Auto-anthropology and Becoming a Better Idiot

Anthropology is the science and study of humanity and it may be the most important study we’ve got. Most sciences become useful in everyday life because of their results, but anthropology can improve your life right now with only an initial assumption: humans are something to be studied. We aren’t elite observers. We aren’t impartial intelligences. We weren’t magically disconnected from all the other animals when we added a sapiens. We’re stunningly sophisticated animals, but absolutely still animals, and that’s a fact we forget at our peril.

Some historical anthropology has been a bit “problematic”, which is how white guys say “We done fucked up that time” without ever admitting anything. People made the mistake of picturing others as bizarre species of exotic animal while forgetting that the exact same thing applied to themselves.

The lesson of anthropology is that our intelligence didn’t appear one day as an incredible biological computer. It emerged from millions of years of animal programming, and all of that increasingly obsolete garbage is still in there. We don’t start from zero, filling ourselves with wonderful knowledge to become ever smarter. We start several million years in the hole, stuffed with urges and impulses, a skullfull of biological bad wiring which would fuck our entire future for five minutes of oral sex and a pizza, because that’s all the needs it understands and as far as it knows we might be eaten by a jaguar tomorrow.

When we stopped risking death the every day, when we made it possible to stockpile food for the forseeable future, we rendered most of our own thoughts obsolete. But we’re still being driven by them. Every system we invent to serve us is screwed up by those screaming “MORE” and “MINE!” The acquisitive instinct alone has expanded beyond all conception and to warp the world like a societal black hole.

The mistake me we make is always thinking we’re thinking. Just because a thought is expressed in words doesn’t mean it isn’t animal. We’ve upgraded our ability to do everything with language, but the effects aren’t automatic. The improved decision-making systems using this most powerful of tools costs energy to employ. Logic, science, philosophy: they’re all specifically designed to work out the truth. But they do that by preventing us from making the mistakes we want to make. And we never want to be told we’re wrong.

But without these tools our internal dialogue devolves into an endless stream of psychological sexts and excuses to eat an entire bag of chips in our underpants. Because we call ourselves homo sapiens, but it’s still easier to be the masturbating monkey than the wise human. We have to make the effort if we want enjoy the benefits of both.

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5 Ways To Make New Year’s Resolutions That Work

New year’s resolutions embody the Hollywood ideal that all you need to do declare how badly you want something, then you can get it, and everything else will somehow work out. Unfortunately that’s a recipe for credit-card debt instead of self-improvement. Which is why I’ve found five ways to make new year’s resolutions which work.

1. Use A Genie

(Source: Disney)

(Source: Disney)

Pro: A spiritual djinn, a magical being made of smokeless and scorching fire, is still the most sensible way to expect that simply saying something will cause it to happen.

Con: Genies are usually total pricks about it. Something about being enslaved and then forced to labor by someone who can’t even be bothered to speak their original language. If you wish to lose weight, you’re likely to lose your legs in a car crash. If you resolve to spend more time with your family, you’ll be put into a coma by the same car crash and they’ll all gather to have the life-support conversation.

2. Be Batman

Batman can resolve anything up to and including Kryptonian attack (Source: DC)

Batman can resolve anything up to and including Kryptonian attack (Source: DC)

Pro: Batman is the avatar of self-improvement, routinely outperforming people with incredible natural advantages through sheer determination and hard work.

Con: None of your resolutions can be fun. You’ll spend the new year tracking down the munitions factory where Calendar Man made the Auld Land Mines you spent New Year’s Eve defusing, and any spare time will go into learning to rap in Rongorongo to be prepared for any possible Silver Banshee/Music Meister team-up.

3. Use A Cosmic Cube

(Source: Marvel)

(Source: Marvel)

Pro: New year’s resolutions are about skipping all the complicated work and thought involved in making an interesting change to you world and instead using a few lazy words. Which is exactly what Marvel did with the Cosmic Cube. Just getting things done no matter how stupid or impossible they should be is exactly and literally the cube’s function.

Con: The only Cosmic Cube wishes which ever stay wished are the ones which undo previous wishes. In fact, as the existence of these total reality-rewrite engines doesn’t seem to affect everyday life in the Marvel universe at all, they’re actually representations of how people ignore the benefits of incredible new technologies and opportunities in favor of laziness.


Pro: Beats the hell out of the wheedling wimp-tone normally adopted by self-help confectioners. Issue all resolutions to yourself in the tone of Serpentor, and they’ll be far more effective. THIS I COMMAND!

Con: I’m going to level with you: this has never, ever worked for Serpentor, and that has never, ever stopped me from continuing to emulate him. (Thanks to @funranium for introducing me to this and many more self-improvement facts.)

5. Downgrade To Daily

It turns out that gathering up all your urges to improve yourself and grow for an entire year into one annual spurt only works when you’re a plant. Us animals need to get a more metabolic move on.

I talked about how to make reasonable resolutions last year, and as part of the whole point I’m improving on that this year: make daily resolutions instead. First thing in the morning, write down what you want to improve that day and then save the file. The next morning you open it, read it, delete the text, and rewrite. The vast majority of our petty failures come from a simple lack of thought. This process refreshes the urge every morning, enables your brain when you face the relevant problem, and if you’re a writer it’s a sneaky way to get the word-motors revved in the process.

Continue your auto-upgrade campaign with these self-improvement guides:

5 Nerd Hacks That Make You Less Of A Jerk

The 5 Most Obnoxious Ways People Screw Up Apologies