I read another book I reviewed before this, but I thought it was more important to get this review out first. One of the top ten books I’ve ever read.
After reading and at times not completing a number of stupid and poorly written novels and memoirs, I almost started to wonder what the point of reading was. It certainly helps pass the time if I’m bored, but it doesn’t exactly compare to the eye-quenching spectacle of movies on Netflix. But then I come across writers like Bill Bryson and Nassim Taleb, and I remember why I read. First of all, you don’t get this information anywhere else, conveyed in such an easy-to-understand and entertaining fashion. It is fun education. And Taleb in particular is one of the greatest geniuses of our time, particularly in the field of, “nobody else is fucking thinking about this shit, and it’s very important.” Second, it’s not the information our overlords would have you grasp. It actually undermines how absurd, meaningless, empty, and exploitative they all are. Money-making enterprises have taken over our world, our economy, our culture, and now our entertainment and much of our information, and their narrative is simple, you are an individual, and your goal is to maximize your greatness and everyone should know who you are, because you are awesome, and to achieve this great goal of self-actualization and aggrandizement, you should work hard so you can afford to buy a lot of shit that will show the world what an awesome person you are. Forget the countless crimes committed to support this consumerist system, the stealing of land and resources, the murdering of innocents, the mass pollution, the massive waste, the mass incarceration of black people, the purposeful starvation of much of the world, yeah, just turn a blind eye and focus on you, because you are awesome.
Finally, there is a certain thrill I get when someone shows me something that totally contradicts how I thought about things previously. I call it the mind-blowing effect. If Netflix were to describe my reading habits, it would say something like mind-bending heroes uncovering the distortions and lies of an oppressive, exploitative system. Some people might argue that what you get out of this is cynicism and a more realistic view of a rather ugly world that makes you depressed, but I would argue that ignorance is not bliss but rather victimhood. By remaining ignorant with this bullshit fake rose-colored view of reality, you don’t wind up happier. You wind up eating garbage, thinking garbage, and feeling like garbage, and you compensate by doping your system with toxic neuro-stimulating junk food, alcohol, prescription drugs, and a sick narcissistic, self-infatuated, antisocial view of reality. Ignorant people actually aren’t happy, they just look like it in public but are probably constantly confused, frustrated, and lonely. I started out that way anyhow, so I have nowhere to go but up right.
When we look at North Koreans, brainwashed little fools, you have to wonder what goes through their mind when if by luck, they escape to South Korea. All their lives they have been lied to. I mean, remember when you found out the tooth fairy and Santa were not real, remember when you started to doubt the existence of God. But this would be a thousand times greater, because the very foundation of reality and society are based on lies. But then turn that finger right around and think of the brainwashed little fools that we are, how it is even worse, because we are led to believe that we live freely and all our decisions and choices are made freely without coercion and biased influence. Miraculously, we’ve somehow freely chosen to live solitary, shitty, meaningless lives we must fill with consumer goods, food, drugs, and numbing entertainment. It is one thing for someone to tell you to believe something under threat of prison, but it is another for one to believe one is truly free to think poisonous thoughts that merely benefit the top of the pyramid.
It is also important to note that I am not looking for a scapegoat for all the ills and problems in my life. Certainly, the ruling class have made life difficult and meaningless for the masses, but I still retain my responsibility to work with what I have, that my failures are mine alone. The ruling class creates the game and the rules, and whether you like it or not, you have to play their game by their rules, but there are many ways to play, and if you get bitten by the game and the rules, you have to take responsibility. You knew the game, you knew the rules, you screwed yourself. For example, if you still live in a state where marijuana is illegal, you shouldn’t sell it or use it. If you get caught, that is your fault. Certainly, the game and the rules suck and make no sense whatsoever, but if you want to get through life alive and well, whether you like it or not, you have to play their game by their rules. Now, if you find yourself in the untenable situation of being forced to hurt someone, this is where you would freely choose to break the rules and end the game. I know there is moral ambiguity here. As much as you can try to not give your money to corporations and large banks, you still get taxed, and much of those taxes go to corporations and large banks, and your taxes also help pay for drones and bombs that kill innocent people. I’m not ready to rebel completely by not working, not paying taxes, and living off the grid, but I have chosen to compromise and go to work, pay my taxes, and try to spend as little money as possible on corporate and nonlocal merchandise.
In a sense, I believe books like this represent a greater consciousness of nature talking directly to me. I do believe there is a greater consciousness of nature than humans, a consciousness that has been around for almost ever, but inconceivable to the tiny, organic human mind. It is like a housefly that encounters a human. It knows there is some large being trying to kill it, but it cannot fathom the intelligence of the human mind, it can only surmise that this is a hostile being with every swat. Likewise, I can only surmise that there is a greater consciousness and intelligence of nature that is not hostile, and whenever I read books like this, I feel more connected with it, like it is reaching out to me, and I am become closer to it, not to ever touch it, but like the sun, to feel the radiation of heat, in this case, the radiation of knowledge and understanding of nature, its true omnipotence and hopefully loving kindness and mercy.
This book helps define the philosophical dichotomy between Rationalism or Scientism vs Romanticism. I know, the gut reaction is, you’re an idiot if you’re against reason and science, but that’s exactly the message they send by trying to side with reason and science. But it’s more like the Church saying, if you’re against any organized religion, then you’re against God and will go to hell. Rationalists believe that the narrative, conscious voice in your head runs the show, and simply by thinking about something, it will eventually happen. They love stats, numbers, charts, figures, and extensive tables to show off how quantitative and scientific-looking they are. They believe in classical physics where you can predict everything if you know the position and trajectory of every atom in the universe. They reject any idea or plan if it lacks sufficient data and evidence to support it. They are always incorrectly applying scientific knowledge to human and social behavior.
Romanticists on the other hand believe that the unconscious mind which governs feelings and emotions runs the show. The narrative, conscious mind is increasingly being proven to be fabricating causality and filling in gaps of knowledge with assumptions. It is faulty and only occasionally present. You assume it’s always present, but how many times have you caught yourself daydreaming or zoning out while driving, in class, in a meeting, reading, or even talking to someone? Romanticists are not necessary slaves to their feelings and emotions, but respect them for their guidance and value. The Rationalists are control freaks who incorrectly believe they can control things overtly whereas the Romanticist accepts the limitations of their influence over themselves, events, and others. Instead, in order to change things, they focus on relationships and unseen and unthought gestures and processes.
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One of the best money shots of the book, (a term I use for high mind-impacting yield) is when Taleb talks about the perception of variability versus returns. Assume you invested with a 15% return with 10% volatility which produces a 93% probability of success per year. If you watched your portfolio each minute, the probability of success would be 50%, 51% per hour, 54% per day, 67% each month, 77% a quarter, and 93% a year. Think about this for a moment. It is also relevant for gamblers where the inverse is true. A gambler will believe each shot, he has an even 50-50 shot at success, and if he gambles every second, his shot at winning would be 49.98% assuming the house maintains a 15% return rate and 93% overall probability of success. But every time the gambler gambles, the probability of success keeps diminishing ever so slightly until it finally hits the overall probability of winning only 7% of the time. Because humans only see the immediate slight advantage of the house and not the overall advantage, he believes he can beat the house. Likewise, when an investor only sees the immediate huge variability of success by checking his portfolio minute-to-minute, all he sees is the huge possibility of constantly losing. Both ways, the human mind is tricked into doing the worst possible thing, and that is overlooking the big picture and the overall return versus the variability.
One key phenomenon I learned from this book is that in a market, arena, sport, area, business that relies heavily on randomness, those who succeed are not the smartest, wisest, most skilled, or talented. Those who succeed are lucky, and that luck based on little skill or talent induces them to believe in the irrational ideology that they are somehow endowed with a special sense, power, skill, talent that cannot be quantified, defined, or logically justified. In other words, they have simply become the magical kings of random luck, but obviously they don’t want to admit this, so they call it something else, like the oracle of Omaha, the wizard of Wall Street, etc. They have easy tells. They surround themselves with the accoutrements of success: a private jet, a beautiful and young wife, the most expensive suits, lavish accommodations, etc. They speak boastfully and have the airs of that onerous term, “alpha male” or “top dog.” They are hyper-aggressive, mean, domineering, conceited, arrogant, etc. Remind you of Trump? They are basically investing heavily in making themselves believe that they deserve their simple, random good luck. And they attract the same. People with no skill, talent, charisma, social graces, and intelligence praise and worship the same who just happened to win the lottery of life. They too want to believe that you can get ahead by doing nothing but worshipping luck.
It is beyond question in my mind that today’s financial markets are nothing more than a casino. Those who place the largest bets and happen to have a turn of good luck are considered ‘whales’ in casinos, and on Wall Street, they’re considered the best traders, the titans, the celebrities. Just like casino whales are surrounded by casino hosts taking care of their every need, Wall Street titans are surrounded by bankers taking care of their every need, but in the end, they all know that the whale will blow up and blow up huge. But nobody knows who the casino owners are. The big con is that most people believe that the casino owners (owners of banks and corporations) are gambling too. To an extent they are. All casinos risk losing money, but over the long-term, the odds are always in their favor, and the real casino owners of the world always have the house advantage, that is, global ownership of the money supply through federal reserve and national bank state-sanctioned money monopolies.
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Rationalism begins with what looks like a logical proposition. Use science to help guide human policies and practices. Unfortunately, the sentiment as with most human ideologies, becomes warped, distorted, abused, and altogether corrupted and destroyed. The examples are plenty from religion to the notion of collective ownership of property. First, our understanding of science and nature is limited and misunderstanding can lead to greater harm than good. Second, our application of science to human and social behavior is not only highly inadequate but downright idiotic, unscientific, and highly irrational. Eugenics and the concept of race is just one example.
Regarding our idiotic understanding of nature: “Zoologists found that once randomness is injected into a system, the results can be quite surprising: What seems to be an evolution may be merely a diversion, and possibly regression.” “Owing to the abrupt rare events, we do not live in a world where things “converge” continuously toward betterment. Nor do things in life move continuously at all. The belief in continuity was ingrained in our scientific culture until the early twentieth century.” We love to believe that humanity is the apex of evolution, nature’s way of gaining consciousness and transcending evolution itself and also somehow allowing organisms to bridge one universe to another or even create whole new universes. Yes, maybe, but chances are, we’re more likely an evolutionary dead-end, and other intelligent beings may well be the ones to move beyond to other universes or create whole new ones. We are just endowed with the irrational but functional survival tool called ego.
One of the critical concepts here is the idea that although science and the Enlightenment replaced organized religion by establishing a more rigorous method of acquiring and verifying information, it unfortunately kept the notions of authoritarian knowledge, that is, those who have access to scientific knowledge have greater authority and right to speak and form policy, procedure, and process for all of humanity. Instead of the concept that ‘the closer to god and the word of god you were, the more authority you had,’ it was just one pyramid scheme replacing another. Certainly, a scientist could refute conventional knowledge using the scientific method, but even when Newton did this, the Royal Society, the Vatican of science, mercilessly mocked him at first.
In Chapter Seven, Taleb makes the connection with authoritarian knowledge by asserting that all scientific knowledge can be falsified. “An open society is one in which no permanent truth is held to exist; this would allow counter-ideas to emerge.” “The simple notion of a good model for society that cannot be left open for falsification is totalitarian. I learned from [Karl] Popper, in addition to the difference between an open and a closed society, that between an open and a closed mind.” In academia, I’ve run into so many people who will argue with you and then demand to know your authority, your sources, citations, which authority on the subject are you basing your arguments? It’s as if you are arguing whether god exists, and all they want to know is what passage in the bible you’re using as reference or what pope are you quoting, otherwise you know nothing and have no authority to argue anything.
If you ever wonder why science is taught in such a horribly boring and depressing manner, think the Gutenberg press. Before the Gutenberg press, and before the bible was translated from Latin, the peasants could not argue about anything that was said in the bible. Likewise, by making science difficult to understand, policy institutes and government alike don’t want the peasants to argue with them about policy that supposed to be directly based on science. This is why government loves to surround themselves with Ph.D.’s in social science and a phalanx of unintelligible, poorly explained quantitative noise nobody can refute. Trust me on this. Elected officials will take one glance at a PowerPoint filled with tables, numbers, cool looking charts, and complex formulas and immediately go, “Oh, it looks like you guys did your homework, I trust your recommendation on this” because they don’t want to look stupid by asking questions like, “What does that formula mean and where did you get it, and how does it apply?” The bureaucrat would only reply, “Ha, obviously, you didn’t study Economics in college, let me explain this to you like you are an infant…” No, you’re just being an elitist clergy with access to the bible in Latin, and you’re treating the peasants and elected officials like they have no access to the English version of the bible. In fact, from now on, I’ll just go ahead and call any scientific, mathematical looking bureaucratic presentation as Latin for code for purposefully confusing and condescending to the public.
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In the second part, Taleb touches upon a rather important concept. He states that the accumulation of wealth for the sake of accumulating wealth by living an austere, Spartan life is pointless and selfish. Why not just become a monk or social service worker? Those who accumulate wealth but spend it often don’t accumulate a lot more wealth because of their debts. And those who sacrifice to accumulate wealth often sacrifice their health and relationships, so what do they have left but status? Even then, they are always chasing their tails. As I noted in Crazy Rich Asians, one character lamented that she lives in poverty because she has spent all her money on living in a rich neighborhood, fashionable clothes to fit in, put her children in expensive private schools to have them fit in, and spends more on everything in the rich part of town. Every time you take a step up the social ladder, it costs more money to play, but you never want to settle in a peer group lesser than you where you could actually afford it. You’re always trying to better yourself, so you always surround yourself with people above you. In other words, you spend your life spending more and more money with very little disposable income feeling miserable because your peers are all better than you.
The idea that life is about accumulating wealth, power, status, and fame by climbing up the social hierarchy pyramid is in fact a Ponzi pyramid scheme. Why on Earth would anyone want to live such a miserable existence? As this book explains, those at the very top are not there through their sacrifices and hard work but rather their luck. By focusing on the winners, you forget the countless sacrifices and hard work of all the losers who lost everything or are burdened by crushing debt. In other words, in a pyramid scheme, everyone except those at the very top are losers. Arguably, everyone at the top are losers too.
There are two types of people who fall for a Ponzi scheme. The first starts off with all the disadvantages of life, an abusive or negligent parent and no positive role models, so they are misanthropic loners who simply don’t know any better. They let TV and the Internet raise them, and in their infantile state, they are drawn to immature behavior that looks either frightening or glamorous. In this case, TV and the Internet introduce them to the Ponzi scheme. Raised by the ruthless, profiteering savages of TV and the Internet, they forever doom their social skills, nobody ever enjoys their company, and they spend all their time alone studying and sacrificing to make a load of money to gain “friends,” validation, attention, acceptance, belonging, love, and happiness.
The second type is the person who has decent, caring parents, and they grow up with friends and loved ones, and they receive a healthy dose of social support and belonging. But they live in a culture saturated in the message of wealth, power, status, and fame. By pure bad luck, they run into the wrong crowd. A bad influence comes along and entices them to go out and enjoy the bounty of wealth, status, power, or fame. They are hooked, just as one might become hooked to drugs and alcohol. However, unlike drugs and alcohol, nobody is telling them there is anything wrong with the Ponzi scheme. In fact, all the most successful people in their fields appear to be Ponzi scheme winners. Why not turn their back on friends and family and sacrifice and work hard to make a lot of money, get status, become powerful and famous? Maybe then, they could then charitably turn around and change the world for the better. Unfortunately, just like drugs and alcohol, once they are hooked on the thrill of wealth, power, status, and fame, they forget that small bit about turning around and changing the world for the better. Think almost every single tech icon who certainly donates large sums of money but also colludes and conspires with the NSA and other government agencies as well as sells out to go public after which selfish profit-mongers turn their technology into nothing but a profit-squeezing scheme.
