Most people exercise their daily lives in much the same way they’ve done in years past. Most people have a job that’s at least somewhat similar to what they’ve had in recent years or months. They don’t have drastic changes in their lives, and if they do, they’re mostly logistical: a move to a new city, an office move, or a move to a new company into a position which has been similar to ones in which they’ve been before. And when one moves to a new company, it means that their hierarchical position is much the same as it was before. No one moves from a lowly desk clerk to CEO. And so not many people see or feel the changes that can occur in themselves, when others’ expectations of their actions are suddenly different.
Imagine war. Some readers, unfortunately, may not have to imagine it. But two generations ago, the vast majority of the population was directly or indirectly involved. They had no choice but to do things unimaginable by our current citizens. And yet how different were those humans physiologically from us today? I can’t imagine genes changing all that much in 80 years.
It’s like the Greek myth of the general who burnt his ships upon arriving at the shores of his battle. He wanted his soldiers to win knowing they’d fight all the harder with no choice of retreat.
I’m always impressed by how differently we can act when we have no other choice. Other people’s expectations of us in these situations are the same thing. The things we’ll do, the trauma we’ll endure or the confidence we suddenly pull out of nowhere are all amazing. So put yourself in situations that scare the shit out of you… I think you’ll be surprised how well you do, when failure isn’t an option and everyone is expecting the best from you.
I dreamt this one. So bear with the ridiculousness. In populations of deer, there are known to be individuals who are hyper attentive. Usually most types of deer graze in herds and as they graze, everyone keeps an eye out for predators. But as with everything, there is some natural variation in the frequencies with which certain deer ‘keep an eye out’ versus other members. So naturally there exist deer that are real keeners for predator watching. Now this seems like a pretty cool thing. The hyper vigilant deer confer a benefit to the rest of the group. Now translate this to today’s human society. I think it’s possible that those hyper vigilant deer might be branded as having some type of mental disorder. They might even be given a drug or two. Maybe Xanax for example since they might be considered ‘high strung’. But if these people who are said to have a ‘disorder’ are actually just the keener deer, and maybe they have some benefit for us.
Is it possible that when something bad is going to happen (war, drought, fire, something on a large scale that could effect a serious portion of the population) these hyper keen individuals, who are likely these days to be on drugs, might have an increased need for their ‘medicine’. Does anyone have any access to Xanax (or other equivalents) sales that might show that before major disasters, sales or use increases?
Now. Let’s get weirder. Think that humans might be connected in some way from a mental stand point? No, I don’t think that we can all communicate across oceans telepathically, but I do think that there is something for which we don’t have an explanation. “The G.O.D. Experiments” does an awesome job showing us that there are phenomenons that take place in controlled experimental settings for which western science has no explanation. Maybe these connections have an amplification effect on the above noted ‘Xanax’ effect?
The only thing done just for itself, instead of as a means to get something else, is the act of trying to be happy. Why do you want money? Why do you want a nicer car? Why do you want recognition from your friends and family? Why do you want love? You want these things because you think they will make you happy. And some will. And some will for a short time. And some will for a long time.
Happiness is the only thing done for itself and not as a means to any other end.
The inspiration from this originally comes from Aristotle:
Happiness is… “that which is always desirable in itself and never for the sake of something else”
It’s often misinterpreted that science explains concepts perfectly. People believe that when something is ‘proven’, it is taken that proof will never be refuted and that it is 100% true. But the below links explains things much more clearly. If people understood this underlying fact about our ‘knowledge’, they might be more open to the new ideas and ways of thinking.
And now for the cheesiest line in knowledge… Remember when we all thought the Earth was flat?
What if instead of voting for a specific person, you voted for a box of initiatives, policies and beliefs written on a cue-card with no personal attachment. Isn’t that the basis of what we’re supposed to be doing in Democracy? We’re supposed to elect that certain policies, with which we agree, are enacted. And if a majority of the population agrees, than those are enacted, etc.?
Behavioural economics, neuroscience and psychology are all realms from which studies and proofs have emerged in recent years to show us that human choice-making skills are fraught with disadvantages and bugs. If a man is taller for example, all else being equal, he WILL make more money. I have to laugh, it’s almost ludicrous, but it does make sense given the wiring we evolved to have in our heads. We can’t take into account every piece of data coming into our senses from the forest, we needed short cuts in our brains to very quickly understand that there was a lion in front of us that was about to sink his teeth into us.
I think, though it’s all very unnatural, there are severe benefits to anonymity. And especially so in business and the way in which technology can allow people to interact.
When something is anonymized, all the interpersonal biases are removed. It forces the decision maker to focus on the relevant facts, not whether the proponent of the ideas or choices has the same clothes, walks with the same gait or comes from a similar background.
Two things together:
One. You know all those stories about journalists or photographers going to some remote place (usually Africa, or, whatever, it doesn’t matter) and talking about taking villagers pictures and then showing them? Right, well they all report the same thing; that the villagers are so surprised and so intrigued because they’ve never seen their own photograph before or maybe even their own reflection. Ok, that’s cool and interesting. And I’ve tried living without seeing my reflection and it does produce some cool results (see https://timwarmels.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/mirrors-and-their-anthropological-effects/
Two. Remember the book “The Paradox of Choice” by Barry Shwartz. He talks about the fact that conventional economic theory teaches us to think that the more choice we have in a situation, the happier or more ‘utility’ is created. But then goes on to show many situations in which that isn’t true. This is largely due because when there’s choice beyond a certain amount, the mind starts comparing what we end up with what we could have ended up with and it becomes too much data to analyse and we end up less happy because of the energy it takes to process all that extra data, or choices.
Well what about the paradox of self knowledge. What if our rapid and easy access to our reflection leaves us in a state of perpetual self absorption? That’s likely a hyperbolic way of putting it. But we didn’t evolve with all this access to ourselves visually or, maybe even more importantly, through social media, access to what other think of us via ‘likes’, etc.
The increased access provides a breeding ground for self-consciousness and self second guessing. Am I beautiful? Am I smart enough? Am I cool enough? It’s all inward and it’s due to a knowledge access paradox. You’d think more knowledge is better, but maybe it’s not.
Spector is a highly respected geneticist. His work on the human genome project and the like is daunting, and is a perfect person to write a book that furthers the understanding of the increasingly complex world of genetics.
The reader can tell that he’s not a typical writer. Many chapters end with the reader being required to deduce the final opinion or result. However, a lot of the research (since its so cutting edge) is not conclusive. It only points to possible theories. Much of the time a final result or opinion is possible. Though I think it would flow better if the author simply stated this.
As for content, he basically sums up why genetics is much more complicated than previously thought. His use of twins in statistically deducing the subtleties of hereditary characteristics is wonderful. A main point is that besides genetic code, there is something called epigenetic coding that turns on or off genes. This allows the genes to either be expressed or not. This is a simplification but is indicative of the main idea.
It’s certainly worth the time. I would read Richard Dawkins’ “Selfish Gene” first though.