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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

How to use maps to solve complex problems

Imagine that you’ve just been appointed the head of operations for a five-star hotel in Manhattan. Your boss calls you in her office on your first day and says: “Our biggest problem is how slow elevators are. Everyone complains about it, and we can’t have that. Speed them up.” How would you do it? Most […]

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Using math to understand inequity

What can math tell us about unfairness? Bias, discrimination, and inequity are phenomena that are deeply complex, context sensitive, personal, and intersectional. The mathematical modeling of social scenarios, on the other hand, is a practice that necessitates simplification. Using models to understand what happens in our social realm means representing the complex with something much […]

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Does Consciousness Have a Function?

Perhaps, the most fascinating question about consciousness is the Hard Problem. It’s the problem of explaining why and how subjective experiences arise from complex electrochemical interactions happening in the brain. It is Hard because the working of the brain should be fully described in term of physical interactions, leaving no room for subjective experiences to fit within our current views of the physical world.

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The problem of consciousness

Many people find consciousness deeply puzzling. It is often described as one of the few remaining problems for science to address that is genuinely deep—perhaps even unsolvable. Indeed, consciousness is thought to present a challenge to the prevailing scientific image of the universe as physical through-and-through. In part this puzzlement arises because people are (at […]

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Why the holidays are the loneliest time for seniors

The winter holidays are a time to celebrate family, friends, and community. But for the millions of older adults worldwide who have no family, few friends nearby, or are lonely and socially isolated, December is far from the most wonderful time of the year. A survey carried out by AARP in 2017 found that 28 percent of […]

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How to address the enigmas of everyday life

Here are some hard questions: Is the value of human life absolute? Should we conform to the prevalent values? The questions are hard because each has reasonable but conflicting answers. When circumstances force us to face them, we are ambivalent. We realize that there are compelling reasons for both of the conflicting answers. This is not an abstract problem, but a predicament we encounter when we have to make difficult decisions whose consequences affect how we live, our relationships, and our attitude to the society in which we live.

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The truth about ‘Latinx’ [a revision]

In recent years, the term Latinx has become popular in academic settings in English to designate a group of people without reference to gender, which is designated by -o and -a endings in some Romance languages. While academics and Twitter users have begun to use the term, only 2% of the U.S. population actually identifies with this word. Latinx has become so widely used that Elizabeth Warren has taken to using it on the campaign trail.

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Connecting families through open adoption

The term “open adoption” is unfamiliar to much of the general public, and yet it describes the reality of adoption today. These are adoptions in which there is some contact or exchange of information between birth families and adoptive families, before or after the adoption. With growing awareness of the benefits of openness for children […]

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The truth about ‘Latinx’

Editor’s Note: An updated version of this article addresses the error where the author incorrectly states that the plural neuter term in Latin is “Latinae.” Please read the updated article here. We regret the error. In recent years, the term Latinx has become popular in academic settings in English to designate a group of people without reference […]

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Our souls make us who we are

The vast majority of today’s scientists and philosophers believe that human beings are just physical objects, very complicated machines, the essential part of which is our brain which is sometimes conscious. Richard Swinburne argues that on the contrary each human consists of a body which is a physical object, and a soul which is an immaterial thing, interacting with their body; it is our soul which is conscious and is the essential part of each of us.

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How to communicate with animals

More than ever, humans need to find new ways to connect to other animals. In the United States alone, over 150 million people have a pet. There are over 10,000 zoos worldwide, with each of the larger zoos having several thousand animals. These and millions of other animals rely on humans for their survival. It […]

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Brexit: when psychology and politics clash

With the recent publication of the UK Government’s Yellowhammer document outlining the financial disaster forecasted for Brexit, it would seem reasonable for people who voted to leave the European Union to change their opinions. Psychological research, however, suggests that once people commit to a decision, albeit a bad one, they are reluctant to change their minds. Why do […]

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Music and spirituality at the end of life

Music and spirituality are two mediums frequently – almost ubiquitously – partnered in cultures around the world with the intention of enhancing engagement with the divine. Spiritual practices are infused with music to intensify the transpersonal components of worship, meditation, and ritual. Correspondingly, musical encounters are infused with spiritually-based beliefs and practices to provide individuals […]

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The long trauma of revenge porn

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the intersection of sexual violence and technology has become an invisible tidal wave heading for the shores of our smart phones. Revenge porn – academically known as image-based abuse, non-consensual pornography, or the non-consensual sharing of intimate images – is one of a host of cyber-sexual violations clustered […]

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