Interview: Joshua Greene, Moral Tribes

I recently got the chance to interview Joshua Greene, Harvard philosopher and author of Moral Tribesone of the more interesting pop-psychology books I’ve seen. Greene gets interviewed a lot, so I tried to ask questions he hadn’t heard before: It worked out pretty well!

http://appliedsentience.com/2015/02/20/exploring-our-moral-tribes-interview-w-harvard-psychologist-joshua-greene/

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How To Write a Job Posting: One Student’s Opinion (Part II)

Introduction

Hello! I’m Aaron Gertler, and I’ve spent the last six months looking at hundreds of job postings on Yale University’s career site. Some of them were awesome; many were awful.

In the first part of this post, I examined common mistakes companies make when trying to hire students. This post is much happier: I’ll be looking at the common traits of my favorite job postings, and explaining how companies can use them to improve their hiring process!

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How to Write a Job Posting: One Student’s Opinion

Dear companies,

Are you trying to hire students fresh out of college?

If so, that’s wonderful! We really appreciate it. I’ve applied to a lot of jobs over the past few months, and most companies I spoke to made me feel welcome and appreciated.

However, there are a few strange flaws I see in a lot of job postings. These aren’t just my pet peeves: I’ve also heard a complaints from many other students. And when a student has hundreds of jobs they could be applying for, a good job posting often makes the difference between keeping them on the hook and losing them in the wide sea of capitalism.

To help companies improve their hiring, I’ve written this quick guide to writing job postings for students. Some of this might be relevant to other job postings. Take what you like, leave what you don’t.

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Immortality Is Exciting

TL;DR: Immortality may seem like it would be boring. But an awful lot of people have hobbies and projects that would probably work out better if those people had more time to get things done. What’s more, these activities might be more exciting the longer they went on, rather than less.

To illustrate this, I use the example of a Go master, who is in love with a fiendishly hard game and might continue improving for centuries, given the chance — and that’s just one popular board game in a universe of activities.

Introduction

I’d like to clear up a common misconception about living forever.

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The Logical Fallacy With No Name (Edit: Nope, Has a Name)

At least, not a name I could find on this handy list of fallacies.

Hopefully, that means I get to name it myself. I’d like to call it “the Aaron Fallacy”, because I’m writing this post, and because the person who brought it to my attention was also named Aaron (though he was not me). But it seems counterproductive to have a fallacy named after oneself, so instead, I will call it “the Fallacy of Trust”.

(Edit: Shoot, Murray Gell-Mann beat me to the punch. As did Michael Crichton. Still, no point in taking the rest of this down. Maybe it still contains insight?)

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Utilitarian Thought Experiments

Introduction

I’m currently enrolled in a moral psychology class. We spend a lot of time talking about human moral instincts — the ways we think about moral situations when we haven’t had time to reflect on the consequences.

Sometimes, our instincts are excellent; they help us save people from oncoming trains when there’s no time to think about alternatives. But other times, they lead us down strange paths.

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The Badass Baby Name Book

My girlfriend and I like to talk about baby names.

Some people think this is strange, since neither of us is planning to have children anytime soon. But I think that baby names are one of the perfect small-talk topics, and not just with the person you love.

Consider:

  1. Every day, we see and hear dozens of names, whether they belong to the people around us, people featured in the news, or characters in books and movies.
  2. Names have deep emotional connections for us. When we meet someone who shares a name with our childhood best friend — or a childhood bully — we often view that person differently as a result.
  3. Choosing someone’s name is a massive responsibility. Names change the course of our lives; they influence how people perceive us, and how we perceive ourselves. (The introduction of this book explains some of the ways that name selection can go wrong.)
  4. The average American will eventually choose two names for their own children, while also weighing in on the names of grandchildren and the children of friends.

Names aren’t just interesting to talk about — they have serious practical importance for the lives of our future children. As a discussion topic, it beats the hell out of the weather.

 * * * * *

The sad thing about baby names is that too many of them are boring.

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Increasingly Alarming

Yale’s Environmental Health and Safety office recently sent an email to all students with the headline “The Dangers Are Real”.

While the email included useful information on important topics like “the history of pedestrian right-of-way in Connecticut”, this was my favorite part:

“Distracted pedestrians are being injured at an increasingly alarming rate.”

“Increasingly alarming” is a beautiful phrase.

The Yale Environmental Health and Safety office does not imply that the rate of injury among distracted pedestrians is increasing — only that the employees of the office are becoming progressively more alarmed.

There are many reasons this could be happening. Maybe the injury rate really is increasing. Or maybe the injury rate is decreasing, but the average injury has gotten worse.

It is also possible that the author of this email is suffering from unrelated feelings of alarm, but attributes this alarm to the current rate of distracted pedestrian injury in Connecticut, whatever that rate may be.

* * * * *

The phrase “increasingly alarming” can be applied to literally any set of time-series data while remaining subjectively accurate.

For example:

  • “The global temperature is rising at an increasingly alarming rate.”
  • “Bears are attacking Canadians at an increasingly alarming rate.”
  • “George Clooney is aging at an increasingly alarming rate.”

And so on.

I feel like this phrase ought to have an Urban Dictionary entry, or at least a national holiday in the United States. On “Increasingly Alarming Day”, citizens would go about their business as usual, but would feel slightly more anxious than on other days.

Already, the idea has support from doctors, environmentalists, and Piers Morgan. I sense the seeds of a grassroots movement.

Our slogan?

“Increasingly Alarming”: Your one-stop solution for statistically dubious panic.

How to Have (and Remember) More Ideas

My third post for Applied Sentience is up:

http://appliedsentience.com/2014/08/29/making-better-use-of-humanitys-most-valuable-resource-good-ideas/

Check it out for some thoughts on Srinivasa Ramanujan, David Foster Wallace, Jean-Paul Sartre, and why Quora isn’t living up to its potential (on which more later).

* * * * *

Related: I cannot emphasize strongly enough that you should keep a file for your ideas (however strange or impractical) and get in the habit of writing them down. Habits that help:

  • When you have an experience that gives you a strong emotional response (laughter, joy, anger, confusion), think to yourself: “How could people have more/less of this experience in their lives? What would have to be invented or changed?”
  • Keep a journal. You’ll remember more experiences like the ones I mentioned above, and you’ll be able to notice very easily when you write phrases like “I wish…” or “If only…”
  • Sit down for a formal brainstorming session once in a while. If this doesn’t sound appealing, try it once, for ten minutes. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it again, but if you do like it, you might find it becoming a valuable habit.
  • Use Workflowy, which is the best tool I’ve found for quickly making lists. Evernote is also good, but not quite as fast.

If you have an idea-generating habit that I didn’t list here, put it in the comment section! I’m always looking for ideas about how to look for ideas.