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Monday, May 2, 2022

Random Rewards are Powerful... and Dangerous

 There’s a proven psychological effect in which a randomly-issued reward will generate a stronger “reward” impulse than a consistently-provided reward. Even if the consistent reward is more frequently provided and the rewards dispensed by either method are identical.

This is an important thing for all humans to understand. It’s

Important for introspection and reflection on the behaviors of others as individuals and on the flow of society as an aggregate of individuals.

It’s important to understand this effect and how it drives impulses in us, and around us. It’s important to understand how it alters our behaviors because, in my, granted very limited in scope and depth, observation is that people who understand and move through life with purpose tend to be more successful.

It doesn’t matter how one measures success - whatever goal you are seeking is more achievable when you understand yourself, understand the path between where you are and the goal, and when you understand those with whom you will interact along the path. 

The question then becomes - does their purpose align with their happiness or not? This is not a question that can be answered by anyone other than a person’s own internal emotional barometer. Those closest to them can, surely, identify when things induce unhappiness but the inner peace of happiness can only be identified and differentiated from contentment and inert apathy by the beholder.

Which brings us back around to the specific psychological effect of random rewards. If one is on their journey toward success and that journey is contra to their own happiness then the intermittent positive rewards along the path will induce a form of short term happiness that can be deceptive toward the long-term health. These short-term flares of dopamine can seem greater, and truly be more addictive, than a sustained level of happiness brought forth by a parallel journey whose goal is happiness.

It’s important to understand this effect on psychology and how it can alter your own views on the world to bring you short term positive feelings but it’s also important to recognize how it can undermine your long term well-being.

The classic example of this is an experiment with rats. Rats were given levers. One lever did nothing. One lever always dispensed a treat. One lever would randomly dispense a treat. Rats literally worked themselves to death pushing the random lever to get the next treat instead of just going to the treat lever.

A more overt and obvious analogy to the rats and the levers can be found with humans and slot machines. The “the next pull is a winner! I can feel it!” concept is this physiological effect working on the mind of the one playing the machine.

But overt gambling isn’t the only place this happens.

One example can be found in friendships.

A long, sustained and constantly-positive friendship is a valuable thing to have but they are often pushed aside when one of the friends gains a new romantic partner because the NRE (new relationship energy) is a disruptive, randomly-presented reward that gives a similar emotional comfort to the long-term relationship. 

It’s normal for NRE to disrupt a person’s life and existing relationships in almost all ways. Eventually the NRE interactions settle down into a “standing wave” of predictability and the psychological effect of randomness in the reward ceases, allowing the steady positive interactions to become ingrained in the return to normalcy. 

There are, however, people who get so distracted by NRE that, when it starts to become supplied regularly, they lose all interest in the steady-supply and MUST chase the “high” of the next random provider of attention.

This is a detectable pattern and one that can cause harm to everyone involved, hence the reason why it’s important to understand this psychological effect when it is present in others…

In a milder relationship example this can be found when an individual finds that they are always the one reaching out to others and that their efforts are often left unanswered for days or weeks at a time but, when the party finally reaponds, they feel obligated to keep trying; to keep the thread of friendship alive because the random responses push those psychological buttons.

This is why it’s important to understand this phenomenon in ourselves; we need to know when to let go of people who are nothing more than random reward distributors to us. We need to have the strength to see imbalances energy and walk away from it when it is unhealthy to us… and, in extreme cases, we need to be able to see a random reward giver as the abuser they are (not all random reward givers are abusers but it seems to be a psychological tool that all abusers instinctively know and utilize to their benefit). 

I want everyone I know to find their path to success and I want them to find a path to happiness and I desperately want for those paths to not conflict. I want them all to understand their own reactions to stimuli so that they can navigate our world and the interruptions to the paths we walk in the best way possible.

Most importantly, I want to make sure I always understand my own behaviors to ensure I never use this trick against anyone else. I don’t want to be a villain and the things that stick to my mind the most are those when I accidentally harmed others through my own ignorance or carelessness. I hope that being aware of mental processes like this one will help me better-attain that which I want from life while also allowing me to be a better person overall.

