Posts from the ‘Philosophy’ category

Universal Basic Income, Another Great Idea Going Wrong

I don’t think that basic income is ever going to work in America without a holistic approach.

rotten ecard about people on welfare

I think we disproved this in 2016, don’t you?

Graphics and mental models like this make my blood boil. Search “welfare funny” and you’ll find a slew of images like this. They get worse.

Oftentimes in society, we present one solution that “rationally” would lead to a decrease in undesired behavior. But the opposite happens. Why? Because it’s only rational to us from our perspective. And decisionmakers love to avoid speaking with and learning from the stakeholders that matter. For example, low income people do not buy fewer lotto tickets. Why? Because gambling and dreaming create addiction to dopamine. It’s really fucking hard to break a feedback loop in your brain…. a habit. Same with cigarettes. Let’s tax the hell out of cigarettes so poor people won’t be able to rationalize buying them. This doesn’t work either, as cigarettes are insanely addictive, often attached to strong memories and feedback loops, and worst of all, a habit. In fact, the skulls, crossbones, and horrific imagery on packs in other countries have been proven to have little effect on reducing smoking. And all we have is a written warning from the Surgeon General. Who the hell is a surgeon general?

What habits do you have that you’ve found impossible to break? Have you tried rationalizing it away? BE GRATEFUL if one of your habits isn’t smoking. Or eating fast food. Or buying lotto tickets. You may think that you had just as much of an opportunity to become a smoker as anyone else, but reality begs to differ. And Seattle, dear Seattle. We just voted in a soda tax. Let’s just get it over with and steal people’s houses and throw them in the streets. Cause in 2005, we made it legal nationally.

What I’ve described doesn’t do the systemic oppression monster justice. But it must do for now. It is worse than you or I can imagine.

picture of obama mocking him

The world’s laziest man, before the Presidency turned his hair gray and white.

This is a country of dichotomies and extremes, as reflected in American morality and our political parties. Why? Because there’s dopamine in having a stance, especially a staunch one. The result? We’re a country that runs on being right. But I digress.

In the case of basic income, we’d be swinging from one extreme to another. So, it’s no surprise that after treating people like they are undeserving of anything, including an education, we want to throw money at them without any tools. This is a great example of another “great experiment” that is doomed to succeed at increasing systemic oppression. You heard that right. You see, the desired outcome is not what you think. We’ll yet again be able to “prove” that certain humans are untrustworthy. We gave them a bunch of money, and they screwed it up, so they’re subhuman. Just like they did with welfare, social services, and nonprofit support (which, by the way, is another thing that’s being threatened by our current administration). It sounds crazy, but we’ve done stuff like this before.

another mean ecard making fun of poor people.

Do you know your daddy? Consider yourself lucky to not be one of the 17,200,000 children living without a father in 2016, almost 40% of whom live under the poverty line (US Census Bureau).

I’m sure we already have the answers on what specifically to do for the development and motivators. Unrelated but translatable pilots have been conducted all over the world. They just need to be combined into an experiment for testing, including structures that provide flexibility for adaptation to locales. This is the easy part. The hard part is making it reality.

Because at the moment, we aren’t even giving universal income a fair chance even in “rich” countries. In fact, our society and world sees universal basic income as a publicity stunt. How disgusting.

Leave a comment

Brainstorm Ideas of How to Save the World

The title is an example of a good idea. A worthwhile endeavor. A productive use of time. Full of potential.

Community-Based Solution to Poverty Theory

Don’t worry, this one’s very uplifting, even the poverty part.

There’s a theory of how to solve poverty locally. But it’s harder to do than it sounds cause it starts with kids. And it takes a while.

It’s a leverage point that works, which gives me hope.

For example, a community garden that all of the local public school kids go to (which is pretty much of all of them other than the few who go to charter schools, cause most folks can only afford public education). The kids get their parents excited about the garden, eating well, and learning. It takes a generation, but the neighborhood does much better. Not everyone’s an immediate convert, but it works eventually through slow, but viral growth.

Turns out, most instances of disadvantaged folks eating shitty food is because they literally don’t know how to cook. Eggs, toast, whatever. They’ve just never done it.

But in this case, it’s okay cause some community gardens come with kitchens. So the kids can learn how to prepare the stuff they grew for sale to support the garden. And cooking lessons in general. See where I’m going with this?

And when the kids do good in the world and come back, the place becomes somewhere they want to raise their family instead of fleeing.

By incorporating a positive community structure into a culture, the rest of the community can take care of itself. Meaning, the community ultimately gets out of poverty and improves on other cultural metrics.

If you ask, I can find a citation for this. I just don’t feel like combing through a bunch of HBS articles or whatever at the moment. I know, worst person ever.
cells from heather's research

Sidebar: Some cells with a nanoparticle uploaded into them (green). Notice how the NP doesn’t get into the nucleus! The big ole black holes. By the way, the green is also curcumin, which is all the rage in turmeric right now.

My Theory

When I look at microbes, I see a leverage point for how we can be happy, healthy, sustainable, and connected more easily. Did I mention microbes are safe, cheap, and viral (in a good way :-))?

We’ll see. But I’m pretty sure. I’ll hopefully post a systems diagram at some point, but it’s just one of those ones that have 9,000 reasons why it’s a good idea. Right now, I’m making a list.

bacteria on agar plates

1% of our gut microbes are culturable (easy-ish to study). A lot of work needs to be done!

Bad Theories

There are bad ideas on how to save the world. Like geoengineering.

I loathe people who go on about how amazing it is, especially to sound smart or interesting. Especially when they haven’t even looked into it themselves to see how bad of an idea it is. Or how it’s already being used. And how we kind of don’t have a halfway decent idea of how to stop it.

These people do harm by spreading a lie that we can be consumptive and inconsiderate with zero consequences because geoengineering, a drastically worse idea than just putting giant fans in space to shield us from the sun, is going to eliminate all consequences.

Just such a bad, bad idea.

All so they can feel smart or interesting.

If you’ve done this, now is your chance to stop. Just cause you’ve done the worst thing so far, doesn’t mean you can’t become the good guy now.

puppies being cute

You can do it!

Leave a comment

Does Verbal Satire Work?

Finding Truth in Opposites

I’ve been finding amusement in opposites, perhaps to cope with America’s political climate. And experimenting with the role of satire in mitigating it.

sweatpants joke

For example, while under the influence of an Italian spliff, the Italian who rolled it introduced himself to a newcomer of the circle. The young girl, in Southern twang, responded, “I’m from Georgia.” Right as she said it, I spontaneously laughed. I laughed at the dichotomy of Italy meets Georgia. They are both extremely charming accents, but have such contrasting personalities and appeal. But when she immediately said that my laugh hurt her feelings, I got so confronted that I couldn’t explain myself until the moment to do so had passed.

This past weekend at school, I also joked a lot. Many times, it had no inkling of truth to it. A favorite was when right before dinnertime, we found out that it was also a networking happy hour – after which we had to go back to class. I joked about coming back to class drunk, even though I had no intention of drinking as I hold a strong value to be as close to 100% as I can be for class. I even asked an administrator why they scheduled it that way. She said, “because having you sit in class for six hours nonstop seemed cruel.” And I jokingly responded, “So is having someone go to happy hour and then back to class drunk.”

Now, in all honesty, I love school. Whenever I mention that I’m sad that it’s about to be over or that I can’t wait to go, my Lyft drivers are so confused. “Hahaha no one loves school.” And the saddest part wouldn’t be suffering while drunk in class. It would have been not remembering or participating to my fullest extent. That would have been the suffering.

But I digress. The jokes have been a reflection of my grappling with opposites. In my mind, they’re verbal satire. But if most people assume that all jokes have an inkling of truth to them, or that they are the truth masquerading as a joke, was I just a big fat liar all weekend?

And what the hell’s so funny about opposites anyway?

Finding Truth in Jokes

Turns out there’s a phrase for this, verbal irony.

Verbal Irony is when words express something contrary to truth or someone says the opposite of what they really feel or mean. Verbal irony is often sarcastic.

I was extremely sarcastic this past weekend, and teased my classmates relentlessly. And for the first time in my life, I dished it and could take it. It felt good, and light, and I bonded even more with some folks.

While I certainly engaged in verbal irony, I still believe that there is something to verbal satire.

Satire is the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

The greatest challenge with engaging in real-time satire with people you know and love (or don’t) is not being mean-spirited or hurtful. When the Georgia girl was hurt, I failed. In my defense, I was also under the influence of drugs.

Finding Truth in Justice

Which has me wonder about liability and responsibility. In class this weekend, we had one of the world’s experts on corruption lead a module. Many companies that engage in unethical practices claim that “everyone’s doing it.” Bribery is a great example, which has been held up in court.

Let’s pretend for a minute that “everyone’s doing it” is SO POWERFUL, that it excuses “bad” or “unethical” behavior.

Dr. Zimbardo has studied what happens when “everyone’s doing it.” The impacts disappear and the behavior becomes acceptable with both the engager in unethical behavior, and especially if there is a victim of it.

