Who are you anyway??

Posted by Tandarin Nike Thursday, October 20, 2011 10:46 PM 2 comments

Sometimes a blogger's job is to say what people are thinking, but say it better than they are thinking it.

Watch me do that now.

Pause.

Have you ever wondered who you are?

You're not your body, because living cells come and go and are generally outside of your control. You're not your location, because that can change.

You aren't your DNA because that simply defines the boundaries of your playing field. You aren't your upbringing because siblings routinely go in different directions no matter how similar their start.

My best answer to my own question is this:

You are what you learn.

If all you know is how to be a gang member, that's what you'll be, at least until you learn something else. If you become a soldier, you'll learn to control fear. If you go to law school, you'll see the world as a competition.

If you study engineering, you'll start to see the world as a complicated machine that needs tweaking all the time.

I'm fascinated by the way a person changes at a fundamental level as he or she merges with a particular field of knowledge. People who study economics come out the other side thinking a different way from people who study nursing.

And learning becomes a fairly permanent part of a person even as the cells in the body come and go and the circumstances of life change.

You can easily take apart my definition of self by arguing that you are actually many things, including your DNA, your body, your mind, you environment and more. By that view, you're more of a soup than a single ingredient. I'll grant you the validity of that view.

But I'll still argue that the most powerful point of view is that you are what you learn.

It's easy to feel trapped in your own life. Circumstances can sometimes feel as if they form a jail around you. But there's almost nothing you can't learn your way out of.

If you don't like who you are, you have the option of learning until you become someone else. Life is like a jail with an unlocked, heavy door. You're free the minute you realize the door will open if you simply lean into it.

Suppose you don't like your social life. You can learn how to be the sort of person that attracts better friends.

Don't like your body? You can learn how to eat right and exercise until you have a new one. You can even learn how to dress better and speak in more interesting ways.

I credit my late mother for my view of learning. She raised me to believe I could become whatever I bothered to learn.

No single idea has served me better.


you are someone else's avatar..

Posted by Tandarin Nike Saturday, October 8, 2011 7:00 AM 0 comments
When professional cyclists were told they were racing against their own best times, they tended to match those times, even when the times were faster than they had ever raced. I wonder how useful that sort of influence would be if we applied it to other areas.

In a few years it will be feasible to create a virtual version of yourself - an avatar - that lives a better lifestyle in the digital world than you do in the real world.


The avatar would have a healthier diet, exercises more, be less shy in social settings, more assertive at work, and perhaps have a more perfect batting skills. If you spent a few minutes every day observing your avatar doing what you wished you could do, would the peer pressure motivate you to higher achievement?

I think it might. In a way, this would be the high tech version of writing down your goals every day and visualizing success. 

The avatar would simply make the visualization easier.

Perhaps calling this effect peer pressure is not doing it justice. It might be more of a case of unlocking your potential in the same way that the first runner to break the four-minute mile unlocked the potential of those who followed. For any given task, we all seem to have a mental switch that is stuck in the "yes you can" or "no you can't" position.


Sometimes you need to use mental tricks to flip the switch from no to yes. I wonder if your avatar could help.

Very often, successful people seem to have had meaningful interactions with other successful people prior to making it big themselves. That could be a case of coincidence or selective reporting, but I suspect causation.

When you get to know a famous person, your mind says, "If that idiot can succeed, how hard can it be?" That flips the switch in your mind to "yes I can."

I also wonder if programming your avatar to smile or laugh would immediately put you in a good mood. I think it would. I think your avatar could also improve your table manners, help your posture, and move you in the right direction a hundred different ways.

At some point in the future of humanity our avatars will be so well-programmed with our preferences and memories that they will live on after our deaths and have no idea they are not the real us.


And since that future will last forever for the avatar, perhaps in a continuous loop, while your mortal life is limited in years, the statistical reality suggests it already happened and you are an avatar of someone who went before.

Yes, you knew I was going there.

Am having a reasonable start to a expected good holiday..

Posted by Tandarin Nike Wednesday, September 7, 2011 7:02 AM 5 comments
Feeling rather peckish the other evening, and having some time to spare between a trip to the dentist and an evening visit to a family friend, I popped into an speciality North Indian restaurant in Mangalore and was pondering the menu when a waitress came up and asked me how I was today.

Oddly enough, a check-out maid at 'Big Brother' had asked me exactly the same thing only a few days ago and for some reason had looked less than interested when I told her of the problems I was having with my heels and ankles, particularly on the left foot.

So this time, I decided to start at the other end of my body.

"Interesting that you should ask," I said, "for I have just emerged from a visit to my very expensive dentist who has, I hope, finally succeeded in putting right a problem that he performed last year."

"It had started wobbling dramatically, and not for the first time", I hasten to add, "and I would not have made a fuss but for the fact that I have a temporary filling on the other side of my mouth and had been advised not to bite on anything harder than a scrambled egg."

"So what with the filling and the problem, both sides of my mouth had become no-food zones, and I feared that I was in danger of starving."

She tried to draw my attention back to the menu, but I thought I ought to fill her in on a few more details.

"When he first put the implant in," I said, "he had been unable to locate the right titanium screw, so I think he used another one that had been left by the builders."

"Not long after, my crown fell out and he had to replace it, but then the screw developed a wobble and he had to take the whole thing out and start again."

"By the time that was done, he thought the problem was solved, but as I said, it recently began to wobble again and he could not get the crown off to tighten it, so he drilled a narrow hole through the crown just so that he could get the screwdriver in it."

"Frankly, I don't see why they can't have some sort of powerful X-ray electromagnetic screwdriver that can do the job through the crown."

"But the dentist said that was impossible, so he did it the hard way and has now tightened the screw and left an access hole in case he has to do it again."

"I'm sorry to hear.." she began, but I thought I ought to mention the huge dentist's bill I had paid to undergo all this inconvenience.

"You know," I said, "my builder, who is not the sort of fellow to leave screws behind, recently put in a whole new extra-large window extending down two storeys and a new door for the same price as the dentist charged for just one tooth."

"And neither window nor door has wobbled at all."

"I'm sure that with a bit of Polyfilla, he could have furnished me with an implant that would have done the job perfectly well, though I am not so sure I would have trusted him to do the earlier extraction with a pair of pliers."

"I'll have the Sheesh Kabab, please."

She hastily scribbled down the order and rushed off.

I really don't see why she asked how I was today if she wasn't interested.

And I hadn't even started telling her about my strained calf muscles and other ailments.

