Was reading William Gibson Talks Zero History, Paranoia and the Awesome Power of Twitter over at Wired and loved this…
Gibson: Well, I discovered Twitter while I was writing the novel, and I immediately saw its odd potential for being a tiny, private darknet that no one else can access. I’m always interested in the spooky repurposing of everyday things. After a few days on Twitter, what was most evident to me is that, if you set it up right, it’s probably the most powerful novelty aggregator that has ever existed. Magazines have always been novelty aggregators, and people who work for them find and assemble new and interesting stuff, and people like me buy them. Or used to buy them, when magazines were the most efficient way to find novel things.
But now with Twitter, after following people who have proven themselves to be extremely adroit and active novelty aggregators, I get more random novelty every day that I can actually use. A lot of it just slides by, but a lot of it is stuff that I used to have to go through considerable trouble to find. And a lot of it is so beyond the stuff I used to be able to find, which is good.
Jonah Lehrer reports why thinking too much causes us to focus on variables that don’t matter:
When it comes to judging jam [the focus of the studies], we are all natural experts. We can automatically pick out the products that provide us with the most pleasure.
When researchers added extra analysis to the study, asking participants to explain the why of their jam preference and justify their decisions, the “extra analysis seriously warped their jam judgment:”
“[T]hinking too much” about strawberry jam causes us to focus on all sorts of variables that don’t actually matter. Instead of just listening to our instinctive preferences, we start searching for reasons to prefer one jam over another.
And it’s not just jam:The new science of morality
[The researchers] have since demonstrated that the same effect can interfere with our choice of posters, jelly beans, cars, IKEA couches and apartments. We assume that more rational analysis leads to better choices but, in many instances, that assumption is exactly backwards.
The larger moral:
[O]ur metaphors for reasoning are all wrong. We like to believe that the gift of human reason lets us think like scientists, so that our conscious thoughts lead us closer to the truth. But here’s the paradox: all that reasoning and confabulation can often lead us astray, so that we end up knowing less about what jams/cars/jelly beans we actually prefer. So here’s my new metaphor for human reason: our rational faculty isn’t a scientist — it’s a talk radio host.
As Howard Moskowitz, expert researcher on Prego spaghetti sauce and other foodstuffs once declared, “The mind knows not what the tongue wants.”
I’m liking the space in between novelty aggregator and “extra analysis seriously warped their jam judgment”. We don’t know why we like what we do, or even what we’ll like but tasty new stuff is what we’re after….
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