I commented on an article at New Scientist a bit back called, "You say sin, I say disease" -
Here's my comment -
More and more, I'm starting to come to the awful conclusion that most people have very little control over how their lives go. They maybe have a few key decision points in their life - but maybe not all that many.
And the rest is autopilot. They watch some subset of the new movies, new TV programs, websites they stumble across. They eat whatever's more or less served near them and eaten by people they associate with. They pick the political party that matches their friends and relatives, or no party, or maybe they pick up a book that has an emotional impact on them and swear loyalty to that. Maybe.
I hate this idea, because it seems to subtly advocate for totalitarianism, which I've been against my whole life. But then there's nagging voice that says, "well, just ban all the food that's unhealthy, and people will eat better..." - but we know where that road leads.
It's strange being someone who strives to be self reliant, studies and analyzes to make ethics from scratch, constantly examines and re-examines everything... I think there exists less people like this than I originally thought. No, less than that. Okay, divide that number by 10 again.
Less than that, even? Maybe.
Scary thoughts. I'm going to go eat some oatmeal now.
Some good discussions came of it. Sam DeCesare and I had a good exchange by email discussing it. He graciously gave me permission to share his thoughts -
I agree that a person's environment strongly predicts their behavior. I don't think that necessarily means they aren't making decisions, rather their decision function is placing a higher value on convenience than on quality or health. For them the extra effort required to seek out good food is not worth it.
Another reason is that change is often stressful and difficult, even when the result of that change makes you better off. Back to food, you can either go to the Applebee's down the street that you've been to a bunch of times, or you can go to the Korean place in the city you heard good things about. With Applebee's there's no uncertainty; you know how to get there, you know how to dress for it, you know how much it will cost, you know what the food will taste like, etc. With the Korean place, you might not know any of that, and uncertainty makes people anxious: "What should I get?", "Will I like it?", "How expensive is it?", "Where do I park?", "Will it cost money to park?", "Do I have enough spare change?", "What's the dress code?", "Will I need a reservation?", and on and on. So people avoid change, it's easier to just continue along with their habits, and usually it requires some external force to instigate change.
Of course everyone is different; some people require less of a push to change, some people embrace it. Some people value interestingness (whether it be interesting foods, interesting places, or interesting people) over the comfort of the familiar. You seem like one of those people. You probably read the last paragraph and thought it was ridiculous to worry about all those things when going to a new restaurant. When deciding what to do you place a high value on quality and novelty, which leads you to make different choices than the people who value convenience and familiarity. You're both still making choices though.
Thought-provoking stuff, eh?
To get in touch and/or read more insights by Sam:
Thanks for the discussion, Sam. Good points.
> a person’s environment strongly predicts their behavior
This doesn't mean it's autopilot, though. We choose our environments, and our friends. When you say
> They pick the political party that matches their friends and relatives, or no party
I would say that people don't normally gain many friends with a radically different outlook on politics/life/whatever. In other words, it's hard to tell whether someone chose behaviour based on their friends', or friends based on behaviour/ideas.
Well, a very cool trend is happening at Hacker News - people are posting "Offer HN" threads offering advice and help. The first one seems to be "Will Work for Karma" by todayiamme, which kicked the whole thing off. My favorite is "Tax Help for Startup Entrepreneurs" because there's a lot of insight and analysis just in the thread itself. I like learning about law, but it's damn expensive to learn about either in time or money. That said, learning law can save you a lot of money when you write a contract correctly or when you have a company buyback shares instead of purchasing them yourself when buying a partner in a two person partnership out.
After a bunch of "Offer HN" threads started kicking up, there were two discussion topics, both by guys I respect. "Please stop offering your services" and "Please keep offering your services" by Swombat and Jacques. There seems to be a few themes going on:
1. Some people think this is really cool and nice of people. 2. Some people are skeptical of the intentions of people doing this. 3. Some people don't want to see HN get bogged down/clogged up by this.
Let's cover those in reverse order.
First, if it gets out of control and you want to see news without offers, Paul Graham implemented http://news.ycombinator.com/offerless - no offers there. So that solves that problem.
Ok, I officially LOVE raw food. I started eating raw about five weeks ago, and have been 99% raw since (my trespasses? a tiny brownie, a few sprouted grain english muffins, and a stupid eggplant pizza). Let's do the math on this baby :
First I ate 100% of whatever I wanted. I loved fried foods, desserts, and pizza. Thanks to miraculous metabolism, I never gained too much weight. Then I read Fantastic Voyage : Live Long Enough to Live Forever, hacked away at my diet, and cut out probably 70% of the foods I used to eat. Later I researched more and cut out 90% of those foods, leaving me eating about 7% of what I initially ate. I wrote a book called The Skinny Snob about that. Going raw eliminated at least 70% of those foods, so now I'm down to about 2-3% of the foods I ate a year ago. Based on my daily diet I would consider that wholly accurate.
Now... that is a wild change. Especially coming from me. I would constantly mock anyone trying to go on a diet and explain that you should just eat whatever you wanted. No amount of logic would get me to change. What did get me to change was my inclination to try things for 7 or 30 days, and the accompanying drastic results.