Listened to Episode 4: Mistakenly Seeking Solitude from The Happiness Lab

Technology allows us to bank, shop and dine without talking to another human, but what toll is this taking on our happiness? The inventor of the ATM and the Talking Heads singer David Byrne join Dr Laurie Santos to explore the ways in which talking to strangers can bring us all genuine joy.

This episode makes me think a bit about Mike Monteiro’s book Ruined by Design. 

I’ll have to read the MIT Technology Review article by David Byrne. The idea of designing humanity out of things is such a sad one, but there’s definitely a lot of evidence for it.

There is a great example in here of people not knowing what they really want or need or what is healthy for themselves. In particular, the story of the psychologist that did research on trains and came across their survey that they were creating a “solitude car” because that’s what people said they wanted in surveys. Sadly the research shows people will be happier if they’re interacting. When he asked the train company why they didn’t make an “interaction car”, they said they used to have that, but they discontinued it because it was so crowded. Maybe they should have added an extra car instead?

Dr. Lynne Kelly’s research on history, indigenous people, and memory, and a dovetail with Big History

David Christian, Fred Spier, Bill Gates, Big History Institute, and other Big History researchers and thinkers, if you’re not already aware of her, allow me to introduce you to researcher Dr. Lynne Kelly. Her work dramatically expands our understanding of pre-literate societies’ learning, memory, and particularly collective learning. Further, it makes for a strong and fascinating story that could not only be integrated into Big History; it provides links between modern and pre-modern humans and ties deeply into ideas of origin stories, mythology, and early religion; and it provides actual methods for improving student’s memories and particularly that for history.

I think her work has some profound impact on the arc of Big History, particularly with respect to Threshold 6, well into Threshold 7, and continuing into the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution. In true big history fashion, her thesis also touches heavily on a broad array of topics including anthropology, archaeology, psychology, neuroscience, history, and education.

A broad, reasonable introduction to her work can be had in CalTech physicist Sean Carroll’s  recent podcast interview.

Another short introduction is her TEDx Melbourne talk:

A solid popular science encapsulation of her work can be found in her book The Memory Code: The Secrets of Stonehenge, Easter Island and Other Ancient Monuments (Pegasus Books, 2017).

A more thorough academic treatment of her work can naturally be found in:

With some work, I think her research could become a better foundational basis for a stronger bridge from threshold 6 into threshold 7 with dramatic impact on how we view origin stories, mythology, religion. It also has some spectacular implications for improving pedagogy and memory within our educational systems and how we view and use collective memory and even innovation in the modern world.

Read Dandelions, Tulips, Orchids and Neurological Pluralism by Ryan BorenRyan Boren (Ryan Boren)
I’m always on the look out for new ways of thinking about and designing for neurological pluralism, especially when it comes in threes. Dandelions, tulips, and orchids designate low-sensitive, medium-sensitive, and high-sensitive people. I like the way this aligns with caves, campfires, and watering holes, the red, yellow, green of interaction badges, and the three speeds of collaboration.
This is a fascinating thesis with some interesting long term effects on evolution.
Listened to Memory Craft: Lynne Kelly On The Potent Power Of Ancient Mnemonics by Anthony Metivier from magneticmemorymethod.com

Cover of Memory Craft by Lynne KellyNot only is Lynne Kelly the author of several books on memory, but she is a highly skilled researcher, science educator, author and memory competitor.

Most known for her theory about Stonehenge’s purpose, she has also contributed to work in popular science and is a promoter of skepticism.

Lynne’s critical thinking and contributions to such a wide range of science subjects has led to awards from the Royal Zoological Society of South Wales among others. As a memory expert, Lynne Kelly is that rare practitioner who takes on large learning projects and shares the journey in addition to attending memory sport activities.

Episode covers:

  • The real reason why stores play such upbeat, catchy music.
  • Why outdoor Memory Palaces can be so helpful for memory retention.
  • The benefits of “setting aside” time for memory training versus incorporating practice into everyday life.
  • How vivid, violent, or vulgar imagery can bring abstract concepts to life.
  • Why “rapscallions” are useful memory tools and not just mischievous little creatures.
  • How art can help you remember more in a Memory Palace.
  • The pros and cons to living with aphantasia.
  • The key to using hooks and layering to create dynamic visuals.
  • How to “dialogue” with your memory aids.
  • Why we should encode using music and places for maximum mental skill (and possible mental health) benefits.
  • The usefulness of memory techniques for school aged children and their long-term effects.
  • The secret to overcoming “ghosting” when using memory techniques.

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A fascinating interview, but likely needs some additional introductory material to make sense of what is going on. The audience here are people who have at least a passing knowledge of mnemonics and many of it’s methods. I could have stood to hear a few more hours between these two given my academic interest in the area.

There’s an interesting segment on aphantasia and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the middle here. I’d definitely be interested in looking into the research on aphantasia more. There’s also some more material here on memory methods for education (compared with other interviews with Dr. Kelly). She does use a physics example on force and the idea of push/pull with respect to Star Wars which I’ve heard her mention before.

Originally bookmarked on December 07, 2019 at 01:11PM

Listened to Tribalism, Anger and the State of Our Politics from On the Media | WNYC Studios

An extended conversation with Lilliana Mason about tribalism, anger and the state of our politics.

If solidarity and the recognition of mutual self-interest are the keys to moving past our fractious moment, it can be hard to see how we'll get there. Anger and tribalism appear to be at an all-time high, creating political and societal rifts that seem unbridgeable. Indeed, it is hard to believe that only 70 years ago, the country was deemed by political scientists to be not polarized enough. In 1950, the American Political Science Association put out a report that suggested that the parties were not distinct enough and that it was making people's political decision making too difficult.

Over the next few decades, they became distinct alright. Lilliana Mason is a political psychologist at the University of Maryland. When we spoke to her last fall, she told us that most people think they know exactly what each party stands for — leaving us with two camps that both seek to destroy the other. 

Listened to OTM presents: Shell Shock 1919: How the Great War Changed Culture by Sara Fishko from On the Media | WNYC Studios

WNYC's Sara Fishko and guests sift through the lingering effects of the Great War on modern art and life in Shell Shock 1919: How the Great War Changed Culture.

You really have a feeling that here is a building that looks fantastically beautiful, and it’s got its whole façade simply blown off by this war.

 -Philipp Blom

World War I presented civilization with unprecedented violence and destruction. The shock of the first modern, “industrial” war extended far into the 20th century and even into the 21st, and changed how people saw the world and themselves. And that was reflected in the cultural responses to the war – which included a burgeoning obsession with beauty and body image, the birth of jazz, new thinking about the human psyche, the Harlem Renaissance, Surrealism...and more.

WNYC's Sara Fishko and guests sift through the lingering effects of the Great War on modern art and life in Shell Shock 1919: How the Great War Changed Culture.

Guests include Jon Batiste, Ann Temkin, David Lubin, Philipp Blom, Jay Winter, Ana Carden-Coyne, Sabine Rewald, David Levering Lewis, Emma Chambers, Marion von Osten, Emily Bernard, and Gail Stavitsky

I was a bit surprised that they mentioned George Antheil, but left out his work and collaboration with Hedy Lamar who was a German refugee whose husband was a major arms dealer for the Germans.

This is a fantastic piece that makes me want to subscribe to more of Fishko’s work.

Listened to Queen of Cuba, Season 4 Episode 11 by Malcolm Gladwell from Revisionist History
A strange chain of events preceded the shoot-down, and people in the intelligence business turned to a rising star in the Defense Intelligence Agency, Ana Montes. Montes was known around Washington as the “Queen of Cuba” for her insights into the Castro regime.

👓 rapid eye movement from dominique o’brien | General Memory Chat | Art of Memory Forum

Read rapid eye movement from dominique o'brien (Art of Memory Forum)
Hi, in a TV-show about all kinds of crazy world records I saw dominique o’brien memorising 50 objects that were placed on some kind of running track. When he was doing this, his eyes moved from side to side in a very fast pace. This reminded me of an incredibly smart IT-guy (I felt like Forrest Gump in comparison) that came to our warehouse to implement a new computer system. If he was asked a very difficult question he would look up in the air and his eyes would behave precisely like those o...

Possibly tangentially related:

  • If you sit on a swivel chair (safer than doing the same thing standing up) and gently place your fingertips on your closed eyes while you turn around and around, you’ll be able to discern that your eyes will still exhibit saccadic movement even though you can’t “see” anything. (Not sure if this is true for the blind, but it’s worth considering who this may not be true for and why.)
  • Rapid Serial Visual Presentation methods for speed reading (Spritz and related apps) work well primarily because they limit saccadic eye movements which take up a proportionally large portion of your reading time. (Ultimately I think there is an upper limit to how fast one can read and comprehend and retain information.)
  • The visual systems of chickens are responsible for their odd walking manner in which they throw their heads forward and then move their body underneath them while their head remains stationary. Essentially while their head is moving, they’re “blind”.

Is it possible that saccades of the eye are tied into our visual processing and memory systems in a manner deeper than we’re consciously aware? Does reading on a page help our comprehension or long term memories more because the words have a location on a page versus RSVP reading methods? Do our mental visualizations (imagination) change depending on these visual/reading methods? What effects to these have on our memories?

Some interesting questions worth pondering/researching.

🎧 Episode 1: You Can Change | The Happiness Lab

Listened to Episode 1: You Can Change from The Happiness Lab

There are things you can do today to make yourself happier. Your life circumstances and personality aren't nearly as important as you think in deciding how happy you can be. Dr Laurie Santos explains how understanding the latest science will point you in the right direction to making you more satisfied with your life.

👓 Why Women, but Not Men, Are Judged for a Messy House | New York Times

Read Why Women, but Not Men, Are Judged for a Messy House (New York Times)
They’re still held to a higher social standard, which explains why they’re doing so much housework, studies show.

👓 How Barr and Trump Use a Russian Disinformation Tactic | New York Times

Read Opinion | How Barr and Trump Use a Russian Disinformation Tactic (New York Times)
They were able to define “collusion” to benefit themselves. Don’t let them twist meanings again with their “spying” investigation.
I’m a fan of the concept of George Lakoff’s “Truth Sandwich” idea in journalism. I’m curious with his recent spate of great publicity for it if any major outlets have taken it directly to heart? Are there any examples of major newspapers or online publishers taking it closely to heart? Has George or anyone created a news feed or Twitter account of articles covering Trump (or topics like the Alt-right, Nazis, etc.) that highlights articles which pull off the idea? I’d love to support journalism which goes to greater lengths to think about their coverage and it’s longer term effects. Having an ongoing list of articles as examples would help to extend the idea as well.

It would be cool to have something like NewsGuards’ browser extension for highlighting truth sandwiches, but I’m not sure how something like this could be built to be automated.

The best example of a truth sandwich I’ve come across thus far actually went a few steps further than the truth sandwich and chose not to cover what was sure to be untruth from the start: MSNBC declines to allow Sarah Sanders to dictate its programming (Washington Post).