Idiosyncrasy Credits

A few days ago I came across Jacob Falkovich’s “Predictable Identities” series, which introduced me to the concept of idiosyncrasy credits, or, better phrased for personal application, a “weirdness budget.”  The basic idea is that humans like predictability on a fundamental level, including in those they associate with.  To be able to predict someone requires that you be able to model them, and when trying to understand someone, it helps a lot to be like them.

There were several new ideas in here for me:

  •  The connection between difference and unpredictability:  the more different someone is from you, the less context you have about their life from shared experience, and the harder they are to model
  • The connection between unpredictability and aversion.
  • Explicitly modeling this as a continuous spectrum (credits) rather than an on/off switch

Survival Is The New Rebellion

Whatever you think of Trump’s actions in office, it remains that the prime piece arguing for his election in 2016, The Flight 93 Election, was a masterpiece:

…This is insane. This is the mark of a party, a society, a country, a people, a civilization, that wants to die. Trump, alone among candidates for high office in this or in the last seven (at least) cycles, has stood up to say: I want to live.

 


 

It is unavoidable:  the modern path leads toward suicide.  Whether the form is direct and immediate or elongated and minimized, it is no less real.

 

It’s high-status to commit suicide.  Oh the irony!  Because what are status instincts good for if not survival and reproduction?

One way you can (unimaginably! and yet!) fail to notice this, that you can mistake seeping rot for graceful decline, is to be blind to the past.  “Yes, people die, so what?  Is that such a great loss?  The world got along fine without me before I was born, 18-70 years ago.”  No, this isn’t about you,  no one cares about you, except the people who do care about you, because they’re in the chain.  Your parents.  Their parents.  And your kids.  And their kids.  That’s what’s at stake here.

What if everyone was dying, and nobody said anything?

I don’t mean to freak everyone out.  If the Polish government can’t do that, why should I think I could?

No, I mean to freak you out.

My great-great-grandfather fought in WWI.  He survived.  My presence is proof of that.

What proof will there be of your survival?  Or will it be like you died in some trench?

This post is not meant to cause despair in those beyond hope.  Whatever the ailment, there is a remedy, now or in the eternities, for those who will take it.  (I suspect it will come disguised as work or obligation).

But for those in a position, now—you are in charge.  It doesn’t feel like it, but it’s true.  Uncoordinated power is not, and you can choose to be more self-coherent than the surroundings.  The culture doesn’t mean to kill you, because it can’t mean anything.  And if, nothing doubting, you hack away at the kudzu—repeatedly—and wave a flaming brand at the wolves, they’ll recoil, surprised—but they will learn, at least enough to stay away.  By far, the greatest obstacle is your own doubt and timidity.

 

Take whatever measures you need to.  “Bomb shelter mentality” would be an exaggeration, an overreaction—but is it, if the only difference is that the bomb is going off at a timescale greater than Netflix rotations?

Take care of yourselves out there.