Performance Anxiety and Ingroup Auditions

Friday, April 27th 2012

Job interviews, speeches, meeting your partner's family, theatrical performances, playing gigs, meeting new people, asking someone on a date, and so on - they are all things that cause various degrees of distress to people.

Some people are crippled by anxiety. Some can get through it. Some actually enjoy it (but still get a buzz of some kind).

I've always wandered what these sorts of things have in common. I think it's probably that each one is, in a way, an audition of a kind:

"Are you in or are you out?"

They are all tests of insider status. There is some evidence that a great deal of stress can be caused by the prospect of being left out of a group, of being obstracised. Humans need other humans to survive. It is a deeply atavistic desire to be part of a tribe. Without a tribe, there's a goo chance you won't survive.

No wonder some many people find speeches nerve-wracking.


Thursday, April 26th 2012

I got an email a few days ago. It was perfunctory. It contained virtually no humanity in at all; no greeting, no sign-off, no "hope you're well".

In a peculiar way it's admirable. Why muck around, right? :-)

It wasn't a notification email from a remote system. It was written by a human.

It is a slow process of droidification. A biological prototype for a more automated system to come.

The characteristics of droidification:

  • rigid scheduling;
  • following pre-set processes;
  • little room for creativity;
  • regular perfunctory communications;
  • repetitive mental tasks;
  • responding to instructions from machines;
  • data entry;
  • seriousness.

It is mental piece-work.

They are working in thought factories.


Intelligent Design Part 2

Wednesday, April 25th 2012

Creation of the World Day 6.

Morning Meeting of the Intelligent Design Subcommittee.

The angels sat around a white table. It was one of those giant, floating magical circular tables they always put in the cheaper meeting rooms.

How Not to Make Salad

Tuesday, April 24th 2012

Words to the wise:

Do not use the Giant Axe of Infernal Eternal Fire of the Ancient Relentless Doomlords to prepare a salad.

kuvuncular kuvunkulus

Monday, April 23rd 2012

kuvuncular kuvunkulus

Seriousness Versus Creativity

Saturday, April 21st 2012

Following on from:

Working Hard?

Seriousness defends stupidity and lies. It's the glue that binds together cant and flummery.

The danger of humour, satire and mockery is that it shakes up that veil of pomp and dullness and reveals the truth.

Seriousness dresses itself up as a purposefulness, leadership and hard work. It inhabits hierarchies. It loves rules and structure. It infests forms and todo lists. It loves punctuality and appointments. It abhors wit and absurdity. It loves calendars, bureaucracy and being busy.

I think John Cleese describes the feeling well:

[...] the mode that we are in most of the time when we're at work. We have inside a feeling that's there's lots to be done. and we have to get on with it if we're going to get through it all. It's an active probably slightly anxious mode. Although the anxiety can be exciting an pleasurable. It's a mode in which we're probably a little impatient, if only with ourselves. It has a little tension in it. Not much humour. It's a mode in which we're very purposeful. And its a mode in which we can get very stressed and even a bit manic. But not creative.

He calls this the "closed mode", the uncreative mode.

He goes on:

By contrast the open mode is relaxed, expansive, less purposeful. In which we're probably more contemplative, more inclined to humour - which always accompanies a wider perspective - and consequently more playful. Its a mood in which curiosity for its own sake can operate. Because we're not under pressure to get a specific thing done quickly. We can play. A that is what lets our natural creativity to surface.

It explains why you come up with good ideas in the shower. Or on a walk. Or when you are not doing anything in particular. It explains why so many workplaces - which tend toward the serious - are so lacking in creativity. It explains why so many people, when they get stressed, stop being able to be creative and start to become more serious.

Both modes are probably necessary and even fun.

But I will say this:

Play is the opposite of seriousness. It mercilessly slices through cant and flummery like a giant axe made of laughter.

Here's Cleese on creativity. Ironically, he seems a little serious?

(Thanks to Brian for the link to the video!)

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