Monthly Archives: September 2012

Are we safer than ever

Fact: Discrimination does not exist when you believe that you are from the same tribe. As the size of the difference between two people’s genes decreases, so too do those individuals’ propensity to discriminate against each other.
Trend: Even just 1000 years ago, imagine how many different cultures existed. In the far reaches of Papua New Guinea there are still tribes that have not been contacted due to the islands terrain. But from the one’s that have, it is known that even tribes in valleys right next to each other can have a languages as different as Mandarin is to English. There are over 3,500 languages around the world that are endangered. One of them dies every other week. Our world is growing more and more integrated and we are mixing our gene pools at an ever increasing rate.
Result: In the far future, if this trends continues, we will become an increasingly more global tribe. There used to be hundreds of different religions that fought each other. Now there are maybe a few major ones left that people in power manipulate to fight each other. The very long term trend is that life has been getting safer and safer and safer. Steven Pinker has done a fantastic job detailing this in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence in History. Basically it talks about how dangerous it used to be just to try to travel from one medium sized town to another. It was a time when bandits actually existed and ruled the countryside. These days? Well I’m really not scared of riding my bike through the countryside for fear of the heathens getting me. So, you want to contribute to world peace? Maybe just marry the most opposite looking person you can find, haha.

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Social media and the stupidity of the crowd

Aristotle hates Athenian Democracy. He saw that the idea of everyone (well they only accepted white older men of a certain class) voting on every decision to be made was subject to the whims of the population’s swaying attitude and was rarely based on purely rational decision making.

You’ve heard it before. A person is smart. People are stupid.

Crowds have their abilities. James Surowiecki’s popularized “The Wisdom of Crowds” explains very particular situations in which the crowd holds an almost ethereal ability and knowledge. But what about when an idea that is inherently wrong gets picked up by the crowd.

You may have seen the experiments: take a few people, put them on the street corner, pay them to look up into the sky at nothing (but act like they’re looking at something particular) and eventually you’ll have a whole mass of people doing the same. Or how about the line experiments where people in a classroom are asked to judge openly if a line is shorter or the same size as a line right beside it? The lines are obviously different, but when everyone else in the room (who are paid) say the lines are the same, the person, on which the experiment is being conducted, complies against his or her normally better judgement.

So social media, for all it’s positives… has some detrimental aspects. It allows for the easy propagation of all ideas… even the dumb ones.


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Somewhere into Psalms

I lost my Bible on a greyhound bus. Finally replaced.

Getting into the books that included Job and Psalms.

I’m most surprised at how much reference there is to humans being the ‘highest’ creature. Incredibly interesting research has surfaced recently on other animals’ level of conscience. The most notable event was the signing of the declaration of consciousness by incredibly well respected researchers (attended by Stephen Hawking). They declaring that many animals have what they’re defining as forms of consciousness very similar to our own.

In any case, I do enjoy the benevolent sentiment of Psalms more-so than the books that come before it.

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Decision points… No, not Dick’s book

Experiences are less important than remembered experiences around the time of decision.

In the middle of yoga class, I die. Sweats pours off me in unbroken streams and I force myself to keep going and going. Some teachers make the class work harder than others. But in the middle of class is NOT when I’m deciding whether I will go again. The point at which someone decides whether they will do yoga again is two or three days later.

This is incredibly important for two reasons. The first is that after two or three days, you don’t remember how hard the class was. You do remember the beneficial results that have occurred in your body since the class. Second, yoga has this fun thing at the end of class where you just lie on your back like a dead dude and do nothing at all for 5 minutes or so. So if you remember the colonoscopy experience research done by Dan Ariely, you’ll know why this is important. If you haven’t, read the next paragraph.

Basically he gave guys getting a colonoscopy a mechanism that allowed them to report how crappy (pun… intended) it felt on a scale of 1-10. Now you’d think that as time passes, the area under the curve (well, more of a spiky line that peaked as the nurse did… well, whatever) would correspond to how negative the person’s experience was. But this is not the case. The people who ended up hating it the most were those that had high pain close to the end of the colonoscopy. Even someone who had similar pain spikes throughout, but had a longer colonoscopy with the ending being very mild actually reported more pleasantly on the experience a few days later. Think of listening to a song, then at the end, there a very high pitched scream that ‘ruins the song’ for you. Well, it didn’t ruin the 3 minutes of beautiful music you heard, it just ruins your memory of it.

It highlights the difference between the remembering self and the experiencing self. And it’s the remembering self that makes the decisions in life; like whether to do another yoga class or whether to get another colonoscopy. This has great implications for business people designing experiences. And even for feeding you kids. They don’t like vegetables? Feed them the veggies at the start of the meal, then the good stuff at the end, maybe even with an awesome dessert too. Muahaha – science gets ya!

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