by Tyler Cowen
on March 31, 2017 at 10:05 am
in Books, Philosophy
Call me complacent, but I would like living next to work and avoiding grocery store lines. That’s progress in my opinion.
Yeah. It seems to me like complacency is having a low bar for overall achievement in one’s life. Getting groceries delivered might be a sign of an overall lazy, complacent attitude. Or it might be about being efficient so you can get the important stuff done. Or it might be neutral–you accomplish the same amount you would if you went to the store in person, but have a bit more free time.
The follow-up question for me, then is: how does this ease of life shape our behavior? Does it give us the chance to accomplish more, or train us to be lazy, so that we accomplish less overall?
I think striped shirt guy (at the end) has it made. Good for him.
I will now take the same path through the park to the same Starbucks and order the same thing.
Of course you would think that, you of the most complacent user handle ever.
So, is the Complacent Class the Jetsons? Have we arrived at the future and found it boring? Or are we fundamentally human and being Complacent is an aspect of that?
“Have we arrived at the future?”
Be sure to remember this statement in 2022, when $1500 worth of computing power will be analogous to a a human brain.
In March 2007, there were no iphones, youtube had little content and was restricted to 10 minute videos, Facebook only had 30 million users which would mushroom to 600 million by the end of 2010, and there was no NR available in 2007, even though it is now hard to imagine life without it.
So, what is ‘NR,’ and why would it be hard to imagine life without it?
I have to disagree: I’m pretty sure the National Review was around in 2007.
But, it’s true, back in 2007 you had to arrive at the airport 2 hours early, you had to pay to take the bus or subway around town, they charged you to park your car. Government took 30% of all the money that was made. Some people with addictions and mental illness had nowhere to live, just slept on the streets, ordinary people would ignore each other when they passed on the street; I think they were just bothered by people. The politicians were crazy then, too, they made no sense. People took out big mortgages to live in houses in good neighborhoods, because some places had too much crime and good schools. Or they paid huge rents to live in tiny apartments in interesting cities because most of the suburbs and small towns were frankly boring. Houses were built with just the tiniest yards around them, like people wanted to be indoors all the time. Furniture was mass produced, flat packed, and shipped to a big blue warehouse store by the airport, you had to put it together yourself, or pay someone to do it.
How times have changed. And everyone wore hats, and even in Harlem they dressed up to dance at the Savoy.
You get this! Well, except for the NR part since obviously far more in 2017 associate the abbreviation with Nicotinamide Riboside than with The National Review.
While we are both pointing out the radical changes in life since 2007, I’ll add another. Back in 2007, you wouldn’t be able to write an Amazon review for a book like Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum and complain in the opening: “Don’t buy the kindle version! … As the brackets are used for Dirac’s notation throughout the text, this typo is more than just an minor annoyance.”
Hey, see Wikipedia on NR and weep. The hive mind can’t be wrong, said WFB not.
Some think they can do computerized facial recognition while the bright sparks at Amazon lack the wherewithal use machine vision to detect when their Kindlizer goes horribly wrong.
The article seemed within normal wikipedia reasonableness, though this sentence was a read standout – ‘They also demonstrated that NR is a natural product, the so-called hidden vitamin found in cow’s milk.’ Humans spent most of their time as a species not drinking cow (or any other animal’s) milk, and the idea that humans may require this ‘hidden vitamin’ is really quite amusing, in a profoundly ignorant sort of way.
Pretty much a clear signal that someone is expecting to make a lot of money, along the lines of chlorophyll gum – ‘As it turns out, scientists studying the properties of chlorophyll during the first half of the 20th century made an important discovery – chlorophyll could reduce the odour associated with infections.
So by the early 1950s, there was a lot of interest in promoting “odour-eating” products that contained chlorophyll. These included mouthwashes, cough drops, cigarettes, dog food – even toilet paper!
Once the 60’s rolled around, however, most of these products disappeared from store shelves. It seems consumers weren’t buying into the chlorophyll “miracle”. After all, cows eat a lot of chlorophyll, but they still stink don’t they?
