This week we want to share with you some new Jonathan Haidt content, Peter Singer faces cancel culture (again), the CIA's plot to kill Assange, and some science news about the 2021 Nobel Prize, brain implants curing depression, and… Captain Kirk!
Don't forget that we're running November classes of How To Be Stoic: Ancient Wisdom for a Happier Life – click here to sign up!.
As always, let us know if you come across any interesting news – we love hearing from you.
BRAIN IMPLANT FOR DEPRESSION
A woman suffering from crushing depression has had her life changed after having a personalised device implanted in her brain.
Researchers at the University of California developed a device with thin wire electrodes which allowed them to monitor the woman’s brain activity. They discovered that certain activity corresponded to depressive symptoms, and with this in mind, they could stimulate another region of her brain associated with feeling good. Every day she receives about 300 tiny jolts of electricity.
After testing a temporary device, the woman was implanted with a more permanent one in June last year. Now that a year has passed, the researchers have published their findings in Nature Medicine.
HOT WINNERS OF 2021 NOBEL PRIZE
Ardem Patapoutian and David Julius, two researchers from California, were recently awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their research in identifying sensors on nerve cells that detect heat, cold and pressure.
The scientists discovered proteins called receptors that turn sensations such as burning hot chilli, scolding coffee and cooling menthol into a nerve signal that can be sent to the brain. They also discovered receptors that allow our brains to know where we are in space. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to stand or know where our limbs are.
SHATNER IN SPACE
Ok last up, Captain Kirk is finally going to space! This time, real space.
Jeff Bezos's space travel company, Blue Origin, said that Star Trek actor William Shatner and three others will blast off next week.
Shatner is 90 years old! Making him the oldest person to go to space. He’ll be the second actor to go to space this month, as Russia is also sending an actress and filmmaker to the ISS, where they plan on filming segments of a new movie titled Challenge.
Last week Yahoo News published a report alleging that the CIA, under the Trump Presidency, considered kidnapping and assassinating Julian Assange. This was after his organisation, WikiLeaks, published a huge amount of sensitive and incriminating information about the CIA.
Yahoo News based this report on conversations with more than 30 former CIA officials, many of whom were very concerned about the legality of these plans. Additional CIA plans involved spying on WikiLeaks associates, sowing discord amongst the group members, and stealing their electronic devices.
Assange is still imprisoned in London. We were lucky enough to host a conversation with him via video link in 2017, and it’s sad to know that he’s still there.
JON HAIDT UPDATE
Our mate Jonathan Haidt has been on fire recently! He’s been giving us so much content, and we're sharing it all with you.
He's written a piece in Persuasion all about 'monomania', an exaggerated and unhealthy obsession with one thing. Haidt says that individual monomania is rarely a problem, but when it takes over a group, then things start getting whacky.
Group monomania creates illiberalism in the sense that asking questions or critiquing the group obsession is not allowed. You can see it in groups that become obsessed with one thing such as race, gender, or… 'the cabal'.
Jon has also gone on the Quillette podcast to discuss Instagram’s mental health emergency.
Knowing Jon and his work, he’d be glad to know that Facebook has recently paused its development of an Instagram app for teens – something Jon has previously criticised. They’ve done this due to continuing evidence that social media is detrimental to teen mental health.
On the topic of Jon Haidt, a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney and reader of our newsletter has contacted us about a study she's conducting. Her research is influenced by the work of Jon Haidt, and her current study is about how personality factors influence the type of content we choose to share on social media. You can read about and complete the study here.
SINGER VS CANCEL CULTURE
Onto a guy who knows a lot about the dangers of “monomania”- Peter Singer! He’s back in the news this week after some faculty members at Rhodes College tried to prevent him from speaking at an online Philosophy event. The event, titled “Pandemic Ethics”, was a great opportunity to discuss animal rights, vaccine equality and vaccine mandates, topics which Peter has written extensively about. But it was his ethics on abortion and euthanasia that had some up in arms.
Peter is a utilitarian philosopher, and we get it: some of his ideas are controversial. People have the right to completely disagree with them, they can even say that his ideas are abhorrent- that’s ok. What’s not ok is preventing someone from speaking just because you don’t agree with them.
We are thankful that Rhodes College ended up allowing the conversation to take place, because if we can’t talk about controversial topics, how can we get to the truth? How can we advance and make improvements? This cancel culture is what prompted Peter and his colleagues to create the Journal of Controversial Ideas, which you should definitely check out.
If you’re craving some heterodox thinking, come see Peter speak live next March and April.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Have you listened to the #1 psychology podcast in the world— The Psychology Podcast by Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D? We're big fans of it here at Think Inc.
Kaufman wrote the Manifesto for a Human-Centered Education which is being displayed in the front window of every Louis Vuitton shop around the world. The fashion company is donating €10,000 in Kaufman's name to encourage creativity among young people from disadvantaged communities.