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Writing Your Own Obituary Can Teach You How to Live

There’s a misconception that obituaries are about death. In reality, they’re about life. Sure, they include things like cause of death and the loved ones of the deceased. But a good obit should paint a vivid picture of the life someone lived, of how that person might want to be remembered. Read more

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The Dreariness of Book Club Discussions

We enjoy each other’s company. We drink coffee, we eat crackers, we get reacquainted with each other’s love lives, and we have an excuse to read the books that’ll appear on The New York Times’s notable list this year. And of course, reading the books is the point. The whole book club is predicated on the notion that reading these books will improve our minds in some way, and that it’ll contribute measurably to our intellectual lives. And yet, month after month, I leave each meeting feeling as if we’ve engaged in an empty, meaningless exercise. Read more

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No, Capitalism and the Internet Will Not Free China’s People

The West has been wrong about China. It was long assumed that capitalism, the emergence of a middle class and the internet would cause China to eventually adopt Western political ideas. But these ideas cannot even begin to take root because the Communist Party has never allowed the intellectual soil needed for them to germinate. And it never will. Read more

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Reading While Incarcerated Saved Me. So Why Are Prisons Banning Books?

In Texas, books by Alice Walker, Pablo Neruda and even the former senator Bob Dole have been banned. Throughout the country, prison officials have rejected or tried to ban books about biology (too much nudity in the anatomical drawings), the Holocaust (some of the victims were pictured nude), sketching, dragons and even the moon (it could “present risks of escape,” according to one New York prison). At one point, Colorado prison officials blocked a prisoner from reading two of President Barack Obama’s memoirs because they were “potentially detrimental to national security,” although they later reversed that decision. Read more

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What We Owe the Future by William MacAskill

The fate of the world is in our hands. Humanity’s written history spans only five thousand years. Our yet-unwritten future could last for millions more — or it could end tomorrow. Astonishing numbers of people could lead lives of great happiness or unimaginable suffering, or never live at all, depending on what we choose to do today. In What We Owe The Future, philosopher William MacAskill argues for longtermism, that idea that positively influencing the distant future is a key moral priority of our time. From this perspective, it’s not enough to reverse climate change or avert the next pandemic. We must ensure that civilization would rebound if it collapsed; counter the end of moral progress; and prepare for a planet where the smartest beings are digital, not human. If we make wise choices today, our grandchildren’s grandchildren will thrive, knowing we did everything we could to give them a world full of justice, hope and beauty. Read more

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