Steven Pinker: Work Habits

When I remember a passage from something I read a day or two before, I think it’s worth capturing.

From that Steven Pinker interview last week (originally at Mosaic), two paragraphs about work habits, and his book The Better Angels of Our Nature.

“When I write a book, it’s almost all-consuming,” he says, recalling the year he spent in his house on Cape Cod writing The Better Angels, seven days a week, and sometimes until three in the morning. (He’d spent the previous year doing little but reading in preparation for it.) “I do try to exercise. I try to spend some time being a human being with my wife” — as recreation, he and Goldstein ride a tandem bicycle and paddle a tandem kayak. “Fortunately, she’s also a very intense writer, so she sympathizes.”

The couple do not have children, a fact Pinker sometimes uses to illustrate the non-determinative nature of genetic predispositions. (He might be predisposed, thanks to natural selection, to reproduce, but he’s used his frontal lobe, a crucial part of his evolutionary inheritance, to decide not to.) “Some things have to give,” Pinker says. “I’m not on Facebook, I don’t see a whole lot of movies, I don’t watch much TV — not because I consider myself above TV, I just don’t have time. And I don’t have a whole lot of face-to-face meetings.” The Pinker–Goldstein house is sometimes almost silent, except for keyboard-tapping, for days and weeks on end.

There’s a 77 minute video at MIT of Pinker on the topic of “Communicating Science and Technology in the 21st Century”, which I will link here though I’ve not had a chance to watch it yet.

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