ATG’s Thinker Thoughts: “Homo Prospectus”

Welcome to ATG’s “Thinker Thoughts”, an initiative intended to help us THINK more deeply and deliberately amid the hurried pace of life’s existence.
Every Friday, we’re posting our “Thinker Thoughts”, a short quote to reflect on from a recent commentary. Give it a think and let us know your thinker thoughts!
This week’s Thinker Thoughts comes from a May 19, 2017 op-ed in The New York Times, “We Aren’t Built to Live in the Moment“, written by Martin E.P. Seligman – professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania – and John Tierney, who writes the Findings science column for The New York Times:

What best distinguishes our species is an ability that scientists are just beginning to appreciate: We contemplate the future. Our singular foresight created civilization and sustains society. It usually lifts our spirits, but it’s also the source of most depression and anxiety, whether we’re evaluating our own lives or worrying about the nation.

A more apt name for our species would be Homo prospectus, because we thrive by considering our prospects. The power of prospection is what makes us wise

Prospection enables us to become wise not just from our own experiences but also by learning from others. We are social animals like no others, living and working in very large groups of strangers, because we have jointly constructed the future. Human culture — our language, our division of labor, our knowledge, our laws and technology — is possible only because we can anticipate what fellow humans will do in the distant future. We make sacrifices today to earn rewards tomorrow, whether in this life or in the afterlife promised by so many religions.”

Keep thinking with our previous Thinker Thoughts on:
names and identities in the internet age
lifelong learners
star sanctuaries
artificial intelligence
the intellectual life
learning from early humans
and the importance of generosity of spirit

Thinker Thoughts: “Lifelong Learners”

Welcome to ATG’s “Thinker Thoughts”, an initiative intended to help us THINK more deeply and deliberately amid the hurried pace of life’s existence.
Every Friday, we’re posting our “Thinker Thoughts”, a short quote to reflect on from a recent commentary. Give it a think and let us know your thinker thoughts!
This week’s Thinker Thoughts comes from The New York Times op-ed, “Owning Your Own Future” (May 10, 2017), written by Thomas L. Friedman:

The notion that we can go to college for four years and then spend that knowledge for the next 30 is over. If you want to be a lifelong employee anywhere today, you have to be a lifelong learner. And that means: More is now on you. And that means self-motivation to learn and keep learning becomes the most important life skill.

…That’s why education-to-work expert Heather E. McGowan likes to say: ‘Stop asking a young person WHAT you want to be when you grow up. It freezes their identity into a job that may not be there. Ask them HOW you want to be when you grow up. Having an agile learning mind-set will be the new skill set of the 21st century.’

…thriving countries today won’t elect a strongman. They’ll elect leaders who inspire and equip their citizens to be strong people who can own their own futures.”

Keep thinking with our previous Thinker Thoughts on:
star sanctuaries
artificial intelligence
the intellectual life
learning from early humans
and the importance of generosity of spirit

Through the Realms: Tales from Cuba

“Much have I traveled in the realms of gold, and many goodly states and kingdoms seen.” –John Keats (English poet, 1795-1821)

Here at All Things Good, our love of traveling, exploring and embarking on adventures is grounded in our belief that a curious mind can not only stimulate the senses, but transform our sense of self in relation to the world at large. In fact, it was ultimately our love of seeking and exploring the world around us that led us to launch this blog.

Since then, we’ve had some fun adventures, including to the land of Hula Honeys, the birthplace of Harry Potter, the traditional music capital of Ireland, the oldest teashop in Europe, and a sailing adventure in the Florida Keys (to name just a few!).

We’d now like to turn to the adventures of others – you! – to hear your own stories as you travel “Through the Realms.” We love all the beautiful photos of exotic destinations and spirited excursions you can find on the social media landscape, but want to hear what you learned, who you met, and what you’ll remember about the realms you travel, too!


Katie Christensen

We’re excited to launch “Through the Realms” with Katie Christensen, a travel addict who has visited 13 countries in the past 12 months. Last May, Katie left her management job and made it a goal to visit a different country every month. Since November 15, she has traveled to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, Mexico, Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, Belgium and, most recently, Cuba! Needless to say, she has surpassed her goal – and inspired us with her adventurous spirit and traveling curiosity. Her blog, Global Novice, documents some of her experiences with beautiful photography. Read more

ATG’s Thinker Thoughts: “Star Sanctuaries”

