Random Thoughts: Capitalism, Consumerism and social proof

Capitalism has fueled growth, we are more prosperous than before. Capitalism made most of us rich, prosperous. Industrialization resulted in mass production of food, medicines. We are not dying of hunger anymore or of disease like cholera, malaria (most part of the world).

Anyone can work hard and build empire out of Ashes.

Capitalism also resulted in Consumerism, we started becoming more and more obsessed with things we  never wanted. Do you think our forefathers cared about our skin, who would have thought that in year 2018, smartphones will come with skin tones and pimple removal features.

The phenomenon of social proof gave rise to acquiring or doing things out of peer pressure.  I too will have to go on vacation or buy a luxurious car because some neighbor or family member has bought it.

Everyone of our age visits pub and drinks on weekend, so this must be cool & I too should do it.

What has happened to us, what about our intellect?

We are living in a society where we are constantly fed with so much of information that we are dancing on the tunes of few who are wanting us to act in a particular way/manner.

  • Why can’t we pick a alcohol free dinner place or one has to meet over pizza?
  • Can’t we meet over healthy food, coffee?  
  • Why can’t we have conversation on books or what we are reading instead cribbing about our partners, in-laws, co-workers or bosses?
  • Why does this nation has to fight over stupid movie and media has to glorify it?

What is wrong with us?

Have we thrown our intellect and turned into a herd where nobody knows which direction to go but everybody knows whom to follow?

What happened to our system 2 thinking, have we given up on it?

Notes from Reading: Presence by Amy Cuddy

Amy Cuddy is a well respected social psychologist and a known face in TED talk circle. I got to know about the book of hers from one of my friend.

The book starts with her personal encounter where she met with a bad accident and how she recovered fully from it. As book progresses, she starts unfolding various techniques.

Some being:

  1. Self affirmation
  2. Nudge (the same one on which, Richard Thaler wrote entire book)
  3. Body postures
  4. Living in present,  this moment

Like every other book written by academicians, this book as well cites 100+ research papers and findings.

Apart from all this, the book is full of stories how Amy’s power pose advice changed life of many others. Most of them wrote email to her (which as a collection, she has shared in last chapter of the book), while others met her after the TED talks(all she presented).

It is my personal opinion, watching some of her talks (like one below) are better than buying and reading this book.

Notes from reading: The book of man by Osho

I was advised to read The Book Of Man, Osho by Naval.

I grew up with prejudice and bias that Osho is a Sex guru, one who only talks about sexual pleasures. He is destroying our society and playing with our innocent mind by adding all kind of poison. I should totally avoid reading Osho. I worked in Pune for sometime city Osho has some ashram(meditation centre), our friends joked saying  this is the place where people losing out on sex come to learn few tricks aka tantras mostly from outside India. Those foreigners are crazy people and belive in doing all shorts of crazy experiments, even people as old as 60 years come to recreation. 

This book is a collection of his thoughts on various topics from love, marriage, relationship, society. Reading this book was similar to reading J Krishnamurti teachings with minor difference :

  • According to Jiddu, Sex is just a biological need and nothing more than that. Why do we have to give so much importance to it?
  • Osho argues since we have always been repressed talking about Sex or practicing the same our mind is stuck with it being something we have totally missed out on. Hence we should experince and give a lot of importance to it.

Other than that, the common pattern in Osho teaching emerges with Jiddu’s :

  • We are all conditioned by society
  • Capitalism is making us more like robot and we are becoming more dumb and depressed.
  • We are all focussing on materialism more and stopped self thinking.
  • All religion are nothing but Sham, making us fight & dividing humanity
  • Happiness and purpose of life should be living moment to moment.
  • Believing in forgiveness and being more empathetic
  • Seeing all in the universe as one entity, which is part of you.
  • Forgetting about whatever good or bad happened in past and not having an urge or craving for future.
  • Being more aware about self and watching and observing self.

Random Thoughts: Living in a Matchbox

Matchbox:

 

  • You are son of a servant, you have to end up doing same like your father.
  • We bought you for few $$ and you will end up working in our sugarcane, corn fields.
  • I want my son to be a cricketer more famous then myself.
  • Since this was never tried it before, you better not think about it.
  • Speaking against them will get you killed, this is stupid not nationalism.
  • Sons and Daughters in our family get married in 20’s.
  • Don’t take arts, there is no future in it.

