Explore the Surface of Mars in Spectacular 4K Resolution


Could you use a men­tal escape? Maybe a trip to Mars will do the trick. Above, you can find high def­i­n­i­tion footage cap­tured by NASA’s three Mars rovers–Spirit, Oppor­tu­ni­ty and Curios­i­ty. The footage (also con­tributed by JPL-Cal­techMSSSCor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty and ASU) was stitched togeth­er by Elder­Fox Doc­u­men­taries, cre­at­ing what they call the most life­like expe­ri­ence of being on Mars. Adding more con­text, Elder Fox notes:

The footage, cap­tured direct­ly by NASA’s Mars rovers — Spir­it, Oppor­tu­ni­ty, Curios­i­ty, and Per­se­ver­ance — unveils the red plan­et’s intri­cate details. These rovers, act­ing as robot­ic geol­o­gists, have tra­versed var­ied ter­rains, from ancient lake beds to tow­er­ing moun­tains, uncov­er­ing Mars’ com­plex geo­log­i­cal his­to­ry.

As view­ers enjoy these images, they will notice infor­mal place names assigned by NASA’s team, pro­vid­ing con­text to the Mar­t­ian fea­tures observed. Each rover’s unique jour­ney is high­light­ed, show­cas­ing their con­tri­bu­tions to Mar­t­ian explo­ration.

Safe trav­els.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Behold Col­or­ful Geo­log­ic Maps of Mars Released by The Unit­ed States Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey

Carl Sagan Presents Six Lec­tures on Earth, Mars & Our Solar Sys­tem … For Kids (1977)

NASA Releas­es a Mas­sive Online Archive: 140,000 Pho­tos, Videos & Audio Files Free to Search and Down­load

Hear the Very First Sounds Ever Record­ed on Mars, Cour­tesy of NASA

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Plato’s Dialogue Gorgias Gets Adapted into a Short Avant-Garde Film

The word sophis­ti­cat­ed may sound like praise today, but it orig­i­nat­ed as more of an accu­sa­tion. Trace its ety­mol­o­gy back far enough and you’ll encounter the sophists, itin­er­ant lec­tur­ers in ancient Greece who taught sub­jects like phi­los­o­phy, math­e­mat­ics, music, and rhetoric — the last of which they mas­tered no mat­ter their osten­si­ble sub­ject area. Their rep­u­ta­tion has passed down to us our cur­rent under­stand­ing of the word sophistry as “sub­tly decep­tive rea­son­ing or argu­men­ta­tion.” A sophist may or may not have known what he was talk­ing about, but he knew how to talk about it in the way his audi­ence want­ed to hear.

It is in the com­pa­ny of sophists that Pla­to places Socrates in the dia­logue Gor­gias, a sec­tion of which has been adapt­ed into the short film above. An “exper­i­men­tal video essay from Epoché mag­a­zine,” as Aeon describes it, it “com­bines some­what cryp­tic archival visu­als, a haunt­ing, dis­so­nant score, and text from an exchange between Socrates and the tit­u­lar Gor­gias on the nature of ora­to­ry.” The lat­ter describes ora­to­ry as his “art,” which serves “to pro­duce the kind of con­vic­tion need­ed in courts of law and oth­er large mass­es of peo­ple” on the sub­ject of “right and wrong.” Socrates, in his ques­tion­ing way, leads Gor­gias to hear his objec­tion that ora­to­ry pro­duces con­vic­tion with­out knowl­edge, mak­ing it a mere pseu­do-art or form of “flat­tery” akin to bak­ing pas­tries or beau­ti­ful­ly adorn­ing one’s own body.

