Archives for category: Bounded rationality

An embassy is a conduit.
It brings information back and forth between the ‘host’ and the ‘sender’.

A spy ring is (intended to be) a ‘one way pipe’. It gathers information about the ‘host’ and transports it to the sender.

They have in common the fact that the bulk of the information is gathered from ‘open’ sources. From the media, that is. Newspapers, TV, radio, internet…

Imagine now the following situation.
There is this planet. Let’s say ours. Inhabited by us, the human people.
And you have some other people. One or more species capable of interplanetary travel. Who have found out about this planet and want to learn more about us before making contact.
Since they haven’t yet conquered us – as per our knowledge, and since there’s no evidence of any galaxy wide conflict raging on we may presume the aliens are fundamentally peaceful. Either naturally ’empathic’ – hence in no need whatsoever of being governed, or having such a ‘natural’ form of government that they’re very happy with it.
In their attempt to learn about us and to understand our situation before engaging in any way with us, the aliens have sent an ‘undercover’ fact-finding mission on Earth.

Right now!
When a country capable of yielding almost half the (self) destructing power available on Earth ‘happens to be’ at loggerheads with a coalition of countries which controls most of the other half of the destruction power already mentioned above.

The local agent employed by the fact-finding mission compiles two news articles which, in his opinion, summarize perfectly what’s going on on the planet.

“Medvedev alleged that some in the West would like to “take advantage of the military conflict in Ukraine to push our country to a new twist of disintegration, do everything to paralyze Russia’s state institutions and deprive the country of efficient controls, as happened in 1991.” “

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ‘planetary divide’,

Among those in the audience was Melissa Sauder, who drove nearly 350 miles from the small western Nebraska town of Grant with her 13-year-old daughter. After years of combing internet sites, listening to podcasts and reading conservative media reports, Sauder wanted to learn more about what she believes are serious problems with the integrity of U.S. elections.
She can’t shake the belief that voting machines are being manipulated even in her home county, where then-President Donald Trump won 85% of the vote in 2020.
“I just don’t know the truth because it’s not open and apparent, and it’s not transparent to us,” said Sauder, 38. “We are trusting people who are trusting the wrong people.”
It’s a sentiment now shared by millions of people in the United States after relentless attacks on the outcome of the 2020 presidential election by Trump and his allies. Nearly two years after that election, no evidence has emerged to suggest widespread fraud or manipulation while reviews in state after state have upheld the results showing President Joe Biden won.
Even so, the attacks and falsehoods have made an impact: An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll from 2021 found that about two-thirds of Republicans say they do not think Biden was legitimately elected.

So.
Forget, if you can, about the war in Ukraine and about the US mid-term elections.
Let’s pretend you’re the head of the alien fact-finding mission.
What recommendation would you send back to those calling the shots in your organization after reading the two articles I mentioned above?

There is an old Romanian saying which goes like this:

A bat is all you need to break a wagon-full of pottery.

When it comes to splitting fire-wood, things are no longer that simple.
Using the same blunt force approach, even if theoretically possible, would yield disappointing results.
‘Destroying’ has nothing to do with ‘re-shaping’.

Hence ‘wedge’.

On the other hand, a wedge can accomplish the same results as a bat by using a lot less brute force.
Simply because the wedge concentrates more effectively, and in a more precise manner, the available energy in a very small area.

But the more important difference is the fact that using a wedge demands a way more skilled operator than a ‘mere’ bat.

‘Why don’t you cut the crap and just spill out what you have brewed in that twisted mind of yours?’

Darius, Alexander, Genghis, Napoleon, Hitler.
All of them had started their campaigns in a very successful manner. Two of them had even ended their careers that way. Undefeated.
The fact that all of them, including the successful ones, had been nothing but tyrants is irrelevant here.

And where is the difference?

Darius, Napoleon and Hitler had been, eventually, defeated. Each of them by a coalition.

Alexander had basically vanquished one enemy. Which was already past its prime.
And Genghis had successively conquered a long list of ‘unrelated’ targets.
In both cases it was more about blunt force being applied in a more or less skillful manner and nothing about splitting anything. Except for some skulls…

Each of Darius, Napoleon and Hitler had been successful at first. They had started as skillful splitters of coalitions. But each of them had been eventually bogged down. In their own respective successes…

You see, a bat remains a bat. You have to shatter a huge amount of pottery before the bat wears down.
In fact, most of the times the batter goes out before the bat…

When it comes to wedging…
While pottery is ‘consistent’ – equally fragile, ceteris paribus, no two logs had ever been created equal. Furthermore, even when dealing with a single log, some sections may be easily split apart while others may so ‘tough’ that it’s easier to ‘destroy’ them than to use a wedge on them.
In these situations, being a skillful splitter means being able to recognize which sections should be left alone….
But which would-be emperor has ever been able to let somebody else be? Live in peace…

If they live long enough, all emperors will eventually ‘attempt’ an impossible-to-split coalition!

But when has a would-be emperor been born wise enough to recognize such a situation?!?
Or every one of them, to date, have seen each coalition they happened to encounter as an opportunity?
As a log waiting to be split?

Which makes me wonder…
Why are would-be emperors so blind when it comes to reading history?
And how about their courtiers? Also ‘blind’?

Bonus reading. An excellent piece by Cynthia Calhoun.

How to split logs for firewood by hand.

“When you can’t split a log, do one of two things: give up and throw it in the pile or use a chainsaw.”

Social cohesion is a key concept in modern sociology.
There are many definitions – most of which complement each other, and the gist of them is ‘glue’.

…the glue that bonds society together…

Do you actually perceive modern society as being glued? Bonded? Together?!?

As an engineer – MSc in Mechanical Engineering, Bucharest Politechnica University 1986 – I’m primarily interested in ‘consequences’. ‘Causes’ come second. A close second but still second. Because it’s ‘consequences’ we have to face/endure directly, not ’causes’.
Whenever I feel bad, really bad, I begin by stopping everything that I was doing. To have enough time to determine the proper cause for my malaise. Identifying/dealing with causes ‘on the go’ – usually by having faith in what I already know, without realizing that it was exactly that which had led me to where I am now – is not such a good option.

Very few societies (countries, nations) continue to behave coherently. Many of them – most of them, actually, used to. Until very recently.
Yet most of my ‘recent’ colleagues – B in Sociology, Bucharest University 2009, continue to discuss about ‘cohesion’.

Communities continue to be cohesive. And, as a consequence, continue to behave coherently.
Why?
The easiest answer is ‘by definition’.
That’s how you recognize a community. A group of people who act coherently because they are ‘bound together’ by ‘social cohesion’. How that happened to be? Some other time!

Societies, on the other hand, no longer are.
Nations, which used to be whole, are now ‘fractured’. Not entirely, but they certainly behave a lot less coherently than, say, 50 years ago.
OK, this is not the first time that something like this had happened….

Civil wars are nothing new.
None of them had been ‘civil’ though. Which makes ‘civil war‘ an oxymoron
Something so ‘impossible’ that we haven’t coined a proper word for it. Something so horrible that we speak about it using an ‘impossible’ name in order to properly mark its utter impropriety.

What is new is the amount of knowledge we currently have about the whole matter. About the inner workings of our collective psyche.
How we use that knowledge, what we have understood from learning it, the manner in which we allow that information to shape our actions … that’s another matter!

Whose consequences are in the making.
There are no other ‘makers’ but us.
Also, there are no other people to bear the consequences of what we’re doing now.

Is this the epitome of ‘click bait’?

Then why do I bother with it?

Because it illustrates perfectly the prevailing trend. How things change because of us.
How we – collectively, change the world around us.

At first, click-bait had been used by ‘fraudsters’. ‘Publishers’ who used to cram completely useless information under some very ‘enticing’ titles.


Now… you may say that the information about our galaxy – the Milky Way, being on a collision course with Andromeda – our closest galactic neighbor, is also useless. Maybe… After all, that will only happen after 4 billion years had already passed… Anyway, this time, the targeted public is rather different than before. More ‘scientifically minded’…
Which proves my point.
That using click-bait has become a lot more acceptable.

