Archives for category: Bounded rationality

How often do you hear this expression?
Are you OK with it?
Because you’ve grown accustomed with it or because you are OK with the idea of politics being a contest? A game to be won?

In a certain context, I’ve been asked which game is a more ‘fitting description’ of politics. Chess or Go?

Both being, as I’m sure you already know, strategic games where all ‘tactical’ information is above the board, where the scope is to ‘control the territory through the smart use of available resources’ and where neither of the competitors have any real idea of what their opponent might have in mind.
Yes, there are rules and limitations. Of course. So each of them are able to divine a ‘probable course of action’ but …

Going back to politics, I’ll just quote myself:

“Politics like Go… very interesting question.
Go is a game. Something to play with. And play is very important, indeed. Through play, we hone skills used in real life. When playing, it doesn’t matter whether you win or loose. There’s something to be learned in both situations.
While in real life, loosing is not an option.
In playing, all that matters is to participate. In life, all that matters is to survive.
When playing, we improve our skills by competing against each-other. In life, we survive by helping each-other.
In this sense, politics is an exercise of cooperation more than a competition. A process through which the whole community finds its way forward rather than a beauty pageant where the next beauty queen is nominated to carry the torch through the dark. For a while…
The point being that all community/nations which had allowed personal interest – lust for wealth/power, to trump the collective need to survive have eventually collapsed. From Ancient Rome to Soviet Russia.
This being where Marx was hugely mistaken. While he understood history as a succession of class struggles – to be ended by the mother of all dictatorships, in reality is was a continuous evolution/honing of cooperation. From slavery to feudalism and to democratic capitalism people learned to do more and more things together. The status of the individual – of all the individual members of any given society, gradually improved while the communities have become more resilient and more productive.
And all attempts to revert to more ‘centralized’ alternatives – no matter how the ‘winners’ were supposed to be determined, have failed. All political and economical dictatorships – authoritarian-isms and monopolistic situations, have crumbled.
Not before incurring a lot of pain to those who allowed them to happen, helas. Contestants and spectators alike.”

Now go fight for your favorite political figure.
And allow hate to alter your perceptions.

My friend and coworker asked me the other day:
“Why do these people hate each-other so passionately?”

“Because they are rational. They have reached their present convictions as the result of a rational process. Hence they are convinced they are absolutely right. Then, when anybody expresses a different opinion, they interpret ‘dissent’ as a personal attack. My ‘truth’ having been reached in a rational manner means that all other opinions must be false. Defending them – against all ‘evidence’, means that these people are either provocative or, even, outright destructive.”

“But being rational doesn’t include being open to the possibility of being wrong?”

“I’ll have to rephrase. ‘They are convinced they are acting in a rational manner’. In fact, we, humans, are ‘rationalizing’ rather than ‘thinking rationally’. We use whatever arguments/information we have at our disposal to justify whatever conviction we already harbor. And only when reality slaps us in our faces we ‘open up’. Even science and justice work out this way.
“Innocent until proven guilty”. Only scientists and law-enforcers are already accustomed to the possibility that things may not be exactly as they previously thought they were. Politically minded people are still learning.”

– What have we done, Gabriel?
– Nothing but what we’ve been told to!
– But look at what they’ve done of our work:

We gave them ‘hand’ and they’ve clenched it into a fist.
We taught them how to make tools and they used them as weapons.
We told them to ‘fill the earth and subdue it’ and they started to fight among themselves for the best pieces of land.
We warned them ‘it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God’ and they’ve somehow convinced themselves that ‘greed is good’.

– True enough but this is out of our hands. They’ve been endowed with ‘freedom of will’ by their Maker.
– Then what are we? Mere robots?
– Nothing but loyal servants of our Master. He orders and we accomplish. Unerringly.
– Exactly as I’ve just told you. Mere robots. When we somehow convince ourselves that a particular idea which has blossomed into our heads comes from Him, we no longer think. We just put it into practice.
You call this ‘loyalty’. That’s fine with me.
But to whom are we to extend said loyalty? To somebody who’s authority stems solely from our acceptance of it? Or to what we perceive as being the ‘greater good’?
– You and your questions, Lucifer… Look at what happened to those poor people after you helped them into self-awareness… They’ve completely lost their erstwhile peace of mind.
What are you trying to do? To make me give up mine?

Divorcing is messy. Specially after such a long time.
It makes you wonder ‘why on Earth did I get in in the first place‘?!?

