Our American Discourse, Ep. 19: Imagining a Future That’s Better Than the Past

Nationalism is experiencing a resurgence. Global cooperation is under attack. Xenophobia is ascending from all corners of the Western world. “Populists” speak openly about returning to the past. What happened to the future? What happened to the optimistic vision of overcoming the differences between us, coming together, and building a better world? Wouldn’t you like to hear someone make that case? Better yet, we found someone who’s investing real money to make it happen.

In this episode, philanthropist Nicolas Berggruen shares his vision of a progressive, cooperative future where people and technology work together to build an inclusive, intelligent society.

Continue reading “Our American Discourse, Ep. 19: Imagining a Future That’s Better Than the Past”

Don’t Be Scared. It’s Only a Tool.

There’s been a lot of ink spilled lately — when will that phrase become obsolete? — about the effect of the Internet on our society, our children, even the neurons in our heads. Reactions range from apocalyptic to apathetic, with the World Wide Web being blamed for everything from the Arab Spring to ADHD.

But, at the end of the day, the Internet is just a tool, like a hammer or a wheel or a locomotive. It’s an inanimate object — though we’re getting to the point where “inanimate” is a gray area — that humans use to achieve a goal. And, like every other tool in the history of the world, it has pros and cons. It can be used for good or bad.

New tools are hardly ever as scary as they seem. The culture adapts and almost always becomes better through the interaction. With each passing generation, we’re building a more complex society because doing more things and doing them better requires increasing complexity.

But with complexity comes risk. More tools mean more opportunities, but also more things that can go wrong.

So it’s definitely a good idea to debate the best way to use the Internet. But doing so without studying the history of tools that came before it is like trying to build a television without first learning how electricity works.

Which is why we at Trading 8s rely on an expert like Ron Burkhardt, who knows the history and cites the research and never confuses the tool with the homo sapien using it. And that’s why we’re excited to announce Ron’s new blog Social Proof, which has must-read essays like “History of Modern Social Media” and “Social Impact of Media“.

Add it to your daily reading list.

What to Read on Christmas

Faith and Modernity — Alan Wolfe

Yule as we celebrate it today owes more to Charles Dickens than to Thomas Aquinas. Our major solstice holiday is…a “cultural construct” rather than a sectarian ceremony… Mistakenly believing that Christmas is sacred, those who defend it find themselves propping up the profane. The Christ they want in Christmas is a product not of Nazareth but of Madison Avenue.

Axial Tilt and the Numinous — Doctor Science

Christians celebrate Jesus’ birth in late December…because there were already seasonal celebrations there that were thematically appropriate, especially the Birth of the Unconquered Sun. The season itself is the reason; Jesus became attached to it, not the other way around. The Christmas tree, the presents, the lights, the foods — none of these are in origin Christian, though there are Christian glosses or justifications for all of them.