Big Think Edge


PURPOSE: Set Goals, with John Amaechi

In this lesson from Big Think Edge, NBA basketball player John Amaechi shares with you the plan he created as a child to help him accomplish his dreams.

INNOVATION: Engage Your Team Through Gaming, with Jane McGonigal

In this lesson from Big Think Edge, game designer Jane McGonigal walks you through the ways in which gaming can lead to positive outcomes in the workplace.

LEADERSHIP: Overcome Obstacles, with Edward Norton

In this lesson from Big Think Edge, Oscar-nominated actor Edward Norton offers a mental strategy for pushing past anxiety and fear when taking on a new venture.

TALENT: Master Your Craft, with Malcolm Gladwell

If your goal is to become masterful at what you do, the formula is simple: stay focused and do your time. In this lesson from Big Think Edge, best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell teaches you how.

Understand and Address Unconscious Bias, with Jennifer Brown

In this lesson from Big Think Edge, management expert Jennifer Brown, a diversity training consultant who works with leading companies, explores pitfalls and strategies for dealing with unconscious bias.

RISK MITIGATION: Risk Management Fundamentals, with Timothy Geithner

In this lesson from Big Think Edge, former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner teaches the fundamentals of risk management, based on lessons learned during the 2008 Financial Crisis.

MILLENNIALS: Embrace Millennials' Values, with Jon Iwata

In this lesson from Big Think Edge, Jon Iwata, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications at IBM, explores key millennial values and what every company can do to embrace them.

MASTERCLASS: What Does A Leader Do?, with Robert Kaplan

In this lesson from Big Think Edge, Harvard professor and former Goldman Sachs executive Robert S. Kaplan explores three strategic key questions that leaders need to ask themselves.

Introducing Big Think Edge

Big Think's Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by thought leaders at the top of their game.

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  • We all think that we're competent consumers of news media, but the research shows that even journalists struggle with identifying fact from fiction.
  • When judging whether a piece of media is true or not, most of us focus too much on the source itself. Knowledge has a context, and it's important to look at that context when trying to validate a source.
  • The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
  • Harvard geneticist George Church makes a list of genes that could be modified to enhance human abilities.
  • The list tracks both positive and negative effects.
  • Redesigning humans can lead to posthumans or transhumans.


Would you improve humanity if you could? Many of us have opinions about how we can boost up society and government. But what about just re-engineering the people themselves, to make them more advanced physically and intellectually? Would better bodies lead to better people? One person who can turn such musings into reality is George Church, the Harvard genetics professor famous for trying to resurrect holly mammoths, among many other accomplishments. Church also made a list of genes that could be targeted through genetic manipulation for the purpose of designing a new version of humans.

In an interview with Futurism, the professor explained that one purpose of assembling such a list is in giving correct information to the people. It has been his long-term mission to drive down the costs of genetics resources. To that end, the list includes both protective and negative consequences of hacking a particular gene.

"I felt that both ends of the phenotype spectrum should be useful," Church elaborated. "And the protective end might yield more powerful medicines useful for more people and hence less expensive."

Here are some selections from the so-called Transhumanist Wishlist, drawing upon the philosophical movement of transhumanism that calls for using technology to enhance human physiology and intellect, leading to a transformation of what it means to be human:

  • LRP5 - hacking this gene could give people extra-strong bones, as research has shown a mutation of LRP5 can lead to bones that don't break. The tweak might make it hard to swim, however, as denser bones also mean lower buoyancy.
  • MSTN - messing with the myostatin protein could result in larger, leaner muscles, and cure such diseases as muscular dystrophy.
  • FAAH-OUT - the amusingly-named FAAH-OUT gene mutation was linked to insensitivity to pain. Wouldn't you like to have such a super ability?
  • ABCC11 - modifying this gene could really pay off socially, as it's been linked to low odor production. Currently, only 2% of the people in the world carry the mutated version, which helps their armpits not produce any unpleasant smells.
  • PCSK9 - people who lack this gene have very low levels of cholesterol. Tweaking it could lead to fighting off coronary disease. On the other hand, the negatives could include a rise in diabetes and even reduced cognition.
  • GRIN2B - playing with this gene can lead to enhancing memory and learning abilities.
  • BDKRB2 - figuring out how to affect this gene can lead to people who can hold their breath under water for much longer. It figures prominently in the abilities of the indigenous Bajau people ("Sea Nomads") of Southeast Asia, who are known for amazing feats of deep diving.

Photo by Rick Friedman/rickfriedman.com/Corbis via Getty Images

George Church, a professor of Genetics at Harvard University, with the MAGE Device Multiplex automated Genome Engineering on November 30, 2012.

"I've made the argument that we're already transhumanist, that is to say, if it's defined as being almost unrecognizable to our ancestors," said Church in a radio interview. "I think if you brought some of our ancestors or even people from un-industrialized tribes they would not understand what we're doing."

You can check out the full transhumanist "wish list" here, along with additional resources that include studies of specific genes and their effects. While some of these hacks are already being attempted, more discussion and development is necessary. Church sees that future doctors would be able to receive transplants with hacked genetic modifications.

How long till that future? Scientists around the world are racing to make genetic advancements, generally before their governments catch up. Gene-edited human babies are already being born. Chinese scientists were able to edit the gene CCR5 to make two baby girls more resistant to HIV. On the flip side, they made the girls more susceptible to the West Nile Virus. Finding the right balance will be crucial if we're to become superhuman.

To hear Church discuss the future of human biology, check out this video:

  • For the survey, YouGov — a British polling firm — interviewed more than 42,000 people across 41 countries.
  • The results showed that the Obamas ranked higher than the Trumps on both the U.S. and international lists of admired public figures.
  • Unlike some former first ladies, Mrs. Obama has led a remarkably public life after leaving the White House.


Former First Lady Michelle Obama has dethroned Angelina Jolie as the world's most admired woman, according to a new YouGov survey. The results suggest that the Obamas are the world's most admired couple, considering that former President Barack Obama was voted the second-most admired man in the world, behind Bill Gates.

In the U.S., the Obamas topped both lists for 2019. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump came in second and third, respectively. These results echoed a 2018 Gallup survey, in which Mr. and Mrs. Obama were voted America's most admired man and woman.

The new survey suggests that the Trumps aren't as admired internationally as they are in the U.S.: Internationally, the president ranked 14th and the first lady 19th.

YouGov noted some differences between the men's and women's lists.

"Entertainers dominate the female list, with 12 of the most admired women being actresses, singers or TV presenters (although some, like Emma Watson and Angelina Jolie, are also notable for their humanitarian work)," YouGov wrote in a blog post. "By contrast, the list of most admired men contains more people from political, business and sporting backgrounds."

Interestingly, the Obamas and Trumps weren't the only political figures on the U.S. lists this year.

"Three of the Democratic presidential contenders also make it onto America's Most Admired list: Joe Biden is the 6th most admired man in the U.S., followed by Bernie Sanders in the 7th spot," YouGov wrote. "Elizabeth Warren also made the list, as the 13th most admired woman in the country. . . Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton are the 7th and 8th most admired women in the country, followed immediately by former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. Ivanka Trump also makes the list as the 11th most admired woman in the United States."

The Obama's post-White House life

Unlike some first ladies before her, Michelle Obama has done anything but back away from the spotlight since leaving the White House. The 55-year-old former attorney has recently appeared on talk shows and awards ceremonies, and her bestselling autobiography Becoming has sold more than 10 million copies since 2018.

"She's a rock star at this point," Lissa Muscatine, a former speechwriter for Hillary Clinton, told The Guardian. "She's now a political celebrity."

In April, the Obamas unveiled a handful of documentary and film projects that they're developing with their production company Higher Ground Productions and Netflix. Some of those projects include a feature-length film about Frederick Douglas, a post-WWII drama series and a children's show about food.

"We created Higher Ground to harness the power of storytelling. That's why we couldn't be more excited about these projects," Mr. Obama said in a statement. "Touching on issues of race and class, democracy and civil rights, and much more, we believe each of these productions won't just entertain, but will educate, connect, and inspire us all."

Mrs. Obama added in a statement: "We love this slate because it spans so many different interests and experiences, yet it's all woven together with stories that are relevant to our daily lives. We think there's something here for everyone — moms and dads, curious kids, and anyone simply looking for an engaging, uplifting watch at the end of a busy day. We can't wait to see these projects come to life — and the conversations they'll generate."

One reason the former first lady's star seems to keep rising might be because some Americans miss the Obamas, Muscatine told The Guardian.

"People living through Trump have shown a yearning, a nostalgia for the Obamas even though it's only been a few years," she said. "They miss a husband and wife in the White House who took the jobs seriously. So when there's anything Obama, people want more of it."

You're waiting for the elevator at the office, sitting in a meeting that's late to start, or checking your phone with the hope that a co-worker finally responds to your email.


You know it's not productive to let your impatience consume you, but you can't help but tap your foot and fidget as time passes you by.

Far too often, we let impatience get the best of us at work. There are lots of situations when time is of the essence — when you have a pressing deadline, for example — but on many occasions, we let our stress and desire for instant gratification limit our ability to remain calm and respond with empathy.

And impatience doesn't just put you in a bad mood; it can have physical implications, too. When you're impatient, your stress hormones (like cortisol and adrenaline) soar, blood vessels constrict, and the acid in your stomach increases, resulting in a state of physiological stress, Judith Orloff, M.D., a psychiatrist and author of Emotional Freedom, tells Thrive Global.

"As far as psychological impacts go, impatience can cause you to feel irritable, anxious, and snappy. You say things you regret. You simply don't adjust to the flow of life — you're always trying to push it and make things go according to the way you want, versus learning how to harmonize with the flow of things," Orloff says.

What's more, impatience can put you at greater risk of several negative health outcomes, Sarah Schnitker, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Baylor University, tells Thrive. "Impatience is associated with cardiovascular problems. We have a lot of research showing that chronic stress and allowing yourself to be negatively impacted by daily stressors is not just bad for the physiological system — it can shorten your lifespan," Schnitker says. But while the consequences of impatience are certainly alarming, it is possible to avoid them.

Schnitker notes that people who are more patient often report higher life satisfaction, more positive emotions, and higher levels of hope and self-esteem. Plus, people who are more patient might experience greater success in achieving their goals, because they ultimately exert more effort and are more satisfied with goal progress.

"Building patience is a worthy pursuit. It takes time, but it is something that you can improve," Schnitker says. Here's how.

Communicate compassionately with yourself and others

There are a variety of ways to practice being patient that will ultimately build your tolerance and your ability to deal with slow periods or moments of stress at work. If you notice your impatience has impacted the way you communicate, Orloff recommends taking a deep breath and counting to 10 before you speak up. "By taking this pause before you speak, you won't say something you regret. Be aware of your tone — when people are impatient, they tend to get snippy," Orloff says.

On top of paying extra attention to your communication style, it's also helpful to be conscious of the way you talk to yourself. "Practice cognitive reappraisal — reimagining a situation," Schnitker suggests. "Say you have a co-worker who is frustrating you: You're getting annoyed, because they're not turning things in on time. You can try to reframe this — maybe they have something going on with their family. This helps you transition from being very frustrated to thinking 'OK, this is frustrating, but there are a lot of things going on in their life that I don't know about.'"

Practice positive thoughts

Having a high level of patience often isn't something that comes naturally; instead, it is something that improves over time. Schnitker says the key is to start small; with the help of cognitive reappraisal, you can try to shift your habits in a more positive direction, or better yet, try habit-stacking.

Take traffic, for example — no one enjoys the rush-hour commute after a long day at work, but Schnitker says it can be the perfect time to reflect on the events of your day. "Instead of focusing on the fact that you are stuck, and impatient about it, think, 'Let me see what I can do with this time,'" she says. That way, the time will feel less like an inconvenience, and instead, like an opportunity to develop a healthy habit at a time when you might normally give into negativity.

You may often turn to technology in moments that particularly try your patience, like when you're waiting in a long line. But it's worth trying to practice being patient without the distraction of our screens. "Having technology makes it easier to wait in certain situations. Say I'm stuck in a doctor's office — I'd use my phone and I'm not as frustrated. But by allowing our technology to entertain us when we're in low-stakes waiting situations, like waiting in line or other daily hassles that are part of life, people may actually not get to practice the skill of patience that they'd need in a more high-stakes situation," Schnitker says. With that in mind, use low-stakes waiting situations as an opportunity to simply be present, practice deep breathing, or find a non-technological way to keep yourself busy.

Identify your greater purpose

Another way to become more patient — and to improve your well-being in general — is to identify the purpose of things both big and small. "In our culture, our approach to any sort of suffering, waiting, or hardship is often, 'Let's just fix it and move on.' But to really be patient is to say there is a bigger picture, and something important beyond this moment," Schnitker says. An easy way to find deeper meaning in the smaller moments of life is to ask questions.

If you find yourself particularly impatient and stressed by something in the workplace, Schnitker suggests asking yourself about it. "Ask, 'Why am I doing overtime this week and missing out on something fun I wanted to do? Why do I put up with this person who frustrates me? Why am I struggling to write this deck? What's the purpose behind it all?' The answers will be beyond the self," Schnitker says.

By identifying a purpose behind the moments that cause you to feel impatient, and practicing patience both in and outside the workplace, you can not only improve your mental and physical health, but also equip yourself with an important tool to deal with whatever life throws your way.

Reprinted with permission of Thrive Global. Read the original article.