Confessions of an Outlaw: A Creativity Workshop, with Philippe Petit


Confessions of an Outlaw: A Creativity Workshop, with Philippe Petit

High-wire artist Philippe Petit, who four decades ago performed illegally between the World Trade Center towers, explains how his personal brand of outlaw creativity can be harnessed to inspire and solve problems.

Confessions of an Outlaw: The Self You Bring

How to you inspire people? How do you touch an audience? High-wire artist Philippe Petit explains that the secret is to not try at all. Instead, be yourself. Follow your own personal muses instead of being a crowd pleaser. Genuine individual creativity is endearing enough on its own that if your passion emerges through your work, your audience will be reached.


This is the first video in a nine-part series with Philippe Petit available in playlist form here.

Confessions of an Outlaw: Chaos and Order

High-wire artist Philippe Petit describes his process of compressing chaos in order to build a model for creative output. When faced with a long list of goals and subjects for a creative endeavor, make a list. Introduce order. Compartmentalize your thoughts and ambitions. The key is to find the precise marriage between madness and structure.

Confessions of an Outlaw: The Alchemy of Sleep

High-wire artist Philippe Petit explains how he practices creativity while sleeping. If he falls asleep with an idea in his head, Petit allows his subconscious self the opportunity to find a solution. Often he wakes up with the solution sitting there waiting for him.

Confessions of an Outlaw: Finding Focus

High-wire artist Philippe Petit doesn't own a cellphone, doesn't own jewelry, doesn't wear a watch. These are all distractions that would draw his focus away from his art. And when you're walking a wire and a millisecond's loss of focus results in tragedy, perhaps eschewing gadgetry is the way to go.


Petit explains how an occasional foray into being a Luddite will allow you to reconnect with your raw humanity.

Confessions of an Outlaw: Discipline and Play

A marriage of discipline and play seems contradictory, but Philippe Petit says he thrives on being an extreme and contradictory artist. The high-wire artist explains why being a successful artist requires a marriage of extremes. You have to work hard and play hard. There is no sacrificing either.


This is the fifth video in a nine-part series with Philippe Petit available in playlist form here.

Confessions of an Outlaw: The Art of Balance

High-wire artist Philippe Petit wasn't just born with superior balance; it's something he's developed all his life and something he applies to all his life. It's balance -- in more meanings of the word -- which keeps Petit alive.

Confessions of an Outlaw: Intuition and Improvisation

High-wire artist Philippe Petit explains that intuition and improvisation are not opposites. They are cousins. One must take an intellectual approach to an adventurous exploration of the unknown.

Confessions of an Outlaw: Valuable Mistakes

As a high-wire artist, Philippe Petit doesn't have much room for mistakes. Still, he finds that mistakes are our best teachers and advises friends and students to treat them as such.


This is the ninth video in a nine-part series with Philippe Petit available in playlist form here.

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To help, we’ve assembled 10 different learning packages, each ready to help you get started mastering a new skill. From career redefinitions to just picking up a new leisure time activity, all of these bundles are hundreds of dollars off their regular price right now.

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  • Meta-skills are talents that inform every domain of life and govern your ability to improve other skills.
  • There are many meta-skills out there, but feeling, seeing, dreaming, making, and learning are likely the most important when trying to remain competitive in the modern world.
  • Automation is going to reduce the demand for specialists; mastering these skills will make you a stronger individual in the automated future.


It used to be the case that learning a particular trade or skill meant you could land a reliable career. These days, however, constant learning is both expected and required to stay afloat. Rather than developing competency in, say, analysis or communication, modern life demands that we become more agile and able to shift on a dime towards the particular skills that challenges require.

That is why cultivating meta-skills is so important. Meta-skills are broad capabilities that help you to develop other skills and can be applied across a wide variety of domains. As more jobs become automated, possessing these skills will be more important than ever.

Author Marty Neumeier makes the case for investing in five particular meta-skills in his book, Meta-skills: Five Talents for the Robotic Age: Feeling, Seeing, Dreaming, Making, and Learning.

