Bill Clinton: Never Stop Learning
After leaving the White House, President Clinton established the William J. Clinton Foundation with the mission to improve global health, strengthen economies, promote healthier childhoods, and protect the environment by fostering partnerships among governments, businesses, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and private citizens to turn good intentions into measurable results. Throughout the Foundation’s history and growth, Secretary Clinton and Chelsea offered their voice, vision, and counsel. To recognize their past contributions and acknowledge their role in shaping the Foundation’s future, the Foundation was renamed the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation.
Today the Foundation has staff and volunteers around the world working to improve lives through several initiatives, including the Clinton Health Access Initiative, which is helping 5 million people living with HIV/AIDS access lifesaving drugs. The Clinton Climate Initiative, the Clinton Development Initiative, and the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership are applying a business-oriented approach to fight climate change worldwide and to promote sustainable economic growth in Africa and Latin America. In the U.S., the Foundation is working to combat the alarming rise in childhood obesity and preventable disease through the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and the Clinton Health Matters Initiative. Established in 2005, the Clinton Global Initiative brings together global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues. So far, more than 2,800 Clinton Global Initiative commitments have improved the lives of more than 430 million people in 180 nations.
In addition to his Foundation work, President Clinton has joined with former President George H.W. Bush three times – after the 2004 tsunami in South Asia, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and Hurricane Ike in 2008, and with President George W. Bush in Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. Today the Clinton Foundation supports economic growth, job creation, and sustainability in Haiti.
President Clinton was born on August 19, 1946, in Hope, Arkansas. He and his wife Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton have one daughter, Chelsea, and live in Chappaqua, New York.
Bill Clinton: I think the most important thing that I have learned is that there's more to learn. That we should – that we should all be hungry for a lifetime. I mean, for example, at my next birthday I'll be 68. All the great scientific discoveries made by all the great geniuses were largely made when they were in their 20s and 30s. And yet I became, about two years ago, obsessed with particle physics and I was determined to understand it before I died. I could not have done that if I hadn't learned to read when I was young. If I hadn't had the opportunity to study science courses in my high school, and I lived in the second poorest state in the United States, which most people my age in my state did not have. I happened to go to a bigger high school with people who understood we had to get good science and math teachers there.
And if I hadn't gone to, in my case, Georgetown University, which was a Jesuit University, and I hadn't been subject to the kind of rigors that the Jesuits imposed which made me realize that however much I thought I knew and however smart I was I didn't know very much and I wasn't very smart. I had a lot to learn. So that's the most important thing I learned that your brain is a gift. And we now know that people well into their late 60s and 70s can form new neural networks. So that even though your brain begins to shrink in your 30s, and does throughout your life, since none of us ever use even close to half of our brainpower we got a lot left and we will on our last day on earth we'll have a lot left.
So, the idea that we now know, as a scientific measure because of all the brain scanning technology, that we can form these networks and that we form them best, we're most likely to form new neural networks later in life by learning something new. So if I said I was interested in particle physics and also in astrophysics, and I'm trying to figure out what it means that we've located 20 planets outside our solar system in the last five years that seem to have enough density and be far enough away from their sons that they might be able to support life. That may be the answer to the Russia Ukraine problem; an attack from outer space will immediately unite us all.
Members of Congress in the U.S. will immediately start hugging each other and singing "Kumbaya." But anyway, I can form new neural networks doing that because I don't know anything about it, or I didn't when I started. A theoretical physicist would do better going to Suzuki piano lessons with his grandchild or her grandchild and just playing if you knew nothing about music. But this is an incredible thing that the most important thing I learned is that it's important to keep on learning. That you should stay hungry and that the greatest gift can be even as your body begins to fail if your minds still working you need to use it.
Look, I have always said this; in the history of my country only two governors of very small states have ever been elected president. A man named Franklin Pierce, the governor of New Hampshire in 1852 who was picked just because he was the most inoffensive person around as we headed toward the Civil War. He was a very good man by the way and underrated as a person but his presidency was a failure because he couldn't hold the country together, and me. And I always told people that I considered the fact that I was the governor of a very small state and the last generation, part of the last generation of Americans to grow up without a television to be one of the reasons that I did get elected president. We didn't get a TV until I was almost ten years old. And we didn't get a computer till my daughter was about four years old.
