Archives for category: limited rationality

For the outsiders, it seems like Gorbachev ‘made’ Putin.
Gorbachev had destroyed the Soviet Union and, thus, had set the scene for Putin to take over.

I’m afraid things are a little more complicated than that.

Gorbachev – at that time, the best informed decision maker in the whole USSR – had been smart enough to understand that no matter what he might had tried to do, the corpse was already rotten.
That everything but a major ‘upheaval’ could not accomplish anything more than prolong the agony. What he had done was nothing more than allowed the things to happen according to their nature.

I’ll make a short break here and remind you that all ‘imperium’ had eventually ended in failure. The tighter the control exercised by the ruler, the more abject the eventual failure. Check your history book.

So. Gorbachev had taken the appropriate steps. What he had done was in step with the natural flow of history.

Eltsin and Putin, on the other hand, had done the exact opposite.
Eltsin had tried and Putin had succeeded in regaining the ‘reins’ of the government. The reins, the whip, ever stronger control over the barn where the whole stash of hay is deposited…

Why things had unfolded like this?
Because they – Eltsin and Putin, had chosen this venue and because nobody else had been able to do anything about it.

OK, Gorbachev, Eltsin and Putin had made their respective calls in basically the same social and political environments. The economic situations were ‘somewhat’ different but this doesn’t change what I want to stress out. Each of them had done what had crossed each of their individual minds.
Each had been able to do whatever each of them had wanted because…
Because that particular ‘social arrangement’ allows the ruler to make whatever decisions they may see fit.
Because that particular ‘social arrangement’ – dictatorship, no matter how much window-dressing had been slapped on it, allows the person who happens to clamber ‘on top’ to keep making mistakes until the whole ‘carriage’ disintegrates.

Until we learn this lesson…

We need to eat.
At some point, we discovered that by cooking it we got more out of the food we had at our disposal.
Then we learned to cook tastier and tastier meals.

Nowadays, more and more of us wonder

Why Do We Love Unhealthy Foods So Much?

Because we’ve some how convinced ourselves that being happy trumps being alive.

Evolutively speaking, pleasure is a ‘heads up’. It tells us that we do ‘the right thing’. That the food we eat is suitable for us. Nourishing.
Evolutively speaking, happiness is a heads up. That we’re on the right track. That we’re doing nothing to jeopardize our survival.

Those ‘heads – up’ were valid. Once…
And they still are. When ‘used with discretion’.

The problem being that we’re currently harnessing the horse behind the cart.

We’re no longer pursuing life as a wholesome experience.
We just want to be happy!
We no longer eat to remain alive.
We just want to have a better experience! An even better experience than the previous one…

Should we return to the Stone Age?
When so many of us died of hunger? Of illness?
Should we give up the ‘pursuit of happiness’ as a legitimate goal?!?

How about being happy while pursuing a meaningful life?

I’m getting old. Old enough, as a good friend of mine had noticed, to have a way closer relation with sex than ever before.

I am a sexagenarian!

Which gives me certain bragging rights.
You see, everything around us has been made – or started – during my watch. Or earlier…

There is a small catch, though.
Not everything around us is good. In working order. Sustainable!
Some 50 years ago, humankind had developed the means to destroy itself. Remember MAD?
We – our fathers, actually, took a step back. And took the necessary steps. In the end, nothing happened. We’re still here, in spite of having the possibility to spoil everything.
Nowadays, we’ve reached another inflection point. And no, I’m not speaking about ‘global warming’. Not exclusively, anyway.

Global warming is only one of the many things which may go wrong.
One of the many ways in which we may fuck everything up!

My point being that it’s not the first time in history that we are able to fuck everything up.
It’s the first time in history that we are fully aware of the many ways in which things might go totally wrong and we’re practically doing nothing!

Why?!?
Because we have grown old!

When I grew up, there were relatively few old people around.
A lot more than when my parents had grown up but a lot less than now.

When apes had become human – when humanoids learned to speak – old people were precious assets.
Having lived a lot – and being able to share their experience, in detail – they had become depositories of knowledge. The go-to place for when you wanted to learn about something. When you needed a certain piece of information.
Hence the old-timers had, gradually, accrued a lot of respect. As a category.
Add the fact that in order to grow old – to survive for long enough, it helps to make ‘the right calls’. OK, you also need to be lucky… but being smart does come in handy…

Are you done yet? Adding these two? Being looked up to because you are old with thinking good about yourself?

Did you get ‘confirmation bias‘?

In the ‘good old days’, people who had reached my age had their ‘confirmation bias’ tempered by ‘impotence’.
No, not only sexual impotence…
In those days, individuals were a lot more aware than we are today of how much we depend on each other. Of the fact that individually we are impotent! The old ones knew they were going to starve if the young ones would cease providing for them while the young ones were aware of how useful the old ones could be.
Nowadays… We, the oldies, continue to believe we know everything – we survived, didn’t we? – while the young bucks believe they can find out whatever they might need from the internet…
Meanwhile, we – the oldies – no longer need the youngsters to provide for us.

We are wealthier than ever before, we have pension plans and we vote as a team… the world is ours, as it should be!
And since we don’t have so much more to live…

But how sustainable is this situation?
For the shortest of the imaginable time-frames…

Who is telling the mind? Am I not my mind?”

“Your mind is only a part of you. Like the driver is only a part of a car. Irreplaceable but…

Most of us believe it’s the driver who tells the car where to go…

Well, the driver has to follow the road, obey the rules, interact with the other drivers, take care of their own needs… fuel and maintain the car… only then they are ‘free’ to ‘pursue’ the destination.
Which destination is, more often than we care to admit, chosen by the heart rather than with the help of the mind.

So yes, it’s the mind who should tell itself what to believe. Only it needs to reach a certain serenity in order to make a proper decision.
To be able to choose by itself instead of accepting, indiscriminately, ‘suggestions’!”

Sand for the statue and fences for protection.

Not for a particular king!
No.
Not even for kings in general.

Only for all those ‘in charge’!
As a reminder for the fact that their authority is very fragile.
Goes for only as far as it is accepted. Protected by those who respect it.

As a reminder for the fact that fences not only protect but also separate.

The point being that whenever those calling the shots no longer suffer the consequences, the situation becomes extremely fragile.
That whenever a ‘king’ needs to be protected from his subjects instead of by them…

‘So you’d better stop trying!
Why don’t you just enjoy life as it is?’

‘What about Copernicus?
Did he change the world?’

No, he only offered us an ‘alternative’ interpretation of it!
It was us, those who had accepted his interpretation, who did the actual change. By acting as if Copernicus’ teachings were true.

‘But Copernicus hadn’t been the first to utter those ideas!’

Indeed!
But until Copernicus, the world didn’t actually need that version of the facts.
Up until those times, for ‘regular Joe’ it made no actual difference whether the Sun circled around the Earth or the whole shebang moved the other way around.
The Sun dawned as advertised and spring always came as it was supposed to.
Which circled around who made no difference but for the academics!

Only when ‘regular Joe’ had started to sail around the Earth – and needed to accurately plot the course of his ship on a map, the relative motion between Earth and Sun had become relevant. For those belonging to/living in the ‘real’ world!

For the last 15 last years or so I have pushed myself to understand what was going on around me.
Each time I had the impression that I had discovered anything new I was soon disappointed. Very shortly afterwards I most often found out that somebody else had written about the subject. Describing it more or less in the same way as I understood it. Not to mention the fact that the vast majority of the answers I had found had been reached by reading.
My quest changed accordingly.

‘Why has this trove of knowledge been left aside for so long?’

Because regular Joe didn’t have any use for it? Until now, that is…

But, surely, the elite should have done something about this!
After all, ‘understanding’ – a.k.a. ‘making sense of things’ – is our only reason to be, right?

Not so fast!
The elite did something about ‘it’. As I’ve already mentioned, there’s nothing much to add to the things already understood by others and passed along to us from the depths of history. The very fact that all these pieces of information have been carefully preserved by countless generations of scribes and ‘book keepers’ is the living proof that the elite fulfilled its calling.
It’s up to us to make good of their dedicated work.
For our own sake.

And for that of our children!

So yes, I cannot change the world.
Neither can either of you!
Alone.

But together….

Regardless of their ‘ignorance’, these dudes had somehow managed to put together a constitution which served well for more than 250 years.
It was under the guidance of this Constitution that the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” have been welcomed.
It was under the guidance of this Constitution that the “homeless, tempest-tost” have found the inspiration to learn about atoms, to heal disease, to unearth – and understand, dinosaurs, to master the light-bulb witchcraft… and to build machine guns!

Darwin was also a ‘rich dude’. He didn’t have to ‘work’ to make ends meet. It would have been enough for him to follow in his father’s footsteps and he would have led a plentiful life.
He had chosen instead to embark in a lifelong quest for knowledge…

OK, his theory was far from perfect!
Yet his breakthrough did put us on the right track!

I could go on for ever.
There are innumerable examples of instances when people have punched above their weight. And came out with wonderful results. Not only for them but mostly for us!

For us, to stand on their shoulders.

Are we up to the task?

Are we able to appreciate the US Constitution for its true value?
Are we able to understand, once and for all, that Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” is about way more than ‘the survival of the fittest’?

According to Ernst Mayr, evolution is about the ‘demise of the unfit‘. Which is a way more ‘inclusive’ reading of Darwin’s theory than that which ‘promotes’ the ‘survival of the fittest’.

Thurgood Marshall’s ancestors had been slaves. That was how the US constitution was read in those times.
And I’m sure that at least some of his fellow Justices’ ancestors had been slave owners.

Yet under the US Constitution the members of the 1973 Scotus had found it in them to sit together and read the principles minted by the Founding Fathers in a manner wide enough to encompass the women’s right to decide about their bodies. And every individual’s right to privacy. To a privacy ‘wider’ than that expressly formulated in the Constitution and in the XIV-th Amendment.

Fast forward to 2022. To when ‘survival of the fittest’ has almost been replaced by ‘the winner takes it all’.
To when a far more inclusive Scotus has determined that abortion is something which should be legislated by each state. That a woman’s right to determine what happens to/with her body can be influenced by somebody else’s opinion.

Are we going backwards?
Darwin gave us Evolution. We use his theory as a theoretical justification for why some people are ‘more equal’ than the others.
The ‘rich dudes’ had given us the Constitution. As a protection against abuse. As a shield for us to use whenever the momentarily powerful attempt to rule our lives. And some of our contemporaries use it as a Trojan horse. To open the door for very oppressive pieces of legislation.

How was this possible?!?

Both sides of the ‘divide’ have lost their ‘perspective’. Their focus.
The Constitution, which used to be the mortar which has given coherence to the entire building, has become a ‘bone of contention’.
Evolution – which made us what we are today, has become a cuss.

How wise is this?

I have no way of knowing what the creator of the meme actually wanted to convey through it.
All I know is what I make of it.

The ‘Austrian’ will eventually fall. Not only that nobody can stay in the saddle for ever but the guy uses only one hand to steer his bike. And the fact that he doesn’t use a helmet is the second proof that he doesn’t care much for safety. For his safety… At his age, he should have known better!

Hard to argue with Mises – the quintessential Austrian economist, if I remember right.
Specially since I grew up under a communist regime. Where laissez faire was absent and where the government was inept and immoral. Which regime, like all other authoritarian/totalitarian regimes in history, had crumpled under it’s own weight.

But wait!
Countries which use laissez faire had long ago invented the necessary mitigation mechanisms.
The unlucky entrepreneurs can declare bankruptcy and start all over.
The fraudulent entrepreneurs – well, many of them, go to prison.
While the inept and immoral governments get booted. Democratically!

My point being that laissez faire works better if there’s a safety net in place.
And that people should trust their government. But also keep it on a very short leash!

Let’s face it!

Santa is a lie.
A white one, indeed, but still a lie.

Then why do we continue to ‘confuse’ our children?
Because for as long as they will remain convinced that it was Santa who brought their presents, they will not pester us with their demands?
It’s easier for us to tell them ‘Santa didn’t consider you worthy enough’ than ‘we didn’t have enough dough’?
It’s a ‘subtle’ manner for them to learn that deception is acceptable? If driven by ‘noble goal’? And who gets to determine how low the benchmark for ‘noble’ must be set for a deception to become acceptable?

But the strangest thing pertaining to this habit of ours is the number of fake Santas hanging in the most peculiar places.
The one above, for instance…
Why would a sensible person – me, drill a hole in the middle of an otherwise pristine wooden door just because his wife loves to hang bearded figurines?

Meanwhile, this guy has become a permanent fixture. He’s been there for years …

I argued earlier that truth is a convention.
And that the Truth exists but will never be known. Not in its entirety, anyway.

Then what are we left with?
How can any of us decide what is true and what is not?

First of all, any convention needs three things. The two convening parts and the object of their convention.

‘So, you want us to believe that truth is a make-believe?!?’

That it can be, yes!

And the further from the real truth – from reality itself, that convened about truth is, the worse the fate the believers will eventually have to face.

The first example which jumps to my mind is the fate of Bernie Madoff and ‘his’ investors.
Bernie and each of the investors had convened a truth. That his investment fund was sound.
Consider what happened to each of them. To each of the investors and to Bernie Madoff himself.

I’ll come back.

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