“Well, we have to measure something.”, And the perils of metrics.

“What gets measured, gets managed,”

Peter Drucker famously said.

The sentiment makes sense. If we are not looking at a compass, how can we know if we are going in the right direction? How can we keep ourselves honest, and how can we course-correct?

Thanks to the culture of metrics, in 2019 Amazon has surpassed Apple as the most valuable company on the face of the planet.
Indeed, what gets measured, gets managed, but at the expense of everything else. Less famously, Drucker said

Working on the right things is what makes knowledge work effective. This is not capable of being measured by any of the yardsticks for manual work.

It is very human to want a put significant round number, so we can judge it’s value. We like explicit situations, and a moral gray area is always unwelcome. Your score is 73rd percentile, and eating meat on a Friday is a sin. At least that is clear.

But life is more complicated and nuanced. It is somehow tough to measure the desired outcome accurately. So we defer to measuring the closest thing that is easy to gauge. Can’t hurt, right? At least we’re in the ballpark.

Well, it can.

In 1956 V. F. Ridgway has pioneered an area called “Dysfunctional Consequences of Performance Measurements.” In the first study of such kind (and the one that gave the name to the whole genre), a systematic analysis of the quantitative measurements in the governmental sector and found multiple examples of it going terribly wrong.

(Quantitative is a fancy term for something that has a number.)

“Indiscriminate use ( of quantitative measures) may result in side effects and reactions outweighing the benefits.”

It boils down to the fact that unlike scientifical phenomena, organizations, markets, and people are really complex. By creating simplistic representations, we leave uncomfortable stuff out, ending up with a perfect model for a world that does not exist. We develop synthetic metrics to gauge “the best we can” and start to measure the progress against that number.

As phrased in “Goodhart’s law“, once you make that artificial number your target, it stops being a useful metric. Everybody in the organization will now realign their priorities in order to “bump” the number. With no regard to how that translates into the bottom line.

  • As pictured by sketchplanations above, as a nail-making company, you want to make a lot of customers happy with your nails (a noble cause indeed). But if you are sloppy with your metric-choosing, you can get the opposite effect,
  • Let’s imagine you are trying to measure the output of support employees. If you make them answer the most support tickets, they will try to hit that number at the expense of actually helping the customer, or even worse – making the customer come back a few times with the same problem.
  • If you’re a private doctor trying to avoid lawsuits (like in the USA), you will order unnecessary expensive tests to ensure legal defense. Conversely, when incentivized to curb spending (like in Poland), you will try to guess the diagnosis to avoid costly tests.

Jerry Muller, the author of “The Tyranny of Metrics,” coined the term Metrics Fixation, which is where you replace judgment with numeric indicators.

The most characteristic feature of metric fixation is the aspiration to replace judgment based on experience with standardized measurement.

Jerry Muller

In a frantic search for performance metrics, we often grab the number that is easiest to gauge, ignoring that “Not everything that matters is measurable and not everything that’s measurable matters” (Jerry Muller).

Metrics fixation not only punishes the organization by delivering unexpected outcomes and lower performance. I would argue that it is one of the most significant risks the modern world faces today.

Broad societal problems with metrics.

1. The educational system.

Photo by Feliphe Schiarolli on Unsplash

Public Education is, of course, a lofty goal and a massive achievement of our civilization. It is intended to teach young people a habit of life-long learning, open their minds, and realize their full potential. But the education system has a metric: grades.

The entire school experience is designed to be measurable, controlled, and spoon-fed. You cannot take a long time getting to know algebra because it would be unfair to your fellow test-takers. You cannot skip ahead because the class is not moving at your pace. And in effect, children learn one lesson the most: Learning is not fun.

When students cheat on exams, it’s because our school system values grades more than Students value learning.

Neil deGrasse Tyson

2. Economy and finance.

Photo by M. B. M. on Unsplash

Shockingly, economists and investors are not judged by the performance of their models in real markets! They are not eager to wait decades to validate a model, so they pick metrics easier to measure – testing the hypothesis on synthetic data, ending up with a perfect model for an ideal world.

If you are a passenger on a plane and the pilot tells you he has a faulty map, you get off the plane; you don’t stay and say “well, there is nothing better.” But in economics, particularly finance, they keep teaching these models on grounds that “there is nothing better,” causing harmful risk-taking. Why? Because the professors don’t bear the harm of the models.

Colorful Nassim Taleb, best-selling author of Incerto, on Economy.

3. Artificial intelligence

Photo by Arseny Togulev on Unsplash

Unintended consequences of metrics is the core reason why Elon Musk thinks artificial intelligence is the biggest threat to the human race.

The biggest problem with AI is not that it will become wary of us giving it orders and decides to wipe us out on a whim. This is exemplified in the canonical thought experiment called the paperclip maximizer. Nick Bostrom shows us that artificial general intelligence, presented by a single metric ( number of paper clips produced ), designed competently and without malice, could ultimately destroy humanity.

OK, I GET IT! But what else can we do? Should we fly blind?

Photo by Joao Tzanno on Unsplash

Of course not!

Measuring is still the best way to keep you honest and on track. If you measure against real, tangible goals like revenue – it will help you achieve them.

But it’s hard to find those goals in other areas. If your goal is to “be healthy,” should you aim for lower weight? Body Fat percentage? VO2Max (the amount of oxygen you can consume in the unit of time)? Your maximum bench press weight?

Every single one of those numbers represents an opinionated model, and those models are in odds with each other. If you go to 10 different doctors, you will probably get 11 different answers. And each one will not be focused on you but their pet model of the world.

But you know what a great model of reality is? Real-world. It is not entirely measurable, it’s not an exact number, but it’s real. If you want to feel great, then you can use what “Qualitative” measuring is – your answer to the question “do I feel great”

  • If your goal is to learn a foreign language, then ask yourself the question, “did I just have a meaningful conversation in a foreign language.”
  • If you want to hire a great employee, don’t judge them by the diploma. Give them a trial project and see how they work, interact with colleagues, and further the real goals of your organization.

People have a natural drive to do a good job and demonstrate autonomy, mastery, and purpose. It has been proven over and over again that intrinsic is the only motivation that makes sense long-term It has also been proved, that when you introduce extrinsic one (this one big metric, higher salary, more pocket money for doing house chores), the intrinsic motivation will vanish, and your employees will stop trying to further your agenda under the singular guidance of the all-important metric.

The more a quantitative metric is visible and used to make crucial decisions, the more it will be gamed—which will distort and corrupt the exact processes it was meant to monitor.

An adaption of Campbell’s Law

Instead of putting a round number on the wall, create an organization where you can trust your people to do the right thing. At least until the advent of Artificial Intelligence.

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Book: Elon Musk – Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

“ELON MUSK IS A BODY THAT REMAINS VERY MUCH IN MOTION.”

Elon Musk needs no introductions. His biography is not only an analysis of his way of thinking but also a treasure trove of exciting Silicon Valley history and current trivia. While investigating the life of Elon, we learn about PayPal, Tesla, Solar City, and SpaceX. He took on every heavily-regulated, bureaucratic behemoth and ultimately came up on top.

Elon’s approach has cemented my long-held belief that there is a lot of lore and gossip about what “can’t be done.” And people tend to work very hard under that assumption, suffering the grueling reality of terrible workarounds.

But when you challenge the thing that “can’t be done” based on first principles, very often you can prevail, because you are the person who decided to care.

Why is Elon Musk so successful?

Because he decided to care.

“When Elon gets into something, he develops just this different level of interest in it than other people. That is what differentiates Elon from the rest of humanity.”

The go-to answer usually states, “because he is a genius,” but that is not very helpful. It also is not true. There are plenty of “tortured geniuses” who never achieve much of anything. Ideas are cheap, and execution is everything.

I believe Elon is successful because of:

  1. Relentless focus
  2. Capacity to suffer more personal cost than others
  3. Extraordinary intelligence

Intelligence is the easiest one to find. There are plenty of extraordinarily, intelligent people. But rarely you can find somebody who will be so focused and determined to challenge the industry incumbents on so many fronts and survive the pressures he did.

Thinking from the first principles

Elon is not a genius innovator constructing batteries in his garage. But he is always eager to work from first principles – the laws of physics or economics to calculate what would be possible. It takes serious brainpower to do that for rocket science, but the breakthrough is not in being smarter, but in doing things both differently and correct.

“We’re thinking, Fucking nerd. What can he be doing now?” At which point, Musk wheeled around and flashed a spreadsheet he’d created. “Hey, guys,” he said, “I think we can build this rocket ourselves.”

I am convinced that working with reality as it is is a rare superpower. 

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool,” said Richard Feynman. We are not keen on taking in the full consequence of our mistakes or recognizing the hard work and steep path ahead when our egos are on the line. “Embrace Reality and Deal with It” is the #1 principle of Ray Dalio (most successful hedge fund manager in history).

My wife says that it’s not true that we only use ten percent of our brains. We use the full 100%, but usually, 40% is busy fighting the other 50%, not leaving much to deal with issues at hand. Well, Elon uses every single neuron to further the advent of electric cars and make humanity an interplanetary species.

