What to Tell Donald Trump

We should tell Trump that the man who constantly invokes his popularity is the one who worries that he’s unlovable. The man who refers incessantly to his riches is the one who frets that he’s worthless.

Is there a needier billionaire on the planet?

.. We should tell him that, and we should add that he has practically collaborated with the enemy by playing into a narrative of Muslim persecution and a grand war between civilizations.

He has given the Islamic State and other barbarians a piece of propaganda as big as any of his resorts and as shimmering as any of his office towers.

.. So Ted Cruz reacts to the San Bernardino massacre by visiting a firing range and promising such extensive bombing of the Middle East that he’ll find out “if sand can glow in the dark.”

 

Addicted to Distraction

“The net is designed to be an interruption system, a machine geared to dividing attention,” Nicholas Carr explains in his book “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.” “We willingly accept the loss of concentration and focus, the division of our attention and the fragmentation of our thoughts, in return for the wealth of compelling or at least diverting information we receive.”

.. My initial commitment was to limit my online life to checking email just three times a day: When I woke up, at lunchtime and before I went home at the end of the day. On the first day, I succeeded until midmorning, and then completely broke down. I was like a sugar addict trying to resist a cupcake while working in a bakery.

.. What I failed to take into account was that new emails would download into my inbox while I wrote my own. None of them required an immediate reply, and yet I found it impossible to resist peeking at the first new message that carried an enticing subject line. And the second. And the third.

In a matter of moments, I was back in a self-reinforcing cycle.

.. During those first few days, I did suffer withdrawal pangs, most of all the hunger to call up Google and search for an answer to some question that arose.

.. Finally, I feel committed now to taking at least one digital-free vacation a year. I have the rare freedom to take several weeks off at a time, but I have learned that even one week offline can be deeply restorative.

 

 

Why can’t we read anymore?

My daughter didn’t even dance, she just wandered around the stage, looking at the audience with eyes as wide as a two-year old’s eyes starting at a bunch of strangers. It didn’t matter that she didn’t dance, I was so proud. I took photos, and video, with my phone.

And, just in case, I checked my email. Twitter. You never know.

..

  • New information creates a rush of dopamine to the brain, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel good.
  • The promise of new information compels your brain to seek out that dopamine rush.

With fMRIs, you can see the brain’s pleasure centres light up with activity when new emails arrive.

So, every new email you get gives you a little flood of dopamine. Every little flood of dopamine reinforces your brain’s memory that checking email gives a flood of dopamine. And our brains are programmed to seek out things that will give us little floods of dopamine.

Against Transparency

In the context of the then-frenzied demand for financial reform, Brandeis called for “publicity”–the idea that “bankers when issuing securities … make public the commissions or profits they are receiving.”

This publicity was designed to serve two very different purposes. First, Brandeis thought that the numbers would shame bankers into offering terms that were more reasonable–a strategy that has been tried with executive compensation by the SEC, with the result not of shame, but jealousy, leading to even higher pay. Second, and more significantly, Brandeis believed that publicity would make the market function more efficiently. 

But in 2000, first lady Hillary Clinton read an op-ed piece in The New York Times detailing the harm that the bill would do to lower-middle-class Americans. She began referring to “that awful bill”–lower case “b”–and took on the mission of stopping her husband from making it law. He apparently acquiesced, letting the bill die in a pocket veto.

Two years later, First Lady Clinton was Senator Clinton. And two years later, she had received over $140,000 in campaign contributions from credit-card and financial-services companies. Two years later, the bill came up for a vote. But by now Senator Clinton apparently saw things differently from how First Lady Clinton had seen them. In 2001, she voted for “that awful bill” twice. (In 2005, she switched her position again, opposing its final passage.)

.. This is the problem of attention-span. To understand something–an essay, an argument, a proof of innocence– requires a certain amount of attention. But on many issues, the average, or even rational, amount of attention given to understand many of these correlations, and their defamatory implications, is almost always less than the amount of time required.

.. Once we have named it, you will begin to see the attention-span problem everywhere, in public and private life.

.. Any effort to protect the accused against unjustified criticism was abandoned. Unfair complaints would have to be tolerated–as they would have to be in any similar context. The age of transparency is upon us. The need to protect the whistleblower is unquestionable–driving off even modest efforts to cushion the blows from a mistaken accusation.