0109 – Manufactured Context + commit to flow, and interestingness


  • we don’t have much free will if any
  • stop insisting you’re in control
  • modify your context/environment
  • pursue what is interesting

Yeah, it’s a slight play on Noam Chomsky’s manufactured consent. There’s no deeper reason for this though, I just liked the idea of using a phrase that evokes another idea. Let’s explore to see if there’s any additional value in the proximity of the two phrases.

Here’s my understanding of manufactured consent: it’s a subtle form of manipulation. Inception (the movie) demonstrated how it works- you plant an idea in somebody’s head in a subtle, insidious way. The target must be thoroughly convinced that she came up with the idea herself. This is done most visibly through the media- we all should know by now how advertising convinces people that they’re ugly, imperfect, in need of improvement, blah blah. The advertiser’s defense is that the advertising only works because the ads remind people of real prejudice they encounter in real life- they’re just providing solutions to problems that people already have. They aren’t creating the problems, just drawing attention to them.

Thing is, people don’t have nearly as much free will as we like to pretend we do. We’re very susceptible to suggestion, peer pressure. Personally, this is where I am in life right now- so forgive me for shallowly assuming thst everybody else is in similar circumstances. (This is going to be a common refrain… I should just speak for myself and leave it at that.)

I realize that I have been held back by my stubborn insistence that I am in control. That I choose my actions, my path. I realize now that this is arrogant, naive, and worst of all, false. I can’t speak for humanity but it is clear to me that I am hugely affected by context, by environment. It would be easy for me to pretend that I’ve quit smoking because I’m somehow a better person, because I somehow decided that this is what I’m going to do. But this is rather false. The main reason I’ve stopped smoking- or the catalyst, really, is that my colleagues don’t smoke- and I admire my colleagues. To be blunt about it, I desire their approval. Here’s a simple counter-example that will shatter any bullshit I might construct: if my boss picked up smoking tomorrow, all my rationalization would go out of the window. I’d come up with new reasons to explain why it’s great that we’re smoking- more conversations, more ideas, etc.

So clearly context is hugely significant here. It affects my actions and/or decision-making, and the rationalization happens largely after-the-fact. Up till now I’ve spent far too much time analysing rationalizations when really I ought to have been studying and playing around with contexts.

(Strange segue: I was writing the word vomit so far on my smartphone because the wife was using the laptop, which now has a shiny new 23-inch monitor buddy. When she stopped, I thought maybe I’d be more productive at the desk. I can type faster, surely? But I got quickly distracted by twitter and reddit, and got no writing done. I’m writing this on my phone again. Here’s an interesting example of context: I seem to be more inclined to do vomits on my smartphone then on ny computer. Why is this? It doesn’t intuitively make sense to me. I come up with after-the-fact rationalizations. )


Discussions about education are rather depressing to have. There’s a real shortage of talented teachers. Education systems were built primarily for indoctrination and childcare. They were built in the spirit and image of the industrial revolution. Seth Godin asks us, what is school for? To tech obedience, compliance. For assessment. To impose order on illegible chaos.

Literacy is a human right. Everybody should be literate. But education is about lighting fires, not filling cups. Cramming is such a strange concept if you think about it. Why do you need to learn this much material in this much time? To prepare you for a future where you do more of the same.

Education should begin with the raw, wrenching facts, maybe. How big is a country? How big is the earth? How big is the sun? The moon? Solar system? Galaxy, universe? What was slavery? People used to own other people. Human trafficking is still a thing. What is rape? What are drugs and why do people use them? What is pleasure? How should life be lived? How can life be lived? Why go to school? What is money? What is wealth? What is poverty? What is inequality? What is institutionalized racism? What is addiction? Why does it happen? What do people hurt each other? What does it mean to make a living? What is friendship? What is love? What is marriage? Why does it exist? Why is it necessary? Why is it so hard to get rid of obsolete things? Why are distractions so compelling? Is life about chasing highs? What is optimal? Why do grand gestures feel so good? Why is it so compelling to live in the now? Should that be subverted? Why? How? How interesting can life get? What can one do to systematically exit the comfort zone?

Commit to flow. Commit to done. Life should be interesting. The same old conversation over and over again is not interesting. I want to have more interesting experiences. What’s the most interesting thing I could do right now? A cigarette is not interesting. A beer is not interesting. Even harder drugs are not interesting. Shower is necessary. Sleep is necessary. But neither is interesting. Even Facebook is not interesting. Twitter and tumblr are not interesting. Sex is not interesting. Masturbation is not interesting. Meditation is reasonably interesting.

Here’s what’s interesting- playing Beatle songs now that I have a better understanding of m7/min7/maj7 chords. Something in the way she moves. Writing a counterpoint to shuli’s post will be interesting.

Work will get really interesting once I get past my plateau and get to start playing with new things.


Oh man, 20 odd words left. I guess I’ll use this space to explain what I’m doing- I have a whole bunch of drafts in my Evernote- moments where I started writing and then didn’t cross the 1,000 mark. I contemplated deleting them all, but that kinda hurt- because I know I’m going to be summarizing them later, and what if there’s good stuff to summarize? So I’m conjoining multiple draft into single vomits. I think it’s still in line with my final end goal of having 1,000,000 words of reflection, introspection, thinking.

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