Discover more from 🌀🗞 The FLUX Review
🌀🗞 The FLUX Review, Ep. 125
November 9th, 2023
Episode 125 — November 9th, 2023 — Available at read.fluxcollective.org/p/125
Contributors to this issue: Neel Mehta, Boris Smus, MK, Dimitri Glazkov, Erika Rice Scherpelz
Additional insights from: Ade Oshineye, Gordon Brander, Stefano Mazzocchi, Ben Mathes, Justin Quimby, Alex Komoroske, Robinson Eaton, Spencer Pitman, Julka Almquist, Scott Schaffter, Lisie Lillianfeld, Samuel Arbesman, Dart Lindsley, Jon Lebensold
We’re a ragtag band of systems thinkers who have been dedicating our early mornings to finding new lenses to help you make sense of the complex world we live in. This newsletter is a collection of patterns we’ve noticed in recent weeks.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
― Clare Boothe Luce
📝🦃 Editor’s note: We’ll publish an issue next week, but after that, we’ll be off for several weeks for the US holiday season. We’ll return in early January!
🪝 Know thy hooks
Anxiety. Everyone experiences it. In our uncertain, turbulent modern world, anxiety is everywhere. We worry about our careers. We worry about our health. We worry about the environment. We worry.
There are many practices and techniques for managing anxiety. And most of the time, we do okay. We learn to examine our thoughts and dismiss the catastrophic ones. We build habits to make reflection less effortful over time.
However, we each have particular kinds of thoughts that we tend to believe immediately. They bypass our carefully practiced pauses of self-reflection. When that happens, we tend to act in unproductive ways. We might do or say something we regret or give up our agency. Our reaction may spiral out, losing our sense of center. We lose our ability to see the anxiety itself and only see the effects of our bewilderingly strong reaction.
In their book Immunity to Change, the authors Lisa Laskow Lahey and Robert Kegan call these thoughts “hooks.” This metaphor is apt — they hook us and unceremoniously drag us into the abyss of limited reasoning and hasty action. Everybody carries their collection of highly individualized hooks. Some may fear abandonment. For others, it’s about a pervasive sense of insufficiency. For others, it might be related to one’s fragility in the face of the uncaring world. Oftentimes, it’s an eclectic mix of all of the above.
It takes significant effort (often accompanied by coaching and/or therapy) to spot our hooks. They tend to hide right outside of our ability to observe ourselves. They masquerade as completely rational thinking. “Of course I was angry! She was asking very picky questions about my design!” “Of course, I had to work on that doc late into the night. What else would I do? Let everyone down?!”
Fair warning: learning of our own hooks may be an infohazard, at least at first. Few things feel more hopeless than observing ourselves getting hooked and struggling to do anything about it. We may long for the simpler times when hooks just happened to us — like weather or earthquakes — and allowed us to shift the responsibility elsewhere. Developing the unconscious competence of releasing a hook is a long journey.
However, to “know thyself,” as the maxim stenciled on the ancient Greek temple of Delphi dictates, we must know our hooks. Hooks hold us back. They prevent us from becoming who we desire to be. Hooks put self-imposed limits on our agency and sabotage our aspirations. To truly fly and live fully, we must know our hooks and keep working to release them.
Clues that point to where our changing world might lead us.
🚏🎧 Over a million fan-made sped-up remixes have flooded streaming services
Homemade, sped-up remixes of songs have become all the rage on social media and music streaming platforms, partly because faster songs are more exciting and partly because sped-up songs let you fit more of a track into the time constraints of a TikTok video. Some artists are encouraging their fans to experiment with their music since it can help the original songs go viral. Still, record labels worry that fan-made remixes are diverting streaming income away from labels and toward fans. By one estimate, over a million “unlicensed” remixes are now live on streaming services, accounting for over 1% of all songs on those platforms.
🚏🏷️ Washington DC will give residents free AirTags to track stolen cars
The USA's capital city will hand out free Apple AirTags to residents of certain police districts, focusing on regions that have recently suffered large increases in car theft. The idea is for residents to attach the tracking beacons to their cars to help the police track down their vehicles if they get stolen.
🚏🎮 Microsoft is bringing AI-powered characters, stories, and quests to Xbox
Microsoft is teaming up with an AI company to release new generative AI tools for Xbox game developers: an “AI design copilot” will help developers write scripts and storylines, and an “AI character engine” can be integrated into games to generate stories, quests, and dialogue dynamically. The “multiyear” partnership doesn’t have a clear launch date yet.
