Think Inc. Thursdays #023

Some big questions for this week: are we in the midst of a culture war? While it's more obvious in the US, a policy institute from the UK is finally gathering some stats about the situation in the UK. Will an Australian institute follow suit?

We've provided you with a summary of John McWhorter's latest piece in the NY Times, all about the word "woke", which is just the latest victim of the euphemism treadmill. Read on for information about Anil Seth's upcoming book, a piece in The Conversation from our own Think Inc. Academy teacher, Dr Matthew Sharpe. We've also got some cool science news about the Great Barrier Reef and Tesla's plan for a humanoid robot.

As always, let us know about any interesting news you come across – we love to hear from you 😊

Warm regards,
Suzi

woke & the euphemism treadmill

Is ‘woke’ an insult or a compliment to you? Last week our favourite linguist, John McWhorter, wrote a very interesting piece for the New York Times called How Woke Became an Insult. John talks about how up until recently, to be "woke" was a badge of enlightenment. The term came from black activists in the 1960s and signified being awake to injustice. It then morphed into a non-pejorative way of saying "politically correct", and now it’s taken on a more negative association with cancel culture on the Left. 

John explains it like this: well-intentioned words get negative associations attached to them, so they morph into a different word. It’s called the “euphemism treadmill”, a term coined by Steven Pinker in 1994. "Politically correct” became negative and got replaced by woke, which now has sullied connotations. What word do you think will replace “woke”

researching the culture war

Are we in the midst of a culture war?

It’s a topic that’s been discussed widely in the US context, but now researchers from The King’s College London Policy Institute are researching its existence in the UK. They've asked the UK public a number of very relevant questions, including what people think of the term “woke”. They found that a quarter of people think of it as a compliment, a quarter think it's an insult and the rest either don't know or have never even heard of the term.

Their research supports the “euphemism treadmill” theory, finding that the word has more negative connotations as time goes on, but the director of the institute, Bobby Duffy, says that it's a new term for the vast majority of the population, people are still forming their views.

Do you have any strong views on this?

upcoming anil seth book

Public service announcement to all Anil Seth fans- his new book comes out next month! It’s called ‘Being You: A New Science of Consciousness', and it puts forward the radical idea that we do not perceive the world objectively, but rather that we are prediction machines, constantly inventing our world and correcting our mistakes every microsecond.
 

Until you get your hands on the book, you can read his fantastic recent interview in The Guardian, and check out the podcast or video version of our Out The Box event we did with Anil last year!

gigantic coral found

A massive Porites coral has been found on the Great Barrier Reef. This big boy is about 400 years old and 10 and a half meters wide, around the size of a double-decker bus.

Scientists say it’s like an apartment block for the sea creatures that use it for shelter and feeding. The local Manbarra community knew about this coral, which is located on the coast of Orpheus Island, for centuries, but scientists are only just starting to study it now. 

Coral can live for up to 1,000 years, and this one has withstood many cyclones and coral bleaching events- so is it tough or just lucky?

Speaking of the reef, Australia has managed to stop the reef from being classed as 'in danger' by UNESCO. GO AUSTRALIA! But…. we’re not completely off the hook.

The Federal Government needs to provide an updated report on the state of the reef by early 2022, and show that it's committed to combatting the environmental effects of climate change on the reef, or else we run the risk of losing the reef’s status on the World Heritage List.

tesla humanoid announced

Tesla has released its plans for a humanoid robot called Optimus. It will be about the size of a human but programmed to be slow, weak and most importantly, kind, so that humans can overpower it if needed. Ok… thanks for that, Elon. Supposedly Optimus will be able to carry up to 20kg in weight and help us with menial or dangerous tasks. What do you think? A good idea or a risk to humanity?

Elon also included a discussion on universal basic income in his presentation.

Other robot news comes from the incredible folk at Boston Dynamics, who have released another video of their robot, Atlas, doing even more impressive stuff. This time- parkour! 

There’s also some humbling footage of the robots falling, so we don't have to worry (yet) about them stealing medals from humans in the 2024 Paris Olympics. They definitely have an edge when it comes to their mental resilience and their ability to overcome failure… if only humans were so resilient. 

when life gives you lemons

That leads me to my last point, it’s bloody difficult to deal with failure and to deal with having no control over your situation. It’s easy for AI systems, but we humans are a bit more flawed. Lucky for us, Dr Matthew Sharpe, teacher of our Think Inc. Academy Stoicism course, has just published a really useful article in The Conversation.

It’s called When life gives you lemons… 4 Stoic tips for getting through lockdown from Epictetus and it’s exactly what us Sydneysiders need right now. Matthew suggests we follow Epictetus and not worry about things we can’t control, prepare for the worst but hope for the best, contextualize or take a step back, and not jump to conclusions or condemn others.

Have a read of the article for yourself, and definitely consider studying our four-week online course with Matthew, as you’ll be getting this incredible knowledge and tips straight from horse’s mouth!

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