Monday, October 1, 2018

Politics (Kamran K): The Politics of Economic Prioritization

(1) Despite its many flaws and vices, capitalism is presently the best known method of generating an acceptable quantity and quality of goods and services to meet human civilization's current needs and desires.

(2) Because it is the best known system "out there" capitalism should be reformed and humanized as much as possible before it is repudiated completely as a "broken" or "unjust" economic system.

(3) Conceptually it is not difficult to think how this could be done.  The predominant task is to set capitalism's priorities in a way that it will predictably serve the common good to the greatest extent possible.

(4) For this to occur, thought should be given to the following. Any economic activity generally produces goods and services in the following areas of BASIC NEEDS:  (a) Basic bodily needs of food, adequate shelter and furniture, and health care, (b) Basic mental needs of education, (c) Basic human communal or societal needs of adequate infrastructure and communication systems, and (d) environmental management of trash, pollution, and other waste products so as to preserve the viability of Earth's biomass.  These categories all represent basic needs so that if any of the categories were not met human survival would be compromised significantly for all.  There does not appear to be any other large category of human basic needs.

Beyond this, economic activity generally produces goods and services in the following areas of non-essential preferred things: (e) human entertainment in the form of sports, music, art, drama, and the like, (f) technological gadgets that eliminate the trivial annoyances of life that would otherwise exist in the meeting of basic human needs, (g) goods of conscpicuous consumption such as all "expensive" manner of any of the preceding categories (a basic car fits in category c but a Porsche fits in this category f) and (h) travel- domestic and international that is of a "personal" nature.

(5) Arguably, any capitalist society that focuses on categories e-h while categories a-d are left unfinished or finished at a mediocre to poor level has its economic priorities badly mistaken, is pursuing individual profit divorced from a benefit to the general welfare of society.  It is only when categories a-d have been fully, affordably, and fairly met for all working members of the society that it would then be fair and conscienable to move beyond these categories and focus on categories e-h as the future priorities.

This is obviously not happening in most capitalist economies worldwide.  Instead, focus is increasingly given to categories e-h (for example, yacht building) because here is where the largest "profit" and "margins" lie and here is where the richest members of a society spend most of their money.  Thus, for example, we have a situation where companies focus on creating self-driving cars when many members of the population either can't afford a reliable quality car or are otherwise limited in their transportation options. So, too, billions of dollars are invested in new sports stadiums when inner city schools in the same city languish badly from lack of economic resources to pay decent salaries to teachers, provide adequate security, and renovate old buildings. 

(6) The obvious long-term consequence or result of societies with their economic priorities "out of order" is obvious and clear and will be on full parade for all to see very shortly.   These societies look like one large circle of misery and underdevelopment with a very few small mini-circles or "bubbles" of isolated luxury.  In the luxury mini-circle or bubble, all needs are met including the basic needs at a very high level.  Everywhere else, the basic needs are not met while the persons working in those communities often work on goods and services that serve the mini-circle or bubble communities.

(7) Through taxation incentives government can change an economy's priorities.  By giving significant tax incentives or other benefits to companies who work in areas deemed to be the economy's first-rank priorities, government can change the profit calculus enough so that the actual economic activity in a society overwhelmingly occurs in the economy's first-rank priorities categories. 


Sunday, July 22, 2018

Friendship (Kamran K): Toward Brutal Honesty

(1) A philosophical proposition may be 100% true even if most human beings dislike the truth, care to wish it away, or act in ways completely contrary to the truth.  When this is done, humans are acting un-philosophically which is a rather fancy way of saying their behavior is motivated by interests other than the truth.  Whether humans usually "benefit" (either in the short or long-term) by being primarily motivated by interests other than the truth is debatable but the evidence seems to be suggesting otherwise.  It appears to this philosopher that only short-term (a few days, a few hours, a few weeks) of pleasure and good-feeling results when persons are primarily motivated by interests other than the truth.

(2) As an example of the above, one could argue that statements on matters of general human concern (for example, the composition of the elements of Jupiter's 78th moon is not such a matter) that are 100% honest and true are often "brutal" in their honesty and truth.  Almost all of the time, statements that are most completely true and most completely honest regarding a matter of general human concern are "brutal" in their directness, lack of empathy, and objectiveness.

(3) The moment one attempts to UNbrutalize such a statement some form of falsity or deception is introduced into the statement.  Example:

          BRUTALLY HONESTY STATEMENT:  "You are lazy, yet believe you are entitled to live as well and comfortably as those who work much harder than you.  This expectation of yours is arrogant and unjust and you must correct it immediately."

          NICER STATEMENT #1: "You could work harder than you do and earn the right to the quality of life you desire."

          NICER STATEMENT #2:  "You are a special person and simply need to find inspiration and motivation to excel and reach all of your dreams."

For now, whether the attempt to unbrutalize a statement is "good" or "bad" is not the point or, better, is besides the point.  One must simply acknowledge that the UNbrutalization of a statement is executed through the introduction of falsity or deception of some form or another.  In some cases, this is minor and barely noticeable and in others it is dramatic and very obvious.

(4) Reason is the faculty for distinguishing between true and false, fact and fiction.  Strictly from the perspective of reason's well-functioning, it is better for man to attempt- more and more, better and better- to express truths that are "brutal" in their honesty. This is not a vice, this is a virtue from the perspective of reason's well-functioning. Because brutal truths are so direct and unambiguous they have the best chance of being understood by the MIND and then causing real changes in behavior and values for the good of the person involved.

Man should internally continue to deal in truths that are brutally direct and honest and resist every temptation to "tame" or "domesticate" truths with deception and falsity so that ego can be undeservedly preserved at a high level.

(5) Statements that are "brutally honest" need not be mean or delivered in a "nasty" tone.  They also should not be exaggerated or factually distorted; such statements are brutal but they are NOT honest.  What distinguishes statements of brutal honesty from 99.9% of the statements humans exchange in society is their fidelity to objective facts and truths regardless of how such fidelity will or will not bother any person that hears the statement made.  If a child is receiving many Ds and Fs in school despite diligent efforts to learn the material/study for tests etc. then one can make the "brutally honest" statement that the child simply lacks the type of intelligence necessary to learn most academic subjects.  Simple as that.  When one gets used to it, dealing in brutal honesty is actually rather simple and natural.  What is much more difficult and requires so much more deft of skill is the introduction of just the right amount and type of deception to make statements (notice we no longer refer to the "truth") pallatable for the many.  This is why so much of public discourse is now ruled by communication majors and "PR" firms that are experts at this kind of falsity and deception.

(6) Human society may someday reach a state of enlightenment such that no one is ever hurt or offended by any statement that is "brutally honest." So long as the statement is actually true and honest, persons would then be grateful to one another for quite literally enlightening them as to how things actually are.  This is unlikely to occur anytime soon but there are always opportunities for individual friendships/relationships to arise that are completely and totally devoted to "brutal honesty" as the fundamental pillar of the friendship/relationship. 

(7) Stated differently, it is not so much that the friendship is devoted to brutal honesty as a virtue in itself.  Rather, the friendship is devoted to truth as a virtue of the friendship and it is understood that brutal honesty is the most direct, safest, and most reliable path to the practice of truth in the friendship.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Justice (Kamran K): "No Spin" Wages

(1) Adults over the age of 18 worldwide spend most of their day 5 days a week engaged in paid employment.  Because this work is often either laborious or boring or both, many at least take solace in the fact that they are making "good money."  After all, they are being paid either X amount an hour or $X,000 a year.

(2) Because it has been the practice to do so for so long, men and women worldwide fool themselves as to their actual real take home wages. The average worker making $50,000 will never have access to a large chunk of this money.  In fact, he or she will probably only ever see about $32,000 hit his or her bank account.

(3) But this still does not represent the "true earnings" of the worker.  It is an obvious indisputable idea that one must spend money to make money.  To report to work 50 weeks a year 5 days a week is a costly undertaking.  The transportation and parking costs alone could easily approach $2-3k. Lots of driving also means an increased risk of accidents and expensive traffic tickets. For many jobs, one also can't simply show up in t-shirts and shorts.  All manner of grooming and apparel costs are likely necessary to show up to work looking "presentable." These likely range between $1,000 to $2,000 (perhaps more for young women). Lunch and other meals must also be eaten outside of the home which could add another $1,500 of expenses that would not otherwise be incurred.  For those who move to a certain city to work or move within a city to be closer to work, the increased rental cost of the new place must also be factored in.

For families with one or more young children, a very large child care expense may now be necessary. This averages between $8,000 to $12,000 for many families.

(4) If work is to be just, then obviously a "fair wage" must be paid to the worker.  But it is not enough for the "headline" wage to be fair.  The actual amount that the worker can consume after all the expenses associated with employment are factored in must also be fair.  If workers today are blind to the significant gap between the "headline" wage and the "real" wage governments must step in and require disclosure of the "real" wage once all taxes and employment expenses are factored in.  This amount can easily be calculated in university studies, etc.

When presented with an offer of $50,000 it would be just for the worker to be presented with some disclosure to the effect that his "real" wage is closer to perhaps $25,000 or in extreme situations as little as $20,000.  The worker could then INTELLIGENTLY evaluate whether THIS amount is reasonable given the job description/demands of the job.  In a city where the average one bedroom costs $2,000 a month the worker would or should realize that he will not make enough to cover his housing costs.  Had the same worker focused on the "headline" wage he would have foolishly concluded he could easily cover his housing costs.

(5) One could even argue it is unfair and unjust to ever present the headline number to the worker.  Why present a number to the worker that is so completely unrelated to the amount he will actually see and be able to use? Doesn't presentation of the "headline" number to the worker guarantee he or she will remain deluded about his true earnings and unable to thoughtfully evaluate whether the bargain he has made with his employer is sane or insane?

Politics (Kamran K):

(1) That political systems worldwide are now operating dysfunctionally is a proposition hardly open for debate.

(2) To say something is dysfunctional necessarily requires some conception of what it would be like for the thing to functioning properly.  Once that is established, one can measure the difference between the ideal and the real.

(3) A political system functions well when it does most of the following things well on a fairly consistent basis: (a) correctly identifies those issues which most require large-scale citizen input and decision, (b) educates citizens with FACTS most relevant to the correct resolution of these issues, (c) accurately gathers the preferences of informed unbiased citizens who have been informed on the issues, (d) creates law that is simple to understand by any literate person and is true to the preferences of the informed citizenry, and (e) consistently enforces laws passed through some mechanism of rewards and fines.

(4) All other behavior of political actors that is not captured in (3) above is NOT helping the political system progress or function as it ought. Ranging from the most harmless behavior to the most harmful, behavior that does not relate to the five categories listed in (3) above is a complete nothing or zero.  For example, the routine attacking of a political opponent or party does not fall within any of the 5 categories. 

(5) As further proof of the above assertions, consider the practice of law which is rather closely related to the practice of politics in many ways.  What would one say are the common characteristics of a well functioning legal system? The answer is, again, not complicated. More or less, the answer involves the following elements: (a) provision of quality legal representation to all parties at an affordable price, (b) the correct and just resolution of disputes, (c) the fair and open presentation of all FACTS relating to the dispute in a public court of law, and (d) the development and application of law that is relatively simple to understand to any literate person.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

(1) Much has been written of the difference between "fantasy" and "reality."  The crucial distinction between the two has never been identified.  That distinction is COMPLICATION.

(2) In pure form, in daydream, in fantasy, in mind wanderings, humans experience "something" (this "something" is not "reality" but a simulation of reality generated at all times strictly by an individual human mind) that involves little to no complications.  Perhaps very occasionally a very small minor complication is present.  But most of the time zero complications are present in pure form.  How many complications are present in the religious path to eternal salvation? Not many.  How many complications are involved in listening to beautiful music? 0.

(3) By complication is meant any hurdle, burden, annoyance, unexpected negative surprise, difficulty, or unpleasant task that one must do but would rather not.  Reality is full of these things because reality is INDIFFERENT to human desires or wishes and other humans are largely indifferent to the desires or wishes of other persons.  Within human societies, reality almost always involves numerous complications because the behavior of many different persons is involved, each of whom is likely to throw more complications into the mix.

(4) Consider the task of painting. In pure form, in fantasy or daydream, one simply looks at one's home and then imagines that it is painted a new color almost instantaneously.  Even if one spends more mental time imagining the actual painting one will but rarely imagine the process going anything other than smooth.

In reality, the task of painting a home will present hundreds even thousands of complications in the process.  Rain will prevent painting on one day.  Colors that one thought would look beautiful do not because of either poor lightning or poor quality paint or poor coordination with other painted colors or other fixed aspects of the home. Painters get sick and call off for the day.  One forgets to prime wood before painting.  One's brush is left outside and dries hard overnight.  And so on and so forth.

The situation is no different with someone imaging that they will go to medical or law school and be a successful doctor or lawyer.  Or an entrepreneur imaging his company selling many millions of products per year. Each of these processes involves likely many thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of complications.  At the beginning, mind in pure form "sees" no complications in any of it.

(5) Albeit this same movie has been played many thousands even millions of time over human history, mind still has great difficulty abandoning its preference to reside in the land of pure form which involves zero complications.  All manner of future projects and goals are imagined as involving zero complications when the truth is that each and every one of these projects and goals will most certainly involve hundreds even thousands of complications.  Again, even the simplest of tasks often involve unexpected complications that mind doesn't like focusing on when in pure form.

(6) As reality gets harsher for so many, the appeal of fantasy will only pull stronger on them.  Faced with a reality of proliferating complications, men and women will be drawn most strongly to a "world" that involves 0 complications.  That this world is totally "fiction" and imagination is irrelevant, besides the point, misses the issue entirely.  This world is beloved because it is COMPLICATION-free.

(7) Since nothing in reality can be achieved without overcoming many complications, many persons will simply decline to have any goals "in" reality.  What else explains the mass exodus to the digital sphere where one experiences COMPLICATION-free life on Facebook, Tinder, and Instagram?

(8) Lost in the shuffle is an idea which humans for many generations would have understood and believed with conviction.  Namely, COMPLICATIONS are not "bad" and one should not structure one's whole being in an effort to avoid them.  Rather, COMPLICATIONS present the sorts of mental challenges one needs to overcome in order to EARN a sense of pride, self-regard, and self-worth from the doing of whatever it was that involved the COMPLICATION. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Humor (Kamran K): Home Improvement Realities

(1) Ranked by order of importance, these home improvement projects can revitalize and "rebirth" almost any property in any city:
  • Exterior paint redesign and application.
  • Interior paint redesign and application.
  • Exterior landscaping redesign and application.
  • Exterior decluttering and removal of debris. Only the most essential items "earn" the right to remain.
  • Interior decluttering and removal of debris. Only the most essential items "earn" the right to remain.
  • Interior furniture moving and/or new purchases on a "smallish"scale.
  • Deep clean of interior. 
(2) Most of the projects above are relatively inexpensive. They are not necessarily cheap but most people can get most of the above done by themselves or with the aid of a relatively cheap handyman. The key is to space the work over many months to prevent burn out and to maximize the chances of continual trial and error perfecting of design elements.

(3) Because the real estate and home improvement industry must make "profits" far above those generated by the procedure outlined immediately above, the real estate industry instead tells, nay COMMANDS, the public that an entirely different set of home improvement projects must take precedence. Most of these projects are multiples more expensive than those mentioned above and ultimately don't produce the property "rebirth" effects one is after in the first place. 

The real estate experts tell us to do the following:
  • Invest many thousands to tens of thousands of dollars in a room that most people spend just a few minutes in per day, namely, the bathroom. Let us recall that the bathroom is simply a place where one attends to the most animal needs (mainly waste expulsion and body cleaning) and then quickly leaves to get on with one's day. Elaborate stone and tile work is usually required with the hopes of fooling the homeowner and his guests that somehow this average old house is populated by royalty of some sort.
  • Invest many tens of thousands in a room that (again) most people frequent merely to attend to their animal needs, namely, the kitchen. In addition to the requirement of elaborate stone and tile to imitate the air of royalty, the kitchen must be extremely large and include extremely copious amounts of cabinet storage space and extremely large appliances. This is despite the fact that most Americans are overweight and would see their health improve were they to spend much less time in the kitchen and cook more basic meals that would hardly require more than 2-3 cabinents to store the necessary kitchenware for. 
  • Add bedrooms to homes that already contain more bedrooms than necessary for their inhabitants. 
(4) There is humor hidden somewhere above.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Courage (Kamran K): Excellence in Creativity. Excellence in Conformity.

(1) Like anything else, one's ability to conform may vary from the very worst to the very best. There are people that are gifted with the ability to quickly learn and then imitate as best as they can the behavior, practices, and lingo of others who are popular and successful (this is what it means to conform). There are other people that are loathe to do such a thing and, even when forced to do so, aren't very good at it.

(2) To be clear, there is an excellence that can be achieved through conformity. One can be excellently conformist. If one is a homebuilder, for example, one can produce a home that matches the tastes of the most number of people. This would be achieved by very careful study of what people prefer and then a very high quality replication of these preferences in the actual building of the home.

It would be false to say it is easy to excel at conformity. Some careful study of what conformity requires is still necessary. And then there is (in this example and many others) the execution of what conformity demands on a consistent basis. On the plus side, it is difficult to be truly awful at being conformist. How hard is it to paint every room of the house White or Swiss Coffee?

No courage is required to be conformist or practice conformity. Not much trial and error is needed because it is usually evident what the conformist practice is. Trial and error is unnecessary where the "correct" answer has already been reached.

(3) The other of the two main paths to excellence is the excellence of creativity. This does require constant trial-and-error, perhaps years and even decades of it. There will be many failures along the way and the final result is not even guaranteed to be semi-mediocre (which guarantee is available so long as one follows the path of conformity consistently).

Creativity has long been celebrated as a positive force but one must acknowledge reality. The practice of creativity can generate many sub-mediocre products that are worse than what conformity would produce. Creativity can never be separated from failure; they are twin brothers so to speak. If one is to be a creative person one must become very comfortable with failure as the tax one pays in order to occasionally produce something that is far better than what conformity produces.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Silence (Kamran K): Lost in the Form!

(1) The stat has been thrown around for some time that the average person is presented with some 5,000 ads per day. Most of these ads contain nothing but fluff "hot air" hyperbole if not outright deception and lies.

Beyond this, the average person is bombarded with many thousands of sentences which contain little to no substance or truth. The run-of-the mill political speech or other corporate statement is one of thousands of examples containing only a stray piece of actual fact or substance.

(2) All of the above are intrusions upon man's serenity/calm of mind and ability to cobble together some real ideas of his or her own. These instrusions also stop man from getting "in tune" with his consciousness and seeing its particular tendencies and characteristics, virtues, vices, and all the rest. These are all huge losses for man in the aggregate although, obviously, each particular intrusion is very small.

Indeed, man's serenity and calm of mind are some of the building blocks for man's lasting happiness. Life in modern societies has become rather miserable for reasons that many men and women can't identify specifically. It is argued for here that the barrage of form is one important reason for the constant misery.

(3) It is further also argued for herein that no man has the right to bombard another man with his cacophony of pure form statements. Now of course if one is a member of a church and voluntarily shows up for Sunday mass then one has consented to the form one will inevitably receive. But men and women going about their lives in the city have given no such explicit consent and they should not be understood to have given implicit consent to the tarnishment of their mind through the barrage of form.

(4) Enlightened communities- political or otherwise- will gradually recognize this and will protect their members from the constant needless onslaught of form. Perhaps the tech wizards can create a pair of glasses that automatically erases statements of form before one sees them. With the glasses on, one would only be presented with pure substance in its many forms.

"An incoherent mix of ambitious scientism and post-Protestant moralism and simple greed would still be the ruling spirit." Douhtat, NYT

(1) Douhtat's single sentence above captures the dominant global worldview men and women experience daily today. 

(2) Emphasis is drawn to the word incoherent. Meaning the three different elements (amibitious scientism, post-protestant moralism, and simple greed) have not been logically assembled into a coherent ideology that a rational person seeking his or her own good can confidently follow. A good result can't be expected from incoherence; if a good result follows, chalk it up to the sort of luck one can't bank on long-term.

(3) Meaning, further, that if some young or middle-aged adult adopts the dominant global worldview described above his or her actions, statements, and values will quickly lapse into incoherence and (probably) internal contradiction. By adopting this dominant worldview over many years and decades, one is unlikely to become more rational, more self-aware, more self-unified. One is likely to grow more confused, more hypocritical, more anxious, and- ultimately- resolve the conflict between the three elements of the incoherent worldview in favor of allegiance to simple greed or some very basic form of self-defensive narcissism.

(4) Humility's practice requires one to face the incoherence and other weaknesses in the dominant worldview directly and head on.  Questions should be posed: (a) what evidence is there that science- and science alone- can solve the most vexing human problems, problems that seem to most of all require excellent face-to-face communication? (b) has science not already delivered most of the goods it can reasonably be expected to deliver? does anyone truly believe life will be meaningfully better if smartphones get even faster, the TVs display yet more pixels, the cars smash even more 0-60 records, houses and- particularly kitchens- become even larger and more spacious? (c) is there any substance to post-Protestant moralism or is it simply a collection of bland platitudes that warm the heart when one is intoxicated or otherwise in a state of daydream? (d) how does one connect status-based greed with one's commitment to post-Protestant moralism? 

(5) Particularly for minds that have yet to embark upon a serious philosophic self-examination journey, mind should begin with the presumption that one's operative worldview has been borrowed from the larger society and is likely to be utterly incoherent and hodge-podge, embarassingly so if one were to seriously evaluate it. Commitments in one area (for example, healthy eating and excercise regimens) would be totally negated by behavior in another (overwork followed by routine alcohol consumption)

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Justice (Kamran K): Reaping what Ya Sow!

"What had been viewed as the home of progress and enlightenment by modernity's founders was a barren landscape of cultural impoverishment and moral and spiritual decline....a world that had become permeated by idle chatter, superficial opinion or what today would be called 'buzz'..." Modernity and its Discontents, Smith, 2016

(1) We advance the philosophical conclusion here- which will be argued for later in detail- that BOTH individual men and a generation of men generally receive the outcomes within reality that they deserve. On the level of individual men, there are some RARE cases of actual injustice- which we define precisely as a person receiving LESS in life than the labors and talents and sacrifices they PUT in. These cases are mainly seen in the developing world in the economic realm where very low wages are paid to workers who work extremely hard for many hours every day. So, too, some lives are tragically shortened by premature disease or accident resulting in severe injury or death. Other than these relatively rare cases, most persons actually GET the type of life they deserve to get once one soberly considers and evaluates all of their behaviors. They cannot complain of an unjust outcome.

(2) On the level of an entire generation of billions of men, the philosophical conclusion must be argued for with much more certainty. Entire generations can usually not blame random bad acts for their poor outcomes because it is virtually certain these random bad acts have been balanced out by random good fortune. So, too, man has no true enemy in nature conspiring to bring about injustice on him and Nature itself is certainly not unjustly punishing man (all of the evidence is to the extreme contrary...that man is systematically unjustly punishing all of Nature).

