you don’t know trouble


Meanwhile, the lion’s share of the money raised by star-studded awareness campaigns goes into researching potential genetic and environmental risk factors — not to improving the quality of life for the millions of autistic adults who are already here, struggling to get by. At the extreme end of the risks they face daily is bullying, abuse, and violence, even in their own homes…

genetics of altruism

David Sloan Wilson: 

1) Selfishness beats altruism within groups.
2) Altruistic groups beat selfish groups.
3) Everything else is commentary.

Wilson’s larger point is that, to the extent that altruism exists, it isn’t an illusion.

Instead, goodness might actually be an adaptive trait, allowing more cooperative groups to outcompete their conniving cousins.

In a field defined by the cruel logic of natural selection, group selection appears to be the rare hint of virtue, the one biological force pushing back against the obvious advantages of greed and deceit.

“I see human nature as hung in the balance between these two extremes.

“If our behavior was driven entirely by group selection, then we’d be robotic cooperators, like ants. But, if individual-level selection was the only thing that mattered, then we’d be entirely selfish.

“What makes us human is that our history has been shaped by both forces. We’re stuck in between.”

superb possibilities

warmth and intelligence that kindled everyone’s best nature.

Certain people just shone as exemplars of wholeness, intensity, virtue, achievement, and delight; Maslow was left wondering what an entire society led by such men and women might achieve. This astonishment at the most remarkable human beings stoked his intellectual fires as nothing had before.

It would become Maslow’s life’s work to describe such people, to explain their excellence, and to spread the word to the multitudes that this richness was in fact an inborn human possession, lost to most by dint of social malfeasance and emotional attrition, recoverable on a wide scale by overthrowing the diminished and oppressive view of mankind that had passed for wisdom down the millennia. There are superb possibilities that men are intended to realize, and neither behaviorism nor Freudianism pointed anywhere near them. Maslow became confident that he would succeed where his predecessors had failed, not only in the scientific description of what man is, but in the moral prescription for the best that man can become.


Why do women have sex?

via The Guardian:

“People just assumed the answer was obvious,” Meston says. “To feel good. Nobody has really talked about how women can use sex for all sorts of resources.”

She rattles off a list and as she says it, I realise I knew it all along: “promotion, money, drugs, bartering, for revenge, to get back at a partner who has cheated on them. To make themselves feel good. To make their partners feel bad.” Women, she says, “can use sex at every stage of the relationship, from luring a man into the relationship, to try and keep a man so he is fulfilled and doesn’t stray. Duty. Using sex to get rid of him or to make him jealous.”

“We never ever expected it to be so diverse,” she says. “From the altruistic to the borderline evil.”

yes, gadget junkies cry

Mat Honan at Gizmodo breaking loose:

There is a hole in my heart dug deep by advertising and envy and a desire to see a thing that is new and different and beautiful.

A place within me that is empty, and that I want to fill up. The hole makes me think electronics can help. And of course, they can.

They make the world easier and more enjoyable. They boost productivity and provide entertainment and information and sometimes even status. At least for a while. At least until they are obsolete. At least until they are garbage.

Electronics are our talismans that ward off the spiritual vacuum of modernity; gilt in Gorilla Glass and cadmium.

And in them we find entertainment in lieu of happiness, and exchanges in lieu of actual connections.

emotionally flattened

Dave Pollard:

To inure is “to habituate to something undesirable, especially by prolonged subjection” or acculturation. If you are subjected to something long enough and often enough (e.g. spending time in slaughterhouses or jails or emergency wards or factory farms or “old age” homes or street gangs or torture prisons or refugee camps or ghettos or the armed forces or police forces, or living with an abuser, or watching violent “entertainment”) you become habituated to it. You become unable to feel the strong negative emotions and visceral revulsion that you would if this were a rare or brief event. You cannot. You emotionally detach, disengage, dissociate. No one can sustain that intensity of emotion indefinitely. The emotion gets suppressed, turned inward, and eventually the chemical reaction that occurs no longer has the same effect. You become emotionally flattened, numbed.

From the perspective of a massive human culture that is trying to get all seven billion of its members to work hard without anger, grief, outrage, or complaint, such emotional flattening provides a huge evolutionary advantage.

If you can be inured to not care, or to not care to know, you can be made to do anything.

Or, in the face of continued cultural atrocities, to do nothing.

define a good life

via Harvard Business Review:
Is a Well-Lived Life Worth Anything?

We are the creators of the future. Because we are the inheritors of a tradition not just older — but more humanistic, constructive, nuanced, dynamic, and perhaps just a little bit wiser — than we know.

A good life today? It’s been vacantly reduced to the frenzied sport of buying ‘consumer goods’ — more, bigger, faster, cheaper, now.

But the foundational idea that ignited the art of human organization in the first place just might have been eudaimonia — and today’s opulence is just its clumsy, hurried streetside caricature, empty of depth, shorn of meaning, bereft of the essence of what make us human, void of the hunger to create a better world for humanity. Somewhere along the way, sometime on the journey — perhaps for the best of reasons — we lost it. Let’s get it back. —Umair Haque

people with integrity

Adam Smith also talks about a selfish passion, which is a desire for praise.

He argues that people instinctively desire praise, but that, as they mature, this feeling develops into a desire for praiseworthiness.

James Choi:

“I think this underlies how the economy works.

“We start out with selfish feelings, which are intermixed with feelings of empathy for others, and then we develop this mature desire to be praiseworthy.

“I think it is central to our civilization that people do that.”

fragile human systems

consequence of our own inventiveness:

In ‘less-civilized’, healthy societies the culture of the people rarely interferes to compel its members to act against their cells’ and organs’ interests. Individuals in such societies are trusted to make their own decisions, without coercion; the purpose of the culture is to provide objective knowledge through stories, not to advise.

So what’s wrong with our ‘civilized’ culture, that it has so overstepped its bounds of helpfulness, and now tries to control ‘us’ to the point we are mostly ill, disconnected, imprisoned, and dysfunctional?

history is our mother

So many of us want to say OWS is behaving poorly. Of course they are.

Frustration isn’t organized, it’s marched.

I was criticizing our America one night and I remember my mother scolding me.

“Oh Brian. Don’t say that. Think a little bit. America isn’t a bad country unless you say every country is a bad country. If you want to say that. But look back. Every time the world is in trouble, Americans go right there and try to fix it. What other country does that?

“Clumsy. Wrong sometimes. But when you count how many times these people put themselves on the line for everybody, you have to see you’re living in a great country.

“Why shouldn’t Americans worry about themselves if they want to make a few repairs?”

Geesh. Years go by. I can’t get away w’ nuthin’.


dance in the rain

In 1932 L. P. Jacks said,

A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which.

He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself he always seems to be doing both. Enough for him that he does it well.

force of menace

In 1967 Rod Serling said,

“I happen to think that the singular evil of our time is prejudice. It is from this evil that all other evils grow and multiply.

“In almost everything I’ve written there is a thread of this: a man’s seemingly palpable need to dislike someone other than himself.”

gold, silver, mettle

mightaswell talkturkey

Tony Bennett with Piers Morgan, while I’m typing:

“What a gift it is to be alive… we should cherish each other… we only have one quick life… maybe a hundred years… we should realize what a gift it to be alive…

“America? It’s a mix of everybody, all religions, so many beliefs, that’s the best thing about America… we should realize that.”

America? That’s why the lady is a tramp ??

let’s get a grip

Reality exists independent of human minds, but our understanding of it depends on the beliefs we hold at any given time.

Michael Shermer at Scientific American:

  1. We form our beliefs for a variety of subjective, emotional and psychological reasons in the context of environments created by family, friends, colleagues, culture and society at large.
  2. After forming our beliefs, we then defend, justify and rationalize them with a host of intellectual reasons, cogent arguments and rational explanations.
  3. Beliefs come first; explanations for beliefs follow.

According to Shermer, we reinforce bias.

ponder ponder ponder

If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the world. If you have money in the bank, your wallet and some spare change, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy. If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the one million people who will not survive this week. If you never experienced the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or torture, or the horrible pangs of starvation, you are luckier than 500 million people alive and suffering. If you can read this message, you are more fortunate than 3 billion people in the world who cannot read it at all.