Archives for category: Bounded rationality

People tend to treat it as if it was a ‘point’.
A theoretical concept that has been put on a table, studied from all angles, found desirable/unacceptable and which is now aggressively marketed by fervent apostles/rejected by ‘die-heart fundamentalists’.

I’m afraid it should rather be treated as a continuum.

People belonging to diverse cultures who freely decide to live together will, sooner rather than later, generate a meta-culture based mainly on intercultural mutual respect.
People belonging to diverse cultures who have to live together, without previously being asked whether they want this to happen or not, will, later rather than sooner, generate a meta-culture fusing together various cultural segments appropriated from the various cultures that were forced to coexist.
I am fascinated by the fact that both ‘extremes’ can happen simultaneously.
Individuals, usually unaware of what is going on, find ways of cooperating with members belonging to other cultures to impose/reject ‘cultural artifacts’ upon/coming from individuals belonging to other cultures.
The key of all this being a simple matter of ‘perception’.
We find it easier to cooperate with people belonging to cultures which we perceive as  ‘friendly’ and to treat with disdain those belonging to cultures which are different enough to be perceived as inferior. Hence ‘unfriendly’.

a goal-oriented person or team works hard to achieve good results in the tasks that they have been given”

For the purpose of this post it doesn’t matter whether the goal has been assigned by somebody else or has been chosen by the  would be goal-achiever itself.

The problem, as I see it, is that those who focus too much on achieving a specific goal usually fail.

For at least two reasons.

First of all the goal itself might not be appropriate. Never was or something had changed.
For example, I had learned hard to become a mechanical engineer. Worked as one for 5 years and enjoyed every minute of it. I still love to fix things around the house.
But I gave it up when I realized I couldn’t feed myself in post communist Romania.

We consider ourselves to be rational. If this were true, all human goals would have been both appropriate and achievable.
How many of them really are?
Then why are so many of us willing to go to extreme lengths in order to achieve certain goals, against all signals suggesting that they should desist?

Even if the goal is reasonable, for instance to loose 20 pounds in a certain situation, if the would be achiever is excessively focused on that single goal it may try to reach it too soon, be unhappy during the entire duration of the process or even both at the same time.

So, should we give up all our goals?

That would be a goal too… so… no, obviously!

What I’m trying to say is that goals should be our stepping stones instead of being considered, any of them, ultimate pinnacles.

Before going any further I’d like to discuss the alternative suggested by Shane Parrish in at least two different articles.

Goal-oriented people usually fail, and other things I’ve learned about succeeding at work 2015 in BusinessInsider.com and

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, 2013 in Farnamstreetblog.com

There’s no real alternative? He is still focused on a specific goal, “success”, only he is wise enough to consider it in a reasonable way – as in ‘create as little disturbance as possible during the process of achieving it’?

Well, this is indeed a very important step forward.

Yes, forward!

I never said I was willing to give up goals altogether so I (think I) know where I’m headed!
The point is, and here I agree completely with Shane Parrish, that we should try to achieve our goals WITH at least some of those around us instead of being ready to reach them by CRUSHING, one way or another, everybody who might dare to even utter the smallest dissent.

In other words, there is only one legitimate goal that each of us is entitled to pursue at any length. Survival. All others are figments of our imagination and should be followed with discretion. Otherwise our actions might turn against us. And hamper our own survival.

Let me give you a very hot example.

Last year the American People had chosen their President.
This is a two step process. In the first one the parties nominate their candidate and then the entire people is asked to pick one of them for the job.

Almost the entire world knows that the American political scene is divided between the Democrats and the Republicans and that having your man at the helm is a big bonus for any party – the latter being valid in almost all countries, not only in America.

During the first of the two electoral steps, the Democrats have nominated Hillary Clinton while the Republicans have chosen Donald Trump. Apparently two completely different individuals.
A consummate ‘political insider’  versus a successful business man with a history of getting things done, seemingly at all odds.

Lets see how differently these two guys really are.

Hillary Clinton had identified, correctly, a huge number of issues and and formulated reasonable promises about each and every one of them.
Donald Trump had identified a huge pool of discontent and energized those who were waddling in there aimlessly.
Different indeed but only the opposite sides of the same coin. Political marketing at its  best. Or worse?

Hillary Clinton was a person who had no problem in using her, and her husband’s, official position and authority to achieve her goals, even if that meant bending the rules. Using a personal e-mail server, installed in a private setting, wasn’t a proper thing to do for a Secretary of State, was it?
Donald Trump is indeed a very successful entrepreneur. Only he did his ‘thing’ in a very ‘special’ domain. One subjected to various zoning laws and other heavy rules imposed by the ‘all powerful’ government.
I’m also going to remind you of the fortune he had inherited from his father – made using comprehensive political connections – and that Trump had used part of his money to curry favors with various political figures.

“Trump later told Politico, “As a contributor, I demanded that they be there—they had no choice and that’s what’s wrong with our country. Our country is run by and for donors, special interests and lobbyists, and that is not a good formula for our country’s success. With me, there are no lobbyists and special interests. My only special interest is the United States of America.”

And it’s not only that he had no qualms in using his money to convince politicians to do what he wanted them to do, he also tried to use governmental power to ‘convince’ an old lady, under the pretext of ’eminent domain’, to sell her house, at half price, so that he could build a limousine parking lot for a casino in Atlantic City.

These two candidates no longer seem to be so different anymore, do they?
Both equally ‘goal oriented’ – a.k.a. power hungry – and equally determined to use whatever ‘energy’ they could concentrate in that direction, including governmental power.

Then how come each of them had been nominated by their respective parties?
Considering that both parties paid lip service to the need to simplify the government…

Could it be that the real goal of both parties was to gain the Oval Office?
At all costs to the country at large?

I’m not going to pretend now that the survival of the US is in danger, just because Trump, currently acting like an elephant in a China shop, is the perfect opportunity for Putin to inflict as much damage to the US as he possibly can.

You see, Putin didn’t meddle into the election process because he had any hopes that he would be able to influence any of Trump’s decisions. Putin simply knew that Trump, once elected, will, in a ‘natural manner’, wreak havoc in Washington. What else could he have asked for?

Well, this may prove to be yet another ‘goal oriented’ failure… Had Clinton become President she would have probably continued to encourage the malignant growth of an already humongous government… this way the American People has the chance to wake up. Because of the tantrum Trump is throwing around…

And, maybe, the parties will also learn something.
Democratic government means governing for the country as a whole, not for the group which happens to control the power.
Real democracy is about honestly discussing the issues before the elections, so that as many as possible of the potential problems to become evident before the people having to choose a direction or other. Whenever the parties try to lure the population towards a particular ‘goal’, using any of the various tools devised by the political marketeers, the electoral process is no longer democratic.
In that case the whole thing has been demoted to ‘mob rule’. Which is dangerous.

Over reliance in our ability to choose a goal or to devise/run a system (government) is the deepest pitfall ever dug by humankind. For ourselves.

A system is nothing more and nothing less than a set of relatively stable interactions.
A system can be evaluated only from the outside.
A system exists only in the mind of the observer.

I’ll discuss these three affirmations from the bottom.

Even if the objects that compose the system exist ‘in the real world’, the system itself exists only in the minds of the observers – the person who had first identified the interactions and all those who agree with him.
To illustrate my point I’ll give you three examples.
–  A constellation is “a group of stars that forms a particular shape in the sky and has been given a name“. A long time ago, when those constellations had been named by our ancestors, people thought they were something totally different than what we think of them now. Yet they continue to exist as before and are identified using the same names.
– The Solar System. It works totally different today than it used to during Ptolemy’s time…
– The human body. Each of us temporarily inhabits one but we still don’t know exactly how it works or whether, in reality, it is but a small – and not even autonomous, part in a way larger system.

No system can be evaluated from the inside.
Apparently this is pure nonsense. I have just said that each of us inhabits a human body, which is a system by itself. Yeah, right. And when was the last time when you have fully understood how your body works? Or when any of us was able to do that… including here the doctors in the audience – exactly those people who do understand the meaning of “A physician who treats himself has a fool for a patient.” …
On the other hand, most of us – at least after a certain age and before dementia takes over – are ‘house trained’ and relatively polite. Because of our consciousness? Something that we hardly understand and sometimes think of as being somewhat separated from our ‘mortal’ body? Please remember, in this context, that some of us consider our souls as belonging to somebody else…

A system is nothing but a relatively stable set of interactions.
That have been either identified or established by us. The Solar System has been identified by us while the GPS (the Global Positioning System) was designed, and build from scratch, by us. Composed of materials found in the Solar System and obeying the same ‘laws’ as the rest of it but, nevertheless, something different. And to understand what I mean, please imagine for a moment that gravity would suddenly become a much weaker force. Big enough to keep the Earth together but not big enough to maintain Earth’s current orbit, at Earth’s current speed around the Sun. Nor big enough to keep the Sun together… Depending on how weaker the gravity would become the planets would scatter away while the Sun would become nothing more than a nebula… or, if the gravity would become reality small, it would be possible that the gases furiously escaping from the Sun would catch at least some of the planets from behind and melt them into a lot wider nebula….
Or, alternatively, imagine that the GPS satellites run out of power and no longer emit any radio signals. They would continue to orbit the Earth for a while but the GPS system would have been gone the minute when too few satellites would have remained active …

DSC_0463constrast mare

“Dolma”.

A vast variety of delicious dishes and a very complex social reality hidden behind a short string of letters.

The word itself, literally meaning “something stuffed“, belongs today to the Turkish language.

Google it and you’ll be ‘served’ with a cornucopia of Greek recipes, most of them teaching you how to prepare  stuffed grape leaves…

Check its etymology and you’ll find out its “First Known Use: circa 1889“.

Common, people must have been stuffing vegetables long before that… all around the Black and Mediterranean seas… the Italians have their ‘ripieni’, the Persians have been stuffing bell peppers (dolmeh-s) for some time now,  Armenians have their tolma-s while the Greek have the ‘wider’ gemista dolmadakia being reserved, as I already mentioned, for ‘stuffed vine leaves’.

So, what had happened during the XIX-th century that made so many different people – who were living more or less together but spoke different languages, to use the same word for a dish?

Forget about etymology and consider this.
Simultaneously with ‘dolma’ becoming the ‘dominant’ word for ‘stuffed vegetables’, the dominant power in the area where this was happening, the Ottoman Empire, was crumbling.

We can discuss ad nauseam the reasons for yet another empire fading away into history, but this is not the purpose of my post.
What I’m trying to say is that most of the inhabitants would have gladly continued to coexist peacefully and share their meals – if that had been possible, of course.

Just look at the symbolism of different vegetables, stuffed with the same filling, simmering together in the same pot and becoming delicious sustenance for the various individuals gathered around the same table to ‘break bread’.

But it didn’t come to be… the various forces and agents involved in the matter – the central power trying to survive, the ‘revolutionaries’ attempting to ‘modernize’ the society, the surrounding states and empires trying to gobble up portions of ‘the Sick Man of Europe‘, each followed what they considered to be ‘their best interest’.

And this is what’s going on now…, in the same city where traders from all over the Middle East used to partake dolmades in the world’s biggest covered market – the Aleppo Souk.

160822-aleppo-0302_f99cf07c0972e0b6131bd2989932a1b0-nbcnews-ux-2880-1000

Injured children are carried amid the rubble of destroyed buildings following airstrikes targeting the rebel-held neighborhood of Al-Mashhad in Aleppo on July 25. BARAA AL-HALABI / AFP – Getty Images

I checked my FB wall before ‘reloading’ ‘on the thickness of things’.

‘Zuckerberg’ made me an offer I couldn’t refuse:

“Your Memories on Facebook
Sarchis, we care about you and the memories you share here. We thought you’d like to look back on this post from 4 years ago.”

Wow, a robot – you know that FB is involved way over its head in AI, don’t you? – which cares about it’s client…

Anyway…

Here’s what I posted then:

“A Dog’s Life

An older, tired-looking dog wandered into my yard.

I could tell from his collar and well-fed belly that he had a home
and was well taken
care of.

He calmly came over to me, I gave him a few pats on his head. He
then followed me into my house, slowly walked down the hall, curled up in
the corner and fell asleep.

An hour later, he went to the door, and I let him out.

The next day he was back, greeted me in my yard, walked inside and
resumed his spot in the hall and again slept for about an hour.

This continued off and on for several weeks.

Curious I pinned a note to his collar: ‘I would like to find out who
the owner of this wonderful sweet dog is and ask if you are aware that
almost every afternoon your dog comes to my house for a nap.’

The next day he arrived for his nap, with a different note pinned to
his collar:

‘He lives in a home, with my non stop chatting and nagging wife,
he’s trying to catch up on his sleep ……

Can I come with him tomorrow ?

Thanks !”

Since I do not have any recollection about this I googled some of it in an attempt to find it’s origin.

Disclaimer

Many of these articles were submitted by PetPlace.com dog lovers and the original source is unknown in terms of origin, author or copyright. It is not our intent to infringe on anyone’s copyright and if it is done, it is done unknowingly and we would be happy to remove the offending content. Just email us!.”

The same text has been published by tens and tens of sites.
Or maybe more? I just scrolled down on the search results page, didn’t count them…

It looks like things do have a certain thickness, don’t they?

Regardless of nobody being absolutely sure about who said this, there is a more or less shared consensus about history being written by the victors. After they had finished butchering the heros

execution of William Wallace

William Wallace

The problem being that most (written) history is a compelling proof that too often the ability to win doesn’t necessarily imply a real understanding of what had happened during the contest!

That all things, at least those belonging to the real world, have a certain thickness… is a truism.

Yet so often we ignore this evidence and relate only to the appearance we are looking at.
At a given moment.
By chance, by design or by negligence.

Take for instance Marine le Pen’s ascension to the second tour in the French elections.
Quite a number of ‘pundits’ put the ‘blame’ for this squarely on ‘Bruxelles” shoulders. Including her and her followers. And, not at all surprisingly, Trump and Putin.

And not without reason!

After all the EU bureaucracy, headquartered in Bruxelles, is responsible for many of the consequences brought upon our heads by the very existence of what is currently known as the European Community.

what we gonna do

Click on the bloody picture, will ya!

First of all let me remind you what brought about the current edition of the ‘European Project.’

OK, it has been attempted before. By the Romans, by Charlemagne, by Napoleon, by Hitler… and don’t tell me that Putin wouldn’t love to be ‘crowned’ as The European Leader.

The problem is that all those attempts had started as individual initiatives and had happened to be ‘against the grain’. As in those who had to shoulder the burden for it didn’t see any benefit from it coming to life.

A small parenthesis. There is nothing ‘unnatural’ for strong willed individuals to try to widen their domination to the farthest possible corner. It had happened when and where ever geographical and historical conditions had allowed it.
The problem is that all imperia have eventually failed, usually in an abysmal manner. History is so full of examples that I won’t bother presenting any.

This edition of the European Project has started out of necessity.

At the end of WWII the continent was in a state of disarray.
The West was mired in self doubt and extremely tired while the East had experienced both the German occupation and the blessings of being liberated by the Soviets.

Understanding that Europe had to be helped, or else – it could have been, in a short while, overwhelmed by the Soviets, America had drafted the Marshall Plan.
For the sake of efficiency, the Americans had asked the Europeans to organize themselves at the receiving end. The Europeans responded by calling a Conference for European Economic Co-operation. It would be beyond the scope of this post to get into further details but this was the start of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation which a short while later had set the stage for the European Coal and Steel Community – the precursor of the present-day European Community.

As we all know, the project has fulfilled its intended goals.

Europe has recovered nicely and the Soviet Union was contained.

‘But you haven’t mentioned, at all, the (professed?) reason for which the European Community was forged in the first place! To make sure that Europe will never again be drenched in blood as a consequence of war!’

Yes, this had indeed been the professed motive, “The European Union is set up with the aim of ending the frequent and bloody wars between neighbours, which culminated in the Second World War“.
It did its job, briliantly, only it was just a ‘marketing gimmick’. Ever since the Soviet Union had started to export, by force, its particular brand of (extremely authoritarian) socialism to the countries under its ‘sphere of influence’ it had become abundantly clear that the rest of Europe had only two alternatives. Stick together in order to be able to fend of the Soviets or be gobbled up piece by piece.
Fighting among themselves? In those conditions? Not even Stalin could have dreamed of something like that…

Why did America continued to help?
First of all, they were already heavily invested here. Just think of it. To save Europe from  the Nazis only to allow the Soviets to occupy it… doesn’t make much sense, does it?

Then why are so many trying to tear it apart now? From inside as well as from outside?

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand Putin’s motives so I won’t waste any of your time on this.

It’s a little bit harder to understand the Americans who wish the European Project would fail. After all we are their most important trading partner AND their closest ideological neighbor. I used ‘neighbor’ on purpose, instead of ‘friend’.

Distant neighbor, I have to add…

You see, being protected by two oceans and by a very effective ‘nuclear umbrella’ may induce a certain feeling of coziness… just remember how long they had waited before intervening in WWI and WWII. Add to that the fact that people’s memories are very short and you’ll understand why the ordinary Americans do not care much for what is going on this side of the Atlantic.
Why are some of the American ‘plutocrats’ weary of the EU and rather friendly towards Putin? For the very same reason for which their peers had done business with Hitler, even after the start of the war…. Some of them might still be convinced that their corporations would be more profitable under an authoritarian regime than under a more democratic one. And since Putin makes the right noises…

And we have reached now the really tricky part.
Why on Earth are some people trying to tear apart the EU from the inside?!?

One might very well consider they, or at least some of them, constitute a post-Soviet fifth-column, meant to destabilize Europe and make it more susceptible to be influenced by Putin and his eventual heirs.

Since I cannot prove any of this, one way or the other, I’m going to use a different tack.

History teaches us that people commit mistakes for two reasons. Alone or in conjunction: Lack of adequate understanding of the matter and/or callousness.

Take your pick: Quisling, Petain, Lord Haw-Haw… but don’t forget Daladier, Chamberlain and also von Papen.

But there’s a catch.
No amount of stupidity and/or callousness on the part of any of the politicos may produce any damages unless the situation is ‘right’. Or ‘ripe’?!?

You see, all these jerks had been able to make their ultimately stupid moves simply  because the social yarn had already been messed up by a long line of political, and economic, blunders. From the French insistence that the Germans pay huge war reparations after WWI to, but not exclusively, the Fed mishandling rates during the ’20es and the 30es.

The current situation is nowhere near as bad as it was before WWII but does share with that a couple of converging points.

To be continued

If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.

There’s plenty to criticize about the mass media, but they are the source of regular information about a wide range of topics. You can’t duplicate that on blogs.

The elections are run by the same industries that sell toothpaste on television.

Changes and progress very rarely are gifts from above. They come out of struggles from below.

There’s very little dislike of Americans in the world, shown by repeated polls, and the dissatisfaction – that is, the hatred and the anger – they come from acceptance of American values, not a rejection of them, and recognition that they’re rejected by the U.S. government and by U.S. elites, which does lead to hatred and anger.

It is easier to go to the Internet than to go to the library, undoubtedly. But the shift from no libraries to the existence of libraries was a much greater shift than what we’ve seen with the Internet’s development.

Romania, which had the worst dictator in Eastern Europe, Ceausescu, he was a darling of the West. The United States and Britain loved him. He was supported until the last minute.

Free speech has been used by the Supreme Court to give immense power to the wealthiest members of our society.

As a tactic, violence is absurd. No one can compete with the Government in violence, and the resort to violence, which will surely fail, will simply frighten and alienate some who can be reached, and will further encourage the ideologists and administrators of forceful repression.

Anarchism means all sort of things to different people, but the traditional anarchists’ movements assumed that there’d be a highly organized society, just one organized from below with direct participation and so on.

In ideal form of social control is an atomised collection of individuals focused on their own narrow concern, lacking the kinds of organisations in which they can gain information, develop and articulate their thoughts, and act constructively to achieve common ends.

Governments are not representative. They have their own power, serving segments of the population that are dominant and rich.

I remember at the age of five travelling on a trolley car with my mother past a group of women on a picket line at a textile plant, seeing them being viciously beaten by security people. So that kind of thing stayed with me.

State formation has been a brutal project, with many hideous consequences. But the results exist, and their pernicious aspects should be overcome.

In the literal sense, there has been no relevant evolution since the trek from Africa. But there has been substantial progress towards higher standards of rights, justice and freedom – along with all too many illustrations of how remote is the goal of a decent society.

If you ask the CEO of some major corporation what he does, he will say, in all honesty, that he is slaving 20 hours a day to provide his customers with the best goods or services he can and creating the best possible working conditions for his employees.

Occupying armies have responsibilities, not rights. Their primary responsibility is to withdraw as quickly and expeditiously as possible, in a manner determined by the occupied population.

It’s dangerous when people are willing to give up their privacy.

The doctrine that everything is fine as long as the population is quiet, that applies in the Middle East, applies in Central America, it applies in the United States.

In the United States, we can do almost anything we want. It’s not like Egypt, where you’re going to get murdered by the security forces.

Not all his ideas sound as outlandish as some want us to believe, do they?

“It is a very difficult decision for all parents because we live in a society that values profit over public health.”

“It’s more like listening to what other mothers were saying…
There was a … huge amount of evidence that it was harmful. Even if there weren’t ways that we could scientifically prove it, it was just talking from one mother to another.”

“Doctors do not do their own research, they are heavily brain-washed when they end school  with this idea that it is all good and then they do not question it much themselves”.

“A beautiful child went to have a vaccine and came back and a week later he had a tremendous fever, got very, very sick and now is autistic”

vaccine sceptic island

Well, the scope of this post goes way beyond the dispute between the vaxxers and the skeptics.

As a matter of fact, at face value all the four quotes I started with are spot on.

Most autistic children living in the so called civilized world have been immunized before having been diagnosed, both the doctors and the anti-vaxxers have been ‘brain-washed’ by their peers into holding to their current beliefs while very few of them have conducted any independent scientific research into the matter and yes, we do seem to live in a society which values profit over public health.

What next?

Ayn RAnd

Ayn Rand in 1957: her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged earned her a cult-like following, dubbed the Collective. Photograph: New York Times Co./Getty Images


“But Rand’s philosophy of rugged, uncompromising individualism – of contempt for both the state and the lazy, conformist world of the corporate boardroom — now has a follower in the White House”

So.
The author tells us that Rand despises both (big) government and the ‘corporate boardroom’. He also tells us that the current American President shares the same convictions. I might agree about Trump despising ‘corporate boardrooms’ but I have a definite feeling about Trump having nothing against the notion of ‘big and powerful corporations’ (specially those he controls personally).
“Born Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum in 1905 in St Petersburg, Russia, she saw her father impoverished and her family driven to the brink of starvation by the Soviet revolution, an experience that forged her contempt for all notions of the collective good and, especially, for the state as a mechanism for ensuring equality.”
It looks like Ayn Rand hated (big) government simply because the Soviet one had failed to deliver what it had promised… And that she had lost confidence in the notion of ‘common good’ for the very same reason…
The problem is that trusting the Soviets, or any other authoritarian regime, is childish to start with…. well then, maybe we shouldn’t wonder about her reaction…
Further more, expecting the government, any of them, to ‘ensure equality’ is even worse! Governments are meant to ‘maintain order’, not to decide the outcome of the game…Regardless of what some of those who climb to power seem to believe!

As for rejecting the very notion of common good, that means rejecting capitalism itself.
“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages”
If each of those ‘professionals’ didn’t see their personal interest as being conjoint with the ‘common good’ each of them would have tried to double-cross the others. The baker would have tried to use the worst possible flour, the brewer to sell whatever stinking concoction while the butcher would have tried to pass rotten dogs as dry cured beef.

Oh, that’s what’s currently going on in our no longer free market?

Then maybe Rand was a prophet, after all….

“Put more baldly, the reason why Republicans and British Conservatives started giving each other copies of Atlas Shrugged in the 80s was that Rand seemed to grant intellectual heft to the prevailing ethos of the time. Her insistence on the “morality of rational self-interest” and “the virtue of selfishness” sounded like an upmarket version of the slogan, derived from Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, that defined the era: greed is good. Rand was Gordon Gekko with A-levels.”

 

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