Archives for posts with tag: limited rationality

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.

“Science might be based on a foundation of rational thought and trial-and-error, but the roots of religion lie in something much more incalculable, and thus much harder to counter.”

I haven’t read the book so I’m not going to comment on it, yet.

What bothers me is the idea of countering ‘religion’.

Why would anyone do something like that?

If any of us sees an error in the ‘scientific’ realm that error is brought forward and fixed but nobody questions the entire realm.
Meanwhile if a religious individual does a stupid thing, like all of us have done in our lives, quite a lot of people blame it on ‘religion’ and ‘faith’.

Rather irrational – hence unscientific – don’t you think?

After all science and religion are about something different.
Science is about how the nature works while religion (‘reliegare’ in Latin means ‘connecting’) is about the ties that transform a mob into a community. Some religions use Gods to achieve this, some don’t – Buddha was a ‘mere’ teacher and Buddhism has no need for any God.

So, again, why counter ‘religion’?

The real problem produced by ‘organized religion’ is that it encourages some people to act in blind faith instead of thinking with their own heads while it offers come callous manipulators the opportunity to use religious teachings as a way to further their petty interests.
‘Faith’ can induce blindness very easily, you know.  No matter if that faith is placed in a religious hierarchy/teaching or in the power of rational thinking.
Just as reputable scientists, Herbert Simon and Daniel Kahneman  among others, have amply demonstrated the human thinking process is not at all infallible.That’s why our pride about our ability to think scientifically should not be allowed to grow into self-sufficiency. After all that was how Marx, on the footsteps of Plato, reached the conclusion that it was possible for a small number of people (the ‘enlightened’ communists) to know better than the rest of the population how things must be organized… The Soviet Union, the biggest social experiment ever, was ample proof that he was plain wrong.

On the other hand the one thing that all religions have in common is that they teach their members to respect each other – something that the ‘scientific communists’ never did. Some religions even teach that all human beings, irrespective of their creed, are to be respected. Just think about how most nomad people welcome visitors – those that come in peace, of course.

So how come there are so many ‘scientists’ are ready to counter, entirely, something as wide as ‘religion’?

Faith versus Fact, Jerry Coyne

Can Religion and Science coexist? Jeffery Tayler

This doesn’t catch the entire picture – each of us is heavily dependent on the environment into which we happened to be born – but clearly states the difference between us humans and the rest of the animal kingdom.
We are able to make conscious decisions and we love to apportion blame.

When engaging into our favorite pastime we’d better take into consideration two things: Our consciousness/rationality is limited and we can speak about blame only if intent was present.
We don’t have unlimited access to other people thoughts, nor can we see very far, so, in reality, we are aware of a very limited portion of the world around us. Moreover, no matter how confident we are in our minds, our processing power is also limited. So both our decisions and our ability to accurately apportion blame are not at all infallible. Far from it.
On the other hand blaming natural causes or even people who are not aware of (some) of the consequences produced by their actions for what has happened to us doesn’t make sense. A lighting doesn’t know that it frightens people and may wreak havoc in a city if the electric grid is knocked out of order, just as the ‘financial engineers’ who came up with the concept didn’t know, at first, what effects ‘securitization‘ will have upon the global financial markets.

Hey, you promised us something about manipulation and management, not another essay about financial markets manipulation!

True enough so let me discuss first what manipulation is: nothing but a psychological tool. Please note that I’m concerned here with the lofty notion of ‘thought manipulation’, not with the mere ability of ‘juggling’ objects into position….
Regardless of why or for what purpose it’s performed, manipulation remains a simple and very efficient tool that can be used even ‘pre-consciously’ – if you don’t believe me remember how toddlers manipulate their parents into buying them diverse things that are not only a complete waste of money but also sometimes dangerous for their long term health. In this case the manipulation is twofold: the merchandisers position certain items near the cashiers’ desks so that the children might not miss them.

As with any tool it’s up to the user (a.k.a. manipulator) to set the standards, what’s acceptable and what not.

Really? But what if the manipulator is not fully aware of the consequences of his acts? (Remember my digression into the subject of limited rationality/consciousness?) Could it be that the entire world might be shaken, even worse that it has already been, by the yet unforeseen consequences of a manipulation already underway?
Well, as no manipulator is that skilled as to be able to avoid detection for very long, the sad part about the whole thing is that most of the time we know/feel that we are being manipulated and allow it to happen out of laziness or complacency… This being exactly the moment when we should start blaming ourselves for our own lassitude.

Even more ‘interesting’ is how we rationalize the daily use of manipulation:

“The uncomfortable truth is that when resolving all the different pressures from existing customers, your own organization, bids for new business, and the like, you are inevitably going to have to persuade people to do things that are not entirely in their own interests.”

So, how much ‘out of their own interests’ is it acceptable for us to manipulate the thoughts of other persons? Specially when they are, after all, our close associates – either clients, subordinates, bosses or even colleagues, friends, relatives, close family.

And, given that sooner or later everybody realizes at least some of the manipulation he has been subjected to, the survival of our entire social life basically depends on how much manipulation each of us is disposed to submit to.

Rather scary, don’t you think? Specially if we take into consideration the fact that manipulators do not always know exactly what they are doing….

Don’t despair. There are people, among the ‘movers and shakers of this world’, who have noticed at least part of what’s going on and have started to act:

“Fundamentally, I believe, the gap (between HR’s aspirations and actual role) arises from two complementary causes. First, executives and managers often think their job is to get financial results rather than to manage people. Second, when executives and managers neglect people management, the HR function worries about lapses and tends to “lean in” to right them itself. On the surface, this approach seems to meet an organization’s needs: management moves away from areas it views as unrewarding (and perhaps uncomfortable), while HR moves in, takes on responsibilities, solves problems, and gains some glory in the process.

But this approach is based on erroneous thinking. It is bad for management and bad for the company as a whole. When HR sees itself as manager, mediator, and nurturer, it further separates managers from their employees and reinforces a results-versus-people dichotomy. That’s why many HR teams refer to the rest of the company as “the business”; too often, they don’t really perceive themselves as a core part of that business.”

When more of us will get it that we’re all together in this, we’ll reinvent mutual respect and scale back manipulation to its natural status: a very useful tool for grabbing the attention of whomever we want to talk to. Used in this manner, like all decent advertisers do, manipulation becomes not only innocuous but also useful for both parties. One is able to get its message across and the other finds out easier what’s going on in this world.

There are costs to be incurred, of course. Those who refrain from more aggressive manipulation may loose some money at first and those who pay a lot of attention to the messages – precisely because they are no longer aggressively manipulative – may end up spending in this manner a lot more time than they used to until now. But if and when we’ll realize that long time survival is a lot more important than short time profit then we’ll foot the bill without much hassle.

Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, “Everything you do…” : https://www.facebook.com/drwaynedyer/photos/a.387583371029.167523.83636976029/10151331343881030/?type=1&theater
Segoviano, M., et all, Securitization, Lessons Learned and the Road Ahead: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2013/wp13255.pdf
Case Study, The Colapse of Lehman Brothers, Investopedia: http://www.investopedia.com/articles/economics/09/lehman-brothers-collapse.asp
Peeling, Nic, Principles of Management, Dorset House Publishing, http://www.dorsethouse.com/features/excerpts/exdpch1.html
Allen, Peter L., Toward a new HR. Philosophy, McKinsey Quarterly: http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/organization/Toward_a_new_HR_philosophy?cid=other-eml-alt-mkq-mck-oth-1504
Dolmanian, Sarchis, Profit, Might it be overrated?: https://nicichiarasa.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/profit-might-it-be-overrated/

Not so fast, ladies and gentlemen, things are not so clear cut.

First let me introduce you to a very good article which puts things in wider perspective.

Now I’d like to tell those of you who are not familiar with the Romanian language that we have here a variant of this saying:
“You might have to befriend the devil in order to cross that bridge!”
And this really got my mind going. The Romanian version, as raw as it is, hits the nail on the head:

Before befriending the devil in order to cross that bridge make sure that you really want to be on the other side having the devil as your business partner!

And here we have a practical application of the principle, as brought to our attention by Michael J. Totten

%d bloggers like this: