Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hard To Believe, Yet True

Despite the recent economic problems demonstrating that those in charge are not sufficiently competent and that our information is largely false, nevertheless it is likely that people will react to the statements in my blog with "this is hard to believe". Here is why they react that way:

Human beings start out in life with the impression that people in authority are competent.

This is because almost any parent knows more about the world and life than their children, at least until high school age (and usually beyond that). Just having gone through most life experiences before, gives a parent an overwhelming advantage in knowledge of the best course of action. And at home and in school, parents and teachers go to lengths to establish that authorities know best for everyone - because such an attitude is necessary for them to be able to effectively do their jobs.

So, human beings are all conditioned early in life, to believe that authority figures know best, and are competent at what they do.

And, for simlar reasons as the above, authority figures want to preserve this impression in the adult population, and go to lengths to give an impression of competence - using sales techniques and communication media to do so. This is why the lack of competence of most of our authorities and managers is not known to most people, and is rarely taken into account in any planning or overall philosophy.

Furthermore, the one thing that most hides the general incompetence of human beings in current human society, is their general competence in past eras that focused on the physical world.

In other words, it seems hard to believe that modern human society contains vast amounts of false information, because humans continue to survive, reproduce and flourish. However, that is because their methods of survival were developed over several millions of years, and are not dependent on any of the aspects of modern human society.

Consumable products are produced using the same basic methods, now instinctual, developed for hunting and gathering over millenia.

And, whenever an individual's or a group's survival is challenged, they stop their normal social interactions and activities, and focus on using their excellent human survival skills to correct the situation. Then, they go back to modern human activities.

Even in modern society, a human's basic requirements are food and shelter/clothing, the creation of which now occupies a small portion of the time of human beings. Thus, all the rest of their activities can be failures, and all their information be false, and as long as they have 3 meals a day, and can sleep in shelter, then the rest of their live can be represented as whatever the most successful propagandists of society say it is.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Myth of Rational Thought

Due to survival instincts, humans always:
- React to their immediate environment (this includes communications from other humans about events elsewhere)
- Think linearly about one thing that is the focus of their thought
- React emotionally based on survival instincts, NOTE that since this is instincual and emotional, it is NOT conscious and since the human mind is exceeding poor at examining its own behavior, no human ever realizes it is doing this. (In fact, examining one's own behavior and the working of one's mind would be exceedingly bad for survival, as it would be a constant distraction from reacting to the environment).

These things happen all the time - 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in average people, and in brilliant scientists.

The myth constantly being sold to people is that they react rationally to individual events in their life, and to larger events.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Masking Problem

The major problem of our time is that every solution is now paralleled by the advocacy of its opposite. This is because such advocacy leads to income (and/or power), even when wrong, because people are looking for solutions, and the advocacy of both sides prevents authorities from discerning which solution is a fraud, and which is a solution. Thus, the counter-advocacy itself operates to prevent detection.

This can come about not only due to fraud, but also due to well meaning, but inept problem solving, or else due to holding an "us" and "them" viewpoint that assumes that the opposite of "their" viewpoint must be correct (this results in the opposing viewpoint automatically being posited for any viewpoint of any group that is opposed by another group).

This same effect now also works to bury quality artists amongst a sea of "no talents", because these "no talents" simply mimic the "buzz" and "hype" that used to surround talented artists. One can now find endless enthusiastic rave reviews for artists having no talent whatsoever - which makes finding quality artists actually more difficult than in the days when access to the market was restricted.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Failure no longer matters

As the amount of communication increases, due to 24-hour news channels and the Internet, the ability to characterize the situation becomes paramount (as explained in my previous post).

So, the role of the media becomes ever more important, even as the number and type of media outlets also increases.

As major issues become more abstract and more complicated, it is more likely that neither the general public, nor the media themselves know the answers to the questions posed by these situations. So, the best presentation will always win out over the truth - because neither the public, nor the media can recognize the truth, so they can only pick the best presentation.

The classic current example is Bob Nardelli. Despite being a failure as the CEO of Home Depot, his superior salesmanship obtained him over $200 million in severence pay. He was then hired as the CEO of Chrysler, and you may have seen him before Congress, asking for a loan that the private-equity owners of Chrysler refused to give to Chrysler. (I do not want to get sidetracked into the issue of government bailouts, it's a far smaller issue than what I am discussing here.)

Another good example are stock brokers and finance journalists. After the "dot com bust" of 2000-2001, stocks that many, if not most, brokers recommended at over $100 per share, were selling for $25 per share. Did any of those stock brokers lose their job ? No - partially because brokerages make money on the commissions, not the value of your portfolio. But certainly those brokerages that charge extra for recommendations, did not refund fees, sack brokers, or even apologize for losing 75% of your money. In the recent stock market plunge of 2008, the situation has been the same.

But even more ludicrous is media reporting of the markets. When the price of oil recently climbed steadily for months to finally reach a peak of $147, journalists constantly tied every international political incident to the latest increase in the price of oil, as well as every weather event and minor refinery activity. When the oil price then plunged for months from $147 to its current $40, all the same geopolitical, weather and refinery events occurred, thereby automatically disproving all the previous reports. It turns out that as the oil price rose, more and more huge pension funds bought oil investment contracts, thereby raising the price purely due to increased investment, rather than anything having to do with physical oil use. When the price peaked, all the pension funds started selling their oil investments, and once again, the price plunge had nothing to do with physical oil use.

In a similar way, stock markets go up and down as an aggregate of millions of investors' subjective assessments. Every time the stock market goes up and down, j0urnalists come up with sound bite "reasons" - "the market was down today because investors were worried about...". In actuality, the stock market is the sum of a vast number of different transactions done for a vast number of reasons. And, careful investigation shows that other unreported factors are often the important ones. For example, in the Fall of 2008, on days of significant decline, which were reported by the journalists as "investors were worried about the latest ___ data", in actuality most of the decline was due to forced selling by large hedge funds that had to raise cash to give to clients who were asking for their money.

So, we have a society, where the most believable, attractive and convenient media explanation is generally accepted by the public as characterizing the current situation. The further we get from the concrete physical reality of previous centuries, the less truth is present in society.

In a post in the near future, I will explain how those concrete physical successes of previous eras actually lead directly to the absence of truth in today's society.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

We Cannot Recognize A True Answer

I'll start with one of the biggest principles of "why things sometimes don't work", which is also one of the biggest secrets of how modern society works.

Those who don't know the answer to a question, also do not know which proposed answer is correct.

Example : You are walking in a business district, and you realize that you have an appointment at 2 pm, but you forgot your watch. Two men are about to pass you, and you ask for the time. One looks at his watch and says " 1:50 pm " and the other looks at his and says " 2:05 pm ". Are you late ? Which is correct ?

You might guess that the man with the expensive suit and expensive watch might have the more accurate time, but on the other hand, my wife's expensive dress watch is always wrong, while I have had $10 watches that are within a second.

In society, it is not unusual for people to believe the "fanciest" person. A recent study showed that only 25% of the recommendations made by medical doctors have any basis in science whatsoever. But, most people have no way of judging the reliability and accuracy of medical information - any more than they can judge whether their auto mechanic or TV repairman is giving them an accurate diagnosis (assuming that they are not experienced in those fields).

When the question involves such a physical world reality as health or the time-of-day, then a trial and error process allows us to identify reliable sources of information in the long run. But when the question is about a more abstract topic or a more general area, then we often never know whose answer was really correct. Whether it is political leaders, corporate executives, or sports team managers, one cannot rewind time and test different options to see if they would actually have worked out better.

So, our society is filled with convincers, persuaders, salesmen, and marketing consultants, who tell us what is the "correct" answer to our questions. They give the impression of competence, and possess self-confidence, but in areas where there is no quantifiable physical data, that is all they can provide.

Controlling modern human society is about controlling the characterization of the situation.

People who are asking a question, do not know the correct answer, otherwise they would not need to ask. So, they have no real way of recognizing which is the correct answer.
Since human society has been so specialized for 10,000 years, individuals have been dependent on others' correct answers, but have no way to recognize them, until it is too late.

** Perhaps the biggest characteristic of human society is the DENIAL of this situation.

This also applies to the media, who thereby provide vast amounts of information that they cannot verify, since they cannot have expertise in all those areas. Since the entire media is depedent on this fraud, none of them can expose it (or even recognize it) without losing their livelihood. It would undercut the entire concept of the media, who are the only ones who could deliver the message, and so such an action is avoided by rationalizations like "well we do some good, so it is okay in balance".

The more recent media mental technique to avoid this conflict entirely is to "present both sides". This allows the media to avoid any assessment of truth, and allows them to continue in the communication business.

This relegates those issues to the condition of being a sports conflict, causing viewers to take sides, and thus truth is now determined by group affiliation, rather than facts. Thus we affilate ourselves with a group's characterization of the situation. Since those groups are aimed at acquiring influence and power, their characterizations of the situation are entirely formulated to appeal, rather than to be true. The more appealing characterization wins power.

Thus human society is moving towards control by the most appealing characterization of the situation (which is not necessarily the most positive, in fact the most negative usually is the most effective, cf triggering the fire alarm).

Why I am interested in truth, myths and human nature

As my first post, I wanted to talk about why I am interested in this topic.

Due to various aspects of my early life (most of which I won't bore you with), I have a strong interest in finding out the truth of things. I grew up in a very urban area of Los Angeles, and then, even though our family was not at all rich, I ended up attending Beverly Hills High School. So, at an early age, I was exposed to a wide range of human situations. Going to Beverly and knowing rich and famous people, cured me of any great ambition to be either. For example, in the 1970's, I had a friend who worked at Xerox PARC, who gave me a demonstration of the first PC mouse and Windows, prior to either Gates or Jobs having seen it. But, I never gave a thought to using this to my personal financial advantage, as they did.

Instead, I spent my time thinking about "the way things are", putting my attention into philosophy and metaphysics. At some point, I realized that any personal bias or viewpoint of my own would prevent me from finding any real truth, but merely what was appealing to me. So, I became vigilant against having any personal viewpoint while investigating how things are.
I think this has given me an ability to discern which philosophical and metaphysical arguments and systems truly reflected the actual world, and which did not.

I am far from the first person to do this, and I found that I did not have to "reinvent the wheel". The results of my investigations were that some philosophical systems accurately described the situation.

However, I also discovered that human beings consistently avoided doing what was clearly in their best interest, even when they were aware of it. They also commonly resist rational arguments, in favor of irrational emotional viewpoints. I kept coming across situations where even the most intelligent human beings refused to act like "people", i.e. rational intellectual beings.

Finally, I came across an explanation that quite neatly and elegantly described all the seemingly contradictory human behavior, called Environmental Psychology . Briefly, EP says that natural selection has produced human instincts that were the best survival characteristics during the past several million years, which were often quite different from the last 10,000 years of cities and civilization. So, we instinctively react and behave in ways that might have been best 100,000 years ago, but are not suited to modern life.

This led me to explore how EP affects human society, and other factors that cause human beings to act in irrational and counterproductive ways. I began to accumulate a surprising number of factors that lead to unsatisfactory outcomes in modern life. However, those same factors lead to humans failing to find accurate information that can help them. So, it would not surprise me if no one finds this information of interest, but I felt that I ought to share it with everyone, just in case it is of value to some. I hope to put it all together in a coherent book, but meanwhile, my 22 years on the Internet led me to first start this blog, so I can also have the benefit of your comments and thoughts.

I am pretty sure that everyone will find something amazing or even unbelievable in this blog, because a surprising number of everyone's accepted viewpoints are actually myths. But more important will be the general principles that might allow people to better understand how and why things are going wrong.

Again, if all that seems too negative, it is because I have found that the positive truths are not hard to find, but the truths of why things sometimes go wrong are more obscure.
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The Truth Is Not Out There by Kenneth Stuart is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.