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OCD and Creativity

    The other day I was wondering about the relationship between OCD and creativity. People with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) have thoughts that they can’t get out of their heads. But creativity is the opposite of obsessing over a single idea, at least the way I experience it. 

    For me, creativity is a process by which I rapidly FORGET the thought that is currently in my head so a new one will fill the space. Your brain isn’t good at thinking of nothing, so when you eject your current thought, another rushes in to take its place. If you flush-and-replace enough thoughts in a row, you have experienced creativity. And if any of those new thoughts made your body respond with a laugh, a sigh, or chills, or anything else physical – you might have created art. I think of creativity as a system of cycling through ideas until one of them “moves” me, literally. If an idea doesn’t create some sort of physical change in my body, I rapidly reject it and move to the next thought.

    The reason I am curious about OCD and it’s relationship to creativity is that I wonder if OCD sufferers could sometimes hack their brains by using creativity to crowd out the OCD. Your brain isn’t good at having more than one thought at the same time. And it also isn’t good at flushing your current thoughts when you have OCD. So instead of trying to actively lose an obsessive thought – which is nearly impossible for someone with OCD – perhaps it would be more helpful to try to solve a creative problem that automatically activates the imagination circuitry of your brain. If I’m right, trying to solve a creative problem would be more effective as a distraction for OCD sufferers than any other kind of mental distraction.

    I Googled “OCD and creativity” to see what the science says. One study suggests that OCD sufferers are far more likely to “rely heavily on their imagination” compared to non-OCD people. The researchers concluded that this correlation might mean that having an extra-strong imagination is a necessary condition for OCD. And they might be right.

    But consider another explanation for the correlation between imagination and OCD. Could it be that OCD sufferers use their imaginations more often than others because doing so is an escape from the OCD? And could it be that continued use of the imagination makes you better at it?

    Humans can change the physical composition of their brains by choosing what they spend their time doing. Musicians strengthen one part of the brain and athletes strengthen another. I have to assume that continuous use of your visual imagination also changes the brain over time. And the more you practice something, the better you get. So if OCD sufferers have been self-hacking their brains by using their imaginations to avoid compulsive thoughts, you would expect them to have more vivid imaginations than the public because of all the practice.

    For the first 30 years or so of my life I had obsessive thoughts about childhood traumas. Whenever my brain was under-occupied, it drifted to those horrors. When the bad thoughts came, my only defense was to crowd them out with stronger and better thoughts. So I used my imagination to create little movies in my head that were so engaging that my mind had no choice but to focus on them.

    Is it a coincidence that my imagination is so strong now that I make my living using it? I don’t know. It feels as if I was born with a good imagination, but it also feels as if I exercised it more than other people. Lots and lots and lots more. And it also feels to me that my powers of imagination have gotten stronger every day of my life because of practice. 

    You should never take health advice from cartoonists. This is no exception. But I would be interested to hear from any OCD sufferers as to whether they use imagination to escape obsessive thoughts. And if not, why not?

    My startup’s app, WhenHub, is solving an irritating problem for divorced parents that share custody of the kids. The last person in the world that a divorced person wants to communicate with is an ex. The WhenHub app eliminates all of the angry “Where are you???” texts and phone calls that inevitably happen when one is late dropping off or picking up the kids. And you know one of the parents is always late. The geostreaming automatically times-out whenever you want so exes can’t track each other after the kid exchange.

Can the Government Deduce Your Religion Without Asking?

    I’m hearing a lot of chatter about President Trump potentially creating a “Muslim registry,” which, as it turns out, already exists. The current system only registers non-residents from certain countries. But how hard would it be for the government to figure out all of our religious beliefs – citizens and non-citizens alike — without asking?

    My guess is that the government already uses Big Data to determine our religious beliefs and more. Consider all the information they have.

    1. Your cell phone leaves a trail in the cloud of where you have been. If you have been to a Mosque, the government can know that.

    2. Your banking and credit card records would tell the government if you buy any products associated with Islamic culture or beliefs. That could include food, clothing, and more.

    3. The government can search all of your social media, text messages, and other digital communication for keywords and other clues about your beliefs.

    4. The government knows who you associate with on social media and what websites you visit.

    5. Census information.

    6. Non-governmental forms you might have filled out with your religious preferences or ethnic background.

    7. Health records might have clues too. For example, a hospital record might specify a halal diet.

    I know the government doesn’t have explicit legal authority to snoop into all of the information sources I listed, but I’d be surprised if they aren’t doing it anyway in the name of national security. We wouldn’t know if they had backdoors into the major corporate networks. I assume they do.

    So don’t worry too much about a Muslim “registry.” We’ve probably had one for years. And the rest of us are probably on lists of some sort too. So far, all it has done is reduce terror attacks (I presume).

    I agree that society needs to keep an eye on this sort of “registry” to prevent abuse. It is frightening to even read the language about it. But once you see it in context, it probably isn’t much change from the current situation.

    On another topic…

    Are You Divorced with Joint Custody?

    If you are a divorced parent with joint custody you know how frustrating it is to manage the hand-offs of the kids once or twice a week. One parent is always waiting for the other, and getting angrier each minute because of lateness that seems intentional (because exes are like that). You don’t want to text your ex, especially when the ex is driving with your kids in the car. So how do you solve this annoying child exchange tension that you have EVERY week?

    Try my startup’s new app, WhenHub. It allows any group of two or more people to TEMPORARILY geostream their locations on a map as they head to a meeting spot. (Like the Uber app without the Uber car.) That way you know your ex is on the way without talking to them. And if your ex is not cooperative, you can put the app on your kids’ phones because they will be in the same vehicle.

    No more frustrating texts back and forth asking “Where are you???” The geostreaming in the app is always temporary and times-out whenever you specify, so your ex can’t track you.

    If you try it once, you’ll never go back to the old way.

    WhenHub app for Apple: http://apple.co/2eLL3Oh

    WhenHub app for Android: http://bit.ly/2fIb6L7

The Two Biggest Problems in the United States are Food and Marriage

    Here’s the problem with food:

    Broccoli is food.

    Cake is food.

    Those two things are not the same. Broccoli is good for your body and cake is not. When you have two items that are almost opposites, they probably should not have the same name. Would it make sense to have only one word to cover both criminal and victim?

    I know you hate big government, so imagine what follows as a thought experiment. Imagine the government passes a law to label all edibles as one of these two categories:

    1. Food, or
    2. Entertainment (cake, french fries, junk food, candy)

    As a parent, it is hard to tell a kid to avoid unhealthy food. My hypothesis is that it would be far easier for both kids and adults to avoid edibles labeled “entertainment.” This idea is inspired by my hypnosis background and my hobbyist understanding of persuasion and psychology.

    In the short term, the day after you change the names of things, nothing much would be different. But over time, the different labels would sink into people’s minds and become a substitute for rational thought. In twenty years the idea of turning to “entertainment” because you are hungry will feel silly.

    This sort of label change would destroy the fast-food and traditional supermarket industry in about five years. Today a busy parent will take a kid to McDonald’s because it feels as if the convenience outweighs the cost. But I guarantee that if the sign on the door said “entertainment” instead of some suggestion of “food,” every parent in my neighborhood would feel shamed to be seen there. The peer pressure would be overwhelming. If you doubt that, try telling your neighbor you aren’t into recycling and watch the look of horror on his face as he judges you.

    Humans are not rational creatures. Words rewire our brains and turn us into different creatures. Normally we have some control over which words are influencing us, and that is a good thing. At the moment, we are being victimized by the word “food.” Realistically, we won’t be able do an exorcism on that word and remove the “entertainment” part because the food industry uses Congress as finger-puppets. That’s why this is just a thought experiment.

    But if it could happen….Imagine a world in which most people are eating healthy food. Suddenly everyone looks better to each other, so our social lives and our sex lives are enlivened. Our health expenses drop, and the quality of our lives zooms. I can tell you from experience that when I evolved from a bad diet to a good one, nearly every part of my life improved. And the difference is huge. My body at age 57 is far superior to my body in my twenties primarily because of an improved diet. And I thought I was in good shape in my twenties. Diet isn’t a small thing in your life. It is the main thing, because it shapes your success in every other realm, from sex to business.

    Now let’s talk about marriage.

    Divorce is one of the most expensive, horrible, and wasteful things a person can experience. It is terrible for the kids, terrible for finances, good for lawyers, bad for employers, etc. Half of marriages end in divorce. And those people typically remarry and either divorce again or, all too often, live unhappily ever after. The entire process is insanely inefficient. 

    Unfortunately, in 2015, marriage is probably the best system we have for raising kids. But as a thought experiment, imagine that the government removes all laws favoring marriage. You get no tax breaks, no nothing. And instead the government encourages people to set up alternative social systems that solve the problems of divorce.

    How do you solve the divorce problem? Ask any economist. It is quite easy. I’ll give you a solution in one word: diversification.

    In marriage, if something bad happens to one person, or one person becomes a jerk, the system breaks. Any engineer will tell you that is a poorly designed system. But if, for example, you had a small tribe of people cooperating for mutual interest, a bad day for one of them wouldn’t be a death blow for the tribe. If your love interest hates you today, you have three others on call. If you get sick and need childcare, there are ten people ready to help.

    Don’t have time to exercise because of driving kids around? That’s no problem if your tribe has some designated after-school drivers. Is it hard to buy and prepare healthy food? No problem if some members of your tribe are great cooks and like cooking in bulk.

    I won’t design a full alternative to marriage here because people are different and one solution does not fit all. The main idea is that marriage is perhaps the biggest economic problem in the country that isn’t food-related. Marriage made sense in old-timey days. But with the help of the Internet it would make more sense for people to organize around what works instead of what we know does not.

    You will be tempted to point out in the comments that hippy communes didn’t catch on. I’m not talking about poorly-engineered hippy communes. That’s like comparing a Model-T to a Tesla. I think that with some creative thinking, and maybe some experimenting, society could develop modern alternatives to marriage that remove the divorce problem.

    I hear whispers that these sorts of arrangements are already happening, but because non-monogamy is shamed, you don’t hear much about it. Marriage will go away eventually, as all bad systems do. Single people recently became the majority in this country. Can we speed it up?

    Scott

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    Check out the latest news on holograms and teleportation on Paul Worthington’s Top Tech Blog.

    See Tamra Reid’s Berkeley Start-up Review blog for the most interesting start-ups coming out of the Berkeley start-up ecosystem (second only to Stanford in number.)

    And don’t miss Vivian Giang’s post on the dangers of smiling 🙂

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    My book on success: “…the best business book I have read in the last decade.” (Amazon 5-star review Feb 26, 2015)