Archive for the 'Human Behavior' Category
Posted by David Foster on 1st May 2016 (All posts by David Foster)
Prince Andrei (in War and Peace), who is falling in love with Natasha, is talking with her sister Vera:
“Yes, that is true, Prince. In our days,” continued Vera–mentioning “our days” as people of limited intelligence are fond of doing, imagining that they have discovered and appraised the peculiarities of “our days” and that human characteristics change with the times–“in our days a girl has so much freedom that the pleasure of being courted often stifles real feeling in her.” (emphasis added)
Bingo, Leo Tolstoy! I have often observed people writing or speaking about “these days” but equally or more often about “this country” or “this society” as if they had conducted a vast comparative study. Frequently you will hear people talking about some unfortunate characteristic that is pretty much universal across space and time and attributing it the “modern American society” or simply “our society.” Few of these, I’m pretty sure, have either spent a lot of time in other societies or made a serious study thereof, nor have many of them conducted extensive historical research about other eras.
I’ll give the floor to Gilbert and Sullivan, whose Lord High Executioner was looking forward to doing away with:
The idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone
All centuries but this, and every country but his own
Posted in Book Notes, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior | 9 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 27th April 2016 (All posts by David Foster)
The novel Once An Eagle (also made into a TV miniseries) tells the story of two American army officers, across a time span ranging from the First World War to the interwar years to World War II and beyond. Sam Damon is a farm boy who has worked his way up in rank: he is committed to accomplishing his assigned missions and looking out for the survival and well-being of the men under his command. Courtney Massengale is a West Point graduate with something of an upper-class background: he seeks out higher rank through political maneuvering, prefers Staff to Line assignments, and has little concern for subordinates. The book is widely-read and highly-regarded in U.S. military circles.
In the story’s climactic scene, Sam is commanding a division destined to participate in an attack on a Japanese-held island. He is not thrilled to find that his division has been placed under the command of Courtney–now a three-star general and corps commander despite having spent his entire career in staff roles. He is even less thrilled when he hears Courtney’s plan for the invasion–“PALLADIUM”–which is in Sam’s judgment far too complex to succeed in actual combat conditions.
The Japanese launch their counterattack while Sam’s division is in a highly vulnerable state, in the midst of the turning maneuver required by the Palladium plan. And the reserve unit which could have saved the situation has been redeployed by Courtney so that he can have the honor of being the first American general to capture a Japanese-held city intact. While Sam is leading a desperate fight for the survival of his division, Courtney is riding in triumph through the town of Reina Blanca.
Sam Damon and Courtney Massengale are endpoints on a spectrum, of course; few real people are as good as Sam or as bad as Courtney. But still, it seems to be useful to ask the following question:
What is the mix of Damon vs Massengale in each of our current presidential candidates and among other members of our national leadership?
Posted in Book Notes, History, Human Behavior, Management, War and Peace | 33 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 14th April 2016 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
Curious indeed, to reflect that by the end of this year, I will have been out of the Air Force for as long as I was in it – but the time does fly when you are having fun. But twenty years in the Big Blue Machine does leave marks, as well as an exquisite sense of how the military really operates in real time, among the lower-ranking levels, close to the ground. This isn’t a sense readily developed from reading, although I suppose someone with wide experience, a strong sense of empathy and close personal associations with veterans can develop it by proxy.
This around-about way of explaining how all this last week, my daughter and I were wondering about a murder-suicide at Lackland AFB last Friday morning – nearly a week ago. A trainee airman had fatally shot his squadron commander, and then killed himself. Of course, it all came out in dribbles over the weekend; the trainee was an E-6, aged 41 and a student in the pararescue course … and had also resigned from the FBI as a special agent. Everything about this was curious, even unlikely; the Air Force para-rescue specialty is one of the most physically-demanding jobs the Air Force has. It’s comparable to the SEALS, and Army Special Forces, in that many are called, few chosen, and even fewer still graduate.
