Charisma: a how-to

A couple of weeks ago a friend asked me how he could become more charismatic.

Because the term “charismatic” has unhelpful religious connotations, let’s begin by being clear what he was actually asking. A person is “charismatic” when he or she has the ability to communicate a vision to others in a way that makes them sign up for making it real. Sometimes the vision is large (“Change the world!”) sometimes it is relatively small (“Become as cool as me!”).

My friend asked me how he could become more charismatic because he has seen me do the charisma thing a lot. This relates to my previous blogging on practical prophecy. A prophet has to be charismatic, it’s a requirement to get people to actually move.

Before he asked me about it, I would not have thought charisma was something that could be explained in detail. But questions properly posed sometimes elicit knowledge the person answering was not consciously aware of holding. That happened in this case; I found myself explaining four modes of charisma.

Here is what I told him.

The first way to be charismatic is non-attachment, the way sociopaths do it. To a sociopath, other humans are meat robots with emotional handles sticking out of them ready to be grabbed. Desire, fear, shame, status-seeking, loyalty – a sociopath sees all these and other emotions clearly in others exactly to the extent that, lacking the ability to empathize with those others, he has no skin in the game. People who aren’t sociopaths can sometimes learn this kind of perception through rigorous self-awareness and mystical disciplines that teach extreme emotional detachment as a learned state.

The second way is just the opposite of non-attachment – extreme empathy for others. The empathic charismatic works his mirror neurons hard, identifying with his targets in order to motivate them by tapping into their strongest emotional currents. Externally, the behavioral signals the empathic charismatic emits to affect others may be the same as the non-attached charismatic uses, but the internal representations they use are very different. The empath isn’t merely pretending to care; his behavior is not brittle and he can’t be “found out” the way a sociopath can.

The third way to charisma is channeling. The channeler, instead of identifying with their target(s), identifies with some figure or personified idea that is emotionally powerful for the targets. In a religious context, the charismatic may evoke a saint, a previous prophet with high prestige, or a god. In a more secular context, a channeling charismatic may appear to embody the characteristic virtues of a profession, a tribe, a nation, or some other group in which the targets have a large emotional investment.

The fourth way is the call to excellence. Whatever else a would-be charismatic does or fails to do, he can succeed with one simple, powerful message: “You can be more than you are.” The charismatic who calls to excellence invites people to grow, to take charge of their lives, to attend to what is best in themselves. In some but not all versions, this becomes “You can be part of something larger than yourself.”

In practice, most charismatics use mixed strategies. I myself rely mostly on a combination of channeling with the call to excellence. While I’m not particularly deficient in empathy, I’m not enough sigmas above the mean for that mode of charisma to be more effective than the two I lean on. If I put the required effort in to alter my consciousness, I can inhabit a sociopath-like state of detached manipulation, but I find it deeply uncomfortable to remain there for long.

Perhaps the most important thing to know about these strategies is that they are not inexplicable magic, but skills that can be learned and practised and improved. The most effective way to learn them is by mimesis: studying the behavior of charismatics, imitatiting it, and putting yourself inside the behavior (allowing yourself to notice that the behavior induces a mental posture and going there, as in method acting).

That’s what I told my friend. Now, on reflection, I would add two more important tools to the charismatic’s kit: honesty and fearlessness. I speak of these as instruments rather than virtues because I am mainly concerned with their effect on the charismatic’s audience.

Most people are half-aware that they are almost constantly surrounded by a net of lies. The big lies of politics and religion; the medium-sized lies of advertising and marketing; and all the little lies of the workplace and normal social interaction. Many people constantly pretend, even to themselves, to believe things that in other and deeper parts of their minds they know aren’t true – but they dare not confront those truths because they think the social and personal costs of doing so would be higher than they can bear.

The charismatic who is honest and fearless brings a gift. By thinking unthinkables and saying unsayables and getting away with it – not being struck dead by lighting or instantly lynched – he offers his audience, too, a psychological release from the relentless tension of everyday lies. He gives them at least temporary permission to be more honest in their own thoughts.

This is extremely powerful. So much so that many people will follow a charismatic to his goal just for this. Most people who hear the old saw “Honesty is the best policy” doen’t realize that it dates from a time when the word “policy” had slightly different connotations than it does today; what the proverb meant then might be better translated as “Honesty is the most effective strategem.” Now you know why.

112 thoughts on “Charisma: a how-to

  1. LARP early, LARP often. It’s a lot easier to practice how to sway a crowd in a LARP, where the costs of failing are so much lower.

  2. strategies 2 & 5 are also often features of the most successful comedians.

  3. [taking your structure as read]

    it occurs to me that strategies 2, 4, & 5 could be viewed as presenting the comedian/charismian as the focal person of strategy 3.

    strategy 1 could be viewed as a parasitic (or gamesmanship secondary) imitation of strategy 2.

    or to put it another way, three are calls to the fundamental human tendency positively to believe in the Law of Sympathetic Magic, combined with hosing down the fundamental human tendency of Fear of Being Different, and one is an imitation of one of these calls in order to costlessly/investmentlessly acquire the benefits of tapping these fundamental human drives.

    hmm

  4. > I can inhabit a sociopath-like state of detached manipulation, but I find it deeply uncomfortable to remain there for long.

    I am pretty sure you are at least as sociopathic as I am, but far more vulnerable to real, feigned, or manufactured social disapproval. You show doublethink and crimestop on a wide variety of topics where believing in A is logically equivalent to believing in B, but B causes more trouble than A.

    This prevents you from taking aim at root beliefs – something the left has never had any difficulty in doing. Back in the days when the anglosphere left was overtly Christian, they believed they had a mission from God, which gave them the strength to attack enemy root beliefs in the face of social disapproval.

  5. Curiously, I find the left utterly fails at attacking any root beliefs that aren’t standard Abrahamic religious. They have little or no interest in Eastern religions, and when they disagree with libertarians enough to raise the issue, they fall – hard and laughably (to the libertarian). In many cases, the bungle is due to attacking them as if they’re religious. (Have you heard? Apparently Rand Paul is a conservative crusader!) As I remarked to a friend of mine: if you can’t beat ‘em, pretend they’re someone you can beat.

    In terms of charisma, the better members of the left I see have no problem empathizing with the religious and with the social component of a libertarian. I can think of only one example of someone who could empathize with the economic component well enough to defend the liberal case longer than ten minutes.

  6. (In case that wasn’t clear: I mean the left could empathize with two different mindsets: religious, and the social component of libertarianism…)

  7. >[...] as sociopathic as I am

    At least you are making some progress acknowledging your problems.

    –Foo Quuxman

  8. My methods might surprise some people – and I’m charismatic enough to carry a crowd or a small assembly with me.

    I tend to do “call of excellence” coupled with humor as a protective covering.

    “Hi, would you like to blow up some chocolates? You kill it, you eat it.”

  9. Eric, I’m a little surprised that you did not connect this topic with the prior post on cults. I would think that a cult needs a charismatic leader in order to get started.

    More generally, I’m somewhat confused by your use of the word “targets” to describe members of the charismatic’s audience.

  10. Ok, so what’s good advice for figuring out if a charismatic person is a con man?

  11. > The charismatic who is honest and fearless brings a gift. By thinking unthinkables and saying unsayables and getting away with it – not being struck dead by lighting or instantly lynched

    The problem is that this is nearly impossible unless you are already charismatic.

  12. >Ok, so what’s good advice for figuring out if a charismatic person is a con man?

    That’s a good question, but independent of the modes and tactics that the charismatic is using. You have to think critically about the content of the charismatic’s message; there is no shortcut.

  13. I think no matter what tactics you achieve to attain a charismatic personality, there is no denying that charisma is about emotionally short-circuiting your audience to gain their approval. Where there is critical thinking, there is no question of charisma.

    I think the right term to use is “personality” or “charm”, for the kind of personal attraction that are not linked to the message. Am I right?

  14. @ Eugine Nier

    > The charismatic who is honest and fearless brings a gift. By thinking unthinkables and saying unsayables and getting away with it – not being struck dead by lighting or instantly lynched

    The problem is that this is nearly impossible unless you are already charismatic.

    I think that this “problem” is true in a way, but there are aspects.

    One characteristic that all/most? charismatics share is being seen as having absolute confidence in themselves.

    When speaking to a group, confidence or a lack of confidence is generally obvious. Personally, if I have something to say, I like speaking to a group, and this is a reflection of my confidence in myself. It isn’t that I am confident that the speaking will go perfectly, but that it will be successful – that I can hold their attention and get my point across. Maybe not everyone will agree with what I have to say, but (at least) most of the people will think about it.

    The rest of what I am going to say, here, can apply to public speaking, dealing with people at work and one-on-one situations.

    A powerful combination is absolute confidence and a degree of weirdness. It is a variation on, or aspect of, what ESR said about being honest and fearless -

    By thinking unthinkables and saying unsayables and getting away with it…

    In some situations, simply being a computer-guy provides the weirdness. I love humor as a source of weirdness – if you can make them laugh, you’ve got ‘em. Sometimes a somewhat odd image does it, like Steve Jobs wearing jeans or Larry Ellison’s beard stubble. The getting away with it is demonstrated by obviously having (basically) absolute confidence.

    I love what I see. I’m a freak. I love being me.

    …. “Freak” – Paul Stanley – KISS – new “Monster” album

    I love that song. I love being me, and people react very positively to that.

  15. After looking this up, I find that while the lead singer is Paul Stanley, “Freak” was written by Stanley and Tommy Thayer, one of the newer, (slightly) younger guys (he is 53).

  16. Dropping money and fun activities on your entourage is (often truthfully) an empathy strategy? The sociopath might internalize it (sometimes truthfully) as destructive co-dependence?

    Contrast honesty with the ‘neg’ from PUA theory that surely fails in the group setting that charisma targets.

    Lazarus posited that emotions result from first a conscious or hindbrain appraisal. Emotions apparently motivate humans to choose successful evolutionary strategies.

    In a group setting, our collective emotions are appraising outcomes not directly involved with selecting mate.

    Does charisma have to be centered around one lead individual in a group, or can it be an effect of mutual emotional identification? If always not equally distributed, does this imply that the theory of social status is always in play?

  17. @Sarah
    “Ok, so what’s good advice for figuring out if a charismatic person is a con man?”

    I once saw a study about whether lying children could get mothers to believe them, using mothers and children from two very different countries. The nice point was that mothers from one country could spot lying children from the other better than their own mothers.

    That seems to be a general feature of Charismatic Leaders, Politicians, and con men: Outsiders spot the lies much better than insiders.

    I often look at US politicians and think: How can anyone fall for that. And I have been assured, it also works the other way around.

  18. I really LOVE these self-help type posts of yours. Please do more on all kinds of topics. I find your POV very fascinating as you don’t seem to come from a typical self-help perspective, yet you have a lot of experience levelling yourself up.

  19. @esr
    > there is no shortcut

    Aren’t sociopaths universally uncomfortable when you probe their emotions? Con men want to focus on your emotions, not theirs.

  20. The difference between a sociopath and a grunch-esque Grinch is charisma versus ‘neg’.

  21. Btw, ESR, how do I apply these modes for seduction? Mostly for night time pick-ups, but also for day game.

  22. I often look at US politicians and think: How can anyone fall for that. And I have been assured, it also works the other way around.

    And it works the other way around. Politicians here in Sweden say a lot of stupid shit too, which foreigners seem to be able to point out quite universally.

    In Wilson/Leary-talk, this would be an example of Circuit 4.

  23. >A powerful combination is absolute confidence and a degree of weirdness.

    That is very true.

  24. >Btw, ESR, how do I apply these modes for seduction? Mostly for night time pick-ups, but also for day game.

    I don’t think there’s any specific answer for that. Not saying they aren’t useful, mind you, I just can’t think of any more specific tactical tips for that context.

  25. My instinctive strategy is high school circa 1981 was throw the wildest “blazer” parties, invite all thousand+, and encourage as much simultaneous chaos as possible and try to be swift enough to be involved in as much of it as possible. Fill a full size chest freezer full of beer, dump it in the pool in the afternoon of the event, greet everyone with a beer, guide them into the heart of the dancing or other chaos, kiss a girl to get her in the mood, then pass her on to a needy boy of suitable match, etc.. Have fun, make sure others are having fun, so to be seen as a central element of their emotional experience. This illusion is easy to create when everyone is drunk as skunk.

    Serendipity highlights included the flying grapefruits from roof (fruit trees in backyard) which I spontaneously embraced as a paintball-esque event, the barbecue pit turned bonfire (fire dept. showed up), ape-gram someone sent to the front door which I guided with some silly nuts-to-the-floor Gantham style to the sexy beeaachs on the dance floor, etc…

    Have you ever seen an ape fornicating with a beautiful hot blonde teen? Good times indeed. Dave Guetta is getting me in the mood. He has charisma.

    Let’s party.

  26. >Aren’t sociopaths universally uncomfortable when you probe their emotions?

    I don’t know if that’s true. It sounds plausible, though.

  27. > “The big lies of politics and religion; the medium-sized lies of advertising and marketing; and all the little lies of the workplace and normal social interaction……By thinking unthinkables and saying unsayables and getting away with it…”

    One thing I’ve noticed is that, socially, it’s much easier to get away with questioning the big lies than the little ones. Call religion a lie and you’ll attract support from some and argument from others; point out that the co-worker asking how you’re doing doesn’t actually want to know, and people will look at you like you dropped your pants in public.

  28. >One thing I’ve noticed is that, socially, it’s much easier to get away with questioning the big lies than the little ones.

    I think this might be put more sharply as: the social cost of truth-telling varies as the inverse square of your social distance from the liar. :-)

  29. Hrm. I think that’s correct, but it may not be the full story. Making the same complaint about, say, a supermarket checkout clerk gets me a similar reaction, and there’s a pretty large social distance there.

  30. @A
    “point out that the co-worker asking how you’re doing doesn’t actually want to know, and people will look at you like you dropped your pants in public.”

    The running gag in the Netherlands wrt Americans is that when they ask in their customary way “How are you?”, the Dutch start to explain in detail how they feel that moment. Seems to put the Americans off quite a bit.

    We are just not used to so much attention to our personal well being.

    But I think you should make a distinction between rules of politeness and lies of content.

  31. @Winter: The correct response to, “Hi! How are you?” is:

    “Hi! How are you?”

    In the first case, you emphasize the word, ‘are’. The respondent emphasizes the word, ‘you’. Neither actually answers the question. (Nobody really wants to hear about the other’s medical procedures.)

  32. Once again, turn back the clock thousands of years and imagine what it must of been like for our primitive ancestors. An individual acquiring food was limited by his/her gathering skills or hunting small game. A group working in concert might fare better by covering a wider territory or pack hunting larger prey. A group with a charismatic leader might do better yet, as synergy and innovation might allow them to bring down a mammoth and eat for a month.

    In this sense, the charismatic leader arises as a mutation in society and either helps (leading to enhanced survival/prosperity) or hurts (leading to an evolutionary dead-end). Either way, the social propensity to “follow the leader” is an evolutionary trait.

    As a side note, humor as a charismatic skill may be a way of implying that you are neither a threat nor an enemy. Weirdness goes hand-in-hand with mutation.

  33. > The running gag in the Netherlands wrt Americans is that when they ask in their
    > customary way “How are you?”, the Dutch start to explain in detail how they
    > feel that moment. Seems to put the Americans off quite a bit.

    Just with Americans?
    Isn’t that a common greeting in most western languages?

    I know the most common greetings you hear in France are:
    Bonjour.
    Comment allez-vous? (How’s it going for you)

    Which is often shortened to:
    Comment ça va? (How it goes?)

    or just:
    Ça va? (It goes?)

    The common greeting in Greek (don’t ask me how to actually spell it)
    is:
    Yasoo, degahnis (Hello, How are you?)

    What do the Dutch say when they greet each other?

  34. @bpsouther
    “Isn’t that a common greeting in most western languages?”

    Yes, but it is the American enthusiasm that trips us off. Our “how are you?” is uttered in an emotionally flat tone.

    When I first visited the States, I was startled every time I entered a shop or restaurant. When people at home greet me with this enthusiasm, I expect them to fall in my arms with tears of joy.

