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A Fresh Perspective on Free Speech – Annie’s Newsletter, Dec 11th 2017


A Fresh Perspective on Free Speech
…from 2,500 years ago (@theatlantic) recently published an article that gives color to why we seem to be talking past each other a lot on the issue of free speech. Author Teresa Bejan (@tmbejan), a professor of political theory at Oxford, provides a helpful history of free speech, illuminating and contextualizing the continuing controversies on college campuses. Bejan points out that there are two concepts, in conflict since ancient Greece and described by Plato, that our founders married in the First Amendment: the equal right to participate in public debate (isegoria), and the license to say what one pleases (parrhesia).

I’d say this is a must read for anyone trying to understand why free speech (and when it is okay to restrict or limit its exercise) is such a hot-button issue.


From Marshmallows-for-Toddlers to Trillions-for-Retirees

The difficult, vital work fo caring for our future self

Harvard economics professor Sendhil Mullainathan’s (@m_sendhil) piece,Why Trying New Things Is So Hard to Do, does a great job explaining the problems we have due to not wanting to lose something small now, even when the long-term win for our future-self can be so large. He opens with why he won’t give up name-brand soda, which seems like a small issue, but makes the larger point that all of these discounted decisions add up over time to huge losses for us. Just think about our collective $7-14 trillion retirement-savings shortfall. (When we reward out present-self at the expense of our future-self it’s called temporal discounting.)

I’d add that this problem is made worse because politicians are motivated to make policy favoring making us happy in the shorter term. No politician wants to tell his constituents to take a lot of pain now because things will really be great in twenty years, especially because they have to run for re-election before many of those gains might be realized.

Defense Against Conspiracy (Theories)
Two useful explanations

Two recent pieces offer strategies for getting to the bottom of conspiracy-theory thinking:


Consume and Ignore 

Stories about influencing consumer choice 

Here are a pair of recent articles shedding light on some hidden influences on consumer behavior:


My interview in Nautilus

Columbia neuroscientist Stuart Firestein interviewed me for Nautilus (@NautilusMag), which they just posted. It was a pleasure to chat with him about decision-making strategies, life, and poker. Check it out!


Book Bounty 

Bill Gates reads fifty books a year, a worthy (and relatable!) reading goal 

The impending end of 2017 brings numerous “best of” lists. I especially enjoy lists of notable books, to help me keep up with what’s coming out and catch up on what I missed:


Sciency: Cosmos and Dinosaurs

How images and art evolve

Last week, I retweeted a photo gallery tweeted by the Franklin Institute (@TheFranklin). (I’m a board member of the museum.) The gallery, from (@cnn), is a stunning sample of centuries of artistic images of the universe, including works from Galileo, Kandinsky, photos from space, and a 500-year-old Durer woodcut of the constellations. The gallery comes from a new book from Phaidon Press, Universe: Exploring the Astronomical World.

Re-upping that link would be reason enough for this note but I coincidentally discovered another example of the evolution of artistic images, this time about dinosaurs. It goes without saying that it is a challenge to imagine what prehistoric creatures looked like – or to dislodge such images when new information and theories develop. Asher Elbein recently wrote a detailed article (with images!) in about the evolution of paleoart,The Surprising Evolution of Dinosaur Drawings.


1. I apologize for omitting a reference from an item in last week’s newsletter. I noted how Tim Ferriss (@tferriss), in his new book Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World, contained interviews with several world-class poker mentors. I should have mentioned that this included advice from Fedor Holz (@crownupguy), one of the world’s most successful tournament poker players. I haven’t been part of professional poker since 2012, but Holz has earned over $23 million in major tournaments in the last five years. I haven’t been a professional baseball player during that period either, and it’s the equivalent of overlooking Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. My bad.

2. I don’t apologize for pointing out three pieces of content from in this newsletter. In addition to extremism and conspiracy theories, I believe history will show that the evolving internet in this era has given us riches in journalism and commentary for learning about our world. is surely a source of those riches. We’re barely scratching the surface here. I didn’t even get to mention any pieces from, which, just in the last week, has published meaningful articles such as The Politics of Science: Why Scientists Might Not Say What the Evidence Supports, and The Case for Moral Doubt. More riches.

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