📚 #124: Psychopaths, Ergodicity & Metamodernity
Greetings from Taipei. Here is a sand sculpture from Bali, Taiwan.
⚡ I am spending the next 30 days creating a course called Reinvent: Life & Work Beyond The Default Path. You can get the reduced rate until August 31st or just lurk and follow the progress here. I also pushed out a new podcast episode on a pretty cool coworking founder this week.
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Venkatesh Rao’s famous multi-part essay the Gervais principle (about the office) argues that Psychopaths are the ones dominating modern institutions. If you’re not familiar with it, the hypothesis is that an organization is staffed like this:
When I first read this, I felt a bit silly because I was clearly in the loser/clueless category, but it gave me a different lens for thinking about the corporate world (I don’t think organizations are this simple.)
In that context, I found this weeks article from Aeon fascinating. It shows that contrary to popular belief, psychopathic tendencies do not mean that one has no emotion, its just that the emotional response disappears much quicker.
This first reaction appears to be entirely involuntary in psychopaths and non-psychopaths alike. It’s what happens in the later stages that is different: instead of their defensive response continuing to get stronger, and their attention becoming even more focused on the person in distress, the psychopaths’ response weakens and begins to die down.
That explanation fits with what we know about the relationship between empathy and reward: studies have found that men improve their understanding of what others think and feel only when they are paid to get it right, while understanding others is reward enough for women. Leaving aside such thorny gender issues, we can conclude that people are able to modify their empathy according to punishment, habituation or reward. So perhaps we should think of empathy and psychopaths the same way: they dull their empathic response to others in pain, but they are not naturally insensitive to it.
I first ran across the idea of ergodicity in Nassim Taleb’s antigfragile, where he argues that a better way to look at inequality is to think probabilistically across one’s life. He showed by doing this that the US is one of the best places to be if you want to spend at least one year of your life in the top income bracket.
Consider that about ten percent of Americans will spend at least a year in the top one percent and more than half of all Americans will spent a year in the top ten percent
It appears that this idea has the potential to shake up the economic profession as well:
The economics group at LML is attempting to redevelop economic theory from scratch, starting with the axiom that individuals optimise what happens to them over time, not what happens to them on average in a collection of parallel worlds.
What is metamodernity?
First of all, any true metamodernist must also be a postmodernist. If you do not understand and depart from the postmodern critique of knowledge, science, philosophy, art and consciousness, you cannot really claim to be metamodern. If you have a general disliking of all things postmodern, guess what, you cannot be metamodern.
+ Metamodernity’s reaction to the gillette commercial
#4 On Growing Old
Bertrand Russell on growing old
Make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life. An individual human existence should be like a river — small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past rocks and over waterfalls. Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being.
#5 A Quote:
"Despite everything our inheritance may tell us, work is not and never has been the very center of the human universe; and the universe, with marvelous compassion, seems willing to take endless pains to remind us of that fact"
***Bonus: A Newsletter Worth Following.
I found Ann Hadley’s newsletter to be a fun read. A few links on branding, simple writing and a nice reflection on ax throwing.
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