1. Feeling

Just because the future of work lies in automation doesn't mean that the human element will be taken out of the equation. Social intelligence is going to be an even more important skill than before — with technology outperforming our more analytical talents, individuals with more empathy and other uniquely human gifts are going to bring the most value to the table.

Feeling doesn't just refer to interpersonal skills; it also covers qualities like intuition, or the ability to arrive at a conclusion without relying on conscious reasoning. The human mind wasn't designed to do rigorous calculations. It was, however, designed to use heuristics to quickly arrive at likely solutions that serve us well enough most of the time. Learning to lean on this skill more will help you work with others and save time and effort when developing solutions.

2. Seeing

Computers are fantastic are addressing individual problems, but they don't do so well at addressing the big picture. This meta-skill captures humanity's ability to strategize, to understand how the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts, and to escape biases.

It's certainly easier to simplify things done to dichotomies, but the real world is complicated and multi-dimensional. Becoming better at seeing things isn't quite so easy and can challenge your beliefs, but doing so provides a more accurate representation of the world. In turn, seeing better provides better information to act on when navigating the modern world.

3. Dreaming

Meta-skills

Photo by Ben Sweet on Unsplash

Innovation, creativity, generative talent — these skills will always be in high demand. Once rigorous, linear work is outsourced to machines, the less precise and more fanciful talents of the human mind will become the primary characteristic that employers look for.

The antithesis of this meta-skill is the idea that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. It's true that being original and trying to innovate carries risk. Your innovation might fail, or it might make things worse, but nothing is going to be improved without taking that risk on. Settling for tried-and-true solutions also means settling for mediocrity.

4. Making

Neumeier characterizes this meta-skill as primarily being related to design and design thinking. "Design thinking is a generative approach to solving problems," he says. "In other words, you create answers, you don't find answers."

Making overlaps with dreaming to a certain extent, but its key distinction lies in the prototyping and testing of generated solutions. Rather than seeking safety and assurance in pre-existing answers, talented makers are unafraid of the messy process of producing an original solution. It's this ability to navigate uncertain scenarios and tolerate ambiguity that makes this such a valuable and powerful meta-skill.

5. Learning

Neumeier describes this as the "opposable thumb" of meta-skills. Learning how to learn enables you to improve every skill in your life. Gone are the days when a 4-year degree was all you needed to excel in the world. Nowadays, constant learning is a fact of life. This doesn't have to be laborious — not only does learning lead to greater value, but learning itself can be an intrinsically rewarding activity.

Becoming better at this skill doesn't mean that you have to learn a subject like mathematics, for example, if you hate it. Rather, talented learners find the subjects that bring them joy and dive into them. Doing this regularly will make you more curious and hungry to learn about other topics that you may not have cared for originally.

These five meta-skills inform nearly every talent and capacity that we exercise in our daily lives. Moreover, they aren't going to be automated anytime soon. As rapidly as technology is advancing, it's still a far cry from the curious abilities that millions of years of evolution have gifted us with. Taking advantage of these natural and uniquely human skills is the best way to stay relevant in the changing world.


  • Platypuses are nocturnal, semiaquatic animals that are endemic to Australia and Tasmania.
  • A new study suggests that the species could lose half its population over the next 50 years, due mainly to drought, human development and climate change.
  • In 2019, the United Nations reported that some 1 million species of plants and animals are at risk of extinction.


The platypus is at greater risk of extinction than previously thought, suggests a new study published in the February issue of Biological Conservation.

The strange egg-laying, river-dwelling mammal is currently listed as endangered in South Australia, and as "Near Threatened" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List. But the researchers behind a new analysis of platypus populations say there's strong evidence that platypus populations are declining in Australia and Tasmania, the only two countries where the secretive animals exist in the wild.

The Australia-based researchers wrote:

"[The platypus faces] potentially devastating combination of threats, including water-resource development, land clearing, climate change, and increasingly severe periods of drought."

