to the voluminous academic literature on the subject. 5: PLATO AND THE MACEDONIAN SWINEHERD The flaws of the equal-complexity dogma: For a fuller argument, see Deutscher 2009. “You really mean the Aborigines have a language?”


pages: 370 words: 94,968

The Most Human Human: What Talking With Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive by Brian Christian

4chan, Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness, carbon footprint, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, cognitive dissonance, commoditize, complexity theory, crowdsourcing, David Heinemeier Hansson, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, George Akerlof, Gödel, Escher, Bach, high net worth, Isaac Newton, Jacques de Vaucanson, Jaron Lanier, job automation, l'esprit de l'escalier, Loebner Prize, Menlo Park, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Skype, Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits, starchitect, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Thales of Miletus, theory of mind, Thomas Bayes, Turing machine, Turing test, Von Neumann architecture, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, zero-sum game

I wonder if part of this is a kind of “notation bias”—I use a website to keep track of the books I read and when, in case I need to go back and reference anything, and it specifies a list of “Read” books and books I’m “Currently Reading.” If instead there was simply one list, called “Books I’ve, at the Very Least, Begun,” my life might be easier. 7. Barging In Listeners keep up with talkers; they do not wait for the end of a batch of speech and interpret it after a proportional delay, like a critic reviewing a book. And the lag between speaker’s mouth and listener’s mind is remarkably short. –STEVEN PINKER Spontaneity; Flow “Well, I mean, you know, there are different levels of difficulty, right? I mean, one obvious level of difficulty is that, you know, ‘be yourself’ would be an injunction in the first place, right, which suggests, of course, if you have to be told to be yourself, that you could in some way fail to be yourself.” Bernard Reginster, professor of philosophy at Brown University, chuckles.

Whereas Plato argues in The Republic that “the fairest class [of things is] that which a man who is to be happy [can] love both for its own sake and for the results,” Aristotle insists in The Nicomachean Ethics that any element of instrumentality in a relationship weakens the quality or nature of that relationship. 29 Philip Jackson, personal interview. 30 Sherlock Holmes, directed by Guy Ritchie (Warner Bros., 2009). 7. Barging In 1 Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language (New York: Morrow, 1994). For more on how listener feedback affects storytelling, see, e.g., Janet B. Bavelas, Linda Coates, and Trudy Johnson, “Listeners as Co-narrators,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 79, no. 6 (2000), 941–52. 2 Bernard Reginster, personal interview. See also Reginster’s colleague, philosopher Charles Larmore, who in The Romantic Legacy (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), argues, “We can see the significance of Stendhal’s idea [in Le rouge et le noir] that the distinctive thing about being natural is that it is unreflective.”

(New York: Springer, 2008). 19 Hava Siegelmann, personal interview. 20 George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” Horizon 13, no. 76 (April 1946), pp. 252–65. 21 Roger Levy, personal interview. 22 Dave Ackley, personal interview. 23 Freakonomics (Levitt and Dubner, see below) notes that “the Greater Dallas Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse has compiled an extraordinarily entertaining index of cocaine street names.” 24 Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973). 25 Ezra Pound’s famous battle cry of modernism, “Make it new,” comes from his translation of the Confucian text The Great Digest, a.k.a. The Great Learning. 26 Garry Kasparov, How Life Imitates Chess (New York: Bloomsbury, 2007). 27 Sun Tzu, The Art of War, translated by John Minford (New York: Penguin, 2003). 28 The phrase “euphemism treadmill” comes from Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate (New York: Viking, 2002). See also W. V. Quine, “Euphemism,” in Quiddities: An Intermittently Philosophical Dictionary (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap, 1987). 29 The controversy over Rahm Emanuel’s remark appears to have originated with Peter Wallsten, “Chief of Staff Draws Fire from Left as Obama Falters,” Wall Street Journal, January 26, 2010. 30 Rosa’s Law, S.2781, 2010. 31 “Mr.


pages: 364 words: 102,926

What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves by Benjamin K. Bergen

correlation does not imply causation, information retrieval, pre–internet, Ronald Reagan, statistical model, Steven Pinker

For the most part, though, language researchers steer clear of studying profanity, even if it’s potentially fascinating, for fear of what will happen when their institutional review board evaluates their experimental materials or when a committee of their peers reads their publications during tenure deliberations. Nevertheless, a small cabal of researchers has been toiling away on profanity. With several exceptions, most notably psychologists Timothy Jay2 and Steven Pinker,3 they’ve largely done their work without much public attention. At least until recently, they’ve been practitioners of a secret science of swearing. But things have started to change, in large part because of changes in public language norms. The highly regulated public airwaves don’t carry the bulk of public communication as they once did. First cable television and then the Internet have created a Wild West for words, where the true will of the people has its way.

This circuit fills a vital evolutionary function for social beings, allowing an individual to transmit a signal identifying its internal emotional state readily and efficiently to conspecifics. If analogous circuitry is indeed responsible for reflexive human swearing, then it provides privileged access to emotion in the brain, laying bare a speaker’s covert internal experiences unmediated by rational and deliberate planning. But there’s a caveat. This older, emotion-driven circuit doesn’t behave the same way in humans as it does in other animals. As both Timothy Jay and Steven Pinker have pointed out, the vocalizations we produce when spontaneously swearing are conventionalized—they’re the product of socially driven learning.27 Swearwords are a different beast from shrieks or growls in that they have a specific learned form—you swear specifically in English or Chinese or ASL, whereas a monkey just shrieks in Monkey. # $ % ! The ramifications of these brain facts are manifold.

Broken dish? Flep! Another red light? Flep! As Paul Bloom reports, however, it was a total failure. Whenever the Blooms cried out flep! their kids looked at them like they were out of their flepping minds.3 Once they reach a certain age, kids actually learn most of their language from peers and older children, and they do a very good job of ignoring what they hear from their parents, as psychologist Steven Pinker points out.4 As a consequence, kids often come home with words that their parents don’t use and often don’t even know. They also come home using words the parents do know in ways that the parents would never imagine. Profanity is especially likely to be learned from peers, not only because it’s more likely to be said on the playground than at the dinner table but also because of what kids use it for.


pages: 339 words: 95,988

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

airport security, Broken windows theory, crack epidemic, desegregation, Exxon Valdez, feminist movement, George Akerlof, information asymmetry, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, longitudinal study, mental accounting, moral hazard, More Guns, Less Crime, oil shale / tar sands, Paul Samuelson, peak oil, pets.com, profit maximization, Richard Thaler, school choice, sensible shoes, Steven Pinker, Ted Kaczynski, The Chicago School, The Market for Lemons, Thorstein Veblen, twin studies, War on Poverty

See Judith Rich Harris, The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do (New York: Free Press, 1998); for a Harris profile that also provides an excellent review of the nature-nurture debate, see Malcolm Gladwell, “Do Parents Matter?” The New Yorker, August 17, 1998; and Carol Tavris, “Peer Pressure,” New York Times Book Review, September 13, 1998. / 141 “‘Here we go again’”: See Tavris, “Peer Pressure.” / 141 Pinker called Harris’s views “mind-boggling”: Steven Pinker, “Sibling Rivalry: Why the Nature/Nurture Debate Won’t Go Away,” Boston Globe, October 13, 2002, adapted from Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (New York: Viking, 2002). SCHOOL CHOICE IN CHICAGO: This material is drawn from Julie Berry Cullen, Brian Jacob, and Steven D. Levitt, “The Impact of School Choice on Student Outcomes: An Analysis of the Chicago Public Schools,” Journal of Public Economics, forthcoming; and Julie Berry Cullen, Brian Jacob, and Steven D.

“The public may be forgiven for saying, ‘Here we go again,’” wrote one reviewer. “One year we’re told bonding is the key, the next that it’s birth order. Wait, what really matters is stimulation. The first five years of life are the most important; no, the first three years; no, it’s all over by the first year. Forget that: It’s all genetics!” But Harris’s theory was duly endorsed by a slate of heavyweights. Among them was Steven Pinker, the cognitive psychologist and bestselling author, who in his own book Blank Slate called Harris’s views “mind-boggling” (in a good way). “Patients in traditional forms of psychotherapy while away their fifty minutes reliving childhood conflicts and learning to blame their unhappiness on how their parents treated them,” Pinker wrote. “Many biographies scavenge through the subject’s childhood for the roots of the grown-up’s tragedies and triumphs.


pages: 486 words: 148,485

Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz

affirmative action, anti-communist, banking crisis, Bernie Madoff, car-free, Cass Sunstein, cognitive dissonance, colonial rule, conceptual framework, cosmological constant, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dark matter, desegregation, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, lake wobegon effect, longitudinal study, mandatory minimum, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Ronald Reagan, six sigma, stem cell, Steven Pinker, Tenerife airport disaster, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, trade route

Yet one without astronomical knowledge can readily reenact much of the drama of human error in gaining a knowledge of the universe, by going into the open on any clear night and looking into the vault above him.” the fix favored by Protagoras. Almost the entirety of Plato’s Theaetetus is dedicated to dismantling Protagoras’s theory of knowledge, but for the issues I’m addressing here, see especially pp. 12–50. Keeler also provides considerable background on what the Sophists, Plato, and other early philosophers thought about the problem of errors of perception. (See especially pp. 1–21.) Steven Pinker. Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works (W. W. Norton and Company, 1997), 8. David Brewster. David Brewster, Letters on Natural Magic (Chatto and Windus, Piccadilly, 1883), 91. I tracked down this text after reading about it in Sully’s Illusions. Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin. The story of Robert-Houdin in Algeria can be found in Jim Steinmeyer’s Hiding the Elephant (De Capo Press, 2004), pp. 145–146. I’ve reproduced both illusions in the endnotes (FN).

Actually, it’s not your eyes that are telling you this; it’s a handful of interpretative processes of the kind I just described. These processes are in play because, when it comes to determining the color of objects around us, our visual system can’t afford to be too literal. If it were, it would do nothing but measure the wavelength of light reflecting off a given object. In that case, as the psychologist Steven Pinker has pointed out, we would think that a lump of coal sitting in bright sunlight was white, and that a lump of snow inside a dark house was black. Instead, we’re able to correct for the presence of light and shadow so that the coal still appears fundamentally black and the snow still appears fundamentally white. One way we do this is through local contrast. In nature, if something is lighter than its immediate surroundings, it’s probably light in an absolute sense, rather than just because of the way the sun is or isn’t striking it.

In everyday life, we use phrases like “I know” to indicate that we don’t feel any uncertainty and phrases like “I believe” to indicate that we do—distinctions that are extremely helpful, and that we cannot jettison without resorting to the notoriously impractical and unpalatable option of complete capital-S Skepticism. My point here is only that knowledge, as a category, has limitations and assumptions we should come to understand—and that error is predicated on belief, which is, accordingly, a more useful conceptual tool for a book about wrongness. Justice William Douglas. Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (Penguin, 2003) 265. the brain mistakes an idea in the mind…for a feature of the real world. Specifically, scientists think that denial of disease arises when a part of the brain called the supplementary motor area remains unaffected by a brain injury. The supplementary motor area is responsible for mental simulations of physical actions; it’s what you use when you lie in bed at night picturing yourself raising your hands in triumph as you cross the finish line of the New York marathon.


pages: 524 words: 155,947

More: The 10,000-Year Rise of the World Economy by Philip Coggan

"Robert Solow", accounting loophole / creative accounting, Ada Lovelace, agricultural Revolution, Airbnb, airline deregulation, Andrei Shleifer, anti-communist, assortative mating, autonomous vehicles, bank run, banking crisis, banks create money, basic income, Berlin Wall, Bob Noyce, Branko Milanovic, Bretton Woods, British Empire, business cycle, call centre, capital controls, carbon footprint, Carmen Reinhart, Celtic Tiger, central bank independence, Charles Lindbergh, clean water, collective bargaining, Columbian Exchange, Columbine, Corn Laws, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, crony capitalism, currency peg, debt deflation, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of the americas, Donald Trump, Erik Brynjolfsson, European colonialism, eurozone crisis, falling living standards, financial innovation, financial intermediation, floating exchange rates, Fractional reserve banking, Frederick Winslow Taylor, full employment, germ theory of disease, German hyperinflation, gig economy, Gini coefficient, global supply chain, global value chain, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, Haber-Bosch Process, Hans Rosling, Hernando de Soto, hydraulic fracturing, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, income inequality, income per capita, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, inflation targeting, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, job automation, John Snow's cholera map, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, Kenneth Arrow, Kula ring, labour market flexibility, land reform, land tenure, Lao Tzu, large denomination, liquidity trap, Long Term Capital Management, Louis Blériot, low cost airline, low skilled workers, lump of labour, M-Pesa, Malcom McLean invented shipping containers, manufacturing employment, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Martin Wolf, McJob, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, mittelstand, moral hazard, Murano, Venice glass, Myron Scholes, Nelson Mandela, Network effects, Northern Rock, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, Paul Samuelson, popular capitalism, popular electronics, price stability, principal–agent problem, profit maximization, purchasing power parity, quantitative easing, railway mania, Ralph Nader, regulatory arbitrage, road to serfdom, Robert Gordon, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, savings glut, Scramble for Africa, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, South China Sea, South Sea Bubble, special drawing rights, spice trade, spinning jenny, Steven Pinker, TaskRabbit, Thales and the olive presses, Thales of Miletus, The Great Moderation, The inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, trade route, transaction costs, transatlantic slave trade, transcontinental railway, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, universal basic income, Unsafe at Any Speed, Upton Sinclair, V2 rocket, Veblen good, War on Poverty, Washington Consensus, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, women in the workforce, Yom Kippur War, zero-sum game

There was probably more of a sense of community than in modern societies. The evidence is still strongly in favour of modern life. More children survive to adulthood and they grow up to be taller, better educated, and have many more choices over how to live their lives than they did in medieval times. They have a far greater chance of dying peacefully in their beds of old age (see chart). These advances would not have been made without economic growth. As Steven Pinker recounts,9 back in 1800 no country in the world had a life expectancy higher than 40. Now the world average is around 70; an African born today can expect to live as long as a European born in the 1930s. In 2016, 4.2m babies died in the first year of life.10 That is a terrible number, but it has been steadily falling in recent years. Back in 1950, the number of infant deaths was 14.4m, at a time when the global population was less than half its current size.

Farmers were at risk of other groups taking their produce. The idea of the “noble savage”, of peace-loving tribes at home with nature, is quite persistent. But observations of modern hunter-gatherer tribes find that violent raids on their neighbours are quite common. Excavations in modern-day India uncovered the skeletons of one group of Stone Age hunter-gatherers; most were around 20 years old and none were over 40.19 Steven Pinker tells the tale of Őtzi, a human found frozen in the Alps, who lived 5,000 years ago. He had an arrowhead embedded in his shoulder, unhealed cuts on his hands, wounds on his head and chest, traces of blood from two other people on one of his arrowheads, and blood from a third on his dagger and from a fourth on his cape. Estimates of war deaths from ancient sites, and from hunter-gatherers, are far higher than those from modern states.20 The first civilisations evolved to deal with some of these problems.

Ecclesiastes 11:1, New Living Translation 5. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan 6. “Worst tech predictions of all time”, The Daily Telegraph, June 29th 2017, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/0/worst-tech-predictions-of-all-time/thomas-watson-ibm-president-in-1943/ 7. Vaclav Smil, Energy and Civilization: A History 8. https://www.tudorsociety.com/childbirth-in-medieval-and-tudor-times-by-sarah-bryson 9. Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress 10. Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think 11. Ibid.; the figures comes from a World Bank study by Martin Ravallion and Shaohua Chen 12. Joe Hasell and Max Roser, “Famines”, Our World in Data, https://ourworldindata.org/famines 13.


pages: 1,261 words: 294,715

Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert M. Sapolsky

autonomous vehicles, Bernie Madoff, biofilm, blood diamonds, British Empire, Broken windows theory, Brownian motion, car-free, clean water, cognitive dissonance, corporate personhood, corporate social responsibility, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, desegregation, different worldview, double helix, Drosophila, Edward Snowden, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, Flynn Effect, framing effect, fudge factor, George Santayana, global pandemic, hiring and firing, illegal immigration, impulse control, income inequality, John von Neumann, Loma Prieta earthquake, long peace, longitudinal study, loss aversion, Mahatma Gandhi, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mohammed Bouazizi, Monkeys Reject Unequal Pay, mouse model, mutually assured destruction, Nelson Mandela, Network effects, out of africa, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, placebo effect, publication bias, RAND corporation, risk tolerance, Rosa Parks, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), self-driving car, Silicon Valley, social intelligence, Stanford marshmallow experiment, Stanford prison experiment, stem cell, Steven Pinker, strikebreaker, theory of mind, transatlantic slave trade, traveling salesman, trickle-down economics, twin studies, ultimatum game, Walter Mischel, wikimedia commons, zero-sum game

Elias, The Civilizing Process: Sociogenetic and Psychogenetic Investigations, rev. ed. (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2000); W. Yang, “Nasty, Brutish, and Long,” New York, October 16, 2011. 4. S. Herman and D. Peterson, “Steven Pinker on the Alleged Decline of Violence,” Int Socialist Rev, November/December, 2012. 5. R. Douthat, “Steven Pinker’s History of Violence,” New York Times, October 17, 2011; J. Gray, “Delusions of Peace,” Prospect, October 2011; E. Kolbert, “Peace in Our Time: Steven Pinker’s History of Violence,” New Yorker, October 3, 2011; T. Cowen, “Steven Pinker on Violence,” Marginal Revolution, October 7, 2011. 6. C. Apicella et al., “Social Networks and Cooperation in Hunter-Gatherers,” Nat 481 (2012): 497. 7. S. Huntington, “Democracy for the Long Haul,” J Democracy 7 (1996): 3; T.

In 1996 the archaeologist Lawrence Keeley of the University of Illinois synthesized the existing literature in his highly influential War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage, ostensibly showing that the archaeological evidence for war is broad and ancient.55 A similar conclusion comes in the 2011 book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, by Harvard’s Steven Pinker.56 Cliché police be damned, you can’t mention this book without calling it “monumental.” In this monumental work Pinker argued that (a) violence and the worst horrors of inhumanity have been declining for the last half millennium, thanks to the constraining forces of civilization; and (b) the warfare and barbarity preceding that transition are as old as the human species. Keeley and Pinker document savagery galore in prehistoric tribal societies—mass graves filled with skeletons bearing multiple fractures, caved-in skulls, “parrying” fractures (which arise from raising your arm to fend off a blow), stone projectiles embedded in bone.

Moore, “The Reproductive Success of Cheyenne War Chiefs: A Contrary Case to Chagnon’s Yanomamo,” Curr Anthropology 31 (1990): 322; S. Beckerman et al., “Life Histories, Blood Revenge and Reproductive Success Among the Waorani of Ecuador,” PNAS 106 (2009): 8134. 66. The original research cited by Pinker and Fry: K. Hill and A. Hurtado, Ache Life History: The Ecology and Demography of a Foraging People (New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1996). 67. S. Corry, “The Case of the ‘Brutal Savage’: Poirot or Clouseau? Why Steven Pinker, Like Jared Diamond, Is Wrong,” London: Survival International website, 2013. 68. K. Lorenz, On Aggression (MFJ Books, 1997); R. Ardrey, The Territorial Imperative: A Personal Inquiry into the Animal Origins of Property and Nations (Delta Books, 1966); R. Wrangham and D. Peterson, Demonic Males: Apes and the Origin of Human Violence (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996). 69. C. H. Boehm, Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999); K.


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The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker

1960s counterculture, affirmative action, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, availability heuristic, Berlin Wall, Bonfire of the Vanities, British Empire, Broken windows theory, business cycle, California gold rush, Cass Sunstein, citation needed, clean water, cognitive dissonance, colonial rule, Columbine, computer age, conceptual framework, correlation coefficient, correlation does not imply causation, crack epidemic, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, delayed gratification, demographic transition, desegregation, Doomsday Clock, Douglas Hofstadter, Edward Glaeser, en.wikipedia.org, European colonialism, experimental subject, facts on the ground, failed state, first-past-the-post, Flynn Effect, food miles, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, fudge factor, full employment, George Santayana, ghettoisation, Gini coefficient, global village, Henri Poincaré, Hobbesian trap, humanitarian revolution, impulse control, income inequality, informal economy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, lake wobegon effect, libertarian paternalism, long peace, longitudinal study, loss aversion, Marshall McLuhan, mass incarceration, McMansion, means of production, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mikhail Gorbachev, moral panic, mutually assured destruction, Nelson Mandela, open economy, Peace of Westphalia, Peter Singer: altruism, QWERTY keyboard, race to the bottom, Ralph Waldo Emerson, random walk, Republic of Letters, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, Rosa Parks, Saturday Night Live, security theater, Skype, Slavoj Žižek, South China Sea, Stanford marshmallow experiment, Stanford prison experiment, statistical model, stem cell, Steven Levy, Steven Pinker, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, theory of mind, transatlantic slave trade, Turing machine, twin studies, ultimatum game, uranium enrichment, Vilfredo Pareto, Walter Mischel, WikiLeaks, women in the workforce, zero-sum game

Table of Contents Title Page Copyright Page Dedication Epigraph Preface Chapter 1 - A FOREIGN COUNTRY Chapter 2 - THE PACIFICATION PROCESS Chapter 3 - THE CIVILIZING PROCESS Chapter 4 - THE HUMANITARIAN REVOLUTION Chapter 5 - THE LONG PEACE Chapter 6 - THE NEW PEACE Chapter 7 - THE RIGHTS REVOLUTIONS Chapter 8 - INNER DEMONS Chapter 9 - BETTER ANGELS Chapter 10 - ON ANGELS’ WINGS NOTES REFERENCES INDEX ALSO BY STEVEN PINKER ALSO BY STEVEN PINKER Language Learnability and Language Development Learnability and Cognition The Language Instinct How the Mind Works Words and Rules The Blank Slate The Stuff of Thought EDITED BY STEVEN PINKER Visual Cognition Connections and Symbols (with Jacques Mehler) Lexical and Conceptual Semantics (with Beth Levin) The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2004 VIKING Published by the Penguin Group Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A. • Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) • Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2RoRL, England • Penguin Ireland, 25 St.

Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) • Penguin Books Australia Ltd, 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) • Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India • Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd) • Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R oRL, England First published in 2011 by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright © Steven Pinker, 2011 All rights reserved Excerpts from “MLF Lullaby,” “Who’s Next?,” and “In Old Mexico” by Tom Lehrer. Excerpt from “It Depends on What You Pay” by Tom Jones. Excerpt from “Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag,” words and music by Joe McDonald. © 1965, renewed 1933 by Alkatraz Corner Music Co. LIBRARY OF CONGRES CATALOGING -IN-PUBLICATION DATA Pinker, Steven, 1954– The better angels of our nature: why violence has declined / Steven Pinker. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN : 978-1-101-54464-8 1. Violence—Psychological aspects. 2. Violence—Social aspects. 3. Nonviolence—Psychological aspects.