Welcome to ATG’s “Thinker Thoughts”, an initiative intended to help us THINK more deeply and deliberately amid the hurried pace of life’s existence.
Every Friday, we’re posting our “Thinker Thoughts”, a short quote to reflect on from a recent commentary. Give it a think and let us know your thinker thoughts!
This week’s Thinker Thoughts comes from an article in the May 2017 issue of Discover Magazine, “Protecting America’s Last Dark Skies” (not available online), written by Eric Betz:

Before the spread of electricity, humans across the planet knew the stories written in the skies. Sitting around smoldering campfires, people looked to the stars and relived the tales of their heroes. Now those experiences are confined to star sanctuaries like Grand Canyon National Park…

‘Every human being once shared this experience of looking up into the night sky and seeing it filled with stars, [says John Barentine, International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) astronomer]…[t]he human brain saw patterns in those stars. And we translated all of our human hopes and our fears and our dreams and our worries onto those stars…[t]he natural night sky inspires. We are losing this thing – ‘the night’ – that has been our common shared experience for so much of the history of humanity…[a]s a result, these common stories from our past have faded like the constellations that cradled them.'”

Keep thinking with our previous Thinker Thoughts on artificial intelligence, the intellectual lifelearning from early humans, and the importance of generosity of spirit

“The Soul of a Journey”

“The soul of a journey is liberty, perfect liberty, to think, feel, do just as one pleases.” –William Hazlett, English writer (1778-1830)
Sedona
Sedona, Arizona
And Other Journeying Quotes:
“The longest journey is the journey inward.”  –Dag Hammarskjöld, Swedish diplomat (1905-1961)
“It is better to travel than to arrive, it is because traveling is a constant arriving, while arrival that precludes further traveling is most easily attained by going to sleep or dying.”  –John Dewey, American philosopher (1859-1952), Human Nature and Conduct: An Introduction to Social Psychology
“The world may be known without leaving the house.”  –Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher (6th century BC), Tao Te Ching (translated as “The Way of Life”)

ATG’s Thinker Thoughts: Man vs. Machine

Welcome to ATG’s “Thinker Thoughts”, an initiative intended to help us THINK more deeply and deliberately amid the hurried pace of life’s existence.
Every Friday, we’re posting our “Thinker Thoughts”, a short quote to reflect on from a recent commentary. Give it a think and let us know your thinker thoughts!
This week’s Thinker Thoughts comes from an article in the April 2017 issue of Vanity Fair entitled, “Elon Musk’s Billion-Dollar Crusade to Stop the A.I. Apocalypse“, written by Maureen Dowd.
While it’s an article that should be read in its entirety for a greater understanding of the opposing views on A.I., we’ve selected two quotes below to spur some thinking:

At the World Government Summit in Dubai, in February, [Elon] Musk again cued the scary organ music, evoking the plots of classic horror stories when he noted that ‘sometimes what will happen is a scientist will get so engrossed in their work that they don’t really realize the ramifications of what they’re doing.’ He said that the way to escape human obsolescence, in the end, may be by ‘having some sort of merger of biological intelligence and machine intelligence.’ This Vulcan mind-meld could involve something called a neural lace—an injectable mesh that would literally hardwire your brain to communicate directly with computers. ‘We’re already cyborgs,’ Musk told me in February. ‘Your phone and your computer are extensions of you, but the interface is through finger movements or speech, which are very slow.’ With a neural lace inside your skull you would flash data from your brain, wirelessly, to your digital devices or to virtually unlimited computing power in the cloud. ‘For a meaningful partial-brain interface, I think we’re roughly four or five years away.'”

Maureen Dowd goes on to write:

Here is the nagging thought you can’t escape as you drive around glass box to glass box in Silicon Valley: the Lords of the Cloud love to yammer about turning the world into a better place as they churn out new algorithms, apps, and inventions that, it is claimed, will make our lives easier, healthier, funnier, closer, cooler, longer, and kinder to the planet. And yet there’s a creepy feeling underneath it all, a sense that we’re the mice in their experiments, that they regard us humans as Betamaxes or eight-tracks, old technology that will soon be discarded so that they can get on to enjoying their sleek new world. Many people there have accepted this future: we’ll live to be 150 years old, but we’ll have machine overlords.”

Keep thinking with our previous Thinker Thoughts on:
the intellectual life
 learning from early humans
and the importance of generosity of spirit

Treasured Poems from a Treasured Volume

famous poemsIn the introduction to a treasured book of the past, A Treasury of the World’s Best Loved Poems (1961), readers are asked to ponder the question: “What is poetry?”

