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How Much of Anything Is Enough?
What if money was like food? Life's limits hold lessons for healthy self-interest (individual and collective).
Do you have enough enoughness in your life? Your biology definitely does. But your unevolved economic appetites might not. Life is limited—as are all bodily appetites. Limitless errors feed on imagining otherwise (including a version of the “banality of evil”).
1. What if our appetite for money was like that for food? Some is vital. More is desirable... but only up to some point. Stomachs have limits, they send satiety signals when full. A mental override is needed to eat more (repeated enough = unhealthy).
2. Is money more like calories than integers? That money comes in integer amounts can feed the illusion that its increments are worth the same (a dollars a dollar). But the benefit or utility of calories varies (becomes diminishing, and ultimately toxic).
3. Since the idea of “diminishing marginal utility” doesn’t diminish corporate desire for unlimited growth, perhaps we need to recognize “toxic utility.” Money might be like food or temperature or oxygen in having a survival-compatible operating range, too little or too much kills.
4. Financial self-interest has become an easy, but poor and error-prone, proxy for the rich set of traits we evolved for survival. Seeing humans as individualists driven mainly by money, discounts our social and self-deficient nature (= WEIRD sampling error: Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic).
5. Money-hunger can’t be innate. It’s too recent an invention in evolutionary terms, and “the logic of the market remains cognitively unnatural” (Pinker).
6. Perhaps money-hunger most resembles our evolved status-seeking? But cultures that don’t channel status seeking to be collectively useful, risk not surviving. That’s likely why all surviving hunter-gatherer cultures limit group-threatening behaviors, especially from those with high status.
7. Perhaps beliefs about money, like those about food, are culturally configurable. Cultures that promote addictions ( = appetites “past reason hunted”) = unhealthy.
9. “Free markets” have unintelligently evolved a diffuse but still dangerous form of Arendt’s “banality of evil.” Decent people seeking only their livelihoods, intending no harm, work an institutional machinery that creates harms (like pollution).
10. To encourage unlimited money-hunger (individual or corporate) is to misuse the most powerful social forces on earth. Markets drive the activities of billions of people toward amazing ends. But their power is safer when intelligently guided, rather than left to mindlessly evolve by local incentives and chance.
Nature (and our nature) is limit-full. If we define “limitism” as organizing ourselves to accommodate known limits, we can see that limitlessness involves ignorance. Knowledge of reality demands limitism.
Illustration by Julia Suits, The New Yorker cartoonist & author of The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions
The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.
- In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
- The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
- The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
A study looks at the ingredients of a good scare.
Catching fear in a bottle<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDYyNzg1Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyOTQwMTcyMn0.WtpJ1E_dhK2o09fBpKARynj4_p5NXeklgsXsbd7xr9w/img.jpg?width=980" id="8ff51" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f10dd9188b173f4a36e85e9325507c6b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: Photo Boards/Unsplash<p>Previous studies have tracked physiological signs of fear arousal, but none have established a one-to-one correlation between that arousal and specific, actual fear events.</p><p>Andersen says that much of the research has been conducted in lab settings with weak fear stimuli, observing subjects as they experience things like scary videos. Scares in these situations tend to be weak and difficult to measure. Even harder to track in these situations is the link between enjoyment and fear. </p>
Eyes everywhere<iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/109695164" width="100%" height="480" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="267ba87cfb8591ed5830499574d2272a"></iframe><p>Andersen and his colleagues conducted their experiments at <a href="https://dystopia.dk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Dystopia</a> Haunted House, a commercial attraction in Vejle, Denmark constructed in an old, run-down factory. The Recreational Fear Lab has a long-standing partnership with the spook shack.</p><p>They outfitted 100 volunteers with heart monitors and sent them on their terrifying way through the 50-room horror mansion. The facility incorporates a number of fright mechanisms including frequent jump scares in which a sudden threat takes a visitor by surprise.</p><p>Researchers surreptitiously observed their participants on closed-circuit video as they made their way through the attraction. They tracked each individual's scares, scoring them for intensity according to their visible reactions. After exiting the attraction, individuals self-reported their experiences in the haunted house.</p><p>Combining these self-reports with observer notes and each participant's heart-rate data gave the researchers subjective, behavioral, and physiological insights into the ways in which fear is experienced, and when it's a good thing or not.</p>
A pair of inverted U-shapes<p>In analyzing their data, the researchers saw two separate inverted u-shape curves. One depicted participants' enjoyment based on their self-reports and observed behavior. A similar u-curve was detected in their heart rates showing that just the right amount of heartbeat acceleration is associated with fun, but too much is too much. It's the terror Goldilocks zone.</p><p>Says Andersen, "If people are not very scared, they do not enjoy the attraction as much, and the same happens if they are too scared. Instead, it seems to be the case that a 'just-right' amount of fear is central for maximizing enjoyment."</p><p>The research suggests that being scared is enjoyable when it represents just a quick minor physiological deviation from one's normal state. When it goes on too long, however, or triggers too severe a physiological change, it becomes disturbing. Game over.</p><p>Andersen notes that this is not dissimilar to the factors known to make interpersonal play enjoyable: just the right amount of uncertainty and surprise. These are, maybe not coincidentally, also the ingredients of a successful joke.</p>
A meteorite that smashed into a frozen lake in Michigan may explain the origins of life on Earth, finds study.
- A new paper reveals a meteorite that crashed in Michigan in 2018 contained organic matter.
- The findings support the panspermia theory and could explain the origins of life on Earth.
- The organic compounds on the meteorite were well-preserved.
Meteor streaks through Michigan sky<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="80b7f30820153b35fc515592d7475f53"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EPu2qnqMYBo?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The meteorite that smashed into Strawberry Lake carried pristine extraterrestrial organic compounds.
Credit: Field Museum