The Mandela effect, Star Wars edition

How much do you trust your memory?

We all know the famous line. “Luke, I am your father.” Right?

Now I have probably seen this scene a dozen times over the years, but even so, I was mildly shocked to watch this video. Listen carefully:

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That’s right… “Luke, I am your father” is not spoken in the movie. The line does not exist in the film, although it lives in our pop culture and collective memory. Your memory lied!

The confusion over this line is an example of what is sometimes called the Mandela effect. I reckon the universe is a might peculiar. Enjoy!

A glitch in the Matrix?

Berenstain Bears

Do you remember a series of children’s books about a family of anthropomorphized bears? Remember what it was called, and how the series title was spelled and pronounced?

Picture it in your mind and say it out loud before clicking this link. And this.

Yeah. Something isn’t quite right here. I think we’re being messed with. By whom and for what purpose, I’m not sure.

I haven’t exactly done a survey, but it would appear that many tens of thousands of American remember it the way I do. Many, like I do, probably remember it very vividly. The idea that we are all sharing a false memory stretches credibility, but stranger things have happened.

What I’m curious to know is, does *anyone* remember it the way it is “supposed” to be spelled? Seriously now.

UPDATE: Ok, I’ve talked to one person two people who remember the “correct” spelling.

The most relaxing song on earth, according to science

Here is “Weightless,” a song specially designed to be the most relaxing piece of music on earth:

Listen and feel your blood pressure and cortisol levels ebb.

It’s science:

According to Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson of Mindlab International, which conducted the research, the top song produced a greater state of relaxation than any other music tested to date.

In fact, listening to that one song — “Weightless” — resulted in a striking 65 percent reduction in participants’ overall anxiety, and a 35 percent reduction in their usual physiological resting rates.

That is remarkable.

Equally remarkable is the fact the song was actually constructed to do so. The group that created “Weightless”, Marconi Union, did so in collaboration with sound therapists. Its carefully arranged harmonies, rhythms, and bass lines help slow a listener’s heart rate, reduce blood pressure and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Shiri’s Scissor

Grinning woman with shears

Fun story, presumably fictional, about an online advertising startup that uses a “deep learning” network to generate maximally controversial statements – assertions precisely calibrated to split people into opposing groups separated by a wide gulf of incomprehension and hatred.

The program is first used to spit out a divisive statement about the company’s product design, provoking an immediate civil war within the coding team. As the company dissolves into chaos, the program – dubbed “Shiri’s Scissor” – is applied to the Reddit forum dedicated to Mozambique, where it generates an explosively controversial headline regarding the African nation. A mysterious insurgency rocks Mozambique soon thereafter (this is actually real). The narrator even begins to suspect that a Scissor-like program has been set loose in American politics.

The story made me think of this very divisive auditory illusion. I am still convinced that people who heard something other than what I heard are literally insane.

Age of cults

Keith Raniere NXIVM

Keith Raniere, founder of NXIVM

It seems that cults are all over the news these days. What gives? Here is a partial roundup of top cult stories from just the past week:

“How an Irish mother saved her child from the “sex cult” NXIVM” (Sept 21)

“Nicole Kidman: Why She’s Giving Son, 23, His ‘Freedom’ & Not Pressuring Him To Leave Scientology” (Sept 20)

“Trial starts for militant religious sect leader over abuse” (Sept 20) — Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps

“Alleged Sex Cult Mastermind Keith Raniere To Rot In Jail For Months Until Trial” (Sept 19) — NXIVM

“Heaven’s Gate Cult Threatens Legal Action Over Lil Uzi Vert’s “New Patek” Cover” (Sept 19)

“‘I lost my entire family to a cult’: How one woman escaped Grace Road” (Sept 19) — “A South Korean church which believes global famine is imminent has set up base in Fiji, where it’s gained considerable influence but faced growing allegations of abuse.”

“15-Month-Old Girl Was Starved to Death by Dad Connected to Black Supremacist Cult” (Sept 18) — United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors

(I’ll take this opportunity to mention that back in July, Japan executed the former leader and six other members of the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult, which carried out the infamous 1995 sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway. Police were on alert for shenanigans by Aum followers, who remain active.)

We certainly appear to be living through a time of mass hysteria and apocalyptic thinking, at least in the US, which may explain the plethora of cult-related headlines. As social mood continues to darken, the prevalence and popularity of cults may well increase.

“These people are complete narcissists”

Google leadership seminar

Google leadership seminar (source)

I enjoyed this rant against Big Tech, which besides being funny, also contains the kernel of a very interesting idea for how to address the growing crisis around data privacy and ownership:

Bannon also added this gem about Tesla:

I do not have a dog in this fight, but Musk seems increasingly unhinged to me, and the little stunt he pulled with his abandoned buyout plan was undeniably shady. But… are you not entertained?

Peter Thiel interview

Interesting interview with Peter Thiel in a Swiss magazine:

At the moment, Silicon Valley still looks all-powerful.

The big question is: Will the future of the computer age be decentralized or centralized? Back in the 60s, you had this Star Trek idea of an IBM computer running a planet for thousands of years, where people were happy but unfree. Today, again we are thinking that it is going to be centralized: Big companies, big governments, surveillance states like China. When we started Paypal in 1999, it was exactly the opposite: This vision of a libertarian, anarchistic internet. History tells me that the pendulum has swung back and forth. So, today I would bet on decentralization and on more privacy. I don’t think we are at the end of history and it’s just going to end in the world surveillance state. […]

You label yourself a “contrarian”. How did you become one? How does one become a contrarian?

It is a label that has been given to me, not one that I give normally to myself. I don’t think a contrarian per se is the right thing to be. A pure contrarian just attaches a minus sign to whatever the crowd thinks. I don’t think it should be as simple as that. What I think is important for people is to try to think very hard for oneself. But yes, I do deeply mistrust all these kinds of almost hypnotic mass and crowd phenomena and I think they happen to a disturbing degree.

Why do they happen in a supposedly enlightened society?

The advanced technological civilization of the early 21st century is a complicated world where it is not possible for anybody to think through everything for themselves. You cannot be a polymath in quite the way people were in the 18th century enlightenments. You cannot be like Goethe. So there is some need to listen to experts, to defer to other people. And then, there is always the danger of that going too far and people not thinking critically. This happens in spades in Silicon Valley. There is certainly something about it that made it very prone to the dotcom bubble in the nineties or to the cleantech bubble in the last decade.

“Hunting the Con Queen of Hollywood”

Wild story:

For more than a year, some of the most powerful women in entertainment — including Amy Pascal, Kathleen Kennedy, Stacey Snider and a ‘Homeland’ director — have been impersonated by a cunning thief who targets insiders with promises of work, then bilks them out of thousands of dollars. The Hollywood Reporter has obtained exclusive audio recordings of the savvy imposter as victims come forward and a global investigation heats up.

He was a freelance documentary photographer, 27 and eager, but not inexperienced. He’d worked in conflict zones for several prestige newspapers and magazines and shot ad campaigns for corporate clients. One day in late 2017, he opened his email to find an unusual message. The first thing he noticed was the sender’s name: Amy Pascal, the former co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment. That kind of thing didn’t happen every day. […]

Six months and $65,000 later, the photographer, who has requested anonymity out of concern for his safety, has come to understand that he was duped by one of the most elaborate scams to ever hit Hollywood. The woman he’d spoken to several times a day for weeks on end wasn’t Pascal, but a sophisticated imposter who took him for a colossal financial and emotional ride.

[Facepalm]

For the past two and a half years, hundreds of unwitting victims around the world have been ensnared by a small but cunning criminal organization whose contours are only beginning to be understood. […]

At the center of the organization is the impersonator — a woman whose sophisti­cated research, skill with accents and deft psychological and emotional manipulation have earned her the begrudging respect of her victims and trackers. […]

In addition to the tens of thousands of dollars he forfeited, the photographer struggles to wrap his head around the fact that she toyed with him so aggressively long after his funds were depleted, after she had gotten everything she would ever get, when it was simply a game she appeared to enjoy. “At what point does a crazy evil genius say, ‘I’ve got enough out of this person, let’s move on to someone else?'”

What we have here, is a Grade A psychopath.

Listen to those audio recordings, they are really spooky. It will be interesting to find out who this woman is, if we ever do. I wonder if it bothers her that she will never be a celebrity unless she gets caught.

Voice confrontation

Glad to learn there is a term and an interesting explanation for something I have most definitely experienced:

Most of us have shuddered on hearing the sound of our own voice. In fact, not liking the sound of your own voice is so common that there’s a term for it: voice confrontation.

But why is voice confrontation so frequent, while barely a thought is given to the voices of others?

A common explanation often found in popular media is that because we normally hear our own voice while talking, we receive both sound transferred to our ears externally by air conduction and sound transferred internally through our bones. This bone conduction of sound delivers rich low frequencies that are not included in air-conducted vocal sound. So when you hear your recorded voice without these frequencies, it sounds higher – and different. Basically, the reasoning is that because our recorded voice does not sound how we expect it to, we don’t like it. […]

Through their experiments, the late psychologists Phil Holzemann and Clyde Rousey concluded in 1966 that voice confrontation arises not only from a difference in expected frequency, but also a striking revelation that occurs upon the realisation of all that your voice conveys. Not only does it sound different than you expect; through what are called “extra-linguistic cues”, it reveals aspects of your personality that you can only fully perceive upon hearing it from a recording. These include aspects such as your anxiety level, indecision, sadness, anger, and so on.

To quote them, “The disruption and defensive experience are a response to a sudden confrontation with expressive qualities in the voice which the subject had not intended to express and which, until that moment, [s]he was not aware [s]he had expressed.”

Now, is there such a thing as face confrontation?

A dubious honor

Washington DC psychopaths

Crawling with psychos

Perhaps not surprisingly, the nation’s capital is the most sociopathic place in the US. And Connecticut is number two!

Ryan Murphy, an economist at Southern Methodist University, recently published a working paper in which he ranked each of the states by the predominance of—there’s no nice way to put it—psychopaths. The winner? Washington in a walk. In fact, the capital scored higher on Murphy’s scale than the next two runners-up combined.

“I had previously written on politicians and psychopathy, but I had no expectation D.C. would stand out as much as it does,” Murphy wrote in an email.

When Murphy matched up the “constellation of disinhibition, boldness and meanness” that marks psychopathy with a previously existing map of the states’ predominant personality traits, he found that dense, coastal areas scored highest by far—with Washington dominant among them. “The District of Columbia is measured to be far more psychopathic than any individual state in the country,” Murphy writes in the paper. The runner-up, Connecticut, registered only 1.89 on Murphy’s scale, compared with the overwhelming 3.48 clocked by the District.

According to Martha Stout’s The Sociopath Next Door, sociopaths make up four percent of the US population. Assuming “psychopath” roughly corresponds to “sociopath,” based on DC’s population of about 694,000, we can estimate that there are well over 27,760 psychos in the capital — possibly in the region of 50,000 or more?