Archives for category: limited rationality

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 To when ‘survival of the fittest’ has almost been replaced by ‘the winner takes it all’.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.

The single truth which is accessible to us is that while there is a single truth – we may call it ‘reality’, if you want, we’ll never know it in its entirety.
We may get ever closer to getting there but we will never arrive.

The corollary – which is an integral part of the kernel truth, being that the effort to get closer to that single truth can be exerted only as a collective endeavor. Any other approach will, sooner rather than later, end up in a cul-de-sac.

The sooner we agree about this ‘kernel’ truth, the more peaceful the journey to never get there will become.

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Isn’t it rather strange?

Health care professionals who are not yet vaccinated against Covid-19?
Teachers who are not yet vaccinated against Covid-19?

OK, I understand there are some people who cannot go near a vaccine. For medical reasons. But they are few. And, anyway, most of them do not ‘belong’ to this line of work.

But the rest? What is it which prevents them from getting the jab?
The ‘mandatory’ part?
Why do I care about it being mandatory if it saves my life?

Am I being oppressed for having to breathe in order to live?

Am I feeling oppressed for having to work – as in being useful for other people, in order to lead a decent life?

Is this the real reason for which so many of us, teachers and health care professionals included, refuse the vaccine?

‘I am not going to sacrifice my health for the misconceptions and irrational fears of others.’

I don’t care about anybody else but me?!?

Only time can judge this.

Which was smarter.
To accept the vaccine – and contribute to the general well being, assuming the non-0 risk involved.
Or to weather the storm. Hoping the pandemic will die on its own. And/or that enough of the others will get the jab.

But to find out what time will have decided, each of us must live. Must survive the pandemic.

And here’s the catch.
The strongest amongst us will survive. Without a mask. Without a vaccine.
While many of those who didn’t have to die will have gone under.

But what kind of a world will that be?

Dog eat dog?

Are we OK with that?
Is this what we want to leave behind?

Plants transform water, minerals and sunshine into organic matter.
Herbivores transform plant matter into meat.
Predators cull the misfit among the herbivores.
Scavengers return the ‘discrete components’ back to where they belong. At the start of the cycle.

Please note that this train of transformations happens both above and below water.
That it includes all living organisms we know about.
And that it constantly reshapes the environment.

The oxygen we breathe had been produced, at first, by some primitive bacteria.
The soil which currently nurtures the plants which feed everybody else is a ‘by product’ of past and present organisms.

And so on.

Life is a web. Each of the species, a knot in this web.

Each member of a species gives some and takes some from the web. And, in doing this, keeps the web alive. Gives strength to each knot and keeps the entire web in one piece. In one functional piece.

At first, we – humans, as well at the rest of the apes, have been playing ‘top dog’.
We’ve always taken more than we’ve been giving back. Apes have very few natural predators, except for viruses and bacteria. But what we used to take wasn’t that much out of proportion as to make a noticeable dent. As to endanger the big picture.

Until we, humans, have invented agriculture.
Have actually enslaved plants and animals to serve us.
Shaped the world to cater for our needs. Transformed forests into savannas to feed our animals and savannas into fields for our crops. Then fields into cities for our dwellings and industrial parks for our factories.

Enslaving the nature hasn’t been enough. We have enslaved our own brethren to work in our place.
To take care of our animals, to tend our crops, to clean our houses, even to nurse our new-born.

And we have started to fight among ourselves. Attempting to control more and more of the Earth, we have stepped on each-other’s toes. Then ‘we’ have started to push back against ‘them’. By force, if necessary. By deadly force, if we saw fit.

Here’s were we stand now.

Our current contribution is negative.
We have polluted the planet way beyond its short term capacity to cope with all the refuse we’re stacking on its back.
We have burned enough of the fossil fuel which had been accumulated during hundreds of millions of years that we have thus changed the composition of the atmosphere. Changed it in the wrong direction…
By hunting and by ‘repurposing’ the land we have contributed to the huge bio-diversity loss we are currently witnessing.

Some of us have started to understand what’s going on.
Not only to understand but also to attempt to remedy the situation.

When one country had fallen under the ‘spell’ of terrorists – and a danger for all other countries, a large coalition of ‘interested parties’ have stepped in. And tried to make things right.
For a host of reasons, that effort turned sour. And the ‘interested parties’ have decided to leave.