(3) The current generation of men- and the next few that come after it- are likely to experience an overall poor lived outcome when the totality of life experience is soberly considered and evaluated. The collective life that this generation of men and women is experiencing has, in general, been rather disappointing and negative-sum once all the "numbers" are tabulated and once one looks beyond the superficial trivialities of enhancement technology has brought to human life.

(4) The philosophical conclusion being drawn here is that this overall negative experience cannot be characterized as an INJUSTICE that this generation of man has suffered. To the contrary, it is being postulated here that man has been dealt with justly in that his actions, behaviors, and values have earned him the rather negative and depressing reality he is experiencing today.

(5) The blame for man's overall generally negative experience can be (more or less) isolated to a handful of dominant phenomena. This does not mean other causes were/are not at work; they were and are. They simply have paled in comparison to the dominant causes. The dominant causes include: (a) money and status/reputation pursuit accompanied by increasing amounts of work over decades of life: ("the summum bonum of this ethic, the earning of more and more money, combined with the strict avoidance of any spontaneous enjoyment of life, is above all completely devoid of any eudaimonistic, not to say, hedonistic admixture." (Max Weber); (b) racism and other ideologies that have divided men on the basis of trivialities or falsities; (c) politics driven by petty partisanship and the lust for power and not in the least oriented toward the common good; (d) a collective tendency to prefer the repetition of error as opposed to trial-and-error discovery of better alternatives; (e) the build-up of lethal weapons and the disinclination to DISARM the planet on a total basis; (f) the embrace of lies, deception, and exagerration in human communication ("[he] was polite, civil, and refined but also craven, false, and insincere" Smith 2016) along with the almost complete loss of the ability to empathetically listen to persons with opposing/different points of view; (g) increasingly, the collective dumbing-down of persons by the increasing specialization of labor, overwork, and tendency to let others/technology handle all routine tasks, and (h) also, increasingly, the fanatical belief that SCIENCE- and advances in scientific knowledge- can ALONE bring about a new form and reign of human happiness here on earth and that society should collectively devote its most serious efforts to matters of science and engineering.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Humility (Kamran K): On the Possible and the Impossible

(1) Whenever it wants, man's mind can survey an aspect of life and envision opportunities for improvement in it. Man can look at his weight and see an opportunity to lose 10-15 pounds; man can look at his financial condition and see opportunities for improvement there too with some combination of increased income and reduced expenses; man can survey his social life and determine if there is sufficient quantity and quality in it to make life rich and joyous; and so on so forth.

(2) In every situation, it is the hallmark of the mature "wise" mind to "see" what type of improvement is possible and what is impossible within the certain area. The mature "wise" mind will make this determination with a realistic (the best word here is likely SOBER) assessment of his resources, temperament, talents, fixed responsibilities, and the fixed aspects of his environment which he cannot control. This realistic assessment will cause the mature wise person to make certain conclusions regarding what is and is not possible with regard to improvement within a certain area.

Weighing the matter, it is easy to see why one is better suited with a more humble assessment of what is possible and what is impossible. Namely, a humble assessment is more likely to actually be achieved and, when achieved, it generates a strong sense of pride, achievement, and MOMENTUM that one can "ride" for some time into further achievements. Conversly, an overly confident assessment will probably not be achieved which then causes disappointment and negative DISMOMENTUM from having failed at what one thought one could do. If this happens enough, one may even despair of the possibility that any improvement is possible in any area of life. At that point, one is hardly "alive" in the robust sense of the word.

(3) Naturally, these assessments are relatively short-term in nature, usually 6 to 12 months. If rapid progress is made within an area, a future assessment may cause changes in the conceptions of what is possible and what is impossible. Certain achievements that seemed impossible at time ZERO may now seem possible a year down the road. That is the positive scenario. The negative scenario is what at first seemed possible at time ZERO must now be categorized as impossible given various difficulties one encountered and could not overcome in the past 12 months.

(4) At all times, however, the focus is on setting reachable goals that, when achieved, would actually result in some improvement in an aspect of life. This goal should in no way be minimized or viewed as "small" no matter how trivial its achievement may seem to other persons.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Politics (Kamran K): Toward a Minimalist Politics

(1) Imagine a referendum were held tomorrow in the US and the following question was posed to the entire electorate: "Should ALL of the following acts be deemed a crime under US law? Rape, murder, arson, robbery, and battery?" With but a few stray No votes, the remaining 98% of the electorate would likely vote YES on this issue.

(2) This kind of issue is ripe for political "handling" and execution. The electorate as a whole stands united on the issue and the only task of legislators is taking this relatively simple expression of political will and translating it into the actually enforced law of the land.

(3) What about issues where only slight majority support exists in favor of a bill? These issues are NOT ripe for political handling. The slight majority may within months become a minority; the information upon which the slight majority relies may become stale or false and destroy the majority support; the bill has a high chance of being repealed with even the slightest change in the 'political wind';and it's arguably unfair to devote significant public time or resources to the enforcement of any political will which is not widely-shared by very close to ALL of the population. On these issues, moral persuasion and community norms should handle the issue until the requisite consensus forms to elevate the issue for appropriate political handling.

(3) Modern politics has become a total mess nearly everywhere as it foolishy attempts to go beyond- and often well beyond- such relatively simple political issues. Power-hungry attention-seeking lawyers and businessmen have flocked into politics and, when elected, become intoxicated with delusions of how powerful they are and how many problems they can resolve merely through the passage of various "bills." Increasingly insulted from the actual "real-world" situations upon which they legislate, they pass bill after bill thereby multiplying the legislative burden imposed on the citizenry. There is little to no evidence that governments function better when they pass more laws. On the contrary, there is much evidence to support the argument that governments become dysfunctional as the number of bills they pass slowly escalates and ultimately skyrockets. This is so because of the very elementary reason that the legislation produced by such governments becomes so complicated that hardly anyone has any idea what the law actually is at any given point in time.

Indeed, each and every bill passed by any level of government anywhere should be viewed as a BURDEN imposed on the citizenry. Many bills carry onerous fines and even criminal penalties for non-compliers; this itself should make the passing of any bill a very serious and difficult matter. Sometimes, the burden imposed by legislation upon the nation is very slight (few are burdened in only minimal ways) and the benefits are many multiples of the burdens. These are good bills that ought to be passed and become the law of the land. Often, the burdens are roughly equivalent to the benefits and these bills should not be passed but remain "under consideration" until the benefits clearly outweigh the benefits. And, increasingly, the perversity of modern politics has resulted in many bills passed where the burdens greatly exceed any potential benefits from bill passing and enforcement.

(4) Using modern communication methods, it is not hard to imagine how a minimalist politics would proceed. Absent unusual circumstances, a "lowish" cap should be placed on the number of new laws passed per year. This ensures that no laws are passed "under the radar." No law should ever be passed under the radar but each should receive the full and careful attention of BOTH politicians and the entire citizenry.

In the minimalist state, a brief summary of any law passed should be communicated to ALL citizens by email, text, and website. If a citizen objects to the law he can communicate this "back" to the government directly through a "I OPPOSE THIS LAW" communication (As an important aside, one of the biggest defects with modern politics is that citizen communication with the government is effectively a one-day event: election day) Any law where 30% or more of the electorate is so moved to send an "I OPPOSE THIS LAW" communication WILL NOT become law and must be revised or modified before it can be presented to the electorate again.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Humility (Kamran K): A "gut check" on Modern Hubris

(1) No matter where one turns one finds almost universal consensus that we now live in a modern moment representing astonishing advancement from the "way things were" a mere 30 or 50 years ago. When the comparison is extended to the early 1900 or 1800s, the descriptions of our collective "advancement" from these more primitive times expands to include even greater exaggeration.

(2) Quite little of this modern hubris has been earned and remains justified. The next four paragraphs will discuss the main reasons why the modern moment does not- in fact-represent any meaningful advancement whatsoever from humanity's condition in say 1980 or 1950 or even 1900.

(3) Access to most modern advancements remain outside the economic "reach" of the overwhelming majority of the globe's working men and women. With the exception of cheap smartphones, internet, and TVs, almost all modern advancements of note involve the expenditure of large amounts of money that working men and women simply don't have. At best, working men and women must dig deeper into debt to have but limited access to a modern advancement (of generally inferior quality) here and there. Fueled by deceptive and often false marketing, working men and women have (for decades) been chasing the dream that these "revolutionary" products supposedly offer only to discover that they've been left deeper in debt for doing so.

(4) Many modern advancements are, simply put, pains in the neck when the matter is considered honestly and in its totality. Consider, for example, the oft-cited example of the miracle of modern airplane travel. One can, it is put, "miraculously jump" from one part of the globe to another in 14 or 17 hours. This is true but does not "tell the whole story." this process not one HUGE pain-in-the-ass? Does it not involve a whole slew of fees and expenses one would rather not pay, and literally hundreds of inconveniences that one would rather not encounter? Does anyone enjoy getting to the airport three hours early, sitting in a cramped airline seat for hours upon end, jostled about in this tiny seat by air turbulence as one smells the body odor of a total stranger, waiting in a standing position at baggage claim for one's luggage, paying airport prices (read 3 times normal prices) for dull and unremarkable chicken salads and turkey sandwiches, enduring various delays and transition flights in airports that are confusing in their layout and chaotic in their freneticness?

What about the marvel of modern medicine? How easy is it to access these marvels? Even if one does achieve access, is it not the case that one usually has to bear a whole host of burdens to do so? Do not many drugs involve side effects one would rather do without? Do they actually cure rather than simply band-aid things over for a few days or weeks?

(5) Many modern advancements are simply advancements in size and technical power without corresponding enhancements in aesthetics or overall product design. Today's McMansions and huge SUVs are no doubt bigger and more powerful than the cars that roamed the roads in the 1950s and 1960s. But most artistic professionals have condemned these creations as lacking any artistic value or sense. From an overall design perspective, there is hardly anything in these things that represent a material design advancement from the way cars and large homes were made 30 to 50 years back.

(6) The evidence is absolutely overwhelming that modern advancements of all types are not generating higher order values such as human happiness, human cooperation, and human solidarity and enlightenment. Whatever the cause, the advancements are not delivering the types of experiences and achievements that the best human judgment over time has deemed to be of the greatest value. It does not matter how many supercomputers are churning away gathering billions of units of data, analyzing the info, and collating it into usable form. It doesn't matter how many millions of people will post pictures on social media attempting to portray themselves as happy by virtue of access to one of these modern advancements. The collective data never lies and the collective data is failing to show any meaningful abiding progress in human solidarity, happiness, justice, and enlightenement in the past 30-50 years.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Courage (Kamran K): Maintaining Personal Taste in a Sea of Conformity

"I call it 'design by checklist'
Step 1: Real Estate agent makes a list
Step 2: Marketing convinces people they need all the things on the list
Step 3: Build a box as cheaply as possible, fill it with the stuff on the list
Step 4: Sell people the box with the stuff"
tduds 2016
1. Tduds' excellent observations quoted above are generally correct but still could be supplemented on the margins. Step 1 should read "real estate agent makes the list with the sole goal of making as much money as possible from the future sale of the box." Step 2 should read "Deceptive fanficul non-fact based advertising and marketing convinces people they need all the things on the list and that any substitutes to the stuff on the list will not be tolerated." Step 3 should read "fill it with the stuff on the list purchased from 'Third World' factories paying subhuman wages to workers and violating numerous international environmental standards and treaties in the process." Step 4 should read "Sell people the box with the stuff @ the highest price possible. Afterward, convince them they got a great deal, usually by some comparison to some other sale at an even more ludicruous price." 
2. Supplemented or not, tduds' observations detail a process that effectively eliminates personal creativity, personal aesthetic choices, and personal functional preferences in the design not only of homes but all other major purchases (mainly cars and appliances). Whether because they are too busy to care or too duped by advertising and group-think to sensibly evaluate things on their own, people keep purchasing homes and other things that were never designed in line with one's true creative impulses and aesthetic needs and preferences.  
3. With but a few exceptions here and there, the things born from "design by checklist" are total eye-sores, largely devoid of true creativity and aesthetic charm and value. This is not surprising; no other result can be expected from the process tduds captures and titles "design by checklist." The entire process of design by checklist is one driven and focused on economic profit, modern marketing, and cost-effective manufacturing. The aesthetic values discussed above are not the focus of this process; if any aesthetic value results from this process it is accidental and a "gift from the Gods." 
4. Free persons focused on achievement of the human good will generally shun products resulting from design by checklist, particularly large-scale items such as cars, significant furniture pieces, and most-of-all expensive "cookie-cutter" homes resulting from this process. This does not mean that they will automatically reject these items all the time. Occasionally where the price is low enough they may gravitate toward these products as opportunities for creative enhancement with the addition of color, new materials, reconfigured design, etc. Or they will purchase these products when the product is mostly a functional item that is not in need of creative enhancement (e.g. trash bags, garden rakes, ladders).
5. All persons should realize what the truly free already know. One is free almost all the time to chose to reject some pre-configured conformist configuration of things in favor of some altered configuration that does justice to and allows the expression of one's creative impulses and personal aesthetic needs and delights. One is totally free, for example, to reject each and every "standard" configuration/color of modern home design in favor of some other configuration/color that appears to one to "work better" or be more pleasing to one's aesthetic sense or even simply offer additional convenience or reduced maintenance.

6. Within actual human communities, these choices require and demand the exercise of continual courage as "friendly" neighbors react with displeasure with one's non-conformist elections. One must have the courage to politely communicate to the whole world that one has every right and freedom to pursue one's aesthetic choices whether or not everyone else in the world "likes" or "loves it."

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Humility (Kamran K): More on Trial and Error

"Nature works in an unplanned way, by millions and millions of failures, trying to find one positive result which survives." H. Kohut

(1) Man's achievement of any sort of improvement- let alone perfection- must proceed through trial and error experiments. Many hundreds- if not thousands- of experiments must be undertaken week after week, month after month, year after year in ALL areas of life. The results of these experiments must then be carefully evaluated and objective facts confirming the success or failure of the experiment must be isolated and then weighed to determine the ultimate outcome.

(2) Arguably, for most men and women, the results of most trial and error experiments will end in error. Man is error prone and it is imperative that man take this humble realization with him everywhere he goes in whatever he does. Man's tendency to err is even greater when involved in trial and error experiments in areas of life outside one's comfort zone. Lest one think one can get away with not undertaking experiments in these areas at all, we submit that the undertaking of these experiments outside of one's comfort zone are the very foundation for the most meaningful sorts of human growth, dynamism, and perfectuation. Avoiding trial and error experiments outside of one's comfort zone areas assures with absolute certainty that one will not grow and develop into a mature dynamic human person. There is a cost to everything and inaction also carries a penalty.

(3) Lest one become dismayed at the prospect of having to conduct many trial and error experiments which will likely end in failure it must not be forgotten that man has many years and decades to conduct such trial and error experiments. And the good news is time is on man's side...

Let us assume in the average day some 15 experiments are initiated ranging from the most trivial to the most significant. Even if 12 of these experiments produce error or no positive result, this would still leave 3 successful experiments gathered from that day.

(4) Because man's life expectancy is fairly long, he has the chance to accumulate many hundreds of successful positive experiments- ranging from trivialities to the weightiest matters- as the years and decades unfold. Three successful experiments a day may seem puny but 1000 successful experiments in a year is impressive. Even more impressive is 10,000 successful experiments over the course of a decade.

(5) Man's mind is well-equipped to come up with ideas for new experiments, set up the parameters of the experiment, evaluate the information produced by the experiment, and then judge the ultimate success or failure of the experiment. All that is required is that one not become lazy and settled and continue- day after day- running more experiments.

(6) This is simultaneously the easiest and hardest of things.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Humility (Kamran K): Reflections on Orderly Ascension

(1) After the age of 20, men and women find themselves placed within reality with certain innate and developed talents, proficiencies, weaknesses (vices), or non-proficiencies. As the years and decades proceed, these positives and negatives may become greater, stay the same, or lessen.

(2) Whatever the cause, by the mid-to late 30s and certainly by the early 40s, men and women find themselves within reality saddled with many innate weaknesses as well as many developed-over-time flaws in character or weaknesses in proficiency. This applies to literally ALL men and women within reality. It is true that by this point a man or woman may have achieved spectacular success in some aspect of his or her career or some other aspect of life. Yet closer inspection of the totality of even these persons' lives reveal glaring weaknesses in proficiency or other malignant vices of character. Further, persons may arrive at this age simply having not developed at all some basic proficiencies or competencies. Many of today's youth- addicted from their early years to tech devices 24-7- now are unable to engage in semi-coherent face-to-face conversation with each other. They also struggle to complete basic chores of the simplest order.

(3) What is the path to ascension for such persons, for us all?

(4) Let us consider a "real world example" at this juncture. Consider the present situation of the Cleveland Browns. The Browns finished the 2017 NFL regular season 0-16. That's right. The Browns lost EVERY friggin game they played this year. 2016 was not much better; they won a single game. 2015 was also a terrible year with the Browns finishing 3-13. Thusly, the Browns have a 4-44 record over the past 3 seasons. Awful is over-used as a term but here it may be an understatement.

(5) Obviously the Browns should and are motivated to improve their performance in 2018. If they are not so motivated they are frauds and each and every one of them should lose their job. Assuming the Browns are fully motivated to improve next year, what does the Browns' path to ascension and eventual perfection look like?

(6) Would a Super Bowl championship in 2018 be a reasonable goal? Would a playoff appearance? Would a division title? Would a simple winning record be doable? Probably not as to all of these questions.

What instead would be reasonable is the Browns as an organization fully focused and fully energized on making the first incremental step-up from their current position: winning a single game in 2018. Until that goal is reached, no other goal should be the focus of the Browns as an organization. If and when that goal is reached, the Browns can  ONLY THEN alter their goal and become fully focused and fully energized on making the second incremental step-up from their 2017 position. That would be a second win. And so on.

(7) The human mind does not like being limited in this way. It wants to "dream big" and believe "anything is possible" within a short period of time. This is contrary to almost all fact and evidence as history amply proves HARDLY anything changes within a short period of time. Mind makes the terrible error of regarding the first incremental step-up from one's current position as too lowly of a goal for it to be fully focused and fully energized upon. This is a dramatic error mind commits to the person's detriment. Mind becomes distracted with illusions and fantasies of reaching far-out goals when the objective record is such that the person should be quite happy and quite pleased to reach the next incremental step-up. It is no shame on the part of the Browns to be thrilled with winning a football game in 2018. Their objective performance over the past three years is such that they are ENTITLED to regard even a single win as a great leap forward from their current performance. On the other hand, the Patriots would be considered insane to adopt the same attitude toward the winning of a single game. Everything is relative to your current position in reality and that position is a matter of objective record tied to irrefutable facts. You are what your record says you are. The reasons why you are what you are may sometimes not be entirely your fault; but you remain what your record says you are.

(8) Only as more and more positive results actually and objectively "come in" are persons entitled to revise their goals upward and set more ambitious goals. At each revision, the next goal selected should be the next logical step-up with no steps skipped in between. So for the Browns the following schedule of goals makes sense:
  • Win a regular season game. Once this is achieved, move to the next goal below.
  • Win 2 regular season games. Move to next goal.
  • Win 3 regular season games. Move to next goal.
  • Win 4 regular season games. Move to next goal.
  • Win 5 regular season games. Move to next goal.
  • Win 6 regular season games. Move to next goal.
  • Win 7 regular season games. Move to next goal.
  • Achieve a .500 winning percentage by winning 8 games. Move to next goal.
  • Make the playoffs. Move to next goal.
  • Win your division. Move to next goal.
  • Win a playoff game. Move to next goal.
  • Win two playoff games. Move to next goal.
  • Win the AFC. Move to next goal.
  • Win the Super Bowl.
  • Repeat as Super Bowl champions.
  • Establish a football dynasty.
For a person 75 pounds overweight, the goal should be to remain fully focused and fully energized upon the loss of a single pound. For a person unemployed for four years, the goal should be to secure a single job interview. For a person that is habitually messy and unorganized, the goal should be to organize and tidy a single section of that person's home or office area and keep it organized and clean for a week. For a couple that is always bickering and fighting, the goal should be to remain in peace with each other for an entire weekend. And so on. The goals selected are "realistically" reachable with some effort, non-trivial indications of progress, objectively measurable, and otherwise appropriate as goals for a human person. In baseball terms, what is being achieved is a simple single and NOT a game-winning grand slam.

It should be realized that each revision of one's goals upwards means one's performance and competence must improve to reach the goal. As goals get more ambitious, attention to detail and improvement in micro-areas becomes more and more critical to reaching the more ambitious goal. Ideally, this would mean at the revision of each goal one also sets some mini performance improvement goals which should naturally lead to the attainment of the goal. For example, the Browns could probably go from 2 wins to 3 wins by reducing the turnovers they commit in a season by 10%. The person dieting would lose the next pound by substituting sparkling water for Coke several times a week and so on.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Courage (Kamran K): Reflections on Persistence

(1) Over the past few decades, humanity has seen a catastrophic diminishment in the ability of persons to maintain attention span and persist in activities that require focused concentration. The causes are many but supreme among them is obviously the unprecedented addiction humanity has developed with their tech devices, gadgets, and "apps."

(2) One consequence of this loss is that so many persons now desire immediate results or profit from any activity they engage in. As discussed, human persons usually have no choice but to engage in trial-and-error experiment to successfully accomplish anything but the most basic of tasks (no trial and error is needed on whether one should stop at a stop sign).

(3) Immediate results are usually not "in the cards" for those engaging in trial-and-error experiment. What is much more common is the following sequence of events:

  • Trial and error experiment begins.
  • Failure or even no lack of observable progress is immediately seen.
  • Trial and error continues with some modifications to the original design or experiment.
  • Failure or even no lack of observable progress is still the predominant result but, for the first time, a ray or two of success is detected.
  • Trial and error continues even further, with many more intelligent modifications introduced to the original parameters.
  • Success now becomes the minority result, but a minority % that is now in the 30-40% range (rather than 3-4%). 
  • Trial and error reaches its last stages, with the final modifications introduced to the original parameters.
  • Success now becomes the dominant result, occuring most of the time. Only a small minority of outcomes from the experiment are of no value or, simply, failures.
  • One basks in the glory of one's achievement.
(4) Today many persons, particularly many young adults, believe that they can swiftly proceed from bullet point 1 to bullet points 8 and 9. They wish to completely skip and have no experience with bullet points 2 through 7. This is particularly because points 2 through 7 are not "fun" are not "glamorous" and do not yield material that one can "brag about" to one's friends and family.

The trial and error process imposes points 2 through 7 on persons as a test of their RESOLVE and overall character.