Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Interview: Edward Snowden - The New Yorker Festival

The New Yorker Festival presents Edward Snowden in conversation with Jane Mayer.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Speech: Glenn Greenwald - Why privacy matters

Glenn Greenwald was one of the first reporters to see — and write about — the Edward Snowden files, with their revelations about the United States' extensive surveillance of private citizens. In this searing talk, Greenwald makes the case for why you need to care about privacy, even if you’re “not doing anything you need to hide."

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Speech: Peter Lovatt - Dance, thinking, hormones

Dr Peter Lovatt is an academic Psychologist and a Dancer.

Dr Peter Lovatt is a Reader in Psychology and a Principal lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire, where he heads the Dance Psychology Lab. Before starting on an academic career Peter was a professional dancer.

Peter studied Theatre and Creative Arts at East Herts College before training in dance and musical theatre at the Guildford School of Acting. Peter was trained in Cecchetti ballet (Angela Hardcastle) and National dance and Pas de Deux (Robert Harold). Peter also studied jazz, tap, historical and contemporary dance. After graduating Peter worked in most of the UK's number 1 theatres and on the international dance circuit. He was a member of George Mitchell's Minstrel Show, worked with choreographer Ray Cornell, and performed in panto at Richmond Theatre.

Peter left full time theatre to study Psychology and English at Roehampton Institute, and graduated from the University of Surrey. He then took an MSc in Neural Computation from the Centre for Cognitive and Computational Neurosciences at the University of Stirling (funded by a SERC scholarship), and did his doctoral research in the department of Psychology at Essex University (funded by a University Teaching Fellowship). In 1998 Peter joined the Research Centre for English and Applied Linguistics, at Cambridge University, as a Senior Research Psychologist. After a spell in industry, as a Principal Research Scientist for a speech-based R&D company, he joined Kingston University, where he was the co-ordinator of the Psychology Research Unit and Deputy Head of the School of Social Sciences. Peter joined the School of Psychology at Hertfordshire in September 2004.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Speech: Dan Gilbert - The psychology of your future self

"Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they're finished." Dan Gilbert shares recent research on a phenomenon he calls the "end of history illusion," where we somehow imagine that the person we are right now is the person we'll be for the rest of time. Hint: that's not the case.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Speech: Brené Brown - Listening to shame

Shame is an unspoken epidemic, the secret behind many forms of broken behavior. Brené Brown, whose earlier talk on vulnerability became a viral hit, explores what can happen when people confront their shame head-on. Her own humor, humanity and vulnerability shine through every word. (TED)

A truly inspiring, touching talk!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Article: The Creative Space of Play (D.W. Winnicott)

Original Article for On Luminous Grounds - Sunday 19, September 2010

The great British psychologist D.W. Winnicott believed playing serves as the basis for creativity and the discovery of the self. All human culture, including not only the arts, but science and religion as well, are not diminished but more fruitfully understood and cherished and cultivated when understood as what they are: highly developed forms of playing.

What is playing? Playing, says Winnicott, is first of all something that happens in the interface between our inner world and external reality. Taking place neither strictly in our imagination, nor in the truly external world (ie. all that is out of our control), playing happens in that space where our imagination is able to shape the external world without the experience of compliance, climax, or too much anxiety. (He points out how a high degree of anxiety can accompany play and yet it will remain “essentially satisfying”: however, “there is a degree of anxiety that is unbearable and this destroys playing” [Playing and Reality, 70].)

Examples of what playing is not:

Playing is not compliant. Playing cannot happen when a person feels acute pressure to perform in some mandated way, or to live up to any standard, or to be consistent, or to make sense, or anything else. (Playing by definition allows for the bringing out of the self into the outside world some “sample” of inner or personal reality, in order to shape portions of external reality set according to these “samples”.)

Playing has nothing to do with any climax of instinctual arousal. Rather, “playing can be said to reach its own saturation point, which refers to the capacity to contain experience” (70). Playing is not the climactic satisfaction of any instinctual drive, but a freely creative activity within which the one playing has the capacity to remain in this state of freedom.

Playing cannot involve too much anxiety – ie. fear. Playing can be very frightening, and contain a great deal of anxiety, but at a certain point the level of fear/anxiety destroys the playing.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Speech: Iain McGilchrist - What Happened to the Soul? (RSA)

Part of RSA's series on spirituality in the 21st century, psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist considers the status of the soul. Once considered the most important part, indeed the whole purpose, of a human life - has science now rendered the idea of the soul irretrievably redundant? If so, what have we lost?

For more information about the event go to the RSA event page.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Speech/Article: Shawn Achor - The happy secret to better work (and why are some people stuck in their ways)

“We think we have to be successful, then we’ll be happier. But the real problem is our brains work in the opposite order,” said Shawn Achor in his charming, immensely popular TED Talk from TEDxBloomington, “The happy secret to better work.” Achor is the CEO of consulting firm Good Think, which conducts research on positive psychology and helps people apply it to be happier and more effective at work.

His 2011 talk drew on the research from his bestselling book on positive psychology, The Happiness Advantage, and since then he’s had a new question on his mind: Why are some people able to make positive changes in their lives, while others remain stuck in their ways? His latest book, Before Happiness, published last week by Random House, addresses just this question. In it, Achor describes the five essential elements that are needed to develop a positive mindset for change. We caught up with Achor recently to find out more.

What inspired you to write Before Happiness?

Before somebody can make a change to their health and their happiness, their brain has already constructed a picture of reality in which change is possible or not. Basically, this predicts whether or not they’ll be able to make that change. Some people see a world in which they’re only their genes and their environment; so they can watch a ton of TED Talks, they can read a ton of books, but they won’t actually incorporate any of those new changes into their lives. So the book started out with: “How do we get people to change the way that they view their world?”

You argue that if you think positively you can be more productive. Is there a danger of trying to speed too quickly toward an end goal of perceived success?

Yes. A lot of frustration comes from us being irrationally optimistic about either the goal that we’re creating or the speed and the time it will take to get there. I have a great little cartoon that someone sent me on Twitter: A rhinoceros is on a treadmill, and it’s sweating and running as fast as it possibly can, and it’s looking up at this poster of this beautiful unicorn. So it’s trying to run as fast as it can to be a unicorn, and inherently it’s creating greater levels of frustration, because it’s not a unicorn, it’s a rhinoceros, and it should be the best rhinoceros that it can be.

In Before Happiness I tell the story of how I talked to the CEO of a software company in California, and I got into the car with him, and he drove me to the airport to talk about how we could change his company. He didn’t put on a seatbelt, and I asked him why. He said he was an optimist. Which is crazy! Optimism, while it’s good for a lot of things, doesn’t stop cars from hitting us. It won’t stop reality from hitting us. We don’t want to turn a blind eye to the negative. If we sugarcoat the present, we make bad decisions in the future.

So is there a wrong way to set goals for yourself? 

Monday, 5 May 2014

Speech: Pam Warhurst - How we can eat our landscapes

What should a community do with its unused land? Plant food, of course. With energy and humor, Pam Warhurst tells at the TEDSalon the story of how she and a growing team of volunteers came together to turn plots of unused land into communal vegetable gardens, and to change the narrative of food in their community.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Speech: Michael Pollan - How Cooking Can Change Your Life

Renowned activist and author Michael Pollan argues that cooking is one of the simplest and most important steps people can take to improve their family's health, build communities, fix our broken food system, and break our growing dependence on corporations. The event was chaired by Tim Lang, professor of Food Policy at City University London.

To find out more about this talk, visit the event page on the RSA website:

Listen to the podcast of the full event including audience Q&A: 

Speech: Ken Robinson - How to escape education's death valley

Sir Ken Robinson outlines 3 principles crucial for the human mind to flourish -- and how current education culture works against them. In a funny, stirring talk he tells us how to get out of the educational "death valley" we now face, and how to nurture our youngest generations with a climate of possibility.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Speech: Charmian Gooch - Meet global corruption's hidden players

When the son of the president of a desperately poor country starts buying mansions and sportscars on an official monthly salary of $7,000, Charmian Gooch suggests, corruption is probably somewhere in the picture. In a blistering, eye-opening talk (and through several specific examples), she details how global corruption trackers follow the money -- to some surprisingly familiar faces.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Speech: Carl Hart - HIGH PRICE: A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society

High Price is the harrowing and inspiring memoir of neuroscientist Carl Hart, a man who grew up in one of Miami's toughest neighborhoods and, determined to make a difference as an adult, tirelessly applies his scientific training to help save real lives.

