I interviewed Harris recently for my podcast. We talked about how the 2016 election threw Silicon Valley into crisis, why negative emotions dominate online, where Silicon Valley’s model of human decision-making went wrong, whether he buys Zuckerberg’s change of heart, and what it means to take control of your time. This transcript has been edited for length and clarity. For the full conversation, which includes the story of what happened when Harris brought legendary meditation teacher Thich Nhat Hanh to Google, listen or subscribe to The Ezra Klein Show.
In this wide-ranging interview, AngelList CEO Naval Ravikant and Shane Parrish, talk about Reading, Happiness, Decision Making, Habits, and Mental Models.
We’re living in yesterday’s future, and it’s nothing like the speculations of our authors and film/TV producers. As a working science fiction novelist, I take a professional interest in how we get predictions about the future wrong, and why, so that I can avoid repeating the same mistakes. Science fiction is written by people embedded within a society with expectations and political assumptions that bias us towards looking at the shiny surface of new technologies rather than asking how human beings will use them, and to taking narratives of progress at face value rather than asking what hidden agenda they serve.
In this talk, author Charles Stross will give a rambling, discursive, and angry tour of what went wrong with the 21st century, why we didn’t see it coming, where we can expect it to go next, and a few suggestions for what to do about it if we don’t like it.
Time travel is time research
Gleick began with H.G. Wells’s 1895 book The Time Machine, which created the idea of time travel.
It soon became a hugely popular genre that shows no sign of abating more than a century later.
“Science fiction is a way of working out ideas,” Gleick said.
Wells thought of himself as a futurist, and like many at the end of the 19th century he was riveted by the idea of progress, so his fictional traveler headed toward the far future.
Other authors soon explored travel to the past and countless paradoxes ranging from squashed butterflies that change later elections to advising one’s younger self.
Gleick invited audience members to query themselves: If you could travel in time, would you go to the future or to the past?
When exactly, and where exactly?
And what is your second choice?
(Try it, reader.)
“We’re still trying to figure out what time is,” Gleick said.
Time travel stories apparently help us.
The inventor of the time machine in Wells’s book explains archly that time is merely a fourth dimension.
Ten years later in 1905 Albert Einstein made that statement real.
In 1941 Jorge Luis Borges wrote the celebrated short story, “The Garden of Forking Paths.”
In 1955 physicist Hugh Everett introduced the quantum-based idea of forking universes, which itself has become a staple of science fiction.
“Time,” Richard Feynman once joked, “is what happens when nothing else happens.”
Gleick suggests, “Things change, and time is how we keep track.”
Virginia Woolf wrote, “What more terrifying revelation can there be than that it is the present moment?
That we survive the shock at all is only possible because the past shelters us on one side, the future on another.”
To answer the last question of the evening, about how his views about time changed during the course of writing Time Travel, Gleick said:
I thought I would conclude that the main thing to understand is: Enjoy the present.
Don’t waste your brain cells agonizing about lost opportunities or worrying about what the future will bring.
As I was working on the book I suddenly realized that that’s terrible advice.
A potted plant lives in the now.
The idea of the ‘long now’ embraces the past and the future and asks us to think about the whole stretch of time.
That’s what I think time travel is good for.
That’s what makes us human—the ability to live in the past and live in the future at the same time.
Slide greasily into Halloween with our all-new, feature-length reading of Lovecraft’s masterpiece, The Call of Cthulhu, starring the incomparable Andrew Leman!
Featuring music written and performed by Reber Clark! Most selections are available for purchase here on the Lovecraft Paragraphs and At the Mountains of Madness soundtracks.
Reading recorded at Rocketwerks in Santa Monica, CA. Produced by Chad Fifer.
Thanks to everybody who contributed to make this production possible! Please continue to support us by asking your local comic book shops, game stores and creepy destinations of all kinds to throw this baby on in celebration of the holiday.
Basecamp co-founder and CEO Jason Fried on how to find a slow and steady approach to work in a world of constant interruptions.
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