Posts Tagged ‘NPR’

A New Goal: Aim to Be Less Wrong

February 16, 2018

At a conference last week, I received an interesting piece of advice:

“Assume you are wrong.”

The advice came from Brian Nosek, a fellow psychology professor and the executive director of the Center for Open Science. Nosek wasn’t objecting to any particular claim I’d made — he was offering a strategy for pursuing better science, and for encouraging others to do the same.

When Nosek recommended that I and other scientists assume that we are wrong, he was sharing a strategy that he’s employed in his own lab — a strategy for changing the way we offer and respond to critique.

Assuming you are right might be a motivating force, sustaining the enormous effort that conducting scientific work requires. But it also makes it easy to construe criticisms as personal attacks, and for scientific arguments to devolve into personal battles. Beginning, instead, from the assumption you are wrong, a criticism is easier to construe as a helpful pointer, a constructive suggestion for how to be less wrong — a goal that your critic presumably shares.

Offices that are kept too cold result in 33% lower productivity

August 28, 2016

An interesting segment on NPR about offices that are kept uncomfortably cool. The old theory was that keeping offices cool would make people work faster. However, research shows that people working on a computer are up to 1/3 less productive than if the temperature is set to a comfortable temperature (76 degrees, or higher).

We find that when people are in an environment
that they find to be too cold, typically a temperature
like 68 to 70, they do up to a third less work on their
computers than if they’re in an environment that is
more comfortable.

Retire? No thanks says this 81 year old animator at Walt Disney Studios

August 26, 2016

Today on NPR they interviewed a guy by the name of Floyd Norman. He is 81 years old and is an animator at Walt Disney Studios. He’s been working there since the 1950s. When Norman turned 65, Disney tried to force him to retire, but he wouldn’t have it. “I wanted to continue to work,” he says. “You see, creative people don’t hang it up. We don’t walk away, we don’t want to sit in a lawn chair, we don’t want to go out and play golf, we don’t want to travel the world. We want to continue to work.”

The beauty and clarity that arises from being totally immersed in something

January 17, 2016

I’ve discovered that something magical occurs when I am deeply immersed in a problem. I enter into a different state of consciousness. My brain opens up and I see things that were once hidden. Beauty is revealed to me. I long to have the experience again – it is addictive.

Recently I’ve heard other people express similar sentiments:

Last week I heard on NPR someone talk about freediving.  The person being interviewed said that once he became immersed in the sport, something clicked inside him and a whole new, beautiful world opened up for him:

So even for me, who’s really comfortable in the water, it took a lot – a long time. Maybe I’m more neurotic than most. But it took a long time for me to get comfy. But then I had this one moment where it clicked for me. And I was down at about 20 meters, about 66 feet. And I didn’t have any urge to breathe. And all around me was this beautiful blue world. And I came up, and I felt so relaxed. And for that whole day, like, I’d close my eyes and I would just see that blue world. It was just something that was in my head. And I woke up the next morning just wanting to do it again. And I eventually got to a hundred feet, or 30 meters, during that course. And – but that’s something that stays with you. And that’s just me, an entry-level – that’s a level 2 free diver. I think that the effects are even greater. I know that they are even greater for these athletes that go to 100 meters. I mean, I can’t even imagine that. But they get to a place – it’s like part athletic, part spiritual. And it’s definitely addictive ’cause it’s so beautiful.

One of my favorite TV shows is Elementary (Sherlock Holmes and Watson). I think the show’s writers are geniuses. In last week’s episode Sherlock listens to a short audio clip over and over (hundreds of time perhaps). At some point in listening, something clicked inside him and he was able to recognize a new meaning from the inflection in the voice of the person in the audio clip (this enabled him to solve the mystery).

Recently I have been writing a software program. For the first few days it was frustrating. But after looking at the problem, over and over, from every conceivable angle, something clicked inside me. The frustration lifted and a calmness settled in. Things became clear in my mind. The problem, my solution, became beautiful. I thought to myself, “I can see how programming can be addictive.”

Now I realize that this sense of clarity and beauty arises whenever one completely immerses oneself into a problem, whatever the problem might be. I’ve also realized that, to experience this altered/heightened state of consciousness requires long periods of uninterrupted focus.


No worry before it’s time

June 1, 2014

Today I listened to a fascinating talk on mindfulness by Dr. Ellen Langer from Harvard University. Here are a few snippets:

Mindfulness is the simple act of actively noticing things.

If you live with somebody, notice five new things about that person. What will happen is the person will start to come alive for you again.

Our experience of everything is formed by the words and ideas we attach to them. Change the words and you will change the experience.

The placebo is a wonderful, wonderful drug. The placebo has cured a lot of people. It’s a very, very powerful medication. The placebo is unlocking your brain’s own pharmacy.

I think yoga is wonderful. I think running is wonderful. Once I decide that I’m going to start running because when I run, I’m going to be healthy, now I’m believing I’m being healthy… and that should translate into greater health. What I’m saying is many of these practices have a large placebo effect.

Events don’t cause stress. What causes stress are the views you take of events. [Epictetus]

Most things are an inconvenience, rather than a tragedy. Let me give you an example. Many years ago, I had a major fire that destroyed 80% of what I owned. And when I called the insurance company, and they came over the next day, the person, the insurance agent, said to me that this was the first call that he’d ever had where the damage was worse than the call. I thought, ‘Well, gee, you know, it’s already taken my stuff. Why give it my soul? You know — why pay twice?’ Which is what people so often do. Something happens, you have that loss, and then you’re going to now throw all your emotional energy at it and so you’re doubling up on the negativity.

I’m against compromise. The reason for that is because it’s an agreement for everybody to lose rather than finding the win/win solution, which is often out there.