Archives for category: Bounded rationality

For something to become a resource, it has to be identified first. As such…

Coming back to Kissinger, we need first to accept that he is the product of the world before him and one of the factors who continues to shape the current one.

We can learn from him – and coldly assess the present situation in order to avoid past mistakes going forward – or … we can let him win! And follow in his footsteps: Divide et impera, manipulate people into doing things against their own nature, despise everybody who thinks differently than what we consider to be right …


To set a wolf to guard sheep
Latin proverb.

A first glance, it doesn’t make much sense to put an oilman in charge of a COP conference.
Nothing more than setting a wolf to guard sheep, right?

On the other hand, shepherd dogs are nothing but ‘converted’ wolves.
Wolves who had somehow figured out that it’s more sustainable to live with the humans than in the wild.
Former wolves who had somehow figured out that’s far more sustainable – for them, to protect the sheep than to prey on them.

OK, the agent driving the process had been human. But the facts remain. Dogs have evolved from wolves.

What are we waiting for?
If the descendants of the wolves had been able to ‘cross over’, why so many reasonable people continue to believe that the ‘Global Warming’ is a hoax?
After all, we’re the ones supposed to be reasonable…
And the way I see it, it’s unreasonable to believe that burning fossil fuel accumulated during millions of years can be ‘sustainable’. Forget about ‘peak oil’ and ‘peak gas’ and remember how hot the Earth was when the first drop of fossil fuel had been set aside by Mother Nature.

‘Self awareness’ is how we call our ability to observe ourselves while observing others.
Humberto Maturana

First and foremost, existence is a concept.
Something our forefathers had coined. A mental construct built by talking about it.

Nothing existed before we saw it AND talked about it!

Think about the stars nobody knew about until we used Hubble to peek into the history of the Universe.

Think about the stars which ‘sit’ there and no man will ever see. Or otherwise perceive.
Do they, the stars, actually exist?

In the sense that has their being been ‘measured’ into existence by a self aware observer?
Has that observation been communicated by the observer to anybody else? Who had confirmed that that observation was anything more than a mere illusion?

You see, both actually – my rantings on your monitor – and figuratively, I don’t need to be told about the existence of the steps I have to climb up and down when I leave my bed each morning. On the other hand, I know that the Amazon exists because I’ve been told about it. Further more, I see for my self the steps in my house but I have a name for them – and I can write about them – because our forefathers had learned to speak. About the world they were discovering around themselves.

My point? We speak things into existence, not into being.

‘How about the things we talk about before we’ve ‘seen’ them? Neptune, the planet, had been ‘calculated’ before ‘seen’ and all mass manufactured things are first discussed and only then launched into production.
Which was the exact moment when each of them had started to exist?’

Good question!
I’m afraid I have no valid answer. This is a matter which will remain open for further debate!
After all, how else to justify our existence?
How else to find our own meaning? Other than by talking about it?

“Better to be a dog in times of tranquility than a human in times of chaos.”
The true version of the Chinese ‘curse’
too many times translated in English as
“May you live in interesting times”

Not so long ago, a presidential candidate told his audience “People… my people are so smart!….And loyal! you know, I could shoot someone on the 5th Avenue and not loose votes!”

As things happened, he was right. His people did vote for him.
He, a guy who had previously bragged about ‘grabbing women by the pu$$y’.

Four years later, the People changed their mind. And voted to send him back to Mar-a-lago…
He told ‘his’ people the vote had been rigged.
The ‘smart ones’ believed Trump to the tune of eventually chasing Vice-president Pence all over the Capitol in an attempt to convince him to ditch the result of the vote. Against all evidence, as certified by all pertinent authorities.

Currently, there is an increasing number of people floating the idea that ‘democracy’ isn’t for everybody.
The notion isn’t exactly new – see the ‘debate’ pitting ‘republic’ against ‘democracy’ – but lately its promoters have become even more brazen. They posit that since people are not equally endowed – intellectually, mostly – they should be tested before being allowed to vote.
Nothing new under the sun? The whole thing is nothing more than a rehash of the notion put forward by Robert Heinlein in Starship Troopers?

Not exactly!
Heinlein proposed that full citizenship – including the right to vote – should be extended exclusively to those willing to put their life on the line. ‘If you want to decide the future, you need to commit yourself to defending the present. With your life, if necessary’.
Quite a difference from ‘I’m not OK with how you may vote so I’m going to look for ways to disenfranchise you, under various pretenses.’

The way I see this, we’re confronted by two things.
An increasing lack of trust amongst us. And an burgeoning amount of intellectual dishonesty.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

As per the United States Constitution, Arms are supposed to be kept and borne with the main goal of protecting the free State. Which State was supposed to be governed by a government “of the people, by the people, for the people“.
Nowadays, under the pretext that ‘the government is more often the problem than the solution’, the defenders of the Second Amendment “as it was written” maintain that Arms are necessary so that the people may defend itself against an overbearing government.

Otherwise put, whenever I don’t like the outcome of an election, I need to be able to start a(n) (un)civil war. An attitude born out of a complete distrust in our fellow citizens’ ability to vote ‘right’.

And a simpler version.
I don’t trust all my fellow citizens’ ability to vote reasonably but I trust all my fellow citizens enough to let them walk around armed to their teeth. Unconditionally, in some states.

Coming back to Marcus Aurelius’ pronouncement, who is the one smart enough to determine whether those 10 000 actually have no idea about the subject at hand?
Not to mention the fact that Marcus Aurelius never actually said it…. Wrote it, more precisely.

And why do I choose to believe this guy Sadler instead of trusting the bloke who had created the meme? Because Sadler makes sense. And because Sadler had put his name forward – remember Heinlein? – instead of cloaking himself in the shadows of the internet.

People act as if the world is as each of them sees it.

The world is as it is.
Only nobody knows how…
And, probably, never will.

What we act upon, and interfere with, is the world as we see it.
Here being the interesting part.

All other living things mostly react to the world.
Even our brain uses much – some say ‘most – of its processing power to react rather than act.
Our body is able to survive even when our frontal cortex – the portion of the brain where thinking takes place, has been knocked out of action. When we’re fast asleep, drunk, ‘high’, low, in a coma…
In fact, an organism doesn’t need to ‘see’, in order to react. To breathe, to eat, to perform bodily functions, to reproduce…

Things become more and more complicated, indeed, as we climb the evolutionary ladder.
Complicated for us… who attempt to understand what’s going… not for those living on each of the steps… Things are complicated only for those trying to ‘see’!

It’s easy, for us, to consider that a dung beetle which carries food for its future offspring is acting instinctively.
It’s a little bit more complicated when we observe a troop of chimpanzee and notice how deliberately the alpha male leads his ‘subjects’ and the complex social life of the community …

But the difference between how the chimpanzee and the humans interact with reality is wide enough for us, humans, to consider ourselves as having risen ‘above the fray’. As being special enough to deserve a special status!

And what is it which makes us so special?
Our ability to speak? To walk on two legs? To write?
None of the above!

It’s our ability to ‘see’ the difference between us and the rest of the world!

All other living organisms behave as if they belong to nature. To the reality surrounding them.
We humans, behave as if we own reality.

While the rest of the living things react to what’s happening to them – even when they plan ahead – we, humans, deliberately – and presumably in a conscious manner – transform the reality according to what we consider to be our needs.

According to what we ‘see’ as being our needs…

“And Jesus said unto them,
Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you,
If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed,
ye shall say unto this mountain,
Remove hence to yonder place;
and it shall remove;
and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”
Matthew, 17:20

Apparently, the quote above doesn’t make much sense.
No matter how much faith one has, telling a mountain to ‘remove to yonder place’ will yield nothing more than a wasted breath.

On the other hand… 2000 years is a lot. Erosion has moved many a mountains in this time… After all, Jesus didn’t say anything about how fast will the mountain remove itself after it had been told to…

OK, jokes aside, nowadays it’s a lot easier for us to remove a (smallish) mountain than it was in those times. We currently use cranes and lorries instead of mere words … but we still wouldn’t start before convincing ourselves that it’s possible.
That our goal is within our grasp. At least notionally.

The truth of the matter being that we live now in a better world.

According to our benchmarks.
We live longer and have it a lot easier!

But is our world really better?
According to other benchmarks…
Biodiversity loss, spoiled environment, continued human exploitation…

Let me put it differently.
What was the thing which had set apart the abrahamic faith from all other religions?
The notion that all people had been made in the image of the creator god.
As a consequence of how they’ve been made, they – the people – are not only equal – cast in the same mould, but also harboring a divine spark. The image they share being that of a god, not an ordinary one…

What difference does this make?
Democracy, capitalism, free market… all things we consider to be capital to our well being are based on the notion that all people are equal and have to be treated as such.
Otherwise why bother with what the other has to say about anything?

I’ll repeat the question.
Is our world really better?

Forget about biodiversity, pollution and quality of life.
Do we continue to consider our brethren to be equal to us?
Do we really hear them out when they speak to us?

How are we to achieve our goal – whatever that might be, if we don’t coordinate our faith?
If we don’t hear out what the others have to say about anything?

My previous post was about reification.
About the fact that each of us acts according to their faith. According to their belief that the world is as each of us sees it.
|How are we going to coordinate our efforts towards a common goal – a better place for all of us to live in, if we don’t hear what each of us has to say about where we’re going?

