"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Saturday, March 16, 2019

How to be Happy / Creative

How to Be Happy (Ep. 345) - Freakonomics Freakonomics

"Danes also work fewer hours: on average, 27.6 hours per week, compared to 34.4 in the U.S. To Helen Russell, moving here from Britain, that was a big change.

RUSSELL: There’s no stigma to clocking off — people work mainly from 8 until 4 in offices. There’s no stigma to leaving at 4 because you’ve got to go pick up your kids from daycare, you’ve got to go make supper, or you just need to get on with your hobbies...

SACHS: The basic idea of social democracy is to pay attention to social cohesion, to provide ample social goods like healthcare available automatically for all, education at all levels available for all, vacation time available for all.

Jeff Sachs argues this strong social support in the Nordic model contributes to a number of healthy outcomes.

SACHS: The life expectancy is higher. Our obesity epidemic does not exist in those countries. Our opioid epidemic does not exist in those countries.

WIKING: There is also a high level of trust towards the government. And that goes hand in hand with the Nordic countries being at the low end when it comes to corruption, or perceived corruption. We have a different perception of the state... people in the Nordic countries will feel that the state protects us from things. The high level of social security is one element, that there is a notion that if you fall, you will be picked up. So I think we see more the state on our side, and helping us create good conditions for good lives.
Scandinavia also gets high marks on interpersonal social trust... Most people belong to at least a few clubs or community groups; they spend a lot of time on fitness and outdoor activities; and they don’t put too much emphasis on material possessions...

RUSSELL: I’ve just come from an independent coffee bar and there’s an equality there. There is not a difference between the person who is serving me coffee and the person buying the coffee. You can talk as equals, because you know that you are both probably, after tax, taking home around about the same amount. And everybody is having a sort of decent life. On the flip side, there’s not the same service culture. I was just back in the U.K. for work. Oh my goodness, everyone was so nice to me. And when I go to the States, that’s even more so, and I have to remind myself, “Oh, they’re being nice to me because there’s a financial imperative.” And there is more of a service culture in some places than others. In Denmark, that’s not the case...

WIKING: Nine out of ten Danes are happily paying their taxes. There is an acknowledgement that we collectively invest in the public good, and that is fed back to people in terms of quality of life...

DUBNER: the data show that there is a paradox, in that suicide increases with well-being and prosperity, yeah?

WIKING: So, if you look at the U.S. states, the individual states, the higher level of life satisfaction, the higher level of suicide rates.

DUBNER: The most compelling explanation of suicide I’ve ever heard about — discussed with the fellow who promulgates it — because we don’t really know that much about suicide, because it’s taboo, the research is very distant and so on. But he calls it the “no-one-left-to-blame” theory. Which is that if you have problems in life, but you’ve got a toxic environment or a nasty government, you can always imagine that life will get a lot better. But if you’re surrounded by happy, shiny people and you’re not happy and shiny, it can be — so can you talk about that notion in a place that’s so happy?...

RUSSELL: Denmark is one of the biggest exporters of sperm, so there’s a lot of genetically Danish babies that will be coming around the place in the next few years."


How to Be Creative (Ep. 354) - Freakonomics Freakonomics

"SIMONTON: Something about 86 percent of all research in psychology is based on college undergraduates...

There is a correlation between creativity and mental illness. But it depends on the kind of creativity you’re talking about.

SIMONTON: There’s a relationship between how much constraint the creative genius has to operate under, and their tendency towards mental illness. A scientist operates under a lot of constraints. A scientist has to come up with theories that are consistent with the facts. It has to be logically coherent. It has to fit in with what previous scientists have been doing, and so forth. And, in our culture, artists don’t operate that way. Particularly since the Romantic period — anything goes.

But there are times and places where the arts have extremely high constraints imposed on them. Japanese haiku, for example, is a very constrained form. You have a certain number of syllables to work with. You also have a certain number of themes that are considered to be more appropriate for haiku.

So what’s interesting is that as you get into domains that are very very constrained, mental illness tends to be very rare. And then if you go into more and more unconstrained forms of expression, then you also do it at risk of having more mental illness, as well as having all sorts of horrible experiences in childhood or adolescence. And there’s a study published on this, where you can compare Nobel prizes in physics with Nobel Prizes in literature, and they’re not cut from the same cloth at all.

DUBNER: I think if you look at American winners in literature — most of them were alcoholics, right?

SIMONTON: Yeah, alcoholics. They often dropped out of school. They had tremendous ups and downs in their education, if they even finished formal education. Whereas the physicists came from perfect family backgrounds, professional families. Nothing happened. Nobody died...

Simonton looked at the prevalence of mental illness in different types of creative people. Visual artists and writers were on the high end of the scale, with poets the most pronounced: 87 percent of them experience some kind of mental disorder. How does that compare to the general population? According to one widely accepted study, around 46 percent of Americans experience some sort of mental disorder during their lifetimes. So artists and writers are considerably higher than average.

But: Simonton found that scientists have a considerably lower tendency for a mental disorder: only around 28 percent. And if you include all creative types in the tally, Simonton found that they have lower rates of mental illness than non-creative people. Creative behavior is in fact often a marker for good mental health...

ISAACSON: The leadership skills of a Benjamin Franklin came from bringing people together, finding common ground, and being very civil in his discourse when he tried to create compromises necessary to make the Constitution. That was very different from the leadership style of a Steve Jobs, who drove people crazy, but also drove them to do things they didn’t know they’d be able to do.

So I think it’s useful to look at different creative leaders and then, after you have done so, look inside yourself and to say, “I’m better off being more like Ben Franklin, or I’m better off being more like Leonardo da Vinci, trying to mix art and science. Or I’m better off being like Steve Jobs, driving a team crazy but driving them to do things they didn’t know they could do.” And you can understand your own skills by comparing them to what great innovators and creative people have done in the past...

Schiller... had to have the smell of rotten apples. And so... when he felt like being creative, he pulled out a rotten apple...

[On Ai Weiwei] Andy Warhol... would've given his eye, teeth to be arrested by the government for his art. But there's no way this could happen in our system"

Where Does Creativity Come From (and Why Do Schools Kill It Off)? (Ep. 355) - Freakonomics Freakonomics - "extrinsic motivation can erode someone’s intrinsic desire to create"
It's not just pay for performance that hurts performance - just paying can do that
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