Category Archives: Measure

Neoteny is a scam; resist animalistic marketing!

The standard meanings of “neoteny” are

  • the retention of juvenile characteristics in an adult of the species
  • premature reproductive maturity.

I adopt the word because I know no other term for this concept: the appearance of youth, sexuality or novelty applied to a person or thing that lacks those characteristics. A few common examples are

  • face makeup
  • rapidly changing fashion trends
  • logo, label, and web site redesigns
  • irrelevant images of attractive people, children, animals or things.
Lovely but irrelevant photo of young girl smiling
Lovely but irrelevant

Due to the work of Sigmund Freud and his nephew, Edward Bernays, the field of marketing has specialized in controlling your attention by one simple and devious trick: manipulate the subconscious. This is as easy as placing an attractive object next to the product. You buy without knowing how far your decisions are influenced by the fallacies of association by proximity and animal attraction.

Be on the lookout and do not fall for deceptive neoteny in any form. It is a way of taking advantage of your animalism (instinctive behaviors and tendencies you have in common with animals). Do not consider yourself too advanced or enlightened to be so easily manipulated. Vestigial it may be, but you can’t unwire it. Anyone who says you’re above this instinct is getting ready to take advantage of you.

When you notice deceptive, artificial neoteny–you must train yourself and try hard to notice it–count it as a strike. It does not mean they have acted immorally. Still, you must even the score before you can make a fair evaluation. The only way to balance the indelible marks they have made on your subconscious scoreboard is to penalize them consciously.

Gratuitous imagery may be its most obvious incarnation but deceptive neoteny isn’t only about sex. Its other face is novelty. Just as thoughts of sex stimulate changes in your brain chemistry, any unfamiliar visual element can awaken and arouse you. Any novel color, shape, or arrangement has a chance to draw your attention. From neon-colored “Sale!” stickers to actual flashing neon signs to drastic web site redesigns, everything that was once new and exciting becomes old and boring after a while and must be refreshed.

When you see a box on the shelf touting its new label design, or a web site that brags about its new style, or a clever new commercial, first acknowledge their success in grabbing your attention and tally the penalty. Then ask whether the actual product has been improved, or has the quality or economy of the product actually suffered to accomodate the new design? Are you the type of consumer who would opt to pay extra for your usual brand of soap so the producer could redesign the logo every year?

Invariably, all novel designs in any profit-driven enterprise are aimed at benefiting the producer or publisher. Whether its function is to attract new customers or to affect the behavior of loyal users, its purpose is to increase profit. The question that should be foremost in your mind is whether it benefits you, the customer.

So beware of allegations of freshness. Learn to discriminate between the sexy and the allegedly sexy, the new and the allegedly new, the improved and the allegedly improved. Cultivate suspicion against those who pull the lever of neoteny for they have shown their willingness to lie to you.

None of this is meant to call you a fool, nor to say you should always be jaded. However, if you wish to wear wool over your eyes from time to time, at least you can know about it.

Disclosure: It should be plain that the message above in no way works to my personal advantage. However, you can choose to advantage me financially by shopping at Amazon after following this link to my favorite detergent. [sexy photo goes here]

Ketchup Calculus

Recently Heinz announced they have reformulated their tomato ketchup with about 15% less salt. Because they hold six tenths of the ketchup market, and because their recipe has not changed in nearly 40 years, this must have been a hard decision to make. They probably predicted some negative reactions. Why did they proceed?

Heinz altered their flagship product under pressure from politicians, but not yet under force of law. Here is an oversimplified economical argument for reformulating ketchup with less salt. Continue reading Ketchup Calculus

Feline Amplifier

A tiny motion induced in a cat’s epidermis, or an even smaller vibration induced in its eardrum, will produce a reflexive reaction in the cat’s nervous system and that in turn will be amplified into muscular contractions involving a quantity of energy several orders of magnitude larger than the energy of the input. The reaction manifests every time the stimulus impinges on a living cat. The magnitude of any single reaction is the result of an unknown function ranging from barely perceptible up to the maximum muscular exertion threshold of the cat. An effective amplifier would be rated according to the accuracy of the system, measured by the span of time required to achieve certainty of the correctness of any output for a given input, and the simplicity of the system, measured by the number of cats involved.

Terminal Longevity

When we learn to avoid death by age, we will be able to live as long as we can avoid death by illness or violence. That’s a different game.

What would life be like if a 300-year-old had as much to look forward to as a 30-year-old? I love science fiction about this, especially Heinlein’s.

The hardest time would be when the technology was only available to a few. The worst thing would be the news that you only missed it by an inch.

On Us and Them

I received an email with the note “Very thought provoking. Well worth the read.” and an article titled Humanity Has Been Lied To From the Beginning. It was worth my reading and it provoked me to write.

If you have a few minutes, I invite you to set aside your moral and typographical standards long enough to read it from beginning to end. Take note of your reactions as you read. I hope your impressions are as self-instructive as mine, which follow.

Briefly on the Author

I never attended church as a child so I was not brought up believing in any certain religion. But 20 years ago when I was 18 I became pregnant and went to church on mothers day with my mom at her request. It was then that I decided to explore religion a little and continued going regularly.

The article is a rant by an anonymous person (handle: Never Surrender) purporting to be a high school dropout who turned religious before becoming a single mother. How are these demographics meant to impress me? By forming this persona you might stoke my sympathy but it’s a gamble. You also might stoke pity, shame, or despise.

Natural use of CAPS LOCK and chat-room lingo (lol) decorate the writing. A good writer can assume such an affect on command but nothing in the article’s substance suggests we are reading the work of one who writes with hidden intention. I take it at face value.

The Premise

I am not any religion, I am not any political affiliation, I am not a citizen of any place. I belong to NO group with an agenda, I have dropped out of all of those things as to be a part of any of them you have to be limited by only those beliefs that are part of that group, you are tied down to a set of beliefs and then one group fights another group with opposite beliefs, it is childish and petty and frankly below me.

The author believes that we are enslaved by false ideas that have been implanted in us, but that she has overcome ignorance and can help us if we will follow her lead. All we must do is escape the influence of our most deeply held beliefs and decry all efforts at further indoctrination. Such sweeping proclamations fail without invoking specific grievances and she does get specific, from Babel to Jesus and from Illuminati to 9/11.

The article touches issues on which I have been sensitive since I was a boy, all of them facets of the grand unifying theory of conspiracy: that we are being manipulated via our education, religion, culture, sports, language, politics, taxes. Basically, every civilizing aspect of life has been subverted. The victims are “us” and the perpetrators are “them”. Thus the author creates rapport with the audience.

The Problem

What if being DIVIDED and FIGHTING for the right to keep our “beliefs” IS THE CORE OF THE PROBLEM?

L. Ron Hubbard, who I think got some things right, defined a problem as two forces acting in opposite directions, or intention plus counter-intention. This is a convenient and useful definition because identifying the forces is a sure step toward resolving any problem. As long as the forces remain unknown the problem cannot be solved.

Never Surrender understands that being divided by our thoughts is what makes us fight. She says that dividing humanity is evil and assigns the evil to a group called “them”. The pronoun is supposed to refer to an entity previously mentioned but she fails to define this group and thus implies that we already know who it is. Dictionaries include this definition for the word: “Used to refer to people in general as seen in a position of authority.”

Undoubtedly the author has problems with authority. Everyone does. It is the nature of authority to participate in problems. If you have an intention opposite to the intention of authority, you have a problem with authority. Even people who hold authority are subject to it. Even a supreme dictator is subject to the final authority of natural laws.

The Forces

The ONLY person that is served by all this division is EVIL and the BAD GOD!

This is as close as we get to learning from Never Surrender the identity of our common enemy. From here on, she urges us to set aside our differences and unite against evil. When we succeed, our foes will retire to another universe and there will be no more division or war, only unity and peace. That sounds groovy but it’s completely wrong.

You cannot talk of unity without implying the existence of a non-member. You cannot talk of “good people” without implying the existence of “evil people”. To accomplish the ultimate goal of ending division and conflict you would have to make us truly indivisible. No group has achieved it. The only indivisible unit of humankind is the individual.

An individual is indivisible because no part can survive without connection to the whole. To be indivisible we would have to treat each other as indispensable. In a society based on that morality, abiding self-interest would be a fatal flaw. Try to imagine the authority in that world.

The Irony

Just think of all the pain and all of the suffering worldwide that could be eliminated…stopped if everyone were to realize that we have ALL been lied to by evil evil beings that sought to control and enslave us and lord power over us.

Never Surrender could be the most ironic author I have read. She dreams of unity but her only skill is division. She would define good and evil and divide people accordingly. She would separate the good teachings from the bad. She would let there be a separate universe to be inhabited by the vanquished evil. Her chosen name commemorates division by proposing conflict everlasting, for peace is nothing but a universal surrender of arms.

Divergence deserves all the credit for making us what we are and so it is ingrained in us even more than our physical forms. We diverged from the ways and forms of our predecessors and we must allow our progeny to diverge from ours. Self-interest has been the force driving every person who survived long enough to learn to take an interest in others.

The Solution

We need to stop fighting each other and go out and hunt and kill all versions of the lie and we will again be a united people, a strong people, strong enough to be a threat to the evil that currently controls this world.

Lies are ideas. Ideas exist on paper; you can expurgate books for future publication but you cannot destroy every old copy. Ideas exist in minds; you can teach your children but you cannot reform every old mind. It would be even more wrong to dictate how all children must be taught.

An evil force is one that harms me against my will. As an infant I included nurses with needles in that category. I learned that pain is not always harm and so nurses ceased to be evil. Perhaps when I am senile my judgment will revert. The lesson is that we aren’t always able to know what’s best.

I agree with the premise that conflict is typically fomented by unseen hands far from the bloodshed. That is the basic form of organization: the mind never swings the axe. We might be better off too smart to be tricked into fighting for causes we aren’t allowed to understand. We might not.