Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lecture at Franklin & Marshall College

What a busy week! My wife and I just signed the lease for a new apartment (down the street from our current one) and then the following day, we took a train out to PA where I gave a lecture on The Secret Peace at Franklin & Marshall College.

I want to thank Professor Michael Penn for hosting me and allowing me to present to his class, The Nature of Hope. I gave a presentation entitled, "Filling the glass half-full: Forming an optimistic evidence-based worldview." It covered how I came to write the book, beginning with my interest in critical thinking, and how my worldview changed as I did more research. It delved into one of my book's chapters in detail - the one about war and world conflict giving way to nonviolence - and looked at how to reach that conclusion using evidence from the mass media and other sources.

What I really enjoyed were the students' reactions and especially their questions and opinions. They asked a ton of smart questions, including (all paraphrased by my poor memory):

  • "How will we solve our resource problems and overcrowding as population increases worldwide?"
  • "What do we do about rising inequality and economic stratification?"
  • "If spreading information is the catalyst for peace, what about the countries like China that are blocking access to information?"
  • "Why are scholars so pessimistic? Why is it generally considered more mature to be pessimistic, and more naive to be optimistic?"
  • "Do we need pessimism? Isn't discontent what motivates us to make changes? Will too much optimism makes us complacent?"

All great questions, from very insightful students. Again, thanks to Professor Penn and his class for having me!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

6 Billion Others

Well, actually 7 billion right now - that's right, this year the world population hits 7 billion people. It sounds like a lot, but actually the rate of population growth has been slowing down and it's doubtful that we'll hit any of the worst malthusian predictions we heard of a few decades ago (and hear about again whenever food prices spike).

At any rate, this project called "6 Billion Others" consists of 5,000 interviews filmed in 75 countries, all showing the diversity of humanity as people answered the same few questions about topics such as happiness, dreams, and progress. The video about progress is particularly enlightening: not everyone is in agreement about how much we are progressing as a global civilization, but their stories will definitely open your eyes.