Why We Fuck Up

In the bloodless war between computers and referees, computers win 100% of the time.

Research shows that baseball umpires are less likely to call a strike after they’ve called the previous pitch a strike.

Soccer referees flub offside calls all the time. Why wouldn’t they? They are asked to judge a split-second half-centimeter difference in player positioning from twenty meters away.

Funny thing is, after the blown call, the TV broadcast rewinds and replays the action in slow motion. Neon lines materialize and frame the play. High-definition lenses confer with powerful computer servers, and we have a near-instant, perfect judgment of what we just watched. The information is both thrilling and useless, like finding out a high school crush really liked you, 20 years later.

Why don’t we simply replace those near-sighted, weak-willed meat bags with infallible, unswayable robo-refs?

Because deep down, we like the chaos of it all. Because when shit goes sideways and our guy or gal misses the line by a nose hair (or did they?), we need a person to blame, a human voodoo doll to stick our pins.We need an idiot.

Ideally, computers would watch Them, and nervous humans would watch Us. At the end of the day, we want a fair game. But for Them, it should be extra fair.

Why We Act

Space-time is, broadly, the concept that time and space are not independent structures; the flow of time changes relative to an object’s position and movement through space.

As I sipped absinthe in a secret red-walled bar down a Shibuya alleyway, I considered the existence of a new theory of relativity: the space-food continuum.

What I discovered in my liquor-ish haze, is that my food selection changes relative to my position and movement around the globe.

I treat food like I treat maps.

When I visit unfamiliar cities, I discard maps. Fuck a map, I am a space explorer. I lose time. I lose myself. I pick a point and wander, turning randomly at intersections, no destination in mind. I prioritize novelty over all else. I don’t particularly care where I end up, or when. I trust curiosity, fortune, and friends to lead me to the right spaces.

And the right foods.

Plunk me in a new city, and I will eat everything, try anything. I chuck calorie tracking and nutrient density out the window. My intention is to amble about the culinary topography, to taste the strange, the banal, the obvious and obscure; to let luck guide my tongue.

At home, I turn from explorer to engineer. Space is an optimization exercise. I study the map. I figure out where the fewest stop signs are located and I track the lengths of stoplights in order to shave seconds off my travel time. Beating Google Maps’ estimated travel duration brings me great joy. Missing an exit on the freeway brings me great shame. The purpose of commuting isn’t to commute; the purpose of commuting is to Get There.

At home, food becomes a route to a specific destination. To lower blood levels of LDL-P. To reduce body fat by 5%. To deadlift 35 more pounds. In the kitchen, I track macros and weigh meat. I record weekly averages. Food follows function: I prioritize effectiveness and efficiency over aesthetics and chance.

My tolerance for serendipity increases as a factor of distance from my house.

This is what I define as the space-food continuum.

Why We Fuck Up

One of the reasons we are more anxious on planes than in cars is because every time a commercial airline crashes, news outlets tell us. Heavily and graphically.

Websites, TVs, and newspapers bombard us with images of the smoking wreckage, the grieving families, the smiling faces of the lost.

We may comprehend than there are far more victims of car crashes than plane crashes each year, but their reporting is nearly inaudible, their carnage invisible. What we don’t see, we tend not to worry much about.

Perhaps, for our collective mental health, we should stop reporting on plane crashes.

Or perhaps, for our collective physical health, we should start reporting on car crashes. Heavily and graphically.

Why We Act

To understand a loud person, note when they are silent.

To understand a calm person, note when they are animated.

To understand a comedian, note when they are serious.

To understand a bully, note when they are intimidated.

To understand an authoritarian, note when they are powerless.

To understand a celebrity, note when they are anonymous.

To understand a prostitute, note whom they love.

To understand a traveler, note when they wish to go home.

To understand a talker, note them in action.

Uncategorized, Why We Learn

There is a devotional quality to learning a skill.

Our brains don’t comprehend time very well at all. Perhaps this is unfortunate; imagine we only had one eye and had to infer three-dimensional space. It’s sort of like that with time: we are extremely nearsighted. We really only understand time within intervals of a few moments – intervals that are compact enough to fit inside our short term memory. These intervals are where cause and effect are starkly evident to us: A caused B to happen. For the bulk of human history, this was good enough because the dangers to us were primarily imminent ones: flash floods, animal ambushes, sudden illness. Experience was our teacher, and taught vivid lessons in an instant. Our brains, borrowed from our hairier, scalier predecessors, were well-tuned and optimized for quick decision making in short intervals.

This optimization came at the expense of discerning cause and effect over long durations. It’s not that slower forces (e.g. cognitive and physical degeneration of age) didn’t act on us, it’s that keen perception of them didn’t convey a significant survival advantage in our environment. Organisms developed two eyes for spatial awareness because three-dimensional space was critical to survival. Unfortunately, we haven’t developed two eyes for temporal awareness so that we can ‘see’ more than a few minutes into the future.

This disability chafes at anybody who seeks to implement a long term change, whether it’s learning a language or building a savings or losing twenty pounds. Because these changes happen in tiny increments, in fits and starts, over months and years, we are blind to progress as it happens.

This is one of the first and biggest challenges to anyone who seeks to change themselves: there is an aspect of faith that must reside within you that you are moving forward. If we record our state and review it after long durations, we can admit that some change has occurred. Yet moment to moment, learning feels an awful lot like walking with our eyes closed: we have no idea whether we are moving in the right direction, or any direction. We must trust our feet to keep walking and sharpen our senses for new cues along the way.