How to Not Destroy Ourselves

Ali Mattu, New York Nerd Nite, How to not destroy ourselves

This Friday I'll be at New York City's Nerd Nite discussing "How to not destroy ourselves: lessons from science fiction". Here's a sneak description of my talk: 

2017 sure does seem like the darkest timeline: our politics are broken, technology is disrupting society, and the planet is warming. But we’ve been here before, at least in the imaginary worlds of science fiction. Join psychologist Dr. Ali Mattu as he investigates how we got into this mess and what science fiction can teach us about getting out of it.

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COPD: Highly Illogical - A Special Tribute to Leonard Nimoy

Photo by Michael Loccisano, Getty Images

Photo by Michael Loccisano, Getty Images

Sometimes life comes together in surprising ways.

Earlier this month at Star Trek: Mission New York, I had the opportunity to work with Julie Nimoy, Leonard Nimoy's daughter, and help her tell the story of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the illness that took her father's life. She was generous, courageous, and wanted to do everything she could to ensure others don't suffer the way her father did. We shared stories about her father and she loved hearing about the impact he had on my life.

It was a wonderful moment in time that I will cherish. 

Our Polarized World Needs Star Trek

For the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, I wanted to write about the franchise's relentless optimism. But my article grew to become much more than that. It became my love letter to Star Trek, what it taught me about psychology, and why we need it now more than ever. Here's an excerpt: 

What was so brilliantly subversive about Star Trek was that it gave people a way to talk about social issues that they might otherwise avoid bringing up. We rarely speak up about politics when we believe that others don’t share our perspective. And when we do get pulled into politically heated discussions (think about your last awkward family dinner), the conversations mostly don’t go anywhere.

Psychology can help explain why this is. When we hear ideas that conflict with our beliefs, our minds fight that information in the same way our immune systems attack a virus. We’re wired to preserve the lens through which we view the world. This is why most conversations about politics don’t change our mind, but only strengthen our preexisting beliefs.

Star Trek, however, manages to bypass its audience’s political defenses because it presents real-world conflicts in ways that we find less threatening. Even today, bringing up the Vietnam War can be polarizing in conversation. But a story about the Federation and Klingons arming opposing tribes on the planet Neural (“A Private Little War”)? That sparks a real discussion, not a shouting match of partisan politics.

Read the full article at Quartz for more.