So, I grew up in an oral culture of storytelling and I was raised by highly intelligent people, most of whom had very limited formal education. But they were highly intelligent. And I was taught to listen and to observe and to pay attention and to listen to other people's stories. I was taught that everybody's got a story. I was taught that every life had some inherently interesting part of it but that most people can't get it out. And if they could get it out, if everybody could tell their story it would be interesting. And around the dinner table at my great uncle's house, for example, who spent a lot of time raising me when my mother was widowed by the time I was born, and my great uncle was the smartest guy in our family. I bet his IQ was 185 and he had like no formal education but he could literally have you in tears in three minutes talking about some totally otherwise non-descript person in our hometown and telling the story of their lives. Just laughing, crying, he was a genius.
So, before--if you were a kid around the table--before you could tell a story you had to be able to listen to one. And we would be asked, the children after somebody told a story at lunch or dinner, did you understand the story? And if you said yes then you would be asked okay what did you hear? After you proved that you could listen and recount what you heard then you could tell a story, but not until. And I think that you can teach people first the big fact. Our differences are important. They make life interesting. But since nobody is capable of being in possession of the whole truth about anything, our common humanity matters more. So you owe everybody a certain presumption of respect until they do something to forfeit it, and you should be listening. And we should teach people that. We should teach people how other people view the world differently from us, how other people have experienced life differently from us. It's a discipline. It's a learned gift and it's part of some cultures and not part of others. I grew up in a highly segregated, racially segregated southern town with a grandfather who ran a grocery store where most of his customers were African-Americans. So I grew up knowing people that most white kids didn't know. And I learned, just - nobody had to tell me, I learned that intelligence was evenly distributed. I learned that dignity was something shared by all people. I just learned it. I deserve no credit for it. I was raised in a certain way.
I think that all that can be taught. I also think that I agree with what you said, but I think there's another skill that needs to be taught. That you can't necessarily learn even if you're a computer whiz or if you're a news or political junkie and you read 50 blogs a day. And that is how to organize all that you know. I mean one of the reasons--I should be interviewing you today. One of the reasons that I love your columns and I love your commentary is that you help people to synthesize things that they know, sort of, that is you may write a column or do a commentary and not state one single fact that most of your listeners or readers don't already know, but they haven't put it together as you have. And we live in a time where an eight-year-old can get on the computer and find out in 30 seconds things that I had to go to university to learn, right? It's pretty scary, but it's true. That doesn't mean that the eight-year-old understands the significance that whatever that is in terms of 15 other things. So I think getting along with other people is important, but I also think sympathizing ability is important. Otherwise you could take everything you read – I mean just look at what's on the news every day or what's in the newspaper it's like the political equivalent of chaos theory in physics. How do you connect the dots? So I think learning to deal with other people and then learning to connect the dots are the two great mega educational skills we need to impart in every country at every level of development.
Bill Clinton on the most important lesson he's learned.
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What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Is Bitcoin akin to 'digital gold'?
- In October, PayPal announced that it would begin allowing users to buy, sell, and hold cryptocurrencies.
- Other major fintech companies—Square, Fidelity, SoFi—have also recently begun investing heavily in cryptocurrencies.
- While prices are volatile, many investors believe cryptocurrencies are a relatively safe bet because blockchain technology will prove itself over the long term.
Presentation slide from Sanja Kon's presentation on the evolution of money at 2020 Web Summit
Credit: Sanja Kon<p>The move came shortly after the payments company Square invested $50 million into Bitcoin, and after Fidelity announced that it was opening a Bitcoin fund into which qualified purchasers could invest <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-08-26/fidelity-launches-inaugural-bitcoin-fund-for-wealthy-investors" target="_blank">(minimum investment: $100,000)</a>. Together, this institutional backing might have something to do with Bitcoin's recent surge back to near its 2017 price peak of $19,783. (Bitcoin is listed at 19,384.30 as of Dec. 3.)<br></p>
Presentation slide from Sanja Kon's presentation on the evolution of money at 2020 Web Summit
Credit: Sanja Kon<p>But more importantly, it suggests cryptocurrencies might soon have the opportunity to prove themselves in real-world use cases. After all, skeptics have long doubted the ability of cryptocurrencies to go mainstream as a form of everyday payment. But people seem increasingly comfortable with digital payment systems.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The entire world is going to come into digital first," Schulman said at Web Summit, adding that PayPal's services already go hand-in-hand with cryptocurrencies. "As we thought about it, digital wallets are a natural complement to digital currencies. We've got over 360 million digital wallets and we need to embrace cryptocurrencies."</p><p>Sanja Kon, vice president of global partnerships at the cryptocurrency payments processor company UTRUST, also spoke at Web Summit about the increasing adoption of digital payments:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Physical cash is becoming more and more obsolete. And the next step in the evolution is digital currency."</p><p>Kon noted some of the inherent advantages of cryptocurrencies, namely ownership. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"For many people, this is really the main benefit of cryptocurrency: Users owning cryptocurrencies are able to control how they spend their money without dealing with any intermediary authority like a bank or a government, for example," Kon said, adding that there are no bank fees associated with cryptocurrencies, and that international transaction fees are significantly lower than wire transfers of fiat currency.</p><p>Kon said cryptocurrencies have unique growth opportunities in areas where people aren't integrated into modern banking systems:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"With cryptocurrencies and blockchain, with the use of just a smartphone and access to internet, Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies can be available to populations of people and users without access to the traditional banking system."</p>
Bitcoin as 'digital gold'<p>Still, it could take years for people to start using cryptocurrencies for everyday purchases on a large scale. Despite this, many cryptocurrency advocates see digital currencies, particularly Bitcoin, as a way to store value—digital gold, essentially.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"I don't think Bitcoin is going to be used as a transactional currency anytime in the next five years," billionaire investor Mike Novogratz recently told <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-10-23/novogratz-says-bitcoin-is-digital-gold-not-a-currency-for-now?srnd=markets-vp" target="_blank">Bloomberg</a>. "Bitcoin is being used as a store of value. [...] "Bitcoin as a gold, as digital gold, is just going to keep going higher. More and more people are going to want it as some portion of their portfolio."</p><p>There are obvious parallels between gold and Bitcoin: Both are mined, do not degrade over time, are finite in supply, and aren't directly tied to the value of fiat currency, making them <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-gold-inflation/gold-as-an-inflation-hedge-well-sort-of-idUSKCN1GD516" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">relatively invulnerable to inflation</a>. The obvious objection is that the price of Bitcoin, and cryptocurrencies in general, is far more volatile than gold.</p><p>But for investors who believe the inherent value of cryptocurrency technology will prove itself over the long term, these price fluctuations are just bumps on the long road to the future of currency. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It's no longer a debate if crypto is a thing, if Bitcoin is an asset, if the blockchain is going to be part of the financial infrastructure," Novogratz said. "It's not if, it's when, and so every single company has to have a plan now."</p>
Singapore has approved the sale of a lab-grown meat product in an effort to secure its food supplies against disease and climate change.
Approve for your dining pleasure<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dd3f57f8baf14e654812d30a309d1f17"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/307gysA18_E?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><a href="https://www.ju.st/en-us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Eat Just</a>, a company that produces animal-alternative food products, announced the news earlier this week. In what the company is calling a world first, Singapore has given it permission for a small-scale commercial launch of their GOOD Meat brand product line. For the initial run, the cultured chicken meat will be sold as an ingredient in "chicken bites."</p><p>"Singapore has long been a leader in innovation of all kinds, from information technology to biologics to now leading the world in building a healthier, safer food system. I'm sure that our regulatory approval for cultured meat will be the first of many in Singapore and in countries around the globe," Josh Tetrick, co-founder and CEO of Eat Just, <a href="https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20201201006251/en/Eat-Just-Granted-World%E2%80%99s-First-Regulatory-Approval-for-Cultured-Meat" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">said in a release</a>.</p><p>According to the release, Eat Just underwent an extensive safety review by the Singapore Food Agency. It provided officials "details on the purity, identity and stability of chicken cells during the manufacturing process, as well as a detailed description of the manufacturing process which demonstrated that harvested cultured chicken met quality controls and a rigorous food safety monitoring system." It also demonstrated the consistency of its production by running more than 20 cycles in its 1,200-liter bioreactors.</p><p>While Eat Just did not offer details on its propriety process, it likely follows <a href="https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24032080-400-accelerating-the-cultured-meat-revolution/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">one similar to other lab-grown meats</a>. It starts with muscle cell samples drawn from a living animal. Technicians then isolate stem cells from the sample and culture them <em>in vitro</em>. These cultured stem cells are then placed in a bioreactor, essentially a fermenter for fleshy cells. The bioreactor contains scaffolding materials to keep the growing tissue from falling apart as well as a growth material—the sugars, salts, and other nutrients the tissue needs to grow. As the cells grow, they begin to differentiate into the muscle, fat, and other cells of meat tissue. Once grown, the tissues are formed into a meat product to be shipped to restaurants and supermarkets.</p>
An abattoir abatement?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg2Mjg5OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyODg1NDI3N30.AYmFJfWQbPjK-o1IatyFHL-OLjcfXBMmQKYyvz4oT3s/img.jpg?width=980" id="8a82d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="93f824fe4c6f397ab2b65e4665847e71" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A graph showing the number of animals slaughtered in the United States per year from 1961–2018.
Credit: Our World in Data<p>Singapore's approval is an important step in support for clean meats—so-called because they don't require animal slaughter and would likely leave a reduced carbon footprint—but hurdles remain before widespread adoption is possible.</p><p>The most glaring is the price. The first lab-grown hamburger was eaten in London in 2013. <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-23576143" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">It cost roughly $330,000</a>. As with any new technology, investment, iteration, and improved manufacturing will see the price drop substantially and quickly. For comparison, Eat Just's chicken will be priced equivalent to premium chicken.</p><p>Other hurdles include up-scaling production, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-00373-w" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the need for further research</a>, and developing techniques to reliably produce in-demand meats such as fish and beef. Finally, not all countries may be as receptive as Singapore. Countries with large, entrenched meat industries may protect this legacy industry through a protracted and difficult regulatory process. Though, the meat industry itself is investing in lab-grown meat. Tyson Foods, for example, has <a href="https://euromeatnews.com/Article-Tyson-Foods-announces-investment-in-clean-meat/697" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">invested in the food-tech startup Memphis Meats</a>, the company that debuted the world's first beef meatball.</p><p>"I would imagine what will happen is the U.S., Western Europe and others will see what Singapore has been able to do, the rigours of the framework that they put together. And I would imagine that they will try to use it as a template to put their own framework together," <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-eat-just-singapore/singapore-approves-sale-of-lab-grown-meat-in-world-first-idUSKBN28C06Z" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Tetrick told Reuter's during an interview</a>.</p><p>Regardless of the challenges, the demand for meat substitutes is present and growing. In 2020, plant-based substitutes like Beyond Meat and Impossible foods <a href="https://bigthink.com/coronavirus/plant-based-meat" target="_self">gained a significant foothold in supermarkets</a> as meat-packing factories became coronavirus hotspots. The looming threat of climate change has also turned people away from meat as animal products. Livestock production is environmentally taxing and leaves <a href="http://css.umich.edu/factsheets/carbon-footprint-factsheet" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a much larger carbon footprint</a> than grain and vegetable production. </p><p>Then there's the moral concern of animal cruelty. In 2018 alone, 302 million cows, 656 million turkeys, 1.48 billion pigs, and a gob-smacking 68 billion chickens were <a href="https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/animals-slaughtered-for-meat" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">slaughtered for meat worldwide</a>. And those figures do not include chickens killed in dairy or egg production.</p><p>If brought to scale and widely available, clean meats could become serious competitors to traditional meat. <a href="https://bigthink.com/technology-innovation/meat-alternatives" target="_self">One report has even predicted</a> that 60 percent of the meat people eat by 2040 won't come from slaughtered animals. It could be just the thing for people looking for a meat substitute but who find tofurkey as distasteful as, well tofurkey.</p>
Researchers dramatically improve the accuracy of a number that connects fundamental forces.
- A team of physicists carried out experiments to determine the precise value of the fine-structure constant.
- This pure number describes the strength of the electromagnetic forces between elementary particles.
- The scientists improved the accuracy of this measurement by 2.5 times.
The process for measuring the fine-structure constant involved a beam of light from a laser that caused an atom to recoil. The red and blue colors indicate the light wave's peaks and troughs, respectively.
A new study finds that some people just want privacy.
- Despite its reputation as a tool for criminals, only a small percentage of Tor users were actually going to the dark web.
- The rate was higher in free countries and lower in countries with censored internet access.
- The findings are controversial, and may be limited by their methodology to be general assumptions.