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The world is getting better, not worse. The Enlightenment ideals of reason and science are a major reason why.

One of the world's top public intellectuals | Author of Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why it Matters and Enlightenment Now | Harvard Professor

Steven Pinker | One of the World's Top Public Intellectuals | Author of Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters | Harvard Professor
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The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

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Author’s Corner with Steven Pinker

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Is Violence Actually in Decline?

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What Defines Human Nature Today?

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Chalking It Up to The Blank Slate

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STEVEN PINKER asks the big questions about human progress and sets out, in public, to answer them. In Rationality, he explores why—when humanity is reaching new heights of scientific reasoning—there appears to be more fake news, conspiracy theorizing, and medical quackery than ever before. Rejecting the cynicism that humans are inherently irrational, Pinker offers an insightful, hopeful analysis of what rationality really is, why it can feel like it’s scarce, and how we can use it to drive better choices in our personal lives and in the public sphere.

Enlightenment Now is not only the best book Pinker’s ever written. It’s my new favorite book of all time”— Bill Gates on Enlightenment Now

A provocative speaker, much in demand, Steven Pinker is a cognitive scientist who has been named by TIME as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. His keynotes have helped millions demystify the science behind human language, thought, and action. Pinker is a Harvard professor, a TED speaker, and a bestselling author, twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Highly respected in the scientific community, his work and opinions are extensively covered in the mainstream media, and have won a wide general audience. In his latest book, Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters, Pinker argues that we fail to take advantage of the most powerful tools of reasoning discovered by some of our best thinkers: logic, critical thinking, probability, correlation and causation. These tools are not a standard part of our educational curricula, and have never been presented clearly and entertainingly in a single book—until now. Recently named one of Amazon’s best science books of the year, Rationality is an enriching, inspiring, and captivating new read on how to harness rationality to improve our personal lives and advance social progress.

In his earlier book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress Pinker argued that, despite fear-mongering and political upheaval, the world is getting better: peace, prosperity, knowledge and happiness are on the rise. “The world is getting better, even if it doesn’t always feel that way,” wrote Bill Gates, in a review of the book. “I’m glad we have brilliant thinkers like Steven Pinker to help us see the big picture. Enlightenment Now is not only the best book Pinker’s ever written. It’s my new favorite book of all time.” The New York Times included the book in its year-end list of 100 Notable Books, and NPR and Esquire both named it as one of the best books of the year. Enlightenment Now was the follow-up to The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Had Declined, which was a #1 Amazon bestseller. Keynotes based on that book inspired audiences worldwide with its core message that, if you look at the facts, we are living in the most peaceful human era ever. The talks pointed the way to a better future for humankind.

Pinker’s other bestselling books include The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (“Required reading.” – Los Angeles Times) and How The Mind Works (“A model of scientific writing: erudite, witty, and clear.” – New York Review of Books). Pinker’s acclaimed “language” series includes The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates LanguageWords and RulesThe Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, as well as The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.

A native of Montreal, Steven Pinker is Johnstone Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. Previously, he taught at Stanford and at MIT. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has won a number of teaching prizes, and his research on visual cognition and the psychology of language has received numerous awards, including the Troland Award from the National Academy of Sciences.

Speech Topics

RationalityHow to Inspire Thoughtfulness

In an era of profound and groundbreaking technological and scientific advancements, why is it that rational thought sometimes feels in short supply? How can a species that developed vaccines for COVID-19 in less than a year produce so much fake news, medical quackery, and conspiracy theorizing? Humans are not inherently irrational. After all, we discovered the laws of nature, lengthened and enriched our lives, and discovered the benchmarks for rationality itself. Then why do so many of us make such unreasonable arguments?

In a talk based on his new book Rationality, Steven Pinker explains that we think in ways that make sense to our daily lives, but fail to take advantage of the powerful tools of reasoning our best thinkers have discovered over the millennia: logic, critical thinking, probability, correlation and causation, and optimal ways to update beliefs and commit to choices individually and with others.

Pinker explores how the rational pursuit of self-interest, sectarian solidarity, and uplifting mythology by individuals can add up to crippling irrationality in a society. If we harnessed the power of rationality it would lead to better choices in our lives and ultimately guide us all towards social justice and moral progress. In a talk brimming with insight and humour, Pinker gives you the tools you need to sharpen the logical senses and shares how to enlighten, inspire, and empower people back to rationality.

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The Post-Pandemic World
Progress In a Post-Pandemic World

There’s no question that 2020 has set humanity back: a global pandemic, reminders of racial injustice, threats to democracy, and an economic recession to rival that of the 1930’s. Yet, despite the setbacks the year has brought, we must not overlook the astonishing progress that humanity his made in health, wealth, happiness, peace, freedom, tolerance, and safety, argues Harvard psychologist and New York Times bestselling author Steven Pinker. “Progress is invisible to most people because they don’t get their understanding of the world from numbers; they get it from headlines. Journalism by its very nature conceals progress, because it presents sudden events rather than gradual trends.” In other words, our newsfeed is not a representative picture of the world as a whole. In this illuminating keynote, Pinker makes the case for reason, science, and humanism—while placing pandemics in the bigger picture of human history and biology—to shift our perspectives and better understand the world in 2020 and beyond.

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Corporate Culture
Enlightenment NowInvoking the Age of Reason in the Boardroom

What does a book about 19th century philosophy have to do with 21st century corporate culture? Plenty! In this keynote—drawn from the book Bill Gates called the best he’d ever read—the lessons are clear. The values of The Enlightenment transformed an entire planet: creating wealth, inspiring creativity, advancing science, empowering individuals, and introducing Democracy to America, France, and the globe at large. If these values can transform the world, they can transform an organization. A perfect discussion point for today—Steven Pinker will lead your audience through an exploration of who we are and where we are going, minus the baggage of today’s headlines.

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Enlightenment NowThe Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

If you read the news today, you might come to the conclusion that the human race is doomed, that democracy is on the decline, that authoritarianism and tribalism are on the rise. But is the world really falling apart? In this bold keynote, Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines, which play to our psychological biases. Instead, follow the data. Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise, not just in the West, but worldwide. This progress is a gift of the Enlightenment: the conviction that reason and science can enhance human flourishing. But in 2018, have we become complacent? Have we taken the Enlightenment’s breakthroughs and ideals for granted? The Enlightenment stands against many of the darker currents in the air, which demagogues are all too willing to exploit, resulting in attacks on liberal democracy and global cooperation. In a timely and hopeful keynote, Steven Pinker, one of the world’s most influential public intellectuals, makes the case for reason, science, and humanism: the ideals we need to confront our problems and continue our progress.

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A History of Violence

Faced with the ceaseless stream of news about war, crime, and terrorism, one could easily think we live in the most violent age ever seen. Yet as New York Times bestselling author Steven Pinker shows in this startling and engaging new talk, just the opposite is true: violence has been diminishing for millennia and we may be living in the most peaceful time in our species’ existence. For most of history, war, slavery, infanticide, child abuse, assassinations, pogroms, gruesome punishments, deadly quarrels, and genocide were ordinary features of life. But today, Pinker shows audiences how all these forms of violence have dwindled and are widely condemned. How has this happened?

This groundbreaking talk continues Pinker’s exploration of the essence of human nature, mixing psychology and history to provide a remarkable picture of an increasingly nonviolent world. The key, he explains, is to understand our intrinsic motives—the inner demons that incline us toward violence and the better angels that steer us away—and how changing circumstances have allowed our better angels to prevail. Exploding fatalist myths about humankind’s inherent violence and the curse of modernity, this ambitious and provocative talk is sure to be hotly debated, and will challenge and change the way we think about our society.

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The Sense of StyleThe Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century

Why is so much writing so bad, and how can we make it better? Do people write badly on purpose, to bamboozle their readers with highfalutin gobbledygook? Is the English language being corrupted by texting and social media? Should we bring back the lost art of diagramming sentences? Have dictionaries abandoned their responsibility to safeguard correct usage? Do the kids today even care about good writing? Why should any of us care?

In this talk, Steven Pinker argues that we need to rethink usage advice for the 21st century. Rather than moaning about the decline of the language, carping over pet peeves, or recycling spurious edicts from the rulebooks of a century ago, we can apply insights from the sciences of language and mind to the challenge of crafting clear, coherent, and stylish prose.

Don’t blame the Internet, or the kids today; good writing has always been hard. It begins with savoring the good prose of others. It requires an act of imagination: maintaining the illusion that one is directing a reader’s gaze to something in the world. A writer must overcome the Curse of Knowledge—the difficulty we all have in imagining what it’s like not to know something we know. Skillful writers must be sensitive to the ways in which syntax converts a tangled web of ideas into a linear string of words. They must weave their prose into a coherent whole, with one sentence flowing into the next. And they must negotiate the rules of correct usage, distinguishing the rules that enhance clarity and grace from the myths and superstitions.

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