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Taming the Lizard Brain (quillette.com)
64 points by lifeisstillgood 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 13 comments



I would recommend the documentary [The Century of the Self](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnPmg0R1M04) about advertising as propoganda, in which Edwards Bernays plays a central role.


This is a topic near and dear to my heart. As a freelancer, I sit in my apartment sounded by as much high calorie food as I want that is scientifically optimized to be as tasty as possible, I have a job that requires zero exertion or even leaving the house, most of my work interactions are online and otherwise I'm alone all day.

This is the exact opposite that the human mind is adapted to, and I'm relatively convinced that in order to be effective in the modern world you have to take an actively counter intuitive path through life. It's hard to be healthy, to be productive, to be social, since the works just isn't set up to make it easy now.

I haven't fully solved this for myself, but I have shifted from being hard on myself for eating a whole chocolate bar in one sitting to asking myself how can I make it harder for myself to find myself in the situation that I'm eating a whole chocolate bar?

As some things I've read have suggested, one way to get lots of willpower is to make any other option impossible. So, don't bring candy bars into the house, pay for a gym membership so I'll feel reptile brain loss aversion for not going, etc.

Especially for an entrepreneur, it seems like a critical thing is just getting out of the way of yourself.


> one way to get lots of willpower is to make any other option impossible. So, don't bring candy bars into the house

Not everyone has this luxury. My office has a shelf of candy that's restocked every couple days. I think I've put on at least five pounds since I joined two months ago.


Yeah and it sucks. There's a convenience store right outside my apartment that now sells chips and ice cream. I eat more of those now than I used to. My Android phone will not let me uninstall the YouTube app, and I've been watching more YouTube lately.

My point here is that the modern world almost seems to be conspiring against healthy living, both mentally and physically, so whatever you have to do to be healthy is worth doing. I've played around with various web blockers, and finally got around this YouTube on phone problem by installing both a blocker app and also using the adb command line tool to manually edit the hosts file to also block YouTube in the browser which required unlocking the bootloader and accidentally wiping my phone. But now, I can't watch YouTube on my phone and it's wonderful to not have that temptation now.

I don't know what the answer is to community junk food. I'm at home with parents this week and I was gifted junk food, which I was grateful for but also a little sad about.


I've wondered if software can also be the solution here.

Can you make an app that appeals to my emotional lizard brain and prevents me from eating candy and browsing the internet? That's something I'd pay for.


Unhealthy office food is the worst. I have a hard time avoiding it. My house has absolutely none of that stuff because I know it's a weakness... Then I go to the office and 'accidentally' eat two granola bars. 400 calories of oats and HFCS later and I'm still hungry.


At my employer, we joke about the "freshman 15" — the 15 pounds you'll gain in your first year there from all the junk food.

Fortunately, I also work remotely, and am much more judicious about my snacking choices.


At a company I used to work for one of the project areas had an (in)famous "wall of sugar" as they called it.


The money quote for me is

This represents a great challenge for those who believe that individuals left to their own devices are most likely to make rational choices.

I think that Thaler views on Linertarian Paternalism are looking more sensible. Handling instant gratification for the good of individualas and society seems important


>This represents a great challenge for those who believe that individuals left to their own devices are most likely to make rational choices.

The unfortunate reality is that institutions, organizations, and governments are also not prone to making rational choices when left to their own devices, due to them being made up of individuals as well. Paternalism requires a faith that those in charge are somehow more free from the limitations of our flawed nature while also having others' interests at heart.


> Paternalism requires a faith that those in charge are somehow more free from the limitations of our flawed nature while also having others' interests at heart.

We have technology to coordinate group action plans and execute them transparently, and our culture is gradually beginning to support honesty around failure and change, no longer demanding the appearance of perfection (which seems to be the driving force behind the failure of so many attempts at paternalism).

It would appear, then, that we could collaboratively and openly engineer a culture that supports flawed-but-honest-and-still-competent leadership in their attempts to advance community-sponsored projects and leverage technology to facilitate transparency at scale.

Is there a reason this approach is inherently untenable (as opposed to just logistically difficult)?


To quote Henry Hazlitt:

"Economics is haunted by more fallacies than any other study known to man. This is no accident. The inherent difficulties of the subject would be great enough in any case, but they are multiplied a thousandfold by a factor that is insignificant in, say, physics, mathematics or medicine-the special pleading of selfish interests. While every group has certain economic interests identical with those of all groups, every group has also, as we shall see, interests antagonistic to those of all other groups. While certain public policies would in the long run benefit everybody, other policies would benefit one group only at the expense of all other groups. The group that would benefit by such policies, having such a direct interest in them, will argue for them plausibly and persistently. It will hire the best buyable minds to devote their whole time to presenting its case. And it will finally either convince the general public that its case is sound, or so befuddle it that clear thinking on the subject becomes next to impossible."

This is a major obstacle to "collaboratively and openly" deciding on the right policies (paternalistic or otherwise). If the process is open, it probably won't be collaborative: the discussion might end up dominated by those with special interests. I believe this is how the notion that tariffs might be a good idea (for economic purposes, anyway) has made it into public policy—this is one of the items Hazlitt's book goes through[1].

With regard specifically to "paternalistic" policies, one of the chapters is titled "The Assault on Saving", and I could easily imagine that people guided by Keynesian economics would recommend inserting trivial inconveniences to discourage people from saving their money while nudging them towards spending it, so as to increase aggregate demand and therefore the greater good.

[1] http://steshaw.org/economics-in-one-lesson/contents.html , see chapter 11 for tariffs and 24 for "The Assault on Saving"


> for economic purposes, anyway

A very important qualifier, thanks for including it. Few people seem aware of that aspect, which I suspect results in a rather large number of confident conclusions about the intelligence of other people, that happen to actually be wrong.




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