J.D. Moyer

sci-fi writer, beat maker, self-experimenter

Month: November 2011

Overstimulation and Desensitization — How Civilization Affects Your Brain

Your brain on civilization.

One way to think about our own brain, personality, and physiology is to consider our sensitivity levels to various neurotransmitters and hormones.  Being desensitized or oversensitized to various aspects of our own chemical control systems will drive our behavior and emotions.  This happens whether we’re aware of it or not, so we might as well try to understand what’s going on in our brains and endocrine systems.

Most people who live with artificial light, electronic devices, internet connections, abundant food, processed foods, and other conveniences of modern life will eventually experience some degree of being “out-of-whack” in terms of neurotransmitter and hormone sensitivity.

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5 Skills You Need To Thrive In Modernity (That Nobody Bothered To Teach You)

Modern life requires unusual skill sets.

Like rats and pigeons, human beings are highly adaptable, flexible animals.  As a species we inhabit some of the coldest and hottest parts of the planet, as well as all the temperate zones.  Most of us live in cities, some of us make a living from subsistence farming, and a few hang on to traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyles.  Within those broad categories, we have created a stunning array of diverse cultural customs, political systems, economic and production modes, and civic institutions.

The one constant of modern human life is an accelerated rate of cultural and technological change.  This is true not only for those of us who live in cities and use computers; most remaining traditional hunter-gather societies are being forced to change just as rapidly because of climate change, environmental destruction, and interactions with technology-using cultures.  In traditional and modern cultures alike, each generation is growing up with different sets of opportunities, challenges, and cultural landscapes.

It wasn’t always this way.  Humans practiced a variety of hunter-gatherer lifestyles for tens of thousands of years with little, if any, change from one generation to the next.  The change to an agricultural lifestyle was momentous, but in most cases it happened gradually, over a number of generations.

With the Industrial Revolution, and more recently the advent of computer technology, the rate of cultural change has accelerated immensely.  Not only does each generation live differently than their parents, but today’s modern human must learn to live a completely different lifestyle multiple times within a single lifetime.

My parents remember a time before there was a television in every house.  I remember a time before there was a computer in every house.  In my late teens and twenties I learned how to make music with computers; something that was only done by technologically elite experimentalists ten years previously was now available to the masses.  A few years later I learned how to build and program databases.  An arcane skill once practiced only by guys in lab coats with advanced engineering degrees was now available to a kid just out of college with no formal technology training.

Technological change doesn’t just create new opportunities for individuals, it also creates and transforms (and sometimes destroys) entire industries.  Record labels, companies that make film (like Kodak), newspapers, and book publishers have all been forced to radically reinvent themselves (or perish) because of technological change.  People with specialized skill-sets working within those industries can find themselves not only out of work, but without skills for which there is any demand in the new markets.

If the only constant is change, what skills should we teach our kids?  And what skills, or meta-skills, should we focus on in our own lives to stay culturally relevant, economically viable, and sane?

Since my own culture is “western modernity,” more-or-less, that’s what I’ll write about.  The list isn’t meant to be culturally universal, or definitive.

5 Skills Needed To Thrive Within Western Modernity

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What Is "Self-Branding" Anyway?

One approach to self-branding.

There is an enormous amount of confusion about the topic of self-branding, and much of it, until recently, has been in my own head.  I’ve delayed writing this post for over a year because I knew that “self-branding” was important, but I didn’t understand how or why.  Lately I’ve come into some clarity on this topic.

“Self-branding” doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with how your website looks, what clothes you wear, or how you are perceived by the general public.  In fact, you don’t even have to have a public personae to effectively self-brand.

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