Lead study author Dr. Gilad Bino, a researcher at the University of New South Wales Centre for Ecosystem Science, called for urgent conservation action and government funding to protect the species.

Pixabay

"There is an urgent need for a national risk assessment for the platypus to assess its conservation status, evaluate risks and impacts, and prioritize management in order to minimize any risk of extinction," Bino told Science Daily.

The study estimated the future decline of platypus populations by considering current rates of climate change, drought, and land and water development. Under this model, the results showed that the platypus population is likely to drop 47 percent over the next 50 years. Drought is expected to be a particularly deadly threat to the species.

Heinrich Harder/Public Domain

Australia has recently suffered some of its worst droughts on record. The researchers suggested that even more extreme droughts are likely to occur in the future, considering that the changing climate will bring even hotter temperatures. Droughts can destroy platypuses' burrows, which the animal usually constructs by digging into the riverbank with its claws. When droughts dry up these hiding spots, platypuses are forced to move into new areas where they risk becoming prey to predators like foxes, dogs, and cats.

Droughts can also increase the likelihood of deadly bushfires. The current bushfire crisis in Australia wasn't mentioned in the recent study, but experts estimate that some 1 billion animals have been killed so far in the fires. As for how many platypuses died:

"The short answer is that we simply don't know," Josh Griffiths, an ecologist with the environmental consulting firm Cesar Australia, told Atlas Obscura in an article published January 24, 2020. "The scale of the fire we've got at the moment is unprecedented. [...] It's one more nail in their coffin."

How to save the platypus

Human development, especially that which involves altering rivers, is another major threat to the platypus. Study co-author Richard Kingsford, director of the UNSW Centre for Ecosystem Science, noted that many platypuses live in areas of Australia currently undergoing development.

"These include dams that stop their movements, agriculture which can destroy their burrows, fishing gear and yabby traps which can drown them and invasive foxes which can kill them," Kingsford told Science Daily.

The researchers offered several suggestions for how to protect the platypus:

  • Ban enclosed cray-fish traps
  • Prevent land clearing in key areas
  • Build "platypus-ways" that provide safe passage from ferals predators
  • Citizens can report platypus sightings via the app platypusSpot

In 2019, the United Nations reported that some 1 million species of plants and animals are at risk of extinction, with climate change being a major reason. It's an unprecedented threat to biodiversity, as Patricia Miloslavich, a senior professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at Universidad Simón Bolívar, told CBS News.

"It's true there have been extinctions in the past, that nature has taken its course, it's just that these have been processes that have taken millions of years and nature has had the time to adapt and provide a response," she said. "We are not giving nature a time to provide a response."

  • A newly published hypothesis suggests that some noncommunicable diseases can actually be transmitted between people via their microbiomes.
  • A new analysis even found that your microbiome can convey more information than your genes about your chance of developing various health conditions.
  • By being exposed to an unhealthy cluster of microbes, healthy people could put themselves at risk of "catching" noncommunicable diseases.


Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, dying from communicable diseases is rare these days. It's noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and respiratory disease, that we're told to worry about. According to the World Health Organization, NCDs account for more than 70 percent of all deaths globally.


The mainstream belief has been that noncommunicable diseases are caused by genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors, like diet, rather than transmission by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. But, in recent years, scientists have come to discover that the microbiome has a big influence on our health. A newly published hypothesis suggests that some noncommunicable diseases can actually be transmitted between people via their microbiomes.

What is the microbiome?

Photo of gut bacteria photographed over a lightbox.

