Fuel for Thought Commandments

50 Maxims to Revolutionize Our Lives, Improve Civilization, and Build a Better World

By Gabriel Wilensky

The following is a list of 50 “commandments” that encapsulate some of the messages in Fuel for Thought. They go far beyond the 10 biblical commandments in the sense they are all meant to inspire people to become better themselves, influence others to become better, and to improve the environment in which we live. All of this, of course, is meant to improve the lives of every person on Earth.

Even though the book Fuel for Thought is not out yet, I thought of making this list available now because the sooner people start living by these tenets, the sooner we’ll be able to fix the world.


The 50 Commandments

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This part will focus on background information regarding human nature and the evolution of civilization and culture. In essence, this part of the book will provide an account of where mankind has been and is, setting the stage for the following parts of the book that will focus on where it should be.

1. Always excel

It’s very tempting to coast through life. We must avoid this, and always strive to be better at everything we do, from being a parent, to being a teacher, an engineer, or anything.

2. Apply reason

The vast majority of people are not rational entities. Most people just act without giving much thought to anything, let alone careful reasoned thought. We must avoid this. Reason is the medicine that will cure the world.

3. Banish ignorance

Ignorance is pervasive in the world. As politically incorrect as this may sound, most people are ignorant of most everything. We must correct this. Knowledge is vital for the well-being of the world, and for progress to take place.

4. Banish superstition

Superstition in the form of belief in the supernatural, fairies, horoscopes, and other things of dubious nature may have had a place in human evolution during which we did not understand almost anything. Superstition is understandable in the absence of science. But in the 21st century we can no longer cling to Iron Age beliefs or their modern incarnations, like Tarot Readings. Do you agree this is a problem? Look at all the religious wars, the irrationality of people who fight medicine, the children who die unnecessarily because their parents believe in faith healing, and so much more. Let’s fight this together.

5. Become a better human

Religions typically admonish us to be better human beings. But they also fill our heads with all sorts of other things which result in us being the very opposite. So, it’s important we find ways to live by the tenets of a natural philosophy that teaches us to be good, compassionate and considerate human beings.

6. Become a better parent

No one goes to school or is taught how to be a good parent. Yet, this is one of the most fundamental things we do as human beings. Becoming a good parent means imparting good values and knowledge to our children. It is imperative we all strive to become better parents because children are the pillar on which we can buid a better world.

7. Become a better teacher

Just like we must become better parents, we must also become better teachers to impart better knowledge and thinking skills to our children. Becoming a better teacher begins in the home, but must then continue in school. What does becoming a better teacher mean? Certainly not cramming the student’s heads with more facts. No one needs to memorize the height of Mt. Everest. Becoming a better teacher means guiding the pupil towards self-realization, towards logic and critical thinking, towards exploration, towards fomenting questioning everything, towards the cultivation of their natural curiosity and creativity, and towards becoming reflexive reasoning machines.

8. Build a better world

We should all have as a goal to improve the world. This means going beyond parochial interests, and the boundaries of our kin or tribe. We should all embrace Enlightened Self-Interest and work towards the good of humanity in general. What does a “Better world” mean? A better world will be one in which our focus is the maximization of everyone’s well-being and happiness. We must embark on a seismic transformation of our educational system to shift the emphasis to the improvement of thinking skills, including the promotion of reflexive rational thought and critical thinking, and on bringing up children as virtuous and ethical people. We should move towards a humanistic way of thinking in which people become as rational as possible. The new educational system should emphasize self-knowledge as an essential aspect of perfecting ourselves. An educational system that moves away from being purely focused on learning and moves towards the understanding that education is meant to produce good human beings and good citizens, that is, a complete individual who cares to improve the well-being of society. But, perhaps more importantly, it would be a society in which the constituent individuals focus on becoming better human beings. Before we fix democracy or education or other problems we are facing we must begin by making better people: individuals who are compassionate, ethical, knowledgeable and smart.

9. Cherish intellectual excellence

Our society, at least in the West, does not put a strong emphasis on intellectual development. We live in ignorance and midless consumerism. We must revert this, and always strive to cultivate our intellect. What does this mean? Be rational. Be logical. Think critically. Be intellectually honest. Acquire knowledge. Develop your memory. Discard bad ideas, and seek good ones.

