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The Revolver

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The internet allows us to share a brain, sort of. You have an idea, or an understanding, and now it can be anyone’s, with no need to get a  publisher to agree that it’s worth sharing. If that idea changes the way someone lives, that change can change the way someone else lives, and that’s all culture is. Twenty years ago this medium wasn’t a part of our lives, and now we’re influencing each other at an astonishing rate. This is evolution.

Quite often I’ll find something out there that’s worth talking about and that I know many of you would appreciate. But I don’t really want to dedicate a post to discussing someone else’s content. I just want to point it out and send you on your way, and if you want to come back to talk about it in the comments, I’ll be here and so will a lot of other readers.

Ideas, if they’re valued and worked into our lives, can make the rounds and leave the world changed. So I want to take some of them and give them a good spin, and see what comes back. I want to know what you think about these ideas, and I want you to pass them around.

The Revolver will be a regular installment, two to four Saturdays a month. In it I’ll share just a few very worthwhile links that hint at where humanity and its members might be headed.


The Khan Academy

A charismatic investment banker from New Orleans is reinventing education using short, concise videos. Sal Khan understands where traditional education is failing and has taken it upon himself to find a better way.

He articulates the absurdity of the current system:

…I give you a lecture [on cycling] ahead of time, and I give you a bicycle for two weeks, and then I come back after two weeks, and I say “Well, you’re having trouble taking left turns and you can’t quite stop. You’re an 80% bicyclist.” So I put a ‘C’ stamp on your forehead, and then I say, ‘Here’s a unicycle.'”

The link above is to his TED talk explaining the Khan Academy, which has become a vast repository of videos and exercises that can be learned one by one at any pace. A student who doesn’t get something the first time around can review it easily before moving on to a concept that builds on it.

The most impressive aspect of these videos is that they’re fun. They’re simple and presented in plain, human language. Don’t understand the cause of the housing crisis? The French Revolution? How compound interest works? Take twenty minutes and get a much better idea.


The Primacy of Consciousness

I discovered this while writing last Monday’s conscious universe post, and boy does Peter Russell ever say it better than I do. If there was anything about that post that made you think about life a bit differently, this will turn you inside-out. I’ve talked about the idea that science and religion are not necessarily at odds, unless you misunderstand at least one of them. Russell presents a thorough, sensible case for this reconciliation, yet he stays funny and likable.



I don’t think there’s a simpler way of articulating the philosophy of unconditional acceptance. The Stoics had it down over two thousand years ago, but even they never put it so elegantly.


How to be socially graceful

A long time ago a reader linked to this in a comment. It’s just a casual post on Reddit that was popular for a day or two, but I think it’s hugely useful for anyone who sees themselves as socially awkward to some degree, which seems to be most people.

The author didn’t say so, but its usefulness extends way beyond socialization. The key to grace, as he says it, is to — beforehand — agree that you will not let your body or mouth react to anything that happens until you’ve taken a second to consciously assess it, knowing that that will give you the best possible chance to respond intelligently. This is the holy grail of living with grace, as far as I’m concerned, and its social application is just one small part of the picture.


Robert Newman’s The History of Oil

A pretty funny stand-up routine with a pretty dire message. Whether or not you’re a believer in what some call “peak oil”, there is a crucial takeaway point here: wars have always been started and fought for economic reasons, seldom for freedom or justice or any of the cosmeticked reasons given to drum up support for them. World War One began with an invasion of Iraq and had little to do with its official scapegoat, the assassination of indie rock band Franz Ferdinand.


I want to hear what you think about these ideas. Please let us know below. And don’t forget to share the ones you like.


Photo by David Cain

Allison Koberstein July 17, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Hi David! So glad you decided to make these posts and looking forward to the next!

I LOVE the Khan Academy!! It’s one of the few projects I’ve encountered that is so inherently awesome that I’ve been inspired to promote it and recommend it to others several times over. I’ve gone through quite a few of Sal’s lessons just because his teaching style is so enjoyable… he has that ‘cool uncle’ voice/attitude that comes across. I wish I had known about his videos back when I actually had to learn math!

David July 17, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Oh me too. High school would have been such a different story.

Lydia July 17, 2011 at 12:09 pm

My favourite link by far was the untitled chart about worrying. It’s so very true!

How did you find all of these links?

David July 17, 2011 at 12:09 pm

They were passed on by friends, mostly

Maria Long July 17, 2011 at 12:35 pm

What a great idea David. Very practical, sort of like a clearinghouse for awesome!

Andrew Olson July 17, 2011 at 9:06 pm

David, what a cool idea. I feel the same way often about wanting to share things without turning my blog into something that just rehashes other people’s stuff. But the revolver is a great solution to that. I like what Maria said: “clearinghouse for awesome!”

I totally agree about the Khan academy, I’ve taught myself SO much through his videos. And your link to the untitled diagram was great :)

marc van der Linden July 18, 2011 at 12:52 am

nice idea, David!

The internet is full of articles about the subject, but they not always the of best quality. If you already make a quality selection, that’s very helpful.

E.g I like Peter Russel’s “The Primacy of Consciousness” very much.

Thanks for sharing!

Char Psi Tutor Mentor July 18, 2011 at 1:32 am

The Khan Academy is awesome! And I am using the site as a ‘mentor’ to help gamify my own for learning and ed purposes.

bg July 19, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Hey David, you have a lot of great links here. Thanks for sharing them! You should do more posts like this as you mentioned.

Chris Walter July 20, 2011 at 1:15 am

Yes! Excellent idea! There is so much incredible content out there the real challenge is finding relevant parts of it. Thanks for sharing these link are fantastic :)

Alex July 20, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Some of these are SO interesting! I even forgot where I started. Started chating with the household just now. And than i got back here and was like “When did I ope this?!…. oh yeah..omg”

How to be socially graceful
I am one of those people, sadly, I am just stomped at a question and I release a gallon of sweat at those situations. One time I was returning a book to a girl-friend and she asked me do I want to come in and I panicked and said “Do I have to?” Where did that come from. It is so weird like a paradox (or whatever is that called). I am clad I have the internet and Raptitude/Ted talks/some vlogs to express my self and my opinion without nerves.

It is just that I know that when I go to a video on Youtube I know (I can suspect) why are the other people there to, and it easy to agree, as well as disagree because of the audience.

Thank you this might just help me!

Alex July 20, 2011 at 4:23 pm

I have just watched this video and I am stunned by it! It is great to learn about an innocence of a child!

Here is the link:

Dan September 28, 2011 at 3:36 am

This is the first time I’ve come across Khan Academy (which is kinda strange, since I’m always watching TED videos), and I’m so glad I found it. Salman’s teaching style is so fun and unique!

David September 28, 2011 at 6:33 am

The Khan Academy is so special. It’s a gift to the next generation that will benefit all of us.

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