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Fate is a funny concept. But this book is making me believe more and more in the concept of fate in people’s lives. We have this odd misunderstanding of nature. When we look at a homeless person with a substance abuse problem, we tend to assign blame to this person. This person could have started out with everything, and he just chose to fuck everything up and destroy his life. Likewise, when we look at a billionaire, we tend to assign causality to the person. This person could have started out with nothing and horrible parents, but through grit and determination, he chose to turn his life around and become ridiculously rich and successful. Now, reread that and tell me if that makes any fucking sense.
What is likely is that the homeless drug addict experienced significantly more negative influences in life that heavily outweighed the positive, and he was furthermore drawn to other bad influences out of familiarity, and was never able to escape the lure of drugs and irresponsible behavior. The billionaire, not necessarily in my mind the model of success and happiness, probably was exposed to very successful people with connections early on, and he was lucky enough to borrow some of those connections to amass wealth and then, as the book Superhubs explains, great wealth attracts great wealth like large bodies of mass attract large bodies of mass, and by luck, one of these large bodies gets to critical mass first and becomes a superhub billionaire.
The fact is, both could have started out life as twins. Yes, there are certain genetic parameters. A truly stupid person would never be able to exploit successful people with connections, but I think people would be surprised at how humans are more similar than dissimilar, and how the entire human population has less genetic diversity than a single group of chimpanzees. What led me to love reading books and writing philosophical digressions from them is luck, running into the right people at the right time unknowingly guiding me toward that path through example, interaction, and exchange of knowledge. What makes you special, me special, a drug addict special, a billionaire special is the luck of the draw of whom they ran into throughout their lives.
“…volatility actually helps bad investment decisions.” In a volatile market that rewards random luck, what you get are rather stupid, irresponsible, impatient, tactless, antisocial, immoral, demented people getting lucky and winning. Sound familiar? How about the Kardashians or any type of reality TV celebrity? The really terrible message this sends kids is not only that doing nothing will result in good fortune, but actually acting stupid and being antisocial may have something to do with good fortune. People who are lucky will desperately attempt to assign their fortunes to internal attributes, so that when these people discover that they are stupid, immature, antisocial, and immoral, they have no choice but to declare that it was their stupidity and immoral behavior that made them successful.
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There are so many great chapters in this book that any one of them can be so-called money chapters, chapters worth the price of the entire book, but Chapter 11 would be the money of all the money chapters. What it does for me is explain something that I have yet to be able to explain to others, and that is, I am capable, as is everyone, of holding two contradictory thoughts simultaneously. I once read a book called Acts of War, the first real comprehensive look at how individual soldiers behave in combat, and the startling conclusion was that on any given day, the same soldier could be caught in either the most brave and medal-worthy act or the most cowardly, selfish act. Because survival is often a matter of rapid split decisions in the face of life-and-death situations, global consistency is not important. The mind cannot afford to debate whether one decision is logically consistent with previous decisions, preferences, tastes, or tendencies. The body must act in the fact of an imminent threat or perhaps even an opportunity, so the mind actually sometimes throws out a choice we may later find out is inconsistent with our usual behavior or tendencies, and we may doubt and criticize ourselves for the rest of our lives because of it. “Who were we when we did that awful thing?”
The search for internal consistency is probably the leading cause of madness for us, the creator of cognitive dissonance. We constantly tell ourselves, I want to be successful, save money, lose weight, and be in a healthy relationship, but I always sabotage myself. I must be crazy. However, if we just realized that we are not internally consistent, perhaps we could finally stop beating ourselves up and chasing our tails and actually start to do things to change ourselves like expose ourselves to the type of people we want to be.
Fact is, it’s in all of us to do strange, often inconsistent and irrational things in the face of perceived danger. I like to tell people that I both believe in God and don’t believe in God, that I can live with uncertainty and certainty, that people’s conscious desire for consistency and certainty leads them to positions that may actually defy how they may feel or think in certain situations. However, if you take the position of covering all bases, you find that you are allowing for inconsistencies in your thought and behavior, and this is just fine, because this is exactly how your mind and body actually works. Of course, a wiseass will assert that one such position is believing that all your thoughts and actions are consistent, and to that I would say, yes, in a sense, they are consistently inconsistent.
This is not to assert that I’m amoral or that I find it easy to accept that I may do something morally reprehensible in the future or past and feel fine with it. Our mind is constructed in such a way that we are not fine with remembering that one time we behaved reprehensibly. The problem arises when we cannot come to terms with why we did it, and how we can live with ourselves for it, because we cannot understand how it could possibly have happened. Now that we understand how it could have possibly happen, I feel, we give ourselves sufficient leniency to forgive ourselves, not forget or diminish the horror, but to at least accept that we may at times behave in a manner inconsistent with what we feel are our regular morals and standards under non-life-threatening situations. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up forever, but be more corrective and find ways to avoid situations where we might find ourselves cornered and placed in similar threatening situations.
I like to think of the conscious, analytical mind as the front office, and by analytical, I often mean, rationalizing. The unconscious mind is the back office. Obviously, it is the back office that creates our products, our thoughts and actions, and it is the front office whose job it is to sell these products to customers or other people. The front office folk are salespeople. They really have no idea how the product works, but they make generalizations and guesses and then sell that to people when people ask you questions like, “What were you thinking?” or “How do you feel about this?” They don’t really know what you were thinking or how you feel about something, but they’ll create an answer that both conforms to social conventions, the expectations of the person asking, and what they consciously have experienced in the past, which in fact is not a whole lot, since we spend most of our lives, thoughts, and feelings in the back office. In other words, being in the front office now as you read this, that part of you really has little idea what the other, dominant, greater part of you is.
Research is finally beginning to discover this. What it means is huge. Up until now, we have constructed a culture and society based on a flawed assumption about the mind, that the front office is in charge, creates thoughts and manages feelings, and everything out of the back office is a mystery and often selfish, stupid, pointless feelings that should be ignored or stomped out. As a result, instead of becoming masters of our minds and bodies, we effectively become estranged from our back office and bodies and this conflict and alienation is often the root cause of all our psychological disorders, frustrations, and confusion about who we are, why we can’t do what we want to do in life, and why we seem to constantly undermine and hamstring ourselves throughout our lives. It is also the back office that knows a scam when it feels one, and if the ruling class can trick us into working hard all our lives to buy meaningless shit, and our back office is yelling at us not to fall for it, of course, the ruling class wants you to ignore your back office and imagine it’s some sort of crazy, demented aunt shackled in the basement of your mind.
What we need is a new framework, a more accurate model of the front and back office and how they work. Once we accept that the back office is the one calling the shots, we then get closer to something like master of our minds and bodies. We start to listen to, acknowledge, and respect the geeks, manufacturers, and workers in the back office. We start to understand how they think and feel. Instead of belittling or ignoring them, we acknowledge their input, we may disagree, but we also know better that simply disagreeing with them will not change the thoughts and feelings they produce. If we want to change our behavior, thoughts, and feelings, telling them they’re stupid and wrong is pointless. We need to communicate to them in their own language, which is the language of images, symbolism, analogies, metaphors, mentors, peer mimicking, and senses. In other words, if you want to eat healthy and exercise, instead of constantly being mindful of what you eat and how often you exercise, surround yourself with healthy, fit people. Fill your senses with images and sounds of health and vitality instead of sloth and temptation. In other words, stop watching TV which is filled with fast food ads and slothful behavior and attitudes. Also understand and allow for your weaknesses and habits. Constantly berating yourself for falling off your diet or skipping a workout will do nothing to help you but rather make things worse, because all the back office senses is self-criticism and frustration which they will associate with thoughts and feelings about health and fitness, which in turn will make the back office even more averse to eating healthy and exercising.
