Friday, January 02, 2015

This Week in EID - Episode 35

This is our last short week for a while.  There is a theme to the three posts this week.  All of them are about things that we do intentionally that are in direct conflict with our own best interests. 

For example, lifelogging is one of those things I never understood.  Why would anyone interrupt an experience that they are enjoying so that they can document it to look at later?  In one sense, there is a strange logic to it.  If you document it, you can pretend to enjoy it over and over again – even if you didn’t have a chance to fully enjoy it the first time.  But the truth is that you don’t need to document it to remember it.  Imagination is a wonderful thing.  So the real reason is more likely to be to share it on your social networks.  The objective isn’t to enjoy your life yourself, it is to brag about it to your friends so they will all be jealous. As long as they feel worse than you, you didn’t need to enjoy it the first time. Sad.

I have been impressed with the strength of the HF community’s attention to the issue of cell phones and driver distraction. If not for us, many people would still think that hands-free is the solution.  But this study shows that the problem is even worse that we realized.  Just having a phone in the vicinity distracts your attention.  We sacrifice the joy of whatever we are doing at the moment on the off chance that some random acquaintance might be sending us a text message.  As with the life logging, even minimal social connection trumps everything else. Sad.

Then the last post is on commitment devices.  These discourage us from doing things that we know we shouldn’t but don’t have the willpower to stop ourselves.  Smoking, eating unhealthful foods, skipping exercise . . whatever.  It is a shame that we need to force ourselves to do what is in our own best interests.  We have no willpower.  To tie it back to the rest of the week, many of these commitment devices use social shaming as the disincentive.  If you are tempted by the negative behavior, it tells all of your friends about it as a way to get you to stop. Sad.

Top Stories of 2014

Here is my list of the top stories of 2014.

1. The 2014 Midterm elections.  Why did the GOP have such a resurgence?  In the midterm elections, there is a constant shift in who turns out to vote.  Midterm elections are overrepresented by white, older, males.  So . . .
“It’s all about the base, ‘bout the base, the GOP gets out its base.”

2.  Afghanistan.  We pulled most of the troops out.  But even though we call it “the end of the war,” we had to leave several thousand advisers there.  Why”
“It’s all about the base, ‘bout the base, keep it stable with a US base.”

3.  Science.  The new plan that is on everyone’s agenda is a mission to Mars.  Who knows what we can learn, what advances we can discover about the universe if we had astronauts living on Mars.  But in order to do that . . .
“It’s all about the base, ‘bout the base, station astronauts at a base.”

4.  Economic growth.  Some economists say the economy is growing.  Others say it still has a lot to make up for since the Great Recession.  How can they have such different answers?  Because . . .
“It’s all about the base, ‘bout the base, what year they use as the base.”

5. Climate Change.  The world has done a lousy job of doing anything tangible about climate change.  The landmark agreement between the US and China sounds good.  But the US is only reducing emissions to 30% under 2005, which wasn’t exactly a stellar year.  And China has until 2030 to do anything.  So the deal depends on what level of CO2 emissions you use as the starting point.  Because . . .
“It’s all about the base, ‘bout the base, what CO2 level you consider as the base.”

6  Sports.  The Red Sox are now the first baseball team ever to go from last place to first place to last place.  Because in baseball, you can’t just hit singles.  They were desperately short of power hitters and couldn’t get runners in from scoring position.  Because to win the game . . .
“It’s all about the base, ‘bout the base, getting runner ‘round the base.”

7. Technology. Everyone thought Facebook was crazy to spend upwards of $20 billion to buy WhatsApp.  But they have 500 million users, so on a per-user basis they are actually cheap.  Social media company valuations seem to be more related to the number of users than they are to revenue or earnings.  Because . . .
“It’s all about the base, ‘bout the base, what’s the size of the user base.”