Archives for category: limited rationality

The sole difference between the living and the non-living is the fact that only the living is able to die.

Which death is the prerequisite for evolution!

Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

Get a vaccine, wear a mask…

“You can’t deprive others of their liberty without forfeiting your own. Liberty is lost with every person seeking to control others for their comfort and sentiment.”

Getting a vaccine and wearing a mask are sensible things to do, right?

Establishing a free environment, where all individuals might enjoy their liberties, is also a sensible thing!

For the simple reason that even a casual examination of history provides ample proof that freer societies fare far better than those which curtail individual freedoms.

Simpler said than done…
Mention the mandatory mask and the imperative advice to get vaccinated to those passionate about individual liberty and you have a hornets’ nest on your hands.

Or maybe this is an excellent occasion to discuss the ‘gap’ we constantly need to bridge between individual freedoms and a free society?

Can you have a free society composed of slaves?

The answer depends on who gives it to you.
I’d spent the first 30 years of my life under communist rule.
My country, Romania, was declared, by those who were ruling it at that time, as being free. Both domestically and internationally.
The only free individual was the ruler. Nicolae Ceausescu. He was the only guy who could do as he pleased. And only for a while… Until 25 December 1989…
In the end, the regime had crumbled and the only ‘free’ individual had met with the consequences of how he had chosen to use his freedom.

So no, you cannot have a free society when one individual, or a group of individuals, impose their will on everybody else.

‘Your liberty to swing your fist ends where my nose begins’

Otherwise put, if you refuse to get vaccinated/wear a mask you might be instrumental in getting me sick. Or dead.

‘Might’! It’s the ‘might’ part which troubles you!
Why should you shoulder a minimal risk/discomfort for my safety? Specially when you’re not convinced that my safety is in danger… Or, maybe, you’re thinking ‘let him take whatever precautionary measures he considers to be necessary!’

Because of India, that’s why!

Do you consider present day India to be a free society?
Do you consider that people currently living in India are truly enjoying their freedom? Today?!?

And no, I’m not going to contrast what’s going on in India with what the Chinese government had done.
First pretend nothing had happened then lock up the entire population.

No!
I’m going to contrast what’s going on in India with how the ‘other’ China had reacted to the Covid pandemic. Or with the South Korean response.

Different economic realities… Different cultures…
Maybe!
But also different levels of economic and social disruption!

Don’t tell me that what’s going on in today’s India won’t have repercussions!

I feel the need to disagree vehemently!

The malicious has made an option. Had chosen. Willingly! And, supposedly – according to the hypothesis being discussed here, knowingly.

The ‘stupid’ just stays put. Until the relevant information penetrates his ‘thick skull’.
It’s not his fault that those who attempt to convince him are not skillful enough.

And if the ‘stupid’ happens to be in a ‘powerful’ position… (hence his inability to understand fast enough is liable to produce considerable damage) who needs to be chastised?

The ‘stupid’ himself? Who presumably ‘doesn’t have a clue’ about what’s going on?
The malicious who had made the whole situation possible?
The ‘lazy bystandards’? Who had allowed this to happen? Out of carelessness?

Or those who are liable to suffer the consequences? Who had understood what was going on but…

On the other hand… Could Dietrich Bonhoefer – a renowned pastor and theologian, utter such ‘simplistic’ words? So callous?

“Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity. … The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other. The process at work here is not that particular human capacities, for instance, the intellect, suddenly atrophy or fail. Instead, it seems that under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances. The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with him as a person, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings.”

There’s an entire literature discussing which animals – besides us, humans, are able to use tools.
Most authors also make a clear distinction between the animals which just pick an object and transform it into a tool by using it as such and the animals which actually transform the future tool according to the intended use.

The difference between using a twig ‘as it was found’ and sharpening it first with the teeth.

This morning, watching some birds while having my breakfast, I just realized that the vast majority of them are superb tool makers. Them birds, I mean. Not just the heavily publicized Caledonian Crows….

I repeat. Most of them.
Most of them are superb tool makers.

Most birds are nest builders.
In fact, they not only build houses, of sorts.
They are building uteri. Or uteruses, if you prefer this spelling. Places where eggs are laid and cared for.

What more elaborate tool is there?

I had recently shared this image on FB:

“Those are called Witches Stairs. Allegedly, witches can’t climb up them. You will occasionally find them in very, very old New England homes.

(photo by Daphne Canard)”

Yesterday I got a notice from FB:

I presume this was the ‘consequence’ of some artificial intelligence employed by FB doing its job.

Doesn’t make much sense but…

For whatever reason, I made a screen capture of the notice and shared it on FB.
A friend asked me about the original post.
I looked it up and it was no longer there!
I searched FB for the picture… and there it was. Shared multiple times by multiple people. Sometimes with the accompanying text, sometimes baren.
And, at least once, bearing a very similar warning:

I’m not questioning FB motives for fact checking the information on its walls.
That’s a good idea.
Only I’m not so sure the ‘artificial’ intelligence FB uses to implement that idea is intelligent enough for the task….

After ‘firing’ Trump, the President, America’s most important stake-holders, “we, the People”, are scrambling to adapt to what Trump had laid bare.

Books are being written.
Many blame Trump. And explain, in detail, what he had done while manning the Oval Office.

The G.O.P. is somewhat fractured. Some want to get over Trump, others to hide behind his still towering presence.
The Dems act like he was a mere accident. One which can, and they are hard at work attempting to do it, be ‘band-aided’ with some money. Government money, of course.

A few years ago, I had read an interesting article claiming that Trump had been made possible by the media.
Googling to find it, I stumbled upon another. Which summarizes what Trump had done to the media

I still have to find, only I’ve lost patience, an explanation for what had ‘fed’ Trump.
Trump as social phenomenon…

For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost.
Washington flourished but the people did not share in its wealth.
Politicians prospered but the jobs left and the factories closed.

Trump has made himself famous. Among others, for imparting new meaning to the concept of ‘fake-news’. And for using “alternative facts” to introduce us to an ‘alternative reality’. His…

Only his reality did have something in common with that faced by many of his fellow Americans.

Middle class incomes have shrunk 8.5 percent since 2000, after enjoying mostly steady growth during the previous decade. In 2011, the average income for the middle 60 percent of households stood at $53,042, down from $58,009 at the start of the millennium.

Oops!
Suddenly, Trump’s ‘alternative’ reality – part of it, at least, has become one with that experienced by “we, the People”. By a majority of them, anyway.

What made so many people – dispirited, undoubtedly, believe that a self professed pussy grabber and proud member of the Washington establishment would solve their real-life problems… by ‘draining’ the very ‘swamp’ in which he had grown to his present stature … that’s something for other people to explain.

My point being that Trump’s behavior had very closely followed that of Goethe’s Apprentice Sorcerer. He had used his uncanny knack of playing hide-and-seek with reality to climb into the Oval Office only to be fired after one mandate.
To be the first American President who had survived two impeachments.
And the second one who had witnessed – more or less unmoved, the untimely demise of half a million Americans due to disease

But the first who had done that during a mostly peaceful mandate. Pandemic, true enough, but otherwise peaceful.

NB. The ‘Spanish Flu’ pandemic, which had happened during Woodrow Wilson’s mandate, had caused the death of 675 000 Americans. Only that had occurred just after a world war, when viruses hadn’t yet been discovered and man hadn’t yet walked on the Moon.

What will happen next?

Who knows… Goethe’s poem had a relatively happy ending because a master sorcerer was at hand. Who had solved the problem with a swift gesture of his powerful wand.

No such easy solution is available now.
But one thing has become clear.
Again…

Two things, actually.
Too many dispirited people eventually become a powerful – and highly unstable, ‘Petri dish’. Where all kinds of ‘social experiments’ might ‘spontaneously’ explode.
And playing with people’s passions might take you places. But will, almost always, end up badly.

‘Are you nuts? or something?
Isn’t exactly this what the Europeans had been doing all over the world? For the last five centuries?
And you attempt to ‘nuance’ it?
Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?!?’

Ashamed of what some of my predecessors have done, yes!
Also ashamed of what some of my contemporaries are doing.
Right now, as opposed to back then.

And since there’s nothing to be done about the past, but to learn from it, and everything to be done about the future, right now, I’d rather have at least some of those statues still standing.

In public squares!
Maybe not in the same places, maybe not in the same settings. But still in public!
Hiding them in museums would mean taking them out of the limelight. Out of public scrutiny!
If we are to learn anything from past mistakes we must focus on them. Putting those statues aside because we feel too strongly about them would only serve those who don’t want to admit mistakes had been perpetrated. Who actually don’t want to own our past.

Those who had promoted Jim Crow legislation had erected the confederate statues as a symbol of their regained public influence.
Obliterating the statues won’t make anything suddenly right. The consequences of Jim Crow won’t disappear, as if by magic, along with the statues. They didn’t disappear when the legislation had been abolished and they won’t disappear now.
If we want to put the past behind us, we must accomplish what has to be accomplished. We need to make things right, not hide away the prickliest pieces of evidence.