Wilson, Margo Wilson, Woodrow Wimer, Christopher Winfrey, Oprah Wirth, Christian witchcraft Witness (film) Wollstonecraft, Mary Wolpert, Daniel women: and abortion Amazons in American West antiwar views of attitudes toward competition for and domestic violence feminism feminization genital mutilation of in harems and Islam as leaders male control of as pacifying force peace activists postpartum depression as property rape of, see rape rights of self-defense for “Take Back the Night,” torture of violence against violence by violence over; see also sexual jealousy World Bank world government World Health Organization (WHO) World War I and antiwar views and influenza pandemic as literary war and nationalism onset of poison gas in and World War II World War II causes of destructiveness of and ethnic cleansing London Blitz in and Pearl Harbor and poison gas Wotman, Sara Wouters, Cas Wrangham, Richard Wright, Quincy Wright, Robert Xhosa people Yamaguchi, Tsutomu Yanomamö people Yates, Andrea Yemen Young, Liane Young, Maxwell Younger, Stephen young men: African American aggression of in American West in bachelor cults and code of honor and crime in criminal gangs and dominance and drug culture homicides by in prison socialization of terrorists tribal elders defied by Yugoslavia Zacher, Mark Zambia Zebrowitz, Leslie Zelizer, Viviana zero-sum games Zimbardo, Philip Zimring, Franklin Zipf, G. K. Źiźek, Slavoj Zola, Émile ALSO BY STEVEN PINKER Language Learnability and Language Development Learnability and Cognition The Language Instinct How the Mind Works Words and Rules The Blank Slate The Stuff of Thought EDITED BY STEVEN PINKER Visual Cognition Connections and Symbols (with Jacques Mehler) Lexical and Conceptual Semantics (with Beth Levin) The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2004 Table of Contents Title Page Copyright Page Dedication Epigraph Preface Chapter 1 - A FOREIGN COUNTRY Chapter 2 - THE PACIFICATION PROCESS Chapter 3 - THE CIVILIZING PROCESS Chapter 4 - THE HUMANITARIAN REVOLUTION Chapter 5 - THE LONG PEACE Chapter 6 - THE NEW PEACE Chapter 7 - THE RIGHTS REVOLUTIONS Chapter 8 - INNER DEMONS Chapter 9 - BETTER ANGELS Chapter 10 - ON ANGELS’ WINGS NOTES REFERENCES INDEX ALSO BY STEVEN PINKER Table of Contents Title Page Copyright Page Dedication Epigraph Preface Chapter 1 - A FOREIGN COUNTRY Chapter 2 - THE PACIFICATION PROCESS Chapter 3 - THE CIVILIZING PROCESS Chapter 4 - THE HUMANITARIAN REVOLUTION Chapter 5 - THE LONG PEACE Chapter 6 - THE NEW PEACE Chapter 7 - THE RIGHTS REVOLUTIONS Chapter 8 - INNER DEMONS Chapter 9 - BETTER ANGELS Chapter 10 - ON ANGELS’ WINGS NOTES REFERENCES INDEX ALSO BY STEVEN PINKER


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The AI Economy: Work, Wealth and Welfare in the Robot Age by Roger Bootle

"Robert Solow", 3D printing, agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Albert Einstein, anti-work, autonomous vehicles, basic income, Ben Bernanke: helicopter money, Bernie Sanders, blockchain, call centre, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Chris Urmson, computer age, conceptual framework, corporate governance, correlation does not imply causation, creative destruction, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, deskilling, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, facts on the ground, financial intermediation, full employment, future of work, income inequality, income per capita, industrial robot, Internet of things, invention of the wheel, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, job automation, job satisfaction, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, license plate recognition, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, market bubble, mega-rich, natural language processing, Network effects, new economy, Nicholas Carr, Paul Samuelson, Peter Thiel, positional goods, quantitative easing, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Florida, ride hailing / ride sharing, rising living standards, road to serfdom, Robert Gordon, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Skype, social intelligence, spinning jenny, Stanislav Petrov, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, technological singularity, The Future of Employment, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, trade route, universal basic income, US Airways Flight 1549, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, wealth creators, winner-take-all economy, Y2K, Yogi Berra

And, as in the military, there is great scope for the type of job available to humans within any given sector to change radically. It is widely believed that the challenge from robots and AI will be felt most acutely in manual occupations. Actually, it is not true that all manual jobs are acutely under threat. As noted above, robots continue to be poor at manual dexterity. According to the cognitive scientist Steven Pinker: “The main lesson of thirty-five years of AI research is that the hard problems are easy and the easy problems are hard.”20 Accordingly, many skilled, manual jobs look safe for the foreseeable future. These include plumbers, electricians, gardeners, builders, and decorators. That said, research from Mace suggests that by 2040, out of the 2.2 million jobs in the construction industry, 600,000 could be automated.

Of course, it still rankles, and it is offensive to any natural sense of fairness to see great wealth and luxury sitting cheek by jowl with poverty. But there is now in the developed world hardly any absolute poverty, at least poverty as we used to know it. Increased inequality is not going to mean people starving or living without shelter and warmth. (Matters are quite different in much of the rest of the world, but there AI-induced inequality is not likely to be a problem.) Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker says that some of the outrage of the anti-inequality movement is based on a misunderstanding. He points out that in Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century (which I discussed in Chapter 6), there appears to be a confusion between relative and absolute. Piketty says: “The poor of the population are as poor today as they were in the past, with barely 5 percent of total wealth in 2010, as in 1910.”24 But Pinker points out that, since wealth was vastly larger in 2010 than a hundred years earlier, if the poorer half of the population owns the same proportion of the wealth, they are in fact vastly richer.25 Pinker also lays into the argument that societies that are more unequal are thereby less successful and less happy.

He foresees a future in which part of the universe is “rapidly transformed into a cyberspace [wherein beings] establish, extend, and defend identities as patterns of information flow … becoming finally a bubble of Mind expanding at near light speed.”11 Inevitability is a big word When I contemplate the visions of the thinkers quoted above, my reaction is: Gosh! Beam me up, Scotty. But the Singularity is not inevitable. Indeed, far from it. With more than 60 years of studying cognitive science at MIT behind him, Noam Chomsky says that we are “eons away” from building human-level machine intelligence. He dismisses the Singularity as “science fiction.” The distinguished Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker broadly agrees. He has said: “There is not the slightest reason to believe in a coming singularity.” Admittedly, these are still early days and it is quite possible that either a breakthrough in what AI researchers are already doing, or a complete change of course, will deliver dramatic results.12 But it has to be said that the progress of AI toward anything like human general intelligence has been painfully slow.


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The Penguin and the Leviathan: How Cooperation Triumphs Over Self-Interest by Yochai Benkler

business process, California gold rush, citizen journalism, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, East Village, Everything should be made as simple as possible, experimental economics, experimental subject, framing effect, informal economy, invisible hand, jimmy wales, job satisfaction, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, knowledge economy, laissez-faire capitalism, loss aversion, Murray Gell-Mann, Nicholas Carr, peer-to-peer, prediction markets, Richard Stallman, Scientific racism, Silicon Valley, Steven Pinker, telemarketer, Toyota Production System, twin studies, ultimatum game, Washington Consensus, zero-sum game, Zipcar

This kind of altruistic act—saving my brother’s life—is easiest to reconcile with what Dawkins would describe as strictly “selfish” at the genetic level, because it increases my likelihood of my genes surviving. But how do we explain helping individuals to whom we are not genetically related? How can this possibly improve our genetic fitness? Here reciprocity (the notion that cooperative acts will ultimately be reciprocated) provides an explanation. The simplest version is direct reciprocity, an idea introduced by Robert Trivers, whose work inspired Dawkins, Steven Pinker, and many others. Basically this says that when we are in a situation in which another individual can directly reciprocate our help by helping us back, we both recognize that we will be better off by cooperating than not. This basic dynamic is not confined to humans; it has been demonstrated through numerous animal studies. One of the most gripping studies was described in Frans de Waal’s fascinating book, Chimpanzee Politics, in which De Waal studied the shifting alliances among three male chimpanzees who were fighting for power: Yeroen, the oldest; Luit, the next in line; and Nikkie, the third in line.

If we want to understand this essential behavior, we need to pay attention to the human behavioral and social sciences, to history, and to technology, law, and business. I will use a bit of all of these approaches in understanding what makes human cooperation work. Each reveals certain parts of the picture. And each imposes some constraints on our desire to confirm existing beliefs and ratify existing practices. None do so perfectly, but we have no better. We might as well get on with it. * Such as Leda Cosmides, John Tooby, and Steven Pinker. * Along with extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, and openness. • CHAPTER 3 • STUBBORN CHILDREN, NEW YORK CITY DOORMEN, AND WHY OBESITY IS CONTAGIOUS: PSYCHOLOGICAL AND SOCIAL INFLUENCES ON COOPERATION Washington Square Park. I was sitting with my kids in the playground. A group of children were digging and playing with trucks in the sandbox. One of the kids was pulling a truck out of another’s hands.


pages: 256 words: 60,620

Think Twice: Harnessing the Power of Counterintuition by Michael J. Mauboussin

affirmative action, asset allocation, Atul Gawande, availability heuristic, Benoit Mandelbrot, Bernie Madoff, Black Swan, butter production in bangladesh, Cass Sunstein, choice architecture, Clayton Christensen, cognitive dissonance, collateralized debt obligation, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, deliberate practice, disruptive innovation, Edward Thorp, experimental economics, financial innovation, framing effect, fundamental attribution error, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, George Akerlof, hindsight bias, hiring and firing, information asymmetry, libertarian paternalism, Long Term Capital Management, loose coupling, loss aversion, mandelbrot fractal, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, money market fund, Murray Gell-Mann, Netflix Prize, pattern recognition, Philip Mirowski, placebo effect, Ponzi scheme, prediction markets, presumed consent, Richard Thaler, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, statistical model, Steven Pinker, The Wisdom of Crowds, ultimatum game

Ian Ayres, Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-by-Numbers Is the New Way to Be Smart (New York: Bantam Books, 2007), 1–6. Actually, this is not the formula Ayres shows. A check of primary sources suggests Ayres made two errors in his equation (the constant should be a negative value and a decimal place is off). I believe this equation is correct. 7. Orley Ashenfelter, “Predicting the Quality and Prices of Bordeaux Wines,” Working paper no. 4, American Association of Wine Economists, April 2007. 8. Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works (New York: W.W Norton & Company, 1997), 305–306. 9. J. Scott Armstrong, Monica Adya, and Fred Collopy, “Rule-Based Forecasting: Using Judgment in Time-Series Extrapolation” in Principles of Forecasting: A Handbook for Researchers and Practitioners, ed. J. Scott Armstrong (New York: Springer, 2001), 259–282; and John D. Sterman and Linda Booth Sweeney, “Managing Complex Dynamic Systems: Challenge and Opportunity for Naturalistic Decision-Making Theory,” in How Professionals Make Decisions, ed.

Sulloway, Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics, and Creative Lives (New York: Pantheon, 1996). 2. Rex Dalton, “Quarrel Over Book Leads to Call For Misconduct Inquiry,” Nature 431 (October 21, 2004): 889; Judith Rich Harris, The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do (New York: Free Press, 1998), 365–378; Frederic Townsend, “Birth Order and Rebelliousness: Reconstructing the Research in Born to Rebel,” Politics and the Life Sciences 19, no. 2 (2000): 135–156; Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (New York: Viking, 2002), 389–390; and Judith Rich Harris, No Two Alike: Human Nature and Human Individuality (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2006), 83–114. 3. John Horgan, The Undiscovered Mind: How the Human Brain Defies Replication, Medication, and Explanation (New York: Free Press, 1999), 192. 4. Susan Goldsmith, “Frank’s War,” East Bay Express, April 28, 2004. 5.


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The Prodigal Tongue: The Love-Hate Relationship Between American and British English by Lynne Murphy

airport security, British Empire, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, Downton Abbey, en.wikipedia.org, illegal immigration, invention of the printing press, joint-stock company, moral panic, pre–internet, Saturday Night Live, Silicon Valley, smart cities, Steven Pinker, too big to fail, transatlantic slave trade, young professional

(Some UK homes have separate rooms for the two.) That led to go to the bathroom becoming a less explicit way to say ‘go to the room with the toilet in it, to use the toilet.’ As a result, bathroom became more directly associated with smelly bodily functions, and so it can seem less than genteel, pushing Americans to use euphemisms for that euphemism, such as restroom and powder room. This is an example of what psycholinguist Steven Pinker calls “the euphemism treadmill”; pleasant words for unpleasant things become tainted by the unpleasantness of the thing, and therefore need to be replaced regularly.44 None of these are British ways to talk about toilets or excretion, and so we get exchanges like this one that I overheard between a security guard and two American tourists in London’s National Gallery: Tourist: Could you tell us where the restroom is?

The headlines of American newspaper reviews sum up the general feeling about Webster’s Third: Sabotage in Springfield A Non-Word Deluge Anarchy in Language The Death of Meaning61 And then it got nasty.62 The publisher of the American Heritage history magazine, James Parton, was so incensed by the new dictionary that his company attempted a hostile takeover of Merriam-Webster, with the aim of restoring to print the 1934 Webster’s Second International Dictionary.63 The takeover failed, so Parton founded a competitor dictionary that would take the judgmental role that Webster’s Third had abdicated—relying not just on the authority of the editor, but on a consultant Usage Panel of 105 learned writers, professors, and editors. For controversial words, The American Heritage Dictionary published paragraphs on usage. In these, readers could learn, for example, that just 67% of the Usage Panel were happy for you to use the verb to shake down.64 Today the panel is chaired by linguist and style-guide author Steven Pinker; its nearly 180 members include 73 professors, three former US poet laureates, the New York Times crossword-puzzle editor, and leading lights of American journalism and literature, united in an effort to help Americans help themselves in deciding whether they should risk using hopefully to mean ‘I hope.’ (In the 1999 edition, 34% of the panel said it was acceptable. In 2012, that proportion was up to 63%.)

The intuition is revealed by the facts that (a) we use different intonations and punctuation for the two types (whether or not we’ve been taught to) and (b) we never put a that before a nonrestrictive clause. English can use which for both types, though. Since there are two words (that, which) and two jobs for those words to do (restrictive/nonrestrictive clauses), usage mavens and grammar pedants love to try to make a one-word/one-job rule. That can’t go with nonrestrictive relative clauses, so, they reason, which shouldn’t go with restrictive ones. This “phony but ubiquitous rule,” says Steven Pinker, “sprang from a daydream by Henry Fowler.”68 Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage, published in Britain in 1926, has five dense pages on restricting which to nonrestrictive clauses, which Fowler saw as a “line of improvement” for the language. But despite Fowler’s fine reputation in the UK, his rule has had little effect there: in the 1990s still more than half of written restrictive relative clauses had which.


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Notes From an Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back by Mark O'Connell

Berlin Wall, bitcoin, blockchain, California gold rush, carbon footprint, Carrington event, clean water, Colonization of Mars, conceptual framework, cryptocurrency, disruptive innovation, diversified portfolio, Donald Trump, Donner party, Elon Musk, high net worth, Jeff Bezos, life extension, low earth orbit, Marc Andreessen, Mikhail Gorbachev, mutually assured destruction, New Urbanism, off grid, Peter Thiel, post-work, Sam Altman, Silicon Valley, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the built environment, yield curve

“There is a psychologist, quite famous, who has written a book about how everything has been getting better for humanity over time, and that this is the best moment in history to be alive.” “Are you talking about Steven Pinker?” “Maybe,” she said. “I am terrible with names.” “Voluminous mane of silver ringlets? Looks like Brian May out of Queen? Goes on about the Enlightenment all the time?” “Yes,” she said, “I think that’s him.” “I don’t find him particularly convincing,” I said, more dismissively than I intended to. She shrugged in a particularly French-seeming way, raising her eyebrows, dipping her head to one side. She was clearly not willing to sacrifice the last fifteen minutes of our session to a defense of Steven Pinker. There was a silence then, during which I gazed out the window and listened to the bell of an approaching tram, and fell to thinking about Pinker’s hair.


Survival of the Friendliest: Understanding Our Origins and Rediscovering Our Common Humanity by Brian Hare, Vanessa Woods

Cass Sunstein, cognitive bias, desegregation, Donald Trump, drone strike, income inequality, Jane Jacobs, Law of Accelerating Returns, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, Milgram experiment, Nelson Mandela, New Urbanism, nuclear winter, out of africa, phenotype, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Florida, Ronald Reagan, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), self-driving car, smart cities, social intelligence, Stanford marshmallow experiment, stem cell, Steven Pinker, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, theory of mind, Tim Cook: Apple, trade route, white flight, zero-sum game

Friendliness drove this technological revolution by linking groups of innovators together in a way other hominin species never could. Self-domestication gave us a superpower, and in the blink of an evolutionary eye, we took over the world. And one by one, every other human species went extinct. * * * — Our capacity for friendliness toward strangers has continued to increase. The psychologist Steven Pinker argues that human violence has steadily declined over time.62 Yuval Harari writes that the “Law of the Jungle has finally been broken, if not rescinded…a growing segment of humankind has come to see war as simply inconceivable.”63 We have human self-domestication to thank for this. The concept of the intragroup stranger has allowed us to extend our love toward those we have never met. This notion of an extended family helped us to succeed in the past, and it is the great hope for our future.

Boeckx, “Oxytocin and Vasopressin Receptor Variants as a Window onto the Evolution of Human Prosociality,” bioRxiv, 460584 (2018). 60. K. R. Hill, B. M. Wood, J. Baggio, A. M. Hurtado, R. T. Boyd, “Hunter-gatherer Inter-band Interaction Rates: Implications for Cumulative Culture,” PLoS One 9, e102806 (2014). 61. K. Hill, “Altruistic Cooperation During Foraging by the Ache, and the Evolved Human Predisposition to Cooperate,” Human Nature 13, 105–28 (2002). 62. Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (Penguin Books, 2012). 63. Y. N. Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (Random House, 2016). 64. R. C. Oka, M. Kissel, M. Golitko, S. G. Sheridan, N. C. Kim, A. Fuentes, “Population Is the Main Driver of War Group Size and Conflict Casualties,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 114, E11101–E11110 (2017). 6 Not Quite Human 1. “ ‘Burundi: The Gatumba Massacre: War Crimes and Political Agendas,’ ” (Human Rights Watch, 2004). 2.


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Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life by Daniel C. Dennett

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, anthropic principle, assortative mating, buy low sell high, cellular automata, combinatorial explosion, complexity theory, computer age, conceptual framework, Conway's Game of Life, Danny Hillis, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, Drosophila, finite state, Gödel, Escher, Bach, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John von Neumann, Murray Gell-Mann, New Journalism, non-fiction novel, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, price mechanism, prisoner's dilemma, QWERTY keyboard, random walk, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, Schrödinger's Cat, selection bias, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, strong AI, the scientific method, theory of mind, Thomas Malthus, Turing machine, Turing test

On the contrary, {355} instead of just dutifully passing on their messages, correcting most of the typos as they go, brains seem to be designed to do just the opposite: to transform, invent, interpolate, censor, and generally mix up the "input" before yielding any "output." Isn't one of the hallmarks of cultural evolution and transmission the extraordinarily high rate of mutation and recombination? We seldom pass on a meme unaltered, it seems, unless we are particularly literal-minded rote learners. (Are walking encyclopedias hidebound?) Moreover, as Steven Pinker has stressed (personal communication), much of the mutation that happens to memes — how much is not clear — is manifestly directed mutation: "Memes such as the theory of relativity are not the cumulative product of millions of random (undirected) mutations of some original idea, but each brain in the chain of production added huge dollops of value to the product in a nonrandom way." Indeed, the whole power of minds as meme nests comes from what a biologist would call lineage-crossing or anastomosis (the coming back together of separating gene-pools).

That attitude, at any rate, has often surfaced in these controversies, and Chomsky has been a primary source of authority for it. {384} 2. CHOMSKY CONTRA DARWIN: FOUR EPISODES Chomsky, one might think, would have everything to gain by grounding his controversial theory about a language organ in the firm foundation of evolutionary theory, and in some of his writings he has hinted at a connection. But more often he is skeptical. — STEVEN PINKER 1994, p. 355 In the case of such systems as language or wings it is not easy even to imagine a course of selection that might have given rise to them. — NOAM CHOMSKY 1988, p. 167 A sizeable gulf in communication still exists between cognitive scientists who entered the field from Al or from the study of problem solving and concept-forming behavior, on the one side, and those who entered from a concern with language, on the other....

In short, although Gould has heralded Chomsky's theory of universal grammar as a bulwark against an adaptationist explanation of language, and Chomsky has in return endorsed Gould's antiadaptationism as an authoritative excuse for rejecting the obvious obligation to pursue an evolutionary explanation of the innate establishment of universal grammar, these two authorities are supporting each other over an abyss. In December 1989, the MIT psycholinguist Steven Pinker and his graduate student Paul Bloom presented a paper, "Natural Language and Natural Selection," to the Cognitive Science Colloquium at MIT. Their paper, which has itself subsequently appeared as a target article in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, laid down the gauntlet: Many people have argued that the evolution of the human language faculty cannot be explained by Darwinian natural selection.


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The Internationalists: How a Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World by Oona A. Hathaway, Scott J. Shapiro

9 dash line, Albert Einstein, anti-globalists, bank run, Bartolomé de las Casas, battle of ideas, British Empire, clean water, colonial rule, continuation of politics by other means, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, Donald Trump, facts on the ground, failed state, humanitarian revolution, index card, long peace, Monroe Doctrine, new economy, oil shale / tar sands, open economy, Peace of Westphalia, Ronald Reagan, Scientific racism, Scramble for Africa, South China Sea, spice trade, Steven Pinker, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade liberalization, uranium enrichment, zero-sum game

Allee, The Democratic Peace and Territorial Conflict in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002); Michael W. Doyle, Liberal Peace: Selected Essays (New York: Routledge, 2011). 31. See, e.g, Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (London: Penguin, 2011); Joshua Goldstein, Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide (New York: Dutton, 2011); Azar Gat, War in Human Civilization (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008); Azar Gat, “Is War Declining and Why?,” Journal of Peace Research 50, no. 2 (2013): 149–57; The Waning of Major War: Theories and Debates, ed. Raimo Vayrynen (London: Routledge, 2006); Nils Petter Gelditsch, “The Decline of War—The Main Issues,” International Studies Review 15, no. 3 (2013): 397–99; Lawrence Freedman, “Steven Pinker and the Long Peace: Alliance, Deterrence, and Decline,” Cold War History 14, no. 4 (2014): 657–72; John Mueller, Retreat from Doomsday: The Obsolescence of Major War (New York: Basic Books, 1989). 32.

Scholars who observe these changes are sometimes called “declinists.”31 Declinists note, for example, that the major powers of the world have not fought a war against each other directly since the Second World War.32 Over the last several decades, the total number of conflicts has dropped by 40 percent.33 The deadliest, those that kill at least 1,000 people, have declined even further—by half.34 Several declinists argue that the decline in war has led to a decline in war deaths. Proving this claim, however, is difficult. Unfortunately, the available historical data on war deaths are much less complete and reliable than the data on territorial change.35 Combining data and narrative history, Steven Pinker concludes that though wars have become more deadly, they are less frequent, yielding fewer war-related deaths overall.36 The decline in interstate war is so widely accepted and well documented as to have almost become conventional wisdom.37 There is far less agreement, however, on its cause. Pinker points to a gradual evolution in human empathy, self-control, morality, and reason—the “better angels of our nature.”

Vattel indicates elsewhere that the laws of war could also be enforced by the retaliatory refusal to give quarter. Ibid., 3.8.141. 75. Eric Robson, “The Armed Forces and the Art of War,” in The New Cambridge Modern History, eds. G. R. Potter and G. R. Elton, Vol. 7: The Old Regime, 1713–63, ed. J. O. Lindsay (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 165. On the humanitarian revolution and Enlightenment humanism, see Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (New York: Viking, 2011), 129–92. 76. Bell, The First Total War; Carl Schmitt, Theory of the Partisan: Intermediate Commentary on the Concept of the Political, trans. G. L. Ulem (New York: Telos Press, 2007), 36. 77. James Whitman, The Verdict of Battle: The Law of Victory and the Making of Modern War (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012); Randall Lesaffer, “Siege Warfare in Early Modern Europe,” in E.


pages: 525 words: 116,295

The New Digital Age: Transforming Nations, Businesses, and Our Lives by Eric Schmidt, Jared Cohen

access to a mobile phone, additive manufacturing, airport security, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, anti-communist, augmented reality, Ayatollah Khomeini, barriers to entry, bitcoin, borderless world, call centre, Chelsea Manning, citizen journalism, clean water, cloud computing, crowdsourcing, data acquisition, Dean Kamen, drone strike, Elon Musk, failed state, fear of failure, Filter Bubble, Google Earth, Google Glasses, hive mind, income inequality, information trail, invention of the printing press, job automation, John Markoff, Julian Assange, Khan Academy, Kickstarter, knowledge economy, Law of Accelerating Returns, market fundamentalism, means of production, MITM: man-in-the-middle, mobile money, mutually assured destruction, Naomi Klein, Nelson Mandela, offshore financial centre, Parag Khanna, peer-to-peer, peer-to-peer lending, personalized medicine, Peter Singer: altruism, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Robert Bork, self-driving car, sentiment analysis, Silicon Valley, Skype, Snapchat, social graph, speech recognition, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, Stuxnet, The Wisdom of Crowds, upwardly mobile, Whole Earth Catalog, WikiLeaks, young professional, zero day

If anything, we’re more peaceful than we’ve ever been, with the amount of violence in human societies declining precipitously in the past several centuries due to developments like strong states (which monopolize violence and institute the rule of law), commerce (other people become more valuable alive than dead) and expanded international networks (which demystify and humanize the Other). As the psychologist Steven Pinker explains in The Better Angels of Our Nature, his excellent and comprehensive survey of this trend, historical exogenous forces like these “favor our peaceable motives” like empathy, moral sense, reason and self-control, which “orient [us] away from violence and toward cooperation and altruism.” Once conscious of this shift, Pinker remarks, “The world begins to look different. The past seems less innocent; the present less sinister.”

Our gratitude to all our friends and colleagues whose ideas and thoughts we’ve benefited from: Elliott Abrams, Ruzwana Bashir, Michael Bloomberg, Richard Branson, Chris Brose, Jordan Brown, James Bryer, Mike Cline, Steve Coll, Peter Diamandis, Larry Diamond, Jack Dorsey, Mohamed El-Erian, James Fallows, Summer Felix, Richard Fontaine, Dov Fox, Tom Freston, Malcolm Gladwell, James Glassman, Jack Goldsmith, David Gordon, Sheena Greitens, Craig Hatkoff, Michael Hayden, Chris Hughes, Walter Isaacson, Dean Kamen, David Kennedy, Erik Kerr, Parag Khanna, Joseph Konzelmann, Stephen Krasner, Ray Kurzweil, Eric Lander, Jason Liebman, Claudia Mendoza, Evgeny Morozov, Dambisa Moyo, Elon Musk, Meghan O’Sullivan, Farah Pandith, Barry Pavel, Steven Pinker, Joe Polish, Alex Pollen, Jason Rakowski, Lisa Randall, Condoleezza Rice, Jane Rosenthal, Nouriel Roubini, Kori Schake, Vance Serchuk, Michael Spence, Stephen Stedman, Dan Twining, Decker Walker, Matthew Waxman, Tim Wu, Jillian York, Juan Zarate, Jonathan Zittrain and Ethan Zuckerman. We also want to thank the guys from Peak Performance, particularly Joe Dowdell and Jose and Emilio Gomez, for keeping us healthy during the final stages of writing.

“What defeats terrorism is really two things”: General Stanley McChrystal, interview by Susanne Koelbl, “Killing the Enemy Is Not the Best Route to Success,” Der Spiegel, January 11, 2010, http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/spiegel-interview-with-general-stanley-mcchrystal-killing-the-enemy-is-not-the-best-route-to-success-a-671267.html. With more than four billion videos viewed daily: Alexei Oreskovic, “Exclusive: YouTube Hits 4 Billion Daily Video Views,” Reuters, January 23, 2012, http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/23/us-google-youtube-idUSTRE80M0TS20120123. CHAPTER 6 THE FUTURE OF CONFLICT, COMBAT AND INTERVENTION “orient [us] away from violence and toward cooperation and altruism”: Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (New York: Viking, 2011), xxv. “The world begins to look different”: Ibid., xxvi. deliberately excludes some 2.2 million ethnic Roma: Amnesty International (AI), “Romania Must End Forced Evictions of Roma Families,” press release, January 26, 2010, http://www.amnesty.org/en/for-media/press-releases/romania-must-end-forced-evictions-roma-families-20100126.


pages: 531 words: 125,069

The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff, Jonathan Haidt

AltaVista, Bernie Sanders, bitcoin, Black Swan, cognitive dissonance, correlation does not imply causation, demographic transition, Donald Trump, Ferguson, Missouri, Filter Bubble, helicopter parent, hygiene hypothesis, income inequality, Internet Archive, Isaac Newton, low skilled workers, Mahatma Gandhi, mass immigration, mass incarceration, means of production, moral panic, Nelson Mandela, Ralph Nader, risk tolerance, Silicon Valley, Snapchat, Steven Pinker, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, Unsafe at Any Speed

In Part IV, we offered suggestions based on the three psychological principles for improving childrearing, K–12 education, and universities. We discussed some alarming trends in this book, particularly in the chapters on America’s rising political polarization and rising rates of adolescent depression, anxiety, and suicide. These problems are serious, and we see no sign that either trend will be reversing in the next decade. And yet we are heartened and persuaded by cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker’s argument, in Enlightenment Now, that in the long run most things are getting better, quickly and globally. Pinker notes that there are many psychological reasons why people are—and have always been—prone to catastrophizing about the future. For example, some of the problems we discuss in this book are examples of the “problems of progress” that we described in the Introduction. As we make progress in such areas as safety, comfort, and inclusion, we raise our expectations.

We are grateful to the many friends, colleagues, and acquaintances who gave us valuable comments on one or more chapters, helped us analyze data, or provided their professional expertise: Jason Baehr, Andrew Becker, Caleb Bernard, Paul Bloom, Samantha Boardman, Bradley Campbell, Dennis Dalton, Clark Freshman, Brian Gallagher, Andrew Gates, Christopher Gates, Benjamin Ginsberg, Jesse Graham, Dan Griswold, Benjamin Haidt, Rebecca Haidt, Terry Hartle, Ravi Iyer, Robb Jones, Christina King, Susan Kresnicka, Calvin Lai, Marcella Larsen, Harry Lewis, Vanessa Lobue, Brian Lowe, Jason Manning, Ian McCready-Flora, John McWhorter, John Palfrey, Mike Paros, Nando Pelusi, Steven Pinker, Anne Rasmussen, Bradly Reed, Fabio Rojas, Kathleen Santora, Sally Satel, Steve Schultz, Mark Shulman, Nadine Strossen, Joshua Sullivan, Marianne Toldalagi, John Tomasi, Tracy Tomasso, Rebecca Tuvel, Lee Tyner, Steve Vaisey, Robert Von Hallberg, Zach Wood, and Jared Zuker. We thank Omar Mahmood for volunteering to create our website, TheCoddling.com. We thank Don Peck, at The Atlantic, for seeing the potential of this project back in 2014 and launching it, transformed, in 2015.

IQ2 Talks [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/TDjWryXdVd0?t=7m42s 29. For a review of this literature, including the debate over whether “group selection” played a role in the human story, over and above individual selection, see Haidt (2012), chapter 9. For a contrary view, see: Pinker, S. (2012, June 18). The false allure of group selection. Edge. Retrieved from https://www.edge.org/conversation/steven_pinker-the-false-allure-of-group-selection 30. Chapter 10 of The Righteous Mind (Haidt, 2012) describes the “hive switch,” a psychological reflex in which self-interest is turned off and group interest becomes paramount; people lose themselves in the group. People can become tribal without the hive switch getting activated. The hive response is what happens when tribalism is activated intensely, particularly through highly engaging multisensory rituals. 31.


pages: 74 words: 16,545

Free Will by Sam Harris

Steven Pinker

The value of believing in free will: Encouraging a belief in determinism increases cheating. Psychological Science, 19(1): 49–54. 20. R. F. Baumeister, E. J. Masicampo, & C. N. DeWall, 2009. Prosocial benefits of feeling free: Disbelief in free will increases aggression and reduces helpfulness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35: 260–268. 21. J. Diamond, 2008. Vengeance is ours. The New Yorker, April 21, 2001, pp. 74–87. 22. Steven Pinker, personal communication. INDEX actions: brain and, 69n freedom to reinterpret meaning of, 40 modification of, through punishment or incentives, 59–60 past, free will and, 6, 39–40, 77n as products of impersonal events, 27 seen as “self-generated,” 27–29 voluntary vs. involuntary, 12–13, 31–32, 41–42 see also intentions agency, sense of: experimental manipulation of, 24–25 free will and, 23–26 attention, directing of, as conscious act, 31–32 backward masking, 70n bacteria, in human bodies, 23–24 behavior, see actions brain: causal states of, 34 disorders and tumors of, 50, 51, 53–54, 55–56 dual systems in, 9, 32, 69n–70n medial prefrontal cortex of, 50, 58 as subject to laws of nature, 11–12 subliminal presentation of stimuli to, 70n–71n see also neurophysiology brain activity, as preceding consciousness of intent, 8–11 brain scans, 8–11, 24, 69n–72n chance, 27–28 see also luck change, possibility of, 62–63 child abuse, 3–4, 50, 51 choice: as causal brain state, 24 importance of, 34–35 as product of prior events, 34, 43–44 seeming spontaneity of, 6, 37 stories as explanations of, 35, 37, 43–44 see also intentions Clark, Tom, 20–23 cognition, 69n Cohen, Jonathan, 73n–74n compassion, 45 compatibilism, 15–26 free will as defined by, 16–17, 39–40, 74n moral responsibility and, 18 consciousness: delayed sensory feedback and, 73n as dependent on working memory, 72n free will and, 6, 26 intentions as appearing but not originating in, 8 unconscious origins of, 5, 7–14 Consciousness Explained (Dennett), 74n conservatives, free will and, 61–62 Coyne, Jerry, 76n criminals, criminal behavior: causes of, 3–5 as dangers to society, 52–53, 56 deterrence of, 56, 58–59 empathy for, 45–46 free will and, 17–18, 53 incarceration of, 53, 54, 58 moral responsibility and, 3, 17–18, 49–52 punishment of, see retribution rehabilitation of, 56, 58 Daniel (New Guinea highlander), 57 deliberative thinking, role of, 32–33 Dennett, Daniel, 20–23, 25, 33, 71n desires: mutually incompatible, 18–19 pathological, 18 determinism, 15, 74n fatalism vs., 33–34 moral responsibility and, 48–49 scientific validity of, 16, 29–30 DNA, mutations of, 29 Edelman, Gerald, 72n EEG (electroencephalogram), 8 Einstein, Albert, 75n–76n emotion, brain and, 69n emotional words, subliminal presentation of, 70n–71n empathy, 45–46 entitlement, sense of, 45 evolution, 29 existentialism, 40 experimental psychology, 69n–72n, 74n–75n fatalism, 46 determinism vs., 33–34 Ferriss, Tim, 36, 37 forgiveness, 45 fMRI, see functional magnetic resonance imaging freedom: as ability to act on beliefs, 38–39 sense of, as enhanced by loss of belief in free will, 46–47 social and political, 13 free will, as concept: as basis of justice system, 1, 23, 48, 54 compatibilist view of, see compatibilism consciousness and, 6, 26 conservatives and, 61–62 criminal behavior and, 17–18 determinist view of, see determinism hating and, 53–54 hypothetical requirements for, 13–14 as illusion, 5–6, 11, 22, 53 liberals and, 61 libertarianism and, 15–16, 74n luck vs., 4, 38, 53, 54, 61–62 past actions and, 6, 39–40, 77n rethinking justice system reliance on, 54, 56 retribution as dependent on sense of, 1 scientific validity lacking for, 6, 64–65 sense of agency and, 23–26 subjective validity lacking for, 6, 65 success and, 1 free will, sense of: chance and, 27–28 conceptual understanding of self vs., 22–23 as felt experience, 15, 22–23, 26 moral responsibility as dependent on, 16–17, 23, 27 as mystery, 64–65 as resulting from ignorance of unconscious origins of intentions, 13, 32, 60 seen as necessary illusion, 45–47 functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), 8 Greene, Joshua, 73n–74n hating, free will and, 53–54 Hayes, Steven, 1–4 Heisenberg, Martin, 27 Holocaust, 57 illusion: free will as, 5–6, 11, 22 necessary, sense of free will seen as, 45–47 incarceration, of criminals, 53, 54, 58 intentions: as appearing but not originating in consciousness, 8 brain activity as preceding consciousness of, 8–11 as causal brain state, 34 to do harm, 52–53 external and internal restraints on, 41–42 as product of prior events, 5–6, 19–20, 34, 60 soul and, 12 subjective mystery of, 13, 37–38, 39–40 unconscious origins of, 7–14 see also actions; choice ion channels, 27 justice system: and distinction between voluntary and involuntary actions, 31, 56 free will as basis of, 1, 23, 48 rethinking of reliance on free will, 54, 56 retribution and, 1, 48, 56 Komisarjevsky, Joshua, 1–4 laws of nature, 40 brain as subject to, 11–12 laziness, 62 liberals, free will and, 61 libertarianism, 15–16, 74n Libet, Benjamin, 8, 73n luck: free will vs., 4, 38, 53, 54, 61–62 moral responsibility and, 54 see also chance materialism, 11, 74n meaning, of actions, freedom to reinterpret, 40 medial prefrontal cortex, 50, 58 Meditations on Violence (Miller), 43–44 Miller, Rory, 43–44 moral responsibility, 48–60 and brain disorders, 50, 51, 53–54, 55–56 compatibilism and, 18 of criminals, 3 degrees of, 49–52 as dependent on sense of free will, 16–17, 23, 27 determination of, as dependent on overall complexion of mind, 49 determinism and, 48–49 and distinction between voluntary and involuntary actions, 31, 41–42 and fear of retribution, 58–59 luck and, 54 murder, 3–4, 12–13, 17, 18, 55, 57 mystery: origins of intentions as, 13, 37–38, 39–40 sense of free will as, 64–65 Nahmias, Eddy, 41–42 neuroimaging, 8–11, 24, 69n–72n neurophysiology, seen as part of the self, 20–22, 75n New Guinea, 57 New Yorker, 57 New York Times, 41–42 past actions, free will and, 6, 39–40, 77n Petit, Hayley, 2–3 Petit, Jennifer, 2–3 Petit, Michaela, 2–3 Petit, William, 2–3 philosophical materialism, 11, 74n philosophy, free will and, see compatibilism; determinism; libertarianism politics, 61–63 priming, 69n psychopaths, 51 punishment, see retribution quantum indeterminacy, 27, 29–30 rape, 3, 17, 46 rehabilitation, of criminals, 56, 58 religion, 18, 56 retribution: as dependent on sense of free will, 1 as deterrent, 58–59 human need for, 57–58 justice system and, 1, 48 religion and, 56 as resulting from ignorance of underlying causes of behavior, 55 Schopenhauer, Arthur, 75n–76n self, seen as comprising both conscious and unconscious processes, 20–22, 75n sensory feedback, consciousness and, 73n sin, 48, 56 soul, 56 intentions and, 12 libertarianism and, 16 stimuli, subliminal presentation of, 70n–71n stories, as explanation of choices, 35, 37, 43–44 Strawson, Galen, 74n, 75n success, free will and, 1 Supreme Court, U.S., 48 synaptic vesicles, 27 theology, 18, 56 unconscious, seen as part of the self, 20–22, 75n United States v.


pages: 276 words: 71,950

Antisemitism: Here and Now by Deborah E. Lipstadt

anti-communist, Ayatollah Khomeini, Boycotts of Israel, Cass Sunstein, Donald Trump, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, fixed income, ghettoisation, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, union organizing, WikiLeaks, zero-sum game

Because “the actual goal” is not “the stated goal.”3 BDS supporters aim to convince students that Israel is the sole impediment to peace in the Middle East, if not the world. Nussbaum describes BDS as a “symbolic” boycott that is intended to make a “public statement” about opposition to Israel’s policies.4 It’s another example of the attempt to toxify Israel. In response to an attempt in 2016 by the American Anthropological Association to sign on to the BDS initiative, the Harvard professor Steven Pinker issued a public statement that eloquently sums up the situation: [Are Israel’s] policies really so atrocious, so beyond the pale of acceptable behavior of nation-states, that they call for a unique symbolic statement that abrogates personal fairness and academic freedom? It helps to put the Israel-Palestine conflict in global and historical perspective—something that anthropologists, of all people, might be expected to do….Why no boycotts against academics from China, India, Russia, or Pakistan, to take a few examples, which have also been embroiled in occupations and violent conflicts, and which, unlike Israel, face no existential threat or enemies with genocidal statements in their charters?

Why I’m an Anti-Anti-Zionist,” in Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israel-Palestine Conflict, ed. Tony Kushner and Alisa Solomon (New York: Grove Press, 2003), pp. 226–32, reprinted in Tablet, August 13, 2014. 3. Drew Himmelstein, “Stanford Professors Take Stand Against Divestment,” Jweekly.com, March 12, 2015. 4. Nussbaum, “Against Academic Boycotts,” p. 47. 5. Steven Pinker, “Against Selective Demonization,” Against Anthro Boycott, https://www.facebook.com/​againstanthroboycott/​posts/​448002548722546. 6. Benny Morris, One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009), pp. 168–69, as quoted in Nelson and Brahm, The Case Against the Academic Boycott of Israel, p. 192. 7. Himmelstein, “Stanford Professors Take Stand against Divestment.” 8.


pages: 698 words: 198,203

The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window Into Human Nature by Steven Pinker

airport security, Albert Einstein, Bob Geldof, colonial rule, conceptual framework, correlation does not imply causation, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, Douglas Hofstadter, en.wikipedia.org, experimental subject, fudge factor, George Santayana, Laplace demon, loss aversion, luminiferous ether, Norman Mailer, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, science of happiness, social intelligence, speech recognition, stem cell, Steven Pinker, Thomas Bayes, Thorstein Veblen, traffic fines, urban renewal, Yogi Berra

Table of Contents ABOUT THE AUTHOR Title Page Dedication Copyright Page PREFACE Chapter 1 - WORDS AND WORLDS Chapter 2 - DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE Chapter 3 - FIFTY THOUSAND INNATE CONCEPTS (AND OTHER RADICAL THEORIES OF ... Chapter 4 - CLEAVING THE AIR Chapter 5 - THE METAPHOR METAPHOR Chapter 6 - WHAT’S IN A NAME? Chapter 7 - THE SEVEN WORDS YOU CAN’T SAY ON TELEVISION Chapter 8 - GAMES PEOPLE PLAY Chapter 9 - ESCAPING THE CAVE NOTES REFERENCES INDEX Praise for The Stuff of Thought by Steven Pinker “Pinker brings an engaging and witty style to the study of subject matter that—were it not as important to us as it is complex—might otherwise be off-putting. . . . An inviting and important book. Everyone with an interest in language and how it gets to be how it is—that is, everyone interested in how we get to be human and do our human business—should read The Stuff of Thought.” —Robin Lakoff, Science “Packed with information, clear, witty, attractively written, and generally persuasive . . .

—William Saletan, The New York Times Book Review “[Pinker] is the cognitive philosopher of our generation, and his work on language and mind has implications for anybody interested in human expression and experience. . . . [He] has changed the way we understand where we have come from and where we are going.” —Seth Lerer, The New York Sun “A fascinating look at how language provides a window into the deepest functioning of the human brain.” —Josie Glausiusz, Wired “A perceptive, amusing and intelligent book.” —Douglas Johnstone, The Times (London) “This is Steven Pinker at his best—theoretical insight combined with clear illustration and elegant research summary, presented throughout with an endearing wit and linguistic creativity which has become his hallmark. Metaphor, he says, with typical Pinkerian panache, ‘provides us with a way to eff the ineffable.’ The book requires steady concentration, but despite the abstract character of its subject matter it is not difficult to read.

From politics to poetry, children’s wonderful malapropisms to slang, Pinker’s fluency in the nuances of words and syntax serves as proof of his faith in language as ‘a window into human nature.’ ” —Donna Seamon, Booklist “A book on semantics may not sound especially enticing, but with Pinker as your guide, pondering what the meaning of ‘is’ is can be mesmerizing.” —Details ABOUT THE AUTHOR Steven Pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology and Harvard College Professor at Harvard University. He is the author of seven books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, Words and Rules, and The Blank Slate. He lives in Boston and Truro, Massachusetts. For Rebecca PENGUIN BOOKS Published by the Penguin Group Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.


pages: 273 words: 83,186

The botany of desire: a plant's-eye view of the world by Michael Pollan

back-to-the-land, clean water, David Attenborough, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, Francisco Pizarro, invention of agriculture, Joseph Schumpeter, mandatory minimum, Maui Hawaii, means of production, paper trading, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Steven Pinker

Their hypothesis can’t be proven, at least not until scientists begin to identify genes for human preferences, but it goes like this: Our brains developed under the pressure of natural selection to make us good foragers, which is how humans have spent 99 percent of their time on Earth. The presence of flowers, as even I understood as a boy, is a reliable predictor of future food. People who were drawn to flowers, and who further could distinguish among them and then remember where in the landscape they’d seen them, would be much more successful foragers than people who were blind to their significance. According to the neuroscientist Steven Pinker, who outlines this theory in How the Mind Works, natural selection was bound to favor those among our ancestors who noticed flowers and had a gift for botanizing—for recognizing plants, classifying them, and then remembering where they grow. In time the moment of recognition—much like the quickening one feels whenever an object of desire is spotted in the landscape—would become pleasurable, and the signifying thing a thing of beauty.

What good, from an evolutionary standpoint, could it do a creature to consume psychoactive plants? Possibly none at all: it’s a fallacy to assume that whatever is is that way for a good Darwinian reason. Just because a desire or practice is widespread or universal doesn’t necessarily mean it confers an evolutionary edge. In fact, the human penchant for drugs may be the accidental by-product of two completely different adaptive behaviors. This at least is the theory Steven Pinker proposes in How the Mind Works. He points out that evolution has endowed the human brain with two (formerly) unrelated faculties: its superior problem-solving abilities and an internal system of chemical rewards, such that when a person does something especially useful or heroic the brain is washed in chemicals that make it feel good. Bring the first of these faculties to bear on the second, and you wind up with a creature who has figured out how to use plants to artificially trip the brain’s reward system.


pages: 329 words: 85,471

The Locavore's Dilemma by Pierre Desrochers, Hiroko Shimizu

air freight, back-to-the-land, British Empire, Columbian Exchange, Community Supported Agriculture, creative destruction, edge city, Edward Glaeser, food miles, Food sovereignty, global supply chain, intermodal, invention of agriculture, inventory management, invisible hand, Jane Jacobs, land tenure, megacity, moral hazard, mortgage debt, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, peak oil, planetary scale, profit motive, refrigerator car, Steven Pinker, the market place, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, trade liberalization, Upton Sinclair, urban sprawl

My parent’s generation is living proof that what militaristic people thought they could only achieve by force can be accomplished much more effectively and successfully through free trade and peace. And, just as important, globalization affords people all kinds of possibilities. About half a century ago, my parents never imagined how abundant and affordable their future food supply would turn out to be (let alone that one of their children would marry a foreigner and move to Canada). As the Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker observes in The Better Angels of Our Nature, we may be living in the most peaceful time in our species’ existence. This blessed state of affairs, though, was a long time coming and was only made possible through the worldwide exchange of products, resources, ideas, and culture. Despite our current economic woes, we have almost vanquished famine. Most of us live longer, healthier, safer, and more enjoyable lives than previous generations.

Human Action: A Treatise on Economics Chapter 34: The Economics of War: War and Autarky http://mises.org/humanaction/chap34sec3.asp . 54 Adam Smith. 1776. An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations Vol. 1, Book 4, Chapter 2: Of Restraints Upon the Importation from Foreign Countries of Such Goods as Can Be Produced at Home. .http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=237&chapter =212333&layout=html&Itemid=27. 55 For much evidence in this respect, see Steven Pinker. 2011. The Better Angels of our Nature. Viking. 56 Dennis T. Avery. 2000. Saving the Planet with Pesticides and Platics, 2nd edition. Hudson Institute, pp. 383–384. 57 We are not concerned here with rationing schemes, price controls, regulations and subsidies. This list was mainly derived from Karl Brandt (with Otto Schiller and Franz Ahlgrimm). 1953. Management of Agriculture and Food in the German-Occupied and Other Areas of Fortress Europe.


pages: 294 words: 86,601

Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life by Steven Johnson

Columbine, double helix, epigenetics, experimental subject, Gödel, Escher, Bach, James Watt: steam engine, l'esprit de l'escalier, lateral thinking, pattern recognition, phenotype, social intelligence, Steven Pinker, theory of mind, zero-sum game

To include biological perspectives in a discussion of human society by no means eliminates the validity of other kinds of explanations. What people like E. O. Wilson have proposed is not biological determinism, but rather biological consilience: the connecting of different layers of experience, each with its own distinct vocabulary and expertise, but each also possessing links up and down the chain. Steven Pinker describes it wonderfully: Good reductionism (also called hierarchical reductionism) consists not of replacing one field of knowledge with another but of connecting or unifying them. The building blocks used by one field are put under a microscope by another. The black boxes get opened; the promissory notes get cashed. A geographer might explain why the coastline of Africa fits into the coastline of the Americas by saying that the landmasses were once adjacent but sat on different plates, which drifted apart.

He refers to these emotional cues as “somatic markers”-hints from your emotional subsystems that help you navigate complicated situations without having to process everything consciously: “trust this person,” “be on the lookout in this neighborhood.” 38. “I asked Baron-Cohen”: interview conducted January 2003. 39. “unable to detect fearful expressions”: Damasio, 1998, 65. 40. “both were seeing”: James, 89-90. 41. “cultural achievements of art”: This is one place where I think Steven Pinker and E. O. Wilson have it wrong. Here’s Pinker from The Blank Slate: “Modernism certainly proceeded as if human nature had changed. All the tricks that artists had used for millennia to please the human palate were cast aside. In painting, realistic depiction gave way to freakish distortions of shape and color and then to abstract grids, shapes, dribbles, splashes, and, in the $200,000 painting featured in the recent comedy Art, a blank white canvas.


pages: 280 words: 83,299

Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline by Darrell Bricker, John Ibbitson

affirmative action, agricultural Revolution, Berlin Wall, BRICs, British Empire, Columbian Exchange, commoditize, demographic dividend, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, Donald Trump, en.wikipedia.org, full employment, gender pay gap, ghettoisation, glass ceiling, global reserve currency, Gunnar Myrdal, Hans Rosling, Hernando de Soto, illegal immigration, income inequality, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, John Snow's cholera map, Kibera, knowledge worker, labor-force participation, Mark Zuckerberg, megacity, New Urbanism, nuclear winter, off grid, offshore financial centre, out of africa, Potemkin village, purchasing power parity, reserve currency, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, South China Sea, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, transcontinental railway, upwardly mobile, urban planning, working-age population, young professional, zero-sum game

Hunger and disease are part of the problem: in medieval Europe, a typical Stage One society, about one third of all children died before the age of five, and if you did manage to grow up, chronic malnutrition meant that disease would probably carry you off in your fifties. If, that is, you weren’t killed. War and crime were constant threats in pre-industrial societies. And prehistory was even more violent. As Steven Pinker has observed, almost all prehistoric human specimens that have been preserved in bogs, ice fields, and the like show evidence of having died violently. “What is it about the ancients that they couldn’t leave us an interesting corpse without resorting to foul play?” he wondered.28 Hardly surprising, then, that from our first days until the Enlightenment, whether in China or the Americas or Europe or anywhere else, the population grew slowly if it grew at all.

Donovan, The Native Population of the Americas in 1492 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992), 7. 26 Nathan Nunn and Nancy Quinn, “The Columbian Exchange: A History of Disease, Food and Ideas,” Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Spring 2010), p. 165. https://web.viu.ca/davies/H131/ColumbianExchange.pdf 27 World Population to 2300 (New York: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs/Population Division, 2004), Table 2. All historical global population numbers are drawn from this table. http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/longrange2/WorldPop2300final.pdf 28 Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (New York: Penguin, 2011). 29  Alfred Crosby, Germs, Seeds and Animals: Studies in Ecological History (New York: Routledge, 1994). 30 Pamela K. Gilbert, “On Cholera in Nineteenth Century England,” BRANCH: Britain, Representation and Nineteenth-Century History (2013). http://www.branchcollective.org/?ps_articles=pamel-k-gilbert-on-cholera -in-nineteenth-century-england 31 Sharon Gouynup, “Cholera: Tracking the First Truly Global Disease,” National Geographic News, 14 June 2004. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/06/0614_040614_tvcholera.html 32 Judith Summers, Soho: A History of London’s Most Colourful Neighborhood (London: Bloomsbury, 1989), 113–17. http://www.ph.ucla.edu/epi/snow/broadstreetpump.html 33 David Vachon, “Doctor John Snow Blames Water Pollution for Cholera Epidemic,” Father of Modern Epidemiology (Los Angeles: ucla Department of Epidemiology, 2005). http://www.ph.ucla.edu/epi/snow/fatherofepidemiology.html 34 “Population of the British Isles,” Tacitus.NU. http://www.tacitus.nu/historical-atlas/population/british.htm 35 Max Roser and Esteban Ortiz-Ospina, “World Population Growth,” Our World in Data, 2013/2017. http://ourworldindata.org/data/population-growth -vital-statistics/world-population-growth 36 Michael J.


pages: 296 words: 86,188

Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong-And the New Research That's Rewriting the Story by Angela Saini

Albert Einstein, demographic transition, Drosophila, feminist movement, gender pay gap, meta analysis, meta-analysis, mouse model, out of africa, place-making, scientific mainstream, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, women in the workforce

The results were so powerful that they’ve been cited at least three hundred times in other research papers, as well as in books about pregnancy and childhood. When the then president of Harvard University, Lawrence Summers, controversially suggested in 2005 that the shortfall of female scientists and mathematicians might be because of innate biological differences between women and men, Simon Baron-Cohen used this study to defend him. Harvard University cognitive scientist Steven Pinker and London School of Economics philosopher Helena Cronin have both deployed it to argue that innate differences between the sexes exist. It has even made it into a Bibleinspired self-help book, His Brain, Her Brain, about how “divinely designed differences” between the sexes can help strengthen a marriage. Since 2000, Baron-Cohen’s department has made a formidable name for itself. At the time his paper was published, he was just two years away from unveiling a controversial and wide-ranging new theory about men and women, which he has named empathizing-systemizing theory.

In his book The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating, published in 1994, he writes, “Because men’s and women’s desires differ, the qualities they must display differ,” adding that it makes sense for women to be naturally monogamous because “women over evolutionary history could often garner far more resources for their children through a single spouse than through several temporary sex partners.” This idea popped up again in a 1998 New Yorker article by the cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker. Under the title “Boys Will Be Boys,” he used evolutionary psychology to defend US president Bill Clinton, whose affair with his intern Monica Lewinsky had just been made public. “Most human drives have ancient Darwinian rationales,” he writes. “A prehistoric man who slept with fifty women could have sired fifty children, and would have been more likely to have descendants who shared his tastes.


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The Strange Order of Things: The Biological Roots of Culture by Antonio Damasio

Albert Einstein, biofilm, business process, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, double helix, Gordon Gekko, invention of the wheel, invention of writing, invisible hand, job automation, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, Peter Singer: altruism, planetary scale, profit motive, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Steven Pinker, Thomas Malthus

After World War II, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the closest we have come to a desirable but so far unwritten international law, conferring the same rights to all humans; violations of those rights, in some parts of the world, can be brought before international tribunals as crimes against humanity. Humans are obligated to other humans and maybe one day they will also be obligated to other living species and to the planet they were born into. This is real progress. The circle of human concerns has definitely enlarged, as Amartya Sen, Onora O’Neill, Martha Nussbaum, Peter Singer, and Steven Pinker, among others, have noted.6 But why are we witnessing the weakening or collapse of the very establishments that have made these advances possible? Why have things gone wrong, once again, in humanity’s progress in ways that disturbingly resemble the past? Can biology help explain why? Is There a Biology Behind the Cultural Crisis? What can we say about the meaning of this state of affairs in biological terms?

Manuel Castells, Communication Power (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009); Manuel Castells, Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2015). 6. Amartya Sen, “The Economics of Happiness and Capability”; Onora O’Neill, Justice Across Boundaries: Whose Obligations? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016); Nussbaum, Political Emotions; Peter Singer, The Expanding Circle: Ethics, Evolution, and Moral Progress (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2011); Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (New York: Penguin Books, 2011). 7. See Haidt, Righteous Mind. 8. Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents: The Standard Edition (New York: W. W. Norton, 2010). 9. Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud, Why War? The Correspondence Between Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud, trans. Fritz Moellenhoff and Anna Moellenhoff (Chicago: Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, 1933). 10.


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Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Make a Difference by William MacAskill

barriers to entry, basic income, Black Swan, Branko Milanovic, Cal Newport, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, carbon footprint, clean water, corporate social responsibility, correlation does not imply causation, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, effective altruism, en.wikipedia.org, end world poverty, experimental subject, follow your passion, food miles, immigration reform, income inequality, index fund, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Isaac Newton, job automation, job satisfaction, Lean Startup, M-Pesa, mass immigration, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microcredit, Nate Silver, Peter Singer: altruism, purchasing power parity, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, randomized controlled trial, self-driving car, Skype, Stanislav Petrov, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, The Future of Employment, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, universal basic income, women in the workforce

His answer is a grand vision to make giving, volunteering, spending, and working more worthwhile.” —Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take “Effective altruism—efforts that actually help people rather than making you feel good or helping you show off—is one of the great new ideas of the twenty-first century. Doing Good Better is the definitive guide to this exciting new movement.” —Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and author of The Better Angels of Our Nature “Doing Good Better is a superb achievement. Will MacAskill, a leader of the effective altruism movement and a rising star in philosophy, now displays his talent for telling stories that pack a punch. This must-read book will lead people to change their careers, their lives, and the world, for the better.”

(the death tolls from disasters form a fat-tailed distribution): A comprehensive overview is given by Anders Sandberg, “Power Laws in Global Catastrophic and Existential Risks,” unpublished paper, 2014. (Nassim Taleb describes these as Black Swans): Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (New York: Random House, 2007). most people who’ve died in war have died in the very worst wars: Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (New York: Viking, 2011). This is what the Skoll Global Threats Fund focuses on: “About Us/Mission & Strategy,” Skoll Global Threats Fund, http://www.skollglobalthreats.org/about-us/mission-and-approach/. GiveWell is currently investigating these sorts of activities: Alexander Berger, “Potential Global Catastrophic Risk Focus Areas,” GiveWell Blog, June 26, 2014, http://blog.givewell.org/2014/06/26/potential-global-catastrophic-risk-focus-areas/.


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Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

23andMe, agricultural Revolution, algorithmic trading, Anne Wojcicki, anti-communist, Anton Chekhov, autonomous vehicles, Berlin Wall, call centre, Chris Urmson, cognitive dissonance, Columbian Exchange, computer age, Deng Xiaoping, don't be evil, drone strike, European colonialism, experimental subject, falling living standards, Flash crash, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, glass ceiling, global village, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of writing, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, job automation, John Markoff, Kevin Kelly, lifelogging, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, Minecraft, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, Monkeys Reject Unequal Pay, mutually assured destruction, new economy, pattern recognition, Peter Thiel, placebo effect, Ray Kurzweil, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, stem cell, Steven Pinker, telemarketer, The Future of Employment, too big to fail, trade route, Turing machine, Turing test, ultimatum game, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, zero-sum game

Humans are masters of cognitive dissonance, and we allow ourselves to believe one thing in the laboratory and an altogether different thing in the courthouse or in parliament. Just as Christianity didn’t disappear the day Darwin published On the Origin of Species, so liberalism won’t vanish just because scientists have reached the conclusion that there are no free individuals. Indeed, even Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker and the other champions of the new scientific world view refuse to abandon liberalism. After dedicating hundreds of erudite pages to deconstructing the self and the freedom of will, they perform breathtaking intellectual somersaults that miraculously land them back in the eighteenth century, as if all the amazing discoveries of evolutionary biology and brain science have absolutely no bearing on the ethical and political ideas of Locke, Rousseau and Thomas Jefferson.

Gilbert, ‘The Future of Antibiotics and Resistance’, New England Journal of Medicine 368 (2013), 299–302. 20. Losee L. Ling et al., ‘A New Antibiotic Kills Pathogens without Detectable Resistance’, Nature 517 (2015), 455–9; Gerard Wright, ‘Antibiotics: An Irresistible Newcomer’, Nature 517 (2015), 442–4. 21. Roey Tzezana, The Guide to the Future [in Hebrew] (Haifa: Roey Tzezana, 2013), 209–33. 22. Azar Gat, War in Human Civilization (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 130–1; Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (New York: Viking, 2011); Joshua S. Goldstein, Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide (New York: Dutton, 2011); Robert S. Walker and Drew H. Bailey, ‘Body Counts in Lowland South American Violence’, Evolution and Human Behavior 34:1 (2013), 29–34; I. J. N. Thorpe, ‘Anthropology, Archaeology, and the Origin of Warfare’, World Archaeology 35:1 (2003), 145–65; Raymond C.

‘Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design’, Gallup, accessed 20 December 2014, http://www.gallup.com/poll/21814/evolution-creationism-intelligent-design.aspx; Frank Newport, ‘In US, 46 per cent Hold Creationist View of Human Origins’, Gallup, 1 June 2012, accessed 21 December 2014, http://www.gallup.com/poll/155003/hold-creationist-view-human-origins.aspx. 2. Gregg, Are Dolphins Really Smart?, 82–3. 3. Stanislas Dehaene, Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts (New York: Viking, 2014); Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works (New York: W. W. Norton, 1997). 4. Dehaene, Consciousness and the Brain. 5. Pundits may point to Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, according to which no system of mathematical axioms can prove all arithmetic truths. There will always be some true statements that cannot be proven within the system. In popular literature this theorem is sometimes hijacked to account for the existence of mind.


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The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson, Andrew McAfee

"Robert Solow", 2013 Report for America's Infrastructure - American Society of Civil Engineers - 19 March 2013, 3D printing, access to a mobile phone, additive manufacturing, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, American Society of Civil Engineers: Report Card, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, basic income, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, British Empire, business cycle, business intelligence, business process, call centre, Charles Lindbergh, Chuck Templeton: OpenTable:, clean water, combinatorial explosion, computer age, computer vision, congestion charging, corporate governance, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, digital map, employer provided health coverage, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, factory automation, falling living standards, Filter Bubble, first square of the chessboard / second half of the chessboard, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, Freestyle chess, full employment, G4S, game design, global village, happiness index / gross national happiness, illegal immigration, immigration reform, income inequality, income per capita, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, informal economy, intangible asset, inventory management, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, job automation, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, Khan Academy, knowledge worker, Kodak vs Instagram, law of one price, low skilled workers, Lyft, Mahatma Gandhi, manufacturing employment, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Mars Rover, mass immigration, means of production, Narrative Science, Nate Silver, natural language processing, Network effects, new economy, New Urbanism, Nicholas Carr, Occupy movement, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, pattern recognition, Paul Samuelson, payday loans, post-work, price stability, Productivity paradox, profit maximization, Ralph Nader, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, Robert Gordon, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, six sigma, Skype, software patent, sovereign wealth fund, speech recognition, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stuxnet, supply-chain management, TaskRabbit, technological singularity, telepresence, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, total factor productivity, transaction costs, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, winner-take-all economy, Y2K

As the roboticist Hans Moravec has observed, “It is comparatively easy to make computers exhibit adult-level performance on intelligence tests or playing checkers, and difficult or impossible to give them the skills of a one-year-old when it comes to perception and mobility.”27 This situation has come to be known as Moravec’s paradox, nicely summarized by Wikipedia as “the discovery by artificial intelligence and robotics researchers that, contrary to traditional assumptions, high-level reasoning requires very little computation, but low-level sensorimotor skills require enormous computational resources.”28* Moravec’s insight is broadly accurate, and important. As the cognitive scientist Steven Pinker puts it, “The main lesson of thirty-five years of AI research is that the hard problems are easy and the easy problems are hard. . . . As the new generation of intelligent devices appears, it will be the stock analysts and petrochemical engineers and parole board members who are in danger of being replaced by machines. The gardeners, receptionists, and cooks are secure in their jobs for decades to come.”29 Pinker’s point is that robotics experts have found it fiendishly difficult to build machines that match the skills of even the least-trained manual worker. iRobot’s Roomba, for example, can’t do everything a maid does; it just vacuums the floor.

Slippery Stairs,” December 11, 2006, http://giz modo.com/220771/honda-asimo-vs-slippery-stairs?op=showcustomobject&pos tId=220771&item=0. 27. Hans Moravec, Mind Children: The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988), p. 15. 28. “Moravec’s Paradox,” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, April 28, 2013, http://en.wiki pedia.org/w/index.php?title=Moravecpercent27s_paradox&oldid=540679203. 29. Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct (New York: HarperPerennial ModernClassics, 2007), p. 190–91. 30. Christopher Drew, “For iRobot, the Future Is Getting Closer,” New York Times, March 2, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/03/technology/for-irobot-the-future-is-getting-closer.html. 31. Danielle Kucera, “Amazon Acquires Kiva Systems in Second-Biggest Takeover,” Bloomberg, March 19, 2012, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-19/amazon-acquires-kiva-systems-in-second-biggest-takeover.html (accessed June 23, 2013). 32.


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The Post-American World: Release 2.0 by Fareed Zakaria

affirmative action, agricultural Revolution, airport security, anti-communist, Asian financial crisis, battle of ideas, Berlin Wall, Bretton Woods, BRICs, British Empire, call centre, capital controls, central bank independence, centre right, collapse of Lehman Brothers, conceptual framework, Credit Default Swap, currency manipulation / currency intervention, delayed gratification, Deng Xiaoping, double entry bookkeeping, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial innovation, global reserve currency, global supply chain, illegal immigration, interest rate derivative, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), knowledge economy, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Wolf, mutually assured destruction, new economy, oil shock, open economy, out of africa, Parag Khanna, postindustrial economy, purchasing power parity, race to the bottom, reserve currency, Ronald Reagan, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, South China Sea, Steven Pinker, The Great Moderation, Thomas L Friedman, Thomas Malthus, trade route, Washington Consensus, working-age population, young professional, zero-sum game

Ted Robert Gurr and a team of scholars at the University of Maryland’s Center for International Development and Conflict Management tracked the data carefully and came to the following conclusion: “the general magnitude of global warfare has decreased by over sixty percent [since the mid-1980s], falling by the end of 2004 to its lowest level since the late 1950s.”1 Violence increased steadily throughout the Cold War—increasing sixfold between the 1950s and early 1990s—but the trend peaked just before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and “the extent of warfare among and within states lessened by nearly half in the first decade after the Cold War.” Harvard’s polymath professor Steven Pinker argues “that today we are probably living in the most peaceful time in our species’ existence.”2 One reason for the mismatch between reality and our sense of it might be that, over these same decades, we have experienced a revolution in information technology that now brings us news from around the world instantly, vividly, and continuously. The immediacy of the images and the intensity of the twenty-four-hour news cycle combine to produce constant hyperbole.

It should be a place that is as inviting and exciting to the young student who enters the country today as it was for this awkward eighteen-year-old a generation ago. Notes 2. The Cup Runneth Over 1. Ted Robert Gurr and Monty G. Marshall, Peace and Conflict 2005: A Global Survey of Armed Conflicts, Self-Determination Movements, and Democracy, Center for International Development and Conflict Management, University of Maryland, College Park (June 2005). 2. Steven Pinker, “A Brief History of Violence” (talk at Technology, Entertainment, Design Conference, Monterey, Calif., March 2007). 3. Kevin H. O’Rourke, “The European Grain Invasion, 1870–1913,” Journal of Economic History 57, no. 4 (Dec. 1997): 775–801. 4. For a good, accessible discussion of the late nineteenth-century “positive supply shock,” see Gary Saxonhouse, “The Integration of Giants into the Global Economy,” AEI: Asian outlook, no. 1 (Jan. 31, 2006). 5.


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Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution by Francis Fukuyama

Albert Einstein, Asilomar, assortative mating, Berlin Wall, bioinformatics, Columbine, demographic transition, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Flynn Effect, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, impulse control, life extension, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, out of africa, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, presumed consent, Ray Kurzweil, Scientific racism, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), sexual politics, stem cell, Steven Pinker, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, Turing test, twin studies

Wilson, “Moral Philosophy as Applied Science: A Darwinian Approach to the Foundations of Ethics,” Philosophy 61 (1986): 173–192. 16 Larry Arnhart, Darwinian Natural Right: The Biological Ethics of Human Nature (Albany, N.Y: State University of New York Press, 1998). 17 For a critique and discussion of Arnhart’s views, see Richard F. Hassing, “Darwinian Natural Right?,” Interpretation 27 (2000): 129–160; and Larry Arnhart, “Defending Darwinian Natural Right,” Interpretation 27 (2000): 263–277. 18 Arnhart (1998), pp. 31–36. 19 Donald Brown, Human Universals (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991), p. 77. 20 See, for example, Steven Pinker and Paul Bloom, “Natural Language and Natural Selection,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13 (1990): 707–784; and Pinker, The Language Instinct (New York: HarperCollins, 1994). 21 For a critique, see Frans de Waal, Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex among Apes (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989) pp. 57–60. 22 The argument about time was made by Benjamin Lee Whorf with regard to the Hopi, while the argument about color was a commonplace in anthropology textbooks.

A31. 24 John Paul II (1996). 25 On the meaning of this “ontological leap,” see Ernan McMullin, “Biology and the Theology of the Human,” in Phillip R. Sloan, ed., Controlling Our Desires: Historical, Philosophical, Ethical, and Theological Perspectives on the Human Genome Project (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2000), p. 367. 26 It is in fact very difficult to come up with a Darwinian explanation for the human enjoyment of music. See Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works (New York: W. W. Norton, 1997), pp. 528–538. 27 See, for example, Arthur Peacocke, “Relating Genetics to Theology on the Map of Scientific Knowledge,” in Sloan (2000), pp. 346–350. 28 Laplace’s exact words were: “We ought then to regard the present state of the universe [not just the solar system] as the effect of its anterior state and as the cause of the one which is to follow.


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The American Dream Is Not Dead: (But Populism Could Kill It) by Michael R. Strain

Bernie Sanders, business cycle, centre right, creative destruction, deindustrialization, Donald Trump, feminist movement, full employment, gig economy, Gini coefficient, income inequality, job automation, labor-force participation, market clearing, market fundamentalism, new economy, Robert Gordon, Ronald Reagan, social intelligence, Steven Pinker, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, upwardly mobile, working poor

Gordon, The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The US Standard of Living Since the Civil War. Vol. 70. Princeton University Press, 2017, 484. 29.Gordon, 464. 30.Centers for Disease Control, Age-adjusted death rates for selected causes of death, by sex, race, and Hispanic origin: United States, selected years 1950–2017 (Trend Tables). Health United States–2018. 31.Gordon, 471. 32.Gordon, 455. 33.Gordon, 400. 34.Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. Penguin, 2018, 59. 35.Pinker, 251. 36.Pinker, 251. 37.Pinker, 256. 38.Pinker, 257. 39.Susanna Locke, “You’re Less Likely to Die in a Car Crash Nowadays - Here’s Why.” Vox. Published April 6, 2014. Accessed October 19, 2018. 40.CNN Newsroom, “Sen. Elizabeth Warren Announces Candidacy for President at Massachusetts Rally; Caravan Awaits at Eagle Pass, Texas, to Cross Border,” aired 12–1pm ET, February 9, 2019. 41.Senator Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO). 2019.


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The Future of War by Lawrence Freedman

Albert Einstein, autonomous vehicles, Berlin Wall, Black Swan, British Empire, colonial rule, conceptual framework, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, currency manipulation / currency intervention, Donald Trump, drone strike, en.wikipedia.org, energy security, Ernest Rutherford, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, global village, Google Glasses, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), John Markoff, long peace, megacity, Mikhail Gorbachev, moral hazard, mutually assured destruction, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, open economy, pattern recognition, Peace of Westphalia, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, South China Sea, speech recognition, Steven Pinker, Stuxnet, the scientific method, uranium enrichment, urban sprawl, Valery Gerasimov, WikiLeaks, zero day

The historian John Keegan wondered whether: ‘War… may well be ceasing to commend itself to human beings as a desirable or productive, let alone rational, means of reconciling their discontents.’3 The political scientist John Mueller had long taken a similar view: ‘like duelling and slavery, war does not appear to be one of life’s necessities’. It was a ‘social affliction, but in certain important respects it is also a social affectation that can be shrugged off.’4 The cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature, published in 2011, marshalled a great array of sources to offer an even more encouraging prospect. Slowly but surely over human history, he reported, there had been a steady move away from reliance on violence to settle disputes.5 The reason for this was normative progress, for among ‘influential constituencies in developed countries’ there was a growing ‘conviction that war is inherently immoral because of its costs to human well-being.’

Perhaps as many as 1 million died in prison or forced deportations while it was underway.20 Demographic analysis suffered because the last pre-war census was falsified to play down the impact of the forced collectivisation of the 1930s.21 So while most estimates of the costs of war to the Soviet Union stayed close to 28 million, some reputable analysts considered it reasonable to go as high as 35 million.22 Estimates of military deaths ranged from 5 to 14 million and of civilian deaths from 7 to more than 18 million. COW’s figure of 7.5 million Soviet battle deaths, with no mention of civilian deaths, was certainly too low, and barely conveyed one aspect of the Soviet experience. In The Better Angels of Our Nature, Steven Pinker used 55 million total dead for the Second World War, but if numbers from the higher end of the range with Germany and the Soviet Union were taken, as well as China, where the true numbers are also hard to calculate but have been put conservatively at 14 million, then the total approached 85 million.23 With the more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the cost of occupying those countries was much less than that of dealing with the insurgencies.

John Gaddis, The Long Peace: Inquiries Into the History of the Cold War (London: Oxford University Press, 1989). This first appeared as ‘The Long Peace: Elements of Stability in the Postwar International System’, International Security 10.4 (1986). 3. John Keegan, A History of Warfare (New York: Knopf, 1993) 59. 4. John Mueller, Retreat from Doomsday: The Obsolescence of Major War (New York: Basic Books, 1989) 13. 5. Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (London: Penguin Books, 2011). 6. Pinker 290–1. 7. Pinker 50. 8. Human Security Report Project, Human Security Report 2013: The Decline in Global Violence: Evidence, Explanation, and Contestation (Vancouver: Human Security Press, 2013). 9. A British military think tank reported in 2014, citing Pinker as evidence, ‘that the frequency and intensity of wars, as well as the number of violent deaths, has been declining sharply and is likely to continue to fall.’


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Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Antoine Gombaud: Chevalier de Méré, availability heuristic, backtesting, Benoit Mandelbrot, Black Swan, commoditize, complexity theory, corporate governance, corporate raider, currency peg, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, discounted cash flows, diversified portfolio, endowment effect, equity premium, fixed income, global village, hedonic treadmill, hindsight bias, Kenneth Arrow, Long Term Capital Management, loss aversion, mandelbrot fractal, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Myron Scholes, Paul Samuelson, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, QWERTY keyboard, random walk, Richard Feynman, road to serfdom, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, selection bias, shareholder value, Sharpe ratio, Steven Pinker, stochastic process, survivorship bias, too big to fail, Turing test, Yogi Berra

These evolutionary psychologists agree with the Kahneman-Tversky school that people have difficulties with standard probabilistic reasoning. However, they believe that the reason lies in the way things are presented to us in the current environment. To them, we are optimized for a set of probabilistic reasoning, but in a different environment than the one prevailing today. The statement “Our brains are made for fitness not for truth” by the scientific intellectual Steven Pinker, the public spokesmen of that school, summarizes it all. They agree that our brains are not made for understanding things but think that they are not biased, or only biased because we do not use them in their real habitat. Strangely, the Kahneman-Tversky school of researchers did not incur any credible resistance from the opinions of the economists of the time (the general credibility of conventional economists has always been so low that almost nobody in science or in the real world ever pays attention to them).

Courage or foolishness: For an examination of that notion of “courage” and “guts,” see Kahneman and Lovallo (1993). See also a discussion in Hilton (2003). I drew the idea from Daniel Kahneman’s presentation in Rome in April 2003 (Kahneman, 2003). Cognitive errors in forecasting: Tversky and Kahneman (1971), Tversky and Kahneman (1982), and Lichtenstein, Fischhoff and Phillips (1977). Utopian/tragic: The essayist and prominent (scientific) intellectual Steven Pinker popularized the distinction (originally attributable to the political scholar Thomas Sowell). See Sowell (1987), Pinker (2002). Actually, the distinction is not so clear. Some people actually believe, for instance, that Milton Friedman is a utopist in the sense that all ills come from governments and that getting rid of government would be a great panacea. Fallibility and infallibilism: Peirce (in a prospectus for a never written book), writes, “Nothing can be more completely contrary to a philosophy, the fruit of a scientific life, than infallibilism, whether arrayed in the old ecclesiastical trappings, or under its recent ‘scientific’ disguise.”


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The Inmates Are Running the Asylum by Alan Cooper

Albert Einstein, business cycle, delayed gratification, Donald Trump, Howard Rheingold, informal economy, iterative process, Jeff Bezos, lateral thinking, Menlo Park, natural language processing, new economy, pets.com, Robert X Cringely, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, skunkworks, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, telemarketer, urban planning

These subjects were highly educated, mature, and rational individuals, and they all strongly denied being emotionally affected by cognitive friction, even though the objective evidence was incontrovertible. Harvard cognitive neuroscientist Steven Pinker corroborates this thesis in his remarkable book, How the Mind Works. He says, "People hold many beliefs that are at odds with their experience but were true in the environment in which we evolved, and they pursue goals that subvert their own well-being but were adaptive in that environment."[3] [3] Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works, W.W. Norton & Company, 1997, ISBN 0-39304535-8. I absolutely love this wonderful, eye-opening, literate, amusing, readable book. Chapter 11. Designing for People In previous chapters, I described personas and emphasized the importance of goals over tasks.


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Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, availability heuristic, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dark matter, delayed gratification, fear of failure, feminist movement, functional fixedness, Lao Tzu, pre–internet, Richard Feynman, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Walter Mischel

I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has been there to guide and support me throughout it all: to my family and wonderful friends, I love you all and wouldn’t have even gotten started, let alone finished, with this book without you; and to all of the scientists, researchers, scholars, and Sherlock Holmes aficionados who have helped guide me along the way, a huge thank you for your tireless assistance and endless expertise. I’d like to thank especially Steven Pinker, the most wonderful mentor and friend I could ever imagine, who has been selfless in sharing his time and wisdom with me for close to ten years (as if he had nothing better to do). His books were the reason I first decided to study psychology—and his support is the reason I am still here. Richard Panek, who helped shepherd the project from its inception through to its final stages, and whose advice and tireless assistance were essential to getting it off the ground (and keeping it there).

They are not intended to list every study used or every psychologist whose work helped shaped the writing, but rather to highlight some key books and researchers in each area. Prelude For those interested in a more detailed history of mindfulness and its impact, I would recommend Ellen Langer’s classic Mindfulness. Langer has also published an update to her original work, Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility. For an integrated discussion of the mind, its evolution, and its natural abilities, there are few better sources than Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate and How the Mind Works. Chapter One: The Scientific Method of the Mind For the history of Sherlock Holmes and the background of the Conan Doyle stories and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s life, I’ve drawn heavily on several sources: Leslie Klinger’s The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes; Andrew Lycett’s The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes; and John Lellenerg, Daniel Stashower, and Charles Foley’s Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters.


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The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells

"Robert Solow", agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Asian financial crisis, augmented reality, basic income, Berlin Wall, bitcoin, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, Burning Man, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, carbon footprint, carbon-based life, cognitive bias, computer age, correlation does not imply causation, cryptocurrency, cuban missile crisis, decarbonisation, Donald Trump, effective altruism, Elon Musk, endowment effect, energy transition, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, failed state, fiat currency, global pandemic, global supply chain, income inequality, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of agriculture, Joan Didion, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, labor-force participation, life extension, longitudinal study, Mark Zuckerberg, mass immigration, megacity, megastructure, mutually assured destruction, Naomi Klein, nuclear winter, Pearl River Delta, Peter Thiel, plutocrats, Plutocrats, postindustrial economy, quantitative easing, Ray Kurzweil, rent-seeking, ride hailing / ride sharing, Sam Altman, Silicon Valley, Skype, South China Sea, South Sea Bubble, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, the built environment, the scientific method, Thomas Malthus, too big to fail, universal basic income, University of East Anglia, Whole Earth Catalog, William Langewiesche, Y Combinator

In each case, climate is not the sole cause but the spark igniting a complex bundle of social kindling. This complexity may also be one reason we cannot see the threat of escalating war very clearly, choosing to regard conflict as something determined primarily by politics and economics when all three are in fact governed, like everything else, by the conditions established by our rapidly changing climate. Over the last decade or so, the linguist Steven Pinker has made a second career out of suggesting that, in the West especially, we are unable to appreciate human progress—are in fact blind to all of the massive and rapid improvements the world has witnessed in less violence and war and poverty, reduced infant mortality, and enhanced life expectancy. It’s true, we are. When you look at the charts, the trajectory of that progress seems inarguable: so many fewer violent deaths, so much less extreme deprivation, a global middle class expanding by the hundreds of millions.

., “Climate Change and the Collapse of the Akkadian Empire: Evidence from the Deep Sea,” Geology 28, no. 4 (April 2000): pp. 379–82; Kyle Harper, “How Climate Change and Disease Helped the Fall of Rome,” Aeon, December 15, 2017, https://aeon.co/ideas/how-climate-change-and-disease-helped-the-fall-of-rome. six categories: Center for Climate and Security, “Epicenters of Climate and Security: The New Geostrategic Landscape of the Anthropocene” (Washington, D.C., June 2017), pp. 12–17, https://climateandsecurity.files.wordpress.com/2017/06/1_eroding-sovereignty.pdf. linguist Steven Pinker: For Pinker’s case for the world’s improvement, see Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (New York: Viking, 2012); for his argument about why we can’t appreciate that improvement, see Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress (New York: Viking, 2018). increases violent crime rates: Leah H. Schinasi and Ghassan B. Hamra, “A Time Series Analysis of Associations Between Daily Temperature and Crime Events in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,” Journal of Urban Health 94, no. 6 (December 2017): pp. 892–900, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11524-017-0181-y.


pages: 320 words: 96,006

The End of Men: And the Rise of Women by Hanna Rosin

affirmative action, call centre, cognitive dissonance, David Brooks, delayed gratification, edge city, facts on the ground, financial independence, hiring and firing, housing crisis, income inequality, informal economy, job satisfaction, low skilled workers, manufacturing employment, meta analysis, meta-analysis, new economy, New Urbanism, Norman Mailer, Northern Rock, post-work, postindustrial economy, purchasing power parity, Results Only Work Environment, Silicon Valley, social intelligence, Stanford prison experiment, Steven Pinker, union organizing, upwardly mobile, white picket fence, women in the workforce, young professional

Questionnaires and studies measuring hostile acts show that men remain more likely than women to hit or yell or deliver what they believe to be electric shocks. Neuroscientist Lise Eliot explains the crude logic of this phenomenon in Pink Brain, Blue Brain: “You can’t face down a fierce opponent if you’re distracted by how he might be feeling.” In The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, linguist and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker attributes the historical decrease in violence partly to the feminization of culture. It’s not merely that men are vastly more likely to play violent games, vote for warlike policies, or commit violent crimes, or that women like to start pacifist organizations, he writes. What’s driving the change is a vast feminization of culture of the kind conservatives like to complain about, a swapping of the old manly codes of martial glory for a more feminine emphasis on justice and empathy.

global homicide statistics show that men:”2011 Global Study on Homicide,” United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2011, p.70. http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/statistics/Homicide/Globa_study_on_homicide_2011_web.pdf. Neuroscientist Lise Eliot explains: Lise Eliot, Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow into Troublesome Gaps—and What We Can Do About It (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009), p. 260. attributes the historical decrease in violence : Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (New York: Viking, 2011). Jesse Prinz points out in his recent influential article: Jesse Prinz, “Why Are Men So Violent?” Psychology Today, February 3, 2012. As best-selling crime writer Patricia Cornwell: Sam Tanenhaus, “Violence That Art Didn’t See Coming,” The New York Times, February 24, 2010. The share of women arrested for violent crimes: “Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being,” White House Council on Women and Girls, March 2011, p. 54. http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/rss_viewer/Women_in_America.pdf.


pages: 405 words: 103,723

The Government of No One: The Theory and Practice of Anarchism by Ruth Kinna

Berlin Wall, British Empire, complexity theory, creative destruction, David Graeber, en.wikipedia.org, Fall of the Berlin Wall, feminist movement, friendly fire, ghettoisation, Kickstarter, late capitalism, means of production, moral panic, New Journalism, Occupy movement, post scarcity, Steven Pinker, Ted Kaczynski, union organizing, wage slave

As Christie explains, his granny profoundly influenced the way he understood justice and injustice. Indeed, though an atheist he has also acknowledged that his ‘Presbyterian upbringing’ had an important effect ‘inasmuch as it was rooted in the principles of popular sovereignty, the perfectibility of man, and the belief that it was neither safe nor right to act against one’s conscience’.20 Behind convergence is the idea that it is possible to decouple what Steven Pinker calls the ‘primary colors of our moral sense’ from the political theologies that institutionalize them. Recent research suggests that [p]eople everywhere, at least in some circumstances and with certain other folks in mind, think it’s bad to harm others and good to help them. They have a sense of fairness: that one should reciprocate favors, reward benefactors and punish cheaters. They value loyalty to a group, sharing and solidarity among its members and conformity to its norms.

John Gilmore (Vancouver: New Star Books, 2017), pp. 199–200. 19 bell hooks, ‘How Do You Practice Intersectionalism?’, an interview with bell hooks, Randy Lowens, June 2009, Common Struggle/Lucha Común, online at http://nefac.net/bellhooks [last access 4 June 2018]. 20 Andrew Stevens, ‘Looking Back at Anger’, an interview with Stuart Christie, 3am Magazine, 2004, online at http://www.3ammagazine.com/politica/2004/apr/interview_stuart_christie.html [last access 15 June 2018]. 21 Steven Pinker, ‘The Moral Instinct’, The New York Times Magazine, 13 January 2008, online at https://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magazine/13Psychology-t.html [last access 4 June 2018]. 22 Peter Kropotkin, ‘Letter to French and British Trade Union Delegates’ [1901], in I. McKay (ed.), Direct Struggle Against Capital: A Peter Kropotkin Anthology (Edinburgh, Oakland, and Baltimore: AK Press, 2014), p. 360. [359–61]. 23 Holly Devon, ‘Defending the Collective: an Interview with Malik Rahim’, Iron Lattice, 11 April 2017, online at http://theironlattice.com/index.php/2017/04/11/defending-the-collective-an-interview-with-malik-rahim/ [last access 4 June 2018]. 24 Holly Devon, ‘Defending the Collective: an Interview with Malik Rahim’. 25 Tim Shorrock, ‘The Street Samaritans’, Mother Jones, March/April 2006, online at https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2006/03/street-samaritans-2/ [last access 4 June 2018]. 26 Neille Ilel, ‘A Healthy Dose of Anarchy’, Reason, December 2006, online at https://reason.com/archives/2006/12/11/a-healthy-dose-of-anarchy [last access 4 June 2018]. 27 Murray Rothbard, ‘The Political Thought of Étienne de la Boétie’, introduction to The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude by Etienne de la Boétie, trans.


pages: 323 words: 95,939

Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now by Douglas Rushkoff

algorithmic trading, Andrew Keen, bank run, Benoit Mandelbrot, big-box store, Black Swan, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, business cycle, cashless society, citizen journalism, clockwork universe, cognitive dissonance, Credit Default Swap, crowdsourcing, Danny Hillis, disintermediation, Donald Trump, double helix, East Village, Elliott wave, European colonialism, Extropian, facts on the ground, Flash crash, game design, global pandemic, global supply chain, global village, Howard Rheingold, hypertext link, Inbox Zero, invention of agriculture, invention of hypertext, invisible hand, iterative process, John Nash: game theory, Kevin Kelly, laissez-faire capitalism, lateral thinking, Law of Accelerating Returns, loss aversion, mandelbrot fractal, Marshall McLuhan, Merlin Mann, Milgram experiment, mutually assured destruction, negative equity, Network effects, New Urbanism, Nicholas Carr, Norbert Wiener, Occupy movement, passive investing, pattern recognition, peak oil, price mechanism, prisoner's dilemma, Ralph Nelson Elliott, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), Silicon Valley, Skype, social graph, South Sea Bubble, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, supply-chain management, the medium is the message, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, Turing test, upwardly mobile, Whole Earth Catalog, WikiLeaks, Y2K, zero-sum game

The key to any of this working was what became known as emergence—the spontaneous achievement of order and intelligence through the interaction of a myriad of freely acting individuals. Birds do it, bees do it . . . free market economies do it. And now we have the fractals with which to catch them all in the act. Scientists from across the spectrum leaped on the systems bandwagon, applying what began as a mathematical proof of market equilibrium to, well, pretty much everything. Linguist Steven Pinker saw in Hayek and systems theory a new justification for his advancement of evolutionary psychology and his computational theory of mind: “Hayek was among the first to call attention to the emergence of large-scale order from individual choices. The phenomenon is ubiquitous, and not just in economic markets: What makes everyone suddenly drive SUVs, name their daughters Madison rather than Ethel or Linda, wear their baseball caps backwards, raise their pitch at the end of a sentence?

László Méro, Moral Calculations (New York: Springer-Verlag, 1998). 10. See my book Life Inc. (New York: Random House, 2009). 11. Archibald MacLeish, “Bubble of Blue Air,” New York Times, December 25, 1968, p. 1. 12. Lenora Foerstal and Angela Gilliam, Confronting Margaret Mead: Scholarship, Empire, and the South Pacific (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992), 126–27. 13. Steven Pinker, quoted in Nick Gillespie, “Hayek’s Legacy,” Reason, January 2005. 14. James Surowiecki, quoted in Gillespie, ibid. 15. See Manuel De Landa, War in the Age of Intelligent Machines (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992). 16. Jeff Sommer, “A Market Forecast That Says ‘Take Cover,’” New York Times, July 3, 2010. 17. Philip E. Tetlock, Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?


pages: 410 words: 101,260

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant

Albert Einstein, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, availability heuristic, barriers to entry, business process, business process outsourcing, Cass Sunstein, clean water, cognitive dissonance, creative destruction, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Dean Kamen, double helix, Elon Musk, fear of failure, Firefox, George Santayana, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, Jeff Bezos, job satisfaction, job-hopping, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, Lean Startup, Louis Pasteur, Mahatma Gandhi, Mark Zuckerberg, meta analysis, meta-analysis, minimum viable product, Nelson Mandela, Network effects, pattern recognition, Paul Graham, Peter Thiel, Ralph Waldo Emerson, random walk, risk tolerance, Rosa Parks, Saturday Night Live, Silicon Valley, Skype, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, The Wisdom of Crowds, women in the workforce

Niche Picking: Competing by Not Competing Look at lots of siblings, and you’ll notice a baffling fact: the big differences in personality don’t exist between families, but within them. When identical twins grow up in the same family, they’re no more similar to each other than identical twins who are separated at birth and raised by different families. “The same is true of non-twin siblings—they are no more similar when reared together than when reared apart,” Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker summarizes. “And adopted siblings are no more similar than two people plucked off the street at random.” This holds for originality. In adulthood, adopted siblings don’t resemble each other at all in tendencies toward non-conformity or risk taking, despite having been raised by the same parents. Niche picking might help to make sense of this mystery. This concept has its roots in the work of the physician and psychotherapist Alfred Adler, who came to believe that Sigmund Freud’s emphasis on parenting failed to account for the critical influence of siblings on personality development.

Hawley (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010); Laura M. Argys, Daniel I. Rees, Susan L. Averett, and Benjama Witoonchart, “Birth Order and Risky Adolescent Behavior,” Economic Inquiry 44 (2006): 215–33; Daniela Barni, Michele Roccato, Alessio Vieno, and Sara Alfieri, “Birth Order and Conservatism: A Multilevel Test of Sulloway’s ‘Born to Rebel’ Thesis,” Personality and Individual Differences 66 (2014): 58–63. When identical twins grow up: Steven Pinker, “What Is the Missing Ingredient—Not Genes, Not Upbringing—That Shapes the Mind?,” Edge, edge.org/response-detail/11078, and The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (New York: Penguin Books, 2003); Eric Turkheimer and Mary Waldron, “Nonshared Environment: A Theoretical, Methodological, and Quantitative Review,” Psychological Bulletin 126 (2000): 78–108; Robert Plomin and Denise Daniels, “Why Are Children in the Same Family So Different from Each Other?


pages: 114 words: 30,715

The Four Horsemen by Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett

3D printing, Andrew Wiles, cognitive dissonance, cosmological constant, dark matter, Desert Island Discs, en.wikipedia.org, phenotype, Richard Feynman, stem cell, Steven Pinker

*20 Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956): US writer and scholar of American English. *21 William Jennings Bryan (1860–1925): US Democratic politician and orator; anti-evolution activist, representing the World Christian Fundamentals Association at the Scopes trial of 1925. *22 Noam Chomsky (b. 1928): US linguist and multidisciplinary scholar; highly influential in study of mind and language. *23 Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works (New York: W. W. Norton, 1997), p. ix. *24 John Cornwell (b. 1940): British academic and writer; works include Hitler’s Pope (1999), a critical work on Pope Pius XII. *25 In May 2005, British anti-war activist and MP George Galloway (who would debate with Christopher Hitchens in September on the Iraq War) was alleged to have profited from the UN’s oil-for-food programme in Iraq, which he denied in testimony before a US Senate committee, saying: ‘I am not now, nor have I ever been, an oil trader – and neither has anyone on my behalf.


pages: 734 words: 244,010

The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution by Richard Dawkins

agricultural Revolution, Alfred Russel Wallace, complexity theory, delayed gratification, double helix, Drosophila, Haight Ashbury, invention of writing, lateral thinking, Louis Pasteur, mass immigration, nuclear winter, out of africa, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Spread Networks laid a new fibre optics cable between New York and Chicago, Steven Pinker, the High Line, urban sprawl

It makes no more sense (and no less) to aim our historical narrative towards Homo sapiens than towards any other modern species -- Octopus vulgaris, say, or Panthera leo or Sequoia sempervirens. A historically minded swift, understandably proud of flight as self-evidently the premier accomplishment of life, will regard swiftkind -- those spectacular flying machines with their swept-back wings, who stay aloft for a year at a time and even copulate in free flight -- as the acme of evolutionary progress. To build on a fancy of Steven Pinker, if elephants could write history they might portray tapirs, elephant shrews, elephant seals and proboscis monkeys as tentative beginners along the main trunk road of evolution, taking the first fumbling steps but each -- for some reason -- never quite making it: so near yet so far. Elephant astronomers might wonder whether, on some other world, there exist alien life forms that have crossed the nasal rubicon and taken the final leap to full proboscitude.

What else, they ask, could account for such a sudden change? It is not as silly as it sounds to suggest that language arose suddenly. Nobody thinks writing goes back more than a few thousand years, and everyone agrees that brain anatomy didn't change to coincide with anything so recent as the invention of writing. In theory, speech could be another example of the same thing. Nevertheless, my hunch, supported by the authority of linguists such as Steven Pinker, is that language is older than the Leap. We'll come back to the point a million years further into the past, when our pilgrimage reaches Homo ergaster(erectus). If not language itself, perhaps the Great Leap Forward coincided with the sudden discovery of what we might call a new software technique: maybe a new trick of grammar, such as the conditional clause, which, at a stroke, would have enabled 'what if' imagination to flower.

His ribs, and the small size of the portholes in the vertebrae through which the nerves pass, suggest that he lacked the fine control over breathing that seems to be associated with speech. Other scientists, studying the base of the skull, have concluded that even Neanderthals, as recently as 60,000 years ago, were speechless. The evidence is that their throat shape would not have allowed the full range of vowels that we deploy. On the other hand, as the linguist and evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker has remarked, 'e lengeege weth e smell nember ef vewels cen remeen quete expresseve'. If written Hebrew can be intelligible without vowels, I don't see why spoken Neander or even Ergaster couldn't too. The veteran South African anthropologist Philip Tobias suspects that language may pre-date even Homo ergaster, and he may just possibly be right. As we have seen, there are a few who go to the opposite extreme and date the origin of language to the Great Leap Forward, just a few tens of thousands of years ago.


pages: 379 words: 109,612

Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?: The Net's Impact on Our Minds and Future by John Brockman

A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, Albert Einstein, AltaVista, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Asperger Syndrome, availability heuristic, Benoit Mandelbrot, biofilm, Black Swan, British Empire, conceptual framework, corporate governance, Danny Hillis, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Emanuel Derman, epigenetics, Flynn Effect, Frank Gehry, Google Earth, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, index card, information retrieval, Internet Archive, invention of writing, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, John Markoff, Kevin Kelly, lifelogging, lone genius, loss aversion, mandelbrot fractal, Marc Andreessen, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, New Journalism, Nicholas Carr, out of africa, Paul Samuelson, peer-to-peer, Ponzi scheme, pre–internet, Richard Feynman, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, SETI@home, Silicon Valley, Skype, slashdot, smart grid, social graph, social software, social web, Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, Ted Nelson, telepresence, the medium is the message, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, theory of mind, trade route, upwardly mobile, Vernor Vinge, Whole Earth Catalog, X Prize

Dennett The Rediscovery of Fire: Chris Anderson The Rise of Social Media Is Really a Reprise: June Cohen The Internet and the Loss of Tranquility: Noga Arikha The Greatest Detractor to Serious Thinking Since Television: Leo Chalupa The Large Information Collider, BDTs, and Gravity Holidays on Tuesdays: Paul Kedrosky The Web Helps Us See What Isn’t There: Eric Drexler Knowledge Without, Focus Within, People Everywhere: David Dalrymple A Level Playing Field: Martin Rees Move Aside, Sex: Seth Lloyd Rivaling Gutenberg: John Tooby The Shoulders of Giants: William Calvin Brain Candy and Bad Mathematics: Mark Pagel Publications Can Perish: Robert Shapiro Will the Great Leveler Destroy Diversity of Thought?: Frank J. Tipler We Have Become Hunter-Gatherers of Images and Information: Lee Smolin The Human Texture of Information: Jon Kleinberg Not at All: Steven Pinker This Is Your Brain on Internet: Terrence Sejnowski The Sculpting of Human Thought: Donald Hoffman What Kind of a Dumb Question Is That?: Andy Clark Public Dreaming: Thomas Metzinger The Age of (Quantum) Information?: Anton Zeilinger Edge, A to Z (Pars Pro Toto): Hans Ulrich Obrist The Degradation of Predictability—and Knowledge: Nassim N. Taleb Calling You on Your Crap: Sean Carroll How I Think About How I Think: Lera Boroditsky I Am Not Exactly a Thinking Person— I Am a Poet: Jonas Mekas Kayaks Versus Canoes: George Dyson The Upload Has Begun: Sam Harris Hell if I Know: Gregory Paul What I Notice: Brian Eno It’s Not What You Know, It’s What You Can Find Out: Marissa Mayer When I’m on the Net, I Start to Think: Ai Weiwei The Internet Has Become Boring: Andrian Kreye The Dumb Butler: Joshua Greene Finding Stuff Remains a Challenge: Philip Campbell Attention, Crap Detection, and Network Awareness: Howard Rheingold Information Metabolism: Esther Dyson Ctrl + Click to Follow Link: George Church Replacing Experience with Facsimile: Eric Fischl and April Gornik Outsourcing the Mind: Gerd Gigerenzer A Prehistorian’s Perspective: Timothy Taylor The Fourth Phase of Homo sapiens: Scott Atran Transience Is Now Permanence: Douglas Coupland A Return to the Scarlet-Letter Savanna: Jesse Bering Take Love: Helen Fisher Internet Mating Strategies: David M.

In the thirteen years since I finished graduate school, the Internet has steadily and incontrovertibly advanced the argument that computer science is not just about technology but about human beings as well—about the power of human beings to collectively create knowledge and engage in self-expression on a global scale. This has been a thrilling development, and one that points to a new phase in our understanding of what people and technology can accomplish together, and about the world we’ve grown to jointly inhabit. Not at All Steven Pinker Johnstone Family Professor, Department of Psychology; Harvard University; author, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature As someone who believes both in human nature and in timeless standards of logic and evidence, I’m skeptical of the common claim that the Internet is changing the way we think. Electronic media aren’t going to revamp the brain’s mechanisms of information processing, nor will they supersede modus ponens or Bayes’s theorem.


pages: 335 words: 104,850

Conscious Capitalism, With a New Preface by the Authors: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business by John Mackey, Rajendra Sisodia, Bill George

Berlin Wall, Buckminster Fuller, business process, carbon footprint, collective bargaining, corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, creative destruction, crony capitalism, cross-subsidies, en.wikipedia.org, Everything should be made as simple as possible, Fall of the Berlin Wall, fear of failure, Flynn Effect, income per capita, invisible hand, Jeff Bezos, job satisfaction, lone genius, Mahatma Gandhi, microcredit, Nelson Mandela, Occupy movement, profit maximization, Ralph Waldo Emerson, shareholder value, six sigma, social intelligence, Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail, union organizing, wealth creators, women in the workforce, zero-sum game

Consider the following: Until 150 years ago, slavery was widely accepted by a large number of people around the world and was the law of the land in many countries; 100 years ago, most people (including many women) thought it acceptable to deny women the right to vote; 75 years ago, colonialism was still widespread and generally accepted; 50 years ago, most people accepted racial segregation as a way of life; 40 years ago, few people knew much or cared about environmental issues; 25 years ago, communism was still seen by many as a viable way to organize our economic and political lives.8 One key indicator of rising consciousness is declining violence. As Steven Pinker documents in his recent book, the present era is “less violent, less cruel and more peaceful” than any other in human history. There is less violence in families, in neighborhoods, and among countries. The probability of dying violently, through war, terrorism, attacks by animals, or murder, is lower than any time previously. People are also less likely than in the past to experience cruelty at the hands of others.9 Values like caring, nurturing relationships, and compassion are ascendant throughout society.

GfK Mediamark Research & Intelligence, “Median Age, Household Income and Individual Employment Income,” GfK MRI Spring Technical Guide, www.gfkmri.com/mri/techguide/spr2011/med_age_hhi_iei_sp11.pdf. 8. Women were granted the right to vote in the United States in 1920. Shockingly, women did not have the right to vote in most of Switzerland until 1971; in 2010, a majority of Switzerland’s cabinet ministers were women. 9. Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (New York: Viking, 2011). These examples illustrate that as we become more conscious, our ethical standards and practices evolve upward to higher levels. Lawrence Kohlberg and Carol Gilligan’s research provides evidence that our ethics tend to evolve over time up several distinct ethical levels or stages from “obedience to avoid punishment” at the first stage up to “universal justice and love” at the highest stage.


pages: 477 words: 106,069

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker

butterfly effect, carbon footprint, crowdsourcing, Douglas Hofstadter, feminist movement, functional fixedness, hindsight bias, illegal immigration, index card, invention of the printing press, invention of the telephone, McMansion, meta analysis, meta-analysis, moral panic, Nelson Mandela, profit maximization, quantitative easing, race to the bottom, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, short selling, Steven Pinker, the market place, theory of mind, Turing machine

Contents Prologue Chapter 1: GOOD WRITING Chapter 2: A WINDOW ONTO THE WORLD Chapter 3: THE CURSE OF KNOWLEDGE Chapter 4: THE WEB, THE TREE, AND THE STRING Chapter 5: ARCS OF COHERENCE Chapter 6: TELLING RIGHT FROM WRONG Notes Glossary References Acknowledgments Follow Penguin BY THE SAME AUTHOR Language Learnability and Language Development Learnability and Cognition The Language Instinct How the Mind Works Words and Rules The Blank Slate The Stuff of Thought The Better Angels of Our Nature Language, Cognition, and Human Nature: Selected Articles EDITED BY STEVEN PINKER Visual Cognition Connections and Symbols (with Jacques Mehler) Lexical and Conceptual Semantics (with Beth Levin) The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2004 To Susan Pinker and Robert Pinker who have a way with words Prologue I love style manuals. Ever since I was assigned Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style in an introductory psychology course, the writing guide has been among my favorite literary genres.

Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) Penguin Group (Australia), 707 Collins Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3008, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi – 110 017, India Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd) Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, Block D, Rosebank Office Park, 181 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parktown North, Gauteng 2193, South Africa Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England www.penguin.com First published in the United States of America by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC 2014 First published in Great Britain by Allen Lane 2014 Copyright © Steven Pinker, 2014 Illustration credits Page 52: MacNelly editorial, © Jeff MacNelly – distributed by King Features 57: CartoonStock 61: James Stevenson/The New Yorker Collection/www.cartoonbank.com 79: Shoe © 1993 Jeff MacNelly – distributed by King Features 202: Bizarro used with permission of Dan Piraro, King Features Syndicate and the Cartoonist Group. All rights reserved. 256 and 260: Ryan North 284: © 2007 Harry Bliss.


pages: 586 words: 186,548

Architects of Intelligence by Martin Ford

3D printing, agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Apple II, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, basic income, Baxter: Rethink Robotics, Bayesian statistics, bitcoin, business intelligence, business process, call centre, cloud computing, cognitive bias, Colonization of Mars, computer vision, correlation does not imply causation, crowdsourcing, DARPA: Urban Challenge, deskilling, disruptive innovation, Donald Trump, Douglas Hofstadter, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, Flash crash, future of work, gig economy, Google X / Alphabet X, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Hans Rosling, ImageNet competition, income inequality, industrial robot, information retrieval, job automation, John von Neumann, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, Loebner Prize, Mark Zuckerberg, Mars Rover, means of production, Mitch Kapor, natural language processing, new economy, optical character recognition, pattern recognition, phenotype, Productivity paradox, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Robert Gordon, Rodney Brooks, Sam Altman, self-driving car, sensor fusion, sentiment analysis, Silicon Valley, smart cities, social intelligence, speech recognition, statistical model, stealth mode startup, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, strong AI, superintelligent machines, Ted Kaczynski, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, theory of mind, Thomas Bayes, Travis Kalanick, Turing test, universal basic income, Wall-E, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, women in the workforce, working-age population, zero-sum game, Zipcar

The first book that I wrote, published in 2001, was titled The Algebraic Mind, and it compared neural networks with humans. I explored what it would take to make neural networks better, and I think those arguments are still very relevant today. The next book I wrote was called The Birth of the Mind, and was about understanding how genes can build the innate structures in our mind. It comes from the Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker tradition of believing that there are important things built into the mind. In the book, I tried to understand what innateness might mean in terms of molecular biology and developmental neuroscience. Again, I think the ideas there are quite relevant today. In 2008 I published Kluge: The Haphazard Evolution of the Human Mind. For those who may not know, “kluge” is an old engineer’s term for a clumsy solution to a problem.

In the same way, I think of myself as not a native speaker of machine learning or AI, but as someone who is coming to AI from the cognitive sciences and has fresh insights. I did a lot of computer programming throughout my childhood and thought a lot about artificial intelligence, but I went to graduate school more interested in the cognitive sciences than artificial intelligence. During my time at graduate school, I studied with the cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, where we looked at how children learn the past tense within a language and then examined that using the precursors to deep learning that we had at the time, namely multi-layer and two-layer perceptrons. In 1986, David Rumelhart and James L. McClelland published a paper titled Parallel Distributed Processing: explorations in the microstructure of cognition, which showed that a neural network could learn the past tense of English.

Humans are in a tough spot, and we need to realize we’re in a tough spot because we are not born in an inherent position of luxury. We need to make very serious contemplations, which does not mean that we’re not going to have moral ethics; it does. It just means that it needs to be balanced to realize that we are in a tough spot. For example, there’s a couple of books that have come out, like Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World, and Why Things Are Better Than You Think, by Hans Rosling, and Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. Those books basically say that the world’s not bad, and that although everyone says how terrible it is, all the data says it’s getting better, and it’s getting better faster. What they’re not contemplating is that the future is dramatically different to the past. We’ve never had a form of intelligence in the form of AI that has progressed this fast.


pages: 384 words: 118,572

The Confidence Game: The Psychology of the Con and Why We Fall for It Every Time by Maria Konnikova

attribution theory, Bernie Madoff, British Empire, Cass Sunstein, cognitive dissonance, coherent worldview, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, endowment effect, epigenetics, hindsight bias, lake wobegon effect, lateral thinking, libertarian paternalism, Milgram experiment, placebo effect, Ponzi scheme, post-work, publish or perish, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, side project, Skype, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, tulip mania, Walter Mischel

Each event is entirely independent of the one before, and will in no way affect the one after. Still, the gambler insists that the next one will be the lucky winner. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s right around the corner, in the next toss of the die, turn of the wheel, flip of the card. Life is not a casino, and often the gambler’s fallacy isn’t a fallacy at all. It’s an accurate adaptation to changing events. As Harvard University psychologist Steven Pinker notes in How the Mind Works, “It would not surprise me if a week of clouds really did predict that the trailing edge was near and the sun was about to be unmasked, just as the hundredth railroad car on a passing train portends the caboose with greater likelihood than the third car.” And so, when it comes to events that really are chance, from gambles on craps tables to gambles in stocks, and events that, while not completely chance, are governed by a high degree of uncertainty, like financial investments, our gambler’s fallacy (now properly fallacious) is all the more likely to persist: after all, at times it’s not a fallacy at all.

Thank you to Josh Rothman, to the indispensable fact checkers and copy editors who have worked to make my pieces what they are, and, of course, to David Remnick, for believing in my future as a writer. I’ve been lucky to have a number of incredible mentors, but I want to thank especially Katherine Vaz, who believed in me from the moment I stepped into her writing class as a confused eighteen-year-old; Steven Pinker, who has taught me so much of what I know and has been a constant source of inspiration; and Walter Mischel, for hours of wisdom, beautiful art, and always thought-provoking conversation. And a final, most heartfelt thank-you to the people who’ve had to put up with me the longest, and somehow still decided to stick around. The friends who listened to me moan over countless meals and bottles of wine—and despite my often less-than-stellar company still offered in-person deliveries of tea when I shut myself in for weeks at a time.


pages: 437 words: 115,594

The Great Surge: The Ascent of the Developing World by Steven Radelet

"Robert Solow", Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Asian financial crisis, bank run, Berlin Wall, Branko Milanovic, business climate, business process, call centre, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, clean water, colonial rule, creative destruction, demographic dividend, Deng Xiaoping, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, Doha Development Round, Erik Brynjolfsson, European colonialism, F. W. de Klerk, failed state, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Gini coefficient, global pandemic, global supply chain, income inequality, income per capita, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of the steam engine, James Watt: steam engine, John Snow's cholera map, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, land reform, low skilled workers, M-Pesa, megacity, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela, off grid, oil shock, out of africa, purchasing power parity, race to the bottom, randomized controlled trial, Robert Gordon, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, Simon Kuznets, South China Sea, special economic zone, standardized shipping container, Steven Pinker, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, trade route, women in the workforce, working poor

More hopeful, in several countries in which oil has declined in importance, such as Mexico and Indonesia, democracy has strengthened. THE DECLINE IN CONFLICT AND VIOLENCE Hand in hand with the spread of democracy have come reductions in war, conflict, and violence. Most people have a hard time believing this fact, since the daily news provides a stream of stories of war, conflict, and violence. But while violence has not ended, there is much less of it. Much less. The Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker documented the decline in global violence during the latter part of the twentieth century and the early twenty-first century in The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.13 He shows, with abundant data and examples from around the world, that despite the pessimistic views to the contrary, we live in the most peaceful time in world history. To give just one example, battle deaths per conflict per year from interstate wars have fallen from sixty-five thousand in the 1950s, to fifty thousand in the 1970s, to twenty-five thousand in the 1980s, to around three thousand in the 2000s.

Young, “The Institutionalization of Political Power in Africa,” Journal of Democracy 18, no. 3 (July 2007): 128, http://www.journalofdemocracy.org/sites/default/files/PosnerandYoung-18-3.pdf. 11. Larry Diamond, The Spirit of Democracy: The Struggle to Build Free Societies Throughout the World (New York: Times Books, 2008), p. 256. 12. Thomas Carothers, “The End of the Transition Paradigm,” Journal of Democracy 13, no. 1 (January 2002): 5–21, www.journalofdemocracy.org/articles-files/gratis/Carothers-13-1.pdf. 13. Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (New York: Penguin Books, 2011). 14. Ibid., p. 302. The data are from figure 6.4, p. 304. 15. Uppsala Conflict Data Program, “UCDP/PRIO Armed Conflict Dataset, v.4-2014, 1946–2013,” June 12, 2014, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden, www.pcr.uu.se/research/ucdp/datasets/ucdp_prio_armed_conflict_dataset. For the underlying research papers, see Lotta Themnér and Peter Wallensteen, “Armed Conflicts, 1946–2013,” Journal of Peace Research 51, no. 4 (July 2014): 541–54; Nils Petter Gleditsch et al., “Armed Conflict, 1946–2001: A New Dataset,” Journal of Peace Research 39, no. 5 (September 2002): 615–37. 16.


pages: 390 words: 109,870

Radicals Chasing Utopia: Inside the Rogue Movements Trying to Change the World by Jamie Bartlett

Andrew Keen, back-to-the-land, Bernie Sanders, bitcoin, blockchain, blue-collar work, Boris Johnson, brain emulation, centre right, clean water, cryptocurrency, Donald Trump, drone strike, Elon Musk, energy security, Ethereum, ethereum blockchain, failed state, gig economy, hydraulic fracturing, income inequality, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Jaron Lanier, job automation, John Markoff, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, life extension, Occupy movement, off grid, Peter Thiel, post-industrial society, postnationalism / post nation state, precariat, QR code, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Rosa Parks, Ross Ulbricht, Satoshi Nakamoto, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, smart contracts, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, technoutopianism

In short, people with high openness scores are more likely to be left wing. Most psychologists believe that these foundational traits—which are part inherited part nurtured—are more or less fixed by the age of about thirty. Sean N. Boileau, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, and Gay Male Intimate Partner Preference Across Racial Lines (ProQuest LLC, 2008); Melinda Wenner, ‘Political preferences in half genetic’, Live Science, 24 May 2007. See also Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (Allen Lane, 2002). 14. Katherine A. MacLean, Matthew W. Johnson and Roland R. Griffiths, ‘Mystical experiences occasioned by the hallucinogen psilocybin lead to increases in the personality domain of openness’, Journal of Psychopharmacology, November 2011; Maia Szalavitz, ‘Magic Mushrooms Trigger Lasting Personality Change’, Time, October 2011; Scott McGreal, ‘Psilocybin and personality’, Psychology Today, September 2012. 15.

Dieter thinks that our modern woes can be traced back to 8,000 years ago, when man left tribal life and turned to agriculture and sedentary existence. This shift created new social relations, notably norms of privacy, ownership and patriarchy. Dieter thinks that before this ‘Great Separation’ man lived in highly developed cultures that had access to ‘higher cosmic knowledge’ than we do today and that were connected to creation in an entirely different way. But according to author Steven Pinker, the shift from hunter-gatherer tribes to agricultural civilisation resulted in a fivefold decrease in rates of violent death. Rates of violence have been on the decline ever since, albeit with spikes. In current hunter-gatherer communities, homicide rates dwarf rates in Europe and North America. 19. Duhm, Sacred Matrix, p. 37. Also Duhm, Terra Nova: ‘It works according to different laws than the material body.


pages: 395 words: 116,675

The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge by Matt Ridley

"Robert Solow", affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, AltaVista, altcoin, anthropic principle, anti-communist, bank run, banking crisis, barriers to entry, bitcoin, blockchain, Boris Johnson, British Empire, Broken windows theory, Columbian Exchange, computer age, Corn Laws, cosmological constant, creative destruction, Credit Default Swap, crony capitalism, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of DNA, Donald Davies, double helix, Downton Abbey, Edward Glaeser, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, Edward Snowden, endogenous growth, epigenetics, Ethereum, ethereum blockchain, facts on the ground, falling living standards, Ferguson, Missouri, financial deregulation, financial innovation, Frederick Winslow Taylor, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, George Gilder, George Santayana, Gunnar Myrdal, Henri Poincaré, hydraulic fracturing, imperial preference, income per capita, indoor plumbing, interchangeable parts, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, Jeff Bezos, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, Kevin Kelly, Khan Academy, knowledge economy, land reform, Lao Tzu, long peace, Lyft, M-Pesa, Mahatma Gandhi, Mark Zuckerberg, means of production, meta analysis, meta-analysis, mobile money, money: store of value / unit of account / medium of exchange, Mont Pelerin Society, moral hazard, Necker cube, obamacare, out of africa, packet switching, peer-to-peer, phenotype, Pierre-Simon Laplace, price mechanism, profit motive, RAND corporation, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, rent-seeking, reserve currency, Richard Feynman, rising living standards, road to serfdom, Ronald Coase, Ronald Reagan, Satoshi Nakamoto, Second Machine Age, sharing economy, smart contracts, South Sea Bubble, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thorstein Veblen, transaction costs, twin studies, uber lyft, women in the workforce

Here is an eighteenth-century, middle-class Scottish professor saying that morality is an accidental by-product of the way human beings adjust their behaviour towards each other as they grow up; saying that morality is an emergent phenomenon that arises spontaneously among human beings in a relatively peaceful society; saying that goodness does not need to be taught, let alone associated with the superstitious belief that it would not exist but for the divine origin of an ancient Palestinian carpenter. Smith sounds remarkably like Lucretius (whom he certainly read) in parts of his Moral Sentiments book, but he also sounds remarkably like Steven Pinker of Harvard University today discussing the evolution of society towards tolerance and away from violence. As I will explore, there is in fact a fascinating convergence here. Pinker’s account of morality growing strongly over time is, at bottom, very like Smith’s. To put it at its baldest, a Smithian child, developing his sense of morality in a violent medieval society in Prussia (say) by trial and error, would end up with a moral code quite different from such a child growing up in a peaceful German (say) suburb today.

Seek the explanation for this not in the world of cultural norms, but in the world of evolution: men who were attracted to women of prime reproductive age and good health tended on average to leave more descendants behind than men who preferred elderly, immature, sick or morose sexual partners. Women who found strong, confident, mature and ambitious men attractive tended to leave more descendants than those who fell for weak, fearful, youthful or retiring men. It is truly strange that in my youth such explanations for universal human characteristics were verboten. The Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker argues that, in stark contrast to the blank-slate dogma, our emotions and faculties have been adapted by natural selection for reasoning and communicating, have a common logic across cultures, and are difficult to erase or redesign from scratch. They come from within, not without. Learning can only happen because we have innate mechanisms to learn. Learning is not the opposite of instinct; it is itself the expression of an instinct – or rather many instincts.


pages: 523 words: 111,615

The Economics of Enough: How to Run the Economy as if the Future Matters by Diane Coyle

"Robert Solow", accounting loophole / creative accounting, affirmative action, bank run, banking crisis, Berlin Wall, bonus culture, Branko Milanovic, BRICs, business cycle, call centre, Cass Sunstein, central bank independence, collapse of Lehman Brothers, conceptual framework, corporate governance, correlation does not imply causation, Credit Default Swap, deindustrialization, demographic transition, Diane Coyle, different worldview, disintermediation, Edward Glaeser, endogenous growth, Eugene Fama: efficient market hypothesis, experimental economics, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Financial Instability Hypothesis, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, George Akerlof, Gini coefficient, global supply chain, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, happiness index / gross national happiness, hedonic treadmill, Hyman Minsky, If something cannot go on forever, it will stop - Herbert Stein's Law, illegal immigration, income inequality, income per capita, industrial cluster, information asymmetry, intangible asset, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invisible hand, Jane Jacobs, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Arrow, Kenneth Rogoff, knowledge economy, light touch regulation, low skilled workers, market bubble, market design, market fundamentalism, megacity, Network effects, new economy, night-watchman state, Northern Rock, oil shock, Pareto efficiency, principal–agent problem, profit motive, purchasing power parity, railway mania, rising living standards, Ronald Reagan, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), Silicon Valley, South Sea Bubble, Steven Pinker, The Design of Experiments, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, The Market for Lemons, The Myth of the Rational Market, The Spirit Level, transaction costs, transfer pricing, tulip mania, ultimatum game, University of East Anglia, web application, web of trust, winner-take-all economy, World Values Survey, zero-sum game

Jonathan Haidt has identified five of these universal moral themes: avoidance of doing harm, due respect for authority, striving for cleanliness or purity, loyalty to group or community—and a sense of fairness.6 The last two of these have been specifically identified by evolutionary scientists as aspects of reciprocal altruism. This theory about the willingness to help others in the valid expectation of being helped by them in turn originated in 1971 with an article by biologist Robert Trivers entitled “The Evolution of Reciprocal Altruism,”7 and was further elaborated in 1976 by Richard Dawkins in his classic, The Selfish Gene.8 As Steven Pinker explains it, reciprocal altruism is not a calculating, selfish thought process but the outcome of a set of human emotions: “Sympathy prompts a person to offer the first favor, particularly to someone in need for whom it would go the furthest. Anger protects a person against cheaters who accept a favor without reciprocating, by impelling him to punish the ingrate or sever the relationship. Gratitude impels a beneficiary to reward those who helped him in the past.

See http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/99496.pdf and http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL34314.pdf. 14 Spilimbergo et al. (2009). 15 Lipsky (2010), Speech by First Deputy Managing Director, International Monetary Fund, at the China Development Forum. 16 Kobayashi (2009). 17 This will occur as long as the inflation is either partly unexpected, so savers and investors haven’t been able to safeguard against it, or there is incomplete indexation of wages, interest rates, etc. to inflation. 18 Napier (2009). 19 Jorgenson and Stiroh (2000). 20 Olson (1996). 21 UN (2006). 22 Reinhardt and Rogoff (2010). 23http://www.imf.org/external/np/speeches/2010/032110.htm. 24 See data at http://laborsta.ilo.org. NOTES TO CHAPTER FOUR 1 Hobbes (1651), Rousseau (1754). 2 See for example Camerer et al. (2003) for a scholarly survey, or Ariely (2008) for a popular introduction. 3 See Smith (1982) and papers in Bardsley et al. (2009), for example. 4 Levitt and List (2009). See also Levitt and Dubner’s Superfreakonomics (2009). Besides, as Steven Pinker has written: “When psychologists say ‘most people’ they usually mean ‘most of the two dozen sophomores who filled out a questionnaire for beer money.’ ” Pinker (2008). 5 List (2008). 6 Haidt (2006). 7 Trivers (1971). 8 Dawkins (1976). 9 Pinker (2008). 10 De Waal (2008), 18. 11 Ibid., 162. 12 Sigmund et al. (2002). 13 Hume (1739). 14 Sala-i-Martin (2002a, b). 15 Heshmati (2006). 16 Milanovic (2005). 17 Bourguignon and Coyle (2003). 18 Milanovic (2005). 19 These updated figures convert local currencies to dollars (so they can be compared) at purchasing power parity exchange rates, which differ significantly from earlier estimates, and the effect is to reduce the figures in “PPP dollars” for incomes in countries such as India and China.


pages: 741 words: 199,502

Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class by Charles Murray

23andMe, affirmative action, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Asperger Syndrome, assortative mating, basic income, bioinformatics, Cass Sunstein, correlation coefficient, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, double helix, Drosophila, epigenetics, equal pay for equal work, European colonialism, feminist movement, glass ceiling, Gunnar Myrdal, income inequality, Kenneth Arrow, labor-force participation, longitudinal study, meta analysis, meta-analysis, out of africa, p-value, phenotype, publication bias, quantitative hedge fund, randomized controlled trial, replication crisis, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, school vouchers, Scientific racism, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), Silicon Valley, social intelligence, statistical model, Steven Pinker, The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, theory of mind, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, twin studies, universal basic income, working-age population

It’s not just that the role of the shared environment is less than that of genes; that role is usually small, especially with regard to the child’s eventual cognitive repertoires as an adult. This story has been known in broad outline within the behavior genetics community since the 1980s. It was first exposed to a general audience in 1998 when Judith Harris published The Nurture Assumption.3 It got wider attention in 2002 when Steven Pinker recounted it in his bestseller The Blank Slate.4 It has subsequently been referenced in many magazine and book-length discussions of parenting.5 At first glance, the claim that parental socialization doesn’t make much difference is counterintuitive. The family environment, including socioeconomic status (SES), must surely have a major influence on children’s outcomes. That’s why psychologists John Loehlin and Robert Nichols of the University of Texas were bemused by the data on 850 twin pairs that they analyzed in the early 1970s.

Nothing we learn will justify rank-ordering human groups from superior to inferior—the bundles of qualities that make us human are far too complicated for that. Nothing we learn will lend itself to genetic determinism. We live our lives with an abundance of unpredictability, both genetic and environmental. Above all, nothing we learn will threaten human equality properly understood. I like the way Steven Pinker put it: “Equality is not the empirical claim that all groups of humans are interchangeable; it is the moral principle that individuals should not be judged or constrained by the average properties of their group.”1 My conclusions are so cautious that they shouldn’t be controversial. If the preceding chapters haven’t persuaded you of that, a summing up in this chapter is not going to do the job.

So it is with human nature: The important thing is not the heritabilities of specific traits but the way that the heritability of a variety of linked traits forms an interpretable mosaic. Even psychologists who are leading scholars of heritability shy away from putting the pieces together or acknowledging that the pieces can be put together—such is the shadow that has become associated with human nature. In Steven Pinker’s words, “To acknowledge human nature, many think, is to endorse racism, sexism, war, greed, genocide, nihilism, reactionary politics, and neglect of children and the disadvantaged. Any claim that the mind has an innate organization strikes people not as a hypothesis that might be incorrect but as a thought it is immoral to think.”14 That description, written near the turn of the new century, still applies two decades later.


The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting by Anne Trubek

computer age, crowdsourcing, Internet Archive, invention of the printing press, lateral thinking, Norman Mailer, QWERTY keyboard, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Steven Pinker, Whole Earth Catalog

Even small differences matter, according to Wolf, whose research finds that brains process capital letters in a different neurological way than they do lowercase letters. Each individual person’s development follows somewhat this same evolutionary trend, just much, much more quickly. As Wolf puts it, “It took 2000 years to get from Sumer to Greek alphabet, but we expect our children to master it in 2000 days.”2 The linguist Steven Pinker uses another analogy: “Children are wired for sound, but print is an optional accessory that must be painstakingly bolted on.”3 The key neurological function that we want to bolt into children’s brains is cognitive automaticity, the ability to write without consciously being aware one is doing it. When the brain has automatized the slopes of letters or their place on a keyboard, it is freed from low-level demands.


pages: 387 words: 119,409

Work Rules!: Insights From Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead by Laszlo Bock

Airbnb, Albert Einstein, AltaVista, Atul Gawande, Black Swan, book scanning, Burning Man, call centre, Cass Sunstein, Checklist Manifesto, choice architecture, citizen journalism, clean water, correlation coefficient, crowdsourcing, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, deliberate practice, en.wikipedia.org, experimental subject, Frederick Winslow Taylor, future of work, Google Earth, Google Glasses, Google Hangouts, Google X / Alphabet X, Googley, helicopter parent, immigration reform, Internet Archive, longitudinal study, Menlo Park, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, nudge unit, PageRank, Paul Buchheit, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rana Plaza, random walk, Richard Thaler, Rubik’s Cube, self-driving car, shareholder value, side project, Silicon Valley, six sigma, statistical model, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Steven Pinker, survivorship bias, TaskRabbit, The Wisdom of Crowds, Tony Hsieh, Turing machine, winner-take-all economy, Y2K

.… [T]he Fire pent up in their own Hearts is struggling to break out… [and] there are no Means within Reach that can be any Security to them.255 Now, the chilling of congregants was exactly what Edwards hoped to achieve. And as they say in government, mission accomplished. Setting aside the religious context, which my tenth-grade class left me far from qualified to opine on, Edwards’s underlying premise is that “natural Men” are bad and require some intervention to avoid a horrific end. Steven Pinker, in The Better Angels of Our Nature, argues that the world has become a better place over time, at least when measured by incidences of violence. In the pre-state, hunter-gatherer era, 15 percent of people died violently, declining to 3 percent in the early Roman, British, and Islamic empires. By the twentieth century, homicide in European countries had dropped by another order of magnitude.

Executive management is the art of knowing when it’s time to swing the pendulum back the other way. 254. Wikipedia, “Goji,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goji. 255. Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. A Sermon Preached at Enfield, July 8th, 1741,” ed. Reiner Smolinski, Electronic Texts in American Studies Paper 54, Libraries at University of Nebraska–Lincoln, http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1053&context=etas. 256. Steven Pinker, “Violence Vanquished,” Wall Street Journal, September 24, 2011, http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424053111904106704576583203589408180. 257. United States Congress House Special Committee to Investigate the Taylor and Other Systems of Shop Management, The Taylor and Other Systems of Shop Management: Hearings before Special Committee of the House of Representatives to Investigate the Taylor and Other Systems of Shop Management (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1912), 3: 1397, http://books.google.com/books?


pages: 404 words: 124,705

The Village Effect: How Face-To-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier, and Smarter by Susan Pinker

assortative mating, Atul Gawande, Bernie Madoff, call centre, cognitive dissonance, David Brooks, delayed gratification, Edward Glaeser, epigenetics, Erik Brynjolfsson, estate planning, facts on the ground, game design, happiness index / gross national happiness, indoor plumbing, invisible hand, Kickstarter, longitudinal study, Mark Zuckerberg, medical residency, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, neurotypical, Occupy movement, old-boy network, place-making, Ponzi scheme, Ralph Waldo Emerson, randomized controlled trial, Ray Oldenburg, Silicon Valley, Skype, social intelligence, Stanford marshmallow experiment, Steven Pinker, The Great Good Place, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, Tony Hsieh, urban planning, Yogi Berra

., “Prospective Associations Between Early Childhood Television Exposure and Academic, Psychosocial, and Physical Well-being by Middle Childhood,” Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine 164, no. 5 (2010); Sylvain-Jacques Desjardins, “Toddlers and TV: Early Exposure Has Negative and Long Term Impact,” Forum (University of Montreal), May 3, 2010. 31. David Biello, “Fact or Fiction: Archimedes Coined the Term ‘Eureka’ in the Bath,” Scientific American, December 8, 2006. 32. Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct (New York: William Morrow, 1994). 33. D. A. Christakis et al., “Audible Television and Decreased Adult Words, Infant Vocalizations, and Conversational Turns: A Population-Based Study,” Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine 163, no. 6 (2009). 34. F. J. Zimmerman and D. A. Christakis, “Children’s Television Viewing and Cognitive Outcomes,” Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine 159, no. 7 (2005): Tomopoulous et al., “Infant Media Exposure”; D.

., “The Cheater’s High: The Unexpected Affective Benefits of Unethical Behavior,” paper presented at annual meeting of the Academy of Management, Boston, 2012. 7. Drake Bennett, “Confidence Game: How Imposters Like Clark Rockefeller Capture Our Trust Instantly,” Boston Globe, August 17, 2008. 8. Edward O. Wilson, “Kin Selection as the Key to Altruism: Its Rise and Fall,” Social Research 72, no. 1 (2005); Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature (New York: Viking, 2011). 9. Jerome H. Barkow, Leda Cosmides, and John Tooby, The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992); Frans de Waal, The Age of Empathy (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2009); M. J. O’Riain and J.U.M. Jarvis, “Colony Member Recognition and Xenophobia in the Naked Mole-Rat,” Animal Behaviour 53 (1997). 10.


pages: 472 words: 117,093

Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future by Andrew McAfee, Erik Brynjolfsson

"Robert Solow", 3D printing, additive manufacturing, AI winter, Airbnb, airline deregulation, airport security, Albert Einstein, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Web Services, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, backtesting, barriers to entry, bitcoin, blockchain, British Empire, business cycle, business process, carbon footprint, Cass Sunstein, centralized clearinghouse, Chris Urmson, cloud computing, cognitive bias, commoditize, complexity theory, computer age, creative destruction, crony capitalism, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Dean Kamen, discovery of DNA, disintermediation, disruptive innovation, distributed ledger, double helix, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, Ethereum, ethereum blockchain, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, family office, fiat currency, financial innovation, George Akerlof, global supply chain, Hernando de Soto, hive mind, information asymmetry, Internet of things, inventory management, iterative process, Jean Tirole, Jeff Bezos, jimmy wales, John Markoff, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, law of one price, longitudinal study, Lyft, Machine translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." to Russian and back, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mitch Kapor, moral hazard, multi-sided market, Myron Scholes, natural language processing, Network effects, new economy, Norbert Wiener, Oculus Rift, PageRank, pattern recognition, peer-to-peer lending, performance metric, plutocrats, Plutocrats, precision agriculture, prediction markets, pre–internet, price stability, principal–agent problem, Ray Kurzweil, Renaissance Technologies, Richard Stallman, ride hailing / ride sharing, risk tolerance, Ronald Coase, Satoshi Nakamoto, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Skype, slashdot, smart contracts, Snapchat, speech recognition, statistical model, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, supply-chain management, TaskRabbit, Ted Nelson, The Market for Lemons, The Nature of the Firm, Thomas Davenport, Thomas L Friedman, too big to fail, transaction costs, transportation-network company, traveling salesman, Travis Kalanick, two-sided market, Uber and Lyft, Uber for X, uber lyft, ubercab, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, winner-take-all economy, yield management, zero day

Jo Marchant, “Decoding the Antikythera Mechanism, the First Computer,” Smithsonian, February 2015, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/decoding-antikythera-mechanism-first-computer-180953979. † Alan Turing proved that a basic computer that stores a program could be thought of as a universal computing machine that, in principle, could be instructed to solve any problem solvable by an algorithm. ‡ As the linguist Steven Pinker points out in his 1994 book The Language Instinct, a child who is upset with her parent’s choice for bedtime reading could construct a complex sentence like “Daddy, what did you bring that book that I don’t want to be read to out of up for?” Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct (New York: HarperCollins, 1994), 23. § A tragic case study provided strong evidence that after a certain age, children can no longer acquire language. In 1970, authorities in southern California became aware of a thirteen-year-old girl, given the pseudonym “Genie,” who had been the victim of horrific abuse and neglect.


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The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama

Admiral Zheng, agricultural Revolution, Andrei Shleifer, Asian financial crisis, Ayatollah Khomeini, barriers to entry, Berlin Wall, blood diamonds, California gold rush, cognitive dissonance, colonial rule, conceptual framework, correlation does not imply causation, currency manipulation / currency intervention, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, double entry bookkeeping, endogenous growth, equal pay for equal work, European colonialism, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Francisco Pizarro, Hernando de Soto, hiring and firing, invention of agriculture, invention of the printing press, Khyber Pass, land reform, land tenure, means of production, offshore financial centre, out of africa, Peace of Westphalia, principal–agent problem, RAND corporation, rent-seeking, Right to Buy, Scramble for Africa, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), spice trade, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, Thomas Malthus, trade route, transaction costs, Washington Consensus, zero-sum game

Male reproductive strategy maximizes success by seeking out as many sexual partners as possible, while the female reproductive strategy involves harboring the resources of the fittest male for her offspring. Since these strategies work at cross-purposes, the argument goes, there is a strong evolutionary incentive to develop capacities for outwitting the partner, in which language plays a large role.21 Another evolutionary psychologist, Steven Pinker, argues that language, sociability, and mastery of the environment all reinforced one another and created evolutionary pressures for further development.22 This then explains the need for increased brain size, since a very large portion of the neocortex, which is the part of the brain possessed by behaviorally modern humans but not by chimps or archaic humans, is devoted to language.23 The development of language not only permits the short-term coordination of action but also opens up the possibility of abstraction and theory, critical cognitive faculties that are unique to human beings.

: Reflections on the Uniquely Unique Species (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990), pp. 4–7; Richard D. Alexander, “The Evolution of Social Behavior,” Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 5 (1974): 325–85. 21 Geoffrey Miller, The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature (New York: Doubleday, 2000); Geoffrey Miller and Glenn Geher, Mating Intelligence: Sex, Relationships, and the Mind’s Reproductive System (New York: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2008). 22 Steven Pinker and Paul Bloom, “Natural Language and Natural Selection,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13 (1990): 707–84. 23 George E. Pugh, The Biological Origin of Human Values (New York: Basic Books, 1977), pp. 140–43. 24 For a compilation of evidence on the universality of religion, see Nicholas Wade, The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures (New York: Penguin, 2009), pp. 18–37. 25 See, for example, Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York: Twelve, 2007); and Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006). 26 Mancur Olson, The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1965). 27 See Wade, Faith Instinct, chap. 5. 28 This view is especially associated with Émile Durkheim.

Pugh, The Biological Origin of Human Values (New York: Basic Books, 1977), pp. 140–43. 24 For a compilation of evidence on the universality of religion, see Nicholas Wade, The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures (New York: Penguin, 2009), pp. 18–37. 25 See, for example, Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York: Twelve, 2007); and Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006). 26 Mancur Olson, The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1965). 27 See Wade, Faith Instinct, chap. 5. 28 This view is especially associated with Émile Durkheim. See The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (New York: Free Press, 1965). For a critique, see the chapter on Durkheim in E. E. Evans-Pritchard, A History of Anthropological Thought (New York: Basic Books, 1981). 29 See, for example, Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works (New York: Norton, 1997), pp. 554–58. 30 According to Douglass North, “While we observe people disobeying the rules of a society when the benefits exceed the costs, we also observe them obeying the rules when an individualistic calculus would have them do otherwise. Why do people not litter the countryside? Why don’t they cheat or steal when the likelihood of punishment is negligible compared to the benefits?


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The Science of Fear: How the Culture of Fear Manipulates Your Brain by Daniel Gardner

Atul Gawande, availability heuristic, Black Swan, Cass Sunstein, citizen journalism, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, correlation does not imply causation, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, Doomsday Clock, feminist movement, haute couture, hindsight bias, illegal immigration, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), lateral thinking, mandatory minimum, medical residency, Mikhail Gorbachev, millennium bug, moral panic, mutually assured destruction, nuclear winter, placebo effect, Ralph Nader, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, social intelligence, Stephen Hawking, Steven Levy, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, Tunguska event, uranium enrichment, Y2K, young professional

It doesn’t matter that she isn’t a threat to anyone else. This isn’t about safety. She must be punished. Evolutionary psychologists argue that this urge to punish wrongdoing is hardwired because it is an effective way to discourage bad behavior. “People who are emotionally driven to retaliate against those who cross them, even at a cost to themselves, are more credible adversaries and less likely to be exploited,” writes cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker. Whatever its origins, the instinct for blame and punishment is often a critical component in our reactions to risks. Imagine there is a gas that kills 20,000 people a year in the European Union and another 21,000 a year in the United States. Imagine further that this gas is a by-product of industrial processes and scientists can precisely identify which industries, even which factories, are emitting the gas.

“Cruelty as entertainment, human sacrifice to indulge superstition, slavery as a labor-saving device, conquest as the mission statement of government, genocide as a means of acquiring real estate, torture and mutilation as routine punishment, the death penalty for misdemeanors and differences of opinion, assassination as the mechanism of political succession, rape as the spoils of war, pogroms as outlets of frustration, homicide as the major form of conflict resolution—all were unexceptionable features of life for most of human history,” writes Steven Pinker. “But, today, they are rare to nonexistent in the West, far less common elsewhere than they used to be, concealed when they do occur, and widely condemned when they are brought to light.” We are, in a phrase, more civilized. This is very good news, indeed. Just don’t expect to hear about it on CNN. 10 The Chemistry of Fear "Our bodies have become repositories for dozens of toxic chemicals,” begins a report from Greenpeace.


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The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Ayatollah Khomeini, Brownian motion, cosmological principle, David Attenborough, Desert Island Discs, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, gravity well, invisible hand, John von Neumann, luminiferous ether, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Murray Gell-Mann, Necker cube, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, placebo effect, planetary scale, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, scientific worldview, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, theory of mind, Thorstein Veblen, trickle-down economics, unbiased observer

Religion is a large phenomenon and it needs a large theory to explain it. Other theories miss the point of Darwinian explanations altogether. I’m talking about suggestions like ‘religion satisfies our curiosity about the universe and our place in it’, or ‘religion is consoling’. There may be some psychological truth here, as we shall see in Chapter 10, but neither is in itself a Darwinian explanation. As Steven Pinker pointedly said of the consolation theory, in How the Mind Works: ‘it only raises the question of why a mind would evolve to find comfort in beliefs it can plainly see are false. A freezing person finds no comfort in believing he is warm; a person face-to-face with a lion is not put at ease by the conviction that it is a rabbit.’ At the very least, the consolation theory needs to be translated into Darwinian terms, and that is harder than you might think.

And finally, as though all this were not enough, he declared that for every individual, such as you and me, for example, who does not believe either in God or in his own immortality, the natural law is bound immediately to become the complete opposite of the religion-based law that preceded it, and that egoism, even extending to the perpetration of crime, would not only be permissible but would be recognized as the essential, the most rational, and even the noblest raison d’être of the human condition.88 Perhaps naïvely, I have inclined towards a less cynical view of human nature than Ivan Karamazov. Do we really need policing – whether by God or by each other – in order to stop us from behaving in a selfish and criminal manner? I dearly want to believe that I do not need such surveillance – and nor, dear reader, do you. On the other hand, just to weaken our confidence, listen to Steven Pinker’s disillusioning experience of a police strike in Montreal, which he describes in The Blank Slate: As a young teenager in proudly peaceable Canada during the romantic 1960s, I was a true believer in Bakunin’s anarchism. I laughed off my parents’ argument that if the government ever laid down its arms all hell would break loose. Our competing predictions were put to the test at 8:00 A.M. on October 17, 1969, when the Montreal police went on strike.


Three Felonies A Day by Harvey Silverglate

Berlin Wall, Home mortgage interest deduction, illegal immigration, Julian Assange, mandatory minimum, medical malpractice, mortgage tax deduction, national security letter, offshore financial centre, Potemkin village, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, short selling, Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, technology bubble, urban planning, WikiLeaks

—Errol Morris, documentary film-maker, winner of the Academy Award for The Fog of War, producer and director of the legendary documentary The Thin Blue Line “This brilliant book lays out the terrifying threat to human rights posed by vindictive federal prosecutions, often sold as moralistic crusades to a gullible press and public. Anyone who cares about American democracy should read this gripping and vitally important expose.” —Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor, Harvard University, and author of The Stuff of Thought “Harvey A. Silverglate masterfully chronicles federal prosecutors’ vindictive enlistment of opaque criminal prohibitions to snare the unwary and to stunt civil society. A bloated criminal code that fails to warn before it strikes is tyranny’s first cousin.” —Bruce Fein, former associate deputy attorney general under President Reagan, and chairman of the American Freedom Agenda “Three Felonies a Day is one of the most important books to be written about law in a generation.

Daphne Patai, friend and valued cohort in the battle for liberty, who was as generous as she was wise in all that she did to help me along. Chris Perez, who read and commented on portions of the manuscript. Petsi’s Pies Bakery & Café in Cambridge, which allowed me at crucial points to escape/hide there for hours at a time when I had to get away from the pressures of law practice and my other assorted activities and obligations, in order to read, think, write and revise a difficult section of this book. Steven Pinker, friend of liberty in all its manifestations, who generously read the manuscript and even did a jacket blurb. Ellen S. Podgor, law professor, blogger, and criminal defense practitioner of unusual skill and insight, an essential resource for the legal world, who understood this project perfectly. 282 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Daniel Poulson, research assistant, now young lawyer, who was so helpful during his tenure working for me.


Science Fictions: How Fraud, Bias, Negligence, and Hype Undermine the Search for Truth by Stuart Ritchie

Albert Einstein, anesthesia awareness, Bayesian statistics, Carmen Reinhart, Cass Sunstein, citation needed, Climatic Research Unit, cognitive dissonance, complexity theory, coronavirus, correlation does not imply causation, COVID-19, Covid-19, crowdsourcing, deindustrialization, Donald Trump, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, Estimating the Reproducibility of Psychological Science, Growth in a Time of Debt, Kenneth Rogoff, l'esprit de l'escalier, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, Milgram experiment, mouse model, New Journalism, p-value, phenotype, placebo effect, profit motive, publication bias, publish or perish, race to the bottom, randomized controlled trial, recommendation engine, rent-seeking, replication crisis, Richard Thaler, risk tolerance, Ronald Reagan, Scientific racism, selection bias, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Stanford prison experiment, statistical model, stem cell, Steven Pinker, Thomas Bayes, twin studies, University of East Anglia

This isn’t to let popular science books by non-scientists off the hook: they’re also prone to major problems. In his review of Malcolm Gladwell’s book of collected essays, What the Dog Saw, Steven Pinker coined the term ‘Igon Values Problem’ to describe a case where Gladwell had butchered the word ‘eigenvalues’ (a mathematical concept that’s important in many statistical analyses) – he’d presumably heard one of his interviewees say it and then never bothered to look it up. Igon Values are all too common in popular science writing, highlighting gaps in understanding that can occur when the writer isn’t an expert in the subject at hand. But as we’re about to see, scientists themselves, even writing about their own topics of expertise, can produce books with problems just as bad as the Igon Values. Steven Pinker, ‘Malcolm Gladwell, Eclectic Detective’, New York Times, 7 Nov. 2009; https://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/15/books/review/Pinker-t.html 31.  


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Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age by Steven Johnson

Airbus A320, airport security, algorithmic trading, banking crisis, barriers to entry, Bernie Sanders, call centre, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, Cass Sunstein, Charles Lindbergh, cognitive dissonance, credit crunch, crowdsourcing, dark matter, Dava Sobel, David Brooks, Donald Davies, future of journalism, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, HyperCard, Jane Jacobs, John Gruber, John Harrison: Longitude, Joi Ito, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, lone genius, Mark Zuckerberg, mega-rich, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Naomi Klein, Nate Silver, Occupy movement, packet switching, peer-to-peer, Peter Thiel, planetary scale, pre–internet, RAND corporation, risk tolerance, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, social graph, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Tim Cook: Apple, urban planning, US Airways Flight 1549, WikiLeaks, William Langewiesche, working poor, X Prize, your tax dollars at work

Teen pregnancy: Between 1986 and 2006, the fertility rate per 1,000 U.S. teenagers dropped from 50 to 43. (Source: World Bank.) The two essential books on our strange unwillingness to accept the progressive trends around us are Gregg Easterbrook’s The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse and Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves. On long-term trends in human violence, see Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. I. THE PEER PROGRESSIVES For more on the history of the Legrand Star, see “The Longest Run: Public Engineers and Planning in France,” by Cecil O. Smith, Jr., published in The American Historical Review. The “legible” vision of state hierarchy is powerfully analyzed in James C. Scott’s Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed.


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Team Human by Douglas Rushkoff

1960s counterculture, autonomous vehicles, basic income, Berlin Wall, big-box store, bitcoin, blockchain, Burning Man, carbon footprint, clean water, clockwork universe, cloud computing, collective bargaining, corporate personhood, disintermediation, Donald Trump, drone strike, European colonialism, Filter Bubble, full employment, future of work, game design, gig economy, Google bus, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Internet of things, invention of the printing press, invention of writing, invisible hand, iterative process, Kevin Kelly, knowledge economy, life extension, lifelogging, Mark Zuckerberg, Marshall McLuhan, means of production, new economy, patient HM, pattern recognition, peer-to-peer, Peter Thiel, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, ride hailing / ride sharing, Ronald Reagan, Ronald Reagan: Tear down this wall, shareholder value, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, social intelligence, sovereign wealth fund, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, theory of mind, trade route, Travis Kalanick, Turing test, universal basic income, Vannevar Bush, winner-take-all economy, zero-sum game

Luckily, according to this narrative, the automobile provided a safe, relatively clean alternative Stephen Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (New York: William Morrow, 2005). The problem with the story is that it’s not true Brandon Keim, “Did Cars Save Our Cities from Horses?” Nautilus, November 7, 2013. They measure improvement as a function of life expectancy or reduction in the number of violent deaths Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature (London: Penguin, 2011). Capitalism no more reduced violence than automobiles saved us from manure-filled cities Nassim Taleb, “The Pinker Fallacy Simplified,” FooledBy Randomness.com/pinker.pdf. 53. Online task systems pay people pennies per task to do things that computers can’t yet do Eric Limer, “My Brief and Curious Life as a Mechanical Turk,” Gizmodo, October 28, 2014. 55.


pages: 863 words: 159,091

A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, Eighth Edition: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers by Kate L. Turabian

Bretton Woods, conceptual framework, correlation does not imply causation, illegal immigration, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Steven Pinker, Telecommunications Act of 1996, yellow journalism, Zeno's paradox

When you refer to a source the first time, use his or her full name. Do not precede it with Mr., Mrs., Ms., or Professor (see 24.2.2 for the use of Dr., Reverend, Senator, and so on). When you mention a source thereafter, use just the last name: According to Steven Pinker, “claims about a language instinct . . . have virtually nothing to do with possible genetic differences between people.”1 Pinker goes on to claim that . . . Except when referring to kings, queens, and popes, never refer to a source by his or her first name. Never this: According to Steven Pinker, “claims about a language instinct . . . ” Steven goes on to claim that . . . 7.6 Use Footnotes and Endnotes Judiciously If you are using bibliography-style citations (see 3.2.1), you will have to decide as you draft how to use footnotes and endnotes (for their formal requirements, see chapter 16).


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The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity by Toby Ord

3D printing, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA, availability heuristic, Columbian Exchange, computer vision, cosmological constant, cuban missile crisis, decarbonisation, defense in depth, delayed gratification, demographic transition, Doomsday Clock, Drosophila, effective altruism, Elon Musk, Ernest Rutherford, global pandemic, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Mark Zuckerberg, mass immigration, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mikhail Gorbachev, mutually assured destruction, Nash equilibrium, Norbert Wiener, nuclear winter, p-value, Peter Singer: altruism, planetary scale, race to the bottom, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, Stanislav Petrov, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, supervolcano, survivorship bias, the scientific method, uranium enrichment

Furthermore, the meanings of these phrases shift with the stakes: “highly unlikely” suggests “small enough that we can set it aside,” rather than neutrally referring to a level of probability.3 This causes problems when talking about high-stakes risks, where even small probabilities can be very important. And finally, numbers are indispensable if we are to reason clearly about the comparative sizes of different risks, or classes of risks. For example, when concluding his discussion of existential risk in Enlightenment Now, Steven Pinker turned to natural risks: “Our ancestors were powerless to stop these lethal menaces, so in that sense technology has not made this a uniquely dangerous era in the history of our species but a uniquely safe one.”4 While Pinker is quite correct that we face many natural threats and that technology has lowered their risk, we can’t conclude that this makes our time uniquely safe. Quantifying the risks shows why.

Using the future reward function helps with the problem of agents resisting human efforts to bring their reward function into better alignment, but it exacerbates the problem of agents being incentivized to “wire-head”—changing their own reward function into one that is more easily satisfied. 95 Several of these instrumental goals are examples of “distribution shifts”—situations where the agent faces importantly different situations during deployment that lead to it taking actions that were never exhibited during training or testing. In this case, the agent may never have opportunities to become more powerful than its human controllers during testing, and thus never have a need to exhibit its behaviors involving deception or seizing control of resources. 96 For example, in Enlightenment Now, Steven Pinker (2018, pp. 299–300) says of AI risk scenarios that they: “depend on the premises that… (2) the AI would be so brilliant that it could figure out how to transmute elements and rewire brains, yet so imbecilic that it would wreak havoc based on elementary blunders of misunderstanding.” 97 Also, note that an agent may well be able to notice the general issue that its values are likely to be misaligned with ours (warranting an adversarial approach to humanity) even without having a perfect understanding of our values.


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How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker

affirmative action, agricultural Revolution, Alfred Russel Wallace, Buckminster Fuller, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, combinatorial explosion, complexity theory, computer age, computer vision, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, delayed gratification, double helix, experimental subject, feminist movement, four colour theorem, Gordon Gekko, greed is good, hedonic treadmill, Henri Poincaré, income per capita, information retrieval, invention of agriculture, invention of the wheel, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, lake wobegon effect, lateral thinking, Machine translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." to Russian and back, Mikhail Gorbachev, Murray Gell-Mann, mutually assured destruction, Necker cube, out of africa, pattern recognition, phenotype, plutocrats, Plutocrats, random walk, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Rubik’s Cube, Saturday Night Live, scientific worldview, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, sexual politics, social intelligence, Steven Pinker, theory of mind, Thorstein Veblen, Turing machine, urban decay, Yogi Berra

For it alters completely the way one thinks about thinking, and its unforseen consequences probably can’t be contained by a book’ Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times ‘A landmark in popular science … A major public asset’ Marek Kohn, Independent ‘The humour, breadth and clarity of thought … make this work essential reading for anyone curious about the human mind’ Raymond Dolan, Observer ABOUT THE AUTHOR Steven Pinker, a native of Montreal, studied experimental psychology at McGill University and Harvard University. After serving on the faculties of Harvard and Stanford universities he moved to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is currently Peter de Florez Professor of Psychology. Pinker has studied many aspects of language and of visual cognition, with a focus on language acquisition in children.

He is a fellow of several scientific societies, and has been awarded research prizes from the National Academy of Sciences and the American Psychological Association, graduate and undergraduate teaching prizes from MIT, and book prizes from the American Psychological Association, the Linguistics Society of America and the Los Angeles Times. He is the author of The Language Instinct, available in Penguin, and Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language. HOW THE MIND WORKS Steven Pinker PENGUIN BOOKS PENGUIN BOOKS Published by the Penguin Group Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA Penguin Books Australia Ltd, 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2 Penguin Books India (P) Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi – 110 017, India Penguin Books (NZ) Ltd, Cnr Rosedale and Airborne Roads, Albany, Auckland, New Zealand Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank 2196, South Africa Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England www.penguin.com First published in the USA by W.

All over the world, when people are asked to talk about themselves, they begin with their parentage and family ties, and in many societies, especially foraging groups, people rattle off endless genealogies. For adoptees, childhood refugees, or descendants of slaves, curiosity about biological kin can drive a lifelong quest. (Entrepreneurs hope to exploit this motive when they send out those computer-generated postcards that offer to trace Steven Pinker’s ancestors and find the Pinker family seal and coat of arms.) Of course, people ordinarily do not test each other’s DNA; they assess kinship by indirect means. Many animals do it by smell. Humans do it with several kinds of information: who grows up together, who resembles whom, how people interact, what reliable sources say, and what can be logically deduced from other kin relationships. Once we know how we are related to other people, the other component of the psychology of kinship kicks in.


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My Start-Up Life: What A by Ben Casnocha, Marc Benioff

affirmative action, Albert Einstein, barriers to entry, Bonfire of the Vanities, business process, call centre, coherent worldview, creative destruction, David Brooks, don't be evil, fear of failure, hiring and firing, index fund, informal economy, Jeff Bezos, Joan Didion, Lao Tzu, Menlo Park, Paul Graham, place-making, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sand Hill Road, side project, Silicon Valley, social intelligence, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, superconnector, technology bubble, traffic fines, Year of Magical Thinking

by William Poundstone The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, by Patrick Lencioni The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Business Law, by Constance Bagley Good to Great, by Jim Collins On Becoming a Leader, by Warren Bennis 179 180 APPENDIX C Information Rules, by Carl Shapiro and Hal Varian eBoys, by Randal Stross Fooled by Randomness, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb Compassionate Capitalism, by Marc Benioff Love Is the Killer App, by Tim Sanders Globalization The World Is Flat, by Tom Friedman Creative Destruction, by Tyler Cowen Globaloney, by Michael Veseth Money Makes the World Go Round, by Barbara Garson How “American” Is Globalization? by William Marling Intellectual Life The Blank Slate, by Steven Pinker The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, by Erving Goffman Reflections by an Affirmative Action Baby, by Stephen Carter Integrity, by Stephen Carter The Accidental Asian, by Eric Liu Mind Wide Open, by Steven Johnson Socrates Café, by Chris Phillips Self-Renewal, by John Gardner Public Intellectuals, by Richard Posner Psychology Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert Cialdini Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl Biography/Memoir My Life, by Bill Clinton This Boy’s Life, by Tobias Wolff Swimming Across, by Andy Grove All Over But the Shoutin’, by Rick Bragg Personal History, by Katherine Graham Emerson: Mind on Fire, by Robert Richardson In an Uncertain World, by Robert Rubin The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion Religion End of Faith, by Sam Harris The Universe in a Single Atom, by the Dalai Lama APPENDIX C The World’s Religions, by Huston Smith The Bhagavad-Gita Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, by Anne Lamott Under the Banner of Heaven, by Jon Krakauer Politics/Current Affairs Ghost Wars, by Steve Coll Running the World, by David Rothkopf Founding Brothers, by Joseph Ellis A Conflict of Visions, by Thomas Sowell Going Nucular, by Geoffrey Nunberg America at the Crossroads, by Francis Fukuyama Holidays in Hell, by P.


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50 Future Ideas You Really Need to Know by Richard Watson

23andMe, 3D printing, access to a mobile phone, Albert Einstein, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, BRICs, Buckminster Fuller, call centre, clean water, cloud computing, collaborative consumption, computer age, computer vision, crowdsourcing, dark matter, dematerialisation, digital Maoism, digital map, Elon Musk, energy security, failed state, future of work, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, germ theory of disease, global pandemic, happiness index / gross national happiness, hive mind, hydrogen economy, Internet of things, Jaron Lanier, life extension, Mark Shuttleworth, Marshall McLuhan, megacity, natural language processing, Network effects, new economy, oil shale / tar sands, pattern recognition, peak oil, personalized medicine, phenotype, precision agriculture, profit maximization, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Richard Florida, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, semantic web, Skype, smart cities, smart meter, smart transportation, statistical model, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, strong AI, Stuxnet, supervolcano, telepresence, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Malthus, Turing test, urban decay, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, web application, women in the workforce, working-age population, young professional

Historically, our approach to AI has been brute force, but once parallel computing techniques become established (quantum or DNA computing, for instance—see Chapter 17) true AI could be achieved very rapidly. “The main lesson of 35 years of AI research is that the hard problems are easy and the easy problems are hard. The mental abilities of a four-year-old that we take for granted … in fact, solve some of the hardest engineering problems ever conceived.” Steven Pinker, psychologist, cognitive scientist and author Nevertheless, two big questions remain. First, is the human brain essentially just a machine with a bunch of wiring and some chemistry and electricity thrown in, or is there much more to it than that? If the human brain is simply a collection of atoms, then surely it can be only a matter of time before we design machines that can match and possibly exceed human capabilities.


pages: 239 words: 62,005

Don't Burn This Book: Thinking for Yourself in an Age of Unreason by Dave Rubin

Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, battle of ideas, Bernie Sanders, Burning Man, butterfly effect, centre right, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, Donald Trump, failed state, gender pay gap, illegal immigration, immigration reform, job automation, low skilled workers, mutually assured destruction, obamacare, Peter Thiel, pre–internet, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, school choice, Silicon Valley, Steven Pinker, Tim Cook: Apple, unpaid internship, War on Poverty, women in the workforce, zero-sum game

Amazingly, visiting the most ancient holy sites didn’t do the trick, but spending a year with Jordan did just that. He has convinced me that societies run better when they operate under a belief system that stems from timeless, age-old biblical truths. This doesn’t mean he wants people to be religious, per se—in fact, I’ve never once heard him say this. He simply wants people to take their moral codes from an objective reality outside of themselves. Initially, I wasn’t convinced by this. Like Steven Pinker and Sam Harris, I leaned toward the idea that human beings can conceive similar ideas without the need for religious aspect. Old stories were just that—old stories—and surely they could be replaced with newer, better ones that were more relevant to our modern world. If we as a species had progressed, then surely our stories had to progress along with us. Jordan and Sam Harris took part in several debates in front of thousands on this very topic right in the middle of our 12 Rules tour.


pages: 855 words: 178,507

The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick

Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, AltaVista, bank run, bioinformatics, Brownian motion, butterfly effect, citation needed, Claude Shannon: information theory, clockwork universe, computer age, conceptual framework, crowdsourcing, death of newspapers, discovery of DNA, Donald Knuth, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, en.wikipedia.org, Eratosthenes, Fellow of the Royal Society, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Henri Poincaré, Honoré de Balzac, index card, informal economy, information retrieval, invention of the printing press, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jaron Lanier, jimmy wales, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, lifelogging, Louis Daguerre, Marshall McLuhan, Menlo Park, microbiome, Milgram experiment, Network effects, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, Norman Macrae, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, PageRank, pattern recognition, phenotype, Pierre-Simon Laplace, pre–internet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, RAND corporation, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, Rubik’s Cube, Simon Singh, Socratic dialogue, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, stochastic process, talking drums, the High Line, The Wisdom of Crowds, transcontinental railway, Turing machine, Turing test, women in the workforce

.”♦ She explained the idea and the word this way: When I was a child, my mother used to read aloud to me from Percy’s Reliques, and one of my favorite poems began, as I remember: Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands, Oh, where hae ye been? They hae slain the Earl Amurray, And Lady Mondegreen. There the word lay, for some time. A quarter-century later, William Safire discussed the word in a column about language in The New York Times Magazine. Fifteen years after that, Steven Pinker, in his book The Language Instinct, offered a brace of examples, from “A girl with colitis goes by” to “Gladly the cross-eyed bear,” and observed, “The interesting thing about mondegreens is that the mishearings are generally less plausible than the intended lyrics.”♦ But it was not books or magazines that gave the word its life; it was Internet sites, compiling mondegreens by the thousands.

♦ “EVERY FORM IN WHICH A WORD”: “Writing the OED: Spellings,” Oxford English Dictionary, http://www.oed.com/about/writing/spellings.html (accessed 6 April 2007). ♦ “WHICH, WHILE IT WAS EMPLOYED IN THE CULTIVATION”: Samuel Johnson, preface to A Dictionary of the English Language (1755). ♦ WE POSSESS NOW A MORE COMPLETE DICTIONARY: John Simpson, ed., The First English Dictionary, 24. ♦ “WHAT I SHALL HEREAFTER CALL MONDEGREENS”: “The Death of Lady Mondegreen,” Harper’s Magazine, November 1954, 48. ♦ “THE INTERESTING THING ABOUT MONDEGREENS”: Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language (New York: William Morrow, 1994), 183. 4. TO THROW THE POWERS OF THOUGHT INTO WHEEL-WORK ♦ The original writings of Charles Babbage and, to a lesser extent, Ada Lovelace are increasingly accessible. The comprehensive, thousand-dollar, eleven-volume edition, The Works of Charles Babbage, edited by Martin Campbell-Kelly, was published in 1989.


pages: 83 words: 7,274

Buyology by Martin Lindstrom

anti-work, Berlin Wall, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, Kickstarter, Mikhail Gorbachev, Pepto Bismol, Saturday Night Live, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker

They also served to remind me, over and over again, that miraculously, human beings have “minds” that can puzzle over, speculate about, and explore in depth their own “brains” (just imagine if your foot could observe its own footness). In addition, Rita Carter’s cogent, entertaining Mapping the Mind (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999) clarified the geography of the brain for me even further. How the Mind Works by cognitive scientist Steven Pinker (New York: W. W. Norton, 1997) is also a masterful and hugely enjoyable synthesis of brain science. I cannot recommend all four books more highly. But there always comes a moment, after reading a book, when you want to but can’t ask the author a follow-up question that’s just occurred to you. Which is why my thanks go again to Dr. Gemma Calvert and Dr. Richard Silberstein and their research teams, who fielded every question I asked, no matter how naïve or dopey, with grace, intelligence, clarity, and good humor.


pages: 204 words: 66,619

Think Like an Engineer: Use Systematic Thinking to Solve Everyday Challenges & Unlock the Inherent Values in Them by Mushtak Al-Atabi

3D printing, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Barry Marshall: ulcers, Black Swan, business climate, call centre, Clayton Christensen, clean water, cognitive bias, corporate social responsibility, dematerialisation, disruptive innovation, Elon Musk, follow your passion, global supply chain, happiness index / gross national happiness, invention of the wheel, iterative process, James Dyson, Kickstarter, knowledge economy, Lao Tzu, Lean Startup, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, remote working, shareholder value, six sigma, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker

It has been defined in a variety of ways that are related to cognitive capacities in humans. Intelligence has been observed in other living creatures as well. Artificial intelligence is the capacity that is programmed into machines (computers) enabling them to respond to new situations and learn. Intelligence can refer to the mental ability to think, learn, recognise patterns, logically predict outcomes, and respond to a variety of stimuli. Steven Pinker, the author of ‘How the Mind Works,’ defines intelligence as the ability to attain goals in the face of obstacles by means of decisions based on rational (truth-obeying) rules. Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is the measure of the ability to comprehend logical, geometrical, and mathematical challenges. While IQ is a useful indication of future success, the challenges of the 21st century increasingly need other kinds of intelligence that IQ does not measure.


pages: 234 words: 68,798

The Science of Storytelling: Why Stories Make Us Human, and How to Tell Them Better by Will Storr

David Brooks, Gordon Gekko, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Steven Pinker, theory of mind, Wall-E

CHAPTER FOUR 4.0 For the nineteenth-century critic Ferdinand Brunetière: On Film-Making, Alexander Mackendrick (Faber & Faber, 2004) p. 106 ‘almost as basic a need as’: The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt (Arrow, 2006) p. 22. When researchers put people in flotation tanks: Brain and Culture, Bruce Wexler (MIT Press, 2008) pp. 76–77. Another study found 67 per cent of male participants: ‘Just Think: The challenges of the Disengaged Mind’, Timothy D. Wilson et al., Science, July 2014, 345(6192), pp. 75–7. John Bransford and Marcia Johnson: The Sense of Style, Steven Pinker (Penguin, 2014) p. 147. One clever study asked restaurant employees to circle: Mindwise, Nicholas Epley (Penguin, 2014) p. 50. Another test found that eight in every ten: The Domesticated Brain, Bruce Hood (Pelican, 2014) p. 222. using a language millions of years older: The Political Brain, Drew Westen (Public Affairs, 2007) p. 57. Daniel Nettle writes: Personality, Daniel Nettle (Oxford University Press, 2009) p. 87.


pages: 245 words: 64,288

Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That's OK: How to Survive the Economic Collapse and Be Happy by Pistono, Federico

3D printing, Albert Einstein, autonomous vehicles, bioinformatics, Buckminster Fuller, cloud computing, computer vision, correlation does not imply causation, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, Erik Brynjolfsson, Firefox, future of work, George Santayana, global village, Google Chrome, happiness index / gross national happiness, hedonic treadmill, illegal immigration, income inequality, information retrieval, Internet of things, invention of the printing press, jimmy wales, job automation, John Markoff, Kevin Kelly, Khan Academy, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, labor-force participation, Lao Tzu, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, Loebner Prize, longitudinal study, means of production, Narrative Science, natural language processing, new economy, Occupy movement, patent troll, pattern recognition, peak oil, post scarcity, QR code, race to the bottom, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, RFID, Rodney Brooks, selection bias, self-driving car, slashdot, smart cities, software as a service, software is eating the world, speech recognition, Steven Pinker, strong AI, technological singularity, Turing test, Vernor Vinge, women in the workforce

http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/1107/1107.5728v2.pdf 135 Adapted from an anonymous comment on Slashdot. http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=180945&cid=14970571 136 Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of Digitized Books, Jean-Baptiste Michel, Yuan Kui Shen, Aviva Presser Aiden, Adrian Veres, Matthew K. Gray, William Brockman, The Google Books Team, Joseph P. Pickett, Dale Hoiberg, Dan Clancy, Peter Norvig, Jon Orwant, Steven Pinker, Martin A. Nowak, and Erez Lieberman Aiden, 2010. Science. http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2010/12/15/science.1199644 137 Does Economic Growth Improve the Human Lot? Some Empirical Evidence, Richard A. Easterlin, 1974. University of Pennsylvania. http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2008/04/16/business/Easterlin1974.pdf 138 The happiness-income paradox revisited, Richard A. Easterlin, Laura Angelescu McVey, Malgorzata Switek, Onnicha Sawangfa, and Jacqueline Smith Zweig, 2010.


Cartesian Linguistics by Noam Chomsky

job satisfaction, speech recognition, Steven Pinker, theory of mind, Turing test

But the 33 Cartesian Linguistics picture of a child as born with a mind that is largely unformed and plastic and of language as a set of ‘behaviors’ or linguistic phenomena outside the head and shaped to conform to ‘reality’ and the community still attracts the great majority of philosophers, psychologists, and cognitive scientists. It takes many forms: there are few acknowledged behaviorists left, though many functionalists and connectionists of various sorts. It is not clear why. Steven Pinker in The Language Instinct (1995, 406–7) illustrates the empiricist idea of a plastic mind in his discussion of what he calls the “standard social science model” by quoting the views of the anthropologist Margaret Mead and the psychologist James Watson. Mead had suggested that human nature must be infinitely malleable because people can be educated to such different roles, and Watson claimed that if he were given a child, he could, by training, turn it into whatever one desired – a fireman, banker, or revolutionary.


On Nature and Language by Noam Chomsky

Alfred Russel Wallace, anti-communist, Berlin Wall, Bretton Woods, complexity theory, dark matter, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Murray Gell-Mann, Steven Pinker, theory of mind, Turing test

Thus, citing some of Darwin’s cautious speculations, he writes that “we thus learn two important lessons” about “human language evolution”: that “the structure and function of human language can be 78 Language and the brain accounted for by natural selection,” and that “the most impressive link between human and nonhuman-animal forms of communication lies in the ability to express emotional state.” Similarly, Steven Pinker “shows how a Darwinian account of language evolution is the only possible account, . . . because natural selection is the only mechanism that can account for the complex design features of a trait such as language” (my emphasis). It would be remarkable if something had been “shown” about the evolution of human language, let alone the vastly more ambitious claim cited; or if we could “learn” anything significant from speculations about the topic.


pages: 235 words: 62,862

Utopia for Realists: The Case for a Universal Basic Income, Open Borders, and a 15-Hour Workweek by Rutger Bregman

autonomous vehicles, banking crisis, Bartolomé de las Casas, basic income, Berlin Wall, Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness, Branko Milanovic, cognitive dissonance, computer age, conceptual framework, credit crunch, David Graeber, Diane Coyle, Erik Brynjolfsson, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, full employment, George Gilder, George Santayana, happiness index / gross national happiness, Henry Ford's grandson gave labor union leader Walter Reuther a tour of the company’s new, automated factory…, income inequality, invention of gunpowder, James Watt: steam engine, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, Kodak vs Instagram, low skilled workers, means of production, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microcredit, minimum wage unemployment, Mont Pelerin Society, Nathan Meyer Rothschild: antibiotics, Occupy movement, offshore financial centre, Paul Samuelson, Peter Thiel, post-industrial society, precariat, RAND corporation, randomized controlled trial, Ray Kurzweil, Ronald Reagan, Second Machine Age, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Skype, stem cell, Steven Pinker, telemarketer, The Future of Employment, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, universal basic income, wage slave, War on Poverty, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, wikimedia commons, women in the workforce, working poor, World Values Survey

Obligatory reading for everyone worried about the wrongs of present-day society and wishing to contribute to their cure.” – Zygmunt Bauman, one of the world’s most eminent social theorists, author of more than 50 books “If you’re bored with hackneyed debates, decades-old right-wing and left-wing clichés, you may enjoy the bold thinking, fresh ideas, lively prose, and evidence-based arguments in Utopia for Realists.” – Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of The Blank Slate and The Better Angels of Our Nature “This book is brilliant. Everyone should read it. Bregman shows us we’ve been looking at the world inside out. Turned right