- Aug 2023
Quoting the academics Francis-Noël Thomas and Mark Turner, Pinker suggests approaching writing as if you were pointing something in the environment out to another person – something that she would notice for herself, if only she knew where to look. Imagine directing someone's gaze across a valley, to a specific house on the other side. "You should pretend," writes Pinker, "that you, the writer, see something in the world that's interesting, and that you're directing the attention of your reader to that thing." He calls this the "joint attention" strategy.
Good writing is pointing out the interesting things you see to others. It's pre-literate, and even pre-oral.
- Jul 2022
First, our numbers have risen by 1.4 billion, nearly a hundred million per year. In other words, we’ve added another China or 40 more Canadas to the world. The growth rate has fallen slightly, but consumption of resources — from fossil fuel to water, from rare earths to good earth — has risen twice as steeply, roughly doubling our impact on nature. This outrunning of population by economic growth has lifted perhaps a billion of the poorest into the outskirts of the working class, mainly in China and India. Yet those in extreme poverty and hunger still number at least a billion. Meanwhile, the wealthiest billion — to which most North Americans and Europeans and many Asians now belong — devour an ever-growing share of natural capital. The commanding heights of this group, the billionaires’ club, has more than 2,200 members with a combined known worth nearing $10 trillion; this super-elite not only consumes at a rate never seen before but also deploys its wealth to influence government policy, media content, and key elections. Such, in a few words, is the shape of the human pyramid today.
Bill Gates and Steven Pinker falsely argue that neoliberal capitalism has substantially reduced poverty. Economic anthropologist Jason Hickel critiques Gates and Pinker's claim here: https://hyp.is/go?url=https%3A%2F%2Fjacobin.com%2F2019%2F02%2Fsteven-pinker-global-poverty-neoliberalism-progress&group=vnpq69nW
IPCC AR6 WGIII chapter 5 points out the major role that decarbonizing the rich can have on meeting our 1.5 Deg C target: https://hyp.is/go?url=https%3A%2F%2Freport.ipcc.ch%2Far6wg3%2Fpdf%2FIPCC_AR6_WGIII_FinalDraft_Chapter05.pdf&group=world
And the wealth inequality = carbon inequality: As per Oxfam https://hyp.is/go?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.oxfam.org%2Fen%2Fpress-releases%2Fcarbon-emissions-richest-1-percent-more-double-emissions-poorest-half-humanity&group=world As per IPCC https://hyp.is/go?url=https%3A%2F%2Freport.ipcc.ch%2Far6wg3%2Fpdf%2FIPCC_AR6_WGIII_FinalDraft_Chapter05.pdf&group=world
this is going to be a really critical year uh for public goods uh generation um and here at year i'm using 00:00:40 you know starting from now through the end of 2022 and the beginning of 2023. uh so what i'm going to go through is a case for why this year really matters and why this decade really matters in 00:00:53 the century
Why is 2022 a critical year to fund projects that build the commons?
From a scientific, commons and Stop Reset Go perspective, humanity now stands at the doorsteps of the Anthropocene and we as a species have collectively shaped the planet in a way that is harming many species on the globe, including our own.
We are at a bifurcation point in human history, a fork in the road and the next few years will determine the course of humanity for the next thousands of years to come.
The funneling of human resources to the few elites at the top leaves the majority of humanity little agency to determine our own future and carbon emissions are also related to structural inequality: https://hyp.is/go?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.oxfam.org%2Fen%2Fpress-releases%2Fcarbon-emissions-richest-1-percent-more-double-emissions-poorest-half-humanity&group=world
See Jason Hickel's arguments against the overly optimistic story that Neoliberal capitalism has alleviated poverty. Hickel finds the opposite when critical analysis is applied to the rosy claims that Steven Pinker and Bill Gates make: https://hyp.is/go?url=https%3A%2F%2Fjacobin.com%2F2019%2F02%2Fsteven-pinker-global-poverty-neoliberalism-progress&group=vnpq69nW
Funding projects in the commons counters the wealth of elites, a trend that is counter to planetary health because it continues degrading the environment through carbon inequality:
and wealth inequality.