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Posted in Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Human Behavior, Media, Military Affairs, The Press, War and Peace | 32 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 27th March 2016 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
After 240 years of relative quiescence, at 4:53 PM local time on Tuesday 12 January 2010 the Enriquillo fault system ruptured near 18°27’ N, 72°32’ W in an M 7.0 earthquake, followed by numerous aftershocks, mostly westward of the mainshock hypocenter. Institutional functionality, or the lack thereof, in Haiti prior to the earthquake was such that there was no local seismometer network in place, so nuances of slip in the 2010 earthquake involving several associated faults have had to be inferred from kinematic models.
The Enriquillo fault itself forms the boundary between the Gonâve Microplate and the Caribbean Plate, but seismic activity along it is driven by collision with, and subduction of, the North American Plate. The entire fault system may have begun a new cycle of large earthquakes similar to those of the 18th century, in which case there will be several more such events with significant effects in Haiti and the Dominican Republic through, very roughly, 2080.
Around half the entire US population donated money for Haitian earthquake relief in 2010. I may not have been among them, but as initially recounted in this forum in April of 2011, I was drawn into restoration work in a computer lab and fixed-wireless network in Petit-Goâve, and have subsequently assisted in similar efforts in Musac (Mizak), La Vallée-de-Jacmel. Paging through the visa section of my passport, I now find an astonishing number of red ENTRÉE and blue SORTIE stamps from the Ministere de l’Interieur et des Collectivites Territoriales / Direction de l’Immigration. My God, I’ve been down there 16 times. What was I thinking?
Something like this …
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Posted in Americas, Book Notes, Christianity, Civil Society, Culture, Current Events, Ebola, Elections, History, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Latin America, Personal Narrative, Politics, Predictions, Religion, Society, Systems Analysis, USA | 4 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 18th March 2016 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Last summer I posted a couple of columns on growing up in Chicago in the 1940s.
My family history is a story of Chicago as my mother was born there and her parents met in Aurora, a suburb where my grandfather’s sister ran a boarding house. My grandmother lived there while working as a supervisor in a corset factory after she had moved to Chicago from Canada. My grandfather, Joseph Mileham, was a railroad engineer, the equivalent at the time of an airline pilot. My father’s family were farmers and lived 60 miles from Chicago. He and my mother met in Chicago when they were both working at a music company. They had a typical long Depression courtship which included a trip to California by my mother after she lost her mother and brother the same year, 1926.
My growing up was an almost idyllic childhood, although of course it had its moments.
The house I grew up in is shown here.
That photo was taken a few years ago. I took a more recent one a few years ago and the owner of the house, a black guy about 35, came out to see who I was. He insisted on taking me on a tour. He was quite proud of it. He asked if I could send him photos of the house when we lived there. Here are a few more of them.
Now, that neighborhood was the subject of a feature story in the Chicago Tribune today.
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Posted in Chicagoania, Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Human Behavior | 8 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 17th March 2016 (All posts by Jonathan)
Nassim Nicholas Taleb on Facebook:
What we are seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.
With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30y of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, microeconomic papers wrong 40% of the time, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating only 1/5th of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers with a better track record than these policymaking goons.
Indeed one can see that these academico-bureaucrats wanting to run our lives aren’t even rigorous, whether in medical statistics or policymaking. I have shown that most of what Cass-Sunstein-Richard Thaler types call “rational” or “irrational” comes from misunderstanding of probability theory.
(Via Richard Fernandez.)
Posted in Big Government, Crony Capitalism, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Elections, Human Behavior, Politics, Society, Statistics, Tea Party | 5 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 17th March 2016 (All posts by Jonathan)
Charles Murray, quoting himself and Richard Herrnstein from The Bell Curve:
In sum: If tomorrow you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that all the cognitive differences between races were 100 percent genetic in origin, nothing of any significance should change. The knowledge would give you no reason to treat individuals differently than if ethnic differences were 100 percent environmental. By the same token, knowing that the differences are 100 percent environmental in origin would not suggest a single program or policy that is not already being tried. It would justify no optimism about the time it will take to narrow the existing gaps. It would not even justify confidence that genetically based differences will not be upon us within a few generations. The impulse to think that environmental sources of difference are less threatening than genetic ones is natural but illusory.
In any case, you are not going to learn tomorrow that all the cognitive differences between races are 100 percent genetic in origin, because the scientific state of knowledge, unfinished as it is, already gives ample evidence that environment is part of the story. But the evidence eventually may become unequivocal that genes are also part of the story. We are worried that the elite wisdom on this issue, for years almost hysterically in denial about that possibility, will snap too far in the other direction. It is possible to face all the facts on ethnic and race differences on intelligence and not run screaming from the room. That is the essential message [pp. 314-315].
Posted in Culture, Human Behavior, Quotations, Science, Society, Statistics | 4 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 5th March 2016 (All posts by David Foster)
Richard Fernandez has a very good post exploring the reasons why a person would choose to join something like an Islamist militia in Libya. Read the whole thing.
His post reminded me of something that Virginia Postrel posted on 9/11/2008:
Glamour can sell religious devotion or military glory as surely as it can pitch lipstick or island vacations. All promise a way to transcend our everyday circumstances, to experience more and become better than ordinary life allows. All invite us to imagine escape and transformation…The question for this September 11 is, How do we puncture the glamour of Jihadi terrorism? The first step is recognizing that such glamour exists.
I was also reminded of a passage from Erich Maria Remarque’s neglected novel ‘The Road Back,’ which follows a group of former German soldiers in the aftermath of WWI. One member of the group, George Rahe, explains his inability to come to terms with peacetime: Comradeship and idealism are perishing in “this pig’s wash of order, duty, women, routine, punctuality and the rest of it what they call life here”…he sees an ordinary city street as “All one long fire trench” and the houses as “Dugouts, every one–the war still goes on–but a dirty, low-down war–every man against his fellow–” These feelings drive him to join up again–most likely one of the Freikorps units which sprang up during the postwar chaos.
Also, Arthur Koestler wrote about what he called the Tragic and the Trivial planes of life. His friend, the writer and fighter pilot Richard Hillary, explained the concept thusly:
K has a theory for this. He believes there are two planes of existence which he calls vie tragique and vie triviale. Usually we move on the trivial plane, but occasionally in moments of elation or danger, we find ourselves transferred to the plane of the vie tragique, with its non-commonsense, cosmic perspective. When we are on the trivial plane, the realities of the other appear as nonsense–as overstrung nerves and so on. When we live on the tragic plane, the realities of the other are shallow, frivolous, frivolous, trifling. But in exceptional circumstances, for instance if someone has to live through a long stretch of time in physical danger, one is placed, as it were, on the intersection line of the two planes; a curious situation which is a kind of tightrope-walking on one’s nerves…I think he is right.
Posted in Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Islam, Leftism, Middle East, Terrorism, War and Peace | 5 Comments »
Posted by Jay Manifold on 2nd March 2016 (All posts by Jay Manifold)
What I’m feeling for the GOP is a kind of disinterested sympathy, punctuated with schadenfreude, the disinterest arising from never having been a Republican, the sympathy from the GOP identification of a plurality of my close friends – uniformly horrified by what is happening – and the schadenfreude from the abrupt collapse of three-plus decades of pharisaical social conservatism. Turns out that eventually enough of the electorate whose resentment you’ve been stoking figures out that it’s a waste of time and fastens on to something else, something that matches their actual resentments a lot more closely. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Anti-Americanism, Blogging, Book Notes, Civil Society, Crony Capitalism, Current Events, Elections, History, Human Behavior, National Security, Politics, Predictions, Society, Trump, USA | 13 Comments »
Posted by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach on 28th February 2016 (All posts by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach)
I commented in this post about the consumerist fog that in which I was living as a middle-rank American military officer, and my desire to “fix” or improve my situation by taking command of my finances.
How did we do it?
It was simple, but not easy.
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Posted in Book Notes, Economics & Finance, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Personal Finance, Personal Narrative, Taxes | 14 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 23rd February 2016 (All posts by Jonathan)
Seth Barrett Tillman:
I wrote and published this 8-page short story–Purim & My Bangladeshi Friend–a little while back. As I said, today is Purim, and it’s Purim again in a month. So my short story is, I think, once again, timely, and sadly, once again, all too relevant to life in our shared West, in our shared modernity.