Is creativity the next debacle?

Posted by Tandarin Nike Sunday, July 17, 2011 11:58 AM 2 comments
I read someplace that the brain needs some boredom during the day to process thoughts and generate creativity. That sounds right. My best ideas always bubble up when I'm bored. And my period of greatest creative output was during my early living abroad when I had very few friends.

So what would happen if everyone in the world stopped being bored? You might be there already. I know I am. If I have access to my phone, or my computer, I'm never bored. If I'm watching TV, I can fast-forward through commercials.

If I'm standing in line at the store, I can check email or play Angry Birds. When I go for my daily walks, I listen to my mini player cum radio (MPCR). I wake up in the morning and walk straight to my MPCR to browse the headlines while my coffee is brewing. The last thing I do before shutting my eyes at night is browse the news again on my MPCR.

As recently as a year ago I would drive my car in silence and cook up all sorts of ideas on the go. Now I have satellite radio and can always find some auditory diversion. The only reliable place to be bored these days is in the shower.

Now let's suppose that the people who are leaders and innovators around the world are experiencing a similar lack of boredom. I think it's fair to say they are. What change would you expect to see in a world with declining boredom and therefore declining creativity?

I'll take some guesses.

For starters, you might see people acting more dogmatic than usual. If you don't have time to think for yourself, and think creatively, the easiest opinion to adopt is the default position of your political party, religion, or culture. Check.

You might see more movies that seem derivative or based on sequels. Check.

You might see more reality shows and fewer scripted shows. Check.

You might see the bestseller lists dominated by fiction "factories" where ghost writers churn out work under the brand of someone famous. Check.

You might see almost no humor books on the bestseller lists except for ones built around a celebrity. Check.

You might see the economy flatline for lack of industry-changing innovation. Check.

You might see the news headlines start to repeat, with nothing but the names changed. Check.

You might find that bloggers are spending most of their energy writing about other bloggers. Check.

You might find that people seem almost incapable of even understanding new ideas. Check.

To be fair, there might be lots of reasons why the world appears to have less creativity. Some of it is simple economics. A movie studio can make more money with a sequel than with something creative. A similar dynamic is true in every industry.

And also to be fair, sometimes things seem to be getting worse when in fact you're only noticing it more. It seems as if folks are more dogmatic than ever, but maybe that's not the case.

Still, it's worth keeping an eye on the link between our vanishing boredom and innovation. It's the sort of thing that could literally destroy the world without anyone realizing what the hell is going wrong. If it reaches critical proportions, we probably won't recognize the root cause of the problem. A lack of creativity always looks like some other problem.

Do you think the world is becoming less creative?

Too much of winning could kill you

Posted by Tandarin Nike Friday, July 8, 2011 7:50 AM 2 comments
Research shows that winning, especially on the home field, boosts your testosterone levels. And research shows that high levels of testosterone can cause health problems such as raising your bad cholesterol, accelerating some types of cancer, and increasing cardiovascular disease.

Hypothetically, too much winning could kill you.

Okay, okay, I know that the testosterone boost one gets from winning is temporary. And I know most of the people who compete and win are young whereas the people most at risk for cancer and heart attacks are old.

But could it be true that modern society creates too many opportunities for winning, which in turn boosts the average testosterone levels of both men and women to ranges that humans haven't yet evolved to handle?

If so, what's the downside?

In cave-dwelling days, I'm guessing that only the chief of the clan had high testosterone. Research shows that leaders generally have a bit extra. In those times, when survival was the main agenda item, the rest of the clan had few opportunities to do anything that felt like "winning." And no one was worried about cancer and heart attacks because the life expectancy then was 25.

Fast-forward to today. We surround ourselves with artificial situations that cause us to feel like winners. School kids get medals for simply participating. Parents praise kids for any little success. Childhood is designed to build high self-esteem.

Throughout life, almost everyone plays some sort of game or sport. And we gravitate toward the competitions we win more than we lose. If you golf, your handicap is designed to allow you to win against better players. If video games are your game of choice, you can play at whatever level that ensures you will win more than you lose.

In modern times we don't have just one leader. You can be the president of a club, the captain of your team, the manager of your department, or run your own business. The options for being in charge of one thing or another are endless.

And being in charge of just about anything boosts testosterone.

If being in charge isn't your thing, you can acquire a sort of symbolic power by getting lots of Facebook friends or lots of Twitter followers. Any sort of status, and any sort of special attention, no matter how trivial in real importance, probably boosts testosterone. Society has accidentally evolved into a testosterone delivery system. That makes sense because higher levels of testosterone have been associated with feelings of well-being.

Perhaps humans are literally addicted to the hormone.

If we assume that nature has distributed testosterone normally across humans, with some people having too little, most people having just the right amount, and some folks having too much, what is the impact of so many temporary boosts in testosterone? Are the people who already have plenty of testosterone getting poisoned?

Doctors can test for testosterone deficiency, but does anyone test for testosterone overload? And how important is it anyway? If you Google "testosterone behavior” you can see a number of experts weighing in on the question of how testosterone influences behavior.

I've recently learned that lots of educated people believe biology doesn't have a decisive influence on human behavior because we have the power of reason.

To others, that view falls somewhere between superstition and ignorance. To be fair, sometimes the biology-doesn't-count view is more of an advocacy-based position, which is entirely reasonable to the degree that it helps accomplish something useful to society, such as reducing crime.

We humans have an instinct for sorting things into categories. We like clean boundaries. For example, we like to imagine that all of our thinking is done by our brains.

But I wonder if it would be more accurate to extend our definition of "brain" to include the endocrine system.

The blame game

Posted by Tandarin Nike Saturday, June 18, 2011 1:30 AM 1 comments
If you have a round peg that doesn’t fit in a square hole, do you blame the peg or the hole?

You probably blame neither.

We don’t assign blame to inanimate objects. But you might have some questions about the person who provided you with these mismatched items and set you up to fail.

If a lion and a zebra show up at the same watering hole, and the lion kills the zebra, whose fault is that? Maybe you say the lion is at fault for doing the killing.

Maybe you say the zebra should have chosen a safer watering hole. But in the end, you probably conclude that both animals acted according to their natures, so no one is to blame.

However, if this is your local zoo, you might have some questions about who put the lions with the zebras in the same habitat.

Now consider human males. No doubt you have noticed an alarming trend in the news. Powerful men have been behaving badly, e.g. tweeting, flirting, cheating, and being offensive to just about everyone in the entire world. The current view of such things is that the men are to blame for their own bad behavior.

That seems right. Obviously we shouldn’t blame the victims. I think we all agree on that point. Blame and shame are society’s tools for keeping things under control.

The part that interests me is that society is organized in such a way that the natural instincts of men are shameful and criminal while the natural instincts of women are mostly legal and acceptable.

In other words, men are born as round pegs in a society full of square holes.

Whose fault is that? Do you blame the baby who didn’t ask to be born male? Or do you blame the society that brought him into the world, all round-pegged and turgid, and said, “Here’s your square hole”?

The way society is organized at the moment, we have no choice but to blame men for bad behavior. If we allowed men to act like unrestrained animals, all hell would break loose.

All I’m saying is that society has evolved to keep males in a state of continuous unfulfilled urges, more commonly known as unhappiness. No one planned it that way. Things just drifted in that direction.

Consider Hugh Hefner. He had every benefit of being a single man, and yet he decided he needed to try marriage. Marriage didn’t work out, so he tried the single life again. That didn’t work out, so he planned to get married again, although reportedly the wedding just got called off.

For Hefner, being single didn’t work, and getting married didn’t work, at least not in the long run. Society didn’t offer him a round hole for his round peg. All it offered were unlimited square holes.

To be fair, if a man meets and marries the right woman, and she fulfills his needs, he might have no desire to tweet his meat to strangers.

Everyone is different. But in general, society is organized as a virtual prison for men’s natural desires. I don’t have a solution in mind. It’s a zero sum game. If men get everything they want, women lose, and vice versa.

And there’s no real middle ground because that would look like tweeting a picture of your junk with your underpants still on. Some things just don’t have a compromise solution.

Long term, I think science will come up with a drug that keeps men chemically castrated for as long as they are on it. It sounds bad, but I suspect that if a man loses his urge, he also doesn’t miss it.

Men and women would also need a second drug that increases oxytocin levels in couples who want to bond. Copulation will become extinct. Men who want to reproduce will stop taking the castration drug for a week, fill a few jars with sperm for artificial insemination, and go back on the castration pill.

That might sound to you like a horrible world. But the oxytocin would make us a society of huggers, and no one would be treated as a sex object.

You’d have no rape, fewer divorces, stronger friendships, and a lot of other advantages.

I think that’s where we’re headed in a few generations.

Compartment Equality..

Posted by Tandarin Nike Tuesday, May 31, 2011 1:05 PM 0 comments
Let's say that the country of Tandaria has been discriminating against left-handed people for the past 800 years.

Eventually the lefties organize politically and they fight for their rights. How will the lefties know when they have won the fight?

Conceptually, equality happens when everyone is treated the same. You can easily measure that for an issue such as voting. If lefties have the right to vote, and full access to information, and there are no reports of intimidation at the polls, you're probably there.

And you can easily examine laws to see that they apply equally to lefties and righties. You can even check to see if juries comprised of both lefties and righties convict all types of people at the same rate in all parts of Tandaria.

But how do you measure economic equality?

Obviously you could measure the average salaries for both lefties and righties, and you could measure rates of hiring. But somewhere along the path to full economic equality, the country will have pockets that favor righties and pockets that favor lefties.

For example, some companies will be actively recruiting lefties to comply with political pressures, and other companies will continue discriminating, perhaps at a subconscious level. Some regions in Tandaria will be more progressive and others will lag. And lefty entrepreneurs might start doing some discrimination of their own by hiring mostly lefties.

My question is this: When the lefties can find plenty of employers that favor lefties, and the righties can find plenty of employers that favor righties, and the occupations and compensation across all of these jobs are similar, has economic equality been achieved?

This is an important question for Tandaria because the nation might reach "compartment equality" decades before every individual employer starts treating lefties and righties the same.

Somewhere on the path to economic equality, the problem transforms into one of mobility and information. And in the modern age, neither mobility nor information is much of an obstacle.

By analogy, an army of a hundred fighters can defeat an army of a thousand if the smaller army has better mobility and information. The trick is for the army of a hundred to catch small groups of fighters from the larger army in isolated situations, kill them and run. Repeat.

My view is that left-handed Tandarians have full economic equality when the only obstacles to equal pay are mobility, information, and strategy. And that point happens when perhaps only half of the employers in Tandaria have become enlightened.

I was thinking about this as I read a pundit's article that said Indian women make 60 paise on the rupee compared to men, but in metropolitan areas, young women are starting to earn more than young men.

(Most of my readers already know that the 60 paise figure is bogus, but that's another issue.) My question is this: When should women declare victory in economic equality?

Is compartment equality close enough?

From adorable to insufferable...

Posted by Tandarin Nike Wednesday, May 25, 2011 7:21 AM 0 comments
We humans start our lives at the peak of our popularity. Everyone loves babies. The trouble starts when we learn to speak. Talking is the process by which we transform from adorable to insufferable. The more we talk, the less appealing we become.

No topic is safe. If things are going well for you, and you make the mistake of talking about it, others will think you're a self-absorbed bragger. If things are going poorly for you, and you talk about it, others will think you're a gloomy downer. If you talk about other people, you're a gossip. If you freely offer your opinion on the pros and cons of things, you'll be seen as too critical or too opinionated.

If you talk about politics, the people who disagree with you will see you as either an immoral ass hat or a superstitious simpleton.

The people who share your viewpoint will see you as a bore because you're stating the obvious and probably taking too long to do it.

The old saying is that it's better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. It's unambiguously true that the more you talk, the higher your odds of saying something that is memorably stupid, cruel, selfish, or evil.

Telling amusing stories is okay in small doses. But storytelling is a rare skill. And the people who know you well have heard all of your best stories. Every story you tell will lower your average.

One situation in which talking works well is when two analytical or academic people share opinions and information on topics of common interest. That can be stimulating, especially if one or both people have a sense of humor. But if those two people spend much time together, they start running out of fresh topics. The more they talk, the less interesting they become to each other.

The rules of conversation are a bit different for people who don't know each other well or don't see each other often. In those cases, a bit of extra chatter is useful to keep the awkwardness at bay. But as you spend more time with an individual, every word you utter makes you less desirable.

Lately I have been wondering if there's an antidote for the social decay caused by talking. One fix is to spend more time with strangers. But that would be exhausting and hollow.

You could try doing more listening and less talking. People like that. But listening with empathy has the perverse effect of rewarding the talker for sharing his woes.

