Some friend or another, can’t really remember either who or when, once told me over a pint (or six, or ten, yea I know..) of beer there’s three types of people in the world – the optimist who thinks the glass is half full, the pessimist who thinks the glass is half empty, and the realist, who drank half the glass before the other two were paying attention and will drink the other half while they’re bickering about who among them’s right. Then he drank my beer while I was thinking about what he said. So there, that’s justice for you. May Dionysius plague him with the curse of warm beer for all eternity.
I’ve learned my lesson – when you’re drinking, don’t think. When you’re thinking, don’t drink. Because either way, somebody could take advantage of your lack of focus and drink your beer, which would be a disaster – ergo, you can’t do either right so stop trying to. Multitasking is for computers and they don’t drink Guinness, either. Hey, so that’s where I got my other title for the blog. Tsk, tsk. Subconscious plagues man, news at six. But there’s something else there, a lesson for both pessimists and optimists alike. Reality won’t pause for you to ponder over it. It doesn’t matter whether the glass is half-full or half-empty, what it matters is there’s something in it – in this case, beer. Well, more like wine, if I’m to account for what’s in front of me. Dry, dehydrated, lip-puckering ambrosia.
It’s not complicated, it’s not complex – leave that for the various John or Jane Doe-s describing their fake or imaginary relationship over facebook. It’s quite easy. If your thought pattern goes slow, improve it. If you don’t understand something, ask for another explanation. Do it right. It’s your time and your choice how to make the best of it. Get the most of everything, when you can or are expected to. You won’t get breaks when you’re expected to answer something. Because the person in front of you will also choose how to make the best of his time too, and to him, he’s the important one, not you. Fun fact, if you’re asked to solve a problem, get all the facts before you start the solving process – because otherwise you’ll be thought of as inconsistent, as clumsy, maybe even dumb. It won’t matter what you are or what you think you are. You can only solve something, do something right or evaluate something correctly if you have all the facts right from the start, and if the information, the facts, the data, is incomplete or incorrect, or you assume you know and don’t ask questions, your answers might be also incomplete, incorrect or sometimes even go missing.
There was this thing I’ve found while browsing the funny side of the web, a question – If I say I’ll give you a million pounds to jump off an airplane, would you do it? No? Well, what if I were to tell you the plane was on the ground, the type of the plane was a Cessna and on the ground where you’d jump I’ve put a thick, elastic mattress? Doh! Of course it changes things. Never assume you know the answers if you haven’t asked all the questions.
There’s a difference between 3.14 and 3.14159265359. And there’s a difference between those two numbers and the real pi. For easy stuff, like the circumference of a circle with a meter radius, you can round up pi to enough digits to matter – but when you’re looking at the sun’s two times pi times radius, boy that error margin will kick you in the shins. Same thing with knowledge. You can’t say something like “I have approximate knowledge of something”. You’re not the demon cat. Your reward for that would be almost having a job.
The problem with optimists and pessimists is they round up – they take something and make it bigger, they extend the properties (real or deduced) of a small thing to many similar small things (or large, whatever, shut up and listen). Both groups believe, which ought to make you raise an eyebrow sarcastically. They don’t ask questions, they assume. Realists don’t take things for granted and don’t round up. Sounds convincing, innit? Bullshit.
I’ve just pulled a David Copperfield on you. You’ve looked at my text and didn’t ask the question – optimism, pessimism or realism – aren’t those temporary traits? Why can’t somebody be an optimist now, a pessimist tomorrow and a realist when paying taxes or negotiating the bullet points in the job description? You’ve focused on the story, on the process of me solving this equation, on the validity of the hypothesis without really asking yourself if the initial premise, my supposed logical axiom, holds any water.
Learn from magicians or lovers – I’m waving my right hand in front of your nose while I’m unfastening your bra with my left. There’s a reason many love girls with spectacles, if you’re fogging them glasses with your breath she won’t see what you’re really doing to her panties.
There’s no such thing as good enough – that’s the rounding up brain juggle-a-thon. It’s not important, dismiss it, crumple it and throw it away. What you want to be looking at is called statistical significance level or an analogy of that concept – something like the amount of detail that you need to reach in order to be reasonably sure if you’re right or wrong, the amount of questions you want answered in order to avoid having most people doubting your analysis. Or who exactly are the people your analysis has to convince, what is your target group and how you define it. Learn from statistics, from marketing. You can’t convince everybody, if you could it’d be called brainwashing – actually, I’m pretty sure it’s called exactly that and there’s a few laws or at least some ethical principles against it. But you can convince only those people who matter to you, or who’s opinion on the subject is important. If you’re going to have a peer-reviewed paper, you don’t have to convince the milkman too. In this particular scenario, the milkman’s opinion is not important. He might disagree with you, but then again, who gives a crap what the milkman thinks of dark energy, dark matter and their influence on supernovae electromagnetic radiation emissions. There’s a reason many films have critics praising them while they flop at the box-office.
