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Haidt on Anti-Fragility and the Safety Culture

July 24, 2018 | By | Reply More
Haidt on Anti-Fragility and the Safety Culture

n this lecture, Jonathan Haidt describes the new Manichean culture, where some groups of people are inherently good and other are inherently bad. Many of the “good” groups have found power in victimhood, demanding (and getting, especially at universities) protection from the authorities. This “safety culture” has proven to be debilitating, infantilizing the protected group. What they actually need is challenges and hurdles, which will make them stronger. People are anti-fragile. As shown with bones, immune systems and helicopter parenting, lack of insult weakens individuals.

Haidt argues that all of this dependence culture has the opposite effect than the one intended. The only group subjected to challenges and insults without no societal support are straight white men (11:00 min), which is much better preparation for holding a job than a lifetime of victimhood, dependence and safety culture.

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About Google Scientist James Damore

July 15, 2018 | By | Reply More
About Google Scientist James Damore

I know I’m late to the game on this Google incident, but this is such a good illustration about how we, as a society, are unable to talk and think about serious issues except through our ideological filters. Further, some questions that can be explored through science apparently should no longer be even raised.

First, a comment from a Gizmodo article by Melanie Ehrenkranz, who characterizes former Google Engineer James Damore as follows: “The man thinks women are inferior to men as engineers.” That is typical of a lot of how Damore has been treated on the Internet.

Now consider the basic facts about what Damore wrote at Google:

Calling the culture at Google an “ideological echo chamber”, the memo says that while discrimination exists, it is extreme to ascribe all disparities to oppression, and it is authoritarian to try to correct disparities through reverse discrimination. Instead, it argues that male/female disparities can be partly explained by biological differences. According to research he cited, those differences include women generally having a stronger interest in people rather than things, and tending to be more social, artistic, and prone to neuroticism (a higher-order personality trait). Damore’s memorandum also suggests ways to adapt the tech workplace to those differences to increase women’s representation and comfort, without resorting to discrimination.

Damore has given detailed interviews about what happened at Google and why he wrote his comments. That includes this interview with Joe Rogan:

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America Retreats to Tribalism

October 30, 2017 | By | Reply More

At New York Times, Timothy Egan notes that Americans are retreating to tribalism, and this is not a good thing. Here is an excerpt from Egan’s article, “The National Crackup.”

The American experiment [is the] the audacious idea that people from all races, ideologies and religious sects would check their hatreds at the door after becoming citizens is our sustaining narrative.

Within our borders, Protestants don’t fight Catholics, Sunnis don’t go after Shiites, Armenians share neighborhoods with Turks, and a family that can trace much of its ancestry to slavery occupied a White House built in part by slaves.

But that tenuous construct is breaking apart. We are retreating to our tribal, ethnic and primitively prejudicial quarters. Everything is about race and identity. We come from privilege, or oppression. We choose politicians based on whether they help our tribe or hurt People Like Us.

Stupidly, the left is playing its part in this crackup, perhaps ensuring that Trump will stay in office. When people shout, “Check your privilege” at a speaker at a public event, what they’re saying is, “Shut up, your opinion doesn’t matter because of the color of your skin.”

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What Happened at Yale regarding the Halloween Costume Email?

October 28, 2017 | By | 1 Reply More

An explosion of victimhood/censorship at Yale regarding a Halloween Costume email is often referenced. This article in Atlantic spells out many of the details.

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On Raising Fragile Children

October 27, 2017 | By | 1 Reply More

Lenore Skenazy (an early critic of helicopter parenting) and Jonathan Haidt have written a detailed article describing the problem that modern paranoid parenting is producing fragile children. “The Fragile Generation”?published by Reason.com, is an excellent read. Because I grew up in the 60’s where free play was ubiquitous, this passage on free play especially resonated with me . . .

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Mob behavior and threats to free speech described and discussed by Nicholas Christakis

October 11, 2017 | By | Reply More

I recommend this excellent discussion by Nicholas Christakis on the topics of mob behavior, moral panics, and current threats to free speech. Illiberal behavior is destroying our ability to talk with each other, notably on the places where we would most expect vigorous exchanges of ideas: college campuses. Christakis is a sociologist and physician who conducts research in the area of biosocial science, investigating the biological predicates and consequences of social phenomena. He directs the Human Nature Lab at Yale University. Sam Harris presents this discussion on his Waking Up podcast.

At the tail end of the podcast, Christakis and Harris mention the work of Greg Lukianoff, President of FIRE, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

The mission of FIRE is to defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience—the essential qualities of individual liberty and dignity. FIRE’s core mission is to protect the unprotected and to educate the public and communities of concerned Americans about the threats to these rights on our campuses and about the means to preserve them.

FIRE has achieved long successful string of legal victories through its Speech Litigation Project.?

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Mr. Money Mustache: Dirty is the New Clean

September 14, 2017 | By | Reply More

I’m intrigued by the writings of Mr. Money Mustache. There are a lot of benefits to buying only what you really need and reveling in so many things in life that are free or nearly so. In this post, he points out the price many people pay for obsessing about cleanliness:

Dirty is the New Clean – Thus we have our counter-cultural lesson for the day. Rather than seeking to avoid germs and maximize your cleanliness, it is much more profitable to seek out Training for your Immune System, and optimize your life so that things get cleaned the minimum amount that allows you to maintain a functional and prosperous household. The reward is thousands of dollars and countless hours saved, and if you’re lucky, dozens of illnesses prevented.

By all means, keep things happily minimalist, decluttered, and organized – a simplified physical environment is good for the mind. You can also wash your hands with normal soap after a big day out and cook your food properly. But in your own home where no babies are delivered and no surgeries performed, you can safely let yourself off the hook when it comes to wiping, sterilizing, washing, drying, and polishing.

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Getting upset about the right things.

September 2, 2017 | By | Reply More

Here’s a post by Darrell Lackey, a pastor challenging Christians to get save their energy and frustration for the right kinds of things. He begins the post with this statement that Tony Campolo has been known to use when addressing Christian audiences:

I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact I just said “shit” than you are that 30,000 kids died last night.

There is some good food for thought for all of us in this post, whether or not we are religious (I am not). ?For example, many of us often get much more upset about the minor irritations of our own local lives than the enormous suffering and stark injustices over the next hill or the next continent. For instance, our own country has been bombing many countries in the Middle East for many years. ?We’ve been bombing Afghanistan since 2001, and according to reliable sources, we have been killing many innocent civilians in a “war” regarding which we are utterly unable to articulate any meaningful objective or metric of success. Therefore, that “war” goes on, largely unchallenged and unnoticed, our news media almost never mentioning that we are even at war. ?Out of sight, out of mind for most of us.

If we want to be morally cohesive, we need to use unceasing effort to make certain we are focused on the things that matter. ?That is often not easy to do. ?Trying to stay focused on important things in a sustained way wears us down. ?It’s not easy to be moral. ?It’s much easier to complain about that the microwave burned the popcorn.

To live moral lives, we need to stay focused on important things, and focus is another word for attention, a psychological resource that humans have in short supply. ?Attention is like a spotlight. ?When we look at a thing, we often exclude attending to most other things. ?that’s how we are wired; we are almost the opposite of omniscient, even though we want to believe that we are generally aware of most things that are important.

Because attention is so limited, our attentional decisions and habits (maybe we should call this our “attentional hygiene”) gives us great power to define our “world.” ?Whether it’s conscious or unconscious, we are capable of manipulating what we pay attention to, and whatever we choose to ignore simply doesn’t exist for us; if we are not paying ?attention to something, it holds no moral sway over us because our attentional choices turn it into nothing at all. Most of us aren’t at all bothered by world starvation most of the time because ?we are not thinking about that horrific problem. ?Further, human animals are capable of not paying attention to things that are right in front of us. ?This is especially true when we are emotionally motivated to not see. ? See no evil and hear no evil functionally means that there is no evil.

I have long been fascinated by this confluence of attention and morality and, in fact wrote a detailed paper on it, drawing from many domains of cognitive science: ?Decision Making, the Failure of Principles,?and the Seduction of Attention.”??Feel free to take a look, if you find this general topic compelling.

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What is a genius? Here is a short upbeat message coupled with beautiful animation

What is a genius?  Here is a short upbeat message coupled with beautiful animation

What is a genius? According to this short video, it is someone who is not afraid to pursue the ideas that most of us disregard out of fear of looking strange.

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