10. Cherish wisdom

Wisdom must not be confused with knowledge. Wisdom is at the core of a better world. Wisdom in how we interact we each other, wisdom in how we conduct business, wisdom in how we learn about the universe and reality, and wisdom in how we use knowledge to further the well-being of society as a whole. All of it must be sought after and cherished.

11. Cultivate critical thinking

Critical thinking is, well, critical. Without possessing the ability to think critically, we are susceptible to manipulation and to belief in falsehoods. In school we are thought many things, but typically critical thinking is not one of them. This is a major flaw of our educational system. We must teach kids how to think critically, and cultivating this ability must be a lifelong pursuit.

12. Cultivate culture

Many people believe that culture means knowing many things, or loving opera. And culture is those things, but it’s also so much more. Culture is what defines us as human beings. It is the collection of knowledge and traditions that constitute our identity. It’s what turns us into a cohesive group. It’s the things we have in common with each other. So, it’s critical we cultivate culture, in all its forms. From high brow, to culinary traditions. Me must cultivate them all.

13. Despise bigotry

To create a better world we must get rid of bigotry. This is because bigotry is despicable, and it’s an insidious thought contagion that can only lead to nastiness. There is not a single redeeming factor about bigotry. We must despise it, frown upon bigots, and do our utmost to completely eliminate it from our culture.

14. Despise ignorance

Just as we must get rid of bigotry (bigotry being, in fact, a form of ignorance), we must also get rid of ignorance. It may sound harsh to say this, but the sad reality is that most people know very little about almost everything. We leave school and our level of ignorance is appalling. Truly frightening. We can’t build a better world if most people are ignorant of most everything. We need to have a minimum of general knowledge of all sorts of things. We should start by ratcheting up scientific literacy many notches.

15. Discard bad ideas

Human beings tend to follow the path of least resistance. And that means we tend to cling to what we know, irrespective of whether it’s true or not, useful or not, or valid or not. Bad ideas are everywhere. We may have learned them as kids or as adults. Changing these ingrained ideas is hard work, and this is one reason why we typically don’t. But to improve the world we must start by recognizing those bad ideas, even if they are dear to us, and then we must summarily discard them and replace them with better ones.

16. Educate leaders

Democracy is a popularity contest in which whoever gets the most votes wins. Nowhere in the system do we assess the candidate’s knowledge. Knowledge of culture, of science, even knowledge of the business of running a government. This is wrong. We must make sure our leaders are highly educated (that is, they know things, not that have prestigious university credentials).

17. Elect better leaders

Democracy may be the best electoral system we have at this time, but that does not mean it’s a good one. The system is designed to be a popularity contest in which the candidate that is the most personable, attractive, connected, eloquent, or who has access to the most capital tends to win. Sometimes they are chosen merely because they represent our tribe. All those are the wrong reasons to elect them. We must work to redefine what a good leader is, and being the most popular certainly is not it. A good leader must be a statesman who genuinely cares and works for the welfare of the people they represent, not a politician whose main concern is getting re-elected and works for the welfare of their donors.

18. Eliminate identity politics

Tribalism is natural for us, human beings. But it’s also toxic. There are many reasons why tribalism is bad, but in politics it’s an excuse to relinquish our judgement to the interests of the tribe. When politicians vote along party lines, as opposed to what they may feel is the right thing to do, then we have a perversion of the entire political system, which is rendered worse than useless. So, we must fight this. Identity politics makes brainless clones out of human beings and is in the majority of cases a disservice to the people.

19. Employ reason

Reason should be one of the most fundamental, if not the most fundamental, human pursuit. Reason is what makes us unique in the animal kingdom. Reason is what produced the greatest intellectual advancements in our short history, in science, medicine, government, in law, and in so many other fields. But most people are largely irrational, dominated by feelings and natural impulses. We must fight this. We need to strive to be rational and employ reason every time we can.

20. Empower truth

We should put Truth on a pedestal. Truth about the world. Truth about politics. Truth about relationships. Truth about the economic system. And so on. We need to always pursue the truth on everything, regardless of how unpleasant or difficult it might be. Sugarcoating things, or worse, making up stories to hide an agenda or an underlying ignorance, must be avoided. We need to empower truth, and go with it wherever it leads.

21. Encourage cultural expression

Culture is the glue that holds us together. It’s the norms, knowledge, and heritage that defines us. We must find more ways for creators to create cultural works and artifacts. We must work to greatly proliferate cultural expression, because it is that expression and the concommitant subsequent reaction and interaction that polishes that cultural expression and elevates it to new heights.

22. Endow wisdom

Many wealthy individuals endow philanthropic enterprises, or university chairs, and many other things. All worthy and laudable goals. But, I would posit that one thing that these individuals should focus on instead (or in addition to), is wisdom. Our society puts great emphasis on practical things. Research to find the cure to something, better machines to clean the air, and so on. But wisdom does not get much attention. Wisdom is not knowledge. Wisdom is what enables us to know how to use knowledge to do good. Wisdom is what helps us separate what’s good from what’s bad. Wisdom is what allows us to make better decisions, defined as what will help us in our quest toward perfectibility and toward enlightened self-interest. Wisdom is what helps us understand that when we work toward the common good, we are ultimately working toward our interests as well.

23. Enhance politicians

Politicians, for the most part, are not what they present themselves as. Despite their claims and their rhetoric, they are not statesmen. Their main concern is not the well-being of the electorate, but rather holding on to power. We must change this. We must make sure we elect politicians who selflessly work towards the common good. This means we must enhance them. We must train them and teach them what it means to embrace enlightened self-interest. We must create institutions than prepare prospective leaders for the business of leading.

24. Enrich culture

Culture is what makes us, us. Each culture is important, and all cultures have positive elements. As a society we should work towards the goal of enriching culture. This means, in practical terms, to put in motion systems and processes that encourage people to create new things. It means we need to encourage the dissemination of ideas. It means creating systems for the discussion and evolution of cultural norms and artifacts. We can all enrich culture, either by becoming creators and/or by fomenting cultural progress. A perfect example of a family who enriched culture in an unprecedented way was the Medici family, who pretty much single-handedly triggered and funded the Renaissance in 14th century Florence.

25. Fix the world

The world is a mess. People are irrational and tribal. The economy is manipulated to the benefit of a few. Politicians are hypocritical and selfish. People are violent and controlled by their basest instincts. The list is long. There are many things we can and should do to fix the world. But this is a team effort. We cannot continue to wash our hands and expect others to do it. Everyone must do their part. We need to embrace the philosophical principle of enlightened self-interest, and work toward the common good.

26. Improve civilization

Our civilization is the collection of norms, laws, traditions, and knowledge that accumulated over millennia. It’s what sets us apart. But not all civilizations are equal, and no civilization is perfect. We should all strive to improve it. We can and should all work towards the creation of art, literature, music, and other art forms. We need to improve our social norms. Our traditions. Our science. Our quest for knowledge. Without the urge to improve civilization, it flounders. There are plenty of examples in history of civilizations that reached extraordinary heights, only to sit on their laurels and then wither and die. Let’s avoid that by making the task of improving our civilization a perennial one.

27. Improve memory

Memory is at the heart of progress. This is because if we can’t remember, we’ll be constantly reinventing the wheel. But it’s more than that, because the knowledge stored in our brains is the scaffolding that allows us to build new things. Stored knowledge is the starting point that allows someone to extrapolate, to go beyond. Yet, this is not taught in schools. We must fix this by bringing memory training into the classroom and device ways to help adults train and improve their memory capability.

28. Improve the world

No matter how good things are, they can always be better. We should all have as a goal to do something to improve the world. We need to be less selfish and worry less for ourselves, our kin and our tribe, and start thinking globally. When we embrace enlightened self-interest and work towards the common good, in the end we benefit individually as well. So, always look for what you can do to make the world a better place.

29. Improve thinking

Despite what most people believe about their own thinking skills, they are, in fact, a veritable disaster. The vast majority of people are irrational, reactionary, impulsive, and think in a haphazard way, if they think at all. Few think critically. Few take the time to reason through problems rationally, logically, and systematically. They just wing it. And thus, the present (and past) history of humanity. To make the world a better place we must begin by making better people, and one major component of that is improving people’s thinking skills. As incomprehensible as this may be, thinking skills is not a subject that is taught systematically, relentlessly and consistently to children from the moment they understand language, until they go to college. We must change this. Good thinking skills is at the heart of fixing the world.

30. Invest in beauty

As human beings we react positively to beauty. Beauty in art, beauty in architecture, beauty in objects, and of course, beauty in people. As visual beings we simply enjoy looking at beautiful things. So, we should strive toward the creation and proliferation of beauty. As creators, artists, engineers, architects, or designers of all kinds we should always strive to make things as beautiful as we can. Why make something just functional, if it can be functional and beautiful? But we should not stop there. We should also use beauty to teach and communicate a positive message. The Renaissance was a perfect example of this. Let’s create a perennial Renaissance.

31. Invigorate innovation

Innovation needs to be a core principle of a new world, one in which we work towards the maximization of everyone’s well-being. Innovation is key to avoid the natural human tendency to stagnate, to plateau at a comfortable level. We must fight this. We need to always strive to improve. Improve ourselves, improve things, improve processes. Progress needs to be ingrained in all of us. So, we should work towards invigorating innovation, that is, fomenting this in any and all ways possible.

32. Maximize collective well-being

Human beings are naturally selfish. In Nature, it makes sense for a creature to be this way as looking after their own selfish interests conferred an evolutionary fitness advantage to our ancestors. But we no longer live in a state of nature. We have civilizations now. Yet, it’s difficult to fight our hard-wired tendencies. But, to make the world a better place, we must. We need to embrace the ethical philosophy of enlightened self-interest, which in a nutshell claims that people who act in ways that advance the interests of other people (or the interests of the group or organizations they belong to) are eventually acting in ways that advance their own self-interest. This is a clear and good way to work towards the maximization of everyone’s well-being, and we should all strive to achieve as much of that as possible.

33. Overhaul education

Education, as we understand it today (and most likely what you experienced as a kid) was devised at the time of the Industrial Revolution as a means to make cookie-cutter factory workers that met the needs of the industrialists, who just needed people who were happy to conform. This meant no questioning anything. No thinking too much, lest someone became a little too rebellious. This will not do. We need a radical revolution in education. One that moves the emphasis from learning things, to learning how to think. What we want is a change in the system so that children become reflexive rational critical thinkers. We want children to question everything. To challenge the status quo. We need to change things so that we don’t squash their natural curiosity and creativity, which the current system most often does. We want to teach them how to think logically. Calmly. To learn how to reason in every situation, reflexively, without having to make an effort. To make the world a better place we need to start by making better people, and that starts by completely overhauling education as we know it today.

34. Perfect yourself

We should all be working towards our perfectibility, i.e. improving ourselves in our psychological and physical makeup, in our relationships with others, and with the world. Some people may feel the doctrine of The Perfectibility of Man is utopian because there is no such thing as a perfect person. And they would be right and wrong at the same time. It’s true nobody is and cannot be perfect. But the perfectibility of man does not aim for a final goal of being perfect. Instead, it claims we are perfectible, in other words, that our capacity of being perfected (i.e. improved) is not only possible but also desirable. It claims we should make it our life-long goal to aim for perfection, which in practical and simple terms means we should always strive to be better. Day in and day out, we should always try to improve, to be nicer, to be smarter, to be more cultured, to be fitter, to be more compassionate. Aim high. Don’t be shy. And then start climbing that ladder, one rung at a time.

35. Promote happiness

If we want to make the world a better place we must put the promotion of happiness pretty much at the top of the list of things to do. Ultimately, no matter what we do in terms of scientific or technical advancement, in cultural progress, in our relations with each other, everything is ultimately distilled into one word: happiness. And it makes sense, because what’s the point of figuring out nuclear fusion, or curing cancer, or of putting in place the necessary elements to create an age of superabundance and the elimination of dehumanizing, dangerous or demeaning jobs if it wasn’t, in the end, so that people would live happier and more fulfilling lives? So, each of us should have as a goal to do something to promote happiness. You don’t have to necessarily think big. You don’t have to solve world hunger. Think about what you can do, given your abilities and circumstances. We can all promote happiness in our own way and to a certain degree. Let’s do it, and let’s do it daily.

36. Promote idea exchange

Progress is a function of how effective idea exchange is in a particular place and time. If we look at human history and try to understand what made certain places and times so effective in creating and fomenting massive leaps in cultural and technological progress, such as in Ionia in ancient Greece, in Florence during the Renaissance, in the Low Countries in the 16th century, in Paris and other places during the Enlightenment, in Vienna in late 19th century, and others, we can see that the common denominator was an openness to new ideas, and the establishment of mechanisms for the broadcast and exchange of those ideas. Many of the places above were in physical crossroads through which people from many places around the world passed through, and they all brought new ideas from far away. But it’s not just about ideas passing through. The place must also promote an exchange of those ideas. In ancient Alexandria the authorities literally confiscated books people brought in ships from all around the ancient world and copied them to put them in the Library (after which were then returned to their owners). Draconian? Yes, but also Enlightened. We don’t have to go that far, but it behooves all of us to do the utmost to promote people having new ideas, and exchanging them freely with others.

37. Pursue knowledge

Knowledge, coupled with the ability to think critically, are two of the most important components in the blueprint for the creation of a new, better world. Without knowledge we cannot make progress, because progress implies making something better from how it was before, and that implies you had to know about the previous state. Knowledge is vital for culture, for science, for technology, for art, and so many other things. Knowledge is important in human relationships too. Knowledge is what permits us to better understand each other, respect and benefit from what others have done before, and it’s also a prerequisite to understanding. In modern times, the potential universe of existing knowledge is too vast for any human being to possess. It’s no longer possible to know everything, like some of our ancestors did. So, we must start with this understanding, and realize that the path to being knowledgeable is a gradual process. Knowledge must be acquired during our entire lifetimes, a little bit at a time. Previous knowledge then becomes the foundation upon which we can add more knowledge. When you think about it this way, you realize knowledge is a superstructure we build in our brains step by step, and on which we can hang more knowledge. Thus, the more you know, the more capable you become of knowing more. It’s a virtuous circle and we must all engage on this pursuit relentlessly every day of our lives.

38. Pursue progress

Without the pursuit of progress, civilizations stagnate, wither, and die. To prevent this from happening, as it happened to so many civilizations in history, we must imbue the urge to innovate and make progress on every human pursuit, on everyone. We must all relentlessly try to do more, be better, be nicer, help more, make better things, make things faster and/or more efficiently. In other words, we must pursue progress on every human endeavor.

39. Reform the electoral system

The current democratic electoral system is based on one simple premise: whoever gets more votes, wins. Nowhere in the system is there any provision for making being the best one be the winning criteria. When people vote, they “think” they are choosing the best candidate, but this is a chimera and it’s misguided. Most people know nothing of the candidate’s capabilities. They may find the person more likable, more personable, more mature, with better credentials. But most of the times, this decision is colored by the party the candidate belongs to, or how much support from powerful wealthy individuals or corporations they have, which translates to more or better advertising, which is enough to sway a voting populace whose critical thinking skills are typically very close to nonexistent. Fixing this will require us to completely rethink what makes a candidate, and a voter, qualified to lead or to vote, respectively. The forthcoming book Fuel for Thought will describe these ideas in detail. For now, suffice it to say that what we have in place today is suboptimal at best, producing leaders who are typically incompetent, corrupt, inept, and possesed by a lust for power, not a desire to serve the people. To make the world a better place we must fix this system and elect leaders who subscribe to the ethical philosophy of enlightened self-interest.

40. Renew yourself

It’s easy for us to plateau in a comfort zone, and stay there as if we had a glass ceiling above us that prevent us from further progress. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We are all capable of being perfected. Thus, it’s incumbent on each of us to adopt this idea that we can improve, and we must do it relentlessly. This may require us to renew ourselves every once in a while. This might sound scary, but that would be the wrong way of thinking about it. In fact, it’s invigorating. Think of yourself as things are today, and think of what you would have to do to make a better version of yourself tomorrow.

41. Rethink civilization

Obviously there are many civilizations in the world. Many flourished, and many floundered. Some were good, others not. But civilizations tend to develop in a haphazard way, as individuals come up with new ways of doing things, and these things are eventually codified in some way if these individuals manage to persuade enough others of the merits of the ideas. Perhaps we should rethink this, and take a more systematic approach to civilizational development. A good way to start thinking about this may be to identify certain areas we believe need further development, such as social justice, economic and health well-being for everyone, education, and/or system of government, and take a systematic deep dive into what is working and what not in each of these things, and take a rational, methodical, engineering-style approach to fixing or improving them.

42. Rethink education

Education is key, yet our educational system is, for the most part, diminishing children’s natural curiosity and creativity and largely failing to teach them many things beyond basic literacy and the most basic numeracy. Most of the time, children leave school and are largely ignorant of almost everything. Studies exist that show that even adults that went through tertiary education are largely ignorant of almost everything. This is a major flaw and failure that needs to be fixed. This is an emergency that needs to be addressed immediately. Cramming facts into children’s heads is useless and counter-productive. That was never really needed, and these days, with the easy access to any piece of information you may require through a device you carry in your pocket, is even more unnecessary. A much better approach is to focus on developing the child’s innate curiosity and creativity, in fostering and developing their critical thinking skills, and in turning them into educated human beings who are cultured, knowledgeable, compassionate, rational, scientifically literate, and ethical.

43. Rethink specialization

Many areas of human knowledge have become so vast that no human being can possibly know everything any more. Over time, this led the educational system to specialize students, thus focusing the pupil’s attention on one narrow sliver of knowledge, and going deep into it. In principle this might not be a bad thing. But in practice what is happening is that people become specialists and the more so they become, the less they know of anything else. This way, our society is filled with people who may know a lot about a tiny area, and nothing or almost nothing of anything else outside that area. In effect, therefore, education has had an impoverishing effect on the population. This is bad because cultural explosions and progress on a grand, human scale does not take place this way. This would be enough if we were happy with progress on a grand scale just in that narrow field. But even then, giant leaps occur typically when individuals whose heads are filled with interdisciplinary knowledge see patterns or connections between fields and come up with novel ideas. When they see relationships between seemingly disparate fields of knowledge. If people sink deeper and deeper into knowledge silos, and know nothing of what’s outside, this interdisciplinary cross-pollination will be more difficult or impossible to achieve. So, perhaps we need to start rethinking specialization and move away from it, at least until the very end of someone’s educational career. A better approach might be to impart encyclopedic knowledge to students who may then become conversant of many disparate fields. To teach them to think rationally and independently. We should all aim to become a Renaissance Man.

44. Revamp teaching

For the most part, teachers of young children are happy to go over pre-established curricula created by others who may have been in a different time and place, and with different social aims. Teaching as we know it today aims to impart knowledge on children by filling their heads with facts. But as tests show, most countries are failing miserably even at this, their ostensive goal. Some countries, most notably Scandinavian countries but a few others as well, are the exceptions that create a student body of individuals who not only know things, but are also complete rounded individuals who are good critical thinkers as well as good human beings. Revamping education and teaching should be at the very top of the priority list of any enlightened society aiming to make the world a better place. Teaching needs to move away from just providing facts, to developing individuals who are critical thinkers, rational, logical, curious, compassionate, and ethical. Good teachers are a treasure that society must cherish. We must change the absurd current situation in which teachers are grossly underpaid and compensate good teachers like we do any other professional.

45. Revolutionize democracy

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said in 1947 that “Democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…”. In principle, Democracy is a good thing, but it’s not without faults. Because it’s a popularity contest whoever is the most popular, wins. But the most popular, and the most qualified, are two very different things. Rarely do they overlap. So, I would argue we should revolutionize democracy with the ultimate goal of turning it into a meritocracy, that is, a form of government in which those who have the most merit, win. If we can agree this is a worthy goal, then the next step is to solve the admittedly very complicated tactical problems of implementing a system in which we separate useless political rhetoric from substance in the form of what constitutes a good leader: someone who is a well-rounded individual who possesses a considerable amount of knowledge, who is smart, who is compassionate and considerate, ethical, and who is likely to selflessly embrace the ethical philosophy of enlightened self-interest and work tirelessly toward the common good.