🚏🗳️ Odd-year elections cut voter turnout by up to 50% in one US state
A longstanding law in Washington State requires city and local elections to be held in odd-numbered years, placing them out of sync with the much higher-profile statewide and national elections that occur in even-numbered years. New research found that every single city in Washington suffered a turnout drop in its local elections due to this rule, with an average 36% drop-off from midterm years like 2022 and a 50% drop from presidential years like 2020. (The drop-off was uncorrelated with city size and demographics, meaning the effect was universal.) Thus, advocates argue that a simple law change to shift municipal elections to even-numbered years could (in theory) almost double turnout.
📖⏳ Worth your time
Some especially insightful pieces we’ve read, watched, and listened to recently.
Why Generative AI NPCs Are Overhyped (Game Stuff) — Argues that LLM-powered non-player characters in video games are “either too important or too trivial a feature for developers to rely on a third-party service.” NPCs with dynamic but ultimately unimportant dialogue aren’t worth paying for, while game developers will want full control over NPCs that are core to the game’s story and mechanics. Thus, “GenAI NPCs as-a-service” companies aren’t going to become as popular as VCs think.
Keep Moving, Seek the High Ground, Stay in Touch (Marcus Guest) — Discusses how dynamic environments (whether in nature or in organizations) require dynamic responses, which look more like flexible heuristics than rigid rules. The Marines’ simple three-part approach for when battlefield plans break down is a great example: it helps soldiers stay organized in rapidly changing environments and also helps commanders “estimate frontline developments even when they can’t see what’s going on.”
“Just Buy Everyone a Car” (Alex Davis) — Critiques the urban planning trend of replacing buses with dynamic, “on-demand” transit — in other words, subsidized Ubers. Though the idea sounds efficient and high-tech, it suffers from high operating costs, long wait times, and unpredictable timings and routes. Subsidizing car ownership doesn’t work either because urban areas and major commuter routes simply couldn’t handle that many cars.
Heightened Dream Recall Ability Linked to Increased Creativity and Functional Brain Connectivity (PsyPost) — Finds that strong scores on the famous alternate uses test (AUT), typically used to measure divergent thinking ability, appear to be correlated with creative thinking, high dream recall, and more activity in the part of the brain associated with daydreaming and introspection. But which way does the arrow of causality fly? And can these abilities be cultivated?
🔍📆 Lens of the week
Introducing new ways to see the world and new tools to add to your mental arsenal.
This week’s lens: stop energy.
You’re posting about a new tech device you’re excited about on social media. You come back a few hours later expecting to see a couple of likes and some “I agree!” comments. Instead, what you come back to is a wall of text about how that brand sucks and this other brand is so much better. You go away feeling deflated, wishing you had never shared in the first place.
This is an example of stop energy. Stop energy is not just about saying “no” or critiquing an idea, which is often valid. Rather, stop energy is characterized by taking our enthusiasm and sense of forward motion and quashing it. When we are at the receiving end of stop energy, criticism doesn’t come across as an attempt to work collaboratively to understand and solve a problem. It comes across as a judgment of our taste. We hear, “What sort of person would even think that in the first place?”
It’s easy to become the unconscious bearer of stop energy. If, for example, we have the experience and expertise to know that a certain idea won’t work, it may seem so obviously wrong that our response of “that won’t work” doesn’t feel like stop energy. It feels like giving helpful feedback. However, from the point of view of a recipient who doesn’t have our knowledge, it feels like their idea is being dismissed without consideration.
Instead, we can look for opportunities to turn our feedback into conversations. If the idea is something that truly won’t work, turn it into a learning conversation. Figure out where the person started and their chain of reasoning. Work through it step-by-step with them and see where we can gently nudge them or, even better, redirect their enthusiasm into a more fruitful direction. If the discussion topic can go somewhere, turn it into a collaboration. Instead of pushing back on the other person, find a way to hold the problem between us and push back on it. One way of doing this is to ask questions instead of pushing back directly. “What about this part?” rather than “this doesn’t solve this problem.”
Whatever the approach, our goal is to avoid squashing motivation. Instead, we want to approach every conversation to increase and, when appropriate, redirect enthusiasm.
© 2023 The FLUX Collective. All rights reserved. Questions? Contact email@example.com.