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Finally, a podcast that addresses our crisis of meaning
How can we learn from the lessons of the past and build a better future?
- Jamie Wheal's new podcast, Home Grown Humans, combines neuroanthropology and culture architecture to help us create a better future.
- The author of Stealing Fire has invited forward-thinking experts on to launch this podcast series, which is produced by Neurohacker Collective and is hosted on the Collective Insights podcast.
- Through these discussions, Wheal hopes to catalyze inspiration, healing, and connection towards better understanding who we are, why we are here, and where we are going
Language evolves to reflect our understanding of existence. Before Hippocrates, healing was a system of theurgy—divine influence on human events—and religious philosophy. The Greek physician is credited with separating medicine from those previous beliefs. As our understanding of science evolved, new fields emerged: astronomy, biology, physics, sociology, psychology, neuroanthropology.
That last one is still so relatively new that spell checkers don't recognize it. During a 2008 conference, the University of South Florida anthropology professor Daniel Lende revived the notion that anthropologists benefit when studying neuroscience. He argued that knowledge of the evolution of the brain offers insights into intentions, helping anthropologists better understand the motivations of past cultures.
Whereas neuroanthropology looks backward, culture architecture takes that same lens and looks forward, according to bestselling author Jamie Wheal. Wheal co-wrote the Pulitzer Prize-nominated book, Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, Navy SEALs and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work. Founder of the Flow Genome Project, he's the new host of the new Collective Insights podcast series Home Grown Humans, which focuses on the intersection of neuroanthropology and culture architecture.
Like Hippocrates building on past knowledge to create new systems, Wheal wants to learn from the lessons of the past and build a better future. Summating the objective of the podcast in a single question, he frames it this way:
"How do we stop seeking and stop searching and stop thrashing around, making a mess behind us, and come to fully embrace the human experience?"
The essence of the human condition, he says, lies in simplicity, reminiscent of the Golden Rule from the Talmud. A gentile asked Rabbi Hillel to explain the entirety of the Torah while standing on one foot, to which Hillel replied, "That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary."
Wheal recognizes that humans love commentary as well. Storytelling is the foundation of culture. He invokes Dorothy, who went on an epic heroine's journey only to discover that there's no place like home. As with any Campbellian character, she had to leave Kansas in order to love Kansas.
How do we stop seeking and stop searching and stop thrashing around, making a mess behind us, and come to fully embrace the human experience?
When contemplating Home Grown Humans, Wheal wanted to foster conversations that include critical thought and mystical inclinations. He was inspired by a debate between Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson, in which neither thinker would concede an inch to find common ground. Instead, he wants to find such ground—less New Atheist and more New Platonist. As he puts it:
"What is it like to tap people that are well-versed in reason, logic, and evidence, but also have their eye on the mystery? They've had in their own lives, or in their career or readings, some glimpse of more. Hopefully, that's come around to inform their perspective on their field of expertise and what they hold as both the liabilities and possibilities of us going forward."
To better understand the implications of neuroanthropology, Wheal recommends Jared Diamond's Pulitzer-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel and Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens and Homo Deus, books that reveal how we arrived here. For the culture architecture piece, he cites Daniel Kahnemann's Thinking, Fast and Slow and Richard Thaler's Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. You have all this knowledge, now what are you going to do with it?
This synthesis of ideologies creates the central thesis of Home Grown Humans.
"It's taking optimal psychology, neuroscience, and historical analysis and really using it to get under the hood of culture and use all of the tools we have from the hard sciences and social sciences to get a better understanding of what makes us tick."
To help him answer such questions, Wheal has invited a range of experts to appear on Home Grown Humans, including Sue Phillips, an instructor at Harvard Divinity School and co-founder of Sacred Design Lab; Erik Davis, author of TechGnosis and High Weirdness; Adam Gazzaley, the founder and executive director of Neuroscape; and Dennis McKenna, an ethnopharmacologist who's been leading the way in the psychedelic renaissance for decades.With each conversation, Wheal hopes to address our crisis in meaning by provoking inspiration, healing, and connection. The distance between the past and future is this moment we're collectively experiencing right now. Through our ingenuity and determination, Wheal believes we can construct a better world. Home Grown Humans is his contribution to the conversation.
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What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.
- Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
- The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
- The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Cosmic death beams: Understanding gamma ray bursts<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cu2knVEk" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c6cfd20fdf31c82cb206ade8ce21ba3f"> <div id="botr_cu2knVEk_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cu2knVEk-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Is Bitcoin akin to 'digital gold'?