“For some­one with no knowl­edge of the objects involved,” writes Epoché’s co-edi­tor John C. Brady, “the arts and the pseu­do-arts appear per­haps indis­tin­guish­able. But, inso­far as the pseu­do-arts focus on gen­er­at­ing belief first and fore­most (as opposed to ratio­nal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion) they have an advan­tage. In front of an audi­ence of chil­dren, the chef will beat the doc­tor when it comes to demon­strat­ing prowess in prepar­ing ‘whole­some’ foods.” To that extent, Socrates’ basic obser­va­tion holds up still today, more than 2,400 years after Gor­gias. The sit­u­a­tion may even have wors­ened in that time: “far from us mod­erns hav­ing a more ‘sci­en­tif­ic’ (i.e. ‘art­ful’) approach to our action,” haven’t the pseu­do-arts just “added to their reper­toire the lan­guage of ‘knowl­edge’?”

Such enlight­ened twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry men and women “clip on a Fit­bit to track the minu­ti­ae of move­ments, down­load a ‘Pomodoro’ sys­tem app to record the when and the what of their work through the day,” use “calo­rie-count­ed food diaries, bud­get apps, online track­ers that tell them how much time they are spend­ing on Twit­ter vs. e‑mail.” Their eyes are on the prize of a bal­cony, a work-life bal­ance; there’s often a carafe of wine air­ing in there some­where too.” We believe that, in order to real­ize this dream, “we need to be sci­en­tif­ic, ratio­nal, col­lect the data, work smarter not hard­er etc., etc. But haven’t we just here fall­en into the ora­tors’ trap?” All this “bet­ter liv­ing through data” starts to look like sim­ple per­pet­u­a­tion of “the ease and plea­sure of being ‘con­vinced’ by the many pseu­do-arts, rather than grap­pling with the real objects that con­sti­tute the con­crete­ness of our lives.” Want­i­ng is fun; know­ing exact­ly what we want and why we want it is phi­los­o­phy.

via Aeon

Relat­ed con­tent:

Lit­er­ary The­o­rist Stan­ley Fish Offers a Free Course on Rhetoric, or the Pow­er of Argu­ments

Jon Hamm Nar­rates a Mod­ern­ized Ver­sion of Plato’s Alle­go­ry of the Cave, Help­ing to Diag­nose Our Social Media-Induced Nar­cis­sism

The Drink­ing Par­ty (1965 Film) Adapts Plato’s Sym­po­sium to Mod­ern Times

Why Socrates Hat­ed Democ­ra­cies: An Ani­mat­ed Case for Why Self-Gov­ern­ment Requires Wis­dom & Edu­ca­tion

How to Speak: Watch the Lec­ture on Effec­tive Com­mu­ni­ca­tion That Became an MIT Tra­di­tion for Over 40 Years

How Pulp Fic­tion Uses the Socrat­ic Method, the Philo­soph­i­cal Method from Ancient Greece

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Meet Alma Deutscher, the Classical Music Prodigy: Watch Her Performances from Age 6 to 14

One needn’t think too hard to come up with a list of cel­e­brat­ed chil­dren who seem some­how less excep­tion­al when their baby fat comes off and their per­ma­nent teeth come in.

We’ll eat Wern­er Herzog’s shoe if Alma Deutsch­er’s name is on it.

When she was 11, con­duc­tor Johannes Wild­ner told the New York Times that “she is not good because she is young. She is good because she is extreme­ly tal­ent­ed and has matured very ear­ly.”

Her par­ents were the first to rec­og­nize her extra­or­di­nary abil­i­ties.

It’s nice when a musi­cal­ly gift­ed child is born to par­ents who are not only will­ing to cul­ti­vate that seed, they under­stand that their 18 month old sings with per­fect pitch…

She was near­ing the age of rea­son when the gen­er­al pub­lic became acquaint­ed with the pig­tailed com­pos­er who played piano and vio­lin, loved impro­vis­ing and drew con­stant, not uni­ver­sal­ly wel­come com­par­isons to Mozart.

At sev­en, she penned a short opera inspired by “The Sweep­er of Dreams”, a short sto­ry by Neil Gaiman.


She fol­lowed that up with a full length oper­at­ic reimag­in­ing of Cin­derel­la (age 10) and rig­or­ous train­ing that built on her ear­ly expo­sure to Par­ti­men­ti — key­board impro­vi­sa­tion.

Now 18, Alma con­tin­ues to spell­bind lis­ten­ers with her seem­ing­ly mag­i­cal abil­i­ty to con­jure a piano sonata using ran­dom­ly select­ed notes in less that a minute, just as she wowed 60 Min­utes cor­re­spon­dent Scott Pel­ley after he picked a B, an A, an E flat, and a G from a hat back in 2017, when she was 12.

She’s was unabashed about her love of melody in the 60 Min­utes appear­ance, and has remained so, explain­ing the rea­son­ing behind her piece, Waltz of the Sirens, to a 2019 Carnegie Hall audi­ence by say­ing that she’s always want­ed to write beau­ti­ful music:

Music that comes out of the heart and speaks direct­ly to the heart, but some peo­ple have told me that nowa­days melodies and beau­ti­ful har­monies are no longer accept­able in seri­ous clas­si­cal music because in the 21st cen­tu­ry, music must reflect the ugli­ness of the mod­ern world. Well, in this waltz, instead of try­ing to make my music arti­fi­cial­ly ugly in order to reflect the mod­ern world, I went in exact­ly the oppo­site direc­tion. I took some ugly sounds from the mod­ern world, and I tried to turn them into some­thing more beau­ti­ful through music.

The full length opera The Emperor’s New Waltz is the soon to be 19-year-old’s first major adult achieve­ment in what promis­es to be a long career.

Tak­ing her inspi­ra­tion from Hans Chris­t­ian Ander­sen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes, she sought to cre­ate a love sto­ry that would appeal to young pop fans (while also get­ting a few swipes in at the “tune­less world of aton­al con­tem­po­rary music.”)

As she not­ed in an inter­view with Germany’s Klas­sik Radio, it’s “def­i­nite­ly the beau­ti­ful melodies that unite pop and clas­si­cal music:”

I’m sure that if Mozart or Schu­bert had heard the most beau­ti­ful melodies of ABBA, or Queen or Elton John, then they would have been jeal­ous and they would have said, “I wish I had thought of that!”

Relat­ed Con­tent

Leonard Bern­stein Intro­duces 7‑Year-Old Yo-Yo Ma: Watch the Young­ster Per­form for John F. Kennedy (1962)

Leonard Bernstein’s First “Young People’s Con­cert” at Carnegie Hall Asks, “What Does Music Mean?”

Hear the High­est Note Sung in the 137-Year His­to­ry of the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Opera

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

How Being Bilingual Helps Your Brain (Even If You Learn a New Language in Adulthood)

There was a time in Amer­i­ca, not so very long ago, when con­ven­tion­al wis­dom dis­cour­aged immi­grants from speak­ing the lan­guage of the old coun­try at home. In fact, “it used to be thought that being bilin­gual was a bad thing, that it would con­fuse or hold peo­ple back, espe­cial­ly chil­dren. Turns out we could­n’t have been more wrong.” These words are spo­ken by one of the vari­ety of mul­ti­lin­gual nar­ra­tors of the recent BBC Ideas video above, which explains “why being bilin­gual is good for your brain” — not just if you pick up a sec­ond lan­guage in child­hood, but also, and dif­fer­ent­ly, if you delib­er­ate­ly study it as an adult.

“Learn­ing a new lan­guage is an exer­cise of the mind,” says Li Wei of the Insti­tute of Edu­ca­tion at Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don. “It’s the men­tal equiv­a­lent of going to a gym every day.” In the bilin­gual brain, “all our lan­guages are active, all at the same time.” (This we hear simul­ta­ne­ous­ly in Eng­lish and the pro­fes­sor’s native Man­darin.) “The con­tin­u­al effort of sup­press­ing a lan­guage when speak­ing anoth­er, along with the men­tal chal­lenge that comes with reg­u­lar­ly switch­ing between lan­guages, exer­cis­es our brain. It improves our con­cen­tra­tion, prob­lem-solv­ing, mem­o­ry, and in turn, our cre­ativ­i­ty.”