46. Seek the truth

As human beings we seek those things that increase our survival fitness, irrespective of whether the thing in question is true or not. Evolution through natural selection implies that whoever adopted heuristics that increased their chances of survival, passed their genes to a new generation who also had a propensity to use the same shortcuts. But we no longer live in a state of nature. We no longer need to defend ourselves against lions, or the weather. So, we need to change our ways of thinking. If there was something our ancestors believed that helped them in the past, but we now know is not true, we must summarily discard it. To make the world a better place we must start by making better people, and a big component of that is to become truth-seekers. And we must do this irrespective of whether the truth hurts, is unpleasant, or goes contrary to our ingrained cherished beliefs. Truth must be at the very core of our being. In science theories constantly go through a process of review, and when new theories arise that prove the old ones wrong, the old ones are discarded. We should all strive to think like scientists, and use something like the scientific method applied to everything we do in life. We need to always seek the truth, no matter what.

47. Strengthen science

Science is the best epistemological system we have to learn about the world. Nothing else comes even close. Yet, the level of scientific literacy of ordinary individuals (at least in the US) is appallingly low. This is not hyperbole. Studies have been conducted that show the regular individual is almost completely ignorant of the most basic scientific concepts, and knows nothing of the Scientific Method. This is a tragedy, and at the core of the perennial mess the world is in. We must revert this and work tirelessly to increase people’s love of knowledge and science. We need to systematically teach children that science is the best path we have towards the truth about the Universe. And we need to teach them a lot more about all sorts of scientific concepts. But we cannot stop there. We must strengthen science everywhere. We should never, ever have leaders in power who believe climate change is a hoax, or that you can cure an illness caused by a virus by consuming bleach, or that a zygote is the same thing as an “unborn child”. When we strengthen science at all levels of our society, we also raise the level and the well-being of our society.

48. Strive for excellence

The doctrine of the perfectibility of man teaches us that we are all, in principle, perfectible and we are so to an unlimited degree. This means we can all improve in everything we do, and we should never stop trying to be better at everything we do. We must therefore always pursue excellence: excellence as husbands, wives, parents, students, or in our professions. Excellence in our physical capabilities. Excellence in what we know, and in what we do with that knowledge. We need to always look for ways of improving everything we do, and who and how we are.

49. Think critically

Most people think in a haphazard way, if they think at all. This means they are reactionary, impulsive, and let their emotions lead their thinking. The world has been, and is a mess, because people either don’t think at all, or think in an unstructured, irrational way. If we want to make the world a better place we must start by making better people, and the very first thing we need to do (but not the only thing) is to turn everyone into a critical thinker. A critical thinker thinks rationally, logically, and questions everything. That person is not swayed by emotions or by political or religious slogans. They are not swayed by groupthink. They, by definition, critically evaluate what they see and hear, and they carefully evaluate that and determine the validity, or lack thereof, of what they see or hear. They are not persuaded and follow blindly figures of authority. They think by themselves, independently, and arrive at their own conclusions. A critical thinker would never mindlessly follow the dictates of a persuasive politician. Would never be swayed by what the priest or some “holy” book says. Would never be influenced by manipulative advertising. There are many aspects to improving the world, but if we do just one thing, it should be to turn everyone into a reflexive critical thinking machine.

50. Work for peace

Human history shows a pattern of war and peace, followed by another war and another peace, and so on. We have traditionally glorified war, honor and warriors. We have many times attempted to gain territory or resources from our neighbors through the use of force. This led to untold misery. The survivors of wars will work hard to try avoiding that hell again, and thus a period of peace ensues. But then their offspring, who never experienced the horror, get into positions of power eventually and once again start beating the drums of war. Any enlightened society must fight this natural human tendency. We must all fight tirelessly toward peace. As our technology advances and we move away from labor practices of the past, and we find better ways of making things that do not require the resources we might lack and our neighbors might have, we will over time have less and less reasons to go to war. But until this happens, we must all make a conscious effort to preserve peace. We must ignore the warmongers, avoid putting them in positions of power, and we must change our social mores so as to diminish the glorification of war, warriors, conquest, and the obscene expenditure in lives and treasure to wage war. Working for peace is a win-win situation and a key component of a new, better world.

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