A Challenge for the New Year

amazing_idea_calendarLast year was a shameful for civilization. I hope we can do better in this 12,017. 

It’s well known that we live in a weird combination of cognitive biases: we tend to believe that society’s conditions will decline, but that our own situation will improve. This is probably some evolutionary strategy imprinted in our minds, to maximize chances of success. It’s like nature patronizingly telling us: “Beware of the world; but be positive and things will get better for you. Go get ’em, Tiger!”

Well, 12,016 was an awful year for society: xenophobes, extremists, terrorists, racists, nationalists, separatists, moralists, religious fundamentalists, patriots, anti-intellectuals, cold-war nostalgics, all humanity scum re-surfaced and decided that it was their turn to take over control of the world.

Last year USA gave up being the flagship of the civilizing process. It might be an opportunity for continental Europe to claim this role, but most likely it will just embrace the mediocrity of its flag-licking beaufs and dumpfbacken. We will know more when the results of the French (May) and German (October) elections are defined.

In 12,016, UK has bet on making itself insignificant. Russia kept barking loudly and dangerously, pretending to be significant. France embarrassingly decided that beachwear was a matter for police. The Mediterranean Sea, cradle of the western civilization, became a nasty cemetery. China suffocated in its own toxic atmosphere. Brazil went through an autophagyc institutional war, which is destroying the country’s economy. Philippines dove into state-sponsored barbarity. Syria was once more a shameful reminder that we are led by an insensitive band of scoundrels.

Clearly, the world situation will deteriorate this year: more war, more pollution, more refugees, more economic inequality, more restrictions to individual freedom are in the waiting room of 12,017.

But, personally, I’m sure that I, and all the nice people around me, will have a successful new year.

And that’s what I wish to you too, but only if you accept my next challenge.


cognitive_bias_codex_-_180_biases_designed_by_john_manoogian_iii_jm3Our brains are full of kludges. Cognitive biases that help us to deal with memorization, fast reaction, excess of data, or lack of information. But helpful as they are, these biases also make up fake memories, cloud our judgement, disturb our forecasts, and feed our prejudices.

Probably we wouldn’t do so much bullshit in this world if we could keep our cognitive biases under control, or at least be aware of them.

Then, here it goes my challenge: Wikipedia lists 189 cognitive biases. Go over this list, find those that most likely are negatively influencing you, and vow as a new year resolution to put them under a tight leash.

Do it and help make 12,017 a better year, at least for yourself.


You may be wondering about all this “12,017” stuff. I tell you.

Exactly two years ago, I wrote a post proposing that our calendar should start counting the years with the advent of agriculture, the real starting point of human civilization, roughly twelve thousand years ago.

Last week I learned in a video by Kurzgesagt that the Italian-American scientist Cesare Emiliani had already seriously suggested the same twenty years before! It’s called the Holocene calendar.

By just summing 10,000 to the current Gregorian year—thus, 12,017 instead of 2017—we create a secular calendar that gives a year zero valid for all humanity, not only for Christians, and that puts in better perspective our species’ achievements through out its history.

(Incidentally, the Holocene calendar may even help us control the telescoping effect, a cognitive bias that distorts our perception of time over large spans.)

Just check the time line below. Isn’t it amazing the long way we came between the Neolithic revolution—the kick-off of civilization in the year zero—and the detection of gravitational waves in 12,016?


To help popularize the Holocene calendar, the Much Bigger Outside will adopt it from now on. I invite you to do so as well.


Categories: Culture

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4 replies

  1. Very interesting your deduction about our brain, when you say that we would not do so much bullshit in this world if we could keep our cognitive biases under control, but, I think this is impossible because we have a inclination to thinking of negative form under mass mind. I would like to use to advantage the oportunity to wish a very Happy New Year for all reader this Blog and to my son Mario and to my daughter-in-law Carla. A great hug for everybody and much health…

  2. I was able to go into my WordPress blog settings and by using a custom date display, I put (1) in front of the Y symbol to give the “Human-era” date to each post. I also made a similar post in (1)2014.

  3. Thank you for this challenge! Based on what many people (especially my current housemates) tell me, I seem to need to correct my Courtesy bias fairly urgently…
    Happy New Year 12018!

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