Seth’s story is here.
(Today’s post is a rerun because Lex wrote a post about Seth’s story a couple of years ago. Lex’s post is still worth reading.)
Posted in Deep Thoughts, Europe, History, Holidays, Human Behavior, Islam, Judaism | 1 Comment »
Posted by Jonathan on 22nd February 2016 (All posts by Jonathan)
Vote ONLY for someone who has failed and has LEARNED from failure. This limits the field to Trump, Cruz and Carson.
–Chet Richards, in a response to this post at Belmont Club
Posted in Elections, Human Behavior, Politics, Quotations, Trump | 16 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 20th February 2016 (All posts by David Foster)
Jonathan Haidt summarizes a paper (by Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning) which may help explain some of the dynamics now manifesting themselves on college campuses and even in the larger society. In brief: prior to the 18th and 19th century, most Western societies were cultures of honor, in which people were expected to avenge insults on their own–and would lose social respect and position should they fail to do so. The West then transitioned to cultures of dignity, in which “people are assumed to have dignity and don’t need to earn it. They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transitions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means. There’s no more dueling.” The spirit of this type of culture could be summarized by the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”
Campbell and Manning assert that this culture of dignity is now giving way to a new culture of victimhood in which people are encouraged to respond to even the slightest unintentional offense, as in an honor culture. But the difference, Haidt explains is this:
“But they must not obtain redress on their own; they must appeal for help to powerful others or administrative bodies, to whom they must make the case that they have been victimized.” Campbell and Manning distinguish the three culture types as follows:
“Public complaints that advertise or even exaggerate one’s own victimization and need for sympathy would be anathema to a person of honor – tantamount to showing that one had no honor at all. Members of a dignity culture, on the other hand, would see no shame in appealing to third parties, but they would not approve of such appeals for minor and merely verbal offenses. Instead they would likely counsel either confronting the offender directly to discuss the issue, or better yet, ignoring the remarks altogether.”
I had read something about this model a couple of months ago, and was reminded of it by a discussion at Bookworm Room. She described a scene of insanity at Rutgers “university,” in which students were so traumatized by a speech given by Milo Yiannopoulos that “students and faculty members held a wound-licking gathering at a cultural center on campus, where students described “feeling scared, hurt, and discriminated against.”
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Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Education, Human Behavior, Leftism, Miscellaneous, USA | 15 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 20th February 2016 (All posts by Jonathan)
In a recent comment here Andrew Garland referred to a 2009 comment by Chicago Boyz contributor Michael Kennedy, quoting Michael Crichton. It is worth re-posting the Crichton quote in full:
Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.
In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.
I thought about this because I have been having an email exchange with a left-wing acquaintance of mine. My acquaintance thinks highly of Obama’s performance in office. Like many of us, my acquaintance has noticed an increase in racial animosity over the seven years of Obama’s presidency. My acquaintance attributes this increased racial tension to racists, presumably white, who “are driven practically insane at the thought of having a black president”.
I am sure that there are such people. A quick tour of the Internet reveals plenty of racism to go around. And yet none of the many anti-Obama arguments I’ve read or heard has been based on race; conservative media are full of substantive arguments against Obama and his policies. Meanwhile Obama and his political allies have gone out of their way to racialize political controversies. And yet most of the Obama partisans I’ve met have been confident that white racism is the cause of most opposition to Obama. Apparently there are many people out there who believe that wet streets cause rain.
Posted in Deep Thoughts, Education, Human Behavior, Leftism, Obama, Politics, Quotations | 6 Comments »
Posted by Kevin Villani on 11th February 2016 (All posts by Kevin Villani)
Long time Democrat turned Republican Donald Trump, who as a business titan relied more than any of his opponents on “Wall Street” funding, decisively won the Republican primary. In sharp contrast, socialist Bernie Sanders decisively won the New Hampshire Democrat primary by attacking his opponent’s Wall Street ties. Trump supporters apparently believe that the way to deal with Wall Street a**holes is a bigger a**hole who will negotiate much better deals, whereas Sanders supporters believe that “Wall Street (a synonym for the entire US financial system) is a fraud” requiring major extractive surgery.
Most people within the NY financial community including the numerous mid-town asset management firms agree that many Wall Street players were a**holes during the sub-prime lending debacle leading to the 2008 financial crisis, but surely the Sanders pitchfork brigade wouldn’t travel uptown. This may explain why among the thousands of books and articles written in the aftermath of the financial crisis and the Occupy Wall Street movement, Wall Street hasn’t defended itself and has found few defenders willing to go public.
Truth be told, Wall Street has always attracted more than its share of greedy a**holes. But historically they discriminated against the less profitable investments in favor of those that had the highest return potential relative to risk. This represented the brains of a heartless US capitalist system. Defenders of capitalism correctly argue that it is the only economic system at the base of all human economic progress, however unequally distributed. Progressive critics argue for greater equality, the poor made poorer so long as the better off are equally so (although this is not the way it is typically represented).
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Posted in Business, Crony Capitalism, Economics & Finance, Human Behavior, Markets and Trading, Politics, Predictions, Public Finance, Trump | 6 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 1st February 2016 (All posts by David Foster)
Here is an interesting piece with thoughts on how generations look at the world differently. Obviously there are tremendous differences in individual experiences within a generation…and I certainly don’t share the author’s apparent leftist worldview–but I do think it’s probably true that one generation tries to deal with, and sometimes even partly solves, one set of challenges, thereby setting up a different set of challenges for succeeding generations.
Related thoughts from Hawaiian libertarian, who says that:
Prior to the advent of mass mind control enabled by mass media technology, there was no real substantial differences between generations…at least not the sort that so thoroughly and contentiously divided us for the past century. Culture was far more static and slow changing, and influenced much more by religion and cultural traditions and norms.
I don’t think mind control is actually required, or even systematic propaganda: improved communications and transportation will tend to create more coupling within a generation, and more differences between generations, even in the absence of any central orchestration of messages.
Regarding generational perspectives in general and mating patterns in particular, Vox Day says:
(The Boomers) tend to think of “change” as something that an individual does within the context of a permanent infrastructure. GenX, on the other hand, sees that there is no permanence to the infrastructure, and that the infrastructure is not only transforming, but is imposing its changes on the individual.
The Millennial doesn’t even see the cultural infrastructure, and thereby doesn’t understand either the Boomer perspective or the GenX fury at the order and infrastructure they have lost.
Posted in Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Morality and Philosphy, Society, USA | 6 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 24th January 2016 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
Taking pen in hand … or actually, the computer keyboard … to while away a few minutes of leisure between wrapping up today’s work. (Yes, I am a small business owner and independent author; weekends and holidays are normal working days for me, although those hours and days are of my own choice, which makes up for quite a lot. And also, the commute is short.)
I was working away on graphic adornments for the next book in the Luna City Chronicles, and an editing job which I had thought to finish by mid-month, but these things happen. Anyway, I was diverted upon coming out to start cooking supper, to note that Blondie is also working away on her own stuff for upcoming events; for aural wallpaper, she had an old TV show on streaming video as she works. She has been going through various old shows in recent weeks. Last week it was the original Thundercats, the week before that it was McGyver. But this week it’s The X-Files … a show which she finds nostalgically amusing, but which I began to find so repellant that I stopped watching after a certain point. Was it the episode with the murderously incestuous hillbilly clan with the armless, legless mother, or the one where an oh-so-secret US Army unit machine-gunned to death a whole group of human-alien hybrid offspring? Memory does not serve up an exact date at this point, but that was where I decided that The X-Files just was not my cuppa any longer. Not for dealing out spine-chilling bits of horror in weekly episodes – the creepy guy who could slither through AC ducts, the primitive humans living in the wilds of New Jersey, the life insurance salesman who could foresee the death of his potential clients … for sheer story-telling expertise and creepy thrills, right up there with The Twilight Zone, or Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Likely, The X-Files still is, among certain aficionados.
