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A few weeks ago I challenged readers to design a better book cover for How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. I promised that if one of the new designs tested better than my original art I would use the new design for the upcoming softcover book release. I embarked on this path because a lot of people told me the cover I designed for the book was hurting sales. I decided to test that hypothesis and perhaps improve things for the softcover release.

For a refresher, here are the rules and here are the top entries.

I predicted that a new cover design would not outperform the original. Today I have the results of the marketing tests. Before I tell you the results, do you think you can you predict a winning book cover design?

First, some background on how I selected the covers for testing.

I picked three designs to test. One is my original cover. The second is from a professional designer who competed against other professional designers on a site called 99designs.com. That cover design is labelled Lilam. The third cover I tested was the "best" of the ones submitted by blog readers - according to my publisher and me - created by Daniel Thornton. (Nice work, Daniel of qualifycomics.com)

My publisher created Twitter card ads and ran them randomly to see which ones generated the most click-throughs. I expected each cover to have similar results. But one of them blew away the other two designs. It wasn't even close.

Are you ready to test your powers of prediction? Here are the three designs as they appeared on the Twitter ads. Tell me in the comments which one you thought was the run-away winner in click-throughs.

Lilam's Design:
 



Daniel Thornton's Design:



Scott's original design:



 Okay, if you have your guess in mind, here are the click results:

Scott's Original Cover: 1,312

Daniel Thornton's Cover: 481

Lilam's Cover: 326

This is far from a scientific test, and one can see lots of holes in the method. But it seems an easy decision for me to keep the original art.

I have a few ideas about why my art outperformed the others. One suspicion is that people have seen the original cover art so seeing it again was just reinforcement. That would bias the test.

Another factor is color. My original art uses a color that has been well-tested on the Internet and we know it attracts the most clicks. On CalendarTree.com we changed one button from green to burnt orange and increased clicks 13% with no other change. So I know my cover color was smoking the two competitors.

My cover design also has some intentional complexity that makes you stop and wonder how it will all turn out. Will the giant shoe crush the stick figure or will he leap to safety on the bag of money? The science would say that forcing you to stop and think will make a bigger impression. Daniel's art depicts the aftermath of the fall and is straightforward. Lilam's art has some mystery about how the petal-picking will turn out, but that might seem a bit overused as a metaphor.

My original hypothesis was that different cover designs for this book would test about the same. I was very wrong about that. And it does indicate how important it might be for publishers to do rigorous cover design testing. Could a good cover design really triple the click-throughs as my unscientific test suggests?

I also inadvertently confirmed the talents of my editor and publisher. From the start of the book project I resisted their suggestion that I create the cover art myself. I argued that I don't have that specific flavor of talent and that we needed a professional designer. The evidence suggests I was wrong. But in my defense, I only did the line art. The title and color treatment came from the publisher's professional designer.

The good news for me is that my original cover art probably helped sales more than it hurt. The bad news for me is that I don't have a new cover design that will test better than the original.

I hope this was interesting to you.


------------------------------------------------------

Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com    
Author of this book
Twitter personal: @scottadams925
Twitter Dilbert: @Dilbert_Daily

Listen to me yacking with James Altucher on The James Altucher Show podcast.

 
Suppose futurists are right and someday humans move their minds and consciousness into software to live forever. What then?

A software-based human would have no problems. There would be no pain, no need for money, no need for ego, success, or anything else that organic humans want or need. A software-based person would have no incentive to do anything, assuming the rest of humanity is also software-based and problem-free.

By the time humans can move consciousness to software I would expect us to have immense power over the environment as well. By then it will be practical to terraform new worlds, change the climate at will, and create new life forms with 3D printers. In other words, we will have Godlike powers over our environment.

So there we will be, someday in the future, software-based creatures with absolutely no reason to do anything. Our software will provide the sensations of pleasure, happiness, success, and whatever else we built into the system. There will be no reason to build homes, or run businesses, or create armies. Nothing will matter to software humans because all of our needs will be met internally in our program.

But let's suppose the creators of our software anticipated our future lack of motivation and built into the program a need for learning. We might believe that learning is an endless process and can't really go wrong.

