Endless Curiosity

November 24, 2009

Something to think about

Filed under: Life — Alec @ 6:06 pm

Here’s a little passage from an article by Rebecca Solnit. The whole article is interesting, but this little passage is worth spending some time thinking about.

American life as it is now lived is poor in security, confidence, connectedness, agency, contemplation, calm, leisure, and other things that you aren’t going to buy at Wal-Mart, or at Neiman Marcus for that matter. If we can see what’s poor about the way we are, we can see what would be enriching rather than impoverishing about change.

We’re Fucked

Filed under: Uncategorized — Alec @ 5:45 pm

Well, we’re fucked. Cowardice seems to be in the air. I just watched The Reader last night, which is a story about cowardice. And now Obama is showing himself to be a huge coward, fearful of being labeled soft on terror or some such thing. From Yahoo News:

War-weary Americans will support more fighting in Afghanistan once they understand the perils of losing, President Barack Obama declared Tuesday, announcing he was ready to spell out war plans virtually sure to include tens of thousands more U.S. troops.

Perils of losing? We sure as hell aren’t going to “win” because we don’t even know what winning means. Not only that but the Taliban will simply outwait us.

So Obama will pour a few more hundreds of billions of dollars down the drain while the U.S. continues to suffer.

Take a look at this little time-lapse display of unemployment figures over the last (almost) 3 years – bear in mind that the October figures are worse again. Press the Play button to see the colors change.

November 20, 2009

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Filed under: Life, Psychology — Alec @ 7:23 am

I’ve recently be learning about the stories we tell ourselves, and how we can throw away the stories that don’t work and create new stories that serve us better. As Srikumar Rao says, “What you don’t realize is that the life you are living is a reality. The mistake you are making is that you think it is the reality.”

Here’s a story:


Palin’s People

Filed under: God, Life, Republicans — Alec @ 6:27 am

The fascination with Sarah Palin is fascinating. On a superficial level she’s a phycially attractive woman that lots of male voters probably fantatize about having sex with. But on a deeper level the fascinating reality is that a woman so incoherent, so hypocritical, so lacking in knowledge about the world, and so lacking in curiousity to learn more can be a national phenomenon.


November 19, 2009

Economic Strategy: Then and Now

Filed under: Economics, Politics — Alec @ 6:42 am

I thought I list a couple of area from the article I mentioned yesterday (Why America Needs an Economic Strategy). Porter first describes some of the “unique competitive strengths” that have allowed the U.S. to prosper. He then describes what he sees as the current situation. I’ve chosen two items that particularly resonate with me, reordering the paragraphs to match items up.


November 18, 2009

An Economic Strategy

Filed under: Economics, Politics — Alec @ 10:15 pm

I’ve just read a great Business Week article called Why America Needs an Economic Strategy. It’s by Michael Porter, who leads the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard, and you would think that with a title like that, Porter believes we don’t have one. You’d be right.


November 9, 2009

The Licensing Effect and Climate Change

Filed under: Climate Change, Psychology — Alec @ 6:49 am

Have you ever heard of the Licensing Affect? Probably not, but here’s how a newspaper article describes it:

Researchers have found that, after doing something ethically sound, people are more – not less – likely to do something immoral, or even illegal.

The article is based on a 2006 study which shows that:

Most choices in the real world follow other choices or judgments. The authors show that a prior choice, which activates and boosts a positive self-concept, subsequently licenses the choice of a more self-indulgent option.


November 7, 2009

Belief: The Familiarity Effect

Filed under: The Brain — Alec @ 7:56 am

We tend to believe that what is familiar is good. From Kluge, page 48:

Another study, replicated in at least 12 different languages, showed that people have a surprising attachment to the letters found in their own names, preferring words that contain those letters to words that don’t.


November 5, 2009

Belief: Anchoring

Filed under: The Brain — Alec @ 8:39 am

Try this:

Add 400 to the last three digits of your cell phone number. When you are done, answer the following question: in what year did Attila the Hun’s rampage through Europe finally come to an end?


November 4, 2009

Carnage Often Ensues

Filed under: Life, Psychology, The Brain — Alec @ 8:38 am

Have you ever been in a situation where you or someone else seems to behave completely irrationally, making mountains out of molehills, logic and facts thrown to the winds? Sorry, of course you would never behave like this, but perhaps someone you know? Or if not, you only have to look at the political scene to see lots of such behavior. Here’s Kluge, page 156.

What occasionally allows normal people to spiral out of control is a witch’s brew of cognitive kluges: (1) the clumsy apparatus of self-control (which in the heat of the moment all too often gives the upper hand to our reflexive system); (2) the lunacy of confirmation bial (which convinces us that we are always right, or nearly so); (3) its evil twin, motivated reasoning (which leads us to protect our beliefs, even those beliefs that are dubious); and (4) the contextually driven nature of memory (such that when we’re angry at someone, we tend to remember other things about them that have made us angry in the past). In short, this leaves “hot” systems dominating cool reason; carnage often ensues.

November 3, 2009

Fear of Death?

Filed under: Climate Change, Psychology — Alec @ 12:30 pm

Most people don’t want to die. Although they don’t mind so much if other people die, as long as they are “other“. We’ll spend trillions to prevent another terrorist attack, but have no problem killing the millions we have killed in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. And we don’t mind that we’ve needlessly sent many more of our youth to their death than were killed in the 9/11 attack, because they volunteered, so that’s okay.

But that’s not my point here.


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