Friday thread: On doing things that make us feel good but which don’t work…

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Benjamin Brattan gave this anti TED TEDx talk in San Diego last year. He’s talking directly to the kind of techno-utopianism that TED often falls into.

But this section towards the end might have some useful lessons for Northern Ireland. Consider, following Jim’s analysis this morning, that the Haass talks fall under the category of “things that make us feel good but which don’t work“:

If we really want transformation we have to slog through the hard stuff: the history; economics; philosophy; art; the ambiguities and contradictions. Because focusing just on technology or just on innovation actually prevents transformation.

We need to raise the level of general understanding to the level of complexity of the systems in which we are embedded in which are embedded in us.

This is not about personal stories of inspiration. It’s about the hard difficult work up demystification and reconceptualization. More Copernicus less Tony Robins.

At a societal level the bottom line is that if we invest in things that make us feel good but which don’t work and don’t invest in things which don’t make us feel good but which may solve problems then our fate is that in the long run it’ll just get harder and harder to feel good about not solving problems

In this case the placebo is not just ineffective it’s harmful that it because it takes your interest and energy and outrage and diverts it into a black hole which is affectation.[Emphasis added]

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  • BifterGreenthumb

    “ the Haass talks might fall under the category of “things that make us feel good but which don’t work“”

    The whole Northern Irish ideological constellation falls under the category of “things that make us feel good but which don’t work“”

    Modern Republicanism and Unionism are ideologies that formed in response to conditions that are no longer present. They both describe the UK, the ROI and NI in ways which are no longer true and so rather than offer solutions to problems, nationalistic Republicanism and orange Unionism are now problems in themselves. People in NI are so used to thinking in the terms dictated by the unionist/republican sectarian consensus, and are so invested in the myths and symbols of these ideologies, that they’d rather continue acting out a sectarian conflict based on an increasingly irrelevant constitutional question than develop new ideas to solve current problems.

  • FuturePhysicist

    So the technology is the easy stuff then? This actually seems quite Luddite to me. Let me take you through line by line.

    If we really want transformation we have to slog through the hard stuff: the history; economics; philosophy; art; the ambiguities and contradictions.

    Chemists perform transformation, as do Physicists as do engineers as do biologists etc. Yet these are genuinely ignored or resigned to the 18th Centuary label of philosophers.

    Because focusing just on technology or just on innovation actually prevents transformation

    Technology means using systems to make something, if nothing is being innovated can it be called a technology? Yes technology can prevent transformation, for example catalytic converters can prevent some pollutants becoming polluting vapours!

    We need to raise the level of general understanding to the level of complexity of the systems in which we are embedded in which are embedded in us.

    Modern medicine uses a lot of technology, yet technology is really a barrier to all that transformational stuff isn’t it? I mean who better than the artists, the historians and the philosophers unbound by technological distraction to stop a viral pandemic? When magnetic resonance was being discovered, or gravity for another matter was it because people were transforming something they had read about in history books or had seen inspired in art or was it because they were just focusing on nature or on in the case of MRI technology?

    Why even make a TED talk if the message is we don’t need to just focus on technology, just focusing on technology, science and all this real world stuff does actually help create machines. Not focussing on technology, helps create bad machines and bad methods.

    This is not about personal stories of inspiration. It’s about the hard difficult work up demystification and reconceptualization. More Copernicus less Tony Robins.

    Copernicus is a person, and he was inspired, name dropping Copernicus as a means of inspiring demystification and reconceptualisation is actually hypocritical. As a scientist to me mysticism relies on hidden variables, reconceptualisation without any exposure of the hidden variables is still mysticism.

    I believe he has this backwards, inspiration itself demystifies because through inspiration we obtain the epiphany to search for the hidden variables. Schrodinger atomic model demystified the Bohr atomic model which demystified the Rutherford one, but many of Rutherford’s concepts were not re-conceptualised, such as protons.

    At a societal level the bottom line is that if we invest in things that make us feel good but which don’t work and don’t invest in things which don’t make us feel good but which may solve problems then our fate is that in the long run it’ll just get harder and harder to feel good about not solving problems

    Okay, let’s look at this objectively. If I am a hedonist and my problem is a lack of indulgence, and then I indulge I “solve” my problem. If I am a masochist and my problem is a lack of self-deprevation, and I self deprecate, then I “solve” my problem.

    This is a lecture about the personality you really need to have to innovate or invest. But what has personality got to do with anything? The investment needed for a cure for AIDS might come from a hard working fundraiser or a drunk using their on-line banking. Objectively different personalities may produce the same result. The innovation for Technology may come from chance discovery or through a hard worked mathematical model.

    Society has many personalities and it manifests and interacts chaotically, these are pointless ad hoc arguments.

    In this case the placebo is not just ineffective it’s harmful that it because it takes your interest and energy and outrage and diverts it into a black hole which is affectation

    A placebo with negative effects is no longer called a placebo, just for the record. Secondly the affectation shown in this debate is actually quite transparent. How can a rant about the problem of unsolved problems can be anything but affectate?

    This really sounds like a man aspiring to be the black hole with his own gravity. Forgive me for not wanting to be sucked in.

  • Mick Fealty

    His use of the placebo is qualified earlier in the spake,,,

  • FuturePhysicist

    A Nocebo is something that does nothing but the consequence from expectation is harm, regardless of that expectation being positive or negative. Anything that is an causal agent in causing harm cannot be either placebo or nocebo because it is not inert.

    So it is completely unqualified.

  • Mick Fealty

    “The division of our culture is making us more obtuse than we need be: we can repair communications to some extent: but, as I have said before, we are not going to turn out men and women who understand as much of their world as Piero della Francesca did of his, or Pascal, or Goethe. With good fortune, however, we can educate a large proportion of our better minds so that they are not ignorant of the imaginative experience, both in the arts and in science, nor ignorant either of the endowments of applied science, of the remediable suffering of most of their fellow humans, and of the responsibilities which, once seen, cannot be denied.”
    ― C.P. Snow

  • Barney

    “The division of our culture is making us more obtuse than we need be:”
    That’s a tad naughty……..but spot on

    Yer man in the video is bang on the money he is after all only delivering a HPS 101 lecture.

  • Mc Slaggart

    ” we are not going to turn out men and women who understand as much of their world as Piero della Francesca did of his, or Pascal, or Goethe”

    I am shocked. What are we doing wrong??? Every child need to grow up to be a Pascal?

    I like Pascal but not everyone needs to be that clever. I honestly do not know if it would be a good thing. Buddha / Gandhi would be better model for society.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Melvyn Bragg and his guests begin a new series of the programme with a discussion of the French polymath Blaise Pascal. Born in 1623, Pascal was a brilliant mathematician and scientist, inventing one of the first mechanical calculators and making important discoveries about fluids and vacuums while still a young man. In his thirties he experienced a religious conversion, after which he devoted most of his attention to philosophy and theology.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03b2v6m

  • JoeBryce

    What a marvellous name. I’m guessing his parents were music lovers!