What is a tall poppy?

Updated Jul 24, 2019

A tall poppy is a person who is perceived as doing better in some way, compared to the person with the perception. It can be one-to-one comparison, or it can be a group of people targeting one person.

Tall poppy syndrome is contextual.

I have spent time in an environment where someone who just graduated with a bachelors degree is the shortest poppy in the room. And have also spent time in environments where, simply being a first-year uni student would constitute being perceived as the tall poppy.

I have spent time in a low-wage, part-time job at a university, as the lowest employee in the department (e.g. washing test tubes in a lab, etc). And have spent time in other environments with chronic non-workers who would perceive me as a tall poppy for that (or any) job. Although they didn’t quite envy the job, but rather, envied the paycheque that they imagined.

Some other mind-blowingly petty tall poppy experiences:

  • They suspect you of earning more than minimum wage, forty hours per week. Even if they know this is due to working harder.
  • You don’t smoke cigarettes (or anything else).
  • You don’t have any unplanned children.
  • You live someplace other than the town where you were born.
  • You get passing grades in an educational course.
  • You have never received money to have sex with strangers.
  • Somebody projects a fantasy that you possess resources that you actually don’t.
  • Somebody projects a fantasy that you possess situational advantages that you actually don’t.

Some people answer questions regarding tall poppy syndrome with a defensive excuse that, it is only directed towards people who act haughty, and flaunt high levels of success or resources. But that is not true at all.

Merely giving simple, polite answers to someone’s personal interrogation about the above-listed matters is enough for them to target you. Merely existing while they project the above-described fantasies is enough for them to target you.

How do pathological liars convince themselves their lies are true?

Answered Jul 10, 2019

They don’t necessarily “convince themselves their lies are true”.

The mechanism seems to be…

“I want you to do, give, or tolerate Such-And-Such-Thing, And think that a certain claim will induce to to so, if you believe it. So I will push that at you”.

It is important to note that, sometimes, the thing they want is control. Many, many people feel a lack of control over their lives. Some will desperately look for control opportunities, even those that don’t actually benefit them.

If they lie, and you believe them, then they can feel control. Even if they don’t benefit in any practical or tangible way. Some will lie to manipulate (“Oh, I love you”), including lashing out to induce you feel bad. There are actually people who will claim to hate you, when they really don’t have any opinion of you, at all.

They often have poor ability to predict whether the lie will work. Or whether lying will reduce your future willingness to believe them.

Some will do an approach of multiple different angles. Where, the first lie doesn’t work, and then they move on to the next lie (which might even contradict the first). Hoping to find the lie that you will believe.

Their perception of whether their lies are true, just isn’t on the radar. It is about saying some words, to expect a certain result. The pathology is the failure to realistically expect a connection between the words (lies) and your response/actions.

Users of stimulant drugs (cocaine, amphetamine) are notorious for constant, compulsive lying. I wonder if some non-using liars have some kind of natural brain chemistry similar to that induced by those drugs.

Why do we believe everything the scientists say?

Answered Jul 9, 2019

Originally Answered: Why do we still believe everything scientists say even if sometimes the fact changes?

I don’t believe everything scientists say.

There are a few different levels of my acceptance of scientific claims.

  • Common sense. Some “scientific” claims are clearly bogus on this basis.
  • The source (person). There is no law about who can label themselves a “scientist”. Different people have different backgrounds in terms of education, work, and reputation. It also helps if I personally know the scientist (i.e. those whom I have had as university lecturers).
  • The source (institutional). I have confidence in the science that is taught at university, because it tends to be already well-established information. However, a seemingly official-sounding organisation that I haven’t heard of before might turn out to be religiously and/or financially devoted to promoting bias, and/or snake-oil.
  • The source (publication). Academic textbooks from large publishers tend to contain already well-established information. Academic journals have a range of reputations, and certain of them have high standards, peer-reviewing, etc. On the other hand, books and magazines for the general public may be far less reliable.
  • My own background knowledge. While that is greater than most of the average public, it is still relatively general as far as I am concerned. Also, it is mainly in biological fields, while having very little knowledge of physics or mathematics. It is valuable in at least trying to comprehend what someone else is claiming, in certain fields, and comparing it to other information available. Along with looking at how well the scientist is able to support the claims.

Scientific claims, conclusions, and theories are not objective facts. They are ways of interpreting, explaining, and summarising data. They are vulnerable to anything from inadequate technology, to innocent error, to lack of thinking things through, to unconscious bias, all the way to deliberate fraud.

What can change is progress in obtaining new data, or more data, or more detailed data. Or progress in being able to look at things differently, either technically, or in terms of thought processes. Potentially leading to different claims, conclusions, and theories.

If mankind hit a maximum population limit, will we resort to “population control”? Or will we have enough time to expand to other worlds before it gets to that point?

Answered Jul 5, 2019

First, you can forget about the “expand to other worlds” idea.

Space travel is hugely expensive, in money, technology, and time. It is a major set of problems just to get a car-sized machine to the Moon or to Mars.

For humans, space travel is also dangerous, from launching a rocket, to landing, to the reliance on life-support systems, to the long-term effects of low-gravity, radiation, and living inside vehicles, stations, etc.

If you go to the Moon or Mars, you need to bring all of your resources with you, to last your entire stay. Hugely expensive to get it all there, even for just a few days visit. Uncrewed resupply craft are expensive, take a long time to reach Mars, and might crash or otherwise be lost.

Changing the atmosphere on the Moon or Mars (so you could go outdoors without a spacesuit) would take enormous physical resources, and centuries of time, and may be physically impossible. Temperatures and radiation may also be insurmountable issues. Living permanently inside protective structures would be extremely expensive.

As I understand it, chemical analysis of Martian soil suggests that it might be impossible to ever grow plants or fungi in it.

There are fantasies of geological mining of the Moon and Mars. Which would require hugely expensive machinery and other resources, which make Earthly colonisation and resource-extraction (e.g. centuries-past North America and Africa) look cheap and easy by comparison.

Forget about the other planets and their moons. Heat, radiation, pressures, toxic gasses, planets made entirely of gasses, or solid but really cold planets and moons.

Forget about ever visiting any planet outside our solar system. The distances are too great, the expenses too high, and the timeframe too long.

So, back to the real world…

Maximum population is contextual, in place, time, and technology.

This was described back in 1798, by Thomas Malthus. The idea is that, population control is a natural, universal mechanism, affecting all life-forms.

Malthus observed that, population numbers increase based on food supply. This can be plants with plentiful space/water/nutrients, herbivores with plentiful plants available, or carnivores with plentiful prey available. It can also be humans with increasing agricultural efficiency and technology.

While microbiology wasn’t understood in Malthus’s time, the principle includes single-celled organisms, which have a common growth curve of increasing exponentially, and then leveling off.

The population will increase to the contextual maximum, where everyone is just barely obtaining/producing enough to survive.

Then, there are two suppressing scenarios:

  1. Something reduces the food supply at some level of the food chain or food web. It could be an especially harsh winter, or an extended drought, or a disease of plants or animals. Starvation ensues.
  2. The food supply remains stable, but the population compulsively keeps reproducing/expanding, and overshoots the supply. Starvation ensues.

This may be cyclic. Food-suppressing events like weather and diseases will occur either yearly, or repeatedly over a longer timeframe. Humans improve technologically, overshoot the population, and suffer until the next big improvement.

There may be hard, regional or global upper limits on food production, fresh waters, etc. Where humans will never be able to improve efficiency past the Earth’s “carrying capacity”.

Another suppressor is communicable diseases.

Increased population leads to increased crowding, leads to increased disease transmission. Anything from the medieval plagues to the 1918 influenza could replay. Global warming may increase the geographic range of malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

High-intensity farming (to feed the current overpopulation) may increase the risk of microbial diseases of plant crops and animal livestock, leading to famine, and starvation of humans.

Another pressure is interspecies and intraspecies competition. A slightly more efficient (for the particular environment) species may out-compete other species, who may then starve. Animals – either individuals or groups – may compete with others of their same species.

The highest level of this is human warfare, which is always (either overtly or thinly disguised) economically motivated. Humans fight over farmland, water, or natural resources (oil, mining, forestry, fishing) which can be used or sold. Which ultimately leads to food and other means to support the population numbers of a particular country or tribe.

Even losing sides can do great damage. This includes ancient retreating armies pouring NaCl salt onto the ground, to impair future farming use, up to modern retreating armies setting oil wells on fire.

Conflicts which are ostensibly about religion or ethnicity are really just using those characteristics to organise and motivate groups for economic competition over natural resources.

In warfare, both sides will have many people killed, or die from degraded conditions, including starvation, diseases, etc. The losers may be completely genocided.

Warfare can be a means of increasing one’s own tribal population. However, it can also result in mass burning-off of surplus impoverished young males (i.e. “cannon fodder”).

Another aggressive angle is China’s “one-child policy”. It seems abusive and micromanaging, but the alternative is, ultimately, mass starvation. China has a mismatch of a high percentage of the world’s people, and relatively low percentage of the world’s farmland.

A gentler angle is advancements in contraception technology and distribution of it. Personally, I strongly support government efforts for free, easy contraception to anyone and everyone who will accept it. Anything from handing out condoms to offering cash payments for welfare recipients to get long-term implants or permanent sterilisation.

All of this sounds somewhat unpleasant to some people. But those people cannot imagine how unpleasant things would be with 20 billion humans on the only planet we will ever have.

And, lest anyone think to accuse me of any kind of hypocrisy or snobbery… I am childfree, never wanted any sprogs, and going to stay that way. At an age and condition where I actually do know what I am talking about on that.

Can emetophobes work in healthcare?

Answered Jun 28, 2019

“Healthcare” is a wide field of job descriptions.

However, if you mean direct care of patients who are either hospitalised or in long-term-care facilities, then you will need to deal with the full range of bodily fluids.

That includes their vomit. Including you having to clean it up. Including them suddenly spraying at or on you.

It also includes suppressing your own urge to vomit. Such as during frequent close encounters with their vomit, their faeces, and their various other fluids, smells, and sights. And yes, some of it will eventually end up on your clothing, and on your bare skin.

Preferably, it also includes being kind, compassionate, and reassuring to them, in those moments when they may feel so humiliated and embarrassed.

Regardless of one’s aspirations, the hard reality is that, if you aren’t prepared to deal with disgusting bodily fluids, then you aren’t prepared to physically care for sick people.

Why do people have more children when a big family is financially not viable?

Answered Jun 28, 2018

Originally Answered: Why do poor people have many children even though they cannot afford to raise them well? · 

A few reasons, which relate to each other.

  • There is a pervasive assumption that, everyone has children. That it is just an automatic part of a standard, universal life-trajectory. This assumption is present all across the economic spectrum. I have met adult women who acted confused upon encountering a middle-aged person who simply didn’t have any kids. Lack of desire to have them, lack of a spouse/partner, lack of support systems, and lack of money just weren’t seen as meaningful factors.
  • Having children at an early age (e.g under 25) is highly conducive to being and remaining poor. The existing child impairs the parent’s (usually the mother’s) ability to work in paid employment, or to pursue higher education.
  • Peer pressure from other young people making bad reproductive choices.
  • Lack of positive role-models, such as women who were able to better their lives by not having any children early (or at all).
  • Poor people may have received low-quality education in high school, including basic sex education.
  • There may be some correlation between poverty and religion. Which may degrade sex education.
  • Assumptions of being able to rely on extended family for money, housing, food, free childcare and other resources. A related point is some cultures (e.g. pacific islanders) have a combination of high poverty rates, high reproductive rates, and willingness to cram excessive numbers of people (including multiple related families) into crowded, unhealthy housing.
  • Assumptions of being able to rely on the baby-daddy for child support payments.
  • Poverty is correlated with having unstable relationships, which may include the aforementioned baby-daddy (or multiple baby-daddies) failing to contribute financially. Thereby perpetuating the poverty for the single mother and children.
  • The unstable relationships may lead to the idea of bonding with the current partner by having a child together, despite having children from previous relationships.
  • Lack of planning and self-control is conducive to being and remaining poor. And is also conducive to having unplanned children.
  • Poverty recycles, with numerous mechanisms. Including the intelligence impact of poor nutrition, maternal smoking/drinking, etc. This may lead the poor child to grow into an adolescent or young adult with poor planning and self-control, leading to another generation of poor children.
  • Some of the answers here mention that, contraception is too expensive for poor people. However, if you cannot afford contraception, then you certainly cannot afford multiple children. It comes down to self-control.
  • Plenty of children are conceived after the parents-to-be have had a little too much alcohol, and aren’t thinking very clearly. This applies across the economic spectrum, although problematic alcohol consumption may somewhat correlate with poverty.
  • Magical thinking, and black-and-white thinking, regarding actions→consequences. The person has unprotected sex repeatedly, without any resulting pregnancy. They then conclude that the two things aren’t really connected. Or may assume themselves to be infertile.
  • Lack of anticipation of how severely a child will restrict their lives.
  • Lack of anticipation of how much a child costs to support.
  • Availability of welfare benefits. Including multi-generational welfare dependence, and social environments where such dependence is normalised.
  • Pervasive social attitudes that it is somehow oppressive (or at least politically incorrect) to openly state that people shouldn’t be having children they cannot afford.
  • The first unplanned child is generally the one with the largest life-derailing effect (e.g. inability to work or pursue education). After that line is crossed, having an additional child isn’t seen as having as much incremental effect. So there may be less motivation to avoid having additional children.

Why do some intelligent people fail to achieve their potential?

Updated Jul 20, 2019

In no particular order…

Some intelligence is simply ability to memorise. As measured by regurgitating facts on exams. And exams don’t necessarily translate into the “real world”.

Some intelligence is very focused. Such as a person who can write very fluently, but struggles with mathematics that are related to the topic.

Some intelligence is technical, while lacking interpersonal skills/aptitude.

Feeling intimidation and Impostor Syndrome. That can escalate to be deadly (and I mean that literally, and have witnessed it).

Bullying from other people (e.g. employer or supervisor or colleague who sabotages you).

Bullying includes pervasive “tall-poppy-syndrome”, which may come from everyone around the intelligent person.

Money. University funding is fairly generous where I live. But it is still limited. Funding for postgrad study, or scholarships are limited.

Low supply of highly intelligent people, but even lower demand. There are people with PhDs doing the lowest jobs (literally burger-flipping and such) to put food on the table.

Poverty. Some kid from an impoverished background may be a genius, but will be sabotaged by that. Even if they go to university, I have been acquainted with two postgrad students who separately resorted to being homeless (as in illegally camping) while studying. And there are plenty more, in many places.

Drugs (including alcohol). High intelligence may incline people to seek out “evolutionarily-novel” stimulus. I’ve witnessed this one up close and personal.

Intelligence involves questioning. Which involves embracing ambiguity and doubt. Science is all about seeking through questioning. That can lead to a paralysing doubt of one’s self.

Raising the bar. More intimidation and Impostor Syndrome.

And last but not least…

A world full of stupid people. Who feel entitled to all of the things produced/done by intelligent people. While acting with mind-boggling contempt and open hostility.

Why do pathological liars lie?

Answered Jan 16, 2019

I’ve known some severe liars. People who were so bad that literally nothing that they said, about any subject, could be trusted.

Some reasons:

  • They want something from you (money, sex, drug-enabling, etc), and think that lying will manipulate you into complying. It may sound logical, but they often use obvious lies, without rational anticipation of the lie’s chances of working.
  • They want to avoid consequences for their bad behaviour, which was also pathological. Again, some of these lies are obvious.
  • Lying as a shortcut to social status. This can include the common boasting about money, accomplishments, etc. It can also include boasting about the cool things that they are “going to” do in the near future. They want that status and admiration immediately, without having to take the time and energy to do the work involved. I once had a neighbour who loudly boasted about how she was “going to” quit smoking and start up a healthy lifestyle, expecting immediate admiration. She almost forgot that she had a cigarette in her hand at the time. And no, she never quit or, exercised, or ate healthily.
  • A related point is trying to seem like a more interesting person. Out of fear that honesty will result in being perceived as a boring loser.
  • A related status issue is lying to a social clique or other group to push someone else down the hierarchy, as a way of reducing competition.
  • Constant fantasising. And saying things (sometimes quite casually) as if the fantasy were reality. Including things that are physically impossible.
  • Fear of the truth, with desperate attempts to avoid facing it. They lie partly in order to convince and comfort themselves.
  • Lying out of embarrassment over revealing what they really think. Such as holding bigoted attitudes, but refusing to admit it. Or having competition-based envy and hostility, but claiming that the hostility is due to the target being dysfunctional or bad.
  • Making up “rules” for how everyone else “has to” behave. Including in friendships, sexual relationships, workplaces, etc, etc. They don’t claim that it is their personal rules. They claim that, there are simply universal “rules” of all human interactions, which are coincidentally whatever they think serves them, practically or emotionally.
  • Minimisation. Claiming that their bad behaviour wasn’t really so bad, so you don’t have a position to object, or to impose consequences. Also, minimisation of the importance of other lies. Such as, “That was a white lie, so you don’t have any right to stop trusting me over it”.
  • Repetition. If they keep repeating it over and over, you will get tired of the conflict that you allegedly cause by refusing to believe them. And will be worn down into actually believing them.
  • Failure to anticipate any limits to your willingness to trust them and to continue interacting with them. No matter how many times you have caught them lying, they assume that you will stick around, and will desperately try to see them as trustworthy. They think that your desire to trust them is just as infinite as their inclination to lie. Including when they tell the same lie, yet again.
  • A related point is, “This time it’s different”. I once had someone repeat a previous lie, admitting that it had been a lie before, while insisting, “That was then, and this is a different time. So you have to trust that I am telling the truth this time, and don’t have the right to judge me for the previous time”.
  • A related mechanism is trying new angles. They will tell a lie, and you refuse to believe them. Then, they will immediately tell a different lie, which contradicts the first lie. They think that they can can just try a series of different lies, until they find the one that you are willing to believe.
  • Another related point is using your empathy or your desire to “help”them with their bad life situations (which are the result of their own bad behaviour). They assume that your empathy is endless, no matter how much they abuse it (and you). They try to use your empathy to keep you involved, while convincing you to buy into their definition of “help”, which is really enabling of their bad behaviour.
  • They are confident that you cannot prove that they are lying. Including when they lie about the content of previous conversations between the two of you. Or even things they said earlier in the same conversation.
  • They want to lash out. They will come up with anything to say that they expect will hurt you emotionally/psychologically. They may even admit this, to try to avoid consequences (e.g. you abandoning them).
  • Stimulant drugs. People using cocaine or amphetamine are notorious for compulsive lying. If they have been using for some time, they will compulsively lie even when they aren’t under the influence at the moment. Even other addicts (e.g. to sedating drugs) view these people as bad news.
  • Dominance games. If they lie, and you believe them, they have dominated you.
  • Desperation to pull you down into their loser mentality. I once had an acquaintance who insisted that, no employer will ever pay any employee more than minimum wage, so it is stupid to put forth any extra effort or skills. They claim they are trying to “help” you to avoid wasting effort, when they are really motivated by frightened envy/competition.
  • A related point is trying to minimise anything good in your life. They will lie to avoid the feeling that you may be winning some kind of competition. Including when you have zero interest in competing.
  • Covering up their ignorance. They don’t want to admit that they don’t know something, so they invent some convenient-sounding pseudo-information about it. This includes insisting that they know better than you (even if you have substantial relevant knowledge and experience).
  • Just world hypothesis. They are afraid of vulnerability, so they insist that, bad things only happen to those who deserve it. And look for ways to apply that to a given situation where someone else experiences adversity or victimisation.

What all of this comes down to is desperation for control. And desperate people do dysfunctional and often blatantly unworkable things.

Facing how things really are is like surrendering. Lying that things are some other way, is an attempt to control the situation.

Facing the fact that you won’t/don’t believe them is like surrendering to you. Lying with you believing them, means controlling you, even if there is nothing practical to be gained.

Why do doctors wait until chronic medical conditions such as high blood pressure or blood sugar become acute enough to cause damage before they will begin treatment? Why not start treatment with lower dose medications before damage begins?

Answered Jan 7, 2019

There are two angles here. Which relate to things other than blood pressure and blood glucose.

First, some patients are actually over-paranoid about minor symptoms or indications on tests. And some of them use “Dr. Google” to encourage that paranoia.

Also, some patients are negligent, and have behaviours which cause/encourage their medical damage.

Second, there are doctors (with actual legit medical degrees) who are cavalier, and even incompetent, to the point of compromising patient safety/health/lifespan.

I have personally witnessed a situation where a very informed/knowledgeable patient faced a dismissive and ignorant doctor.

The patient tried to explain major issues in her medical history, and the doctor didn’t seem to comprehend. And also failed to write down basic things like medication use, while denying the patient’s concerns about side-effects. Which are actually mentioned in the information sheet included with the prescription pills. And which the patient had studied by reading legitimate scientific journal articles (because she is actually a scientist).

That doctor failed to comprehend the timeframe of the symptoms, and ordered tests, which the patient (who has a degree in a relevant field) knew were irrelevant.

A different, actually-relevant set of blood tests came back with alarming numbers (with the patient’s eyes bugging out as she read it). And that doctor dismissed it as, “Some people are out of range, everything is just fine for them”. Without mentioning that, only 2.5 percent of the population is in that group. And getting a creepy tone when the patient said that she would compare the recent readings with some previous ones.

And, speaking of creepy, that doctor got a creepy tone when the patient requested further tests for a viral disease which may have been sexually transmitted (although she was later cleared on that).

That patient was also bullied by a nurse at the same clinic, trying to convince her that she is in menopause, when she knows otherwise.

The patient was told that, her physical symptoms aren’t real.

She wasn’t trying to scam sympathy or pain meds. She was trying to stop vomiting.

That patient is now awaiting evaluation for a potentially life-threatening (and actually rather common) condition. And won’t be seeing that doctor again, unless necessary to pick up results from a referral (N.B. this is the New Zealand public heath system). Delayed diagnosis and treatment increases the danger of an emergency arising.

There is an enormous culture of condescension towards patients, by medical professionals. They assume that you couldn’t possibly know anything about how the human body is put together, or how it works. They assume that you don’t know your own medical history, or your risk factors, or your symptoms.

Some of them simply don’t listen when you try to give them important information.

Also regarding the NZ public heath system, we have waiting lists here. This became a political issue 10 or 15 years ago, with excessive time frames. The government solved that by kicking people off of waiting lists for examinations and procedures. Just to make the lists look shorter and more efficient.

They have actually told people that they aren’t sick enough, and to reapply when their problem becomes worse. Which for some, will inevitably happen, increasing the chance of complications, emergencies, and fatalities.

How can all the complexities of creating a human being be encoded in just 2.3 gigabytes of DNA data?

Answered Jan 7, 2019

A few issues here.

The information in the human 46 chromosomes is fairly large. Some of this is recycled programming that has been selected for efficiency for billions of years. Basic things like bilateral symmetry body plans (Hox genes), or like glycolysis (a standard series of enzyme reactions), have been refined towards using the least possible resources. The least possible base pairs and protein machinery. Although some things are still obviously kludges and cobbled together.

Processes that were “invented” by bacteria, worms, and insects, going back three billion years ago, are still present in humans.

Some genes have more than one possible product. Their RNA transcripts have multiple possible combinations of exons, known as alternative splicing.

Each individual human also has Epigenetics. On a basic level, this is what tells your liver cells to be different to your skin cells. They all carry the same 46 chromosomes, but the different cell tissue types express the gene sets differently. This uses manipulation of DNA, and also manipulation of histone tail charges.

This starts with cell division, when some proteins have a higher concentration at one end. And that end divides off to become a differentiated type of cell.

A muscle cell and a liver cell and other cell types all contain your full genome. The difference is in which genes are actually expressed (turned on and triggering production of proteins).

Epigenetic changes can be completely normal and basic and necessary. But, sometimes can be hazardous, and caused by exposure to toxins or other things, including malnutrition and psychological stress.

In addition to epigenetics, there are also transcription factors, which look for certain types of genes that are needed at a given moment. They may be triggered by stimulus at the cell membrane, and then go to the nucleus to turn on production of some product that is needed to respond. This is an area of those cobbled-together kludges.

The most complex thing about humans is consciousness, including emotions. It seems unfathomably complex and mysterious. Like A, C, G, and T couldn’t possibly add up to that. But it’s really just an egotistical illusion based on molecules.

My guess is that, the question-asker (or other people who think of this type of issue) may be thinking of spiritual/religious ideas and direction. And I’ll admit to contemplating biology, and seeing it as magical. But it’s more important and realistic to admit that we are just really complicated machines.