Archives for category: fail better

There is an almost unanimous consensus about laws having to be considered either natural or man made.

As in the law of gravity is implacable – hence ‘natural’, while the Penal Code is a lot more ‘amenable’.

Yeah, right…

Then how come Hammurabi had been able to write his Code some three and a half Millennia before Newton famously noticed that apples do fall to the ground? Besides being such irresistible objects of temptation, of course.
One way out would be to assume that Hammurabi was a lot smarter than Newton but that would be too easy, don’t you think?

Now that I’ve mentioned the noticing game, let me point out some of my own observations.
People have tried to fly way before Newton had told them this is impossible – for us, at least.
Individuals might occasionally get away with murder but murderous societies are far less stable than the more peaceful ones.
Gravity has been already ‘defeated’ while no totalitarian government has yet managed to ‘stay afloat’ in a consistent manner – no matter how many dissidents it had murdered.

Another approach to this conundrum would be to consider that natural laws deal with the non responsive kind of chaos while man made ones are meant to approximate what happens when the chaos is able to respond to what’s being thrown in it.

For instance weather and financial market. No one can change the weather – hence it is considered a non-responsive kind of chaos, while the market is constantly pushed one way or another by the various pieces of information that reaches the participants. Which participants respond to those inputs – according to their own abilities and preferences, hence the ‘responsive’ character of the market.

So, could we consider that nature is non-responsively chaotic while humans behave equally chaotic but in a responsive manner?

The key word here being ‘we’, of course.
After all, we have coined the very concept of law, we are the ones speaking about the difference between ‘natural’ and ‘man made’ and we have discovered, formulated and eventually bent all laws… both natural and man made.

It seems that the whole situation is a lot foggier than at the begging.
That I’ve messed things up instead of making some sense of them…

Let me use another tack.

First of all, let me notice that we’re surrounded by ‘things’. And that these things relate to each other. And to us, of course.
From this point of view, the world is made of things AND of the relationships that appear amongst these things.

And here’s the catch. Laws are not things. They are a small part of the relationships that appear between the things that exist in this world. And since we’ve already discovered that there are a lot more things around us than we will ever be able to ‘see’/notice, it would be unreasonably to expect us to be able to notice all the relationships that ‘tie together’ the world.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try!

Returning to what we call ‘laws’, let me add yet another classification.

‘Noticed’ laws versus ‘pro-active’ laws.

In this sense ‘thou shalt not kill’, the Law of Gravity and ‘drive on one side only’ are, all three of them, ‘noticed’ laws. In the sense that things remain in order as long as we observe these laws.

On the other hand, pro-active laws are a lot more trickier.

‘Do this, do that’! …

‘Why?!?’

‘Because I know better AND/OR because I can make you obey my orders!’

While observing the noticed laws is essential in letting things flow naturally, imposing/accepting ‘pro-active’ laws is the recipe for disaster. Man made disaster.

Advertisements

two sided coin

So, Japan and Germany have huge trade surpluses. Despite their workers being the best paid in the whole world. In both absolute and relative terms. Among the major economies, anyway.
Meanwhile, the US has a humongous trade deficit. Yet the American CEO-s are ‘compensated’ as if they were the best in the world…

Interesting, right?

More ideas about the same subject here:

Why is Japan Economy (surplus of over $100 Billion) a considered Weak Economy? & Why is USA Economy (deficit of over $400 Billion) Strong Economy?

 

Apparently, heretics are hated while nonbelievers are simply despised.

Does any of this make any sense?

Actually, yes.

First of all, faith is like riding a bike.
If you stop moving, you either fall or you  have to put a foot on the ground.
And, after you learn how to do it, you don’t have to think about it anymore.
All is fine as long as you keep on moving…

Secondly, some people need to learn how to curb their initial enthusiasm… which is not such an easy thing to do… and the more dedicated among them have the greater difficulties…
Let me give you an example from the world of the martial arts.
The corpus of knowledge pertaining to this domain includes a series of resuscitation and first aid methods. Very efficient ones.
Our current, safety above all attitude, would mandate for these methods to be taught first to every new student. Which doesn’t happen. Age old experience has demonstrated that ‘enthusiastic’ newcomers would hit/choke each-other far harder and take far less precautions when knowing that resuscitation is so readily available. This is why these powerful methods are taught only to the more experienced,  and self controlled, practitioners of the art.

Going back to the difference between heretics and nonbelievers, let me point out another less obvious thing.
Most of us are imprinted with a faith or another in our early childhood. Way before any of us was capable of thinking for their-selves. As a consequence, most of us are very relaxed towards something which is both very familiar and shared by most of those around us.

Until something happens, that is.
Something which contradicts our faith. Something which might force us to ‘stop the bike’. Which might cause us to fall. Or stop and reconsider.

And this is the real difference between heretics and nonbelievers.

As believers, we’ve always known about nonbelievers. That they’ll go straight to hell. There’s nothing unsettling for us about that. They are so different from us that, practically, they don’t count. We might bump into them on the street, we might even do business with them… but, in the end, they don’t count.
They cannot influence our ‘deep thinking’. The way we see the world.

Heretics are something totally different. They are people like us, who share most of our beliefs and who behave almost like us on most occasions.
If we don’t pay special attention, we might confuse them with ‘our own people’.
And by being so close to us, they constantly remind us that, maybe, it is us who are wrong. About that small thing which makes the difference between us and them.
I must add here that ‘fresh’ converts have the ‘worst of it’. They had already reconsidered their faith, reached a conclusion and are now under a more intense pressure to defend their ‘deliberate choice’. The ‘born again’ are in the very same situation, choosing to comeback to an erstwhile lost faith is no different from adopting a new one.

This pressure is unbearable. Having to nurse such a huge doubt is like a devil constantly whispering in our ear… A culprit must be found, blamed for the torment we had to endure and punished for their arrogance. For their audacity to exist. To constantly remind us that there are alternatives to what we’ve been led to believe.

And this is valid for all kind of faiths. The phenomenon is not restricted to the religious world.
People who had vaccinated their children actually hate those who had chosen not to.
Well, some of them… I’ll come back to this…
Atheists hate the faithful.
The progressives hate the conservatives and the conservatives respond in kind.
Those who believe the Earth is round hate and/or make fun of those who are convinced  the Earth is Flat… and so on…

In this situation, people might ask themselves ‘how come we hadn’t yet slit each other’s throats in sleep?’

‘well, some of them…’

The point being that, most of the times, the haters are a small minority. Most of the believers have either understood that the main tenet of all ‘faiths’ is ‘don’t harm anybody unnecessarily and respect all other human beings/opinions’ or actually have better things to do than to split hairs.

Which brings us to the present situation.
When various ‘con-artists’ have learned to inflame hate and to prod the haters to fight each-other.

Only both the haters and the rest of us – the silent majority who, until know, have been too lazy to intervene, have forgotten that ‘divide et impera’ had always ended up disastrously. Usually for those who allowed themselves to be divided and, quite often, for the ‘imperators’ themselves.

Both Alexander the Great and Cesar, two of the most acclaimed generals and political figures, had ended up both prematurely and in an undignified manner. After causing enormous suffering to both the conquerors and the conquered.
Let’s not forget that Greece had practically disappeared from the world stage after Alexander the Great and that Cesar had been the first – well, the second, of the long list of Roman dictators who had led the empire to its eventual demise.
This might have been a ‘natural’ occurrence. ‘Natural’ as in ‘then inevitable’.

But why repeat it, now that we’ve already learned how it invariably ends?

 

 

 

Isn’t this funny? In a somewhat tragic way?

An Ugandan native makes a few bucks ‘educating’ white tourists about the Coriolis effect.

what's the magic, boss

The videographer, an England born Australian, jokingly asks him “What’s the magic, boss?”

Meanwhile, another guy tries to convince us that the Coriolis effect is fake and that the Earth is flat.

coriolis fake Earth flat

What next?
When are we going to watch a Youtube video claiming the fact that all the Northern Hemisphere  tornadoes spin in the same direction while those in the Southern Hemisphere ‘do it’ in the opposite one is due to … no, I give up …

I’m going to ask you something else.

At the end of the previous post, I promised that I’ll come back on why God was so afraid that Adam and Eve might grab some fruit “from the tree of life and eat, and live forever“.

Now imagine what would have happened if humans were immortal and a guy from the ‘flat Earth community’ was in charge.

Or if Stalin lived forever.

Click the pictures above to watch the videos.

Any way you look at it, a human individual is a decision making machine.

When living in the bush, the decision making process was rather straightforward.
Information was available on a ‘what you see is what you get’ basis and bad decisions had the rather nasty habit of becoming obvious after a very short time.

Now, when living in a social context, things are a little more complicated.
Other people want from us.
Other people actually depend on convincing us to do various things and not to do other things.

‘Convincing us’ means influencing our decision making processes.
Which can be done using one, two or a combination of the following methods.

By ‘managing’ the information we have at our disposal when making a certain decision.
By altering the way in which we feel about the outcome of that decision being put in practice.

The A&B of the matter, for those familiar with the domain…

But there are two other things which are rarely discussed about these matters.

How ethical is it to manipulate other people?
Specially when the manipulated are not fully aware of what’s going on, which puts the manipulator in almost full control of the whole process.

What are the longer term consequences of the whole thing?
Is there any difference between manipulating people to ‘consume’ things which are more or less detrimental to their health and manipulating people into making far reaching political decisions?

As in ‘is there any difference between convincing people that smoking isn’t that bad for them (or at least pleasurable enough to balance the risk) and convincing them to vote for/against … (feel free to pick your own candidate/issue)?

“The researcher whose work is at the center of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data analysis and political advertising uproar has revealed that his method worked much like the one Netflix uses to recommend movies.”

Matthew Hindman,
https://theconversation.com/how-cambridge-analyticas-facebook-targeting-model-really-worked-according-to-the-person-who-built-it-94078

Apparently, modern civilization ‘is all about the money’.

Fundamentally, it’s still about trust.

Drivers trust their follow drivers that each will stay on their side of the road, stop at the red light and yield at the famous yellow triangle.

yield

 

Each of us trusts that the elevators we use daily won’t fall under their own weight, that our daily bread contains exclusively what’s mentioned on the label and that tap water has been adequately filtered before being pumped into our homes through proper pipes.

We trust, and follow their advice, ‘higher authorities’. Science people, teachers, government ‘agents’…

Modern ‘consumers’ order a lot of stuff online, food included. From people they’ve never met, trusting they’ll get what they’ve read about in an add they never asked for.

We keep a lot of data online. Mails, tweets, pictures, more or less intimate thoughts shared on our FB walls. That’s the ‘free’ part. We also pay increasingly handsome amounts of money to ‘upload’ for safekeeping ‘in the cloud’ a lot of sensitive commercial and personal data.

Where ‘apparently’ meets ‘fundamentally’, in our individual/personal lives, we are flabbergasted when cars become weapons and are used to kill innocent bystanders. Our friends and relatives.

When manufacturers implement planned obsolescence, artificially increase nicotine contents in cigarettes and replace sugar with corn syrup in ‘soft drinks’.
When piped water is dirty and the authorities shrug their shoulders.
When we discover that animal fat is not as bad for us as we’ve been told for the last 50 years or so. When we realize that our children are saddled with huge debts simply because they wanted a good education. When we realize that some of the people involved with ‘government’ become part of the problem instead of part of the solution.

When our personal data becomes a merchandise.
Traded to be transformed into a manipulative tool.
Used to influence us into buying certain things.
Used to influence us into making certain political decisions.

Trust will, probably, survive for a while.
But I fear the day when too many people will have lost it.

Price tag

 

 

Let me first clear up something.
I’m an engineer. Converted to sociology, indeed, but still an engineer.
So don’t expect any fancy wording or very sophisticated philosophical considerations!

Let’s pretend, for a moment, that we’ve just arrived on this planet. Just ‘you and me’, not ‘us humans’.
Being sent by some alien civilization to see what’s going on here.
Like we, ‘the civilized people’, study the natives still living in the Amazonian forest – minimum contact and so on, no intention what-so-ever to invade the territory or any other-way purposely intervene in the natural evolution of things.

I don’t know about you, but my report would be something like this:

The most interesting aspect of the planet is the manner in which the intelligent inhabitants have evolved.
Those living in a relatively small and isolated corner of the landmass have somehow developed the most consequential culture and then imposed some very important aspects of it on most of the rest.

Even more baffling is the fact that all major religions observed on this planet start from the same tenet.

the golden rule

The only thing which singles out those who had managed to impose their culture on most the rest being that they apply the rule in a ‘pro-active’ manner.
‘Do unto others what you wish others to do unto you’ versus ‘do not do unto others what you don’t like being done unto you’. ‘Normative’ versus ‘preemptive’.

– Why are you so baffled about any of this? The universal law of evolution maintains that things which are not suitable enough for the environment where they happen to exist will eventually disappear… Each culture produces a certain civilization – modifies the environment according to its wishes/as a consequence of its mistakes, and the other cultures have to adapt/evolve to the new situation… nothing new or peculiar here…

– Nothing new, indeed, except for the fact that while most of the cultures on this planet learned to ‘live and let live’ – “do not do unto others…”, while the two most successful ones have adopted the slightly but very consequentially different “do unto others…”, a.k.a. ‘who’s not like us is against us’….

– Is there any explanation for the most aggressive attitude being the most successful one?
Until now, at least… considering that the two cultures which share the ‘do unto others what you wish to be done unto you’ attitude seem to ‘have worked themselves up’ into a rather ‘confrontational situation’… both intra and inter culturally…

– The only putative explanation I can come up with for such a divergent evolution is that Plato, the seminal intellectual figure of the ‘doers’, taught his followers not only that the world is knowable but also that he who has reached a learned state must, forcefully if necessary, lead his peers to the ‘light’ he had found while the ‘significant others’ believe that the learned ones should speak out, at their discretion, only when somebody asks them to.

.

.

– One more thing.
The immediate consequence of Plato’s teachings was that Alexander – an emperor who was tutored by Plato’s eminent student, Aristotle, had conquered most of the then civilized world only to die, untimely, a drunkard’s death… intoxicated by booze, intoxicated by power… who cares?

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.

the-most-corrupt

“Clinton is the most corrupt person ever to seek the Presidency… she is protected by a rigged system” said the paragon of free trade who attempted to use eminent domain in order to evict an old lady from her house so that he could spare a few hundred thousand bucks… and who later bragged about ‘women allowing him to “grab them by the pussy” simply because of his status’.

His competitor, whose slogan reads “Stronger Together”, is a former Secretary of State who has been accused  by both the State Department and the FBI of ‘gross negligence’ and ‘extreme carelessness’ towards important matters of national interest.

89797467_emailclinton

“Mrs Clinton failed to comply with rules on record-keeping, the inspector general found, and used private email for official business without approval.”

So, one of them thinks the system is rigged only when it cannot be twisted to suit his own interests while the other believes ‘togetherness’ can be build around someone who completely disregards the existing rules…

I’ve been asking myself, for some time now, ‘what’s going on there‘?
How come so many intelligent people have allowed themselves to be sucked in this extremely dirty game of deception?

In fact the answers are so obvious that I’ve lost interest in them.
(“The 2016 presidential election has seen a strange flip-flop with respect to conservative and liberal voters. In many ways, even though Trump is the nominee on the right, he is running to the left of Hillary on many issues. Hillary represents the status quo mainstream, usually denoted as the Republican nominee position, while Trump is the obvious “change agent” of the election. Both Hillary and Bill Clinton have been seen by many government officials as being more conservative than liberal, even though they use the Democratic platform to advance their hold on power.”)

But what consequences will arise from this mess?

Is Putin going to be the sole real beneficiary of this electoral process?
Because, regardless of the outcome of the vote, America has made such a fool of herself that she has already lost much of the huge respect the rest of the world had for her?

But what if, again regardless of the immediate outcome, enough Americans will eventually wake up from their slumber and bring things back on their right track?

Don’t count America out just yet.
Hitler and the Japanese militarists  have been only a few of those who had fallen into this trap…

On the other hand too many trips to ‘the brink’ are not ‘good for your health’. The Western part of the Roman Empire had fallen apart in almost similar conditions while its Eastern half had been able to post-pone  its own agony only by becoming a dictatorship.

row your boat

While discussing with a FB friend the last video posted by Price Ea – you can watch it by clicking on the picture above – something hit me.

We were exchanging ideas about how much control each of us has over his own life when I realized that our very insistence on using precisely this term is what causes a lot of trouble.

The notion of control divides the world in two.
The controller and the controlled.

And since we are social animals, things become very quickly very complicated.

Being ‘animals’ means we that we have ‘animalic’ needs. Air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, shelter from the elements… The first floors of Maslow’s pyramid, as you surely remember.
Being ‘social animals’ means that we not only depend on having access to enough physical space and resources but also on the cooperation of the people who happen to be in our vicinity.

The control hypothesis ‘leads’ us into a competition for both space and authority above those around us.
Our world becomes divided into what ever space we already control and the rest. Meaning the (yet) uncontrolled areas from where it is very possible that a challenger might spring up anytime so that the controller must somehow extent his control over those areas as well, as soon as possible.
Our neighbors become divided into our ‘slaves’ and our direct competitors. Who have to be, sooner or later, subdued into slaves – lest they do the same thing unto us.

In conclusion, the ‘control hypothesis’ sees the world as a constantly busy battlefield where each of the dwellers is in constant conflict with everybody else.

Luckily, even the most perfunctory  glance down the history teaches us that human success is more about cooperation than about conflict.

Only the conspiracy theorists believe that most wars are started by business people trying to sell their wares to the warring parties. The reasonable business people know that while a certain amount of tension is good for their business – tension sells guns, among other things – an actual war exhausts both parties and destroys solvent demand.
While it is possible that some callous business people or political actors might try to foment war, for various reasons, that doesn’t mean they are behaving reasonably.

Which brings us to the alternate hypothesis.

How about we replace the concept of ‘control’ with the idea of ‘autonomy’?

How about we give up the ‘tiresome’ notion of control and replace it with the peaceful concept of cooperation?

Since we have already figured out that we depend on both those around us and on whatever resources we can identify, how about we enroll the cooperation of as many of the like minded that surround us as possible and search together for those resources?
Instead of each of us simultaneously trying to run faster than everybody else and to hold back as many as possible – the true meaning of generalized conflict?

Which brings me to the notion of ‘autonomy’.
Being autonomous means being engaged in a special kind of relationship. It means being part of a flexible structure. One that is strong enough to resist but flexible enough to allow a variable amount of leeway for each of its components.
The very concept of autonomy recognizes the mutual dependency that exists between the autonomous members of the said structure and also the fact that the very strength of the structure comes from each of the members being able to solve problems on his own.

Autonomously, that is.
Drawing resources from the structure, sometimes enrolling the negotiated cooperation of some other members but, on the whole, most of the problems get to be resolved ‘under the radar’. To the great benefit of the entire structure.
The vast majority of the structure not even noticing the huge numbers of situations that get solved this way.

Compare this situation to the one described in the first scenario, the one where everybody fights, openly or covertly, with every body else and tell me what you prefer.

“Control” or “Autonomy”?

An all out incessant war for ultimate control or a continuous process of negotiation?

%d bloggers like this: