Monkey Logic — A Light Take on the Dark Patterns of our World

Why are people so angry?
Why are people so stupid?
Why the hell did she/he/it just do that?

The answer is Monkey Logic. We are not sanguine sages or intellectual titans. We are messily evolved amalgamations of ad-hoc fixes collected over Billions of years of hard-knocks trial and error. We have high expectations for the world, but Sanity and Rationalism are human inventions. Truth does not equal Beauty. Madness, money, and monogamy are our own psycho-cultural inventions; emergent tokens; semiotic short-hand heuristics for the recurring patterns of reality-

One man’s sanity is another man’s bat-shit crazy.

- case in point, for some, my use of a gendered noun will mark me as a moral degenerate and legitimate target of whatever heinous acts the mob considers appropriate this week for infractions against its shifting and arbitrary taboos.

My wife crochets. Small baskets for keys, square boxes for change, and recently, awesome little bags perfect for when she’s baking and doesn’t have a place for her iPhone while she listens to the Joe Rogan podcast. After early skepticism and perhaps a little good-natured criticism, I converted. Last week I asked to borrow the bag - I wanted to use my wired, noise-canceling headphones to listen to the Joe Rogan podcast while hoovering. It was at this point she decided she might just have a viral hit on her hands…

She set off to set up an online store but quickly stumbled into a thread of Etsy artisans bemoaning the introduction of advertising on the platform. I shuddered when she told me. As an author, I am a long-time sufferer of Amazon’s dubious practices. I know how the introduction of advertising forces authors to buy-in or fade-out. Products stop being surfaced according to quality and popularity as creators are forced to cut further into their profits to buy visibility. It becomes a race to the bottom fueled by a constant influx of hopefuls willing to accept selling loss-leaders in exchange for making it big somewhere down the road…

Etsy, Amazon, and their like, obviously love this model. Of course they do. They are no longer limited to a cut of platform sales. When they started shaking down their ‘tenants’ for protection money they unlocked a whole new revenue source.

“Nice line in hand-made socks you have there… it would be a shame if some upstart with deep pockets and a fresh pair of knitting-needles was to move in on your turf…”

Etsy is a publicly-traded company. A very large chunk of this ‘quaint little hand made goods store’ is owned by capitalist hegemons who are far from quaint; think BlackRock and Vanguard. If you are not familiar, these are among the world’s largest and most successful investment companies. Shares are massively disproportionately owned by the richest members of society. (The wealthiest top ten percent of people own more than ninety percent of the shares).

So what we have here are the most affluent elites - the billionaire hedge-fund oligarchs - shamelessly turning the screws on the smallest most humble workers. How much can anybody make selling socks or charming crocheted bags? Not a lot, but it’s about to become a lot less. My confident prediction is that in most cases it’s going to end up being less than nothing.

The slum-lord-monopolist-kleptocrats are bulldozing the dreams of their residents to squeeze out a little more value. It is not a victimless crime. True, some platform denizens are merely playing, slumming it by pretending to be an artist. They can cope with paying a bit more each week for their hobby, but there are livings being made in these digital ghettos too. The single mum who makes a little extra money making and selling baby mittens to help pay for winter warmth will just have to knit her family thicker hats.

On the upside, it’s good news for the Klepts. If they can press just a few more drops of sweat from each of their disgusting peasant tenants, they can manage to fill their penthouse infinity pools.

Do the super-rich really need more?
Clearly the answer is no, but they want it.
Monkey Logic.

They are really good bags with universal approval from our friends, she has gifted many, but you will never find them because she’d rather languish in obscurity than capitulate to a shady protection racket.

A Drake Equation for Hard Science Fiction

In an effort to estimate just how astonishingly rich and famous I am going to become from my Sci-Fi writing, I decided to calculate the potential readership of my books; a sort of Drake Equation for Hard Sci-Fi.

Let’s look at the terms:

R, Number of technically advanced readers
This is the magic number we are looking for; the higher the better!


p, Rate of people formation on Planet Earth
As I am new to the market, I don’t need to rely on new people being born, let’s just make this easy and go with the current population of the planet. We do need to remove kids,(25%) so I will go with a nice round 6 Billion.


r, Fraction of population who can read
As my books are not translated into other languages, here we need to restrict ourselves to those who can read English. 20% of the world speak English, and of these 75% can read (as with the actual Drake Equation, these figures are estimates). We are down to 900 Million. Looking pretty good! But, just to be on the safe side, I will wait a few more terms before putting in my order for a Lamborghini!


f, Fraction of readers where reading of fiction actually occurs
From studies in this area, averaging between men and women, it looks like approximately 50% read at least one book/year.


B, Number of books read per year by each reading individual
The numbers are getting less precise, but studying a few articles on the topic, it seems the average reader reports that they read about 4 books/year. About half of these are fiction.

Whoa! We are at 2.2Billion books/year. Forget the Lambo, I’m going to talk to Richard Branson about buying an Island!


fs, Fraction of books read that are Science Fiction
Here it gets tricky. We don’t have a very scientific classification system for genres. Some studies claim 25% of people read Sci-Fi, but these often lump in fantasy (which is clearly corrupt!). It seems that out of the ‘Speculative Fiction’ bucket, only 20% is actually science fiction.


fhs, Fraction of Sci-Fi readers who enjoy Hard-Science Fiction
We pair-down our readers again here. Of the remaining science fiction readers, the majority seem to head for Science Fantasy (Star Wars) or military space opera. Actual Hard Sci-Fi seems to be about 5% (based on a back of the envelope calculation comparing the sales rank between Science Fiction and Hard Science Fiction on Amazon)
We are still at 2.2 Million books/year.


ftw, Fraction who have heard of me (…or you if you use your numbers below)
Unfortunately, this is where things get nasty 🙁
My author page has 1000 likes on Facebook and I have 4500 followers on Twitter. So let’s say 5K out of a potential population of 900 Million. (It’s probably not quite as bad as this as many people will see my posts and tweets and not end up following me. There will also be some word of mouth, this probably scales non-linearly at some point.) To keep it simple that’s about 0.00005% of the population who have heard of me.

6000000000 * 0.2 * 0.75 * 0.5 * 2 * 0.25 * 0.2 * 0.05 * 0.0000005

Substituting these estimates and working through the equation, rounding to the nearest integer because I don’t think we can count half a person, we get 1.

One person.


I hope you bought your copy already!    😉



Literal ‘Maps of Meaning’

I’m currently listening to Sam Harris talking to Barbara Tversky. They are dealing with the roots (or maybe routes?) of human cognition. Very interesting stuff! I’d come across the concept of Grid and Place cells before, probably during a stint of random, omnivorous, browsing. Listening, it occurred to me that if the brain uses the same neural architecture to map concepts and meanings as it does locations and routes in physical space—which is what they are discussing in the podcast, hence the poor pun above—then perhaps this is why language fails so often to dissuade people of their existing misconceptions?

If the brain’s architecture treats ideas and physical space the same way… then once a ‘Map’ is internalized it may be very difficult to re-write?

You would have a hard time persuading me that a familiar river or mountain no-longer exists.

Things in the physical world do change, but slowly – or catastrophically for big important solid things. When these go, it tends to be in very tangible significant ways; like flood, fire, or eruption.

If this conjecture holds, it would explain why people are so reluctant to give up ideas which have become central, familiar cognitive landmarks in their lives.

Words are puny ammunition when used against solid real things like mountains.

Perhaps people need to see—or touch—their fallacies before they can learn?

On the bright side, rising waters and burning forests are both compellingly palpable events, so may prove very effective at disabusing people of their misconceptions.

See! It all turns out all right in the end! 🙂


If you enjoyed this short essay, please go over to Medium and give me a ‘clap’ or two…

More on Grid and Place cells:
“The two parts of the brain’s navigational system are roughly analogous to the split functionality of modern GPS units. Grid cells help to fix the individual’s coordinates, while place cells are believed to organize memories about specific locations. Ongoing research is probing the details of how grid cells and place cells work together.”

Sam Harris Podcast: