Archives for category: effective communication

Because of their very nature, centralized systems open up vast areas of opportunity.
For those who bother to identify them, of course.

The internet.
Huge amounts of information only a few clicks away.
Students find it easier to compile their term papers. Or to just click and paste them.
Powerful individuals/organizations have found yet another way to further their interests:

A long-running Papuan separatist movement has flared in recent months, sparking fresh calls for self-rule.
But with access to the region heavily restricted, social media has become a key source for the foreign press.
One expert told the BBC the apparently co-ordinated campaigns were seeking to skew international views of Papua.


The government.
A mechanism put in place by nations to manage the day to day survival of the social mechanism.
The more centralized, the more efficient. At least apparently…
Centralized China is decades away from the more ‘lax’ India. According to certain benchmarks, of course…

Corporations.
Individuals, no matter how smart and or powerful, can achieve only so much when acting alone. That being the reason for people coalescing in nations.
Also for economic ventures. People working in concert are more efficient than individuals toiling on their own. When led by a somebody who is simultaneously smart, charismatic and ‘organizationally skilled’ the results can be utterly fantastic.
A corporation might even become powerful enough to resist government.

The FBI Wanted a Backdoor to the iPhone. Tim Cook Said No.

Only some governments are more determined than others.

Apple drops Hong Kong police-tracking app used by protesters.

How else to explain what’s going on but by remembering that all centralized systems are simultaneously manned and surrounded/watched/accessed by individual people?
Who identify the various opportunities presented by the increasingly centralized structures which bloom around us.
Who use them to further their goals, whichever those might be. Who choose which goals are worth pursuing and which are better abandoned.
Who determine, individually, what decision must be made in each situation.
Who use whatever the power they have at their disposal in such or such manner.
Who allow others to use them in a centralized manner. Or not….

Explainer: How Trump used the U.S. government to chase conspiracy theories

NB. The last example I used can be substituted by countless others. Trump just happens to be ‘on top’ the still most powerful, and looked up to, government on Earth. Furthermore, he had been democratically elected into that position. Hence his actions – and his government’s reactions, illustrate perfectly the situation we find ourselves in.

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Like it or not, some people, a minority, have more clout than others. Than the demographic majority. That’s a fact.
Check Vilfredo Pareto’s principle, if you need more theoretical background.

Things tend to survive.
From the moving object which ‘wants’ to conserve its linear trajectory and speed – Newton’s first law, to the survival instinct which is manifest in all living organisms.

Those with more clout than the others, the elites, are included here. Among the things which want to survive.

As humans, the elites are endowed with consciousness. They are aware of their own status. And of their own fragility.

In time, they (should) have learned a few things.
– They are not infallible. Neither individually and nor as a class.
– When things get really bad – revolution grade bad, they have the most to loose. Regular Joe has nothing to loose but his shackles while the ‘landed gentry’ has everything to loose. Even if land itself has nowhere to go.
– The best way to preserve elite status is through the cunning use of the law.

The point being that these three ‘pearls of wisdom’ must be kept in balance. Whenever one of them is forgotten, things go south. Revolution grade south.

Let me deal with the last but not least one.

Any Law is nothing but the formal expression of an already existing reality.
It doesn’t matter whether that reality is ‘hard’ or ‘virtual’, all it has to do is to be ‘real’.
For example, Newton’s laws describe a portion of the physical reality which surrounds us. The penal codes, all over the world, are the formal expressions of the prevailing mores in each of the respective countries and territories. And both physical reality and prevailing mores are actual realities, even if the first is ‘hard’ while those belonging the second category are virtual. Both have consequences, hence both are real.

OK, very nice. Your theory covers the kind of laws which attempt to describe already existing realities.
But what about the laws which attempt to ‘regulate’ the future? For instance the laws which prevent us from smoking in public places or those which mandate us to pay a portion of our income at the end of the fiscal year? Where is the reality described by these laws?
In the head of those who had come up with them in the first place!
‘They’ had somehow managed to convince us to accept these laws. Which means that ‘their’ convictions had been strong enough to produce consequences. Hence their convictions had been ‘real’.

Among the laws which regulate the future are those which attempt to conserve the already present situation. Starting with the various Constitutions and all the way through to the anti rioting legislation.

If you look close enough, the special status of the elites has a special place – even if not always mentioned as such, in all these pieces of legislation.
Which is not necessarily bad. After all, we’ve already learned that elites do have a role to play in the well being of the social organism we all belong to.

The whole thing boils down to how protected those elites need to be?
In order for them to be able to properly play their role.

We are now faced with another question which needs to be answered.

‘Their role’?

To lead the masses? Where?!?

How about ‘to maximize the chances of survival’? For both the society as a whole and for them, the elite class, as a very important part of the whole?

Let me remind you of the ‘three pearls of wisdom’.

The elites are not infallible.
They are the ones with the most to loose. Hence they are the most interested in maintaining the status quo.
The most efficient way to insure stability is through the wise use of the law. Which must be written wisely and obeyed respectfully.

Hence it’s the elites which mostly need to act wisely.
They are the ones who need the most to constantly adjust their actions according to the consequences obtained.

‘OK, very nicely put.
But what has any of this to do with ‘laissez faire’?!?’

Laissez faire is, above all, an attitude.
A mental frame-work. A blue print, if you want.

An attitude which mandates each of us to do as we please, for as long as we don’t encounter adverse reactions.

For instance, this attitude would allow any of us to shoot ourselves in the foot, if we don’t mind the pain. Or shoot somebody else in the foot if he doesn’t protest.

And this is the real problem with laissez faire.

It cannot be written into law.

‘ ‘Shoot somebody else in the foot if he doesn’t protest’… What does that mean? There are laws against bodily harming others…’

Yes, true enough. But before any law is enforced, somebody has to notify those called to enforce that law…
If the hurt person is in no position to call the ‘cops’ or the ‘shooter’ is powerful/skillful enough to avoid the unpleasant consequences of his actions…

On the other hand, laissez faire is essential.

People do need to be free. It’s their nature to explore every available opportunity!
Specially so for the elites.
Remember their role? To maximize the chances of survival?
How would they be able to do that if nobody is allowed to do as they please? To explore, that is!

Hence the true role of the elites.
To constantly adjust the meaning of laissez faire to whatever happens around them.

Given that sexes are, nowadays, considered to be equal… the advent of gender seems to be somewhat unwarranted.

I’m afraid things are not so simple.

First of all, sexes are only declared to be equal. Nobody – or, more exactly, very few, actually consider them to be absolutely equal.

Secondly, they are only of equal importance. Not at all ‘equal’.

First things first.
We, all, have been raised seeped in ‘culture’.
And almost all contemporary cultures consider women to be ‘second’ to men.
Hence both men and women – both raised by the same ‘mother’, have an ingrained bias towards men being ‘somewhat’ more important than women.

Last, but not at all least, sexes play different roles. Biologically, socially… any way you look at it, men and women do different things in order to fulfill their jobs. OK, those roles have been ‘blurred’ during the last decades but their are still discernibly different.
But of equal importance, mind you!

Just think of yin and yang. Would you say they are equal? Could you say which is more important?

Hence gender!
‘Genders’ do exactly that. They underline the functional differences between sexes while demonstrating the equal importance shared by both sexes.

And, last but, again, not least, genders teach us that only the biological roles are different AND fixed.
Social roles are also different but they can be fulfilled by either sexes. Men acting as secretaries for women bosses, women leading households – both income-wise and/or as ‘the pillar’, fathers using their maternity leaves, women flying fighting jets, men happily working as nurses. You name it!

You get accustomed to it.
Study genders. It will come easier.

Most commentators treat Maslow’s as if it were a pyramid. A succession of five receding floors constituting a structure in the three dimensional space.

Something which can exist, and function, on its own.

I see it as a mere triangle. Drawn on a two dimensional surface by Maslow’s imagination and imperfectly reproduced – according to our individual manner of seeing things, on the surface of our consciences.

My point being that each of those levels are nothing more than a set of opportunities.

The first two, which are described as ‘basic needs’ are the stages where we have the opportunity to learn how to drink, eat, manage our immediate environment and our own strength.

And so on.

Basically, it’s what we choose to do in each of those stages which determines whether we graduate to the next one.

OK, sometimes we are dealt with an ’empty set’ situation. There is no food available. Or no water. Use your own imagination.
But since in that situation there is nothing to be done except waiting for something to change – death is a form of change, that situation is of no interest for me. There’s noting to be decided so…

What we choose to do…

All that Maslow is trying to teach us is that our freedom of will might be free but will always be influenced by the situation in which we find ourselves.

When hungry, our attention – hence freedom of thought, will be necessarily drawn to finding food. We will still be relatively free to choose our individual manner of gathering/cooking it but much of our ‘bandwidth’ will be spent trying to fulfill that task.

And so on.

The really interesting stage/floor being, of course, the last one.
Where we’ll continue to feel hungry – from time to time, at least, were we’ll continue to be vulnerable to various potential aggressors, where we’ll continue to depend on friends and associates, were we’ll continue to pay attention to what other people say about us.
But where all those needs will be modulated by our manner of relating to them.
Ascending through the first four floors meant that our understanding of things was modulated by our needs. Reaching the top means that our conscience has finally learned to ‘turn the tables’. To peek on the other side. To trans-cede.

To whatever stage our precedent choices have set for us.
For us to play our freedom.

Theory has it that visiting foreign people might make us wiser.
By seeing how each of them cope in their own environment we might learn the beauty of each culture.
By taking in all the differences between us we might learn how ultimately alike we all are.

Or not.
The key word here being ‘might’.
Whenever subjected to a learning experience we only might become wiser.
Being confronted by new information is only an opportunity. Not a all a fatality.
Integrating that new information into our personal library of ideas has to be preceded by a ‘digestion process’. We need to understand and accept each of them first.
Depending on various factors, some of us might remain indifferent to at least a part of what is going on around us.
Depending on various factors, some of us might reach a different conclusion starting from the same set of raw data.

The fact that each of us has a determinant contribution to the learning process explains the differences between our perceptions.

Whenever visiting a foreign country, each of us comes home with a different opinion about those places.
The fact that none of us remains indifferent represents our shared humanity while the differences illustrate the individual nature of the human species.

“Do you know why I hate capitalists?

1. All they care about is money

2. They have all the money”

This is a bi-partisan joke. Some of the haves use it to demonstrate that money is the essence of modern life while the ‘lefties’ use it to demonstrate the ‘malign’ nature of capitalism.

Both sides are wrong.

According to Adam Smith, the market consists of many specialized economic actors who sell their wares/services. Thus helping each-other lead a better/simpler life than if each of them had to ‘do everything’. Furthermore, a free market is better than a ‘cornered’ one, simply because competition keeps everybody on their toes.
In this sense, a capitalist is a guy who organizes a group of synergically skilled operators in such a manner as to increase their aggregated efficiency.
In order for the market to remain free, a.k.a. efficient, there must continue to exist a certain degree of competition between the said capitalists. And for the whole thing to remain a market, each of the capitalists must remain but an actor, not become a dictator. A.k.a a monopolist.
Differently put, for the market to remain functionally free, capitalists should remain/must be kept level with the other ‘merchant-men’. The bakers sell their bread-making skills, the brewers their beer-making skills, the butchers their ability to carve carcasses while capitalists sell their ability to organize people. Their entrepreneurial skills.
OK, there is difference. But only in our heads. While each of the others use specialized tools – ovens, vats, knives, etc., capitalists use money. Yet another tool but one which seems familiar to all of us. But very few of us see money as a tool and even fewer accept that using money, a lot of it, implies a huge responsibility.  Hence the enormous misunderstanding. No reasonable human being – except for a carpenter, of course, would dream to amass a huge number of, say, hammers, but a majority of people are convinced that having a lot of money would make them happy.

And why did I say “both sides are wrong”?

Because real capitalists are focused on the needs of their business partners – a.k.a. ‘consumers’, not on their pockets/paychecks. Because real capitalists understand that sellers would go hungry if there was no money to buy their wares.
Because free market capitalists are focused on making money go round – and getting handsomely paid for this, instead of constantly attempting to hoard all the money in their grasp.

It’s not me who says so.
Jamie Dimon, Alex Gorsky, Tim Cook, Ray Dalio….

 

Decision is the frontier between action and understanding.

All frontiers are, in fact, links.

Present decisions set the stage where future will be played, just as past decisions have built the theater.
While we, “the people”, are the building actors. The script writers. And the spectators who will eventually bear the brunt.

 

Science is, above all, a state of mind.
One that posits the world can be understood, one fact at a time.
Science also says that The (complete) Truth will never be fully acquired, only people tend to forget that part.

Some history, first.
Science, as an attitude, had appeared on the shores of the Medieval Mediterranean Sea. The Arabs had just discovered Ancient Greek writings about the ‘natural order of things’ while the Catholics were trying to figure out what God had in mind for the future of the mankind.

We have seen that the laws of nature depend on other laws of nature, which ultimately depend on God’s will.

Put all these together – the wish to understand God’s will, the belief that God’s will is expressed through the natural order of things and the systematic observation of nature, and, Eureka, you have ‘science’.

Which attitude had made Europe what it is today. Both the good and the bad of it.

Europeans have initiated the orderly study of everything around them.
As I said before, the initial intent wasn’t any technological improvement. Technicians and scientists were two completely different breed of people. As in ‘tinkerers’ and ‘philosophers’. Tinkering was sometimes confused with witchcraft while ‘philosophy’ was almost synonym with theology.
Well, both ‘professions’ could lead those to practiced them to a ‘funeral pyre’… whenever either of them ‘trespassed’… Many of those who are able to read are familiar with what ultimately happened to Giordano Bruno but very few of us know the fact that the ‘un-certified healers’ were seen with ‘suspicion’.

“Questioned whether she heals sick persons, answered yes Sir.
Questioned with what kind of medicines, answered by picking betony up and washing it like salad and crushing it into a mortar to get its juice and to give it to her patients for 3, 4 and 5 days, telling them that the more they drunk it, the better it was.
With these words the healer Gostanza da Libbiano, tried for witchcraft in 1594,….”
“The difference between them (healers) and physicians was the specific kind of tasks assigned to doctors: physicians, who rarely touched impurities and who regularly graduated from the university, were believed to be able to make the pain cease, whereas the healer, due to the fact that she actually touched her patients, was able both to make pain cease and to cause it”

Donatella Lippi, Witchcraft, Medicine and Society in Early Modern Europe, 2012

On the face of it, ‘science’ was, and continues to be, declared to depend exclusively on facts. Regardless of those facts being the expression of God’s will or, ultimately, of a serendipitous nature.
In fact, science is about what we, ‘scientists’, have been taught to accept as facts by our teachers and peers.

Another interesting thing.
When most scientists were still believing in God, their natural arrogance was kept in check by their belief that there was somebody who knew more than them. He.
As soon as God was declared dead, all hell broke loose.

‘Practical’ sciences continue to be kept in check by … well… practice! For any engineer, biologist, chemist, physician and all other related scientists and practitioners of science  it is obvious that Karl Popper and Werner Heisenberg were, and continue to be, right. No matter how much we will ever learn, we’ll never be able to know everything. Hence, we should proceed with utmost care.
Those who practice ‘secondary degree’ sciences – sci-Po being the most obvious example, share the belief that the world can be learned but are enjoying a far longer ‘leash’. Simply because the consequences of their actions come a lot later than those experienced by the ‘practical sciences’ practitioners. Add the fact that the ‘effects’ are harder  pinpoint to one specific cause/action…
And since God has become, at most, a personal matter… he no longer exerts the taming influence it used to…
Science has become independent. It is practiced for/in its own right, not as the only available manner of ‘divining’ God’s Will.
In fact, we use science as a manner to design our future. Independently. As each of us see fit and as allowed by those around us.
Which is good. Attempting to learn before proceeding is commendable, of course.
But proceeding with the unshakeable belief that we already know everything about what lies ahead of us is… foolish. Even more so when we speed up…  with total disregard about what other people, our colleagues/peers/fellow human beings, have to say and/or feel about the whole thing. Because we momentarily can.

 

Three things have grabbed my attention this week.

Carrie Lam, the Cambridge educated Hong Kong’s top civil servant, whose career spans more than 40 years, who happens to be a devout Catholic, had tried to fast track legislation allowing the Hong Kong authorities to extradite people to mainland China.

More than a million of the 7.4 million inhabitants of Hong Kong have taken to the streets, in protest.

Across the Pacific Ocean, in Venezuela, a pregnant mother accompanied by her two small children, had joined other 31 people who attempted to flee their impoverished country. They had climbed aboard Ana Maria, a fishing boat which was supposed to take them to Trinidad but never made it across the 20 km wide stretch of treacherous water.

Maroly Bastardo, the Venezuelan mother, was trying to survive. Since it is harder and harder to find food in Venezuela – for themselves and for their children, more and more people attempt to leave the country. Which, despite having an immense natural wealth, is being led to disaster by a group of ultimately incompetent people.

The one million people protesting in Hong Kong have adopted another strategy. They attempt not only to survive, physically, but also to preserve their way of life. Their cherished way of life.

These two are relatively easy to figure out. It’s easy to understand the need to survive. Equally easy to understand is the determination of those who want to continue a lifestyle they enjoy.

But what drives the Carrie Lam’s and the Nicholas Maduro’s of this world?
OK, I might accept the idea that, somehow, each of them might have ‘lost it’.
But what about those around them? How come so many people still consider they can, somehow, contradict the entire human history?
‘This time will be different!” ” ‘This Reich’ will rule for one thousand years!”

Yeah, right…

This rule of thumb is also known as ‘Gresham’s Law’

At the core of Gresham’s law is the concept of good money versus bad money. The law holds that bad money drives out good money in circulation. Bad money is then the currency that is considered to have equal or less value compared to its face value. Meanwhile, good money is currency that is believed to have greater value or more potential for greater value than its face value. One basic assumption for the concept is that both currencies are equally liquid and available for use simultaneously. Logically, consumers will choose to use bad money over good money because good money has the potential to be worth more than its face value.”

‘Concept’, ‘the law holds’, ‘is considered’, ‘value’, ‘compared’, ‘is believed’, ‘assumption’, ‘logically’…
So. The way I see it, ‘Gresham’s Law’ is about people interacting according to their own ‘impressions’, ‘drives’ and ‘internal logic’.

But wait. Things are far more interesting than ‘commoners’ hoarding the potentially more valuable coins, when having the ‘opportunity’ to choose between good and bad money.

“The minting of coins provides the most basic example of Gresham’s law applied. In fact, Gresham’s law itself was built around the minting of coins and Gresham’s service to Queen Elizabeth I of England. Sir Thomas Gresham lived from 1519 to 1579, working as a financier serving the Queen and later founding the Royal Exchange of the City of London. Henry VIII had changed the composition of the English shilling, replacing a substantial portion of the silver with base metals. Gresham’s consultations with the Queen explained that consumers were aware of the change and began separating the English shilling coins based on their production dates to hoard the coins with more silver which, when melted down, were worth more than their face value.”

In fact, Gresham’s Law is about ‘commoners’ reacting in a logical manner whenever the powerful had tried to ‘trick’ the less powerful into accepting less valuable coinage.

Let’s examine the situation from another angle.

Gold and silver had been used to make coins for a number of reasons.
Both were rare enough to maintain their perceived value no matter how much of them might have been ‘suddenly’ discovered. For example, the Spaniards had brought shiploads of precious metals into Europe from South America without creating much ‘inflation’.
They, individually and or alloyed, were soft enough to be minted using primitive technology. The oldest coins made of precious metals go back almost 3000 years
Both gold and silver are impervious to the passage of time. That being the motive for those coins having survived for so long.

For these three reasons gold and silver had been the obvious choices when people had realized they needed a ‘technology’ for making payments and for preserving and transporting value.

In reality, this is the intrinsic logic for which gold and silver had been valuable for us. They had represented the most convenient manner of making payments and for transporting/preserving value. As metals, gold was basically useless until the advent of microelectronics while silver had become really useful only after Daguerre started using it to make primitive photographs.

So. Ancient people had discovered that by using gold and silver coins they could vastly accelerate their economies. The most interested being, of course, the powerful of the day.
The rulers. Those who had the means and the authority to mint.
Some of whom also had the gumption to mess with the whole process. For their own profit, of course. Why do you think Hieron, the King of Syracuse, had hired Archimedes to determine whether a piece of metal – a crown, but the shape had no real meaning, was made of pure gold – as the goldsmiths pretended, or not?

Instead of a conclusion.
Since the start of time, some people have tried to swindle the others. No matter how high their position on the social ladder. And the rest have tried to protect themselves. Or, sometimes, even to emulate the ‘bad’ behavior.

This being the beauty of the free market.
Whenever a market is truly free, the reasonable people naturally weed out the swindlers.
Whenever the swindlers happen to have the upper hand, the rest have no other option but to follow suit. To hoard the ‘good’ money.
The consequence being the slowing down of the economic cycle. To the ultimate ‘bad’ of everybody. The swindlers included. And their children/suitors!

 

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