Powerful Quotes

Me against my brothers; my brothers and me against my cousins; my cousins, my brothers, and me against strangers.

Old Bedoin proverb, quoted by Jonathan Haidt

Le doute n’est pas une condition agréable, mais la certitude est absurde.

Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is an absurd one.

Voltaire, letter to Frederick II of Prussia – 6 April 1767 (source).

There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.

Mark Twain

Despotism is whatever crushes individuality.

John Stuart Mills

Tomorrow’s experiment may succeed in proving what you thought was right, wrong. So we never are right. We can only be sure we’re wrong.

Richard Feynman

Vous n’avez pas, Mr Mitterand, le monopole du coeur.

Valéry Giscard d’Estaing

The Universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.

George Orwell

My job is not to predict the future, simply to notice the present first.

Matt Cohler, Benchmark Capital

One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.

Martin Luther King Jr.

I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing.

Thomas Jefferson

Tyranny is the deliberate removal of nuance.

Albert Maysles

La France est un paradis peuplé de gens qui se croient en enfer

France is Paradise filled with people believing they’re in Hell.

Sylvain Tesson

Gouverner, c’est choisir.

Pierre Mendès France

Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence… and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.

Helen Keller

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

Carl Sagan (Pale Blue Dot)

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

John Perry Barlow, 1996

We are as Gods, and have to get good at it.

Stewart Brand

(On the promise and responsibilty of Science and Technology to address planetary problems. Do read his book Whole Earth Discipline for his view on how we can “get good at it”.)

The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.

Abe Lincoln

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them. In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

Michael Crichton

I apologise for writing a long letter. I didn’t have time to write a short one.


Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.

Milton Friedman in Capitalism and Freedom (1982)

“There are two ways of being creative. One can sing and dance, or one can create an environment in which singers & dancers flourish.”

Jack Goldman (Xerox PARC)

“I am, at the Fed level, libertarian;
at the state level, Republican;
at the local level, Democrat;
and at the family and friends level, a socialist.
If that saying doesn’t convince you of the fatuousness of left vs. right labels, nothing will.”

– Nassim Taleb

Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait point

(The heart has reasons of which reason knows nothing)

– Pascal

The trouble with market research is that people don’t think what they feel, don’t say what they think, and don’t do as they say

– David Ogilvy

Nullius in Verba,”

“Take no one’s word for it.”

– The Royal Society’s Motto

“I didn’t say you’re all going to be happy. You’ll be unhappy – but in new, exciting and important ways.”

– Edwin Land, founder of Polaroid

“Any man who is under 30 and is not a liberal has no heart; and any man who is over 30 and is not a conservative has no brains”

– Churchill

“We all just have one world, but we live in different ones”

– Mark Knopfler

“I apologise for writing a long letter. I didn’t have time to write a short one.”

– Pascal

“The real problem of humanity is the following: we have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and god-like technology.”

– EO Wilson

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

– Martin Niemöller

Life is…a chemical incident.

-Paul Ehrlich (as a schoolboy, 1870)

“Never underestimate the appeal of misery” (or something to that effect).

(Unknown author) I thought I might find it looking through Orwell quotes but no dice, maybe not him.

If I could learn one thing about the future, I would want to know what they think of us because that would tell me everything I’d want to know about them.

(Unknown author)

No worthy problem is ever solved within the plane of its original conception.

– Einstein

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.

– Bertrand Russell

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