- In October, PayPal announced that it would begin allowing users to buy, sell, and hold cryptocurrencies.
- Other major fintech companies—Square, Fidelity, SoFi—have also recently begun investing heavily in cryptocurrencies.
- While prices are volatile, many investors believe cryptocurrencies are a relatively safe bet because blockchain technology will prove itself over the long term.
Presentation slide from Sanja Kon's presentation on the evolution of money at 2020 Web Summit
Credit: Sanja Kon<p>The move came shortly after the payments company Square invested $50 million into Bitcoin, and after Fidelity announced that it was opening a Bitcoin fund into which qualified purchasers could invest <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-08-26/fidelity-launches-inaugural-bitcoin-fund-for-wealthy-investors" target="_blank">(minimum investment: $100,000)</a>. Together, this institutional backing might have something to do with Bitcoin's recent surge back to near its 2017 price peak of $19,783. (Bitcoin is listed at 19,384.30 as of Dec. 3.)<br></p>
Presentation slide from Sanja Kon's presentation on the evolution of money at 2020 Web Summit
Credit: Sanja Kon<p>But more importantly, it suggests cryptocurrencies might soon have the opportunity to prove themselves in real-world use cases. After all, skeptics have long doubted the ability of cryptocurrencies to go mainstream as a form of everyday payment. But people seem increasingly comfortable with digital payment systems.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The entire world is going to come into digital first," Schulman said at Web Summit, adding that PayPal's services already go hand-in-hand with cryptocurrencies. "As we thought about it, digital wallets are a natural complement to digital currencies. We've got over 360 million digital wallets and we need to embrace cryptocurrencies."</p><p>Sanja Kon, vice president of global partnerships at the cryptocurrency payments processor company UTRUST, also spoke at Web Summit about the increasing adoption of digital payments:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Physical cash is becoming more and more obsolete. And the next step in the evolution is digital currency."</p><p>Kon noted some of the inherent advantages of cryptocurrencies, namely ownership. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"For many people, this is really the main benefit of cryptocurrency: Users owning cryptocurrencies are able to control how they spend their money without dealing with any intermediary authority like a bank or a government, for example," Kon said, adding that there are no bank fees associated with cryptocurrencies, and that international transaction fees are significantly lower than wire transfers of fiat currency.</p><p>Kon said cryptocurrencies have unique growth opportunities in areas where people aren't integrated into modern banking systems:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"With cryptocurrencies and blockchain, with the use of just a smartphone and access to internet, Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies can be available to populations of people and users without access to the traditional banking system."</p>
Bitcoin as 'digital gold'<p>Still, it could take years for people to start using cryptocurrencies for everyday purchases on a large scale. Despite this, many cryptocurrency advocates see digital currencies, particularly Bitcoin, as a way to store value—digital gold, essentially.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"I don't think Bitcoin is going to be used as a transactional currency anytime in the next five years," billionaire investor Mike Novogratz recently told <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-10-23/novogratz-says-bitcoin-is-digital-gold-not-a-currency-for-now?srnd=markets-vp" target="_blank">Bloomberg</a>. "Bitcoin is being used as a store of value. [...] "Bitcoin as a gold, as digital gold, is just going to keep going higher. More and more people are going to want it as some portion of their portfolio."</p><p>There are obvious parallels between gold and Bitcoin: Both are mined, do not degrade over time, are finite in supply, and aren't directly tied to the value of fiat currency, making them <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-gold-inflation/gold-as-an-inflation-hedge-well-sort-of-idUSKCN1GD516" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">relatively invulnerable to inflation</a>. The obvious objection is that the price of Bitcoin, and cryptocurrencies in general, is far more volatile than gold.</p><p>But for investors who believe the inherent value of cryptocurrency technology will prove itself over the long term, these price fluctuations are just bumps on the long road to the future of currency. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It's no longer a debate if crypto is a thing, if Bitcoin is an asset, if the blockchain is going to be part of the financial infrastructure," Novogratz said. "It's not if, it's when, and so every single company has to have a plan now."</p>
A new study finds that some people just want privacy.
- Despite its reputation as a tool for criminals, only a small percentage of Tor users were actually going to the dark web.
- The rate was higher in free countries and lower in countries with censored internet access.
- The findings are controversial, and may be limited by their methodology to be general assumptions.