There has been quite a stir recently around the work of Jonathan Haidt, the social psychologist who recently published The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. Bill Moyers conducted an extensive interview with him in which he explains his theories more in depth.
Essentially he is saying that a basic part of our psychological makeup includes a need to “sacralize” or to attach moral weight to ideas we deem important, and that most often that act of sacralization gets reinforced by our own social enclave. In other words, what we believe gets elevated to the status of sacred, especially when we hear it repeated within our own communities. And the other natural psychological inclination is to then demonize those that do not agree with our views. Read more
There are many cautions and correctives out there recently warning us about the dangers of social media and virtual reality. For example The Atlantic posted the assertion that Facebook is making us even lonelier.
Clearly it is important to find a way to balance our lives, and actually have “IRL” (in real life”, for those of you who don’t follow these acronym trends) experiences. Sherry Turkle has even more dire concerns that people will opt for robotic “relationships” over the more complicated and messier flesh to flesh relationships.
I find these conversations fascinating, as they go to the heart of what we understand it means to be human. The assumption in much of the concern is that these experiences are not “human”. But really, these technologies were created by, are resourced by, are engaged with humans. Read more
I heard a fascinating piece on NPR this morning about people’s predilection for overlooking facts in political discourse when it interferes with party loyalty. For example, more Republicans right now believe that President Obama has a lot of power in influencing gas prices, and he just isn’t doing it, while Democrats believe he doesn’t have much power at all. But in 2004, more Democrats believed that George W. Bush had more power that he wasn’t exercising and Republicans defended him by saying he didn’t have much power at all.
The actual facts (if there is such a term these days) show that Presidents don’t really have a lot of ability to influence gas prices short of draconian kinds of policies. But the point of this is that loyalty trumps facts regardless of your political persuasion. (Kind of a caution to the sometimes smug assumption of liberalism that the left is more likely to attend to facts.) Read more
MIT and Harvard University recently announced a new venture in online education, called edX, in which they will offer free online courses from both universities. With this they are entering the realm of what is being called “MOOC” – massively open online courses. (And I thought UUs were bad about acronyms!) MIT began this by offering a course in March on Circuits and Electronics which drew in 120,000 participants, some 10,000 of whom passed the midterm exam. The courses will provide certifications, but not official credit. For those types of courses not easily “graded” (such as humanities courses) they will offer peer review. Read more