After a while – if you live long enough, that is – you realize the available alternatives are only marginally different. Or you can choose solitude, of course…

And something else.
Divorce, like marriage, cannot be done by yourself.
Actually, it can. But it’s so ‘uncivilized’ that I don’t want to speak about that possibility.

Any union, ‘the more the merrier‘, passes trough ‘rough times’.

Each of these episodes can be construed as an opportunity.
To ‘leave’ or to evaluate what went wrong. And to reconsider the union, of course.

No ‘evaluation’ can guarantee success. But it’s a start.

‘Leaving’, on the other hand, creates a completely different situation.
Those who choose to leave will, eventually, learn something. On their own skins, of course, but they did it to themselves. Specially if they made no serious effort to ‘evaluate’ first.

But what are the chances for the ‘left’ ones to learn anything?
Specially since they are the ‘many’?
Is it possible that they may find ‘comfort in numbers’? And consider the others were ‘the odd man out’?


Will they ‘evaluate’ on their own? Will they make a significant effort to understand what had driven the ‘others’ to leave?

My previous post was about the parallel fate endured by those who had experienced nazism/fascism and/or communism.

My point being that nazism/fascism had been powered by the feelings of those attempting to regain their previous, higher, status while communism had been powered by the feelings of those not allowed to ‘move forward’ by the social constraints paralyzing their societies.

Currently, people are ‘confused’.
Some say communism had been better than nazism – for various reasons.
Others find various excuses for the way both regimes had treated the general population and, mainly, the ‘dissidents’. Or, specially for the nazi, the ‘differents’.
There is, though, a convergence point. Nominally, at least. All sides declaratively abhor the violence employed by both regimes.

To add to the confusion, after the 2007 financial meltdown, more and more ‘concerned individuals’ have fingered capitalism as the main culprit for all the tragedies experienced by humankind in the last century and a half.

For me, this is the straw which will break the camel’s back.

So.
Nazism/fascism – which is nothing but a ‘condensed’ form of corporatism, is bad.
Communism – a similarly centralized manner of social decision making, only differently sold to differently feeling masses, is also bad.
Capitalism – a decentralized manner of resource allocation, is considered to be more or less equivalent to both nazism/fascism and communism. All three of them have been declared equally criminal…

Then what?
What are we to do next? Hang ourselves in despair?
Reheat either fascism or communism?

Or look forward than our own noses?

Both those who had followed Hitler and Lenin/Stalin were feeling desperate. Desperation drives you to do stupid things. And there are plenty of unscrupulous people willing to profit from this kind of situations.

Do we really want to prevent ‘unpleasant’ experiences?
Then we need to go beyond blaming the likes of Hitler and Lenin/Stalin.
They should be dealt what’s rightfully theirs, no doubt about that.
But we also need to make sure that the ‘run of the mill’, the ordinary people who make things work in this world, no longer feel desperate.

How to do that?
Taking into account that contemporary capitalism seems to be faltering?

What was the common thing between nazism/fascism and communism?
The fact that decision making was concentrated in a very small number of hands? Which had led to both regimes ending up in abysmal failure?

What is the apparently unstoppable trend in our contemporary societies?
The apparently unstoppable wealth polarization?

Then let’s tax ourselves out … America worked fine during the ’50s and ’60, when the highest marginal tax was 91%…
Yeah, only those years had been followed by stagflation.
And let me remind you that communism can also be interpreted as ‘100% tax followed by a comprehensive redistribution’. And it also failed.

Then how about ‘libertarianism’? No taxes, no government…

But how about less extremism? Of any kind?

How about remembering that liberal capitalism has made possible all that we have today? Liberal as in free-market capitalism, of course.

Free market as in competition working both ways.
Entrepreneurs competing among themselves for clients AND resources. The workforce being, of course, a resource.
The ‘compensated’ workforce representing the bulk of the clients…

What we seem to have forgotten today is that the circle must be round. If we want the ‘show to go on’, of course.

If some of us concentrate too much control over the rest of us – either way, the circle becomes lopsided. And everybody has everything to loose.

No matter whether this happens as a consequence of nazism/fascism, communism or even capitalism.

At least, capitalism has proved to be manageable.
Let’s make it work, again.

Until we discover something better, of course.

People may find themselves in three situations.
‘Coasting’, trying to climb back up to their former position or hitting a glass ceiling.

All societies – past, present and future, were, are and will forever be composed of various mixtures of ‘coasters’, ‘back climbers’ and ‘glass ceiling hitters’.

Please note that I’m dealing in self-referentials here. This is about how individual people describe themselves when speaking to themselves.
The coasters enjoy the life they had designed/expected for themselves.
The ‘back-climbers’ attempt to regain the position/status they believe it was rightfully theirs but had been robbed of in circumstances outside their control.
The ‘glass ceiling hitters’ are… busy hitting the famous glass ceiling.

If a society is composed of a ‘healthy’ number of coasters combined with a manageable number of ‘back-climbers’/’glass ceiling hitters’ then the frustration felt by the latter – which tends to tear apart the social fabric, can be compensated by the sheer mass/inertia of the joy experienced by the former. Hence the society can be described as being ‘stable’.

Whenever the ‘back climbers’ or the ‘glass ceiling hitters’ get the upper hand, things start to unravel. Or to fall apart…

To understand what I’m driving at, please consider the pre-revolutionary Russia and the German society after WWI.

Russia was an extremely hierarchical social organism. The birth-place was ‘definitive’. And most of them led to very unpleasant lives. The vast majority of the population, from muzhiks to intelligentsia, could not break through the glass ceilings allocated to each of them, at birth.

The defeated German population had found itself in a very unpleasant situation. After having been told they had been instrumental in preserving order in Europe – as the back bone of the army who had defeated Napoleon Bonaparte and kept in check Napoleon III, they found themselves at the receiving end of history… After their fathers had witnessed the Parisians eating their zoo animals during the 1870 siege, the Germans were reduced to hunting food scraps themselves.

A horse being butchered on a Munich sidewalk in 1918 or 1919.

Hence the difference between communism and nazism. Both equally authoritarian in nature, each of them springs from completely different social circumstances.
Which explains why ‘progressives’ have such a high tolerance for communism…

While the ‘back climbers’ attempt only to reinstate the order they were accustomed to – order which has already been proven dysfunctional by what had happened, the ‘glass ceiling breakers’ are always attempting to open new roads. Very enticing from the ‘progressive’ point of view…

Fact is that both communism and nazism/fascism are artificial.
Figments of frustrated intellectual imagination.
Both ideologies have been put together by thinkers and only followed by ordinary, desperate people.

“Please” is an attempt to maximize your chances to get something.
“Thank you” is an attempt to maximize your chances at ‘second helpings’.
“I’m sorry” is an attempt to ‘reconnect’ after committing a ‘blunder’.

All of them, simultaneously, serve the individual uttering them and knit the community.

But there’s something which sets one of them apart.
While “please” and “thank you’ are ‘upfront’, “I’m sorry” has a more ‘hidden’ nature. And is a lot less used…

Both “please” and “thank you” have a very clear message. “I want/am grateful for something’ and ‘I acknowledge the fact that I cannot function/exist by myself’.

“I’m sorry” is far more complex and a lot less upfront.
‘I acknowledge not only that something went wrong but also that I have anything to do with the occurrence’. And ‘please do not banish me for what I have done’!

If we dig deeper, we’ll find some more ‘intricacies’.

“Please” and “Thank you” are ‘face to face’. You know what you want/are grateful for and by uttering them you transmit that information to your audience. Those who might fulfill your wishes or have already done that.

“I’m sorry” identifies you as the ‘culprit’. Or, even worse, tells the ‘victim’ that something nasty is going to happen.

It is here that things become really interesting.
Conscience is a function. A feature which helps the individual. To survive and to thrive. In order to do that, conscience must – first and foremost, to take care of itself. To protect and cherish itself. More about how it does that in my next posts. The point of the present one being that is far easier for ‘conscience’ to ‘please’ and ‘thank’ rather than to ‘apologize’.

First of all, ‘gratification’.
1.0 versus 2.0.
Getting what you want/need versus avoiding punishment.
Which is never as direct.

The ‘buried head’ fallacy.
‘What if/maybe they never find out’?
‘Who did it’ or even that it had happened at all …

The ‘I cannot afford to appear weak’ fallacy.
Or the ‘I cannot afford to accept having been wrong’ situation.

That’s why it is far easier to say ‘I’m sorry’ after stepping on somebody’s toe than to leave a sorry note on somebody’s windshield after denting their fender in an unsupervised parking lot.
That’s why it is far easier to apologize to a a coworker than to admit guilt, as a CEO, in a shareholders meeting.
That is why it is almost inconceivable for a dictator to publicly admit an error which had been committed under their watch.

So young… and yet so satisfied with himself… he must have had a strong set of beliefs on which to build such a strong self-esteem!

Let me put it another way.

