OKCupid

OKstupid

If OKCupid was a party, you would walk up to a girl you thought was interesting, she would start talking to you…

  • say “just a second”, 
  • look at her phone, 
  • scowl, 
  • scroll, scroll, scroll,
  • put her phone away,
  • then walk off like you no longer existed.

What used to be a very cool free dating site

What is there to say about this?

I’ve had an account for a very long time. It used to be that you could get points for having people who knew you give you awards and let others know that you weren’t a fake account.

This is me.
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Stop relying on your feelings to tell you what’s right

Reason and Feelings

People rely on feelings to guide their actions. In the world in which man evolved, this was necessary for survival. In fact, before we evolved higher brain functions, feelings were all we had. Here’s the bad news, relying on your feelings will not, in general, make your life or anyone else’s life better. The only thing that will likely make things better is evidence-based reasoning.

In the book Against Empathy, Paul Bloom discusses how feelings lead us to incorrect conclusions. Very often, people will do things not to make things better. Rather, they do things to feel they are making things better. It is this feeling that people seek. If confronted with facts that show that they may have done no good and likely have caused harm, individuals will often go to great lengths to invalidate facts that run contrary to things they feel are true.

Humans act to obtain perceived value. Often, this value is increased comfort. However, quite frequently, the value is that they are giving up comfort to achieve a noble goal. It’s important to understand what I mean by increased comfort and value. Paul Bloom speaks about value in The Origins of Pleasure TED Talk.

Just because something is obvious does not make it true

Plato believed that anything could be puzzled out through pure reasoning. The problem with this notion is that it is based on the idea that you have a reliable premise and data to start with. As it happens this is often not the case.

Aristotle stated that the speed at which a thing would fall would be proportional to its mass. This assertion was not questioned until Galileo refuted it in the 1500s. We don’t know if he actually dropped two balls off the Leaning Tower of Pisa we do, however, know he was right. The point being, it was so very obvious to everyone that what Aristotle said was true that no one bothered to even question it let alone test it. Unfortunately for Galileo, people really dislike having ideas they know are true, questioned. As a result, he was imprisoned.

Still, to this day, people continue to assert their deeply held beliefs are true. This despite thousands of years of evidence that often deeply held beliefs are not. People will cite the flimsiest of evidence and ignore more concrete evidence if contrary to their notions. The need for individuals to feel right creates a sort of cognitive dissonance with evidence to the contrary. Given the choice between two mutually exclusive notions, people will often choose the one that presents them with the most positive feelings rather than the one that makes the most rational sense.

Examine the evidence

People make all sorts of assertions without evidence. Policy and lawmaking are near the top. People make all sorts of assumptions about policies that are ineffective and often harmful. Most law and policy-making is based on feelings and very little is based on the scientific method. To be clear, the scientific method is performed using a series of steps:

  1. Form a hypothesis
    A supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.
  2. Form a theory
    a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.
  3. Test your theory in order to determine its validity
    Tests are implemented, controlled groups are implemented, peer-reviewed, are the results published

This is where people really fall down. There is in fact very little incentive to do things in an effective way.


About the featured image:
Galileo Galilei gazing at the wall of his prison cell
Portrait, attributed to Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, of Galileo Galilei gazing at the wall of his prison cell, on which are scratched the words “E pur si muove” (not legible in this image).

Trusting the media to report a story accurately is just stupid

Media,
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing

Once upon a time, there were relatively few, large, news organizations that served the public at large. The majority of these organizations traded on appealing to a broad audience and eliciting trust in their audience. Now we live in a world where the primary job of a news organization is to sensationalize stories in order to make them more sellable. There is a natural inclination on people’s part not to feel this is the case because it is uncomfortable to believe that you are drinking from a poison well when the water tastes so good.

How?

When we look at the media and observe how they manipulate the truth to elicit an emotional response from their audience, we see they consistently use certain tactics to mislead them. Tactics such as outright lies may constitute libel or slander when used to malign a person or set of people. Lies can be used. However, more typically in circumstances where the victim isn’t in a position to prosecute a case against the offending agency. Other tactics that avoid outright lies are manifold:

  • Lack of proper context
    People assume reasonable context. However, one can report a thing, removed from context, whose meaning is entirely different or totally opposite from the meaning in context. e.g. “I never said ‘Mr. Smith is a mind control robot from the planet Mars.'”. It could then be reported as Mr. Jones said quote “… Mr. Smith is a mind control robot from the planet Mars.”.
  • Reporting on reporting
    There is zero need to quote credible sources when using this tactic. This creates the illusion of credible reporting. When consuming news, listen for the special words used to remove all need for accuracy. Typically phrases like ‘Witness report…’ or simply ‘Sources have reported…’
    e.g. Sources have reported that Mr. Smith is a mind control robot from the planet Mars.
  • Cherry picking
    This is the tactic of selectively reporting only those facts that support the narrative you wish to present and can be used in a number of different ways. The simplest way is just to tell a one-sided story. The more insidious is use cherry picking to give a totally false impression.
    e.g. A public figure acts like a jackass. He does this numerous times. This behavior is then reported when engaging a minority. Suddenly this person is a ____ist who picks on ____s. Nope. Still, just a jackass who is a jackass to everyone.
  • Manipulative descriptions
    This is the art of describing things in a way that leaves a specific impression that is typically unbalanced and manipulates the reader into a mental image divorced from the facts. Select, descriptive, terms give a particular impression in order to bias the audience.
  • Selective profiling
    This is when stories are only reported when specific groups are involved in specific ways. Stories emphasize that group’s involvement. Stories become big news. These would be virtually ignored were the gender, ethnicity, orientation, etc. of the parties involved different.
    e.g. Extremists repeatedly attack schools giving a western style education each time they murder the boys and let the girls go. The story gains traction when the extremists kidnap the girls. Murdered Boyare described as “students”; Kidnapped girls as “girls”.

Why?

Newsworthiness

The interesting thing about newsworthiness is the property that makes any story newsworthy. In short, what makes a story newsworthy is its ability to make the reporting agency money. This is the whole long and short of it.

Adjectives used to describe the ability of a story to make money are things like compelling, exciting, horrifying, tragic, frightening, outrageous, riveting, etc. These words all have one thing in common, they describe eliciting intense human emotion. Terms not used to describe newsworthy stories: thoughtful, informative, balanced, even-handed, fair, well researched, competent, etc. The reason is those things don’t create an emotional need to consume more.

Self-righteous bias

People love to feel they are doing God’s work. Whatever that god may be. Often it’s the god of moral righteousness. Forever there are people who feel they need to show the evils of the world and reveal them for all to see. The only real way to do that is to make the news more exciting. All the while they feel they are doing the right thing. Sure maybe the story they are reporting will mislead people, but in the end, it will be a good thing. This is because they, the good-hearted reporter, have raised awareness. Is it important that they have distorted the facts to do this? No. After all, facts only get in the way of the greater truth that will bring about a better world.

Only we, the virtuous, may judge others correctly

Here, let me cast the first stone

The days of live and let live are dead. We occupy an era of in-groups and out-groups. People elevate themselves by espousing those things they see as virtues and condemning those who do not share those virtues. Each and every virtue filled person is their own Templar on a crusade to rid their own personal Holyland of the heathen unbeliever, polluting its purity. Isn’t it too bad that you are a Saracen dog only fit for the sword?

Self-esteem here I come

No matter how crazy one’s ideas, somewhere there is a group to tell them ‘you are right and everyone else is wrong’. Isn’t it great that if you believe an evil government conspiracy framed some gay/infidel/feminism loving Muslims as having hijacked chemtrail spreading planes, running them into the twin towers which were all set up to be collapsed by explosives set on every floor by invisible government agents able to walk through walls on this flat Earth whose true shape is hidden from us by a vast NASA conspiracy, that somewhere there is a support group to tell you that you are a genius for having figured all that out?

Be all you can…
Be whatever your peer group says is cool!

You don’t need to feel compelled to accomplish anything. Go scream at people you don’t like and call them evil. Shout them down, make them afraid, throw paint on them, pepper spray them, censor them, lie about them, belittle them, call them names. Remember, your moral superiority makes all this okay when you do it, in exactly the same way it made others evil when they do it. The ends justify the means because your cause is just and right. What’s really important is that you feel good at the end of the day. Dress up in your colors and join the others. Feel the rush as do what you do. Shout the party slogans. Join the crowd, Take action. Make your contribution, shouting, throwing, intimidating. You are brave. More importantly, everyone saw you.

Making the world a worse place,
one tantrum at a time

People are constantly telling themselves that if they pick out some group, make them their political enemy, shout them down, and call them names, that they are making the world a better place. As it happens this is not the case. What is really happening is those people are creating artificial conflict, a conflict they can win. They win because they write the rules for the conflict and set the conditions for winning. The real horror show here is that even when someone is hurt or killed it’s a win.

Finally, if the past 20 years has taught us anything it’s that conflict radicalizes fringe groups and makes them more popular for disaffected youth. There is a fine line between fighting a bully and being a bully telling yourself you are fighting a bully.

 

Words, for better or for worse

Words, do they mean things?

What is with people who take words, that are clearly defined, and then misuse them by attaching their own definition? The purpose of language is to communicate concepts between two or more people. Those people don’t necessarily know what the other is thinking. Bear in mind, words are the building blocks of all language and are defined. They are defined so that when used, those words have meaning, and that meaning is clear.

The great no no

You can’t use the sentence “I was committed.” to mean something it doesn’t. That sentence does not mean, for example, I had a great deal of enthusiasm for it, at the time (“it” being the thing you were allegedly committed to). The reason is “committed” is generally defined as a word meaning a determination to take an action. If you have left the possibility of changing your mind open, you literally haven’t committed to anything. This makes the above statement a lie of sloppy language. At best you’re only kinda committed, or committed on a conditional basis.

Conditional statements masquerading as commitments

As stated in the above case, conditional commitment is not commitment at all. Under those circumstances, a person is essentially saying ‘I am committed to action X as long as all the conditions for me wanting to take action X remain. Else, I will take action Y.’.

The answer

Finally, the why of it. People make these sorts of statements for the purpose of making themselves seem like better people. No one would think you a good person for saying. ‘I’m gonna do what I want when I want and how I want.’ Where is the nobility in that? Instead, they make it seem as though they were committed and then something outside their control changed that. Really, the truth is, they changed their mind and don’t want to own up to it.

Coping with being a high functioning person on the Autism spectrum

Life is not a bowl of cherries,
but sometimes it is the pits

Sometimes being an intelligent and fairly functional person on the autism spectrum is not an altogether pleasant experience. The problems that have plagued me throughout my life seem to spring out of a misunderstanding of my limitations; what they are, and how they affect my life. One of the real difficulties is dealing with people who think there is nothing wrong with me. Another is dealing with the few who over estimate my disability. I want to be clear that people on the spectrum can be very different from one another. Your milage may vary.

At an early age I was diagnosed as hyperactive with a number of learning disabilities. These disabilities make it difficult for me to spell, do math, write, keep items in a particular order, keep track of time, etc. On the other hand my abilities to read, comprehend, extrapolate, problem solve, etc. have always been well above average. Less obvious, is how I deal with emotions. I am constantly stressed and find myself unable to cope with other people and their feelings. When bombarded with emotions I tend to become irrational, shut down completely and become violently opposed to people confronting me.

The result of my inability to cope with emotions is that I have become more and more inclined to be emotionally detached. You might imagine this to be a choice I have made, but I assure you it isn’t. Picture, if you will, if every time you did a particular thing you were then swatted on the back of the hand with a ruler. This is the essence of conditioning by negative reinforcement.  You might think that a person could make some sort of rational choice, however choices that repeatedly have painful negative consequences are ones that will eventually be rejected.  One has a very difficult time dealing with the fact that any real human attachment will result in unpleasantness, because the more attached you become the more pronounced and inescapable the effect. Furthermore, all these emotional confrontations have a cumulative effect. This results in an ever increasing inability to cope with placing yourself in situations where you will be forced to be emotionally vulnerable. On top of this, having to deal with the fact that you will need to endure this just to interact with other people (some of whom expect you to be emotional with them) becomes an emotional pressure in itself that you need to cope with. Right now as I type this I feel like my face is covered in poison ivy from the stress of just talking about this. Put these things together and the eventual result is thoughts you don’t want in your head in your head.

Dealing with others

Throughout my life people have done things in an attempt to deal with me, my personality, and my various cognitive challenges, such as:

Saying to me “I know you hate me”; I don’t know how anyone would think that saying this to someone would do anything but make a person feel shitty. Hating people is a waste of time. People are like anything else, they are either a benefit or a hazard if they are a hazard they are best avoided.,

Telling me that I need better self esteem and that the bad thoughts will go away if I just think better of myself; Wrong, I like myself. I don’t have a problem with myself. It is other people, in particular those with whom I would seek to feel a personal attachment who eventually see me as not worth the trouble. Due to my particular way of processing thoughts and feelings they will eventually conclude that I represent more of a hazard than a benefit (see above).,

Reciting “Just let it go”; How many times have I heard that one? Yes I would like to make it go away but you might as well tell me to flap my arms and fly. Letting go is not something I have ever been able to do. You may, for instance, believe that the ability to recognize people’s faces is something that anyone can do. It isn’t. It is an ability, contained in a specific area of the brain, if you don’t have access to this ability most people take for grated and just assume is a learned thing, you have to constantly work very hard to compensate.

This is why I so HATE the term ’emotional intelligence’ because it implies a condition of emotional stupidity. In the case of face blindness, one does not get mad when a person with this condition does not recognize you because the complex set of rules they use to identify you have broken down somewhere. It is however more difficult to give someone who is unable to empathize or relate to you on an emotional level the same sort of leeway.

You’re a monster

Constantly being made to feel that you deserve to feel you are a bad person because you don’t love someone and are not willing to lie to them and tell them you do, makes a person feel like less of a benefit and more of a hazard. This is the real rub here. It does not matter that you know you’re not a bad person. It’s the fact that people will inevitably come to the conclusion that you should feel like a bad person.

“There are special doctors who can help you”; Nope. Tens of thousands of dollars have been spent trying to adjust my brain and the reality is that I have long ago reached the point of diminishing returns. Hundreds of hours of therapy have, however, resulted in me having a strong aversion to therapy, mind altering drugs, etc. Telling me that you are willing to act as though you value my presence if I only but go to the special doctor who you are very sure can ‘fix’ me, is not doing me any favors. It’s simply not something I am willing to put myself through no matter how convinced you are by all the podcasts you’ve heard that I can be cured. For me it fails the cost benefit analysis.

Finally, having someone tell you how much they “love” you;
This is a particularly terrible thing for me because ‘love’ is held up to you as the sort of thing a ‘good’ person feels toward someone they value. Invariably the person telling you they “love” you thinks they are doing you a favour when in reality they are a constant reminder that you are broken and therefore not good. The other thing is that you know as much as they say they love you it won’t change a thing when they come to the conclusion that you are more of a hazard.

Out you go

I wrote this because I constantly feel trapped by my inability to really express to people what’s going on in my brain. I’m very stressed by the ever growing number of people who think ill of me because of something I have said or done or perhaps just because I have come off looking singular. Recently, someone I know and like has come out as being on the spectrum and I thought that perhaps I should too.

Why a recipe won’t teach you how to cook

You’re not as good as you think you are

If you spent 10 years soldering components to printed circuit boards how much closer to being able to design electronics would you be? The answer is ‘not very’. Following instructions does little to teach one how to design things. Nor does it teach you what the instructions do in the context of creating a thing you don’t really understand.

Most people who cook have almost no idea how very little they really know about cooking. For these people cooking becomes a matter of rote; following formulas to achieve results. Variations to this are achieved by happy accidents and blind experimentation.

If you want to teach someone to cook it is necessary to teach them to cook by ear, much in the same way a person might learn music by understanding scales, keys, etc. People read instructions off the Internet or out of a book the same way a musician might read sheet music. Reading notes on a page and playing the song accordingly is much like following a recipe. With a musical instrument, you have some luxury to experiment and find combinations of notes that go well together. With food, this is much more difficult due to the time and cost involved.

Improvising

In music, the ability to improvise is a key element to being a musician, as opposed to just being able to play an instrument. What makes improvisation possible is an understanding of musical theory; scales, notes, rhythm, arrangement, etc. In cooking the same sorts of theories apply. One must understand the interaction of fats, starches, sugar, protein, heat, cold, etc. Being able to play a set of songs note perfect does not make you a musician in exactly the way being able to follow a set of recipes does not make you a chef.

Learning how to cook

For musicians, sheet music is a tool, not a crutch. For a musician, sheet music gives him a means of playing and following along with others without knowing the song beforehand. Many musicians never even learn to read sheet music. Would you ask someone “How do even play guitar without sheet music?”? “I know how a guitar is played” is the answer. While this might seem painfully obvious many people ask “How do make a pie without a recipe?”. The answer is virtually the same; “I know how pies are made.”.

The steps

  • Step one:
    Accept that you don’t know how to cook. You don’t. Just accept that or you will never become good.
  • Step two:
    Stop cooking by rote. This is vitally important. It is essential to not only do the right things to achieve a result but to understand how and why those results are achieved.
  • Step three:
    Grasp the basics and work up. Understand the techniques employed in every aspect of the cooking process and how they are applied. i.e. If you do not understand what makes a good pie crust you will not be able to make a good pie despite knowing what makes a good pie filling.
  • Step four:
    Learn to think critically about preparing food. Everything you do must be looked at while asking the question what impact will what I am doing right now have on the taste, smell, appearance, texture and possibly sound of the finished product and is there a way to make what I am doing better.
  • Step five:
    Focus with artistic precision on the final product. Don’t dress up the simple in the clothes of the sophisticated. Simple is beautiful. Sophisticated and complex is beautiful. Bear this always in mind. Your ability to gild a lily will not make you a chef. Don’t do it.

Zen and the Art of Towel Folding

Elevate all actions to the sublime

If one seeks to achieve a sense of purpose in a purposeless universe one must elevate one’s self. To elevate the self, one must elevate the actions of the self. All human action is purposeful and directed toward an end. Do not strive toward that end with meekness but rather seek to become sublime through determined actions that are themselves sublime. Every action you take for the rest of your life, you will take only once. No two actions will ever be the same. Eliminate all drudgery from your life by making all actions the result of precise thought.

Sharpen your skills and mind as you would sharpen a tool

A workman is only as good as his tools. Don’t forget that skills and focus are tools you use to accomplish tasks. Apply effort to all you do. Adopt the habit of focusing on the task you are engaged in. Be critical of every action you take and seek to make every effort one that you can take pride in.

What is a towel? What is its nature?

Is a towel merely a scrap of cloth? No. A towel, like many things, is an item created by man for his use. A quality towel is the result of careful thought and design on someone’s part. Someone thought through every aspect of a towel’s construction and design. The pattern of the towel is the work of a dedicated designer. Nothing in the towel exists by happenstance.

Folding, why should you care?

There the towel sits waiting for use. The color, the texture, the design, all these things sit outside your control. All you control is the presentation. When a chef makes a great meal the presentation is not left to chance. Nor should the folding of towels be given any less care. Painting, sculpting, flower arranging, towel folding; All of these things are not simply chances to be adequate. Practice precision in presentation. Seek to fold the perfect towel as you would seek to draw the perfect heart.

How?

Examine the towel; its precise dimensions, proportions and orientations. Each towel has an inside, an outside and top and bottom. When the towel is folded will these things be oriented the same way or placed haphazardly, wherever? Careful thought should be employed. Fold a towel as you would fold a paper crane. Though you might fold a thousand paper cranes, striving toward perfection, no two will be the same. It is in the subtlety of their differences one from another we derive joy and in their sameness also. Consider carefully how will this towel come to the user’s hands. How will they unfold it? What hand will they use? How should should the towel look? Will the user experience pain of regret when destroying your work or will they experience indifference? Seek always to make art in action and in substance.