Photography by Chris Wood via Wikimedia

The microbiome is a cluster of bacteria, viruses, protozoa and fungi — a sort of microbe 'aura' — that live in and on a person's body. Most make their abode in the lower gut. Research has suggested that that these critters help facilitate the function of certain physiological systems, such as digestion, metabolism and immune defense. A new analysis found that your microbiome can convey more information than your genes about your chance of developing various health conditions such as asthma, cancer, and even schizophrenia. No one knows for sure what distinguishes a healthy microbiome from an unhealthy one, but people who have health issues including diabetes or cardiovascular disease typically host a different cocktail of bacteria in their guts than healthier individuals. Take cardiovascular disease for example. If you eat red meat, there are specific microbes that produce an enzyme that breaks it down into a compound called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO). People who have a higher concentration of TMAO in their blood increase their chance of developing cardiovascular disease. That probability increases even more if those TMAO-producing bacteria appear in the gut.


Now, a new theory published in the journal Science opines that by being exposed to an unhealthy cluster of microbes, healthy people could possibly put themselves at risk of "catching" the noncommunicable diseases caused by them.

A radically new way of thinking about disease

Photo Source: Pixabay

The stunning hypothesis that noncommunicable diseases may be communicable would be a paradigm shift according to B. Brett Finlay, the microbiologist at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver who authored the study. He told Live Science in an email that this could lead to a "whole new way of thinking about these diseases."

Previous research has hinted at the possibility that parts of the microbiome could transmit between people living in close quarters. For instance, there was a 2019 study conducted in Fiji in which researchers discovered from saliva and stool samples that people who lived in close proximity to each other shared similar microbiomes. The team was able to predict which participants in the study were coupled by looking at only their bacteria clusters. If these microbes can flow between people, it seems logical to suspect they could facilitate disease. A study published in 2003 found that people who have spouses with type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of developing the disease within 12 months of their partners diagnosis. This was also true of spouses of people with irritable bowel syndrome. (Around 80 million microbes can be transferred through just a single kiss.)

There is also building evidence to suggest that obesity, one of the leading risk-factors to several NCDs, is also communicable. Having an obese friend or sibling has been found to increase someone's chance of becoming obese, and research on military families found that being stationed in a region with higher obesity rates raises a person's chance of a higher BMI. Of course, that could all be due to taking on the diet of a person you're close with or of a country you are in. However, another study found that healthy, lean mice gain significant weight when they receive a fecal transplant from already-obese mice, indicating that microbes play a part in contracting disease.

It's difficult to prove that certain diseases are caused by microbes rather than environmental factors like diet because the two are so intimately intertwined, so more research will have to be done to prove this fascinating hypothesis.

How to keep a healthy microbiome

This new way of looking at disease offers a plus side. The fate of your health might not totally lay in the genes you've been dealt, but in the controllable makeup of microbes in your gut. So, how does one enhance his or her microbiome exactly? Avoiding meat as well as dairy products and a large variety of fruits and vegetables is one big way. Plants are high in fiber and contain complex carbohydrates that feed the good bacteria and decrease the bad. Another thing you can do is incorporate fermented foods into your diet, like kimchi, knifer, and kombucha. Go ahead and indulge in a bit of red wine as well if that's your thing. It's also been found to offer gut benefits. After all, as Finlay noted, looking after your own microbiome won't just be of personal benefit, but maybe to those close to you as well.

  • In his book, Is a Good God Logically Possible?, James Sterba investigates the role of evil.
  • Sterba contends that if God is all-powerful then he'd be able to stop evil from occurring in the world.
  • God's inability (or unwillingness) to stop evil should make us question his role, or even his existence.

Why does God allow evil to happen? This question has been at the heart of Western religious philosophy since the dawn of monotheism. The very term and concept of God has long divided humans. Is he the first mover? Beyond definition, as many have argued? If God is all-powerful and humans are incapable of even defining him—I'm using "him" out of convenience, as "it" would be more appropriate in this case; a gendered deity is quite definable—why are so many certain they recognize his moral standing? Given how many sects of religions exist, how can so many people be so wrong?

If we recognize that evil exists (a hard point to dispute), and we also believe that God is omnipotent and omniscient, then we are granting this deity—to be clear, we're discussing the Abrahamic god—the power of knowing when evil exists and an ability to eliminate it. If God is incapable of stopping evil he is not all-powerful. If he is capable of stopping evil but chooses not to, well, we've got an evil God on our hands.

