Ask A Genius 350 – Observation and Wisdom – Tabula Rasa Self-Experimentation
February 15, 2018
[Beginning of recorded material]
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: So, we are thinking about how to observe better, so we go to physics and then we move onto the general.
Rick Rosner: That’s the first step to coming up with things about what you are observing. However, being observant and coming up with new original observations is a starting point, it is a helpful ability to have for comedy, for science. What other fields should we talk about?
Jacobsen: Those are the two main ones. For comedy, for science and physics, it’s not helpful, as you know, to be more observant by being more reflective.
Rosner: Perhaps, you need to develop tools to knock yourself out of the standard way of experiencing things less consciously. Often, we let things wash over us. We are used to things. Sometimes, I play games to help me practice observing a world that I am used to.
Game one is to imagine that, woken up in the world I’m in with no information about it and what can I figure out about that world from looking at it, and also I’m not allowed to gather more information.
I’m not allowed to be caught. I have to go about my business as if nothing is different and I have to gather information via the information I’m getting while going about my business. Even though, I’m not allowed to look all around because in the game that would get me caught as somebody who is new to the world.
Instead, I have to maintain my non-suspicious demeanor. I still have to figure out where I am, when I am. Sometimes, I play the game in a persona of some specific person from the different era, like Ben Franklin or Marie Curie or F. Scott Fitzgerald.
I have to draw a conclusion as if I am this person. And, generally, you can only do this at a few minutes at a time before you forget that this is what you are doing. You must guess what year it is; you must guess that you concluded that it’s the future.
Is it a future version of your year or is it an alternate future? You have to try to suss out some of the technology that exists. If you are pretending to be Jesus, as I have observed a world, 2,000 years in the future or some other.
So, it is imagining someone from the past coming to the future and figuring out the world from that time. If you’re trying to observe a world 25 years into the future, you are in a car. You have to figure out how the car might work, how the radio might work, how the radio isn’t a bunch of little people in a prison, somewhere in the car.
Our comedies, playing the comedians, are going to be wrong about how the car works, about how the radio works because there are those millennia of intervening, of technology that you have no idea about.
However, you still must try to guess at what is going on. If you’re playing the video for Scott Fitzgerald, you must guess at why the car or the cars of today look like pieces of melted candy, as if you took the old angular cars or cars of the past and sucked on them for a while until they lost a lot of their corners.
So, it’s a game to increase, for very brief periods, your observation.
Jacobsen: How important is having memorized things before, so you have a database of experience and other previous observations?
Rosner: You are not allowed to use that; I am not allowed to go routing through what I know. If I am pretending to be somebody else who is suddenly awakening in my body. So, it is receiving on my sensory input.
I don’t have the power to go routing around in my memory for answers, except in a very approximate big way. I am a passenger. I’m not in charge.
Jacobsen: I get some images about how to see the world the way other people see it, or me, but if there is time travel, what about seeing the world, from someone in the same era, a different part of the world? In some ways, it’s functionally the same, in some ways it’s not.
Rosner: Yeah, that’s doable, but if you are seeing the world as someone else from a different part of the world then you’ve quickly concluded that it is the time that it is; it is that you are pretty much in the same era as you were when you were that person in a different part of the world.
So, if you are observing the world in America, while pretending to be somebody who had popped into your body from India, you have fairly quickly realized that you are in America, but you are driving around maybe and see a license plate of another place.
Or maybe, you see a TV. The TVs at my gym play videos. You may be able to reach conclusions by who is performing in the videos or could see a TV in a restaurant making a snippet of the news. But if you are pretending to be somebody from a different era, you may be able to make some guesses about how people are in this era.
Scott Fitzgerald could for our comedies because you are going to notice; people have devices in their hands that they interact with, either typing on or talking into. Fitzgerald would quickly surmise that those are some form of communication device.
Our comedies will too, but he would not have the idea of a telephone to work from. So, he may be drawing conclusions. At first, he may think that they are religious devices for people to worship something, or they are some talisman or fetish that they are praying to.
They must see one of those things up close, or see other screens in the world, in order to interact with information on the screens. So, that’s a game you can play to become more observant for a few minutes at a time.
[End of recorded material]
American Television Writer
Scott Douglas Jacobsen
Editor-in-Chief, In-Sight Publishing
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