“Man is the measure of all things”
To be radical is to go to the root of the matter. For man, however, the root is man himself.
Karl Marx

“the act of changing something abstract (= existing as a thought or idea) into something real

Allow me to put it bluntly. To cut the .. c…orner. -;).

People act as if the world is as they see it!

Would you get up in the morning if there was no tomorrow?!?
So, in reality, it’s faith which keeps the world spinning!

Our world… Earth spins on its own!
But our world, the one we live in, is kept together by our faith!
By our own conviction that we’ll get up from bed tomorrow.
That there’s something worthwhile getting up for.

Not even on paper!

If you read carefully Marx’s communist manifesto, you’ll realize that it doesn’t. Work. Not even on paper!
According to Marx, communism will come to be when enough people formerly belonging to the middle class will have become poor. As a consequence of their wealth having been siphoned away from them.
Becoming poor will make those former middle class people open to communist ideas. And will convince them to follow the already ‘enlightened communists’ into revolution.
For a while – again, according to Marx, the society will be led by the successful revolutionaries. In a dictatorial manner, because not all people will have been risen to the communists’ level of understanding.
So. ‘Communism’ will be instated by some disgruntled people using dictatorial methods.
How auspicious is this?
Let me go even further.
Why were those people disgruntled in the first place?
Because capitalism!
Not so fast. The Adam Smith kind of capitalism worked just fine. Only after it had been warped by greed it had started to sputter. Specially after Milton Freedman had enshrined greed… This being the moment when I need to remind you that Adam Smith’s first book on this subject was “The Theory of Moral Sentiments”…
Those people had become disgruntled after too many in that society had been convinced, at least for a while, that ‘greed was good’. And what was Marx’s proposed solution for that disgruntlement?
That all ‘means of production’ – meaning all property/wealth, be taken away from individual people. And entrusted to ‘the people’.
Since ‘the people’ were going to be led by the “communists”, in practice the communist revolution meant that all wealth was going to be confiscated from those who happened to own it and entrusted to a very small number of people. Who happened to own the secular power in that moment. As the main consequence of the communist revolution. Apud Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto…
Let me revisit now Milton Friedman’s words. ‘Greed is good’. According to this line of thinking, wealth becoming as concentrated as possible is a good thing. Since greed is already good, concentrated wealth is but a logical consequence…

Then Marx’s Communist Manifesto was nothing but an avant-la-lettre short-cut for an easier implementation of Milton Friedman’s greed hailing ideology!

See what I mean?

Karl Marx communism did not and cannot work.
Because it leads into a vicious circle.
It creates a monopolistic situation which cannot be avoided. Time and time again, history has proven that ‘this time is different’ is nothing but wishful thinking. Whenever too much decision power is concentrated in too few hands, the situation becomes untenable. The more concentrated the decision power, the sooner – and more dramatic, the eventual collapse.

How about a different kind of communism?
The only sustainable kind of anything – ‘social arrangements’ included, had been ‘natural’. Had appeared in an evolutionary manner.
In contrast, all revolutionary developments have produced counter-revolutions. In many instances even more destructive than the revolutions themselves.
What will come after democratic capitalism? I don’t know!
But it better be better than what we have now.

And come in quietly!


The vaunted human capacity for reason may have more to do with winning arguments
than with thinking straight
Elizabeth Kolbert, Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds

I love that. Just love it.
“The … human capacity to reason”!

Other thinkers hail reason as the thing which sets us apart from the rest of the animals…

The way I see it, reason is nothing but just another tool.

The thing which sets us apart from the rest of the animals being our ability to observe ourselves while interacting with the rest of the universe. Otherwise known as consciousness.

Basically, reasoning is nothing more than a ‘dialogue with myself’.
When I ‘consider a thing’ in my mind, consciously, I practically put my brain to work.
I order my memory to summon up all the data it has on the subject and I ask my frontal lobe to process that data and to reach a conclusion. In theory…
In the real world, my amygdala – the piece of the brain where emotions are processed – already has an opinion about everything which crosses my mind. The more familiar the thing, the stronger the opinion. The more often my mind – meaning I, had expressed itself regarding a subject, and the more recently, the stronger the opinion my amygdala already has about the matter.
If the matter is considered for the first time, and has no connection with anything else I had already ‘conclusioned’ about, only then my amygdala might keep its opinion for itself. The key word here being ‘might’…

Since this is nothing more than a blog post, I’m not going to prove my opinion. To discuss the importance of the fight-flight mechanism and to mention that this mechanism had done more – evolutionary wise, than reason for our survival. For us having the opportunity to develop this vaunted capacity for reason…

I’ll just end it abruptly.
Mentioning that our individual consciousnesses use reason as a tool. To arrange facts in such a manner as to confirm the already reached conclusionary opinions put forward by our amydalae. “To win arguments”, if you will, including when debating with ourselves.
Only when the facts – the harsh reality, contradict in a flagrant manner the already held convictions we might change our minds.
The more immediate the danger we put ourselves into by sticking to our convictions, the more likely we are to cave in to the facts.

To the facts as we perceive them… Which is yet another story!

Tough times create tough men. Tough men create easy times.
Easy times create weak men. Weak men create tough times.

American proverb
Wealth lasts only for three generations: one to make it, one to keep it, one to squander it
Chinese proverb
If you raise your children, you get to spoil your grandchildren.
If you spoil your children, you get to raise your grandchildren.

Popular word of mouth

There’s no denying that, on average, each generation fares better than its predecessor.

Then why some people end up worse than their parents?
Is it a social thing?
Is it in their upbringing?
Is it the consequence of bad personal choices?

The easy way out would be to consider that legislation, material status, the culture one was born into and even the upbringing offered by the parents are nothing but circumstances. And, ultimately, it’s the individual who makes the call. And bears the consequences…
But the above mentioned individual doesn’t rise from and into a complete void… so I need to go deeper!

An equally true but somewhat more useful observation would be that we’re dealing here with something more important than mere wealth.

‘There’s no such thing! Nothing is more important than Wealth!’

Yeah, right… Individual people keep squandering the personal wealth accumulated by their forefathers, the humankind keeps going forward and you tell me personal wealth is the most important thing here…

But you do make a good point. Your insistence, obsessive even, about wealth being the crux of everything is very relevant.
Since I agree with you that wealth is important, indeed, then maybe it’s the ‘insistence’ which is causing the problem…

First of all, allow me to make a simple distinction.

There is wealth – structured opportunity, I’ll discuss this notion in another post, and there is personal wealth. Opportunity which belongs to somebody.
When an individual squanders the wealth inherited from their parents – or even that which they had managed to put together themselves, the wealth itself – the accrued opportunity – doesn’t disappear from the face of the earth. It just passes from one hand to another. Most of it, anyway. For the simple reason that most of today’s wealth is expressed in money. Which is fungible.

‘OK. So individual people squandering their inherited wealth do not represent such a big problem. The total wealth already present ‘on the face of the Earth’ remains (more or less) the same, no matter who owns it. And since new wealth is created everyday, the humankind, on aggregate, goes forward.’

That’s how things used to be. That’s how things had evolved for the last ten millennia or so. Ever since our forefathers had invented agriculture. Agriculture and money… Land and money cannot be destroyed. Buildings and almost everything else which carries value can. Be destroyed. Land and money also, actually, but it’s a lot harder to do it.

But there’s a catch here.

For wealth to do its trick – to function as an opportunity, people have to have access to it.
That’s why, for example, people do not keep their money under the mattress. When deposited in a bank, money will end up being used. The bank will lend them to somebody who needs it and that somebody will put that money to work, In no matter what shape or form. Kept under a mattress, money becomes mostly useless. At least for the time being…
And this is where ‘insistence’ – our obsessive insistence – that money is the only worthwhile goal for any respectable person becomes counterproductive.

‘Are you a communist?!?’

On the contrary, my dear Watson!

In fact, Marx had been just as infatuated with money as Milton Friedman was going to be a century later. With more or less similar results…
Friedman taught us that greed is good. Profit uber alles. That getting money trumps everything else. That getting money is not only good for the individual itself but also commendable. That everybody should make it their goal to become rich!
Marx, on the other hand – please remember that the ‘other’ hand is nothing but similar to its twin – advocated for all wealth to be stripped from its rightful owners.
See what I mean? Both Marx and Friedman had been thinking only about ownership. Who owns that wealth!

On average, we deal with the same situation.
According to Friedman – pushing his advice to the very limit, there’s no problem if someone owns all the money in the world. If it so happened, so be it.
According to Marx, nobody should own anything.
On average, the wealth corresponding to each living human in both situations would be the same.

We already know the consequences of Marx’s teachings. When all the wealth present in one country is managed by a very small number of people, the whole situation goes south. Fast. Very fast!
We also know what happens when the market is cornered. Becomes suffocated by a monopoly. The whole situation goes south. That’s why we cherish the freedom of the market!

Doesn’t make much sense?
To insist that the market must be free and simultaneously maintain that ‘greed is good’?

Yep! My point exactly…

The vaunted human capacity for reason may have more to do with winning arguments than with thinking straight.
Illustration by Gérard DuBois
Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds
New discoveries about the human mind show the limitations of reason.
By Elizabeth Kolbert February 19, 2017
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