Archives for category: The kind of world we live in

In a free-enterprise, private-property system, a corporate executive is an employee of the owners of the business. He has direct responsibility to his employers. That responsibility is to conduct the business in accordance with their desires, which generally will be to make as much money as possible while conforming to their basic rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in ethical custom.” Milton Friedman, 1970

Between 1776 and 1970 the world had leaped forward. Technologically, economically and socially. Not only that we’ve managed to learn so much about the world and to produce immense wealth but we’ve somehow managed to ‘spread around’ the results. The proportion of people who had improved their fortunes had grown constantly during the entire period.

The majority of Americans share in economic growth through the wages they receive for their labor, rather than through investment income. Unfortunately, many of these workers have fared poorly in recent decades. Since the early 1970s, the hourly inflation-adjusted wages received by the typical worker have barely risen, growing only 0.2% per year. In other words, though the economy has been growing, the primary way most people benefit from that growth has almost completely stalled.” Jay Shambaugh, Ryan Nunn, HBR

Isaac Newton hadn’t invented gravitation. He only ‘noticed’ it. Put it in words.
Adam Smith hadn’t invented the free market. He had noticed how it used to work and opened our eyes about it.
For what ever reasons, enough of us had chosen to close those eyes back. And have reached the conclusion that ‘greed is good’.

Milton Friedman was both horribly wrong and exactly right.

He was right in the sense that he had gouged correctly what the ‘general public’ wanted/was ready to accept. “in accordance with their desires, which generally will be to make as much money as possible

He was horribly wrong in the sense that he had perpetuated Marx’s error. Karl’s, not Groucho’s.

Money isn’t everything. Life beats it to the post.
Profit is, indeed, essential. Only it is nothing but an indicator. About how efficient a corporation is.
Meanwhile the role of a corporation is to accomplish – as Friedman himself had dully noted, the will of the shareholders.

The problem arises from the fact that ‘near mindedness’ blinds.
If/when both shareholders and management have nothing but ‘money’ in their scopes the market actually looses its freedom.

Economic agents no longer converge towards the market to solve each-others problems – like Smith had noticed, but to ‘make money’.

Not the same thing. Not by a long shot.

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.

In nature, most organisms feed on other organisms.
Deer eats grass, wolf eats deer. Scavengers and microbes eat poop and corpses. All together ‘eventually’ enrich the soil. Allowing for more grass to grow.

One way to look at this is to call it ‘fight for life’. ‘Survival of the fittest’.
Yet this entire ‘carnage’ has a very interesting ‘conclusion’.

A fine tuned ecosystem. Which has lasted, as a system, for a couple of billions of years. Becoming more and more elaborate in the process.
And which has survived – as a system, I repeat, momentous events.
Asteroids, geomagnetic reversals, continental drift…

The ecosystem has been so stable that it allowed one creature to evolve so much as to develop a special trait.
Self-awareness.
Which has eventually given birth to ‘reason’. To ‘rational behavior’.

Which means that while wolves eat deer to satisfy their hunger we start wars to satisfy our egos.

We see, therefore, that War is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means. All beyond this which is strictly peculiar to War relates merely to the peculiar nature of the means which it uses. That the tendencies and views of policy shall not be incompatible with these means, the Art of War in general and the Commander in each particular case may demand, and this claim is truly not a trifling one. But however powerfully this may react on political views in particular cases, still it must always be regarded as only a modification of them; for the political view is the object, War is the means, and the means must always include the object in our conception.

Carl von Clausewitz

Which wars have proven to be so destructive that we finally found a way to dissuade ourselves from starting new ones. New majors ones… until now…

And if you don’t have any clue about what I’m talking about, click on the next word.
MAD.

Don’t fret. It is actually a very rational concept.
Not reasonable at all, only rational.

Acknowledgment.
I was inspired to write this by David Sarac’s Twitter profile.
“Theory of evolution points to the conclusion that becoming, not being, is the essence of reality”

Humberto Maturana teaches us that human consciousness can be understood as our ability to ‘observe ourselves observing‘.
In other words, consciousness might be reduced to self-awareness.

I’m afraid it’s not enough.
While no individual can be described as conscious if not commanding a certain degree of self-awareness, being able to observe their own observations doesn’t elevate an observer to fully conscious status.

How many of us have ‘enjoyed’ messing up ants or other insects just for the fun of it? When we were teenagers, of course.
OK, we continue to squish the cockroaches we happen to see and to spray our gardens against mosquitoes and other pests.
Only we no longer do it for fun. We employ a ‘healthy’ rationale to justify our actions – cockroaches/mosquitoes are ‘bad for us’.
And we try to do it in a reasonable manner. We don’t soak the entire garden with the most potent insecticide available. Simply because we’ve understood, the hard way, that bees are also important for us.

Otherwise put, it’s not enough for us to be able to keep tabs on what we do, we must also take responsibility for our actions.

After all, we’ve been able to notice that bison ‘engineer’ their own environment.

“Herds of bison milling through Yellowstone National Park may seem aimless to the average visitor, but a new study reveals the animals are hard at work engineering their ecosystem. By rigorously mowing and fertilizing their own patches of grassland, the big herbivores essentially delay spring until late summer.”

Maybe the time is ripe for us to understand that we, humans, have done the very same thing for quite a while now.
The world we live in is, to a certain – but rapidly growing – extent, the consequence of our own decision making.

The faster we learn to accept that, the higher the chances we won’t repeat past mistakes.

When I was admitted to the Bucharest Polytechnic, I learned that engineers and dogs have a few things in common. An intelligent gaze and the inability to use words when trying to express themselves.
When I started daubing in photography I discovered ‘there’s more than meets the eye’.
When studying to become a mediator I learned, as if it was still necessary, that ‘truth is somewhere in the middle’.

Nowadays, we all expect Science to come forward.
To find the answer.
To break, once again, the barrier which separates us from of the unknown. To take us by the hand and deliver us from evil.

But wasn’t Art the one supposed to provide for our metaphysical needs?!?
Even though it had been Archimedes who was the first to advertise his ‘physical’ breakthrough by shouting ‘Eureka’? While running naked up and down the streets of ancient Syracuse …
It had been the artists who used to trample their boots in the sludge at the bottom of our ordinary lives in order to open our windows towards new horizons…
The ones we expect to transform mud into statues.
To morph suffering into hope!

But is there such a great difference between science and art?

‘The man in the street’ might indeed entertain the notion that art is based on inspiration while science is defined by discipline.
Only this is nothing but yet another proof that it’s high time for us to learn how much inspiration one needs when trying to find a new cure.
And how much discipline must be observed by anybody who attempts to turn their inspiration into something to be traded with another soul.

Addressing the issue from another angle, “can spring be furloughed”?

A friend of mine answered ‘yes’. ‘If there’s no one to notice it …’
Another friend said ‘no’. ‘Spring coming no matter what is the only thing which keeps my mind, and soul, whole.’
Let’s enjoy spring. Together, as it unfolds us.

Let’s not allow it to shed its petals in vain.

Maybe it’s to early… I’ll take my chances though.

Germany has weathered this crises a lot better than most of her neighbors.

There are no toll- booths on the German highways. Not that I know of, anyway.

And what has this to do with anything?!?

Well, does your heart bill you for its services?
Your lungs? Your gut? Brain?
The immune system?
Even if each of them works at a cost… for the whole organism!

The health care system is the social equivalent of the immune system.

We, each cultural community around the world, might treat it as an industry. Fine tuned to maximize profit.
Or as a social service. Meant to protect the society from the consequence of disease. And run as efficiently as possible, of course. But sized to be able to cope with reasonably estimated ‘loads’.

There is a fine balance to be held here, of course. A multi-dimensional equilibrium, actually.

It depends on us, as individual members of the brain, to fine tune that equilibrium.

Or else…

I’m sure you’ve already learned everything worth knowing about how to flatten the curve…

My post is about something else.
About the need to think with our own heads.
Individually. Each on their own.

More damages are caused by the manner in which we have chosen to react than by the pathogen itself.

‘Then what should we do?’

I don’t know. And I just told you to stop taking cues, blindly.

There is something I do know.
Nobody can get out of something like this on its own. Alone.
And another thing. If we get out of it as a herd, we’ll very soon end up in another trap.

‘Damned if you do, damned if you don’t… I really can’t figure out what you want to say….’

OK.
We, humans, are social animals.
We not only raise our young – all mammals do that, we raise them in a social context. We live in groups and we raise our children to belong there.

Living in a social context has consequences. From being prone to infestation to having adopted specific behaviors.
Humberto Maturana is actually convinced that our very conscience – ‘our ability to observe ourselves while observing‘, a paraphrase, is a product of us leading our lives in close community.

One of these specific behaviors is the herd instinct.
Whenever in a dire strait, the members of a group pay a lot more attention to the rest of the group than in the ‘peaceful moments’.
This has two bright sides and one huge drawback.

All members of a group paying close attention to the others makes it easier for those who need it to get attention. And help.
All members of a group paying close attention to the others makes it easier for the group to follow when one of them finds a way out.
All members of a group paying too close attention to the others makes it very likely that the entire group will dash out at the first opportunity. Without checking first where they’re going to land. Nor whether there are any other opportunities.

Another specific behavior is ‘opportunism’.
Some of us have figured out that by keeping their chill in a crises they are more likely to identify whatever opportunities might exist in that moment.
And the deeper the crises, the bigger the opportunities.

Theoretically, these two should work like a charm.
The opportunists keep their chill, look around, identify the best way out and the rest of the herd follows them to safety.
A win-win situation.

Yeah… but!

Wouldn’t it be a way lot better whether all (or, at least, ‘more’) of us would keep their chill? Wouldn’t we be able to identify even more ways out?
It would take a lot more time? We’d need to discuss things over, to negotiate… we’d have to exert a lot of discretion…
True enough. Hence we’d need to evaluate two things. First, how urgent the dangerous situation is and, then, whether a better alternative would be worth searching.

And something else. In a ‘follow me blindly’ situation there’s no going back. The consequences for a hasty choice might be tremendous.

We might end up with more people being hurt by our blunder-some reaction than by the cause which had spooked us.

Yet another specific behavior is responsibility.
Living in a social context means that, sooner rather than later, individuals are censored for their actions. By the rest of the community or, sometimes, by the stark reality.
Unfortunately, sometimes entire communities are censored, by the stark reality, for not behaving responsibly. For not imposing responsibility upon their members.

For not taking enough time before choosing between flight and fight.

Let me put things into perspective.
How many of you have chosen to continue smoking despite having been warned?
How many of you have emptied the shelves despite being told there’s enough for everybody? Or that there will be soon enough?
How many of you do not smoke in the presence of your children? Because you know it will hurt them?
How many of you have taken active measures to protect the elderly? For the very same reason…

As for the economy being the main casualty of the present scourge…
I’m afraid ‘the economy’, as we know it, has been dying for quite a while now. That’s why it is so susceptible to SARS CoV-2.

The Ancient Greeks had come up with the concept of ‘oeconomia’ as the art of making the ends meet. Adam Smith had described the free market as the place/environment where competing agents made it so that people – solvent demand, could satisfy their needs.
Nowadays, too many of us understand/accept ‘economy’ as the art of getting rich. ‘Free’ in ‘free market’ is understood as ‘free’ to do anything you want. Because very few are asked to answer for the long term consequences of their actions.

The economy, as the manner in which we cooperate towards fulfilling our needs, has fallen prey to our gluttony. And to our nearsightedness.
Greed is not good. And SARS CoV-2 is only an eye opener, not the cause for the current implosion.

Somebody asked, on his wall, ‘what do you like/dislike most about how people behave on Facebook?

Here’s my answer.

“Facebook presents us with huge opportunities.
For getting in touch with great ideas/very interesting people.
For con-artists to bamboozle other people’s minds.
What I like most? When people contribute. Ideas, feelings, whatever.
What I dislike? When people allow themselves to be taken advantage of.
You see, I could have said ‘I dislike people taking advantage of other people’. That goes without saying. Only telling a con-artist to clean up their act would be akin to asking a lion to stop feeding itself. That’s not gonna happen.
But we could train our minds to avoid being fooled so easily…”

What better way to treat depression than visiting some of the great achievements of humankind?

Stonehenge, the Great Pyramids, Machu Pichu, a selection of Europe’s Medieval Castles and Cathedrals, the Taj Mahal, Beijing’s Forbidden City, the Golden Gate, Burj al Khalifa …

I should take my wife along, right?

1324 AED roughly translates into 325 Euros. Not exactly cheap but… one also needs to get there.

Good thing I haven’t bought the tickets for the Lounge yet… I must reschedule…

On the other hand, does any of this make any sense for any of you?

Five hours of traveling over the clouds at almost 1000 kms per hour costs the same as spending an hour and half in a bar half a mile up in the sky? OK, Wizz Air is a low cost company, you have to pay extra if you fancy any refreshments… but still….

I’m not at all sure this trip would do anything good to my depression.

Let me put my feet back on the ground first!
https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/hepatitis-c-drug-prices/

https://www.azquotes.com/quote/1133913

Then, if ‘greed is THAT good’, why blame Big Pharma for ‘buying’ politicians in order to extract as much profit as possible from their work?

Specially when it does work as advertised?

We priced the product at exactly the same as the existing standard of care, which worked about 50% of the time, and are providing a benefit that, based on real world experience, works about 98% of the time. From our perspective, it was a very good value.

I think our failure, if I have to take a step backwards, we were unable to have a good enough conversation with the payers. Perhaps we were a little conservative about what we could have or should have said to them to allow them to prepare for the number of patients that came forward. Honestly, it was far more than we thought. We did not think the system could or would try to handle as many patients as it did. We essentially quadrupled the number of patients treated in a year. That surge really created a lot of pain.

Ooops… so it’s the ‘payers’ who are hurting, not the patients themselves…

Gilead’s CEO Admits To ‘Failures’ In Setting Price of $1,000-A-Pill Breakthrough

Hepatitis C Treatment Highlights Disparity in Worldwide Drug Prices

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