In this cen­tu­ry, some of the key dis­cov­er­ies about the ben­e­fits of bilin­gual­ism owe to the research of York Uni­ver­si­ty cog­ni­tive sci­en­tist Ellen Bia­lystok and her col­lab­o­ra­tors. Speak­ing a for­eign lan­guage, she explains in this Guardian inter­view, requires using the brain’s “exec­u­tive con­trol sys­tem, whose job it is to resolve com­pe­ti­tion and focus atten­tion. If you’re bilin­gual, you are using this sys­tem all the time, and that enhances and for­ti­fies it.” In one study, she and her team found that bilin­guals with advanced Alzheimer’s could func­tion at the same cog­ni­tive lev­els with milder degrees of the same con­di­tion. “That’s the advan­tage: they could cope with the dis­ease bet­ter.”

Mas­ter­ing a for­eign lan­guage is, of course, an aspi­ra­tion com­mon­ly held but sel­dom real­ized. Based on per­son­al expe­ri­ence, I can say that noth­ing does the trick quite like mov­ing to a for­eign coun­try. But even if you’d rather not pull up stakes, you can ben­e­fit from the fact that the inter­net now pro­vides the great­est, most acces­si­ble abun­dance of lan­guage-learn­ing resources and tools human­i­ty has ever known — an abun­dance you can start explor­ing right here at Open Cul­ture. If it feels over­whelm­ing to choose just one for­eign lan­guage from this world of pos­si­bil­i­ties, feel free to use my sys­tem: study sev­en of them, one for each day of the week. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s Tues­day, which means I’ve got some français à appren­dre.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Learn 48 Lan­guages Online for Free: Span­ish, Chi­nese, Eng­lish & More

Becom­ing Bilin­gual Can Give Your Brain a Boost: What Recent Research Has to Say

A Map Show­ing How Much Time It Takes to Learn For­eign Lan­guages: From Eas­i­est to Hard­est

Why You Have an Accent When You Speak a For­eign Lan­guage

What Are the Most Effec­tive Strate­gies for Learn­ing a For­eign Lan­guage?: Six TED Talks Pro­vide the Answers

Meet the Hyper­poly­glots, the Peo­ple Who Can Mys­te­ri­ous­ly Speak Up to 32 Dif­fer­ent Lan­guages

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Pangea to the Present to the Future: Watch Animations Showing 500 Million Years of Continental Drift

Things change…

Espe­cial­ly when you’re track­ing the con­ti­nen­tal move­ment from Pangea to the present day in 5 mil­lion years incre­ments at the rate of 2.5 mil­lion years per sec­ond.

Wher­ev­er you are, 350 mil­lion years ago, your address would’ve been locat­ed on the mega-con­ti­nent of Pangea.

Here’s a map of what things looked like back then.

Those who’ve grown a bit fuzzy on their geog­ra­phy may require some indi­ca­tions of where future land­mass­es formed when Pangea broke apart. Your map apps can’t help you here.

The first split occurred in the mid­dle of the Juras­sic peri­od, result­ing in two hemi­spheres, Laura­sia to the north and Gond­wana.

As the project’s sto­ry map notes, 175 mil­lion years ago Africa and South Amer­i­ca already bore a resem­blance to their mod­ern day con­fig­u­ra­tions.

North Amer­i­ca, Asia, and Europe need­ed to stay in the oven a bit longer, their famil­iar shapes begin­ning to emerge between 150 and 120 mil­lion years ago.

India peeled off from its “moth­er” con­ti­nent of Gond­wana some 100 mil­lion years ago.

