Tools and the Development of Contemporary Society
From the first stone hammer to modern day technology, our ability to make and propensity to use tools influences our physical, mental, and social evolution. At every step we make choices—for better or worse—that determine the challenges we face.
Featured Books on Early Technology and the Way It Shaped Our World
Explore the double-edged history of human culture—how those with capacity for sequential analysis generated technologies to “cut and control” the world and shape their community. Read more »
Featured Books on the Use and Misuse of Modern Technology
The wave of discontent and division currently washing over the Western world will lead to a loss of liberty unless it is checked. Our democratic heritage does not necessarily protect us from this threat. Democracies can fall, to be replaced by gulags and men with guns. The twenty lessons presented here can help us avoid these catastrophes. Read more »
Today’s political movements such as “Stop the Steal,” Black Lives Matter, neo-Nazism, Occupy Wall Street, and contemporary white supremacy movements, all share something fundamental with historical mass movements such as Nazism, Communism, the French Revolution, the rise of Protestantism, and of the ancient Catholic Church. These contemporary and historical religious and political mass movements all spring from a single psychological cause: the need for the discontented to look outside the self for the cause of their frustration. Read more »
The author posits two different “systems” of thought which operate in our minds to help us navigate the various circumstances of our lives. System 1 is quick and effortless, but simple—and not necessarily accurate. Meanwhile System 2, while more suitable to complex decisions, is also much slower and more difficult. Both systems are necessary; but to use them optimally, we need to be aware of which one we’re using and whether it’s appropriate for the decision at hand. If we lack this awareness, we risk making cognitive errors and worse—we can become subject to easy manipulation. Read more »
For those of us in the democratic West, the rise of authoritarianism in countries like the USA and Hungary has come as a nasty surprise, but this account of the career and rise of Vladimir Putin provides crucial insight and perspective—and a very contemporary example of the unfortunate mechanisms so well described in On Tyranny and The True Believer. Read more »
Travel the Journey
Nathan Heller, New Yorker
A government effort to transform the country from a state into a digital society has made Estonian life more efficient. Through its government sponsored nation-wide digital network, citizens of Estonia can handle almost all aspects of their daily lives online and even extended the opportunity and benefits to residents of other countries. The project shows how a truly global, borderless society can function.
John Lanchester, New Yorker
We flatter ourselves, says Lanchester, by believing that the “dark age” existence of our hunter-gatherer progenitors was so grim and our modern, civilized one so great. Drawing on two recent works he suggests this may not be the case. Is there a lesson to be learned from the radical egalitarianism of their hunter-gatherer way of life?