Lateral thinking: The reason you’ve heard of Nintendo and Marvel

Here's why generalists triumph over specialists in the new era of innovation.

  • Since the explosion of the knowledge economy in the 1990s, generalist inventors have been making larger and more important contributions than specialists.
  • One theory is that the rise of rapid communication technologies allowed the information created by specialists to be rapidly disseminated, meaning generalists can combine information across disciplines to invent something new.
  • Here, David Epstein explains how Nintendo's Game Boy was a case of "lateral thinking with withered technology." He also relays the findings of a fascinating study that found the common factor of success among comic book authors.
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How toxic people wage emotional warfare on others

Expect emotional warfare where there are high-conflict people.

  • High-conflict emotional warfare exists everywhere there are high-conflict people.
  • Their strategy is usually to seduce someone get other people to agree with them on attacking someone else. In mental health terms, this is called "splitting," where you split people into all good and all bad. Splitting is linked to borderline and narcissistic personality disorders.
  • High-conflict people dominate by sowing division, at all levels of society — from school boards to state governments.
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Mind-altering drugs: The magical history of LSD and mushrooms

Why did government officials stop psychedelics from reaching mainstream culture?

  • In the '60s drugs escape the lab and become a very important ingredient In the creation of the counterculture. Timothy Leary, a psychologist at Harvard in 1960, has something to do with this.
  • In Cambridge, he starts the Harvard Psilocybin Project which focuses its research into learning more about this promising drug. Because of its medicinal properties, and apparent positive effect on mental health, Leary believed that everyone should use acid, or psilocybin.
  • Richard Nixon called Leary the most dangerous man in America. He felt that LSD and other drugs were sapping the will of American boys to fight in Vietnam.
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Why are IQ scores rising? Industrialization rewired our minds.

300 years of industrialization have boosted our IQ scores in one very specific way.

  • Human intelligence is increasing by approximately 3 IQ points per decade, a phenomenon known as the Flynn effect.
  • The increases come from one area of intelligence in particular: abstract thinking, which can be tested using puzzles like Raven's Progressive Matrices. Watch this video to see two kinds of puzzles: One your modern mind is perfectly geared for, and another that might just fool you.
  • In this video, David Epstein recounts a natural experiment in the Soviet Union in the 1930s that tested the intelligence of isolated subsistence farmers compared to people who had been exposed to industrialization. The experiment revealed fascinating information about abstract thinking, intelligence transfer, and how modern life has changed the way we perceive the world.
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Self-command: Learn this powerful thinking tool

When should you censor yourself, and when should you speak up? Emily Chamlee-Wright explains moral philosopher Adam Smith's 'impartial spectator'.

  • 18th-century moral philosopher Adam Smith argued that you could measure the appropriateness of your words and actions by satisfying an imaginary judge he called the impartial spectator.
  • Switching perspectives to listen to that impartial spectator is a difficult skill as it requires self-command to triumph over self-love. Wise people imagine the spectator's response and use it to help steer productive discourse – especially in difficult and chaotic debates.
  • Self-command is an intellectual virtue. It's a thinking tool that helps us know when to self-censor and when to speak up in the interest of civil discourse and truth seeking.
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