December 27, 2005

Science: Making Money the Easy Way, Pt. 1

Not about science specifically, but about how rational thought can save your pocketbook, and perhaps more...

If I were just a little bit more dishonest, I might be a very wealthy man by now. Not a happy man, as my Significant Other wouldn't have married me, but a wealthy one. How so? Let me count the ways:

1) Alternative Healing. The worst (in my opinion) of the scams, it's frequently populated by people who are willing to delude themselves. Psychic surgeons, Theraputic Touch, Crystal salesmen, Faith Healers and Homeopaths all use this to convince others to hand over either money or glory to the practitioner. Most of these also use/rely on the customer's faith in God to confirm that if the healing doesn't take, then the patient was at fault for not being spiritual enough, either having an incomplete faith in God or otherwise sending off "bad vibrations" and ruining their one chance at good health. But, reluctantly, the healer may be able to try again for another meager stipend... May I suggest this wonder drug?

There are exceptions to the rule, however: The best (currently most popular) example would be Kevin Trudeau's "Natural Cures 'They' Don't Want You To Know About", which pimps his subscription-only website. The reason why he does this is because he's not actually allowed to sell a book proclaiming cures on infomercials, given his history. If he keeps getting into trouble with the FTC and fined considerable amounts ($2 million in one case), why does he keep pushing bad science? Well, that's because it sells: he spends almost $1 million dollars a week to get his infomercial on the air, so you can imagine what he's making in return.

Now, how does it sell? Look at the title of his book, and that will tell you all you need to know. Make people feel like they are in on a big big secret, and that gives a sensation of power: the old "I know something you don't know" tauntfrom childhood in adult form. In Turdeau's case, "They" is the government; all pharmacists; every pharmacological business in existance; and the entire medical profession. It is apparently no problem for the crowd he sells to to believe that none of the people in the aforementioned professions have families who may be sick with what he professes to "cure", so they're all perfectly happy to keep the secret under wraps.

Which brings us to the CIA.

2) Extrasensory Perception. Yep, age old ESP is certainly one way to go, yielding products like this little wonder pill that professes to "Surpass Human Capabilities by 3,000 Years!" That's right, not one, not two, but three thousand years! Meaning, I don't know, people in the far future will have ESP 100 times more powerful than they do now?

Quick math quiz: 100 x 0 = ?

3) Atlantis. Or crystals. Oh, my, yes: Atlantis can pump the mony out like you wouldn't believe, or at least like I have a hard time believing. Atlantis gets found about once every two years or so, but never quite seems to produce any actual artifacts or archaeology... unless you count these folks. There are a number of talkative dead folks from there, too, and all sorts of people who are willing to pay to hear them speak... Atlantis and crystals are so intermixed, they are virtually the same con: Atlantis used crystals to power awesome (but Earth-friendly!) technology, so crystals must be powerful, right? It just makes sense! Of course, once you accept that crystals are powerful and have wonderful abilities all on their own (as compared to actual use), they can come from anywhere. They are especially used in Alternative Healing (see above).

4) Talking to the Dead/Tarot/Palmistry. These use what is called "Cold Reading", which is all about using cues that the customer provides, usually unconsiously. With a combination of leading question from the practitioner and a lot of wishful thinking on the part of the customer, using this well should require as few questions as possible, and damn few direct statements that cannot be translated in at least three ways. Tarot and Palmistry at least have argeed-upon sets of rules that can be learned by anyone, so the "magic" comes in the translation of those rules. For example, should the customer be the most typical person, they will be female and either quite young (teens) of middle aged (40 or so). The first question should be probing, and it can be literally "Why are you here?" or "Is there something specific you wish to know?" In either case, questions should be made like statements. Question two would be something like this:

"There is a young man..."

Yes, that's a question, and the pause (there will be lots of pauses) will be to see what kind of reaction it gets, positive or negative. If it's the older woman, add the words " your past." Look to see if she's married (ring or ring indent), and if you want to be bold, you can also say "...but he's lost to you." This can be an old lover; a dead or missing son (or even one that's left home); a father who left or died when they were young; an abortion; or a miscarriage, which is a reasonably common occourrence (15-20%). Remember that the customer who visits one of these people is doing so for a reason, and will try filling in the blanks for the "psychic" as they go along. Disturbingly, the more emotionally distraught the person is, the easier the job becomes since the customer will usually start blurting out information at the slightest prompt; all the practitioner has to do is look sad and wise, nodding sagely.

Much the same start applies to men (opposite sex, of course - even gay men have mothers, sisters and sometimes daughters), but about a quarter of the time the question is about work, far more frequently than for women, which is why that opening question is so important.

Doing one-on-one readings are fairly safe, but for the sure thing you want to go with a crowd. For the best example of how Cold Reading in a crowd "works", go here for a 13-step guide. At it's heart, a cold reader can make more exacting guesses with a larger crowd than with a smaller one. For instance, one in fifty people in the audience (primed and desperate for miracles, remember) may have had an older brother die recently, but in an audience of two hundred that's virtually a lock, so they can go ahead and say "an older brother misses someone here..." instead of "a male relative misses someone here...".

There are, of course, many cons that do not rely on mystical ooby-goobies (technical term, that), and simple, rational thought will help with those, too. But that's for later. Now, I'm for bed, to dream of untold riches that could have been mine...

The Easy Way, Pt. 2
The Easy Way, Pt.3


posted by Thursday at 8:52 pm


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