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Posted in Arts & Letters, Blogging, Civil Society, Film, Human Behavior, Media, Personal Narrative | 16 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 21st January 2016 (All posts by David Foster)
I’ve been reading The Devil’s Pleasure Palace. The author remarks that, in the 19th century, the reading material in many American homes included Milton’s Paradise Lost. We already knew that Shakespeare and the Bible were common reading in those days.
The author notes (and this is unarguable, I think) that a society is largely characterized by the stories and myths that it shares.
So my question for discussion is this…and I’m almost afraid to ask it…in American in 2016, what are our primary shared stories and myths?
Posted in Arts & Letters, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Society, USA | 12 Comments »
Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 11th January 2016 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
Anonymous Conservative uses some interesting research into the evolved behavioral dynamics of animal populations and applies it to human populations to explain the Left-Right political divide. The gist of the argument is that two distinct behavioral psychologies exist among animals, r and K:
The terms r and K came from variables in equations which described how populations would change over time. r represented the maximal reproductive rate of an individual, while K represented the carrying capacity of an environment.
The first environment an organism may face is the presence of freely available resources, which is referred to as an r-selective environment.
In r-selection, those individuals who waste time fighting for food will be out-reproduced by pacifists, who simply focus upon eating, and reproducing. Fighting also entails risks of injury or death – risks which are pointless given the free availability of resources everywhere. Hence this environment will favor a tendency towards conflict avoidance, and tend to cull the aggressive and competitive. It will also evolve tendencies towards mating as early as possible, as often as possible, with as many mates as possible, while investing as little effort as possible rearing offspring. Here, there are unlimited resources just waiting to be utilized, and even the most unfit can acquire them. As a result, it is more advantageous to produce as many offspring as possible, as quickly as possible, regardless of fitness, so as to out-reproduce those who either waste time producing quality offspring or waste time competing with each other.
In the other environment, a population exists at the carrying capacity of its environment. Since there is not enough food to go around, and someone must die from starvation, this will evolve a specific psychology within such a species. Termed a K-type psychology, or K-Selected Reproductive Strategy, this psychology will embrace competitions between individuals and accept disparities in competitive outcomes as an innate part of the world, that is not to be challenged. Since individuals who do not fight for some portion of the limited resources will starve, this environment will favor an innately competitive, conflict-prone psychology. Study shows, such a psychology will also tend to embrace monogamy, embrace chastity until monogamous adulthood, and favor high-investment, two-parent parenting, with an emphasis upon rearing as successful an offspring as possible.
This explains the very different social outlook of the pioneers from, say, the modern Progressives. To the pioneers, everything must be worked for, built, exploited, expanded and defended. They cleared the forests, planted the prairies, drilled and tapped the aquifers, mined the mountains, built power plants, built dams and irrigated the dry lands. Progressives see and teach that as a history of evil and greed, all while maximizing their use of it and working to destroy it by neglect or regulation.
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Posted in Human Behavior, Political Philosophy | 9 Comments »
Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 7th January 2016 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
Robot, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, 1927
Fifty years ago, if you were a company building automobiles or telecommunications equipment, you would have employed an assembly line full of workers. There also would have been people kitting parts, making inspections, doing tests, even running errands. If you operated a catalog company, you might have warehouse full of people loading and unloading goods, taking inventory, generating reports and packing and shipping goods. If you manufactured metal goods, you might employ several grades of craftsmen, from apprentice to master machinist, as well as cutters and welders, finish workers, inspectors, packers and shippers.
Much less so today. Automobiles and electronics and every other sort of manufactured good are increasingly made on robotic lines. From painting to welding to complex assembly, robots are replacing people. Warehouses can run almost autonomously, with goods stored in a 3D grid that is accessed, inventoried and replenished by increasingly intelligent networks of machines and computers. Jeff Bezos would like to robotize even the delivery of those goods via autonomous drones. That seems entirely doable, though the thought of computer controlled helicopters moving through the skies upsets some people.
