Archives for category: Trust

The state of being calm and not easily worried or excited.

Many human beings praise themselves for being able to ignore emotion when trying to make decisions. And the more important a decision is, the harder they try to ignore their own feelings about the matter.

People with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) can be witty, charming, and fun to be around — but they also lie and exploit others. ASPD makes people uncaring. Someone with the disorder may act rashly, destructively, and unsafely without feeling guilty when their actions hurt other people.

Modern diagnostic systems consider ASPD to include two related but not identical conditions: A “psychopath” is someone whose hurtful actions toward others tend to reflect calculation, manipulation and cunning; they also tend not to feel emotion and mimic (rather than experience) empathy for others. They can be deceptively charismatic and charming. By contrast, “sociopaths” are somewhat more able to form attachments to others but still disregard social rules; they tend to be more impulsive, haphazard, and easily agitated than people with psychopathy. ASPD is uncommon, affecting just 0.6% of the population.

Am I the only one here baffled by how little free space is left between these two definitions? By how little leeway we have between the constant pressure to ‘act rationally’ and becoming a ASPD patient?

On a more practical level – now that I’ve noticed this, I’m even more baffled by our duplicity. As a species, I mean.
‘Concerned Citizens’ insist that ‘conflict of interests’ should be avoided at ‘all costs’ – lest it generates even higher ones, while some ‘thinkers’ consider that it is possible for humans to actually put aside their personal feelings.

Daniel Kahneman, among others, has done a brilliant job in describing many of the intricate ways of our thinking processes. Which are nothing but continuous tugs of war between emotional pulsions more or less kept in check by rational processes.
Basically, most of those concerned with human decision making have reached the conclusion that we’re not rational thinkers but rationalizing agents.

Hence my ‘nagging question’:

What keeps a cool-headed rationalizing agent from becoming a ASPD patient?
Specially given the constant social pressure towards ‘coolheadedness’…

OK, some people are better at rationalizing than others… but that would tend to help them at remaining undetected rather than not becoming affected…
Frans de Waals – again, among others, posits that, ‘statistically’,  altruism/empathy is an inbred feature of many animals, all primates included. Given this concept, ASPD would be rather simply explained as an ‘organic’ deficiency. Due to a ‘wiring error’, those affected by ASPD display less ‘phenotypically’ expressed altruism/empathy than the ‘average’ members of the society.

Bingo!

phenotype. (fē′nə-tīp′) n. The observable physical or biochemical characteristics of an organism, as determined by both genetic makeup and environmental influences. The expression of a specific trait, such as stature or blood type, based on genetic and environmental influences.

It seems that ‘what you get’ is not solely determined by the genetic information inherited from the parents but also by the specific environment in which the given genetic information gets to express itself.

For the rest of the living realm, things are relatively simple. Lady Luck is the sole ‘director’ in these matters. A really lucky organism gets to spend its life in a more suited environment than a less lucky one.

For humans… things are a tad more complicated.
Besides the fact that each of us enjoys a relative autonomy – some call it freedom of will, we also contribute enormously to the environment in which we get to live. And no, I don’t want to talk about pollution or man-made global heating.

The thing I have in mind right now is usually called ‘culture’.

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow, 2013
Frans de Waal, The Bonobo and the Atheist, 2014

 

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A knife can be used for buttering toast, slicing steak and, occasionally, for slitting  throats.
A gun can be used to hunt dinner, defend a homestead or shoot a rival.
Bare hands can knot laces, caress a woman or choke the life out of an innocent.

What makes us, humans, sometimes transform tools into weapons?

We are astonished when we learn about other animals being able to make and use tools.
Which is good. ‘Astonished’ is the opposite of ‘insensitive’. A.k.a. ‘brain dead’.

How about we, humans, learning from the rest of the animals how to solve whatever issues we have amongst us without  killing each-other?
You are aware that humans and chimpanzees are the only animals who systematically murder adult members of their own species, right?

But what instance is powerful enough to transform tool into weapon?

Human consciousness?

Is this a ‘fatality’?
The simple fact that each of us is consciously aware of the differences between ‘I’ and ‘all the rest’ means that whenever ‘survival instincts’ kick in our humanity necessarily vanishes? Entirely?
And ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’ becomes ‘dog eats dog’?

We would have already been dead by now… all of us…
Our ancestors must have discovered a way to balance our propensity to ‘stick with your own kind’ with with our need to learn new things and meet new people!
Or is it that some of us continually come up with fresh reasons for ‘war’ while we, the rest, are too lazy to do anything about it? Despite everything history has ever taught us…

The Baby Boomer experience hasn’t been the same across the world but, due to globalization, you, the next generations, share much more, experience wise, than what we did. Frustration, that is.
Having said that, I don’t think that blaming us, your ‘parents’, for everything you have to put up with, will solve much.

First of all, let me explain what I mean by Baby Boomers having experienced different things across different parts of the world.
Actually, it is fairly obvious that the American Baby Boomers had it differently than the Western European ones and that the Eastern Europeans had the almost opposite experience from the first two.
The American Baby Boomers had been raised by the absolute victors of the WWII, the Western European ones by those who had been saved – from both war and the subsequent misery, by the Americans while the third category had been ‘eased into the world’ by people freshly fitted with the communist yoke.

Yet the X-ers and the Milennials have a very common Weltanschauung, on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Internet explains only half of what’s going on. Yes, the ‘coordination’ that bind all the X-ers and the Millennials has happened through the Internet but is due to the entire Euro-Atlantic region being under the same ‘spell’.

And You, X-ers and Milennials, blame us, Baby Boomers, for the present situation.

Which, in a way, makes a lot of sense.

As a matter of fact, I, and many around me, used to put a lot of blame on our parents for the damages inflicted on all of us by the onset of communism in Romania.

Then I realized three things.

That it could have been far worse.
That each generation has to face the mistakes committed by previous one but tends to brush aside the accomplishments  inherited from their parents.

The biggest of which, Baby Boomer accomplishments, being the fact that we have somehow managed to keep ‘cool’ the WW we have inherited from our parents.

OK, unlike our parents, we’ve somehow ‘lost the peace’… that’s on us, indeed.
Those who had won the WWII  had been wise enough to help the nations which had happened to be on the losing side.  Which process didn’t take place – not on the same scale, anyway, after the fall of the Iron Curtain.
Those who had lost the WWII had been wise enough to learn something from being fooled into following the fake prophets that had brought them so much misery. And to assume their part of the blame. Again, this has yet to happen in the former communist countries.

And the third thing that I’ve learned is that no generation, however enlightened, will ever be able to stray very much from the previous one. It can, sometimes, understand and avoid a few of the mistakes committed in the past but will always be ‘tugged back’ by the ‘ways of the past’.

Is there any way out of this historical ‘vicious circle’? Preferably one that will conserve the benefits brought about by the virtuous circle spinning in parallel with the vicious one?

I’m afraid there’s no ‘one size fits all’ remedy.
Each generation has to open their collective mind and select what to take over and what to fix from what they have inherited from their parents.
Specially now, when so much of the whole world is almost in ‘sync’.

I’ve ended my previous post by saying that we, humans, are tempted to see almost everything as a potential tool.

And the present one by asking myself ‘to what avail?’.

What are we trying to accomplish?

I kept telling you that we, humans, haven’t invented much. That everything we do has already been experimented by our predecessors. Plants and animals…

Well, one of the things that we did invent was ‘intent’. As in ‘premeditation’.

We don’t know whether plants are driven by anything else except their ‘vital spirit’.
Same thing is valid for ‘inferior animals’ (those which don’t have brains) while the superior (a.k.a. brained) ones seem to be driven by what we call emotion.

Including us!

No matter how much we pride ourselves about our ability to reason, we’re still driven by emotion.
Actually, we’re not even close to being rational!
At best, we rationalize our emotional impulses. Before or even after we put them into practice.
Dan Ariely and Daniel Kahneman, among others, have already settled this point.

Then why am I talking about ‘premeditation’?!?

And who said ‘premeditation’ is necessarily rational?

It is planned, OK, but …

You see, the real difference between us and the rest of most other animals is our ability to ‘watch ourselves watching the world‘. As if something inside each of ourselves is able to send a probe somewhere ‘outside’ and then examine its own individuality as an outside observer. I didn’t say an impartial observer, just an outsider. However biased.

I won’t elaborate on how we got here, Maturana had already done that. Brilliantly. I’m far more interested in the consequences of each of us being able to observe their own selves ‘from outside’, keeping in mind that our rationality is heavily bounded – Simon Herbert and others, and that we’re mainly driven by emotions.

The very first thing that each of us observes about their-selves is the overwhelming fragility which defines us.

And this is why we search solace in religion. In no matter which one of them, atheism included. There is ‘safety in numbers’, you know…

Our goal, professed or not, is to find inner peace.
No matter whether you call it salvation, redemption, nirvana, self acceptance or whatever else, what you crave is peace.

The sentiment (illusion?) that you are safe.

At least for a moment.

How long is that moment going to last?

Well, that depends on how you got there!
And who accompanies you…

 

 

Let’s take it one step at a time.

A guy hires a woman. A ‘working girl’, to be precise.

After a while, an attorney pays a hefty sum to the working girl and has her sign a confidentiality contract.

When asked about the whole thing, the guy first said that he didn’t know much about anything and then that he had reimbursed the hush money to the attorney.

The attorney apparently gets a lot of money from somebody else. Which somebody else might be, now or become in in the future, in a conflict of interests with the organization presently run by the guy who had once hired a working girl.

It becomes apparent that the attorney is a confidante of this guy. Or, in plain English, that this attorney takes care of the dirty laundry that ‘happens’ around this guy.

It also becomes apparent that this attorney is not satisfied with the amount of money he gets from this guy. That this guy is not his only client. And that this attorney is not very particular when accepting other clients.

What am I to understand from all this?

This guy is cheap?
This attorney is very greedy?
This guy is not very particular when choosing who takes care of his dirty laundry?

thor

“Before being rescued, Thor had dragged himself around the streets of Mexico for months. A young woman named Eva pulled over to the side of the road seeing that the dog was barley alive. She took a picture and sent out a desperate cry for help. The REAL Bark (located in Los Angeles) saw it posted and immediately committed to this handsome pitt-bulldog mix. He was broken, paralyzed, and wounded, and a lot of doctors advised the rescue to put him down. Even if he lived, which was unlikely, he would need to be in a special-needs chair for the rest of his life. Jf Pryor, the founder of The REAL Bark, claimed that Thor’s eyes begged, “Let me live. Let me show you”- so instead of ending his life, The REAL Bark team began it.

His therapy, or “thorapy” as The REAL Bark team calls it, consisted of acupuncture, hydrotherapy, laser therapy, muscle building, and stretching. The most difficult part of recovery was helping end the enduring pain Thor was experiencing. Thor’s main doctor and biggest advocate was Dr. Jessica Waldman, the owner of California Animal Rehabilitation (CARE). When Thor attended CARE, the rescue team knew he needed a new set of wheels, a cart for him to pull his lifeless body along. Dr. Jessica Waldman surprised the team however with her response, “You can borrow a cart, but there is no need to purchase.” Thor’s doctor continued, “We will get him walking,” she said. “He wants to walk”. This hope kept the team going.”

eaten alive by scabies

“The scabies that infected Zeni’s body had become so severe that bacteria seeped into her bloodstream. She died in 2015 at age 93.

Zeni’s death is now the subject of a lawsuit filed against PruittHealth, a for-profit company that owns dozens of nursing homes, including Shepherd Hills in LaFayette, Ga., where Zeni lived for five years until she died. Shepherd Hills, a nursing home that had multiple scabies outbreaks in recent years and a history of health violations, failed to follow policies and procedures to prevent the occurrence and spread of the highly contagious disease, documents say. Instead of providing the care that Zeni desperately needed, the lawsuit alleges that the nursing home allowed her to die an agonizing death.

“The last six months of her life, she was in constant pain,” Prieto said. “She was literally being eaten alive from inside out.””

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

The American Revolution was fought under the banner of ‘Taxation without representation is tyranny”.
Meaning that the first Americans saw taxes as money well spent, as long as paying said taxes allowed them to vote. As in ‘being able to determine their own future’. Albeit in a collective manner.

In fewer words, the early Americans viewed liberty as being valuable enough to die for, let alone to spend some money in order to maintain it.

10% anual pay rise

time.com

And what made so many modern Americans willing to sell their hard won ability to vote? To determine their future?

Are they so poor that, for them, liberty has become an empty word?
Have they lost all confidence in the democratic process?
Are they so infatuated with money?

Any mix of all of the above?

 

Vatican scrambles after pope appears to deny existence of hell.

Francis washing feet of inmates

“The controversy came as Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 prisoners at Rome’s Regina Coeli prison on Holy Thursday. Among the inmates were two Muslims, an Orthodox Christian and a Buddhist. He told them: “Everyone has the opportunity to change life and one cannot judge.”
It was the fourth time since becoming pope that he held mass in an Italian prison. “I am a sinner like you but today I represent Jesus … God never abandons us, never tires of forgiving us,” he added.”

“The Holy See issued a terse statement saying a lengthy article published in La Repubblica on Wednesday by Eugenio Scalfari, 93, the newspaper’s founder, was “the fruit of his reconstruction” and not “a faithful transcription of the Holy Father’s words”.

While the Vatican conceded that Scalfari, an atheist who struck up a friendship with Francis in 2013, had held a private meeting with the pontiff before the Easter weekend, it said an interview had not been granted.

During the meeting Scalfari asked the pope where “bad souls” go, to which he was quoted as responding: “They are not punished. Those who repent obtain God’s forgiveness and take their place among the ranks of those who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and cannot be forgiven disappear. A hell doesn’t exist, the disappearance of sinning souls exists.””

OK, and where’s the problem?

“… in 1999 Pope John Paul II announced that hell was “the ultimate consequence of sin itself … rather than a place, hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy”.”

Since ‘nihil sine Deo’, where’s the difference between ‘disappearing’ and ‘becoming definitively separated from God’?!?

“The Catholic church’s teachings affirm the existence of hell and its eternity, saying “the chief punishment of hell is eternal separation of God”.”

If I’m not mistaken – and I’m not, many people belonging to the same Catholic church once behaved as if sinners were able to buy ‘respite tickets from hell’, for themselves or for their friends and family…
The Council of Trent instituted severe reforms in the practice of granting indulgences, and, because of prior abuses, “in 1567 Pope Pius V canceled all grants of indulgences involving any fees or other financial transactions” (Catholic Encyclopedia). This act proved the Church’s seriousness about removing abuses from indulgences.

Humans are biased. We tend to interpret what we are told and to bend everything we learn towards what we want to believe.

How about going back to basics.

God loves us.
Simply because He had made us in His own image.
And, just like any other reasonable parent, He knows that His children are far from being perfect. Hence He must have had perfected a method to correct our transgressions.

On the other hand, eternal damnation doesn’t make much sense, does it?

What loving Father could envision any number of his children suffering till the end of time, whenever that might come?

What about a simpler alternative than trying to out-guess God?

For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

1 Corinthians 2:11

Pope Francis’s words make a lot of sense. To me!
There’s also very little difference between his interpretation of hell and that expressed by Pope John Paul II.
How can anything continue to exist when separated from the all encompassing God?
What loving Father would give up, for good, any number of his children? Regardless of their transgressions…

Who has done this and carried it through, calling forth the generations from the beginning?

I, the Lord—with the first of them and with the last—I am he.”

Isaiah 41:4

You see, adding the fact that we’re all sinners to the possibility of an eternal hell would lead us to the conclusion that we’re all doomed. For the eternity.
If God would allow it, of course.

Doesn’t make much sense, does it?
Then how about us striving to minimize our sins here, while we still have this opportunity, and leave the rest to somebody who knows better?

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

 

 

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