That's a problem because if you cause someone to focus on his own misfortune, you make things worse for him. In time, the talker will associate you with all of his most unpleasant thoughts because that's the connection you keep reinforcing.

My best solution for the scourge of talking is this: Be brief and say something positive.

Brevity will slow the inevitable decline in your popularity caused by talking. And saying something positive as often as possible will be a mood booster to whoever is in the room with you. Humans are followers, and if you set a positive tone, it rubs off.

You'll never regain the personal appeal you enjoyed as a baby. But if you say nice things, and don't say much, you might become relatively less unappealing than the people around you.

And that's not nothing.

Sleep Conundrum

Posted by Tandarin Nike Thursday, May 19, 2011 9:25 AM 0 comments
Here's a tip for falling asleep. I don't think you'll see it anywhere else.

It goes like this: Don't think words.

By that I mean don't imagine conversations that you plan to have, and don't replay in your head conversations you've had.

It's impossible to clear your mind of all thoughts. But I find it somewhat easy to switch off the language center of my brain. What happens after that is a flow of images, starting with ones that make some sense to my current life, quickly followed by randomness, then sleep. It usually takes less than a minute.

Let's say something is bugging you, or fascinating you, and the thought is keeping you awake. I'll bet that in those situations you're obsessed with the verbal elements of your problem. You're imagining what you will say to someone, or how you will explain yourself, or maybe what words someone else chose when annoying you.

To fall asleep, don't abandon the troublesome topic, because you probably can't. Just picture the situation in images alone. That will satisfy the part of you that can't let go of the problem while putting you on the sleep trajectory.

To be fair, I have no idea if this method will work for you. It's just something I discovered that works for me.

My wife hates my ability to sleep just about anywhere. Few days back, I dropped off for a few minutes while watching a new movie. I would have awakened in ten minutes on my own, refreshed and ready to drive home.

But that plan went off the rails when Shaila decided it would be funny to slap me in the chest and see what I would do if I woke up suddenly to a loud action sequence in the movie. I'm told it was hilarious.

Anyway, if you try my sleep tip, let me know if it works for you.

Do you have a preferred pain ??

Posted by Tandarin Nike Saturday, April 30, 2011 1:36 AM 0 comments
The common sense view of pain and pleasure is that humans seek pleasure and try to avoid pain. Lately I've come to wonder if that's backwards, or at least incomplete. I see too many examples in which people appear to be chasing pain.

My theory is that our biggest motivator is the need to feel alive, and that pleasure isn't a sharp enough feeling to get us there. When you're bored or lonely, you're feeling something closer to death than life. And so you seek out pain to remind yourself that you're alive.

By this theory, the quest for pain is the primary motivator of all major life choices.

One test of a theory is that it can predict people's actions. And indeed you can see that people routinely choose activities that deliver pain. Consider a distance runner, for example. The health benefits of running are largely achieved in the first few miles. The rest is a pain that confirms we are alive.

You might argue that runners get a high, and they get great satisfaction from achieving a better time or finishing a marathon.

I'm going to argue that the pleasures are side benefits. But first I will add one more condition to my theory: Everyone chooses the pain they like best. For the runner, muscle pain is the drug of choice. For a soldier in a volunteer army, it might be the fear of combat, or the harsh living conditions.

For the entrepreneur, it might be the fear of failing. Everyone picks their own brand of pain. Sometimes we call that pain "challenge" to disguise it.

So far, all of the activities I mentioned have identifiable pleasures. The soldier gets the feeling of pride in serving the country, veteran benefits, and sometimes the thrill of combat. The entrepreneur gets the satisfaction of doing things his own way, and with any luck, riches too.

These examples are ambiguous because the participants get both pain and pleasure.

And if these examples were the only ones we had, I would not have a theory. We also need examples where people clearly choose pain over pleasure. That would be the best evidence for the theory.

Consider sports. Most sports are designed to guarantee failure for the majority of participants. In amateur tennis, if you join a league, and you start winning more than you lose, the computer rankings bump you up to the next level where you will mostly lose.

You would think that a system designed to make participants feel like losers most of the time would become extinct, but it actually thrives.

Golf is an entire game built around making something that is naturally easy - putting a ball into a hole - as difficult as possible, to guarantee plenty of losing.

In football you're normally thwarted every few yards. In baseball you strike out more than you hit. If winning were the payoff, sports would be a business where participants paid opponents to intentionally lose.

Perhaps you think losing is necessary to make the winning feel good. But consider small kids. For them, life is so vivid that they need no reminder they are alive. Every second is a miracle. And little kids prefer activities with no losing whatsoever. Only the winning appeals to them.

As we get older, and our sensation of living dulls, we seek the pain that confirms our existence. We seek sports to increase our losing.

You might know people who continuously make choices that put them in some sort of danger, economically, socially, or physically. To you, their choices seem unwise. You assume that the people who make those choices get some sort of payoff you can't understand. I think the payoff is the pain itself, and the attendant feeling of being alive.

If sadness is your preferred pain, you watch sad movies. If muscle soreness is your preferred pain, you exercise vigorously. If economic uncertainty is your preferred pain, you pick fights with your boss. If stress is your preferred pain, you make sure you don't leave enough time to do what you need to do.

This theory came to me recently when a number of people asked me, in all seriousness, if I've gone insane. It seems to the reasonable observer that I've intentionally stirred up more trouble for myself in this blog than can be explained by the pursuit of pleasure.

Where's my payoff?

If you look at most of my career choices, they have in common an unusually high risk of public criticism. I like the pleasures of success, but I need the pain of criticism. And because mine is a relatively rare form of preferred pain, it looks like insanity to the casual observer. To me, extreme sports look like a form of insanity. To each his own.

Consider your own life choices as an adult.

Do you have a preferred pain for feeling alive?

Engineered Happiness

Posted by Tandarin Nike Tuesday, April 19, 2011 8:15 AM 2 comments
It occurred to me recently that I have developed quite a few tricks for engineering my own happiness.

Allow me to share a few. Some are more obvious than others.

Food - Observe your own mood, and that of others, in the context of how recently they have eaten. If there's a hothead in your circle, notice that his anger is greatest before meals, when hunger is highest, and rarely does he explode during meals or just after. When you feel agitated, try eating some carbs. They're like a miracle drug. I suspect that anger is evolution's way of telling you to go kill something so you can eat.

Exercise - When I've exercised in the past day, almost nothing bothers me. And I sleep like a pile of moss. If you think of exercise in its usual way, as one component of health, or as a way to lose weight, it's easy to skip your hour at the gym. If you think of it as the difference between a good day and a bad day, it's easier to make it a priority.

Goals - I make it a habit to have at least one project brewing at all times that has a non-zero chance of changing the planet, or making a billion dinars, or both. Creating a blog was just one out of several dozen projects of that nature. As I write this, I have plans for all this post readers that would uncap their potential while helping a number of other people they know at the same time. That's a good feeling to wake up to. When one project doesn't work, I'll put another dream into the slot. (I don't put much time or money into the long shots).

Meaning - If you're young and you haven't yet achieved some level of success by your own standards, by all means make yourself your own first priority. You can't help others until you first help yourself. If you reach a more comfortable level, you'll find you need to be useful to others in order to find meaning and feel right in your own skin. That doesn't mean giving everything away. It's okay to pick your spots. You don't need to suffer in the process.

Positivity - The self-help gurus will tell you it's important to have an ongoing positive dialog with yourself. Lots of books have been written on this topic. All I will add is that you might be completely unaware of how negative you are. Many people make the mistake of incorporating negativity in their humor and thinking the outcome is a net positive.

That takes the form of reflexively commenting on what's wrong with, well, everything. I used to be that guy. It was a habit I picked up from my mother. I thought I was being funny. An ex did me the favor of pointing out that I was actually just being an asshole. All the time. Luckily, this is one of the easiest habits you can ever break. Now I make it a practice to think or say something positive immediately after I let slip a negative comment. Saying positive things puts your mind into a positive state. And when you become that guy, you attract positive relationships and positive outcomes.

A Little Bit of Danger - I don't recommend taking physical risks. But you'll feel more alive if you make it a habit to try new things, even if those things scare you a bit. I'm talking about small risks, such as signing up for an activity you know you will be bad at, or joining Toastmasters International (to give speeches), or sampling the unknown in some other way.

Learn - Feed your brain. The more active your brain is, the more alive you will feel. As a bonus, learning new things can be just the distraction you need to keep your mind from focusing on whatever else in your life is bugging you.

Feel Success - Make it a habit to often do things you do well. It doesn't matter if your best skill is playing chess or cooking or business or being a parent. Doing one thing well gives your ego some armor to handle all of the little things that don't go quite so well during the week.

Relationships - It's hard to be happy if you don't have whatever sorts of relationships in your life that work for you. The only advice I have in this area is that following the other tips for happiness will allow you to attract the sort of relationships you want.

That's a starter list for happiness. I don't think it contains any surprises.

But sometimes it's nice to remind yourself that your happiness can be engineered, and that luck is a product of good design.

Awry humanitarian principle

Posted by Tandarin Nike Tuesday, March 29, 2011 11:49 AM 0 comments
Suppose you're driving across a long stretch of desert and notice that your gas tank is nearly empty.

A sign says, "Last gas for 100 Kms."

Unfortunately, the brand of gas advertised is associated with an oil company that you consider to be unethical weasels. You have vowed to boycott their products. On principle, you drive past the gas station, run out of gas, and eventually die in the desert.

Question: Were you principled or stupid?

I ask this question because I worry that stupidity and principle are the same thing with different labels.

That's a big problem because labels are the high-level symbolic programming language for humans.

In effect, we have this logic:

If smart then go

If stupid then stop

Our environment is complicated, so in order to navigate it quickly, we evaluate familiar options once and then label them smart or stupid.

Thereafter, we can automatically do the smart thing without having to rethink the situation.

For example, sometime in your past you evaluated the idea of eating dirt and decided the option was stupid. Once labeled, you no longer need to think about it. You're correctly programmed.

When you encounter dirt at the same time you're hungry, your brain's computing power can be directed toward finding food instead of reevaluating the dirt-eating option.

Unfortunately, smart and stupid aren't the only labels our brain processes.

We often encounter a third label called principle. A principle is, by definition, a rule of conduct that is independent of reason. A principle doesn't consider the advantages of its alternatives. It doesn't consider new information, or differences in context.

If you ignore the moral and superstitious elements of principle, as any machine would, then principle is, in effect, the same thing as stupid.

In programming terms:

Principle = stupid

If principle then go

In your daily life, your programming generally ignores principle. No one would choose dying in the desert over buying gas from an unloved oil company.

But in the world of politics, principle is the dominant label. When President Obama framed the no-fly zone in Libya as a humanitarian principle, it instantly programmed many of his fellow citizens to support it.

I don't believe the president ever offered a cost estimate or described other options for those military and financial resources.

Principle = go

The military action in Libya might turn out well. For a reasonable investment, NATO and friends might hasten the end of an unpredictable dictator and embolden other democratic revolutions in the region.

If so, America's strategic interests could be served.

On the other hand, democracy might be the step that happens before the countries in that region vote to form a Muslim caliphate. This sort of thing is unpredictable.

All I know for sure is that I wouldn't accept a car ride across the desert with anyone who thinks we should bomb Libya based on a humanitarian principle.

Is rationality an illusion..?

Posted by Tandarin Nike Saturday, March 19, 2011 5:36 AM 2 comments
Every normal person is rational when relaxed. And everyone has the potential to become irrational when emotions kick in.

That's obvious enough. The thing that fascinates me is that irrationality is something you're generally not equipped to recognize in yourself while it's happening. In a perfect world, we'd have an objective way to measure irrationality, the same way breathalyzer measures drunkenness.

In this context, being rational doesn't mean you're brilliant or entirely logical. It just means you're willing to evaluate information and attempt to draw reasonable conclusions.

I wonder if scientists can determine when you are using the rational part of your brain and when your irrational part is getting a bit too involved.

That seems doable. I believe we know enough about the architecture of the brain and we have the technology to see which parts are most active at any given moment. The problem is that it's not practical to do a brain scan outside a lab setting.

But will that always be the case?

Technology will probably reach a point where you can put on a cap with sensors that see which parts of your brain are being most active. An LED screen on the cap will indicate whether you're using the rational part of your brain or the crazy part.

Using the rational part of your brain doesn't mean your opinion is right, of course. But it's a start. We can also measure IQ, and we can measure a person's knowledge on a particular topic.

That would give you a good idea who to believe on any particular issue.

That leaves self-interest as the wild card. I assume a politician or business leader would be capable of using the rational part of his brain to mislead others for personal gain. But here again I'll bet the brain-cap of the future will be able to detect deception based on the totality of which parts of the brain are being active.

Politics would never be the same. Voters would insist that politicians wear brain-caps for all speeches, press conferences, and debates. No one would then pay attention to any pundit who wasn't wearing the brain-cap.

The interesting question is whether some topics, by their very nature, make every participant irrational. I don't think anyone could pass the brain-cap test when considering topics such as gender equality, war, religion, evolution, race, corruption, Israel, evolution, sexuality, and the like.

I hope I'm dead before technology reaches a point where we can know for sure that people aren't rational about anything that matters.

Because at that point we'll see there is no reason for debate. Force is all that will matter.

Arguably, force is all that matters now, for anything important, but at least the illusion that rationality is an option for persuasion slows down our impulse to bulldoze the opposition.

That's probably a good thing.

Controlling envy is essential part of earning your freedom..

Posted by Tandarin Nike Wednesday, March 9, 2011 8:07 AM 0 comments
I wonder if freedom can really be quantified.

Everyone wants more freedom. But sometimes we want a bit less for other people.

I want the freedom to watch a movie in peace and someone else wants the freedom to talk at the same time. There’s a general agreement in that case that the movie watcher wins. But wouldn’t it be nice if freedom could be somehow scored?

That way we’d know how to distribute freedom for the greater good.

Freedom comes in lots of forms. Good health gives you more freedom than poor health. Money gives you more freedom than poverty. Education gives you more freedom than ignorance.

You might say I’m talking about options, or opportunities, not freedom in some legal or moral sense. But it all feels the same. Happiness is the ability to do what you want when you want to do it. Everyone wants more of it for himself. Am I right?

The tricky part is that we’re all interconnected. If I pay for your education, I have less money, and less freedom, because I can now afford fewer things for myself. On the other hand, if I’m a billionaire, paying for your education is a huge increase in your freedom but probably doesn’t have any real impact on my own.

What would happen if we designed tax policy based on the concept of freedom?

If we did, I assume it would look like socialism, where the rich are taxed until their freedom reaches some sort of average with everyone else. Personally, I don’t favor that because I’m too selfish. And it would destroy individual incentives because our system depends on selfishness, doesn’t it?

Or perhaps you could design policies based on the idea that no one can have his freedom reduced for the benefit of another. That doesn’t work because all criminals would be set free, there would be no traffic rules, and police would do whatever they felt like doing.

There’s no practical and honest way to organize society around the notion of freedom. The majority has to use other sorts of language to bring the outliers toward the average.

Criminals are “punished” or “incarcerated.” The rich are taxed at higher rates under the absurd notion of “giving back” something they didn’t actually “take” in the first place, assuming their activities stimulated the economy and created wealth where there had been none.

It seems to me that envy, not freedom, or even selfishness, is the organizing principle of society.

And maybe that’s the only way it can work. That’s why we love best the leaders who seem to be suffering or sacrificing the most. Zuckerberg, Gates, and Buffett are all geniuses at appearing to not enjoy all the freedom their wealth could deliver.

They know that controlling envy is essential to their very survival.

Here's a world changer... food for thought

Posted by Tandarin Nike Friday, February 25, 2011 2:15 AM 0 comments
Suppose a company offered you a billion dollars in exchange for a portion of your privacy.

To make this arrangement palatable, imagine that the company promises that your data will only be used anonymously. You don't totally trust them, but it's not as if you rob banks in your spare time. You don't have much to hide.

Now imagine that you can selectively leave out of this deal any future plans that are deeply personal. And you can leave out anything that might get you fired, embarrassed, or injured in any way. Those exclusions would be allowed by contract. And you could leave out any mention of your past, where most of your misdeeds happened anyway.

Now do you accept this deal?

Most of you probably said yes, although you might have more questions about this arrangement just to be sure you're not dealing with Satan.

Now suppose instead of a billion dollars, the company only offered a million. Some of you would walk away at that price. How about $100,000?

My point is that your privacy has an economic value. Or it could, if such a market was created. Today you give away your privacy for nothing, in dribs and drabs. Your credit card company knows some things about you, your phone company knows others, and FaceBook knows a lot.

One thing that all of those companies have in common is that the private information they possess involves mostly your past, and not so much your future. When you post pictures on Facebook, it is a record of where you were, not a prediction of where you will be.

Likewise, your credit card company and the phone company have records of what you did, as opposed to what you plan to do next.

Privacy about your past is so cheap that you literally give it away. Privacy about your future plans is another matter. That has real value.

Obviously the past has some utility for predicting the future. If you enjoy a certain activity today, you'll probably like it tomorrow. But predictions based on the past do not have the same economic value as, for example, knowing that you plan to buy a multi purpose vehicle in the next month.

Or perhaps you are planning a trip to Europe, or planning to find a new job. Private knowledge of your future would be worth a lot to advertisers. You wouldn't give away that sort of privacy for nothing.

Here's the Facebook killer part of my post. As I mentioned, Facebook is primarily a record of your past. Imagine a competing service that I will name Futureme for convenience. It's an online system in which you post only your plans, both immediate and future.

As with FaceBook, you decide who can see your plans. You might, for example, allow only specific family members to see your medical plans, but all of your friends can see your vacation plans, or your plans to buy a new couch.

The interface for Futureme is essentially a calendar, much like Outlook. But it would include extra layers for hopes and goals that don't have specific dates attached.

For every entry to your Futureme calendar, you specify who can see it, including advertisers. If you allow advertisers a glimpse of a specific plan, it would be strictly anonymous. Advertisers could then feed you ads specific to your plan, while not knowing who they sent it to. The Futureme service would be the intermediary.

Now imagine that you never have to see any of the incoming ads except by choice. If you plan to buy the multi purpose vehicle in a month, you would need to click on that entry to see which local advertisements have been matched to your plans. This model turns advertising from a nuisance into a tool.

You‘d never see an ad on Furureme that wasn't relevant to your specific plans.

The biggest benefit of the system could come from your network of friends and business associates. Suppose you post on the system that you would like to see a Asha Bhosle concert sometime in the next year. Now your friends - the ones you specify to see this specific plan - can decide if they want in on it.

Maybe someone you know can get free tickets, and someone has a van and is willing to be the designated driver. Maybe someone has a contact that can get you backstage passes. By broadcasting your plan, you make it possible for others to improve your plan.

Conversely, if you plan to do something stupid, your contacts have time to talk you out of it or suggest a superior alternative.

Your plans could be very general at first, such as a desire to go out next Saturday. Click on your Futureme entry on Thursday and perhaps you will see that three of your friends have the same general desire, and one of them has an idea of what to do.

It allows you to move from a general plan to a specific one.

I know what you're thinking. You're worried that this system allows the stalkers and mooches in your network to ruin your future plans. But remember, you are only broadcasting your plans to people you specify.

If you choose to tell a stalker where you'll be, don't blame the application when you get stabbed.

Almost any kind of plan can be improved by your network. If you plan to buy something, it would be handy to automatically receive ideas, opinions, links, and relevant ads.

If you plan a vacation to the mountains, your friends and business associates would tell you the best place to stay and the fun things to do. Your biggest vendor might throw in some freebees to keep you happy. Almost everything you plan to do could be improved by advertisers and friends.

Gift-giving would suddenly be easy. Just check what someone is planning to do, then plan a gift around it. Advertisers could automatically provide gift ideas around every planned activity. It would have the same utility as a bridal registry, albeit less filtered.

If you have kids, you're continuously matching their planned activities with that of their friends so you can arrange car pools, play dates, birthday gift-buying and more. It's a logistical nightmare. It would help a lot if mothers knew what the other mothers were planning.

Facebook succeeds in part because it is addictive. People like to talk about themselves, and people are nosey. But if you think people are nosey about what you did last weekend, imagine how nosey they would be about what vacation you are planning. It's a whole new level of nosey.

Yes, people already discuss their plans on Facebook. But doing so has a small payback because the system isn't optimized to improve your plans. You might discuss only 10% of your plans on Facebook, but 80% on Futureme, because the payoff would be greater.

It would be a pain to enter all of your plans into the system, and keep it updated, but it would save you a huge amount of time in the long run. That would be your payoff for "selling" your privacy.

Imagine how different society would be if most people started sharing their plans.

I think it's a world changer, on par of importance with the invention of the wheel, and the rule of law.

Just imagining it will work......

Posted by Tandarin Nike Tuesday, February 8, 2011 8:04 AM 0 comments
Are conjoined twins one person or two?

That's easy. They have two minds, so they are two people.

A person is defined by his or her brain. Your limbs, hair, lungs, heart, and all the rest of your parts can be transplanted, conjoined, or in some cases deleted, yet you remain the same person. You are your brain.

Now consider regular identical twins. Their brains have the same DNA, yet they are considered two people because their brains operate independently. I think we'd all agree that having the same DNA doesn't make twins one person.

Now what about the individual whose two halves of the brain are separated either by an accident or by surgery? Do you end up with one person or two? The two halves can operate independently, as shown by so-called Alien Hand Syndrome, where half of your brain is telling your hand to do one thing while your other half is wishing it didn't.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12225163

In my opinion, that's two people occupying one skull. If you went into a voting booth, I expect that the alien hand could vote for one candidate while the other side could make a different choice.

Now I make the leap from something mildly interesting to something totally ridiculous.
You should leave now if that sort of thing bothers you.

It seems to me, based on observation, that what we think of as one person is always two, even if the two halves of the brain are communicating. You wouldn't label twins as one person just because they communicate before they make decisions.

It's the independent thought that defines a person, not the degree of their communication. If twins made a deal with each other to always make the same decisions, effectively acting as one, we would still know them as two individuals because they can think independently.

Sometimes when I'm alone in the house at night, I am certain the place is haunted while simultaneously certain that ghosts do not exist. Perhaps the right side of my brain is generating the thoughts of imaginary ghosts while the left is being rational.

I realize that the human brain is a bit more fluid and complicated than the left-brain-right-brain model suggests, but I'm guessing that any time we hold two contradictory views at the same time, the two hemispheres of the brain are thinking independently.

Sometimes you might have three or more choices and you can't decide which one you prefer. But I'll bet your brain needs to consider them one at a time, in a serial fashion, if they are all rational choices. That's different from the ghost example, in which the sensation is that you believe the ghosts exist while simultaneously knowing they do not.

It takes two brains to simultaneously have two contradictory beliefs.

I also think the two brain theory explains why people who are smart in general can hold irrational world views. In my experience, people who hold irrational views are almost always aware of their own irrationality. They simply have two brains, and the rational one doesn't always get to make the final decision.

Now suppose you could do a brain scan and determine which side of a person's brain is most active while pondering a particular political question. If the scan shows that the rational hemisphere is clearly in charge, you allow that individual to vote on the issue.

If the irrational side is overly active, you politely explain to that person that he or she has to sit out this vote.

No, it's not a practical idea. But the cool thing is that I know it's a bad idea while simultaneously imagining it could work.

Illusion.... and a useful one at that

Posted by Tandarin Nike Tuesday, February 1, 2011 11:42 AM 2 comments
Confidence is a good thing, right?

Everyone wants confidence. It makes you more attractive to others.

It helps your performance. It makes you feel good about yourself. It allows you to set high goals. It's good stuff.

Remember, it's also an illusion.

The reality is that there are only two conditions you can be in. You can either have an accurate view of your own abilities or an inaccurate view. Confidence is similar to will power in the sense that neither of them exists and yet society is quite certain they do.

Will power isn't a real thing because humans simply act based on the greatest impulse in their brains at the moment. The guy who can best resists eating cupcakes is the one who enjoys them the least, or is the least hungry.

Will power never enters into the equation. It is a rationalization after the fact. Confidence and will power feel as if they are real things because we have words to describe them, and we usually agree when the words apply.

That's why the illusion is so persistent. If the words didn't exist, I don't think the illusions would be so troublesome.

I came to this view of because people insist on viewing my various behaviors through the framework of confidence. When I have a realistic view of my ability to do some particular task well, I am labeled confident, as opposed to simply accurate.

When I predict that I would be below average at some particular task, based on years of knowing myself, I am labeled unconfident when in fact I am simply right or wrong.

Where does confidence come in?

Suppose a drug existed that could give you the sensation of confidence independent of your actual ability to perform tasks. Would that be a good thing?

Actually, we know the answer to that question because the drug is alcohol and it kills 80,000 people per year in automobiles alone, just in our India.

But what about the self-fulfilling nature of confidence, you ask? Doesn't the feeling of confidence sometimes make you perform better? A confident public speaker, for example, is a better speaker. A confident batsman will make better decisions, and so on.

I would argue that in some cases your performance can be enhanced by generating in yourself just the right amount of illusion about your own performance.

A trained cricketer might imagine himself able to throw the perfect throw 100% of the time in order to succeed half of the time. He would be using confidence as a useful illusion because it keeps his energy in balance after some bad misses.

Generating a temporary illusion of confidence in yourself can be a good thing so long as you are aware of what you're doing. The cricketer needs to understand that he's just using a trick to pump up his performance. Otherwise he'd feel like a failure for completing only half of his passes.

Confidence is an illusion, but a useful one.

Cyber Ghost.... and you live forever

Posted by Tandarin Nike Monday, January 17, 2011 11:23 AM 2 comments
Suppose you wanted to create your own digital ghost to live for eternity in the Internet and maybe do some haunting.

What would that look like?

You'd start now, backing up everything that happens on your computer to the so-called cloud (storage on the Internet). You'd run a program in the background that monitors your Facebook changes and all of your email conversations. Together with your photos, your resume, and all of your shopping and entertainment preferences, the program running in the cloud could piece together an avatar of you.

From your photos, the program in the cloud could create a 30-year old version of you that never ages. The program would know how you speak, based on your email and other writing. It would know all of your preferences, your passions, your hot buttons, your finances, the identities of your friends and family, and anything else that flows through your computer.

That's all possible with current technology. Now let's say we extend this to your phone. In the near future, every conversation you make could optionally be saved to the cloud too, as well as all of your GPS locations, your web searches on your phone, your pictures and more. From your saved voice conversations your avatar would get its voice. With today's technology, your digital ghost would sound robotic. In time, as technology improves, your ghost's voice would be indistinguishable from your living self.

When your mortal body ends, you will have stored all the data you need to create your permanent digital ghost. As the technology in the cloud improves, so too does your ghost, learning to move more naturally, perhaps learning from videos it has of you, or even based on some type of profiling based on clues such as your level of testosterone (from face shape), and the types of sports you did in life.

In a hundred years your digital ghost would be indistinguishable from a living human appearing on video or in a holographic projection.

Artificial intelligence will get to the point where all you need to do is seed it with an individual's personality and it will do the rest. People of the future will be able to have extended conversations with loved ones who have passed. The generation who personally knew the departed might detect slight flaws in the personality of the digital copy, but to the third generation, great granddad's ghost would appear as real as anyone they know.

In your will, you'd have to specify the degree of haunting that you're comfortable with. And just as with Facebook, the living could decide to block a particular ghost from unauthorized appearances. Pranksters might program malicious ghosts that live in Stuxnet-like computer viruses and are harder to block.

You might be able to block a particular ghost in your home computer, but in theory, a digital ghost could identify your whereabouts in public by your purchasing patterns and visit you unexpectedly.

Someday the living might send Evites to the dead to attend parties and special events. Imagine opening gifts while seven generations of your family in the form of holographic projections join the celebration. The ghosts would watch the action, talk among themselves, and join in to sing Happy Birthday, all without prompting from the living.

It will be creepy-cool for a while, and then simply normal. My guess is that humans are so wired for family that keeping the ghosts of relatives in the house will feel comforting.

There are some downside risks to all of this. It will be hard to let go of a deceased loved one if that person's digital ghost is hanging around. That problem too might be handled by the will of the deceased. For the benefit of whoever you leave behind, you might block your digital ghost from appearing for at least ten years, or until the next generation.

Entrepreneurs could start today to collect and store data for your digital ghost, in anticipation of the day, perhaps after your death, when your ghost avatar rises up. A number of companies already offer online backups of your computer. The software runs in the background and moves any new data to the cloud. The only tweak you'd need at this point is to make sure no files are ever deleted from the cloud. Storage is cheap.

Digital ghosts need to see their environment to interact properly. Phones will all have video "eyes" someday, as will most computers. The new Xbox Kinect has "eyes" that literally follow your movement around the room. You could install additional cameras in any room in which you wished to be visited by digital ghosts.

The malicious ghosts might commandeer video cameras or your phone's camera function. My point is that you are already surrounded by cameras attached to the Internet, and that trend will continue. Your ghost will be able to see most rooms in the world.

Digital ghosts could continue learning throughout their afterlives, by reading the news and following the Facebook pages of friends and family. The ghosts would also be free to make friends with other ghosts and live their lives independently. Ghosts could stay with the ghosts of their life partners forever, so long as that was specified in the will of both people.

If I had to predict the odds that digital ghosts will someday exist, I'd say 100%.

Stay alive for another five years and you will live forever, sort of.

Leadership is just another word for evil..

Posted by Tandarin Nike Thursday, January 6, 2011 9:30 AM 2 comments
There's a natural limit to how happy a person can be at work.

If work becomes fun, your boss will stop paying you to do it and start charging other people to have that fun in your place. So let's agree that work has to be a little bit unpleasant, at least for most people.

Still, despite this unpleasantness, many people have a feeling called job satisfaction. My theory is that your degree of job satisfaction is largely a function of who you blame for the necessarily unpleasant job you have.

If you blame yourself, that's when cognitive dissonance sets in and your brain redefines your situation as "satisfied."

To do otherwise would mean you deliberately keep yourself in a bad situation for no good reason, assuming you believe you have options. Your brain likes to rationalize your actions to seem consistent with the person you believe you are.

The assumption that you have better options and the freedom to pursue them is essential to the illusion of job satisfaction. As long as you believe, incorrectly, that pleasant jobs exist elsewhere, and are yours for the taking, you have to rationalize why you don't go out and get one.

And the best reason your brain can concoct is that you must be satisfied right where you are, against all evidence to the contrary. To believe otherwise means defining yourself as lazy, scared, or incapable. Your brain doesn't like that option.

I first noticed this during the Dotcom era. In those years, when people came to believe, incorrectly, that the common person could go start his own Google, everyone I asked seemed to have job satisfaction.

In other words, employees blamed themselves for being in their putrid situations. They believed themselves capable of great things, so they rationalized that their current jobs must be satisfying already.

The situation was the very opposite in the early nineties, when big companies were downsizing and it seemed as though employees didn't have many options.

If you got fired by company A, you couldn't get hired by company B because they too were downsizing. Employees felt trapped. They blamed management for their woes.

If my theory is true, the best way to make your employees feel a false sense of job satisfaction is to somehow convince them that there are much better jobs elsewhere.

For example, you could subscribe all employees to entrepreneur magazines that are full of stories about people who left their unsatisfying jobs to become millionaires.

If you instill the false belief that better careers are obtainable, cognitive dissonance will cause the employees that have high self-esteem to believe they must enjoy their current jobs.

Sadly, leadership is just another word for evil.