Lessons learned from “The Invitation” (2015)

You probably already know my stance on fiction in general: it teaches invaluable lessons otherwise not taught. I recently saw a new movie called “The Invitation” and decided to write about it because it has so many valuable lessons for an aspiring Overhuman. So, here it is.

WARNING: MANY SPOILERS AHEAD

Okay, so, the movie is incredible on several different levels, but I will only comment aspects of it that relate to the topic of Overhumanity. The technical aspects of it, the impressive camera and editing – not my specialty, even though I do appreciate it.

What is my specialty, or, better said, what do I want my specialty to be? It would be knowing things and being able to do things. Especially when there is danger.

The plot goes like this: Will is invited to a dinner party by his ex-wife whom he hasn’t seen for two years after some tragic event transpired. There are his friends that he also hasn’t seen for two years. He brings along his new girlfriend, Kira. From the moment he enters the house he previously lived in, he starts to feel unsafe. Everything is off, somehow. All the doors are locked and windows are barred. There are 3 people that he doesn’t know: his ex-wife’s new husband, and two friends of theirs. They, including his ex-wife, are in some religious cult that teaches that death isn’t something to be afraid of and that we should accept it.

As the evening goes, more and more weird shit starts to happen. For each weird shit, there is an individual reason that is plausible. First lessons: when there is a series of weird incidents, their individual reasons might be plausible, but the fact that there are so many weird incidents in a row is highly unlikely without some overarching reason. In other words, if you notice that the windows are barred, the doors are locked, your hosts are in a death accepting cult, one of the invited people are missing, there is a shitload of phenobarbitals in a drawer… Yeah, sure, some individual reasons may apply. Hell, all of these things could be (and have been, in the movie) explained by individual, plausible reasons. Yet it is highly unlikely that they happen in such a cluster without a general reason that includes them all.

People will try to rationalize things and find reasons that are plausible, but if there is a sequence of unusual events, there should be an explanation for the sequence, not for the individual events themselves.

Going on to probably the most important lesson of the movie: trust your gut when it yells danger! No, seriously! I’m totally for not trusting our instincts in many different things; after all, we are cognitively biased creatures, and we often make miscalculations and appraise things poorly. But when it comes to danger, I believe that you MUST trust your instinct, even if it turns out to be a false positive. If you don’t feel yourself to be safe, do not ignore this feeling, don’t just put it away. Never ignore your instinct of danger.

Moving to another related lesson: don’t be uncomfortable with uncomfortable social situations. If there is peer pressure around you to do something you really don’t want to do, do not do it. If you are expected to nod your head politely even though you feel like your life is in danger, say something. If you are expected to stay at a dinner party where there are some seriously alarming things happening, go. Just fucking go man!

 

Here’s a little story that I read once and it immediately stuck with me (bold added by me for emphasis):

“You’re in a hallway waiting for an elevator late at night. Elevator door opens, and there’s a guy inside, and he makes you afraid. You don’t know why, you don’t know what it is. Some memory of this building — whatever it may be. And many women will stand there and look at that guy and say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to think like that. I don’t want to be the kind of person who lets the door close in his face. I’ve got to be nice. I don’t want him to think I’m not nice.’ And so human beings will get into a steel soundproof chamber with someone they’re afraid of, and there’s not another animal in nature that would even consider it.”

Can you imagine a cat do this shit? Cat would be like “GTFO, I ain’t getting inside there homie. Cat don’t care.”

They’re animals. They don’t give a fuck. They don’t have fear of socially uncomfortable situations. They will not enter a steel soundproof box with something that makes them afraid. We will, because our social awkwardness will override our instinctive fear. This is extremely stupid.

You don’t need to justify your feeling of danger. That’s something that’s yours and whatever your group is pushing you to do – don’t do it if you’re feeling endangered.

Okay, now a more abstract principle. I’ve previously written on resimplification or how, given time, everything reverts to simple things. This is a concept strongly tied to another concept I want to share with you, and that is taking a step outside and looking at the context. You will agree that this is too big an expression for a concept, so we’ll name it recontext.

What is recontext? It is when you say to yourself: “If I was looking at this situation from the outside, what would I notice? What would I think? What would I suspect?” For example, you’re walking out and you see a car crash in front of you. There are two people arguing. Recontext: “Has this been orchestrated for me? If not, how is it dangerous for me?” You take the exterior view of the situation, not your interior view. You go from FPS to RTS. You always ask yourself: “Is this intentional? Is somebody trying to manipulate me through this?”

If Will had simply asked himself this question: “How is this potentially dangerous for me?”, he might have done things differently in the movie. Instead, he feels unsafe, but it is not an explored notion in his head. What would you do if you were your own enemy? How would you think?

Then: finish your theories. For Christ’s sake, if you are already not going along with your gut instinct and getting the hell out of there, why are you simply saying to people “something dangerous is happening here”. Why? I mean, think about it from the perspective of the enemy. If they witness you say “something dangerous is happening here”, they will know that you know. And they will adjust their actions accordingly. For fuck’s sake, don’t tell your enemy that you know what he’s up to! If you’re not getting the hell out of there (as you should), then at least be smart enough to finish your theory. Let this entire process fold out in your mind: “I notice I feel unsafe. -Why? -I have noticed small details that are off-putting. Each can be explained for itself, but I feel that all of them have some sort of connection. -Do you feel in danger? -Yes. -Who do you suspect danger coming from? -I don’t know… I suppose my hosts and their friends. The house is barred from entry or exit, but it doesn’t feel like it’s for safety reasons. -What do you know about them that makes you uneasy? -They are weirdly friendly, and they are in a cult that seeks to accept death. -Okay, ask yourself this now: ‘what would a person that wants to accept death, is in a cult, has barred windows and doors – what do they want from me?’ -Well, if you put it like that, the potential reason is obvious enough… To commit collective suicide. -In other words, your hosts seek your death. Your hosts are your enemies.”

Will does pretty good on most of these lessons, but he should be more decisive and less emotional.

Here’s another lesson, more subtle. When it turns out that Choi was actually safe and that he simply went to work and then returned, Will started doubting his own sense of reality, thinking that he was maybe being paranoid. This was exacerbated by the rest of the group who also considered him to be too paranoid. This is a strong pressure, and Will let it influence him to a certain extent. You have 1) the group telling you you’re crazy and 2) the proof that one specific thing you were saying indeed was wrong. You feel crushed, because you lost. You were wrong, they were right. That’s when you start thinking they may be right about other stuff too. WRONG. The fact that someone was right about one specific thing is only partially convincing – you still have unaddressed fears that have nothing to do with that specific thing. And furthermore, you still have your fear which you shouldn’t doubt and shouldn’t need any reason for. It will be extremely difficult for you to proceed to be vigilant (paranoid in the eyes of others) when you have once been proven wrong. However, do not let the group dictate your feeling of danger.


Have you seen The Invitation? Did you like it? What did you learn? Do you have a good movie with this much learning potential? Leave me a comment!

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Problems “beneath” an Overhuman

I didn’t know how to name this post and this is the best I came up with. Problems “beneath” an Overhuman are problems that are so commonplace and low-level and ubiquitous that an Overhuman does not deign to bother with them. (S)he is simply above them and considers them trifles, things not worth his/her time, things that – this is going to sound bad – are reserved for the “ordinary” people.

An Overhuman assumes what might be seen as a condescending attitude toward many things that other people worry about. Fortunately, this condescending attitude is not condescending at all because it is coupled with high emotional intelligence and, thus, empathy.

An Overhuman understands his fellow humans’ pain and suffering and anxiety, an Overhuman understands its causes and the mechanisms why these negative emotions come about, but the Overhuman does not share in their pain.

I shall give practical examples:

You have a bad relationship with a parent. Your parent is very controlling and has bad physiological influence over you. You are stressed because of your parent’s expectations, you are unsure of yourself and you seek your parent’s approval for everything you do.

You can be the best deductionist in the world and also speak 7 languages and be an incredible fighter, but if that is what’s bothering you – you are not yet an Overhuman.

An Overhuman cannot exist with problems that usually come up in normal human affairs. Why? Precisely because an Overhuman is not normal. Merely possessing Overhuman skills is not enough – it’s like having a Ferrari and not knowing how to drive it, or driving it badly, or only driving it during daytime. Skills are nothing without the state of mind that employs them.

Another example:

A war breaks out in your country and thousands of people are starving because the supply lines to your area have stopped. You starve too – primarily because you never stocked up on food in case of such events.

Or another example, based on that very same war I just mentioned: You are forced to take to the streets and because it is cold, you cannot bear it and have to change plans that involved you staying out.

What do these two examples have in common?

Well, generally speaking, the correct answer would be – weakness.

An Overhuman is an Overhuman because (s)he is not weak in any form, neither in body nor mind. For these two examples it is a certain weakness of the mind that has assured us that you are not yet an Overhuman: failure to prepare.

You see, an Overhuman is a prepper by default. Stocking up on food is done as a matter of course. It takes no thinking through – being a prepper, and – nota bene – a good prepper – is just something that goes without saying, something that is so blatantly obvious that it needs not be addressed.

And an Overhuman is also a practitioner of the Wim Hof method – by default. It goes without saying.

Are you starting to see the bigger picture?

Well, if no, I will outline it clearly.

The very foundation of an Overhuman, its base – is a high success level in other disciplines. What some may consider as the pinnacle of achievement in their art, an Overhuman considers as merely a starting point for his/her own art.

Thus fighters will strive to be incredible fighters and will consider it a great success when they become incredible. Overhumans are incredible fighters by default. For fighters, it will be their end-goal. For Overhumans, it will be their starting point.

Thus Zen monks and Stoics will strive towards mental clarity and acceptance of whatever life brings, and they will see this as “enlightenment”, as their final phase. Overhumans are enlightened by default. It’s their starting point.

Thus survivalists and preppers will strive to be as prepared as possible for various events, ranging from bad, to catastrophic to apocalyptic. Overhumans – you guessed it – are good survivalists by default. What the community of survivalists and preppers sees as high capability and preparedness, an Overhuman sees simply as a necessary base for other things.

And so, the problems “beneath” an Overhuman – being too fat or out of shape; having insecurities; not having enough money for strategical investments; speaking only one language; having a bad immune system; having bad people skills; having unresolved family disputes etc. – are truly “beneath” an Overhuman. An Overhuman simply has no time or patience to deal with such matters he or she considers as trifles. Naturally, (s)he will show empathy and give advice to those that need it, but in his/her personal life, such problems simply do not arise. They are just too low-level.

Can you infer personality traits?

This is something I’ve been having some doubt about, ever since a friend of mine said he considered such a thing to be quite shallow. Can you actually say things like: he’s a narcissist, she’s egotistical, they’re smart and so on? I mean, surely you can do it after getting to know a person, but can you say that someone is a narcissist only by the fact that they like to wear tight and revealing clothing? Can you say that someone is dominant or extroverted or self-confident by the strength of their handshake?

I don’t know. I don’t like not knowing.

What you most certainly can do is make comments on their behavior and behavioral residue. If there is a lot of mud on the shoes, that person has obviously been outside. If one’s clothing is dry and clean, and it’s raining outside, one can safely infer that the person has either been indoors the whole time or has changed attire.

But what about their personality?

We do not like to be negatively categorized, even though we fully embrace positive categorization. No one likes to be called lazy or selfish, but rarely will you find a person refusing to be called trustworthy or steadfast. So if I as an observer decide to call someone vain or untrustworthy, there would be a lot of disproving. If I were to call someone altruistic and creative, my words would be accepted. This still tells us nothing about the veracity of the personality inferring process.

If you call people bad things based on what you see, you should at least be able to call them good things based on what you see. I think this question is a matter of preference and opinion, not of fact. Some people would avoid personality deductions altogether. This is fine, but I feel you lose a lot of information out of fear of being shallow or mistaken.

So my working solution for this problem is yes. Yes, you may judge people’s personality from what you perceive. But, as in other deductions, change your deduction if new data points to another direction and do not suppose more than what the data tells you. If someone is selfish, it does not necessarily mean that the person is also a liar, nor does it mean that being selfish increases the chance of that person being a liar, or anything else, for that matter. If you conclude that someone is selfish, well, then it’s the only thing you conclude.

I do not guess. I observe. And once I’ve observed, I deduce.

 

Inverse clue gathering

So, in my people watching analyses, I usually tend to watch a person and then figure out who that person is, their occupation and the like. Now, there’s a technique which is quite useful in doing it and it’s to do the inverse. Basically, if you know who the person is, try to see what are their distinctive features that would characterize them if you didn’t know who they were.

Sounds complicated, but it’s not. Take, for example, bus drivers. You know a bus driver when you see one because that’s the person driving the bus. Megasherlock right there. But no, seriously, you see bus drivers all the time if you use public transport. The thing with this approach is to try and find their distinctive features, what makes them busdriverish and remember that so you can use it afterwards when they’re not wearing their uniform and driving a bus.

So, what would be a distinctive feature for bus drivers? Well, a lot of sitting tends to make you fat, but there is a myriad of professions out there that involve a lot of sitting, so being fat is no good tell. I seriously don’t know. Maybe stiff, but that’s also something common in a lot of professions. I’m still working on that one.

For guitar players, it’s easy. You see callouses on their fingertips. Of course, you might confound them with the occasional ukulele or violin or mandolin afficionado, but you have big chances of having a guitar player, and even if you don’t, you know it’s a string instrument player, which is also good.

Drummers are easy, they practice all the time with their fingers when they’re bored.

For martial artists and dancers, you have movement that gives them away. When people who usually move in complicated ways become bored, the routines they usually do just come out on their own, with no conscious control. I’ve also noticed that martial artists often stand in public transportation without holding any bars for balance.

There are a lot of things that can characterize professions, but we’re looking for distinctive features or combinations that make distinctive features.

The next time you watch a bus driver, try to see what it is that is common to their profession. If you see a college professor, see what makes them distinctive. Is it a pattern of behavior? Is it a movement? By doing this, you get a “dictionary” of sorts, and such a dictionary will help you in further deductions.

 

Living your life as an outside observer

If there are certain key concepts that encompass my entire existence, then this is certainly one of them. To do all the things that I do, and to do all the things that I wish to do, and to do all the things I yet don’t know I want to do, I play the role of the outside observer.

Being an outside observer allows one to participate in any given situation, but in a way that it allows observation, deduction, and rational action. But it is much more than just that. It is a core principle. I will go from ‘I’ and ‘one’ to ‘we’. We should always strive to remove ourselves from the game and observe it from the outside. The game is in this context pretty much everything. Let’s say that there is a big political debate on an important question going on. Let’s say that it’s something really important, and that there are two main sides, together with some other options. In an American context, this might mean Democrats and Republicans, in a European one it could be Euroskeptics and pro-EU politicians.

We, who strive for greatness, are obliged to remove ourselves and observe the debate as if we were watching it on a screen.

Let’s say that there is a fight between our friends. Again, two opposing sides. We are once again obliged to remove ourselves from the fight and be an outside observer.

Let’s say that there is a war going on. Let’s say that a certain terrorist organization, that gains more and more power as time goes, gains so much power that it starts an all-out, overt war against one state. Let’s also say that we live in that one state which has fallen under attack.

Again, we must do our best and more, we must stay an outside observer.

Why do we need to do this constantly? Does it not make us lose contact with the world? If there is a key political issue, we should act on it, right? We should try to influence it. Shouldn’t we try to change the world for the better?

Well, yes… This brings me to another important point.

Doublethink

Doublethink is one of the concepts from George Orwell’s celebrated book 1984. In a nutshell, doublethink means holding two contrary opinions in mind and believing in them at the same time.

To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself – that was the ultimate subtlety; consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word ‘doublethink’ involved the use of doublethink.

Doublethink is rightfully known as something bad, but there is no closer term to describe what I want to describe, so I will ask you to forget about its negative connotations and see it in a new light. Maybe we can find a more suited term for this, but in the meantime, we’ll use this one.

Humans are very kind. Humans are very violent.

These two statements are both true. This is what I mean when I say doublethink.

In the case of this post, doublethink refers to being an outside observer and being an active participant at the same time.

Being an outside observer (in the rest of the text OO) requires assuming a certain mental attitude in life in general, a sort of distance from ‘earthly affairs’. But in no way does it stop one from acting in an ‘earthly affair’. Being an OO and an AP (active participant) at the same time requires us not to commit completely to a certain course of action. It requires us to be able at all times to change our opinion completely, thus avoiding cognitive dissonance. It requires that we rid ourselves of emotional attachments to our opinions and in that way, we never really take sides and always remain outside observers.

In conclusion, we should participate in life. We should influence others, expand positive concepts and change the world. But never should we take sides before looking at the entire situation from the perspective of an outside observer, and we should continue to use this distancing while we do what we do.

Stay out, observe everything.

Numbers are important

Here’s a new exercise for you: when you get into a train, into a bar, into a classroom – close your eyes and try to remember the number of certain things. How many sunglasses were there in the room? How many white sneakers? How many cellphones were visible?

This exercise will give you more precision in your analyses. With it, you also develop your memory and visualization skills. It happened to me more than once that upon entering a certain place, I looked around, spotted the best exit options, spotted the most colorful people and the good-looking women, but had absolutely no idea who else was there. I could give a pretty good description of what I saw, how the place looked like and so on, but had astoundingly low precision when it came to numbers of things and things I didn’t find interesting.

The reason is this: I didn’t find it interesting enough. But then one day I rode a train and after some 20 minutes I became aware of the presence of the most dangerous man in that entire train. The tattoos said war veteran, the insignia said patriot/nationalist, the look said nervousness and potential PTSD, the hands said strength. One could easily infer a presence of a weapon. Understand the gravity of this: for twenty minutes I didn’t notice somebody that could do real physical harm. I didn’t notice him because there were more interesting things to watch. I glanced over him, and my superficial glance didn’t find anything interesting, EVEN THOUGH he was loaded with information.

This exercise will teach you too look at people and things you think do not have any meaningful information. And with it, you will learn an important lesson: it is often the most meaningless, bleak, uninteresting thing that has the most interesting story behind it.

Need for scientific statistical research

This whole Sherlockian concept of perception and induction (Sherlock Holmes didn’t deduce but induce. Going from specific to general is induction) is highly subjective and that’s its major drawback. It’s limited insofar that it operates on small variables – details – that should enable us to induce the “larger picture”. Our perception of details is relatively objective: we can say that most people perceive the same thing in a pretty similar manner, but interpret it differently.

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence

If a person does not have any animal hairs on their pants, it would be a very long shot to conclude that the person in question doesn’t have an animal. If, however, a person has animal hairs on their pants, we conclude that the person either has or has been in a contact with an animal. By analogy, if a person wears a wedding ring, we conclude the person is married, and if there is no ring, we shouldn’t conclude that the person is not married. Or?

Need for statistical knowledge

What if the number of people not wearing wedding rings corresponds highly to the number of people not married? From a purely subjective perspective, I think that most people that don’t wear wedding rings really aren’t married. But that’s just my interpretation and that’s the drawback. It would be best to have a statistical research giving us the percentages so that we know for sure. There are many other specific areas that should be investigated (scientifically) in a similar manner. For example, left-handed and right-handed people wearing bags – what would be the statistical percentage of left-handed people wearing their bags on their left side? Of those wearing them on their right side? Of right-handed people wearing them on the left and on the right?

These are some of the questions that beg a specific statistical answer so that one may get a much more precise theory when inducing. I have recently read about the Bayes theorem. It seems to me that its application in induction has a great potential.