People think they follow advice but they don’t

“People think they follow advice but they don’t. Humans are only capable of receiving information. They create their own advice. If you seek to influence someone, don’t waste time giving advice. You can change only what people know, not what they do.” — God’s Debris

For most of the 40 years of my working life, I was what we used to call “middle management.” The person at the top decided what was to be done and my job was to get the people “under” me to do it. I can say unequivocally I never persuaded anyone to do something they didn’t want to do. Never. Ever. Which is a pretty good argument for the irrelevance of middle managers. (Or that I should not have been one)

Which reminds me of another favorite. I won’t put this in quote because I have no idea who said it but it has stuck with me for years. Unless you hear the following words, never offer an opinion: What do you think, Steve?

And you know what? I think I can count on one hand how many times I’ve heard that question in my life.

“Idea people are boring”

I think I have found the answer to why I can’t get the hang of Facebook, THE social network enjoyed by half a billion people.

“There are two types of people in the world. One type is people-oriented. When they make conversation, it is about people — what people are doing, what someone said, how someone feels. The other group is idea-oriented. When they make conversation, they talk about ideas and concepts and objects. Idea people are boring, even to other idea people.”

O-kay. I found this explanation in God’s Debris, my favorite Scott Adams book. Mr. Adams would say that people on Facebook only seem to be babbling.

“When a person talks about people, it is personal to everyone who listens. You will automatically relate the story to yourself, thinking how you would react in that person’s situation, how your life has parallels.”

If I’m honest, I guess I am more interested in ideas than in people. Now we know.

What do you believe?

Our world (if you are a one-world sort of person) view is shaped by many things. Genetics, early programming, people we meet and experiences we have along the way. And –for me– ideas I encounter in the books I read.

It’s unlikely anyone is going to ask me what I believe (for which I am grateful) but I’m ready. Just in case. The answer(s) –if it is anywhere– is somewhere in these books.

  • The Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle
  • Buddha’s Brain – Rick Hansen
  • His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
  • Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul – Deepak Chopra
  • God Theory – Bernard Haisch
  • Quantum Eniga: Physics Encounters Consciousness
  • Biocentrism – Robert Lanza
  • The Ultimate Happiness Prescription – Deepak Chopra
  • Jesus Interrupted – Bart D. Ehrman
  • God’s Debris – Scott Adams
  • The Singularity Is Near – Ray Kurzweil
  • The Voice of Knowledge – Don Miguel Ruiz
  • This Perfect Day – Ira Levin
  • Peace Is the Way – Deepak Chopra
  • The Book of Secrets – Deepak Chopra
  • Life After Death – Deepak Chopra
  • The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins
  • The Religion War – Scott Adams
  • The Four Agreements – Don Miguel Ruiz

As I think about this, it occurs to me that understanding why might be as important as what we believe.

Religion as road maps

“Religions are like different maps whose routes all lead to the collective good of society. Some maps take their followers over rugged terrain. Other maps have easier paths. Some of the travelers of each route will be assigned the job of being the protectors and interpreters of the map. They will teach the young to respect it and be suspicious of other maps.

“Okay,” I said, “but who made the maps in the first place?”

“The maps were made by the people who went first and didn’t die. The maps that survive are the ones that work,” he said.

At last, he had presented a target for me to attack. “Are you saying that all the religions work? What about all the people who have been killed in religious wars?”

“You can’t judge the value of a thing by looking only at costs. In many countries, more people die from hospital errors than religious wars, but no one accuses hospitals of being evil. Religious people are happier, they live longer, have fewer accidents, and stay out of trouble compared to nonreligious people. From society’s viewpoint, religion works.”

— From God’s Debris by Scott Adams

“The building blocks of God”

From God’s Debris: A Thought Experiment, by Scott Adams:

“Humanity is developing a sort of global eyesight as millions of video cameras on satellites, desktops, and street corners are connected to the Internt. In your lifetime, it will be possible to see almost anything on the planet from anyt computer. And society’s intelligence is merging over the Internet, creating, in effect, a global mind that can do vastly more than any individual mind. Eventually everything that is known by one person will be available to all. A decision can be made by the collective mind of humanity and instantly communicated to the body of society.

A billion years from now, if a visitor from another dimension observed humanity, hge might perceive it to be one large entity with a consciousness and purpose, and not a collection of relatively uninteresting individuals.”

“Are you saying we’re evolving into God?”

“I’m saying we’re the building blocks of  God, in the early stages of reassembling.”

“What makes Holy Land holy?”

From Scott Adams’ God’s Debris: A Thought Experiment:

“Well, usually it’s because some important religious event took place there.”

“What does it mean to say that something rook place in a particular location when we know that the earth is constantly in motion, rotating on its axis and orbiting the sun? And we’re in a moving galaxy that is part of an expanding universe. Even it you had a spaceship and could fly anywhere, you can never return to the location of a past event. There would be no equivalent of the past location because location depends on your distance from other objects, and all objects in the universe would have moved considerably by then.”

“I see your point, but on Earth the holy places keep their relationship to other things on Earth, and those things don’t move much,” I said.

“Let’s say you dug up all the dirt and rocks and vegetation of a holy place and moved it someplace else, leaving nothing but a hole that is one mile deep in the original location. Would the holy land now be the new location where you put the dirt and rocks and vegetation, or the old location with the hole?”

“I think both would be considered holy,” I said, hedging my bets.

“Suppose you took only the very top layer of soil and and vegetation from holy place, the newer stuff that blew in or grew after the religious event occurred thousands of years ago. Would the place you dumped the topsoil and vegetation be holy?”

“That’s a little trickier,” I said. “I’ll say the new location isn’t holy because the topsoil that you moved there isn’t itself holy, it was only in contact with holy land. If holy land could turn anything that touched it into more holy land, then the whole planet would be holy.”

The old man smiled. “The concept of location is a useful delusion when applied to real estate ownership, or when giving someone directions to the store. But when it is viewed through the eyes of an omnipotent God, the concept of location is absurd.

“While we speak, nations are arming themselves to fight for control of lands they consider holy. They are trapped in the delusion that locations are real things, not just fictions of the mind. Many will die.”

“Why do people have different religions?”

I just finished listening to the audio version of Scott Adams’ first non-Dilbert, non-humor book (2004): God’s Debris: A Thought Experiment. In the introduction, Mr. Adams identifies the target audience as “people who enjoy having their brains spun around inside their skulls.

I’ve read this small book (132 pages) twice before checking out the audio version. And I know I will read this book many more times, trying to wrap my mind around ideas the human brain probably will never grasp. Like religion.

“Imagine that a group of curious bees lands on the outside of a church window. Each bee gazes upon he interior through a different stained glass pane. To one bee, the church interior is all red. To one bee, it is all yellow, and so on. The bees cannot experience the inside of the church directly; they can only see it. They can never touch the interior or smell it or interact with it in any way. If bees could talk they might argue over the color of the interior. Each bee would stick to his version, not capable of understanding that the other bees were looking through different pieces of stained glass. Nor would they understand the purpose of the church or how it got there or anything about it. The brain of a bee is not capable of such things.

“But these are curious bees. When they don’t understand something, they become unsettled and unhappy. In the long run the bees would have to choose between permanent curiosity—an uncomfortable mental state—and delusion. The bees don’t like those choices. They would prefer to know the true color of the church’s interior and its purpose, but bee brains are not designed for that level of understanding. They must choose from what is possible, either discomfort or self-deception. The bees that choose discomfort will be unpleasant to be around and they will be ostracized. The bees that choose self-deception will band together to reinforce their vision of a red-based interior or yellow-based interior and so on.”

“So you’re saying we’re like dumb bees?” I asked, trying to lighten the mood.

“Worse. We are curious.”

God’s Debris

I love the writing of Scott Adams. The Dilbert Principle played no small part in my escape from Management. His blog is one of the most thought-provoking I read. I just finished God’s Debris. Not a book for those who already have things figured out.

“Humanity is developing a sort of global eyesight as millions of video cameras on satellites, desktops, and street corners are connected to the Internet. In your lifetime it will be possible to see almost anything on the planet from any computer. And society’s intelligence is merging over the Internet, creating, in effect, a global mind that can do vastly more than any individual mind. Eventually everything that is known by one person will be available to all. A decision can be made by the collective mind of humanity and instantly communicated to the body of society.” pg 53

It is beyond the human brain to understand the world and its environment, so the brain compensates by creating simplified illusions that act as a replacement for understanding. When the illusions work well and the human who subscribes to the illusion survives, those illusions are passed to new generations. pg 34

The odd collection of molecules that make a human being will stay in that arrangement for less time than it takes the universe to blink. pg 35

What could possibly be interesting or important to a God that knows everything, can create anything, can destroy anything. The concept of ‘importance’ is a human one born out of a need to make choices for survival. pg 36

I love the writing of Scott Adams. The Dilbert Principle played no small part in my escape from Management. His blog is one of the most thought-provoking I read. I just finished God’s Debris and will post a few of my favorite bits here. Let’s start with this one:

We’re the building blocks of God, in the early stages of reassembling.

Time is a human concept of how things change compared to other things. pg 57

Morality and willpower are illusions. For any human being, the highest urge always wins and willpower never enters into it. Willpower is a delusion. pg 94

Your short-term payoff for contributing to God’s consciousness is fewer problems in your daily life, less stress, and more happiness. pg 101

Over time, everything that is possible happens. pg 102

“A replica of your mind and body will exist in the distant future, by chance. And the things you do now can either make life more pleasant or more difficult for your replica. pg 102

You can change only what people know, not what they do. pg 107

Awareness does not come from receiving new information. It comes from rejecting old information. pg 125