Demolishing statues won’t help any of those living in still segregated neighborhoods. Won’t help the children going to heavily underfunded schools. And so on…
Demolishing statues will only help those who will certainly ask, in a few short years, if nothing changes in our hearts and minds:

What more do they want?!?

We’ve even dispatched those damn statues!!!

‘Handicap’ has become a dirty word…
Somewhat strange, given the breadth of its meaning. Horses get handicapped in order to even their chances to win a race. Yachts get handicapped so that different makes might participate in the same race… In these situations, its an ‘honor’ to be handicapped…

Then why has this concept, ‘political correctness’, become so ‘popular’?

You might already be familiar with the ‘upfront’ explanation.

“political correctness has reset the standards for civility and respect in people’s day-to-day interactions.”

Rethinking Political Correctness, Robin J. Ely et all, HBR Magazine, 2006

I’m convinced there was something more.
Civility and respect haven’t been invented yesterday. We’ve been polite for quite a while now.

Yeah, only politeness had been invented, and polished, when society was way more hierarchical than in is now.
In those times, when a ‘superior’ told somebody ‘you idiot’ that somebody paused to think. The ‘idiot’ could not dismiss what the ‘superior’ had just told him. The ‘idiot’ really had to make amends. He was so busy trying to correct himself that he couldn’t allow himself to feel offended. If anything, he was grateful. The ‘superior’ had made the effort to help the ‘idiot’ improve himself instead of dispatching him altogether.
In modern times, even before PC had become fashionable, calling someone’s attention about how idiotic he was behaving only made him angry. Hence dismissive and unresponsive. In an era when all people had become peers, a new ‘manner of speaking’ had to be invented in order for ‘information’ to be made ‘palatable’.

The process had been successful.
So successful that the same approach had been used when dealing with other ‘hot’ subjects. Race, gender… ‘inclusion’ in general…

In fact, the process had become too successful for its own good!

Some of the ‘enthusiasts’ have reached the conclusion that ‘everything’ is open for reconsideration.
That ‘everything’ should be closely reexamined.
According to the ideological lenses worn by the examiners, of course…

Unfortunately, the end result is rather messy.

Instead of facilitating the dialog, the stiffer and stiffer set of ‘appropriate’ ‘rules of engagement’ has almost stifled any transfer of meaningful information.

“Despite this obvious progress, the authors’ research has shown that political correctness is a double-edged sword. While it has helped many employees feel unlimited by their race, gender, or religion, the PC rule book can hinder people’s ability to develop effective relationships across race, gender, and religious lines.”

Ibid.

Not only that people find it harder and harder to understand each-other, ‘things’ themselves become blurry.

Let me give you a recent example.

In the US, many of the ex-confederated States have started to reconsider the statues commemorating ‘famous Southern figures’.
The vast majority of which had been built between 1890 and 1950, during the Jim Crow era.
Simultaneously, like minded activists have recently toppled Edward Colton’s statue in Bristol, England.

Are these two ‘developments’ similar, as PC would mandate us to understand?

Jefferson Davies – a very ‘familiar statue’ in the US, had been the President of the Confederate States of America. A slave owner himself, he was a “champion of the unrestricted expansion of slavery into the territories.” And the statues glorifying him had been erected, during the Jim Crow era, as a reminder to the fact that the Confederation may had lost the war but things hadn’t change that much.
Edward Colston, on the other side of the Atlantic, had not been a slave owner per se. In the sense that he didn’t put slaves to work for him. He was ‘only’ a purveyor of slaves. He had ‘only’ kidnapped African people and then sold them, as slaves, on the other side of the Atlantic. 10 to 20% of which had died, in horrible conditions, during the voyage. As a consequence of his ‘efforts’, Colston had become a very rich man. He had ended his involvement in the slave trading business some 30 years before his death – 1721, and used much of his wealth for charity. His statue had been built in 1895 and many of the buildings which had been raised with the money bequeathed by him bear his name. Some of those buildings are used to house schools, others as almshouses.

Now, do the statues of these two people stand for the same thing?
And no, I’m not trying to discern between two villains!

Each of them had done an immense amount of harm and had produced endless suffering. People are still smarting to this day because of what both of them had done.
Only there are some differences between them. One had also done some good in his life. While the other had been used, after his death and without his consent, as a symbol. After he had, directly, kept people in slavery he had also been used to further the sufferings of black people.

Are we capable of seeing any of these differences?
Or are we too angry to differentiate?

Do you remember why we had invented political correctness in the first place?

Despite this obvious progress, the authors’ research has shown that political correctness is a double-edged sword. While it has helped many employees feel unlimited by their race, gender, or religion, the PC rule book can hinder people’s ability to develop effective relationships across race, gender, and religious lines. Companies need to equip workers with skills—not rules—for building these relationships.


Is it enough for something to exist in order for that something to become real?

Existence = “The fact or state of living or having objective reality.”
Real = “Actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed.”

Ooops!

Do I sense a conundrum haunting these premises?

Which came first? Reality or ‘mere’ existence?

Descartes was the first who had introduced a ‘pecking order’ into this mess.

Dubito ergo cogito.
Cogito ergo sum.

You’re free to translate this any way you want.
Mine goes like this:

My existence is certified only by my doubts.

My existence as a human being, of course.
As a conscious human!

The ‘pecking order’ being, as far as I figure it out:

I need to exist, as an animal, in order to become conscious.
And I need to gain consciousness in order to learn about my existence.

Complicated?
Let me elaborate.

Our understanding of the world is incomplete.
First of all, there are so many things we don’t know about.

For example, we have no idea what goes on between Mars and Jupiter.
We think we know that there’s no major planet hidden in between those two orbits. No object with an important enough mass to disturb either Mars or Jupiter and no object with an albedo big enough to be noticed. To be noticed by us…
Other than that… we have no clue about what’s going on there.
In fact, we don’t know much about what’s going on in the middle of our own planet… or on the floor of ‘our’ oceans…

But the fact that we don’t know about their existence doesn’t preclude the actual existence of whatever ‘objects’ and/or organisms might happen to be there.

Secondly, there are so many things we don’t fully understand. Not yet, anyway. We are aware of their existence – because we’ve been confronted with some ‘consequences’ of the aforementioned things, but we haven’t yet figured out, exactly, how those consequences have been produced.
For example, we’re still learning about viruses. About their ability to bypass our defenses. About how they infect us. About how we might improve our chances of avoiding/surviving infection.

But the fact that we don’t fully understand them doesn’t preclude us – well, some of us, from believing those viruses to be real.

My point being that ‘existence’ is far wider than ‘reality’.
There’s no need for us to know about it for something to exist.
But for something to be considered ‘real’, by us, that something needs to exist first.

‘But aren’t you contradicting yourself?
In a previous post, you argued that ‘the Flat Earth’ was real?!?’

Confusing, isn’t it?
I’m sorry if I misled you.
All I was trying to say was that ‘the Flat Earth’, as a concept, is ‘real’. In the sense that so many people discussing it – either for or against, make it real. Those very discussions, a direct consequence of the concept’s very existence – albeit only in the virtual space, give consistency to its reality.
Don’t get me wrong. The Earth – as I ‘know’ it, continues to be round. The Earth – that we live on, is not ‘Flat’. The Earth doesn’t exist as a flat object.

We are confronted with two facts here.
1. All that we’ve so far learned about it leads us to the conclusion that the Earth is, more or less, round.
2. There still are people who believe – or pretend to, that the Earth is flat.

The second fact exists.
The belief which made it possible is false. As far as we know. As far as the scientific community is convinced.
Yet the fact still remains.
Those people believing in it provide it with ‘existence’.
Those people believing in it make it ‘real’.

Sort of, anyway.

You have to give this to the guy.

You really have to give it to him.
He was absolutelly right about his supporters being loyal.
‘No matter what’ kinda loyal…

“”Most Americans want neither inaction nor retribution,” McCarthy said, despite surveys showing a majority of the country in favor of impeaching and removing Trump from office. Most Republicans do not, however.
“They want durable, bipartisan justice. That path is still available, but is not the path we are on today. That doesn’t mean the president is free from fault. The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.
“These facts require immediate action from President Trump — accept his share of responsibility, quell the brewing unrest and ensure that President-Elect Biden is able to successfully begin his term. And the president’s immediate action also deserves congressional action, which is why I think a fact-finding commission and a censure resolution would be prudent. Unfortunately, that is not where we are today.””

““Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” Trump said, according to lawmakers who were briefed on the call afterward by McCarthy.”

As for the fact finding mission… I wonder!
Given the amount of loyalty extended to Trump by Kevin McCarthy, how many years might pass before the facts will be ‘found’?

5?!? And who would be fingered for ‘starting the whole thing’?

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