How Civilization Started 

The world has indeed got richer, but any such shift in morals and values is hard to detect. Money and the value system around its acquisition are fully intact. Greed is still good.

The study of hunter-gatherers, who live for the day and do not accumulate surpluses, shows that humanity can live more or less as Keynes suggests. It’s just that we’re choosing not to. A key to that lost or forsworn ability, Suzman suggests, lies in the ferocious egalitarianism of hunter-gatherers. For example, the most valuable thing a hunter can do is come back with meat. Unlike gathered plants, whose proceeds are “not subject to any strict conventions on sharing,” hunted meat is very carefully distributed according to protocol, and the people who eat the meat that is given to them go to great trouble to be rude about it. This ritual is called “insulting the meat,” and it is designed to make sure the hunter doesn’t get above himself and start thinking that he’s better than anyone else. “When a young man kills much meat,” a Bushman told the anthropologist Richard B. Lee, “he comes to think of himself as a chief or a big man, and he thinks of the rest of us as his servants or inferiors. . . . We can’t accept this.” The insults are designed to “cool his heart and make him gentle.” For these hunter-gatherers, Suzman writes, “the sum of individual self-interest and the jealousy that policed it was a fiercely egalitarian society where profitable exchange, hierarchy, and significant material inequality were not tolerated.

”This egalitarian impulse, Suzman suggests, is central to the hunter-gatherer’s ability to live a life that is, on its own terms, affluent, but without abundance, without excess, and without competitive acquisition. The secret ingredient seems to be the positive harnessing of the general human impulse to envy. As he says, “If this kind of egalitarianism is a precondition for us to embrace a post-labor world, then I suspect it may prove a very hard nut to crack.” There’s a lot that we could learn from the oldest extant branch of humanity, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to put the knowledge into effect. A socially positive use of envy—now, that would be a technology almost as useful as fire.

Source: How Civilization Started | The New Yorker

Contemplative Cognition

Mindfulness, whether distinguished as a state, trait, or training, is central to a growing wave of interest in meditation. Theoretical development has been called for in order to clarify confusion about mindfulness from a scientific perspective. Ideally, such development will allow ingress for more traditional perspectives and guide inclusive research on the wider range of meditation practices. To address this call, we outline a new approach for understanding mindfulness and related meditative experience that accommodates diverse perspectives. In accord with other integrative approaches, we employ foundational psychological constructs (namely, attention, intention, and awareness) to understand mindfulness. In contrast to other theoretical perspectives, however, we utilize this foundation to derive novel psychological constructs needed to better explain mindfulness and important features of meditative experience more widely. The contemplative cognition framework integrates three attention-related processes entailed by a variety of contemplative practices: intended attention, attention to intention, and awareness of transient information. After delineating this set of three processes, we explain how they can cooperate to promote a contemplative range of metacognition about attention, intention, and awareness, as well as enhanced regulation of cognition, emotion, and behavior. The contemplative cognition framework (a) overcomes discrepancies in mindfulness research; (b) accounts for contextual and motivational aspects of training; (c) supports investigation from phenomenological, information processing, neurophysiological, and clinical perspectives; and (d) enables investigations on various contemplative states, traits, and practices to inform one another. This new approach has potential for advancing a more inclusive, productive, and theory-driven science of mindfulness and meditation.

Source: Contemplative Cognition: A More Integrative Framework for Advancing Mindfulness and Meditation Research | SpringerLink

Re-thinking ‘Bullshit and the Art of Crap-Detection’ in the Age of Fake News

I am convinced that it is not a specific task for some “trained elite task force” to monitor all of the world for a specific outbreak of rhetoric — instead this awareness of the danger of these memes should be widespread. As I wrote above, the greater the amount of believed bullshit there is in the world the more it undermines our very foundation as a society.

The definition of genocide itself, the eight stages of genocide, the twelve steps of genocide denial, and the psychology of evil — all of this should be common education so we prepare to meet these eternal, insidious forces. The only effective inoculation is the one which reaches the largest selection of at-risk population. With economic hardship, the American cultural landscape is fertile ground for 5GW recruiting and the rhetorical tropes in use.

The language of recruitment is rooted in dehumanization — which itself is the transactional language of cognitive deconstruction. In essence, suicidal ideation and other mental illnesses can be weaponized through rhetorical triggers. Bullshit is a weapon, and will cause more and more acts of increasingly violent mass killings.

Source: Re-thinking ‘Bullshit and the Art of Crap-Detection’ in the Age of Fake News


I also think a turn to the personal realm, to cultivating deep friendships and family relations and the aesthetic and spiritual domains of life, can be a critically important way to stay sane, despite the apparent madness of the external world. This is a strategy intellectuals and other free-thinkers have adopted when living under oppressive regimes throughout history, sometimes creating masterpieces that emerged later on.

We should by all means all continue to work in whatever ways we can to nudge the external world in more positive directions, despite these now massive headwinds, so I’m not at all advocating withdrawal from collective affairs, but I think moving one’s center of gravity a little bit more inwards, in a quest for whatever long-lived, time-tested beauty, meaning and truths one can find, can bring some solace in hard times, and can actually help us in the very challenging struggles we are bound to be facing in the next few years.

Source: Aftermath – Medium