Sat, Aug 31, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Guide to the most-watched talks online

Before the Internet became so widely available, the privilege of seeing thinkers of our age explain their ideas was confined to city dwellers with time and money. Now there is broad access to a vast body of ideas

By Tom Meltzer  /  The Guardian, LONDON

Highlight: Too many moments of humor and heartbreak to pick one.

Use this knowledge to: Fall in love with Pratchett; prepare to die.

The voices in my head

Who is talking? Eleanor Longden, an academic.

What is she on about? Her experience of hearing voices. Longden was diagnosed with schizophrenia and told by doctors she would never recover. She proved them wrong with the help of the Hearing Voices Network, which encouraged her to engage in dialogue with her voices to discover and address the underlying problems from her past. She argues for a radical shift in attitudes towards people who hear voices.

Is she right? It worked for her. And many others.

Highlight: Finding out just how far she has come since.

Use this knowledge to: Improve treatment; be compassionate; challenge ignorance about mental health.

Why I am not a Christian

Who is talking? Nobel prize-winning philosopher, mathematician and campaigner Bertrand Russell. Back in 1927.

What is he on about? The flimsiness of the arguments for God’s existence and the stifling effects of religious doctrine on human progress. Long before Richard Dawkins made militant atheism fashionable, Russell had settled the argument.

Is he right? Yes.

Highlight: “A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men.”

Use this knowledge to: Argue with Christians; silence Dawkins fanboys; live.

The coming collapse of the middle class

Who is talking? Harvard law professor and US Senator Elizabeth Warren.

What is she on about? The precarious way of life of the modern two-income family in the US. She argues that in the space of a single generation the middle class have lost the financial capacity to survive income shocks. And, as a result, the US is transitioning from a three-class society to a two-class society: the rich, and the debt-ridden rest.

Is she right? We will see. However, the stats are pretty convincing.

Highlight: All those shocking stats.

Use this knowledge to: Demand change; get rich; die trying.

The secret powers of time

Who is talking? Philip Zimbardo, a professor.

What is he on about? The way our personal, national and cultural concepts of time affect our health, well-being and careers. Zimbardo divides people into six groups according to their perspectives on time: the past-negative; past-positive; present-hedonistic; present-fated; future-oriented with a focus on work; and future-oriented with a focus on the afterlife. He says many of life’s problems can be solved by understanding our time perspectives.

Is he right? Maybe. However, reconceptualizing time seems less about solving problems than realizing how little they matter.

Highlight: The short RSA Animate version — for people with less time.

Use this knowledge to: Slow down; chill out; save time.

Sugar: the bitter truth

Who is talking? Robert Lustig, a professor of clinical pediatrics.

What is he on about? The high fructose diet. Lustig says fructose — the sweet molecule in added sugar — is the primary cause of the obesity pandemic. He calls it “a poison.”

Is he right? The science is debated, but there are enormous vested interests behind high-fructose foods; you would expect there to be a lot of disagreement even if Lustig is entirely correct.

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