    It varies a lot among countries. In some areas people greet their long lost child at return in a way that others welcome the tax inspector. Americans are just at the enthusiastic end of the spectrum.

  35. @Patrick:

    To be fair, he does hang out with them and tells them what they want to hear.

    Yes, I know, that just makes him a politician. But still, I can’t see that it’s unfair to call him out on it.

    It’s a prelude to guilt by association. Talk about how conservative he is, conveniently keep silent about how libertarian he is. Simmer for several news cycles. Voila! Conservative.

    Put it another way: I agree that it’s fair to call him out on it. It’s less fair to omit everything else. (In the interest of being scientific, I should note that I haven’t specifically cross-referenced all articles from, say, NYT or WaPo about Rand Paul, to see if this is the only way they portray him, so I might be wrong.)

  36. @A
    > [...] a supermarket checkout clerk gets me a similar reaction, and there’s a pretty large social distance there.

    Maybe because they catch the implication that people which are socially nearer also don’t care as much?

  37. The running gag in the Netherlands wrt Americans is that when they ask in their customary way “How are you?”, the Dutch start to explain in detail how they feel that moment. Seems to put the Americans off quite a bit.

    I likewise find the question insincere (not in a bad way — just, as you point out, they don’t really want to know). Occasionally I do the same thing you describe, but for most interactions that would take too much time. So a couple of decades ago I formulated a stock response that is semi-automatic: “I don’t know yet; it’s only Friday.”

    It almost always gets their attention and usually elicits at least a smile. Sometimes I’ll get something like “Well if you don’t know by Friday, when will you know?” and that’s worth playing along a bit with, perhaps “It usually takes me awhile to figure it out. I was fine yesterday; ask me tomorrow and I’ll tell you how I was today.”

    In retrospect, I suspect I only reflected enough on this and got in this habit because of spending a bit of time in Europe in the 1980s, and finding out that, yes — automatic greetings are different in different places.

  38. >When I first visited the States, I was startled every time I entered a shop or restaurant. When >people at home greet me with this enthusiasm, I expect them to fall in my arms with tears of joy.

    Ahh, You clearly didn’t land in Boston. You’d probably feel more at home here.

  39. > The correct response to, “Hi! How are you?” is:

    “Fine”.

    A humorous faux pas that can elicit a genuine smile in honor on when there was time to come up to the porch for gossip, e.g. “Well (damn) glad you asked, because I hadn’t thought about it yet.”.

    Could the difference from European culture be the mixing with the natives? I am thinking that some natives had elaborate greeting and departing customs, although I don’t know if this is true.

  40. @ TomA

    As a side note, humor as a charismatic skill may be a way of implying that you are neither a threat nor an enemy. Weirdness goes hand-in-hand with mutation.

    This is interesting in a few ways (I was the one that suggested the power of confidence/weirdness and humor as weirdness.)

    Humor might be a skill that can be learned, but I think that it mostly arises from a way of looking at life – it is more of a talent (a mutation and/or relatively rare characteristic) than a skill.

    Becoming adept at kung fu had a huge affect on my confidence, and a primary affect of this has been a feeling of great peace and relaxation when walking in public around other people. Particularly when walking past “tough guys”, it seems that this appears as confidence that is non-weak, non-threatening and non-challenging. In short, I (probably erroneously) feel that I am so good at kung fu that I will never use it in my life.

    I became a “science geek” early. This was very amusing (to me, at least) in elementary school, but junior high was pretty rough.

    In any case, I have had the feeling of being a mutation since I was about ten. By high school (with the computer club), I strongly related to the wizard archetype. (As I type this, my parrot, Merlin, is on my shoulder.) My metaphor for myself is the wizard – the oddly dressed guy in the shadows whispering in the king’s ear, not part of the power-hierarchy of people in the king’s court with all their rules of etiquette and dress, and also not part of the hierarchy of common people, either.

  41. Hitler.

    Offhand, I would say that Hitler was extremely charismatic by:

    - being an extreme sociopath

    - channelling the “great patriotic leader”

    - the call to excellence – “You can be part of something larger than yourself.”

    - a racist being ” honest and fearless” – saying an unsayable (or at least promoting it to a new extreme)

    And, of course, he appeared to the public as being supremely confident and quite weird.

  42. Sociopaths may be universally uncomfortable when you probe their emotions but so are many non-sociopaths, so you can’t use this to out them.

    I use primarily 1, but I’m not sure if I meet the diagnostic criteria for sociopathy. I do develop sympathy for people whom I’ve known closely for long periods.

    It’s wrong to assume that 1 does not require empathy. It requires empathy without sympathy. I’m very good at figuring out how other people feel, I just don’t care, but I need to know those feelings to successfully manipulate.

  43. When I first visited the States, I was startled every time I entered a shop or restaurant. When people at home greet me with this enthusiasm, I expect them to fall in my arms with tears of joy.

    I know North American geography can be tricky for people off continent; are you sure you didn’t wind up in Canada instead? :)

  44. When I first visited the States, I was startled every time I entered a shop or restaurant. When people at home greet me with this enthusiasm, I expect them to fall in my arms with tears of joy.

    I know North American geography can be tricky for people off continent; are you sure you didn’t wind up in Canada instead? :)

    I am Canadian and have lived in Alberta since I was ten.

    In Calgary, at least, folks are generally pleasant and “live-and-let-live”; you signal for a lane change and usually the first or second car that can let you in will do so.

    I spent some time working (commuting to and from) Alabama. It was there that I noticed the wildly enthusiastic greetings, mostly between women.

  45. @Tom “Once again, turn back the clock thousands of years … A group with a charismatic leader might do better yet, as synergy and innovation might allow them to bring down a mammoth and eat for a month.”

    That depends on the weather, actually. The whole hunter-gatherer-agriculture spectrum depends on the weather and little else. If it’s the Ice Age, your mammoth is going to keep, but you won’t be able to grow oats worth nsfw. If it’s a temperate summer, farming is easier than hunting mammoths, which’ll be inedible in about a day. There isn’t really anything else to it, charismatic leadership or otherwise. (As an aside, realizing this independently of, and then connecting it, to the Genesis 6-9 Flood story, which the Ice Age had to have been after considering the geological record, is another tidbit to confirm it. It is plausible that prior to Genesis 9:3, humanity may not have realized that animals were edible. If this is so, Cain the farmer might have been driven insane by the confusion caused by the events in Genesis 4.)

  46. I found this post really funny because, after a point, I started thinking about how the ultimate charismatic leader might give, and indeed actually has given, almost all of this advice on becoming more charismatic and, for obvious reasons, with a lot more “unhelpful religious connotations”. Now, I’m not exactly sure that we can all agree on who currently holds the title of ultimate charismatic leader throughout all of human history (to date – although I have no doubt he will continue to hold the title forever), but I’m absolutely certain it is Jesus Christ. And you shouldn’t have to be Christian to conclude this, either. Often imitated (i.e.: The Pope; I hope no one here has mistaken him for a Christian), but never duplicated, two thousand years of- if you want to call them nutters, so be it, perpetrators of the Renaissance among other things, can anyone before or since compare to Jesus H. Christ as the most charismatic leader ever?

    If anyone’s interested, I can make, I guess you could call it the “sermon” version of this post on how to be more charismatic. I wouldn’t be the first, since I’ve heard messages in church with the same four major points (although I’ve yet to hear a pastor utter something like “meat robots with emotional handles sticking out of them ready to be grabbed”.) Let me know if you’re interested

  47. @Brian: “A powerful combination is absolute confidence and a degree of weirdness.”

    @esr: “That is very true.”

    ROFL…

    Do I er… qualify? Even a little?

  48. Man….

    Let’s just say that I restrained myself.

    I may be wrong, but there isn’t a single thing in your first post that I could not have either attacked on scientific grounds or simply made fun of.

    Your second comment had more that we could logically argue about, but I have no interest in doing so.

    You seem to be very confident and weird. Do you find yourself to be charismatic?

  49. Michael Jackson did touch the soul of a great many people.

    As a totally unrelated point, it is odd that he appeared to be slowly changing himself into a white chick.