The latest thinker to tackle this unnerving question is James Sterba, professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and author of the book, Is a Good God Logically Possible? While many forms of evil can be discussed in this context, Sterba builds his argument in one specific domain, as he recently explained.

"I'm thinking about moral evil. This is the evil that human beings do. And I'm not thinking about all the evil of a particular action. I'm only worried about the external consequences. This is the part of the evil action that I think God gets in trouble about."

To highlight his reasoning, Sterba uses the example of homicide. A man gets a gun, loads it, aims, and pulls the trigger. The speeding bullet is the consequence of an idea: he wants to murder someone. Sterba does not concern himself with God's role in the internal process that led to the purchase and usage of that gun. Thinking, he claims, is for man alone. He questions why God would not have stopped the external consequence of the shooting. He's not looking for this deity to play the role of thought police, but to step in as actual police would.

A young boy carrying a placard in London's Trafalgar Square which says, 'Prepare to Meet Thy God'.

Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images

If God is unable or unwilling to stop the external consequences of evil—while good and evil can be culturally relative terms, murder is universally recognized as being in the red—then the implications, to the religious at least, would equate to blasphemy.

"If there's all this evil in the world, maybe God can't prevent it. Then he's still all powerful, he just logically can't prevent it. The problem there is it turns out that God would be less powerful than we are because we can prevent lots of evil. Now if God is stuck in a logical possibility while we're only stuck in a causal one, then he's so much less powerful than us. The traditional God can't be less powerful than we are."

While this discussion is often relegated to religious philosophy, we regularly witness the effects. Sterba mentions the Pauline principle, that "one should never do evil so that good may come." Murdering a doctor that provides abortions, a platform accepted by extreme religious conservatives, falls into this category. We can place the record number of migrant children held in detention centers in 2019, nearly 70,000, because their imprisonment supposedly saves American jobs, or keeps brown people out, or this week's excuse du jour in that category as well.

Sterba says that a religion that purports to champion charity and poverty should not be making a utilitarian argument when at root its adherents should be thinking about not doing evil. Doing evil for a supposed later good is not, by its very nature, a charitable act.

"In traditional religious views, utilitarianism is a horrible thing. Trying to maximize utilitarianism is a bad way of thinking about things. You should be thinking about not doing evil and you should be worrying about intention."

Sterba invokes the Doctrine of Double Effect, citing the famous ethical dilemma known as the Trolley problem. A speeding trolly is about to kill five people. You're standing on a bridge and can pull a lever to veer the car to another track and only kill one. In most studies, five to one is easy for people to grapple with—except when they are asked to physically pull the lever, that is. Regardless, the tradeoff is less evil thanks to the hands of a human.

Sterba says this dilemma works in humans but not God. If God is truly powerful, "he's never stuck in allowing evil to happen. We sometimes are stuck if we're trying to do some good, we're allowing evil to happen, God could always, at the level of external action, stop the evil of all bad actions."

God, he continues, should not be causally or logically unable to stop evil, if he so chooses.

"Either he's not done it because he's an evil god—that's not a helpful result—or he's not done it because he's not very powerful, maybe even less powerful than us."

While Sterba focuses on moral evil, he entertains nature as well. Take climate change. Beyond the acceleration of environmental catastrophes, the planet has never actually been completely hospitable to humans. Natural disasters have always occurred; our species has nearly been wiped out in past eras. Why would an all-powerful god not make this planet more amenable to our survival if we're really his chosen species?

There might never be answers to such questions given the contentious nature of this discussion. While Sterba goes to great philosophical lengths to contemplate the problem of evil, he also grounds his thinking in the practical and applicable. Regardless of your religious belief (or non-belief), it behooves everyone to remember that when it comes to moral evil, we are all empowered to play a beneficent, or evil, role. As he puts it,

"Even if we think God is behind everything, we should do all we can."

Amen.

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Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter and Facebook. His next book is Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy.