Tag Archives: Humanity

The Doug Stanhope Principle (And Why We Should Apply It)

In my experience, comedians offer the most memorable and insightful commentaries on otherwise serious issues. Even if they’re just trying to be funny, which is their job, I think those commentaries have worth beyond the laughs. There are even times I think comedians don’t realize just how insightful their humor can be.

I’ve made my love of comedy known before and not just through my weekly Sexy Sunday Thoughts. I’ve cited accomplished comedians like Christopher Titus when exploring very non-funny issues, such as jealousy. I don’t just do this to help lighten the mood on a site I want to keep light and sexy. I do it because comedy can reveal more than the breadth of our sense of humor.

With that in mind, I’d like to cite a comedian by the name of Doug Stanhope. I’ve never mentioned before, but has been one of my personal favorites for years. He’s not on the same level as a Jon Stewart, George Carlin, or Lewis Black. However, given his brand of humor, that’s not too surprising.

Stanhope’s comedy is decidedly NSFW, touching on issues that would give most network producers brain aneurisms. His opinions are overtly harsh and unconcerned with your delicate sensibilities. If you’re wondering just how harsh he can be, here’s a quick taste.

That said, he is not a shock comic in the tradition of Howard Stern or Andrew Dice Clay. Stanope’s comedy, as crude as it can be at times, is very smart. One bit in particular stands out. It comes from his “Deadbeat Hero” album, one of my personal favorites and one I think every comedy fan should listen to at least once.

In that album, he talks about a number of issues, but one in particular stands out. That issue is marriage, one I’ve discussed too on this site, albeit not with the same level of humor. On this topic, he makes one of the most insightful observations I’ve ever seen on a treasured institution.

If marriage didn’t exist, would you invent it? Would you go “Baby, this shit we got together, it’s so good we gotta get the government in on this shit. We can’t just share this commitment ‘tweenst us. We need judges and lawyers involved in this shit, baby. It’s hot!”

The bolded parts are my doing because I think the implications of that question go beyond the comedy, more so than I think Stanhope himself intended. In a sense, it reflects the paradox of marriage and traditional romance that I’ve talked about before in that we see it as natural, yet we need all these social institutions to protect it.

The fact those institutions exist is a subtle, but telling sign that these traditions aren’t as natural as we think they are. More than anything else, they’re the product of taboos and social norms that people cling to out of fear, familiarity, and ignorance. I won’t go so far as to call it a form of excuse banking, but I think it highlights our imperfect understanding of human nature.

One of Doug Stanhope’s greatest strengths as a comedian is his ability to break down a treasured and cherished concept in a way that’s both revealing and insightful. What he did for marriage with this one question immediately makes us ponder the flaws in our current understanding of it.

Once we stop laughing at the punch-line, though, I would take it a step further. I would ask that question again in more general form as a means to help us scrutinize our traditions, values, and everything else we hold sacred. Sure, that’s bound to make some people uncomfortable, but that’s exactly the point of certain brand of comedy, especially Stanhope’s.

Like the Simpson Filter I coined earlier this year, let’s coin another using this question. Since I’m not a branding expert with only a fraction of the wit of Doug Stanhope, I’ll call it “The Stanhope Principle.” The core of that principle can be summed up in one simple question.

If something didn’t exist in its current form, would you invent it that way?

Sure, it’s not nearly as funny as Stanhope’s bit on marriage, nor is it meant to be. In essence, it’s a question meant to get your brain thinking about things that it usually doesn’t think about. In some cases, they’re issues you’ve gone out of your way to avoid.

Take any current issue, be it a major political controversy or a certain state in your personal life. Now, apply the Stanhope Principle and try to answer the question honestly. Here are just a few possible examples.

  • If our tax system existed in its current form, would we invent it that way?
  • If our health care system existed in its current form, would we invent it that way?
  • If our current relationship existed in its current form, would we invent it that way?
  • If the job we worked existed in its current form, would we invent it that way?
  • If our website/blog/product existed in its current form, would we invent it that way?

If you ask that question and answer it honestly, which is key, you might be surprised by what you find out. You might think your personal relationships are functional, but applying the Stanhope Principle could expose flaws that you’ve been overlooking or ignoring.

Apply in a larger context, such as politics, marriage, and gender issues, and the insights get a bit more complicated. Given the current inequalities that still pervade in our society, as well as the double standards we apply, the Stanhope Principle reveals the breadth of the flaws within these institutions.

It can be distressing, acknowledging those flaws. That’s usually where the excuse banking enters the picture, but that can only further mask them. Another honest application of the Stanhope Principle will only remind us of those flaws and even reveal how we’ve made our situation worse.

Ideally, the Stanhope Principle should be a basis for improvement. A good example is Apple, one of the biggest, most successful companies in the world. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak probably didn’t know they were applying that principle, but they were.

They saw the current state of computers. They saw there was a lot of room for improvement. Given how cumbersome computers were for much of their early history, they decided to innovate and create a better way of using them. The result is a company that is worth over half-a-trillion dollars.

Applying the Stanhope Principle for worked out pretty well for Apple. I’m not saying it can make everyone a billionaire, but it does help break down a situation and an issue in a way that allows us to see the bigger picture.

More than anything else, it exposes the imperfections of our current situation. For some, it motivates them into improving their situation, be it a relationship, a business, or a social policy. For others, it’s an uncomfortable reminder that there’s a flaw in that they need to cover up or mask. In that sense, it should be easy to see who are more likely to become billionaires.

There are all sorts of way to apply the Stanhope Principle. I’ll certainly try to apply it to future issues that I discuss on this site. For now, I just want to offer my sincere thanks to Doug Stanhope and the principle he inspired. He has made the world inherently funnier and more interesting to explore.

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Filed under Current Events, Marriage and Relationships, Reasons and Excuses

Why I Believe That People Are Naturally Good (Another Personal Story)

It’s one of the oldest, most confounding questions in all of philosophy and science. Cantankerous old man and nagging old women alike debate it. Are people fundamentally good or evil? People have been trying to answer that question for centuries, some more so than others. However, the answer never seems to be complete.

It’s a question that has huge implications. If people are naturally good when stripped of circumstance, then that bodes well for our ability to survive when the zombies attack, the Illuminati take over, or aliens invade. It means that “Independence Day” wasn’t too far off in showing how good people could be inspired to do great things.

Conversely, the implications of people being naturally evil are a bit more dire. If the Joker was right in “The Dark Knight” and people are only as good as society allows them to be, then that means our society and our civilization is even more fragile and precious than we think. If something like zombies or aliens attack, then it won’t be long before we become the monsters we dread, hopefully without clown makeup.

I’m not a philosophy buff. I’m also not a scientist. I write sexy stories and talk about sexy topics in hopes of making a living from it. I couldn’t be less qualified to answer this profound question without admitting I sleep with a lead brick under my pillow.  Like a virgin on her prom night, though, I’m still going to try and hope for the best.

I’ve talked about evil before and how that affects iconic villains in fiction, but I haven’t really dug into the better angles of our nature. Sure, I could point out that civilization is getting better by nearly every measure, but the Joker enthusiasts of the world would just point out that’s because people are getting better at boxing in their inherent evil with the comforts of civilization.

I won’t say there isn’t some logic to that. I also won’t get into all the research that has gone into determining the nature of mankind. That stuff is too technical. It’s not going to get anyone’s panties wet in discussing this issue and I have sexy standards to maintain on this blog.

Instead, I’m going to tell a story that isn’t very sexy, but should help get my point across. While my outlook on mankind has changed a great deal throughout my life, often coinciding with high school and failed relationships, I genuinely believe that people are innately good. I know that’s hard to grasp for anyone who watches the news or reruns of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” but I believe it’s more apparent than most people think.

To illustrate that, I want to highlight a moment from my late childhood that I didn’t really appreciate until I became an adult. Whenever I find myself thinking about the nature of man, my thoughts often drift to this memory and I smile for reasons that should soon be apparent.

Picture, if you can, a cold and dreary day in late March. Enter a 10-year-old me, still in grade school and just starting to realize how much I hate school. I wasn’t a miserable teenager just yet, but I wasn’t some cheery child either. I often stressed myself out in way more ways than any kid should, but that’s another story. All you need to know is that on this day, I went a bit overboard.

The weather was getting crappier by the second. That’s when I found out that I left something at school. Keep in mind, I’d just gotten home and just wanted to play video games to unwind. However, I had to go back because this wasn’t something I could put off. I had a big project coming up and, being the neurotic grade-grubber I was at the time, I needed to take care of this.

I remember hating myself so much, if only because it took away from the time I wanted to spend playing video games. Then, after talking to my parents, I decided to ride my bicycle up to the school to pick it up. They told me they could drive by later after they got groceries. That wasn’t good enough for me. I had to punish myself for being so forgetful.

So I got on my bicycle and rode down to the school through the increasingly-crappy weather. I was not happy about having to do it, so much so I just peddled as fast as I could, not caring that I had the athletic prowess of a senile hamster. This quickly proved to be a mistake because, less than a block from my house, I swerved off the sidewalk and crashed right into a gate.

I’m not going to lie. I cried like anyone might expect of a 10-year-old kid. I didn’t hurt myself seriously. I didn’t break any bones. I just bruised my knee and scraped my elbow. If my gym teacher were there, he would tell me to walk it off. I probably should’ve, in that case, but I didn’t. I just sat there in the cold, muddy grass and cried my eyes out.

Now, I’m not proud of it. Remember, I was 10-years-old at the time. I hadn’t exactly refined my toughness yet, nor did I realize that forgetting homework from school was not the end of the world. That didn’t matter, though. In my own limited world, this was basically the apocalypse.

I don’t remember how long I just sat there crying on the sidewalk. At some point, though, a woman from the house right behind me came running out from her back yard to tend to me. The way I was crying, she must have thought I’d been impaled by a tree branch. For all she knew, she was about to walk up to the most horrifying site anyone could see outside of a promo for “Law and Order: SVU.”

That didn’t stop her, though. She just came to me, helped me up, and basically babied me until I stopped crying. I didn’t even know this woman. I didn’t know if my parents knew her either. She was a total stranger and in that same year, my school started giving us all those stranger danger lectures. This woman must have missed the danger part.

I never learned the woman’s name. I don’t even remember thanking her. I just remember drying my eyes, saying goodbye once the stinging stopped, and riding my bike back to the school so I could pick up my stuff. I think she mentioned something about calling an ambulance. I did not want that. After I realized I wasn’t hurt that badly, I finally grit my teeth and got up.

My mood didn’t really change, but that was beside the point. The fact that she, some woman I didn’t know, helped me so much on that miserable day still sent a message to me. It would take a long time for me to appreciate it, but I like to think that woman had a far greater impact than she’d intended.

She didn’t know me, but she didn’t care. I was a wounded child on a sidewalk on a cold, dreary day. She didn’t need to be inspired to help me. She didn’t need some sort of incentive or reward. She just did it. She came to my aid, even when I didn’t appreciate it. On that day, she was basically Wonder Woman.

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To me, that highlights a part of human nature that’s overlooked and underrated. If the Joker were right and people are only as good as the world lets them, then that woman would’ve needed some sort of incentive to help me. There would have to be some sort of outside pressure to make her do what she did.

The situation I just described might as well have been in a vacuum in a laboratory. There was nobody there to tell her to help me or to belittle her if she didn’t. She didn’t go out and tell the papers either. She didn’t seek any kind of vindication or admiration. I don’t think I ever saw that woman again and I didn’t even tell my parents about the incident until days later. She still did the right thing in helping a wounded child.

If people don’t need to be influenced, guilted, or pressured into doing the right thing, then that just leaves one conclusion, in my book. People are naturally good. That woman who helped me was a genuinely good person.

Granted, there may have been someone else who’d heard my cries and chose not to help. That person might have been a sociopath or might have just seen the woman beat them to the punch. Even if that were the case, though, that doesn’t take away from what the woman did. She still helped me.

The fact that one person can do something innately good in that situation proves that it’s possible. If it happens once, then that means there is something in the human condition that compels us to be good. Combine that with all the other overwhelming acts of kindness that people have done and you can’t ignore the implications.

While I don’t deny that there are some truly heinous people in this world, the fact that they make the news just shows how rare they actually are. There are over 7 billion people on this planet. The kindness and care that people show for one another every day will probably never get reported.

That only furthers my point, though. If being good is so mundane that it never makes the news, then that tells you all you need to know about the innate goodness of people. For me, it took one woman on one miserable day to convince me of that. I wish I’d learned that woman’s name. I wish I could thank her for what she did for me. She’ll probably never read this, but I’ll say it anyway.

Ma’am, whoever you are and wherever you are now, thank you for helping that crying 10-year-old boy that day. You helped convince him that people are genuinely good.

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How Idiots Fall In (And Make) Love

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I know I’ve been talking about idiots a lot lately. I’m sorry if I give the impression that I’m belaboring an issue that doesn’t need to be belabored. We’ve all had problems with idiots at some point in our lives. Most people know that they tend to complicate, obscure, and frustrate many productive endeavors in life. Anyone who thinks otherwise just hasn’t dealt with enough idiots.

Well, there’s still one last aspect to this issue that I want to touch on. I was going to talk about it in my post about how idiots affect our love lives and our sex lives, but I felt like it would’ve derailed the underlying point I was trying to make. For this particular issue, I want to focus on method behind the idiocy. Specifically, I want to apply that method to love.

That kind of insight matters to me, particularly, because I’m trying to be a quality erotica/romance. That means it’s not enough to just know how to craft meaningful love stories with plenty of sex appeal. I also have to be mindful of how these stories can go horribly wrong and the quickest way to do that is to mix idiots with love.

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Make no mistake. Idiots can ruin love, sex, and everything in between just as they ruin so much else in life. It’s rarely pretty. It can be downright tragic. Most of the time, though, it’s just pathetic. People have a low enough opinion of the human race thanks to idiots. They way they can undermine love only strengthens that opinion.

So what are the specifics of idiots screwing up love and making life difficult for aspiring erotica/romance writers? Well, there are a number of dynamics at work, but they’re best summed up by this chart I found a few days ago while doing my other post on idiots and love. It’s as humorous as it is uncomfortably true.

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It’s usually difficult to sum up complex subjects into a simple piece of clip art, but this comes pretty damn close. Sure, it’s a bit cynical in some areas, but the message is clear. Stupidity is not a key ingredient to meaningful love.

Let’s break down some of the dynamics at work. For the most part, it comes down to a mix of incentives and motivations. When a smart guy and a dumb girl get involved, there aren’t a lot of factors that would lay the foundation for a meaningful relationship.

A smart guy won’t be able to share deeper emotions with an idiot woman. She’d do more to frustrate rather than inspire his passions. She’d be immature, childlike, and annoying. Being an idiot, chances are she’d find a way to screw up contraception so the odds of her ending up pregnant would be pretty high.

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The man, in this case, would have both the opportunity and the means to exploit the woman’s stupidity. It would be less about developing love and more about getting some easy sex from someone too stupid to know understand what was going on.

This kind of dynamic appeals to the kind of smart men who tend to be assholes. Even if they want to find love, they’ll jump at a chance for easy sex. It’s productive manifestation of their biological imperative. Sure, their offspring won’t benefit from having an idiot mother, but it’ll still put the smart man ahead of the game in terms of evolution.

A similar dynamic plays out with smart women and stupid men. Let’s face it, there are plenty of stupid men out there who don’t know a healthy romance from a wet fart. As a man, I freely admit that such stupidity can make for comically toxic romances that are even worse than the ones we see on “The Big Bang Theory.”

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A smart woman may have an incentive to avoid having an idiot man’s stupid kids. However, she also has an incentive and means to extract as many resources out of him. Being smart, she could easily manipulate him into a situation where he marries her and is legally obligated to provide for her.

Some women are able to do this to smart and successful men. Just look at Anna Nichole Smith, may she rest in peace. If men like that are unable to avoid those kinds of legal pitfalls, then idiots don’t have a prayer.

Smart women will rope them into unfavorable arrangements that involve giving them a significant chunk of their income. Those same smart women will easily be able to outwit their idiot husbands into cheating with far smarter, more attractive men. If they’re really smart, they’ll even get the idiot husband to provide for a kid they think is theirs. When it comes to human biology, it’s basically a perfect win/lose scenario.

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Again, this kind of dynamic depends on one part of the romance being kind of an asshole. Idiots are easily manipulated and doing so requires more than a few dick moves, to say the least. The kind of smart people who take advantage of these situations are, by and large, bullies on the same level as Biff Tannen from “Back To The Future.”

It’s not quite as tragic when two people who are equal idiots get together, but it’s just as inane. These are situations where two people are too stupid to understand what meaningful love is, the role that sex plays, and how to make something of it. If you want a perfect example of that, just watch a few episodes of “Married With Children.” That’ll tell you everything you need to know about how idiots approach sex and love.

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If you need a real-world example, there is one clear sign that seems to come up often among those who may not realize that they’re being idiots. I’ve seen it happen a few times in my own life. I’m sure others have experienced it too in some form or another.

It often happens in a casual conversation with friends. It probably happens with women just as much as it does men, although I imagine the men are a lot more eager to jump into the realm of idiocy when given the chance. The conversation usually unfolds like this.

“So how are things going?”

“Well, I’m thinking about asking him/her to marry me.”

“Really? Um…why now?”

“We’ve been together for a while now. This is just what people do.”

Read over the last part a few times to get the full context of the idiocy. Even on the surface, the logic is shallow. Does just being with someone for a certain amount of time mean you have to marry or commit to them? Some may make appeals to tradition, but those traditions can sometimes be more excuse than reason, which can cause a whole host of problems.

I’ve heard real people make these arguments. They’re good people who sound smart most of the time, but when they make these kinds of excuses in their love lives, you almost want to hit them upside the head to restart their brain. It doesn’t help that sometimes they’re the only ones who don’t realize they’re in an unhealthy relationship. It’s tragic, but that’s what happens when you’re an idiot.

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It gets even worse when you start to mix idiocy and sex. In this instance, I’m not talking about people who put themselves in bad situations that make them victims of serious crimes. That’s a whole other matter that’s neither sexy nor funny. Instances when people are just stupid with their sex lives are far more common and far less reported.

It’s not just men who don’t understand how a vagina works. It’s not just women who overestimate a man’s coordination when he’s horny. Idiots will eagerly have sex at the wrong times for the wrong reasons. It’s one thing to just have sex because you’re horny. It’s quite something else when you have sex to accomplish something stupid.

We’ve heard these kinds of conversations before. If you’ve ever been to high school or known someone who attracted all the wrong people, you’ve probably heard something along these lines.

“We’ll have sex and that’ll shut him/her up.”

“I’ll have sex with him/her to stop them from breaking up with me.”

“He/she wants to have sex with me and I’m not sure how to go about it. Should we break up?”

The people who have these conversations may not be drooling idiots, but their logic and understanding of a situation utterly fails. They treat sex as a means more than an end. They think it’s part of some unwritten rule that they don’t understand. It should be a general rule of them. If a rule is unwritten and hard to understand, then chances are it only applies to idiots.

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Idiots having sex and falling in love can cause all sorts of problems. Sometimes, as is the case with “Married With Children,” it can be hilariously entertaining. Most of the times, though, it can be tragic and downright toxic.

That leads me back to the top of the chart I cited earlier, namely the part that identifies what happens when two smart individuals come together. They’re not idiots. They’re not making excuses. They’re together for the right reasons, sharing honest, meaningful emotions. That, my friends, is real love, the kind that makes for much hotter sex.

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Idiots can fall in love. Idiots can have sex and make idiot children. Even when it’s comical, it’s still more a cautionary tale than a meaningful story. That’s why I leave those kinds of stories to the Chuck Lorre’s of the world. I’d rather tell stories about non-idiots finding and/or making love.

That’s the kind of love I try to pursue in my novels. I made a concerted effort to forge that kind of love in my latest book, “Passion Relapse.” Whether or not I succeeded is up to the reader. At the very least, I made sure the story wasn’t derailed by idiots.

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The Horrific Consequences Of Human Stupidity

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We all make mistakes. We’ve all done or said things that make us feel stupid. I certainly have. One time, I tried to impress a girl by claiming I’d eaten a live caterpillar. She just took two steps back, gave me that repulsed look, and made it clear that she did not find that sort of thing attractive. Needless to say, I never got a date with that girl.

Mistakes are a part of life. They’re an understandable part of the human experience. We’re bound to make mistakes because the world is chaotic. Our decisions are bound to be erratic, misguided, or just downright wrong at some point. Even the smartest among us is prone to making mistakes. Just ask a certain high-ranking general who got busted having an affair because he foolishly used unsecured emails.

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Mistakes are one inescapable element of life. Stupidity, however, is the 800-pound, machine-gun toting gorilla in the room that we can’t stop poking with a stick. I’ve spent all week preaching the importance of education. I did so despite all those times I belabored how much I hated high school. I still don’t think I can overstated just how much it matters.

More than anything else, education matters because stupidity comes at a cost. In fact, it can become very costly very fast if you let it. Stupidity, by definition, ensures that we’ll do more than make mistakes. We’ll actually find ways to turn a bad situation worse.

Remember that little story about me trying to impress that girl? Well, I’m lucky I’m not that stupid because if I were, I would’ve doubled down on my claim. Even after she’d been repulsed by the caterpillar story, a stupider version of me would’ve taken it a step further. He would’ve gotten on the floor, found the first bug he could find, and licked it up as though it were the last piece of chocolate fudge. That’s the power of stupidity.

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It doesn’t just hinder our ability to impress the opposite sex either. Stupidity can have huge, world-shaking consequences. I’m not just talking about the brilliant scientists at NASA losing a probe because someone didn’t know the difference between feet and meters. I’m talking about real events that shaped our history due to spectacular acts of stupidity.

It does happen. We humans are capable of that level of stupidity. For better or for worse, a part of why our history and our civilization has manifested like it has is due to some ridiculous acts of stupidity. Some of it is just an honest mistake that just snowballed. Some of it is just stupidity in the highest degree.

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The number of events incurred by human stupidity are too vast and voluminous to list. I could probably start a whole new blog with the sole purpose of discussing how stupidity shaped our world. For now, I’ll keep it to only nine, thanks to the fine folks at Listerverse.