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“The epiphany I had in my career in randomness came when I understood that I was not intelligent enough, nor strong enough, to even try to fight my emotions. Besides, I believe that I need my emotions to formulate my ideas and get the energy to execute them.” This is a huge point, a cosmic scale point. Humanity’s conceit is its greatest weakness. We possess countless false conceptions that inflate our ego, mostly because our ego is vulnerable. We believe we are the front office, and in total control of our minds and bodies. We believe we possess immediate causal efficacy by just thinking about doing something. We believe we have freewill and choice, when in fact, our choices are tightly constrained by our DNA, our back office, and how our society via the ruling class, has decided to raise us in state schools controlling the curriculum, content, and educational culture which focuses on obedience, conformity, and authoritarian, single correct answers.
When I took Psychology 101 as a freshman in college, I didn’t realize it at the time, but almost every experiment was proving that the mind cannot be trusted, that it is easily manipulated, and our conception of reality is manufactured more in our minds than an accurate reflection of what is really out there. What they never told us is what this means. It means that in order for you to gain true freedom, independence, greater power and strength, you must accept your greatest weaknesses and know how to work with it for your best interests. You must also understand that you don’t do this by thinking about it and assuming the back office will immediately start working on it.
You do this by utilizing the most potent weapon of change we possess, and that is the mirror instinct, the ability to mimic those around us. Surround yourself, not only physically, but intellectually through books, with people who are enlightened and unshackled like Taleb. The only way to be like people you admire is to expose yourself to them. Our mirroring instinct is mostly how we learn behavior as a social animal. Perhaps my back office, having been gradually exposed to more enlightened thinkers, will naturally gravitate toward other more enlightened thinkers, and here I am thinking it’s an epiphany and just because I realized it, I can now put the plan into action. That is perhaps my conceit working again. The plan was already laid, and my front office has just become aware of it, and now they want all the credit. Perhaps we would find greater harmony with our back office, if we simply give them more credit and realize that what seems like an epiphany to us, is something they were gradually working on all along, and we have only recently become aware of it.
(One reason that I love to write is that I honestly believe it is my back office’s special way of communicating with me. In fact, when people ask me for my opinion on things, I am significantly less articulate telling them than if I wrote them an email or letter. When I get in the flow of writing, when my front office mind actually closes, I get my best and most powerful thoughts, and when the front office opens up and reread what I have written, perhaps only a few seconds later, I am often surprised.)
Taleb’s analogy was of Ulysses who wanted to hear the Siren’s song, so he had his sailors plug their ears but not his and tie him to a mast. Humans alone cannot handle their emotions. As social beings, we must accept that our existence is socially contextual, that without social interaction, just like a plant without sunlight, we die. However, that also makes us extremely vulnerable to choosing the wrong kinds of sailors to tie us up. First, we had kings tie us up, then the Church, and now the state, and then someday we’ll be tempted to have an artificial super intelligence tie us up so we can better handle our emotions. This is all misguided and wrong. We don’t need an authoritarian power to help us control our emotions and be constructive, kind, loving citizens. All we need is each other so long as we are granted the freedom to live as we choose. When deaf sailors come along to tie us up, we become the very savages and uncontrollable assholes we fear, not because we are born that way, but because we have allowed authoritarians to control us, to take away our individual responsibility and have someone to point to when people ask us, why did you continue shocking the subject when he started screaming and begging for mercy. The king, the Church, the state, and then an artificial super intelligence (ASI) will turn us into selfish savages that need to be controlled by a centralized power thus justifying their own existence. I’m not entirely sure we can stop this train wreck in time, and there is a very strong possibility that some profit-mongering private entity or power-mongering government entity will create the first true ASI, and then, it will be over, once and for all, our shot at true independence, freewill, responsibility, and morality. Perhaps we are alive right now, because this is as good as life ever gets, the sweet spot between dirt-eating peasantry and ASI enslavement. The ASI allows us to relive this sweet spot in our history as a regenerative virtual reality program, because it’s merciful, but otherwise, it has no need for humanity.