The trouble with geek friends

Geeks have intense interests. They border on obsessions. They know EVERYTHING about those interests. And argue vehemently for them, about them, and against others. These habits bleed over into other non-geek areas such that it felt like an intrinsic part of the culture.

For decades I doubted you could have geeks without arguments, so I find it interesting when I run across people discovering a community and getting turned off when arguments break out. They just wanted to find others who love the thing. Love led to arguments in my teens through twenty-somethings. It took making enough non-geek friends in order to realize just how skewed my understanding of reality was.

The trouble is, you better not have feelings. For they will be stepped on. Eventually. Well, unless you fall solidly on the autism spectrum. For the segments of geekdom who do, they might not be aware how they make others feel without very direct response. I am calling them arguments because to outsiders these discussions seem full of anger. to strong geeks, this is how we discuss.

It seems theoretically possible for people to get along wonderfully well. I have seen it more with children who sometimes treat their beloved things as malleable. They love them, but they can alter these impressions when they need. By shifting their opinion, they remove the conflict. Older humans are a bit more rigid.

As an introvert, small talk is meh. I much prefer deep conversations. And geek friends bring depth. Find their interests to bring out a conversation. That is easy. And to my mind a rewarding part of socialization. Finding people who wanted to talk about deep things is how and why I cultivated so many of my friendships. Having broad but deep interests allowed me to engage on many things.

Displaying confidence in so many different things is why people considered me intelligent. Given my social circles, I figured this normal so just average.

No worries. People self-select into geekdom. Either they acclimate or they move on to another group. They will keep their interests either way.



Outraged? Don’t share

Our attention is the product for Facebook and Twitter. They make money by selling advertising. The more time we spend on the site, the more ads they put in front of us, the more money they make.

Outrage makes them the most money. We are more likely to share what outrages us. We have tribalized our social groups such that our friends are most likely going to be outraged too and more likely to share. So the outrages go viral.

The most effective things to make us share are also probably fake or misleading. We get so upset that we do not bother to check until maybe someone not so outraged fact-checks and points out the problem. So fake items go viral.

The synergy of fake outrageous news is powerful. It is manipulative. We train the social media algorithms that we WANT to be manipulated. We spend more time on these sites because we are addicted to being manipulated.

Common sense is cultural 

Common sense is not so common. At least not in the sense that what we think are common sense behaviors are universal agreed upon across all of humanity.

An example: In a western culture, we tend to value the individual, so we think it common sense that we do things that benefit us. In an eastern culture, they tend to value the group, so they think it common sense that they do things that benefit the group.

We also are mired in groupthink that our tribes have the only correct values in humanity. So, the values of others occasionally cause conflict when members come into contact. A friend was upset about something neighbors did. One of the comments from someone sharing the friend’s values was that it is just common sense not to behave the way the people from another culture did. I wanted to reply that from the perspective of the other people, it is common sense to behave in this offensive way.

I did not because it was only going to make them defensive and cause unnecessary anger. People strongly defend their values. My questioning their values would be counterproductive. And having brown skin would lead to saying if I am not willing to share these values, then I should go home.

The funny thing? Best I can tell, all my ancestors going back 100 years were born in America. I just am introspective enough to try and understand how people work. And that leads me to consider other perspectives and give people some leeway. Given my Baha’I Faith upbringing, this consideration is just common sense.

TED Talk: Who are you, really? The puzzle of personality

What makes you, you? Psychologists like to talk about our traits, or defined characteristics that make us who we are. But Brian Little is more interested in moments when we transcend those traits — sometimes because our culture demands it of us, and sometimes because we demand it of ourselves. Join Little as he dissects the surprising differences between introverts and extroverts and explains why your personality may be more malleable than you think.

The Big Five personality test is well regarded in psychology compared to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Little spends quite a bit of time on the trait present in both: Extraversion and Introversion.

My favorite quote: “Introverts prefer contextually complex, contingent, weasel-word sentences. More or less. As it were. Not to put too fine a point on it… like that.”

If the above does not work, then try Who are you, really? The puzzle of personality

TED Talk: Beware neuro-bunk

In reading a recent article about the issue with #MeToo (a viral campaign where women posted about their experience with sexual harassment or abuse), I also read the Nature article by Dr. Molly Crockett Moral outrage in the digital age. It also led me to watch the below fascinating TED Talk.

If the above fails to load, then try Beware neuro-bunk. A guide to all the articles mentioned in the talk.

TED Talk: The surprising habits of original thinkers

I loved Adam Grant’s book, Originals. The below video is essentially the TL;DR version.

How do creative people come up with great ideas? Organizational psychologist Adam Grant studies “originals”: thinkers who dream up new ideas and take action to put them into the world. In this talk, learn three unexpected habits of originals — including embracing failure. “The greatest originals are the ones who fail the most, because they’re the ones who try the most,” Grant says. “You need a lot of bad ideas in order to get a few good ones.”

If the above video does not work, then try The surprising habits of original thinkers.

Balance Theory

Found it especially weird that podcasts advertising Zip Recruiter tend to talk about how they found people to work for them without using Zip Recruiter. We are supposed to believe that even though they did not use it, we should not leave it to chance to find a good employee like they did.

These bothered me for months until I heard it again while reading about Heider’s Balance Theory. (It came up in a discussion with a friend earlier today.) The idea of it is Person likes Other person but has neutral or negative impression of X. This imbalance creates a cognitive dissonance which is resolved by creating a favorable view of X. Person disliking Other person could create a negative view of X. Essentially celebrity endorsements exploit this function of our brains.

Basically, Zip Recruiter paid Malcolm Gladwell to talk about this product on Revisionist History in order to create a cognitive dissonance where I would get a favorable view of their product. Me (Person) liking Malcolm Gladwell (Other) should create a favorable impression of Zip Recruiter (X).

This effect can backfire. If I dislike Zip Recruiter more than I like Gladwell, then I might come to dislike him because of this.

Intellectual humility

Adam Grant pointed to How ‘Intellectual Humility’ Can Make You a Better Person which I found intriguing.

We all have a tendency to overestimate how much we know — which, in turn, means that we often cling stubbornly to our beliefs while tuning out opinions different from our own. We generally believe we’re better or more correct than everyone else, or at least better than most people — a psychological quirk that’s as true for politics and religion as it is for things like fashion and lifestyles. And in a time when it seems like we’re all more convinced than ever of our own rightness, social scientists have begun to look more closely at an antidote: a concept called intellectual humility… which has to do with understanding the limits of one’s knowledge. It’s a state of openness to new ideas, a willingness to be receptive to new sources of evidence, and it comes with significant benefits: People with intellectual humility are both better learners and better able to engage in civil discourse. Google’s VP in charge of hiring, Laszlo Bock, has claimed it as one of the top qualities he looks for in a candidate: Without intellectual humility, he has said, “you are unable to learn.”

I wonder how my wanting to explain things tied in with my Imposter Syndrome derails the above overestimations. There is a thing in the back of my head looking to find fault in myself. So in going to explain something and realizing my weaknesses, my confirmation bias is to think, “Of course, I don’t understand it as well as I ought.”

Let Me Explain; Let Me Sum Up

There is a great quote from The Princess Bride

Westley: Who are you? Are we enemies? Why am I on this wall? Where is Buttercup?
Inigo Montoya: Let me explain.
Inigo Montoya: No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Buttercup is marry Humperdinck in little less than half an hour. So all we have to do is get in, break up the wedding, steal the princess, make our escape… after I kill Count Rugen.

It is what I thought of while reading Mike Caufield’s The Power of Explaining to Others.

I like discussions about things because in talking about it, I have to…

  1. Judge how much the other person knows.
  2. Judge how much I know.
  3. Figure out the best way to provide additional value.

In going through this, I figure out that what I know is usually less than I originally thought. Which makes me more curious, so I will seek more information. Many of my times getting lost down the rabbit hole of the Internet is trying to clean up the holes of my understanding from some recent conversation. There is an obsession to better know things, so I found it interesting that my habit of explaining books, articles, or whatever is on my mind ties to well into countering false information.

The conclusion to Gotcha Jerks Part II

Not long ago, it gave me a warm fuzzy feeling for a very conservative coworker to call me the only liberal he knows that he can discuss things. We disagree, but we respect each other enough to discuss things. I am not hurt by our disagreements. And as much as he tries to act radical, I suspect a lot of it is poker bluff acting.

My motivation in talking with him is in part understanding what I do and do not know. He provides a perspective I normally probably would not see. He uses keywords I can search for to find more about those views. And… He is not seeking to convince me (nor I him) to the “right” side. We just talk to explain what we know to better understand. So, I hope in explaining to me, he is getting the same benefit I am.



Another Rands In Repose gem.

Tinkering is a deceptively high-value activity. You don’t usually allocate much time to tinkering because the obvious value of tinkering is low. You don’t start tinkering with a goal in mind; you start with pure curiosity. I’ve heard about this thing, but I’ve never used it. How does this thing work? I’ve always wanted to know about more about X. Downtime is an easy time to tinker. Nothing is pressing, so these acts of mental wandering are acceptable.

This is how things get done. This is my life.

I think Dopamine is related to why I tinker. There is a definite expectation to getting something out of it. And that is all the motivation I need.

The dopamine from the ventral tegmental area… usually sends dopamine into the brain when animals (including people) expect or receive a reward. That reward might be a delicious slice of pizza or a favorite song. This dopamine release tells the brain that whatever it just experienced is worth getting more of. And that helps animals (including people) change their behaviors in ways that will help them attain more of the rewarding item or experience.

My reward is learning something about a gadget. Similar to how reading rewards me with learning about science, history, motivations, or behavior.