“Markets are relationships.” Doc Searles
“Markets are relationships.” Doc Searles
I’m writing this from the first class cabin on a United flight from Houston to Munich. We have been plied with champagne, prosciutto, steak, cheese, (had to pass on the salad and ice cream sundae courses), free-flowing wine, and cognac. I’m sitting in a comfortable wide seat that converts into a bed. You’d think I’d be a happy camper.
I’m not. I don’t like to deal with companies that employ bait-and-switch tactics to fool their customers. United is not alone in the airline industry; collusion sees to that. When it comes to marketing and meeting customer expectations, they are all stupid. Dumb as dirt.
The concept of market segmentation calls for differentiating groups of customers in order to appeal to the most profitable among them.
What other industry would take their most loyal, high-spending customers and single them out for shabby treatment? I’m thinking of airlines and Frequent Flier Miles.
Bait and switch
United awards frequent fliers with miles on future flights. Frequent flier miles are paying for most of this first-class flight from San Francisco to Mallorca and Athens with return via Istanbul. I’d amassed a third of a million miles, so I felt confident when I called United’s Mileage Plus to redeem them.
Oh, silly me. I spent the better part of an hour on the phone being told why I couldn’t fly on this flight or that, how my miles weren’t adequate for upgrading from economy on Lufthansa, and a host of blackout dates. By the time my itinerary was selected, I felt frazzled and kept repeating in my head “I am dealing with idiots.”
I ended up with an itinerary I would never have chosen for myself. “It’s the best we can do.” Depart San Francisco at 7:24 in the morning. (I prefer mid-morning departures.) Lay over in Houston for three hours. Fly to Munich and wait five hours for a flight to Palma. Then fly from Palma to Athens via Copenhagen (spending the night in the Copenhagen airport). Pay $1,200 out of pocket to upgrade my flight back to SFO (you can’t use frequent filer miles for that).
Frequent flier miles are a booby prize. They are funny money that doesn’t enable you to buy what you want.
Remember, this treatment is reserved for United’s best customers. You can’t determine what flights are eligible on the web, so you can’t plan your own itinerary. You have to talk with a human who looks things up and usually reports “that’s not available” or “maybe if you wait a month and call back” or “you’ll have to fly from Spain to Greece via Denmark.” Aggravation. Can I be the only person who feels deceived and cheated by this system?
This makes no sense to me. I’ll do everything I can to avoid flying on United ever again.
I tried to transfer miles for a friend since I don’t intend to use them. United offered to transfer enough miles to buy a $777 ticket for a fee of $1,200. Huh? It was the same story with Lufthansa, Air Canada, and a host of other airlines.
In sum, the marketing strategy of airlines seems to be: encourage your very best customers to join a program where you can piss them off. Well, guys, it’s working.
My fight today originated in San Francisco. I flew from SFO to Houston first class. Entertainment? Infomercials on a tiny screen. No music, no movies, no route maps, just crapola television.
Would you like something to drink? “A mimosa.” I might as well have asked for a sky-hook or a Quetzalcoatle.
The fellow behind me complained that his tray table was filthy. “Couldn’t they have cleaned this before we got on board?” The cabin attendance responded “Do you can me to call someone to clean it up?” The implication was that this would delay our departure. He made do with his dirty table.
United offers two types of service.
There’s domestic, which is bare-bones, no frills, trashy. Back in the cattle-car section, you have to pay fo food and more than likely it will be junk food, potato chips, and crap loaded with high fructose core syrup. (A cabin attendant once told me “I can’t believe we are doing this to people.”) Leg-room is so scarce I don’t understand how tall people fly.
There’s international, with plush seats, decent food, and free booze. Why the stark difference? Competition from foreign carriers who would never try to foist off lousy service.
United recently acquired another former competitor. Less competition means less incentive for United to provide decent service. They’ve got us over a barrel.
I believe in karma. In time, the present incarnation of United will die and be reborn as a dung beetle.
I’m sitting on the deck of a villa on the island of Mallorca. I plan to spent the next three weeks in bliss and reflection. No more vitriolic blog posts, just enjoyment of life.
Telling you this will blow my chances of running for president, but what the hell: I have been clinically depressed for the last two years. It’s a form of going crazy. I lost interest in my work, stopped blogging and taking photos. I became a near-hermit.
