Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘comfort zone

Tidbits #36

Brave, temeraire, lache, idiot, intelligent… La fraternelle mort n’ en n’ a cure. Ce sont les mots qui nous divisent

Concept of asymptomatic carriers—people who harbor and spread a disease, but never appear to get sick from it themselves.

The US will borrow $3 trillion in the second quarter. The unprecedented sum is more than 5 times what the government borrowed in a single quarter during the 2008 crisis, as it finances massive stimulus efforts to revive the economy. (Question: who is lending the USA?)

Projected 134,000 Covid-19 deaths by August in the USA, double the current expectation?

To where can US move their outsourcing and manufacturing away from China? VietNam and Indonesia cannot match the demands even with all the tax incentives for US companies.

For example, Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients in China decrease its production by 20%,, which is majorly affecting the global drug supply. Home builders in Japan worry that their homes will be left without lavatories (WC toilet) after China-made toilets vanished from the market.

Data from China suggest that some individuals, particularly young people, may even beat a virus infection without developing antibodies at all.

Around the world, central bank asset purchases are expected to reach $6 trillion this year. (What assets? Meaning selling their assets? Government properties?)

Let’s face it: Until the thousands of Wahhabi Islamic Madrasa working around the world are transformed into secular public schools, Extremist Islamic sects will be around for hundreds of years.

I watched a female reporter fall down as a poisonous “tear” gas fall in her vicinity. Apparently, England and France are experimenting with their chemical weapons on the Palestinians. Israel is bombing emergency Red Cross tents with tear gas too.

“The pandemic has made it widely apparent that internet access is a class issue. Although the United Nations in 2016 declared that connection is a basic human right, not just a luxury for the rich, it’s clear now that those who can work or study from home are the fortunate ones.

After many trials in the living, we settle in a “comfort zone” and we stick to this zone and let the advertisers and politicians abuse of our perception. We become the Silent Majority in a society. Unless we get out of our comfort zone again and again, we deny ourselves and our descendents the advantage of the survival process.

Math and logic are fitter to perceive reality for our survival than our delusional perceptual interpretations. And that is the Chinese model for the future.

The wave of government spending benefit big corporations the most—and give them the cash they need to buy up and crowd out smaller competitors. Watchdogs worry monopolies are on the rise in the US.

A first global attempt to take away political rights happened on 11 September 2001, then a declaration of war on humanity disguised as a war on terrorism.

$1.24 billion is the value of the UK bingo market, including bingo halls and online play in 2019

6,000: Bingo cards designed by Columbia University math professor Carl Leffler, who was allegedly driven mad by the task

Who care to see Reality as Is? Who can we trust to deliver “what is Reality”?

Note: Re-edit of “Are we able to see Reality as is? July 2015 and Donald Hoffman speech on March 2015”

Let’s begin with a question: Do we see reality as it is?

Are we shaped with tricks and hacks that keep us alive (evolutionary process)?

I love a great mystery, and I’m fascinated by the greatest unsolved mystery in sciences, perhaps because it’s personal.

It’s about who we are, and I can’t help but be curious.

The mystery is this: 

What is the relationship between your brain and your conscious experiences, such as your experience of the taste of chocolate or the feeling of velvet?

This mystery is not new. In 1868, Thomas Huxley wrote,

“How it is that anything so remarkable as a state of consciousness comes about as the result of irritating nervous tissue is just as unaccountable as the appearance of the genie when Aladdin rubbed his lamp.”

Huxley knew that brain activity and conscious experiences are correlated, but he didn’t know why.

To the sciences of his day, it was a mystery. In the years since Huxley, sciences have learned a lot about brain activity, but the relationship between brain activity and conscious experiences is still a mystery. Why?

Why have we made so little progress?

Some experts think that we can’t solve this problem because we lack the necessary concepts and intelligence.

We don’t expect monkeys to solve problems in quantum mechanics, and as it happens, we can’t expect our species to solve this problem either.

Well, I disagree. I’m more optimistic. 

I think we’ve simply made false assumptions, one assumption in particular.

Once we fix it, we just might solve this problem. Today, I’d like tell you what that assumption is, why it’s false, and how to fix it.

Let’s begin with a question: Do we see reality as it is?

Does natural selection really favor seeing reality as it is?

Aren’t we reconstructing “reality” everytime?

I open my eyes and I have an experience that I describe as a red tomato a meter away. As a result, I come to believe that in reality, there’s a red tomato a meter away.

I then close my eyes, and my experience changes to a gray field, but is it still the case that in reality, there’s a red tomato a meter away? I think so, but could I be wrong? 

Could I be misinterpreting the nature of my perceptions?

We have misinterpreted our perceptions before. We used to think the Earth is flat, because it looks that way. Pythagoras discovered that we were wrong.

Then we thought that the Earth is the unmoving center of the Universe, again because it looks that way. Copernicus and Galileo discovered, again, that we were wrong.

Galileo then wondered if we might be misinterpreting our experiences in other ways. He wrote:

I think that tastes, odors, colors, and so on reside in consciousness. Hence if the living creature were removed, all these qualities would be annihilated.” (Meaning, nature and its plants have their own consciousness, regardless of the disappearance of living creatures?)

That’s a stunning claim. Could Galileo be right? Could we really be misinterpreting our experiences that badly? What does modern science have to say about this?

Neuroscientists tell us that about a third of the brain’s cortex is engaged in vision. When you simply open your eyes and look about this room, billions of neurons and trillions of synapses are engaged.

This is a bit surprising, because to the extent that we think about vision at all, we think of it as like a camera.

It just takes a picture of objective reality as it is. Now, there is a part of vision that’s like a camera: the eye has a lens that focuses an image on the back of the eye where there are 130 million photoreceptors, so the eye is like a 130-megapixel camera.

But that doesn’t explain the billions of neurons and trillions of synapses that are engaged in vision. What are these neurons up to?

Neuro-scientists tell us that they are creating, in real time, all the shapes, objects, colors, and motions that we see. 

It feels like we’re just taking a snapshot of this room the way it is, but in fact, we’re constructing everything that we see. We don’t construct the whole world at once. We construct what we need in the moment.

Now, there are many demonstrations that are quite compelling that we do construct what we see. I’ll just show you two.

In this example, you see some red discs with bits cut out of them, but if I just rotate the disks a little bit, suddenly, you see a 3D cube pop out of the screen. Now, the screen of course is flat, so the three-dimensional cube that you’re experiencing must be your construction.

In this next example, you see glowing blue bars with pretty sharp edges moving across a field of dots. In fact, no dots move. All I’m doing from frame to frame is changing the colors of dots from blue to black or black to blue. But when I do this quickly, your visual system creates the glowing blue bars with the sharp edges and the motion. 

There are many more examples, but these are just two that you construct what you see.

But neuroscientists go further. They say that we reconstruct reality. So, when I have an experience that I describe as a red tomato, that experience is actually an accurate reconstruction of the properties of a real red tomato that would exist even if I weren’t looking.

Why would neuroscientists say that we don’t just construct, we reconstruct?

The standard argument given is usually an evolutionary one. The notion that “Our ancestors who saw more accurately had a competitive advantage compared to those who saw less accurately, and therefore they were more likely to pass on their genes…” (This hypothesis didn’t withstand investigation).

We are the offspring of those who saw more accurately, and so we can be confident that, in the normal case, our perceptions are accurate. 

You see this in the standard textbooks. One textbook says, for example, “Evolutionarily speaking, vision is useful precisely because it is so accurate.” So the idea is that accurate perceptions are fitter perceptions. They give you a survival advantage.

Now, is this correct? Is this the right interpretation of evolutionary theory? 

Let’s first look at a couple of examples in nature.

The Australian jewel beetle is dimpled, glossy and brown. The female is flightless. The male flies, looking for a hot female. When he finds one, he alights and mates.

There’s another species in the outback, Homo sapiens. The male of this species has a massive brain that he uses to hunt for cold beer. (Laughter) And when he finds one, he drains it, and sometimes throws the bottle into the outback.

Now, as it happens, these bottles are dimpled, glossy, and just the right shade of brown to tickle the fancy of these beetles. The males swarm all over the bottles trying to mate. They lose all interest in the real females.

Classic case of the male leaving the female for the bottle. (Laughter)  The species almost went extinct.

Australia had to change its bottles to save its beetles. (Laughter)

Now, the males had successfully found females for thousands, perhaps millions of years. It looked like they saw reality as it is, but apparently not. Evolution had given them a hack.

A female is anything dimpled, glossy and brown, the bigger the better. (Laughter) Even when crawling all over the bottle, the male couldn’t discover his mistake.

You might say, beetles, sure, they’re very simple creatures, but surely not mammals. Mammals don’t rely on tricks. Well, I won’t dwell on this, but you get the idea. (Laughter)

So this raises an important technical question: Does natural selection really favor seeing reality as it is?

Fortunately, we don’t have to wave our hands and guess; evolution is a mathematically precise theory. We can use the equations of evolution to check this out. We can have various organisms in artificial worlds compete and see which survive and which thrive, which sensory systems are more fit.

A key notion in those equations is fitness.

Consider this steak: What does this steak do for the fitness of an animal? Well, for a hungry lion looking to eat, it enhances fitness. For a well-fed lion looking to mate, it doesn’t enhance fitness.

And for a rabbit in any state, it doesn’t enhance fitness, so fitness does depend on reality as it is, yes, but also on the organism, its state and its action.

Fitness is not the same thing as reality as it is.

And it’s fitness, and not reality as it is, that figures centrally in the equations of evolution.

In my lab, we have run hundreds of thousands of evolutionary game simulations with lots of different randomly chosen worlds and organisms that compete for resources in those worlds.

Some of the organisms see all of the reality, others see just part of the reality, and some see none of the reality, only fitness. Who wins?

In almost every simulation, organisms that see none of reality but are just tuned to fitness drive to extinction all the organisms that perceive reality as it is. So the bottom line is, evolution does not favor vertical, or accurate perceptions. Those perceptions of reality go extinct.

I hate to break it to you, but perception of reality goes extinct (compared to fitness)

This is a bit stunning. How can it be that not seeing the world accurately gives us a survival advantage?

That is a bit counterintuitive. But remember the jewel beetle. The jewel beetle survived for thousands, perhaps millions of years, using simple tricks and hacks.

What the equations of evolution are telling us is that all organisms, including us, are in the same boat as the jewel beetle. We do not see reality as it is. We’re shaped with tricks and hacks that keep us alive.

Still, we need some help with our intuitions.

How can not perceiving reality as it is be useful? Well, fortunately, we have a very helpful metaphor: the desktop interface on your computer.

Consider that blue icon for a TED Talk that you’re writing. Now, the icon is blue and rectangular and in the lower right corner of the desktop. Does that mean that the text file itself in the computer is blue, rectangular, and in the lower right-hand corner of the computer? Of course not.

Anyone who thought that misinterprets the purpose of the interface. It’s not there to show you the reality of the computer. In fact, it’s there to hide that reality.

You don’t want to know about the diodes and resistors and all the megabytes of software. If you had to deal with that, you could never write your text file or edit your photo.

So the idea is that evolution has given us an interface that hides reality and guides adaptive behavior. 

Space and time, as you perceive them right now, are your desktop. Physical objects are simply icons in that desktop.

There’s an obvious objection.

Now, if you think that train coming down the track at 200 MPH is just an icon of your desktop, why don’t you step in front of it?

And after you’re gone, and your theory with you, we’ll know that there’s more to that train than just an icon.

Well, I wouldn’t step in front of that train for the same reason that I wouldn’t carelessly drag that icon to the trash can: not because I take the icon literally — the file is not literally blue or rectangular — but I do take it seriously. I could lose weeks of work. 

Similarly, evolution has shaped us with perceptual symbols that are designed to keep us alive. We’d better take them seriously.

If you see a snake, don’t pick it up. If you see a cliff, don’t jump off. They’re designed to keep us safe, and we should take them seriously. That does not mean that we should take them literally. That’s a logical error.

Another objection: There’s nothing really new here. 

Physicists have told us for a long time that the metal of that train looks solid but really it’s mostly empty space with microscopic particles zipping around.

There’s nothing new here. Well, not exactly. It’s like saying, I know that that blue icon on the desktop is not the reality of the computer, but if I pull out my trusty magnifying glass and look really closely, I see little pixels, and that’s the reality of the computer. Well, not really — you’re still on the desktop, and that’s the point.

Those microscopic particles are still in space and time: they’re still in the user interface. So I’m saying something far more radical than those physicists.

Finally, you might object, look, we all see the train, therefore none of us constructs the train.

But remember this example. In this example, we all see a cube, but the screen is flat, so the cube that you see is the cube that you construct. We all see a cube because we all, each one of us, constructs the cube that we see.

The same is true of the train. We all see a train because we each see the train that we construct, and the same is true of all physical objects.

We’re inclined to think that perception is like a window on reality as it is. The theory of evolution is telling us that this is an incorrect interpretation of our perceptions.

Instead, reality is more like a 3D desktop that’s designed to hide the complexity of the real world and guide adaptive behavior. Space as you perceive it is your desktop. Physical objects are just the icons in that desktop.

We used to think that the Earth is flat because it looks that way. Then we thought that the Earth is the unmoving center of reality because it looks that way. We were wrong. We had misinterpreted our perceptions.

Now we believe that spacetime and objects are the nature of reality as it is. The theory of evolution is telling us that once again, we’re wrong.

We’re misinterpreting the content of our perceptual experiences. There’s something that exists when you don’t look, but it’s not spacetime and physical objects.

It’s as hard for us to let go of spacetime and objects as it is for the jewel beetle to let go of its bottle. Why?

Because we’re blind to our own blindnesses. But we have an advantage over the jewel beetle: our science and technology.

By peering through the lens of a telescope we discovered that the Earth is not the unmoving center of reality, and by peering through the lens of the theory of evolution we discovered that spacetime and objects are not the nature of reality.

When I have a perceptual experience that I describe as a red tomato, I am interacting with reality, but that reality is not a red tomato and is nothing like a red tomato.

Similarly, when I have an experience that I describe as a lion or a steak, I’m interacting with reality, but that reality is not a lion or a steak.

And here’s the kicker: When I have a perceptual experience that I describe as a brain, or neurons, I am interacting with reality, but that reality is not a brain or neurons and is nothing like a brain or neurons.

And that reality, whatever it is, is the real source of cause and effect in the world — not brains, not neurons. Brains and neurons have no causal powers. They cause none of our perceptual experiences, and none of our behavior. 

Brains and neurons are a species-specific set of symbols, a hack.

What does this mean for the mystery of consciousness? Well, it opens up new possibilities.

For instance, perhaps reality is some vast machine that causes our conscious experiences. I doubt this, but it’s worth exploring.

Perhaps reality is some vast, interacting network of conscious agents, simple and complex, that cause each other’s conscious experiences. Actually, this isn’t as crazy an idea as it seems, and I’m currently exploring it.

But here’s the point: Once we let go of our massively intuitive but massively false assumption about the nature of reality, it opens up new ways to think about life’s greatest mystery.

I bet that reality will end up turning out to be more fascinating and unexpected than we’ve ever imagined.

The theory of evolution presents us with the ultimate dare: 

Dare to recognize that perception is not about seeing truth, it’s about having kids. And by the way, even this TED is just in your head.

19:31 Chris Anderson: If that’s really you there, thank you. So there’s so much from this. I mean, first of all, some people may just be profoundly depressed at the thought that, if evolution does not favor reality, I mean, doesn’t that to some extent undermine all our endeavors here, all our ability to think that we can think the truth, possibly even including your own theory, if you go there?

 Donald Hoffman: Well, this does not stop us from a successful science. What we have is one theory that turned out to be false, that perception is like reality and reality is like our perceptions. That theory turns out to be false.

Okay, throw that theory away. That doesn’t stop us from now postulating all sorts of other theories about the nature of reality, so it’s actually progress to recognize that one of our theories was false. So science continues as normal. There’s no problem here.

20:22 CAThis is cool, but what you’re saying I think is it’s possible that evolution can still get you to reason.

DH: Yes. Now that’s a very, very good point. The evolutionary game simulations that I showed were specifically about perception, and they do show that our perceptions have been shaped not to show us reality as it is, but that does not mean the same thing about our logic or mathematics.

We haven’t done these simulations, but my bet is that we’ll find that there are some selection pressures for our logic and our mathematics to be at least in the direction of truth. I mean, if you’re like me, math and logic is not easy.

We don’t get it all right, but at least the selection pressures are not uniformly away from true math and logic. So I think that we’ll find that we have to look at each cognitive faculty one at a time and see what evolution does to it.

What’s true about perception may not be true about math and logic.

CA: I mean, really what you’re proposing is a kind of modern-day Bishop Berkeley interpretation of the world: consciousness causes matter, not the other way around.

DH: Well, it’s slightly different than Berkeley. Berkeley thought that, he was a deist, and he thought that the ultimate nature of reality is God and so forth, and I don’t need to go where Berkeley’s going, so it’s quite a bit different from Berkeley. I call this conscious realism. It’s actually a very different approach.

Donald Hoffman on March 2015

Note 1: The way I comprehended this awesome speech is:

1. There are only 2 realities:  The survival process of the species and Death

2. If mankind tampers with the survival process we are doomed (as we already decimated countless other species)

3. We don’t love Death. We don’t love making babies: we just deal with this survival reality as best we can.

4. Love is not within the realm of making babies: we just fall in love.

5. If we try to keep mathematics and logic out of the survival process, then we are Not allowing them to give us new ideas on the topic of survival

Note 2: I like to expand this concept a little further. After many trials in the living, we settle in a “comfort zone” and we stick to this zone and let the advertisers and politicians abuse of our perception of what is reality. We become the Silent Majority in a society. Unless we get out of our comfort zone again and again, we deny ourselves and our descendents the advantage of the survival process.

Fixed versus Growth mind-set challengers

Many students breeze through particular courses as if the topics were easy-work.

The problem starts when they are faced with equally talented students but harder working.

The lazy breeze through courses people “procrastinate to failure” when challenged by the harder-working talented competitors.

You have, in addition to the low-talented but hard working students two other categories:

“Fixed mind-set,” people versus  “growth mind-set” who thrive on challenges because they would learn something they had no talent in.

They are not afraid to fail and they accept the challenge as an opportunity to learn something new.

I know of talented mathematicians.

What set them apart from other talented and intelligent mathematicians is that they make it a duty to solve every ridiculous exercise at the end of the chapter, and in every math problem book.

I know of few people still patronizing a library to read there every day at an older age

Don’t feel ashamed to be different from those accustomed to their comfort zone: Life is facing the challenges, and looking at the “impossible” straight in the eye

Strength through peace

Anticipating doom is brutal. And anticipating brutality is even worse.

It creates an enormous amount of emotional overhead.

It makes it difficult to invest, hard to make long-term plans. And it fills us with dread, short circuiting our creativity.

Peace has a dividend. Economic peace, political peace, interpersonal peace.

It gives us room to dream, to get restless and to make things even better.

We don’t need other people to lose in order for us to win. And keeping score is overrated.

Most of all, it’s worth investing in peace of mind.

The dividends are huge, and the journey (the way each of us spend our days) matters.

That’s one of the primary benefits of enlightened leadership. It creates a safe space to do important work.

 

Don’t tell me how adventurous you were when young: It does not count

Now that you are a tad older, tell me how you resolve your few handicaps every time you have to step out of your comfort zone.

Youth will never get the patience to listen to how older people body lose its adaptability, flexibility and power of recuperation.

All you are saying on physical difficulties is totally irrelevant to youth: They are not that real and they cannot fathom this decrepit state you are complaining about.

Did I mention the frequent stops for pissing?

This need for farting uncontrollably?

That when you say ‘I have to go”, it means exactly what you said.

This difficulty of getting out of bed when it feels cold?

The lengthy breathing exercises to clear up your lungs

How you manage to overcome the numerous aches in your joints?

“There was a time I felt life was sweet. I just realized it was only  my youth that was sweet” Attar

“At term, all that will remain of your existence is a story. Make sure the story is a good one” Afzel

We are all lions on banners. We act and move as the wind flaps the flag (Mesnevi)

A person of high values mingles with common people. Persons with low values shoot for pre-eminence. (Sahabi)

Young and old decrepit bodies hide inside veils. (Saadi)

A bite of bread, a bottle of wine, a book of poems and you singing by my side under a green tree: This solitude is my kind of paradise. (Omar Khayyam)

Life is snow, exposed to the scorching July sun. (Saade)

In time of great distress, not a single one will be around to come to your rescue. (Senay)

O children of Adam. You are members of one body. When misfortune ache a single part, there is no rest for the other members.

O you who refuses to worry of the pains of the others, you are not entitled the name of Man. (Coran)

 

Comfort Zone: Nemesis to mankind’s peace of mind…

Comfort Zone is what people are ready to commit anything to retain it, a while longer…

People kill people

People hurt people, humiliate people, antagonize people… to hang on to their comfort zone, a while longer…

And people have experienced many times that comfort zone never lasts: Economic conditions change, you get fired, transferred, calamities hit your comfort zone, destroy your cozy home, disturb your daily habits...

Comfort zone is synonymous with refusing to change daily habits, seasonal habits…

People oppose nomadic life-style to settled people in comfortable zones. Wrong!

A nomad also has his comfort zones, and live according to a set of daily habits, eating certain food…

Imagine a nomadic tribe moving to the well-worn summer location and discovering this sign “Do not trespass“.

Maybe the State has decided that the summer location for the tribe is better used for target range shooting, digging oil wells, a power plant or establishing a new urban center…

Do you think that the first reaction of the nomad is “Oh well, I’ll move to the adjacent district… the grass is greener and it is more isolated for my women and kids…”

No!. The nomad will reclaim is entitled right that years of habits and customs made it unreasonable to change his summer location…

This particular summer location is his comfort zone that his pre-programmed brain expected

It is this pre-programmed brain on daily habits that physically ache and turn someone into an angry person, ready to “snatch” his right, any which way he can…

People oppose comfort zone with homelessness. Wrong!

Even a homeless person has his comfort zone, his daily habits, his corner in a street, his “clients”, the places he goes to piss, wash his face, restaurant he patronizes…

Do you think when the policeman chases a homeless out from his location, the reaction will be “Oh well. No sweat. I’ll just move to the adjacent street…”

This homeless, depending on how long has remained in this particular location, will commit a lot of mischief and demonstrate plenty of determination and stubbornness to retain and return to his “favorite” comfort zone.

In the mind of many, comfort zone is associated with a cozy home, contented family surrounding... That’s not necessarily the case.

Many people consider home a place to run away from: Their comfort zone is out of home.

Actually, many mid-age people find the shed the ideal location for peace of mind.

Many persons are constantly traveling: Their comfort zones are particular franchise hotels, restaurants, selected airlines

You have a person who got finally bored of his urban setting and feels that he has to make a change and move on. If he goes to the suburb, his brain initial reaction is to find similar facilities that the mental system was used to. The person will be driving around selecting the right supermarket, the covered swimming pool, the running track… all the facilities that matched his previous comfort zone.

The person might decide to move to a more natural setting, like in a forest, on the assumption of living like a natural savage. Do you think that he starts cutting his own fire wood, gathering what the land produces…? Most probably, the person will get behind the wheel and drive for miles in search of facilities his mental model ached to find what matched the previous comfort zone.

People will not return and settle in “nature” voluntarily.

If many people are forced to be transferred to an isolated land, you see shacks sprouting as shops in order to satisfy the habits of urban facilities.

Comfort zone precedes mankind urbanization.

Comfort zone is a mechanism that the brain seeks in order to facilitate the navigation of mankind in a new environment, to getting used to a new setting, and allowing the unconscious to decide after the daily habits are nailed down.

Disturbing comfort zone is the root of mankind aggressive behavior.

We don’t consciously seek a comfort zone: this tendency comes naturally, a pre-programmed behavior that the brain requires in order to function smoothly and automatically. Our system wants to rearrange a zone to match what it was used to evolve within.

Training and practice to shed this comfort zone behavior is not feasible.

As your senses get used to an environment and you move around without consciously noticing location and the crowd… that means you have already settled in a comfort zone. Basically, a couple of days is generally good enough to get in automatic motion around the new environment…

The best remedy is to begin enjoying doing the daily maintenance tasks in your home: sweeping, mopping, doing dishes, cooking...

As you move to a new location, get on the daily house chores since your system was trained to perform on a daily basis. This habit might fool the brain for a period, until it gets used to the new environment…

Colonial powers systematically disturbed the comfort zone of the indigenous people around the world.

In the name of their people, the colonial powers abused the indigenous people so that the elite classes amass more wealth and accumulate more power.

In the name of their people who didn’t ask for that kinds of higher standards of living… millions of indigenous people were humiliated and enslaved for centuries

Vulnerability, shame, guilt, regret, introvert…All in one session of discussion

I attended the weekly TEDxSKE salon in Awkar (Lebanon) and Patsy showed 3 TED speakers on various topics such as vulnerability, shame, gilt, regret, introvert, extrovert, ambivert or “neutralvert”, memoriless conditions…and I was very outspoken.

Topic One: On Regret

Is there many kinds of regrets?  Are the difference in magnitude or there are qualitative types of regrets?

The woman speaker started with a personal type of regret

At the age of 29, she decided to have a tattoo, a compass design on her upper left arm, on the premise that she already knew her north direction (what she waned in life…). After the tattoo session she broke down and started weeping and she could not sleep the night recollecting the event and going through the 3 phases of denial, recognizing that the tattoo could no longer be removed, and wondering what went wrong with her for this late decision…

Question: Do you think this kind of regret is a good way to start a long talk on regret?

Do you think if we listened to a mother who lost a child at a very young age, and she regrets her kid that the talk could be very different? Or the talk will be mostly of the feeling of shame that she was not at the level of expectation of the community for a mature mother?

Do you think that if you had a passion as a kid, and you started working on this passion and you failed, that this regret would set the stage for a different talk on regret? Anyway, is any of our passions not a recollection of passions we had as kids? Could we acquire a passion as adult if the source was not from our childhood memory?

So often you hear this statement: “I regret that I never had a passion in life...” Does this saying has any value? How can you regret something you never felt? Or maybe you knew a certain passion but felt it would sound shameful that other know about it, and much less to act on the passion?

I regret that no a single member of my family, or extended family was a public artists. I don’t remember anyone singing or daring to sing in public, or dance, or act in a play, or play the clown, or play music, or discuss freely in any topic…

Not a single member projected this daring sensation: “I dared. I am daring. I dare you to try…”  Is it possible in such condition that I could have ever learned to be sociable and feel endowed with this entitlement of negotiating with “authority figures”? I tried my best, and I failed, and I am ready to try again under appropriate cultural circumstances…

I tended during the talk not to believe that the speaker was serious or the talk is going to be of any value…

Topic Two: On Shame and vulnerability

What’s the difference between shame and guilt?  Is it the difference between “I am a mistake” and “I did make a mistake”?

Brené Brown studied vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. Shame is an unspoken epidemic, the secret behind many forms of broken behavior.  Brown explored what can happen when people confront their shame head-on.

A man approached Brown and asked her: “How come I constantly feel vulnerable in front of my wife, and not thinking that I am a good enough provider?”  Brown replied: “My Ph.D. research focused on women. I have no answer for you…”  And I wonder: “If the research was not interested in the various interactions between genders, the research must be a boring and monotonous descriptive study:  The real and rich story is based on interactions...”

Actually, the main thing I retained from this exciting talk is the question of the man.  The rest seems vague and not that memorable. Still, Brown is a great talker and she managed the feat of how to make a riveting speech on “How often the terms vulnerability, guilt, and shame could be repeated to cover a 15-minute speech…?

Topic three: On Introvert and Extrovert

During the session, we were handed out a sheet of 29 questions with True or False answers, which was supposed to discriminate among the Introverts, the Extroverts, and the Ambivert.  For example, if you answered True on 16 questions and over you are an introvert, if over 16 falses you are an extorvert, otherwise you are an ambivert.

I liked the questionnaire, though Q27 didn’t make sense:”I don’t think of acquaintances as close friends“.  Is this question makes sense to you?

Or Q 7: “I tend to notice details many people don’t see”. Are designers, particularly artistic designers supposed to be invariable extroverts or introverts?

In my view, an ambivert or neutralvert is a very confused person, an intelligent person who never had the courage to invest enough time to reflect on “who he is”, his limitations, capabilities, passions, emotions…

I can completely comprehend an introvert: this is a very normal person. 

I cannot fathom how an extrovert can be or behave: He must be a nutcase at the very end of the tail, a person whom a brain surgeons in the 30’s would have lobotomized

Susan Cain talked of introvert people and how she managed to spend her girl scout summer camp…I let Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test tell part of my impression:

“When you’re at a party, do you suddenly feel the desperate urge to escape somewhere quiet such as a toilet cubicle and just sit there? Until I read Susan Cain’s book Quiet, I thought it was just me. I’d see other partygoers grow increasingly effervescent as the night wore on and wonder why I felt so compelled to go home.

I put it down to perhaps there not being enough iron in my diet. But it’s not just me. It’s a trait shared by introverts the world over. We feel this way because our brains are sensitive to overstimulation. I am genuinely astonished by this news.

In fact, I read much of Susan Cain’s book shaking my head in wonder and thinking: “So that’s why I’m like that! It’s because I’m an introvert! Now it’s fine for me to turn down party invitations. I never have to go to another party again!

Cain is an introvert.

Susan wrote: “It has always been private occasions that make me feel connected to the joys and sorrows of the world, often in the form of communication with writers and musicians I’ll never meet in person”.  She argues the current (western world) excessively and misguidedly respects extroverts: We make them our bosses and our political leaders. We foolishly admire their self-help books, such as How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Before the industrial revolution American self-help books extolled character. Nowadays it’s all about personality.

We introverts attempt to emulate extroverts, and the stress of not being “true to ourselves” can make us physically and mentally ill. One introvert that Cain knew spent so much of his adult life trying to adhere to the extrovert ideal he ended up catching double pneumonia. This would have been avoided if he’d spent time recharging his batteries in toilet cubicles, and so on.

At the Harvard Business School, socializing is “an extreme sport”. Extroverts are more likely to get book deals and art exhibitions than their introverted counterparts. Cain had to persuade a publisher she could conquer her stage fright and promote herself at book festivals before they agreed to take her on.

In America, extroverted parents have been known to send their introverted children to psychiatrists to have their introversion kids “treated” out of them. We think extroverts are great because they’re charismatic and chatty and self-assured, but in fact they’re comparatively narcissistic and unthoughtful and we’re committing a grave error structuring our society around their garrulous blah.

Most egregiously, we form our workplaces around the extrovert ideal.

I like Cain’s nightmare descriptions of open-plan offices where group brainstorming sessions descend on the startled introvert like flash-storms. Group-think favors the dominant extrovert. The loudest, most socially confident and quickest on their feet win the day, whereas the contemplative and quietly well-informed tend not to get a word in. School classrooms are increasingly designed to reflect this flawed environment.

Children sit in pods facing each other and are rewarded for being outgoing rather than original. “You Can’t Ask a Teacher for Help, Unless Everyone in Your Group Has the Same Question” read a sign in one New York classroom she visited. All this even though Gandhi and Rosa Parks and Steve Wozniak and JK Rowling and Eleanor Roosevelt have described themselves as introverts, at their best when solitary.

I finished Quiet a month ago and I can’t get it out of my head. It is in many ways an important book – so persuasive and timely and heartfelt it should inevitably effect change in schools and offices.

It’s also a genius idea to write a book that tells introverts – a vast proportion of the reading public – how awesome and undervalued we are.

I’m thrilled to discover that some of the personality traits I had found shameful are actually indicators that I’m amazing. It’s a Female Eunuch for anxious nerds. I’m not surprised it shot straight to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list.

Cain says introverts are “especially empatic”. We think in an “unusually complex fashion”. We prefer discussing “values and morality” to small talk about the weather. We “desire peace”. We’re “modest”. The introvert child is an “orchid – who wilts easily”, is prone to “depression, anxiety and shyness, but under the right conditions can grow strong and magnificent”.

When I get to this part I think: Yes! We are like orchids! With good parenting we can become “exceedingly kind, conscientious and successful at the things that matter to us”.

Then I feel embarrassed that I derived pleasure from being compared to an orchid and I realise that sometimes Cain succumbs to the kind of narcissistic rhetoric she eschews in extroverts.

Still, Cain’s suggestions on how to redress the balance and make the world a bit more introvert-friendly are charmingly cautious. She argues that the way forward is to create offices that have open-plan bits for the extroverts and nooks and crannies where the quiet people can be quiet. A bit like the Pixar offices.

In this, Cain reminds me of the similarly measured Jonathan Safran Foer, whose anti-meat lectures climax in a suggestion that we should try if possible to eat one or two vegetarian meals a week. Give me this kind of considered good sense over showy radical polemics any day.

But sometimes Cain’s brilliant ideas aren’t written quite so brilliantly. Her book can be a bit of a slog, not always a page turner. I wish she’d spent a bit more time adventuring and a bit less time analyzing and philosophizing and citing vast armies of psychologists.

I love feeling Cain’s pain when she journeys out of her comfort zone to “life coaching” conventions. But those adventures vanish as the book wears on, and it starts to drag on a little, especially during the many chapters about how brain scans seem to demonstrate neurological differences between extroverts and introverts.

I don’t know why popular psychology books feel so compelled these days to cite endless fMRI studies. As any neurologist will tell you, we still have very little idea about why certain bits of our brains light up under various circumstances.

And there’s a bigger nagging thought I couldn’t shake throughout the book. It began during the preface, in which Cain prints an “Are You an Introvert?” checklist. She lists 20 statements.

The more we answer “true” the more introverted we are: “I often let calls go through to voice mail. I do my best work on my own. I don’t enjoy multitasking. I seem to care less than my peers about wealth, fame and status …” At the bottom of the quiz she mentions: “If you found yourself with a roughly equal number of true and false answers, then you may be an ambivert – yes, there really is such a word.”

I do the test.

I answer “true” to exactly half the questions. Even though I’m in many ways a textbook introvert (my crushing need for “restorative niches” such as toilet cubicles is eerie) I’m actually an ambivert. I do the test on my wife. She answers true to exactly half the questions too. We’re both ambiverts. Then I do the test on my son. I don’t get to the end because to every question – “I prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities. I enjoy solitude …” – he replies: “Sometimes. It depends.” So he’s also an ambivert.

In the Ronson household we’re 100% ambivert. We ambiverts don’t get another mention in the book. Even for a writer like Cain, who is mostly admirably unafraid of grey areas, we ambiverts are too grey.

Cain’s thesis – built on the assumption that almost everyone in the world can be squeezed into one of two boxes – may topple if it turns out that loads of us are essentially ambiverts. I suspect there are a lot of ambiverts out there.” End of quote


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

August 2020
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