How to make the most of meetings, with Tim Ferriss, Elon Musk, and Carson Tate
Join Big Think's premium video learning platform, Big Think Edge, and learn skills that will propel your life and career.
- What are subscribers learning this week? Tim Ferriss explains why the smartest person in the room may be the person least afraid to look dumb.
- In one of our Deep Dives, learn how the quality of our future lives will depend on the answers to 3 technology questions.
- If you're not a subscriber yet, join Big Think Edge today. Start your 7-day free trial!
Successful people tend to have a couple of everyday superpowers for breaking through, says podcaster Tim Ferriss, whose lesson for Big Think Edge this week reveals where you can get yours.
Lawyer and therapist Bill Eddy charts through the jungle of amped-up, and conflicting, news coverage we face every day. Tech entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa proposes a framework for balancing the benefits and perils of technology that will change the way you look at humanity's future.
You'll also learn to put Elon Musk's unorthodox meeting philosophy into practice to change the way you attend, and run, meetings forever.
All this and more is coming to Big Think Edge this week!
Become the smartest person in the room: Develop superpowers by investigating what others won't, with Tim Ferriss
Author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss interviews a wide range of luminaries on his business podcast, many of whom employ a pair of odd techniques: These people are not afraid to ask dumb questions, and they appreciate the value of absurd ideas. Dumb questions, Ferriss explains, often aren't really so dumb, and absurd ideas can be eye-opening as a way of shaking up your thinking. From building his own career, Ferriss vouches for both strategies, and he presents some persuasive evidence that you should give them a try.
Available September 9 in Boost Your Professional Intelligence
Get past crises, evil villains, and superheroes: Essential questions for screening fake news, with Bill Eddy
We live in an era in which conflicts regularly occur between people operating from completely different sets of "facts." It's largely because we take in great gulps of (mis)information as we spin from one crisis to another, feverishly reported by news outlets and individuals whose success depends on keeping us in a state of near-panic. Author of Why We Elect Narcissists and Sociopaths Bill Eddy has some questions you can ask yourself that will help you separate the fake news from the real.
Available September 11 in Boost Your Analytic Intelligence
Evaluate future possibilities: 3 lenses for analyzing the potential of disruptive technologies, with Vivek Wadhwa
Our technology-driven future will be amazing. Or terrifying. Probably both, if its development is left to chance as it has been so far. As Paul Simon wrote in 1986, "These are the days of miracles and wonders, and don't cry, baby, don't cry." Vivek Wadhwa is the author of The Driver in the Driverless Car, and he's watching the road ahead. He suggests a reset and a more careful consideration of the future we're building before it's upon us. The answers to three questions, he asserts, can help us get there safely, equitably, and together.
Available September 12 in Boost Your Analytical Intelligence
Elon Musk’s 3 Rules for Effective Meetings
Photo: Shutterstock/Big Think Edge
In a world where time is money, how do you make the most of the meetings you attend? Or if you're the one calling the meeting, how do you make sure it doesn't suck? Working smarter rather than harder means questioning the format of existing routines.
Entrepreneur Elon Musk has disrupted multiple industries, but that all started with disrupting his own organizations: This week, we dive into his 3 rules for running smarter meetings, and pair his insights with productivity expert Carson Tate to bring you customizable strategies for making your meetings magic.
Available September 9 in Deep Dives
History's first utopia shows how far we've come.
- Plato's Republic is the first utopian novel there is, complete with an ideal city- the Kallipolis.
- The totalitarian leanings of the Kallipolis have lead many thinkers to move in the opposite direction since then.
- Even if we don't like it, having to explain why we don't is a useful exercise.