Its tec­ton­ic plate col­lid­ed with the Eurasian Plate, giv­ing rise to the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau, by which point, dinosaurs had been extinct for about 15 mil­lion years…)

Geog­ra­phy nerds may chafe at the seem­ing­ly inac­cu­rate sizes of Green­land, Antarc­ti­ca and Aus­tralia. Rest assured that the map­mak­ers are aware, chalk­ing it to the “dis­tor­tion of the car­to­graph­ic pro­jec­tion that exag­ger­ates areas close to the Poles.”

Just for fun, let’s run it back­wards!

But enough of the past. What of the future?

Those who real­ly want to know could jump ahead to the end of the sto­ry map to see PALEOMAP Project founder Christo­pher Scotese’s spec­u­la­tive con­fig­u­ra­tion of earth 250 mil­lion years hence, should cur­rent tec­ton­ic plate motion trends con­tin­ue.

Behold his vision of mega-con­ti­nent, Pangea Prox­i­ma, a land­mass “formed from all cur­rent con­ti­nents, with an appar­ent excep­tion of New Zealand, which remains a bit on the side:”

On the oppo­site side of the world, North Amer­i­ca is try­ing to fit to Africa, but it seems like it does not have the right shape. It will prob­a­bly need more time…

Not to bum you out, but a more recent study paints a grim­mer pic­ture of a com­ing super­con­ti­nent, Pangea Ulti­ma, when extreme tem­per­a­tures have ren­dered just 8 per­cent of Earth’s sur­face hos­pitable to mam­mals, should they sur­vive at all.

As the study’s co-author, cli­ma­tol­o­gist Alexan­der Farnsworth, told Nature News, humans might do well to get “off this plan­et and find some­where more hab­it­able.”

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Map Show­ing Where Today’s Coun­tries Would Be Locat­ed on Pangea

Find the Address of Your Home on Pan­gaea: Open Source Project Lets You Explore the Ancient Land Mass­es of Our Plan­et

Paper Ani­ma­tion Tells Curi­ous Sto­ry of How a Mete­o­rol­o­gist The­o­rized Pan­gaea & Con­ti­nen­tal Drift (1910)

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

The Codex Seraphinianus: How Italian Artist Luigi Serafini Came to Write & Illustrate “the Strangest Book Ever Published” (1981)

The Codex Seraphini­anus is not a medieval book; nor does it date from the Renais­sance along with the codices of Leonar­do. In fact, it was pub­lished only in 1981, but in the inter­ven­ing decades it has gained recog­ni­tion as “the strangest book ever pub­lished,” as we described it when we pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured it here on Open Cul­ture a few years ago. Since then, Riz­zoli has pub­lished a for­ti­eth-anniver­sary edi­tion of the Codex, which author-artist Lui­gi Ser­afi­ni has grant­ed inter­views to pro­mote. What new light has thus been shed on its more than 400 pages filled with bizarre illus­tra­tions and inde­ci­pher­able text?

“The book is designed to be com­plete­ly alien to any­body who picks it up,” says the nar­ra­tor of the Curi­ous Archive video at the top of the post. “Not only are the images utter­ly mind-bend­ing, it’s writ­ten in a made-up and thor­ough­ly untrans­lat­able lan­guage. And yet, the more you read, the more you might find a strange sense of con­ti­nu­ity among the images. That’s because Ser­afi­ni intend­ed this book to be an ency­clo­pe­dia: an ency­clo­pe­dia of a world that does­n’t exist.”

The expe­ri­ence of read­ing it — if “read­ing” be the word — “reminds me of being young and flip­ping through an ency­clo­pe­dia, star­ing at pic­tures and not com­pre­hend­ing the words, but feel­ing a strange, untrans­lat­able world hov­er­ing just out­side my under­stand­ing.”

Ser­afi­ni him­self describes the Codex as “an attempt to describe the imag­i­nary world in a sys­tem­at­ic way” in the Great Big Sto­ry video above. To cre­ate it, he spent two and a half years in a state he likens to “going in a trance,” draw­ing all these “fish with eyes or dou­ble rhi­noc­er­os­es and what­ev­er.” These images came first, and they were all so strange that he “had to find a lan­guage to explain” them. The result­ing expe­ri­ence lets us expe­ri­ence what it is “to read with­out know­ing how to read” — an expe­ri­ence that has attract­ed the atten­tion of thinkers from Dou­glas Hof­s­tadter to Roland Barthes to Ser­afini’s coun­try­man Ita­lo Calvi­no, a man pos­sessed of no scant inter­est in the strange, myth­i­cal, and inscrutable.

In a 1982 essay, Calvi­no writes of Ser­afini’s “very clear ital­ics,” which “we always feel we are just an inch away from being able to read and yet which elude us in every word and let­ter. The anguish that this Oth­er Uni­verse con­veys to us does not stem so much from its dif­fer­ence to our world as from its sim­i­lar­i­ty.” Clear­ly, “Serafini’s uni­verse is inhab­it­ed by freaks. But even in the world of mon­sters there is a log­ic whose out­lines we seem to see emerg­ing and van­ish­ing, like the mean­ings of those words of his that are dili­gent­ly copied out by his pen-nib.” It all brings to mind a joke I once heard that likens human­i­ty, with its invin­ci­ble instinct to ask what every­thing means, to a race of space aliens with enor­mous trunks. When these aliens vis­it Earth, they respond to every­thing we try to tell them with the same ques­tion: “Yes, but what does that have to do with trunks?”

Relat­ed con­tent:

An Intro­duc­tion to the Codex Seraphini­anus, the Strangest Book Ever Pub­lished

The Mean­ing of Hierony­mus Bosch’s The Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights Explained

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Amazon Offers Free AI Courses, Aiming to Help 2 Million People Build AI Skills by 2025

Late last year, Ama­zon announced AI Ready, a new ini­tia­tive “designed to pro­vide free AI skills train­ing to 2 mil­lion peo­ple glob­al­ly by 2025.” This includes eight free AI and gen­er­a­tive AI cours­es, some designed for begin­ners, and oth­ers designed for more advanced stu­dents.

As the Wall Street Jour­nal pod­cast notes above, Ama­zon cre­at­ed the AI Ready ini­tia­tive with three goals in mind: 1) to increase the over­all num­ber of peo­ple in the work­force who have a basic under­stand­ing of AI, 2.) to com­pete with Microsoft and oth­er big com­pa­nies for AI tal­ent, and 3.) to expose a large num­ber of peo­ple to Ama­zon’s AI sys­tems.

For those new to AI, you may want to explore these AI Ready cours­es:

You can find more infor­ma­tion (includ­ing more free cours­es) on this AI Ready page. We have oth­er free AI cours­es list­ed in the Relat­eds below.

Note: Until Feb­ru­ary 1, 2024, Cours­era is run­ning a spe­cial deal where you can get $200 off of Cours­era Plus and gain unlim­it­ed access to cours­es & cer­tifi­cates, includ­ing a lot of cours­es on AI. Get details here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence for Every­one: An Intro­duc­to­ry Course from Andrew Ng, the Co-Founder of Cours­era

A New Course Teach­es You How to Tap the Pow­ers of Chat­G­PT and Put It to Work for You

Gen­er­a­tive AI for Every­one: A Free Course from AI Pio­neer Andrew Ng

Google Launch­es a Free Course on Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence: Sign Up for Its New “Machine Learn­ing Crash Course”

How to Learn Data Ana­lyt­ics in 2024: Earn a Pro­fes­sion­al Cer­tifi­cate That Will Help Pre­pare You for a Job in 6 Months

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How to Use Writing to Sharpen Your Thinking: Advice from Tim Ferriss

