“the gloves do fit, but you can’t do shit”

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.

Humans, Still Animals

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?

Categories:

Career, Pyschology

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live!”

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.

Uber’s Psychological Tricks

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).

“the law of noncontradiction does not apply in his universe”

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.

Categories:

Pyschology, Tromp

Change comes from the outside.

Over at Mashable, Aaron Orendorff has a great piece on behavior economics, so he obviously talks about my favorite expert on the subject, Dan Ariely:

Not to be a killjoy, but as the Washington Post found, roughly 25% of New Year resolutions fall apart within the first two weeks. And even when it comes to our work — where money’s on the line — “70% of [management-led] transformation efforts fail.”

So what works?

“Change,” in Ariely’s words, “comes not from the inside, but the outside. If you want people to lose weight, give them a smaller plate. You have to change the environment.”

This is why free market capitalism can be so dangerous and detrimental. If you have zero intervention from the government and just let the market decide everything, you’re ensuring the rich get richer, or to use the example above, you’re encouraging people to eat as much as they can.

We need to establish a fair environment because we can’t be trusted to be fair on our own. Remember, we’re just monkeys with iPhones.

I just started Ariely’s newest book, Payoff, and it’s great.

My Dream From Last Night

Conor Mcgregor wanted to print up his own money for his next fight. He was looking for a volunteer to do it. I said I could do it, and suggested we print it up with the face of his opponent, not his face. I told him, “You don’t want to spend your own money, spend his.” He looked around at his camp and asked who the fuck I was. I calmly sat down next to him and said, “I’m Mike Mulvey.”

He told everyone they had to get up and train with him at 6 AM every day. He said he understood that it wasn’t for everyone but they would become better people for it.

Categories:

Pyschology

The GIF Survey

Fucking genius survey conducted by the godfather of CSS, Eric Meyer:

The GIF Survey is complete. In just under a week, 1,457 people gave their answers on how they pronounce the acronym, and their perceptions of the rightness of that pronunciation. I thought that, today of all days, it made some sense to share the results of a far less momentous poll.

For those who missed, it, how this survey worked was that the first question was: “How do you pronounce GIF?” To this, the choices were:

  • The obviously correct way
  • The clearly incorrect way

Upon answering this, respondents moved on to a section that asked three optional demographic questions: age, gender, and race/ethnicity, all as open text fields. These had about a 16% skip rate, and about a 4% ‘faithless’ response rate; that is, answers that were clearly jokes, insults, or other explicit refusals to answer the question as intended.

Once the demographic questions were answered or skipped, there was a final question: “How do you pronounce GIF?”, exactly the same as the first question of the survey. Only this time, the options were:

  • Hard G (like “gift”)
  • Soft G (like “gin”)

For both pronunciation questions, the answer order was randomized so as to avoid any first-choice advantage. The demographic questions, being open entries, didn’t have options to randomize.

Spoiler: The obviously correct way to pronounce ‘GIF’ is with a Hard G.

Case closed, softies.

It might make you Limp-G people sleep better at night if you think of yourselves as ‘underdogs’, but deep down, you know you’re wrong.

Categories:

Community, Pyschology

Walking and Our Minds

Over at CNN Money, Matt McFarland looks into the the benefits of taking walks and why so many top execs take them:

Marc Berman, a University of Chicago psychology professor, has found that walking in nature can improve what’s called directed attention, when we force ourselves to focus on a task. With the other type of attention, involuntary attention, our interest is naturally captured and held, such as by a sunset.

“You don’t hear people say ‘Wow I’m so exhausted looking at that beautiful waterfall,'” Berman told CNNMoney.

When we’re in nature, our directed attention isn’t lost on distractions. You don’t waste brainpower focusing on the conference room you’re in, your chirping cell phone, or making sure a car won’t hit you. We only have so much attention to use, so saving every bit is an advantage.

I take walks all the time. I suppose the habit began during the 10 years I lived in Manhattan. When you live in New York you do a lot of walking. I walked everywhere and for different reasons. Sometimes I walked to clear my head, sometimes to take pictures, and sometimes just because the weather was nice.

I recommend everybody pick up this habit. There are no downsides, just don’t fall down a hole or get hit by a car.

Categories:

Pyschology

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Errors, Snap Judgements, and Manufactured Outrage

Last week, on August 26th, Facebook announced they were automating their Trending feature and phasing out the people who previously wrote the descriptions for the trending news items.

Then, earlier this week, things started getting screwy:

First, there were the hilarious mix-ups. Yesterday a video of a dog reacting to seeing its owner for the first time in two years went viral. The top headline, from something called iHeartViral.com, told people they just had to watch it. And yet the Trending Topics module put the video under the headline Watch Dogs 2 — an upcoming video game about hacking and cybersecurity.

Yesterday, a more serious error occurred: a fake news story about Fox News commentator Megyn Kelly’s supposed secret affinity for Hillary Clinton blew up on Facebook, landing it on top of the Trending list. Not only did the engineers (or algorithms) responsible for Trending fail to realize the story was false — it came from a partisan libertarian source called End the Fed — but Facebook also left it in the Trending module for hours to collect likes and comments. All the while, the company unwittingly gave enormous exposure to a damaging piece of false information.

Oops. Looks like those algorithms need some fine-tuning, right? That’s not how The Verge framed the problem in their headline the above quote is from. Their headline is, “Facebook’s editorial purge has completely backfired”.

