The Almanack of Amazing Things (#1)

New category on Innumerabilibus! Here I will regularly share some quick ideas, insights and facts that I have recently discovered while listening to podcasts, reading books, newsletters etc. Posts in this series will have the tag “The Almanack of Amazing Things”. Links to sources are included!

  • Facts don’t change our minds. Friendship does: very insightful essay by James Clear on how to be more effective at convincing people to change their mind. It’s not just a question of proving your point, but also of being welcoming and gentle while proving your point: “Convincing someone to change their mind is really the process of convincing them to change their tribe. If they abandon their beliefs, they run the risk of losing social ties. You can’t expect someone to change their mind if you take away their community too. You have to give them somewhere to go. Nobody wants their worldview torn apart if loneliness is the outcome“.
  • The entire Universe could collapse at any time due to a complex quantum mechanism: the mechanism is called vacuum decay and it involves the famous Higgs’ boson. The good news is that it is just a hypothesis and, even if true, the process would take hundreds of billions of years anyway. I have learned about this and other ways the Universe could end listening to Katie Mach in a great episode of Sean Caroll’s Mindscape podcast.
  • A naming trivia: the Spanish city of Pamplona, famous for its “running of the bulls“, is named after the Roman general Pompey, who founded it.
  • Education may explain the last 10 years of global politics better than globalisation: What drove the working class away from left-wing parties and towards right-wing leaders? The standard answer is that the Left was guilty of embracing the globalisation agenda that ended up harming many blue collar workers in the West. Data scientist David Shor objects to this theory by pointing out that, for example, support for Trump in US is strong even in areas that benefited from trade with China (e.g. Iowa). Shor thinks the reason for this electoral shift is instead the fact that liberal values have always been irreconcilable with the values of a majority of blue collar workers: this clash is becoming apparent only now because the huge, recent increase in education has created a core of liberal, mostly young supporters, to whom left-wing parties can finally advertise their “real” policies. Shor discusses this and other ideas about data-driven political campaigns on Julia Galef’s “Rationally Speaking” podcast.

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