Tag Archives | Thinking

The World’s Top Thinkers

Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai in July 2011-croppedMost of you probably know who Richard Dawkins is, but Ashraf Ghani and Ali Allawi? Prospect Magazine reports on its 2013 top thinkers poll:

After more than 10,000 votes from over 100 countries, the results of Prospect’s world thinkers 2013 poll are in. Online polls often throw up curious results, but this top 10 offers a snapshot of the intellectual trends that dominate our age.

THE WINNERS

1. Richard Dawkins
When Richard Dawkins, the Oxford evolutionary biologist, coined the term “meme” in The Selfish Gene 37 years ago, he can’t have anticipated its current popularity as a word to describe internet fads. But this is only one of the ways in which he thrives as an intellectual in the internet age. He is also prolific on Twitter, with more than half a million followers—and his success in this poll attests to his popularity online. He uses this platform to attack his old foe, religion, and to promote science and rationalism.

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The Power of Negative Thinking

Deep Thinking by Wissam Shekhani, ink on paperOlivier Burkeman uses his new book “The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking” as the basis of this essay claiming that ancient philosophy and modern psychology suggest darker thoughts can make us happier, writing in the Wall Street Journal:

The holiday season poses a psychological conundrum. Its defining sentiment, of course, is joy—yet the strenuous effort to be joyous seems to make many of us miserable. It’s hard to be happy in overcrowded airport lounges or while you’re trying to stay civil for days on end with relatives who stretch your patience.

So to cope with the holidays, magazines and others are advising us to “think positive”—the same advice, in other words, that Norman Vincent Peale, author of “The Power of Positive Thinking,” was dispensing six decades ago. (During holidays, Peale once suggested, you should make “a deliberate effort to speak hopefully about everything.”) The result all too often mirrors the famously annoying parlor game about trying not to think of a white bear: The harder you try, the more you think about one.

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Internet Makes Smart People Smarter, Dumb People Dumber

Or so claims Kevin Drum, writing for Mother Jones, and using his attempt to Google the price of milk as a supporting anecdote. The theory (that the internet increases “cognitive inequality”) has yet to be tested via scientific study, but, does it ring true?

Moral of the story: the internet makes dumb people dumber and smart people smarter. If you don’t know how to use it, or don’t have the background to ask the right questions, you’ll end up with a head full of nonsense. But if you do know how to use it, it’s an endless wealth of information. Just as globalization and de-unionization have been major drivers of the growth of income inequality over the past few decades, the internet is now a major driver of the growth of cognitive inequality. Caveat emptor.

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Critical Thinking Classes Coming To American Schools?

Rodin's 'Thinker.' Photo: Satyakamk (CC)

Rodin's 'Thinker.' Photo: Satyakamk (CC)

ScienceDaily reports:

Read the comments on any website and you may despair at Americans’ inability to argue well. Thankfully, educators now name argumentive reasoning as one of the basics students should leave school with.

But what are these skills and how do children acquire them? Deanna Kuhn and Amanda Crowell, of Columbia University’s Teachers College, have designed an innovative curriculum to foster their development and measured the results. Among their findings, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, dialogue is a better path to developing argument skills than writing.

“Children engage in conversation from very early on,” explains Kuhn. “It has a point in real life.” Fulfilling a writing assignment, on the other hand, largely entails figuring out what the teacher wants and delivering it. To the student, “that’s its only function.”

Kuhn and Crowell conducted a three-year intervention at an urban middle school whose students were predominantly Hispanic, African-American, and low-income.

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Brilliant Thinkers Relish Ambiguity

'The Thinker,' by Rodin

'The Thinker,' by Rodin

From www.lifehack.org:

Brilliant thinkers are very comfortable with ambiguity — they welcome it. Routine thinkers like clarity and simplicity; they dislike ambiguity. There is a tendency in our society to reduce complex issues down to simple issues with obviously clear solutions.

We see evidence of this in the tabloid press. There have been some terrible crimes committed in our cities. A violent offender received what is seen to be a lenient sentence. This shows that judges are out of touch with what is needed and that heavy punishment will stop the crime wave.

The brilliant thinker is wary of simple nostrums like these. He or she knows that complex issues usually involve many causes and these may need many different and even conflicting solutions.

Routine thinkers are often dogmatic. They see a clear route forward and they want to follow it. The advantage of this is that they can make decisive and effective executives — up to a point.

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Resources For Thinking About Systems

3D Fractal by Mike 23 (CC)Futurist Chris Arkenberg shares some resources for beginning systems thinkers. Via Technoccult:

In some respects, this way of thinking is a natural part of simply paying attention to things. In other ways, it’s a challenging and sometimes overwhelming course of study that can easily move from Aha! moments to a very dis-empowering sense of total non-determinism. In the face of such huge complexity it can seem impossible to make any actionable sense of things. Finding the balance and determining the appropriate scope of research in analyzing a domain is a critical skill that must be developed individually through practice, lest you tug on that thread and find you’ve unraveled the entire sweater.

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