In this provocative and eye-opening memoir, Dr. Carl Hart recalls his journey of self-discovery, how he escaped a life of crime and drugs and avoided becoming one of the crack addicts he now studies. Interweaving past and present, Hart goes beyond the hype as he examines the relationship between drugs and pleasure, choice, and motivation, both in the brain and in society. His findings shed new light on common ideas about race, poverty, and drugs, and explain why current policies are failing.

Dr. Hart is an Associate Professor of Psychology in both the Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology at Columbia University, and Director of the Residential Studies and Methamphetamine Research Laboratories at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. A major focus of Dr. Hart's research is to understand complex interactions between drugs of abuse and the neurobiology and environmental factors that mediate human behavior and physiology.

He is the author or co-author of dozens of peer-reviewed scientific articles in the area of neuropsychopharmacology, co-author of the textbook, Drugs, Society, and Human Behavior, and a member of a NIH review group. Dr. Hart was recently elected to Fellow status by the American Psychological Association (Division 28) for his outstanding contribution to the field of psychology, specifically psychopharmacology and substance abuse.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Speech: Esther Perel - The secret to desire in a long-term relationship

In long-term relationships, we often expect our beloved to be both best friend and erotic partner. But as Esther Perel argues, good and committed sex draws on two conflicting needs: our need for security and our need for surprise. So how do you sustain desire? With wit and eloquence, Perel lets us in on the mystery of erotic intelligence.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Speech: Benjamin Bratton - What's Wrong with TED Talks?

Benjamin Bratton, Associate Professor of Visual Arts at UCSD and Director of The Center for Design and Geopoltics at CALIT2, asks: Why don't the bright futures promised in TED talks come true? Professor Bratton attacks the intellectual viability of TED, calling it placebo politics, middlebrow megachurch infotainment, and the equivalent of right-wing media channels. Does TED falsely present problems as simply puzzles to be solved by rearranging the pieces?

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Article: The Complete Guide to Not Giving a Fuck

Original Article written by Julien Smith for inoveryourhead 

Ok, I have a confession to make.

I have spent almost my whole life– 31 years– caring far too much about offending people, worrying if I’m cool enough for them, or asking myself if they are judging me.

I can’t take it anymore. It’s stupid, and it’s not good for my well being. It has made me a punching bag– a flighty, nervous wuss. But worse than that, it has made me someone who doesn’t take a stand for anything. It has made me someone who stood in the middle, far too often, and not where I cared to stand, for fear of alienating others. No more. Not today.

Today, ladies and gentlemen, is different.

We’re going to talk about the cure. We’re going to talk about what’s necessary. We’re going to talk about the truth.

Do you wonder if someone is talking shit about you? Whether your friends will approve? Have you become conflict-avoidant? Spineless?

Well, it’s time you started not giving a fuck.

FACT NUMBER 1. People are judging you right now.

Yes, it’s really happening right at this moment. Some people don’t like you, and guess what? There’s nothing you can do about it. No amount of coercion, toadying, or pandering to their interests will help. In fact, the opposite is often true; the more you stand for something, the more they respect you, whether it’s grudgingly or not.

What people truly respect is when you draw the line and say “you will go no further.” They may not like this behaviour, but so what? These are people don’t like you anyway, why should you attempt to please people who don’t care for you in the first place?

Right. Then, there’s Internet trolls. That’s a whole other thing.

Regular people are fine– you don’t actually hear it when they’re talking behind your back. But on the web, you do see it, which changes the dynamic drastically. They have an impact because they know you have your vanity searches, etc. But the real problem with Internet haters is that they confirm your paranoid delusion that everyone out there secretly hates you.

Thankfully, that’s not actually true. So the first noble truth is that most people don’t even care that you’re alive. Embrace this, my friends, for it is true freedom. The world is vast and you are small, and therefore you may do as you wish and cast your thoughts of those who dislike it to the side.

FACT NUMBER 2. You don’t need everyone to like you.

This stuff is crazy, I know, but it’s cool, you’ll get used to it. Here’s the next thing: not only do most people not know that you exist, and some are judging you, but it totally does not matter even if they are.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Article: Gross national happiness in Bhutan: the big idea from a tiny state that could change the world

Original Article written by Annie Kelly for The Guardian - Saturday 1, December 2012

Bhutan measures prosperity by gauging its citizens' happiness levels, not the GDP. Now its ideas are attracting interest at the UN climate change conference in Doha

A series of hand-painted signs dot the side of the winding mountain road that runs between the airport and the Bhutanese capital, Thimphu. Instead of commands to cut speed or check mirrors, they offer the traveller a series of life-affirming mantras. "Life is a journey! Complete it!" says one, while another urges drivers to, "Let nature be your guide". Another, standing on the edge of a perilous curve, simply says: "Inconvenience regretted."

It's a suitably uplifting welcome to visitors to this remote kingdom, a place of ancient monasteries, fluttering prayer flags and staggering natural beauty. Less than 40 years ago, Bhutan opened its borders for the first time. Since then, it has gained an almost mythical status as a real-life Shangri-La, largely for its determined and methodical pursuit of the most elusive of concepts – national happiness.

Since 1971, the country has rejected GDP as the only way to measure progress. In its place, it has championed a new approach to development, which measures prosperity through formal principles of gross national happiness (GNH) and the spiritual, physical, social and environmental health of its citizens and natural environment.

For the past three decades, this belief that wellbeing should take preference over material growth has remained a global oddity. Now, in a world beset by collapsing financial systems, gross inequity and wide-scale environmental destruction, this tiny Buddhist state's approach is attracting a lot of interest.

As world leaders prepare to meet in Doha on Monday for the second week of the UN climate change conference, Bhutan's stark warning that the rest of the world is on an environmental and economical suicide path is starting to gain traction. Last year the UN adopted Bhutan's call for a holistic approach to development, a move endorsed by 68 countries. A UN panel is now considering ways that Bhutan's GNH model can be replicated across the globe.

As representatives in Doha struggle to find ways of reaching a consensus on global emissions, Bhutan is also being held up as an example of a developing country that has

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Article: Give childhood back to children: if we want our offspring to have happy, productive and moral lives, we must allow more time for play, not less

Original Article written by Peter Gray for The Independent - Sunday 12, January 2014

Because students spend nearly all of their time studying, they have little opportunity to be creative or discover their own passions

I’m a research bio-psychologist with a PhD, so I’ve done lots of school. I’m a pretty good problem-solver, in my work and in the rest of my life, but that has little to do with the schooling I’ve had. I studied algebra, trig, calculus and various other maths in school, but I can’t recall ever facing a problem – even in my scientific research – that required those skills. What maths I’ve used was highly specialised and, as with most scientists, I learnt it on the job.

The real problems I’ve faced in life include physical ones (such as how to operate a newfangled machine at work or unblock the toilet at home), social ones (how to get that perfect woman to be interested in me), moral ones (whether to give a passing grade to a student, for effort, though he failed all the tests), and emotional ones (coping with grief when my first wife died or keeping my head when I fell through the ice while pond skating). Most problems in life cannot be solved with formulae or memorised answers of the type learnt in school. They require the judgement, wisdom and creative ability that come from life experiences. For children, those experiences are embedded in play.

I’m lucky. I grew up in the United States in the 1950s, at the tail end of what the historian Howard Chudacoff refers to as the “golden age” of children’s free play. The need for child labour had declined greatly, decades earlier, and adults had not yet begun to take away the freedom that children had gained. We went to school, but it wasn’t the big deal it is today. School days were six hours long, but (in primary school) we had half-hour recesses in the morning and afternoon, and an hour at lunch. Teachers may or may not have watched us, from a distance, but if they did, they rarely intervened. We wrestled on the school grounds, climbed trees in the adjacent woods, played with knives and had snowball wars in winter – none of which would be allowed today at any state-run school I know of. Out of school, we had some chores and some of us had part-time jobs such as paper rounds (which gave us a sense of maturity and money of our own); but, for the most part, we were free – free to play for hours each day after school, all day on weekends, and all summer long. Homework was non-existent in primary school and minimal in secondary school. There seemed to be an implicit understanding, then, that children need lots of time and freedom to play.

I’m writing, here, in response to the news that the independent School Teachers Review Body is due to report back this week to Michael Gove on his plan to make school days longer and holidays shorter. The Education Secretary’s hope is that more hours in school will raise test scores in the UK to the level of those in China, Singapore and other East Asian nations. Paradoxically, Gove’s proposal has appeared just a few months after the Chinese ministry of education issued a report – entitled Ten Regulations to Lessen Academic Burden for Primary School Students – calling for less time in school, less homework and less reliance on test scores as a means of evaluating schools.

Educators in East Asian nations have increasingly been acknowledging the massive failure of their educational systems. According to the scholar and author Yong Zhao, who is an