The culture that is Japan markets in everything Newcomb’s paradox edition

by on July 12, 2013 at 2:16 pm in Philosophy, Religion, Science | Permalink

In Japan, where palm reading remains one of the most popular means of fortune-telling, some people have figured out a way to change their fate. It’s a simple idea: change your palm, change the reading, and change your future. All you need is a competent plastic surgeon with an electric scalpel who has a basic knowledge of palmistry. Or you can draw the lines on your hand with a marker and let him work the magic you want.

The story is here, hat tip goes to Robert Martinez.  There are some other interesting points in the article, but I shall not reproduce them here.

Bill July 12, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Re: “Or you can draw the lines on your hand with a marker and let him work the magic you want.”

I’ve seen economists do the same thing with statistics.

TMC July 13, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Sounds more like climate science.

muirgeo July 12, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Makes at least as much sense as spending 2 hours a week in church praying and tything.

Komori July 12, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Sounds like a version of retrophrenology, as seen in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books.

(And, yes, it’s just what it sounds like. If examining the bumps on your head can tell someone about you, then obviously changing the bumps can change you. Practitioners of retrophrenology have a wide array of hammers…)

MD July 12, 2013 at 3:47 pm

The danger of working from first premises.

Kinch July 12, 2013 at 4:42 pm

What a failure of rational agent theories. Surely a semi-monopolist provider of fate modifying services should capture more than $1000 of the generated surplus.

Phillip July 12, 2013 at 5:20 pm

I really think “The Culture that is…” part needs to be taken off these stories. This is a phenomenon that was just recently described as unbelievable and foreign in a trashy TV program in Japan (the surgery having apparently originated in Korea):

http://www.japanprobe.com/2009/12/21/change-your-fate-by-having-a-plastic-surgeon-burn-new-palm-lines-into-your-hands/

What happened was a handful of Japanese went to go get this surgery for themselves (presumably having seen the trashy program described above). So what we have here is bizarre behavior by a tiny number of Koreans, being reported in Japan as a cultural eccentricity, now in turn being reported in the US as a Japanese cultural eccentricity.

To put it into context, the behavior being described here is being undertaken by what sounds like perhaps a hundred people in a population of 128 million (< 0.0001%). That's a typical number for "bizarre foreign culture" stories along these lines. Blogs like this should be in the business of pushing back against this kind of thing, not magnifying it. All the story really tells you is you can always find a small number of people doing bizarre things anywhere.

Gordon Mohr July 12, 2013 at 5:34 pm

I think there’s a market for astrological orthotics. Always wanted to be a Leo? Wear this diorama of the solar system on your head each night.

We can *scientifically prove* that these *precisely-calibrated* nearby orbs exert a *similar* but *stronger* physical influence on your mind & body development than the corresponding celestial bodies.

Todd Kreider July 12, 2013 at 5:49 pm

“That’s a typical number for “bizarre foreign culture” stories along these lines. Blogs like this should be in the business of pushing back against this kind of thing, not magnifying it. All the story really tells you is you can always find a small number of people doing bizarre things anywhere. ”
————-

Domo, arigato… I’ve been in Japan 15 years and usually just smile when Tyler Cowen puts up weird Japan stories. He knows so little about this country that he gave a “Great Stagnation” presentation where he said: “Japan just stopped growing” after 1990. There was growth in the 1990s and the longest solid expansion since 1960 was from 2003 to 2008 before the US/UK led financial crisis hit. How could Cowen miss the strongest 5 year GDP/capita growth among developed nations? Simple. Japan isn’t important enough to actually look it up.

Speaking of weird Japan stories, this is a classic from the Tokyo Bureau Chief of the NY Times, Martin Fackler. He described Japanese dressing up as vending machines to avoid crime . hilarious:

“While Americans want to protect themselves from criminals, or even strike back, the creators say many Japanese favor camouflage and deception, reflecting a culture that abhors self-assertion, even in self-defense.”

You can’t make this shit up! :)

dearieme July 12, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Thank God they don’t go in for cock reading.

jean rosenthal July 12, 2013 at 6:51 pm

I recommend the poem by Sarah Lindsay, Laswer Palmistry, published in 2002

Who knew that while his meticulous lasers worked,
the tea leaves in her mug in the kitchen sin
shifted before they dried?

http://books.google.com/books?id=yEpsnL-PE1kC&pg=PA34&lpg=PA34&dq=lindsay+laser+palmistry&source=bl&ots=ybZBtjpufv&sig=z8r6RFVUFo57SyDbo9L0kUMSaiw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=d4fgUf3jLpLI4APumYCgDw&ved=0CDoQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=lindsay%20laser%20palmistry&f=false

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East Asians will find a way to cheat even at palm reading.

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