Sixty six years ago, almost to the day, Isaac Asimov’s novel I, Robot was published. It was followed by four more novels over 30 years as well as 38 short stories in what became known as The Robot Series. In these books, Asimov explored all sorts of aspects of a robot populated world, including the dangers they might pose to people, problems with machines that think with digital logic, their inevitable evolution from simple mechanisms to organo-machines that were difficult to differentiate from human beings, except for their vastly superior intellectual capacity and increased lifespan, and some of the implications of that.
In a society relieved of all sorts of menial labor and drudgery, Asimov envisioned something of a Golden Age of Man. Material goods would be so cheaply and easily made that no one would lack for any basic goods, and most people would enjoy a standard of living and a degree of leisure time available now to only the extremely wealthy. That’s a view with some precedent in how other technologies have improved our lot, so it’s one possible future.
I find myself wondering, though. Suppose something like that were to come to pass. After all, we’re seeing signs of its development now. How does this future society actually work? How are people employed? What does one do to earn a living in a society where work is done by machines? We see this problem already, which tells us we’re farther along this road than maybe we realize. All the people that are not employed in Jeff Bezos’ warehouses or building electronics assemblies or automobiles, what do they do? In the past, when people were displaced from agriculture by machinery, they went to cities and were employed in large scale industrial and retail businesses. That is no longer the case. Not only have the manufacturing base dispersed across the globe chasing cheaper labor and fewer rules and regulations, even the human staffed retail store is increasingly in question as a viable model.
This is all creative destruction in action, I know. And we can wave our hands and say, Well, people will adapt, they always have! Yes they will. But to what? Everyone can’t be – and doesn’t want to be – a robotics designer or research chemist or test technician in a robotics factory. Will there simply be more people to do fewer jobs? Will the work week get reduced to 3 days on, 4 days off? I’m trying to imagine a world where the same or more people are available but less work needs to be done by them. And if the answer is more leisure time, is that necessarily a good thing? Do we get a Golden Age, or an Age of Sloth, where everyone gets crazier and more destructive in an attempt to amuse themselves. Who cares, eh? The robots will clean up the mess.
And is a robotic recursion process possible, where robots set about designing and building better robots? If we assume cookbook engineering can be encoded into a machine brain, millions of possible combinations may be scanned and modeled and simulated for each mechanism and each circuit, always searching for an optimal solution. And as everyone from Asimov to Clarke have asked, when is sentience reached and will we recognize it when it occurs? And then what? Our society is the early stages of major, ground shifting changes. There’s a lot on the horizon we haven’t even begun to think about to the level necessary. And how do we stay up with these changes if our political class is intent on bankrupting us and destroying our civilization?
Elon Musk compares AI efforts to ‘Summoning the Demon’
BTW, this is a talk he gave at MIT, and is well worth watching in full.
Walter Schulze-Mittendorff’s ‘Maschinenmensch’ simulacrum in crystal.
I would love to own one these. The large cylindrical version.
Posted in Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, Human Behavior, Society, Tech | 26 Comments »
Posted by leifsmith on 29th December 2015 (All posts by leifsmith)
DISCOVERY: A BETTER MODEL FOR POLITICAL DISCUSSIONS
PRESENTED BY: PAT WAGNER
Tuesday, January 5, 2016, Noon–1 pm, Denver time
We have all observed that political discussions tend to bring out the worst in everyone, including ourselves, but is there a way to approach these conversations that will contribute to friendship rather than build enmity? Pat will explore this idea in her free webinar on Tuesday, January 5th, noon to 1 pm Denver time. It will be recorded and archived (also available free). Please join us for an hour of constructive and practical good will. And please forward this invitation to anyone you think may be interested. Thanks!
Pat writes, “Recent political campaigns destroyed lasting friendships, frayed family ties, and alienated neighbors and co-workers. Social media became a battleground of nasty diatribes, insults, and slurs. Is there a better way to talk about ideological differences? The Discovery Model is about listening and sharing with no intention to convince or win a debate. The point? To learn and grow while strengthening workplace, personal, and online relationships.”
Full description & registration info:
Leif Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org
PO Box 9100, Denver, CO 80209-0100
303-778-0880 (main), 303-744-1855 (direct)
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Posted in Civil Society, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Morality and Philosphy, Politics | 4 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 29th December 2015 (All posts by David Foster)
The first story is Robert Heinlein’s The Year of the Jackpot. A consulting statistician with the unlikely name of Potiphar Breen observes that many strange social trends are on a strong upswing. One such trend: young women removing all their clothes in public. Potiphar sees one such disrobing in process, shoos away the police, covers the girl with his raincoat, then takes her home and asks her why she did it. She doesn’t know.
Potiphar informs her that nine other girls have done the same thing, in Los Angeles alone, on that very day…and goes on to tell her that this is a small part of the overall pattern of increasing craziness that he is observing. A man has sued an entire state legislature for alienation of his wife’s affections–and the judge is letting the suit be tried. In another state, a bill has been introduced to repeal the laws of atomic energy–not the relevant statutes, but the natural laws concerning nuclear physics. Potiphar shows the girl (her name is Meade) the graphs on which he has plotted the outbreak of bizarre things over time, and notes that many different indicators, all with different cycles, are all converging in this very year. Still, Meade wants to look at her disrobing episode on an individual basis: “I want to know why I did what I did!”
“I think we’re lemmings, Meade,” Potiphar says. “Ask a lemming why he does it. If you could get him to slow up his rush to death, even money says he would rationalize his answer as well as any college graduate. But he does it because he has to–and so do we.” When Meade tries to defend free will–“I know I have it–I can feel it”, Potiphar continues with another analogy: “I imagine every little neutron in an atom bomb feels the same way. He can go spung! or he can sit still, just as he pleases. But statistical mechanics works out anyhow. And the bomb goes off.”
As Meade and Potiphar become romantically involved, Potiphar’s indices of bizarre behavior and events continue to climb. Transvestism by draft-dodgers has resulted in a mass arrest in Chicago and a gigantic mass trial–but the (male) prosecutor shows up in a pinafore. At the All Souls Community Church of Springfield, the pastor has reinstituted ceremonial nudity. Two weeks later, a hundred and nine other churches have announced the same policy. California is suffering a major water crisis, but people continue watering their lawns as usual. Hardly anyone is interested in the upcoming Republican and Democratic conventions; all the excitement is about the revived Know-Nothing party.
Foreign affairs, too, are disintegrating into chaos…topped off by a nuclear exchange. Meade and Potiphar manage to survive, and Potiphar’s cycle charts seem to indicate that things will soon get better…(read the story to see how it comes out.)
The fictional events of Heinlein’s Year of the Jackpot (set in 1952–it was written in 1947) don’t seem any more bizarre than the kind of headline stories that we are seeing every day in real-life:
College students cry ‘racism’ when served ‘culturally-incorrect cuisine’ in the cafeteria
The “Queen of YouTube, famous for eating cereal out of a bathtub of milk that she was bathing in , is granted interviews by both the sitting President and the leading democratic contender
Woman loses her job and is threatened with having her children taken away, because she let her three sons (11,9,and 5) play by themselves in a playground next to her apartment building.
Seven-year-old boy suspended from school for chewing a breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun
Previously-male person selected as Woman of the Year
The second story is the play Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, France, Human Behavior, Leftism, USA | 16 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 21st December 2015 (All posts by David Foster)
An analysis of the Trump campaign from a Boydian perspective. (“Boydian” refers to the views of the fighter pilot and military theorist John Boyd, who emphasized the importance of the “OODA loop”–observe, orient, decide, act)
Desperately trying to be one of the Kool Kidz:
…the increasing number of voters who do not make their decisions on who will create the most jobs, build the most infrastructure, save the environment, strengthen the economy or even keep citizens most safe. These people don’t care about that. And while they do vote based on what they think is in their own self-interest, their regard is not for what they view as the path most likely to improve society’s lot. It is, curiously, motivated entirely by their sense of what is most socially fashionable – in other words, the fundamental high school desire to be one of the cool kids.
Posted in Britain, Current Events, Human Behavior, India, Leftism, Politics, USA | 3 Comments »