Post #100: The Genre of Progress Literature

This is post #100 on Thought Distiller! I’m personally surprised; I had no idea the blog was so far along in terms of post count. Anyway, thanks for being a reader! Here’s a post that, by the end, I hope will lift your spirits. What’s wrong with the news? It often feels as if we’re…

Conflating Poverty Alleviation with Income Inequality Reduction

I’ve often found that writers— even those trained in economics— conflate alleviating poverty with trying to make the societal income distribution more equal. The most recent example of this that I’ve encountered was within Rutger Bregman’s acclaimed book Utopia for Realists. I enjoyed the majority of the book, which advocated a universal basic income (UBI), a…

Our Failed Age of Exploration

I’ve been reading Jon Gertner’s The Idea Factory lately; it documents the history of Bell Labs, an R&D facility shared by AT&T and Western Electric that was directly or indirectly responsible for a number of innovations in telecom. Bell Labs researchers created transistors, signal extenders, and Unix, among other things. They developed the foundations of…

Will We Need Sociopaths in a World Without Crisis?

One of my most popular articles ever on Thought Distiller was called “Are Sociopaths Good for Society?” and I think the time has come to dig into another angle on the topic of sociopathy. Last time, I determined that sociopaths (at least the higher-functioning ones) are genuinely good for society. This time around, I’m thinking…

Rutger Bregman on Universal Basic Income

Today, instead of writing my own post, I’d like to share a talk by Rutger Bregman from TEDxMaastricht. Bregman is a 28-year-old historian and author who has published four books on history, economics, and philosophy. As an aside, I find it interesting how writing by “pop historians” like Bregman, Yuval Harari, and Nassim Taleb has…

Unsocial Sociability: Why People Cooperate and Defect

Human beings are tough to predict because our social dynamics are vastly different from other animals. Some animals, like wolves, must function in packs; a so-called “lone wolf” would in most circumstances perish. Others, like tigers, are solitary, so that they do not need to compete with other members of their species for resources; a…

Xenophobia Will Actually Impede Human Evolution

I relish the ability to relate biology to other fields in these posts, but it’s not often that I find meaningful and relevant reasons to do so. Today is different. Having done some interesting reading this past weekend, I’ve come to realize that, politics aside, xenophobia is fundamentally bad because it actually creates evolutionary disadvantages,…

The Self-Actualization-Adjusted Life Year (SALY)

I was recently reading a post on Medium investigating what decreasing poverty means for human health. The author mentioned disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) as the prevailing current measure of health. The DALY relies on an acceptance that the most appropriate measure of the effects of chronic illness is time, both time lost due to premature death and…

Foxes and Lions: Why Elites Always Win

Before getting into the main part of these piece, I’d like to examine (1) what inequality is and (2) why societies entrench inequality. Since societies have a finite amount of goods that they can allocate among citizens, inequality refers to the ways in which people (designated by characteristics including gender, race, age, and ethnicity) have differential…

The Success Myth

As Mark Twain once said in a letter to Helen Keller: “It takes a thousand men to invent a telegraph, or a steam engine, or a phonograph, or a photograph, or a telephone or any other important thing—and the last man gets the credit and we forget the others. He added his little mite —…