Jill Lepore On Why We Need a New American National Story


Writing national history creates plenty of problems.

But not writing national history creates more problems, and these problems are worse.

What would a new Americanism and a new American history look like? They might look rather a lot like the composite nationalism imagined by Douglass and the clear-eyed histories written by Du Bois. They might take as their starting point the description of the American experiment and its challenges offered by Douglass in 1869:

A Government founded upon justice, and recognizing the equal rights of all men; claiming no higher authority for existence, or sanction for its laws, than nature, reason, and the regularly ascertained will of the people; steadily refusing to put its sword and purse in the service of any religious creed or family, is a standing offense to most of the Governments of the world, and to some narrow and bigoted people among ourselves.

At the close of the Cold War, some commentators concluded that the American experiment had ended in triumph, that the United States had become all the world.

But the American experiment had not in fact ended.

A nation founded on revolution and universal rights will forever struggle against chaos and the forces of particularism.

A nation born in contradiction will forever fight over the meaning of its history. But that doesn’t mean history is meaningless, or that anyone can afford to sit out the fight.

Source: Jill Lepore On Why We Need a New American National Story

How our brain sculpts experience in line with our expectations | Aeon Essays

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One challenge that our brains face in monitoring our actions is the inherently ambiguous information they receive.

We experience the world outside our heads through the veil of our sensory systems: the peripheral organs and nervous tissues that pick up and process different physical signals, such as light that hits the eyes or pressure on the skin. Though these circuits are remarkably complex, the sensory wetware of our brain possesses the weaknesses common to many biological systems: the wiring is not perfect, transmission is leaky, and the system is plagued by noise – much like how the crackle of a poorly tuned radio masks the real transmission.

But noise is not the only obstacle.

Source: How our brain sculpts experience in line with our expectations | Aeon Essays

What big history says about how royal women exercise power | Aeon Ideas


The Santa Fe Institute is dedicated to the study of complexity, and it is adept at processing large quantities of data to that end. In the past decade, its researchers have turned their attention to human history, asking if our interpretation of the historical record can be improved by pooling data about the past and using statistical analysis to identify patterns in them.

This approach might be called ‘big history’, by analogy with ‘big data’ (though the term ‘big history’ has been used in other ways too), and some of its advocates have written about it on Aeon.

With only eight polities to its name, Sabloff’s study doesn’t claim to be big history, but it does claim to have comparative power. It throws up some striking similarities between societies that, because they were so far apart in time and space, cannot have copied each other. It’s the closest anyone has yet come to identifying a queenly norm.

Source: What big history says about how royal women exercise power | Aeon Ideas

Women and Terrorism: Hidden Threats, Forgotten Partners

Extremist groups rely upon women to gain strategic advantage, recruiting them as facilitators and martyrs while also benefiting from their subjugation.

Yet U.S. policymakers overlook the roles that women play in violent extremism—including as perpetrators, mitigators, and victims—and rarely enlist their participation in efforts to combat radicalization.

This omission puts the United States at a disadvantage in its efforts to prevent terrorism globally and within its borders.

Women fuel extremists’ continued influence by advancing their ideology online and by indoctrinating their families.

Source: Women and Terrorism: Hidden Threats, Forgotten Partners

Out of Our Minds by Felipe Fernández-Armesto | University of California Press

nullTo imagine—to see what is not there—is the startling ability that has fueled human development and innovation through the centuries. As a species we stand alone in our remarkable capacity to refashion the world after the picture in our minds.

Traversing the realms of science, politics, religion, culture, philosophy, and history, Felipe Fernández-Armesto reveals the thrilling and disquieting tales of our imaginative leaps—from the first Homo sapiens to the present day.

Through groundbreaking insights in cognitive science, Fernández-Armesto explores how and why we have ideas in the first place, providing a tantalizing glimpse into who we are and what we might yet accomplish.

Source: Out of Our Minds by Felipe Fernández-Armesto – Hardcover – University of California Press

How Bernie Sanders’ Political Revolution Ends | US News


Sanders is not a personally charismatic politician. He doesn’t even try to be. When he responds to even the most adoring supporters, he rarely strives to show warmth or empathy. While there have been fits and starts at talking more about his personal biography and unfurling jokes, they largely haven’t taken hold.

His demeanor is Brooklyn-gruff, usually matter-of-fact and often prickly.

When Sanders is confronted with challenging questions by voters or reporters alike, his reflex is often to become defensive and petulant.

Or as Bernie might say, he takes “umbrage.” One of his favorite targets remains “the corporate media.”

Ask him a purely political question and you’re likely to receive a diatribe about how that focus is part of the country’s systemic problems, which probably explains why he’s been less accessible to reporters on the trail than some of his rivals.

Source: How Bernie Sanders’ Political Revolution Ends | The Civic Report | US News

Could a Lack Of Humility Be at The Root Of What Ails America? | GovExec.com


There are a lot of reasons behind the political polarization of the country and the deterioration of civic discourse.

I wonder if a lack of humility is one of them.

In his recent book, “The Death of Expertise,” national security expert Tom Nichols described a type of person each of us probably knows:

“They are young and old, rich and poor, some with education, others armed only with a laptop or a library card. But they all have one thing in common: They are ordinary people who believe they are actually troves of knowledge. [They are] convinced they are more informed than the experts, more broadly knowledgeable than the professors, and more insightful than the gullible masses…”

Interestingly, intellectual humility has become a hot topic in the field of personality psychology.

Source: Could a Lack Of Humility Be at The Root Of What Ails America? – Management Matters – Management – GovExec.com

Children need digital mentorship, not WHO’s restrictions on screen time


.. don’t blame the media for the mischaracterization. It’s WHO itself that chose to give an oddly disproportionate amount of attention to “sedentary screen time,” a category the organization defines as: “Time spent passively watching screen-based entertainment.”

Throughout the new guidelines, WHO presents “sedentary screen time” as one of three main categories, along with “physical activity” and “good quality” sleep.

These are represented with large colorful graphics as shown above, implying that screen time limits are equally as important to early childhood wellbeing as sleep and exercise.

Of course, that’s not true, not even by the guidelines’ standards.

Source: Children need digital mentorship, not WHO’s restrictions on screen time

Forget about artificial intelligence, extended intelligence is the future

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.. They have found a perfect partner in digital computation, a seemingly knowable, controllable, machine-based system of thinking and creating that is rapidly increasing in its ability to harness and process complexity and, in the process, bestowing wealth and power on those who have mastered it.

In Silicon Valley, the combination of groupthink and the financial success of this cult of technology has created a feedback loop, lacking in self-regulation (although #techwontbuild, #metoo and #timesup are forcing some reflection).

On an S-curve or a bell curve, the beginning of the slope looks a lot like an exponential curve. According to systems-dynamics people, however, an exponential curve shows a positive feedback curve without limits, self-reinforcing and dangerous.

Source: Forget about artificial intelligence, extended intelligence is the future

America’s retirement system is a mess. This new legislation can help


The American retirement system is in urgent need of repair. Projections show that around half of all American households are not saving enough for retirement. Many Americans don’t have access to saving plans at work, and those who are saving need better options for turning their wealth into security.

Policymakers are taking action. The Senate recently introduced the Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act (RESA) and the House Ways and Means Committee passed the Setting Every Community up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act.

These bills both work to improve the issues with today’s retirement policy.

Source: America’s retirement system is a mess. This new legislation can help