The fantastic adventures of Elon Musk

If you want to read more about these outlandish goals, I highly encourage the Wait But Why series:

In 2015, I got a call from Elon Musk. Not something you expect to happen. What ensued was a six-month deep dive into the world of Elon and his companies and four long articles about what I found. Here they are:

Tim Urban – “Wait but Why”

My highlights from the book

  • Like many an engineer or physicist, Musk will pause while fishing around for exact phrasing, and he’ll often go rumbling down an esoteric, scientific rabbit hole without providing any helping hands or simplified explanations along the way.
  • “I think there are probably too many smart people pursuing Internet stuff, finance, and law,” Musk said on the way. “That is part of the reason why we haven’t seen as much innovation.” MUSK
  • On his thirtieth birthday, Musk rented out a castle in England for about twenty people. From 2 A.M. until 6 A.M., they played a variation of hide-and-seek called sardines in which one person runs off and hides and everyone else looks for him.
  • The family gained some measure of notoriety as people heard about Haldeman and his wife packing their kids into the back of the single-engine craft and heading off on excursions all around North America.
  • “We were left with the impression that we were capable of anything. You just have to make a decision and do it. In that sense, my father would be very proud of Elon.”
  • Over time, Musk has ended up thinking that his brain has the equivalent of a graphics chip. It allows him to see things out in the world, replicate them in his mind, and imagine how they might change or behave when interacting with other objects.
  • Robert Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
  • “When Elon gets into something, he develops just this different level of interest in it than other people. That is what differentiates Elon from the rest of humanity.”
  • “Really smart people sometimes don’t understand that not everyone can keep up with them or go as fast,”
  • All the bankers did was copy what everyone else did. If everyone else ran off a bloody cliff, they’d run right off a cliff with them. If there was a giant pile of gold sitting in the middle of the room and nobody was picking it up, they wouldn’t pick it up, either.”
  • “We’re thinking, Fucking nerd. What can he be doing now?” At which point Musk wheeled around and flashed a spreadsheet he’d created. “Hey, guys,” he said, “I think we can build this rocket ourselves.”
  • Someone taped twenty of the batteries together, put a heating strip wire into the bundle, and set it off. “It went up like a cluster of bottle rockets,” Lyons said. Instead of twenty batteries, the Roadster would have close to 7,000, and the thought of what an explosion at that scale would be like horrified the engineers.
  • After Iron Man came out, Favreau began talking up Musk’s role as the inspiration for Downey’s interpretation of Tony Stark. It was a stretch on many levels.
  • Musk told Riley, a virgin, that he wanted to show her his rockets. “I was skeptical, but he did actually show me rocket videos,” she said.
  •  “I hadn’t had an opportunity to buy a Christmas present for Talulah or anything,” he said. “I went running down the fucking street in Boulder, and the only place that was open sold these shitty trinkets, and they were about to close. The best thing I could find were these plastic monkeys with coconuts—those ‘see no evil, hear no evil’ monkeys.”
  • Hotshot college graduates have historically been forced to pick between a variety of slow-moving military contractors and interesting but ineffectual start-ups.
  • They would hand out blank envelopes that contained invitations to meet at a specific time and place, usually a bar or restaurant near the event, for an initial interview.
  • They’re asked to write an essay for Musk about why they want to work at SpaceX.
  • Musk, though, wanted his engineers to watch what was going on with the machines at all times and to make sure they had to walk through the factory and talk to the technicians on the way to their desks.
  • Just by streamlining a radio, for instance, SpaceX’s engineers have found that they can reduce the weight of the device by about 20 percent.
  • SpaceX will sometimes load a rocket with both the standard equipment and prototypes of its own design for testing during flight. Engineers then compare the performance characteristics of the devices.
  • company created an e-mail filter to detect messages with “blue” and “origin” to block the poaching.
  • He would quiz you until he learned ninety percent of what you know.”
  • SpaceX’s top managers work together to, in essence, create fake schedules that they know will please Musk but that are basically impossible to achieve.
  • One person putting in a sixteen-hour day ends up being much more effective than two people working eight-hour days together.
  • “The mantra was that one great engineer will replace three medium ones,” Lloyd said.
  • Since Musk never writes anything down, he held all the alterations in his head and would run down the checklist week by week to see what the engineers had fixed.
  • “We have to decide what is the best sun visor in the world and then do better,”
  • He’s very visual and can store things that others have deemed to look good away in his brain for recall at any time. This process has helped Musk develop a good eye, which he’s combined with his own sensibilities, while also refining his ability to put what he wants into words.
  • To the extent that the world still doubts Elon, I think it’s a reflection on the insanity of the world and not on the supposed insanity of Elon.”
  • Musk paid $1 million for the Lotus Esprit that Roger Moore drove underwater in The Spy Who Loved Me and wants to prove that such a vehicle can be done. “Maybe we’ll make two or three, but it wouldn’t be more than that,” Musk told the Independent newspaper. “I think the market for submarine cars is quite small.” At
  • As Page puts it, “Good ideas are always crazy until they’re not.”
  • “I’ve learned that your intuition about things you don’t know that much about isn’t very good,” Page said.
  • “It’s kind of our recreation, I guess,” said Page.23 “It’s fun for the three of us to talk about kind of crazy things, and we find stuff that eventually turns out to be real.
  • He’s willing to suffer some personal cost, and I think that makes his odds actually pretty good.
  • “I don’t think we’re doing a good job as a society deciding what things are really important to do,” Page said.
  • “Elon came to the conclusion early in his career that life is short,” Straubel said. “If you really embrace this, it leaves you with the obvious conclusion that you should be working as hard as you can.”
  • “There’s this point that Mike Judge makes in Idiocracy, which is like smart people, you know, should at least sustain their numbers,” Musk said.
  • “I would like to die on Mars,” he said. “Just not on impact. Ideally I’d like to go for a visit, come back for a while, and then go there when I’m like seventy or something and then just stay there.
  • If my wife and I have a bunch of kids, she would probably stay with them on Earth.”
  • ELON MUSK IS A BODY THAT REMAINS VERY MUCH IN MOTION.
  • He seems to feel for the human species as a whole without always wanting to consider the wants and needs of individuals. And it may well be the case that this is exactly the type of person it takes to make a freaking space Internet real.
  • it was a little difficult because like the Linux system Max had created was called Max Code. So Max has had quite a strong affinity for Max Code. This was a bunch of libraries that Max and his friends had done. But it just made it quite hard to develop new features. And if you look at PayPal today, I mean, part of the reason they haven’t developed any new features is because it’s quite difficult to maintain the old system.
  • “Square is doing the wrong version of PayPal.
  • “I mean, it’s so ridiculous that PayPal today is worse than PayPal circa end of 2001. That’s insane.
  • “None of these start-ups understand the objective. The objective should be—what delivers fundamental value.

Book: The Clock Of The Long Now: Time and Responsibility

“How do we make long-term thinking automatic and common instead of difficult and rare?”

Long Now Foundation is a group of people focused on long-term thinking. “The clock of the long now,” an origin story of the 10000-year-old clock, being built in the Nevada desert.

I had the opportunity to hear about the 10000-year-old clock for the first time at our Automattic Grand meet up. Alexander Rose (Director of Long Now foundation ) has described the mechanism and importance of thinking in the long-term. That is him in the cover photo.

Why the clock?

The clock is a symbol of the time scale, an endeavor focused on the long term.

“Ideally, it would do for thinking about time what the photographs of Earth from space have done for thinking about the environment. Such icons reframe the way people think.”

It will also be a heck of an Indiana-Jones-esque artifact after 10 000 years.

What is up with this long term thinking you keep mentioning?

We have something called the recency bias – urgent, fresh information tends to outweigh the timeless and essential. That is why the news is called “News” and not “Importants”.

“The difference between fast news and slow nonnews is what makes gambling addictive. Winning is an event that we notice and base our behavior on, while the relentless losing, losing, losing is a nonevent, inspiring no particular behavior,”

Long time ago, this made some sense. The pace at which information disseminated was much slower. “News” could have been week-old important information worth getting.

But the Internet changed all that. “News” is often a TV interview about a tweet reacting to another tweet about an article.

The flywheel of “fresh news” has been spinning so fast that nobody tends to look at decade-long projects anymore. It’s all about here and now and the last 30 seconds.

I thought Social Media is the culprit. It is very refreshing to read a book from the 2000’s describing this problem and using fashion, with its season-based cycle as the example of a pace that is way too fast.

As a sidetone, I think this is what has been appealing to me in my use of Quora. There is no timeline and no race to dominate the current “news cycle”. Just thoughtful answers and time put into quality and not immediacy.

Keep it up, old man!

One could make an argument, that “this is just the world now. It’s fast, and you have to keep up”.

But that thinking leads to a dangerous assumption:

Living in the now incentivizes cannibalising your long – term investments for short term returns. If everything we care about is the next 3 hours, let’s burn the forests to pay for convenience and deal with consequences later.

“If you make decisions that remove decision-making process from future generations, you are doing it wrong”

But some consequences are impossible to deal with later. On the other hand, the long-term perspective will incentivize “good” behavior, even for selfish reasons.

“In the long run saving yourself requires saving the whole world.”

My favorite nerdy quote from the book is:

“We’ll know the shift has happened when programmers begin to anticipate the Year 10,000 problem and assign five digits instead of four to year dates. “02002,” they’ll write, at first frivolously, then seriously.”

The question that stuck with me is:

“What can I build now that will last?”

My highlights

  • How do we make long-term thinking automatic and common instead of difficult and rare?
  • What we propose is both a mechanism and a myth.
  • Ideally, it would do for thinking about time what the photographs of Earth from space have done for thinking about the environment. Such icons reframe the way people think.
  • Manifestations of the overall project could range from fortune cookies to theme parks.
  • “The greatest good for the greatest number” means the longest good, because the majority of people affected is always yet to come.
  • The worst of destructive selfishness is not Me! but Me! Right now!
  • Braking time must match awareness time.
  • Kairos is the time of cleverness, chronos the time of wisdom.
  • According to a rule of thumb among engineers, any tenfold quantitative change is a qualitative change, a fundamentally new situation rather than a simple extrapolation.
  • “What people mean by the word technology,” says computer designer Alan Kay, “is anything invented since they were born.”
  • Later doublings in an exponential sequence, we come to realize, are absolutely ferocious. The changes no longer feel quantitative or qualitative but cataclysmic;
  • Among some enthusiasts there is even a consensus date for what they call the techno-rapture—2035 C.E., give or take a few years.
  • The word freefall is a pretty good descriptor for our times. It conveys the thrill of danger, the speeded-up rush, the glorious freedom, and the fall.
  • “More and more I find I want to be living in a Big Here and a Long Now.”
  • The shortest now is performed in a poem by the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska: “When I pronounce the word Future, the first syllable already belongs to the past.”
  • When it returns in 4377 C.E., will anyone mention the name “Hale-Bopp”?
  • Note: Is it possible to send a time capsule or a signal to return to earth?
  • it would be awesome to talk to future foklk
  • time activated message
  • The trick is learning how to treat the last ten thousand years as if it were last week, and the next ten thousand as if it were next week. Such tricks confer advantage.
  • Fashion/art • Commerce • Infrastructure • Governance • Culture • Nature
  • In the Soviet Union government tried to ignore the constraints of culture and nature while forcing a Five-Year-Plan infrastructure pace on commerce and art. Thus cutting itself off from both support and innovation, the USSR was doomed.
  • The job of fashion and art is to be froth: quick, irrelevant, engaging, self-preoccupied, and cruel. Try this! No, no, try this!
  • Note: Oh god, its even worse now that we have social media
  • the occasional good idea or practice that sifts down to improve deeper levels, such as governance becoming responsive to opinion polls, or culture gradually accepting multiculturalism as structure instead of grist for entertainment.
  • Education is intellectual infrastructure; so is science. Very high yield, but delayed payback.
  • “In some sense, we’ve run out of our story, which was the story of taking power over nature. It’s not that we’ve finished that, but we’ve gotten ahead of ourselves, and we don’t know what the next story is after that.”
  • After an encounter with the Clock a visitor should be able to declare with feeling, “Whew. Time! And me in it.”
  • Clock/Library could provide, for a fee, time-mail service across generations forward.
  • Shinto complex in Japan known as the Ise Shrine.
  • “We don’t do eternity.”
  • To make the energy flow only one way he devised Grimthorpe’s double three-legged gravity escapement (Denison was later Lord Grimthorpe).
  • He would use an unreliable but accurate timer (solar alignment) to adjust an inaccurate but reliable timer (pendulum), creating a phase-locked loop.
  • Starting anew with a clean slate has been one of the most harmful ideas in history. It treats previous knowledge as an impediment and imagines that only present knowledge deployed in theoretical purity can make real the wondrous new vision.
  • Here’s the real fear. Thanks to proliferating optical-fiber land lines worldwide and the arrival of low-Earth-orbit data satellite systems such as Teledesic, we are in the process of building one vast global computer. (“The network is the computer,” proclaims Sun Microsystems.) This world computer could easily become the Legacy System from Hell that holds civilization hostage:
  • Digital storage is easy; digital preservation is hard. Preservation means keeping the stored information catalogued, accessible, and usable on current media, which requires constant effort and expense.
  • “The default condition of paper is persistence, if not interrupted; the default condition of electronic signals is interruption, if not periodically renewed.”
  • Lanier recommends employing artificial intelligences to keep the artifacts exercised through decades and centuries of forced contemporaneity,
  • We’ll know the shift has happened when programmers begin to anticipate the Year 10,000 problem and assign five digits instead of four to year dates. “02002,” they’ll write, at first frivolously, then seriously.
  • old underground limestone quarry at Les Baux, France, now a tourist attraction.
  • Time capsules, by the way, are a splendid and common future-oriented practice—hundreds of thousands have been buried—yet some 70 percent are completely lost track of almost immediately.
  • I am convinced that people behave better when they think they have free will. They take responsibility more and they think about their choices more. So I believe in free will,” said Herman Kahn.
  • suppose I could defend myself with Arthur Herman’s wonderful book, The Idea of Decline in Western History. He says that in Europe high-minded cultural pessimism began with the failure of the French Revolution and culminated in Nazi Germany. It was tremendously destructive. It still is.
  • In the long run saving yourself requires saving the whole world.
  • To produce the benefits of more cooperation in the world, Axelrod proves, all you need to do is lengthen the shadow of the future—that is, ensure more durable relationships. Thus marriage is common to every society, because trusting partners have an advantage over lone wolves.
  • The difference between fast news and slow nonnews is what makes gambling addictive. Winning is an event that we notice and base our behavior on, while the relentless losing, losing, losing is a nonevent, inspiring no particular behavior,
  • You need the space of continuity to have the confidence not to be afraid of revolutions.

Book: Brain Rules by John Medina

„The brain appears to be designed to (1) solve problems (2) related to surviving (3) in an unstable outdoor environment, and (4) to do so in nearly constant motion. I call this the brain’s performance envelope.”

We tend to perceive the human brain as a magical box that does its own thing regardless of the physical limitation. In some sense it is just that – It’s power is amazing and wonderful, but its also a part of our body.

Amazon Link

When we came down from the trees to the savannah, we did not say to ourselves, “Good Lord, give me a book and a lecture and a board of directors so that I can spend 10 years learning how to survive in this place.”

We often forget that It has needs and physical limitations drawing from the fact that it’s an organ like any other. John Medina is a molecular biologist that studied how the brain has developed and how it works. He came to the conclusion, that there are 12 rules. On how the brain operates:

  1. The human brain evolved, too.
  2. Exercise boosts brain power.
  3. Sleep well, think well.
  4. Stressed brains don’t learn the same way.
  5. Every brain is wired differently.
  6. We don’t pay attention to boring things.
  7. Repeat to remember.
  8. Stimulate more of the senses.
  9. Vision trumps all other senses.
  10. Study or listen to boost cognition.
  11. Male and female brains are different.
  12. We are powerful and natural explorers.

Education system

„Taken together, what do the studies in this book show? Mostly this: If you wanted to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a classroom.”

It is just mind-boggling how every aspect of the school system is NOT designed to help kids learn. An almost every single one of these brain rules is violated.
What could we do to make it a little better?

  • Give space to move
  • Design to hold attention in 10-minute increments.
    • Start with key ideas to outline what you are explaining and then dive into details
    • „I decided that every lecture I’d ever give would be organized in segments and that each segment would last only 10 minutes. Each segment would cover a single core concept—always large, always general, and always explainable in one minute.”
  • Design for spaced repetition
  • Stimulate multiple senses at the same time, with relevant information. „Funny” illustrations don’t count. What you are complimenting, has to be relevant or it distracts.

There is an argument to be made for same-sex classes. Girls and Boys learn in a different way and Boys competitiveness may get in the way of Girls collaborative approach to learning math&science and vice versa for human sciences.

My Kindle Highlights

  • Exercise boosts brain power.
  • Sleep well, think well.
  • The brain appears to be designed to (1) solve problems (2) related to surviving (3) in an unstable outdoor environment, and (4) to do so in nearly constant motion. I call this the brain’s performance envelope.
  • Taken together, what do the studies in this book show? Mostly this: If you wanted to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a classroom.
  • Then World War I happened. It was the first major conflict where medical advances allowed large numbers of combatants to survive shrapnel injuries.
  • The solution? Give birth while the baby’s head is small enough to fit through the birth canal. The problem? You create childhood.
  • One of the greatest predictors of successful aging, they found, is the presence or absence of a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Put simply, if you are a couch potato, you are more likely to age like Jim, if you make it to your 80s at all. If you have an active lifestyle, you are more likely to age like Frank Lloyd Wright—and much more likely to make it to your 90s.
  • A lifetime of exercise results in a sometimes astonishing elevation in cognitive performance, compared with those who are sedentary.
  • In the laboratory, the gold standard appears to be aerobic exercise, 30 minutes at a clip, two or three times a week. Add a strengthening regimen and you get even more cognitive benefit.
  • https://www.cnbc.com/2018/05/08/how-steve-jobs-odd-habit-can-help-you-brainstorm-ideas.html
  • The main function of oxygen is to act like an efficient electron-absorbing sponge.
  • Physical activity is cognitive candy. Civilization, while giving us such seemingly forward advances as modern medicine and spatulas, also has had a nasty side effect. It gives us more opportunities to sit on our butts.
  • Our brains were built for walking—12 miles a day!
  • To improve your thinking skills, move.
  • Exercise gets blood to your brain, bringing it glucose for energy and oxygen to soak up the toxic electrons that are left over. It also stimulates the protein that keeps neurons connecting.
  • If you are a public speaker, you already know it is darn near fatal to give a talk in the midafternoon.
  • One NASA study showed that a 26-minute nap reduced a flight crew’s lapses in awareness by 34 percent, compared to a control group who didn’t nap.
  • Mendeleyev says he came up with the idea in his sleep. Contemplating the nature of the universe while playing solitaire one evening, he nodded off. When he awoke, he knew how all of the atoms in the universe were organized, and he promptly created his famous table. Interestingly, he organized the atoms in repeating groups of seven, just the way you play solitaire.
  • A business of the future takes sleep schedules seriously.
  • •   Loss of sleep hurts attention, executive function, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning, and even motor dexterity.
  • As long as there is enough BDNF around, stress hormones cannot do their damage.
  • One of the greatest predictors of performance in school turns out to be the emotional stability of the home.
  • The perfect storm of occupational stress appears to be a combination of two factors: (1) a great deal is expected of you, and (2) you have no control over whether you will perform well.
  • Gottman and fellow researcher Alyson Shapiro an idea. What if he deployed his proven marital intervention strategies to married couples while the wife was pregnant?
  • Individually, the worst kind of stress is the feeling that you have no control over the problem—you are helpless.
  • The brains of wild animals were 15 to 30 percent larger than those of their tame, domestic counterparts.
  • The surface of your skin, for example—all nine pounds of it—literally is deceased.
  • It is accurate to say that nearly every inch of your outer physical presentation to the world is dead.
  • Neurons go through a growth spurt and pruning project during the terrible twos and teen years.
  • “typically, attention increases from the beginning of the lecture to 10 minutes into the lecture and decreases after that point.”
  • Find a way to get and hold somebody’s attention for 10 minutes, then do it again.
  • What we can say for sure is that when your brain detects an emotionally charged event, your amygdala (a part of your brain that helps create and maintain emotions) releases the chemical dopamine into your system. Dopamine greatly aids memory and information processing.
  • If you want people to be able to pay attention, don’t start with details. Start with the key ideas and, in a hierarchical fashion, form the details around these larger notions. Meaning before details. The
  • Step 1: Shift alert
  • Step 2: Rule activation for task #1
  • Step 3: Disengagement
  • Step 4: Rule activation for task #2
  • I decided that every lecture I’d ever give would be organized in segments, and that each segment would last only 10 minutes. Each segment would cover a single core concept—always large, always general, and always explainable in one minute.
  • Give the general idea first, before diving into details, and you will see a 40 percent improvement in understanding.
  • 1) The hook has to trigger an emotion.
  • 2) The hook has to be relevant.
  • 3) The hook has to go between segments.
  • Audiences check out after 10 minutes, but you can keep grabbing them back by telling narratives or creating events rich in emotion.
  • One does not recall how to ride a bike in the same way one recalls nine numbers in a certain order.
  • People usually forget 90 percent of what they learn in a class within 30 days. And the majority of this forgetting occurs within the first few hours after class.
  • It is called the “binding problem,” from the idea that certain thoughts are bound together in the brain to provide continuity.
  • The more closely we replicate the conditions at the moment of learning, the easier the remembering.
  • The more a learner focuses on the meaning of information being presented, the more elaborately he or she will process the information.
  • professional chess world’s first real rock star: Miguel Najdorf.
  • The typical human brain can hold about seven pieces of new information for less than 30 seconds!
  • Repetitions must be spaced out, not crammed in
  • System consolidation, the process of transforming a short-term memory into a long-term one, can take years to complete.
  • such a positive effect on learning that it forms the heart of Brain Rule #8: Stimulate more of the senses at the same time.
  • The Americans—steeped in the traditions of nothing—used guerrilla tactics:
  • Every sensory system must send a signal to the thalamus asking permission to connect to the higher levels of the brain where perception occurs—except for smell.
  • No matter how many times they did this, the visual portion of the brain always lighted up the strongest when the tactile response was paired with it. They could literally get a 30 percent boost in the visual system by introducing touch. This effect is called multimodal reinforcement.
  • The experimental group takes the test in a room smelling of popcorn. The second group blows away the first group in terms of number of events recalled, accuracy of events recalled, specific details, and so on. In some cases, they can accurately retrieve twice as many memories as the controls.
  • It works if you’re emotionally aroused—usually, that means mildly stressed—before the experiment begins. For some reason, showing a film of young Australian aboriginal males being circumcised is a favorite way to do this.
  • Multimedia principle: Students learn better from words and pictures than from words alone. Temporal contiguity principle: Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively. Spatial contiguity principle: Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near to each other rather than far from each other on the page or screen. Coherence principle: Students learn better when extraneous material is excluded rather than included. Modality principle: Students learn better from animation and narration than from animation and on-screen text.
  • Stimulate more of the senses at the same time.
  • This means you can damage the region of the brain in charge of, say, motion, and get an extraordinary deficit. You’d be able to see and identify objects quite clearly, but not tell whether the objects are stationary or moving. This happened to a patient known to scientists as L.M. It’s called cerebral akinetopsia, or motion blindness. L.M. perceives a moving object as a progressive series of still snapshots—like looking at an animator’s drawings one page at a time. This can be quite hazardous. When L.M. crosses the street, for example, she can see a car, but she does not know if it is actually coming at her.
  • As the complexity of objects in our world increases, we are capable of remembering fewer objects over our lifetimes.
  • Pictorial information may be initially more attractive to consumers, in part because it takes less effort to comprehend.
  • Vision is by far our most dominant sense, taking up half of our brain’s resources.
  • Music training improves something useful for academics, right? Yes: spatiotemporal reasoning.
  • biochemical. It is a surprisingly well-established fact that music can induce hormonal changes. These changes result in alterations of mood.
  • He and his colleagues have found that when people hear their very favorite music (I mean spine-tingling, awe-inspiring, fly-me-to-the-moon music), their bodies dump dopamine into a specific part of their brain.
  • music that gives you goose bumps (called “musical frisson”),
  • During World War I, hospitals in the UK employed musicians to play for wounded soldiers in convalescence.
  • Formal musical training improves intellectual skills in several cognitive domains. Music boosts spatiotemporal skills, vocabulary, picking out sounds in a noisy environment, working memory, and sensory-motor skills.
  • This means that cells in the female embryo are a complex mosaic of both active and inactive mom-and-pop X genes.
  • Exercise boosts brain power.
  • Sleep well, think well.
  • The brain appears to be designed to (1) solve problems (2) related to surviving (3) in an unstable outdoor environment, and (4) to do so in nearly constant motion. I call this the brain’s performance envelope.
  • Taken together, what do the studies in this book show? Mostly this: If you wanted to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a classroom.
  • Then World War I happened. It was the first major conflict where medical advances allowed large numbers of combatants to survive shrapnel injuries.
  • The solution? Give birth while the baby’s head is small enough to fit through the birth canal. The problem? You create childhood.
  • One of the greatest predictors of successful aging, they found, is the presence or absence of a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Put simply, if you are a couch potato, you are more likely to age like Jim, if you make it to your 80s at all. If you have an active lifestyle, you are more likely to age like Frank Lloyd Wright—and much more likely to make it to your 90s.
  • A lifetime of exercise results in a sometimes astonishing elevation in cognitive performance, compared with those who are sedentary.
  • In the laboratory, the gold standard appears to be aerobic exercise, 30 minutes at a clip, two or three times a week. Add a strengthening regimen and you get even more cognitive benefit.
  • Your lifetime risk for general dementia is literally cut in half if you participate in physical activity. Aerobic exercise seems to be the key. With Alzheimer’s, the effect is even greater: Such exercise reduces your odds of getting the disease by more than 60 percent. How
  • The main function of oxygen is to act like an efficient electron-absorbing sponge.
  • Physical activity is cognitive candy. Civilization, while giving us such seemingly forward advances as modern medicine and spatulas, also has had a nasty side effect. It gives us more opportunities to sit on our butts.
  • Our brains were built for walking—12 miles a day!
  • To improve your thinking skills, move.
  • Exercise gets blood to your brain, bringing it glucose for energy and oxygen to soak up the toxic electrons that are left over. It also stimulates the protein that keeps neurons connecting.
  • If you are a public speaker, you already know it is darn near fatal to give a talk in the midafternoon.
  • One NASA study showed that a 26-minute nap reduced a flight crew’s lapses in awareness by 34 percent, compared to a control group who didn’t nap.
  • Mendeleyev says he came up with the idea in his sleep. Contemplating the nature of the universe while playing solitaire one evening, he nodded off. When he awoke, he knew how all of the atoms in the universe were organized, and he promptly created his famous table. Interestingly, he organized the atoms in repeating groups of seven, just the way you play solitaire.
  • A business of the future takes sleep schedules seriously.
  • Given the data about a good night’s rest, organizations might tackle their most intractable problems by having the entire “solving team” go on a mini-retreat. Once arrived, employees would be presented with the problem and asked to think about solutions. But they would not start coming to conclusions, or even begin sharing ideas with each other, before they had slept about eight hours. When they awoke, would the same increase in problem-solving rates available in the lab also be available to that team? It’s worth finding out.
  • •   Loss of sleep hurts attention, executive function, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning, and even motor dexterity.
  • As long as there is enough BDNF around, stress hormones cannot do their damage.
  • One of the greatest predictors of performance in school turns out to be the emotional stability of the home.
  • The perfect storm of occupational stress appears to be a combination of two factors: (1) a great deal is expected of you, and (2) you have no control over whether you will perform well.
  • Gottman and fellow researcher Alyson Shapiro an idea. What if he deployed his proven marital intervention strategies to married couples while the wife was pregnant?
  • Individually, the worst kind of stress is the feeling that you have no control over the problem—you are helpless.
  • The brains of wild animals were 15 to 30 percent larger than those of their tame, domestic counterparts.
  • The surface of your skin, for example—all nine pounds of it—literally is deceased.
  • It is accurate to say that nearly every inch of your outer physical presentation to the world is dead.
  • Neurons go through a growth spurt and pruning project during the terrible twos and teen years.
  • “typically, attention increases from the beginning of the lecture to 10 minutes into the lecture and decreases after that point.”
  • Find a way to get and hold somebody’s attention for 10 minutes, then do it again.
  • What we can say for sure is that when your brain detects an emotionally charged event, your amygdala (a part of your brain that helps create and maintain emotions) releases the chemical dopamine into your system. Dopamine greatly aids memory and information processing.
  • If you want people to be able to pay attention, don’t start with details. Start with the key ideas and, in a hierarchical fashion, form the details around these larger notions. Meaning before details. The
  • Step 1: Shift alert
  • Step 2: Rule activation for task #1
  • Step 3: Disengagement
  • Step 4: Rule activation for task #2
  • I decided that every lecture I’d ever give would be organized in segments, and that each segment would last only 10 minutes. Each segment would cover a single core concept—always large, always general, and always explainable in one minute.
  • Give the general idea first, before diving into details, and you will see a 40 percent improvement in understanding.
  • 1) The hook has to trigger an emotion.
  • 2) The hook has to be relevant.
  • 3) The hook has to go between segments.
  • Audiences check out after 10 minutes, but you can keep grabbing them back by telling narratives or creating events rich in emotion.
  • One does not recall how to ride a bike in the same way one recalls nine numbers in a certain order.
  • People usually forget 90 percent of what they learn in a class within 30 days. And the majority of this forgetting occurs within the first few hours after class.
  • It is called the “binding problem,” from the idea that certain thoughts are bound together in the brain to provide continuity.
  • The more closely we replicate the conditions at the moment of learning, the easier the remembering.
  • The more a learner focuses on the meaning of information being presented, the more elaborately he or she will process the information.
  • professional chess world’s first real rock star: Miguel Najdorf.
  • The typical human brain can hold about seven pieces of new information for less than 30 seconds!
  • Repetitions must be spaced out, not crammed in
  • System consolidation, the process of transforming a short-term memory into a long-term one, can take years to complete.
  • such a positive effect on learning that it forms the heart of Brain Rule #8: Stimulate more of the senses at the same time.
  • The Americans—steeped in the traditions of nothing—used guerrilla tactics:
  • Every sensory system must send a signal to the thalamus asking permission to connect to the higher levels of the brain where perception occurs—except for smell.
  • No matter how many times they did this, the visual portion of the brain always lighted up the strongest when the tactile response was paired with it. They could literally get a 30 percent boost in the visual system by introducing touch. This effect is called multimodal reinforcement.
  • The experimental group takes the test in a room smelling of popcorn. The second group blows away the first group in terms of number of events recalled, accuracy of events recalled, specific details, and so on. In some cases, they can accurately retrieve twice as many memories as the controls.
  • It works if you’re emotionally aroused—usually, that means mildly stressed—before the experiment begins. For some reason, showing a film of young Australian aboriginal males being circumcised is a favorite way to do this.
  • Multimedia principle: Students learn better from words and pictures than from words alone. Temporal contiguity principle: Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively. Spatial contiguity principle: Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near to each other rather than far from each other on the page or screen. Coherence principle: Students learn better when extraneous material is excluded rather than included. Modality principle: Students learn better from animation and narration than from animation and on-screen text.
  • Stimulate more of the senses at the same time.
  • This means you can damage the region of the brain in charge of, say, motion, and get an extraordinary deficit. You’d be able to see and identify objects quite clearly, but not tell whether the objects are stationary or moving. This happened to a patient known to scientists as L.M. It’s called cerebral akinetopsia, or motion blindness. L.M. perceives a moving object as a progressive series of still snapshots—like looking at an animator’s drawings one page at a time. This can be quite hazardous. When L.M. crosses the street, for example, she can see a car, but she does not know if it is actually coming at her.
  • As the complexity of objects in our world increases, we are capable of remembering fewer objects over our lifetimes.
  • Pictorial information may be initially more attractive to consumers, in part because it takes less effort to comprehend.
  • Vision is by far our most dominant sense, taking up half of our brain’s resources.
  • Music training improves something useful for academics, right? Yes: spatiotemporal reasoning.
  • biochemical. It is a surprisingly well-established fact that music can induce hormonal changes. These changes result in alterations of mood.
  • He and his colleagues have found that when people hear their very favorite music (I mean spine-tingling, awe-inspiring, fly-me-to-the-moon music), their bodies dump dopamine into a specific part of their brain.
  • music that gives you goose bumps (called “musical frisson”),
  • During World War I, hospitals in the UK employed musicians to play for wounded soldiers in convalescence.
  • Formal musical training improves intellectual skills in several cognitive domains. Music boosts spatiotemporal skills, vocabulary, picking out sounds in a noisy environment, working memory, and sensory-motor skills.
  • This means that cells in the female embryo are a complex mosaic of both active and inactive mom-and-pop X genes.
  • commotion seems to be the central currency of a little boy’s social economy.
  • Doing things physically together is the glue that cements their relationships.
  • Boys might say, “Do this.” Girls would say, “Let’s do this.” Styles
  • 1) Emotions are useful. They make the brain pay attention. 2) Men and women process certain emotions differently. 3) The differences are a product of complex interactions between nature and nurture.
  • Previously a strong advocate for mixed-sex classes, the teacher wondered aloud if that made any sense. Yet if the girls started losing the math-and-science battle in the third grade, the teacher reasoned, they were not likely to excel in the coming years. She obliged. It took only two weeks to close the performance gap.
  • Men and women respond differently to acute stress: Women activate the left hemisphere’s amygdala and remember the emotional details. Men activate the right hemisphere’s amygdala and get the gist.
  • Babies are born with a deep desire to understand the world around them and an incessant curiosity that compels them to aggressively explore it.
  • When we came down from the trees to the savannah, we did not say to ourselves, “Good Lord, give me a book and a lecture and a board of directors so that I can spend 10 years learning how to survive in this place.”
  • Extraordinarily, my mother was waiting. Just as quickly as my whim changed, the house
  • I firmly believe that if children are allowed to remain curious, they will continue to deploy their natural tendencies to discover and explore until they are 101.

Captivate: the science of succeeding with people by Vanessa Van Edwards

“Don’t impress people; engage them.”

This is a note to self. It comes up over and over again in every book about interpersonal communication. People want to hear about themselves, not you. The quickest way for them to open up and like you is is to LISTEN.

Which, coincidentally Vanessa had to do when she took a vow of silence. She interacted without speaking a word and her interlocutors found these to be the most rewarding conversations!

Recently I have been on an interpersonal skills binge. I was about to get married and wanted to use the time I had with my guests to the fullest extent. I diligently reviewed my “Interacting with people” notes (true story, I have a whole chapter in my personal life manual devoted to that). Searching for new tips, I have also read the book “How to talk to anyone” by Leil Lowlands.

I was ready to read about another topic, but when they announced our keynote speakers for our company meeting, I had to change my plans.

Vanessa Van Edwards, author of the book “Captivate” would share her secrets with us. I just had to browse her book to take the full advantage of the learning opportunity.

And I am so glad I did!

Her work is packed with insights and practical tips to use during your next gathering with friends or negotiating a salary (curious how this plays out for the company after teaching us these skills). She has a vault of hilarious stories that let you understand the context better and explains everything with a solid structure. 

Body Language AKA Gesture a lot but not too much

“The most popular TED Talkers used an average of 465 hand gestures—that’s almost double [… of the lesser popular]

example

What are the best ways to use body language to your great advantage?

  • Wave with an open palm if you are talking to an audience. Showing that you don’t hold weapons will build help build trust (even though it’s 2019, we’re still apes)
  • Delineate things you are explaining
    • Numbers -> Illustrate the numbers with your fingers
    • Size -> delineate the size with your hands
    • When it’s somebody’s turn – hand it off -> pass it back
    • This comes from the heart -> show 
  • Master your handshake!

If you have the opportunity to give a great handshake, never skip it! It’s your chance to hook the other party on some oxytocin!

ALWAYS VERTICAL HAND, firm but not too strong

Having great conversations

  • Set a good intention for the conversation -> Avoid starting on the negative!
  • Good conversation is about finding a common thread and following it
  • Ending conversation
    • What are you up to [next] -> shifts conversation to future
    • Best of luck on that!
  • Prepare some good, twisty questions that will let you fish for a topic where the other person lights up
    • Working on exciting projects lately?
    • What’s your story?
    • Howdy > „Hey”
    • What was the highlight of your day?
    • Anything except “where are you from” and “what do you do.”

Assorted awesome tips

  • At the party, the best place to be is where people exit the bar/food place. They have no-one to talk to
  • “For example, whenever I meet a Matt, I always seat him at a poker table with all of my other Matt friends.”
  • You can’t argue with a feeling, but you can acknowledge it.
  • Prepare raving introductions for people.

Hacks for online

I dream of creating a course where I would teach interpersonal communication in the online world – on Slacks and Twitters, etc.,

  • You can use Linkedin profile pic under the camera to watch them / have a feeling I am speaking with them
  • Exciting calendar titles -> call the event with what you hope it to be (creative brainstorming, etc.)
  • Show hands during zoom calls
  • Master your profile picture
    • The only indicator of true happiness is the upward cheeks (“crows feet”)
    • Watch out for smirk [half smile is cynical]
    • Make selfies from below -> makes you look tall and grand, looking from above like a parent

My Kindle highlights (there is a lot of them)

  • The Start Zone is the starting point at all events. Emotionally, it’s the place where nerves are running highest. When people have just arrived, they’re usually juggling lots of thoughts. They are running late, checking in, taking off their coats, surveying the room, seeing if they know anyone, worrying about first impressions, silencing their phones,
  • The biggest mistake I see at events is when people hover at the boundary of the Start Zone. It’s a social trap. You’re catching people at a confidence low.
  • The second Side Zone trap is making a beeline for the food and then floating around it all night.
  • The third Side Zone trap is immediately going to people you know. Once you join up with your colleagues, friends, or acquaintances, it is incredibly challenging to get out and meet new people.
  • You become their savior if you rescue them from drinking alone.
  • “Thank you so much for having me! This looks like a great group. Anyone I should meet?”
  • Your Winger: Did anyone come up more than once? Is there someone who could join you on a social adventure, who could help you be more comfortable as you try out social hacks,
  • By controlling where, how, and with whom your interactions take place, you can set yourself up for more success.
  • Note: Is online world where introverts can finally have a leg up?
  • Identify the person who you want to “level up”—your Riser. Keep them in mind while you apply the next 13 hacks.
  • We decide if we believe someone, if we like someone, and if we trust someone before we have even heard him or her speak.
  • The power of our first impression lies not in what we say, but how we say it.
  • With a first impression, you are a Triple Threat when you use your hands, your posture, and your eye contact.
  • Note: Triple threat for nonline. Are emojis giving the same effect?
  • genuine smile emoji
  • The least popular TED Talkers used an average of 272 hand gestures—yes, our coders painstakingly counted every single one. The most popular TED Talkers used an average of 465 hand gestures—that’s almost double! Temple Grandin, Simon Sinek, and Jane McGonigal topped the hand gesture charts with over 600 gestures in just eighteen minutes. This
  • I don’t mean to get drastic, but pockets are murderers of rapport.
  • Whenever possible, keep your hands above the desk in a boardroom, on the table during a coffee meeting, and out of your purse during an event.
  • Note: Zoom call hands!
  • Vertical: Always keep your hand vertical with your thumb toward the sky. Offering your palm up is a nonverbal submissive or weak gesture. And forcing someone into the palm-up position by putting your hand out palm down can be seen as domineering and controlling.
  • Bottom Line: Keep your hands visible. Never skip a handshake.
  • According to a major study done by Carnegie Mellon University,8 a professional’s confidence is more important than that professional’s reputation, skill set, or history!
  • Viral TED Talkers speak to you, not at you.
  • courage to trust another being.”11 Why is eye contact so powerful? It produces oxytocin, the chemical foundation for trust.
  • when Westerners and Europeans are in conversation, they tend to hold eye contact for an average of 61 percent
  • Don’t guess on your handshake. Do a handshake audit with a trusted friend or colleague—ask for honest feedback to make sure your grip is just right.
  • Use your Launch Stance during your next interaction—feel the difference?
  • Practice engaging in 60 to 70 percent eye contact during your interactions.
  • I want to introduce the concept of Big Talk. Big Talk is like Space Mountain. You start with anticipation and roll easily through the conversation, laughing and hitting highs as it gets better and better.
  • If we abandon social scripts and push ourselves to use conversational sparks, we are more likely to enjoy our interactions and remember what was actually said. In
  • “What personal passion project are you working on?”
  • Working on any exciting projects recently?
  • What was the highlight of your day?
  • Working on any personal passion projects?
  • Have any vacations coming up?
  • What’s your story?
  • What are you up to this weekend?
  • What do you do to unwind?
  • men who begin their online dating messages with “howdy” have a 40 percent higher success rate than singles who open with “hey” or “hi.”
  • “I’m on a small-talk diet, can I ask you a new conversation sparker I’m trying out?” This question in itself releases dopamine!
  • One of the ways you can create conversational high points is by looking for someone’s hot-button issues.
  • Begins nodding their head up and down as if to say, “Yes!” Murmurs in agreement with “Mmm-hmm” Leans in to hear more
  • Writes back a longer e-mail than usual Exclaims in surprise with “Huh!” or “Wow!” Tells you, “Fascinating!” “Interesting,” or “Tell me more!” Raises their eyebrows—this is the universal signal of curiosity Says, “Ooohh” or “Aahh” Smiles and uses more animated gestures
  • In other words, being different wakes people up.
  • Entrepreneurs who added a unique request, tried something a little different, or added interactivity to their pitch had a much higher likelihood of getting a deal.
  • In my guest bathroom at home, we have an R2D2 Pez dispenser and a gift book welcoming snoopers to our medicine cabinet.
  • I send people air plants instead of flowers.
  • I hide Easter eggs on my website (these are hidden links that once clicked deliver people to a video of me telling a corny joke).
  • Think about how you can energize different areas of your life. This creates tons of dopamine-worthy moments for the people you encounter.
  • Spice up your job title.
  • When I checked into San Diego’s famous L’Auberge Del Mar hotel, I was given a room key and a s’mores cupcake—talk about a welcome gift! My elevator ride and first few hotel moments were sweet bliss.
  • Instead of sending thank-you cards, send thank-you stickers—or pins, or lollipops, or popcorn.
  • Meet and Repeat: As soon as you hear the name, say it out loud back to them. “It’s so nice to meet you, Eliza!”
  • Spell It Out:
  • Associate and Anchor: Lastly, tie the name to someone else you know with that same name. It can even be a celebrity.
  • For example, whenever I meet a Matt, I always seat him at a poker table with all of my other Matt friends.
  • If you totally forget a name, set up a system with the people you are with. Anytime you introduce someone to them first, they should ask for the name. For example, if my husband says, “I would love to introduce you to my wife,” and does not mention the person’s name, it means he does not know it. Then I know to ask, “Lovely to meet you. What was your name?” Easy peasy. A
  • Bonus: Send me a text to say “hi.” If you’re really brave, ask me for a “social dare.”
  • The whole adventure started the day my kind, honest friend dropped an advice bomb. She gave me one of the toughest pieces of constructive feedback I have ever received: “You are an interrupter.”
  • Worse, I began to preplan my responses while only half listening to the conversation. This is a terrible way to interact—it’s disrespectful, inauthentic, and exhausting for all parties.
  • I forced myself to attend all of my usual meetings, networking events, and dinners like normal, but just listened. This way, I had to be present. I couldn’t think about witty comebacks, funny stories, or follow-ups. My number one goal was simply to listen with my entire brain.
  • the best conversations aren’t about what you say, they are about what you hear.
  • This e-mail boggled my mind! I hadn’t said a single word, but somehow our “conversation” was so memorable that it brought me business. Why?
  • As much as we hate to admit it, we love to talk about ourselves. In fact, humans spend 30 to 40 percent of their verbal output solely dedicated to self-disclosure.
  • Talking about ourselves gives us pleasure.
  • Yup—people will pay for the privilege to express their opinions.
  • Bring out the best in people by highlighting their strengths.
  • Humans love to be given positive labels.
  • Listen for their eloquent ideas. Find ways to emphasize their strengths. Celebrate their excitement.
  • “You are so knowledgeable in this subject—thank goodness you are here.”
  • I send out postcards telling people they’re ballers. Yes, really:
  • Want to know one of the biggest missed opportunities in social situations? Introductions.
  • Why are raving introductions so powerful? First, you give people positive labels right at the start. Second, you tee up a great conversation and possible discussion topics for the people involved. Third, you get people talking about themselves—what
  • Don’t try to impress people, let them impress you.
  • Being an amazing listener is not just about what you hear, it’s how you respond to what you hear.
  • Introduce a colleague or friend to someone you think they should know. Practice making two raving introductions.
  • Who impresses you? Who is an amazing friend? Who is the best networker you know? Go tell them.
  • Bonus: Take a one-day Vow of Silence to be a better listener.
  • Be the high point of every interaction by giving people
  • He found that his most successful messages mentioned at least three commonalities he had with the person.
  • Hi Vanessa! My name is Lewis and I wanted to reach out because I saw you’re also friends with Nick Onken, we do work with Pencils of Promise together. I’m based in LA and saw you’re from here. Do you ever get back in town? Would love to connect.
  • “I show people I’m listening to them and only them. I make eye contact, take them in, and pay attention to nothing else,”
  • It is easier to get along with someone who enjoys the same activities and conversation topics. Spouses and friends are more likely to have similar personality types than randomly assigned pairs.
  • When someone agrees with us, it makes us feel less alone and more right in our own opinions.
  • If we can relate to someone strongly, we might be able to better predict their behavior and future
  • We hope that if someone is similar to us, then there is a greater likelihood they will be attracted to us—like begets like.
  • These kinds of “Not me!” comments tend to push people away and shut down a conversation.
  • Someone dressed casually is more likely to help someone else who is also dressed casually over someone in a business suit.
  • Find and follow threads of similarity to be more socially attractive.
  • Think about the context of your meeting.
  • Note: Are conference talks all aboit gving shared context?
  • you can get a conversation to go much deeper much faster if you use the spirit of the Five Whys.
  • Just search for the commonality and follow the thread with why.
  • Can I help you with anything? This is my favorite Thread Theory question.
  • when he can’t say “Me too,” he says, “Teach me.”
  • If someone mentions something that you don’t know about or are unfamiliar with, ask for more information. “Teach me?” is still a thread!
  • I have never heard of that book—what is it about?
  • “Me too!” and “Teach me?” are two of the most powerful and underutilized phrases we have. Use them whenever possible.
  • If you thought your average eye contact was below 60 percent, then reading microexpressions is an easy way to incentivize more gazing.
  • Online microexpressions
  • Lowered eyebrows that are pinched together Two vertical creases in between the eyebrows Tensing of the lower eyelids Tightening of the lips—either pressed firmly together or in a position to yell
  • The easiest way to tell the difference between fear and surprise is the shape of the eyebrows. Fear is marked by flat eyebrows with horizontal lines across the forehead. In surprise, the eyebrows are rounded like upside-down Us.
  • Explore—where is the anger coming from and how can you oust it? Stay Calm—not offensive or defensive. Explain—what information can you give them to feel less threatened?
  • As you try to finish making dinner, you say to your partner, “Tell me the good news as you set the table.” Your partner is a little deflated. He still shares the news, but doesn’t feel nearly as excited as he did when he came home. You have a normal dinner.
  • “Tell me! Tell me! Let me turn this heat down so you can tell me everything,” you exclaim. He shares his major win at work while you put a cork in your wine and throw a bottle of champagne into the fridge. “We have to celebrate,” you say. Dinner takes a little bit longer, but you get to clink glasses and ride the high of his work win together.
  • Address—what’s the threat? What is the source of discomfort? Soothe—how can you make it safer? Comfort—can you reassure, re-evaluate, or remove the threat?
  • If you notice someone make a squelched expression, be sure to dig deeper to find the source of the disguise.
  • What does your digital microexpression say?
  • On the other hand, when you have an expression on your face, you also feel that emotion.
  • Always look for the seven microexpressions as you listen.
  • trying to figure out if he was high open (likes trying new things), I asked about his most recent vacations and then his career path. This led to a great rapport, and, eventually, his asking me to grab lunch “to continue this great conversation.”
  • Lows tend to let the laundry go until they’re down to the last pair of underwear. A low might not notice a messy desk covered with stacks of papers and unopened mail.
  • Lows typically think about what’s going right instead of what’s going wrong. So they have a harder time commiserating about stress and being busy.*
  • We are most accurate at speed-guessing extroversion, conscientiousness, and agreeableness—try to go with your first impression when assessing people in these areas.9 Openness
  • If you’re pitching a low open person, lead by describing what you’re not changing. Then present a rational, evidence-based case for your new idea to help them overcome their apprehension about trying something new.
  • A high neurotic likes to hear that you’re worrying about everything for him.
  • Don’t be surprised if the important people in your life have similar matrices.
  • Don’t impose your personality traits on others.
  • 5 Love Languages.
    • Words of Affirmation:
    • Gifts:
    • Physical Touch:
    • Acts of Service:
    • Quality Time:
  • If your language is Quality Time, you know that long-distance relationships or working virtually might not be a good choice for you.
  • For example, if you are low open and your primary appreciation language is Quality Time, you would be better off asking a colleague to a monthly coffee date at your favorite place.
  • What’s the nicest thing someone has ever done for you?
  • How do you celebrate your successes?
  • I really want to do something nice for our colleague who just had a new baby. What do you think we should do for them?
  • What’s your favorite thing to do on the weekends?
  • Words of Affirmation Professional: Write check-in e-mails Create positive feedback reports Do daily or weekly check-in meetings Offer to write recommendation letters Give public praise
  • Gifts Professional: Birthday gifts Holiday gifts Desk trinkets Thank-you gifts Gift baskets or boxes
  • Birthday cards especially for nwords nof affirmation folk
  • Romantic: Holding hands Cuddling Bow-chic-a-wow-wow Massages
  • Romantic: Phone-free time Weekly dates Trips Car rides Example
  • Don’t invite Quality Time people to do boring activities. Forget coffee—ask them to go on a hike or to a grilled cheese shop. My friend Stephen Scott is a triathlete, and he asks people to go on walks or runs in lieu of the typical lunch. Have
  • physical touch partner or friend? Learn how to give massages or do reflexology.
  • What is one way I can show you more appreciation?
  • Londolozi, one of the best luxury safari camps in South Africa,
  • we give what we most want. We might crave Love, so we give it to everyone around us—even if they don’t deserve it.
  • HACK #9: Primary Value The underlying motivation that drives a person’s decisions, actions, and desires.
  • Foa and his team argue that we often try to seek from others what we have been denied earlier in life.
  • If someone has low self-esteem, they are more likely to seek the Status resource from others.
  • Information I like to be in the know. I like to give advice. I enjoy teaching and learning.
  • Most people’s choices make sense to them. When they don’t make sense to you, it’s usually because you are being driven by a different primary value.
  • Do you need to motivate someone at work? Tap into what they value.
  • Do you need to understand a partner’s baffling choice? Figure out how it met their value needs.
  • Complaints and Brags:
  • Worries: What keeps someone up at night? What do they stress out about?
  • Primary Value: Love Feel Worthy When: They are included They feel liked Someone appreciates them
  • Primary Value: Service Feel Worthy When: They don’t have to ask for help Someone is assisting them with tasks or chores Someone does a favor for them
  • Primary Value: Status Feel Worthy When: They are praised They are given power or credit Their accomplishments are recognized
  • Primary Value: Money Feel Worthy When: They have a “full” bank account They can afford what they desire They are earning money
  • Primary Value: Goods Feel Worthy When: They have a comfortable home or office They have lots of assets They are surrounded by tokens or objects from their past
  • Primary Value: Information Feel Worthy When: They are in the know They are told information first They are asked to give an opinion
  • The Story Stack Share, tell, and hunt for captivating stories to capture imagination and attention.
  • Trigger Topic: You know how the same
  • Sparking Stories:
  • Boomerang:
  • Start with a Hook:
  • Champion a Struggle:
  • When we give up control, we gift power. I call this hack: Own It! HACK #11: Own It! Empower people by giving them buy-in, control, and ownership.
  • Leading people is about communicating a mission and then letting them take part in it.
  • easy trick for you: Always use the word “because” when asking for something.
  • To do this, use what I call Skill Solicitation. Skill Solicitation is when you ask people to self-identify based on capability:
  • Eventually he began posting them on his blog, which he calls PostSecret. Over the course of a few years, the blog went viral.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, share a vulnerability, or admit a weakness—they bond you to people.
  • Asking for advice softly admits a vulnerability.
  • Don’t miss casual opportunities for favors. When I go to someone’s home, I always accept a glass of water when offered.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for casual advice.
  • We tend to be defensive when someone offers unsolicited advice. However, this is actually an opportunity! This is an unsolicited opportunity to harness the power of the Franklin Effect.
  • Don’t underestimate the basics, either: Always send a thank-you card.
  • First, prevent good people from becoming difficult. Second, stop difficult people from being impossible.
  • Downers
  • Show-Offs
  • Passives
  • Tanks
  • “Emotional systems tend to monopolize brain resources. It’s much easier for an emotion to control a thought than for a thought to control an emotion,” explained LeDoux.5
  • HACK #13: The NUT Job When dealing with difficult people, name the emotion, understand the feeling, and transform the fear.
  • What is this person afraid of?
  • Typically, when someone is emotional and we are not, we try to counterbalance them by staying calm. But this doesn’t work.
  • You seem ____. Are you feeling ____? Give me a sense for what you’re feeling.
  • Do NOT try to move onto the Transform step until you are fully done naming and understanding. If someone is still speaking in a loud voice, tearful or flushed with emotion—they are not done processing yet.
  • You can’t argue with a feeling, but you can acknowledge it.
  • Toxic people are not worth your energy.
  • His sincere curiosity makes him incredibly engaging.
  • popular people are more attuned to social signals, social hierarchy, and relationships—and they place higher value on these cues.
  • Start and end phone calls with “I’m so happy you called!”
  • Don’t impress people; engage them.