Wow. Ok. That’s another way of looking at things, but I think this is part of a bigger problem in our modern world: immediate reactions without contemplation. Online services like Twitter and Facebook have helped expedite and amplify snap decisions. Many people would rather be first and wrong in 140 characters than last and well-read in 800 words.

I think the Facebook Trending bump — and that is all is truly is, a tiny, fucking bump — is something we’re all going to forget about in 4 days when the next thing to get outraged over happens.

This brings me to the other problem in our modern world: manufactured outrage. The term has been around at least since 2012, but I first started hearing it used regularly this year on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast. Right now the big one is Colin Kapernick sitting down during the National Anthem. The correct response to this bullshit is “who gives a fuck?” But news sites and idiots in my Facebook feed are fueling the fire and making this trivial event into a story. It’s not.

You can’t have an informed opinion about something if you don’t have information about that something (see that word “informed” that comes before “opinion”?).

We have an ever-increasing number of world events thrown in our faces every second of every day of every year, but our time is still finite, so we need to be very careful what we choose to focus our attention, time, and energy on.

Has Facebook’s replacement of people with algorithms “completely backfired”? I have no fucking idea, and neither does anyone else. It’s hasn’t even been a week.

Give it some time. I swear everything will be ok.

Narcissistic Injury

Josh Marshall, the editor and publisher of Talking Points Memo, posted a great series of tweets delving into the mind of Donald Trump and what he could be expected to do if he faces defeat this fall.

What a crazy year 2016 is turning out to be.

Categories:

Politics, Pyschology

“Sitting around waiting for an idea is the worst thing you can do. All ideas come out of the work itself.”

That title is a quote from a great profile over at The New York Times by Wil S. Hylton on one of my favorite artists of all time, Chuck Close. It’s titled, The Mysterious Metamorphosis of Chuck Close:

he has recently set about leaving much of his old life behind: filing for divorce from his wife, Leslie, after 43 years of marriage, disappearing for the winter to live virtually alone in a new apartment on Miami Beach and retreating from his summer friends to the crowded isolation of Long Beach.

His painting style has dramatically changed too:

It’s difficult to know how to describe that painting, or the series of new work it was part of, except to say that it was a radical departure from the last 20 years of his art. Gone were all the swoops and swirls that he typically paints into each square of the grid. In their place, he had filled each cell with just one or two predominant colors, creating a clunky digital effect like the graphics of a Commodore 64. The colors themselves were harsh and glaring, blinding pink and gleaming blue, while the face in the portrait — his face — was cleaved right down the middle, with one side of the canvas painted in different shades from the other. To the left, his skin was peach, his shirt deep red and the background mint green; to the right, his skin was pink, his shirt sapphire and the backdrop orange. There was a sea-green splotch hovering over his neck, with a long tail that poked into his nose, and one ear was radioactive yellow; the nose was honking blue.

The dude is getting old. Cut him some slack. The systems inside his body are shutting down, possibly including his brain. It’s called aging. To Close’s defense, “blinding pink and gleaming blue” sound like the colors he would see around him in Miami Beach.

This bit about Jeff Koons resonated with me:

In Long Beach, exile had the sound of summer, and I spent a few more days with Close, watching the tides roll out. We would sit at the long table on the middle floor, eating Indian takeout and discussing the commercial compromise made by artists who rely on assistants to make their work. “I look at my friend Jeff Koons, and I think, Why in God’s name does he want to do that?” Close said. “Why would he give up the fun part to become the C.E.O. of an art-­manufacturing company?”

Seriously. Why would you give up the fun part? If I had to guess, I’d say Koons is more interested in being a businessman than being an artist.

The transformation in Close’s work reminds me of what happened to Willem De Kooning towards the end of his life. His works became more and more minimal to the point where they were barely recognizable as De Kooning paintings. There are allegations of De Kooning’s assistants taking away canvases when they considered them finished.

After reading the Close profile, Austin Kleon wondered how you tell the difference between symptoms of art-making and dementia. Great question. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

I’ll say this: even if Close is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia, his work is still incredible. This isn’t a case where a once brilliant painter has forgotten his process and lost his craft and is finger painting (although Close could probably do a mean finger painting).

(Fifty-cent word from the Close profile: uroboric)

Categories:

Art, Pyschology

Clear Your Mind

Over at The New York Times, Moshe Bar on the benefits of a clear mind:

Recently, I discovered how much we overlook, not just about the world, but also about the full potential of our inner life, when our mind is cluttered. In a study published in this month’s Psychological Science, the graduate student Shira Baror and I demonstrate that the capacity for original and creative thinking is markedly stymied by stray thoughts, obsessive ruminations and other forms of “mental load.” Many psychologists assume that the mind, left to its own devices, is inclined to follow a well-worn path of familiar associations. But our findings suggest that innovative thinking, not routine ideation, is our default cognitive mode when our minds are clear.

I always love the stories about how Steve Jobs would go on walks a lot, either to negotiate deals with other people or just by himself.

I do it a lot myself here in San Francisco, but I think the habit got formed in my 10+ years living in Manhattan because in New York, you have to walk everywhere (why wouldn’t you want to?).

It’s amazing the ideas that pop in my head when I’m walking. If you don’t do it, you should give it a try.

Categories:

Pyschology