Archives for category: effective communication

‘For things to work as intended, there must be a rule’.

Errr…

‘For things to work, there must be at least some consistency involved’.

This is a far better starting point!

An example would be fine?

Then imagine an Earth where the gravitational field was haphazard. In space and time. Where two lumps of dirt, a k a mountains, sometimes pulled at each other while some other times pushed. With no rules involved whatsoever.
Or where sometimes wood needed oxygen to burn while some other times – or in some other places, the presence of nitrogen was enough for wood to burst into flames.
Need some more? Then how about a place where dogs breed with cows. And also with butterflies. Only not always. And not in a constant manner.

Have you stopped laughing?
Well, this was how our ancestors imagined the Earth.
Sometimes after a mutation had provided them with the most powerful brain ever, our forefathers had learned to speak. To ‘trade’ information. Soon after they has started to develop something Humberto Maturana called ‘the ability of an observer to observe themselves while making observations’. ‘Self awareness’ for short. Or ‘conscience’ in everyday parlance.

Imagine a self-aware observer watching the sun go down. A rather smart one. One with a vivid enough imagination to ask ‘what if the sun will not come up tomorrow morning’…
Stonehenge has suddenly acquired a new meaning, right?

That was why God had so much traction. Simply because it gave sense to everything. It lend meaning to everything under the sun. And beyond!

In time, under God’s protection, we invented science. And, slowly but surely, we’ve started apportioning meaning ourselves.
Meaning we’ve started to take for granted.
Meaning which no longer depended on any third party!

Only we’ve gradually forgotten what science is really about.

Why we had developed it in the first place.

We had forgotten that science is wrong by definition.
That, by following this path, we’ll be forever able to find new meaning but that we’ll never be able to find ‘the’ meaning.

And now, that we’ve ‘killed’ God – as no longer necessary, we rely solely on the meaning we’ve already affixed to the things we already know.
To the things we consider to know… conveniently forgetting what science taught us….

Faced with unforeseen crises – unforeseen, not unforeseeable, we are left powerless.
Having taken so much for granted – our knowledge about the world and our ability to overcome everything the nature throws at us, above all, we find ourselves bereaved of our erstwhile powers.

Are we going to rediscover intellectual humility? And the ability to take advice? From the most unlikely teacher?

Or else?

Existence takes place ‘inside’ while things happen in-between.

Survival is a matter of preserving, ‘as is’, what already exists while evolution is about change and might involve ‘dismissal’.

Everything may survive while only ‘living’ things are capable of evolving on their own.

At some point, evolving organisms became complex enough to ‘feel’.
Not only complicated enough to react in an orderly – a.k.a. pre-programmed, manner but also to generate emotional reactions – which can be remembered, when certain things happen in their vicinity. Things which are important for the survival of the feeling organisms. As a consequence of the ‘feeling’ process, data regarding the happened occurrences are stored by the feeling organisms as information. Which information may help the organism in its struggle to survive. Using that information, that organism might become a ‘better version’ of itself.

At a further point in the evolution of ‘things’, organisms have added another layer of complexity.
They have become complex enough to ‘think’. As in complex enough to attempt to maximize the effects of the information they have at their disposal.

That was when ‘facts’ had been identified as being ‘things’ which had had consequences, when data had been identified as being information and when the thinkers had discovered that thinking was driven by sentiment.

Which sentiment is nothing but an evolution of the ‘survival instinct’.
Present in any living organism.
Which survival instinct is nothing but the living equivalent of something the physicists have identified as inertia.

Go figure….

One way to interpret Maslow’s pyramid of needs is to consider that an individual might become a full fledged human only after having climbed to the ‘fifth floor’.

The key word here being “might”!

Because nothing mandates that all those who have overcome the material constraints of this world and have successfully integrated themselves in the social milieu will ever become a ‘better version of themselves’.

Need examples? Have you ever heard about people like Bernie Madoff, Martin Shkreli or Myron Scholes?

‘But the last guy, Myron Scholes, was recognized by the Nobel committee as a world class economist!’
Exactly! What more could a person want? Money, fame, worldwide recognition… he was on the fast track to becoming whoever he wanted…
Yet he had chosen to associate himself with one of the deepest financial black-hole ever… Knowingly, unknowingly… doesn’t matter!

‘But what does it mean to become a full fledged human?’

To be free. To consider them-self a free person and to be recognized as such by their peers.

‘Scholes wasn’t a free person?!? Shkreli?!? Madoff?!?’

Nope. Neither was free from greed!
Greed for money, power, public recognition… or any combination thereof.

‘But “greed is good”!!! Isn’t this the current mantra? Aren’t we all driven by this sentiment?!?’

First of all, greed is not good. Read Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiment.
But yes, we are bombarded from all sides with this notion. That ‘greed is good. That greed is the engine of capitalism, which capitalism has brought us here. Where it is good.’

Yes, here it is indeed good. Only for fewer and fewer of us. It used to be better but since ‘greed has become good’ every ‘bump’ we encounter along the ‘free market’ road has proven to be quite a challenge. An insurmountable challenge for more and more of us.
An unsustainable arrangement. For us, as a community.
And yes, capitalism is the best economic paradigm to date. Only, as all paradigms, it has to be put in practice. By us, the people. In the right way. In the free market way.
Only we are no longer free! Those who cannot escape their sentiment may not consider themselves free. And too many of us have been enslaved by their greed!

‘But greed is written in our DNA!’

Indeed! So is the urge to have sex!
Only we’ve managed to teach ourselves, community wise, that while sex is good, rape is bad!
Not so long ago, rape was more or less condoned. ‘She must have enticed him’. ‘What was she doing there at that hour?’ And so on…
Nowadays, rape is shunned. By most of us.

Only we still live surrounded by rape culture. Seeped in greed.

Will we ever learn?
Will we, as a community, ‘actualize’ ourselves?

While everything mentioned above is absolutely true, we must also remember that it was the whites – who had first reached the ‘proper stage of development’, who had given up slavery and invented ‘human rights’.
On the other side, it is also true that the whites did reach the ‘proper stage of development’ by exploiting the rest of the world.
Only ‘this’ wasn’t invented by them! I don’t want to go into the finer details. All of you know, very well, what had really happened ‘on the ground’.

So.
What are we going to do next?

‘Delete’ everything the white people have contributed only because they have been the last to exploit the rest of the mankind?

Or accept the fact that evolution works in an oblique manner?

Culture is to human communities what DNA is to biological species.

It transports vital information from one generation to the other. Hence providing a venue for survival.
Furthermore, both culture and DNA can change in time. Hence providing a venue for evolution.

The difference between culture and DNA being, of course, the fact that culture is way more fluid than DNA.
DNA changes only once for each generation – what you get at birth is what you’re taking to the grave, while culture is in constant flux.
No individual organism has anything to say about their genetic information but almost every human is capable of learning almost anything.

Now for the historical part.

Stage one.

Veneration of the elders. The elders were the depositories of the common knowledge. Hence everybody took good care of the ‘data bases’.

Stage two.

Somebody learned to write.
Elders were no longer indispensable. More and more information could be ‘warehoused’ in alternative ways.
A structure was needed to manage the new ways of dealing with the vital information.

Stage three.

The state is born.
At first the structures which insured that culture was passed from one generation to another had been rather empiric: kingdoms, monasteries, etc.
Soon after the Enlightenment things had become more rational. Cultured people became nations and the academic scholars gave us the state. As the structure charged to make sure that culture and people stay together. Hence providing for the nation’s survival.

States who had been in constant contact – read rivalry, kept each-other fit. Or else.
States ‘removed’ from reality – geographically, by becoming too powerful to care or both, had experienced a natural decay. The people at the top of the food chain had forgotten about those at the bottom and those at the bottom had lost faith in their leadership.

States too weak to survive – for various reasons, have succumbed while those too powerful for their own sake have eventually imploded.

Psychology to the rescue.

Culture is more fluid than DNA for a reason.
DNA follows exclusively the laws of nature while culture is heavily influenced by us.
We, men, are the measure of all things.
All life heavily transforms the place it inhabits.
So do we, humans. Only we do it willingly. On purpose, that is.

Now, that we have amassed so much information – about life in general and about how we relate, as agents, to the entire process, we have reached a reckoning moment. What next?

Are we going to choose the path of the cuckoo or that shown to us by Hokule-a?

There is no such thing as a soul?
OK, then how do you explain what happened the last time you encountered a soul-less person?
You didn’t?
Good for you only I have my doubts.

Either a divine gift or an emanation of the human mind, soul is what separates us from the animal realm.

Or this is how we see things…

After all, we are the ones who believe it is normal for us to eat animals and who consider it a tragedy for one of us, humans, to ‘return to nature’. In any circumstances…

Anyway, things are complicated… Until recently – historically speaking, some of us were comfortable with the notion that skin colour determines the ‘quality’ of one’s soul. Caucasian plantation owners used black slaves to work their land and Arabian rulers used ‘white flesh’ to adorn their harems…

Further complications spring up when we consider the fate of the soul.
Is it going anywhere after it’s ‘host’ passes away? To some other place? Does it come back to fulfill its Karma?
Or it literally goes to meet its Maker? As in ‘for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. (Genesis 3:18)’?

And when does this soul appears in earnest?
The moment when we leave the womb? A few years later, during the process through which we become conscious human beings?
Or, as some people choose to believe, in the very moment when each of us has been conceived by their parents?

As an aside, what about those conceived in a lab? Do they have a soul?

What about sexes? Are feminine souls equivalent with the masculine ones?
What happens to a transgender soul?

Are we a natural occurrence? A product of evolution? In a constant process of ‘improvement’? Obviously imperfect but, generally speaking, striving to ‘fail better’?

Or are we an imperfect ‘artifact’?

Cause this is the only issue on which there is a consensus… Everybody is convinced we’re ‘defective’. From the staunchest believer to the most rabid atheist…

I really have to stop. And go comfort my soul with something nice.

We make reality.

Each of us: I, you, she, he, brings their individual contributions.
And the end result, our reality, is defined by the quality of the interactions between us.

The new reality, ours, being the ‘place’ where we, the ‘beneficiaries’ of the interactions between us – simultaneously cooperating and competing free agents, and the previous reality, will have to lead our lives.

Until we’ll change it. Again.

During lock-down I had more time for my research regarding conscience.
Or, in Maturana’s terms, ‘self-awareness‘.

At first glance, evolutionary speaking, conscience – our ability to observe ourselves ‘in the act’, is about increasing the survivability of the individual having said ability. Hence increasing the survivability of the species to which said individual belongs.

Now, since humankind is divided in cultural ‘subspecies’ – and, according to Maturana, conscience is an ability which has been developed in social context, cultures have different chances of survival. Depending on subtle differences imposed upon the individual consciences during the ‘coming of age’.
Only there’s something which contradicts Darwin’s evolutionary theory. According to the classical version, individuals cannot adapt themselves. Individuals can only survive – and transmit their genes, or – if said genes are not good enough for the circumstances, expire and make way for other individuals/species. According to Darwin, only species can evolve.

The notable difference being what we call ‘free will’.
Not as free as some believe it to be, not as bounded as other think it to be, free will does exist. And allows us to evolve on an individual basis. During the life span of the current generation.

Only there’s a small problem here.
Cognitive dissonance.
No matter how conscient – aka aware of our own misgivings, each of us might be, our first tendency when confronted with arguments contradicting our previously held convictions is to rationalize away those arguments.
Change convictions according to the newly acquired knowledge? Maybe later…
Don’t believe me? How much time elapsed between learning that smoking is bad for you and actually quitting? See what I mean?

Hence my ‘impression’ that ‘conscience’ is more concerned about maintaining its own consistency than with the fate of the biological organism which actually supports it.

Want some more arguments?

Northern Italy. France. Spain. Bad Corona-virus outbreaks, followed by intense lock-downs. Currently the situations are, basically, under control. Suggesting that people do learn, fast, when confronted by really dire circumstances.
Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Singapore… reacted immediately, had relatively few problems. Suggesting that people are able to learn from past experiences. The ‘original’ SARS, you know…
Germany had a less ‘dramatic’ trajectory. Suggesting people may, under certain circumstances, learn from others.
US and Brazil. The rest of the US, actually. The NE having experienced the North Italian scenario. Too many people concerned more with remaining consistent with their previous selves than with adapting to the new challenge. ‘Government tries to subdue us’ and ‘masks are an infringement to personal liberty’.

What about China and Russia?
I’ll let you be the judge of that. Only you need to remember that ‘free will’ is of a totally different nature there than it is here. In the rest of the world.

Same in India. With a twist. While in China/Russia free will is stifled from above, in India – and in too many other developing nations, free will is ‘conscripted’ by poverty. It is very hard to think about the day after tomorrow if you don’t know whether you’ll be able to eat tomorrow.
Even less so if you are hungry right now.

How does it work and what are the consequences.

To cut a long story short, some 25 years ago I started trading on the Bucharest Stock Exchange. The market had been freshly reinstated after the fall of the communist regime and most of us so called investors were quite naive. Due an incredible amount of luck and a small but very useful spark of intelligence I made a fair amount of money. For that time…
In an attempt to maximize my profits, I went back to school.
Where I learned the difference between fundamental and technical analysis.

I’m not going into details. It’s enough for you to know that no matter how different they are, both fulfill the same psychological function.
They ‘clean up’ the slate. They help the decision makers distance themselves from the objects they have to decide upon.

What?!?

A stock – or any other tradable item, is no different from a bicycle.
We, human beings, become attached to things we already have in our possession. We find it harder to divest ourselves from something than to buy into something new. We tend to procrastinate when having to choose between multiple opportunities to buy and to ‘defend’ an already made decision. An already acquired possession.
Fundamental and technical analyses do nothing but bridge these two ‘chasms’. Help us across.

OK. But has any of this to do with propaganda?

Well, market analysis is a tool used by the decision maker himself.
Propaganda is a tool used by somebody who intends to influence the decision maker. Using the same psychological mechanisms.

While market analysis attempts to clear the ‘sentimental fog’ which distorts the factual information available to the decision maker, propaganda works its way in the opposite direction.
Facts are presented in such a way as to ‘smuggle’ them, below the radar, into the minds of the intended targets.
While market analysis is meant to help decision makers overcome their biases, propaganda is meant to fine tune those biases towards ‘encouraging’ the decision makers into adopting the decision coveted by the propagandist.

Somebody sent me this picture.
See how things work?
Most people consider themselves as being free from racism.
Also, most people consider that other people – namely the politicians and the journalists, have ‘vested’ interests. And that these ‘other’ people use ‘divide and conquer’ to maintain their grip on power.

The key word here being ‘other’. It’s the others who engage in such heinous acts. Never ‘our’ people.

But do you know what bothers me most?
I’ve been subjected to communist propaganda for the first 30 years of my life.
I’ve never dreamed it would take me another 30 years – and a stint of daily trading on the Stock Market, to figure out how propaganda works. Only to find it being used by people who declare communism to be the scourge of the Earth.

Well, since communism actually is a scourge, how about we NOT using the same tool as those who try to infect our minds with it?
For no other reason than propaganda yielding communism having been a complete failure….

How do you determine the scope of a conversation?
What the other guy has in mind when talking to you?

You interpret whatever ‘comes’ from the ‘other’ side… there’s no other way, right?
But what if both of you have opposing views on the subject? If you don’t seem to see eye to eye on the matter? Do you give up, considering the other party as too ‘thick sculled’ to matter?

‘OK, and what alternatives are there?’

The way I see it, people who speak to others might be driven by any combination of ‘trying to convince the other’ and ‘trying to learn something’. Let me deal with the extremes first.

Somebody is trying to mess up with your mind if/when your arguments are dully noted only to be later dismantled, ridiculed or both at the same time. When you are never asked to elaborate. When you end up feeling that the other guy doesn’t really hear what you have to say.

Somebody is trying to learn from the encounter – not necessarily from you, if … the opposite is happening. If you end up with the impression of having been heard. Of an exchange having had happened. Both of you might end up entertaining the very same ideas each of you have started with but…

In practice, most people do learn at least something from each conversation. No matter how determined they were, at the beginning, to convince the other.

But sometimes I do wonder… what if the real goal of too many of those who ‘surf’ – pun intended, the social media is to keep the rest of us busy?
As in ‘waste our time’? Slow us down in our attempt to learn? To make at least some sense of what’s going on around us?

Happy talking!
And don’t forget to learn.

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