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I used to think that the purpose of villains in stories is to be an interesting obstacle for the hero to overcome. It annoyed me to no end that so many villains were ineffectual, stupid, and grotesque, since this made them a less interesting obstacle. I now think that the purpose of villains in stories is to mirror the parts of ourselves which we are reluctant to look at. And since so often the parts of ourselves which we put in our blindspot are ineffectual, stupid, and grotesque so are our villains as well.

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The Asymmetric Slopes Of Mt. Gain Through Disorder

Why we have to fail to succeed

a1Consider this simple dartboard. The obvious strategy is to aim at the center where we get 30 points for every hit.



a2Now Consider this mutant dartboard. Hitting anywhere on the right half costs you 500 points. Easily wiping out any point advantage you may have had. Nevertheless the best place to hit is still in the dark green spot in the middle. So you should keep aiming for it, right?



a3Your aim isn’t perfect. A dart arrow meant to hit just left of center could easily land in the red half. I’ve marked an „adventure zone“ in yellow, you want to hit there but not aim at it. A slip to the right and your score is toast. So when you hit the dark green spot you’re happy, because hey, thirty points are thirty points, but you also think „holly shit, that was close“.



a4I’ve been thinking about the concept of anti-fragility. The idea that some things not only react robustly to a disordered environment, but actually, up to a point, gain from it. The self-help implication being that there is a sweet spot of disorder in our life where we have the most opportunity for growth.



a5Here is a different curve for „gaining, up to a point, from disorder“. A slow ramp up where more disorder means more opportunity for growth and then, after the peak, a rapid descend towards ruin. We can’t precisely control the amount of disorder we are exposed to. It lies in the nature of disorder to be unpredictable and uncontrollable. So similar to the dartboard above we want to hit the sweet spot but not aim at it. Because slipping there is much more dangerous than slipping while aiming at the no-disorder-no-growth zone. So while we try to make our lives as predictable and boring as possible the moments that made us grow the most were when we failed at that and landed near the sweet spot by accident.

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Fanfic Radiance/red riding hood

There was a cute little girl named Chelsea who was loved by most. And she was happy that most loved her. But most was not all. She determined that she was insufficiently cute. She did some market research and came to the conclusion that a red riding hood would maximise her cuteness levels. She obtained a red riding hood and now everyone loved her. And she lived happily ever after… Except there was this one wolf who didn’t care about cuteness, he only cared about food, so he didn’t love her. Chelsea learned to cook and she cooked for the wolf and the wolf loved her food. But only her food, not Chelsea herself. She became sad and in her sadness she remembered how her friend Gretel had gotten rid of her annoying brother. Gretel knew just the right person to make the wolf love Chelsea.

The pepper stung in her eyes and the apple in her mouth made it difficult to breathe, but as the witch moved her towards the heat Chelsea had only one thought „everybody must love me“.

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Jafun looked up to her beloved Charon. Tears of joy gathering in her eyes. He looked towards her, then smiled. His attention went outward again, towards the gathered crowd of their families and friends.

They had first met when he had entered their elementary schools theater group. At first she hadn’t taken much notice of this first grader with not that much apparent enthusiasm for being an actor. But it turned out that they lived in the same neighborhood and they ended up playing a lot together.

The priest, standing besides them, droned on and on on the value of family. She tuned it out as the memories bubbled up.

One day, as they sat in a tent they had made out of sticks and fern, she had told him, in the serious voice of a promise, that as soon as she had a regular income she would make him her wife. He had only responded with a short look, which he had given her so often, that meant „why do you care so much about this“. She had never brought up the subject again, but had occasionally thought about it.

Then she looked at the crowd too. Her eyes flicked to her mom, who looked so happy at having a soon to be married child, then to her father. She saw the proud gaze she had expected to see more than a decade ago.

On that day her test results would come with the morning mail. She had hidden herself in the breakfast room, to reveal herself for a celebration when he would be too proud of her to care about her sneaking in. But his look of disappointment after he had read the letter had told her that she would not grow up to be a man, and so she had remained hidden. Her feelings of shock and guilt had slowly turned to acceptance that she wouldn’t be marrying Charon and defiance for not being the son her father wanted. Towards the afternoon she even had to admit to herself that she was feeling a bit relived that she wouldn’t have to endure the stress of founding a family.

Jafun’s attention drifted again towards the priest. In a moment of rebellious spirit she had considered to ask Charon for a civil marriage, but right now she enjoyed the irony of having this asexual being lecture on how to make marriages work.

The day her test results arrived her father had came back from work late. When he addressed her in the evening as „my daughter“ she had thought it a tasteless joke, but he had shown her the letter. On it, in bold letters, was the word female, not neuter as she had expected since the morning. She had been confused, how the hell did her hormones think she was best for that role?! …Well, being a mother wasn’t necessarily a full time job, she still could pursue her obscure academic interests.

When half a year later Charon tested male she wasn’t even that surprised, figuring that his laid-back demeanor had often made her underestimate him.

Her desire of him hadn’t started as soon as he sent out the compatible pheromones. In fact it had taken years to develop. But when he took an interest in her as well it deepened fast.

Her smile widened. Today she would become his. Today he would marry her as his second wife.

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On better tools and worse products.

A thought model:
High quality tables cost 500 €.
Low quality tables cost 100 €.
For both kinds of tables sawing the wood for it costs 50 €.
For both kinds of tables the budget is fixed at 1.000.000 €.
Therefore 2.000 high quality tables get sold.
Therefore 10.000 low quality tables get sold.
Therefore ~ 17% of all tables sold have high quality.

Now a saw manufacturer invents a new saw which is so efficient that it reduces the cost of sawing the wood for a table to 25 €.
This reduces the cost of a high quality table to 475 €.
Therefore 2.105 high quality tables get sold.
Also this reduces the cost of a low quality table to 75 €.
Therefore 13.333 low quality tables get sold.
Therefore ~ 14% of all tables sold have high quality.

So in this thought model improving a tool lowers the average quality of the products made with it.

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a> Please understand, i never meet a person who thinks so different as you do.
b> So?
a> It’s scary, your thoughts are scary.
b> Why?
a> Because they are so different.
b> Different from what?
a> From what everybody else is thinking.
b> So you say i should forgive you because you met someone who thinks really different and that scared you?
a> Yes, please.
b> You know difference is symmetric.
a> What do you mean?
b> Every time someone meets me, they meet a person who thinks different from them, and i do too.
b> I agree that it is scary to meet someone who thinks different from you.
b> I get reminded how scary that is every fucking day.
b> That’s why i don’t accept it as an excuse.

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To think in words is to doubt.

The confident mind puts its plans directly into action.
The unconfident mind explains its plan to itself in an attempt to convince itself.
The unconfident mind justifies its plan to itself because it’s afraid it will soon have to justify its plan to others.
To think in words is to doubt.

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