30 August 2012

Steven Pinker - The Stuff of Thought: Language as a window into human nature

This lecture talks about how we, as humans, use language to communicate, or miscommunicate, our intentions. Pinker provides some insight as to what is meant by it. For example, speakers use the veiled overtures to communicate on the safest level possible while relying upon the listener to read between the lines and progress the relationship if so desired. In this way, the speaker can signal interest in deepening the relationship without actually moving to the next level (which could destroy the relationship if the listener does not reciprocate). (This corresponds with Daniel's Levels of Relationships theory as a way to prevent the relationship level violations).

Steven Pinker - The Stuff of Thought: Language as a window into human nature (RSA)
RSA Animate - Language as a Window into Human Nature

28 August 2012

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner: Superfreakonomics

In this lecture, Levitt and Dubner explore the Dictator Game (based on the Ultimatum Game) and its results. In the game, people are given $10 and told that they can give a portion (from nothing to the full $10) to another person, like themselves, in another room, whom they will never meet and who does not get any money except what the first person gives them. They found that the amount people were willing to give dropped (but stayed positive) once they added the option take (that is, remove from their wallet) a small amount money from the second person and then went negative when they added the option to take a full $10. In short, when we have a chance to steal a little money, we generally do not, but if we can steal a lot, we generally do.

23 August 2012

Ken Robinson: The Element

Robinson discusses what it means for a person to be “in their element.” It is, as most of Robinson’s lectures are, a discussion that includes educational ideas.

The Element (RSA)

16 August 2012

Eli Pariser - The Filter Bubble: How the hidden web is shaping lives

We usually think of the internet as an amazing information source, and it is, but at the same time it is a huge filtering system. At the same time that information is being stored, companies filter our content based on our personal preferences. This creates three issues: we have a distorted perspective of what is happening (less sensational informational falls by the wayside), we tend to more informational junk instead of being balanced (we become informationally “obese”) and we lose control over what information we can get (operative word is “can,” as in it is hard to find information that the companies do not think you want).

The Filter Bubble: How the hidden web is shaping lives (RSA)

13 August 2012

Barry Schwartz: Using our practical wisdom

Bottom line: we need to apply skill when making morally based decisions; rigid rules cannot capture all possible scenarios and exceptions. Practical wisdom, the power and skill to know when and how to bend the rules, can improve society and our moral standards.

Barry Schwartz: Using our practical wisdom (TED)

09 August 2012

Michael Shermer: Why people believe strange things

We tend to track, as Shermer points out, the hits and forget the misses. However, one must take the hits and misses together to determine if something is actually substantial. Shermer runs through a series of scenarios to demonstrate that people want to believe in extraordinary things, regardless of whether they are true or not.

Michael Shermer: Why people believe strange things (TED)

08 August 2012

RSA Panel: Are Chronic Diseases Killing our Competitiveness?

In short, chronic diseases have a strong, detrimental effect on our economy mostly because when people get sick with these nasties they are not able to be productive and cost lots of insurance money.

Are Chronic Diseases Killing our Competitiveness? (RSA)

07 August 2012

Drew Berry: Astonishing Molecular Machines

Because molecules are smaller than light waves, we cannot see them (much less film them) to show what they are doing. Berry, with students, combined a knowledge of how molecules work with computer graphics to show, accurately, how the molecular machines work in our bodies.

Drew Berry - Astonishing Molecular Machines (TED)

03 August 2012

Richard Dawkins: An atheist's call to arms

One may wonder of what use it is to listen to an atheist talk to atheists about being publicly open about their atheism. Quite simply, there are some good points raised. For example, Dawkins questions why religious topics are outside the realm of open discussion between scientists while all scientific topics are freely open to, and frequently abused by, religious authorities. While poking fun at religious cultures, Dawkins does raise some good questions about various dogmas.

Perhaps we, the religious folks, should learn to be a little less narrow minded and at least pretend to try to understand the point of view of others instead of automatically dismissing every concept that differs from our own. Who knows, having to understand what we worship might help us understand why we worship which just might increase our personal faith. Then again, our faith may be so weak that we are afraid we will never understand either the ‘who’ or the ‘why,’ in which case we are likely to lose faith altogether. (Oops, a little bit of a soap box there.)

Richard Dawkins: An atheist's call to arms (TED)

01 August 2012

Alain de Botton: Atheism 2.0

While I am not a fan of atheism (I think it is healthy to believe in something), Botton brings out some important points about religious rites can satisfy a part of everyone's’ life, even the atheists. He suggests that the next iteration of atheists, the Atheism 2.0, should augment their lives with such rites to find more enjoyment in life.

Alain de Botton: Atheism 2.0 (TED)
Religion for Atheists (RSA)