  50. I must say that some tactics taken by the PUA community really, really help out. Like…

    1. Working out.
    2. Interesting small talk.

    Working out brings self esteem and fitness, both of which help produce good first impressions. Initial charisma is highly reliant upon good first impressions. Or more to the point, bad first impressions can cause your audience to leave.

    Interesting small talk is non-threatening and helps build rapport. Without rapport, any controversial topic you bring up will be ignored. Note that they are ignoring *you*, not the topic. Only with good rapport can you even broach potentially controversial topics, without being tuned out.

    Obviously, there is more to it than working out and learning interesting small talk, but both certainly help a lot.

  51. @ Terry – >Tom “Once again, turn back the clock thousands of years … A group with a charismatic leader might do better yet, as synergy and innovation might allow them to bring down a mammoth and eat for a month . . .

    That depends on the weather, actually.”

    Dear Terry:

    Thank you for pointing out the defect in my earlier post. I should have been more precise. Please allow me to revise.

    The Year was 8,472 BCE. Although the Gregorian Calendar would not be adopted for another 10,000 years, we would today say that the date was February 17th and the time was approximately 2:15 pm (DST). The location was the north-central plains of the North American Continent; what we would today describe as the western fringe of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada (aka Assinabota).

    Gorp, the charismatic leader of the Nobessen Tribe, had finally persuaded the other tribal hunters to attempt a new hunting technique. In the narrow draw of a dry river bed, they dug pit several meters deep, lined the bottom with sharpened wood spikes, and covered the hole with pine bows and straw thatch. They then selected their fleetest hunter (Omygod) to lure the great mammoth into the trap. Omygod, not being the sharpest spear in the tribe, confronted the beast head-on and yelled insults at the dumb animal in a futile attempt to initiate a stampede charge. The beast ignored him, until fatefully, he began throwing rocks at irritated animal’s skull. The ploy worked, the mammoth charged, and off flew Ohmygod toward the pit trap. In an adrenalin-induced hysteria, poor Ohmygod forgot to leap over the pit and soon found himself impaled on a wooden spike. Fortunately, the galloping mammoth had too much momentum in his charge and also plunged into the pit on top of Ohmygod. After several days of agony, the beast finally bled out and died, allowing the other hunters to dismember the carcass and haul the meat off to a nearby ice cave for safe keeping. The tribe ate well for the next 37 days, and a new hunting technique had evolved.

    The moral of the story . . . for every charismatic leader, there is at least one loyal dupe. A win-win for the gene pool.

  52. @Brian Marshall:

    >I spent some time working (commuting to and from) Alabama. It was there that I noticed the wildly enthusiastic greetings, mostly between women.

    It’s a southern thing. Northerners are considerably more reserved.

  53. @Brian RE: Hitler

    >- a racist being ” honest and fearless” – saying an unsayable (or at least promoting it to a new extreme)

    It helped that he had unsayable truths (regarding Versailles and the WWI Allies mistreatment of Germany) to be honest and fearless about and springboard his racism on top of. “Jews are bastards” is an easier proposition to sell when you make it part of a package deal with something self-evident: “Versailles is an outrage and Jews are bastards”.

    In fact, a lot of the most damaging lies get stuffed into package deals this way. Which makes the US two-party system really scary.

  54. @ Jon Brase

    >I spent some time working (commuting to and from) Alabama. It was there that I noticed the wildly enthusiastic greetings, mostly between women.

    It’s a southern thing. Northerners are considerably more reserved.

    Yeah. In a restaurant, I heard a woman take almost three seconds to say “Well, hi. How are you?” with a range of pitch of almost an octave.

  55. Since Terry’s the content of Terry’s comment has come up, I would like to point out another aspect which I find interesting.

    If it’s a temperate summer, farming is easier than hunting mammoths, which’ll be inedible in about a day.

    I believe that I read about this in “Blood In The Streets” by James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg.

    In a hunter-gatherer tribe, the men are all armed and (wild guess) probably armed pretty much equally. A leader had to be charismatic. (In the old West, they didn’t call the Colt .45 revolver “the equalizer” for nothing.)

    Agriculture is a whole different story. A tremendous amount of work and time must be put into it before it pays off. If everyone is equally armed, a band of thugs will likely kill a farmer and take the crop. Even an armed farmer and his armed neighbours are no defence against a quick attack by better armed thugs. The power situation in society has to be different for agriculture to be successful. There must be the potential of overwhelming force to enforce a concept of “Thou shalt not steal”. This is true whether the crop is communal or the property of each farmer.

  56. @ Jon Brase

    In fact, a lot of the most damaging lies get stuffed into package deals this way. Which makes the US two-party system really scary.

    It seems to me that the most dangerous laws, the ones that should have the most debate and the most opponents, are often packaged into bills that the US two-party system passes with hardly any opponents and with hardly any debate whatsoever. Is this what you had in mind?

  57. @TomA
    > A group with a charismatic leader might do better yet, as synergy and innovation
    > might allow them to bring down a mammoth and eat for a month.
    >
    > In this sense, the charismatic leader arises as a mutation in society and either helps
    > (leading to enhanced survival/prosperity) or hurts (leading to an evolutionary dead-end).
    > Either way, the social propensity to “follow the leader” is an evolutionary trait.
    >
    > As a side note, humor as a charismatic skill may be a way of implying that you are
    > neither a threat nor an enemy. Weirdness goes hand-in-hand with mutation.

    Attraction to weirdness (as a signal of uniqueness) could plausibly populate diversity in the gene pool enabling adaption to unknown future challenges to survival.

    Evolution rewarding individuality (regardless of a priori judgments of value) is a cool theory for anarchist, in light of the discussion (in the prior blog #4757) debating whether equality and social justice may lead to dystopian political correctness a.k.a. Doublethink.

    Regarding your “either way”…

    @JustSaying
    > Lazarus posited that emotions result from first a conscious or hindbrain appraisal.
    > Emotions apparently motivate humans to choose successful evolutionary strategies.

    A mathematical theory of why we have fuzzy emotions.

    Evolution may maximize diversity of trial balloons, thus exists our fuzzy emotional system to motivate us to make it so.

    Given fuzzy metrics, this is a probabilistic outcome similar to esr’s maximize breadth of options (see blog #4699) strategic insight. For example, I posited that ‘negs’ in PUA theory, may be triggering the emotional desire of a female to be dominated, as a signal of a potential alpha (respecting Occam’s razor and orthogonal to any more difficult to falsify theory of why harsh dominance is an evolutionary signal of alpha-ness). There is a theory of how this relates to degrees-of-freedom in terms of solving for the dynamic local and global optimum pathway(s) to the dynamic, unknown future.

  58. @Terry
    “If it’s a temperate summer, farming is easier than hunting mammoths, which’ll be inedible in about a day.”

    Sorry, Neanderthals might have hunted mammoths. Our forbears did not hunt big game much. As Jared Diamond wrote, there are few ways of committing suicide more efficient that throwing a spear at a buffalo or rhino.

    Farming appeared only 10,000 years ago in the Middle East. It only reached the temperate zones thousands of years later.

  59. >Our forbears did not hunt big game much.

    This claim is totally, totally wrong. On several levels.

    First, the forensic evidence. The fossil record of Homo Sap is replete with sites in which big-game bones (often cracked and fire-charred) are found in close association with mainline human (not Neanderthal) remains. In what is now the Ukraine, Pleistocene-era humans took mammoth so often that they built skin shelters using mammoth bone and ivory as support members.

    Second, if you are European Neanderthals are among your ancestors. Archaic Homo Sap coming out of Africa absorbed them; modern Europeans have about 5% Neanderthal DNA. When I was studying anthropology in the 1970s absorption was only an informed guess, but today we can sequence genomes and enough Neanderthal DNA has been recovered to clinch this. It shows, too – the big beaky noses Europeans have are surface signs of skull morphology that is very likely Neanderthal in origin.

    Third, Jared Diamond is being dimwitted if he thinks spearchucking is the only way to take megafauna. Amerinds used to stampede bison herds over cliffs. Elsewhere in the world tribes at a stone-age tech level routinely used pit-and-stake traps to take game as large as elephants.

