Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist

With so much negativity in the media, Matt Ridley presents a very solid case for optimism. Playing on many of the same themes as Robert Wright in Non-Zero, Matt Ridley shows us Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” at work in the market forces of trade and in cultural evolution. Through specialization we have been able to get better at doing things. This has provided us with something we never had before: surplus. I mean we used to be just like all other animals – eating what we could and living from year to year. But once we could accumulate surplus things, we could trade them. and once we started trading an upward spiral started that had innovation and trade feeding off each other. The more we innovated, the more surplus we could gather, and the more we could trade. The more we could trade, the more wealth we accumulated, because you only trade when you get a better deal! But the beauty of trade is that both parties get a better deal, because both parties only give up what they have for something they want more. This is the famous “win-win” that people talk about. This is what Robert Wright calls non-zero sum games. It is a winning strategy for evolution. The one concept that I want to talk briefly about here is Ridley’s metaphor of ideas having sex with each other. Just as plants and animals have sex in hopes of creating a new version of themselves that is slightly better, ideas mix with other ideas to do the same. I have an idea for a new product and...

Green Eggs and Ham

In Quanology I talk about how every bit of information in the world is trying to improve the rate of proliferation of the genes of its purveyor. Everything is taking sides. Even the innocuous book Green Eggs and Ham. Information helps people, it helps groups, but it is also aligning them together in their quest for a more prosperous existence. Take any bit of information and you can see this. If you read Quanology and have never heard of Green Eggs and Ham, you can have a look here. Green Eggs and...

Personality Characterizations

Personality is your essence. In Psych 101, I remember being surprised by this, thinking personality was psychology. But no, you have a personality and then you develop (developmental psychology), you learn things (behaviorism), you socialize (social psychology), you commit crimes (forensic psychology), you manipulate (marketing), etc etc. Personality is therefore it’s own branch of Psychology. It boils down to who you are. Sure, we’re all unique, but not really. I you’ve ever said “I know the type” then you know that we can categorize people like we categorize anything else. Just how we categorize them is a subject of discussion. Different psychologists coming in from different angles and different psychology branches will find their own way to categorize people. Here are a few. The Big Five This is an official personality characterization scheme which doesn’t use categories, but rather scales. The scales are as follows: Extraversion Agreeableness Conscientiousness Neuroticism Openness to Experience Have a look here for a more detailed description: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Five_personality_traits The Enneagram This categorization is not officially recognized by mainstream psychology but in my experience is worthy of a good hard look. It splits people up into 9 types: Reformer Helper Achiever Individualist Investigator Loyalist Enthusiast Challenger Peacemaker Like I said, it’s worth a look. I’ve found it quite accurate in explaining myself as well as other people close to me: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enneagram_of_Personality Others For a look at other set ups, please visit our good friend...

Robert Wright’s The Evolution of God

I’ll call this the third in Robert Wright’s Trilogy. He shows us that just like all organisms on the planet, religion itself also developed through the process of evolution. As God is an invention of mankind, the Evolution of God runs in lock step with our own evolution. In short, the notion of God changes as we change, and we are changing for the better. Wright starts us off with the beginnings of religion – when there was no religion to speak of, just superstition. Humans have always had things they couldn’t explain and superstition was the way we explained it to our groups. He states that this was in fact the beginning of religious belief, the drive to understand why bad things happen. Bad things are those things that limit our ability to proliferate our genes. As with any species, we are out to stop bad things from happening, and as an emerging smart, talking species, we were able to try to figure out why bad things happened and how we could prevent them. Obviously, with a huge gap in knowledge in early civilizations, we would simply conclude that God did it. When our group could all agree on why that person randomly died or why a big storm came and killed a few people,  they found they were stronger. Beliefs are a unifying force and groups that believed the same things had better chances of survival against our now major rivals: other groups of people. Thus began religion as a major adaptation to humanity. But with so much war in early life, religion took on very dark tones....