from the world's big
Is Creativity Sexy? The Evolutionary Advantages of Artistic Thinking
Human evolution is puzzling. Around 45,000 years ago, for no obvious reason, our species took off. Our technology rapidly progressed, populations thrived and we started painting and crafting instruments. All of this and more culminated in our first civilizations. From there, we started growing food, building cities, reading and writing. Today, our species is the most dominant on the planet.
What’s odd is that natural selection doesn’t explain this cultural explosion. Our genetic makeup is identical to our ancestors who lived 100,000 years ago. As Matt Ridley explains, “all the ingredients of human success—tool making, big brains, culture, fire, even language—seem to have been in place half a million years before and nothing happened.” What gives?
The answer might have to do with the relationship between creativity and sex. Consider a study (pdf) conducted by evolutionary psychologist Douglas Kenrick, Bob Cialdini and Vlad Griskevicious. In one clever experiment the psychologists asked college students to write a short story about an ambiguous picture. Before the students tested their prose, Kenrick and his partners divided them into two groups. One half was put in a mating mindset by looking at six photos of attractive females, picking which one they most desired as a romantic partner and imaging an ideal date with her. The other half, the control condition, saw photos of a street and wrote about the most pleasant weather conditions for walking around and looking at the buildings.
Kenrick and his team found that students in the mating mindset were more creative with their stories of the ambiguous pictures than the control group. Did the reproductive motivations trigger their creativity? Because the effect only showed itself for the men, the researchers concluded that, “these studies establish that temporary activation of a mating motive can have the same effect on humans as the mating season has on peafowl; in both cases, mating opportunities inspire males to strut their stuff.”
Kenrick was also interested in the relationship between creativity, non-conformity and sexual selection. He wondered if sexual motivations cause males to stand out from the crowd artistically. To find out Kenrick teamed with Chad Mortensen and Noah Goldstein and asked subjects to judge how interesting they found an artistic image. However, before the subjects gave their two cents they listened to the judgments of several other members of the group who tended to agree with each other. Did the subjects conform to the group?
It depended on gender and motivational state. Kenrick and his team created two groups. One was primed with a fearful mindset by recalling tragic murder stories. Subjects in the other group imagined themselves spending a romantic day with the person of their dreams. The different motivational states mattered. Those in the mating mindset tended to go against the group opinion compared to their more fearful peers. Women did not show the same effect suggesting that when it comes to artistic taste, men are motivated to show off by strutting their creativity. (pdf of study)
This helps explains why muses are predominantly women who inspired men. Consider, as Kenrick did, examples throughout history:
Pablo Picasso [is] the most prolific artist in history with an astounding 147,800 works of art… a closer look at Picasso’s generative periods reveals an intriguing constant: Each new epoch blossoms with paintings of a new woman—not a sitter or a model, but a mistress—each of whom is touted to have served Picasso as an incandescent, albeit temporary, muse. Picasso’s artistic history, however, is not unique: Creative juggernauts such as Salvador Dalí, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Dante were also acutely inspired by their own muses. The enigmatic notion of a muse is rooted in Greek mythology, in which nine godly muses traversed the land, stirring the creative spirits of mortal artists and scientists. And according to historian Francine Prose (2002), all muses share one striking and inextricable feature: Muses—both in history and in mythology—are universally female. Yet if “there is no biological reason why a man can’t provide the elements of inspiration” (p. 9, Prose, 2002), how could it be that the elixir of inspiration seems to be primarily concocted by women and predominantly imbibed by men?
It appears that the answer has to do with sexual selection. Does this explain how our species went from hunting and gathering to mass-producing iPhones and airplanes? There are many pieces to that puzzle. The relationship between sex and creativity might be one of them.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Got $55 million lying around? If so, you might be able to score a spot aboard the International Space Station starting 2024.
- NASA awarded a contract to startup Axiom Space to attach a "habitable commercial module" to the International Space Station.
- The project will also include a research and manufacturing module.
- The move is a major step in NASA's years-long push to privatize.
Image: Axiom Space<p>But first, space-tourist-hopefuls would have to pass through physical and medical exams, and 15 weeks of expert training. After that, the trip sounds pretty comfy:</p><p>"There will be wifi," Suffredini <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/09/style/axiom-space-travel.html" target="_blank">told the New York Times</a> last year. "Everybody will be online. They can make phone calls, sleep, look out the window. [...] The few folks that have gone to orbit as tourists, it wasn't really a luxurious experience, it was kind of like camping. [...] Pretty soon we're going to be flying a butler with every crew."</p>
A render of the ISS tourist experience.
Image: Axiom Space<p>In a blog post, NASA wrote:</p><p>"Developing commercial destinations in low-Earth orbit is one of <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-opens-international-space-station-to-new-commercial-opportunities-private" target="_blank">five elements</a> of NASA's plan to open the International Space Station to new commercial and marketing opportunities. The other elements of the five-point plan include efforts to make station and crew resources available for commercial use through a new commercial use and pricing policy; enable private astronaut missions to the station; seek out and pursue opportunities to stimulate long-term, sustainable demand for these services; and quantify NASA's long-term demand for activities in low-Earth orbit."</p>
NASA's push to privatize the ISS<p>When a Russian rocket launched the first module of the ISS into space in 1998, NASA expected the space station to operate for about 15 years. But the agency has extended the life of the ISS twice, with funding currently set to expire in 2024. NASA spends between $3 and $4 billion per year operating and shuttling astronauts to and from the station. That's a decent chunk of the agency's $22.6 annual budget. What's more, the "major structural elements" of the ISS are certified only through 2028.</p><p>Meanwhile, NASA has been eyeing other projects, namely: putting humans back on the moon in 2024 and establishing a lunar presence. So, to save and redirect money, the agency has been starting to hand over the aging space station to the private sector, which could use it for commercial research and space tourism.</p><p>But some have questioned the move to privatize the ISS, including NASA's own inspector general, Paul K. Martin.</p><p>"An obvious alternative to privatization is to extend current ISS operations," Martin wrote in a <a href="https://oig.nasa.gov/docs/CT-18-001.pdf" target="_blank">2018 report</a>. "An extension to 2028 or beyond would enable NASA to continue critical on-orbit research into human health risks and to demonstrate the technologies that will be required for future missions to the Moon or Mars."</p>
Image: Axiom Space<p>Martin noted that "research into 2 other human health risks and 17 additional technology gaps is not scheduled to be completed until sometime in 2024," meaning that any slip-ups in the process would mean such research might go uncompleted. He also wrote that it's "questionable" whether the private sector could turn a profit on the ISS without "significant" government funding. The Institute for Defense Analyses, a federally funded research and development center, <a href="https://docs.house.gov/meetings/SY/SY00/20180517/108302/HHRG-115-SY00-Wstate-LalB-20180517.pdf" target="_blank">also found</a> that it "is unlikely that a commercially owned and operated space station will be economically viable by 2025."</p><p>The implication is that, if the ISS is handed over to the private sector, taxpayers could end up indirectly supporting space tourism for the ultra-rich. Whether that's worth any of the research benefits that might come from the ISS post-2024 is anybody's guess.</p><p>As the ISS enters its final years, China <a href="http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-10/17/c_138479514.htm" target="_blank">plans</a> to complete construction of a manned space station in 2022.</p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
Paul Krugman on the Virtues of Selfishness<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7ZtAkm6C" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="828936bf6953080e9018307354c0c02b"> <div id="botr_7ZtAkm6C_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7ZtAkm6C-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> The Nobel Prize-winning economist on the virtues of selfishness.
Evolution Is Moving Us Away from Selfishness. But Where Is It Taking ...<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cyeqmYCb" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="6c5efecb56456e9acc25cf36935b1826"> <div id="botr_cyeqmYCb_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cyeqmYCb-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Exploring Morality and Selfishness in Modern Times<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="02eX1Cag" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="45cc6180db791f32683988fb52faff26"> <div id="botr_02eX1Cag_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/02eX1Cag-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> Philosopher Peter Singer discusses the state of global ethics.
Parenting could be a distraction from what mattered most to him: his writing.
Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?