Flow: the word and the concept (Materialist hipster yells at cloud)

I don't like the word "flow" very much, in terms of the concept in psychology. I also don't like the other version of the concept, being "In the zone." I'm uncomfortable with the degree to which that kind of language seems to spiritualize or mysticize the concept.

I realize that many people are perfectly comfortable with that kind of construction, but it doesn't fit neatly into my internal monologue, and for totally unjustified reasons it bugs me that the scientific term for the concept, "Flow," isn't something more, like, y'know, clinical. 

I want to be able to think the sentence "I arrange my working time and space like this in order to achieve a state of [BLANK]," and I want the word I put in that blank to sound, like, sciencey, you know? Like, "Persisting engagement," or "Somatic focus," or "Csíkszentmihályi's state."

But when you put "Flow" in that blank, it sounds like I should be having some kind of religious experience, or that my emotional state at the time is the primary point of focus. And it's not. Flow is a lot of fun, I definitely enjoy the state, but I don't like thinking of it as a kind of meditation or spirituality. I don't want it to be about the process, I want it to be about the product. For me, focusing on process is something else. That's practice. It's a much more intentional, much less flow-like state. And if I'm going to meditate, I'd rather just meditate. 

I don't have any kind of point here. I don't actually want to enforce a certain kind of presentation of formal labeling in the social sciences. This just happens to be one of the areas where my prejudices and insecurities intersect a kind of postmodernity in a way that puts me on the conservative side of the discomfort.

Moon emoji

So apparently a bunch of astronauts just re-entered the atmosphere. Or left it. I'm not sure. About six months ago I programmed my partner's If This Then That account to text her the words "Moon emoji" every time one (or maybe both) of those things happened. We can't remember which. She just got the alert three times in a row, so either (a.) three astronauts just came home, (b.) three astronauts just launched out of the atmosphere, or (c.) some combination of astronauts just passed the barrier of the atmosphere and there has been a net change of +/- 1 astronaut in space.

So, in conclusion, the number of people in space right now just changed by either one or three. Most likely three.

Okay, so maybe I was wrong about music

I wrote a couple weeks ago about the self-destructive tendency of listening to sad music when I'm sad, arguing that my relationship to sad music is probably unhealthy. As many of you may realize, I am not a psychologist. My guess, based on nothing but personal suspicion, appears to be contradicted in The Paradox of Music-Evoked Sadness: An Online Survey, a study by Liila Taruffi and Stefan Koelsch, as reported on Boing Boing by Dan Ruderman in the recent post We listen to sad music to feel nostalgic:

[...] The researchers found that [...] emotional stability is negatively correlated with enjoying sad music when the listener is sad. That is, emotionally stable listeners tend not to turn to sad music when they are experiencing sadness, and they likely regulate their mood during sadness by listening to happier music.

The authors additionally conclude that there are several implications of their results for music therapy, including the possible beneficial effect of sad music for regulating emotion in less stable individuals.

Emphasis mine.

Literally up until the last sentence of the post, I figured it was pretty much arguing in favor of my point: that listening to sad music when you're sad is often a kind of self-destructive behavior. But, apparently, the researchers feel that the relationship that emotionally unstable people have to sad music is potentially beneficial -- which makes me feel a lot better about all the OK GO and Bluetones I've been listening to in the last week or so.

wildly optimistic daydreaming

 CGPGrey recently pointed out that employment as a mechanism for distributing resources is unsustainable -- we're, like, a couple years away from huge segments of employment being no longer things that people do. Watch the video. It's the second time I've linked it so you know it's important.

In the podcast he co-hosts, Hello Internet, he pointed out that this change is coming way, way faster than we tend to assume -- in many states, laws allowing for driverless cars to start taking over for people driving cars are not just in the works: they are passed, and kick in next year.

Not figuratively next year, like people say "Today things are X, but Tomorrow they will be Y." Literally next year. 2015.

