Jim Rogers interview on Bloomberg

Bloomberg’s Night Talk: interview with Jim Rogers, who predicts great trouble for US economy and for the US dollar. From Wikipedia:

James Beeland Rogers, Jr. (born October 191942) is an American investor and financial commentator. He is co-founder, along with George Soros, of the Quantum Fund, and is a college professor, author, world traveler, economic commentator, and creator of the Rogers International Commodities Index (RICI).

I found this part of the Wikipedia article most interesting (he talks about it a bit, but very late in the interview, at ~40:00):

In December 2007, Rogers sold his mansion in New York City for about 16 million USD and moved to Singapore. This is due mainly in his belief that this is a ground-breaking time for investment potential in Asian markets. Rogers’ first daughter is now being tutored in Mandarin to prepare her for the future, he says. “Moving to Asia now is like moving to New York City in 1907,” he said. Also, he is quoted to say: “If you were smart in 1807 you moved to London, if you were smart in 1907 you moved to New York City, and if you are smart in 2007 you move to Asia.” In an CNBC interview with Maria Bartiromo broadcast on May 5, 2008, Rogers said that people in Asia are extremely motivated and driven, and he wants to be in that type of environment so his daughters are motivated and driven. He said during that interview that, this is how America and Europe used to be. He chose not to move to Hong Kong or Shanghai due to the high levels of pollution causing potential health problems for his family. His second daughter was born in 2008. [3]

Rogers is also an adventurer, went around the world both in a car and on a motorcycle, and published two books about it (along with investment books he’s known for). Check out his website – I think the car is waaaay too cool. 🙂

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (1993) – book

book

Just finished reading Dr. Robert Cialdini‘s 1993 classic – Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, and would like to recommend it to anyone interested in applied psychology and cognitive science. Cialdini was interested why people comply with requests that do not necessarily benefit them. According to Wikipedia, he spent 3 years applying for jobs and training at used car dealerships, fund-raising organizations and telemarketing firms to find that out. Now he’s a Distinguished Professor of psychology in Arizona State University.

From Wikipedia, Cialdini’s “6 weapons of influence”:

  • Reciprocation – People tend to return a favor. Thus, the pervasiveness of free samples in marketing. In his conferences, he often uses the example of Ethiopia providing thousands of dollars in humanitarian aid to Mexico just after the 1985 earthquake, despite Ethiopia suffering from a crippling famine and civil war at the time. Ethiopia had been reciprocating for the diplomatic support Mexico provided when Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1937.
  • Commitment and Consistency – If people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment. Even if the original incentive or motivation is removed after they have already agreed, they will continue to honor the agreement. For example, in car sales, suddenly raising the price at the last moment works because the buyer has already decided to buy. Seecognitive dissonance.
  • Social Proof – People will do things that they see other people are doing. For example, in one experiment, one or more confederates would look up into the sky; bystanders would then look up into the sky to see what they were seeing. At one point this experiment aborted, as so many people were looking up that they stopped traffic. See conformity, and the Asch conformity experiments.
  • Authority – People will tend to obey authority figures, even if they are asked to perform objectionable acts. Cialdini cites incidents, such as the Milgram experiments in the early 1960s and the My Lai massacre.
  • Liking – People are easily persuaded by other people that they like. Cialdini cites the marketing of Tupperware in what might now be called viral marketing. People were more likely to buy if they liked the person selling it to them. Some of the many biases favoring more attractive people are discussed. See physical attractiveness stereotype.
  • Scarcity – Perceived scarcity will generate demand. For example, saying offers are available for a “limited time only” encourages sales.

[russian]

Закончил читать одно из классических произведений по психологии Роберта Чалдини – “Психологию влияния”, и рекомендую к прочтению каждому. Чалдини всегда интересовало, почему люди выполняют просьбы и требования, далеко не всегда им самим выгодные.  По информации из Wikipedia, чтобы получить ответ на этот вопрос, он провел три года на разных позициях в фирмах, торгующих подержаными машинами, агенствах по телемаркетингу, рекламных агенствах и т.д. Сейчас Чалдини Заслуженный Профессор психологии государственного университета Аризоны.

Естественно, эта книга отсканирована и выложена в Рунете в многочисленных экземплярах. 🙂

Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life (2008) – book

welcome

I’ve just finished reading this book, and would like to recommend it to anyone. This is a very fun and easy reading on everyday’s brain puzzles. Common myths and unknown truths, brain’s birth and development, emotions and rationality – the book if full of surprises and useful tips. Not very detailed in its scientific explanations, “Welcome to Your Brain” feels more like a manual going only through the very general principles that will help you use your own brain right. 

Top 6 myths about the brain (from Welcome to Your Brain Blog):

  1. You only use 10 percent of your brain
  2. Playing classical music to an infant can make the child smarter
  3. Drinking alcoholic beverages kills brain cells
  4. Games like Sudoku and Brain Age keep your brain young
  5. In a noisy place, you can hear better on your cell phone by covering your other ear
  6. Vaccines cause autism

The authors, Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt gave a talk about the book at Google, and this is actually how I found out about it. If you like the talk, you’ll most definitely like the book:

The book mentions some experiments that show how limited our scope of attention is. Here’s an example from YouTube:

TED: Secrets of success in 8 words, 3 minutes by Richard St. John

Richard St. John spent more than a decade interviewing 500 people he defines as successful, and presents his distilled version of his book in just 8 words, and 3 minutes time.