The mentality forced upon us with external conditions and forces makes us go do things as intended. In other words, live a life and die inside it with this boundary created by some ruler, family member, religion ETC.

Those religious texts, those rules of lives or those traditions forced on us are coming from people of yesterday’s who wanted comfort.

Modern World:

  • Everyone has to study to be successful
  • Everyone has to compete
  • Everyone has to settle down
  • Everyone has to run after check list
  • Everyone has to end up being a ROBOT

 

Notes from Reading: Enchiridion by Epictetus

Epictetus was one of the famous stoic philosopher. He was born as a slave in current day Turkey. He spent most part of his life in Rome and then later moved to Greece. Enchiridion is modern day notes, so this essentially are contents of Epictetus notebook.

These are some of my Kindle notes:

  1. Men are disturbed not by the things which happen, but by the opinions about the things.
  2. Be not elated at any advantage (excellence), which belongs to another.
  3. Seek not that the things which happen should happen as you wish; but wish the things which happen to be as they are, and you will have a tranquil flow of life.
  4. For it is better to die of hunger and so to be released from grief and fear than to live in abundance with perturbation; and it is better for your slave to be bad than for you to be unhappy.
  5. Do not send your desire forward to it, but wait till it is opposite to you.
  6. A free man: and there is only one way to this, to despise (care not for) the things which are not in our power.
  7. You must do everything according to rule, eat according to strict orders; abstain from delicacies; exercise yourself as you are bid at appointed times, in heat, in cold; you must not drink cold water, nor wine as you choose.
  8. For another will not damage you, unless you choose: but you will be damaged then when you shall think that you are damaged.
  9. When you do not obtain what you wish, and when you fall into those things which you do not wish, you will find fault and hate those who are the cause of them.
  10. Let silence be the general rule, or let only what is necessary be said, and in few words.
  11. The measure of possession (property) is to every man the body, as the foot is of the shoe.
  12. If you choose, you are free; if you choose, you need blame no man—accuse no man. All things will be at once according to your mind and according to the Mind of God.
  13. You know yourself what you are worth in your own eyes; and at what price you will sell yourself.

Random Thoughts: On Trust

So much has been written on Trust by so many scholars that I am not going to write or add anything.

But I will request you to ask yourself?

  1. Will you be interested in a relationship without trust?
  2. Will you be interested in working with someone whom you cannot trust?
  3. Will you buy a product from a particular brand which has been under multi-million $$ lawsuit for breaching trust.

In most honest circumstances the answer to all the above will be NO. We value trust in almost every realms of our life.

Are we doing enough from our side so others don’t lose trust on us?

The ice cream chronicle #1

After over a month I headed to Polar Bear for an ice cream. I was not craving for it but went because during the day I was served with shit load of sugar in my lunch. I thought why not make it a cheat day.

I have this tight cheat day eating policy, If I have to eat Biryani or Ice Cream I should walk and buy it myself.

I had 4 scoops of vanilla ice-cream (I think it was inhuman quantity). I was aware that this will not end well & I woke to and am feeling :

  1. full
  2. lazy
  3. boils on my face

I wonder If this side effect of eating Ice Cream is only on me or our entire generation gets effected. Anyways am feeling kind of Sugar high.

18 months back like most humans I too had a life where Friday meant going to Jimmy’s and gulping few ltr of beer  over rock music. After leaving bones out of the chicken wings, mostly we would march to corner house. I always had some space and motivation for finishing Death by Chocolate.

Things have changed since then, maybe I am getting old or have started observing myself more. Is it good or bad, I have no clue. All I know is that this moment is amazing & am on a joyride without alcohol & regular consumption of Ice Cream.

Notes from reading: Influence by by Robert Cialdini

Cialdini to me appears to be father of social psychology. The book is one of the best and hugely recommended to anyone who is in selling business. {Are we all not selling business these days? 🙂 }. This book was recommended to me by Anurag 

I would strongly recommend each and everyone to read this book, it will only make us smarter and aware about what is happening around us.  What tricks marketers or influencers are applying on us, making us buy more.

These are some key notes from the book:

  1. All well known principle of human behavior behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason.  ex: Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I am in a rush?  the word “because” trigger an automatic compliance response. 
  2. The “expensive = good” stereotype had worked quite well especially to shopkeepers who are selling items to tourists on vacation in their country. Since those tourists have no prior information of the actual price of item hence “expansive = good” becomes de-facto measure of quality.
  3. Civilization advances by expanding the number of operations we can perform without thinking about them. Ex- e-commerce apps, social media sites like instagram, twitter and facebook.
  4. Contrast principle: Imagine visiting a store selling cloths and you want to buy a jeans and tie. You walk to sales guy and tell him what you are looking for. He will start showing you jeans first, once you buy jeans say for Rs 5000, you won’t mind paying Rs 900 for tie even though that would be the costliest tie in his store. This is because of Contrast principle, your mind gave up thinking about the price of Tie rather it compared price you paid for jeans to the price you are paying for tie.
  5. Reciprocation: In simple term, repaying the favor offered to us. It could be as simple as : if a couple invites us to a party, we should be sure to invite them to one of ours. 
  6. Rejection-then-retreat technique : You want me to agree on certain request. One way to increase your chances would be first to make larger request of me, one that most likely i will turn down. Then, after I have refused, you would make the smaller request that you were really interested in all along.
  7. Consistency: once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we would like to stick to it. Our mind will respond in ways that justify our earlier decision. The drive to be (and look) consistent constitutes a highly potent weapon of social influence,  often causing us to act in ways that are clearly contrary to our own best interests. EX: My friends b/f is an asshole, he fights with her almost every week still she continues living with him. she thinks he still is best person for her and things will get better in future. We all fool ourselves from time to time in order to keep our thoughts and beliefs consistent with what we have already done or decided.   
  8. Commitment: If i can get you to make commitment, I will have set the stage for your automatic and ill considered consistency with earlier commitment. Once a stand is taken, there is a natural tendency to behave in ways that are consistent with the stand.
  9. Foot-in-the-door technique:  The tactic of starting with a little request in order to gain eventual compliance with related larger requests.
  10. Compliance professionals also know about the committing power of written statements.  Members of the staff at Amway are asked to set individual sales goals and commit themselves to those goals by personally recording them on paper.
  11. Evidence suggests that the more effort that goes into a commitment, the greater is its ability to influence the attitudes of the person who made it.
  12. Whenever one takes a stand that is visible to others, there arises a drive to maintain that stand in order to look like a consistent person.
  13. Throwing a lowball: An advantage is offered that induces a favorable purchase decision; then, sometime after the decision has been made but before the bargain is sealed, the original purchase advantage is deftly removed. Automobile dealers have come to understand the ability of a personal commitment to build its own support system, a support system of new justifications for the commitments.
  14. Stomachs are not especially perceptive or subtle organs. Only when it is obvious that we are about to be conned are they likely to register and transmit the message.
  15. Social Proof:  We tend to stick or follow others in making decisions blindly.  Take an example: Each one of your friends buys house, you too will end up buying because you will feel Missing out and without realizing the ill effect of your decision you will follow the herd mentality.
  16. Pluralistic ignorance: The tendency for everyone to be looking to see what everyone else is doing can lead to a fascinating phenomenon. ex: Your chance of getting help on road accident is less because everyone is waiting or hoping for everyone else to act. Also each one think that the other person will help him.
  17. We will use the actions of others to decide on proper behaviour for ourselves, especially when we view those others as similar to ourselves. Another study found that children who saw a filk depicting a child’s positive visit to the dentist lowered their own dental anxieties principally when they were the same age as the child in the child.
  18. The most influential leaders are those who know how to arrange group conditions to allows the principle of social proof to work maximally in their favor.
  19. Like: We most prefer to say yes to the requests of someone we know and like.
  20. Physical attractiveness,  similarity, compliments, contact and cooperation some key areas which will increase your likeliness among peer, organizations.
  21. We are trained from birth that obedience to proper authority is right and disobedience is wrong.
  22. Notions of submission and loyalty to legitimate rule are accorded much value in each.
  23. When in a click, whirr mode, we are often as vulnerable to the symbols of authority as to the substance.
  24. Title: Titles are simultaneously the most difficult and the easiest symbols of authority to acquire.
  25. Cloths: A second kind of authority symbol that can trigger our mechanical compliance is clothing.
  26. Scarcity: When our freedom to have something is limited, the item becomes less available,  and we experince an increased desire for it. We need to make sense of our desire for the item, so we begin to assign it positive qualities to justify the desire.
  27. Our typical reaction to scarcity hinders our ability to think. When we watch something we want become less available, a physical agitation sets in. Especially in those cases involving direct competition, the blood comes up, the focus narrows, and emotions rise. As this visceral current advances, he cognitive, rational side retreats.