With the rise of AI tools like Chat­G­PT, which can gen­er­ate essay after essay near-instan­ta­neous­ly from even the sim­plest prompt, sure­ly the skill of writ­ing will soon go the way of arrow­head-sharp­en­ing. That would be easy to believe, any­way, amid the cur­rent tech­no­log­i­cal buzz. But ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Paul Gra­ham, a man as well-placed as any to grasp these devel­op­ments and their prospects, sees things dif­fer­ent­ly. “Peo­ple are switch­ing to using Chat­G­PT to write things for them with almost inde­cent haste,” he wrote in a Twit­ter thread last year. “This is going to have unfor­tu­nate con­se­quences, just as switch­ing to liv­ing in sub­ur­bia and dri­ving every­where did. When you lose the abil­i­ty to write, you also lose some of your abil­i­ty to think.”

Gra­ham is also well-known as an essay­ist, and in recent years the iden­ti­ty of writ­ing and think­ing has become one of his major themes. He opens “Putting Ideas into Words” with the obser­va­tion that “writ­ing about some­thing, even some­thing you know well, usu­al­ly shows you that you did­n’t know it as well as you thought.” And “if writ­ing down your ideas always makes them more pre­cise and more com­plete, then no one who has­n’t writ­ten about a top­ic has ful­ly formed ideas about it.” In the video above, Tim Fer­riss (anoth­er fig­ure, like Gra­ham, well known in the greater Sil­i­con Val­ley uni­verse) offers a few tips on just how to form and improve your own ideas through the process of writ­ing.

“With­out writ­ing, it’s very hard to freeze your think­ing on paper so that you can sharp­en it,” elim­i­nat­ing “words that aren’t well-defined” or “things that don’t need to be said.” The first step to mas­ter­ing the craft is to “write any­thing” reg­u­lar­ly, with­out regard to struc­ture or qual­i­ty, which expos­es “where you are sharp and where you are dull in your think­ing.” From there, you must bear in mind the old saw that “writ­ing is rewrit­ing,” going on to per­form round after round of edits from your own per­spec­tive or dif­fer­ent imag­ined ones. Gra­ham sug­gests mak­ing the effort to read your writ­ing as if you were a com­plete stranger, some­one “who knows noth­ing of what’s in your head, only what you wrote.”

Fer­ris then rec­om­mends ask­ing peo­ple you know to read over your writ­ing. If you don’t have any con­nec­tions to pro­fes­sion­al writ­ers, any­one with legal train­ing should be able to bring a keen crit­i­cal eye to the task. Even a non-spe­cial­ist can help by point­ing out the parts they find con­fus­ing. Who­ev­er Fer­ris enlists as a proof­read­er, he employs what he calls the “ten per­cent rule,” request­ing that the read­er of the text indi­cate “the ten per­cent I should keep no mat­ter what.” Even if you have no desire to write pro­fes­sion­al­ly, this prac­tice will keep you in men­tal shape for your cho­sen pur­suit in life, or indeed, for the task of life itself. As Gra­ham tweet­ed last year, “Read­ing won’t be obso­lete till writ­ing is, and writ­ing won’t be obso­lete till think­ing is” — though the aver­age day on social media may con­vince you that the lat­ter has already come to pass.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Craft of Writ­ing Effec­tive­ly: Essen­tial Lessons from the Long­time Direc­tor of UChicago’s Writ­ing Pro­gram

George Orwell’s Six Rules for Writ­ing Clear and Tight Prose

Three Huge Vol­umes of Sto­ic Writ­ings by Seneca Now Free Online, Thanks to Tim Fer­riss

10 Writ­ing Tips from Leg­endary Writ­ing Teacher William Zinss­er

Umber­to Eco’s 36 Rules for Writ­ing Well (in Eng­lish or Ital­ian)

Neil Gaiman Talks Dream­i­ly About Foun­tain Pens, Note­books & His Writ­ing Process in His Long Inter­view with Tim Fer­riss

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.


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