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If you go back just 25 years ago, plagiarism was hard work. One had to go to the library, find sources to copy from, retype those sources and then turn them in as their own. By the time one does all of that, they are a large part of the way to doing a non-plagiarized assignment so there was little benefit to risking punishment and shame.

Plagiarism isn’t necessarily about picking out the wheat from the chaff; it is about copying other peoples work without referencing or acknowledging it.

Whether it is Nick Simmons facing allegations of plagiarism in his comic book, plagiarism in crossword puzzles or accusations of plagiarism in photography, plagiarism is a problem in nearly every single field where creativity is valued.

You might think the one area of academia that would be safe from plagiarism is the research and discussion of plagiarism itself. You’d still be wrong.

In 2017, a paper published in Saudi Arabia on the factors leading to plagiarism, as well as suggested remedies, contained plagiarism. In 2015, an Indian paper presenting guidelines for plagiarism was retracted for, once again, plagiarism.

While such incidents are still very rare, especially when stacked up against other areas of research, even the research of plagiarism is not immune to plagiarism.


Incase it wasn’t obvious, I didn’t write a single word of the post above. The first paragraph was from a 2011 article from plagarismtoday.com, the second from an article by Zack Whittaker for iGeneration, and the closing paragraphs were plucked straight from a blog post on Turnitin’s website (the academic plagiarism checker my university uses).

Our ideas, once posted, are no longer safe. But when you’re giving them away, it’s hard to be bothered by anyone stealing them.

We associate the quantity of choice a person has available to them with the amount of freedom that person possess.

Freedom is good. Therefore, we assume that choice must also be good – and to an extent, it is. However, there’s a turning point at which our freedom to choose from a growing list of options no longer increases our level of happiness. In fact, over saturation of choice can actually diminish our happiness.

In the early 2000s, a scientist name Barry Schwartz popularised this idea with a challenge western society’s obsession with generating freedom through an ever increasing number of options.

Image result for paradox of choice schwartz

After conducting multiple studies, he wrote a book called The Paradox of Choice which argued that while abundance of choice provides some short term satisfaction in the moment (and keeps us coming back for more), the more options a person has available to them, the less likely they are to be satisfied with the result of their choice.

To demonstrate, imagine that you have to choose between two restaurants. You have no way to look at the menus, but you know that the first restaurant features a menu with four main courses, while the second has sixteen main courses on theirs.

Which restaurant are you more likely to try?

Statistically, you’d probably go with the second, and there’s a lot of sense in this; if there’s four times as many main dishes at the second restaurant, there’s a better chance that they’ll have a meal perfectly suited to your taste.

At first glance, it makes logical sense to give yourself as many options as possible. We are hardwired not to limit ourselves, even when it comes to something as basic as dinner.

But when we take a closer look, Schwartz’s paradox of choice comes into play.

He discovered that in circumstances where people had to decide between an outlet with more choice versus an outlet with less, it was true that those who opted for more choice, the ones who went to the second restaurant and scoured over the ingredients in all sixteen dishes before finally making a decision, reported being more satisfied with their choice than those who limited their options and made a quick dinner selection. But only by a tiny margin.

What’s fascinating is that while the group who went to the first restaurant didn’t think about the choice again, when asked about their decision after the fact (once the meal was over) those who went to the second restaurant started to second guess the choice they made. Their satisfaction, despite being mildy higher at the time of consumption, took a hit once they started to consider all the options they opted not to choose.

As our options increase, so do our expectations that we’ll be able find the perfect option.

The more options we have to forgo when making a choice, the higher the possibility that we’ll make the wrong one.

More choice does not equate to more happiness because choice itself is a double edged sword.

When we are constantly saturated with choice, it’s not uncommon to experience choice paralysis. A sensation which often results in no choice being made at all.

While sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, we have a lot more control over the choices we present ourselves with than we feel like we do.

Do your best to find a balance.

When we ruminate too intently on the pains our future might hold, we experience a portion of that pain in advance.

People with empathy internalise the pain of others when they witness suffering. It helps us to connect, to understand one another, and to care for eachother.

When making a decision, we usually consider the effect it might have on others. In doing so, we are essentially imagining future versions of the people our decisions may effect, allowing us to empathetically consider the potential outcomes of our actions.

We are so good at this that we usually do it intuitively.

I don’t take an online yodeling class at 1:30am because I can imagine that my neighbours (and their baby) might find it difficult to sleep in the presence of such glorious sound.

Unfortunately, there is a little glitch in this otherwise wonderfully human system; we can’t help but also imagine ourselves as a future person. We possess an inescapable and often rather concerning future self.

Anxiety is the pain we absorb while empathising with our future selves.

Harbouring a bit of this pain is sensible, but too much acts like poison.

We consider people ‘anxious’ when the pain they are experiencing in advance is disproportionate to the actual risks their furute presents.

“There are more things … likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”

Seneca

Your anxiety is as useful as it is actionable.

If you can’t do anything to address a concern, there is zero gain in accepting preliminary pain on your future self’s behalf.

You’ll have to deal with it when your future self arrives at the worrying destination, so what sense is there in experiencing the pain twice?

Getting stuck empathising with future you is dangerous because this process feeds upons itself.

Once painful worrying becomes a habit, you might find yourself worrying about the worrying.

All of a sudden, your introspective empathy has turned toxic, and you’re so caught up inside yourself that you can barely muster the energy to look out.

Illustration by Catherine Lepange from Thin Slices of Anxiety: Observations and Advice to Ease a Worried Mind

There is no simple fix to this cycle.

It’s a grueling, often shameful, thing to break.

But it can be done.

I suggest starting with one of these:

Perfecting a technique ensures that you’ll be able to execute it perfectly from a distinct starting point.

But what if you never find yourself at that starting location?

Perfecting a system ensures that you’ll be able to execute a move from every starting point possible.

As you become proficient in a technique and begin to practice it; you learn about the counters to the technique and how to prevent them; the set-ups, the angles and preconditions required to execute the technique; and the principles which apply to the technique, and to your opponents reaction.

The implementation of these counters, set-ups, angels, preconditions and principles is the systems based approach to learning Jiu-Jitsu.

A Jiu-Jitsu system endeavours to define all possible scenarios within the system.

Mastering a system maximises your chances of submitting you opponent once you have them within in.

For example, you can have the best swinging armbar from guard on the planet, but if your opponent would rather be triangled than let you cross his arm over your centre-line, you better have a good triangle set-up too.

Having an incredible armbar is worth nothing compared to having an incredible guard which includes a great armbar.

It took me a while to realise this, so for those of you just starting out; apply a systems based approach. Don’t just ask your instructor how to execute a technique; ask how, why, when, and when it doesn’t apply.