So, I’ve been doing a lot of home improvement lately. My life, largely divided between having my nose to either a laptop or a book, has prepared me to find out how to do any task in record time–in theory. Give me a few minutes and I can find out how to–in theory–install a cardiac shunt. That’s from a starting point of not knowing what a “cardiac shunt” is or even if it’s a real thing. The problem is that this background has in no way prepared me to interact with the physical universe. (So while I can find out everything one needs to know about cardiac shunts in a short period of time, and even probably understand [or look up] all of the arcane language in the scientific journals, I wouldn’t offer me $100 to install your cardiac shunt if I were you.)
I ramble. So I know how to optimize my search terms to find out how to do exactly what I need to do. Then I watch the video and I’m filled with great confidence, having seen exactly how easy it is. And then I wallpaper myself to the wall. The whole time the experts in the video are doing the task, they are filling my head with false confidence. “See how easy that was?… People think this requires an expert, but…”
It occurs to me that this might just be a strategy by such experts. My training as an economist invariably leads me to ask one question–from an economist’s perspective it’s the root question about any human behavior. That question is, “What’s the incentive?” What is the incentive for a professional wallpaper hanger to make a do-it-yourself video? We don’t see travel agents (if such mythical creatures still exist) doing videos on how to use Orbitz, Kayak, or Travelocity. My training as a human has led me to be skeptical of munificence in all its forms. I think the strategy is to build false expectations. If one went into a home improvement chore knowing that it was going to be a hellish nightmare, one would have the right state of mind to get through it. However, if one thinks it’s going to be easy-peasy, then one ends up ripping one’s hair out and creating holes in the wall for an expert to–lucratively–repair.
That’s just one theory. I have others. Now, I know that you are familiar with the common adage, “It’s a poor workman who blames aliens or Hindu deities.” Still, I can’t help but feeling that the wallpaper hanging experts in the YouTube videos had extra appendages that I couldn’t see due to some sort of psychic block or CGI erasure (i.e. like when they take the wires out of kung fu movies.) It’s my contention that one would have to have extra arms, like Vishnu, to keep the paper that straight and perfect as it’s applied. At one point I thought I’d made a breakthrough in string theory when I saw my wallpaper curl into more than three dimensions simultaneously, but it may have just been rage-induced brain hypoxia.
So why would multi-armed aliens, or Vishnu, make home improvement videos? How should I know. I can speculate that Vishnu might enjoy practicing Shakti, which–as I understand it–is the ability to make the impossible possible, the impossible in this scenario being effortless wallpaper hanging. The aliens might just be testing whether our species has the fine motor skills to challenge them in their impending takeover.