Of course, to be scientifically correct, Richard should have interviewed at least as many people that have not become successful, to avoid what statisticians call selection bias. Nassim Taleb in his famous “Black Swan” came up with his own name for the same thing – he calls it “the silent evidence” (by the way, the book is a good read and definitely deserves a post on itself).

I guess, we’ll never know how many people exerted the same 8 traits and never got successful. Based on Richard’s “scientific” approach, we can come to a conclusion that brushing one’s teeth is an important road to success, since all(?) successful people undoubtedly do so. Of course, that wouldn’t fly, so we can presume interviewees were asked to identify behaviors they practice, but others don’t, or the questions were implicitly perceived as such. In any case, that’s not very scientific – why guess when you can actually ask the less fortunate? I’d bet it wouldn’t be nor that fascinating, not that inspiring once done. My hypothesis that it could all be distilled in 1 word, 1 second, and no book – there’s only one secret of big success, and it’s called LUCK.

Selection bias is an insidious beast. Please forgive me, as I cannot back the following story up with links or references, but I have once read of a study which confirmed “beginner’s luck” phenomena – casino players were indeed more lucky when they were just starting. The reason? Simple – those beginners who blew all their money away tend to never return to a casino, while the lucky ones tend to become the very “casino players” that got interviewed in this research.

Anyhow, I don’t want to dismiss John’s findings whatsoever, as I am sure they’re all very applicable to success in life, albeit maybe you shouldn’t really count on becoming the next Thomas Edison or Bill Gates by following them. Since you’ve probably spent more than 3 minutes reading my thoughts on it, why not spend another 3 minutes listening to a much more educated man:

Original video on TED.com (might be better quality).

TED: The brain in love by Helen Fisher

Famous anthropologist Helen Fisher talks about love as a brain function. What is love, why has it evolved, and why are some of us ready to die for it? Fisher and her team took MRI scans of people in love, including those just dumped. Fisher is considered the world’s leading expert on the topic of love. From Wikipedia:

In 2004, anthropologist Helen Fisher, in her ground-breaking book, Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love, proposed the humanity has evolved three core brain systems for mating and reproduction:

  • lust – the sex drive or libido.
  • attraction – early stage intense romantic love.
  • attachment – deep feelings of union with a long term partner.

A fascinating talk.

Original video on TED.com (might be better quality).

BOFH video – “The Website Is Down”

This is just a gorgeous BOFH video. BOFH stands for The Bastard Operator from Hell, the main character of stories by Simon Travaglia that first appeared in 1992 on Usenet. I was already doing computers in 1992, and I remember Russian translation of these stories appearing on local BBS and FidoNet. The stories are about a rogue system administrator taking out on the users. These stories grew into a saga, which was later published as a book, and then another, and then another. There’s also an WWW edition of the stories, and here’s a little taste of it:

“What can I do for you?” I ask pleasantly – (one of the key warning signs)
“Um, I want to know if we have a particular software package..”
“Which package is that?”
“Uh, B-A-S-I-C it’s called.”
>clickety clickety d-e-l b-a-s-i-c.e-x-e<
“Um no, we don’t have that. We used to though..”

🙂 Now this video takes it all to a whole new level:

Since the video contains Russian subtitles, I’m bound to provide a Russian translation of this post:

[Russian translation]

Офигенное видео в стилистике BOFH. BOFH = Bastard Operator From Hell (в переводе “Ублюдок-оператор из ада”, а иногда ЧМО – Чертов Мерзавец-Оператор) – главный персонаж кототких рассказов Саймона Траваглия, впервые опубликованных в 1992 году в сети Usenet. В 1992 году я уже был компьютерным маньяком, и помню русские переводы этих рассказов на Питерских BBS и в Фидошных эхах. Рассказы эти – о злобном сисадмине, отрывающемся на невинных пользователях. Из этих рассказов вырасла целая сага, по которой потом напечатали книгу, а затем еще несколько. А в сети есть WWW-редакция этого добра, и 11 оригинальных частей переведены на русский язык. Вот небольшой отрывок оттуда для примера:

“Чем я могу вам помочь” – спросил я вежливым тоном. Это один из основных признаков опасности.
“Я хотел бы знать, есть ли у нас одна программка…”
“Какая?”
“Называется B-A-S-I-C”.
>клик-клик-стук d-e-l b-a-s-i-c.e-x-e<
“Мне очень жаль, но у нас ее нет. Была когда-то…”

🙂 Ну а это видео поднимает тему на новую высоту.

Posted in humor. Tags: , , , . 13 Comments »

TED: Do schools kill creativity? by Sir Ken Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson talks on education and creativity, and how our education system destroys creativity in children. This talk is extremely entertaining and rated one of the funniest talks on TED.com. Ken authored a number of books on education and creativity, and was knighted in June 2003 for his achievements in this area. Please enjoy.

Original video on TED.com (might be better quality).