Notes from reading: Nudge by Richard H Thaler

Spent reading Nudge this week. It was recommended to me by Anurag

First half of the book reminds me of content and research papers discussed by  Cialdini in his book Influence and  Kahneman in Thinking fast and slow

Nudge is a conscious kick we an individual need in making decisions. It can be ads simple as buying grocery (nutritional fact) or buying cigarette (it causes cancer).

I like the other examples and stories where it talks about human cues, Status Quo bias  and Social proof in examples of buying house or picking investment portfolio and distributing our wealth.

Other coverage and research paper of our fear of risk aversion {Cialdini has covered it as well} sounds so ridiculous human brain. Like we are more unhappy losing 500$ in bet rather winning 10000$. 🙁

We love taking shortcut steps when it comes to decision making as big us picking insurance plan, retirement plan or even taking loan.  So if we are provided with defaults options in all these choices, most of us will stick to it.

In all the book covers great deal of use cases including savings, Social Security, credit markets, environmental policy, health care, marriage,  subprime mortgage disaster and much more.

Author has made 2 claims via the book:

  1. The first is that seemingly small features of social situations can have massive effects on people’s behavior; nudges are everywhere, even if we do not see them. Choice architecture, both good and bad, is pervasive and unavoidable, and it greatly affects our decisions.
  2. The second claim is that libertarian paternalism is not an oxymoron. Choice architects can preserve freedom of choice while also nudging people in directions that will improve their lives.

Do you know?

  1. One key cause of the subprime mortgage disaster is that countless borrowers did not understand the terms of their loans.
  2. The healthcare plan website for picking medicine and allocating policy was so difficult that many older could not decide which plan to take.
  3. Many countries has default organ donation practice and opt out takes lot of time and most of us never spend time on same.
  4. Your mobile provider gives you few services for first month from on boarding because they know you will never look your bills for this added fees from months onwards.

Random Thoughts: On Religion

Right after birth, society mask comes to you in various forms :

  • name
  • race
  • religion
  • caste
  • sub-caste
  • middle class, upper class or poor

I will focus on Religion on this post.

I have friends who never miss going to Hanuman Temple on Tuesday for prayers, also some who visits mosque on Friday along with others visiting church on Sunday.

You are visiting to these places, shrines in hope of your wish getting fulfilled and then once you are out you meet real people who are poor and asking for money or prasad{sweets}. In the end both of you are asking for something.

It is good to be god fearing, but who is this god and where is he/she? 

  • If your heart is not clean.
  • If you are not taking care of people you live with or circle around you.
  • If u r not empathic with your environment.

What is the purpose of these Sunday prayers, Tuesday prayers or Friday prayers. Are these not worthless?

We have been conditioned for centuries by these so called religious leaders to fight for religion, create divisions and kill millions of poor humans.

Which god or religion has told us to kill, convert or conquer civilization for religion?

Every now and then a mosque gets burnt or church gets hit by mob or temple walls are broken. Why is this happening?

Who is making most out of it?

Is it not these religious leaders or politicians by dividing and polarizing us in name of religion, caste, Shia-Sunni?

In Hindu religion women  are considered as avatars of Durga, Kali, Shakti at same time we are witnessing cases of molestation and rape incidents in India. What kind of duality is this?

God is inside you, inside your heart. Keep an open, honest heart think through and that god. Not the one created by society or by so called religious leaders who are part mess. Being true to self is being in temple. If god was asking for donation, who would have paid them. If god was going to eat all those sweets in temple, who would have offered it?