Psychology

PowerPoint is the scourge of critical thinking. It encourages fragmented logic by the briefer and passivity in the listener. Only a verbal narrative that logically connects a succinct problem statement using rational thinking can develop sound solutions. PowerPoint is excellent for displaying data; but it makes us stupid when applied to critical thinking. Mattis, Jim […]

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“A lot of people talk about expecting the best but preparing for the worst, but I think that’s a seductively misleading concept. There’s never just one “worst.” Almost always there’s a whole spectrum of bad possibilities. The only thing that would really qualify as the worst would be not having a plan for how to […]

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I have long been skeptical about the prospects for off-world human colonies. Given that the International Space Station is the most expensive thing we have ever built and it is entirely reliant on supplies from Earth, it would be a gigantic leap just to make a self-sustaining closed life support system. Beyond that are many […]

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Andy Weir’s hard sci-fi novel The Martian has a protagonist whose sense of humour was part of why he was selected as part of a crew for a Mars mission: “They all showed signs of stress and moodiness. Mark was no exception, but the way he showed it was to crack more jokes and get […]

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With the Trudeau cabinet’s approval of the Trans Mountain extension everyone is talking abut hypocrisy: “The day before they passed a climate change emergency resolution and now they are approving a pipeline for the dirty tar sands: the hypocrisy!” The trouble is, arguments based on accusations of hypocrisy often don’t hold up logically. “Al Gore […]

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Productivity in the context of academic research is an unusual phenomenon. While elements like data entry may have a pretty direct and straightforward relationship between effort and outcomes, coming up with new ideas and writing can both involve a lot of unpredictability and spontaneity. Academic productivity is also social, or at least networked. The extent […]

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Perhaps a central virtue for the world of the future will be self-denial, and specifically channeling covetous feelings toward sustainable ends: not collecting 10,000 Barbie dolls or flying into low Earth orbit, but doing instead things that will enrich and distinguish you in the community without heavy ecological effects, like writing, making art, and theatre. […]

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Today I was at a conference on “Building a Post-Carbon Future” by 2050. It was certainly not bad, but I felt there was a huge disjoint between the Paris Agreement targets frequently referenced (to keep global warming to less than 1.5–2.0 ˚C above pre-industrial levels) and the scale and ambition of the policies and actions […]

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One virtue of anxiety is sometimes you do come up with a new approach to solving a problem the 1000th time you think it over, even if you haven’t learned any pertinent information in the interim. The new approach is probably bad, but at least the rate of new ideas never falls to zero and […]

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Something occurred to me as I was walking through the snow this morning. There’s an episode of Yes Minister (The Bed of Nails) in which the hapless minister Jim Hacker is charged with implementing an integrated national transport policy. His savvy and manipulative chief civil servant explains: It is the ultimate vote loser… If you […]

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