Episode #94: The Thrilling Conclusion of our Trip to QAnon

We kick off today’s episode with some well-deserved grammar corrections. Then it’s a trip to Walmart as I recount my COVID vaccination experience. Finally, we wrap up our two-part series on QAnon with a look at guided apophenia — the tendency to see connections or patterns between unrelated things. Oh, and then there’s the dog. Today we’re connecting the dots on the CXM Experience.

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It’s the CXM Experience. And I’m Grad Conn. I’m feeling chipper. I’m feeling enthusiastic. I’m feeling vaccinated. That’s right, I got my vaccine this morning had a really interesting experience that I’m going to talk about. But I’m not going to do that quite yet. First, I’m going to take care of some housekeeping.

So, I have some avid listeners, which is great. And to all of you who are listening on a frequent basis, thank you very much. It’s been great to know that you care. It’s been great to get the feedback. And I’ve been getting some pretty good feedback on my grammar. Which I welcome. It’s great. I love it. Thank you very much. And so, I’m going to go through some grammatical corrections.

First one came from our story about the captain of the Concordia, and he’s the one that ran the ship aground in a drive-by grounding, I guess that would be the only way to describe that particular situation. And so let’s talk a little bit about my pronunciation of an island, and I called it “Jiglio.” I think I called it “Jiglio.” And I’m sure anyone who’s Italian lost their mind, including my CRO, who thankfully doesn’t actually listen to this podcast. But I have gotten some corrections.

So right now, what I’m going to do is… I still don’t know quite how to pronounce it. I’m not quite there yet. What I’m going to do is I’m going to actually do it live. A very thoughtful listener sent me a quick Italian lesson in terms of how to pronounce the islands name. And we’re going to do it together. I’m going to queue this up here. And you can listen in while I learn how to pronounce the name of the island I called Jiglio. And it’s not even close. I wasn’t even half right. I’m not even… literally I pronounced zero of the actual characters in the name correctly. A new record for me actually. So here we go. It’s actually pronounced Giglio… Giglio…Giglio… Hang on a second, the dog’s going wild. I’ll be right back.

Oh man. Hester lost her mind. Everything’s under control. Okay. Emergency averted. Package has been dropped off at the door by UPS. I never miss a package these days. My lovely dog is not going to miss a trick.

All right, so I’m going to try this again. I got completely interrupted. I think I was getting it. I think I was getting really close. So I’m going to try it one more time. I’m going to start from the top again. Give myself a really good chance of making sure I get this island name correct. Giglio… Giglio…Giglio…  I think the trick on that is I think the first G is like a “she,” almost like a “j-ish” sound and then I don’t think that second G is being pronounced. And then the O is like oh. Giglio… Giglio… Okay. I think I got it. I won’t make that mistake again. Listen, everyone who lives in Giglio, I’m super sorry that I got that wrong. I’ll never call it “Jiglio” again. Wow, that must have sounded horrible.

So apparently a few other things that I’m doing wrong. I’m saying “um” too much. So I’m actually trying hard not to say “um” as much, and ummm… I’m going to… I did that deliberately, but I am going to try to say that less often. Then, etc, is pronounced, et cetera. So I must be saying “excetera” or something like that. I must be slurring it a bit. So et cetera. And it is apparently commonly pronounced with the “t” being replaced by a hard “c” before the second cetera which begins with a soft c. So et cetera is commonly pronounced with the “t” being… Oh, I see. So et cetera Oh, I should be saying et cetera and I am saying “excetera.” Interesting. I see. Okay, And it apparently is a Latin word, and it means “and the rest,” which makes sense to me.

And then apparently, I am saying “lackadaisical” incorrectly. Because it’s not “laksa-daisical,” it’s lackadaisical. There’s no “s” in there. I don’t know why, I thought there was an “s” in there. I’ve been saying that my whole life. So, lackadaisical. That’s going to require some reprogramming, but I’ll work on that. So anyway, thanks to all the listener who wrote in. I love that I’m driving people insane with some of the things I’m saying. Now I know what to say when I really want to get people worked up. I’ll just be like, hey, there’s a bunch of brands who are really “lacksadaisical.” Ummm.

And then apparently, I’m also saying things like, “there’s always going to be people who,” and I should be saying “there are always going to be people who.” So I’m using “is” instead of “our,” but I’m using “is” as a form of contraction. I don’t know where “there’s” got into my vocabulary, but I am going to blame my last boss who was from Oklahoma and got me saying y’all and a bunch of other stuff. And I’ll just say, that’s on you, Allison. Okay, so I’m going to work on that one, too.

And then I’m also currently saying “brands who,” I probably say “brands” a lot. So “brands who.” I really should be saying, “brands which,” because the relative pronoun “who” refers to people and the relative pronoun “which” refers to things, and the relative pronoun “that” is interchangeable and may refer to either people or things. I tend to think of brands as people, that’s probably why I’m saying “who,” but correctly, they are actually things. So, I should be saying “which.” On it.

What are we doing next here? Let me talk about the shot I had this morning. And it’s starting to hurt., and I’m starting to feel a little weird. So I’m just going to put that all out there. But it was great experience. I’m in Florida right now. I rotate back and forth, but I am in Florida, which is my home. And got a “you’re up next.” And off I went. And went to Walmart. And at Walmart I had quite an interesting experience. First of all, I’ve never been to a Walmart before. I know it sounds weird, but I’ve just never been to a Walmart. I’ve never been inside a Walmart. So my very first trip to Walmart was to get my COVID vaccine shot. I got the Moderna shot, so I have to go back in 30 days, and that will probably my second trip to a Walmart.

I got treated incredibly well by the staff. They were really superduper friendly. We checked in. It was a really quick check in. I had to show proof of residence and a couple other things. All that went very smoothly. Sat down in this train of chairs, four chairs lined up in a row. I sat in a chair three, and then they called me… it was it was moments. I don’t even know if it was two minutes. And went in, a wonderful nurse gave me a needle. I didn’t even feel it. Like it was just unbelievably easy. It was incredible. And then she made me, or asked me, to actually wait for 15 minutes. And in those 15 minutes, Rachel managed to fill an entire shopping cart. Thank God, it was only 15 minutes. If it had been 30 minutes we would have been in big trouble. But in 15 minutes Rachel raced around the store like some kind of episode of Shopping Spree. And then I seemed to be okay, and they let me go.

It’s very interesting, kind of a neat revenue model for Walmart because they got me to go into a Walmart for the very first time. I really enjoyed it. I didn’t actually understand… well, anyway. I’m going to sound like an idiot if I’m talking about Walmart this way. Anyway, it was great. I had a good time at Walmart, and bought 90 bucks worth of stuff, and would definitely go back again and shop there again. So, great.

And they gave me a little box. Had some popcorn in it and had a little chew tablet, and some coupons, and instructions on how to take care of yourself. A QR code on the outside to enter a contest. The whole thing was fabulous. And couldn’t have had more fun. It was great. I get my second one in a month. End of March, I guess, early April, and then I am done for this year. And I guess we’re going to have to figure out how to do this on an annual basis. So that was my customer experience story for COVID vaccine.

Now I want to wrap up something I started last week. And this craziest of podcast episodes that this one is, I think this is appropriate that I pull the shutters tight on our discussion around QAnon. I’m going to actually refer to an article, which I will post on my blog. If you’ve never been to my blog, it’s CopernicanShift.com. I’ve talked about Copernican shifts on this podcast. The basic idea being that our mindset is the key block to innovation. Copernicus didn’t really invent anything, he just simply said, hey, what we observe, which appears that the sun is going around the Earth, may not be true. In fact, the Earth may be going around the sun. And that simple shift in perspective unlocked the entire scientific revolution. And we are all listening and talking to each other right now on these devices because of Copernicus. So I’m a huge fan of Copernicus.

He’s also Polish, I’m Polish. He’s from the same area of Poland that my grandparents are from, which is kind of cool. And he was an unbelievable gentleman scholar, Renaissance person, really had a tremendous amount of… what’s the right way to describe it? A variety of interests, a tremendous variety of interest. If you want to read about him, there’s tons about him online, and it’s really worth it. Anyway, CopernicanShift.Com. You can go there, you can see this article.

The article is called “A Game Designers Analysis of QAnon.” Subtitle is “Playing with Reality.” And it’s written by Reed Berkowitz. He has what I think is a really interesting article. And it touches on some of the stuff that I was talking about with QAnon. I was likening them to a Doomsday cult. They were calling for dates, and then they needed to update their dates when the date didn’t happen. I was leaning out there a little bit on March the 3rd when I did that podcast, boldly predicting that Trump would not be re-inaugurated on March 4th as QAnon and his followers believed. And sure enough, I was right. How about that. Should have put some money on it, but no one was willing to take my bet.

Anyway, he has a more detailed and thoughtful analysis than then my Doomsday cult analysis. Basically, he’s a game designer. And he’s worked in most of the game formats, like alternate reality games, which are ARGs. LARPs, experience fiction, interactive theater, and so-called “serious games,” in quotation marks. And LARPs, if you’re not familiar with it, is a live action, role-playing game. Think of Dungeons and Dragons as being one of the earliest ones. It’s not the first. But it came out of genre fiction in the 70s. The very first one, and no one is 100%, sure, but they believe is something called “Dagorhir,” which was founded in 77, and focused on fantasy battles. And there’s actually an association, and there’s a society, and a whole bunch of stuff for LARPs. We’re not going to spend too much time on that right now. But that might be a good topic for a future podcast.

Anyway, when he saw QAnon, and he saw the way it was structured, he actually — Reed, who wrote the article — felt that it was a game that plays people. QAnon is a game that plays people. And people have referred to QAnon as an ARG or a LARP. And it actually uses many of the same gaming mechanisms and rewards. And in fact, QAnon has a game-like feel to it. Anyone who’s ever played an ARG, or any kind of LARP, would notice the striking similarities. And the difference is — to shed the light on how QAnon works — because although it looks like a game, it feels like a game, it’s a little bit different. In fact, it’s inverted. That was his take on it.

He has a really interesting story where he talks about guided apophenia. One of the very first experience fictions he designed, the players had to explore a creepy looking basement looking for clues. And the object they were looking for was barely hidden, and the clue is fairly easy. He describes it as Scooby Doo easy. So he didn’t expect any trouble in that part of the game. But there was trouble. And the trouble was something called apophenia. Apophenia is the “tendency to perceive a connection or meaningful pattern between unrelated or random things, such as objects or ideas.” And this is true. People often will equate two separate actions or two separate moments as being related. And then ha!… this is what’s actually happening. And this is where conspiracy theories come from.

Apparently, in the game that he designed, as the participant started searching for the hidden object, on the dirt floor were little random scraps of wood. And how is that a problem? Well, it’s a problem, because three of the pieces made the shape of a perfect arrow pointing right at a blank wall. It was uncanny. It was accidental, but it was uncanny. And it had to be a clue, according to the players. So the investigators stopped looking for the easy-to-find object and stared at the wall, and were determined to figure out what the clue meant. And they didn’t go a step further until they did. The whole game got derailed.

Then then it got even worse. Since there was obviously no clue there, the group decided that the clue they were looking for was in the wall. And the collection of ordinary tools, they found conveniently lying around seem to enforce their conclusion that this is the correct direction. So then, they obviously took the tools and went at it. And so he stared in horror, because it fit so well. And in fact, the apophenia moment, was actually better and more obvious than the clue he’d actually hidden. He thought that was sort of funny. He fortunately had a crude backup plan. and he used it quickly before well-meaning players started tearing apart the basement wall with crowbars, looking for clues that did not exist.

So the idea of game design is that there are actual solutions to actual puzzles. And there’s a real plot created by the designers. And it’s easy to get off track because there actually is a track, right? So a great game runner, the puppet master, can use a couple of these speculations to create an even better game. The plot can be adjusted in real time, but it always has to stay on its track. You can create amazing moments in the game, but it’s not easy to even go off the track. You have to stay on it. For example, he could have entombed something in that wall where they accidentally thought a clue might be, but he was out of luck, because he couldn’t do that. And so, if you’re a designer and you have puzzles and you have a plot, then apophenia is a wild card you have to be concerned about.

QAnon, according to Reed, is a mirror reflection of this dynamic. In QAnon apophenia is the point of everything. So, in a game, you’ve got scripted plots. In QAnon there are no scripted plots. There are no puzzles to solve as created by game designers. There are no solutions. QAnon is essentially all apophenia. Essentially growing on the wild misinterpretation of random data, presented in a suggestive fashion, in a milieu designed to help users come to the intended misunderstanding.

“Guided apophenia” would be the phrase that Reed would use. Guided, because the puppet masters are directly involved in hinting about the desired conclusions. Or preceding the conclusions of these random, non-associated facts, and constantly letting the player get lost by pointing out unrelated random events, and creating a meaning for them that fits the propaganda message the key was delivering. This whole false flag scenarios that are constantly being cited. Anytime anything happens, false flag, false flag, false flag, meaning, every single event can be seen as being something deliberate.

You should read the rest of the article. It really is something else. And I think he’s done a great job of understanding what it looks like and how do you deconstruct this with AI. But in a way, he talks about it as essentially a groupthink engine, led by puppet masters to create connections where no connections exist. Very interesting.

And I would say the thing I’d love to talk to Reed about, is if you think about March 4… the only difference between that March 4 date was that it did feel like it was a guided path there. So it felt like more of a guided path than typically QAnon follows. And obviously it was so current. I wonder why they decided to choose that. And maybe they did it as a way of creating more random events. I have not delved into QAnon very deeply over the last few days. But the fact that it didn’t happen on March 4 must be an interesting fodder for why it didn’t happen. And more false flag events, and more random occurrences, et cetera, et cetera. Do you like the way did that? Built in my grammar lesson right there.

Alright, so that’s it for today. That was kind of a fun rock and rollin’ podcast today. You got a chance to hear Hester in action. You know I can never be surprised. We got to talk a little bit about grammar and ways I need to pronounce things and not be so lackadaisical about my grammatical pronunciations. There are many other things that I want to talk about today, for example, my vaccination. And finally, we’ve wrapped up our exciting two-part series in QAnon, who I will probably never, ever talk about again.

And for the CXM Experience, I’m Grad Conn, CXO at Sprinklr. And I’ll see you next time.