We just moved back in after repairing the many tree-sized holes punched in our house by an asshole tornado a few months back. We were inside, on the floor of a hallway, as it crunched up and spat out the neighborhood. It went on to destroy more than 200 homes in our town.
Below these words, you will find 10 quests, each offering a prize should you complete the challenges therein.
The You Are Not So Smart book was published and then released into the wild about a year ago. That means it is time for it transmutate into paperback form, and I’m proud to announce the paperback version is now on shelves just about everywhere books hide. Also, if you live in the UK or one of the many countries that buys books from UK marketplaces, you can now get the You Are Not So Smart book free of hassle with a new, dapper cover design.
To promote this wondrous occasion, I want to send you on some quests. Should you succeed, you will be handsomely rewarded. Some will be easy, and some will be trials of will and skill. Those proved worthy will be featured in a future posting. Here they are:
The Topic: Selling Out
The Guest: Andrew Potter
Andrew Potter is the guest on this episode of the You Are Not So Smart podcast. He wrote the book The Authenticity Hoax and co wrote The Rebel Sell.
Both books present an upside-down view of the quest to avoid the mainstream and seek out the authentic. The books help explain how it came to be that so many people seem concerned about selling out both as a consumer and a producer. Most interesting though is Potter’s assertion that there really is no such thing as authenticity when you get right down to it. As he puts it, “there could never be an authenticity detector we could wave at something, like the security guards checking you at the airport.” Oh, and he says countercultures actually create the mainstream they rebel against.
According to Potter, a giant portion of modern people living in industrialized Western nations eventually notice just how much consumerism and conformity intrudes on their daily lives, and they seek release. The average person watching an interview of a reality television star on a 24-news-network following a musical performance by the latest winner of America’s Top Pawn Wife after a breakdown of what is trending on YouTube while commenting on an Instagram photo on Facebook on an iPad on a treadmill in the gym between advertisements for antidepressants and movies about mall cops who befriend talking ferrets will understandably feel a bit overwhelmed from time to time. The urge to walk away from all of that and get lost in the most obscure thing you can find, the most distant and untouched landscape you can visit, the least processed or marketed product you can put in your body, is strong and understandable and healthy, but Potter says it is ultimately futile.
The You Are Not So Smart book is now available in the UK and all the places that can get things shipped from Amazon.co.uk. Here is a link.
The video above is the launch trailer we used for the US edition, but the cover has been changed to match the absolutely spot-on UK version.
Also, the US edition will soon be available in paperback. I’ll post a tiny reminder when that happens. Look for versions in Brazil, Thailand, Korea, Germany, China, Hungary, Turkey, and Poland as well.
Finally, as I mentioned at the YANSS Facebook page, a second YANSS book is done and that’s all I can say about it right now other than it will probably find its way into bookstores sometime in 2013.
Thank you for being awesome. I will now post the latest episode of the podcast. Thanks so much for all the support. You are the best.
The Topic: The Illusion of Knowledge
The Guest: Christopher Chabris
Remember when the United States stock market crashed a few years back? You know, the implosion famously featuring credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations? Does it seem strange to you that all those experts who couldn’t predict the economic collapse are still on television giving advice and offering predictions?
The people who were wrong continue to work because they provide you with an illusion of knowledge, a belief that the market can be understood by one person, and that person’s understanding can become your understanding. They continue to claim insight into chaotic, impossibly complex nebulae of shifting data, and they continue to profess powers of divination even though research shows they are slightly less reliable than a coin toss. They can still get paid to squawk because they continue to make their claims with confidence. No one wants a sage who deals in maybes.
Take a look at those bicycles at the top of this post. Which one would you say is the most accurate portrayal of a real bike? Psychologist Rebecca Lawson once put together a study that revealed even though most people are very familiar with bicycles and know how to ride them, they can’t draw one to save their lives, and they can’t even pick a proper one out of a lineup. Despite this, most people rate their knowledge of how a bicycle works as being very good. Remember that when someone claims to understand something a bit more complicated, like a sub-prime mortgage. (This is a picture of a real bicycle.)
Josh Mecouch over at Formal Sweatpants created a new comic based on a YANSS post a while back on procrastination. Thanks, Josh. This is great. That post discussed the concept of future self vs. present self, and how present bias affects your ability to predict how you will behave and make choices over time.
You may see some future collaborations between YANSS and FS, stay tuned. Until then, here is the comic:
Concerning the book – the bookplate offer has been a great success (as evidenced by those beautiful faces up there), so now you can get a free, signed bookplate just by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to…
P.O. Box 15792
Hattiesburg, MS 39404
…and I’ll send you back one of these with my scribbles on it. Sorry, U.S.A. only.
If you would like a free chapter, Kindle owners can download a free sample chapter from the Kindle store at Amazon.
If you would like your Kindle copy of YANSS signed, just head to this link.
You can also read excerpts at Boing Boing, The Atlantic, Gawker, and the New York Post. If you want a review, check out this one at Brain Pickings or this one at the Onion A.V. Club. Lastly, I’m partnering with the awesome and popular Now I Know newsletter – subscribers will now be getting fresh YANSS content in addition to the other cool stuff Dan Lewis puts out.
This is the first of two trailers for the book. I wanted the first video released to be something which could stand alone, something which would keep the tone and approach of the book. I also wanted it to be worth watching even if it wasn’t promoting something. I love it so much.
I hired Plus3 Productions to make it. From the beginning, I knew I wanted kenetic typography, and they delivered. Thank you! You should hire them to make something cool.
The trailer is all about procrastination, one of the most popular posts on the blog.
I hope you enjoy it, and if you do, please share it.
The Misconception: You make rational decisions based on the future value of objects, investments and experiences.
The Truth: Your decisions are tainted by the emotional investments you accumulate, and the more you invest in something the harder it becomes to abandon it.
You have probably heard of this game. In 2010, one in five Facebook users had a Farmville account. The barrage of updates generated by the game annoyed other users so much it forced the social network to change how users sent messages. At its peak, 84 million people played it, a number greater than the population of Italy.
Farmville has shrunk since then. About 50 million people were still playing in early 2011 – still impressive considering the fantasy megagame World of Warcraft boasts about a quarter as many players.
So, it must be really, really fun. A game with this many players must promise potent, unadulterated joy, right? Actually, the lasting appeal of Farmville has little to do with fun. To understand why people commit to this game and what it can teach you about the addictive nature of investment, you must first understand how your fear of loss leads to the sunk cost fallacy.
The Misconception: You rationally analyze all factors before making a choice or determining value.
The Truth: Your first perception lingers in your mind, affecting later perceptions and decisions.
You try it on, look in the mirror and decide you must have it. While wearing this item, you imagine onlookers will clutch their chests and gasp every time you walk into a room or cross a street. You lift the sleeve to check the price – $1,000.
Well, that’s that, you think. You start to head back to the hanger when a salesperson stops you.
“You like it?”
“I love it, but it’s just too much.”
“No, that jacket is on sale right now for $400.”
It’s expensive, and you don’t need it really, but $600 off the price seems like a great deal for a coat which will increase your cool by a factor of 11.
You put it on the card, unaware you’ve been tricked by the oldest retail con in the business.
One of my first jobs was selling leather coats, and I depended on the anchoring effect to earn commission. Each time, I figured it was obvious to customers the company I worked for marked up the prices to unrealistic extremes. Yet, over and over, when people heard the sale price, they smiled and wrestled with their better judgment.
The prices you expect to pay, where did those expectations originate?