The Detached Zen Argument For Gun Control (Using Multiple Mental Models)

December 19, 2012

(Photo source)

I want to do a thought experiment combining some of the new things I’ve learned.

1. Charlie Munger’s idea of using multiple mental models from a wide range of fields when tackling challenges.

2. Idea of looking at the world without emotion. Being detached. This is one way to operate, as practiced by Zen, Buddhism, Taoism, etc.

And I’m going to use the idea of guns as the medium to work out these thoughts since it is very relevant to current events happening here in the U.S.

What are guns?

If I were an alien observing humans (without any feelings one way or another on the subject), I’d recognize that guns are a tool that naturally evolved over the years.

Humans are very fragile creatures. We don’t have long claws or poisonous glands nor can we fly or breath underwater. We use our brains to create tools. (This mental model/idea I learned from the Steve Jobs lost interview).

So I guess back in the caveman days, we wanted to eat. But most animals were bigger than us or faster. We can’t fight them one on one, so we needed to use tricks to get them.

a) Maybe a large hole covered with leaves and trick them into falling into it.

This takes a lot of effort and luck. It’s a hassle. Plus the animal may not have died by the time it lands in the hole, so we have to kill it or wait it out.

Another option: Chase animals off a large cliff. Again, hassle to find large cliffs and wrangle these large beasts to head that way.

b) Poke them w/ sticks

This evolves into spears that can be launched from far away. One spear may not kill a large animal, so we need to work together to launch multiple spears.

Many animals have tough skin so it’s hard to pierce them. Plus, if we didn’t hit major arteries, the animals will probably run away and live for a while longer.

c) Darts

Same idea. Much more compact & easy to use than spears. Can aim for the neck or other vital area where death is quicker.

d) Upgrade: poisonous darts

This gives us a large margin for error (mental model from investing: via Ben Graham/Charlie Munger/Warren Buffet).

Instead of being super lucky & skillful with a regular dart and aiming for a tiny artery, we can use a poisonous dart which will kill the animal regardless of where it hits.

e) Upgrade: Gun

A gun is just a more powerful dart throwing machine.

Instead of relying on how strongly we can blow into a dart tube to make it go (which is limited to our lung power!), we can create a contraption that takes our breath out of the equation.

A gun uses gunpowder and whatever else to propel a dart farther.

f) Upgrade: Bullet

Bullet is just a more powerful dart. A dart is like a needle that pierces the skin. It has it’s flaws.

It’s not that useful against thick skinned animals. Plus, darts can’t go thru walls or or armor. So now we’re talking about using these darts not just to hunt for food, but against other humans who try to kill us.

So we can create a better dart. One that’s made out of metal (or whatever bullets are made out of). It’s thin, aerodynamic, travels farther and is capable of piercing thru almost any material.

g) Upgrade: Gun w/ multiple bullet storage

It’s a hassle to load a gun during battle. If the gun could hold multiple bullets, it saves us time and makes us more efficient.

h) Upgrade: Gun w/ multiple bullet storage + auto/quick reload

Another evolution. The faster a gun can fire, reload & fire again, the more powerful we are against our enemies.

And by now, bullets are powerful enough to pierce thru almost any material and we don’t have to worry that much about aim. Just get it into the ballpark area, and the bullets will do the work.

Plus we have so many bullets loaded that missing one shot isn’t as devastating as missing one poisonous dart we spent weeks creating.

Ok, so by now we all get the idea of how this works.

What started as darts has now quickly evolved into one of the most powerful weapons man can use.

Evolution is just natural. Humans are great at thinking and creating tools to create a competitive advantage ala moat (again, Warren Buffett & investing).

Why do people love guns in America?

I came here from India, so I don’t really know the answer to this. I have some theories.

2nd amendement allows citizens the right to bear arms.

This must have been so that we can create militias and potentially overthrow a corrupt government.

Though nowadays, this idea, while great, isn’t as powerful as when created back in the day.

Guns aren’t the most powerful weapon anymore.

We have bulletproof material, nukes, tanks, warplanes, drones, cyber warfare, biological weapons, elite trained police, army, CIA, FBI, etc.

So while we may fantasize about the idea of overthrowing a corrupt government, we are all powerless against these elite weaponry.

Are we all just powerless then?

So here, let’s use couple of other mental models:

i. Law of attraction/we create our own reality

I can’t prove this other than my own subjective personal experience & the teachings of other philosophers.

But if we really can create our own reality, then we need not worry about creating a situation where it comes down to citizens having to use guns against a government capable of nuking us to smithereens.

We can switch to a parallel reality where we are safe & happy.

ii. Fear of death

In case law of attraction isn’t strong enough, we can still use death as a mental model.

We are all afraid of death, otherwise we wouldn’t care about corrupt governments or even dying.

We want guns to protect ourselves from others who may have guns.

And what are guns again?

Just a powerful dart that can quickly kill anything.

It’s the most efficient & low cost way to kill multiple enemies fast.

But what if we weren’t afraid of dying. And we knew that life never ends even after death. And that we are all one anyways. And that life continues forever and we can choose any time to come back from the spirit world into another life experience?

I know, where is the proof?

This is just another mental model adopted from law of attraction, buddhism, hinduism, psychedelics, shamans, meditation, near death experiences, lucid dreaming, out of body experiences, etc.

It’s just a model, a philosophy of living. It could be true (or not) and I would bet it is.

But forget if it’s real or not, it’s a pretty powerful and self-empowering philosophy.

And why should we choose to believe this? Simple, the mental models from positive psychology explain this better (hint: mental model of optimism vs pessimism)

We often estimate things to affect as far worse or far better than it really will.

In psychology, smart people figured out that most humans believe their lives will be destroyed if something bad happens to them. If you lose your job, get a divorce, lose an arm, become blind, someone in our family dies, go to prison, whatever.

They’ve done studies and found that humans are amazingly capable of adapting to their situation.

Even if something bad happens, it’s only temporary. Eventually, we’ll go back to our happiness setpoint, whatever it was before the bad event happened (mental model from positive psychology).

Pessimism & Optimism are also mental models

Positive psych has figured out that we are all genetically born with a happiness setpoint.

Some are naturally more optimistic while others are programmed to be pessimistic.

I read that 50% of our happiness set point is genetic. 10% is due to circumstances (death, divorce, winning lottery, etc).

The remaining 40% is open for cultivation (meditation, having a close social circle, helping others, etc).

Sources: The How of Happiness. Happy. Happiness Hypothesis. Learned Optimism.

There is no reality but the one we are experiencing. And that reality can be changed. (mental model: law of attraction, new age thought, bruce lipton, etc)

We can choose to be more optimistic or pessimistic.

A lot of gun buying/owning is due to being pessimistic, in my opinion.

Why humans don’t want to give up guns

A lot of pro gun people love owning guns and never want to give that up.

I get it. It must be intoxicating to possess one of the most powerful tools humans have ever created to kill another living thing.

There is also the idea of self preservation. No one wants to die. Maybe if we can arm ourselves, we can live just a bit longer.

These are fear based mental models. Lack, fear, scarcity minded. I’m not judging, just trying to be objective.

If we believe that the government will be corrupt, our neighbors will try to break into our house, and we only live one life – then we’ll be motivated to do whatever we can to protect ourselves and our families. This is natural.

But there is really no proof any of this will happen. Sure we can look at the past or what happened to other people and think the same may happen to us.

But in reality, we can’t trust what we hear, read, etc. We only truly know one reality: ours. A lot of people tell their version of the story but it’s always biased (mental model from psychology).

True reality is different from perceived reality. And each one of us has our own distinct perceived reality which a soup of genetics + circumstances + our actions.

There are happy people in this world who are safe, prosperous and don’t need to own guns. They really do exist. And there are others who own tons of guns yet still live a miserable life. And the day where the guns are needed never occur.

And owning tons of guns doesn’t make you feel any safer. It probably makes you more paranoid and pessimistic, always being on the lookout for a reason to use the guns.

Last mental model: one from binge eating & dieting

I obviously have a master’s degree in binge eating habits.

And for the first time ever, I’m going to use what I’ve learned from emotional eating to argue why owning guns is a bad idea.

Before I go further, let me just say one thing I heard in the news. A Bush advisor recently commented that to prevent future school shootings, we should arm all of our teachers. Seriously one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard in my life.


Because we’ve already talked about how guns are the most efficient, low cost & powerful killing tools we humans have created, right?

Ok, with that out of the way, we need to admit that we are nearly not as rational as we claim to be.

There is a mental model that says that our brain is composed of multiple brains. The triune brain model.

There is a reptilian primitive part of our brain that works on animalistic instinct.

Let’s start from the beginning. I’m a binge eater. I used to be, at least. For the past 3-4 months, not so much. But for about the previous 20yrs, yes.

I’m an emotional binge eater. Whenever I’m excited, happy, sad, depressed, angry, whatever, I crave sugary/salty/fatty food.

As much as I can stuff my face with.

Cookies, candy bars, sugary soda, cakes, brownies, gulab jamuns, baklawa, whatever I can get my hands on.

And this reptilian part of me doesn’t care what time of the night it is or how lazy I am.

I could be too lazy to get out of bed to walk 5 feet to the bathroom to pee. This happens to me on a daily basis.

But if the right emotion hits, I will automatically get out of bed, put on clothes, make myself presentable, walk downstairs to my car, turn it on, drive to the nearest 24hr convenience store, pick out all of my favorite sweets, walk up the cash register with credit card automatically out, make perfect small talk w/ the cashier, get back into my car, do the reverse process and end up back in my bed & commit an orgy w/ the snacks.

Even when I’m dieting, I used to buy those 100 calorie pack twinkies/cakes/etc. All I have to do is stick to my caloric limits and I should be fine (outdated calories in calories out dieting model).

But the problem is that there is no one stopping me from eating more than one 100 calorie twinkie. If I’m emotionally charged, I will have rummaged thru the whole box in one sitting!

This is where my rational mind knows better but my animalistic mind has taken control of the truck. He is the driver now and I’m just a passenger, watching hands stuff my face w/ sugary processed treats.

Do we get that more guns are a bad idea?!

So arming students or teachers or parents is not the solution. It sounds like it is during rational talk. But when we get riled up, all rules are out of the window.

There have been times when I was picked on in middle school where I would get super upset that I would nuke the bullies houses if I had the power!

Being picked on day after day is not fun. It seems like it’ll never end. And I’m lucky I didn’t have any weapons near me. I would have loved to carpet bomb all the bullies to oblivion. But alas, the only weapons I had back then were my fists and they were like feathers compared to the bullies’ iron fists. So I just kept quiet & tried to live day by day.

Do we get it???

Even if the guns are locked up, during emotional times, we will figure out a way to get our hands on the weapons. Plus, our kids are smarter than our generation anyways. They can crack your computer passwords without even trying, why do you think they can’t figure out a way to get to your gun collection?

Do we really think teachers are magical beings without emotions? No, they get mad, angry, upset just like the rest of us. They are not above their reptilian brains.

We are all apes walking around in human suits.

We have to recognize that we are all animals.

We pretend we’re these civilized people, using proper grammar, punctuation, politeness, wearing ties and whatever. But if push comes to shove and there is an armageddon, all rules are out the window (mental model from Lord of the Flies).

The solution isn’t more guns.

It’s less guns.

And less powerful guns. It’s hard to kill 30 people w/ a spear these days. Or even a knife. Or even a dart. But it’s super easy with an auto reload machine gun capable of holding multiple bullets.

And we have to get over the belief that people who go on shooting rampages are just “evil” and that the rest of us are “good.”

No, that’s often not the case (mental models from Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty + Breaking Bad).

Why? Classifying someone as evil is absolving the rest of us from responsibility. There is no such thing as pure evil.

It’s usually just regular humans making one small poor decision after another thinking we’re doing it for overall good. We are all irrational animals ruled by a host of powerful chemicals known as emotions.

Anyone can be pushed over the top, under the right situation. We can all lose our cool.

When we do, it’s best we are not near nukes or guns because we’ll use them.

And we as a society bear responsibility. We have to set the right guidelines and rules and make sure we are all ok (mental model: “no man is an island”).

One of those rules should be regular dumb emotional apes like us shouldn’t be able to easily buy guns from the same place as diapers! (walmart!)

Why is it so easy to buy one of the most destructive tools humans have ever created yet it’s so hard to renew my driver’s license at a dmv??

Anyways, I’ve said enough. I think you get it. We all get it. There is no way in hell the solution is for everyone to own guns, including school teachers. That’s just absolutely insane.

Less access to powerful guns. Can we all just agree to this and get on with our lives?