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.
- The moral and political philosophy known as classical liberalism is built around a number of core concepts, including, perhaps most importantly, human dignity and individual liberty.
- Emily Chamlee-Wright, president of the Institute for Humane Studies, introduces these two principles as forces that shape the liberal notion of justice. This applies to both individuals' treatment of others, as well as the government's treatment of individuals.
- This just conduct contributes to the liberal ideal: the good society. By emphasizing the individual, liberalism encourages collaboration and cooperation while also offering the freedom to make choices and learn from failure.
Do you have anxiety? Have you tried just about everything to get over it, but it just keeps coming back?
Perhaps you thought you had got over it, only for the symptoms to return with a vengeance? Whatever your circumstances, science can help you to beat anxiety for good.
Anxiety can present as fear, restlessness, an inability to focus at work or school, finding it hard to fall or stay asleep at night, or getting easily irritated. In social situations, it can make it hard to talk to others; you might feel like you're constantly being judged, or have symptoms such as stuttering, sweating, blushing or an upset stomach.
It can appear out of the blue as a panic attack, when sudden spikes of anxiety make you feel like you're about to have a heart attack, go mad or lose control. Or it can be present all the time, as in generalised anxiety disorder, when diffuse and pervasive worry consumes you and you look to the future with dread.
Most people experience it at some point, but if anxiety starts interfering with your life, sleep, ability to form relationships, or productivity at work or school, you might have an anxiety disorder. Research shows that if it's left untreated, anxiety can lead to depression, early death and suicide. And while it can indeed lead to such serious health consequences, the medication that is prescribed to treat anxiety doesn't often work in the long-term. Symptoms often return and you're back where you started.
How science can help
The way you cope or handle things in life has a direct impact on how much anxiety you experience – tweak the way you're coping, therefore, and you can lower your anxiety levels. Here are some of the top coping skills that have emerged from our study at the University of Cambridge, which will be presented at the 30th European Congress of Neuropsychopharmacology in Paris, and other scientific research.
Do you feel like your life is out of control? Do you find it hard to make decisions – or get things started? Well, one way to overcome indecision or get going on that new project is to "do it badly".
This may sound strange, but the writer and poet GK Chesterton said that: "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly." And he had a point. The reason this works so well is that it speeds up your decision-making process and catapults you straight into action. Otherwise, you could spend hours deciding how you should do something or what you should do, which can be very time-consuming and stressful.
People often want to do something "perfectly" or to wait for the "perfect time" before starting. But this can lead to procrastination, long delays or even prevent us from doing it at all. And that causes stress – and anxiety.
Instead, why not just start by "doing it badly" and without worrying about how it's going to turn out. This will not only make it much easier to begin, but you'll also find that you're completing tasks much more quickly than before. More often than not, you'll also discover that you're not doing it that badly after all – even if you are, you can always fine tune it later.
Using "do it badly" as a motto gives you the courage to try new things, adds a little fun to everything, and stops you worrying too much about the outcome. It's about doing it badly today and improving as you go. Ultimately, it's about liberation.
Forgive yourself and 'wait to worry'
Are you particularly critical of yourself and the blunders you make? Well, imagine if you had a friend who constantly pointed out everything that was wrong with you and your life. You'd probably want to get rid of them right away.
But people with anxiety often do this to themselves so frequently that they don't even realise it anymore. They're just not kind to themselves.
So perhaps it's time to change and start forgiving ourselves for the mistakes we make. If you feel like you've embarrassed yourself in a situation, don't criticise yourself – simply realise that you have this impulse to blame yourself, then drop the negative thought and redirect your attention back to the task at hand or whatever you were doing.
Another effective strategy is to "wait to worry". If something went wrong and you feel compelled to worry (because you think you screwed up), don't do this immediately. Instead, postpone your worry – set aside 10 minutes each day during which you can worry about anything.
If you do this, you'll find that you won't perceive the situation which triggered the initial anxiety to be as bothersome or worrisome when you come back to it later. And our thoughts actually decay very quickly if we don't feed them with energy.
Find purpose in life by helping others
It's also worth considering how much of your day is spent with someone else in mind? If it's very little or none at all, then you're at a high risk of poor mental health. Regardless of how much we work or the amount of money we make, we can't be truly happy until we know that someone else needs us and depends on our productivity or love.
This doesn't mean that we need people's praise, but doing something with someone else in mind takes the spotlight off of us (and our anxieties and worries) and places it onto others – and how we can make a difference to them.
For people who think there's nothing to live for, nothing more to expect from life … the question is getting these people to realise that life is still expecting something from them.
Knowing that someone else needs you makes it easier to endure the toughest times. You'll know the "why" for your existence and will be able to bear almost any "how".
So how can you make yourself important in someone else's life? It could be as simple as taking care of a child or elderly parent, volunteering, or finishing work that might benefit future generations. Even if these people never realise what you've done for them, it doesn't matter because you will know. And this will make you realise the uniqueness and importance of your life.
- Many thinkers have been killed for their ideas. Some got away with exile.
- Most of the ones we'll look at here were driven out by the government, but others fled for their own safety.
- The fact that some of these thinkers are still famous centuries after their exile suggests they might have been on to something, even if their countrymen disagreed.
It's no secret that people often have a difficult time allowing radical thinkers to live in peace. History is full of examples of philosophers who died for the crime of thinking differently. It is also full of stories of people who were sent packing by the societies they tried to help. Here, we'll look at seven philosophers who were either forcibly or voluntarily exiled for a variety of reasons. Most of all, they were punished for the crime of thinking.
A scientifically minded thinker, he spent a great deal of time devising models to explain cosmology. He was one of the first people to understand how the moon reflects light from the sun and how this creates the phases we see in the moon. He was the first to explain solar and lunar eclipses accurately, suggested that the moon has mountains, and argued that the sun was a burning mass "larger than the Peloponnese."
At the time, these ideas were utterly radical. Many Greek city-states treated the sun and moon as divine entities or gods. He was tried for impiety, as Socrates would later be, and sentenced to death in a trial that was as much concerned with his philosophy as it was with his political circle.
His friend Pericles, the leading citizen of Athens, was able to convince the voters to reduce the penalty down to exile. Anaxagoras moved to Lampsacus in what is now Turkey, where he quietly continued to work.
One of the most brilliant and eccentric philosophers of all time, Diogenes is well remembered for his bizarre lifestyle and educational antics.
Less often recalled is that he got his start in philosophy after being kicked out of his hometown. His father, Hicesias, was a banker, and it is likely that Diogenes was at least somewhat involved in his business. While the details are fuzzy, it appears that they were engaged in a scheme to debase the currency. For this, we have some corroborating archaeological evidence, as a large number of coins from the time in the area around Sinope have been found to be adulterated.
They were caught, and Diogenes was stripped of his citizenship and sent into exile.
After this setback, he moved to Athens. He took a visit to the Oracle at Delphi, who encouraged him to "deface the currency" yet again. However, knowing that the Oracle was famously cryptic, he took the suggestion to mean that he should strive to change accepted norms, customs, and values rather than ruin coins.
He took the message to heart and spent his life living in a barrel, walking backward, begging from statues, and searching for an honest man in the marketplace. The people of the cities he lived in were utterly baffled.
His career began not in philosophy, but government, where he was a well-known minister to the Duke of Lu. The neighboring state of Qi, fearful at the potential of the reforms Confucius was trying to implement and wary of Lu's increasing power, sent the Duke of Lu a gift of 100 excellent horses and 80 dancing girls.
He promptly spent most of his time with these gifts and forgot to run the country for a few days.
Confucius, disappointed in the Duke's behavior, took the next chance to resign, waiting until a good excuse came up so everybody could save face over the incident. He spent the next 13 years on the road visiting the courts of several states and trying to find one which would implement his reforms for good governance. None of them would.
Somewhat discouraged, he returned home where he spent his final years teaching his 70 odd disciples his philosophy. After his death, his disciples collected his works and continued teaching them. In the end, his philosophy would be adopted by several Chinese dynasties and continue to influence Chinese society to this day.
Aristotle is one of the most famous philosophers in world history. He functionally invented logic, wrote on every subject imaginable, and devised a system of ethics that still holds up pretty well. However, his tutoring of and continued association with Alexander the Great would cause him to die in exile.
Aristotle was made the head of the Macedonian Royal Academy by King Phillip II and tutored his son Alexander alongside several others who would later become kings and leading generals of the ancient world. How long this arrangement lasted is a subject of continued debate, but it was at least a few years.
Years later, after Alexander had consolidated his power over Greece, Aristotle moved back to Athens, where he opened his school, taught many students, and wrote some of his most famous works.