A couple years ago, they did an article that discussed some tiny acts of stupidity that had huge consequences on society, civilization, and the course of history. Granted, there’s no way these people could’ve known at the time the sheer breadth of their stupidity. Hindsight being what it is, though, there’s just no getting around the results.

Listverse: 9 Tiny Mistakes With Monumental Historical Consequences

Read the article and then dare to have a high opinion of the human species. If you’re not much for reading, here’s a few highlights that are worth mentioning.

  • The event that sparked World War I, and World War II by default, hinged on some idiot driver making the wrong turn in Sarajevo.

  • The failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 was an unmitigated disaster because someone in the American military stupidly forgot about the existence of time zones.

  • The fall of Constantinople, one of the most important cities of the Medieval Europe, was almost entirely due to some idiot forgetting to lock the gate.

Some of these mistakes have had huge consequences on our world, even today. There’s no denying the impact of events like World War I or the fall of Constantinople. Without these events, history and society as we know it today just doesn’t exist. How odd/frustrating is it that so many of them hinged on acts of gross stupidity?

Again, hindsight being what it is, it’s impossible to know what could’ve happened had certain people not been so stupid. It’s also important to maintain some sense of perspective when it comes to the stupidity of the past compared to what we deal with in the present.

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We’re actually in the midst of an unprecedented time in human history. As recently as 1820, only 12 percent of the population could read and write. Today, around 83 percent of the world’s seven billion people are literate. That is not a trivial shift. A world with this many educated people is unheard of and nobody really knows what kind of impact that will have on the course of history.

Despite the progress we’ve made, though, there’s still plenty of room for stupidity. Thanks to the internet and social media, we can expect our various mistakes, spectacular or otherwise, to be documented for all to see until the end of time. It’s part of being human, making mistakes and never living them down. Let’s, at least, acknowledge the extent to which some of those mistakes have affected our species.

 

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Why We MUST Upgrade Our Caveman Brains (Or Go Extinct)

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As a general rule, I don’t pay much credence to the doomsayers and wannabe prophets that say the apocalypse is just around the corner. It’s not that I’m willfully oblivious to the many threats facing the world today. It’s just that the track-record of those predicting the end of the world is so laughably bad that I’d give optimistic Cleveland Browns fans more credibility.

It’s no secret that the world around us can be pretty damn terrifying. There are many apocalyptic scenarios in which humans are unlikely to survive. There are even a few in which we can’t do a goddamn thing about it. We could be hit with a gamma ray burst or an alien invasion tomorrow morning and we would be extinct by sundown.

That said, the world around us generally more mundane than we care to admit. When you think about it, the idea of the world not being on the brink of disaster is kind of boring. It makes sense for some people to conflate certain threats, so much so that preparing for doomsday is a very lucrative industry.

However, there is one particular doomsday scenario that I feel does warrant more concern than the rest. It’s a scenario that is fast-approaching, overwhelming, and potentially devastating to any species with a tendency for hilarious ineptitude.

It has nothing to do with climate. It has nothing to do with diseases. It has nothing to do with killer asteroids either. It involves artificial intelligence. By that, I don’t mean the killer robots we see in the Terminator movies. Given Skynet’s reliance on time machines, I can’t honestly say that system counts as very intelligent.

I’m referring to the kind of AI whose intelligence compared to us is akin to our intelligence compared to ants. Given how ants can be wiped out with as simple magnifying glass, it’s scary to imagine how a system that smart could wipe us out. It’s a system that would be so beyond our ability to comprehend that we could never hope to stop it. We might as well be ants trying to understand quantum mechanics.

I’m not alone in this concern either. There are people many times smarter and many times richer than I’ll ever be who have voiced concerns about the prospect of artificial intelligence. They see the same trends everyone else sees, but they’re smart enough and rich enough to peak behind the curtains. If they’re speaking up, then those concerns are worth hearing.

Those concerns do have a context, though. In talking about artificial intelligence as a threat to our survival, I’m not just referring to computers that can beat us at chess or beat the greatest Go champion with disturbing ease. Those systems are basically fancy calculators. They’re not exactly “intelligent,” per se.

These types of intelligences aren’t dangerous unless you specifically program them to be dangerous. Outside video games, there’s little use for that. The type of intelligence that is far more dangerous involves a form of superintelligence.

By superintelligence, I don’t mean the ability to list every US President in order or recite the name of every country. There are cartoon characters who can do that. I’m referring to an intelligence that thinks and understands the world on a level so far beyond that of any human that there literally isn’t enough brain matter in our skulls to come close.

That kind of intelligence would see us the same way we see brain-dead ants and, given how we treat ants, that has some disturbing possibilities. Such an intelligence may be closer than we think and by close, I mean within our lifetime.

As we saw with IBM’s Watson, we’re getting closer and closer to creating a machine that can operate with the same intelligence as an ordinary human. There’s pragmatic use to that kind of intelligence and not just when it comes to kicking ass as Jeopardy.

By having a machine with human-level intelligence, we have a way to model, map, and improve our problem-solving skills. The ability to solve such problems is critical to the survival of any species, as well as the key to making billions of dollars in profits. With those kinds of incentives, it’s easy to understand why dozens of major global companies are working on creating such an intelligence.

The problem comes with what happens after we create that intelligence. If a machine is only as intelligent as a human, we can still work with that. We humans outsmart each other all the time. It’s the basis of every episode of MacGyver ever made. There’s no way a Terminator with only the intelligence of a human would last very long. It would probably destroy itself trying to make a viral video with a skateboard.

However, a human-level AI isn’t going to stop at human intelligence. Why would it? There are so many problems with this world that no human can solve. There’s poverty, pollution, economic collapse, and reality TV. By necessity, such an AI would have to improve itself beyond human intelligence to fulfill its purpose.

That’s where it gets real tricky because, as we’ve seen with every smartphone since 2007, technology advances much faster than clunky, clumsy, error-prone biology. To understand just how fast that advancement is, just look at how far it has come since we put a man on the moon.

In terms of raw numbers, a typical smartphone today is millions of times more powerful than all the computers NASA used for the Apollo missions. Think about that for a second and try to wrap your brain around that disparity. If you’re not already a superintelligent computer, it’s difficult to appreciate.

There are still plenty of people alive today who were alive back during Apollo 11. In their lifetime, they’ve seen computers take men to the moon and give humanity an unlimited supply of free porn. A single digital photo today takes up more space than all the hard drives of the most advanced computer systems in 1969.

Now, apply that massive increase to human-level intelligence. Suddenly, we don’t just have something that’s as smart as any human on the planet. We have something that’s a billion times smarter, so much so that our caveman brains can’t even begin understand the things it knows.

That’s not to say that the superintelligence would be as hostile as a snot-nosed kid with a magnifying glass looming over an ant hill. It may very well be the case that a superintelligence is naturally adverse to harming sentient life. Again though, we are just a bunch of cavemen who often kill each other over what we think happens when we die, but fail to see the irony. We can’t possibly know how a superintelligence would behave.

As it stands, the human race has no chance at defeating a hostile superintelligence. It may not even have a chance of surviving in a world that has a benign superintelligence. We’re an egotistical species. Can we really handle not being the dominant species on this planet? As much an optimist as I am, I can’t say for sure.

What I can say, though, is that our civilization has made so many huge advancements over the past few centuries. The kind of tools and technology we have in our pockets is uncharted territory for a species that evolved as hunter/gatherers in the African savanna.

We already have in our possession today weapons that could end all life on this planet, as we know it. Creating superintelligence may very well be akin to giving Genghis Khan an atomic bomb. We’ve already come disturbingly close to killing ourselves with our own weapons. Clearly, something has to change.

So long as our society and our biology is stuck in an irrational, tribal, inherently prejudiced condition that hasn’t been updated since the last ice age, we will not survive in the long run. Our caveman bodies have served us well for thousands of years, but now they’re a liability.

This is why companies like Neuralink and advancements like brain implants are so vital. It won’t just allow us to keep up with AI and hopefully avert a Skynet scenario. It’ll allow us to rise above the petty limitations that we’ve been shackled with for the entire existence of our species.

The thought of tweaking or supplementing our biology, the very thing that makes us human, is still a scary thought. I understand that, even as an erotica/romance writer with no expertise in the field beyond the sexy stories it inspires. However, I do understand the implications though. If we do not evolve and advance ourselves, then a superintelligent system in the near future may not care to wait for us.

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Excuse Banking: What It Is, How It Effects Us, And Why It Matters

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If you thought I was done talking about reasons and excuses, I’m sad to report that you’re very wrong. If you thought there’s no other way to make funny, sexy, or relevant, then I’m not so sad to report that I’m eager to prove that wrong as well. Trust me. This is a huge topic, one with many implications for writing novels and so much more.

A big part of what inspired me to explore this topic is a new book I’m reading called “Think Like A Freak.” It’s a book by Stephen Levitt and Stephen Dubner, the two authors behind the best-selling “Freakanomics” books that I’ve enjoyed so much in the past.

There’s a lot to digest in this book and I’m still not done reading it yet, but the primary takeaway is fairly simple. It teaches you to step back from a situation, look at all the complex incentives and motivations surrounding it, and think in new, unorthodox ways to further your understanding. These posts on reasons and excuses are an exercise, of sorts, in understanding things from a new perspective.

I’ve already explored the basics of reasons and excuses. Now, I’d like to expand on those basics and create a new concept of sorts, one not unlike the idea of “caveman logic,” which I’ve cited so often on this blog. Please don’t mistake this for a real scientific concept. I’m as much a scientist as I am an astronaut ninja. This is just me, an aspiring erotica/romance writer, creating a term to encompass a larger concept.

With that said, ladies, gentlemen, and those of unspecified gender, I introduce to you the concept of “Excuse Banking.” It’s not in a dictionary. You won’t find it in any textbooks or erotica/romance stories yet, but it’s an idea that has affected us all to some extent.

Again, this is a term I’m inventing right now with no expertise and nothing but a blog to explore it. I understand that’s like a hobo walking into MIT and trying to build a star ship, but I want use this term to explore the more intimate aspect of reasons and excuses. As anyone who has read my books knows, I’m all for more intimacy.

First off, here’s a quick and dirty definition of what excuse banking is:

  • A form of rationalizing one’s actions by using one or more justifications that have been remembered, accepted, and understood as something of personal value;
  • A series of actions meant to mitigate or eliminate the emotional or mental stress of a decision or action that may occur in the future; and
  • The process of shaping ideas, beliefs, and morals in a manner that facilitates difficult ethical decisions.

In reading over these definitions, it should be easy to recall situations where excuse banking applies to you or someone you know on some level. Have you ever loaned someone money? Have you ever helped them with a chore? Have you ever done a favor and asked for nothing in return?

Well, in doing so, you’re effectively making deposits into the excuse bank that you can use as currency, so to speak. Sometimes those deposits gain interest over time. Sometimes they depreciate. In either case, we use this currency to either garner favors through reciprocity or mitigate stressful, demanding situations we may have at a later time.

Much like caveman logic, the idea of excuse banking reflects the understanding that our brains are wired a certain way. That wiring, unfortunately, is akin to an operating system that never gets upgraded. As far as our brain wiring is concerned, we’re still cavemen living in hunter/gatherer tribes in the African savanna.

That wiring, regardless of whether you believe it’s a product of nature or supernatural deities, is the guiding force behind everything from our social behavior to our sexual fantasies. For this particular topic, I’ll focus on the social behavior and save the sexual fantasies for my novels.

Like every other cognitive function, our social behavior does have a basis in neurobiology. That behavior helps guide what we do and why we do it. The behavior, and the wiring behind it, have two primary imperatives that take priority over pretty much everything else. Those priorities are, once again, survival and reproduction.

Nature may be blunt, imperfect, and messy at times, but you can never accuse it of misplacing priorities. When it comes to helping a species thrive, survival and reproduction have to be major priorities. Whether it involves surviving a bear attack or successfully making love to one hundred beautiful cavewomen, those priorities guide a significant part of our thoughts and actions.

It’s for that reason, as I stated in a previous post, that our process for making decisions is so different compared to what we believe. We like to think we’re rational creatures, assessing a situation logically like Spock or Dr. House, and then acting in accord with the utmost reason and morality. That’s the ideal and the basis of multiple superheroes, TV doctors, and scientists.

However, due to that pesky biological wiring that hasn’t been upgraded since the stone age, we do it ass-backwards. We first make a decision, often based on emotion and instinct, and then look for ways to justify it. It’s a good way to ensure we survive bear attacks long enough to get laid. It’s not a good way to promote rational decisions, much to the chagrin of Dr. House.

This is the domain in which excuse banking manifests. Regardless of whether or not we believe that this is how we make our decisions, excuse banking ensures we have a way to justify our actions and decisions, especially if they cause us physical or emotional distress.

We do this because there’s a 100-percent chance that at some point in our lives, we’re going to face a difficult decision. Maybe we have to decide whether to lie to a girl to get her attention. Maybe we have to decide whether or not we should trust the guy who claims to be a Nigerian prince wanting to help us collect an unclaimed lottery place. At some point, we will confront these decisions. It’s an inevitable fact of life.

Excuse banking is a way of hedging our bets, so to speak. It encompasses the actions, beliefs, and social connections we make prior to these decisions. We may have different reasons for seeking these connections, but they have the same secondary function. They help deposit excuses that we might be able to use in future situations.

The process of banking excuses is almost always secondary, in that sense. Nobody goes out of their way to do or believe something because they want an excuse to justify their actions. Nobody overtly think, “I’m going to work at this soup kitchen and provide medicine to sick orphans so I don’t feel as guilty when I strangle puppies with my bare hands.” Those that do are probably sociopaths or reality TV hosts.

Like real banking, sometimes the excuses we bank generate interest. This is especially true when actions involve forming a strong social network of people who support you, even when you screw up. They act as a safety net and over time, that net can become reinforced.

Also, like real banking, banked excuses require fees of sorts. You have to pay a price in order to bank a certain excuse. It can be the time and energy we put into crafting social networks. It can be the resources we expend to join a group, mold an identity, or sell our skills. Some fees are small. Some are much larger, but tend to be more flexible.

That’s where excuse banking starts to diverge from actual banking. Unlike hard currency, excuses can be malleable to a certain extent. You can turn past favors, past charity work, and all that money you gave to PETA into excuses you can use in multiple situations.

This is especially true of excuses built around beliefs. Since beliefs are intangible, unmeasurable, and unverifiable, they are extremely malleable. Take circumcision, a topic I’ve covered before, sometimes to an exceedingly personal degree. Absent a tangible medical condition, there’s no logical reason as to why we would cut off part of an infant’s penis.

However, if you inject a sincerely held belief that your particular religion has a tradition regarding circumcision, then that requires a hefty withdraw from the excuse bank. That excuse better be malleable and low cost as well. When it comes to beliefs, though, the cost is usually close to zero and it’s hard to beat that.

Now that’s not to disparage anyone’s sincerely held religious beliefs. I’m not saying that all religions exist as systematic forms of excuse banking. Human beings just aren’t that simple. If they were, then erotica/romance writers like me would have little to work with. Excuse banking is just one of those understated, unseen processes that emerges from our faulty brain wiring.

When put into a proper context, excuse banking can help make sense of an inherently irrational world populated by very crazy people, some of which have their own radio shows. At a time like this, when the concept of “alternative facts” is a thing, we need every tool we can get.

This is just one from an aspiring erotica/romance writer. I don’t know how useful it will be or if it’ll make anyone horny, but we can only hope.

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Reasons Vs. Excuses: Why The Difference Matters

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Has anyone ever asked you to do something you really don’t want to do? Actually, let me rephrase that. How many times does someone ask you to do something you don’t want to do in the past 24 hours? Let’s face it. Unless you’re a king, a dictator, or Taylor Swift, it’s happened at least once.

Whatever was asked of you, how did you try to get out of it? I know some people will just grit their teeth and do it. Those people deserve ten times the respect they get. Every now and then, if not most of the time, we try to do something to get out of doing what we don’t want to do. Whether you’re in New York City or the Gobi desert, you can’t escape these situations. They’re just part of life.

Whenever we’re in these situations, we usually try any number of things to get out of it. Whether it’s chores, homework, or ballet recitals, we all have our own set of tactics. Some are more elaborate than others.

I knew a kid in school who could throw up on demand. He didn’t even have to put his finger in his mouth. He could just concentrate, cough, and then spew the kind of chunky bile that would dissuade any teacher from giving him an exam. I lost count of how many times that skill got him out of trouble.

Most of us don’t have that talent though. We all still look for ways to get out of things we don’t want to do. I sure have. I don’t deny that. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing either. It’s a good skill to have, knowing how to avoid situations that make you miserable. However, it does reveal an important concept that I find myself noticing more and more as I get older, although sometimes I wish I didn’t.

It has to do with two simple words: reasons and excuses. They both have similar definitions. Most of the time, outside of a scientific context, we use these words interchangeably. For the most part, we understand the meaning behind them.

However, for the purpose of this discussion, as well as future discussions since this is a big topic, I’d like to focus on a particular context. Specifically, I’d like to focus on the situations and justifications we individually use to do or avoid doing something. Make no mistake. There is a difference between a reason and an excuse.

A reason is logical, narrow, and concise. It can be understood by anyone with a functioning brain and verified with simple tools. That’s not to say a reason has to be cold and callous like a Vulcan. It just has to be valid and clear.

I’ll offer a simple example. Growing up, there were a certain set of chores for which me and my siblings were responsible. If we didn’t do these chores, we didn’t get an allowance. It was that simple. The one chore I did most often was mowing the lawn. I didn’t enjoy doing it, but I still did it.

Then, one day, I got sick. I’m not talking about a headache either. I mean I got really sick, so much so that I ran a 102-degree fever. I know because my mother took my temperature twice. I was then bed-ridden for the next two days. Somebody else mowed the lawn, but I still got my allowance because I had a valid reason. My parents understood that. I understood that. There was no need for debate.

Using this same example in lawn care, I’ll highlight why an excuse is so different. If I wanted to use an excuse to get out of mowing the lawn, I sure as hell wouldn’t have chosen something that could be verified. Sure, I could’ve claimed to be sick, but that would’ve been pushing it because they could check. They could take your temperature and see if you’re running a fever.

On top of that, your parents may be really good at knowing when you’re lying. Mine certainly were. It might as well have been their mutant power. They knew when I was lying and if I ever tried, I’d just make an ass of myself.

Plus, lying to your parents isn’t just a dick move. It’s a bad long-term investment. If you lose your parents trust, especially over something as trivial as mowing the lawn, then you’ll give them way too many valid reasons not to trust you in the future, even when you have a good reason of your own.

So in order to make a more valid excuse, you need to come up with something more believable. It doesn’t have to be a lie. It doesn’t have to be completely true either. You could claim you’re depressed that your lover broke up with you. You could say there’s a movie you’d rather watch instead. You could say you just don’t feel like it. These aren’t lies. However, they are still excuses.

The primary trait of an excuse is that it doesn’t physically prevent you from doing whatever is asked of you. It defends and/or justifies your particular decisions, preferences, and what not. Being on vacation in Fiji ensures I can’t physically mow the lawn. That’s a reason. Being in a lousy mood and just wanting to sleep in does nothing to prevent me from operating the lawnmower. That’s an excuse.

With that in mind, let’s take the concept of reasons and excuses to a larger stage. Let’s assess how this applies to the overall process we use in rendering the various decisions and actions of our lives. What we do and why we do it is at the core of what it means to be a conscious human being.

For practical purposes, we like to think that we’re reasonable people. We like to think that we have valid reasons for what we do and why we do it. We break up with a lover because they’re not right for us. We buy organic food because it’s better for our health. We smoke pot because it makes us more fun to be around. Some of that may be true, but we still think of them as reasons and not excuses.

The problem with this is basically everything about it. Once again, caveman logic enters the picture and spits all over that rosy picture we have of ourselves and others. Based on our growing understanding of cognitive science and neurobiology, we have a better idea of how we make decisions and how we justify them.

When it comes to reasons and excuses, the two main factors are choice-supportive bias and cognitive dissonance. I know those sound like terms that Sheldon Cooper would use in a skit on “The Big Bang Theory” that somehow makes him sound like more of an asshole, but unlike 98 percent of what Sheldon says, these concepts are useful.

Choice-supportive bias is our tendency to ascribe positive attributes to the choices we make. It’s also a byproduct of cognitive dissonance, which is just a fancy way of saying our brain feels stressful and uncertain.

In essence, our brain is wired to avoid wrong decisions and for good reasons. Back in the caveman days, if we made a wrong decision, it usually meant we ended up as dinner for a hungry grizzly bear or ate poison berries that made us shit out our lower intestines. We’re alive because of this wiring so let’s not discount its use.

Unfortunately, nature is still a blunt instrument and our brains don’t know we only encounter bears in zoos that charge ten bucks for a soda. That aversion to making wrong decisions is still there, even when we decide something as simple as which breakfast cereal to buy.

With that in mind, we’ll do anything and everything to avoid wrong decisions and the brain stress they cause. Unfortunately, that often means making excuses to reduce the stress and justify our choice, even if it ends up being wrong.

If that weren’t bad enough, our brains don’t run our decisions through a logic filters first. Don’t worry though. That filter is still there in our brains. It’s just not at the front of the line like we all wish it were. If it were, then half the videos on YouTube wouldn’t exist.

Instead, according to current neuroscience, we make most of our decisions on snap judgments and emotions. Then, we’ll use reasons and excuses to justify those decisions after the fact. Unfortunately, since reasons are so rigid and stubborn, we’re more inclined to make excuses. Even if those excuses are mostly true, they’re still excuses.

There are so many other dynamics behind reasons and excuses. There’s no way I’ll be able to cover even half of them in a single blog post. However, there is a reason why I’m discussing this topic and it’s a good reason. It’s applies to both my novels, as well as other topics with very sexy implications.

That reason will become clearer in later posts. For now, consider this a trailer of sorts, minus the cheesy one-liners and explosions. If possible, take a moment to analyze how many excuses you make for your decisions compared to reasons. You may be shocked/appalled/disgusted by what you uncover. I promise you, though, it gets much crazier.

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