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We pride ourselves on our skepticism and our nullius in verba approach to scientific questions. Many people are familiar with the works of Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, and Martin Gardner. The vague platitudes of astrology and the self-delusion of television psychics are not for us. However, scientists such as ourselves are not immune to self-delusion, and even the brightest among us can fall prey to the substitution of wishful thinking for rigorous logic when the science points to conclusions that uncomfortably conflict with our world view.
Psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and best-selling author, Dr. Norman Doidge, at a University of Toronto interdisciplinary symposium on "Altered States of Mind". He discusses his latest book, The Brain that Changes Itself, an examination of the most important breakthrough in neuroscience: the discovery of neuroplasticity. He describes how our thoughts can change the structure and function of our brains.
Take gender diversity, for one thing. By most counts, the average open source project has 49 male participants for every female participant. Women at conferences - rare enough already! - are assumed to be significant others, designers or visitors from planet marketing, with disastrous consequences for all involved.
This is a problem, for lots of reasons. The worst is that it’s self-perpetuating - women will (wisely!) avoid hostile environments, and through some broken-window-like mechanism, environments without women will quickly become environments that are hostile to women. (The same holds for other visible minorities.)
In discussions about "how to fix this", community leaders often appear to be at a loss, unsure how to progress. Their early efforts are often met by criticism on both sides - techies have a strong libertarian streak that tilts at all sorts of windmills, and the women who do "blaze trails" aren’t always much better than the men. (In fields like physics, chemistry and finance - fields dominated by men for ages - which are, these days, however, beating our numbers by a wide margin - the first generation of women to brave the hostilities and pierce the glass ceiling are often later generations’ harshest critics. "What? You want to have a career and a family? I didn’t have that option. Why should you? You’ll need to learn to drink scotch and smoke cigars like I did, or you’re through.")
Phil Dhingra on getting rid of excuses and starting to meditate.
The Entrepreneur is very different from the typical McKinsey-esque strategy consultant. Both are extremely smart, driven, persistent, creative, and determined. But I have found that there are some major differences.
A complementary quality-of-life research path has been to study the link between income (or material well-being) and happiness. In the 1970s the demographer Richard Easterlin discovered—now known as the Easterlin Paradox—that within countries there was a direct correlation between a person’s income level and his or her self-reported well-being, but over time and across countries there was no such association. The explanation was that one’s satisfaction is relative, not based on some absolute standard of living. So keeping up with the Joneses or suffering along with them are equivalent. Since then other researchers have found the expected positive relationship between income and well-being across countries.
At the moment, the measure of subjective well-being is perhaps the hot topic among economists and psychologists (the intersection of the two fields is known as behavioral economics). The development of National Time Accounting (NTA), with a focus on time-use and individuals’ emotional experiences across nations, is one such "happiness research" effort. The State of the USA project contributes many more scientific statistical indicators to help Americans evaluate how they—and we as a nation—are doing. Former Harvard president Derek Bok has also gotten into the fray with his book—The Politics of Happiness—on how governments can implement such findings to improve the lives of their citizens.
Writing what it means to be happy:
The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet. - James Openheim
No, seriously, have you ever thought about it? Do you live the life you want to live, or is there an unlived life in you being held back by your very Resistance?
Edith Wharton once said that if we stopped trying to find happiness we could have a pretty good time. I never thought about it in that way, but I guess she is right.