The Birth Lottery: Your Success Depends On Other People

Many people acknowledge that their success, at least in the traditional sense of upward economic mobility, is not of their own making. But most don’t realize how strong an impact external variables have on children’s outcomes. In most cases, birth and early childhood circumstances (i.e. the birth lottery), not intrinsic traits, are the leading forward…

Not All Truth Is Created Equal

Most people, whether on a day-to-day basis or in the grand scheme of things, are searching for some form of truth. That could range from the mundane (why do chicken nuggets exist?) to the profound (why are we here?). Regardless of the scope of one’s questions, some methods of working through those questions lead us…

The Dunning-Kruger Effect: Knowing Our Own Limits

Perhaps the biggest of my weekly indulgences is watching TV whenever I find the time. Of the few shows I’m committed to, I’m very fond of NBC’s The Blacklist, which focuses on the as yet unknown relationship between wanted criminal Raymond Reddington (James Spader) and rookie FBI profiler Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone). During the fourth season’s…

The “Trading Up” Phenomenon in Modern Dating

This summer, I read Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance. I initially thought it was just another comedic romp a la Master of None, but guided by Professor Eric Klinenberg’s academic insight, Modern Romance turned out a witty, accurate depiction of its titular theme. One thing I found particularly fascinating was the “trading up” phenomenon. Ansari pointed out that, in…

Why Infrastructure Might Save the US Economy

Today, I’m writing a brief post analyzing Larry Fink’s (the CEO of Blackstone) words on infrastructure in the US. He claims that infrastructure in America is falling apart. From roads to power grids, many of this country’s organ systems are failing. As Fink notes: A lot of time when we’re stuck in traffic or our…

The Doctor-Surgeon Spectrum: A Theory of Tradeoffs

While commuting every day, I’ve found myself with a lot of time to philosophize about the connection between work and value. Why is it that, in extremely similar professions, we sometimes see a huge difference in pay? For example, consider a doctor and a surgeon. Both spend years getting educated. Both are medical professionals who complete…

Why Does Lateral Thinking Create Innovation?

Lateral thinking, first coined by Edward de Bono in 1967, refers to the practice of starting from a known idea and jumping out to solutions that might seem illogical at first glance. Rather than following step-by-step reason, lateral thinking relies on breaking traditional modes of thought. As such, lateral thinking stems from divergent thinking, the related…

Fortune Telling and the Forer Effect

Last night, I watched the film Now You See Me 2. The character Merritt McKinney, played by Woody Harrelson, is a hypnotist and mentalist. Notably, McKinney is able to “read” people in order to effectively use the power of suggestion on them. Such effects are clearly dramatized in the film series, but I began to wonder why…

Beyond the Paradox of Choice

A while back, I wrote about the notion of free will as a convincing illusion. While I’m inclined to believe that we do not have free will, I will table that belief to examine choice by autonomous decision makers. If one does not believe in free will, it’s difficult to conceptualize choice in the traditional…

Welcome to the Anthropocene

The Holocene was the most recent epoch in the history of the world. It began 11,700 years ago when glaciers from the last Ice Age began to retreat. This paved the way for organized farming, which in turn led to the dawn of civilization. From there, humanity prospered. We developed medicine and transportation, we mused…