I want to share my experiences with you so that if the black dog visits you or one of your friends, you’ll recognize it for what it is and take appropriate action. No one deserves to go through life feeling shitty and that’s precisely what depression can do to you. Everything is gloomy. Nothing seems worthwhile. Yet this condition is treatable.
Before going on, let me explain that I am no longer depressed. Hallelujah! I have found my cure and have returned to my normal jovial set-point. Let’s grab a beer sometime.
How do you recognize depression? Lots of us are sad. Pollsters tell us more than half of all workers are disengaged. Many jobs are gone forever; PhDs are pouring the lattes at Starbucks. DoD is in an intractable war with Muslims. The maw between rich and poor widens daily. Technology has accelerated the business cycle into a frenzied pace few can maintain. There’s plenty of sadness to go around.
Depression is more than sadness, however. It doesn’t have a target. It’s irrational and self-destructive. When my last episode came on two years ago, I could sense pulling down the shades on optimism. I was slower, weaker, and lacked energy and the ability to focus. It was physical (the juices in my head) and mental (the belief-set that controls my interpretation of the world).
The acid test: Do you think of taking your life? If you think yes, go to the doctor. Get help. You’re depressed. Or maybe you have a suppressed anxiety disorder (I did.) These two often go hand in hand. Happily, both get better with the same treatment. You’ll recognize you’re getting better when suicide disappears as an option.
My neurologist will tell you that depression is a neurological condition. No amount of trying hard and talk therapy is going to change it, any more than they’ll heal broken bones. Here, take these blue pills and if that doesn’t work, we have some yellow ones. Of course, it makes sense to follow general principles of good health: get enough sleep and exercise.
My cognitive behavioral psychologist tells our therapy group that drugs are largely ineffective. This is psychological condition. Emotions are the products of thinking. Get your thinking straight and your feelings will follow. Let’s look at what’s really going on. Got that? Say it back to me.
Stanford’s David Burns is the author of Feeling Good and cognitive behavioral therapy’s leading advocate. Watch this video not only to understand Burns’ work but to cry your eyes out at the surprise ending.
A few months ago the cloud of doom lifted from my shoulders. I was no longer eternally bummed out. The depression was fading away.
I dropped out of the therapy group which was beginning to wear on my nerves by this point anyway. Then the psychologist and I agreed I no longer needed his treatment.
My restoration to normalcy is the result of a lot of people, a lot of reading, and a lot of pushing the boulder up the hill. However, I attribute 95% of my change in mood to drugs.
During an episode similar to this twenty years ago, Prozac did nothing for me but Zoloft restored me for years. Two years ago, I re-tried Zoloft but had grown immune to it.
The doctor and I dropped into a rhythm of taking a few weeks to build up to a proper dose of a drug, try it long enough to know it’s not working, then take a few more weeks to wean and clean out the system for the next round. Again and again and again.
In the last four years, I’ve been prescribed these drugs for depression and/or ADHD.
None of them did anything positive. Zilch! I was running low on hope after years of fruitless drug testing, but I remembered how Zoloft had once turned my life around.
“There’s one more drug to try,” said my neurologist. “It’s rarely used these days but it was actually the first anti-depressant. It can interact with your diet, for instance you can’t eat fermented foods. It’s called Monoamine oxidase inhibitors or MAO-I.
Because of potentially lethal dietary and drug interactions, monoamine oxidase inhibitors have historically been reserved as a last line of treatment, used only when other classes of antidepressant drugs (for example selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants) have failed. New research into MAOIs indicates that much of the concern over their dangerous dietary side effects stems from misconceptions and misinformation, and that despite proven effectiveness of this class of drugs, it is underutilized and misunderstood in the medical profession. New research also questions the validity of the perceived severity of dietary reactions, which has historically been based on outdated research.
The reason most of the restrictions on diet are bunk is that MAOIs can now be delivered with a patch, thus bypassing the liver. The current regulations were set for pills, not patches.
Every evening I peel off the old patch, leaving a red mark behind for a day or two. I apply a new one to the other arm. Every morning I awake with a smile. This stuff works for me.
PatientsLikeMe has reports from people who have used these various drugs. What works wonders for one person sends the next screaming to the toilet.
My message for depression sufferers is to keep trying. The latest research recommends trying both drug and CBT treatment as well as community activity. See what works for you.
We who have wrestled the black dog seriously are sort of a secret society. Lots of people I’ve talked to begin with, “Yeah, when I was going through that….” All are open to helping one another. There’s camaraderie among people who have been there. Ask for advice. You’ll be surprised at how commonplace this is.
I bailed out of the Wisdom 2.0 conference Main Stage events yesterday afternoon and missed the opportunity to see Jon Kabat Zinn, whom I only know from his books and tapes: Jon is a god. I revere him. He moves mountains. So I was elated to find this recording of his presentation this morning.
The Good: Jon takes us into meditation, overviews the global mindfulness phenomenon, gives a characteristic uplifting message and call to action, gets you in a mood to finally start meditating daily, challenges you to be present and know what you are doing. It’s enchanting.
The Bad: It’s 41 minutes long. I am one of Jon’s true believers. I struggled to keep up with Jon’s mile-a-minute wisdom. You may want to sample. Cut him off every now and again for a breather. Here are my as of the moment notes. Good luck deciphering; think of it as meditation.
An intimate group of Fortune 50 CLOs invited me to talk with them about how to make the most of informal learning. Jane, Charles, Clark, Harold and I chatted at length. We came up with twenty-four suggestions which I’ll soon walk the CLOs through.
One piece of advice stood out for me as the crux of it all.
That’s my personal view. I haven’t asked my The Internet Time Alliance buddies.
There’s no point in learning something if you forget it before you can put it to use. Yet research finds that people forget the majority of what they learn in workshops and classrooms. Typically, only 15% of what’s covered in a workshop ever shows up on the job!
Many L&D departments act as if their work is over once the learner walks out the door. I hold them accountable to the point that performance changes.
Here’s 37 minutes on remembering. Luckily, you can fast-forward over the parts that don’t interest you.
This is an excerpt from a webinar I presented on behalf of Raptivity on April 30, 2013.
Key: We’re primarily nonconscious. Shorthand: conscious self = “I”; unconscious self = “me” Training and preparation are key to any performance. The most important thing about training is that the I comes to trust the Me. The I learns to believe that the Me can feel the emotion and carry out the movement. Training creates a quantity of automatic skills that can be applied without the need for awareness that they are being so used. The I’s beady eye is there during the training but not during the performance proper.
Consciousness is at once the most immediately present and the most inscrutably intangible entity in human existence. Consciousness lags what we call reality.
Consciousness is riddled with deceit and self-deception. The conscious I is happy to lie up hill and down dale to achieve a rational explanation for what the body is up to; sensual perception is the result of a devious relocation of sensory input in time; when the consciousness thinks it determines to act, the brain is already working on it; there appears to be more than one version of consciousness present in the brain; our conscious awareness contains almost no information but is perceived as if it were vastly rich in information.
This is a profound book, particularly for someone like me who spends too much time “in his head.” Most of what we consider learning, from ISD to multiple-choice, focuses almost exclusively on the oversimplified, civilized, linear constructs of consciousness.
Trust the force. (The unconscious.)Could the effects of a little nonsconsciousness creeping into the conscious realm help account for ADD and schizophrenia?
Information is very tedious. What is interesting is getting rid of it-—and that means discarding it.
There is a terrain between order and chaos: a vast undiscovered continent—-the continent of complexity. Complexity appears midway between the predictable and the unpredictable, the stable and the unstable, the periodic and the random, the hierarchical and the flat, the closed and the open. Between what we can count on and what we cannot.
“Exformation” and the richness of information remind me of the operations of compression algorithms. The more information, the longer it takes to create a ZIP archive. Compression from nonconscious to conscious is extreme, much heavier than compressing an image to jpeg at 1%. Nonconscious compression sands down all the rough edges found in the original.
Talking & exformation
The Bandwidth of Consciousness
“All these numbers are approximations,” but there’s a giant mismatch of input to consciousness no matter how you slice it:
Total bandwidth (bits/second)
Conscious bandwidth (bits/second)
Impression à Consciousness à Expression
|text read aloud||25 bps|
The Bomb of Psychology
In 1957, an enterprise named Precon Process and Equipment Corporate, in New Orleans, started offering the placement of subliminal messages in advertisements and movies—messages not perceived by consciousness but containing sufficient influence to get somebody to pay for their being there. Messages that work unconsciously or preconsciously, hence Precon. Backlash stunted pscyhological research for years.
When the case reopened, scientists found that the unconscious is not merely a morass of repressed sexual desires and forbidden hatred. The unconscious is an active, vital part of the human mind. One canlearn form a stimulus that is so brief that one does not perceive it. A large number of social judgments and inferences, especially those guiding first impressions, appear to be mediated by such unconscious processes.
A person perceiving a familiar object is not aware that what is perceived is as much an expression of memory as it is of perception. Thinking itself is highly unconscious. In The Stream of Thought, William James noted that consciousness “is always interested more in one part of its object than in another, and welcomes and rejects, or chooses, all the while it thinks.”
The View from Within
Computers find it easy to do what we learned at school. But computers have a very hard time learning what children learn before they start school: to recognize a cup that is upside down, recognizing a face,seeing.
Richard Gregory: “Our sight really consists of a hypothesis, an interpretation of the word. We do not see the data in front of our eyes; we see an interpretation.” And, “The senses do not give us a picture of the world directly; rather they provide evidence for the checking of hypotheses about what lies before us. Indeed, we may say that the perceptions of an object is an hypothesis.” We see a configuration (in German, gestalt). We do not see what we sense. We see what we think we sense.
Pablo Picasso was once asked why he did not pain people “the way they really are.” Picasso asked the questioner what he meant. The man pulled a snapshot of his wife out of his wallet and said, “That’s my wife.” Picasso responnded, “Isn’t she rather small and flat?”
Kant distinguished between things as they are, Das Ding an sich, and things as we know them, Das Ding für uns. A study of frogs showed that “the eye speaks to the brain in a language already highly organized and interpreted, instead of transmitting some more or less accurate copy of the distribution of light on the receptors.” Visual input passes through the thalamus before getting to the cortex.
attention. The essence of consciousness of the outside world. When a number of nerve cells oscillate in synchrony at forty hertz, this is attention.
Our actions begin unconsciously! Consciousness of the will to carry out an act decided on by ourselves occurs almost half a second after the brain has started carrying out the decision. Consciousness portrays itself as the initiator but it is a fraud – which requires considerable cooking of the temporal books.
Free will operates through selection, not design (It can veto.)
Man is not primarily conscious. We are not conscious of very much of what we sense, what we think, or what we do. We’re primarily nonconscious.
Shorthand: conscious self = “I”; unconscious self = “me”
Training and preparation are key to any performance. The most important thing about training is that the I comes to trust the Me. The I learns to believe that the Me can feel the emotion and carry out the movement. Training creates a quantity of automatic skills that can be applied without the need for awareness that they are being so used. The I’s beady eye is there during the training but not during the performance proper.
(Ref: The Inner Game of Tennis. “When you short-circuit the mind by giving it an ‘overload’ of things to deal with, it has so many things to attend to that it no longer has time to worry. The “I” checks out and lets the “me” check in. Also, this is what Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow is all about.)
The social field is established through agreements, social contracts, entered into verbally. So the cohesive force in our social life is something with a very low capacity or bandwidth.
Spirituality merely involves taking your own life seriously by getting to know yourself and your potential. This is no trivial matter, for there are quite a few unpleasant surprises in most of us. The dominant psychological problem of modern culture is that its members do not want to accept that there is a Me beyond the I. The Me is everything the I cannot accept: It is unpredictable, disorderly, willful, quick, and powerful.
“placebo” = “I want to please”
The User Illusion
Studies of split-brain patients show that the I lies like crazy to create a coherent picture of something it does not understand in the slightest. We lie our way to the coherence and consistency we perceive in our behavior. (It’s like making up logical explanations for a dream or filling in the missing portions of a fuzzy picture.)
What we experience directly is an illusion, which presents interpreted data as if they were raw. It is this illusion that is the core of consciousness: the world experienced in a meaningful, interpreted way. If there were not half a second in which to synchronize the inputs, we might experience a jitter in our perception of reality. I am my user illusion of myself.
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes, Princeton, 1976. >3,000 years ago, consciousness did not exist. All the nonlinguistic activity in the right brain was passed on to the left brain in the form of voices talking inside people’s heads. There was no independent reflective activity in people’s heads.
The body is in a state of interaction with the world. We eat, drink, and dispatch matter back into the cycle of nature. In no more than five years, practically every atom in the organiism gets replaced. The vast majority of atoms are replaced far more often. Identity, body structure, appearance, and consciousness are preserved—but the atoms have gone. The feeling of individual continuity is real enough, but it has no material foundation.
The dominant theme of our times is consciousness regaining composure through the recognition of the nonconscious; computer formalism regaining composure through the recognition of unpredictability; descriptions regaining composure through the recognition of what is being described; the low bandwidth regaining composure through the recognition of the high bandwidths.
Interesting things happen when and where order meets chaos. People live on coasts, rivers, mountain chains, mountain passes, near boundaries. Neat the transition from one element to another.
The ability to reduce everything to simple fundamental laws does not imply the ability to start from those laws and reconstruct the universe. But that is what we are consciously trying to do with the artificial lives we live in our technological civilization.
Most of the world has to be described through nonlinear mathematics—i.e., formulae and forms that are not regular and smooth but marked by the fact that the tiniest change can lead to a huge difference, because things bend and break everywhere. Our civilization is completely different from nature. Civilization is about attaining predictability; and predictability is the opposite of information, because information is a measure of the surprise value of a message: the astoundment it unleashes.
Zeno’s paradoxes. An arrow flying through the air. At any given instant, where is it? Stopped or moving? The impossibility of the question is the result of trying to split time and space into an infinitely divisible continuum.
The balance between the linear and the nonlinear is a major challenge for civilization. In the final analysis, it is closely related to the challenge of finding the balance between the conscious and the nonconscious. After all the difference between consciousness and nonconsciousness is precisely that there is very little information in consciousness. It can therefore apprehend only straight lines, having trouble with crooked ones, which contain far too much information.
The tendency of civilization toward linearity is therefore precisely the power of consciousness over nonconsciousness; the power of projection over spontaneity; the power of the gutter over the raindrop. The straight line is the medium of planning, will, and decision. The crooked line is the medium of sensory perception, improvisation, and abandon.
The I is linear; the Me is nonlinear. The social domain, the conversational domain, tends to be linear, unalloyed chatter. The personal domain, the domain of sensory perception, is more able to preserve the nonlinear.
Art seeks out the nonlinear; science the linear. The computer demolishes the difference, because it gives consciousness the ability to convert large quantities of information by machine.
Information society presents a lack of information. For just as there is far too little information in a linear city, there is far too little information in information society—a society where more people’s jobs are performed body, mind, and soul via the low bandwidth of language. Where artisans in the past used to possess vast tacit knowledge of materials and processes and crops, they now have to relate to consciously designed technical solutions presented via computer interface. Sensory poverty is on its way to becoming a major problem in society, provoking a cry for meaning amidst the flow of information. Man has moved down to a lower bandwidth, and he is getting bored. Consciousness is taking man over: The straight line is vanquishing the crooked one, and the amount of information in life is getting too small.
Information is a measure of unpredictability, disorder, mess, chaos, amazement, indescribabilty, surprise, otherness. Order is a measure of the opposite.
Consciousness does not consist of very much information and regards itself as order. It is proud that by discarding information it can reduce all the disorder and confusion around it to simple, predictable laws for the origin of phenomena.
Civilization consists of social and technological organization that rids our lives of information. As civilization has progressed, it has enabled the withdrawal of consciousness from the world.
It has enabled a worldview in which the acknowledged picture of the world is identified with the world; where the map is identified with the terrain; where the I denies the existence of the Me; where all otherness is disclaimed, except in the form of a divine principle; where man can live only if he believes that the otherness is also good.
But consciousness has also reached the age of composure. Through conscious studies of man and his consciousness, it has become clear that man is much more than his consciousness. It has become clear that people perceive far more than consciousness knows; that people do far more than consciousness knows. The simulation of the world about us, which we experience and believe is the world itself, is made possible only through systematic illusions and reductions that result from discarding most of the unpredictable otherness that imbued the world outside us.
Inside us, in the person who carries consciousness around, cognitive and mental processes take place that are far richer than consciousness can know or describe. Our bodies contain a fellowship with a surrounding world that passes right through us, in through our mouths and out the other end, but is hidden from our consciousness.
Consciousness is a wonderful creation, brought about by biological evolution on earth. An eternal awareness, a bold interpretation, a life-giving measure. But consciousness is about to retain composure by appreciating that it does not master the world; that an understanding of simple rules and principles of predictability in the world does not provide the possibility of guessing what the world is like.
Reposted from review in 2002.
Grit is a measure of long-term stick-to-it-iveness. A person with a high Grit score is more likely to make it through West Point or win the National Spelling Bee. Wikipedia says:
Grit in psychology is a positive, non-cognitive trait, based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or endstate coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective. This perseverance Continue reading Keeping the end in mind