Modern Ideas About Genes Were Conceived in 18th Century Asylums

Long Before Mendel Bred His Peas, Doctors Claimed Heredity Explained Madness

Sitting at my desk, reading the archived pages of an old British anthropological journal, an entry from 1899 caught my eye. The police at New Scotland Yard had a “Central Metric Office?” The text seemed to imply as much. As a historian of information, calculation, data, and statistics, I understood that faith in data predated the creation of Google, Facebook, and Amazon by hundreds of years. Still, it was hard to imagine a 19th-century police force creating an office devoted to numbers and measures.

My doubts, as it happened, had some …

How Digital Technology Is Making Us Subservient, Anxious, and Uncertain

The Threat of Constant Surveillance Provokes Fears That We're Losing Our Liberty and Autonomy

In the anxious years since 9/11, surveillance has become one of the essential infrastructures for 21st-century social life, commerce, and government. With an endless number of drones, sensors, scanners, archives, …

Yes, You Can Be Happy in Sad Times

Scholars Say Happiness—Along With Connectedness and Meaning—Can Make You More Resilient When the World Gets Rough

Happiness isn’t just possible when the world is in a very sad state. It’s vital in difficult times like today’s, because happier people are more resilient and recover more quickly …

The Social Upside of Workplace Gossip 

Dishing Dirt About Colleagues Can Keep Them From Acting Selfishly, and Helps Coworkers Cooperate

Gossip has long been popular in the workplace, where employees seem to have a vigorous appetite for informally evaluating coworkers behind their backs. Recently, an increasing number of scientific studies …

How Feminists Invented the Male Midlife Crisis

When Women's Lib Upended Traditional Gender Roles, Men Claimed Their Own Right to Self-Fulfillment Outside the Home

The term “midlife crisis” conjures up the image of an affluent, middle-aged man speeding off in a red sports car with a woman half his age. He leaves behind his …