Today’s Experiment

“‘But I hear the voices,’ he tells me. ‘I hear people say, ‘Why doesn’t he just be funny?’ That stuff has just never mattered to me. To me, it’s like, this is the experiment tonight. If you enjoy it, great, if you don’t, that’s cool, too. There’ll be another one tomorrow.'”

—Jim Carrey quoted in Lacey Rose. “Jim Carrey’s (Reluctant) Return to Hollywood: At Home With an Actor, Artist and Trump-Era Agitator.” Hollywood Reporter. August 15, 2018.

Ideology & Pride

“But this is pride, according to Niebuhr: the inability to interrogate our own moral stances because we’re too committed to ideology. Pride has everything to do with power, because the ideologies we commit ourselves to belong to the tribes that we count on to protect, defend, and advance us. Perhaps the most radical thing Jesus ever did in his society was to ditch his family and leave Nazareth. The man had no back-up.

To be very clear, the lesson to be drawn from all of this is not that human knowledge (or lack of) shapes how we use power. To a disconcerting extent, it’s just the opposite. How we use power shapes how we choose to know.

To make things worse, Niebuhr says, humans have a capacity for “partial self-transcendence.” That is, we’re able to see how we can make things better, and tempted to think that means we can make them perfect. In other words, humans know just enough to fool them into thinking they’re not dumb. Big mistake. We do just enough of the right thing to convince themselves that they are good. Bigger mistake.”

—Daniel Schulz. “Pride in the Name of Power.” killingthebuddha.com. July 29, 2018.

Who the Fuck is SWIM?

“SWIM has done it all, from the most obscure pharmaceuticals to the hardest street drugs, at every dosage, in every combination. SWIM has shot black tar heroin in Thailand, drunk ayahuasca in Peru, binged on Quaaludes in Beverly Hills. SWIM has been to hell and back, cheated death, seen God. SWIM has survived hospital stays, nights in jail, leaps from treacherous heights. But like any legend worth the designation, SWIM is an enigma, impossible to know firsthand. Other users endlessly refer to SWIM’s experiments, but novices search in vain for posts actually written by SWIM. There are none to be found. This absence results in a recurring refrain from first-time posters: ‘By the way—who the fuck is SWIM?'”

—Shuja Haider. “Ambien Diaries.” Popula. July 22, 2018.

Trying is Lying

“‘I wish someone had told me when I was much younger that I didn’t have to have an airtight legal case for a breakup — all I had to have was a desire to no longer be in that relationship,’ she writes. ‘I would have saved myself a lot of time.'”

—Kelli María Korducki. “Leaving a Good Man Is Hard To Do.” Longreads.com. May 2018.

The test of every ethical choice is whether you’d want to be on the receiving end of it. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be with someone who no longer wanted to be in a relationship with me. So, I tend to think it is good advice.

But, at the same time, it would be real easy to use this way of thinking to cut and run every time a relationship gets hard, and every relationship worth having is going to get hard.

Joan Didion might have put it better in her essay on Self-Respect:

“…anything worth having has its price. People who respect themselves are willing to accept the risk that the Indians will be hostile, that the venture will go bankrupt, that the liaison may not turn out to be one in which every day is a holiday because you’re married to me.”

If You Say Something Is “Likely,” How Likely Do People Think It Is?

Suggestions for improving forecasting and communication about it:

  1. Use probabilities instead of words to avoid misinterpretation
  2. Use structured approaches to set probabilities
  3. Seek feedback to improve your forecasting

—Andrew Mauboussin and Michael J. Mauboussin. “If You Say Something Is “Likely,” How Likely Do People Think It Is?Harvard Business Review. July 3, 2018.

Sites like Good Judgment can be a useful exercise in making predictions and getting feedback on the results.