The opportunity to move for work is a privilege. Remote Work unlocks the potential of those who can’t

With Remote Work, you don’t have to choose between your career and behaving like a human being. You don’t have to uproot yourself and embark on an uncertain journey to seek a better life. The days of Wild West are gone.

The opportunity to move for work is a privilege, and the immense potential of those of us who are not willing to leave our lives behind is only beginning to be explored.

As I write this, my grandfather is not doing so well. I very much enjoy the opportunity to visit him and listen to his crazy war stories. About the time he was running a public house as a 14-year old to feed his family. Or how he stole german weapons and sold them to the resistance.

My Wife appreciates these stories too, and she “adopted” him as her own.

Book: Homo Deus – a history of Tomorrow

TLDR: Yes, you should read this book.

“In seeking bliss and immortality humans are in fact trying to upgrade themselves into gods.”

Yuval Noah Harrari

Humanism has brought us incredible advances: We cured plagues, stopped wars, tamed nature. Climate catastrophe aside, we succeeded in overcoming every challenge thrown at a human race and came stronger and more resilient from experience.

Homo Deus is a book about the possible paths for humanity. Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens takes his insightful analysis of our species history and maps the trends and technological advances to present us with a possible future. I find this analysis highly accurate and agree with him on the direction we are facing.

Plagues and wars are no longer a daily concern. Now, my main struggle is finding ripe enough Avocado for my morning toast.

But this enormous success has brought its own trap: We have become accustomed to our way of life. 

Amazon link

The shortcomings of Humanism

You can only force people to do so many things. But it turns out that if you give them meaning and a purpose, they will be capable of incredible feats.

In early modern times, religion has provided this purpose generously. If you served God, you would go to Heaven. Everything made sense. You should, without a doubt, put all your efforts into furthering churches’ mission, even if that meant killing more pagans or dying yourself in the process.

Then came the Renaissance.

Slowly, but surely the religion was not the only game in town. People discovered the value of an individual human being, and human colossus started to gain more power ( Read this post by Tim Urban to learn more about the human collossus ).

During the Agricultural Revolution humankind silenced animals and plants, and turned the animist grand opera into a dialogue between man and gods. During the Scientific Revolution humankind silenced the gods too. The world was now a one-man show.

Yuval Noah Harrari

When you give people meaning and empower them to unleash their creativity, they will stop at nothing to achieve the goal. There is a catch, though.

The goal of Humanism is to remove any artificial meaning continually.

This is the primary commandment humanism has given us: create meaning for a meaningless world.

Yuval Noah Harrari

For a while, that meaning was elevating the living conditions of the western world. Fighting poverty, hunger, and diseases. Human spirit prevailing over the harsh environment.

We have succeeded in all these pursuits, but in the course of doing so, we have created problems that do not have clear solutions. We have run out of meaning, and postmodernism has poisoned our ability to seek it.

Different flavors of Humanism have pursued different ways of seeking that meaning:

  • Liberal Humanism is all about freedom of the individual – this is what we usually mean when we say “Humanism.”
  • Socialist Humanism aims to elevate the living conditions of the collective. By working together, we will thrive.
  • Evolutionary Humanism wants to create better conditions by ensuring only the strongest individuals continue to shape the future. 

In the second half of the twentieth-century humankind almost obliterated itself in an argument about production methods.

Yuval Noah Harrari

For a while, after World Wars, we have relished in the renewed sense of meaning yet again. Rebuilding our broken world, healing the wounds and ensuring working on the trauma gave us purpose.

But those days are gone.

What will be the new frontier?

“It took just a piece of bread to make a starving medieval peasant joyful. How do you bring joy to a bored, overpaid and overweight engineer?”

We are now heading straight for techno-utopia. Our every little annoyance is solved with technical advances. Now I do not need to seek an Avocado for my toast. The meal will be delivered to my doorstep without me leaving the couch.

And Avocado Toast is here to stay.

Every primary belief system has made use of one thing as the ultimate meaning source: The death itself.

  • “Obey, or you will go to hell.”
  • “Enjoy your time while you are here.”
  • “We are only playthings of the Gods, and we die when they are finished with us.”

Regardless of the specific theology, death was always a constant fact of life. At least you could count on that.

It is only natural that humans would try to attack it with considerable hubris. Hans Rosling expands on this in Factfulness.

The life span is increasing, thanks to medical advances rapidly.

We don’t have to invent immortality. To effectively live forever, your life expectancy has to improve by one year, every year.

Current medical improvements will keep you around long enough to see future medical enhancements and so on.

I am consciously getting around the topic of life quality in this scenario, since that may be a good question for another time.

Virtual Reality is also becoming a consideration. We could upload our consciousness straight into the Internet.

Let’s not lie to ourselves – many of us are already living there.

The perils of immortality

Let’s say we have achieved immortality.

We will have conquered everything. Where do we find meaning, then?

  • One idea is that the meaning is data being processed. Humanity is only the vector by which information is spreading.
  • We may find that space – “The Final Frontier” – is something that will infuse humanity with new Vigor
  • Do you have any ideas? I’m all ears

Another thing we are currently battling with is that it’s tough to change people’s minds.

Never before in human history, the reality has changed faster than people were dying. The psychological makeup after you are thirty makes you less likely to change mind and accept new concepts.

Max Planck famously said that science advances one funeral at a time.

Yuval Noah Harari

You could blame the recent resurgence of conservatism on the change velocity in the modern world. It will be exciting to see how humanity will adapt to this constant change.

Sidetone: The intersubjective level of Reality.

According to Harari, there are three levels of the reality:

  • The objective reality that we share. This one is governed by immutable laws of nature,
  • Intrasubjective Reality that is private for each and every one of us. It’s governed by our belief system,
  • Intersubjective Reality that we share, but it is governed by our shared belief systems.

Part of our political discussion recently is that we ignore the third, intersubjective level and try to classify our experience in one of the former two. We mostly do not agree about this classification.

There is a talk by Yuval Noah Harari in University of California:

