David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
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“A Whole New Literate Public”

Question: Where do we\r\nstand today in relationship to modernism and postmodernism?


Louis Menand:  Yeah,\r\n well, that’s one of those\r\nquestions that you can’t answer.  I\r\nmean, yeah, we’re probably post-postmodernism?  But\r\n what was postmodernism such that we’re post of it?  So\r\n it’s pretty tricky.


But I think that the period of the 50’s and 60’s \r\nwas a\r\nperiod of kind of high veneration of the modernists, like Eliot, and \r\ncomparable\r\nfigures in the world of art, and so on. \r\nAnd the 60’s and the 70’s kind of replaced that with a different\r\ncanon.  So when I started out, I\r\nwas actually a Victorianist, that was my field.  I\r\n did 19th Century British literature, but by some fluke of\r\nthe job market, I got a job teaching modern literature and ended up \r\nwriting a\r\nbook on T. S. Eliot, who was, in those days, sort of king of modern \r\nliterary\r\nform, and criticism as well.


But now the canon’s very different from that \r\nperiod, people\r\ndon’t write about Eliot and Pound any more, so that’s really changed a\r\nlot.  And I think our sensibility\r\nis not modernist anymore, that is, sensibility of people who are \r\ninterested in\r\nart and literature.


Question: Are we\r\nexperiencing a broader decline in cultural literacy?


Louis Menand:  I\r\n wouldn’t say that.  I mean, it’s, decline’s a \r\nfunny word to\r\nuse about any cultural moment.  I\r\nthink things are different from the way they were 40 or 50 years ago, \r\nbut the\r\nmedia are different, interests are different, you know, the demographics\r\n are\r\ndifferent.  It’s just a different\r\nworld.


Just in higher education alone, more people go to \r\ncollege\r\nnow, by enormous amounts, than went to college in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s.  So that represents a whole new literate\r\npublic that’s a consumer of literature, of news, of print, of, you know,\r\nopinion.  And that’s a bigger\r\naudience and much more diverse audience than it used to be.  So it’s really hard to talk about\r\ndecline.  I think it’s just things\r\ndo shift.  And then when things\r\nshift, one’s own role in the culture shifts along with it and you have \r\nto\r\nadjust to that.

Whether we’re in postmodernism, post-postmodernism, or some other phase, one thing we’re not in is cultural decline.

Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?

Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?

  • From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
  • "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
  • Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.

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  • The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
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Credit: Neom
Technology & Innovation
  • The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
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Better reskilling can future-proof jobs in the age of automation. Enter SkillUp's new coalition.

Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.

Image: metamorworks / Shutterstock
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Outplacement is an underperforming $5 billion dollar industry. A new non-profit coalition by SkillUp intends to disrupt it.
  • More and more Americans will be laid off in years to come due to automation. Those people need to reorient their career paths and reskill in a way that protects their long-term livelihood.
  • SkillUp brings together technology and service providers, education and training providers, hiring employers, worker outreach, and philanthropies to help people land in-demand jobs in high-growth industries.
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