- May 2022
[Bruno Giussani, co-curator of TED] gave the example of Steven Pinker‘s popular TED talk on the decline of violence over the course of history, based on his book The Better Angels of Our Nature. Pinker is a respected professor of psychology at Harvard, and few would accuse him of pulling his punches or yielding to thought leadership’s temptations. Yet his talk became a cult favorite among hedge funders, Silicon Valley types, and other winners. It did so not only because it was interesting and fresh and well argued, but also because it contained a justification for keeping the social order largely as is. Pinker’s actual point was narrow, focused, and valid: Interpersonal violence as a mode of human problem-solving was in a long free fall. But for many who heard the talk, it offered a socially acceptable way to tell people seething over the inequities of the age to drop their complaining. ‘It has become an ideology of: The world today may be complex and complicated and confusing in many ways, but the reality is that if you take the long-term perspective you will realize how good we have it,’ Giussani said. The ideology, he said, told people, ‘You’re being unrealistic, and you’re not looking at things in the right way. And if you think that you have problems, then, you know, your problems don’t really matter compared to the past’s, and your problems are really not problems, because things are getting better.’Giussani had heard rich men do this kind of thing so often that he had invented a verb for the act: They were ‘Pinkering’ — using the long-run direction of human history to minimize, to delegitimize the concerns of those without power. There was also economic Pinkering, which ‘is to tell people the global economy has been great because five hundred million Chinese have gone from poverty to the middle class. And, of course, that’s true,’ Giussani said. ‘But if you tell that to the guy who has been fired from a factory in Manchester because his job was taken to China, he may have a different reaction. But we don’t care about the guy in Manchester. So there are many facets to this kind of ideology that have been used to justify the current situation.’ —Winners Take All, pp. 126-127
An early example of the verbification of Steven Pinker's name. Here it indicates the view of predominantly privileged men to argue that because the direction of history has been so positive, that those without power shouldn't complain.
I've also heard it used to generally mean a preponderance of evidence on a topic, as seen in Pinker's book The Better Angels of Our Nature, but still not necessarily convincingly prove one's thesis.
- Dec 2021
That, Pinker tells us, is the kind of dismal fate ordained for usby evolution. We have only escaped it by virtue of our willingness toplace ourselves under the common protection of nation states,courts of law and police forces; and also by embracing virtues ofreasoned debate and self-contro
It's interesting to note that the founders of the United States famously including Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr regularly participated in duel culture which often ended in death despite its use as a means of defending one's honor and relieving tensions between people.
‘What is it about the ancients,’ Pinker asks at one point, ‘that theycouldn’t leave us an interesting corpse without resorting to foul play?’
Part of their point here seems to be that Pinker is suffering from a form of bias related to the most sensational cases which will tend to heighten the availability bias. (Is there a name for this sort of sensationalism effect?)
Is there also some survivorship bias at play here as well?
We don't have access to a wide statistical survey of dead bodies from a large swath of times and places which makes it difficult to determine actual numbers.
Now, this may seem counter-intuitive to anyone who spendsmuch time watching the news, let alone who knows much about thehistory of the twentieth century.
Are they suffering from potential availability heuristic (cognitive bias) here? Are they encouraging it in us? Just because we see violence on the news every day doesn't mean it's ubiquitous.
Apparently we'll need real evidence here to provide actual indications.
Does Steven Pinker provide archaeological evidence in his book? What are the per capita rates of violence and/or death over time?
‘solitary, poor, nasty,brutish, and short’ – basically, a state of war, with everybody fightingagainst everybody else.
While this is one of the most oft-quoted portions of Hobbes's Leviathan (1651), compare the idea to the decrease of violence in human history theorized by Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.
Was there always excessive violence that has been increasing? What happened for that first 150,000 years of human evolution before the modern era (or since the introduction of agriculture)? Was there an uptick in violence due to larger populations impinging on each other at this point and it's been decreasing since?
- availability heuristic
- Aaron Burr
- Alexander Hamilton
- evolution of order
- survivorship bias
- civilizing process
- Steven Pinker
- indigenous critique
- cognitive bias
- decline of violence
- Nov 2021
Anyone who accidentally creates discomfort—whether through their teaching methods, their editorial standards, their opinions, or their personality—may suddenly find themselves on the wrong side of not just a student or a colleague but an entire bureaucracy, one dedicated to weeding out people who make other people uncomfortable. And these bureaucracies are illiberal. They do not necessarily follow rules of fact-based investigation, rational argument, or due process. Instead, the formal and informal administrative bodies that judge the fate of people who have broken social codes are very much part of a swirling, emotive public conversation, one governed not by the rules of the courtroom or logic or the Enlightenment but by social-media algorithms that encourage anger and emotion, and by the economy of likes and shares that pushes people to feel—and to perform—outrage. The interaction between the angry mob and the illiberal bureaucracy engenders a thirst for blood, for sacrifices to be offered up to the pious and unforgiving gods of outrage—a story we see in other eras of history, from the Inquisition to the more recent past.
Certainly this modern inquisition is a more gentle one than the original Inquisition of the Catholic Church.
Is this a supporting data point on the continuum of decreasing violence for Steven Pinker's decline of violence thesis?
Is the totality of what we may be giving up worth it for the greater overall comfort for society?
- Mar 2019
Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature (2011), a popular explanation of why violence has declined, relies heavily on Norbert Elias’s Undead Text The Civilizing Process (1939) for many of its key ideas. Elias himself, however, developed the ideas original to him in the way scholars do: He immersed himself in primary sources, familiarized himself with the scholarly literature, and forged a new narrative of cultural history.
- Jan 2018
whole eight-minute video from which it was culled