Then after the War to end all Wars, we went and had another one. Again, for a historian it was quite predictable. Lead people to feel they have lost control of their country and destiny, people look for scapegoats, a charismatic leader captures the popular mood, and singles out that scapegoat. He talks in rhetoric that has no detail, and drums up anger and hatred. Soon the masses start to move as one, without any logic driving their actions, and the whole becomes unstoppable.
Because of this lack of pluralism, we are systematically losing our ability to empathize. This is what we now see in the wider world — from Brexit to Trump to hyper-nationalistic movements worldwide. People globally no longer have the same incentives to find a shared understanding. This is not just dissatisfaction with globalization or the status quo. This is how we are changing our society by not seeing each other.
Our own Facebook feed is no different. It is a manifestation of who we are. It was created by us: by the things we have liked in the past, by the friends we have added along the way, and by people that tend to have opinions a lot like ours. It is made by us. This is self-segregation, and it happens naturally. But the success of Facebook’s algorithm has effectively poured gasoline on this smoldering innate bias.
So-called home movies provide the culture with a deeper and different record than moving images made professionally. Home movies hold clips of life over the last 70 years, things that are passionately interesting and of importance to individuals. The uniqueness of point-of-view motion pictures from the past makes it imperative that more such records be made, be shared, and be preserved for future generations.
These drugs and supplements are aimed to be a hack of the heretofore most intractable condition of human existence, the invisible countdown clock with which evolution has equipped our bodies. They just might postpone the onset of the most common afflictions of our dotage, from cancer to heart disease to diabetes to Alzheimer’s.
If you had to choose between listening to the Bible and listening to your feelings, it was much better to listen to your feelings. The Bible represented the opinions and biases of a few priests in ancient Jerusalem. Your feelings, in contrast, represented the accumulated wisdom of millions of years of evolution that have passed the most rigorous quality-control tests of natural selection.
Dataists further believe that given enough biometric data and computing power, this all-encompassing system could understand humans much better than we understand ourselves. Once that happens, humans will lose their authority, and humanist practices such as democratic elections will become as obsolete as rain dances and flint knives.
"A new civilization is emerging in our lives, and blind men everywhere are trying to suppress it. This new civilization brings with it new family styles; changed ways of working, loving, and living; a new economy; new political conflicts; and beyond all this an altered consciousness as well...The dawn of this new civilization is the single most explosive fact of our lifetimes." Alvin Toffler, from The Third Wave (1980)
In Mr. Toffler’s coinage, future shock wasn’t simply a metaphor for our difficulties in dealing with new things. It was a real psychological malady, the “dizzying disorientation brought on by the premature arrival of the future.” And “unless intelligent steps are taken to combat it,” he warned, “millions of human beings will find themselves increasingly disoriented, progressively incompetent to deal rationally with their environments.”
For Kafka, books were “the axe for the frozen sea within us”; for Carl Sagan, “proof that humans are capable of working magic”; for James Baldwin, a way to change our destiny; for Neil Gaiman, the vehicle for the deepest human truths; for Polish Nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska, our ultimate frontier of freedom. Falling closest to Galileo, who saw reading as a way of having superhuman powers
For anyone who has seen their doctor recently, or who cares for patients themselves, just pause to consider the irony: nutrition, the number one cause of illness, is largely ignored by the health system, whether in medical education, the electronic health record, reimbursement priorities, quality standards, or many other facets.
Instead of viewing the world in terms of availability of choices, we should view the world in terms of friction required to enact choices. Imagine a world where choices were labeled with how difficult they were to fulfill (like coefficients of friction) and there was an independent entity — an industry consortium or non-profit — that labeled these difficulties and set standards for how easy navigation should be.