The new normal…

Which brings me to the next question.
How many of you are going to watch this?

https://fb.watch/eZRdlM0nNq/

Want to find more?
To figure out, on your own, why this trend worries me?

Read this. Well worth your time, I promise.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-trick-the-guilty-and-gullible-into-revealing-themselves-1399680248

I sketched earlier a brief description of how we got here.

Now I’ll attempt to offer an ‘alternative’ understanding of inflation. Not what it is – we all know that, but what it does.
It will be a functionalist view of the matter. Evolutionary, even.
As in ‘why do we still have inflation’. Why inflation continues to ‘survive’.

For most of our history, economy had been about solving needs.
Regardless of the market being momentarily free or not, for things to go on a balance had to be struck.
Demand had to be balanced by supply. Hence ‘price’.

Demand was mostly driven by the number of people needing something while supply was driven by the available natural resources AND by our ability to transform those resources into actual commodities.
For example, the price of wheat was influenced by the number of people living in a certain area, by the amount of arable land AND by the agricultural technology used at any given time. OK, the weather also had an impact but it was mitigated by the technology.

‘But how about imports? After all, ‘international’ grain trade is three millennia old. Ancient Athenian ships had been distributing ‘Ukrainian’ wheat all around the Aegean sea since before the Trojan war…’

Yeah, and how about emigration… the Irish had gone to America to escape famine, didn’t they?
We’ll get there. ‘Baby steps’, otherwise we may trip!

When population increased, they tried to add more arable land. If they could. If not – and/or in parallel, they tried to increase yield.
But the process was not linear. They could not ‘fine tune’ the increase of yield – by either method, exactly to the population growth. Hence the variation of price. Hence the ‘secondary mitigation measures’ – import/export and emigration.

‘OK, I understand. But prices can go both ways. Up AND down! Inflation only goes up…’

You’re speaking about individual prices. Which, indeed, go both ways.
And, yes again, inflation goes – in medium to longer time frames, only up!

You see, we have ‘price adjustments’ and (compounded) inflation.

Price adjustment is the mechanism through which the market – free or otherwise, balances the market for individual ‘items’. Encourages the consumption of wheat when the price is low and encourages the farmers to plant more wheat when the prices are high. Same thing for, say, shoe-shinning!
Meanwhile, (compounded) inflation is the mechanism through which the market – again, free or otherwise, balances itself.

‘Huh?!?’
For example, if wheat becomes too expensive, consumers (and suppliers) might decide to replace it with something else. Rice. Or potatoes.
Or, when grain prices become prohibitively low, farmers might abandon their plows and buy, say, shoe-shining tools.

‘But if rice – or anything else – would yield a lot more than wheat per the available arable land, the over all prices for food – and everything else, should go down, right? Not up…’

Well… in a rational world… maybe. That’s another long discussion.
The short version being that we usually wait for too long before making the necessary changes. Which is not necessarily wrong but that’s yet another long discussion. Only hindsight is 20/20…

Let’s say it would be possible to grow wheat and rice on the same plot of land without making any technological adjustments. If the growers would know what kind of weather would come in the next season, they would be able to plant the right crop. But they don’t. And it takes time for people to grasp the weather patterns have changed – and adjust the pertinent technology. On top of that, adjusting technology requires money.
Investment. Fresh ‘inputs’.

And who would do such a thing – plowing money into the ground, literally – without expecting an increased return? Something ‘extra’ for their effort?

In economic terms, nobody invests their money in a deflationary environment.
Why would anybody do such a thing?
Buy now when waiting till ‘tomorrow’ would make it possible to buy more for the same money?!?

That’s why inflation goes up. Period.
Cause otherwise the whole economy would become obsolete. We’d all be waiting for ‘tomorrow’.

NB.
This was a gross ‘simplification’.
A bare sketch.
Even in a deflationary environment, some prices do go up. For years overall prices have gone down – because of our increased technological prowess – while housing, education, healthcare and insurance have become more and more expensive. ‘Tilting’ the whole market.
More about this in the next post on the subject.

“Faced with reckless U.S. disregard of China’s repeated and serious representations, any countermeasures taken by the Chinese side will be justified and necessary, which is also the right of any independent and sovereign country,” foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a daily briefing in Beijing.

‘Repeated and serious representations…’

‘I told you how I see things.
Hence if you do what I warned you not to, I’ll be free to punch you in the nose!’

Is this the epitome of ‘bullying’?

Or, rather, of pushing yourself into a corner?!?

Now, if Pelosi actually lands in Taiwan, how far will Xi go in order to ‘save face‘?
Let it go… he would lose too much of it. Too much ‘face’. Any threat he would utter from then on, would be met by deaf ears.

Do anything foolish…

On the other hand, China is the world’s biggest importer of food! And energy…

Interesting enough.

And yes, what you think about me is more about you than about the real me.

Nevertheless, the point of this post is:

For me,

You are what I think you are!

We’ve burned fossil fuels.
For a while.
Now, after figuring out that the whole planet is about to become to hot for comfort, we’re slowly replacing fossil fuel with ‘renewable power’. Solar and wind…
And we’re looking for ways to store that power for when the sun is powering the other side of the planet and the wind has stopped blowing.

Lithium to the rescue!
Lithium batteries are the new fad. Powerful enough for Tesla to build around them the ‘coolest’ car ever. Accelerates faster than a Ferrari at less than half the price.

But is this really wise?

Lithium – like oil, has to be dug up from somewhere. Hence it’s not ‘renewable’. Only recyclable, but at a hefty price.
Lithium – like oil, is really messy. To produce in the first place and to recycle.
Lithium – like oil, can be found rather far away from where its needed. Hence has to be transported over large distances. And happens to be under ‘foreign’ control. Much of it, anyway.

So how much farther are we going to go?
On the already ‘paved’ road?
On the other hand, I’m sure Nansen had something else in mind. Other than repeating the same mistake.

An alternative method for storing power would be to use daytime solar and ‘excess’ wind power to produce hydrogen. Which can be stored where it is produced and will be used. Or ‘loaded’ unto fuel cell powered cars.

https://afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/how-do-fuel-cell-electric-cars-work

“A priest and rabbi see a child walking down the street.
Priest : Let’s fuck that child.
Rabbi : Out of what??”

Alternativelly

“A priest and a communist pass by a boy.
Priest: lets fuck that boy.
Communist: and blame it on capitalists.”

When I was growing up, fucking was about bringing new life on the face of the Earth.
Or about all those involved reaching orgasm.

Nowadays we find it funny to joke about children being raped.

Then we wonder…

“Who fucked up future?!?”

Art – Esthetics – Philosophy.
Techne – Science – Manipulation.
Skills – Technology – Reality 2.0

Art is, maybe, the first form of interaction between us and the place we inhabit.
The first manner in which we ‘ingest’ that place, only to regurgitate it later. The first manner in which we learn about that place and the first manner in which we express what we have just learned.
Esthetics is how we make sense of art. How we organize our ‘first impressions’ regarding the ‘place’ we live in. How we ‘edit’ those impressions in order to make them more easily understandable.
Philosophy is what we made out during the artistic endeavor to learn. The never finished product put together by our ‘digestive system’ out of the artistic interactions we have had with ‘reality’.

Techne is what we do. The transformations we impose unto things in order to make them capable to satisfy our needs. Or our whims…
Science is the process through which we gather information. The information which becomes more and more necessary as our doings take us further and further away from the original reality.
Manipulation is what we do after we consider to have amassed enough information. After we have developed a certain understanding of the world and have decided that time has come for us to ‘take what’s rightfully ours’.

You know what ‘skills’ are. What we’re ‘good at’.
Technology is how we pass our skills to other people. So that we can work in concert. To coordinate our efforts.
The outcome of which is Reality 2.0. The reality we have brought about. The new reality which constitutes reality 1.0 for those currently alive.

%d bloggers like this: