In Japan, you can pay an actor to impersonate your relative, spouse, coworker, or any kind of acquaintance:
Morin: When you’re working, is it purely acting, or do the feelings ever become real?
Yuichi: It’s a business. I’m not going to be her father for 24 hours. It’s a set time. When I am acting with her, I don’t really feel that I love her, but when the session is over and I have to go, I do feel a little sad. The kids cry sometimes. They say, “Why do you have to leave?” In those instances, I feel very sorry that I’m faking it—very guilty. There are times, when I’m done with the work and I come back home, where I sit and watch TV. I find myself wondering, “Is this, now, the real me, or the actor?”
Morin: How do you answer that question?
Yuichi: I don’t think I have an answer. The person that used to be me—is he me now? I know that it’s common for actors to feel that way. If you’re a really good actor—if you’re in it all the time—it feels very unsettling.
The Japanese continue to operate on a completely different level than the rest of the planet.
See Also: Making Friends Over 30
The production effect is the memory advantage of saying words aloud over simply reading them silently. It has been hypothesised that this advantage stems from production featuring distinctive information that stands out at study relative to reading silently. MacLeod (2011) (I said, you said: The production effect gets personal. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 18, 1197–1202. doi:10.3758/s13423-011-0168-8) found superior memory for reading aloud oneself vs. hearing another person read aloud, which suggests that motor information (speaking), self-referential information (i.e., “I said it”), or both contribute to the production effect. In the present experiment, we dissociated the influence on memory of these two components by including a study condition in which participants heard themselves read words aloud (recorded earlier) – a first for production effect research – along with the more typical study conditions of reading aloud, hearing someone else speak, and reading silently. There was a gradient of memory across these four conditions, with hearing oneself lying between speaking and hearing someone else speak. These results imply that oral production is beneficial because it entails two distinctive components: a motor (speech) act and a unique, self-referential auditory input.
—Noah D. Forrin & Colin M. MacLeod, Memory (via Wired)
Back in September The Atlantic published a fascinating long-form article that I just got around to reading.
It’s titled, ‘How America Lost Its Mind‘, and it was adapted by a book written by Kurt Anderson:
America was created by true believers and passionate dreamers, and by hucksters and their suckers, which made America successful—but also by a people uniquely susceptible to fantasy, as epitomized by everything from Salem’s hunting witches to Joseph Smith’s creating Mormonism, from P. T. Barnum to speaking in tongues, from Hollywood to Scientology to conspiracy theories, from Walt Disney to Billy Graham to Ronald Reagan to Oprah Winfrey to Trump. In other words: Mix epic individualism with extreme religion; mix show business with everything else; let all that ferment for a few centuries; then run it through the anything-goes ’60s and the internet age. The result is the America we inhabit today, with reality and fantasy weirdly and dangerously blurred and commingled.
Then comes the Internet:
And there was also the internet, which eventually would have mooted the Fairness Doctrine anyhow. In 1994, the first modern spam message was sent, visible to everyone on Usenet: global alert for all: jesus is coming soon. Over the next year or two, the masses learned of the World Wide Web. The tinder had been gathered and stacked since the ’60s, and now the match was lit and thrown. After the ’60s and ’70s happened as they happened, the internet may have broken America’s dynamic balance between rational thinking and magical thinking for good.
And then we get to Trump:
Donald Trump is a grifter driven by resentment of the establishment. He doesn’t like experts, because they interfere with his right as an American to believe or pretend that fictions are facts, to feel the truth. He sees conspiracies everywhere. He exploited the myths of white racial victimhood. His case of what I call Kids R Us syndrome—spoiled, impulsive, moody, a 71-year-old brat—is acute.
Who knew we’d have to be so vigilant in our fight for truth and facts in 2017.
Over at The New York Times Alex Williams explores why it’s so hard to make friends over 30:
As people approach midlife, the days of youthful exploration, when life felt like one big blind date, are fading. Schedules compress, priorities change and people often become pickier in what they want in their friends.
No matter how many friends you make, a sense of fatalism can creep in: the period for making B.F.F.’s, the way you did in your teens or early 20s, is pretty much over. It’s time to resign yourself to situational friends: K.O.F.’s (kind of friends) — for now.
But often, people realize how much they have neglected to restock their pool of friends only when they encounter a big life event, like a move, say, or a divorce.
I’m keenly aware of this problem as a 40-year-old dude.
My wife is initially surprised how dismissive I am of the boyfriends and husbands of her friends and co-workers. Then I explain to her that if the guy in question is cool, I’ll make a few concerted efforts at reaching out to them (grab a drink, hit a concert, meet my other friends) but I’m usually met either with radio silence or reasons they can’t hang out. At this point I write them off.
If I run into them again I’ll usually replace my previously genuine conversating with vapid smalltalk. If they’re not making an effort, why should I?
Samantha Irby on complaining:
Complaining is like spreading lotion on dry skin, and 2017 has been the ashiest year in recent memory. There is more than ever to complain about and also more reason than ever to believe your complaints might actually do something.
