Steven Pinker

The World's Greatest Stevens

What could be better than waking up on Monday morning and finding out that there is a clip of two of your favourite thinkers chatting for an hour? The fact that both are named Steven. 

Stephen Fry and Steven Pinker are two of the most eloquent speakers and writers I've ever come across. They're talking about Pinker's new book Enlightenment Now. You can see it sitting on the table between them as they chat. It's quite large and I'm about a third of the way into it. So far it's amazing. The thrust of the book is simply that the world is not actually going to hell in a handbasket. Things are getting better... much better... shockingly fast... and for some reason, nobody wants to notice. More importantly, we can understand why it's happening, and try to do more of it.

So if anyone needs me for the next little bit, I'll be watching this:

Enlightenment Now!

One of my favourite non fiction authors is MIT Professor of Psychology Steven Pinker. He writes withe rigour (and plentiful footnotes!) of an academic press but is effortlessly readable cover to cover. 

I picked him up part way through his career writing bestselling psychology books for the public with The Stuff of Thought - Language as a Window Into Human NatureUnderstanding how people think is central to my work as a magician and this book was extremely insightful for me. I've since taken to picking up everything he writes as it comes out.

A later important follow-up was The Better Angels of Our Nature - Why Violence Has DeclinedThe central argument of this book is that everyone whining about how things are going downhill in society and the world is going to Hell in a handbasket is, quite simply, wrong. Oh.... and here's 700 pages of the evidence why they're wrong. Which would seem to qualify this as one of the most important non-fiction books ever written. 

He recently gave the talk below, which seems to be a bridge between his last book, Angels, and his forthcoming book, Enlightenment Now, which seems to be about how the values of the enlightenment are the best way forward if we want to continue the trends highlighted before. 

American readers are encouraged to watch through to the very end.