Our moral codes are rooted in preconscious feelings of disgust at people who hurt others, cheat, are disloyal, disobey authority, and violate social taboos. Some of these moral feelings support modern Enlightenment ideas of morality while others are in contradiction with modern values of individual rights and critical thought. By illuminating the ways that our value systems are shaped by prerational impulses we can make more conscious choices about how to build a fair society and practice the civic virtues of fairness and engaged citizenship. But we also can begin to experiment with ways to enhance our moral reasoning with drugs and devices to become even better citizens than previously possible.
The happiness of over 18,000 people worldwide has been predicted by a mathematical equation, with results showing that moment-to-moment happiness reflects not just how well things are going, but whether things are going better than expected.
Biological brains are unlikely to be the final stage of intelligence. Machines already have superhuman strength, speed and stamina – and one day they will have superhuman intelligence. This is of course not certain to occur – it is possible that we will develop some other dangerous technology first ...
I was keen to read Haldane’s argument, and it turned out to go a good deal deeper than providing mere examples of workers wasting time on social-media sites. The main issue is a neurological one, Haldane suggests. Technological advances, and the ubiquity of always-on media, may be undermining one of the key psychological prerequisites for economic growth: patience, and the willingness to put off current gratification for future gains.
Just because there is more information available doesn't ensure that we make more informed choices. The modern media provide information in ways that play right into the brain's instinct to do as little work as possible, including the work of getting that information, and thinking carefully about it.
Religion wasn’t always based on morality, explains Nicolas Baumard, a psychologist at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. For the first several thousand years of human recorded history, he notes, religions were based on rituals and short-term rewards. If you wanted rain or a good harvest, for example, you made the necessary sacrifices to the right gods. But between approximately 500 B.C.E. and 300 B.C.E., a radical change appeared all over Eurasia as new religions sprung up from Greece to India to China. All of these religions shared a focus on morality, self-discipline, and asceticism, Baumard says. Eventually these new religions, such as Stoicism, Jainism, and Buddhism, and their immediate successors, including Christianity and Islam, spread around the globe and became the world religions of today. Back in 1947, German philosopher Karl Jaspers dubbed the pivotal time when these new religions arose “the Axial Age.”
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