One product that did survive, however, was Clorets.’ https://explorecuriocity.org/Explore/ArticleId/173/why-does-the-company-that-makes-clorets-put-chlorophyll-in-gum-173.aspx
” …and the idea that humans may require this ‘hidden vitamin’ is really quite amusing, in a profoundly ignorant sort of way.”
With an attitude like that, I’m not sure we would admit you to our NR cult.
You don’t think science may have advanced since the early 1950s?
NR, a vitamin B3 derivative found in very small amounts in milk, bananas and Japanese eda-mame beans among other food, have been shown in larger amounts to raise NAD+ levels in humans that begins to deplete in all cells from around the age of 35 to 40. Having higher amounts of NAD+ has already shown to give mice significant improvements including helping reduce the risk of heart failure and improving mice with heart failure already. Glucose levels stay normal, mice run longer than controls and the muscles revert back to that of younger mice.
Pretty neat trick. We’ll get ChromaDex’s human trial results of 140 taking NR at different doses including a placebo in June or July. Elysium, with its 7 Noble Laureates in medicine and physiology has sent its 120 person trial results of 60 to 80 year olds for publication, but I assume will also post to their website, maybe around summer as well but no announcement from them yet on timing.
The U of Washington has an NR trial for heart failure patients that is expected to go into mid 2018, Mayo Clinic and the U of Minnesota have a joint NR trial at 750 mg for college football players who have had a concussion but not more than one. There are at least six other human trials either ongoing or awaiting publication.
Brazil resists complacency and embraces Greatness! With the sentencing of Speaker Cunha to prison and the arrival of Justin Bieber, Brazil has reached a height that few other countries could even aspire to. Brazil is larger than Rome at it’s height and is destined to become greater still. Already, the capital is thought to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
“We have the space!”
I like space.
Isn’t Brasilia usually used as a device in articles warning about the limits of rationalism and the pitfalls of technocratic modernism?
No, it is not. Brasília was the first city designed according to a rational plan and it is considered the most beautiful city of the Western World, and, Justin Bieber aside — real Brazilian don’t care for such pueril music – , I agree with the impersonator. President Temer likes it — he is a rich man, could live anywhere, but he says that Brasília is great
This reinforces something that doesn’t sit well with me about all the ‘complacency’ talk: the improved experiences are going to where the people are rather than people going to the improved experiences. Isn’t that better?
I have never left Plato’s Cave…….that’s complacent!
How are we supposed to top *that*?
Like Axa, I’m still in Plato’s Cave. But I only look at some of the shadows. The truth hurts my eyes.
Someone should create a growing list of all the ways in which Cowen-Complacency is being used and interpreted. I would do it myself, but I’m too … um … oh, what’s the word?
As impressively long as that least might be, it won’t come close to the 15+ definition of “paradigm” found in Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”.
He’s got Kuhn beat with this one. Easily.
Comte, the Positivist, did list seven definitions for “positive” (or was it nine?), but he was too complacent.
Many of those confessions seem more attributable to laziness than complacency, although I’m sure the line between the two does blur. I was hoping to read more hashtag-complacent-confessions in the comments. Here are some of mine:
– I’ve been using the same gym, grocery store, and barber for 7 years despite living on various sides of town, and despite the first two being chains that vary only marginally between locations, each with several locations closer to my current residence than the ones I go to.
– The great majority of shows and movies I watch are re-runs of things I’ve seen multiple times.
– Similarly, organizing my songs in iTunes by play-count reveals that just 15 albums accounts for 90% of my listening, with the other few hundred albums making up the rest.
– I don’t drink or smoke weed because I don’t like feeling physically different than normal, even if ‘different’ is markedly ‘better.’ Being tipsy feels great, and I don’t like it, because it’s different.
– When Office 365 or iOS updates with new features and settings, the first thing I do is find out how to change everything back to the way it was. Later I’ll assess whether the new features are worth adopting.
– Buying the “10% Kona Blend” of the same brand of coffee I always buy feels rebellious; trying a new brand altogether is just too risky.
– God, I’ve had the same hairstyle since I was 15. But it’s a classic, I guess. If it was good enough for Wally Cleaver…
In contrast, I did change states almost unprovoked just for a new experience and to pursue better career opportunities, which did materialize. Big changes I don’t mind. I guess it’s the complacency analog to ‘penny wise, pound foolish.’ I also notice Google has rewarded complacency with its Doodle 4 Google winner today. Is there anything more trite, clichéd, and PR-friendly as that ‘coexist’ bumper sticker? Even Progressivism is complacent!
That people pay an ever increasing amount for houses is anything but complacent, it’s foolhardy. I remember when a $50,000 house was the best house around. I remember when a $100,000 house was considered extravagant. Today, in most any prosperous city, $500,000 buys a starter house. A million dollar house is considered acceptable but modest. I suppose people buy these expensive houses because they are complacent in their belief that housing prices will continue to rise. Just as people buy stocks with a P/E ratio of infinity because they believe stock prices will continue to rise. I enjoyed Cowen’s book, but he could have cut it to one paragraph; indeed one sentence. This one: asset prices will not continue to rise but will eventually fall, and fall very far and very fast, the Great Reset that will be followed by better days. Cowen has written a book about the coming apocalypse, and people are as complacent about the coming apocalypse as they were two thousand years ago. Repent! The end is nigh.
“Today, in most any prosperous city, $500,000 buys a starter house. A million dollar house is considered acceptable but modest.”
You live in a bubble. You should really get out a lot more.
He’s talking about locations at least 60 minutes commute from the central business district.
Downtown in such cities, those figures would get you into a starter condo and maybe a decent 2-bedroom condo. But he’s living in a bubble to think he can get into anything that can be called a “house” at those prices unless you’re OK with extending your working day by 25% or more due to commuting.
“He’s talking about locations at least 60 minutes commute from the central business district.”
That comment just indicates you are living in a bubble too. There are dozens of major cities in the US that you can buy a starter home for far less than $500K within 60 minutes of downtown. You can easily buy homes around Chicago that fit that criteria.
I ear minced meat and potatoes every Saturday. Aren’t I complacent?
Speaking of which … I will champion the breakfast burrito as the non-complacent way to start each day. Sure, a couple scrambled eggs with hot sauce are a good baseline, but variations are endless. Do you have some left over Thai chicken? Scramble that in. Some left over lamb and red potatoes? You’re golden. Octopus? Done that. Will today be Tapatío or Sriracha? Salsa verde! No limit but your imagination.
There may be some conservation of decision-making in having the same breakfast every day, but break up that complacency, and raid the fridge tomorrow morning.
(Flour tortillas may be kept frozen and refreshed in a toaster oven to 70% of original quality. A trade-off that some are forced to make.)
The brilliance of the complacency model is that it’s entirely unfalsifiable. He may as well have tried “people are happy” or “people are greedy” or “people are unsettled”…it resembles astrology in that anything sufficiently vague will appear cogent.
If I were to list the ten most impressive things about myself (or, I assume, most readers of this blog) we’d see a positive dynamo, though on the clickbait test I came in as “comfortable.”
I’m surprised nobody has brought up the strong parallels between this idea of complacency and Nietzsche’s last man. With the stability and comforts of modern life, rather than go out, take risks and create things especially if doing so creates discomfort or hardship, people would rather lead comfortable lives with entertainment, pleasure and distraction and avoid anything that causes discomfort. That is Nietzsche’s last man. Fukuyama picked up on this in the 90s with the end of history – this would result from the institutional stability and benefits of technological advancement accompanying historical progress. Even Louis CK frequently touches on this idea in his comedy – he has a number of bits on how he and others around him are driven by this sort of complacency, rather than by a sense of duty or a kind of striving for achievement.
+1 I started following Fukuyama on Twitter as I realized he might have had a handle on things. @FukuyamaFrancis
Leave a Comment
Notify me of follow-up comments by email.
Notify me of new posts by email.
Previous post: How many direct reports should an American president have?
Next post: Friday assorted links
Email Tyler Cowen
Follow Tyler on Twitter
Email Alex Tabarrok
Follow Alex on Twitter
Subscribe in a reader
Follow Us on Twitter
Marginal Revolution on Twitter Counter.com
Get smart with the Thesis WordPress Theme from DIYthemes.