Friday, May 29, 2009

Diversity in Five-Factor Personality, and Five-Factor Morality

A response to Econlog Arnold Kling posting on the Five-Factor Personality Model:
I feel pretty confident that each and every human society is "tuned" for specific ratios of the five factors, and, moreover, different tuned ratios for the "vital few"/"in-group" and the "out-group". And considering Jonathan Haidt's five fundamental moral values (liberals valuing care and fairness higher than loyalty, respect, and purity, in contrast to conservatives, etc.) - I feel there is a specific ratio, in each human society, for the ranking of the five fundamental moral values, again with different ratios for the "in-group" and "out-group". In all cases, more diversity is tolerated in the "out-group", as the "in-group" have to maintain a rough consensus at all times.
A lot of "energy" is exerted maintaining genotype and social diversity in the machinery of mating pair of humans, and in the machinery of larger various human groups. It would be peculiar if this diversity was not beneficial. I think, even more than diversity, a specific tuned ratio gives the maximum benefit over a set for historical conditions, and a history of conditions changing.
I think to any company's employees: any extreme of one of the five personality factors or any extreme of one of five fundamental moral values could quickly lead to a failure mode that could put the future of the company at risk, if expressed in even a single employee handling a critical task, without any meaningful oversight. It doesn't take much imagination to make a "just-so" story for a colossal failure from an extreme in any of the ten (especially if you are trying to run a profitable business, not a kumbaya therapy group, or a frat house, or a mating pair hothouse). So a diversity would keep the whole enterprise on an even keel, to my thinking.
And the sickest organizations are the ones where politics only allows one exact personality and morality type to exist in the higher ups.
(Aside: I am interested in the mechanisms and usages of human diversity, but not aware of any book title specifically on this subject)
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Yuck! into Yay! - Steven Pressfield's "War of Art"

Plinky prompt:

What's the most important thing you've learned recently?

Whether you're in school or not, you're learning new things all the time. Share something new that's entered your brain.

My Answer -->

First: When there is a difference between (1) your highest desires, and (2) the consequences of your daily actions, then you have some daily work to do to bring those two into congruence. You will get the full benefit of this hard daily work only TEN years after you start (Yuck!). But you will probably still be alive FIFTEEN years from now, and, if you are willing to do the daily hard work, those years are going to be outrageously rewarding (Yay!). (Will the daily work consist of just moving your daily actions more towards your highest desires? Maybe. Or maybe you need the whole world's help to inform you about what would be a *better* highest desire. And those ten years of daily hard work will include the very hardest work for a human: thinking realistically about who you really are.) Second:

A human brain showing frontotemporal lobar deg...Image via Wikipedia

As you work on things that can take you towards your highest desires, you will feel resistance. This resistance is a clever thing - it harnesses the obstacles and distractions in your environment, and it fills your mind with anxieties to make you fall back into familiar habits of comfort and coping, even though those old habits cannot be sustained without you ultimately harming yourself. This resistance can be personified as The Resistance, your personal enemy to growth, and you have to be willing to bring everything you got to fight against The Resistance, everyday. This idea about The Resistance is from Steven Pressfield's book "The War of Art". Coincidentally, I wrote a short essay about the surprising effect this book had on me:

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

The War of Art - Steven Pressfield

Cover of Cover via Amazon

Based on a recommendation from Larry Winget ( Larry_Winget ), I bought and read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Just riffling through the pages, the book seems unimpressive - a skinny book, too much white space, too large a font - the construction of a middling business success book of the week. But, contrary to initial appearances, any way you slice it, this is a deep and meaningful book, and must have taken Pressfield longer to plan and write than the word count would otherwise suggest. It took me longer to read than the word count alone would suggest.
(Aside: I was raised as an Evangelical Lutheran, but the personified Satan

Satan as seen in Codex Gigas.Image via Wikipedia

played a small role in my thinking - Christ was a mammoth figure, but Satan was puny in significance - which is atypical for Fundamentalist Protestantism youth ministry. I have no idea if this was a quirk of my own thinking as a child, or a feature of our little Evangelical Lutheran church and day school in Garden Grove, California.
I mention this because one of the most profound things I took away from The War of Art was to seriously consider "The Resistance I Feel" as a "Personified Being", akin to Satan as Personified Evil. It changed my behavior after I thoughtfully read it. I am not being overly dramatic: The War of Art has found me praying to God several times a week, which is greatly out of character for me since I lost my childhood faith in high school. The War of Art is not a religious book - that is just how I found to be the most natural way to take its message into my life.)
... I am getting too far ahead - how about a summary of the book?
The War of Art - Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles is putatively about overcoming writer's block. In the book, "The Resistance" is personified as a being responsible for everything preventing you from doing creative work - all the feelings, all the interruptions, all the obstacles, always manifest as a vigorous hindrance. The Resistance is activated whenever work towards our highest goals is attempted.
The response mounted against The Resistance is:
  • "willingness to play hurt", as a professional sports player would, in mental attitude
  • "Turning Pro" - relentlessly fighting against everything that even might prevent Work of the highest quality being done, day in and day out.
Failure is embraced, and, thus, the commitment to Daily Work of the Highest Quality can be complete - and that is why Failure must be embraced. This prescript from the Bhagavad-Gita is embraced: we have the rights to our labor, but not to the fruits of our labor. Seeming Futility is embraced - so the commitment to Daily Work of the Highest Quality can be complete.
Why is resistance personified into The Resistance? Well, there is a natural conservative force in all humans. (...all humans not suffering from mania. Mania could be described as all ideas immediately turned into irresistible action, and just a little time spent around someone suffering from mania will show you that that is a curse.) Most tasks outside of our repertoire are resisted, for the simple reason that most tasks that spring from most ideas are potentially harmful - our limited energy is most safely spent on the basic set of daily actions in our repertoire. Think about our hunter/gatherer past - time spent on cockamamie ideas is time spent away from the chores of hunting and gathering food. So we have a built-in re-enforcement of continuing and repeating the actions already in our daily repertoire.
Unfortunately, in the modern world where survival is not a pressing concern, a goodly number of the actions in our daily repertoire are mainly centered around:
  • Mind your headImage by Swamibu via Flickr

    "amusing ourselves to death"
  • meaningless distraction
  • managing our tender moods with coping activities of no sustainable benefit
  • indulging and nurturing a set of needy anxieties, instead of disowning them and letting them vanish from utter inattention
The issues I am talking about are covered here:
Beyond the built in conservatism of the mind, nature also has a conservative attitude to actions outside of our repertoire - this is not a conspiracy, just the fact that your immediate physical space can only support a limited range of activities at a time, without descending into a distracting, chaotic mess.
"The Resistance" is meaningfully personified because it can use all the elements of our own personality and person-hood against us, as a restraining force. Perversely, The Resistance can also use our own enthusiasm against us, egging us on to over-exert in the beginning, leading to a predictable crash into depressing frustration at the first difficulty. The Resistance is hoping this depressing frustration is permanent.
Expanding on Steven Pressfield's ideas, I see the resistance acting the strongest when we try to move above our current moral plane, and attempt to take residence in a higher moral plane, and similarly when we attempt to take residence in a higher plane of personal effectiveness.
What we are talking about is a force that will not hesitate to use the most arresting anxieties to prevent even the tiniest step towards productive work on higher moral goals or other goals of personal effectiveness.
This is a vile thing, and needs a steely perseverance to overcome. Again and again, never letting up.
"Book Two: Combating Resistance - Turning Pro" is 40 pages of what "Turning Pro" to battle The Resistance entails in the real world - this part of the book looks like very light reading, but each page can be profitably mulled over to bring that element into focus in your current working life.
(Aside: Writing this little essay is exercising anxieties for me... ...exactly as you would predict if a personified force called The Resistance used the whole of my environment and my personality and person-hood to try to make me drop into a cozy routine of coping activities of no sustainable benefit and concentrating on managing my tender moods. Frantic web-browsing time wasting... Really, my scalp is itching, my legs are bouncing, and I feel uncomfortable in my own skin. Embarrassing to admit how real the physiology of this is... What really brings these issues to the fore is the scary thought of my years as a scarce resource.)
"Book Three: Beyond Resistance - Higher Realm" made me roll my eyes condescendingly when I first read it because prayer plays a large role in this section. I have not regularly prayed since I lost the faith of my childhood during high school. I am not going to write out Pressfield's ideas here - I am going to talk frankly about where my thinking is now after a journey begun by talking this section of the book seriously in my own life.
Several times a week, I go down on my knees and pray. This is a summary of the feeling and meaning of those prayers:

A man praying at a Japanese Shintō shrine.Image via Wikipedia

Please help me to fight The Resistance in my own life.
Please help me to move from my current moral plane, and take residence in a higher moral plane, and continue to improve my morality through the rest of my life.
Please help me to move from my current current lever of personal effectiveness, and take residence in a state of greater personal effectiveness, and continue to improve through the rest of my life.
As I make these improvements, please help me cultivate an attitude of happiness and peace, so that the effort of these improvements can be sustained over the years of my life.
The Resistance will use anxiety against me, drawing from all the limiting powers of my environment, and drawing from the negative elements of my personality and person-hood. Please give me the strength to rise far above such an wicked opponent.
Give me daily strength to persevere, so my every day gives evidence of good work accomplished, all leading to my higher goals, that I can resolve with greater and greater clarity.
Please help me, because I am a small thing in a very large world, and my personal continuity is tiny compared to the forces I must navigate about and within.
Please help me to do your will,
Oh Muses,
Please give me the inspiration to create. Please give me artistic taste, access to knowledge, keen vision, and sound judgement to perform work of the highest quality, today and every day. All I ask is for the smallest amount to keep my production of good work steady, in defiance of The Resistance.
Those two prayers summarize pretty well where I am with my current thinking, which would have been very much out of character for me just a few months ago.
I felt the relief of being able to pray again, and draw strength and focus from prayer (even though I value the intellectual honesty of a position of atheism). I felt the relief of praying to a God whose attributes I chose, instead of having a cruel and needy and jealous god pressed upon me for me to prostrate myself, before it. Both of these, together, have been a great relief.
So, that is where I am at, now. I have some more details to flesh out, but this covers the main points. I really appreciate the clarity of having the true vision of The Resistance that I am working against. More than any other self-help book, from reading Steven Pressfield's War of Art, I can form my own plan for how I will keep working, now and in a future of continual growth.
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Thursday, May 21, 2009

My daughter reads way too fast, gotta try to keep up.

I am terrified at how fast my sixth grade daughter reads. Her old man reads pretty fast, but she may read twice as fast as I do. I cannot afford to waste any beach reading time, to try and keep up with her. I figure if I read some of the same books she does, she can help explain to me the confusing parts. I always get names mixed up, so I am always wondering "Who did What to Whom?"

I only read the back cover of this book. It is about a future alternate universe where a Mexican drug lord clones a son to harvest his organs. Half of the front cover is made up of shiny metals of fiction awards, so that has to be good, right? The cool thing about reading a book that your daughter has already read is that you can ask her to explain who the heck all these characters are, and what the heck are they saying every time they talk at each other. It should be a pretty good ego boost for her, helping out her old man, if she doesn't get sick of all my questions.
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Monday, May 18, 2009

Libertarian angst at American demographic shifts

I was distressed to read this rabid piece from libertarian Arnold Kling "The Emerging Stagnant Majority", where a poor argument is laid out for a permanent shift in increasing government entitlements due to demographic shifts in America from Hispanic and Asian immigration.  It is hysterical and shows a bad case of "Democrats/Obama on the brain".  Here is a representative quote:
I think we will see this trend emerge much more strongly over the next decade, as it becomes clear that the Republican Party is not going to win another national election.
The recent actions of the Republican Party shows them to be friends of Libertarians? This sounds like Moon-Man talk.  That so much hysteria is generated from a fellow, Obama, who is a hair slightly to the left of Clinton, who was himself a hair slightly to the left of Reagan. The dismal fortunes of the Republicans comes from their agenda of making themselves as loathsome as possible to a majority of voters, short of a explicit party plank of poisoning the beloved pets of likely voters.
How am I supposed to distinguish this piece from bald racism? I will just force myself to be charitable, and say it is a sign of personal stress.
Happily, co-blogger on the Econ-Log site, Bryan Caplan, wrote a comprehensive reply to point out the silliness of libertarians worrying about demographic shifts in America from Hispanic and Asian immigration: "The Case Against Libertarian Hispanophobia".  The post is short, readable, comprehensive, and persuasive.
This is my comment, posted:
> Ethnically homogeneous countries like Sweden tend to have large welfare states, because voters are happy to help people "like them." Ethnically diverse countries like the U.S. have smaller welfare states, because voters aren't so happy to help "the other."
Thank you for reminding us of this point. I think this particular argument shows most clearly that there is very little worry that the on-going demographic shift will lead to a Scandinavian welfare state.
Frankly, 1st and 2nd generation immigrants are the first to laugh in the faces of the very worst of mindless left-wing thinkers. 1st and 2nd generation immigrants often have direct exposure to the follies and horrors of communism, left-wing dictators, and violent left-wing militants, which makes them the loudest proponents of the American style of reduced entitlements. They see, clearly, the direct path between promises of mass entitlements and left-wing confiscation and violence.
In my own household, I would suppose I am the most left-wing. My deceased father-in-law was tortured in a communist Vietnamese re-education camp, so if I make a statement that smacks of Marx, I can expect anything up to, and including, a slap across the face from my wife, for which I am grateful, for I can repair my political stance. All the Hispanic immigrants I have encountered (outside of university) are the first to call out Castro and Hugo Chávez as dangerous monsters and laughable clowns, which is much more than the very worst of mindless left-wing thinkers in America, and their intellectual enablers, are willing to do.
Again, thank you, Bryan Caplan, for making the argument that libertarian angst at American demographic shifts is overwrought and silly. All your points are sound, and I would only emphasize the solidly libertarian tendencies of 1st and 2nd generation immigrants with direct exposure to the follies and horrors of communism, left-wing dictators, and violent left-wing militants.
[Added 05/19]
Arnold Kling replied, and pointed to a response to Bryan Caplan's take on his post: "Why I Fear a One-Party State".  The argument for the United States becoming a One Party State is expanded further in two posts: Caplan "One-Party Democracy Is Not Coming: I'll Bet on It!" and Kling "Bet Accepted".
I have to be honest, it is difficult to see consistancy between the starting article "The Emerging Stagnant Majority" and how the cross-posting progressed.  Kling got called out for this statement, which is difficult to defend:
In the NWW world, an open-access order avoids stagnation because of political competition. [...] The demographic picture, in which traditional Republican voting groups are shrinking as a proportion of the electorate, means that the Democrats have to worry less and less about alienating economic elites, as long as they can maintain an identity politics that appeals to non-whites.
Imagine Hispanics comprising 51% of electorate.  Mayor Villaraigosa has a tenuous hold on Los Angeles with such a Hispanic majority, and this can possibly be described as putting the 51% Hispanic majority against "white" economic interests.  Does it follow that this logic can be extended to nationwide control of the United States, by pandering to a national Hispanic 51%?
Even Kling cannot argue this.  In his post "Bet Accepted" Kling lists 7 reasons why the Republicans would continue to fail at the national level.  Only 2 of the 7 relate to demographics of immigrants at all, and "The larger Hispanic population poses a challenge for Republicans" is simply stated at not fleshed out at all.  It is taken as a given, even though Hispanics are not heavily unionized and Hispanics are social conservatives, both of which could be exploited for a Republican in-road.  I tend to agree with Kling that "The larger Hispanic population poses a challenge for Republicans", but notice how the argument has shifted, from causality purely from a growing Hispanic electorate to causality from a Republican inability to deal with 7 distinct national trends.
Pandering to a Hispanic 51% nationwide, just cannot be done in the same way that Mayor Villaraigosa panders to a Hispanic 51% in Los Angeles.  Nationwide, the issues that could possibly contain 51% of Hispanics become too diverse, and quickly also encompass non-Hispanic voters.  Expanding this point: any nationwide 51% that supports larger entitlements cannot be monolithic enough to forbid any possible entre by Republicans, no matter how large a percentage a particular ethnic group may hold.

Uncooked Ramen Cup-A-Noodle: Salty & Crunchy

Frank's Red Hot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce ...Image via Wikipedia

Frankly, I couldn't care less about Martha Steward, as a professional home maker. I would be very interested in asking her about business, success, and managerial advice and stories. I would ask her about jail. But if I had to prepare dishes, I would show her the garbage I regularly consume, and horrify her with how I vacuum down large quantities of food down my throat in mere seconds. It is my super-power, and it surprises everyone. Very little gets in the way of my tummy and available calories.

Uncooked Ramen Cup-A-Noodle I just dump the uncooked Cup-A-Noodle in a bowl, eat it like some crazy bird's nest made from fried noodle, and lick up the salty chicken powder on the bottom. My cousin once said, after watching me eat uncooked ramen, that if I could eat that, I could eat a human baby. Perhaps, but a human baby probably doesn't have the same salt rush kick, and biting into the baby skull is probably not as crunchy as the uncooked ramen.

Whole Wheat Toast with Reduced Sugar Strawberry Preserve Whole wheat bread toast is awesome. The grocery store now sells reduced sugar strawberry preserve, which is good because it doesn't taste like eating pure sugar. It has a nice strawberry tang to it. Best when you spread the preserve, then fold over, so you get the contrast between the warm toast and the chilled preserve straight from the fridge.

Cold pizza w/ Frank's RedHot Buffalo Wing Sauce We have about 10 different hot sauces in the fridge that I use regularly. This is a particularly naughty one, what with the buttery savory added to the heat and the salt and garlic and the vinegar.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Relax with cockroaches crawling over every inch of my body

Not really cockroaches, just joshin'. But seeking out relaxation is not really my thing. Some of what other people describe as relaxing (massages, long baths) seem like a chore to me.
Hissing cockroach
I am always a little on edge, and I rather prefer it. I remember trying a cigarette in high school, and immediately feeling a wave of relaxation over my whole body, and I HATED it. I prefer life when it feels like walking through a hail storm, with thousands of tiny pricks of pain over your whole body, always. Nervous twitchiness is underrated.

When I think about relaxation, frankly I think of Sundays when the girls go out shopping, and I am home to do the Sunday chores, without risk of being told to "Hurry Up" or "Stop Folding Clothes Weird and Be Sensible". I can go through my chores in a slow-poke way, indulging my strange theories of proper strategies for housework, and just chill.

Large hailstones up to   centimetres (  in) in...Image via Wikipedia
Err, now that I think about it, lying under the covers, watching "Mythbusters" on the tiny screen of my video iPod, is pretty darn relaxing. Annoying my dog by using her fuzzy belly as a pillow for my fat head, is pretty darn relaxing (even though I have to lay on the hardwood floor to do it, because doggie not allowed on the bed or furniture).

Hmm, I sound like a dude that seeks out and enjoys relaxation. I must have been wrong about preferring being on edge. Sorry for the confusion.
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German Industrial & Electric Light Orchestra FTW!

I just opened up my iPod "Top 25 Most Played" to get these, so this is fairly accurate.

Giorgio Moroder Paradox Mix. "Be mine sister salvation... Juke Joint Jezebel is coming for my cremation..." because I want my cremation to be well attended, besides inviting the "Juke Joint Jezebel", I am inviting "Half Dozen Rodeo Clowns".
Because people are always trying to bring me down, and this *COMMANDS* them to stoppit
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Can't travel w/o cyborg armature (KAH-CHORK KAH-CHORK WHIIRRUPP)

cyborg armature How can I possibly life the hotel vending machine over my head and hurl it down a stairwell without my fusion powered cyborg armature, riddle me that? Also handy to open beer bottles.

tap shoes I live inside a 40's Hollywood dance musical, so I am always tap dancing on every hard surface, at all times. I am also balding and joined to Ginger Rogers at the hip, at all times.

paranormal pyro-psychokinesis They don't let you carry lighters anymore, so paranormal pyro-psychokinesis comes in handy to light cigarettes and camp fires. Drying socks, extra bonus.

Monday, May 11, 2009

My 25th year of life, a turning point, do not wish to re-live

TrinidadImage via Wikipedia
At 25 years of age it was obvious to me that I needed to make many changes in my life. I was stuck in a rut, caused by my own immaturity and fear, and I could see only profound disappointment on the path I had been taking. At 25, that total sense of risking profound disappointment hit me hard, a sickening feeling in my gut that destroyed me like being crushed by a ton of bricks.

It was really bad, and I have to say it was, actually, good, seeing it now, many years later. I feel strongly that it takes about 10 years of daily work to change the things in your life that *really* need changing. So I am glad I was forced to begin that work so many years ago.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bernard Chazelle on Torture

Bernard Chazelle is a left-wing blogger I read regularly.  He is a professor of Computer Science at Princeton, and writes for the blog "A Tiny Revolution".
Chazelle wrote an astonishing dissection of what the right to abortion really means morally "Is It OK to Abort Only Female Fetuses?".  Please read the whole thing.  It changed my professed view of abortion, and added great clarity.
Chazelle's new post "My Torture Memo" is not a blockbuster like his abortion post, but his view matches what I dimly comprehended myself about the morality of torture, and he wrote out his position on torture clearly and well.
These are the most important points, to me.
The best answer to the question: "Why is torture evil?" is "Because it feels evil."
Torture should be banned unconditionally, though the possibility that it might be sometimes necessary should not be ruled out. The apparent contradiction between law and morals should come as no surprise. Legality is much coarser than morality --that's not a flaw-- and the two will inevitably clash on occasion.
If you're so damn sure that torturing someone will save innocent lives, then you'd better be willing to go to prison for it.
I am very happy to have this writing to point to summarize my feelings about torture in the real world.  Morality affects the real world, or else it would not be morality.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Seasteading and the failed state of Somalia

Would Somalia be a draw to Libertarians wishing to "Go Galt"?
How about Seasteading?
The negotiation to provide even the most limited and sensible public good would be a hideous yammer, lasting ages.  "Free riders" would be a terrible problem.
(Is it possible that humans' natural repulsion to Libertarian thought is a form of ostracizing likely free-riders?  Or ostracizing people likely to abuse negotiation by drawing it out excessively, where negotiation is the first step to providing a common good.)