My highlights

  • There are no longer natural famines in the world; there are only political famines. If people in Syria, Sudan or Somalia starve to death, it is because some politician wants them to.
  • Whereas in March 1520, when the Spanish fleet arrived, Mexico was home to 22 million people, by December only 14 million were still alive. Smallpox was only the first blow. While the new Spanish masters were busy enriching themselves and exploiting the natives, deadly waves of flu, measles and other infectious diseases struck Mexico one after the other, until in 1580 its population was down to less than 2 million.8 Two centuries later, on 18 January 1778, the British explorer Captain James Cook reached Hawaii.
  • Altogether the pandemic killed between 50 million and 100 million people in less than a year. The First World War killed 40 million from 1914 to 1918.
  • In 2012 about 56 million people died throughout the world; 620,000 of them died due to human violence (war killed 120,000 people, and crime killed another 500,000). In contrast, 800,000 committed suicide, and 1.5 million died of diabetes.23 Sugar is now more dangerous than gunpowder.
  • as knowledge became the most important economic resource, the profitability of war declined and
  • What Rwanda earned from an entire year of looting Congolese coltan, the Chinese earn in a single day of peaceful commerce.
  • When the moment comes to choose between economic growth and ecological stability, politicians, CEOs and voters almost always prefer growth.
  • Rather, for modern people death is a technical problem that we can and should solve.
  • They maintain that anyone possessing a healthy body and a healthy bank account in 2050 will have a serious shot at immortality by cheating death a decade at a time.
  • Max Planck famously said that science advances one funeral at a time.
  • Indeed, even chimpanzees in the jungle sometimes live into their sixties.
  • Galileo Galilei died at seventy-seven, Isaac Newton at eighty-four, and Michelangelo lived to the ripe age of eighty-eight, without any help from antibiotics, vaccinations or organ transplants. Indeed, even chimpanzees in the jungle sometimes live into their sixties.29
  • When you take into account our belief in the sanctity of human life, add the dynamics of the scientific establishment, and top it all with the needs of the capitalist economy, a relentless war against death seems to be inevitable.
  • You fought for your country when you were eighteen, and paid your taxes when you were forty, because you counted on the state to take care of you when you were seventy.30
  • liberty. It’s important to note, however, that the American Declaration of Independence guaranteed the right to the pursuit of happiness, not the right to happiness itself
  • Epicurus recommended, for example, to eat and drink in moderation, and to curb one’s sexual appetites.
  • It took just a piece of bread to make a starving medieval peasant joyful. How do you bring joy to a bored, overpaid and overweight engineer?
  • Forget economic growth, social reforms and political revolutions: in order to raise global happiness levels, we need to manipulate human biochemistry.
  • The principle is clear: biochemical manipulations that strengthen political stability, social order and economic growth are allowed and even encouraged (e.g., those that calm hyperactive kids in school, or drive anxious soldiers forward into battle). Manipulations that threaten stability and growth are banned.
  • Some 2,300 years ago Epicurus warned his disciples that immoderate pursuit of pleasure is likely to make them miserable rather than happy.
  • To attain real happiness, humans need to slow down the pursuit of pleasant sensations, not accelerate it.
  • In seeking bliss and immortality humans are in fact trying to upgrade themselves into gods.
  • Breaking out of the organic realm could also enable life to finally break out of planet earth.
  • In the twenty-first century, the third big project of humankind will be to acquire for us divine powers of creation and destruction, and upgrade Homo sapiens into Homo deus.
  • Thus the Old Testament God never promises any rewards or punishments after death.
  • This is what we fear collectively, as a species, when we hear of superhumans. We sense that in such a world, our identity, our dreams and even our fears will be irrelevant, and we will have nothing more to contribute.
  • But most experts think on a timescale of academic grants and college jobs. Hence, ‘very far away’ may mean twenty years, and ‘never’ may denote no more than fifty.
  • but soon enough men who had no impotence problems in the first place began using the same pill to surpass the norm, and acquire sexual powers they never had before.45
  • Once stem-cell research enables us to create an unlimited supply of human embryos on the cheap, you can select your optimal baby from among hundreds of candidates,
  • Knowledge that does not change behaviour is useless. But knowledge that changes behaviour quickly loses its relevance.
  • The new history will explain that ‘our present situation is neither natural nor eternal. Things were different once. Only a string of chance events created the unjust world we know today. If we act wisely, we can change that world, and create a much better one.’
  • In most Semitic languages, ‘Eve’ means ‘snake’ or even ‘female snake’.
  • because the twenty-first century will be dominated by algorithms. ‘Algorithm’ is arguably the single most important concept in our world.
  • Over the last few decades biologists have reached the firm conclusion that the man pressing the buttons and drinking the tea is also an algorithm.
  • These algorithms undergo constant quality control by natural selection.
  • What we call sensations and emotions are in fact algorithms.
  • It is therefore likely that frightened humans, frightened baboons and frightened pigs have similar experiences.
  • John Watson, a leading childcare authority in the 1920s, sternly advised parents, ‘Never hug and kiss [your children], never let them sit in your lap. If you must, kiss them once on the forehead when they say goodnight. Shake hands with them in the morning.’
  • A modern Jewish family that celebrates a holiday by having a barbecue on their front lawn is much closer to the spirit of biblical times than an orthodox family that spends the time studying scriptures in a synagogue.
  • During the Agricultural Revolution humankind silenced animals and plants, and turned the animist grand opera into a dialogue between man and gods. During the Scientific Revolution humankind silenced the gods too. The world was now a one-man show.
  • Everything that happens in the cosmos is judged to be good or bad according to its impact on Homo sapiens.
  • Hence the existence of souls cannot be squared with the theory of evolution.
  • So perhaps behind all the sensations and emotions we ascribe to animals – hunger, fear, love and loyalty – lurk only unconscious algorithms rather than subjective experiences?
  • Consciousness is the biologically useless by-product of certain brain processes. Jet engines roar loudly, but the noise doesn’t propel the aeroplane forward.
  • it implies that all the pain and pleasure experienced by billions of creatures for millions of years is just mental pollution.
  • Mind and body are made of pipes, cylinders, valves and pistons that build and release pressure, thereby producing movements and actions. Such thinking had a deep influence even on Freudian psychology, which is why much of our psychological jargon is still replete with concepts borrowed from mechanical engineering.
  • Starting with the assumption that we can believe humans when they report that they are conscious, we can identify the signatures of human consciousness, and then use these signatures to ‘prove’ that humans are indeed conscious.
  • According to Turing, in the future computers would be just like gay men in the 1950s. It won’t matter whether computers will actually be conscious or not. It will matter only what people think about it.
  • This declaration stops short of saying that other animals are conscious, because we still lack the smoking gun. But it does shift the burden of proof to those who think otherwise. Responding to the shifting
  • Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness,
  • This declaration stops short of saying that other animals are conscious, because we still lack the smoking gun. But it does shift the burden of proof to those who think otherwise.
  • If a hive faces a new threat or a new opportunity, the bees cannot, for example, guillotine the queen and establish a republic.
  • First, they placed loyal communist apparatchiks in control of all networks of cooperation, such as the army, trade unions and even sports associations. Second, they prevented the creation of any rival organisations – whether political, economic or social – which might serve as a basis for anti-communist cooperation. Third, they relied on the support of sister communist parties in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe.
  • Classical economists have probably never left their laboratories and lecture halls to venture into the real world.
  • These are sets of rules that, despite existing only in our imagination, we believe to be as real and inviolable as gravity.
  • there is a third level of reality: the intersubjective level.
  • Meaning is created when many people weave together a common network of stories.
  • Sapiens rule the world because only they can weave an intersubjective web of meaning: a web of laws, forces, entities and places that exist purely in their common imagination.
  • Humans think they make history, but history actually revolves around the web of stories.
  • Just like the living-god pharaoh, the living-god Petsuchos was lovingly groomed by attending priests who provided the lucky reptile with lavish food and even toys, and dressed him up in gold cloaks and gem-encrusted crowns.
  • But nowadays we habitually say that the United States built the first nuclear bomb, that China built the Three Gorges Dam or that Google is building an autonomous car. Why not say, then, that pharaoh built a reservoir and Sobek dug a canal?
  • Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the angel with the rubber stamp.
  • Sousa Mendes, armed with little more than a rubber stamp, was responsible for the largest rescue operation by a single individual during the Holocaust.2
  • He is convinced that everything happens because of him. Most people grow out of this infantile delusion. Monotheists hold on to it till the day they die.
  • Indeed, even today when US presidents take their oath of office, they put their hand on a Bible.
  • Consequently the system may seem to be working well, but only if we adopt the system’s own criteria.
  • History isn’t a single narrative, but thousands of alternative narratives. Whenever we choose to tell one, we are also choosing to silence others.
  • How do you know if an entity is real? Very simple – just ask yourself, ‘Can it suffer?’
  • Corporations, money and nations exist only in our imagination. We invented them to serve us; why do we find ourselves sacrificing our lives in their service?
  • We always believe in ‘the truth’; only other people believe in superstitions.
  • Religion is any all-encompassing story that confers superhuman legitimacy on human laws, norms and values.
  • For religions, spirituality is a dangerous threat.
  • When religions advertise themselves, they tend to emphasise their beautiful values. But God often hides in the fine print of factual statements.
  • The entire contract can be summarised in a single phrase: humans agree to give up meaning in exchange
  • Yet in fact modernity is a surprisingly simple deal. The entire contract can be summarised in a single phrase: humans agree to give up meaning in exchange for power.
  • If modernity has a motto, it is ‘shit happens’.
  • On the practical level modern life consists of a constant pursuit of power within a universe devoid of meaning.
  • For thousands of years priests, rabbis and muftis explained that humans cannot overcome famine, plague and war by their own efforts. Then along came the bankers, investors and industrialists, and within 200 years managed to do exactly that.
  • This is the primary commandment humanism has given us: create meaning for a meaningless world.
  • develop a particular liking for ‘Panda Dung tea’ from the mountains of Ya’an in Sichuan province, made from the leaves of tea bushes fertilised by the dung of panda bears.
  • at least during the nineteenth century nationalism was closely aligned with liberalism.
  • My current political views, my likes and dislikes, and my hobbies and ambitions do not reflect my authentic self. Rather, they reflect my upbringing and social surroundings. They depend on my class, and are shaped by my neighbourhood and my school.
  • While it is a favourite pastime of Western academics and activists to find fault with the liberal package, they have so far failed to come up with anything better.
  • Pius led a series of reforms in Catholic dogma and established the novel principle of papal infallibility, according to which the Pope can never err in matters of faith (this seemingly medieval idea became binding Catholic dogma only in 1870, eleven years after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species).
  • In the second half of the twentieth century humankind almost obliterated itself in an argument about production methods.
  • until they finally discover what they need: some maxim, parable or ruling that, if interpreted creatively enough means God blesses gay marriages and women can be ordained to the priesthood.
  • The Bible is kept as a source of authority, even though it is no longer a true source of inspiration.
  • The sacred word ‘freedom’ turns out to be, just like ‘soul’, a hollow term empty of any discernible meaning.
  • For the experiencing self, it is impossible that adding a slightly unpleasant experience to a very unpleasant experience will make the entire episode more appealing.
  • The value of the whole experience is determined by averaging peaks with ends.
  • We identify with the inner system that takes the crazy chaos of life and spins out of it seemingly logical and consistent yarns.
  • Our narrating self would much prefer to continue suffering in the future, just so it won’t have to admit that our past suffering was devoid of all meaning.
  • if we want to come clean about past mistakes, our narrating self must invent some twist in the plot that will infuse these mistakes with meaning.
  • Medieval crusaders believed that God and heaven provided their lives with meaning; modern liberals believe that individual free choices provide life with meaning. They are all equally delusional.
  • We are about to face a flood of extremely useful devices, tools and structures that make no allowance for the free will of individual humans.
  • Is it a coincidence that universal rights were proclaimed at the precise historical juncture when universal conscription was decreed?
  • It is telling that already today in many asymmetrical conflicts the majority of citizens are reduced to serving as shields for advanced armaments.
  • An application called Deadline goes a step further, informing you of how many years of life you have left, given your current habits.
  • Algorithms won’t revolt and enslave us. Rather, they will be so good at making decisions for us that it would be madness not to follow their advice.
  • Liberalism will collapse on the day the system knows me better than I know myself. Which is less difficult than it may sound, given that most people don’t really know themselves well.
  • Modern humanity is sick with FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out – and though we have more choice than ever before, we have lost the ability to really pay attention to whatever we choose.6
  • 1.Are organisms really just algorithms, and is life really just data processing? 2.What’s more valuable – intelligence or consciousness? 3.What will happen to society, politics and daily life when non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms know us better than we know ourselves?