Amid all that mayhem, a lonely soul had remained steadfast. And spun the Earth in the other direction in his desperate attempt to save his protegees from the advancing Taliban. In his successful attempt to save his protegees from the advancing Taliban…

LONDON (AP) — A former U.K. Royal Marine who waged a high-profile campaign to leave Afghanistan with almost 200 rescued dogs and cats has flown to safety — with the animals, but without his charity’s Afghan staff, who were left behind in Kabul.
A privately funded chartered plane carrying Paul “Pen” Farthing and his animals landed at London’s Heathrow Airport on Sunday after a saga that gripped and divided Britain, raising difficult questions about the relative value placed on human and animal lives.

The way I see it, we – humans, are here to impart meaning to everything we get in contact with.

Now, what’s the meaning of the ‘story’ above?

Are we finally understanding the responsibility we have towards the rest of the living world?
Or we’re still arrogant enough to do as we please? Without any consideration for what’s going to happen next?

As I said before. Humans don’t have any natural predators.
Except for bacteria, viruses … and other people.

A little over three centuries ago, a certain Thomas Malthus maintained “that infinite human hopes for social happiness must be vain, for population will always tend to outrun the growth of production.” Let me add that Malthus had been educated at the Jesus College in Cambridge – where he had received his master of arts degree in 1791, and had taken his “holy orders” in 1797. Had been elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1821, elected a member of the French Academie des Sciences Morales et Politiques, to the Royal Academy of Berlin… and so on…
Until now, Malthus has been proven wrong. We somehow managed to feed ourselves. In fact, despite the fact that we’re now roughly 8 times more numerous than we were in 1800, most of us eat far better than most of Malthus’ contemporaries. Live way longer. Lead far happier lives.
Not without ‘associated’ costs. Borne mainly by the environment. And by some of the ‘others’.

The problem being that the things which had worried Malthus – population growth and the limited nature of the Earth, are true only in part. Yes, population growth puts indeed a lot of pressure on the limited Earth we currently inhabit, but the main thing which limits our “social happiness” is our limited understanding of what’s going on here.

Our self centered and self serving image of the world.
Our own inability to find a long term, life preserving meaning for the things which happen around us.

To us.

By us.

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch/
https://www.britannica.com/science/biodiversity-loss
https://apnews.com/article/lifestyle-europe-cats-dogs-kabul-2ef71936faed95629c5f258e3e7ff9ea
https://www.britannica.com/biography/Thomas-Malthus
https://www.statista.com/statistics/1006502/global-population-ten-thousand-bc-to-2050/

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Basically, Adam Smith and Ayn Rand had the same thing in their minds.

How society works and how individuals meet their needs in a social context.

And both of them had reached the same solution.
That capitalism was good.

Unfortunately – for Ayn Rand’s fans, any similitude between them stops here.

Adam Smith had described a reality.
Something which had evolved, naturally, in the cultural milieu to which he had happened to belong.

Ayn Rand was trying to push a social model.

The fact that what Rand was trying to push was very close to what Smith had described is, indeed, important.
But the difference between something which had evolved naturally and the very same something which had been imposed, by force, is also important.

Let me give you an example.

Christianity.
Much of what we have today – from ‘human rights’ to the very concept of ‘science’, has it’s roots down in the principles exposed in the Bible.
South America is, now, a Christian territory. Populated by people who had immigrated as Christians and by people – just as Christian as the first category, who had been born to parents having other beliefs. Parents who had been forcefully ‘conversed’ to Christianity.

It’s easy to notice that people in South America don’t fare as well as those in Europe, North America or Australia.
Why? They are Christians, South America uses the same capitalism and the same democracy as the rest of the ‘civilized’ world… why are the results so different?

Don’t bring ethnicity into discussion!
The explanation is simple and has nothing to do with ethnicity.

While in Europe, North America and Australia Christianity and capitalism had evolved naturally – in the sense that they had occurred in Europe and had been translated by the European immigrants to North America and Australia, in South America – and in other places, Christianity and capitalism had been forcefully imposed by the immigrants upon the much larger local populations.

Just as Communism had been forcefully imposed by the Lenin led Bolsheviks upon the Russian People.

Forget about the fact that communism had failed, no matter how hard some people have tried to make it work, while capitalism works for real – when used properly.
My point is that whenever somebody tries to force something upon somebody else, the results will never rise to the expected level. No matter how good that ‘something’ might be.

Are you familiar with ‘you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink’?
Leading it to water is enough.
Whenever somebody becomes ‘enthusiastic’ enough to try to force a horse to drink, the results …. no matter how skillful the ‘enthusiast’ might be…

And there’s another ‘small’ thing which makes a hell of a difference.
Adam Smith’s main point was that the whole society benefits from the functioning of the free market. Where each ‘agent’ competes with the others towards meeting his own goal. Which competition – as long as it remains free, results in everybody – well, almost, having a better life.
Ayn Rand’s point being that the free market is there only for the benefit of the ‘strongest’. Which is in line with Lenin’s view on the matter… ‘The Bolsheviks merit to lead the revolution because they are the strongest…’

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Most steps ‘forward’ had been made at the expense of those daring to put one foot in front of the other.
Fernao de Magalhaes and Marie Sklodowska Curie had been but two of the examples.

But what kind of ‘moving forward’ is to find yourself shackled en route to a plantation in the ‘Brave New World’?
Or nuked?

That’s the whole point.
How do you balance the urge to explore with the need to survive?

What convinced Fernao de Magalhaes – and his men, that it was a good thing – for them, at least, to climb aboard those primitive ships and attempt to reach the Indies by sailing towards the ‘wrong’ direction?
What made Marie Sklodowska Curie – and other scientists, overcome barriers previously considered insurmountable in their quest for knowledge? Putting themselves, and us, in great danger?

What made Giordano Bruno cling to his belief?

What made him so sure he was doing ‘the right thing’ when he “finally declared that he had nothing to retract and that he did not even know what he was expected to retract.”?

Fast forward to the XXI-st century.
Following in the steps of de Magalhaes, Bruno and Curie, we’ve explored almost all corners of the Earth, peered into the womb of the Universe, named the entire table of Mendeleev, and reached the present state of civilization.
In doing so, we’ve changed the composition of the atmosphere we breathe, polluted the water we drink, exhausted the soil which grows our food and, the worst, have soured whatever mutual understanding ever existed among ourselves.

After some 75 years of relative peace we’ve become more callous than ever.
Judging by what’s being said on TV, shared on social media… and, most importantly, by how we react when our fellow human beings are in danger. Or in need…

We refuse to wear a mask – because it doesn’t offer perfect protection and it has been mandated by the government.
We refuse to give up fossil fuel – because ‘it has not yet been scientifically proven beyond any reasonable doubt that all the global warming has been produced by us’.
We refuse to pay taxes – because they are ‘theft sanctioned by the government.’

All these in the name of ‘defending our God sanctioned liberty’…

We steal much of the help we send to those in need.
We pay those who work for us as little as we can, regardless of the consequences. And we declare, nonchalantly, that ‘greed is good’.
We continue to notice the skin color of those we interact with. And to pass judgement on them starting from this ‘piece of information’.
We continue to consider that women should ‘behave properly’ and ‘mind their own business’.

We allow ‘spin doctors’ into our minds. We welcome them, even. And let them ‘fine tune’ our biases…

How are we going to survive this huge amount of ‘progress’? That which we’ve brought upon our own heads?
When are the ‘spin doctors’ going to realize the Earth is finite? Not flat. Limited!

What are they going to do when the shit they’ve sown into our heads will finally hit the fan?
Where are they going to hide?

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‘I need a gun to protect myself from those who do not obey all of God’s words but I don’t need a mask to protect me from any of God’s creations. Even from a virus’.

‘A mask protects both of us, regardless of who wears it. And if we both do it, the benefits are bigger for both of us.
On the other hand, if you decide to trust our immune systems that will dramatically increase the chances that both of us will get the disease. Actually, your confidence in our immune systems/God is similar to shooting guns blindly. Statistically there are not that many chances to hit someone, right? Unless you do it in a public space…
That’s why we need to wear a mask in public and to keep all guns away from the hands of those who might use them indiscriminately.’

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