Why We Fear Artificial Intelligence

As I was growing up in England in the latter half of the 20th century, the concept of intelligence loomed large. It was aspired to, debated and – most important of all – measured. At the age of 11, tens of thousands of us all around the country were ushered into desk-lined halls to take an … Continued

Will Virtual Reality Change Hollywood?

Would you watch a virtual-reality Casablanca? The question is ridiculous, but usefully so. VR will never be like the movies, culturally or aesthetically, and the best way to understand why may be to imagine you’re experiencing the 1942 Warner Brothers classic not as a linear story viewed from a theater seat, but as an immersive world … Continued

Catastrophe, Not Politics, Curbs Inequality

Calls to make America great again hark back to a time when income inequality receded even as the economy boomed and the middle class expanded. Yet it is all too easy to forget just how deeply this newfound equality was rooted in the cataclysm of the world wars. The pressures of total war became a … Continued

What Sleep is Really For

They say that an elephant never forgets. It is also often stated that one of the functions of sleep is to consolidate memories. If both of those things were true, then you’d expect elephants to sleep a lot – but the truth is, the massive pachyderms, which have the biggest brains of any land mammal, … Continued

The Twilight of Identity Politics?

Who are we? asked the liberal social scientist Samuel Huntington over a decade ago in a well-reasoned but controversial book. Huntington feared the institutionalization of what Theodore Roosevelt a century earlier had called “hyphenated Americans.” A “hyphenated American,” Roosevelt scoffed, “is not an American at all.” And 30 years ago, another progressive stalwart and American historian … Continued

Why Praise at Work is Important

The secret recipe for motivating employees, as Science of Us has previously written, is a combination of compliments and pizza: Feed the hungry masses, and then say nice things about them as they chew. People tend to work harder when they feel appreciated, which explains the compliments. And as for the pizza — well, pizza is a … Continued

The Problem With Calling Something “Interesting”

My understanding of the word interesting came not from school but from a 14-inch black-and-white television showing Star Trek reruns in the late 1970s. ‘Fascinating is a word I use for the unexpected,’ I heard Mr Spock explain. ‘In this case, I should think interesting would suffice.’ Spock was the epitome of logic in the original Star Trek series. Although he had a human mother, … Continued

Did Beethoven’s Heartbeat Influence His Music?

The spring of 1809 was a rough time for Ludwig van Beethoven. His beloved, the countess Giulietta Guicciardi, had recently cut off contact, citing irreconcilable class differences. He was experiencing an expanding rift with his brother and former manager, Kaspar. Perhaps worst of all, his patron and close friend, the Archduke Rudolph of Austria, was being forced … Continued

In Defense of Shyness

The Heimlich maneuver, in the nearly 50 years since Dr. Henry Heimlich established its protocol, has been credited with saving many lives. But not, perhaps, as many as it might have. The maneuver, otherwise so wonderfully simple to execute, has a marked flaw: It requires that choking victims, before anything can be done to help … Continued

What the Founding Fathers Knew About the Bible

In the summer of 1787, the nascent American experiment reached a point of crisis. Meeting inside Independence Hall amid the stifling Philadelphia heat, delegates to the Constitutional Convention could not agree on a scheme of representation for a new national government, among other contentious issues. “The fate of America,” recalled Gouverneur Morris, a New York … Continued