Archives for posts with tag: Trust

“To boldly go where no man had gone before!”

None of us had been asked for their ‘informed consent’.
Yet all of us are cramped together on Space-ship Earth towards the place where ‘no man had ever gone before’.

Now that this very suggestive image has been published, what is our voyage going to morph into?

Hell on Earth, as so many apocalyptic movies/novels have advertised?

Or are we going to heed to the present ‘wake-up call’? As we already did so many times before?

We have managed to eradicate, through vaccination, the smallpox. Polio, measles, diphtheria, rabies and so many other diseases are no longer a real danger. For those of us who had been vaccinated or have access to the relevant vaccines.

Yet faced with the current challenge, COVID 19, we have ‘doubts’…

Some of us have doubts about getting the vaccine, others about making the vaccine available to the entire ‘crew’.

What’s going on in that collective brain of ours?

What’s the rationale behind making the polio vaccine available for everybody, practically for free, while that for COVID is still out of reach for most of those who need it? Given our current industrial prowess…
Why is it so hard to understand that given enough time SARS Cov 2 will certainly mutate far enough from the original version to evade the current vaccine?

The fact that the authors above are working the equity angle speaks volumes.
Equity is, indeed, very important.
Only it relates more to ‘metaphysics’ than to the immediate reality.

Equity has to do with the perceived reality while people die in the immediate one.
The perceived reality will end up haunting us, indeed, only we have to survive the current situation in order to get to that stage.

The real problem with the lopsided access to the Covid vaccines being that while we ‘race to secure doses’ the virus has the opportunity to mutate out of our ‘control’.
Our concern with ‘equity’ somehow blinds us to the fact that ‘cutthroat’ is no longer a metaphor.
The longer it takes for us to understand that the entire crew of the space-ship Earth must be immunized the longer it will take for us to get ‘out of the woods’.

Why had our parents been able to eradicate small pox and almost do the same thing to polio?
While we’re still dragging our asses? And not exclusively about COVID… When we have so much information about everything?

What made the anti-vaxxers of those times less powerful than the current ones?

What makes me so sure the erstwhile anti-vaxxers had been less powerful?
Small pox had been eradicated, right?
I had measles. Before the vaccine had been made available. Never heard about anybody having measles until very recently.

A weakness in herd immunity contributed to the recent measles outbreak in the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, New York. The level of vaccination in that community was down to about 70 to 80 percent, well below the critical level of herd immunity, which was due to the spread of misinformation about the safety of the MMR vaccine among other causes. A child who had visited relatives abroad brought measles back into his neighborhood in Brooklyn, causing one of the worst measles outbreaks that New York City has seen in decades. A total of 654 individuals were infected, causing the city to issue a mandatory vaccination in people living in the four Brooklyn neighborhoods.

Let me wrap up with this.

Whoa!
What’s going on here?
Israel, the country, had made a huge effort to save its people from the misery caused by Covid!
Why would the Ultra-Orthodox community need any extra-effort to let itself be immunized?

Why was Israel’s manner of thinking closer to that of our fathers’ than to ours?
What makes us so similar, in this respect, to the Ultra-Orthodox?

Well, our fathers had to fight for their rights. And Israel for its place on the map.
We, and the Ultra-Orthodox, had our rights granted to us.

Our fathers had to cooperate among themselves in order to get through.
Israel had survived, and thrived, as the consequence of a coordinated effort.

We are cocooned in our bubbles.
We have become spoiled brats. One way or another.

We really need to start thinking outside our respective comfort zones.

For no other reason that mutinies tend to make matters worse.
It so happened that during the last 80 years no major conflict had disturbed the peace on our ship.
No thanks to us. We haven’t done anything special. Being aware that a conflict between the major powers would have ended in MAD doesn’t count as ‘doing anything special’.
During the last two generations we sorta lost our bearings.

Hopefully we’ll wake up to the fact that the next disturbance will no longer be a ‘top down’ event.
Think about it. Ever since the French Revolution – the last bottoms up upheaval, all other ‘disturbances’ had been the consequence of somebody planning for them. Initiating them.

30 years ago, the socialist lager had crumbled. Under its own weight.
Nobody had planned that event. Nobody had planned for that event!
The democratic world had been stunned by the speed with which things had unfolded.

The socialist lager had crumbled for the simple reason that the people living there had become pissed of.
Pissed of by the growing distance which separated them from those living in the ‘capitalist’ world.

Some of that distance has survived to this day. But it’s shrinking! Fast!

Unlike the distance between the ‘civilized’ world and the ‘developing nations’.

This ‘cutthroat race (among nations) to secure doses’ while so many ‘civilized’ people share-antivaxxer propaganda only adds insult to the injury felt by those who don’t have access to vaccines.
And demonstrates how far off we have distanced ourselves from the ‘hard core’ reality.

The native speakers among you don’t need to be reminded of what ‘bounty’ means.
How ironic is it?
People manning ‘the Bounty’ had had enough and chosen mutiny in place of a continuation of what they already had.
Captain Bligh, on the other hand, had learned nothing of his first experience… “Bligh, who eventually would fall prey to a total of three mutinies in his career, was an oppressive commander and insulted those under him.”

Are we going to make anything of our present predicament?

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Having started with a rhetorical question, I might as well continue by offering you some ‘trivia’.

Lytton, BC, is a 249 people strong village, situated just a tad North of the 50th parallel. Which puts it almost 300 miles/450 kms closer to the North Pole…
Its inhabitants had had to flee a fire during the hottest weather ever encountered in that area. In modern times, anyway…

During the last 300 years, we’ve been ‘releasing’ – ‘repurposed’? – huge amounts of energy. Solar energy ‘captured’ by plants and stored in the belly of the Earth as ‘fossil fuel’. By releasing that energy we’ve actually changed the composition of the atmosphere.

A third more of something which constitutes only 0.042 of the Earth’s atmosphere doesn’t amount for much, does it?

Well, considering the fact that a certain Arrhenius was calculating all the way back in 1896 the ‘global warming potential of CO2′ as a green house gas…

As already stated, this blog is about how people think.
About how we, conscious people, relate to what happens around us through the use of our ‘brain’.

So here we have it.
We’ve been doing something for the last 300 years.
‘Naively’ at first and in an increasingly scientific soon after the whole thing had gathered momentum.
From a certain point on, an increasing number of the same people who had brain-powered the process – individuals currently known as ‘scientists’, have warned the rest of us about the potential consequences of what we were doing.

And now, that those consequences have started to manifest themselves, so many of us are still in denial.
How is it possible for so many to be convinced that it’s possible to back-pedal Earth’s geological clock without having to face any consequences?!?

‘But is anything we can do to change this?’

In the late 1970-ies, we – ‘our’ scientists, to be more precise – have noticed that there was a problem with the ozone layer.
The ‘thing’ which shields life on Earth from being ‘burned’ out by the UV radiation coming from the Sun.

After a short while, people from the scientific community have determined that there was something that we could do about it. Stop using ‘Chlorofluorocarbon’ substances. Old style ‘Freon’. It wasn’t easy – we had to find substitutes and retool factories, but we did it! The ozone layer is in far better shape now!

While repairing the ozone layer had been a collective effort, eroded land must be ‘patched up’ patch by patch.

‘OK, maybe there is something that we could do about ‘it’.
What would that be?’

I told you already. This is a blog about how we think!
Not, in any way shape or form, about what we should be thinking!

Do your own research.
See what other people say about this.

And ask yourselves one thing.

We are able to ‘fly’ – by boarding a plane, of course – because ‘modern’ scientists have proven that the old ones had been wrong.
But do we – as in me and you – really know how a plane works? Yet we happily board them in droves in each holiday season.
We live way longer than we used to. Because scientists have told us how to build sewage and waste management systems, what pills to take when falling ill and what vaccines to use in order to prevent infectious illnesses from taking hold.
We lead easier lives. Because scientists have built machines which work for us.

We’ve done all this as a collective effort.
We used to trust what they were teaching us and they trusted us to support them in their endeavors.

What happened to all this?
What made us so ‘alert’?

Where did all that trust vanish? Why?
What will the consequences be?

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“Seeing is believing.”

Yeah, right.

So, do we really know anything?

For instance I know that the Earth exists – I am able to walk on it and I eat things that grow out of it.

I also believe – without ever having seen it from far enough – that the Earth is round. Just as my ancestors used to believe that the Earth was flat. Both I and my ancestors were told what to believe and we did that. Because we believed in those who were offering us that particular piece of information and because the issue wasn’t of any real importance for us, personally.

I do trust that Neil Armstrong did land on the Moon. I’m not going to share with you my reasons for that here, this post is about something else. My point is that belief is casual while trust is active. I did research the matter, as I could, and I considered it carefully before reaching the conclusion that ‘Yes, I am convinced that Neil Armstrong did land on the Moon’.

As we all know ‘know’ is a verb. The corresponding noun is ‘knowledge’, information that we are aware of. And so familiar with that we don’t even remember how we have arrived to accept it as true.

Believe is also a verb. It’s corresponding noun is ‘belief’, information we are aware of and believe it to be true just because we were told so by a seemingly credible source.

Trust is both a verb and a noun. And here comes the really interesting part. While trust as a verb means more or less the same thing as believe, trust as a noun has nothing, but absolutely nothing in common with belief. Trust is a state of mind while belief is a piece of information with a ‘value’ attached to it.
In fact ‘trust’ is something you consciously choose to invest while ‘believing’ is something you are led to, sometimes even without you being aware of what is going on, by a person or even by the circumstances you happen to find yourself in.

Now it is time to introduce another notion. Faith. It exists only as a noun and that’s why I didn’t brought it up from the beginning.
It has something in common with both belief and trust. Similar to belief no proof is usually attached to faith and similar to trust faith is something that the individual has to willingly accept/profess/invest.

Coming back to knowledge we discover there are many kinds of it.
We have factual knowledge, the kind we have either witnessed or otherwise seems so evident that we’d never even dreamed of questioning. So evident that if somebody asks us to be specific and put it squarely in one of the ‘belief’, ‘trust’ or ‘faith’ drawers we’d be at a loss and protest vehemently ‘it’s plain knowledge, what’s wrong with you guys?’
Then we have our beliefs. For instance we know that we love our partners and our kids and we believe that they love us back. We also have faith in a lot of things. Some of us have faith in God, some others put their faith in politicians, market analysts or even the weather-man. For a longer or shorter period of time. When gravely ill we put our faith in doctors and in medicines. And so on.
And finally there is the trust problem. For a real trust to develop we need an actual understanding of what is going on. That’s where science and technology comes is. If we’d done something for a long enough period of time we gradually become confident in our ability to do that thing over and over again with consistent results. If the results are reproducible, if other people can obtain results similar to ours by following our methods then our endeavor is deemed scientific and, hence, trustworthy. Same goes for information gathered following scientific methods.

And here lies the pitfall. Science has to be constantly challenged in order to remain valid. If we reach that point where we start to put faith in science and scientists instead of continuously demanding proof and doing our best to understand with our own heads what is going on then we are doomed. Science morphs not in ‘religion’ – that is something else – but in hoax.

The ‘thing’ with science is that the only trustworthy aspect of it is the method, not at all the results. We’ll never be able to find the absolute truth – no result will ever be 100% accurate – but if we keep using the ‘scientific method’ – consistency and unhidden-ness – then we’ll remain on the safe side.

Karl Marx’s version or Max Weber’s?

“the difference between truth as the “unhiddenness of beings” and truth as the “correctness of propositions” (Martin Heidegger)

Only after reading (again) the Essence of Truth I started to grasp the huge mistake made by Marx and his followers.
His declared motives were ‘the emancipation of the oppressed’ and if we are to grasp his work we need to read him in this key.

Only this way I could finally understand why for him ‘capital’ means exclusively ‘trade-able wealth’, money or things easily measurable in monetary units.
Only this way I could finally understand why for him ‘capitalism’ was exclusively about personal profit and hence despicable.

All this had happened because Marx wasn’t really interested in understanding how capitalism works, what it means and how it generated a medium in which creative and hard working people could make better use of the available resources than in previous social settings.
Marx was a man of a mission (it’s not that clear for me if he considered himself a saint that was meant to free the working class, a con-man who swindled a lot of money from Engels under the pretext of helping the poor or both at the same time) and we need to accept that almost all he did write was dedicated to this mission of his, whatever that was.

On the other hand Max Weber was also a man of a mission only his was different from Marx’s.
What he set out to do was to understand the inner workings of capitalism, how it came about and what consequences it might have.

““The most trifling actions that affect a man’s credit are to be regarded. The sound of your hammer at five in the morning, or eight at night, heard by a creditor, makes him easy six months longer; but if he sees you at a billiard table, or hears your voice at a tavern, when you should be at work, he sends for his money the next day; demands it, before he can receive it, in a lump. ‘It shows, besides, that you are mindful of what you owe; it makes you appear a careful as well as an honest man, and that still increases your credit.’ “

This is a brief excerpt from Weber’s “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” – retrieved, ironically, from an internet site run by “marxists”, http://www.marxists.org.
Weber is quoting here Benjamin Franklin in an attempt to make us understand what is the true spirit of capitalism.
At the first glance we might say it corresponds closely to what Marx had said about the subject – that it all boils down to money – only after further consideration it becomes apparent that while Marx had stopped there, at ‘money’, Weber and Franklin had seen way deeper than that.

Capitalism is not that much about mere money as it is about credit. Trust that is.

No one would extend credit without trust, no one would enter a contract without mutual trust and so on.

So what would it be? Which version of capitalism would you prefer?
The one in which we would strive to get hold of as much money as possible or the one in which each of us is held responsible by the others for his actions and holds those around him responsible for their actions – this being the only manner in which real trust can be established among us?

Please note that in reality these two sides of capitalism are like the two hands of a working man. For a short time one can get along with only one of them but no sane individual would prefer to live, and work, with only one hand, right?

Then how come our obsession about mere money has come to trump almost everything else?

This is something I wrote a couple of years ago, when I started to understand that the financial market had gone wildly astray. I’ve been tinkering at it since and I’m still not happy with it but I need to post it as a stepping stone for what I’m going to publish next.

Money appeared, at first, as a trade facilitator: instead of changing five measures of grain for one of oil people started to use as an intermediary step of the process whatever the local civilization called “money”. From shells to beads to holed pebbles or whatever else.
Then some people wanted to delay consumption, stock up for “black days”, or wanted to trade further apart. That was when they “invented” gold.
It was not only generally accepted, relatively easy to divide without sizable loses but also practically indestructible. This was fine from the monetary point of view but also created the illusion that gold (and later money) was the supreme value per-se. Everybody ‘forgot’ that things have ‘value’ only as long as people have a use for them. The simple fact that there is no such thing as ‘value’ but that which we – buyer and seller, attach to each object when it passes through our hands.
Do you remember the alchemists trying to transform everything into gold? What if they succeeded? Probably we would have roofed our houses with some very cheap and everlasting gold shingles.
Since it was indestructible it created another illusion: that its role/value will last forever. And so, for some two thousand years, until let’s say 1100 AD, gold, as money, played its roles as trade facilitator and hoarding device.
Until then resources available to the society had been allocated at the discretion (whim?) of the local ruler (the “strongest” guy around). Who later used to pretend he had a divine blessing to decide the fate of the commoners. For example the feudal system consecrated that the king ruled who had the use of what piece of land or of whatever other natural resource.

An old habit had resurfaced at the same time. Civilizations restarted to trade goods and ideas between them.  (Christian and Islamic around the Mediterranean Sea, for example). The advent of new transportation technologies created new opportunities for travel and trading. This was when a quantity of gold (money) became itself a resource, albeit not a natural one.
You could use it to start a trading cycle yourself. Or you could “rent” it to somebody else, for a fee. The interest. That way, somebody else – the ‘renter’ of capital, could do the actual buying, transporting/transforming and reselling.
Money, and interest, took on a new role. The amount of interest asked was specific to each occurrence – if I trust you are a capable (of doing whatever you are trying to do) person then I’m going to ask a smaller interest from you. In the end a lender gets paid for assessing risk – at the end of the day some deals get sour, some get through, and if the risks were correctly measured – and the corresponding interests asked – the investor/lender ends up with some profit. Meanwhile the same lender does another thing: he is distributing resources among the competing entrepreneurs and so the ones that are more creditworthy can start their businesses a little easier.
This way resources  are no longer allocated at the whim of a single person – the feudal lord – but by the business  acumen and experience  of  a  multitude of  operators, the “free market” – theoretically  a more natural, and thus  more efficient,  process.

As a consequence money was no longer a mere trade facilitator and a humble hoarding device but also a resources allocating tool. In a way, money (and interest) started to measure not only value but also trust, which became by itself a kind of resource.
Remember this is roughly the same time when “paper/fiat money” started to appear, at first having a gold equivalent and dispensing with it later. And ‘paper’ money have value (and are accepted as tender) only as long as people have reasons to trust the country that printed it.
But this whole line of reckoning presumes that the “efficient market hypothesis” is true – this would translate into the assumption that the risks are measured rationally and as a consequence the resources are appropriated reasonably. Not entirely true, is it? Elliot’s Wave Principle says it’s not, Nicholas Nassim Taleb says it’s not, George Soros (The New Paradigm for Financial Markets – The Credit Crisis of 2008 and What it Means) concurs and so on.
A symptom of this lack of reason is the financial effervescence that is, only now, starting to ebb out. People “foregot” that money is a second class resource (only as long as people think it is and that it has any value) and started to treat it as a first class/real one. As a consequence inflation is perceived as inherently bad and not as a normal mechanism for economic adjustment and, more importantly, people now want to obtain “money”, and lots of it, directly from “money”.
No transformation whatsoever. The cycle “money traded for resources transformed into merchandise and traded back into money” has been replaced by money conned from one hand to another. Currently, quite a lot of people are convinced they can retire with no (little) public pensions and that they’ll be able to live of the revenue (and not the capital itself) received from investing whatever small fortune they have saved (delayed consumption), or inherited.
This means that these people have to enter the “resources (trust) allocating” game, the ‘financial market. Since most of them don’t have the necessary skills they rely on others: bank or fund managers or even the CEO-s of the companies whose stock they have bought. And all these managers, under pressure, have started to (mis)use a lot of instruments, originally designed as insurance/hedging, in order to make money out of thin air (speculation).
That’s how the derivative markets became bigger than the spot market. Making an analogy we can consider speculators as some kind of carnivores whose very important role is to keep the herds in top condition by culling the misfits. The benefit of the ‘landlord’, the one who from time to time hunts himself (buys or sells stock), is that the herds (companies) are OK, don’t get degenerated and don’t overgraze. But no sane landlord, not until now at least, would consider lions’ meat (or whatever else might be obtained from them) as a desirable food but only hunts (gets involved with paper issued by highly speculative investment funds) them for sport or when they threaten the well being of the herds. So why am I not surprised by the last moves in the world of investment banking? Or even banking in general?

follow the money

2021 edit.

Some people still have a hard time understanding how Trump had come to be.

I was speaking above about those money managers hard pressed to produce yield.
Some of them had fulfilled their task by exporting ‘real’ jobs to places where the work force was cheaper. And/or by replacing people with robots.
This development has deepened the divide between the haves and the have nots.
Those who had happened to have some invested capital at the start of the process only got richer.
Those who didn’t had found that getting richer was way harder than for their parents. Education had become way more expensive while the good paying jobs were no longer available.

Trump had promised to bring back those jobs. And to ‘ease’ the tax ‘burden’.
By doing this he was able to endear himself to people competing for the same thing. Money. Mere money….
To those people convinced that having money is enough.
That mere possesion of money can get you there. No matter where that ‘there’ might be…

To put it briefly, Trump – and his followers, ignore the fact that money is, by definition, a convention.
A convention which is based on trust. On mutual trust between the members of the society.

On the trust that when push will come to shove, each of us will do what is expected of them.
What the community, as a whole, will need them to do.

You see, what Trump – and his followers, seem to ignore is the fact that no individual – no matter how rich/powerful/skilful/bright, can survive, sustainably, on their own. And even less ‘against the grain’.
What many of Trumps detractors ignore is the corespondent fact. That no community will survive sustainably if it is reduced to a herd. That only a community composed of autonomous – also known as ‘free’, individuals have a fighting changes at being flexible enough to survive indefinitely.

The problem being that people chasing money as the ultimate goal are not free.
Are not free to pursue alternative goals. To explore.
They are so mesmerized that are behaving like moths lured to a flame.

Might seem strange -after writting what you’ve just read, but I really have to add this block.
As I said before, money is a lousy goal. But always a useful tool.

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As much as I love writing, I do have to eat.
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