This is the video of a talk I gave at the Royal Society of the Arts, which describes six ways to expand our empathic potential, drawing on everything from the empathy experiments of George Orwell to developments in industrial design, from the struggle against slavery in the eighteenth century to the Middle East crisis today. Discover [...]
Also posted in background, belief, climate change, conversation, empathy, empathy through education, empathy through experience, ethics, history, literature, podcasts, politics, psychology, public policy, science
I am in the midst of a long-term project to document instances when empathy has flowered on a mass scale and shifted the course of human history. While empathy has periodically collapsed on a collective scale – just think of colonialism in Latin America or the Holocaust – there have also been moments when [...]
I was recently interviewed by The Browser – a fabulous site which compiles quality writing from around the web - about my five top books on the art of living. In the following extract I discuss George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London, a book which has been a major inspiration for all my work [...]
Browse the self-help shelves of your local book store and you’ll spot that most titles draw on psychology, philosophy and religion for their wisdom. But there is one realm where few of them have sought inspiration: history. When asking the big questions about life, love, work and death, we sometimes forget that people have been [...]
Also posted in belief, conversation, creativity, empathy, money, politics, senses, simple living, time, travel, work
Ready for a digital diet in 2012? In this article just published in the Independent on Sunday – and based on my new book The Wonderbox: Curious Histories of How to Live – I argue why we need less electro-chatter and more thoughtful, face-to-face conversation. (You’ll also find out why Dr Samuel Johnson is the most disastrous conversationalist [...]
My new book, THE WONDERBOX: CURIOUS HISTORIES OF HOW TO LIVE (Profile Books), will be in bookshops from December 22 – just in time for a last-minute Christmas stocking filler. It’s about what the last three thousand years of human history can tell us about better living, and explores twelve universal topics, from work and love to [...]
Also posted in climate change, empathy through collaboration, empathy through education, empathy through experience, ethics, general, history, nature, philosophy, religion, travel
There is an intriguing thesis at the heart of Steven Pinker’s new book, The Better Angels of Our Nature. The Harvard psychologist argues – contrary to popular opinion – that humankind has become progressively less violent over the past few thousand years. We might feel surrounded by terrorism, civil wars and gun crime today, but [...]
Just as the world’s major cities now have Holocaust Museums, it is time they all established Empathy Museums too. Their purpose would be nothing less than generating a new global culture of empathy by creating adventure spaces where you can explore how to view life from the perspective of other people.
A typical Empathy Museum would not house dusty exhibits inside glass cases. Instead, it would be an exciting and intriguing playground rivalling the finest galleries and tourist attractions that the city has to offer. On rainy Sunday afternoons you might wander through the Empathy Museum with a few friends or your mother-in-law. During the week it is likely to be filled with children on school excursions and inquisitive visitors from countries where the ideal of empathy remains embryonic. The Empathy Museum will ignite the imagination just like the first public museums in the seventeenth century, whose collections of curiosities revealed the wonders of nature and human civilization for the first time.
I live around the corner from one of the world’s most remarkable streets, Cowley Road in Oxford. It’s a hive of different cultures – Bangladeshi, Moroccan, Chinese, Ukranian – and has a vibrancy that cannot be found in the cobbled medieval lanes of the city centre. It has even been the subject of a fabulous book, Isolarion: A Different Oxford Journey, by James Attlee, in which the author wanders up Cowley Road philosophising about the sex shops and curry houses. But if there is one thing that makes Colwey Road truly remarkable, it is Alan Human.
I don’t wear a mauve toga very often. But it was my fashion item of choice at this year’s Latitude Festival, the annual extravaganza of music, theatre, comedy and literature held deep in the Suffolk countryside. On behalf of The School of Life, I hosted one of the more unusual events on the programme – a recreation of Plato’s Symposium, the first great conversation in the history of the art of living.