Putting smart people in charge<p> Most Utopian literature starts with trying to answer the "what is the ideal society" question. <em>Republic </em>begins by trying to answer the question, "what is justice and is it good for a person to be just?" This is a very large question, and Plato answers it through analogy through his main character Socrates. He suggests that justice in the ideal city is akin to justice in a person and that by understanding justice on the large, easy to see scale, we can understand it in the smaller. </p><p> The city, dubbed the Kallipolis, would be governed by <em>Philosopher-Kings</em>. Selected for their wisdom, these rulers would be educated for fifty years before taking control of the city. Guided by their understanding of the good, the just, and how to achieve it, they would drive the city towards peace and prosperity. </p><p>Men and women would be treated equally, as Plato can find no reason why either sex is fundamentally unable to do what the other can within reasonable limits. All children would be given a quality education suitable to their natural talents. <br> <br> All of this is geared towards creating the best city possible, with high overall happiness, virtue, and harmony. </p>
This sounds great! How does it work?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/cVLpdzhcU0g" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> Through an increasingly totalitarian series of laws and regulations that keep the city as a whole functioning with little regard for the stated desires of the populace. While many of the specifics are left unstated, what is said is plenty. <br> <br> The city features a rigidly enforced caste system, with no social movement possible for adults. However, their children may be promoted or demoted based on how they do in school. The guardian and warrior class that rules the city and defends it will be without personal and private property but will live in their communal abodes thanks to taxes collected from the lower classes. All the rulers will be chosen from this class. <br> </p><p> Speaking of children, families would no longer exist as single units; instead, children produced by state-sanctioned marriages will be reared by the state. Alongside this will be a eugenics system featuring the infanticide of the children of "inferior parents" or any "defective" baby. Rigged lotteries will be used to assure lower quality parents don't contaminate the bloodlines of higher quality stock. <strong><br> <br> </strong>To assure that the truth is respected, all the poets will be sent into exile. All works of culture, from plays to bedtime stories, will be approved by the rulers. Naturally, these rulers are the only people capable of grasping "truth" rather than cheap imitations of it.</p><p>The whole system's endurance is made possible using a "noble lie," assuring the common people that souls come in varieties. The philosopher kings have golden souls, their aids and warriors have silver ones, and the farmers, laborers, and craftsman are metaphysically made of brass and iron. The lie includes the warning that everything will fall apart if people of the wrong build are put in charge. <br> <br> Oh, and it is doomed to eventual failure as Plato suggests all political regimes are. <br> <br> Sounds pleasant, doesn't it?</p>
Nobody ever took this seriously, right?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/U4Dm3NKsQu8" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> <strong><br> </strong>Karl Popper, whose objections to totalitarianism appeared in several books, thought the ideas in <em>Republic</em> were taken seriously too many times. </p><p> With its dedication to the idea that social-engineering is not only possible but often desirable and that all is permitted so long as the polity is being driven towards the objective good, Popper suggests <em>Republic </em>was intellectually behind the totalitarian movements of the 20<sup>th</sup> century. <br> <br> Allegedly, Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran and leader of the Iranian Revolution, was inspired by the <em>Republic </em>when crafting the Iranian government, complete with its own <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1989/06/04/obituaries/ayatollah-ruhollah-khomeini-89-the-unwavering-iranian-spiritual-leader.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Philosopher King.</a> How well this worked out is subject to debate. </p><p> Bertrand Russell, another critic of the book, argued that it was intended to be taken seriously as a society that could be enacted in ancient Greece. A point support by a variety of evidence. It's not too much of a stretch to say that plenty of people have taken this seriously at some point.</p><p>Any Utopia is going to be based on assumptions about people, societies, justice, and other concepts that somebody is going to find controversial. In the two thousand years since Plato wrote his down, everything he said has gone from being deemed correct to being dismissed as nonsense. As a result, his perfect city seems monstrous to us today. <br> <br> However, the discussion prompted by the debate over if Plato's Kallipolis is ideal, practical, or even possible has advanced our understanding of ethics and political philosophy for centuries. After all, we must ask ourselves why we like freedom, democracy, and the occasional disinformation when faced with an alternative that- allegedly, offers a better society to live in. </p><p> As always, we might owe Plato a debt of thanks, even while we reject his philosophy wholesale. </p>
Australian researchers figure out a new way to apply extreme pressure and squeeze out diamonds.
- Diamonds aren't just beautiful. They're also excellent at cutting through most anything.
- Researchers have worked out how to create the gems without the high temperatures that accompany their natural formation.
- The researchers were able to create two different types of diamonds that also occur naturally.
The totally crushed it<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDgyNzYxOC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMjc2MjA5OH0.Td-IiqixMYd-0OEn3vunxg5gFbPEyzKiSVOcxr6rdDs/img.png?width=980" id="75686" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fe32f066e6fc40c8b19a793828a97b4b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The telltale clue<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDgyNzYyNi9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2NDAxODQ2Nn0.yVllyyJOAk7No8cnTPyQQMky00Q8awt0KfPDHF95ud4/img.png?width=980" id="45646" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b3d62e6d2b2a26dc2cc73b4de24519e6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: kento/Adobe Stock<p>The rest of the team's formula has to do with how the pressure is applied.</p><p>Co-leader of the research, <a href="https://www.rmit.edu.au/contact/staff-contacts/academic-staff/m/mcculloch-professor-dougal" target="_blank">Dougal McCullough</a>, and his team working at RMIT used cutting-edge advanced electron microscopy to image slices of experimental diamond samples that provided a peak into their formation.</p><p>One revelation was the relationship between the two diamond types. "Our pictures showed that the regular diamonds only form in the middle of these Lonsdaleite veins," says McCulloch. "Seeing these little rivers of Lonsdaleite and regular diamond for the first time was just amazing and really helps us understand how they might form."</p><p>"The twist in the story ," says Bradby, "is how we apply the pressure. As well as very high pressures, we allow the carbon to also experience something called 'shear' — which is like a twisting or sliding force. We think this allows the carbon atoms to move into place and form Lonsdaleite and regular diamonds."</p><p>The diamonds produced by the team confirm this idea. Bradby recalls, "Seeing these little rivers of Lonsdaleite and regular diamond for the first time was just amazing and really helps us understand how they might form [in nature]."</p>
New diamonds made to order<p>"Creating more of this rare but super-useful diamond is the long-term aim of this work," says Bradby.</p><p>While many may think of diamonds only for their ornamental value, their hardness makes them excellent for cutting through most anything, and they're used in some of the world's most advanced precision cutting systems.</p><p>Bradby notes that, "Lonsdaleite [in particular] has the potential to be used for cutting through ultra-solid materials on mining sites."</p><p>Next up: flight and x-ray vision. (Joking.)</p>
MRI scans show that hunger and loneliness cause cravings in the same area, which suggests socialization is a need.