I don't feel like being depressing in this post right now, though. So instead of talking about how horrible it's going to be in the space between: (a.) corporation owners getting virtually all of the money because they'll replace all of their wage earners with single-payment robots; and (b.) the government finally taking that money away from them and giving it to the unemployed, because if they don't it defeats the purpose of having currency in an economy[1. protip: money's for facilitating the exchange of goods and services, not a way for a small group of people to keep score.]; I want to talk about how great it's going to be after we solve the problem of how we could possibly manage, as a civilization, to distribute our abundant resources to the people in that civilization.

Advantages of systematic unemployment:

  • An end to sleep deprivation: everybody's lives are radically improved by no longer being constantly in a state of zombified mental strain
  • Better food: let's be honest, the only reason anyone ever goes to McDonald's is because they don't have the time for better food. People could cook for themselves, plan meals, make more adventurous choices with eating, host dinner parties, and cook for all their friends. Cooking is a fun hobby! When people have the time for it and can get ingredients it's likely to improve everybody's quality of life.
  • Free time: I got lost trying to calculate how much free time a person has now, but it's somewhere short of 8 hours per weekday, 16 hours per weekend-day. That's great, but if you're sleep deprived most of the time, and you only get that free time after spending a sleep-deprived day doing sub-optimal work, you're going to be very tired in that free time. Not only does free time just about double if you don't have a job, but the quality of that time is improved.
  • Decreased stress: Jobs cause a lot of stress. You know what else causes stress? Poverty. Poverty causes tons of stress. People in poverty functionally all have a debilitating chronic illness that is their financially induced stress. But if civilization is set up to provide for people who can't earn the living to provide for themselves, that source of stress goes away!
    • In case you skipped the video, (go back and watch it, but) this is important: soon, people are going to be unable to provide for themselves, not because they can't do a job, but because they can't do any job better than the robots that also do that job, and especially can't do it cheaper.
  • Education: If there's basically no job training you can enter that's going to be productive anyway, why not go to school for stuff that interests you? People could, if provided for, become way more informed about politics, sociology and science, the arts, basically anything -- huge areas of human endeavor could be opened up to people who would otherwise never have been able to devote that time and energy to those endeavors.

Now, granted, none of this is going to happen. Based on the trajectory of American politics as they exist today, we're at like 99% likelihood of just completely disintegrating as a country instead of taking any action that remotely resembles a child's fridge drawing of what they think they heard somebody say about communism, which rules out any political action that suggests things might be okay if less than 112% of the population has a full-time job.

But, in the hypothetical world where compassion and humanity enter into political discussions, robots taking over for all the jobs is going to be so cool.

3D printed clothes! Charles Stross's blog continues to be awesome

Charles Stross's new blog post, on the future of 3D printing in textiles, is awesome.


So here's my picture of the chain store of the future. You go in, go to the scanning booth, and do the airport-equivalent thing in a variety of positions—stretch and bend as well as hands-up. You then look at the styles on display on the shop floor, pick out what you like, and see it as it will appear on your own body on an avatar on a computer screen. You buy it, and a machine in the back of the store (or an out-of-town lights out 24x7 robotic garment factory) begins to print it. Some time later—maybe minutes, maybe hours or a day or two—the outfit you ordered comes to you. And it fits perfectly, every time. Some items are probably still off-the-shelf (socks, hosiery, maybe even those cheap tee shirts), but anything major is printed, unless you can afford to go to the really high end and pay a human being to make it for you out of natural fibres. Oh, and the printed stuff doesn't have seams in places that chafe or bind.

Now, here's the down-side.

The fabrics on offer to start with will be fugly. Maybe not as bad as the bri-nylon shirts and terylene and other crappy synthetics of yesteryear, but it's still going to be fairly obvious (at first) what you're wearing. [...]

He's building off technology that actually exists now, and some of the great points include the end (or at least significant reduction) of clothing sweatshops and the existence of hyper-fast fashion changing cycles, which could be a lot of fun to watch.

This article is a great example of one of the many ways that the horrific problems created by industrialization and technology, as well as global capitalism, can theoretically be mitigated or solved -- without giving up the benefits they confer -- by sufficient application of more technology.

Heh. Study suggests gun owners are probably racist

Boing Boing linked an article on Discovery News highlighting recent research that suggests a significant correlation between being a racist, and owning a gun / supporting gun rights.

[...] for each one-point increase in anti-black racism (called symbolic racism), the odds of having a gun in the home jumped 50 percent. And supporting policies that allow for concealed guns rose 28 percent.

“Our results are a first step, but there needs to be more funding for empirical research around how racial biases may influence people’s policy decisions, and particularly those policies that impact on the health and well being of U.S. citizens,” O’Brien said.

John Green is basically a mythbuster

Okay, not exactly, but the basic idea is there.  John Green is the host of mental_floss on YouTube, which today released a video called 30 Life Hacks Debunked.  It's a cool video, and quite a few of them seem to work -- which is a little weird because it's supposed to be debunking them.  As cool as this was, I hope the real MythBusters decide to pick this up for a full episode.

Paul Krugman on the Republican Party's incompetence

In his New York Times Opinion piece, The Boehner Bunglers, Paul Krugman discusses the extremism of the Republican Party and their responsibility for the government shutdown.  It's mainly pretty common observations, though I like the way some of them are strung together -- mainly, I'm posting about this article because Krugman references one of my favorite cognitive biases:

Conservative leaders are indeed ideologically extreme, but they’re also deeply incompetent. So much so, in fact, that the Dunning-Kruger effect — the truly incompetent can’t even recognize their own incompetence — reigns supreme.

To see what I’m talking about, consider the report in Sunday’s Times about the origins of the current crisis. Early this year, it turns out, some of the usual suspects — the Koch brothers, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation and others — plotted strategy in the wake of Republican electoral defeat. Did they talk about rethinking ideas that voters had soundly rejected? No, they talked extortion, insisting that the threat of a shutdown would induce President Obama to abandon health reform.

For some reason, Krugman links to a Psychology Today article about the Dunning-Kruger Effect, rather than the Wikipedia page, linked here.  Maybe the NYT are one of those pretentious organizations that thinks Wikipedia is an inherently undignified and inadequate source of casual information.

Highly realistic vegan chicken in a store not very near you!

Alton Brown wrote an article for Wired, called Tastes Like Chicken, in which he discusses a company he toured, Beyond Meat, and their success in developing a meat analogue product that doesn't just taste a lot like chicken -- it actually matches the texture pretty well, too.

I take a bite. While the unflavored product tastes distinctly vegetal and still has a bit of what I’d call tofu-bounce, a hint of the spongy, the tear is … meaty.

As I chew, I recall something Twitter cofounder, confirmed vegan, and Beyond Meat investor Biz Stone told me about his first taste of Brown’s Chicken-Free Strips: “When I ate Beyond Meat, my first thought was ‘If I were served this in a restaurant, I’d tell them they’d made a mistake and given me real chicken.’ ”

In that excerpt, he's tasting the not-meat straight out of the machinery, before it's been marinated to taste like chicken.  But, as Brown emphasizes more than once in the article, the hard part of fake meat isn't the flavor.  Flavor's easy.  Texture is the insurmountable barrier.  Or, was.

In additional good news, Beyond Meat isn't just trying to put together a fringe product for vegans:

Brown isn’t interested in selling just another meat analog, fighting it out with the likes of Tofurky. He wants to be in the meat business, with all the mass-market scale that implies. That’s what hooked Biz Stone and his investment partners at Obvious. “My expectation was that this would be another boutique meat analog product for well-heeled vegetarians,” Stone says. [...]  “When I learned that Beyond Meat intended to compete in the meat industry itself and tackle problems like global resource scarcity and environmental impact,” Stone says, “I was sold.”

Brown’s target is not only vegetarians, who tend to deeply distrust processed foods, a category to which Beyond Meat undeniably belongs. He wants to convert people like, well, me. I’m cutting back on meat but have no intention of quitting it completely. I care about my health and the health of my family, and I wouldn’t mind eating in a way that minimizes any negative impact on the environment. And I like animals. You might say I’m “analog curious.” Problem is, just as vegetarians can be suspicious of processed foods, omnivores and carnivores tend to be irked by foods pretending to be other foods. Brown knows the trick is just to get it onto their plates. Once there, the proof is in the extruded slurry.

The biggest downside to the product is that it's not sold anywhere near me.  The nearest place is a half hour's drive, so an hour plus shopping time (plus the cost of the unmeat and the gas) is a pretty huge investment to make for imitation meat.

Still, I think I'm going to go for it some time soon.  I'm really hungry right now, but it sounds delicious, and even if it isn't something I could have regularly during the week, knowing whether I like it -- seeing for myself how close we are to serious meat replacement -- would be worth at least one afternoon.

Nightvale, Lovecraft, Idea Channel, and an argument I had with one of my teachers today

We just got to the part of the history of western civilization in my Western Civ 1 class when Socrates shows up!  Yay... I shouldn't be totally surprised, but I was, that when we discussed Socrates, phrases like "Greatest philosopher ever" and "Still extremely relevant today" were thrown around.  I have some pretty strong contentions with that point, especially where Socrates fades into Plato, and the Western canonization of Essentialism and fundamental truths.

See, as the teacher told it, Socrates was the hero who freed Greece from the cynical Sophists, who believed there was no such thing as essential truth.  Now, I will grant that it's possible to get pretty cynical on that premise.  But I'm on the side of the Sophists -- at least, the ones who understood, if any of them did, that the point is humans don't have access to unrestrained truth, and that all we have to work with are narratives that are varyingly successful in describing and predicting the reality they attempt to describe and predict.

I brought this up with the teacher after class, and we had a fun discussion in which he asked me if I thought the Pythagorean theorem would go away if nobody knew about it, and I said "Yes."  The fact that triangles have certain relationships to themselves wouldn't, but the Pythagorean theorem isn't an insight into the core truth of the universe -- it's a narrative we use to arrive at certain among those truths.

Which is why it's pretty cool that today's Idea Channel decided to help me out by talking about H.P. Lovecraft, Welcome to Nightvale, and the huge problem most people have with accepting that some things just aren't knowable.  Whole video linked and embedded below, but I particularly want to emphasize this quote:

Philosopher Graham Harmon describes Lovecraft as a writer of gaps.  A gap specifically between what we understand to be possible, and what the characters are experiencing in the stories, expressed by the gap in the existence of something and the ability of language to accurately and appropriately describe that thing.

How Does Night Vale Confront Us With the Unknown? 

Here, I also want to throw out another Idea Channel video, Is Math a Feature of the Universe or a Feature of Human Creation?

There are totally people who believe math is a real thing, as Mike addresses above.  Personally, I think those people are nuts -- math is a narrative we use to describe things.  "Math comes from the human brain, and nowhere else."  Fictionalism ftw.

I will totally be sharing these videos with my professor.  But first!

The thing about essentialism, whether mathematical, Platonic, Christian, political, whatever -- (well, one of the things.  Well, one of the things, and the line about where it becomes and stops becoming a thing is fuzzy.  There's no real essential truth about essentialism.)  -- is that it encourages people to believe that everything should be relatively easy for humans to understand.

If we believe the Socratic claim that all knowledge is embedded in the human mind, and it just takes the right questions to unlock it, how do we ever understand Quantum Physics?  How do we even approach the question, "Can language even describe some things?"  How do we deal with incompleteness?

It also leads to a different, more cultural, problem: the danger of a single story.

In this point, I'm referring to an awesome TED talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a storyteller who grew up in Nigeria, embedded above.  The point I want to draw here is that the simplification of narratives that Essentialists pursue is not just wrongheaded, irresponsible, and doomed to fail:  it's also civilizationally corrosive and destructive.

Stuff about Schizophrenia: American exceptionalism is real!

via Boing Boing

On the nature of schizophrenia as it relates to culture

The New York Times recently posted a story about research in schizophrenia patients in India and in America, and revealed something kind of disturbing about what seems like it must be something to do with America's culture:

In the past few years I have been working with some colleagues at the Schizophrenia Research Foundation in Chennai, India, to compare the voice-hearing experience of people with schizophrenia in the United States and India.

The two groups of patients have much in common. Neither particularly likes hearing voices. Both report hearing mean and sometimes violent commands. But in our sample of 20 comparable cases from each country, the voices heard by patients in Chennai are considerably less violent than those heard by patients in San Mateo, Calif.

Describing his own voices, an American matter-of-factly explained, “Usually it’s like torturing people to take their eyes out with a fork, or cut off someone’s head and drink the blood, that kind of stuff.” Other Americans spoke of “war,” as in, “They want to take me to war with them,” or their “suicide voice” asking, “Why don’t you end your life?”

In Chennai, the commanding voices often instructed people to do domestic chores — to cook, clean, eat, bathe, to “go to the kitchen, prepare food.” To be sure, some Chennai patients reported disgusting commands — in one case, a woman heard the god Hanuman insist that she drink out of a toilet bowl. But in Chennai, the horrible voices people reported seemed more focused on sex. Another woman said: “Male voice, very vulgar words, and raw. I would cry.”

(emphasis mine.)

So it looks like there is something special about America: we're so violent, we make our mentally ill people extra-violent!

[notice]I'm being pretty much totally unfair here.  The size of this study was 20 comparable cases from each country, which means either 20 or 40 people -- either way, it's not enough to draw the kind of sweeping conclusions I've made here.  But we'll see, when the research continues.[/notice]

On facing vs. denying mental illness

In another very small trial, patients with schizophrenia

...[C]reate[d] a computer-animated avatar for their voices and to converse with it. Patients chose a face for a digitally produced voice similar to the one they were hearing. They then practiced speaking to the avatar — they were encouraged to challenge it — and their therapist responded, using the avatar’s voice, in such a way that the avatar’s voice shifted from persecuting to supporting them.

All of the patients experienced a decrease in the frequency and intensity of their hallucinations, and three of them stopped hearing voices entirely.

The article also discusses a movement, called "Hearing Voices," who encourage patients with auditory hallucinations to communicate honestly and openly with them, rather than trying to suppress them.  On their website, they say the voices are "...a variation in human behavior, like being left-handed."

Altogether, lots of interesting things going on with schizophrenia these days.

Android's sentence suggestions

I think a lot about what it's going to mean when Google gets so good at predicting things about us that they really can finish our sentences. I think about it a lot when I'm texting, because sometimes when I'm in the middle of a text, the next word I was going to write pops up, so I click it.  Then the next one pops up, too, so I click that.  Then, a word that isn't the next word I was going to write, but is pretty close, pops up.  And I click that.

Once in a while, I get all the way to the end of the sentence I was going to write, and Google suggests a period, so I click that.  And I wonder, when Google gets better at predictive technology, when it's able to quickly and easily digest the entirety of

(a.) My history of online and textual communication

(b.) The recorded history of my relationship with the person I'm texting

(c.) The stuff I've been doing lately and my approximate mood and energy,

what's Google going to write?

Now, I don't think that Google is ever going to reach a point where it can perfectly predict everything I was going to say.  That's past superintelligent and into brain-scanning.  But I do suspect that eventually Google will hit a point where they have the technology to carry on a conversation as if it were me talking.  Or, a version of me.  The version of me that is averaged with the rest of Google-using humanity (which would notably skew white, male, cisgender, heterosexual, and so on) and then applied to this conversation.

Would Google Me swear?

Would Google Me be more insensitive to the people I care about?  Or less insensitive?

Would I risk drifting out of consciously experiencing my conversations?  If I'm busy or distracted, would I just autofill whole chats and read them later?  Or forget to read them later?  Or assume that Google covered the important points?

What's more likely, I think, is that Google will step a little too close to acting like this, and there will be a huge ick-factor backlash (which I think would be justified in that case) and they'd dial back the functionality of their service until it didn't make people question their humanity and individuality.

Cool stuff in my Bio class

In my biology class this semester, I'm getting the chance to experience some new teaching methods that I'd never heard of before.  In fact, the professor spent the first class mostly just talking about his methods (borrowed from a few other professors, and backed up with data showing that they can more than double the rate of information retained), so I've got a pretty good idea of how they work. First, we're all expected to read the text before the class in which we discuss it, and a big part of our grade is how well we engage with and respond to the text.  And he knows if we're doing that because the text is a free document on a tool out of MIT called NB, which allows us to annotate the chapter with threaded comments, which can be seen by other members of our group -- groups just being small numbers of students, arbitrarily chunked so that two or three students wouldn't end up dominating the discussion for the entire class.

When we get to class, the professor uses the lecture time to address the things that we didn't understand in the text, concentrating the utility of lecture time immensely.  That way, students struggling with particular issues get the personal response they need -- he focuses more on helping us understand why wrong answers are wrong than what the right answer is, so lingering ambiguities and concerns are more easily squashed.

To guide that discussion, we all get little garage door style remote controls when we come to class, with buttons for 10 options on them, and regularly throughout the discussion, he throws up multiple choice questions on the projector and we all, secretly, vote the answers we think are correct.  (And, instead of just telling us which one was right, as I said earlier we discuss each answer and try to approach an understanding of what isn't true about it.)

For some of the questions, he actually uses comments and questions off the annotations we all put on the text, making the attention to our individual understandings and errors that much more specific.

Other cool things include the fact that he likes Wikipedia as a casual reference, links to TED talks in the text (The text has hyperlinks!) and extremely strongly implied that we could return the 200 dollar textbook that gets assigned for his course.

I have no idea what the Lab sections of this class are going to be like -- the first one is on Wednesday -- but I suspect that they, too, will have some improvements over what I've come to expect from college STEM courses: a vaguely obstructionist refusal to make it easy for people not already talented or studied in a field to learn things.

There's also a lot of discussion of the philosophy of science, and while we can't really dwell on that (it not being a philosophy course, it would probably boil down to a long conversation between me, the professor, and one or two other students while everyone else stares on annoyed that we keep using words they don't have any experience with) it does add another element of fun to the class.

Dialects! The results of a huge survey of America on basically all the words

(via Hank Green) Business Insider has published an article called 22 Maps That Show How Americans Speak English Totally Differently From Each Other.  They pulled some of the most interesting results from this study, showing some of the strongest and most notable divides in word choice and pronunciation throughout the country.

If you're from America, I recommend going through and trying some of the differences in pronunciation.  They feel weird in your mouth, I promise.

The setting that I think I'll find most useful, though, is on the survey page itself, where you can display individual cities -- way more individual cities than I expected.  My home town, of about 30,000 people, is on the list.  And, since I don't want to show a map pointing out exactly where I live, here's an image showing Saint Cloud, Minnesota, where they disagree about the pronunciation of one or more of the words: roof, room, broom, and/or root, with the rest of the country.

saint cloud minnesota

This, I expect, will be useful in many arguments with my parents, who were born and raised about a half an hour south of where they raised me, and therefore bitterly disagree with me about the correct pronunciation of many words.  (It may hurt me in some of those arguments, though, with words I pronounce in either the British way or in a more generic, pan-American accent, because I dislike the way New Englanders say some stuff.)

NOTE: This post was written on 2013-06-08, but scheduled in advance, because I've started to notice that my work schedule is heavy enough to prohibit regular blogging.  I'm going to try to start scheduling posts to fill up days in which I won't be writing directly.

On labor, books before the printing press, and the future of robotics and AI

I was watching today's Idea Channel, and I had an idea.

As you will know if you clicked that video, today's episode was about the ethics of AI -- specifically, Mike explored the claim that it's ethically mandatory to continue to develop AI and replace humans doing jobs.

Now, I think that would be a great thing, because once there are fundamentally no real jobs to be had, civilization will probably give up on the idea that being employed in a way that directly serves other people is a mandatory prerequisite for a life longer than 17 years.  I'm not, however, confident that we won't just come up with new ways to make everyone fill up all their time with stuff they don't want to do.  Not that I'm pissed about the information revolution or anything, but there was once a time when we believed work was to accomplish goals, not to prove that you're trying hard enough to keep existing, and if something useful happened as a consequence, fine, whatever.

Anyway, that wasn't the thing I was thinking.  The thing I was thinking was, Mike brought up the printing press.  This image showed up in the corner:

Image via Quickmeme


And it inspired a mental image that I wanted to share:  a writer, trying to create and distribute a novel, prior to the invention of the printing press.  I realize that the modern novel came about well after the invention of the printing press, but it's a fun, though kind of terrifying, idea:

The novelist, sitting alone at her or his desk, writing out an entire book, longhand, as a duplicate from the previous copy.  She or he might notice errors, imperfections, bits of dialogue that might be better if put just slightly differently... does she or he change them?  Obviously.  Who could resist?

And which one does she or he sell?  The new one, with the latest corrections?  Or the old one, so the new one is there to copy from?

It's absurd -- and it also makes it a little more obvious why the only books that got widely reproduced before the printing press were religious texts.  You'd probably have to think what you were copying was literally the word of God, to resist the impulse to just fix little things here or there.  And I'm sure some people didn't manage to resist.  I know what was a unicorn in the King James Version of the Bible is an ox in the New International Version.

So I wonder what kinds of work will exist, once stuff that you'd have to do a thousand or more times now, you'd only have to do somewhere between once and a dozen times with the technology of half a century from now.  I wonder what kind of stuff (apart from movies, which, obviously) are going to go from being something only incredibly well-resourced people can do, and only gets done for things that are understood to be very important, to something people can do in their free time between shifts at work.

Or, y'know, all the time, because there will be robots for the work.


As I have previously mentioned, over the past week or so my teeth have been in absurd pain.  I went to a dentist on Friday, and got a couple prescriptions.  One of them was Vicodin, to deal with the pain until the penicillin started working.  The other one was penicillin. I had the day off on Saturday, so I got two days' worth of penicillin in before I had to go back to work.  And, though I am aware that I need to take the entire course of penicillin to avoid just making the infection stronger, by Sunday my worst spikes of pain were so diminished that I could actually do other things while I was experiencing them.  (This is as opposed to Saturday, when I swished some water around in my mouth and had to lay down for ten minutes, clutching my face and whimpering.)

I'm looking forward to going to the dentist tomorrow, because it will be nice to get all the way down to no pain, and I'm almost out of painkillers and even if I beat this infection, the tooth will probably get infected again eventually.

But penicillin is incredible.  What the hell would this toothache have been like before 1930?  Furthermore, the pills smell really familiar, so I think I was probably on antibiotics at some other point in my life.  I could be dead by now, if not for them.

Seriously.  Penicillin rocks.  So much.

Self-sabotage totally a thing according to science and also my experience

Esther Inglis-Arkell at io9 posted an article called An experiment shows how people deliberately sabotage themselves, in which she explains that self-sabotage is not a subconscious impulse, but a clear, conscious decision:

Two researchers, Edward Jones and Steven Berglas, asked students to take a test. They pretended to score the test and happily told the students that they'd got ten a perfect score. This had to have come as good - and somewhat surprising - news to the students, who were then asked to take another test.

Before they took this second test, they were asked to take their choice of two different drugs. Both were perfectly legal, the researchers assured the students. One was designed to improve academic performance. The other was designed to lower it. Guess which ones the students overwhelmingly chose.

She writes about being "[S]o anxious to impress someone that we don't want to say anything wrong - and so we don't say anything at all, which is hardly impressive," which is a super-familiar sentiment to me.  I remember in particular one time, I think in 2009, when I met Neil Gaiman, and I deliberately tried as hard as I could not to make any sort of impression, because I was terrified that he'd remember me a decade later and think I was an ass.

Self-sabotage can be a conscious experience.  I don't want to say it always is, but I've never experienced it being a weird, inexplicable action that I could only make sense of far, far later.  It's more like  a horrible sense of dissonance between what I want and what I know my brain is about to do.  Like that word vomit scene in Mean Girls.  It's something I talk to my therapist about.