A much-needed "causal revolution" has arrived in Judea Pearl's 'The Book of Why'. But despite vast improvements over "trad stats", there's cause for concern over logic-losing numbers.
How we talk about genes shows many are confused. Seductive stats illusions, iffy gene ideas, bad causology, and lax jargon, are creating a recipe for epistemic comedy (and genetic tragedy).
Free-market fans often fail to see how self-interest can create diseased-market games. Robert Frank helps diagnose American healthcare's deadly trillion-dollar disease.
Almost every reader will learn from the vast erudition (and biblical proportions) of Steven Pinker's 'Enlightenment Now'. But it's data-lit gospel of progress hides darker biases.
Few know about the trillion dollar crime that stole pay raises while weakening our economy. The “lootocrats” and their courtiers are taking us for a ride.
Here's the psychology that explains why many economists prefer to be narrowly right yet broadly wrong (they suffer from professional "rigor distortis").
Why do some smart folk spout such bad ideas? Marilynne Robinson says it's because we teach them "higher twaddle.” She's right, but the situation is worse than she fears.
Are noble 18th-century norms fit for 21st-century life? Especially when, as Yuval Harari says, liberalism’s “factual statements just don’t stand up to rigorous scientific scrutiny.”
Rationality isn't the rule, it's rare. That's true of the sort of optimizing rationality that economists presume we all have (even though many economists themselves fall short of that standard).
We're at risk of mistaking the music for the piano in using a “jump to the gene” approach to biology. It's time for a more fitting view of genes to evolve.
How did our world come to be ruled by a view of human nature that contradicts the testimony of much of history, and the bulk of the arts, and your daily experience? Mathoholics are to blame.
Our way of life needs a skills upgrade, to reinstall certain old stoic ideas. Using your rights well needs "happiness bootcamp" skills.
A chorus of new science is showing that evolution has orchestrated life to leave no room for solos. A grander view of life is revealing higher-level, need-centric relational logic patterns (as in David Haskell’s The Songs of Trees).
The state of nature isn't a "war of all against all." Even no-brainer bacteria "know" that sometimes the game is "Survival of the Friendliest"
Evolution exists and exerts itself in a different way than gravity does... because natural selection is an "algorithmic force."
Natural "narrative selection" was key to turning insignificant apes (who had tools for 2 million years) into the species that now dominates the bio-sphere.
Loop quantum gravity gets the ancient atomist back into the loop, showing how black holes might explode, and that the Big Bang might be a Big Bounce.
The causes of hit products are themselves uncausable. 'Hit Makers' by Derek Thompson explains why we know how to make songs, but not hits.
Descartes’ solitary, inward-facing mindset misconstrues the social nature of our thinking. Social Cartesianism better captures the soul of what matters in distinguishing humans from animals or machines.
Storied skills and a musical analogy might help us update the logic of "virtue ethics." In life, as in jazz, freedom without skills results in a lot foolish noise.
Any story we tell of our species, any science of human nature, that ignores how important stories are in shaping what and how we think and feel is false. We evolved to be ultra-social (and self-deficient), so we care deeply about character and plot.
"Positive psychologists" are relearning old wisdom about a logic built into our biology which ensures that flourishing takes effort and skill.
The "deep stories" that run your world are changing. The stories democracy and economics rely on aren't working so well...
Words don't work like we were taught. That old neat nouns and verbs type tale hides the weird truth. Language is a mix of flux and fixed but flexible elements that relies on "unknown knowns."
Can we work out what ingredients could make "free will" work? Here's a map of some of the steps it would need.
The thinking behind Turing Machines and "universal systems," is being extended to build a new kind of physics. “Constructor Theory,” is being developed by David Deutsch and Chiara Marletto to better explain life. It even suggests why morality arose.
Our picture of life is going through a major shift. Ed Yong's book I Contain Multitudes reveals that a genome generally doesn’t contain all the genes an organism needs. Symbiosis isn’t rare, it's the rule. And we're just the icing on life's vast microbial cake.
It seems very odd now, but one of the greatest thinkers ever, believed that we could rely on the love of math and its beauty to make us better people. Here's why Plato thought so...
Plato wasn't worried that democracy tended to lead to Donald Trump-style tyranny (despite what Andrew Sullivan claims). Here's what he was really concerned about.
"Behavioral politics” can shed light on terrorism's appeal. And why simple appeals to reason might not work. Indeed rationality doesn't work the way many think it does. What makes us tick must matter for how reasoning works.
Humanity's languages and moralities evolved for social coordination. And for productive teamwork. Our moral sense, our social-rule processors, work just like our language-rule processors.
How we talk about love has become blurry "low resolution language" (it's life-organizing force is often dissipated on trifles). But looking at richer love language can help us improve our aim. And remind us that universal human rights came from a special kind of love that we all need.
Chinese philosophers have suggested “You… should not think of yourself as a single, unified being.” The Path, a book by Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh, can explain (with help from Plato, Kant, Eden, Hume, Confucius, Kahnenman...).
We often now picture our minds in unsound ways. They’re built to resonate to poetry. We’ve all but lost the memory of poetry’s historic role in molding minds (that’s the unsung pretext of Plato’s poetry ban). Poetry is a key cognitive technology , so powerful it was the Internet of its time.
Adam Smith hated greed. He'd likely be horrified to see how his name is now used. And any Smith fans who believe selfishness is a virtue distort what Smith called his best work.
Few maximize. Most muddle. So why do economists mainly model the happy few? It makes the math easier, but risks misusing the massive power of markets. Perhaps, like the muddling masses, they should use less math and more logic.
The roots of the word “Christmas” express two kinds of liberation (of, and from, the masses) with some shortening. Much that matters is hidden in the unsung history of words, and their translations... there's the rub...
Terrorists exploit the “glamor of action movies, video games, and gangsta rap.” Counterterrorist efforts somehow have to counter that glamorization.
The big story that probably most shapes our times is too simple. We can't afford to go on ignoring its plot holes and more complex dark side.
Beauty and duty are increasingly involved in an undeclared conflict. It's not a fair fight; one side is much stronger (illustrating how art works on our "hidden brain").
A key thought experiment, the "tragedy of the commons," is widely misunderstood, especially among certain kinds of economists. Elinor Ostrom won a Nobel Prize for showing how irrational they can be.
“Teamwork is the signature adaptation of” humanity, says David Sloan Wilson. And our ancestors evolved ruthlessly cooperative means of ensuring productive social coordination.
Division of labor creates a need for others. And it logically connects your interests with the interests of those needed others (which complicates evolutionary trade-offs).
Evolution can be seen as a process of discovering logic that works well in a particular environment. But evolution can't see what our foresight can grasp. In some cases the logic inherent in relationships of need (e.g. within groups) can be decisive.
Jag Bhalla is a writer and entrepreneur. Current projects include this "Thought Fix" blog series for Big Think. And NanoSalad a zero-prep way to zap veggie gaps (by BodZoo LLC, a future-friendly, basic-by-design business, see www.bodzoo.com for further details). Prior projects include "Errors We Live By," a series of short exoteric essays exposing errors in the big ideas running our lives. And I'm Not Hanging Noodles On Your Ears, a surreptitious science gift book from National Geographic Books, which explains his twitter handle @hangingnoodles.