- A new study demonstrates that our brains crave social interaction with the same areas used to crave food.
- Hungry test subjects also reported a lack of desire to socialize, proving the existence of "hanger."
- Other studies have suggested that failure to socialize can lead to stress eating in rodents.
People sometimes crave socialization, literally.<p> Forty participants underwent 10 hours of either social isolation or fasting before being placed in an MRI machine. Those who fasted had their brains imaged while viewing pictures of food; those emerging from isolation viewed photos of socializing people. <strong><br> <br> </strong>The areas of the brain related to hunger pains, reward, and movements, the substantia nigra pars compacta and ventral tegmental area (SN/VTA), are also associated with cravings for food or addictive substances. When those who fasted viewed images of food, these regions of their brains lit up. Most interestingly, the same brain regions lit up when those who had been isolated for 10 hours saw pictures of other people socializing. <br> <br> Test subjects also filled out questionnaires during and after the fasting and isolation periods. Not only did this confirm that people felt cravings for what they had missed, but that the effect was similar in both cases. </p><p>They also showed that very hungry people were less responsive to images of socializing, suggesting that "hanger," the state of being irritable as a result of hunger, is a demonstrable <a href="https://www.insider.com/loneliness-and-hunger-have-similar-effects-on-the-brain-study-2020-11" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">state</a>. </p>
How can I use this information? I’m asking for a friend.<p> The obvious takeaway is that it is perfectly normal to feel a need for interaction with others after an extended bout of isolation. Our brains treat some form of interaction as a basic need that must be met. While not shown as clearly in humans, not getting these needs often drives mice to <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29334694/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress ea</a><a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29334694/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">t</a>, a finding that makes a great deal of sense in light of these new findings. <br> </p><p>Exactly how we can meet the need for socialization outside of just meeting up with people (a tricky proposition at the time of writing) remains up for debate. Anybody who has tried a Zoom party during the pandemic can attest to it just not being as nice as seeing friends in person. <br> <br> The study's authors are aware of this issue and note that:<br> <br> "A vital question is how much, and what kinds of, positive social interaction is sufficient to fulfill our social needs and thus eliminate the neural craving response. Technological advances offer incessant opportunities to be virtually connected with others, despite physical separations. Yet, some have argued that using social media only exacerbates subjective feelings of isolation.<sup>"</sup><br> </p><p>Unfortunately, the study cannot offer us an answer to this question just yet. </p>
Like always, there are limitations to this study.<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/sgxMsgDWnAU" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> This study involved 40 participants. While its essential finding is likely to be generally applicable, exactly how applicable it is to the broader population cannot be known with certainty from such a small group. The participants were also healthy, well-connected young adults who might react to various problems differently than other demographic groups. </p><p>Their tendency to do so while being the focus of endless studies on psychology is a well-recorded problem. <br> <br> Likewise, the fact that the participants knew they would only be isolated for 10 hours may have impacted how they reacted to the isolation—it is often easier to endure something when you know precisely when it will end. </p><p>Getting around that in future experiments may prove impossible. From an ethical standpoint, it would be difficult to structure an experiment on humans predicated on the idea that they will be kept isolated from all social interaction indefinitely. <br> <br> Lastly, while all of the participants were quite hungry after 10 hours, there were enough variations in how lonely people felt after isolation to suggest a more significant variance in need for socialization than in demand for food. While this seems obvious, we all know both introverts and extroverts; it does make it more challenging to determine how much social interaction counts as a "need" that the brain craves just as it craves food. </p><p>As usual, more research is needed.</p><p> The idea that humans are social animals existed long before modern neuroscience was possible. Now, we can see exactly what happens in the brain when we can't socialize. While the final word on the subject is still to be said, it might be time to give a friend a call. </p>
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