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Bike lanes and dispensaries

An elderly friend visiting Mexico from Colorado told me that whenever he goes to a party now people from all walks of life seem to use cannabis responsibly and without concern.

Were people not smoking pot, at least in public,  before Colorado’s legalization? Did they think it was bad because it was illegal, or maybe it was illegal because it was bad? Maybe they didn’t want to lie about doing something illegal or engage in the blackmarket to buy pot. Whatever the reasons, apparently more people smoke pot than owned up to it before it became legal.

Consider this, in the 1960’s Copenhagen was as car centric as any other city. Decisions were made a few decades ago to create a vast network of safe, segregated bike lanes criss-crossing the city encouraging people to use their bicycles. Looking at Copenhagen today, you’ll see a constant flow of healthy happy people heading from A to B by bicycle.

If we build safe, reliable and connected infrastructure more cyclists will appear. Likewise, if we enact laws creating a safe and legal situation for adults to use cannabis, more people will likely use cannabis responsibly.

Adams on Trump

getting-itScott Adams is the author of the comic strip “Dilbert.” A year ago Adams gave Trump a 98% chance of winning the presidency when experts were at 2%. His prediction was based on the persuasion filter, Adams considers Trump to be a “master persuader” based on Adams’ longtime interest in the art of persuasion and hypnosis.

I voted for Hillary and was as surprised as most people that Trump won. I’m pretty sure Adams didn’t vote for Trump either. But he has an interesting take on why Trump won and what will be different about Trump after he assumes the presidency. Here’s my edited version of a recent Scott Adams blogpost:

We live under a consistent illusion that facts and logic guide our decisions. They don’t.

I mean that in the limited sense of decision-making. If you make the wrong decision, the facts can kill you. That’s not in debate. I’m talking about the process of arriving at a decision.

The exception is when there’s no emotional dimension to a decision. For example, if a mechanic says it’ll cost you $1,000 to fix your car, and you can see no other option that makes sense, the facts and logic guided your decision to approve the repairs. But emotion-free decisions are unusual. You rarely see emotion-free decisions when it comes to politics, relationships, or even your career.

A Master Persuader – and anyone trained in hypnosis or persuasion in general – knows that humans don’t use facts and reason to make important decisions. Most persuaders prefer sticking to the facts when possible, but that is mostly to avoid looking like idiots. They know that sticking to facts will not persuade.

Trump just takes things one step further. He doesn’t pretend the facts matter when they don’t. He does the things that matter and ignores the things that don’t.

He just has a better idea than the public and the media about what matters. For example…

The public thinks facts matter for decisions. They don’t.

The public thinks being “presidential” matters for getting elected. It didn’t.

The public thinks Trump should have studied the issues more deeply. And he will, as needed. But he didn’t need detailed policy knowledge to get elected (evidently).

The experts said Trump needed more ground game. He didn’t.

I hope you see the pattern already. Trump ignores the things that don’t matter – even to the point of looking the fool – and pays deep attention to what DOES matter.

When Trump was running for election, facts and reasons and policy details didn’t matter to the outcome. He knew that. I knew that. Every trained persuader knew it. But the general public did not, and that’s the realization that is beginning to dawn on the world.

Once in office, facts and reason do matter more. Trump is moving from the job of talking about issues to the job of doing something about them. In his new role, he will pay attention to details and facts and reason as much as humanly possible, with the help of advisors. You already see this transformation happening as Trump moderates his positions on waterboarding, prosecuting Clinton, and even climate change.

If you have not studied persuasion it makes perfect sense to be in a panic about a Trump presidency. You see a pattern of irrational-looking behavior from Trump during the election and you assume the trend will continue into the presidency. But if you understand the tools of persuasion you see a Master Persuader ignoring what doesn’t matter and paying close attention to what does, for the benefit of the country. That is literally the safest situation I can imagine.

As president, facts do matter. Reason matters. Logic matters. But persuasion does too – and it is still hugely important to the job of being president. Don’t expect Trump to embrace any facts that are not important to “making America great again.” But I do think you can expect facts to influence Trump when they do matter.

If you are worried how a President Trump will address climate change, here’s what to expect. You can expect him to dissect the topic in terms of the facts that matter and the ones that don’t. You can expect him to eventually agree with scientists who say human activity is contributing to climate change. But when it comes to the prediction models, and America’s ability to fix the problem at a reasonable cost, expect him to be more skeptical than the general public.

That isn’t crazy. Complicated models that try to predict the future rarely succeed.

I don’t believe human brains evolved to understand reality at an objective level. The best we can do is pick filters that do a good job of predicting what’s ahead. The Persuasion Filter predicted Trump’s win when most other models did not. Now I use the same filter to predict that Trump will turn from totally ignoring facts (because facts don’t matter to elections) to embracing the facts that do matter to the country.

Are audiobooks cheating?

images-1The short answer is no.

A 1985 study found listening comprehension correlated strongly with reading comprehension.

From the perspective of the mental processes involved, there’s no real difference between listening to a book and reading it.

Some people feel that listening to a book is cheating because the listener got the reward without putting in the work. Also, maybe you’re missing out on something, or it’s not that the reading experience could be better for you.

The feeling is that you’re somehow cheating because you’ve avoided the difficult part, using your eyes, implying that to your brain, listening is less “work” than reading.

That is the case when you’re young. But it stops being true somewhere around the fifth grade. Listen on.

It’s already great

prayerThere’re always people telling us how crappy our lives are. Are you pessimistic or optimistic? Life is actually getting better,safer, and more free in the big picture. What time in the past would you like to have lived in (as a regular person)?

Be careful, don’t choose a time period with a strong chance of killing you. There are some not so great times in the past that you could find yourself in.

Consider this period from a long time ago. “Around 72,000 B.C., a volcanic super-eruption with the force of 1.5 million Hiroshima-size bombs occurred in Indonesia. A six inch layer of volcanic ash settled over Asia, there were traces of ash as far as East Africa, the homeland of humans. Skies darkened and global temperatures fell, creating a ‘long night’ lasting for many years. DNA testing indicates that the human population dropped to between 3,000 and 10,000 people.”

Pretty grim. But some people made it through that bottleneck and all 7 billion people today are descended from that tiny group of survivors. Eventually we discovered agriculture, leading to a life that generally wasn’t great for common folk.

“In the year 1820, life expectancy less than 35 years, 94% of the global population lived in extreme poverty, and less than 20% of the population was literate.”

After the industrial age got under way, followed by the information age, things began to get better for common folk, at least from a 30,000 foot perspective.

“Now human life expectancy is over 70 years, less that 10% of the global population lives in extreme poverty and over 80% of people are literate.”

The strongest force enabling human progress has been the fast pace of and  broad reach of technology.

Surprise is the key element of creativity and entrepreneurship defying every econometric model and socialist scheme. Creativity can’t be planned. Most entrepreneurs, from Sam Walton to Elon Musk, didn’t get to the top of a hierarchy. They created something new. Progress comes from the creative minority. And that’s growing.

Economic potential never drops because knowledge always rises. Technology (knowledge embedded in machines) gets better because we invest in research and development and never replace a good machine with an inferior one. Plus the abilities of the average worker keeps rising because average educational and training levels continue to rise.

The trend is that things get better. It’s already pretty great and if history is any indication of the future, it’s just going to get greater. At least in the big picture first and then for the common man.

The Dutch Reach

skirt-riding-upYou never know what could be passing next to your car just before you get out. And if you nail a cyclist when you open your car door you’ll feel pretty bad.

The Dutch have a solution. Enter the “Dutch Reach.” And I’m going to start using it.

A  Dutch Reach is opening your driver’s side car door with your far hand instead of using your near hand. Using  your right hand instead of your left hand it makes your body swivel, positioning your head to look out of your car so you can easily check to see approaching bikes. Maybe a better name would be the “Dutch Twist.”

If this habit can be spread, it’ll help reduce accidents, making cycling lanes less dangerous. The Dutch Reach is already part of the driver’s eduction program in the Netherlands.

It’s simple and easy to teach making it cheaper than costly infrastructure changes to make biking safer.

The Risk Takers

cayote shadowActually what I meant was illegal risk takers operating in the shadows. Terrorists and Wall Street “insider” traders come to mind. Do they have similarities? Maybe.

They’re generally men, younger, willing to take big risks, seeking  large paybacks (paradise or great wealth), often with criminal records, and favor associating with acquaintances from their youth.

The concepts of religion and money are belief systems allowing humans to interact in large numbers. As long as you and many others, share a belief that there’s an invisible super powerful deity, or that colored pieces of paper have value, there’re situations in which some might be willing to risk everything.

Here’re some interesting observations from a Bloomberg column about insider traders based on the research of Kenneth R. Ahern at USC:

Some aspects come pretty close to what we see in the movies. The average insider trader is 43 years old, and nine out of 10 are male. The practice also seems correlated with some features of recklessness: Insider traders are younger than their associates, less likely to own real estate, and have fewer family members on average. More than half have criminal records, with almost all charges stemming from traffic violations.

To my eye, the most striking data involve personal connections: Insider traders appear to be pretty careful in choosing their accomplices. Of the known pairs of people who provide and act upon private information (“tipper and tippee”), 64 percent met before college, and 16 percent met in college or graduate school. Another 23 percent are family relations — more siblings and parents than aunts and uncles, despite the added capital that the latter might have provided. Tips are also commonly shared among people with ethnically similar surnames: Of 24 tips coming from people with Celtic surnames, for example, 14 went to individuals who also had Celtic surnames.

The choice of accomplices demonstrates how hard it is to trust people you haven’t known very long, especially if you’re not all that trustworthy yourself.

This implies that maybe modern corporations are, in some ways, more honest places than one might think. Not that people are always so law-abiding; rather, many workplace relationships may be too superficial and too transient to develop the trust and cooperation typically required for villainy and law-breaking.

Give up the bottle

ethiqueWhy not make shampoo and conditioners in bar form?

The next question is, why hasn’t this been done before? Bar shampoo seems like a logical step forward because it doesn’t need a plastic container and it’s cheaper to ship because there’s no need to ship the water normally in shampoo.

The reverse happened awhile back – some companies start selling harder-to-use liquid body soap in place of easier-to-use bar soap. I’m sure it’s marketing and trying to keep up with the competition.

Now, a company called Ethique is selling shampoo, conditioner and soap in bar form. Ethique uses packaging that’s plastic-free, made of biodegradable, compostable material.

“The more I thought about it, the crazier it seemed to me that we pay gobs of money for all that water packaged in plastic,” founder Brianne West told Forbes.

All the products are made from natural ingredients and have eliminated the need for another plastic bottle bobbing around in the trash.


The Simple Path to Wealth

the simple path to wealthI just finished reading “The Simple path to Wealth” by JL Collins. It’s a book about money that I’d recommend to everyone.

The bare bones concept is that if you can avoid debt, save most of what you earn, invest your money (in a very low cost indexed fund), and leave it alone, then with a bit of time you’ll wind up financially independent. The particulars he gives are important along with the whys and how-tis. And he does it all in an engaging and down to earth way.

Don’t take my word for it, here’re some reviews and endorsements from other readers:

– By the end of the book you find yourself wondering why it took someone so long to put these thoughts to paper and bundle it all into one package. For someone just starting out on this journey, congratulations, you just won the lottery after having read this book. For someone a few years into their working career, you still have plenty of time. And lastly, for someone over half way through their working career, tomorrow is never too late to start.

– It’s the only book I’ve ever read it’s in entirety on a phone!

– Imagine a book that can teach you everything you need to know about investing in one afternoon. Now suppose that the book is insightful, well researched, filled with wit and humor, and can help you achieve better investing results than over 80% of professional investors. The Simple Path to Wealth is that book.

– He doesn’t ask his readers to take his word for it. He explains how he reached his conclusions.

– …he stresses the importance of money in our society, while writing a book that people who do not really care about money will actually find interesting and actionable.”

– JL Collins gives an approachable, well-structured guide to understanding what money is (and is not), how to protect it, how to make it work for you, and ultimately how to make sure that you master money so it doesn’t master you.

– It’s a book about freedom – the freedom to be your own master by escaping the traps of debt and wasteful spending and letting your money work for you.”

– Jim advises new investors to ‘Stop thinking about what your money can buy.’ and ‘Start thinking about what your money can earn.’ Money is much more than the things it can buy. It represents the energy of our lives. Do you want to exhaust that on stuff and clutter, or use it to buy freedom.

– Jack Bogle and Warren Buffett undoubtedly would give JL Collins a thumbs up.

– If you’re too cheap to spend eleven bucks on the one book that will finally make you rich and happy, then don’t come crying to me in six months when you find yourself destitute, friendless, eating cold pork-n-beans out of a can at the public library, and creeping everyone out.

One revealing question

B & JYou’ll always be better off avoiding  people who are just rat poison. So how can you throw on the brakes of the crazy train before it leaves the station? I saw an interesting idea online about one question you can ask that reveals more than you might think.

It’s a rule of thumb, a quick and dirty (but scientifically validated) way for assessing the presence in another of a certain personality trait.

“If you want to know if someone displays a certain characteristic, just ask if he or she thinks other people often display that characteristic.”

“(it’s) a powerful hack for evaluating others people’s character, if you want to know if they display a trait, just find a way to ask how common they think it is in others. The more of a quality they see around them, the more they probably possess themselves.”

Who knew?

tallboyWhen you’re talking about the ways people are treated differently in society, sometimes you stumble onto interesting tangents.

Usually, people don’t discuss public toilets. But the subject comes up now because some people are trying to restrict transgender folk to using restrooms for the sex into which they were born.

Over the long run, it’s not really a big problem, it’ll soon be forgotten. But that’s why the subject of urinals came up at a party I was at.

It turned out, that out of four guys at that party, three of them, including me all had a preference for the old school, floor to rib height urinals. The ones that are nowadays generally found in older buildings. For women who’ve probably never seen one, most of them look like the one pictured above.

And the guy who didn’t have a strong preference did think the tall urinals were cool. Three out of four is a pretty strong endorsement.

I don’t think about the issue unless I go into a restroom that’s equipped with the tall urinals, so it just never come up because guys don’t chitchat in public restrooms. It’s hard to imagine a stranger saying, “Damn I miss these old style tall urinals!”

Who knew? May those older style urinals are iconic in some way, remind men of a different time, or are a bit easier to use.

If I ever need to build a public restroom, I know what I’m putting in the men’s room.