Lectures for a New Year: We are Empathic Monkeys


In this RSA Animate presentation, economist Jeremy Rifkin discusses emerging research on empathy. It's a fast-paced, smart talk -- and it deals with the core question what is empathy? More than wondering what it is, Rifkin discusses how we observe it arise in each human (anyone who has been around kids has observed this progression), research on animals that demonstrates the neurological basis of empathy, and the philosophical implications of empathy for our world. Why does empathy matter? Ultimately because we're all gonna die -- and we might as well make the world a nice place to share.

Topics: monkeys in Parma who want nuts, mirror neurons, the first drive: to belong, what empathy is, child development as an existential trip, empathy as the opposite of utopia, how consciousness changes over history, and the Y-Chromosome "Adam."

For: everyone, especially parents.

Further Reading

Rifkin is pretty controversial, and frankly I haven't read any of his work. He did write a book on this topic (just one of dozens of books over the past 40-ish years), called The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis. There's a surprisingly extensive Wikipedia entry on the book. Any readers out there have experience with this book?


There's a dotSUB transcript available. The full RSA talk (see below) is also transcribed, in the "speech text" link from the RSA.

Bonus Points

Here's the entire fifty-minute talk by Rifkin, from which the animation above was taken:

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