But software would soon reach the limits of knowledge. Once the software can program itself, which is also predicted to happen, it will become super-intelligent fairly soon. And we future software humans might exhaust all normal avenues for seeking new information. What then?

Software-based humans would have the programmed need to learn but nothing left to learn that isn't trivial. What might our future software selves do then?

One possibility is that we will build 3D printers and create organic humans based on our software personalities just to experience reality through five senses. An organic creature can keep learning its entire life. So our future software selves might find a need to bring some of our minds back into organic form just to keep up the challenge and the learning.

And you know where this is going. If the scenario I described might happen in the future, how can we know it didn't already happen and we are the second-generation organic humans?

Let me boil this down to one idea. Today, engineers design robots to serve the interests of organic humans. But what happens when there are no organic humans left, after we move our consciousness to software and have no problems in our lives whatsoever? What would the software be programmed to do other than deliver streams of artificial pleasure to itself? It would have no reason for existence.

Humans seek challenge and novelty because we evolved that way. If our software selves acquire that programming from our organic minds it stands to reason we will someday move our minds back to organic form specifically because it is more of a challenge. And maybe it already happened.

But I would expect the new organic humans to be dropped off on a new planet so they can develop naturally, free from the protection of their software creators. That means Earth is a seeded planet and not an original. And it would explain why the second-smartest species after humans can't even invent a flip phone.
-----------------------------------------

Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book
Twitter personal: @scottadams925
Twitter Dilbert: @Dilbert_Daily
 



 


 
My childhood wasn't the good kind. I had a medical problem that kept me in intestinal agony every hour I was awake from the time I was a toddler until I was eighteen. I learned to mask my pain from others, and extreme discomfort simply became my normal. Even my siblings will be reading about it here for the first time. Only my late parents and our family doctor knew.

My grandmother was my parents' babysitter of choice. She was an obese, superstitious, angry woman who hadn't finished grade school. She believed that any unwanted behavior in a child could be corrected with a sufficient application of mental or physical punishment. Pain was her only childrearing tool. This wasn't unusual in her day. The problem in my case is that she interpreted my medical problems as behavior problems and she made it her mission to fix me. She used pain to try to fix my pain.

I'll spare you the details from those years because I wouldn't wish them to be in your head. But just to size it, she would be in jail if she got caught doing any of it in 2014. And had she survived until my adulthood I would have been tempted to kill her just to keep her away from other children.

I didn't tell anyone about my experience because I couldn't make my mouth form the words. And I mean that literally; it is like a frozen mouth experience.  I still can't talk about the details.

I'm not looking for sympathy because everyone has their own ghosts. And I have no reason to believe my ghosts are worse than yours. We live in a fucked-up world. But what might differ is our interpretation of our experiences.

My interpretation of my childhood is that it conferred on me a sort of superpower. Unlike some of you, I know how far I can go without breaking. That means I only have to ask myself one question about any potential path: Do I want it enough to pay the price?

I never worry that I am embarking on a path that will be too hard. I know what hard looks like and I know it didn't break me even as a kid. That doesn't mean I'm tough; I am far from it. But I do have the advantage of knowing how far I can bend without breaking. If you don't have that knowledge, you can never feel safe choosing a path with a lot of bending ahead.

Everyone has ghosts. You can let them haunt you forever or you can make them your bitches. Consider the latter.

--------------------------------------------------
Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book

 


 

 
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[See earlier post on this topic]

My supply of self-sticking cork tiles arrived. Here they are staged in my movie writing room. I hope to have them up on the wall soon so I can start engineering the Dilbert movie script using note cards and pins.

(That is my giant cat Zoey in the corner)

Yes, I have heard of computers. And when they make a computer screen that is three-walls-wide I will be all over it. What I am doing is building a 3D augmentation for my own imagination. My imagination is commercial grade but I can't hold a two-hour plot with multiple subplots and characters in my head while I simultaneously write and edit the story in my mind.

Someone asked me in the blog comments how hard it is to write a movie script when I already have experience writing the Dilbert animated TV show. My answer is that comparing a 21-minute TV script to a two-hour feature film script is like asking a taxi driver to fly a 747. The skills aren't directly transferable.

For a good idea how hard it is to write a 21-minute animated TV show, see this great description of how The Family Guy writers create scripts. It takes a room full of people and a year of back and forth for each script. To put it another way, one of the most successful shows on television can't hire an individual who knows how to write an entire script for one show. And as the article explains, many other animation writers think The Family Guy produces some of the worst scripts on television. I enjoy the show but it does have the worst writing I have ever seen on a successful show. Like most people who enjoy the show, I respond to the irreverence. So in a sense, the entire show is one joke (irreverence) retold in infinite ways. And it still works.

My experience with the Dilbert animated TV show was sort of the low-budget version of The Family Guy's system. My co-executive producer, Larry Charles, and I would brainstorm story ideas and assign a story to a writer or a team of two writers. Most of the first drafts were nearly unusable. I tossed some first drafts in the garbage and had to write new ones from scratch. Then Larry would do his edits and after a few rounds of back and forth we had something. Sometimes we did the entire process in a week. Sometimes Larry did the first draft after throwing away another writer's draft. Thanks to union rules, the writer of the first first draft is the official writer of the script, and that person gets paid royalties while his work heads to the landfill. Larry and I would get secondary credits for "helping." When people ask how much I liked working in television, I tell that story.

You might wonder why we didn't hire writers that could create final scripts, or something close to final, on their own. Personally, I have never met a person who could do that for a humor scripts, and I've looked for years. I assume The Family Guy can't find that person either. So they have a room full of writers and a yearlong process that creates scripts by committee. And the scripts play like committee work.

The Simpsons has a similar writing system I believe, and often produce brilliant scripts. I assume the writers for The Simpsons are just smarter. That's what I hear. I can't confirm it.

In my day job, I write one or two jokes per day for the Dilbert comic. A film script would need about three laughs per page for 120 pages. That's 360 humor moments, overlaying a fairly specific movie script formula, overlaying a story that has to make sense from start to finish and deliver an emotional payoff. That's a tough ask for one writer.

Anyway, my point today is that writing isn't just about talent and hard work. You also need a system that makes sense for the project. My writing room is the first part of developing my system. As the project progresses I will look for helpers on specific elements of the script, such as checking the technology assumptions and updating the business jargon. And I'm sure I will need what they call a "script doctor" to fix the broken parts at some point. And if a director gets involved, he or she will want to do some rewrites too.

Writing is complicated. If you plan to write something, solve for the writing process first.

------------------------------------
Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book

 


 

 
Bossy
Sep 24, 2014 | General Nonsense | Permalink
Warning: This blog is written for a rational audience that likes to have fun wrestling with unique or controversial points of view. It is written in a style that can easily be confused as advocacy for one sort of unpleasantness or another. It is not intended to change anyone's beliefs or actions. If you quote from this post or link to it, which you are welcome to do, please take responsibility for whatever happens if you mismatch the audience and the content.

 ---------------------

As readers of my How to Fail... book already know, I have a system for detecting B.S. It isn't foolproof by any means, but it serves me reasonably well in an imperfect world. Briefly, the system requires a two-point confirmation. For example, if my personal experience matches the findings of established science, I am more likely to be a believer. But if the science and my observations disagree, or science and common sense disagree, it triggers my B.S. detector.

I also accept eyewitness reports from other people as one form of evidence, although that clearly has huge reliability issues. But in practice, if you say you had a good experience doing X, and studies say people enjoy doing X, I conclude that X is probably an enjoyable thing for some people.

Now to my point...

Actor Emma Watson noted during her recent speech at the UN that assertive girls can too often be labelled "bossy," and this is a form of sexism. I have heard this claim many times. Does it pass the B.S. filter?

I pause to remind you that passing or failing the B.S. filter does not indicate truth or falsehood. It only indicates that a thing has credibility issues or it doesn't. And that can be important if you are an advocate for the cause.

Let's put the "bossy" claim through the B.S. filter and see how it comes out. My starting bias is that while sexism clearly exists, the "bossy" theme hurts the credibility of advocates for women because it doesn't register as true with men.

Most women have, I assume, had personal experience with the "bossy" insult. Perhaps women have heard the word being used on the playground or at work, and now they have heard from Emma Watson and others that it is a common experience. For women, the bossy claim probably has two-point confirmation and passes their B.S. filter. (Women, can you confirm that assumption?)

I have no personal memory of a male ever calling a female "bossy." I leave open the possibility that I have heard "bossy" a hundred times and had no special reason to remember it. All I am saying is that I have no memory of hearing it. I can't say it has never happened around me. But I do have distinct memories of women calling me bossy.  So the bossy claim fails my personal experience filter. But that doesn't mean much.

Perhaps the "bossy" claim has been studied by reputable scientists, but I am not aware of that study. So science doesn't help with my B.S. filter.

What about common sense? Does my common sense - if such a thing exists - support the idea that people are calling assertive girls bossy while giving assertive boys a free pass? Let's dig in a little.

I always like to start with context. The "bossy" contention implies that there are special insults just for women. That part is obviously true. Words such as bossy, bitch, witch, whore, slut, and of course the c-word are usually reserved for women. The mere existence of special insults just for women seems to support the claim of pervasive sexism.

But men have special insults too. Asshole, dick, douchebag, motherfucker, and bastard spring to mind. You rarely hear those words applied to women.

My personal experience is that when people act in ways we don't like, we label them with awful words, and we often pick those words based on gender.

My observation over a lifetime is that take-charge individuals are always respected, regardless of gender, so long as they are both capable and well-meaning. If not, the gender-based insults will start flying. The take-charge guy will be labelled a clueless dick and the take-charge gal will be labelled a bossy c-word. But in both cases what is being questioned is competence and intention, not gender. That's just my personal observation and I don't equate it with truth.

I hold open the possibility that people all across the country are suppressing assertive girls by labelling them bossy. But my hypothesis is that women are seeing it and men are not. That's a problem if you are an advocate for women. If, like Emma Watson, your message is meant to change the minds of men, you must first satisfy their B.S. filters with your claims. Communication only works after you establish trust.

I watched the Emma Watson video of her speech and the bossy part shut me down. I don't remember a thing after that because it struck me as under-sourced and not sufficiently credible based on my personal experience and memories. That doesn't mean it isn't a valid point. That just means it doesn't work as a point of advocacy.

The first rule of sales is that you want to say things the customer agrees with. You start with the easy stuff, such as "You like efficiency and low prices, right?" Once the customer starts "pacing" you, to borrow a term from hypnosis, you can start leading them to the decision you want them to make. Ms. Watson started her speech, which was primarily aimed at men, with a claim that I suspect lacks credibility for men but not for women.

If you want to influence me, start with something I know to be true, not something that makes me scratch my head and wonder if everything else that follows is just as iffy as the first thing.

I don't think there is any way to get objective data on whether the word "bossy" is suppressing assertive girls everywhere. My only point is that in the context of advocacy, the bossy claim works against the cause because it registers as true to women but questionable to men.

Men, in your experience, and in the year 2014, are the capable and well-meaning girls and women who assert themselves routinely being called one of the b-words? Or is it simply the case that we insult bad people with gender-specific insults and half of those bad people are female?

Note to Jezebel, Gawker, and Huffington Post: A good way to take this post out of context is with a headline such as "Cartoonist doesn't believe anyone has ever insulted a woman because he doesn't remember seeing it." That'll work.

-----------------------------------------------

Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book

 
[Update: Let's assume Emma Watson is correct and some little girls are called bossy for no other reason than because they volunteer to direct the neighborhood play. That seems sexist. But what about the little girls who are pushy, selfish assholes and not "assertive" in a good way? Are they 1% of the girls being called bossy or are they 99%? How would we know? Since adults generally won't call a little girl an asshole, would they call that girl bossy, and would that girl grow up thinking the problem was sexism and not herself? These are questions, not an opinion. I can't have an opinion without knowing how often adults are using the word bossy as a label for take-charge attitudes versus pushy, selfish, obnoxious behavior. -- Scott]

[Update 2: Interestingly, I have no memory of any boyhood friends acting bossy, pushy, assertive, or anything in that general direction. Boys tend to follow what they perceive as the best idea, or they follow the herd, or they follow their penises. I have zero memory of any boy ever trying to tell me what to do as a kid. So I wonder if the unusual lack of adult-like assertiveness in young boys makes normal girl behavior seem more bossy in contrast. -- Scott]




 
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I know from past blog posts that many of you are interested in the creative process. So I thought I would take you on a journey as I prepare to write a Dilbert movie script. Today is the first installment of this story. I expect it to take 6-12 months. I'll update you periodically.

Everyone approaches this sort of thing differently, so this is just my process.

Allow me to first give you some background.

I have tried several times in the past to get a Dilbert movie made. On three occasions I have had deals with studios. But in the movie business there is a big difference between having a movie deal and making an actual movie. Probably only 5% of movie ideas make it all the way from deal to screen. And your odds are worse if you don't have a script. In the past I always started without a script. One typical process for movie-making is that first you get a studio deal and that gives you a budget and money to approach writers. The better writers won't even talk to you unless you have a deal first. So you have a chicken-or-egg problem because studios prefer a script in hand before funding, but good writers need guaranteed funding before they will write a script. I hope to solve that problem by writing the script myself.

You might ask why I didn't reach into my Dilbert pockets and just pay a top writer to make a Dilbert movie script before taking it to a studio. To put some numbers on that, I would be paying something like a million dollars for a script against a 5% chance of making a movie and getting something back. That business model only works if you are a studio with dozens of projects in the hopper and you only need a few to pan out. It doesn't make much sense for an individual to fund a 5% chance.

There's also the problem of finding a good writer. That turns out to be nearly impossible. If you KNOW a writer is talented, that person is already committed to writing guaranteed hits for studios. For everyone else, you have incomplete information. Can the writer who did a great job with a kid-themed comedy for Disney write an adult-oriented script for Dilbert? How about the romantic comedy writing genius whose best jokes are sex jokes? Does that translate to a Dilbert script? Can someone who has never worked in an office even write for Dilbert?

Then you have the problem of group writing. Most scripts have multiple authors by the time they hit the screen. And every one of those multiple writers claims the movie as their credit. Which one of them was the "Wally" in the room? There's no way to know.

So I'll write the script myself.

Writing a movie is totally unlike writing a book, comic strip, newspaper article or blog. And that means I have no idea whether I have the right sort of skills to pull it off. This is a big project, and I'll be tackling it without the benefit of experience or demonstrated talent in this specific field.

The special challenge of writing a movie script is the complexity. You have dozens of characters, two hours of action, and all of the subplots have to come together at just the right time. I didn't know how to hold all of that in my head while staring at a blank screen on my computer. What I needed was to live inside the movie, figuratively speaking, the way a pinball sees all of the bumpers and flippers in the pinball machine. I wanted to inhabit the script from the inside.

I needed a movie-writing room.

So step-one in my movie-writing process is setting up my writing room. I ordered lots of self-sticking cork tiles that I will adhere to the walls of this room. As I come up with scene or character ideas I will write them on note cards and stick them to the wall where they belong in the timeline.









Movies are, as you know, overly formulaic. In film lingo there is something called a "beat sheet" that is essentially a guide to when certain events should happen in a movie. For example, in the first few minutes of a movie you always want to have some sort of life-changing event, such as a death or divorce. And by the end of what is called the "third act" your hero has to be in an impossible situation. There are dozens of other little rules of scriptwriting. I won't be following the formula slavishly, but it will help to have the "beats" written on my walls so I am aware of any instance in which I might be violating the formula.

I have most of the story arc written in my mind. But I have to translate that into roughly 120 pages of script and 40-60 scenes. Over time I will put all of my notes on the walls and see where the holes are. I'll also use some color codes to know which characters are popping up the most.

I should tell you that I am not writing an animated movie. What I have in mind is a substantial "reimagining" of Dilbert. It won't be a bunch of actors sitting in cubicles and complaining about work. I'm not writing the sequel to Office Space. If the movie ever gets made it will be a re-launch of Dilbert for a younger generation. And I'm aiming for it to be a big-budget "tent pole" feature, as they say in Hollywood. Tent poles are a studio's big feature films that make all of the money.

I plan to do most of the writing while exercising at my local gym. The elliptical machines are perfect for writing because I can do cardio on them with my eyes closed. My hands are securely on the handle things and my feet are on the foot pedals. For thirty minutes I descend so far into my imagination that I forget I am working out. I see the actors performing the lines as I write them. (Meryl Streep plays Dilbert's mother in my imagination.) After my workout, I'll write down any new scene or dialog ideas on note cards and later stick them on my wall.

Once the wall is mostly filled, and I have "engineered" the movie to hit all of the emotional and logical notes I want, I will take out my laptop and start writing. I won't put a single word to page until I have the entire movie story solved. And it has to make me cry when I think about certain scenes. (Remember, this is a reimagined Dilbert with emotions and action scenes and whatnot.) The crying has been a problem lately because I have been weeping on the elliptical as I imagine scenes playing out. I hope that means I am on the right track.

-----------------------------------------------

Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book

 



 
I have two new strategies for fighting ISIS. As you know, all strategies for fighting ISIS are impractical, expensive, and terrible. I'm just adding two more bad ideas to the mix.

The only strategies on the table at the moment are these:

1.       Seal the borders of the Caliphate and kill every living creature within.

2.       Surrender and convert to Islam.

3.       Kill some but not all ISIS fighters and guarantee permanent war plus an eventual strike on the homeland. (Current plan.)

4.       Wait until ISIS consolidates power and builds better targets to hit, such as permanent army bases and government buildings. This too guarantees permanent war and a strike on the homeland, but maybe with better weapons by then.

5.       Build a "filter fence" and try to relocate all of the innocents before killing everyone who remains.

Not great choices.

Here's another strategy: Declare the Caliphate a weapons testing zone and make it legal for any weapons manufacturer to kill people - innocent or otherwise - within the Caliphate for the purpose of testing and demonstrating their weapons. Let's say the U.S. military in this scenario is mostly involved in defending a few staging areas and handling logistics and enemy spotting. But it would be up to the defense contractors themselves to decide which weapon systems to test on the targets.

This idea is immoral madness, right?

Remember that you are comparing it to ideas we know won't work. This idea has huge warts, but it has some advantages too. For example, the defense contractors control Congress, so we know the plan could be approved in this country.

ISIS' biggest advantage is that they are willing to wage permanent war and wear down any outside invaders. But that probably only applies to invaders that have citizens back home to worry about. The defense industry can test its weapons in the Caliphate indefinitely. They would have a profit motive and no moral or legal obstacles.

Let's assume that the U.S. military has to approve all actions by the defense contractors, and collectively they try to limit collateral damage to innocents. It wouldn't be that much different from the current strategy in terms of who dies within the Caliphate. We might find that he defense contractors are more cautious than the regular military because they are trying to demonstrate the pinpoint precisions of their weapons. Dead civilians are bad for business.

Budget-wise, this could be the most economical plan for permanent war. The defense contractors might even pay for the privilege of using the testing grounds. The goal would be to run the war at breakeven from the taxpayers' perspective.

The media should like this idea because it makes the news far more interesting. War always makes headlines, but if you layer on the futuristic weapons testing angle it becomes irresistible. Keep in mind that most of the so-called news would be in the form of press releases from the defense contractors. You would see stories such as "New laser weapon decapitates ISIS leader at his daughter's wedding. No innocents were hurt."

The biggest advantage of this strategy is the psychology. For starters, it says we plan to keep killing ISIS members until the end of time. That removes their biggest psychological advantage by letting them know they can't wait us out. Second, it recasts the situation from some sort of religious war to a simple business opportunity. That's what we capitalists do. And I have to think it takes some of the fun out of being a jihadist.

In the current model, ISIS fighters probably feel they are Allah's noble warriors fighting for the greater Caliphate. Our goal, over time, is to convince them they are nothing but the practice range for our defense contractors. That wouldn't happen right away. But eventually we want to create the idea that nations can either be part of the world community or, well, target practice for defense contractors. I think human nature will cause people to seek the higher status.

My second idea for dealing with ISIS is even worse: The U.N. could declare any territory captured by ISIS to be the legal territory of Israel. Then just sit back and wait while Israel builds settlements and methodically kills all the bad guys. It might take a few generations.

My thinking is that it would be impossible for the Islamic countries to hate Israel more than they already do, so you lose nothing in terms of public relations. And if any country thought they could get away with attacking Israel, they would have done it by now. But they don't, because every time Israel gets attacked it seems to get larger.

The Muslim countries hate Israel, but Israel is not a direct threat to their rule. ISIS is. Under this strategy, everyone but ISIS comes out ahead. Iraq and Syria were going to lose their territory either way.

Neither of my new ideas is practical, as usual. I only think they are interesting because they highlight how bad the current options are.

----------------------------------------------------

Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book

 



 
I have dubbed the coming decades the Age of Magic because our smartphones and other technology will soon allow us to navigate our environment as if we are wizards. Doors will identify us as we approach and unlock for the right wizards only. Lamps will respond to wizard hand signals from across the room. Cars will drive themselves. You get the picture. In about ten years you won't need to physically touch anything you want to control. Your location and identity will be continuously broadcast from your smartphone, and because of that your environment will respond to your preferences as if by magic.

But here's the interesting thing. People will have different levels of magic based on income. The top 1% will be like super-wizards, able to control their environments with both technology and money. If you are rich, you have access to more services, apps, clubs and businesses. Additional doors literally open for you as you approach. Stores offer you more services and even special sale prices. Self-driving taxis are never far from you because their central brain recognizes you as a frequent user. Or perhaps you paid extra to never wait more than two minutes for your taxi.

I won't bore you with a million examples because I think you get the point. The environment will someday snap to attention when a rich person enters the room but it will ignore anyone who can't afford a smartphone or can't afford the services of businesses that allow you to control them via hand gestures and verbal command. Rich people will someday walk among the public like super-wizards.

Yesterday I was putting gas in my car, and on the sidewalk near me was a young woman with a cardboard sign begging for money to get home to Idaho. This is an unusual sight in Pleasanton California. I asked her what her story was and it sounded legitimate to me. She had hit a bad patch of luck. I asked how much it cost to get to Idaho and she said $200. So I handed her $200 from my old-timey wallet and wished her luck. Maybe she bought heroine with the money, but I like to think she is halfway to Idaho by now and on the way to something better. In either case, she is lucky I needed gas. At least it got her off the street.

My point is that in a few years, instead of reaching into my wallet, I could have gestured toward her like Ironman about to send an energy blast from my palm and said something wizard-like to my smartphone such as "Transferus investmentalius $200!" and the money would have transferred from my bank to her bank. (That is probably a bad example. I doubt she has a bank account.)

I expect that we will start using goofy Latin-sounding commands for our wizarding because normal words occur too often in casual conversation. Today we have "Okay, Google" as one of our first wizard commands. Soon we will have commands such as "lampus illuminati" to turn on the lights.

My point is that if you think the resentment about the top 1% is bad now, imagine how bad it will be when the rich have super-wizard powers and the rest of society does not. In 2014, a top one-percenter can blend in with the crowd. In ten years that might be nearly impossible because the environment will change as rich people enter the space.

I expect to be killed by an angry crowd in Macy's within ten years.

-----------------------------------------------

Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book

 



 
As promised, below are the reader submissions for an improved book cover for my book, How to Fail...

The images are small and fuzzy because my blog software was invented in the sixties. I hope to have that solved soon. But it probably doesn't matter for this purpose because I'm looking for your visceral reaction. Assume the text is the same on all versions.

Do any of the proposed covers look better than my original that appears at the top of the list?





                                                      Lilam at 99designs


-----------------------------------------------

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of this book

 

 

 

 
I call my generation the Shit Sandwich Generation. That's because when I was a kid the most important people in the family were the adults. That was the cultural norm. By the time I became an adult, eager for my time in the sun, society in the United States decided that kids were the top priority.

I can see why the shift happened. Life got complicated, and dangerous, and more competitive, so it was no longer feasible to raise "free range" kids the way my generation was raised. On weekends as a teen I would leave my house in the morning, on my bike, and had no obligation to check in with my parents until dinner at 5 PM. I often say I was raised by television. Like E.T., I watched actors on TV to see how one should act and speak. I was in my twenties before a Princeton-educated friend pointed out that "brang" is not a word.

My entire college preparation in high school was comprised of one meeting with a guidance counselor in which he showed me where the college catalogs were stored, plus one day of SAT testing. The rest I had to figure out on my own.

So my generation is sort of the shit between two slices of awesome bread. We take care of the kids. We take care of the aging parents. And sometimes we take care of the grandparents.

Both of my parents died in the past few years. My grandparents were already long gone. And as fate would have it, last year I got separated, which meant losing my wife and step-kids all at once.

Sounds bad, right?

I got a lot of sympathy last year. Man, was that misplaced.

No one would choose the situation I found myself in, but I recognized it as a rare blank slate. I was free to reinvent my social life in any fashion I liked. And I had resources to do just that.

My wife moved only a block away and we remain best friends. The problem was never our feelings for each other but rather the restrictions of blending two sets of preferences. In 2014, marriage is still the best economic arrangement for raising a family, but in most other senses it is like adding shit mustard to a shit sandwich. If an alien came to earth and wanted to find a way to make two people that love each other change their minds, I think he would make them live in the same house and have to coordinate every minute of their lives.

A hundred years ago, if you and your wife enjoyed square dancing, you had everything in common. There weren't any options to discuss. Those were simple times. But fast-forward to 2014 and every human wants to go a different direction. You want to take spin classes and I want to go golf. You want to do yoga and I want to go to the gun range. Every minute of every day involves one or both partners compromising. This is a first-world problem to be sure, but the effect is to rob you of your sensation of freedom. Members of the shit sandwich generation can go a full week without doing anything they choose to do at the moment they choose to do it. The kids need something right away, your spouse needs something, your boss needs something, and the house needs maintenance, and so on. The Shit Sandwich Generation is like puppets that have strings coming from above, below, and every side.

So there I was a year ago with a blank slate, no strings, and an option to create a life from scratch. It was a rare opportunity. The first principle I established for my engineered life involved recognizing that one person would never be the answer to all of my needs. So I looked at all the things I enjoy doing with other people and sought out the right people for those activities. The result is that no one is ever compromising. I only spend time with people who are doing what they want to do when they want to do it. And wow, does that make things nice.

Another pillar of my engineered life is full disclosure. I try to be honest about what I want from people. That's a bigger deal than it sounds because life is normally full of hidden agendas, especially in the man-woman realm. Going into this experiment I thought my honesty would be off-putting. But it turns out that people prefer the flawed and honest version of me over my more "managed" personality. I did not see that coming.

The third pillar of my experiment is releasing my expectations about others. I try to enjoy people for what they are willing to share, as opposed to resenting people for what I thought they should be doing and aren't. I could write an entire blog post on this topic, but for now let's say that if you have unreasonable expectations of other people they will continually disappoint you. But if you can learn to find joy from whatever people have to offer, life is like a candy store. Most people are givers, but they don't want anyone telling them what to give. Once you accept that reality, life is far more pleasant. Obviously this arrangement doesn't work within marriage because marriage is mostly a bunch of unreasonable expectations you put on each other.

Another thing I didn't see coming is that there are now more single than married people in the United States. That snuck up on me. So loneliness is more of a choice than a necessity in 2014.

I'm still early in my lifestyle experiment, but this past year was the most fun of my entire life. No other year comes close. My ex and my step-kids are still nearby and in my life, so that part is good. And the life I have engineered so far is nothing short of wonderful. If I told you what a typical Tuesday looks like for me these days, you'd cry.

I don't think traditional marriage is going away anytime soon. But it probably isn't a coincidence that there are more single and divorced people than ever. Traditional marriage is the biggest obstacle to happiness in the United States. I give it twenty years before society acknowledges it to be a bad fit for modern times.

In the future I think you will see organized groups of "friends" that share duties to make all of their lives easier. One friend might enjoy raising kids and hate working a traditional job, so that friend stays home and does childcare for several single parents in return for a share of the collective income of the group. That is just an example, but you can see how one might engineer a better system than marriage.

If you disagree with anything I've written today, look around the next time you are on vacation. When you see couples vacationing with friends they usually look happy. When you see a married couple having dinner together - just the two of them for the ten-thousandth time - they both look like they came from a funeral.

Marriage is probably a great solution for 20% of the public. The rest of us need better systems.

-----------------------------------------------

Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book


P.S. Apparently someone can be a certified genius. ;-)



 
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