Resist the urge to unload your economic anxieties on the dry cleaner and instead make a video about it or write one of those long statuses everyone is just going to scroll past anyway. Then, when you’re all wrung out, when you feel that you don’t have a single complaint left, dredge up a few more and call your member of Congress. That way you can at least try to turn your seething rage into affordable health care.
I am so fucking sick of hearing people complain. In my office, by my unofficial count, the people I work with spend 99% of their time complaining about something (I’m confident I’d find the same percentage in every workplace).
But it’s not just people at work, it’s everyone. I’ve unfollowed people on Twitter and cut back on how frequently I use the service because, as Irby points out, “2017 has been the ashiest year in recent memory.”
A few years ago I made a quote by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem my mantra: The best way to complain is to make things.
We don’t all have the luxury of being a paid to complain like Bill Burr, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have the power within you to transform a complaint into something else.
You might be saying to yourself, “But Mike, you’re complaining right now,” and you’d be wrong. This is a blog post built from complaints that were floating around in my brain. It might not be a music, or a New Yorker cartoon, but it’s no longer a complaint.
You actively sought out my silly little website and chose to read this blog post.
“A study found that on Twitter, the left and right are generally isolated from each other, with retweets rarely leaving each group’s bubble.”
Your Brain on Fiction:
The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated. Keith Oatley, an emeritus professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto (and a published novelist), has proposed that reading produces a vivid simulation of reality, one that “runs on minds of readers just as computer simulations run on computers.” Fiction — with its redolent details, imaginative metaphors and attentive descriptions of people and their actions — offers an especially rich replica. Indeed, in one respect novels go beyond simulating reality to give readers an experience unavailable off the page: the opportunity to enter fully into other people’s thoughts and feelings.
I love reading but over years I haven’t been doing a great job at keeping my brain muscles in shape with books, so last year I started making concerted efforts to change that.
So far this year I’ve read 20 books and I use Goodreads to review and keep track of them all.
Alison Gopnik and Tom Griffiths on age and creativity:
Why does creativity generally tend to decline as we age? One reason may be that as we grow older, we know more. That’s mostly an advantage, of course. But it also may lead us to ignore evidence that contradicts what we already think. We become too set in our ways to change.
Relatedly, the explanation may have to do with a tension between two kinds of thinking: what computer scientists call exploration and exploitation. When we face a new problem, we adults usually exploit the knowledge about the world we have acquired so far. We try to quickly find a pretty good solution that is close to the solutions we already have. On the other hand, exploration — trying something new — may lead us to a more unusual idea, a less obvious solution, a new piece of knowledge. But it may also mean that we waste time considering crazy possibilities that will never work, something both preschoolers and teenagers have been known to do.
Note to self: more exploring what I don’t know, less exploiting what I do know.
I’m fascinated by all the events that have thus far led up to the Conor McGregor v. Floyd Mayweather fight happening this weekend. I’ll also say up front I’m a Conor McGregor fan. He has been discounted before most of his fights, only to prove the naysayers wrong and beat his opponents. The obvious exception to this was his first fight with Nate Diaz where he lost to a brutal rear naked choke.
I like Conor because he talks the talk in a big way, but he walks the walk too. But back to talking the talk. A lot of people like to write off the trash-talking and mind games as “just words” and “trivial”, but the truth is Conor is proving himself to be a master at getting inside his apponents’ heads and breaking them before the fight has even started.
The other night when I was binge-watching Conor McGregor videos on Youtube, as I’ve been doing for the last few months, I came across a great series breaking down the behavioral psychology and body language between Conor and Floyd Mayweather during their promotional world tour last month.
The videos are by ‘Alpaca Thesaurus’ and narrated by Courvoisier the Goddamn Newt (wtf, I know).
My favorite video thus far breaks down the Toronto leg of the tour, where Floyd displays submissive posturing at least 5 times on stage in front of Conor.
Does all the submission body language Floyd exhibits mean he’s going to lose the fight on Saturday? Absolutely not, but once you see all the ‘tells’ and unconscious gestures Courvoisier points out you can’t unsee them and they are real.
We tend to forget below all the higher cognitive functions and logic we humans are primal, tribal, and emotional animals.
Eugene Wei explains the recent scandals in the news — Silicon Valley sexual harassment incidents, Bill Cobsy rape charges, everything Donald Trump does — in the context of common knowledge and “distributed truth”:
We need look no further than the highest office in the land to see that common knowledge often isn’t enough. When the audio of Billy Bush and Donald Trump laughing it up on the bus broke, I thought for sure that would be the incident to sink him. For once, Trump had been caught on tape, when the press and public weren’t in the room to serve as an explicit audience. The tape could be entered into evidence as common knowledge for the public. Then there was video of Trump mocking a disabled reporter.
And on and on and on. Trump has laid so much rope by which the public could have hung him that his feet ended up back on the ground. He is the troll who thumbs his nose at the two intellectually neutered political parties, realizing they have neither the will nor the ideas to do anything as he and his family laugh their way to the bank. In literature, the court jester is often the wisest fool in the room, but sometimes an idiot is just an idiot. If the gloves do not fit, you must acquit. Who will ever forget? What’s depressing about Trump is how he seems to be an exemplar of the variant: the gloves do fit, but you can’t do shit.
It’s easy to feel helpless when we see the ugly truth exposed on a person as bad as Donald Trump and then watch him walk away without punishment.
Luckily Wei shows us justice is possible (although not guaranteed). It just requires a lot of resilience and courage.
The first sentence of the first paragraph from the front page of the Sunday New York Times:
Men and women still don’t seem to have figured out how to work or socialize together.
Hey! We’re humans. Animals pretending to be professionals. We fancy ourselves logical beings not affected by our hormones and emotions.
The front page story continues:
For many, according to a new Morning Consult poll conducted for The New York Times, it is better simply to avoid each other.
Many men and women are wary of a range of one-on-one situations, the poll found. Around a quarter think private work meetings with colleagues of the opposite sex are inappropriate. Nearly two-thirds say people should take extra caution around members of the opposite sex at work. A majority of women, and nearly half of men, say it’s unacceptable to have dinner or drinks alone with someone of the opposite sex other than their spouse.
The Times also published a story a few days ago on women in tech on the culture of harassment in the Silicon Valley tech world.
I currently work in Sunnyvale, but I lived and worked in Manhattan for 10 years, so the bro culture out here on the west coast is still kind of new to me.
Are guys in Silicon Valley not masturbating enough? What the fuck is wrong guys out here?
Over at The New Yorker, Ferris Jabr explains why walking helps us think:
Because we don’t have to devote much conscious effort to the act of walking, our attention is free to wander—to overlay the world before us with a parade of images from the mind’s theatre. This is precisely the kind of mental state that studies have linked to innovative ideas and strokes of insight. Earlier this year, Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz of Stanford published what is likely the first set of studies that directly measure the way walking changes creativity in the moment. They got the idea for the studies while on a walk. “My doctoral advisor had the habit of going for walks with his students to brainstorm,” Oppezzo says of Schwartz. “One day we got kind of meta.”
As a former New Yorker, I walked everywhere for photo-shooting, idea generation, and because sometimes it’s the easiest way to get to where you’re going.
The New York Times has a fascinating look into all the psychological tricks Uber (and Lyft) uses to get drivers to to keep driving:
Uber even published a study last year, using its vast pile of data on drivers’ rides and hours, finding that a “substantial, although not most, fraction of partners” practice an extreme form of income targeting when they start on the platform, though they abandon it as they gain more experience. Strict income targeting is highly inefficient because it leads drivers to work long hours on days when business is slow and their hourly take is low, and to knock off early on days when business is brisk.
The beauty of the messages that Uber sent Mr. Streeter and his fellow drivers is that the drivers need not have even had a specific income goal in mind in order for the messages to work. Some of the most addictive games ever made, like the 1980s and ’90s hit Tetris, rely on a feeling of progress toward a goal that is always just beyond the player’s grasp. As the psychologist Adam Alter writes in his book “Irresistible,” video game designers even have a name for this mental state: the “ludic loop.”
Uber, for its part, appears to be aware of the ludic loop. In its messages to drivers, it included a graphic of an engine gauge with a needle that came tantalizingly close to, but was still short of, a dollar sign.
And the ludic loop is far from the only video game feature that Uber has adapted as a way of keeping drivers on the road.
If taken in isolation, this article isn’t all that crazy, but it’s part of a bigger picture revealing a company whose executives visit karaoke-escort bars in Korea, evades law enforcement with their technology, has a hostile, sexist work environment filed with sexual harassment cases, and give the actual drivers rather shitty compensation considering they’re valued at over 60 billion dollars.
The ultimate goal of a corporation is 100% efficiency and after reading this piece, it’s clear humans are but a stopgap solution until robots start driving (and doing everything else).
Trump’s Method, Our Madness:
Freud distinguished between neurosis and psychosis by arguing that while the former is psychically localized, the latter is relatively global. In neurosis, individuals break with a portion of reality that they find intolerable. As a result, their overall relation to reality remains more or less intact, but becomes impaired in one aspect of their personality.
In contrast, because psychotic individuals tend to find reality as a whole too painful to bear, they break with it globally, and construct an alternative, delusional, “magical” reality of their own. This alternate relation to reality, manifesting itself in the initial meetings with the patient, is at the root of the clinician’s confusion.
Now many of us throughout American society at large, after an interminable electoral campaign and transitional phase into the presidency of Donald J. Trump, have experienced a form of disorientation and anxiety that bears a striking resemblance to the clinical situation I have described. And recent events indicate that this feeling is not going to abate any time soon.
I’m tired of talking about Trump, but it’s important we stay focused, not get normalized to his crazy behavior, and continue to call him out on his bullshit.