Weekly choice: on being productive, altruist and feminist

RSA Animate – Re-Imagining Work

How can we get people more engaged, more productive, and happier at work? Is technology part of the problem – and could it also be part of the solution? Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft, imagines what might be possible if more organization embraced the full, empowering potential of technology and encouraged a truly open, collaborative and flexible working culture.


“Work is no longer a Destination!”


An Analysis of Altruism

Neel Burton is a psychiatrist, philosopher and writer who lives and teaches in Oxford.  In this interesting article he proposes a different perspective of altruism.


“Altruistic acts are self-interested, if not because they relieve anxiety, then perhaps because they lead to pleasant feelings of pride and satisfaction; the expectation of honor or reciprocation; or the greater likelihood of a place in heaven; and even if neither of the above, then at least because they relieve unpleasant feelings such as the guilt or shame of not having acted at all.”



Ted’s best for the week

In this creative talk Ben Saunders (an explorer of limits) urges the audiences to consider carefully how to spend the “tiny amount of time we each have on this planet.”


“To try, to experience, to engage, to endeavor rather than to watch and to wonder, that’s where the real meat of life is to be found. It’s the juice that we can suck out of our hours and days,” says Saunders. “If I’ve learned anything from 12 years now of dragging heavy things around cold places, it’s that true, real inspiration and growth only comes from adversity and challenge, from stepping away from what’s comfortable and familiar and stepping out into the unknown.”


Person of the week, Simone de Beauvoir, the mother of modern feminism and a symbol of sexual freedom!


The one who upheld the issue of freedom for women, as the most desirable human condition, especially freedom of choice.

Women have reproductive role and the role of upbringing, said Beauvoir, and this is in part why women find it difficult to be free. However, the woman does not need to be defined by her uterus, it is possible to have a life outside of her reproductive functions.

One of her best-known books, The Second Sex, deals with the treatment of women throughout history and is often regarded as a major work of feminist philosophy and the starting point of second-wave feminism.

simonsartreHer life is also known with her relationship with the famous philosopher and Nobel laureate Jean- Paul Sartre. They were one of the most celebrated intellectual unconventional couples. They met in 1929 and never got married or even lived together, but they dedicated themselves to each other agreeing to retain the freedom to be sexually and emotionally with others and up to sharing the details to each of these connections.


second sexIn  her novel, ‘’The Second Sex’’ she explores the biological, psychoanalytic and Marxian explanations of women’s fate, understanding women in terms of “the other”, or what is not the self, which is secondary, inessential, and inferior.  De Beauvoir assesses the history of relations between the poles from the time of the primitive society to modern era and looks at women’s sexuality and her relationship with a female “otherness”.

She observes the myths related to women, especially those who are attached to motherhood; examines representations of women in the novels of male authors and evaluates the evolution of the contemporary status of women from girl to womanhood as wives and mothers. She considers the special position of lesbians, independent woman and a career woman, and extensively analyzes the role of prostitutes, a role which she saw as one where women can, under certain conditions, use the “otherness” in order to take advantage of men.


« L’intellectuel est ainsi fait, il se mêle toujours de ce qu’il ne regard pas. » (Sartre sur pourquoi il se mêle dans les affaires d’autre)


Farewell classroom, hello classMOOC

In the past few months we witness an impressive amount of bloggers, articles (both academic and newspaper) and general conversation that are writing about and discussing the recent education revolution. I´m referring to the Massive Open Online Course, commonly known by the acronym MOOC. The MOOCs are the free virtual university classroom and it is the symbol of this new and exciting era where accessibility to knowledge was never simpler and more accessible.


You are probably thinking what the majority were saying in the first couple of years since 2008 (and what some still do today): ‘we don´t have time for that’ or ‘I already got a job’. Well, while this certainly is true, still, the MOOCs provide opportunity that before people can only dream of. Some, unfortunately, are working in places they do not really want to be (whether choosing it for practical reasons or extrinsic pressure) hence, now they can easily study what you always dreamed of. Then, whether or not you´ll be able to take it to the next level and actually making a profession of it, maybe, but you´ll never know unless you´d try. As always, the best thing about trying is not the success (a great motivation) but the experience and the skills we acquire while learning and evolving (the best motivation).

In today’s hyperactive world, as in practically anything we do, we will not pay too much attention if it has no utility to us -Probably some of you will stop reading after seeing this word “utility” but let’s face it, even though there is no romance in a phrase like this, it is still quite true.- Thus, MOOC is very successful exactly because it offers all the utility we need: desired knowledge and in a convenient time.

This is why I decided to make it easier to all of you that are knowledge addicts and put together a list of useful links to some of the many resources.

My own experience with online learning and virtual classroom started years ago when I first started viewing courses and podcasts through sites as Academ.org and LearnersTV and such. Later I upgraded to Google Academic Earth, with a large variety of courses from all subjects and a multitude of universities. While my passion is studies about Social Psychology and Social Science I also took listened and followed classes about Economics, Philosophy and Psychology (I even tried Mathematics but I admit that it wasn´t my cup of tea).

Today, thanks to innovators such as Andrew Ng (London, 1976), Daphne Koller (Jerusalem, 1968), Bestian Thrun (Solingen, 1967), Anant Argawal (Bombay, 1960) and many more we have platforms that not only provide us with the courses but also the framework for us to be able to take one step further towards making it an official diploma. Probably the biggest of all is Coursera with more than 17 million students from all over the world. The 400 classes are given in 83 different education centers all over the world in all the major languages.

The MIT open courseware, whether it is learning Italian language and home cooking simultaneously, psychology or the world of Finance, you have the opportunity to follow your passion into a more profound level. If you are more into language try Duolingo or maybe to learn computer code (in codeacademy), possibilities are endless.

Other important universities also began their own web of free and shared lectures. Some of the most known are: Cornell’s eCommons (like this interesting one about Quantum Theory made simple), Harvard’s edX (initiated with MIT), Stanford Online and many others (click here for a list of 775 free online courses from different universities).

moocOther centers and platforms that are just as good are: Udacity, Iversity (where I personally take a course this semester), Khan Academy, e-learning, Edmodo (highschool education), Open2Study, P2PU amongst others.

And so, as Koller tell us in the wonderful TED Talk, today education can travel over barriers as financial difficulties, distance to the closest education facility, and physical disability. With a click of a mouse and average internet connection (whether private or public), everyone can become a student and participate in this wonder we call universal knowledge.


Short video on what is MOOC:


I´ve been asked if all the people that enroll in these courses are academics. Well, the answer is certainly not. Just in my course there are about 5000 students, viewing their profile I found that the large majority are nothing but academics (commercials, shop owners, retired, artists, high-schoolers, unemployed and many more).

Weekly choice, by peers

Passionless Sex – The American Ideal

A short post reviewing the latest films about sex with the omission of love.

“Americans don’t like dirty sex, to judge from recent popular films about sex. So why are French women so sexual, if you believe French cinema. In French films, people have affairs, cheat on their spouses, form passionate entanglements, and – for God’s sake – take their clothes off!”



Masters-of-SexWhen it comes to Sex, there is a wonderful new series called Masters of Sex that inspired to give us the story of the beginning of the study of sex based on true life of William Masters and Virginia Johnson. As in any good show it also explores relationships. It is a fantastic exploration of human sexuallity, in a way that is honest and authentic, evocative and provocative mixed with good writing, excellent acting and fascinating subject matter.


People Are More Moral in the Morning

Experts are alerting, please avoid making any life changing decisions in the afternoon, especially those with moral implications; you’re more likely to act immorally.

“The morning morality effect has notable implications for individuals and organizations, and it suggests that morally relevant tasks should be deliberately ordered throughout the day.”(Kouchaki & Smith, 2013)



Real Men Go to Sleep!

“Add it all up and roughly thirty percent of working Americans survive on less than six hours of unconscious rest a day. Unfortunately, a deeply embedded American cultural tradition dismisses sleep as a waste of time. As one corporate executive put it not long ago, Sleep is for sissies.”



Ted’s best for the week

Tempus fugit said the Romans many years ago, time flies, so stop procrastinating and make it count!  Meg Jay, clinical psychologist, tries to create a sense of urgency for twenty somethings so they won’t end up in their 30’s feeling like they wasted the past ten years of their lives. Nevertheless, if you are twenty, thirty or sixty, this is wonderful talk with a decisive inspiration to all ages.

20s decade

“Forget about having an identity crisis and get some identity capital…  Do something that adds value to who you are. Do something that’s an investment in who you might want to be next.”



Person of the week, Stephen Hawking!

Stephen William Hawking was born in England on January 8th, 1942. Today, in the age of almost 72 years old, he is probably one of the most known man alive (right there with Maradona). No doubt he is one of the most intelligent men of his time, yet what is most inspirational about him, is that he didn’t let his physical condition keeping him from excelling in his field. Hawking has achieved success with works of popular science in which he discusses his own theories and cosmology in general.

Trispectivism, a word about Sex

Probably the most disturbing issue about sex is that sex is, in fact, an issue. So much has been said about this act that somehow we lost the act along the way, along with the mixture of modern, psychological, occidental, oriental, theological, natural, and many more interpretative ways. Sex has become a public discourse, a symbol that all eyes are immediately attracted to, a photo on a movie poster or a book cover that augments the sales and a hot topic to boost blog views (never).


So what is Sex? Well, on a more pragmatic perspective, one can say it is a manner of reproduction, of procreation, of the continuation of the species and the passage of evolutional universal consciousness and knowledge. On an emotional level, it is the strongest connection possible between two members of the same species, usually, but not necessarily, a male and a female. When a man penetrates a woman, the immediate and most sublime sensation is the unison of the two. Two who become one, united in this cosmic energy, stronger, with neither care nor sorrow, as the most intimate company to each other. This is perhaps why sex has become an immediate relief of people’s feeling of detachment and sadness, an instant cure for loneliness.

However, there is a moment in sex when the situation is altered, when each person is no longer in this wonderful unison, an inexplicable instance when something occurs that makes us disappear, dissipate into almost nonexistence. This moment, as you well know, is the culminating point, the explosion of the entire sexual act: it is the orgasm.

Once you reach unison with your partner you are physically fused to one, your mental self becomes one. This togetherness is as strong as the connection between the partners, or in other words, the bigger the love, respect, and communication between you and your lover, the greater the fusion will be. A passionate lovemaking means to be absorbed in your partner and expressing your passion through the coordinated movement of your body. Now, during the orgasm you mentally detach yourself from your partner, from yourself, and from your surroundings, a moment where you find another existence, a more ancient animalistic one. It is when the individual All fuses with the universal All. From an immediate few seconds up to several minutes, the orgasm is the peak of the act of lovemaking; it is the culminating point that is the reason for our desire.

kamasutra 40pos
The position of the day

There is no reason why anyone should have any kind of sexual difficulty, discomfort, or any kind of obstacle to enjoying intercourse with a partner. Thus, when you get into bed with someone, hopefully you  have chosen this person not because you are obliged to do so for there is no circumstance that can be used as an excuse to be in bed with someone you do not choose to be with, no matter what you have been told or, even worse, what you have been telling yourself. Even if it is a one-night stand, a momentary need for a passionate encounter, we always make sure we are aware of our choice and accept it as such. It is probably as important that after we choose the person, the moment, and the circumstances, we should be conscious to another occurrence, where we are getting into bed not with this person but with an alter ego, or the person we would have liked ourselves to be. What I mean is to be whole with our physical self. Sexual intercourse requires nudity, which is something that many have problems with. If my partner is a female, it is simple: if she chooses me, she wants me not because of the things I do not have but for the advantages I might possess (at least in her eyes). We are all aware to the fact that women are much more conscious about the person they choose to have intercourse with, so do not bother yourself with superficial maybes. She will accept me just the way I am as long as I try my best to be kind, considerate, and natural with her. If your partner is a guy…well, make sure you choose him. However, both men and women admit that sex out of love is much better sex. It is where the pre- and the post-intercourse actually matters and affects the emotion in that heavenly moment of climax. Aspects such as caring, trust, security, confidence, intimacy, and patience are only some of the emotions and feelings that by far will incite a far more sensational intercourse. This interaction of the climax as an individual All and the entire sexual act as a universal All is, in the end, what we can call great sex.

Weekly choice, by peers

What Men Can Do to Help Women Advance Their Careers

“Once upon a time — say, maybe 50 years ago — there was undeniably a mindset among many men who, for a variety of reasons, firmly believed that women could never make it in their world. These days are now long past. Most men — or at least most of the ones I encounter — are firmly committed to advancing the careers of women around them. So here, humbly submitted, are five simple things that men can do to help women advance in their careers and their lives.”



When Your Friend’s Happy News Fills You with Envy Instead of Joy

“It’s not that you’re a bad person. You really want to feel happy for your friend. You really want to get rid of these feeling of envy. But in the moment, you just can’t. (…) At first glance it may seem like the person who made you envious is the source of your envy. However, if you dig a little deeper, you may realize that the reason you feel envious has little to do with the person who brought out the feelings.”



TED’s best for the week:

power posing
Power Posing

Amy Cuddy gives a fascinating, research-backed, suggestion for anyone waiting with stress and anticipation for a job interview, a first date or a public speaking event. Her advice is to stand in front of a mirror, put your hands on your hips, tilt your chin up, and make yourself as tall as you can get. Or even better: throw your arms up and out. In her lab, Cuddy founds that “power posing” for two minutes was enough to increase testosterone levels and decrease cortisol, making people feel more in control. In other words, the way you pose your body can change how you feel about yourself.



Person of the week! Nikola Tesla, the genius who lit the world

Nikola Tesla (1856 – 1943) was born in Smiljan, Lika, which was then part of  the Austo-Hungarian Empire, region of Croatia. He studied at the Realschule, Karlstadt in 1873, the Polytechnic Institute in Graz, Austria and the University of Prague. Young Nikola came to the United States in 1884 with an introduction letter from Charles Batchelor to Thomas Edison: “I know two great men,” wrote Batchelor, “one is you and the other is this young man.” Tesla spent the next 59 years of his productive life living in New York.

Nikola Tesla symbolizes a unifying force and inspiration for all nations in the name of peace and science. He was a true visionary far ahead of his contemporaries in the field of scientific development. He was a trained electrical and mechanical engineer and one of the most influential inventors of the 20th century. Eventually holding over 700 patents, Tesla worked in a number of fields, including electricity, robotics, radar, and wireless transmission of energy. Tesla’s discoveries laid the groundwork for many of the 20th century’s technological advances.


Nikola-Tesla-2“The world will wait a long time for Nikola Tesla’s equal in achievement and imagination.”

                                                                                                                                          E.  Armstrong


Book of the week, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

lolitaLolita isn’t a simple story about the destiny of Humbert Humbert, main character and compelling storyteller, but also story about the tragedy of Dolores Haze. This book represents a fascinating mixture of psychologic novel, romantic love story, pornography, crime, melodrama and perhaps a confession of a culprit. The novel presents a, lucid, ironic, and subjective panorama of North America seen by attentive and critical eyes or the narrator. The protagonist reveals the hypocrisy he sees around him and at times even excuses himself acknowledging his illicit doing in his rare lucid moments.

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.”

Weekly choice, by peers

Are you the perfectionist type?

Perfectionist-color“Taken to the extreme, perfectionism becomes a disorder. Burns shares the wild example of an attorney who became obsessed with getting his hair “just right.” He spent hours in front of the mirror with his scissors and comb making adjustments until his hair was just an eighth of an inch long. Then he became obsessed with getting his hairline exactly right and he shaved it a little more every day until his hair receded back so far he was bald. He would then wait for his hair to grow back and the pattern continued again. Eventually his desire to have the perfect hair led him to cut back on his legal practice in order to continue his obsession. This is an extreme example to be sure, but there are less severe ways in which our own perfectionism leads us to major in minor activities? Have you ever obsessed over a report when your boss said it was already plenty good enough? Have you ever lost an object of little importance but just had to keep looking for it? Do colleagues often tell you, “Just let it go”?”



Writing is living.. twice!

Writing is not an easy task, yet we all like to do it, each one in its own fashion, style and mode. Some as a hobby, others are professionals (or trying to be), ones simply for the catharsis effect and there are those for passing time. Then if so many do it, how come there are only a few that are so good at it?

So for those of you who need a short reminder for some basic advices, here are some of the best:

Pixar published a set of 22 great rules of how to approach a story, here’s Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling Presented with Film Stills.

You may want to know some advices of the best writers, well, for that I present to you the hall of fame writer tips from F. Scott Fitzgerald on How to Write Fiction. The next one is Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Tips on How to Write a Great Story.

And last yet surely not least is a short video with Ricky Gervais telling us a story about how he learned to write:


From poverty to wealth

A personal story that is by far a wonderful example for an difficult experience that turns to some of the better life lessons. In professional terms we may call it post-traumatic growth.

“We had no real kitchen (it was just a room), no running water or indoor bathroom, no TV or telephone. (No, I did not grow up with the dinosaurs). We did have electric lights.What did I learn by growing up in these conditions?  I learned to share and to take good care of what little I had and be grateful. I learned to use my imagination, to eat until I was not hungry any more rather that when I was stuffed. I learned that it was the people that made a home, not the size of a house. I learned to work together. “



TED’s best for the week:

Trivia whiz Ken Jennings has made a career as a keeper of facts; he holds the longest winning streak in history on the U.S. game show Jeopardy. But in 2011, he played a challenge match against supercomputer Watson — and lost. With humor and humility, Jennings tells us how it felt to have a computer literally beat him at his own game, and also makes the case for good old-fashioned human knowledge.


“The great 18th-century British theologian and thinker, friend of Dr. Johnson, Samuel Parr once said, “It’s always better to know a thing than not to know it.” And if I have lived my life by any kind of creed, it’s probably that. I have always believed that the things we know — that knowledge is an absolute good, that the things we have learned and carry with us in our heads are what make us who we are, as individuals and as a species.”



Person of the week! Charles Bukowski

“Like anybody can tell you, I am not a very nice man. I don’t know the word. I have always admired the villain, the outlaw, the son of a bitch. I don’t like the clean-shaven boy with the necktie and the good job. I like desperate men, men with broken teeth and broken minds and broken ways. They interest me. They are full of surprises and explosions. I also like vile women, drunk cursing bitches with loose stockings and sloppy mascara faces. I’m more interested in perverts than saints. I can relax with bums because I am a bum. I don’t like laws, morals, religions, rules. I don’t like to be shaped by society.”

The cost of Feminism

In different themes one can recognize demands and declarations that are the product of idealistic notions more than the understanding of the reasons with a pragmatic intention for resolution. Meaning, where do we notice a continuing contradiction between words and actions?


One example is with the constant talk about equality in salaries between men and women. I too am a big admirer of equal rights and obligations (although the second part is usually left unmentioned), yet my practical understanding of the situation reveals a bigger problem than just powerful men in suits that look down to women (which by itself, is a sad reality). There is a more intrinsic difficulty and it is with our habits and natural culture (another way to say instincts in a civilized society).

I will say that in order to really solve it, we have to start from the primary reason of why men are making more money than women. More than the notorious reason of coupling men with greed and lust for power, there is a profound, primal one: the large majority of women prefer men that make more money than they do. Thus, simplifying the analogy, we can say that as in any market, it is a question of demand and distribution, which in this case, the demand for more men with more money create a proportionate distribution.

How can one say such an outrage? Well, there are interesting studies about this preference in the large majority of women (see chapter 18 in The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker) yet I´m positive that you will find the best one to be your personal experience. If someone knows about a woman that demands equal salary and actually chose for a husband or a partner a man that makes less than she, I will be more than happy to hear about it. That being said, the studies obviously do not take under consideration a choice for an occasional sex and/or a lover, but what we can define a normal relationship (understanding normal by large majority serious relationship with an aspiration for family life). As I noticed in my personal experience and the people I had the opportunity to discuss this matter, many are the women that are aware and even share this ideal but very few actually got married to someone that made less. Interestingly, in most occasions when they first met they had no idea of the outcome of the quantity of the salary, it is almost an instinct preference.

In the study, the subjects found the men who made more money to be more attractive and appealing, and someone they will consider marrying. Now, obviously, not all men with that make a 6 figures salary are from the Bald and the Beautiful, one can presume that nature does it course. This primal instinct is logical from the point of you of Evolutionist behaviorism, where a woman is more attracted to a man that according to her standards will be able to provide the best (in today’s terms it translates to salary).

 we can do it

As always, the idea is that once we obtain the information we´re not to use it as an excuse for some natural reality. This is where we have to use our great capacity of mind and act according to this information to create the society we aspire to. Hence, those that are fighting for the equal pay, if you really want to start having results, be aware of the root of the issue, leave the slogans and the good/bad narrative aside and change the system by creating more awareness of the deeper reason.