🌀🗞 The FLUX Review, Ep. 87
February 16th, 2022
Episode 87 — February 16th, 2023 — Available at read.fluxcollective.org/p/87
Contributors to this issue: Erika Rice Scherpelz, Neel Mehta, Boris Smus, Dimitri Glazkov
Additional insights from: Ade Oshineye, Gordon Brander, a.r. Routh, 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.
"But it’s also true that feelings need to be recognized for what they are: temporary, changing conditions. They are states, not traits. They’re like the weather. Rain is real, and we’d be foolish to stand in a downpour and act as if it weren’t actually raining. But we’d be just as foolish to expect that the sun will never reappear."
— Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
🌱😬 Growing into guilt
Suppose we’ve done something… not-so-good. Okay, really, this one was pretty bad. What is the feeling that we’re experiencing? According to Brené Brown, we are likely feeling shame or guilt. How do we tell which is which?
A good way to spot shame is to look at how we perceive ourselves after failure. If our self-talk sounds like “I did this because I am bad”, we’re probably feeling shame. Shame tends to be existential, because it beckons the possibility of us being irreparably flawed.
Guilt’s self-talk sounds more like “I did a bad thing.” It is less attached to our identity. Though it can be just as painful as shame, it is less of an existential threat. It’s also a sign of taking responsibility. Doing a bad thing means that there’s still room to learn and do better next time. We are not inherently good or bad, but a constant work in progress.
Thinking through this, we spotted an interesting connection between Brené Brown’s work on guilt and shame and Robert Kegan’s adult development theory.
Shame is a marker of the Socialized Mind, the developmental stage where we define ourselves by our relationships with others. Whatever those most important to us say is taken as truth. When we fail to live up to their principles, we feel that our relationships and, therefore, our identity are at risk. Shame is extrinsic. It originates from the judgment of others overwhelming our internal value system.
Guilt is an indicator of the Self-Authored Mind. At this stage, we have developed our own principles that we use to orient ourselves in the world. These principles often derive from relationships, but they are independent of them. When we fail to live up to these principles, we feel guilt. Guilt is intrinsic; it comes from not meeting our own standards. Though the judgments of others might play a role, our pain is primarily self-generated.
Why care about the difference? Shame is pathological. It’s a classic “birth of the villain” trope: if we are inherently bad, what else is there to do but embrace our badness? Shame leads to a vicious cycle of reasoning that can trap us indefinitely. Guilt provides a way out of this cycle: if bad behavior was something we did, then next time we can do something different.
So next time we do a not-so-good thing, it might be good to run a quick check: are we feeling guilt, or shame? If it’s the latter, what might we do to gently nudge ourselves from the “I am bad” story to “I did a bad thing” story — and move on to helping fix the situation we’ve created?
Clues that point to where our changing world might lead us.
🚏🛩 AI successfully piloted a fighter jet
According to DARPA, the US Department of Defense’s research agency, a set of AI algorithms was able to successfully pilot a real F-16 fighter jet during a multi-day training exercise. While this is a major technical advancement, DARPA noted that fighter jets would still need to have human pilots to focus on battle-related tasks while the AI focuses on flying the plane. One defense expert commented that this program could help the US deploy smaller, cheaper autonomous aircraft, where “if any of them gets shot down, it’s not as big of a deal.”
🚏🔋 Electric cars could become as cheap as gas-powered cars this year
As competition in the EV space has heated up, prices have been driven down — and the growth of the industry overall has led to economies of scale in battery production, further reducing costs. Put these together and you arrive at experts’ conclusion that electric cars may reach price parity with gas-powered cars as soon as this year; in fact, for some luxury cars, electric versions are probably already cheaper. For example, the electric version of GM’s Equinox SUV is $3,400 more than the gas version, but add in government incentives and the electric model actually has a lower net cost.
🚏🇮🇸 Strikes by Icelandic oil truckers may lead to gas stations running dry
On Wednesday, 70 oil truckers in Iceland went on an “indefinite strike,” preventing the shipment of oil and gasoline across much of the island country. Oil executives warned that gas stations in Iceland could start running dry within two days. Tourism (which the Icelandic economy relies heavily on) could take a beating, and analysts say food shortages could be “looming next week.”
🚏🚘 A car-stealing “challenge” went viral on TikTok, leading to thousands of thefts
The “Kia Challenge” — where people use a USB cable to hotwire certain models of Kia and Hyundai cars — went viral on TikTok last year, leading to a spate of thousands of car thefts across the US. These cars are vulnerable because they lack industry-standard “electronic immobilizer” features. Hyundai has since announced a free software upgrade for 8 million at-risk cars to circumvent this missing feature; Hyundai previously charged upwards of $170 for the fix.
🚏🏝️ Luxury rehab centers now promise to treat “crypto addiction”
During the crypto boom, crypto trading became an obsession for many enthusiasts — somewhat akin to compulsive gambling. (Some reported going on “trading benders” or “breaking into a sweat” when spending a few hours without internet access.) So, some luxury rehabilitation centers have started offering programs to help people wean themselves off compulsive trading, alongside treatments for more traditional maladies like anxiety, depression, or alcohol abuse. These fancy rehab centers can cost upwards of $75,000 for a four-week stay.
📖⏳ Worth your time
Some especially insightful pieces we’ve read, watched, and listened to recently.
English is a Terrible Programming Language (Orbis Tertius) — Argues that breathless predictions of AI replacing programmers are missing the mark. For one, AI only helps with easy tasks like generating boilerplate code and falls flat in the truly difficult parts of software engineering (maintenance, collaboration, etc.). What’s more, natural languages can’t “program” anything as rigid as a computer: they’re far too subjective, implicit, ambiguous, unstructured, and full of contradictions.
Why the Super Rich Are Inevitable (The Pudding) — An interactive visualization of the “yard-sale model” from the unusual field of econophysics. The theory posits that, in free markets, wealth naturally gravitates toward the top; you’ll eventually end up with a few people owning all the money. The crux is that richer people can wager (and therefore win) more than poorer people.
“A Very Solid and Admirable C-” (The Williams Record) — Five college instructors share their thoughts on ChatGPT’s role in the classroom and how it’s affected their teaching style. One professor reported that he’s had to make essay prompts more philosophical, since ChatGPT is too good at answering fact-based questions; others said ChatGPT was welcome if it could help students learn without crowding out the valuable act of critical thinking.
Sybil Defense (David Rosenthal) — Briefly lays out a theory that any permissionless, “decentralized” network (such as that of a cryptocurrency) must set up its incentives in such a way that it ends up becoming centralized. The article links to several other good economic papers on cryptocurrency theory.
Self-Reliance (Ralph Waldo Emerson) — A classic essay from the transcendentalist 19th century philosopher, reminding you to think for yourself, avoid conformity, be open to changing your mind, and worry less about being misunderstood.
📚🌲 Book for your shelf
An evergreen book that will help you dip your toes into systems thinking.
This week, we recommend The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson.
(2011, 192 pages).
One of the most important skills a person can learn — at any age — is balanced emotional regulation. Emotional regulation relies on a person’s ability to integrate their different brain functions. In the developing brain of a child, this integration requires guidance.
In The Whole-Brain Child, Siegel and Payne Bryson provide scientifically backed, practical tips for helping parents turn everyday moments of frustration into opportunities to make family life a little bit less chaotic and help develop a child’s integration skills at the same time.
One of the key themes of the book is balance. That is, it’s not about getting your child's reasonable left brain to overcome their emotional right brain. It’s about integrating the big-picture emotional perspective of the right brain with the linear expression capabilities of the left to help a child handle and communicate their feelings.
Of course, with any book that gives advice on how to raise children, there is going to be a large gap between theory and practice. But, we hope that by understanding the principles of how a child’s brain develops, we can better respond to reality, whatever it may bring.
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