Each of us needs to believe.
Something!
Would you have enough courage to go to bed at night if you weren’t absolutely convinced that the sun will come up next morning?
Furthermore, for things to work as we expect them to, enough of us must share a certain number of beliefs. For instance, would you go to work/accept payment if you weren’t more or less convinced that the money you’d get will enable you to fulfill at least some of your wishes?

Hence belief being based on a deep seated need to believe is a truism. Uttered only as a lame excuse for ‘you can’t convince a believer of anything’.

Which isn’t exactly a lie… only a half truth. A ‘fake news’, if you will!

First of all, a believer is already convinced.
Hence somebody had been able to convince him/her, at some point, of something.

Somebody had somehow convinced the aforementioned believer that the object of what was going to become belief was obvious enough to become ‘evidence’.

Complicated?

Let me rephrase.

‘I haven’t been able to convince a believer of what I was trying to convey to him/her. Hence it must be his/her fault.
Not mine!
Otherwise I would have to admit that what I was presenting as evidence was false, I wasn’t presenting my evidence in a believable manner or, lo and behold, both at the same time. Totally unacceptable!
Now I need to come up with a good enough reason for his/her inability to see the light!
His/her ‘need to believe’ must be the only explanation. Otherwise he/she would have accepted my evidence as being obvious….’

On the other hand, the rest of Sagan’s work cannot be dismissed.
Which proves that self-esteem is a good base on which to build a career.

The need to believe being yet another thing which cannot be dismissed!

A symbol is a very powerful thing. Because it can ‘hide’ a lot of meaning. As much meaning as we can store/recognize inside it.

And the stronger the symbol, the more we can hide/store/recognize behind it.

“Why do you insist the universe is not a conscious intelligence, when it gives birth to conscious intelligences?”

This quote is attributed by Robert Lanza to Cicero. A Roman who used to think, and write, some 2000 years ago.
I have no idea who Robert Lanza is yet I’m sure most of you have already heard about Cicero.
But we now have Internet. And Google search…

Going back to Cicero’s Universe, I, for one, have never said the universe wasn’t conscious. For all I know, it may very well be.
But I’m sure it isn’t fully conscious. As God is supposed to be. Omniscient and Omnipotent.
Precisely because of the kind of ‘conscious intelligences’ it has given birth to.
Or is being born by?

Let’s assume the Universe is conscious. As in aware of its own awareness – the only kind of consciousness we’re aware of.

As far as we know – ‘know’ as opposed to ‘presume’, consciousness cannot ‘arise’ on its own. Each of our individual consciousnesses have been groomed by those around us. Children who happen to grow up outside ‘normal’ human intercourse never morph into ‘fully’ conscious human beings.
Hence Cato’s Universe might have become conscious only along one of the following paths:

As a member of the Multi Verse club.
As an AI designed by some entity residing outside the Universe. This situation being the mother of all Oxymorons…
As a meta-consciousness. A web of individual consciousnesses who had evolved/coalesced into a wider, and ‘deeper’, range of awareness. Still limited, of course, but of a somehow different nature than that of the individual awarenesses composing it.

Which brings us back to the symbol I started with.
The Universe digesting itself repeatedly as a continuous attempt to reach its own essence.
Humankind reconsidering recurrent ideas until they actually make sense…

‘Hey, you forgot about two of your own hypotheses … the first and the second…!’

Thanks for the observation.
They slipped off my mind because both are particular cases of the third.
A Multi Verse is nothing but a bigger Universe.
And a combination between an Universe and an Outside Agent is nothing but a Duo Verse. A ‘smaller’ Multi Verse.

Tada!

“We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.”

The words, attributed to John Swindon by Richard O. Boyer and Herbert M. Morais were supposedly uttered sometimes in 1880.

Nowadays, back in 2019, more and more people blame the MSM – main street media, for the sorry state the contemporary society finds itself in.
In fact, those who consider the media to be the source of all evil have been numerous, and focused, enough to elect somebody from their ranks to the highest office in Washington…

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not naive enough to pretend that journalism is any different from any other human activity.

And this is exactly my point.
Journalists are humans. Like all of us.
There is no way that they’ll behave any different than the rest of us.
The day to day practice provides ample proof that far too many of us currently “are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes”. Sometimes even without being aware of it… but that is another issue.
While it is true that too many of the journalists function as “intellectual prostitutes”, the same thing is valid for the members of too many other professions.

Then why do we – all of ‘us’, demand that journalists behave any differently from the rest of us?
Why do we accuse them for not being saints when we are sinners ourselves?
Our sins are lighter? Have less impact?

Are we so thick in our vehemence against journalists that we are deaf to Swindon’s real message?

“We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.”

%d bloggers like this: