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I call my generation the Shit Sandwich Generation. That's because when I was a kid the most important people in the family were the adults. That was the cultural norm. By the time I became an adult, eager for my time in the sun, society in the United States decided that kids were the top priority.

I can see why the shift happened. Life got complicated, and dangerous, and more competitive, so it was no longer feasible to raise "free range" kids the way my generation was raised. On weekends as a teen I would leave my house in the morning, on my bike, and had no obligation to check in with my parents until dinner at 5 PM. I often say I was raised by television. Like E.T., I watched actors on TV to see how one should act and speak. I was in my twenties before a Princeton-educated friend pointed out that "brang" is not a word.

My entire college preparation in high school was comprised of one meeting with a guidance counselor in which he showed me where the college catalogs were stored, plus one day of SAT testing. The rest I had to figure out on my own.

So my generation is sort of the shit between two slices of awesome bread. We take care of the kids. We take care of the aging parents. And sometimes we take care of the grandparents.

Both of my parents died in the past few years. My grandparents were already long gone. And as fate would have it, last year I got separated, which meant losing my wife and step-kids all at once.

Sounds bad, right?

I got a lot of sympathy last year. Man, was that misplaced.

No one would choose the situation I found myself in, but I recognized it as a rare blank slate. I was free to reinvent my social life in any fashion I liked. And I had resources to do just that.

My wife moved only a block away and we remain best friends. The problem was never our feelings for each other but rather the restrictions of blending two sets of preferences. In 2014, marriage is still the best economic arrangement for raising a family, but in most other senses it is like adding shit mustard to a shit sandwich. If an alien came to earth and wanted to find a way to make two people that love each other change their minds, I think he would make them live in the same house and have to coordinate every minute of their lives.

A hundred years ago, if you and your wife enjoyed square dancing, you had everything in common. There weren't any options to discuss. Those were simple times. But fast-forward to 2014 and every human wants to go a different direction. You want to take spin classes and I want to go golf. You want to do yoga and I want to go to the gun range. Every minute of every day involves one or both partners compromising. This is a first-world problem to be sure, but the effect is to rob you of your sensation of freedom. Members of the shit sandwich generation can go a full week without doing anything they choose to do at the moment they choose to do it. The kids need something right away, your spouse needs something, your boss needs something, and the house needs maintenance, and so on. The Shit Sandwich Generation is like puppets that have strings coming from above, below, and every side.

So there I was a year ago with a blank slate, no strings, and an option to create a life from scratch. It was a rare opportunity. The first principle I established for my engineered life involved recognizing that one person would never be the answer to all of my needs. So I looked at all the things I enjoy doing with other people and sought out the right people for those activities. The result is that no one is ever compromising. I only spend time with people who are doing what they want to do when they want to do it. And wow, does that make things nice.

Another pillar of my engineered life is full disclosure. I try to be honest about what I want from people. That's a bigger deal than it sounds because life is normally full of hidden agendas, especially in the man-woman realm. Going into this experiment I thought my honesty would be off-putting. But it turns out that people prefer the flawed and honest version of me over my more "managed" personality. I did not see that coming.

The third pillar of my experiment is releasing my expectations about others. I try to enjoy people for what they are willing to share, as opposed to resenting people for what I thought they should be doing and aren't. I could write an entire blog post on this topic, but for now let's say that if you have unreasonable expectations of other people they will continually disappoint you. But if you can learn to find joy from whatever people have to offer, life is like a candy store. Most people are givers, but they don't want anyone telling them what to give. Once you accept that reality, life is far more pleasant. Obviously this arrangement doesn't work within marriage because marriage is mostly a bunch of unreasonable expectations you put on each other.

Another thing I didn't see coming is that there are now more single than married people in the United States. That snuck up on me. So loneliness is more of a choice than a necessity in 2014.

I'm still early in my lifestyle experiment, but this past year was the most fun of my entire life. No other year comes close. My ex and my step-kids are still nearby and in my life, so that part is good. And the life I have engineered so far is nothing short of wonderful. If I told you what a typical Tuesday looks like for me these days, you'd cry.

I don't think traditional marriage is going away anytime soon. But it probably isn't a coincidence that there are more single and divorced people than ever. Traditional marriage is the biggest obstacle to happiness in the United States. I give it twenty years before society acknowledges it to be a bad fit for modern times.

In the future I think you will see organized groups of "friends" that share duties to make all of their lives easier. One friend might enjoy raising kids and hate working a traditional job, so that friend stays home and does childcare for several single parents in return for a share of the collective income of the group. That is just an example, but you can see how one might engineer a better system than marriage.

If you disagree with anything I've written today, look around the next time you are on vacation. When you see couples vacationing with friends they usually look happy. When you see a married couple having dinner together - just the two of them for the ten-thousandth time - they both look like they came from a funeral.

Marriage is probably a great solution for 20% of the public. The rest of us need better systems.

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Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book


P.S. Apparently someone can be a certified genius. ;-)



 
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Warning: This blog is written for a rational audience that likes to have fun wrestling with unique or controversial points of view. It is written in a style that can easily be confused as advocacy for one sort of unpleasantness or another. It is not intended to change anyone's beliefs or actions. If you quote from this post or link to it, which you are welcome to do, please take responsibility for whatever happens if you mismatch the audience and the content.

Note to Jezebel, Gawker, and Huffington Post:
When you quote this post out of context be sure to leave out the text that doesn't support your misleading headlines.
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Have you seen the horrific video of NFL player Ray Rice knocking his wife, Janay, unconscious in an elevator? It looks as if she slapped him a few times and he responded by knocking her unconscious with one blow. It is hard to watch.

The NFL came under great criticism for not coming down hard enough on Ray Rice for domestic abuse. Allegedly, that decision came before the NFL saw the elevator video. Once the video was released, the Ravens and the NFL had no choice - from a business perspective - but to suspend Rice.

Everyone seems to be on the same side of this issue now. When a 200-pound athlete knocks out a smaller woman, it doesn't matter if she started the fight. Rice's response was out of line with the threat. It wasn't likely that his wife's slaps were going to injure him physically.

There is one person who disagrees with the popular view: Ray Rice's wife. According to Janay's Instagram account she supports her husband and disagrees with the suspension for an event that both she and Ray had referred to as "mutual combat."

Now society has an interesting dilemma. On one hand, domestic abuse is such a huge problem that there really is no option but to come down hard on the perpetrators. And since it is common for spouses to stay in abusive marriages, society feels an obligation to protect people even when they don't ask for it, on the belief that they should ask for it, or they would if they could.

In this case, the media, the public, and the NFL have decided that their collective opinions about this matter are more important than the opinion of the victim. Or to put it another way, we have as a society infantilized Janay and judged her preferences to be misplaced or relatively unimportant.

And so the NFL has decided to follow Ray's example and punch his wife, figuratively speaking, by minimizing her wishes and ruining the career and reputation of the Rice family over this matter.

Or have they?

The other possibility is that Janay is a typical abused spouse that needs to leave her husband for safety reasons but is afraid to do so or doesn't know how. You can't rule out that possibility. Only the Rice's know what happens at home.

If society and the NFL follow the wishes of Janay Rice it will be bad for the business of football and it will set an extraordinarily bad example for future domestic violence cases. You wouldn't want future domestic abusers to think they can get away with their crimes by scaring their spouses to stay quiet. There has to be a credible threat from society that is independent from whether or not a spouse cooperates.

We are all working with incomplete information because we don't know much about what happened the night of the "mutual combat." One plausible explanation is that Janay started the slapping and realized too late that football players are trained from youth to slap away oncoming tacklers and blockers. And I don't think football players are trained to use restraint. None of this excuses Ray, but if Janay believes she has a share of the responsibility, and this was a one-off event - which she would presumably know - then the media and the NFL are making her a victim a second time.

So how do you form an opinion in the face of incomplete information? From our vantage point we can't know whether or not Janay is a classic abused spouse and needs all the outside help she can get. We also don't know if she is an intelligent adult who knows what she wants from her life and accepts her share of the responsibility for starting the elevator fight. If society makes the wrong assumptions, we risk double-victimizing Janay by ruining her married life. Or perhaps worse, we risk being seen as tolerating domestic abuse and by doing so we make it worse. There is a big risk if we get this wrong.

In the context of incomplete information, which way would you go? Should we perpetuate sexism by minimizing Janay's preferences, or should we be seen as tolerating domestic abuse, thus worsening it?

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Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book

 



 

 
Most sports were invented years ago. But much has changed since then. Equipment technology has improved. We have far more knowledge of health risks. Our attention spans have shrunk, and our options for leisure activities have increased. If you were to invent the rules of sports today, from a blank slate, you would do a lot of things differently.

For example, when tennis was invented, serving was just a way to start the rally. One player bunted the ball into the service box and it was on.

Fast-forward to 2014.

Now the pros are 6'8", their rackets and strings are made from exotic materials, and they are trained to serve at 140 miles per hour. As you might imagine, that creates a lot of double-faults and aces. Both are boring.

To fix tennis, eliminate the serve. That is already happening where I live. A group of folks in my town already play without the serve. Under the no-serve rules either player can start the rally and the point is live on the third hit. You play to 21, win by two, so no more funky tennis scoring with the 15-30-40 ridiculousness. This version of tennis is about twice as fun as playing serve-and-miss while wishing you were getting some exercise.

In 2014 we know a lot about the dangers of concussions. Football wouldn't be allowed as a youth sport if it were invented today. Soccer players wouldn't be allowed to head the ball for the same reason. So let's get rid of football entirely, at least for kids, and make it a penalty to head a soccer ball.

Speaking of soccer, if we invented that game today the goals would be 50% wider to create more scoring and there would be TV timeouts built into the game design so the major networks could more easily monetize with commercials. And the off-side rule has to go; that is just boring. And while we are at it, let's put up a glass wall around the field so the ball stays in play.

Baseball could be interesting if it were slow-pitch and any ball hit out of the park were ruled an out. I might add another player to the outfield, but the idea is to have lots of hits and lots of defense. In the age of smartphones, no one has the patience to watch nine guys standing around in the grass wondering when something might happen.

Volleyball has one of the most ridiculous rules in sports. The players need to rotate positions after every point. The well-coached teams do a quick, synchronized rotation as soon as the serve is hit to get into the positions they prefer instead of the positions the game rules require. Let's just lose the player rotation rule.

Golf also needs to be fixed. The main problem is that 18 holes is far too much time commitment and 9 holes seem too little. I hear that 12-hole courses are being built for exactly that reason. That makes sense in 2014.

Another thing that golf needs to lose is the annoying foursome behind you that makes you feel rushed and guilty. I don't know how to fix that in an economically way, but it sure would improve the game if someone did.

Do you have any other sports you would like to fix?

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Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of this book

 



 

 

 
Warning: This blog is written for a rational audience that likes to have fun wrestling with unique or controversial points of view. It is written in a style that can easily be confused as advocacy for one sort of unpleasantness or another. It is not intended to change anyone's beliefs or actions. If you quote from this post or link to it, which you are welcome to do, please take responsibility for whatever happens if you mismatch the audience and the content.

Note to Jezebel, Gawker, and Huffington Post:
When you quote this post out of context be sure to leave out the text that doesn't support your misleading headlines.

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I don't believe in equal rights for women; women should have a few extra rights compared to men because women take on the greater responsibility for reproduction. For example, I don't think men should have a vote when it comes to the question of abortion. I would prefer a world in which women work out the abortion issue and just let the men know how it turned out.

When any group of people takes on extra responsibility, society is often willing to grant those folks some extra rights. That's why a military drone pilot is legally allowed to take the life of an innocent child that happens to be in the same car as a terrorist. That's why a police car can exceed the speed limit on the way to a crime in progress but you and I need to come to a full stop at the stop sign.

So in my view, feminists are too conservative. They should be asking for superior rights, not equal rights. I think everyone reading this blog agrees with the feminist goals of, for example, equal pay for equal work, and the idea that women should be able to walk down the street without feeling threatened. Off hand, I can't think of any feminist goal that is unreasonable. There are real questions on how one measures pay gaps and whatnot, and how one approaches a particular problem, but those are details. Feminists have done a great service for humanity by aggressively improving the situation for women. I'm a fan of their work.

My only objection to feminism is that in order for any group to be politically effective it needs to promote a worldview in which there are two kinds of people: Assholes and victims. Nuance doesn't work for politics. Political change needs good and evil and no gray area in the middle. So in the feminist political battle, men are automatically included in the asshole category no matter their personal situation. I don't think that is a conscious decision. It just works out that way.

Consider the issue of men yelling sexual remarks at women on public sidewalks. That situation is usually presented as a problem of men behaving badly to women. For political reasons, you need that grouping because it makes the problem seem extra bad.

But if you start adding context, the men-versus-women worldview starts to break down.

For starters, I don't know any men who make creepy sexual remarks about women in public. Clearly such men exist. But if we are being objective, those men generally exist in the lower rungs of society's power ladder. It isn't the corporate lawyer doing the wolf whistles. It is usually the under-educated laborer who doesn't have an indoor job, or any job. The female victims in this scenario are, more often than not, among the more attractive humans on earth. Those are the ones that are (usually) attracting the most attention. And in our world, attractiveness is power.

In modern society, power comes from three sources: education, money, and attractiveness. People who have all three are at the top of the power pyramid. People who have any two of the three are next, and the people who have only one are the next level down. The unfortunate people who have no money, attractiveness, or education are at the bottom. So when a construction worker hassles an attractive woman on the street, it is often a case of a less powerful person bothering a more powerful person. You lose that nuance when you represent the situation as a men-versus-women problem. The reality is that the bad behavior is (mostly) limited to a small group of relatively powerless men. I would guess that less than 1% of men would be in that obnoxious category.

Bad behavior on the sidewalk is of course very different from the problem of sexism in the board room. In the workplace, the folks with the power are too-often abusing it. But here again the man-versus-woman view of the world can be misleading. The reality is that power corrupts people no matter the design of their genitalia. In situations in which women have power, such as in the typical suburban family, wives are often horrible to their husbands and freely admit it. So the problem is not so much about gender as it is about power corrupting people of all types.

My point in all of this is that feminism is sexist by design. It has to be that way to be politically effective. You need a big, bad enemy because without it you can't generate the kind of change you need. I don't disagree with the strategy because it works, and historically it was in the service of a good cause.

But the long term risk with any good cause is that it can accidentally evolve into the evil it was designed to thwart. I think we are at or near that turning point with feminism. The majority of men in America are already totally onboard with the basic tenets of feminism. When men disagree about the best way to measure pay gaps, or the best system for improvement, we are talking tactics, not goals. As a man, I find it sexist and objectionable to be lumped into the asshole category because of my DNA, especially when I am on the same side as the people calling me an asshole.

In my youth, when old-time feminists were fighting for equal rights I remember thinking they were brave citizens on the correct side of history. In 2014, much of what passes as feminism sounds to my ears like "men are assholes." The more nuanced reality is that people who either have too much power or too little power can be awful humans regardless of gender. And the people in the middle aren't much better.

Feminism has evolved from an entirely good movement to one that is half good and half sexism. I think feminism accomplished 80% of what it wanted with the old worldview of men-versus-women. To get the last 20% you need a different approach. I don't know what that better approach might be, but I hope it doesn't include labeling allies as assholes.

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Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of this book

 
P.S. The best way to know you missed the point of my post is that you find yourself leaving a comment arguing with my generalities, as in "Unattractive people get hassled on the street too!"
 

 
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Disclaimer: Do not get your health advice from cartoonists. This blog is for entertainment only. If you see something here that interests you, please do your own research or talk to someone who actually knows things.

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Here's the easiest diet plan of all time: Eat as much healthy protein as you can.

That's the entire plan.

Okay, your brain just came up with several reasons why this plan is dumb and incomplete. Allow me to anticipate those objections and address them.

What about variety? You need a diet with lots of variety, not just protein. Wouldn't a focus on protein make you lose out on the variety you need?

In theory, that sounds like a problem. In practice, no one can eat the same thing day after day and feel satisfied. In my case, pursuing protein and preferring variety led me to get a blender so I could eat protein smoothies for some meals. And what do you put in smoothies to make them taste so good? Fruit and veggies.

My point is that your natural impulse for variety will lead you toward new ways to get your protein, and many of those methods will deliver variety in fruits and veggies at the same time.

You can generally gorge on fruits and veggies as much as you want without worrying about weight gain. In theory you could overeat and become fat from fruits and veggies. In practice, healthy food is almost always self-regulating in the sense that you don't crave an overdose of broccoli. You can eat as much as you want of those foods because you probably won't want enough to make you gain weight.

The beauty of protein is that it has three important properties: It suppresses appetite, it doesn't make you sleepy the way simple carbs do, and it helps build muscles that will burn more calories naturally.

Our brains are wired in such a way that it is always easier to run toward something attractive than to resist something attractive. So instead of resisting carbs, you run toward protein, which can also be delicious. There is no need for willpower when you can eat as much as you want of anything in the healthy protein category.

Simple carbs create a physical addiction. You crave your junk food and you might believe your craving is some sort of natural urge baked into your unlucky DNA. But in my experience, and in the experience of people I know, once you kick the bad carbs habit you lose the cravings in a few months. You don't need willpower to resist something you don't want.

Eating poorly is addictive. But it turns out that eating healthy can be equally addictive. It took me years to get there, but at this point junk food literally looks like poison to me. I couldn't be less interested. For me, no willpower is needed because my body is now conditioned for healthy eating.

There are lots of problems and risks with the "eat as much healthy protein as you can" diet plan. If you randomly picked ten people to try the plan, at least three of them would eat charred meat for every meal and die of cancer. But I think you have to compare my plan to all other diet plans - the ones that fail nine-out-of-ten times in the long run.

Dieting is a psychological process. Most diet plans get that wrong, focusing on portion size while relying mostly on willpower for success. My plan turns that around by removing all willpower from the equation. If you feel hungry, run toward healthy protein (some peanuts, a nice steak, a protein shake) and never feel deprived. It might take a few weeks to lose your carb addiction, but during that time you will be eating as much as you want.

Once your body is conditioned to prefer a healthy diet, it becomes almost automatic after that.

There is a lot for you to disagree with in this diet plan. So let me boil it down to one central point to focus the discussion: Your brain is wired in such a way that it is always easier to run toward something attractive than to resist something attractive. If your diet plan gets that wrong, you will fail. So, aggressively run toward good food (protein, fruit, and veggies) and the rest will happen automatically. No willpower needed.

In simpler terms, if your diet makes you hungry or makes you feel deprived in any way, you are doing it wrong. If you run toward healthy food, especially protein, you can crowd the bad stuff out of your life without even realizing you did it.

Again, I remind you not to take health advice from cartoonists. I have no idea if this plan will kill you or turn you into Hercules. But it kind of makes sense, right?

And yes, I have heard of the Atkins Diet. The Atkins diet is about "restricting carbs." That works against the way your brain is wired. My plan is about running toward protein, not away from carbs. You might say that works out the same, but you would be ignoring the psychology of it, and the psychology is hard part.

-----------------------------------
Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book

 



 

 
Warning: This blog is written for a rational audience that likes to have fun wrestling with unique or controversial points of view. It is written in a style that can easily be confused as advocacy for one sort of unpleasantness or another. It is not intended to change anyone's beliefs or actions. If you quote from this post or link to it, which you are welcome to do, please take responsibility for whatever happens if you mismatch the audience and the content.

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ISIS is an interesting situation, in a terrible way, because on the surface there is no solution. Here's what the U.S. military is thinking:

We can't use a nuclear weapon for all the obvious reasons.

We can't invade and stay long enough for a permanent solution.

We can't use precision attacks because the bad guys hide.

We can't bomb stuff and walk away.

We can't attack with an army and get a meaningful surrender.

And...you can't ignore the situation because ISIS has announced that it plans to come after us. And in this regard they are credible.

Are there any options that I left out?

In my novel The Religion War, the sequel to God's Debris, I imagined an ISIS-like group forming a caliphate and using drone technology to strike targets around the world. That future is fast approaching; the news says ISIS is already using drones in the battlefield and they have vowed to attack foreign targets. In the book, the governments of the world were in exactly the no-win situation we have now. So what did they do?

In The Religion War, the first step involved shutting down all communication going into or out of the Caliphate. The border was surrounded and sealed. All cell phones were disabled. All news crews were expelled. In order for phase two of the plan to work, the rest of the world needed to be kept in the dark. That's because phase two involved methodically killing every man, woman, and child in the caliphate.

I don't recommend that plan. But if we are being serious adults, you have to put it on the table. The world is nowhere near the point where such a thing could be seriously considered, but we are heading toward that point quickly and I haven't heard a better plan.

So allow me to suggest a new idea. I call it the Filter Fence.

Instead of finding and killing the bad guys among the innocent population, the invading army first conquers and controls a sparsely populated part of the caliphate that also has good natural resources. Within those protected borders the allied governments of the world would build homes, schools, utilities and all the good stuff. It would be like a little civilized paradise on the border of the evil caliphate. And let's say it is governed by one of the friendlier Islamic countries at least temporarily.

The next step involves attracting civilians to move to the protected area. You could get some folks to come voluntarily to escape ISIS. But ISIS would try to keep as many human shields as possible. Instead of fighting ISIS militarily, you gradually drain away their civilian cover. Every time our military captures some new ISIS territory it would depopulate it and move the innocents to the protected territory. It wouldn't take long before most of ISIS' resources are dedicated to keeping their civilians from scrambling to the protected territories.

At some point, and it might take ten years, the military would announce plans to kill everything left living in the caliphate. And it could do that just by sealing the borders and destroying the food supply. You wouldn't need to fire a bullet.

This plan is horrific, obviously. Lots of civilians would die trying to escape ISIS and many more would die while staying to support them. All I am suggesting is that if we want a better outcome someone needs to come up with a better plan. If you only have one option, you have to take it. And as far as I can tell the only other option is to someday surrender and join the caliphate after they get their nuclear weapons.

If you don't like that plan, here is another.

Suppose we just step back and let ISIS form its caliphate and consolidate power. The irony of a guerrilla army is that once it succeeds in its conquest it has to become something more like a standing army to maintain control. And as Saddam Hussein learned the hard way, it sucks to have an army that is nothing but target practice for the better army. This plan assumes that the worst fate for ISIS involves achieving their near term goals. The moment they become a standing government with government buildings and organized armies with barracks you have excellent targets. ISIS as currently formed would never surrender. But a government formed by ISIS, and infected by bureaucrats until it softened, could be capable of surrender. In other words, you let ISIS win its current battles because doing so makes them an easier target. It is easier to find and kill an elephant in the forest than an ant.

Those are the two plans I can imagine. Do you have one to add?

___________________

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of this book

 


 

 

Warning: This blog is written for a rational audience that likes to have fun wrestling with unique or controversial points of view. It is written in a style that can easily be confused as advocacy for one sort of unpleasantness or another. It is not intended to change anyone's beliefs or actions. If you quote from this post or link to it, which you are welcome to do, please take responsibility for whatever happens if you mismatch the audience and the content.

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Individuals are free to act on their moral convictions. But a secular government doesn't have that option. Keep that idea in mind when you look at the conflict between Hamas and Israel.

Governments are artificial systems designed by humans. When humans want to include a moral dimension in their government they design a system that has a particular religious belief at the core. That's what Hamas did. So far it isn't going well.

Israel, on the other hand, is a secular government by design. Correct me if I am wrong, but I don't think the government of Israel has anywhere in its charter the requirement to act according to any particular moral code. The point of a secular government is to maximize the wellbeing of its citizens. If a secular government started acting on morality instead of practicality the politicians in charge would be voted out.

When observers criticize Israel for lopsided violence against Hamas, or building settlements on disputed lands, or hoarding all the water in the region, or any of the other heavy-handed actions against the Palestinians, it is usually described according to some moral filter of right and wrong. That is missing the point. Israel's secular government doesn't have the option of acting according to ANY moral standard, much less the one you have in your head that is informed, in all likelihood, by incomplete information.

The government of Israel has one of the rarest national opportunities in history. Thanks to periodic rocket strikes and other ongoing aggression against them, Israel gets a semi-free pass from the international community to gobble up disputed lands and substantially increase the size of their future nation. In such a situation, the secular government of Israel that is chartered with maximizing the wellbeing of its citizens is wisely using the attacks against them as a political cover while they exert control over disputed land and water resources. If a secular government ignored this historic opportunity it would not be acting the way the system was designed to act.

Hamas has the opposite situation. Their government is built around a moral code that is informed by a religious belief. You might not agree with that code, but in the view of Hamas they are acting along moral lines when they attack Israel as the infidel "occupiers."

So let's all stop fantasizing that the government of Hamas and the government of Israel can make a lasting peace via traditional peace talks. To do so would mean one of their governments is operating outside its intended design. American efforts to broker such a peace are just for show. No one expects peace because the systems of government that Israel and Hamas each selected make that impossible. You can't have peace unless one of the two governments involved is replaced by an entirely new system that is designed in a way that allows peace to even be an option.

One could argue that governments of any design simply follow the will of the people, and the people can, if they want it badly enough, force the government to change its design and its mission. That is certainly true in principle. But there is one thing that makes it nearly impossible to change your form of government in a positive way: an external enemy. And both Israel and Hamas have an external enemy in each other.

We all know by now that any negotiations over details such as land, resources, and security are a waste of time because the two governments are designed in a way that guarantees permanent low-level conflict that benefits Israel more than Hamas.

You could think of the conflict between Israel and Hamas as a game of paper-rock-scissors. Hamas picked a rock government and Israel picked a paper government. Paper beats rock 100% of the time. You won't have peace until both parties' governments are rocks or both parties are paper or both parties are scissors.

So how would one solve the problem of a morality-based government that was designed to be immune to practicality (Hamas) versus a secular government that has a clear interest in continued low-level conflict (Israel)?

Answer: Information

I think this is an information problem masquerading as a religious difference. If you provide both sides with the right information, eventually the citizens will find a way to reform their government.

Imagine an international body such as the United Nations suggesting that instead of directly negotiating peace, each government must agree to be measured for its effectiveness across a broad range of parameters relative to the wellbeing of its citizens. Under this proposal, both governments would be required to report monthly on trends for the health, income, happiness, and education of their citizens. And those reports would be provided to the citizens of each nation in a way that no one could ignore. (You would need international auditors of course.)

What this approach does is cleverly divert attention from the unsolvable question of who God wanted to live on a particular patch of dirt to the perfectly practical and somewhat measurable question of how well the two competing systems of government are providing for their people. We humans are irrational creatures, so we are influenced most by what we see and hear the most. My hypothesis is that morality will trend in the direction that makes the citizens healthiest, safest, and happiest so long as they know which direction to head. Public information about the effectiveness of each government will create great pressure for the government that performs the worst to change.

As a citizen of the United States, and subject to lots of propaganda disguised as news, I assume Hamas has the government system most in need of improvement. And I further assume that the citizens under Hamas would have less support for their current system if they were exposed to continual comparisons to more effective systems. Over time, citizens can be trusted to evolve their ideas on morality in the direction of their self-interest.

A big advantage of this approach to peace is that it causes folks to focus on the real problem which is that Hamas has a dysfunctional system of government by design. If the world reminds them of that fact often enough, using comparative data instead of rhetoric, and refuses to participate in the charade of fake peace plans, perhaps there will be some movement toward useful government reform. Israel shouldn't object to this process because in the short run it makes them look good and it will take a long time before there is any meaningful change. That gives them time to gobble up all the land and resources they can get before peace even becomes an option. Their system of government is designed to do just that if it is working properly.

Summarizing my main points:


1.       Hamas and Israel have systems of government that cannot make peace with each other because of their designs.

2.       Governments are unlikely to change their designs when there is an immediate external threat, unless it is to move toward a dictatorship. Hamas and Israel are each other's external threat.

3.       In the long run, the moral view that holds the most power over humans is whatever path leads to the most health, happiness, and safety.

4.       Humans reflexively assign the highest importance to whatever they see and hear the most. It is possible through repetition to shift the debate from God's real estate ownership preferences to which system of government God would prefer we use to produce the best health, happiness, and safety for the citizens. Would God ever prefer an ineffective government system?

5.       Israel is far better off without peace in the short term. Their system of government is working as it was designed because it ignores morality (except for lip service) and focuses on effectiveness. The United States has the same sort of system, roughly speaking. I'm not judging, just describing.

6.       Individuals can act on moral convictions. By design, a secular government cannot.

When you tell me my idea of focusing on government effectiveness won't work, be sure to compare it to the current approach that has a zero chance of success. If you think my approach has a 1% chance of working, it is the best plan that anyone has yet proposed.

I'll ask readers not to quote parts of this blog out of context. To do so would be misleading. And also keep in mind that I don't know what I'm talking about most of the time. This blog is for entertainment purposes only and is  designed to make you look at familiar situations in novel ways.

-----------------

Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book

 



 
Here are four well-known ways to boost creativity:

1.       Work near crowd noise, such as in a coffee shop.

2.       Take a walk (alone)

3.       Drive a car to a familiar destination (alone)

4.       Take a shower (yeah, alone)

I've experimented extensively with all four methods and I can report that doing any one of those activities has a huge and immediate impact on my quality and volume of ideas. This is purely anecdotal, but the impact on idea flow is so immediate and dramatic that something good is clearly happening.

Interestingly, the element that all four methods have in common is distraction. But the distractions are the type you can easily compartmentalize and move to an automatic processing part of your brain. They are distractions that don't distract.

My armchair guess about what is going on with the brain distractions is that we evolved to keep some important part of the brain on high alert for danger, food, and mating opportunities. If you distract that part of the brain with driving, walking, showering, and background noise it loosens its hold on the creative processing part of your brain.

This supports my hypothesis that creativity is something that happens naturally so long as your brain is not actively suppressing it for some sort of survival advantage. That makes sense because creative thinking usually isn't helpful in immediately dangerous situations.  If we were cave dwellers I would be the one that didn't see the mastodon stampede heading my way because I was daydreaming and inventing new stone tools in my head. Sometimes you don't need creative ideas so much as you just need to run.

Putting it in simpler terms, creativity is a mental luxury that your brain will not allow until it feels safe or until the watchdog part of your brain gets busy handling some routine task such as driving the car.

I would be interested in seeing a study that compares each of the distraction methods to find which one works best. And from there I would like to see A-B testing on new distraction methods until the best of the bunch emerges.

That might sound like a trivial study that would only interest cartoonists and academics. But imagine if the top 1% of creative folks in the world knew exactly which kinds of distractions helped generate the best ideas. These are the cats that invent the future and solve the biggest problems in the world. Removing even a tiny bit of friction from the effectiveness of that group could pay huge dividends.

-------------------------

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of this book

 


 

 
Seriously?
Aug 14, 2014 | Permalink
** New Update **

Okay, you have my apologies for jumping the gun on this. I underestimated how misleading every bit of this initial reporting was.

I assumed the shooting itself would turn out to be justified, and it seems to be heading that way. And I assumed the two reporters who were jailed and soon released were victims of by a simple misunderstanding. And I assumed the SWAT team was protecting the Al Jazeera camera equipment and not "stealing" it.

But I let my skepticism slip when I saw the tear gas allegedly fired by the SWAT guys at the reporters. I still don't know where the tear gas came from, but given all the wrong reporting so far, I no longer assume it was intentional.

I still think the police needed to be replaced, at least temporarily, to keep the boiling pot under control, and apparently the governor did just that. But I see now that the enemy in this story was the media (including social media) all along.

Oh, and me. I'm part of the problem this time.

Damn it. I hate when that happens. Thanks for pushing me back on track.

This isn't an excuse, but seeing images of guys in military-like gear tear-gassing news crews turned off my critical faculties for a day. My B.S. filter should have caught that from the start.

This is a good lesson. Pictures lie.



What follows is my wrongness from yesterday. You should ignore it.


**Update at bottom.**

At what point does it make sense to send in the U.S. military to disarm the local police and SWAT in Ferguson.

Now might be good.

See this.

When you tear gas journalists on U.S. soil, that's an act of war in my opinion.

[Update: Police are being removed]. That's probably the right move.]
 
Many of you told me that the uninspired artwork I did for the cover of my book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big was suppressing sales. You might be right. No one ever accused me of talent in that department. Here was my cover art:



So partly for fun, partly as an experiment, and partly to improve the product, I thought I would invite all interested parties to submit a better cover design for the upcoming soft cover release.

Here's how this will work.

Before September 5th, design a new cover, using the existing title, and email the jpeg or a download link to me at Dilbertcartoonist@gmail.com.

My publisher and I will pick some of the best submissions and run Twitter ads using different cover designs to see if one produces measurably better sales than the others. If any design outperforms my original cover, and the other submissions we test, we'll use it for the softcover.

If your design is the winner, you will receive praise in my blog, attention for yourself and whatever business you wish to promote, ego gratification, bragging rights, a credit on the book jacket, increased happiness from the thrill of victory, and in all likelihood a temporary boost in your sex life. And if you find yourself anywhere near San Francisco, I'll take you to dinner. Those last two items are not related.

I expect to show all of the better entries in this blog as well. So let me know what kind of credit line you would like with it. Feel free to include a link to your website.

Keep in mind that I don't believe a change in the cover will improve sales. If we show that it does, one has to wonder why the entire publishing industry hasn't yet figured out that testing cover designs matters. Perhaps it all goes back to the old saying that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. I think the science would support the idea that a saying so accepted and ingrained could blind even professionals to the idea that cover design drives sales.

But we will find out if the cover design matters, and that's the fun part. I predict that no alternative cover will outperform my original by a meaningful margin. This isn't a controlled experiment, but I would expect to see a noticeable difference if any is to be found.

Here are the rules:

Dimensions of art: Trim size is 5 ½ x 8 7/16. There is a 0.125 inch bleed on each side for printing.

Format: jpeg file, high resolution. (The original art should be at least 300 dpi). CMYK (not RBG)

Must include all copy:

            Title: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

            Subtitle: Kind of the Story of My Life

            Author: Scott Adams

            Burst: New York Times Bestseller

            Quote: "Some of the simplest, most profound advice." - TIME Magazine

            Submit to: Dilbertcartoonist@gmail.com

            Deadline: September 5th, Midnight PST

           Key theme: Readers of the book have most enjoyed the "systems versus goals" idea, but you are not          
           required to match your art to that concept.

          Use: You agree to sign over to my publisher all rights to the artwork.

         Winner Selected: The Twitter ads will end by September 19th (ish). If any of the entries beat my
         original cover by a meaningful margin I will announce the winner in this blog soon after.

-----

I'll probably post the better submissions on this blog for you to render your opinions before I pick the best of the best for the Twitter test. That way all of you can be part of the process if you like.This should be fun and interesting.

I'll be fascinated to see how much the cover art influences consumer behavior.

_________________________________

Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book


 
 
 
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