“Arma virumque cano”, says Vergil in the first line of his Aeneis. Like him, I want to talk of men and arms today – or: Of mankind and war, of human beings and conflict, and of men of mind and their methods. Concretely: A recent article by Pasquale Cirillo and Nassim Nicholas Taleb, “On the tail risk of violent conflict and its underestimation”, has (re-)ignited a discussion first sparked by Taleb’s earlier criticism towards the hypotheses regarding the decline of violence put forward by Steven Pinker in his book “The Better Angels of our Nature”, first published 2011. Is there – this is the question on the table – less violence today than in the past of mankind as we know it?
Variations on cleavages, responsibility, and identities
“If your business partners or colleagues lose focus, the reason could be a revealing cleavage – in particular, if you’re a business woman. Does this sound familiar? If yes, it’s high time for you to check the amount of female allure you bring to work”. Such reads the (translated) introductory passage of an article just published in a German business weekly. Always interested in learning about what makes women (or men) successful in business, and also, I admit, occasionally interested in fashion and style, this piqued my curiosity, and I went ahead and read the whole text.
Arising from a star: Becoming a person in social media
It started with a tweet. On May 10th, 2015, @raue tweeted: “I should maybe blog again, so someone can praise it enthusiastically, so I can retweet, and you can then fav that”; I replied: “What about the reverse? I fav your tweet so you can retweet it, and then I blog about it?” – and retweet he did. So here I am, stuck with a casual commitment made online. Now I have to deliver – or else: The whole online universe will feel let down, and it’ll be my fault.
Acknowledging absence: The mental demands of our digitised world
“The demands of modern adult life”, wrote Robert Kegan in 1994, “may require a qualitative transformation in the complexity of mind every bit as fundamental as the transformation from magical thinking to concrete thinking required of the school-age child, or the transformation from concrete thinking to abstract thinking required of the adolescent”. Kegan wrote this when the internet was barely learning to crawl: In 1993, only 1 percent of information flowing through two-way telecommunication went through its channels