Thinking | Teaching | Talking - April 2021

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Efficiency is the Enemy

There’s a good chance most of the problems in your life and work come down to insufficient slack. Here’s how slack works and why you need more of it.  Rosie via Farnam Street

"Let the paint dry" -- a lesson in creativity, career and patience | Daniel J. Watts

As theaters closed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the creatives who populated their stages were plunged into a state of seemingly endless uncertainty. Aided by a delightful and metaphorically resonant piece of performance art, multidisciplinary artist Daniel J. Watts shares a personal perspective on reframing this moment of global stasis as...Daniel J. Watts via TEDTalks (video)

Before You Answer, Consider the Opposite Possibility

In 1906, the British statistician and polymath Francis Galton attended a country fair at which the attendees were invited to estimate the weight of an ox. Out of curiosity, Galton borrowed the cards on which the guesses were written, took them home, and ran the numbers. To his surprise, the average of the 787 entries turned out to be almost exactly on the nose: the wisdom of the crowds. by Ian Leslie via The Atlantic

The idea that everything from spoons to stones is conscious is gaining academic credibility

Consciousness permeates reality. Rather than being just a unique feature of human subjective experience, it’s the foundation of the universe, present in every particle and all physical matter. This sounds like easily-dismissible bunkum, but as traditional attempts to explain consciousness continue to fail, the “panpsychist” view is increasingly gaining ground. via

The misinformation virus

Lies and distortions don’t just afflict the ignorant. The more you know, the more vulnerable you can be to infection. by Elitsa Dermendzhiyska via Aeon Magazine

The Weak Case for Grit - Issue 99: Universality

It might surprise you to find out how little evidence there is to support the idea that boosting students’ “grit”—their propensity to tenaciously attack difficult problems they encounter rather than give up—is a reliably effective way to improve their school performance or to close long-standing education gaps. After all, you’ve probably heard otherwise.... by Jesse Singal via Nautilus

The first COVID vaccine you can get is the best

This video from Vox is pretty helpful when talking to friends or family potentially confused by the incredible variety in vaccines that appear to be available, but really aren't. When and where the studies on vaccine effectiveness and what metrics are being tracked/shared massively impact the idea of effectiveness... by Jason Weisberger via Boing Boing

Anxiety Is in Your Body, Not Your Mind

Back up 50,000 years or so. Imagine you’re a Neanderthal taking a leisurely stroll through the fields. Suddenly, in the nearby bushes, you hear a tiger. In a nanosecond, your entire body starts reacting. Your pulse quickens, your breathing gets shallow, your eyes dilate, your body starts producing stress hormones. This survival response might have come too far in today’s world.  via

15 Technologies I Thought My Son Would Never Use

Nine years ago this week, my son was born and, to mark the occasion, I wrote an article, predicting 15 current technologies he would never use, because they would be obsolete by the time he would have a reason to interact with them. Now, as Isaac turns 9, it’s a good time to take a look back at my predictions and assess their accuracy. via

It turns out, not all sitting is bad for you

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a number of new behaviours into daily routines, like physical distancing, mask-wearing and hand sanitizing. Meanwhile, many old behaviours such as attending events, eating out and seeing friends have been put on hold. However, one old behaviour that has persisted, and has arguably been amplified due to COVID-19, prolonged sitting. How bad is it? by Wuyou Sui & Harry Prapavessis via Big Think Expert Ideas

Goals vs. Systems

In my new book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life, I talk about using systems instead of goals. For example, losing ten pounds is a goal (that most people can’t maintain), whereas learning to eat right is a system that substitutes knowledge for willpower.  via

How Doctors Die

With their inside knowledge, doctors often turn down complex treatments at the end of their lives.  via

Our Brain Typically Overlooks This Brilliant Problem-Solving Strategy

For generations, the standard way to learn how to ride a bicycle was with training wheels or a tricycle. But in recent years, many parents have opted to train their kids with balance bikes, pedalless two-wheelers that enable children to develop the coordination needed for bicycling—a skill that is not as easily acquired with an extra set of wheels. Removing things and reducing complexity is often a better strategy for problem solving. via

How to Talk to Someone Who Intimidates You

While there’s no set criteria for what makes a person intimidating, it’s usually some combination how your interactions have gone with them in the past (if applicable) and your perceptions of that person as being smarter, better organized, more prepared, funnier, more attractive, more charismatic and/or more powerful…Read Elizabeth Yuko via Lifehacker

The Economics of Falling Populations

via Hacker News

We’re defining success wrong, and it’s hurting our happiness

LinkedIn’s head of Mindfulness and Compassion explains three ways you are defining success wrong and what you can do to help yourself stay on track. When we measure our success, it’s often a proxy for how other people view us. Status. Position. Relative rank to the rest of society. This constant comparison is a strategy for misery. by Scott Shute via Fast Company

Death-friendly communities ease fear of aging and dying

Improving death-friendliness offers further opportunity to improve social inclusion. A death-friendly approach could lay the groundwork for people to stop fearing getting old or alienating those who have. by Julia Brassolotto,  via The Conversation

Literature Should Be Taught Like Science - Issue 97: Wonder

In the past quarter century, enrollment in college English departments has sunk like the Pequod in Moby Dick. Meanwhile enrollment in science programs has skyrocketed. It’s understandable. Elon Musk, not Herman Melville, is the role model of the digital economy. But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Angus Fletcher, 44, an English professor at Ohio... by Kevin Berger via Nautilus

How Intelligent Could Life Be Without Natural Selection? - Issue 98: Mind

I could stridently insist that natural selection is the only way that complex life can evolve, but that’s not strictly true. We can already design computers that can learn and reason and—almost—convince an observer that their behavior might be human. It’s not unreasonable that in 100 or 200 years, our computer systems will be effectively sentient: human-like... by Arik Kershenbaum via Nautilus