And no, despite the content about relationships, there is NOTHING in this post related to my relationship with my lovely wife. We’re good. I just think a lot about a lot of things and sometimes have to write them out to ensure they leave my squishy skull fat’s priority processing queue.

Monday, February 21, 2022

On Human Evolution

This post is brought to you buy the anti-science, anti-intellectualism movement that continues to exist in today's world; specifically, the anti-evolution movement that fails to understand evolution in any capacity.

More specifically, it is brought by the comment that spawned this TikTok video by @science_is_real.



    I saw this a few days ago and the mathematics have been plaguing me since. Why? Because this is an example which can be converted into a path that can be followed.

There has been a lot of research into the correlation between spleen size and ability to do longer, deeper dives in humans: fro reference: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3376424/
And even to causality of spleen size variance during breath-holding experiments: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0068670 (this study only had 12 participants so it may not be entirely representative of the overall human population).
Interestingly, the spleen size has a wide variance in the human population and, unlike the other organs, is very malleable; it changes in response to, well, everything. 

The malleable nature of the spleen makes it difficult to clearly and absolutely analyze; difficult, but not impossible. 

This is the point where I remind you that I'm no one special. I am merely inquisitive and like answers. I like data. I like seeing how the world works.

So, for a hypothetical examination of how the divers outlined in the video have been evolving we have to start with a hypothetical starting point. Let us say that there were 2,500 individuals as part of a nomad tribe. When they decided to settle into their lives of huts built on stilts they were no different from the average human population. So their spleens would have had the wide variance of 93 to 253 mL in volume as a resting, healthy, size. Furthermore, during the breath-holding experiments the variance in size was recorded spanning a range of 7% to 20% in spleen volume reduction. 

Despite the small sample size of the study we can still use these numbers as a baseline for a crude model that can show how populations change over time. We have two variables to track: resting size and contraction during breath holding. Because the mechanism of longer divers seems to be that their spleens release red blood cells into the blood during the breath holding I will presume that the larger contractibility of the spleen correlates to better survival rates during long dives.

Now, let's presume that the figures mentioned above are our 1 standard deviation posts, meaning that 2/3 the population will have their normal function within those ranges for both sets. 95% of the population will within twice the range (this is a guess since I don't have an actual standard deviation to work with) and only extraordinarily great or poor spleen performances will be outside those ranges at a rate of 2.5% of the population each.

Free Diving, as a sport, has an absurdly high death rate (as in, it's so high why would anyone do it?) of 1 in 500 dives among the recreational population. At expert levels, which the current peoples of aquatic cultures would certainly rival, the rate is reduced to 1 in 50,000 dives due to the extensive levels of safeguards in place at competitions ( https://freedivingfreedom.com/risks-of-freediving/freediving-death-rates-the-shocking-reality/ ).

As tempting as it is to say that the original stilt-house divers would have the same death rate as today's recreational freedivers we cannot denigrate them to that level. It would have caused them to go extinct quickly if the entire population were dying at a rate of 1 death per 500 dives whilst diving several times a day each. So quickly, in fact, that they would suffer 4x the number of diving deaths as they have people if they only dove 5x a day - keeping in mind that each free dive is ONE breath.

I will, instead, give a blanket rate of 30% deaths per generation due to diving accidents and presume that a reasonable percentage of the population dies per generation due to unrelated causes (50% is what I am using for the remaining mathematics as a 50% death rate over the course of 20 years seems reasonable through age, accidents, and disease in a culture that is not readily prepared with modern safety equipment and medicine). Couple it with a growth rate of 110% and there are more babies made per generation than there are deaths, so the community grows.

The 50% death rate really has no direct impact on the specific mutation of spleen enlargement that we are looking to follow so we can discount it completely when it comes to the genetics involved, but it has to be considered for overall population size. Which means that, among the 30% who died in dive deaths, we can presume that the majority of them died due to their inability to perform the dive tasks and that that is a direct result of their spleen size and lung capacity. Therefore, their removal from the gene pool will remove those at the bottom of the spleen functionality end of the gene pool before they can generate many offspring.

From these assumptions we have the following crude simulated population growth:




If Natural Selection were not at work on this population through the adversity of the constant free diving then the spleen size among the population wouldn't be altered but, because that excessive stress on the population exists we can see how it affects portions of the population differently.

The model presumes that the worst 95% of the small-spleen crowd die each generation from dive-related injuries with 95% of remainder of those deaths coming from those who have average spleens. As you can see it only takes a single generation to wipe those with smaller spleens off the population chart.


Which leads to a different population breakdown as early as the first generation of people born in to the environment.




What fascinated me the most about this is how quickly such an adverse condition can dramatically change a population. 
I expected, when I set out to make this model, that it would take at least 500 years (25 generations) to show any significant change to the population and I am quite surprised that it only took two generations to eradicate the smaller spleens from the group with a fatality rate that is less than 10% that of the recreational free diving death rate among the world today. 

While "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" is really not applicable to individuals, it certainly is to populations.

Isolation plus adversity drives Natural Selection and, in turn, evolution. 






Wednesday, February 16, 2022

My View on Relationships

 Conceptual thinking sometimes makes language communication difficult.

I find this when I try to convey certain parts of how I see the world.

Much of human relationships, to me, seem to be based on societal rules that are steeped in tradition and based on rules that might have, in some cases, once had value but which now are entirely arbitrary.

I don't see the obvious lines that allow people in society to compartmentalize people into one pool or another and no one can clearly see the private lines that individuals use to compartmentalize others.

For me, though, I don't even see clear lines.

The first of the filters I use, which is the first filter every sighted person encounters, whether one admits it or not, is attractiveness. We all encounter another's attractiveness when we meet a new person. Sometimes it's in the photons reflecting off their being and sometimes it is in their "customer service" voice on the phone. But the very first thing that hits our amygdala is a reaction of attraction or repulsion.

BUT, because we are evolved beings, with larger cranial cavities that host larger brains we have additional resources well beyond those contained in the tiniest corner of our ancestral reactionism. We override our initial reactions with our conditioned behaviors which is what allows us to progress to the next steps.

For me, the next step can be any of the next three items, but both are essential. Which comes first depends entirely on the circumstances so I will list them in the order of importance to me.

1. Are they a jerk? 

2. Are they morally and ethically compatible with me?

3. Are they bellignorant (belligerently ignorant)?

The answers to the above not only determine whether or not I like someone but they also can feed directly back into my perception of their physical attraction and rewrite my basic amygdalic response to their appearance. If they are kind and giving, aligned with my morality and ethics, and have a passion for knowing correct information about the world they become orders of magnitude more attractive than just their physical appearance can ever be.

This is why, I believe, I can admire the beauty of a human in the same exact way I admire the beauty of a painting. I have found myself doing this to people in public and even once had a roommate who was so gorgeous that gazing upon her burned my soul the way the sun burns eyes. 

I have come to learn, though, that this reaction to human beauty is not a normal thing. The masses seem unable to do it and, as a result, staring is a behavior that is greatly avoided. Staring is either seen as rude, and pointing out someone's grave misfortune, or a threatening behavior that warrants extra caution. Because I am not a bellignorant jerk who forsakes the common morality I have learned to not stare at a person who is uncommonly attractive.

I have also come to learn that the masses seem unable to diminish their lust for attention from someone they find attractive even when they find the person a horrible example of humanity. This is something that does not affect me. Once I discover someone is horrible, even if they are a living artwork, I will cease to find any attraction to them and want nothing more to do with them.

This plays into my life fairly regularly. All of my celebrity crushes are based on my understanding of WHO the person is balanced against their looks.  Of course, all of my celebrity crushes are women because, regrettably*, I have no intimate inclinations toward men despite my ability to see men as being works of art just as much as women can be (Chris Pine, for example, especially his eyes, is a captivating piece of masculine artwork to behold). 

Among people, I know this directly affects whom I wish to spend time with. Once one passes the above criteria my curiosity will be piqued tremendously and I will find an interest in knowing more about you. Do we share similar interests? If so, my interest will flare greater. Is the person smart? I don't mean educated (as that is partially included above) as someone can know lots of things and not be smart, likewise, someone can be very smart and not know lots of things, too. The ability to reason, the desire to think. The curiosity to explore the intricacies of the world are the type of smarts that enchant me. Does the person think about the huge questions of life, the universe, and everything or are they focussed on the small-world gossip that drives so many of the people I cannot stand?

I find that the majority of my friends, the majority of people I desire to spend time with, all share these five points. 

And I hope I, to them, live up to the standards I have outlined here.

But this is just the foundation of the building I am trying to build with these words.

Because the building is where I deviate from society in ways that make me feel lonely quite often.

I do not understand romance. I once had an opportunity to experience the fires of passion in my heart but that fuse was burnt out and has never healed; partially because I did not understand romance and the target of my passion could not accept my inability to be romantic. 

I can see the origination of the taboo against sex as a means of managing the responsibilities of offspring but I also see how that should have been abandoned long ago and replaced with of a plethora of existing cultural norms surrounding sex, if not something completely unthought of.

As such, because the taboos really make no sense, I cannot incorporate them into my being. 

Why is sex the definitive line for cheating? I have seen Bromances that were more intimate on an emotional level than most couples ever attain. I have seen hetero-lifemates who are not sexually active achieve the same. I have seen couples who don't have any sex at all. Why is sexual intercourse the specific hard-line value that society determined is the big problem?

It shouldn't be.

In fact, there shouldn't be any hard lines at all. 

Every two people have a unique relationship that is ever-evolving. No relationship is EVER exactly the same, even between two individuals it morphs from moment to moment, constantly changing slightly. 

It is, in my opinion, and according to my entire moral being, entirely between two beings how to manage and maintain their relationship. Each of them may have obligations due to other relationships they are embedded in, but those are their responsibility to manage. Anyone not in a direct linkage with either party has no say in any type of friendship, or otherwise, that two parties maintain.  Within each relationship each of the two participants has the duty to clearly communicate their needs, wants, and boundaries as well as to respect those of the other party.

And this includes sex. 

To me, sex is a fun activity that fulfills a biological urge. It is, to me, much like dining out with someone. It is, to me, much like playing a game with someone. It is, to me, much like going to the movies with someone. It is, to me, much like kissing someone. 

All of these activities are things I will greatly enjoy with people I want to spend time with and are things I would prefer to avoid when there are people I do not like involved. 

If this post makes you uncomfortable I ask you: why?

What about it challenges your reality that you feel so uncomfortable by it?

How does my seeing the world this way threaten you in any way? Do you fear losing a partner to this ideology? You shouldn't for if they find their heart aligns with this ideology then the ideology is already in them, lurking, waiting to manifest into comprehension inside their mind.

Do you feel that this means I am going to try to "steel" your partner? I can't. No one can STEAL someone's partner. For a partner to be stolen it means they had to be property. If someone is property then their agency is completely gone and they are not involved in the relationship of their own free will, they are embedded in it for some other reason. If they can be stolen then they were never yours.

Do you fear they may move along and find someone whose time they covet more than your own? How is that something created by this philosophy? People move out of relationships constantly and it has nothing to do with the monogamous culture in this country that is rooted in Chrisitan puritanism. If they are drifting from you then a closed and curated garden of people they can see will not stop them, nor will the wide-open world. Only the two of you can maintain your thread and it requires both parties to do it.

If you hate these words is it because of their ideas or because you are afraid of being lonely?

Well, I'm here to tell you that these ideas won't cause you to be lonely; loneliness comes from lacking connections to other people, not from having them.

My loneliness comes from the lack of additional threads I have in my life beyond the wonderful relationship I have with my spouse. My loneliness comes from having all of the ideas explained in these words (and more) and feeling so isolated from society because I cannot comprehend why these, obvious to me, ideas are not universally accepted.

I don't fear being abandoned because of these ideas. I fear never having enough people to fill my heart in the first place. 

*in many ways I wish I were able to build more intimate relationships with men but some childhood trauma at the hands of my male peers and strained connections with male role models as a child have made it very difficult to build great relationships with men as an adult. I also wish I could find men attractive because my inherent biological programming cuts out more than half the adult population from my options for sexuality... BUT, at the same time, I see how horrible men are toward women (and toward other men) in the dating scene and I am glad that my heternormativity makes me immune from having to pursue people who are so horrible.