What about if I find my significant other in bed with another lover, a form of ultimate betrayal, and I murder them? Crimes of passion are permissible in Europe, the US, and other parts of the world. Is society (and the courts) telling me that peer pressure in corporations is as strong as scorned love? Or that my mirror neurons are so powerful in a workplace setting, that I am helpless when it comes to mimicking unethical behavior?

What if I’m drunk and hit someone with my car? In this case, I am held liable in most of the world. I should have had some inkling BEFORE I’d drank too much that I should stop. Or I should have had the foresight and wisdom to prevent it. I should have had the intrinsic moral character to not get behind the wheel when I knew I was under the influence.

I was going to put these three phenomena into a hierarchy, but it proved embarrassingly difficult. If we just looked at the sheer number of incidences or humans involved, my guess is that most frequent to least would look something like:

  1. Drunk driving deaths/accidents
  2. Corporate corruption
  3. Murder of passion

What I found impossible was ranking these in terms of global impact. What I WANT to say is the worst is corporate corruption. But the reality is, I have no idea. Do you?

Leave a comment

Break All the Rules

Not society’s rules, or cultural, parental, and organizational.

My Own Rules!

I used to say a lot of things. Here are some Heatherisms:

Fine men are like fine art. Look, but don’t touch.

Things are only awkward if you make them awkward.

Insecurity is the source of all conflict.

But I also have/had a LOT of rules for myself.

I will never do yoga. Yoga is for patient people.

I’m an extrovert. I could never live in the country again.

I can’t work on someone else’s dream.

I am done with camping.

I will never be a housewife.

I can’t has been a very interesting one lately. I’ve been getting annoyed whenever someone says, “I can’t” and they really mean, “I won’t.” Like, helllooo00oooo, you’re missing an opportunity for personal discovery. I’m such a hypocrite 🙂

Yesterday, while hanging out with a friend in a gorgeous seaside town, she shared with me half a dozen rules within the first 30 minutes and why I should follow them.

Here’s my favorite:

If a guy is asking you out and gives you his business card instead of asking for your phone number, rip up the business card and forget him because ::insert 900 assumptions::

But as we were talking about how Seattle is just like her hometown – and Port Orchard is just like mine, she asked,

Do you have to go back to your hometown, or somewhere like it, to deal with what happened there? To move on?

I, too, had pondered this question. Now, a big shitstorm surrounded my moving. But when I was looking, a small voice did say, widen your radius to Western Washington – the boonies. And I’m glad that I listened, because as much as I hate it, I’m just stuck with myself.

I’ve daydreamed for the past four years about moving back to the country, ever since I closed ARCBio. A dozen times, I’ve looked at off-the-grid cabins in Alaska, Colorado, Maryland, Vermont, Washington, and more. I’ve daydreamed about trail running and exploring the woods all day and writing all evening. I’m pictured myself carrying firewood and falling asleep to the sound of a crackling fire. Or sitting at a tiny table with a chair, and writing out a whole novel on top of a hill full of wildflowers and later, grasslands. Spending an hour here or there working on my passive income business, while my two Golden Mountain Dogs and blue pitbull frolocked about me. I’ve even daydreamed about the struggles of shoveling snow, chopping wood, and using an outhouse (composting, of course).

But most of the time, I hate myself. How could I live in the woods by myself, with only myself, when I can’t stand myself?

Impacts of Living in the Woods So Far

  • I’m awkward as fuck. On the phone, in person, and saying goodbye. I guess there’s a first time for everything, but I’m pretty much forgetting how to socialize. So, maybe it doesn’t come as naturally as I thought? I still consider being around other people energy-giving. And I wonder if that’s why I’m awkward…cause I don’t want it to end! haha
  • I stare out the window a lot.
  • My breathing has dramatically improved. I have 14 plants in my bedroom and live in the woods. I breathe a LOT of oxygen.
  • For the first time ever, I thought to myself, “I can’t wait for summer.”
  • I see rainbows every day, mostly from light going through a glass door.
  • I’ve driven to the grocery store just to get out of the house.
  • I’ve found produce that is just as good and just as inexpensive as California.
  • I look at the moon almost every night.
  • I’ve remembered my fearlessness around wild animals and cute and scary ones.
  • I’ve gotten eye-fucked by every tall, handsome white dude I’ve seen. Definitely a boost to the self-esteem!
  • Oh, and I’m writing. Like right now.

Well, hey, this list doesn’t look so bad!

double rainbow in my backyard

View from my bedroom window. The rainbows looked like they’d been painted on.

Empty and Meaningless

Here’s a list of things that I hate about myself:

  • Addicted to food
  • No grit
  • Impatient
  • Slow reader
  • Dwell on things
  • Terrible memory
  • High dopamine
  • Sensitive
  • Overwhelmed by climate change and disaster
  • Don’t understand the point of doing anything ever about anything

So, let’s talk about Transformation.

Life is empty and meaningless. I totally get that. But while others find it empowering, I find it debilitating.

When my kindergarten teacher first asked me what I wanted to be I was lucky enough to live somewhere with little light pollution. And in 4th grade, when I’d look up at the stars, I’d feel so small, insignificant, and sad, that I was like,

um, what’s the point?

These past few weeks haven’t been easy, but they’ve also been stellar. I’ve sat with the self-loathing until it turned into action. I’ve stewed and thought and daydreamed, and felt like it was healthy. I’ve discovered endorphins, after a lifetime of useless and self-sabotaging dopamine. I’ve had tons of mini-breakthroughs (carrots are delicious! country sausage is the greatest food on the planet. and bread hurts me more than helps me, mostly cause of the dopamine). When I look at the stars, I feel small and insignificant, but no longer hopeless.

Yesterday, I had planned to go to Seattle and didn’t. I didn’t feel like it. Routine, discipline, and happiness were more important.

If I’m going to live in the country, and I have the luxury of doing nothing but focus on myself for the next two months, what do I do?

  1. Get grit.
  2. Deal with boarding school.
  3. Deal with death (in general, or the fear of it. As Shay Carl says, YOU ARE GOING TO DIE!”)
  4. Become skilled in endorphins.

Like most great things, after time pondering and considering, it came to me in a flash!

For the next two months, I will be a housewife.


When I moved into the last place I lived in, I met the wife and househusband. He was a New Orleans chef, part-time professor, did all her laundry, and much more. Without thinking, I said, “Wow. She hit the jackpot.” Turns out, I was supposed to say, “He hit the jackpot”.

I have spent my whole life having zero respect for housewives. It’s probably from a profound lack of empathy from a profound lack of acceptance of my own mom. It’s also probably because I see it as a waste. But what if it wasn’t a waste? What if the whole thing was just a story I made up? That housewives were wastes of people (god, that sounds awful, but it’s really what I thought).

I want to meander the way that many of the investors’ housewives I’ve met or heard about have. But more than that. I want to do all of the things I’ve been severely allergic to or too afraid to do for as long as I can remember: gardening, yoga, staring at the stars, painting, romance, piano, letting go. Who knows what else!

This time is a gift for myself. My hope and dream is that come June, I love myself.

Leave a comment

Mindless Self Indulgence

The Time Paradox? Sounds Contagious

I recently took Zimbardo’s Time Paradox quiz and found the results so unsettling, that I emailed the man himself.

I took your Time Paradox assessment. Other than present hedonistic, I ranked the opposite of ideal on every other scale. I have long suspected this, but am stuck; meditation helps incrementally. Will you please send the assessment answers that someone with an ideal time paradox would have? I’d like to experiment with patient, intentional, paradigm shifts of each question over a period of one month. Please send me the ideal responses to the assessment. I will happily share the results with you. While I don’t have an official background in psychology, I took many psyc courses during my bachelors in Biology.

Dr. Zimbardo, Stanford Prison Experiments guy, emailed me back that very same day, less than a month after his debut on Tim Ferriss.

What is the time paradox? I’m not going to link the book cause Amazon reviews said it was mostly academic, and otherwise useless. But here’s what you need to know:

The Time Paradox is not a single paradox but a series of paradoxes that shape our lives and our destinies. For example:

Paradox 1
Time is one of the most powerful influences on our thoughts, feelings, and actions, yet we are usually totally unaware of the effect of time in our lives.

You ever have a conversation with someone, and when it’s over, you start replaying the conversation in all of the ways that it could have been better? All of the ways you could have been more compelling, likeable, smart, or witty? It’s living in the past, in an unhealthy time paradox. Playing into feelings and hangups and giving them power is a form of indulgence and can lead to depression. So, it’s starts with no longer indulging, which takes effort until it doesn’t.

tetris comic

Indulgence, aka left and right snakes, are not welcome here.

Earlier this week, I discovered a future time paradox with the same result.

After a happy afternoon and evening with someone, I subconsciously continued the conversation in my head to ask all of the questions I didn’t think to ask. But I had to stop when I couldn’t speak for the other side. This was very frustrating as I’d never had this problem. I kept getting a stick shoved into the spokes of my bicycle wheel brain that said, “But you don’t know what his answer would be. The conversation is just…over.” Then I became annoyed as I have no desire to get to know someone over the phone, and up until now, curiosity and patience have not gone hand in hand. I know this sounds like a small thing, but I have spent a LOT of my life having conversations with other people in my head. And I’ve talked with others who have too. #staypresent

Two things happened. I realized that I wasn’t replaying conversations, and instead trying to continue them. Hey, that’s better than normal! The other was that I had no control. Hanging out was over, and no amount of curiosity or impatience would get it to continue. That’s just the way it is. So I let go. Time will pass before we see each other again (and I’d sure like to). But even this, I cannot control. All in all, I’m happy with how this turned out.

OMG! I’m happy and let go. And I didn’t even have to do ayahuasca!

Some would say that thinking about this at all is indulgent. I have to disagree. What if you just suck? And no matter how different you wish it was, you’ll just always have to try?

This is how I’ve seen life lately, and I gotta say, the most useful thing I’ve done is accept it. And write. Cause I can peel myself like an onion much more quickly than anyone else can. I’m also reading Grit, and the reality is, I don’t have a lot of it. Well, not enough to do what I want. Oooobviously, I’m going to build it up, which thank god, the author says is possible. But the bar is pretty low at the moment. I’m pretty sure boarding school sucked up a big chunk of my grit, which is why I’ve been bringing it up lately.

grit book cover

Making up for lost time here.

Finding Common Ground

Earlier this week, I was talking with a recovering crackhead about the business he wanted to start. I don’t say recovering crackhead to be crass or politically incorrect, but because that was his identity. And recovering crackhead is concise.

I asked him if he’d gone to the library yet, the one thing standing between having enough money to start his business and not. He said no, “I need to get a library card.” I prodded, and he came up with more reasons.

I asked him what he says to himself when he thinks about going to the library. He responds, “I’ll go tomorrow”. What else do you say when you don’t go? “I fucked up…again.” I asked him if he saw himself as a fuck up, and he immediately responded, “No, not a fuck up. I just fucked up again.” Then he paused, seeing the story he’d been telling himself for a long time. It was a tender moment.

Several times, he mentioned that the values of his business were honesty, dependability, and something else. Each time, he got the same look in his eye as when he said he’d fucked up again. Finally, I asked, “Can you tell me a story about each of these values? Something you could say to a potential customer?” He couldn’t. I said, “I know that for me, the values that I used to hold onto were ‘aspirational values’. They were values that I wish I had or that I saw in other people and got jealous of. But they weren’t values that I actually lived into because they were the values I struggled with the most. They were wannavalues. And I struggled with them because I was getting rewarded for not having them.” He looked at me stunned for a moment, and then laughed. “You hit it right on the head.”

His story was that he was a fuckup, and that by living into it, he got to be right that he was a fuckup and avoid responsibility. He had gotten to the point where he was a good person doing what he knew he was supposed to do for society and family, but he had a barrier to doing it for himself. His values were indeed, aspirational values, but it didn’t mean that they were inaccessible to him. He could choose new values that were current, or he could stick with the old aspirational values intending for them to become authentic. Either way, he could choose them for his business because the business would be a reflection of him.

When our time was up, I realized why I grow so much when I’m around other people – human relatedness through vulnerability and authenticity.

I never experienced either of these growing up. I think it started with my parents’ generation. Many of them believed that good parenting was pretending that they never did anything questionable or bad, and that they had grown up perfectly without making any mistakes. I looked carefully at this when I was in grade school. The most mature and wise kids had parents who admitted their hangups and failures – and their learnings! These parents allowed authenticity and transparency to serve as common ground with their kids, and as they got older, relatedness. Unintentionally, it was built on a foundation of acceptance. And because of that, these kids grew in leaps and bounds. Whenever I could, I called them my friends.

It’s possible for parents to lead by example at the same time as being real.

I have tried many times to read the autobiographies of supposedly inspirational people. Each time, I’d toss the book aside after a chapter or two and say to myself, I have nothing in common with this person! I may be imperfect, but at least I’m not inauthentic! Only after listening to Tim interview over a hundred people who have respect in some field in circle, I realized that everyone’s just as human as me. Tim does his best to bring out their authenticity, and this is what enabled me to listen. Turns out, authenticity doesn’t come naturally, is a muscle that must be exercised, and no matter how hard we try, we won’t always be authentic to ourselves or others. Everyone is a fuckup to someone in this world, so we may as well do what we want.

Thanks to Tim’s work, for the first time in my life, I experienced inspiration from another person. Well, a real one at least.

jean grey as phoenix

I think we’ve finally moved on.

Leave a comment