Archives for category: Bounded rationality

… to cover up for our goals!

Having no previous intel about this guy, my ‘jerked’ reaction was simple.

‘Leaving aside any principle, a society which cuts ‘fallopian’ tubes will have a lower birth rate while that which vaccinates its children will notice a decrease in healthcare costs. And a lower mortality across the entire age spectrum!’

OK, let’s calm down and google. To find out who was this Oliver Wendell Holmes, after all.

“In that long span of (30) years on the Supreme Court he became acknowledged as one of the most notable jurists of the age—in the opinion of many the foremost. Often he has been called The Great Dissenter because of the brilliance of his dissenting opinions, but the phrase gives a falsely negative emphasis, and his penetration and originality are seen as fully in the opinions in which he expressed or concurred in the majority view of the court as in those in which he was in dissent.”

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Oliver-Wendell-Holmes-Jr

“Perhaps his best-known phrase is from Schenck v. United States, where he introduced the ‘clear-and-present-danger’ test as a means of limiting the power of the state to restrict speech and illustrated it by reference to a person’s ‘falsely shouting fire in a theater.’ His later development of this test, coupled with his emphasis on a basically unregulated ‘marketplace of ideas,’ was seminal for the development of modern free-speech law.
His retirement in 1932 was a national event, and he has remained, along with John Marshall, among the best known of all those who have served on the Supreme Court.”

https://www.history.com/topics/us-government/oliver-wendell-holmes-jr

“Few American jurists are as revered as Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. A United States Supreme Court justice for close to 30 years, Holmes wrote seminal opinions that were clear and clever and elegantly phrased. It was Holmes who defined the limits of free speech in 1919 by noting that the law did not protect someone “falsely shouting fire in a theater.” And it was Holmes who thoughtfully amended those words a decade later by writing that nothing in the Constitution was more sacred than “the principle of free thought — not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.” By most accounts, Holmes, an upper-crust Bostonian, served the nobler instincts of America’s privileged classes. That is why his reckless majority opinion supporting forced sterilization in a 1927 case remains an enigma. Was it an isolated misstep or something more: an indictment of Justice Holmes and the Progressive movement he appeared to embrace?”

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/20/books/review/imbeciles-and-illiberal-reformers.html

“We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.
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.
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Perhaps worst of all, Carrie Buck was not an imbecile. Both she and her mother were deemed “social undesirables” due to a perception of promiscuity which, in Carrie’s case, partially resulted from an illegitimate child who was the product of incestuous rape. This was fairly typical. The linked article describes how “people as young as 10 in North Carolina were sterilized for not getting along with schoolmates, being promiscuous or running afoul of local social workers or doctors.”

In all, more than 60,000 people—including 7,600 in North Carolina—were forcibly sterilized in the United States in the name of “progress.” Progressives of the time lauded the decision in Buck. Individual rights, they firmly believed, should not be allowed to stand in the way of collective progress. Justice Brandeis called Buck an example of properly allowing states the freedom to “meet modern conditions by regulations which a century ago, or even half a century ago, probably would have been rejected as arbitrary and oppressive.””

https://www.cato.org/blog/one-generation-oliver-wendell-holmes-jr-enough

So.
Who was the ‘real’ Oliver Wendell Holmes?
That one whose teachings we choose to put forward, of course! Exactly as Justice Holmes had done himself.
And why is it our responsibility to choose?
Simple. It’s us, and our children, who will bear the consequences. Who will have to live in the environment shaped by those choices.

Cassandra by Evelyn De Morgan (1898, London); Cassandra in front of the burning city of Troy

“Oh God, please make it so that my prophecies won’t come to life!”
“I’m sorry Cassandra, that’s what I made Man for. Now, it’s Their job to heed to your warnings!”

“And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”

The larger your ‘skull’ is, the more ideas – sometimes conflicting ones, you are able to ‘harbor’.

This guy, a 31 years old father of two, is looking forward for a heart transplant.

Meaning that he, and his family, trust the doctors who are going to perform the surgery.
Who are going to open up his chest, take his failing heart out, sew the ‘re-cycled’ one in and patch him up again.
Doctors who need to hook him up to various machines and to pump him full of chemicals in order to maintain him alive – but unconscious, during the procedure. And who are going to closely monitor him – and, again, administer him a lot of vital drugs, during the rest of his life.

Meanwhile he, and his family, don’t trust the doctors who tell him he needs to get a Covid jab first.

David Ferguson, D.J. father, “said the Covid vaccine goes against his son’s “basic principles, he doesn’t believe in it”.”

“We are literally in a corner right now. This is extremely time sensitive,” the family said in its fundraising appeal, which has raised tens of thousands of dollars. “This is not just a political issue. People need to have a choice!”
D.J.’s mother, Tracey Ferguson, insists that her son isn’t against vaccinations, noting he’s had other immunizations in the past. But the trained nurse said Wednesday that he’s been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation — an irregular and often rapid heart rhythm — and that he has concerns about the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“D.J. is an informed patient,” Tracey Ferguson said in a brief interview at her home in Mendon, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) southwest of Boston. “He wants to be assured by his doctors that his condition would not be worse or fatal with this COVID vaccine.”

Hospital patient without COVID shot denied heart transplant.

Unvaccinated man denied heart transplant by Boston hospital.

People who are recognized for mastery of one field, DO seem to sometimes over-reach themselves when diving into another field without taking the trouble to learn about it

I came across this over the internet. I couldn’t have said it better myself, hence I ‘borrowed’ it.
Click on it and read the whole post, it’s very interesting on its own.

Below is the comment I left on the FB wall where it all happened.
Don’t see any need to change anything.

“The key words here being “are recognized for”.
Real mastery involves knowing your limits.
Being recognized as a master by somebody else – the more ‘recognizers’, the worse, tends to annihilate any ‘master’s’ ability to own the very existence of their limits.
The intellectual limits are the hardest to notice/accept.
‘Accrued’ age brings about crystal clear evidence about our physical limitations.
Accrued knowledge enlarges one’s vision. Puts distance between the observers themselves and the limits of their ability to ‘observe themselves in the act of observing‘.

And if/when the above mentioned accrued knowledge becomes recognized/admired by the (naive) ‘general public’…
You don’t have to trust me on this because of my white beard.
I have a better argument.
I’m an engineer!”

‘OK, and the point of this post is …?’

The fact that there’s no such thing as ‘personal improvement’.
Any ‘improvement’ which we might ‘inflict’ upon ourselves derives from our intercourse with the others. Through ‘learning’.
All change which happens to us, actually, comes from our ultimately aleatory intercourse with the environment in which we happen to live. From being taught to being ‘influenced’ by the passage of time.
All that is ‘personal’ in ‘personal improvement’ is that we do it ‘willfully’.

Much of the change which happens to us goes either unnoticed – up to a point, or is merely accepted by us.
‘Personal improvement’ is chosen by us. And imposed by us upon our own selves.

To do it – ‘improve’ ourselves, that is, we follow ‘suggestions‘.
We should keep in the back of our mind that it’s our call to follow – or not, those suggestions.

Disclaimer.
I have no idea who the ‘suggested’ guy is. Just googled ‘personal improvement books’ and chosen the most visually appealing – for me, obviously, link.
Just wanted to illustrate the deluge of suggestions which is constantly directed at us.

True enough.
Good people don’t need laws to tell them how to behave while the ‘cunningly willful’ amongst us will indeed, time and time again, try to circumvent the consequences of bypassing the law.

Then why?
Two and a half millennia after Plato had dispensed this piece of wisdom we still have laws.
Is there a possible explanation for this apparent aberration?
Are we that thick-headed or there’s something else?

To settle this question – to start attempting to settle it, actually, we must first agree upon the difference between good and bad.

Ooops!

‘Everybody knows what good and bad is’ doesn’t really work, right?

In principle… maybe, but when it comes to putting principles into practice… we need guidelines!
Just as ‘good fences make good neighbors‘, a clear understanding among the good about where the realm of the bad starts in earnest makes life a lot simpler. For all of us. And the more visible that line is, the simpler our life becomes.

Only this is but half of the actual explanation.
Laws do make our life simpler, indeed. Unfortunately, ‘simpler’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘better’.

As some of you already know, I’ve spent half my life under communist rule.
Does ‘Ceausescu’ ring any bells with you?

Under communism, life was a lot simpler than it is now.
Presumably, life was a lot simpler under any of the many flavors of authoritarian rules experienced by humanity during its history. This being the reason for no matter how horrible a dictatorial regime had been, there were always some who had regretted when that regime had fallen.

‘OK, so what’s your point?
That laws, in general, might be good but the laws which impose an authoritarian regime are bad?
You know that you’ve just opened a fresh can of worms, right?’

How do you determine the difference between a good law and a bad one?

There’s no such thing. No law is above good and bad. For the simple reason that we call laws are made by us.
We are fallible human beings and everything we make, including our laws, is, and should continue to be, constantly improved.

‘Then you’re nothing more than a ‘closet progressive‘!
I knew it!
‘Constant improvement’… yuck!
Not to mention the fact that the most important Law comes from God, not from Man!’

I’ve already disclosed that I’m an agnostic.
That I have no idea whether a(ny) god had anything to do with what’s happening around/with us.
All I know is that all laws, including the Bible – and all other Holy Books, had been written by people.
By Humans, that is.

And I also know that there are two kinds of law.
‘Natural’ – as in noticed by us, and ‘synthetic’.

While all laws are ‘artificial’ – ‘written’ by us, the natural ones had been first noticed and only then put on paper.
While all laws had been written on purpose – each ‘writer’ had their own reason for doing it, the ‘synthetic’ ones had been put together with a specific goal.

While observing – and when necessary improving, the natural laws benefits all, the ‘synthetic’ ones serve only those who make it their business to impose those laws upon the rest of the community.

While observing – and, when necessary, imposing them upon SOME, improves the prospects of the entire community, designing and imposing ‘synthetic’ laws upon a community will always bring a huge amount of disturbance.
Sometimes fatal for that community.
Always fatal for the regime attempting it!

‘How about some examples?’

I’ll give you two natural laws and a ‘synthetic’ one.

The law of gravity. Also known as Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation.
This law didn’t need Newton to notice it. The Earth had already been orbiting the Sun for a while before Newton told us why.

‘Do not kill’. A subset of the Golden Rule, ‘Do no harm, if you can help it’.
Also ‘natural’ but a lot more ‘fluid’.
And, strangely enough, noticed and ‘put on paper’ way before the law of the falling objects…
Just think of it!
The ‘law makers’ have noticed long, long ago that the communities which follow the Golden Rule fare much better than those whose members treat each-other like dirt. Yet only a few short centuries ago somebody ‘noticed’ that things fall according to a constant rule… and bothered to make it into a law.
Was ‘gravity’ too obvious? Inescapable, so why bother?
While the Golden Rule worked better when enforced? When the formal rule mandated that even the rulers themselves had to obey the rule?

It’s easy to notice that the first two, the ‘natural’ ones, produce consequences regardless of people observing them or not.
Meanwhile, ‘synthetic’ laws are, entirely, the figment of somebody’s imagination. And produce consequences only when/if enough people are ‘seduced’ by the perspectives of those laws being put into practice.
Communist rule, for instance, could be put into practice only when enough people had been seduced by Marx’s ideal that all property should belong to the state and be managed by a ‘select’ few. Only then, after those ‘select’ few had, somehow, convinced enough followers, could Marx’s ideas be transformed into laws. And put in practice. With the already obvious consequences…

‘OK, but I still don’t get it!
Is there a way to tell whether a law is good or bad before-hand? Before its consequences had become manifest?’

That’s a tall order. And you know that!

Actually, no!
There’s no fire-proof method of ascertaining anything before-hand, let alone something made by us.

But there is a next best thing.
The ‘natural’ laws are natural because they had been first observed. Only then written into law. And because of things proceeding in this order, whenever something changed those who had noticed the change had adapted the wording of the law to the new reality. Simply because those who had to make do with the consequences of the law being put into practice could not wait too long whenever they had noticed that there was a better way.

People have dreamed of flying since god only knows when but they had learned how to do it only after they had been told that everything is pulled to the center of the Earth.
‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ had been very useful. For a while… Now we use the same principle – do no harm, but we implement it in a more nuanced manner.

People have also dreamed of a fair society.
And, frankly, ours is a lot fairer than that of our grand-parents. Because we have constantly improved our ‘manners’.
We have not only observed ourselves while living but we’ve also done something when anything went wrong.
The problem is – and it’s only one problem here, that not all things can be reversed. Some mistakes can be fully redressed, other compensated … but we’ll have to take with us the consequences of those mistakes. And the longer a mistake is allowed to happen, the more important the consequences.
So. ‘Synthetic’ rules are bad not because they have been dreamed up by us. They are bad because those who promote them cannot accept the idea they might have been wrong.
The really bad ‘synthetic’ rules were those who could not be changed from within!

Whenever a law maintains that things cannot happen, ever, but in the manner prescribed by that very law, that text is no longer a law. It’s a dictate!
It’s dictates that we can do without, not laws.
And it’s our job to make out the difference. One way or another.

Disclosure.
You haven’t ‘heard’ this from me.
I’ve only ’embellished’ some ideas I’ve stolen from Popper, inasmuch as I’ve understood anything from them.

Ooops!
According to Reuters, he never uttered those words.
But “Burke did say something resembling the quote in his “Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents” (1770): “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”

‘OK, and where’s the difference?
The meaning’s the same…’

Not exactly!
Burke was speaking about the fate of individual people while the quote attributed to him is about evil itself.
According to Burke, the good people must associate in order to protect their livelihoods and their way of life while the mis-attributed quote pretends that there are circumstances in which evil might prevail.

‘I still don’t understand you! Good people loosing their cause doesn’t mean that evil has prevailed?!?’

No!
Good people might loose from time to time. Being good doesn’t mean those people are perfect.
People make mistakes. Some of which can’t be undone.

Evil things do happen. From time to time. Either through sheer bad luck or through good people making horrible mistakes. But evil cannot prevail. Not on the longer run!

For two reasons.

Small enough mistakes can be overcome. Either individually or collectively.
Serious enough mistakes will kill you. Individually and collectively.
This was the first reason.

If evil hadn’t been that bad, we wouldn’t have called it that way.
If evil would have led to survival, we would have called it ‘good’.

Good people doing nothing doesn’t mean that evil will triumph.
Good people doing nothing only means, as Burke had said, that those good people will fail. One by one.
Bad people having it their way doesn’t mean much. Historically speaking.
After they had finished vanquishing the good, the bad had always started to fight among themselves. It’s in their nature to do that.

That’s how each evil eventually dies out…

Until the next one appears?
Indeed! Weeds will always spring up. Specially if the soil is rich.
That’s what hoes are for! If only people knew how to make good use of them…

The way I see it, it makes more sense to tax those who don’t want to get a jab than to bribe people to accept the vaccine.
The vaccinated individual enjoys the benefits, the jab is already paid for by the community… and the community, as a whole, is safer.
You don’t want to be jabbed, for whatever reasons, you should pay for the privilege.

After all, this is a matter of personal choice.

There are three kinds of personal choice which impact the wider community. Regardless of who covers the financial costs of healthcare, people being sick is a burden shouldered by the entire society.

Eating too much.
It can have a whole series of consequences but most of them are of a ‘personal’ nature. You can be a bad example for your kid but that’s about all you can do to negatively impact the health of others through eating too much. Except for the financial implications, of course.

Smoking.
Still a personal choice. But the consequences of your bad habit directly affect those who happen to be around you when you exercise your ‘right’. Smoke travels freely…

“My body, my choice.”
Refusing to ‘put experimental substances into my body’ is, again, a personal choice.
But getting sick with Covid has far wider consequences for the wide community than smoking. Let alone the fact that smoke is visible while the virus is not.
Smoking in a plane won’t give a lung cancer to each of the passengers present but a person infected with Covid breathing inside such a cramped place can directly infect many. And god only knows how many more after the passengers reach their final destinations …

Since the above mentioned decision of the Supreme Court – that government should not tell ‘the people’ what to do with their bodies (unless federal money is involved) – things are getting murkier.
Smoking seats might return on planes. Smoking tables in pubs.
And who knows what else…


He’s right, right?
A freshly minted golden coin feels differently between your fingers – teeth? – than a ‘note’, no matter how ‘crisp’.

Yes, but…

No buts. He’s right!

Yeah?!?
Then how about this guy?
Is he right too?

Whatever has value in our world now does not have value in itself, according to its nature – nature is always value-less – but has been given value at some time, as a present – and it was we who gave and bestowed it.

Well, from the rational point of view, yes!
But they cannot be both right! Not at the same time, anyway… Not in the same world!

OK. I gather you have heard about Solomon?

The wise king of Israel? Yes, I have.

And about the ‘split baby‘?

Yes, of course! What do you think I am? A savage?

What I think of you and what you are in reality are two different things.
But this is another kettle of fish.

A ‘different’ kettle of fish, you mean.

Have it your way. But you have to take into consideration that the kettle itself remains the same. Only the fish inside are different, one catch at a time. Even when the fish belong to the same species, are of the same size and you take the pain to add the same number of fish to the kettle.
Let’s go back to Solomon splitting babies.
The ‘official’ story, the one presently belonging to the “Hebrew lore” and “recorded at 1 Kings 3:16-18“, had been redacted. From what had actually happened:

As we all know, Solomon had many wives. An a few concubines. 700 and 300, respectively. In these circumstances, he rarely had a full night’s sleep. No wonder that whenever he had to make a judgment, specially early in the morning, he used to send for his trusted personal advisor.
When the two women, both pretending to be the mother of the disputed child, had come to seek justice before king Solomon, he was rather sleepy. But the faithful – and very discreet, ‘coach’ was there. As always.
The first woman was asked to tell her side of the story.
Solomon, at some point, waived his hand. ‘Enough, you seem convincing enough. Take your baby and scram’.
‘But sir, shouldn’t you also listen what the other woman has to say? Before deciding the fate of the poor baby?’ whispered the adviser in Solomon’s ear?
‘Wait. Come back, both of you! Now, the other one, what’s your story?’
‘….’
‘You’re also very convincing… you have the child…’
‘But sir, they cannot both be right! At the same time… There’s only one child…’
Solomon, suddenly awaken, turns back to face the counselor: ‘You are absolutely right too!’
And only then, after realizing that sometimes – when there’s only one child to be had, for example – two people cannot entertain two different opinions and be right at the same time, Solomon did put his mind to work. In earnest. And came up with his famous solution.
“Split the child!”

Same thing here. Both J.P. Morgan and Friedrich Nietzsche had been partially right.
There is a difference between ‘real’ – a.k.a. ‘golden’, and fiat money but the difference is made by us!

See, no need to split the child. Not this time, anyway.
But we have to keep in mind that, no matter what any of us thinks, for money to retain their value – no matter whether those money are ‘real’ or ‘fiat’, we need to be able to make good use of those money.

A heap of gold and a suitcase of dollars are equally useless if there’s nothing to be bought!

“Yet although as a tennis player Mr Djokovic’s vaccine hesitancy is exceptional, as a Serb it is not. Despite there being little shortage of vaccines in Serbia, where he is from, just 45% of adults have been double-jabbed. Meanwhile, the country has been battered by the disease. According to The Economist‘s tracker Serbia suffered the second-highest number of excess deaths in the world per head of population. With as much clout off the court as on it, Mr Djokovic’s public hesitation to take a life-saving vaccine may well be costing the lives of his countrymen.”

Getting out of a relationship before entering the next one makes sense, right?
But why would anyone marry his/her own self in the first place?

To send a signal? ‘I have removed myself from the (singles) market’?
As a publicity stunt? Proving – unintentionally, that marriage continues to be an important institution, at least at the symbolical level….

On the other hand, why bother? At all…
Specially now, after the advent of the ‘prenuptial arrangement‘….

So, marriage is, in reality, only about ‘property’? Who gets what after the couple separates? ‘Naturally’ or otherwise?
But, again, why make it a special thing? Property had been formally ‘coded’ about the same time as marriage was… why introduce another set of regulations, on top of those pertaining to the ‘mere’ individual property?

There must be something else…

And that something must be in our heads!
‘Property’ has more or less the same meaning all over the world.

Culturally, there are many forms of property ‘out there’ but the most ‘advanced’ cultures ‘use’ the same three main types of property, each in it’s own ‘mix’. Private property, state property, communal property…

Meanwhile, each culture/civilization has it’s own type of marriage. Or used to have, until very recently. Which types of marriage differ widely and in many ways.
From who can enter a marriage – number of people, ethnicity, religion, caste, etc., to how a marriage ends.
From the conditions which must be met before the marriage to the consequences of the act. And to the consequences of the marriage being ended ‘before time’, if possible.
Not to mention the wide gamut of rights and duties each member of a marriage might have, according to local rules and (by)laws.

If you think of it, ‘property’ is almost ‘natural’. It makes a lot of sense, ‘functionally’ speaking, to be precise about which is which. And about which is whose.
Life is a lot simpler when each member of a community knows what/how much can be had/used/eaten without anybody else having any say about the matter, what must be left alone and whose ‘permission’ you must ‘acquire’ before ‘trespassing’.

Meanwhile, ‘marriage’ is a lot more artificial than ‘property’. Leave alone the fact that the rules are far more complicated – and far more diverse.
In practice, marriage has been really important only for the ‘top’ members of any given society…
And the ‘fun’ fact is that the higher the rank of the individuals concerned, the more ‘leeway’ they used to have…

Henry the VIII had ‘invented’ a ‘new religion’ in his attempt to bend ‘the rules’ according to his wishes, the French monarchs had been famous for their mistresses… and a ‘modern’ financier had been recently convicted for ‘lending’ underage members of his ‘harem’ to some of his buddies…

That ‘something’ is, definitely, in our heads!

NB!
I’m not implying that that ‘something’ is good or bad!
We are the ones who attach ‘values’ to things/concepts.
We are the ones who ‘notice’ things and relationships, use them – properly, for a while, and then experiment in ‘abusing’ them.

A (beautiful) woman marrying – and divorcing, her own self is perceived as being a ‘fun thing to read about’ while gay couples becoming able to establish a formal family is perceived, by so many, as being ‘a threat’.

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