    Fourth, both archaic humans and their toolkits show clear signs of being adapted for cursorial hunting of big game in savannah-like conditions. Humans are better long-distance travelers than any other land animal on Earth, able to maintain a steady walking speed for lengths of time that exhaust game animals trying to run away. Many of the spearpoints found in (for example) Aurignacian horizons don’t make any sense as small-game weapons, they’re simply too large and rather obviously designed for taking prey the size of deer and larger.

    What is true is that the hominid line didn’t start as cursorial hunters. The evidence suggests that our remoter ground-dwelling ancestors potted small game with rocks using binocular vision originally evolved to handle 3-D motion in an arboreal environment. Later we repurposed that wiring for larger game and evolved group cursorial hunting as a major strategy, one which is strongly associated with rapid encephalization and probably drove it.

  60. Getting off-topic but bear with me:

    Eric, have you ever considered a broader critique of Jared Diamond? I’ve only read some of his stuff, but what I have read… well the impression I get is that he is powerfully full of shit, because everything about his arguments seems to be designed to hand-wave away the influence of culture.

  61. Use of charisma not only requires great self-confidence (or at least self-righteousness, which can look the same) but also enormous ego, one might even say colossal arrogance. Because what charisma is, is the ability to get people to do what *you* think they should do, using the power of words and your personality- NOT what they originally wanted to do. You are changing people’s opinions, thoughts and actions to conform to *your* will, and that is never to be taken lightly.

    It’s why I will have nothing to do with any kind of sales position, even though I am capable of charisma. (Different aspects of my personality are capable of type 1 and 2 approaches, and 5 comes naturally to me.) Advocacy to me is an awkward thing- I just try to present facts and let people decide. It’s less “effective” than I’m capable of being, but the manipulation still feels wrong.

  62. >>Our forbears did not hunt big game much.

    >This claim is totally, totally wrong. On several levels.

    Also, Pygmies hunt elephants only with tools of our forbears.

  63. >Eric, have you ever considered a broader critique of Jared Diamond?

    That wouldn’t be simple. I actually thought Guns, Germs, and Steel was pretty good, though it had one major flaw – he explicitly wrote it to banish racialist explanations of European world dominance, but never actually constructed an argument against that proposition in the book. Instead he wrote as if explaining European advantages like a better package of staple crops and draft animals (leading to more energy surplus, leading to earlier urbanization and specialization, leading to first-mover advantages in technologies like firearms and sailing ships) somehow magically excluded the possibility that Europeans also profited from a superior genetic endowment. (Note: I am not arguing for this proposition, merely criticizing Diamond’s sloppy thinking on the issue.)

    Despite its one big flaw GG&S was full of interesting insights. For example I think his argument that post-medieval Europe got ahead of China because European geography prevented political overcentralization is sound. The Tang Dynasty had open-ocean sailing ships but, lacking any significant competition on its borders, scrapped them as a threat to Imperial stability. His argument that on any Earthlike planet the first-mover civilizations will arise at the extreme ends of the longest stretch of continuous east-west landmass is very elegant – it turns on the fact that food crops travel east-to-west easily but north-to-south only with difficulty (adapting to changes in the length and timing of the growing season is hard).

    Sadly I agree his more recent stuff seems to be mostly crap – shallow arguments aimed at buttressing various fashionable dogmas of SWPL eco-religion, nearly packaged coffee-table sermonettes for the trendoid crowd. They seem to be getting worse as he goes along.

  64. Have you considered that Guns, Germs and Steel also works as an avoidance of a cultural basis for European dominance? It’s what I picked up on right away.

    And I really am suspicious of how Europe could go from being a relatively poor backwater of civilization (which is what it was) to dominance in a short period, when none of the factors that Diamond puts forward as explanatory actually changed.

    But that’s enough of a tangent, sorry.

  65. @esr
    There are two ways to eat big game:
    1 drive the off a cliff
    2 use bow and arrows
    3 scavenging

    For 1 you need suitable cliffs and is therefore of limited use. 2 was only invented rather late. Probably this was available to the original Americans when they exterminated all big game. 3 is how humand obtained big game most of the time.

  66. >[Scavenging] is how humand obtained big game most of the time.

    This theory is not really consistent with the archeological evidence. Scavengers wouldn’t need Clovis points, and they’re too work-intensive to make unless you need them. Furthermore, it doesn’t match the observed behavior of modern hunter-gatherer tribes.

    Finally, if humans had evolved primarily as scavengers we’d be specialized for eating carrion. We aren’t; in fact humans are instinctively repelled by it.

  67. @JustSaying
    > crossover of african-american culture (hip-hop) to mainstream whites, and a global tribe

    @Brian Marshall
    >Michael Jackson did touch the soul of a great many people.
    >
    > As a totally unrelated point, it is odd that he appeared to be slowly changing himself into a white chick.

    Or plausibly related if my quote of myself above is valid, taken with revelations on his childhood below.

    @bruce
    >> grand ideals
    >
    > Pedophilia.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_relationships_of_Michael_Jackson#Early_sexual_and_emotional_experiences

    I listened to interviews on youtube from age 21, 24, and up, wherein he described the depression and loneliness he felt when off stage, where he wasn’t interacting with fans. He had lost the opportunities to build personal friendships and experiences as a young child, thus he withdrew from doing so as a teenager. He idolized innocence.

    I think MJ was bringing people back to their youthful idealism with his timeless songs and giving them a release from reality, especially as he and his audience aged.

    Realistic honesty may not be as intoxicating as idols (watch the young girl mouth “oh my god” and see MJ dance like he is in a spell at finale). MJ claimed he was expressing his honest love for the fans in his songs.

    My new optimistic interpretation is that if evolution is prioritizing a part of our brain for achieving diversity as I posited about why fuzzy emotions exist, then everything is part of resiliency optimization for our species. All of us are going to have negative and positive experiences– no perfection. The glass is half-full or half-empty. Today I am celebrating MJ’s intoxicating charisma, in spite of the allegations of imperfection. Some guys with crowbars (and even an ex with a virus) permanently handicapped me physically, and life goes on with much to be excited and happy about. The universe has a way of rectifying wrongs. MJ paid $28 million and died young. In some cultures, the jail sentence is vacated if the rapist marries the victim.

  68. Which mode(s) did Steve Jobs use?

    Certainly he was not a sociopath. By all accounts he was hyper-emotional and sensitive, prone even to bursting into tears quite frequently.

    I also don’t think he quite fits the “empath” model, since there is abundant evidence that he didn’t care at all about a lot of the people who were the targets of his charismatic powers.

    He used channelling extensively, exploiting the ideals and style of 60s counter-culture, and its icons (for example Dylan, Lennon), to form the basis of both his own personal image and that of Apple.

    There are also documented cases of his use of call-to-excellence. For example, his famous line when recruiting John Sculley (“Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want to change the world?”).

    There’s something more fundamental though. Although he wasn’t an empath as you describe the category, he certainly seemed to be extremely (even painfully) in touch with his own emotions and sensitive to those of others. The difference is that even though he felt emotion deeply himself, and was adept at reading it in others, this did not create in him a caring attitude to those around him. He knew what others were feeling, and knew what it was like to have those feelings, but nonetheless he didn’t *care*. Instead he used his knowledge as a tool for manipulation.

    As one of his former girlfriends said of him: “He was an enlightened being who was also cruel.”

  69. There’s something more fundamental though. Although he wasn’t an empath as you describe the category, he certainly seemed to be extremely (even painfully) in touch with his own emotions and sensitive to those of others. The difference is that even though he felt emotion deeply himself, and was adept at reading it in others, this did not create in him a caring attitude to those around him. He knew what others were feeling, and knew what it was like to have those feelings, but nonetheless he didn’t *care*. Instead he used his knowledge as a tool for manipulation.

    Um, that’s pretty much textbook ‘sociopath’.

  70. This post began as an aid to anyone wishing to develop a charismatic attribute in their personality. I suppose that one reason to cultivate this attribute is to grow one’s ability to influence others. If so, then a rational person will likely have a purpose in mind for when they ultimately learn to exert this influence. And it seems to me that the motivation behind such a purpose can range from self-interest to altruism.

    In terms of cultural evolution, is it more beneficial for someone to proactively cultivate charisma (for any arbitrary purpose) or is it better if the charismatic leader arises spontaneously via mutation (and presumably in response to some natural driver)?

  71. Diamond does seem like a mixed bag– his claim that the lack of navigable rivers impeded development in Africa seems reasonable. I’ve seen a detailed takedown of his claim in Collapse that the Vikings didn’t eat fish, and his failure on that one seems reprehensibly sloppy.

    Now that I think about it, are there examples of food taboos (not that I’m sure the Vikings ever had that one) bending to necessity? I’m not talking about rules that make exceptions (in Judaism, you’d allowed to break kashrut if it’s a matter of life or health), but the rules themselves getting changed.

    To what extent did European culture change in ways which gave large advantages and to what extent did more resources become available?

    In re Steve Jobs: I’m surprised that there haven’t been more successes like his based on excellent design. Is it just that usually such products are too expensive for a mass or nearly mass market?

  72. “Have you considered that Guns, Germs and Steel also works as an avoidance of a cultural basis for European dominance? It’s what I picked up on right away.”

    I think it’s an excellent book, but it clearly reads as apologetics trying to make exactly your point above. Of course this begs the questions of why other cultures seem to be quick to adopt elements of European culture, everything from Communism to Parliaments to Christianity*. Is this something about European culture that produces elements with staying power?

    *Yes, I realize that Christianity got its start in the eastern Med. But it didn’t really become a coherent religion in Judea; that happened in the Roman Empire, and the dominant threads of modern Christianity come chiefly from Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, not from offshoots like Coptic Christianity. While I haven’t seen actual data, I strongly suspect that most sub-Saharan African Christians today belong to Catholic or Protestant sects that evangelized the continent, not to Christianity that spread out from Ethiopian Christians.

  73. I think it’s an excellent book, but it clearly reads as apologetics trying to make exactly your point above. Of course this begs the questions of why other cultures seem to be quick to adopt elements of European culture, everything from Communism to Parliaments to Christianity*. Is this something about European culture that produces elements with staying power?

    Copying everything European (and later American) only happened after Europe became dominant, certainly not before. People want to imitate a winner, for various reasons (some magical, some practical). One glaring example is that all the world’s military establishments seem to be organized on one or other European pattern, and the success of non-Western powers that most successfully copied Western methods (like Japan) certainly pushed things along.

    There are things in European culture that tend to produce success, certainly.

  74. >> Eric, have you ever considered a broader critique of Jared Diamond?

    > That wouldn’t be simple. I actually thought Guns, Germs, and Steel was pretty good,
    [...]
    >Sadly I agree his more recent stuff seems to be mostly crap – shallow arguments aimed at
    >buttressing various fashionable dogmas of SWPL eco-religion, nearly packaged coffee-table
    > sermonettes for the trendoid crowd. They seem to be getting worse as he goes along.

    What about “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed”?

    Anyway, no matter how right or wrong Jared Diamond is on details, and what is his agenda, he gave us this: geography matters.

  75. @Brian:
    >It seems to me that the most dangerous laws, the ones that should have the most debate and the most opponents, are often packaged into bills that the US two-party system passes with hardly any opponents and with hardly any debate whatsoever. Is this what you had in mind?

    Actually not, though I’d say it’s part of the same effect.

    I’m more talking how the fact that there are only two parties influences and polarizes public opinion: If you care strongly about issue A, the people who are good on issue A but evil on issue B corrupt you on issue B by making it a package deal with A. Or, alternatively, the people who are evil on issue A but good on issue B repel you so strongly by their behavior on issue A that you ignore them on issue B.

  76. “I strongly suspect that most sub-Saharan African Christians today belong to Catholic or Protestant sects that evangelized the continent, not to Christianity that spread out from Ethiopian Christians.”

    There used to be three branches of Christianity – Roman, Eastern and North African. Islam arose and swept that last one away.

  77. @Brian: “Let’s just say that I restrained myself.”

    It seems you don’t have much of a choice. Most of my points under the soul-trap post were either left alone or poorly challenged, often with little to no sign of restraint, let alone wisdom and understanding. Thank you for restraining yourself.

    @TomA: “…what we would today describe as the western fringe of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada (aka Assinabota).”

    LOL, that’s Assinaboia. I live in the general area, tyvm.

    @TomA: “In the narrow draw of a dry river bed, they dug pit several meters deep…”

    Okay…

    @TomA: “…haul the meat off to a nearby ice cave for safe keeping.”

    Busted. Good luck digging such a hole in the frozen ground within walking distance of a suitable ice cave with a stone or wooden shovel, or even one of modern steel for that matter. Otherwise, it’s a pretty well written story. Charisma can’t overcome physics (that Jesus occasionally did had nothing to do with his charisma.)

    @Brian: “Agriculture is a whole different story. A tremendous amount of work and time must be put into it before it pays off. If everyone is equally armed, a band of thugs will likely kill a farmer and take the crop.”

    Of course, this is a situation where better leadership is more useful, and thus makes a better example than mammoth hunting. I’ve had this experience myself, fortunately, in the confines of multiplayer Minecraft and, in due course, made a fine art of farming deep underground.

    @Winter: “there are few ways of committing suicide more efficient that throwing a spear at a buffalo or rhino.”

    You and Jared Diamond aren’t particularly bright if you think ancients hunted big game with such methods. Ever hear of “Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump”? Yup, there’s a place with such a name. Also, spears are typically thrust, not thrown. Put the inertia of a hundred kilo hunter sprinting at top speed into the tip of a spear and you have a decent chance of reaching the vitals of a big game animal if the shaft doesn’t break and there aren’t any bones in the way. Thus, I’m pretty sure four fleet-footed guys could take out a triceratops if they got it surrounded (an entirely theoretical situation of course: they were pretty scarce by the time we started hunting wild game at all.)

    @Winter
    “There are two ways to eat big game:
    1 drive the off a cliff
    2 use bow and arrows
    3 scavenging”

    LOL, the middle one must have gotten in there by mistake. The bow was probably more of an arboreal type weapon, where you’d likely stalk your target (which is not going to be a bear for obvious reasons) until getting a shot, and then simply follow the red trail to where he goes down. A bow would be pretty close to useless in the savannah where the truly big game reside.

    @LS “There used to be three branches of Christianity – Roman, Eastern and North African. Islam arose and swept that last one away.”

    Er… I guess your definition mustn’t include Winners Chapel International

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winners%27_Chapel

    (BTW, I must recommend you avoid these people. I have found them to be among the worst of traitors ever to call themselves “Christian”.)

  78. To link this into charisma…
    > Anyway, no matter how right or wrong Jared Diamond is on details, and what is his agenda, he gave us this: geography matters.

    Some who love exploring radical ideas, often are bored with the details, unavoidably conflating the pedantic with the invalidating. I suffer from this trait. Einstein had to brush up on his math for example.

    Many humans find the obfuscation of drudgery to be (at least temporarily) charming and intoxicating. Back to my theory that emotions are fuzzy to motivate us to float trial balloons, so we entertain more potential diversity. Without emotions, our decision process could get stuck in bistable or multi-stable oscillation due to inconclusiveness evidence. Which is what our emotions do unless they become dysfunctionally reinforcing. Hmmm…I feel a theory of mental disease approaching…

  79. @Terry:

    >Er… I guess your definition mustn’t include Winners Chapel International

    This “Winner’s Chapel” would ultimately go back to the Roman branch. The branches LS is talking about are named according to the areas they arose in historically (within the first millennium AD), not the areas where they are popular currently. (The “Roman” branch consists of the Roman Catholic Church and the various protestant denominations. The “Eastern” branch refers to the various Eastern Orthodox churches and their offshoots).

  80. @Jon “The branches LS is talking about are named according to the areas they arose in historically (within the first millennium AD)”

    I don’t think you guys have any idea what you’re talking about. “Roman” branch, my arse! The Roman Catholic Church is actually mentioned in the Bible:

    “Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. [This letter would probably have been lost to us if it spoke openly against the Roman Empire, which is obviously "what withholdeth"] For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming:” – 2 Thessalonians 2:4-8

    There are a lot of prophecies about this “Wicked” and they match up better with the Roman Catholic Church than with anything else in history. As for everyone else, the Kingdom of God is not so simple. This might come as a pleasant surprise to everyone here, but I am much, much, better at pissing off Christians than Evolutionists. A lot of this results from the anti-science aspect that many Christians have: they refuse to believe what they need to believe about evolution, biology, geology, and astrophysics in order to make sense of the Genesis account, not to mention my relationship with God (i.e.: the female aspect is about as off-putting to most Christians as body armor is to paintballs.)

    Actually, most branches of Christianity spring up out of practically nothing, and it is not easy to trace their ideologies back to a source other than God Himself (or His enemies, as is often the case.) It is fairly easy to trace the relational schisms which are often associated with new branches of Christianity, but these breaks result from ideological disagreements, and therefore are pretty useless for tracking the ideologies themselves (i.e.: Catholic vs. Protestant and the many sub-branches of the latter.) Certainly, you can trace churches by these schisms, but that will not help you understand what makes them tick.

  81. @Greg

    >Um, that’s pretty much textbook ‘sociopath’.

    Doesn’t the world “sociopath” usually imply very shallow emotions, or even the absence of emotion, in the subject? Jobs certainly doesn’t fit this criterion.

  82. Doesn’t the world “sociopath” usually imply very shallow emotions, or even the absence of emotion, in the subject? Jobs certainly doesn’t fit this criterion.

    The definitions seem to be murky and shifting over time and I am certainly no mental health expert, but according to what I’ve always read and the usage I’m familiar with, the little to no emotions thing is a trademark of a psychopath.

    The difference is that even though he felt emotion deeply himself, and was adept at reading it in others, this did not create in him a caring attitude to those around him. He knew what others were feeling, and knew what it was like to have those feelings, but nonetheless he didn’t *care*. Instead he used his knowledge as a tool for manipulation.

    This is the key part that shouts “sociopath”. Which is someone who displays certain antisocial behaviors, like these.

    Let me define terms as I know and use them. A psychopath would be someone who is neurologically broken in certain special ways. A sociopath is someone who displays certain antisocial behaviors. Psychopaths seem to often display sociopathic behaviors, thus the confusion and the common interchangeable use of the terms. Anyone else, feel free to step in here.

  83. Anyway, no matter how right or wrong Jared Diamond is on details, and what is his agenda, he gave us this: geography matters.

    Well that’s great, but you almost make it sound like that’s a new insight. Except it isn’t.

    One of my pet peeves, actually, when people who are ignorant of what came before have a stunning flash of the obvious and believe they have somehow discovered something completely new. Or more cynically, people who do know better try to claim to have discovered something new and get away with it because most people are ignorant of what came before.

  84. > Doesn’t the world “sociopath” usually imply very shallow emotions, or even the absence of emotion, in the subject? Jobs certainly doesn’t fit this criterion.

    I thought lack of emotion or shallow emotion is a sympton of pyschopath?

  85. > A psychopath would be someone who is neurologically broken in certain special ways.
    > A sociopath is someone who displays certain antisocial behaviors.

    Sounds correct to me.

    > I thought lack of emotion or shallow emotion is a sympton of pyschopath?

    lack = pyschopath
    shallow (feigned) = sociopath

    Doesn’t Jobs tirades and passion shows he wasn’t lacking emotions? Jobs empathy apparently was for the users (except those who touch the antennae) within his philosophy of “best”. As I observe him in public and what I have read, he really believed he was giving them the best possible, and sacrificed the emotions of anyone that got in the way. I surmise this was calculated on his part.

    I worked with Mark who was on a home phone number basis with Steve. His account of Steve.

    Btw, my Android HTC Desire V (best dual simm phone available at the time) has gone bezerk and it sends itself screen input. I paid cash and there are no returns and no exchanges. Long before that, the SMS inbox got progressively slower as the number of messages has increased, and crashes if I send an SMS while another is sending. I need to send rapid fire, my time is important to me. If the iPhone works better, I can see why people would prefer it. I’m a programmer, but I don’t have time to troubleshoot my phone. It should just work! Open source is great, but time is important too. Android will improve, but that doesn’t help me today.

    > ‘Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all…………………………….

    Perhaps the chapter and verse # could suffice for such a lengthy “gibberish” (to me anyway).

  86. @ Terry <TomA: “…haul the meat off to a nearby ice cave for safe keeping.

    Busted. Good luck digging such a hole in the frozen ground"

    Dear Terry:

    My goodness, you are insatiable for specificity.

    As it happened, in addition to being a charismatic leader, Gorp was also a keen observer and rational thinker. He had noted that whenever the tribe made camp on the dry river bed, the soil under the fire pit would be unfrozen and loose after the fire died out. After pondering for a while, he summoned Pyro and Mongo, the tribal firestarter and boulder lifter. He then persuaded them to build a pit in the river bed by sequentially building fires, softening the ground, and then scooping out the sandy soil. It took Pyro and Mongo about two weeks, but they eventually succeeded in creating a pit about 3 meters deep.

    The moral of this story . . . innovation is often times equal parts observation, serendipity, initiative, and persistence.

  87. @ Terry

    In addition to what TomA said about digging pits, I would like to point out that there are “ice caves” in which:
    - wind blows in an entrance
    - it is compressed in tighter cracks and passages
    - the heat of compression is absorbed by the rock
    - the moving cool air suddenly expands into a larger passage
    - expansion causes the air to cool
    - water in the air condenses and freezes
    - the air flows out of the cave at the lower pressure

    Such caves can contain large amounts of ice all year round. I have explored one in the mountainous foothills West of Calgary on numerous occasions.

  88. Re: agriculture and the ability to project power

    It appears that I was wrong about the development of agriculture being dependent on cultural changes making it possible to stomp on raiding gangs.

    I got the information from the book Blood in the Streets which made an attempt to explain a great deal of history on the basis of the ability to project and defend against power. While this has been important in history, the authors seem to have gotten a little carried away, and I believed their theory about agriculture without looking into personally.

  89. @TomA: “He then persuaded them to build a pit in the river bed by sequentially building fires, softening the ground, and then scooping out the sandy soil. It took Pyro and Mongo about two weeks, but they eventually succeeded in creating a pit about 3 meters deep.”

    Meh… I’m still going to say “good luck with that”, because:

    a) A dry river bed is a really bad place to set up a long term camp because of the possibility of an upstream ice dam / ice lake breaking and flooding it out. That said, you probably don’t want to be too far away from one either.

    b) How did they survive those two weeks? I don’t think it would be very wise to do such a thing while fasting.

    c) Where does the fuel for this succession of fires come from?

    d) This pit is going to be too wide for Omygod to jump over. I concede that I might be in the minority in saying this, but I wouldn’t find a leader who would give the village idiot such a dubious suicide mission to be very charismatic.

    e) I have more economical ideas for hunting mammoth.

    I guess I should expand on the thought I had for hunting mammoth that would involve moving more material, but much more economically, resulting in a larger and more effective pit which would double as the fridge under Ice Age circumstances (saves the tribe from having to move the mammoth, and, while you’ll still want to dress the mammoth in a quick hurry (you know, get the entrails out, that sort of thing), you wouldn’t have to dismember it immediately.

    Step 1: Find some deep snow in an area where you have some trees (stags would be preferable) and build two walls. Each wall would have a mixture of packed snow and wood. Use the snow between them, because that’s going to be your pit. The walls obviously need glacis outside them because your mammoth is not going to be a willing climber (you want him in the pit, not cornered against the wall outside.)

    Step 2: Set up a nice spiky, thorny mess that makes it very difficult to move around inside the pit.

    Step 3: Fill the pit with some loose snow that it is easy to slip into. If it stands in this condition for a while, enough for a crust to form a roof, dig some of the snow out from under it to weaken it.

    Step 4: Drive a mammoth into this pit. Hides nearby conceal spear carrying hunters, who, once the mammoth is in the pit and vulnerable, come out to thrust some spears into it.

    Step 5: The spikes that aren’t in the mammoth are removed after he dies so that it is easy for tribe members to access the carcass.

    The wall and glacis can now be hollowed out for shelter near the carcass where the cooks and butchers of the tribe can lodge while doing their work if this kill site is far enough away from the main camp that the commute is more difficult than staying a night in a quinzee. It might be because in the likely step of getting your target mammoth separated from its herd, you might drive other herd members through your camp if it is too close. (I’m pretty sure mammoths behaved somewhat similar to wildebeests in herding behaviours. For humans without firearms, wildebeests would be quite a challenge, and mammoths are quite a bit larger.)

    @Tom: “My goodness, you are insatiable for specificity.”

    Well, there are two reasons. First, I live in the general area and spent five years in Royal Canadian Air Cadets and enjoy reading National Geographic, especially when they cover this general area. I therefore have a pretty good idea of how I would survive in a post-apocalyptic SHTF scenario (and of course, believe the Ice Age really is a post-apocalyptic SHTF scenario wherein only the eight smartest people on the planet Earth survived the apocalypse.) Second, I’m a self-trained rocket scientist (I’d be tickled pink if you want to voir dire me on this claim!) I know where Wernher von Braun was coming from when he said “We can beat gravity, but the paperwork is enormous.”

  90. @Brian

    Thanks for the tidbit about ice caves. I don’t know of any well east of Calgary, and it strikes me as rather unlikely that mammoths would range in the foothills. I could be wrong though, since there were bison in that area. The shield area north of the prairies (still a pain in the backside to live in even today) probably has ice caves. Unfortunately, this area was under glaciers in the period were talking about, and it seems very unlikely to me there would be any human settlement in that area at the time.

  91. @ Terry

    The shield area north of the prairies (still a pain in the backside to live in even today) probably has ice caves.

    Actually (just for your interest), ice caves generally form in limestone caves where water flowing through cracks dissolves the limestone, forming passages and galleries. The shield is (essentially) all insoluble igneous rock formed from magma and continental granite.

  92. Yeah, all that granite is quite the pain in the backside. As though to add insult to injury, no one has yet found granite suitable for the running surface of a curling stone in the Shield, but I’m sure there has to be some somewhere. I also think that west-of-Calgary area is biased towards having more ice caves not only because of the geology but because of the wind patterns. The prevalent wind patterns over the Prairies are somewhat less consistent and tend to shift around as the systems go over. The mountains seem to straighten things out somewhat, and also produce rather consistent precipitation patterns. I could come up with a decent six hour forecast based on the wind direction alone while I was living in Calgary. It’s not so easy in Regina and Winterpeg.

  93. Re: the meaning of psychopath/sociopath:

    I have always used the terms more or less interchangeably, and I don’t think there’s any well-establised difference between the two within mainstream usage.

    By “sociopath” I mean a person who experiences little or no emotion, especially remorse/guilt, and who does not feel bound to treat other people any differently than inanimate objects.

    Obviously there is probably a broad spectrum of sociopathy.

    I have no idea what these terms mean within the clinical practice of psychiatry, if anything.

    Perhaps somebody more knowledgeable could enlighten us.

  94. @ Terry

    I believe that ice caves are fairly uncommon, but the East slope of the Rockies have a number of limestone caves, at least in Alberta and possibly down into Washington.

  95. I’m not a spelunker, but from what little I’ve heard, caves are more common in Washington than they are in Alberta. It might be more about there being more spelunkers, and a greater inclination by National Geographic to cover areas south of 49degN. No one seems particularly interested in my mammoth hunting ideas.

    As I think about it, if ice cave refrigeration works naturally, it should stand to reason it would work by design. I wonder if any of the ancient Aztec, Mayan, or Egyptian pyramids had any ductwork to use the effect…

  96. “Btw, ESR, how do I apply these modes for seduction? Mostly for night time pick-ups, but also for day game.”

    This is the key sentence from the post wrt to pickup:

    “People who aren’t sociopaths can sometimes learn this kind of perception through rigorous self-awareness and mystical disciplines that teach extreme emotional detachment as a learned state.”

    I don’t know if any of you have been following the evolution of the pickup movement, but it has gone heavily in this direction. It’s basically Mindful Pickup – non-attachment is an integral element taught by all the leading guys.

  97. @JustSaying
    > lack = pyschopath
    > shallow (feigned) = sociopath

    @Tom
    > By “sociopath” I mean a person who experiences little or no emotion,
    > especially remorse/guilt, and who does not feel bound to treat other
    > people any differently than inanimate objects.

    I am (not an expert and am) thinking that a sociopath suppresses emotions because of the belief that emotions can be manipulated and then proceeds to prove it. This is an internalized and rationalized emotion of hate. Sociopaths were severely abused and lied to as children.

    Whereas, I am assuming the clinical definition of psychopath would include someone who is not neurologically wired to have an emotional response to actions that would normally elicit one. There is no rationalization, it is just is.

    Off topic a bit but still on empathy and psychological mental disorder, after reading about the precipitous decline in Greg LeMond’s health possibly due to lead poisoning after being shot, perhaps we should the use copper (or silver if you can afford and want same density) bullets. And really off topic, most consumers and vendors don’t know (or misinform about) the science for the difference between (clear) ionic silver solution (which can cause Argyria) and (golden) nano-particle colloidal silver which can be produced easily at home. The latter seems to have improved or reversed my autoimmune CNS condition by reducing the high-strain HPV viral load that was ravaging my body and epidermis. Has relieved me from a vegetable-like reactionary state of chronic fatigue syndrome, which hopefully restored my sanity.

  98. Replace typo “psychological mental disorder” with “physiologically-derived mental disorder”.

  99. Jared Diamond didn’t give us “geography matters”. That was John P. Powelson, in his “A History of Wealth and Poverty”, Why a few nations are rich and many are poor.

  100. I think one man is really charismatic, and that’s Obama. Take him as an example… he can convince people just because people look up to him and because he is just a nice dude :)

  101. I think one man is really charismatic, and that’s Obama. Take him as an example… he can convince people just because people look up to him and because he is just a nice dude :)

    If I didn’t know of people who genuinely believed this, I’d think this was a troll post, especially here.

    As it is, Obama comes off to me as a mixed bag. It’s clear he possesses some charisma, and is aware of some of the keys to being charismatic, but it’s employed as a functional no-op – he sways half the people (who would’ve been swayed by anyone from Hillary Clinton to Dick Durbin), and to the other half, he’s as charismatic as a sled dog with gas.

  102. This theory is not really consistent with the archeological evidence. Scavengers wouldn’t need Clovis points, and they’re too work-intensive to make unless you need them. Furthermore, it doesn’t match the observed behavior of modern hunter-gatherer tribes.

    You’re overlooking the most general and glaring trend: Megafauna extinction. Once humans started migrating out of the Middle East, every location where they showed up promptly lost its megafauna from the fossil record. These extinctions have no other factor in common, and they occurred in every location where humans arrived.

  103. Pingback: Open Source lessons in Agile Development

  104. Pingback: Three essays from ESR | disaffected purveyor

  105. Eric wrote:

    “I actually thought Guns, Germs, and Steel was pretty good, though it had one major flaw – he explicitly wrote it to banish racialist explanations of European world dominance, but never actually constructed an argument against that proposition in the book. [...] excluded the possibility that Europeans also profited from a superior genetic endowment. (Note: I am not arguing for this proposition, merely criticizing Diamond’s sloppy thinking on the issue.)”

    But wouldn’t that have been pretty superfluous?

    I mean, if he says, “I want to banish the racial explanation, and here is my alternative explanation”, then he could of course wrap it up by saying, “and that’s why I think the racial explanation has nothing to do with it” — but if you accept his theory, you can then choose to believe either, “so it’s due to his theory and the racial explanation”, or “oh, so so it’s due to his theory”, period.

    Isn’t there an implicit Occam’s Razor thingy at work here that favours the latter, at least enough to render an explicit “and that’s why I think the racial explanation has nothing to do with it” bit unnecessary, when he’s just presented an alternative theory that explains the same thing? At least to me it seems self-evident that that’s what he’s saying; so evident he doesn’t have to actually say it.

    (I mean, sure, if it were an “undergrad term paper” [I think you'd call them] or a doctoral dissertation, then all this shit would need to be spelled out explicitly “Hypothesis, null hypothesis, test, significance level[s], conclusion, yadda yadda” — but this was a pop-sci bestseller.)

    (I’m not saying he’s otherwise a master of scientific clarity, and you may well be right that he’s since become quite worse. I think I’ve read one more book by Diamond after G,GaS, but that too is so long ago that I can’t even recall what it was or whether I actually finished it.)

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