Let’s reframe it, let’s change how that concept looks like – build your own tool of assigning a level of trust to things. Nothing is 100% certain. So when are you reasonably sure something is true or not? Who holds the most importance, who would you listen to if they’d say your hypothesis is wrong? Any moron with an internet connection and access to google and Wikipedia can copy/paste some crap they think would prove your theories wrong – but should you answer every one of them? Would you be expected to answer all of them? Where would you draw the line between doubt and reasonable certainty, between I should explain myself better or start looking for webmaster tools and ip-class ban them? It’s important to find out where to draw it. You can’t go dissecting everything from horse to p-branes. You can’t analyze everything you eat by learning molecular biology – well you shouldn’t, anyway. If somebody tells you he thinks this yoghurt has sugar in it you don’t have to put it under an electron microscope – ask yourself “What is lactose?” instead. Don’t over-do it – nobody wins at life, nobody gets out of life alive. Time is short – use it wisely. Pick your battles, preferably the ones you can win.
I’m not arguing over what or who is important, what should be important or whether it really is or not important, all I’m saying is you’re responsible for your own time and for how you spend it. The logic of what I’ve said a few lines up is quite sound, the premise was a bit skewed. Or a whole lot more skewed, whatever. You want to prove something, do it until there isn’t a shade of reasonable doubt remaining and stop there. You want to make things as simple as possible, but not more than that. Be lazy about it – simplify until you reach a point where if you go any further than that, you’re actually complicating it. Don’t be contemplating the universe in the pub or I’ll be drinking your beer and you’ll be paying for it.
The whole point of living right is finding the statistical significance level of explanations and people – if somebody tells you he thinks Putin is an alien, dismiss it as baloney. Pics or it didn’t happen. If a thousand people say vaccines are bad for you but billions are vaccinated and infectious viral diseases go poof! after vaccination programs (like they do in real life) – dismiss it as baloney. Bullshit. Crap. Because it most likely is just that.
You find people selling you some “miracle” herb cures impotence, clears your acne, reverses aging, stabilizes your blood sugar and grows hair on your bald eagle head at the same time? Or that you can cure cancer with lemon juice and sodium bicarbonate because acidity and to hell with actual science? Google that shit up, see what they really use it for and then do a simple math to find out how many people use it, even by accident – and make a percentage of it. Having a thousand people cure their sneezing with lemon juice or by praying when a billion eat lemons and / or praying and sneezing is still at large, that’s not significant (it’s actually magical thinking). Take homeopathy for instance. It’s something diluted in water to stop that something causing bad karma. Diluted means homeopathic dilution. As in a whole lot of water. If you do that for something like the water that used to be duck liver extract they now call Oscillococcinum, you’ll find they use more water than you can find in the Mediterranean Sea to get just one pill. Consider it. To find one molecule of the initial liver extract in the whole mass of the observed universe you’d have to use a 40C dilution – they claim to use 200C, so I’m saying either they’ve invented how to harvest water from multiple universes (10^320 more, apparently) or they’re full of shit and trying to con us. They say water has memory because it was shaken (impossible, but let’s not use science or truth in marketing, because money) and never stirred (Oy, I crack me up!) – when they’re making those pills, do they dump that residual water on the sun? Does it go away magically? Do they use it as fuel for matter-energy conversions? Nooo, it actually gets flushed – because they don’t have fision reactors or Star Trek replicator/ transporter devices and it can’t go poof!, according to what even they accept as science. So why then, if they’re using up all the water and water has memory, do people still get sick of flu? Notes say “flu-like symptoms”, yea, I know, that could also mean I’ve inhaled some pepper by accident and this shit just cured me. Hurrah! Statistical significance here would mean disproving actual science, that the illnesses homeopathy claims to cure shouldn’t exist but they do – ergo, homeopathy is bullshit. There’s a reason they call homeopathy and other bullshit like that “alternative medicine” – the actual medicine actually works – and in order to be classified as actual medicine you have to prove it works – which means tests, studies, trials and usually long lists of known (or possible or impossible, because law-suits) side-effects. Ever read the warning leaflet on the bloody Aspirin? Scares the crap out of me, I’ll tell you that.
I have an easier name for the process of identifying the significance levels of premises or beliefs, something blue, something borrowed – bullshit detection. Think of it and build your own. It frees your mind and your wallet from the burden and consequences of crap. And you’ll have more money to spend on beer, wine or whiskey. Tell those cons to save the crap for their customers, because you ain’t one.
The post(er) scriptum to the post scriptum:
If a product that says it can repair many sometimes unrelated (emphasis mine) health problems, could benefit half the people on the face of the earth and wasn’t recently discovered by recent scientific advances, it’s a big warning sign. If it wasn’t tested for years before being introduced to the general population and has no “approved by the state” mark on it, it should already make your bullshit detector tingle and vibrate. If that particular product is not also the same price as a Bugatti (or more), it’s a big-ass warning sign with big-ass pulsating neon lights you can see from space. If that product was also supposedly discovered somewhere else, by an ancient civilization (say Imperial China, for instance) and to explain how it works they use the language constructs of the Communist Party peppered by words like quantum, natural, organic, vibrations, energy, holistic, detoxifying, latin names for everyday plants (for instance Allium cepa = the bloody everyday onion), while claiming no side-effects as opposed to conventional “alopathic” medicine – look for your wallet because they’re after your money. It’s all bullshit and it’s bad for you.
Eat shit, a billion flies can’t be all that wrong. Correct sentence, but full of crap (pun intented, because much, much wine) assuming you’re not a fly. Or are you?