The introduction’s writer recalls the many and varied attempts at definition throughout the ages, citing poetry as:

  • “the music of the soul” (Voltaire)
  • “the art of uniting pleasure with truth” (Samuel Johnson)
  • “the universal language which the heart holds with nature and itself” (William Hazlitt)
  • that which “makes me feel as if the top of my head were taken off” (Emily Dickinson)
  • “not the assertion of truth, but the making of that truth more fully real to us” (T.S. Eliot)
  • Or as Albert Einstein said of truth, perhaps great poetry is “that which stands the test of experience.”

Read more

ATG’s Thinker Thoughts: Intellectual Enlightenment

Welcome to ATG’s “Thinker Thoughts”, an initiative intended to help us THINK more deeply and deliberately amid the hurried pace of life’s existence.
Every Friday, we’re posting our “Thinker Thoughts”, a short quote to reflect on from a recent commentary. Give it a think and let us know your thinker thoughts!
This week’s Thinker Thoughts come from New York Times‘ David Brooks’ April 11, 2017 column, “This Age of Wonkery“:

People today seem less likely to give themselves intellectual labels or join self-conscious philosophical movements. Young people today seem more likely to have their worldviews shaped by trips they have taken, or causes they have been involved in, or the racial or ethnic or gender identity group they identify with. That’s changed the nature of the American intellectual scene, the way people approach the world and the lives they live.”

…intellectual life was just seen as more central to progress. Intellectuals establish the criteria by which things are measured and goals are set. Intellectuals create the frameworks within which politicians operate. How can you have a plan unless you are given a theory? Intellectuals create the age. Doing that sort of work meant leading the sort of exceptional life that allowed you to emerge from the cave — to see truth squarely and to be fully committed to the cause. Creating a just society was the same thing as transforming yourself into a moral person.”

Keep thinking with our previous Thinker Thoughts on:
learning from early humans 
and the importance of generosity of spirit

ATG’s Thinker Thoughts: Learning from Early Humans

Welcome to ATG’s “Thinker Thoughts”, an initiative intended to help us THINK more deeply and deliberately amid the hurried pace of life’s existence.
Every Friday, we’re posting our “Thinker Thoughts”, a short quote to reflect on from a recent commentary. Give it a think and let us know your thinker thoughts!
This week’s Thinker Thoughts come from an article in the April 2017 issue of The Atlantic, “Professor Caveman: Why Bill Schindler is teaching college students to live like early humans“, by Richard Schiffman:

 Schindler is keen to correct the popular conception of our ancestors as ignorant cavemen. People today have ‘thoroughly domesticated themselves,’ he told me. Early humans, by contrast, had to be much more inventive, adept at problem-solving, and subtly attuned to changes in the natural environment. Their need to cooperate made them socially connected, as people nowadays are desperate to be…”

Above and beyond its applications to his scholarly work, Schindler says that his mastery of early-human technologies has given him a sense of personal competence. He believes that our overdependence on technologies we don’t fully understand and are incapable of creating is disempowering. ‘The true value of all this is not trying to live a prehistoric life,’ he told me. ‘It’s applying what we learn from the past to address contemporary problems.’ For example: how to be healthy and happy. Ancient peoples faced dangers, he points out, but little routine emotional stress, and few of the chronic illnesses that arise from poor diet and lack of physical activity. They can also teach us a lot about how to interact with the natural world, he says. ‘In the past, when people killed too many animals or overharvested plants, they saw the impact on the world,’ Schindler told me. But today, living apart from nature, we do not see the results of our food and energy choices.'”

Keep thinking with our previous Thinker Thoughts on the importance of generosity of spirit

ATG’s Thinker Thoughts: “Generosity of Spirit”

Welcome to ATG’s “Thinker Thoughts”, a new initiative intended to help us THINK more deeply and deliberately amid the hurried pace of life’s existence.
Every Friday, we’ll post our Thinker Thoughts, a short quote to reflect on from a recent commentary. Give it a think and let us know your thinker thoughts!
This week’s Thinker Thoughts come from the New York Times‘ op-ed, “Check This Box if You’re a Good Person” (April 4, 2017), written by Rebecca Sabky, a former admissions director at Dartmouth College:

Until admissions committees figure out a way to effectively recognize the genuine but intangible personal qualities of applicants, we must rely on little things to make the difference. Sometimes an inappropriate email address is more telling than a personal essay. The way a student acts toward his parents on a campus tour can mean as much as a standardized test score. And, as I learned from that custodian, a sincere character evaluation from someone unexpected will mean more to us than any boilerplate recommendation from a former president or famous golfer…Colleges should foster the growth of individuals who show promise not just in leadership and academics, but also in generosity of spirit.”