After the death of Alexander, there was widespread anti-Macedonian sentiment throughout Greece. In Athens, leading citizens accused Aristotle of "impiety," one of the crimes that got Socrates the death penalty.
Seeing the writing on the wall, Aristotle declared that Athens "would not sin twice against philosophy" and fled the city. He spent his final year in exile on the island of Euboea at an estate owned by his mother's family.
Jean Jacques Rousseau
A Swiss philosopher working during the Enlightenment, Rousseau was a well-known radical who was always aware of how close to the line he was playing it. While working in pre-revolutionary France, he often chose to live very near the Swiss border just in case the need to flee came up.
In 1762, his radical ideas caught up with him. He published Emile, or On Education, a book that focused primarily on how to educate children in a way that will not cause their innate human nature, which Rousseau thought to be good, to become corrupted. These parts of the book would go on to inspire both the educational system of France during the revolution and the Montessori method. His simultaneously radical and reactionary ideas on women's education would also earn tremendous attention.
It was a section on religion that would get the book banned, Rousseau exiled, and the bonfires lit, however. In this section, a catholic priest is depicted as suggesting that the real benefit of any religion is its ability to instill virtue in a person and that the particular religion it is doesn't matter. This character also espoused unitarianism, rejected original sin, and thought little of revelation.
After reading the book, the French government issued a warrant for Rousseau's arrest, causing him to flee to Switzerland. However, the Swiss had read the book too and told him he could not remain in Bern. After rejecting an offer to live with Voltaire, he fled to Môtiers, which was governed by Prussia at the time. This arrangement only lasted two years, however, as local priests decided he was the Anti-Christ and drove him from town.
He continued to move frequently for the next few years. His reputation later improved, and he ultimately moved back to France, though his experiences instilled paranoia in him that never entirely went away.
Admit it; this one doesn't surprise you.
Marx is well known as the father of modern communism and one of the few modern philosophers who can be said to have created an entire philosophy, Marxism, largely by himself.
After the closure of his radical newspaper by Prussian authorities in 1843, Marx moved to Paris to continue writing. It was there that he met several people who would be significant partners and rivals in his life, including Fredrick Engels and Mikhail Bakunin. It was at this time that the philosophy that we now call "Marxism" began to take shape. In 1845, at the request of the Prussian government, the French closed down his paper there and threw him out of the country. Marx moved to Brussels. He also lost his Prussian citizenship at this time and would be stateless for the rest of his life.
After promising the Belgian government he wouldn't write on contemporary politics, he returned to more abstract philosophy while also keeping contacts with radical organizations. It was here that he wrote The Communist Manifesto in 1848. Later that year, as riots and revolutions spread across Europe, the Belgian government accused Marx of being part of a plot to launch a revolution in Belgium. The evidence for either side of the argument is thin, but he was arrested nonetheless. He subsequently fled to newly Republican France after getting out of jail.
After a brief stay in France, he returned to Cologne, where he continued to agitate for a full communist uprising in the aftermath of the German Revolution. This failed to materialize, and Marx was again thrown out of his homeland.
He returned to Paris, but they didn't want him either. He moved to London, where he would remain for the remainder of his life.
A German-American philosopher who wrote on the banality of evil and the methods of totalitarian regimes, Arendt is one of the greatest political philosophers of the 20th century.
Born into a Jewish family in Germany, Arendt came of age just before the rise of Nazism. A bold writer, she wrote numerous essays attacking the Nazi party both before and after they came to power. She associated with many leading Zionists and used her access to state resources to study anti-Semitism in hopes of an announcement to the world on how bad things were in Germany.
She was turned in by a librarian for "anti-state" propaganda. Arendt and her mother were both arrested by the Gestapo and held for several days. As their journals were in code, the police were unable to determine precisely what they had written, and they were released to await trial.
They fled immediately. Crossing a mountainous path by night from Saxony to Bohemia, they worked their way to France. Hannah lost her citizenship and made due as she could in Paris. Just before the German Invasion of France in 1940, she was arrested by the French as an "enemy alien" and detained. After the fall of France, she and her family again fled the Nazis, this time to America, by way of Portugal.
It is little wonder that her greatest works focus on totalitarianism. In her masterpiece, The Origins of Totalitarianism, she devotes a lengthy chapter to the issue of human rights and refugees undoubtedly inspired, at least in part, by her time as one.
- Californians, want to run away from the Big One? Head for Minnesota.
- As this map shows, the Gopher State is the least likely to be hit by earthquakes.
- Choose your new home wisely, though: even Minnesota has one earthquake-sensitive spot.
Not if, but when
The Long Beach earthquake hit on 10 March 1933 with an estimated magnitude of 6.25 on the Richter scale.
Image: Nathan Callahan, CC BY 2.0
It's not if, but when: Californians live with the certainty that someday, the Big One will hit.
The Big One is an earthquake with a magnitude of at least 7.8 on the Richter scale. Because of the plate tectonics at work under California, big quakes like that hit the area every 45 to 230 years.
The last one was more than 160 years ago. That's why paleoseismologist Kerry Sieh says the next one is likely to happen "within the lifetime of children in primary school today."
Here's how the United States Geological Survey (USGS) rates the hazard of a major earthquake in California in the next 30 years:
- 60% chance of a 6.7-magnitude quake.
- 46% chance of a 7.0-magnitude quake.
- 31% chance of a 7.5-magnitude quake.
The earthquake hazard map of the United States.
Image: USGS, public domain
The Pacific coast is purple: the highest hazard. The entire west is shaded in colors denoting declining hazard. Only relatively small parts of the country are covered by the zone of lowest hazard:
- central and southern Texas;
- most of Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and North Dakota;
- sizable chunks of Kansas, Nebraska, Montana, and South Dakota;
- and tiny bits of Alaska, Colorado, New Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, and Georgia.
One state seems hazard-free, but that's only until you notice the blue spot in Minnesota's western bulge.
So, what do these colors actually denote? Earthquake hazard maps show the potential shaking hazard from future earthquakes.
The USGS defines earthquake hazard as the probability of ground motion over 50 years. That probability is determined by a region's geology and earthquake history.
The location of fault lines alone is not enough to determine quake hazard: a large earthquake can produce tremors at a relatively large distance from the actual fault line.
The colors on this earthquake hazard map correspond to Seismic Design Categories (SDCs), which reflect the likelihood of seismic activity leading to ground motion of various intensities.
Damage caused by the 6.0-magnitude Napa County earthquake of 24 August 2014.
Image: Matthew Keys, CC BY-SA 4.0
These SDCs are used to determine the level of seismic resistance required in building design and building codes.
- SDC level A (grey): Very small probability of experiencing damaging earthquake effects.
- SDC level B (blue): Moderate-intensity shaking possible. Such shaking will be felt by all. Many will be frightened. Some furniture will be moved and some plaster will fall. Overall damage will be slight.
- SDC level C (green): Strong shaking possible. Damage will be negligible in well-designed and well-constructed buildings; considerable in poorly-built structures.
- SDC levels D0 (yellow), D1 (orange) and D2 (red): Very strong shaking possible. Damage will be slight in specially designed structures; considerable in ordinary substantial buildings, with partial collapse; and great in poorly built structures.
- SDC level E (purple): This is near major active faults capable of producing the most intense shaking. Even in specially designed structures, the damage will be considerable. The shaking is intense enough to completely destroy buildings.
The Morris quake
Minnesota earned its blue spot in 1975.
Image: USGS, public domain
This earthquake hazard map is not a snapshot of the past, but an evolving prediction of the future. The map is adapted as geological knowledge increases. But it is also partly based on past events – or more precisely the likelihood of their recurrence.
Minnesota earned its blue spot from the 1975 Morris earthquake. With its epicenter in Stevens County, it struck at around 10 am on July 9th of that year and had a magnitude of 4.6. It was the first seismic event recorded in the state since the Staples quake of 1917, and it was felt as far afield as the eastern Dakotas and northern Iowa.
Near the epicenter, plaster cracked and pictures fell off walls. In the town of Morris, two homes suffered damage to their foundations. Not quite California-sized, but for lack of comparison, probably Big Enough for the locals.
Strange Maps #1011
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- There is no way to completely stop a pandemic from coming, says former United Nations medical officer and a key player in the World Health Organization's (WHO) smallpox eradication program in South Asia, Larry Brilliant. Being prepared and having a good public health infrastructure are necessary to reduce impact.
- Pandemics like ebola are more likely to start at the edges of poor countries, away from the main hub and away from major cities, but without isolation and containment protocols they can and will grow.
- According to Brilliant, budget cuts and poor decision making by government in the past has crippled pandemic prevention efforts in time of crisis. That's something that we can not let happen again.