Friday, December 9, 2011

Where passion meets purpose

What does it feel like when effort invested in vain? 

I will speak for me; I am frustrated, annoyed, hurt, disappointed. If there is seriously good reason then I can reconcile myself to the circumstance, actually, I usually do reconcile myself to reality since to do otherwise is to encourage ongoing depression and loss of fulfillment from life and with us only having one try at this trip we call life, I see no point in persisting with that level of self-destruction. 

A significant aspect of the issue is our selection of the challenge we set for ourselves. It is one thing to take up a shovel and dig a swimming pool in our backyard and something very different to personally and only with a shovel to set out to shift Mount Everest six feet to the left.  

This raises a common irritation of mine, the saying to pursue our dreams… I can dream of moving Mount Everest with a shovel, but it is fully beyond me. Hence our dreams need be in relation to our capacities and to the price we are prepared to pay. I think we instinctively do make that exact judgment call when we do set ourselves to dream and act to pursue that dream. When we do not, our friends look about for the strait jacket and nice men and woman in white coats. 

Immediately we are scoping the question of when and under what circumstances do we give up? Clichés abound … quitters never win and winners never quit … and we return to the challenge of using a shovel to shift Mount Everest six feet to the left. 

Judgment: But more, since the reality of our judgment embraces deep emotional choices of what we want for ourselves and how we seek to have our life express something more than the fact that we passed by, a fact rapidly dispersed by the multitude of spirits existing with us and following behind our existence all clamoring for recognition and self expression, circumstances where very quickly we shrink to a neural trace in mind of those to whom we were close, and then to less as the next generation merely notes our existence, if we are lucky, as a name on the family tree.  

My path: Was pressed hard on me many years ago, 1978, I was in New York on business. During the weekend I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. It had a display of artifacts from Thrace, an ancient society in the mountains to the east above Greece, today again a nation. 

The artifacts were remarkable, dating back to 1400BC (or BCE to be politically correct). Exquisite worked gold and other metal and wood utensils, jewelry, and ornaments. One however, caused me to stand for many, many minutes transfixed. It was a rhyton, a drinking vessel, in the form of a rearing stag; the wine was drunk from the mouth, the vessel filled from behind the neck. It was only a few inches tall, but was solid gold. The detail was remarkable; the eyes seemed to glow with life. It was from around 400 BCE.

Some unknown craftsman reached through time and touched me 2500 years later; an incredible legacy. They did not intend to, they merely did to the very best of their ability that which was in them to do. 

What was I doing with my life that had the slightest chance of reaching through time to just the generation after next, never mind 100 generations? 

Life can turn tiny moments that can define us.  

My only skill lies in ideas. 

I had just six years earlier completed my PhD in chemistry, and joined Shell Oil as a chemical sales representative. To Shell’s surprise and mine, I was good at it. They then opened up a position in their Head Office Personnel, as it was known then, as Training and Recruitment Officer. Again, to Shell’s surprise and mine I was a very good trainer. But during this stage, my scientific background generated questions on psychology, and human development and training etc. I had begun an extensive reading program five years earlier, and had begun the first steps at an extensive research plan in theoretical social science (although I did not think of it as that then, merely questions I was aiming to answer). 

My chemistry PhD had given me an intellectual orientation toward precision. I was then offended in my reading in psychology, epistemology, social philosophy, and sociology by the lack of conceptual precision and had a sense that it did not have to be all so statistical and conceptually loose.  

I had framed four questions in my notes:

§         If we had a complete and apt general theory of knowledge what would it tell us of knowledge and relationship knowledge makes with the objects of that knowledge?
§         If we had a complete and apt general theory of psychology what would it tell us of two people interacting?
§         If we had a complete and apt general theory of sociology what would it tell us of society and the development of society?
§         Given there is only one actor, people, what then are the necessary links between the first three questions? 

As I stood, for a long time, the curator approached me to ask if I was alright. I said no, and spoke to him for some length. He nodded, smiled, touched my on the arm and said ‘good luck son’. 

In the moment in that museum I committed to my path. 

The questions were vastly more complex than I realized then. 

I had a number of self-statements I used to guide my efforts.

§         I would not give a fig for simplicity this side of complexity but give my right arm for simplicity the other side of complexity.  Oliver Wendell Holmes. The final intellectual target, to have simplicity on the other side of complexity, but first need to define the nature of the complexity. 
§         The answer lies in knowledge, wisdom in the next question. Myself; used to ensure I always uncovered the next question so reinforced the demand for ongoing intellectual intensity.   
§         Never did it for the money, only ever did it for challenge, the money just proves you got it right. LJ Fisher, NZ entrepreneur. The final standard, get it right. 

In 1998 I had invested 20 years in researching and thinking and conceptualizing the issues embedded in the questions. I had read extensively, stretched myself to what I thought was my limits. I had fully defined the complexity that needed a solution but solutions that embodied simplicity, that bridged complexity, that I felt and sensed were ‘right’, eluded me.  

I took a long holiday, during which I decided to give up on my quest, after 20 years, this was in 1998, that I could not solve the complexity I had defined, I could not find the singularity, the simplicity. I then returned home and started to write a book on management, I already had five in the market… and early one morning a few weeks after returning from holiday, as my then partner lay in bed and I was writing on my desk by my bedroom window, I wrote down a theory of psychology I did not actually realize I understood and had developed, it just came out of my fingers, I can still see and feel the moment when I realized what I had just written down and it included a general theory of knowledge and causality. My relief was overwhelming. It was so emotional I let it sit on my desk for several months, I would pick it up and look at it, and put it down, still frightened of it. Going to extensive efforts to define questions that chart and illuminate a complexity then the dreadful realization that the answers to those questions are beyond you, this was perhaps one of the worst moments of my life. 

Solutions were not beyond me, they were however beyond my understanding of me.  I lost faith in me, I gave up, or at least I think I did … but serendipity gave me back to me. 

Finally I refined and formalized the ideas, drafting the ideas into papers at my web site Although reading them today, them are often crude in relation to the insight I have now and to my skill at presenting these often quite complex ideas in an easily read form, that is not accident, since I have for the last five or seven years been working hard at the skill of presenting complex ideas into simple readable form able to be read with ease and engagement by anyone interested, and moving beyond that, even making the ideas interesting and engaging to read.  

It was only when I begun to formalize the ideas that I grasped fully the extent of them. It was in effect a redesign of social science itself with core tenets, tools and processes all intertwined arising from key attitudes I had held and worked with for 20 years. The theories of psychology, knowledge and cause were emergent from the fundamental intellectual structure in a quite direct manner. 

OPD theory[1]: winning
1.       Leadership judgment.
a.       Build clear effective team game plan.
b.      Integrate the individual game plans with the team game plan.
2.      Leadership effectiveness: 
a.       Ask every person to make the choice to ‘turn up’ and do their bit as in their personal game plan, so contribute to the team success.

The chief issues of giving purpose to our passion are now sketched clear; they are largely emotional, related more to self-esteem and spiritual purpose than to rational strategic direction which can only give clarity to the deeper issues and provide articulation so that action can then follow with some precision. 

Let us assume the deeper issues are clear and settled in your heart. What then?

Think in terms of a ‘game plan’. A clear summary of what you need to do to achieve the ambition that rests in your heart. The detail will depend on the exact nature of the aim, it can be detailed or simple, but should be detailed enough to offer clearly defined easily understood steps. 

If you are part of a team and most of us are, then a personal game plan is derived from the expected performance in the team. 

The term ‘game plan’ is drawn from sport, where we all know and agree these steps and this reasoned clarity in advance is useful even crucial.   

Of course you need the skills to be able to do it. That goes without saying, and no point bluffing, if you do then very likely, if you are in a team someone else will need to cover your butt. 

The next thing is to ‘turn up’. In sport, we all know and understand exactly what this means. It is much, much more than just physically being there. It is being there with intent and purpose focused on the game plan. It is delivery of the action in the game plan with commitment. The game plan is the skeleton, the bones of the task with the task itself being our best judgment of how to get the greatest success. But it is us ‘turning up’ that gives energy to the bones, brings the skeleton alive.

It is turning up that gives passion to purpose.  

We do need to understand about bringing passion to our purpose; are the moments of truth, the moments where success is gained or lost, are they for brief weekly moments as in sport, or are they daily, six hours each day five and on half days each week? Or are they a few hours each week, where it is crucial to have good records of tasks, progresses and notes on the stage where one is at, and where discipline and patience needs support intensity and passion for a twenty year graft to get it right?  And even more subtle, are we clear on when to push and when to wait, when to walk away and leave it and when to return, in these questions there is seldom a clear reasoned answer, only experience can guide us, so if you do not have it, then seek it and listen. 

May passion ever move me but reason be my guide. 

Passion is our driver, find yours. It will lie beyond thought in the center of your spirit. Draw from it the clear aim for you, judgment so you pit yourself against realistic dreams for you.
Don Quixote had the right spirit, but poor judgment.  

You and only you can make your life meaningful for you. And the only meaning that will touch your heart is the one that you find and draw from your heart and make it real.

[1] OPD is the organization theory that emerges from applying the social science tools and fundamental theories of cause and knowledge and psychology to the question: How exactly is staff behavior linked to organization strategy? OPD is application of a fundamentally different social science to practical social question of how we make our organizations more effective in supporting community wealth and health.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Selecting economic policy based on science not ideological preferences

Karl Marx and Adam Smith dominate ideology. They did not perhaps form what today is referred to as left and right, but they do crystallize the distinction.

On the right, crystallized in Smith, is wealth best created in an open market, with control invested in ownership and the traditions of the society in the form of the political structures of the day which in the late 18th century in Scotland were invested heavily in the ‘rights’ of a landed gentry.  This ideology is often referred to as conservative.

On the left, crystallized in Marx (writing just a few years after Smith, in the early 19th century), was a view that wealth was best created by harnessing community resources in a deliberate manner, using centralized planning to achieve community wealth and thereby to the betterment of people, hence a position often referred to as socialism. 

Both Smith and Marx are accepted as social scientists.

The question addressed here is ‘were they?’ If they were not, then what status their ideas, and what status afforded the library of books written since on both sides? And yet more importantly, how do we know and judge the worth of their ideas? 

Before I discuss social philosophy I need declare a few basics on my own predispositions so that you know where I am coming from:
  • As a species we move forward, survive and deal with our environment via the ideas and understanding we have of it. The better the ideas, the more effectively we manage.
  • Each person is responsible for their own mind and ideas chosen and allowed to shape action. 
  • I believe in the nousphere of Tielhard de Chardin (note spelling as ‘sphere of thought’). The nousphere shapes us all, especially today with the emergence of the web as a tool in globalization of the nousphere, but very few shape it. In it emerges the long term best of us, with the worst of us embedded in it as sobering lessons we need never forget. 
  • I believe in the nousphere as humanity’s rudder.
  • I passionately believe in the right of each human spirit born into the world to seek and achieve its own fulfillment. The only constraint I assert is that in seeking one’s own fulfillment one must recognize and respect the right of each other to seek theirs, and our ethics need reflect this respect and acceptance. (This is why I oppose Islam, there is no ‘one way’, and no-one has any right to assert their way on anyone else, the Western religions for example, have regrettably historically been arrogant and  zealous as Islam is today, I cannot undo historical failings, but can resist the same mistake in others today.)  
  • I am fully committed to the ideas of Kahil Gibran that children come through us but are not of us, and they are of the most precious part of the world. Hence the youngest of our emerging spirits deserve the most love from us we can muster, but with love must first come nurturing offering understanding and insight whereby they may find their own fulfillment: No matter how difficult that may be for us…
  • I passionately believe it is the quality of our thinking that determines our individual and collective fate.
  • I passionately believe in reason as judge of the ideas we choose. We are not born with ideas; they are acquired tools, the practical apps to forge our spiritual fulfillment.
We come now to the central question, not which of the two ideologies do I most prefer, but which is most grounded in science, and on which can I most depend to deliver the result for me and for my children and friends? 

Which scientific social structure is the best set of ideas? Note the shift in terms, not ideology, but choice of scientific social structure. Ideology is selection of a preference, often carried out under the guise of science, but as I will show, there is no where globally, any set of ideas on social structure that even gets close to being science. 

I will also use the term social philosophy, please accept his term as scientific social structure plus the sort of personal philosophy I have summarized in the bullet points above which contains some points that can only be regarded as spiritual choices and hence personal. So I can have a different social philosophy from my neighbor, but we share the same scientific social structure as the core of our social philosophy. To make our choice of social structure we now need to consider some crucial aspects of science and how can we judge good science from poor science. 

Think of a box: Now imagine some sort of input into the box, and output from the box. What caused the output? Well, whatever happened to the input into the box resulted in the output from the box. In short the internal mechanisms of the box generated the output from the input. 

Now, imagine seeing inside the box, see part of the mechanism of the box, we can see that as another box (1), and there are more mechanisms inside this box (1) inside the box. Now imagine we can see into box (1), we can see part of the mechanism of box (1) as a box (2), and box (2) has more internal mechanisms that produce outputs from inputs. Now imagine seeing into box (2)….This box within box within … with each box having internal mechanisms I summarize as ‘there is always a mechanism’

We all understand necessity; it is something happening because it is not possible for anything else to happen. Mechanisms drive necessity; it is the mechanism of the box that makes ‘it’ happen (whatever ‘it’ is).  A car without brakes heading to a wall fifty feet away at 30 km/hour will hit the wall because there can be no other outcome. The mechanisms inherent in the system will result in the crash. 

We often have no idea of what the mechanism is, but know there is one, to assume that there is no box inside the box we are dealing with is to assume that the box we are dealing with has no form of internal mechanism that in any way influences the outputs. The assumption that there is no internal mechanism is a vast assumption, since at that point our learning about why the box does what it does ceases and growth of our knowledge ceases… now this could happen, but how will we know this is actually the state of affairs, it is counter to the whole of human history, that is just because we are not smart enough to ‘understand’ or ‘see’ into the box does not mean the question of the nature of the internal mechanisms of the box will never be solved by someone some time in the future. The safest assumption on our part, the assumption based on all human history to date, is that there is always a mechanism, even when we are not smart enough to understand it or ‘see’ it[1]

We now need consider the relationship between necessity and cause.  we can understand necessity and mechanisms in the equality: Necessity = operation of mechanisms. We can understand the idea of mechanisms, and that systems operate according their own internal mechanisms. So for example, we understand the solar system operating on the basis of its internal mechanisms, and given no external factor to interfere with that mechanism, we know the sun will rise tomorrow.

Frequently we do not know what the mechanism is, but that does not mean it does not exist. When we do not know what the mechanism is then frequently we are forced to use statistics and probability functions to predict the outcomes of some input.into the system. But, again, that does not mean the mechanism does not exist.

So within this, what is cause? 

The use of the term 'mechanism', I propose as referring to those internal operations of a system with those internal operations generating the outputs from the system. We could then use the term cause as referring to the internal mechanism. However,  I suggest that the term cause implies some level of understanding, so if we say what is the cause..., or the cause is...then we are seeking or referring to details beyond general and rather meaningless statements such as 'it is the mechanism'. Likely, we would get a rather determined reply, 'yea, what bloody mechanism?'

As used this way, cause is then knowledge, namely knowledge of the mechanism, so we can state that the cause of the sun rising and setting is the progress of the earth around the sun under the influence of gravity.

Necessity is not cause which is knowledge of necessity. So cause is our conceptualization of the mechanisms, it is our knowledge of the mechanisms[2]. In the case of the solar system, cause is our conceptualization of gravity, and the structure of the solar system, within the broader knowledge of physics of the universe.

Now, as a general point what should we think of any set of ideas that offer no understanding nor in any way grounded in any form of causality of what they aim to discuss? Should we use or apply ideas that have no substance have no foundation? Would you go to a mechanic to have you car fixed when you know they did not know anything about cars?  All sounds a bit silly.  

So what? … You may ask. Well, these underlying issues have everything to do with our experience of our social existence. 

Let’s start with the question of understanding group behavior, no matter how big the group. 

Picture your community as a box. Imagine various inputs to that box, an election campaign, a local tragedy, a tsunami or earthquake. How can we now understand the output of the box that is the behavior of the group? We all know immediately that each individual will have a different reaction to any of the events, mentioned, that the output from the box (our community) will be some summation of the action of each individual. We have a box, the community, within it many smaller boxes, the mind of each person in the community. So what does this mean?

Immediately it means the internal mechanism of a group lies in the mind of each person in the group. Put another way, there is no causality in a group; all group causality lies in the individual minds in the group.  

Where does that leave the ideas of Adam smith and Karl Marx? Neither of these supposed scientists made the slightest attempt to analyze the causality of groups, yet both made very large claims about group behavior.  People followed what these men had to say, in the ideological conflict millions died and millions suffered variously in social and financial deprivation. All based on ideas of suspect intellectual status… without any serious analysis of what is really happening in the box called society which generated the outputs of the box.

For either Karl Marx or Adam smith to have the sort of intellectual integrity I argue is essential then they both needed to state the following about their work: in the absence of a general theory of cause, which could alter everything I have to say, I (Karl Marx or Adam Smith) then speculate that…’  I suggest that had such a statement been made the ideas of both men would have been treated with much more circumspection, and maybe millions would not have died and we would have avoided the financial crash of recent times.

How do we then approach understanding of social systems? The model says we need consider the core causality. So we must stop grand sweeping statements on groups and focus on what happens in individual minds.  

If we clutter a mind with lots of regulation, rules and controls you cramp creativity. 

If we eliminate rules in mind then we allow for emergence of opportunism, self fish disregard for others, self serving conduct, greed and corruption. In this world we inhabit today, I do not believe we can depend on inherent or innate human goodness or generosity of ethics to moderate excesses and greed. 

So where are we left? Well politically we have learned, and the recent financial crisis reinforces this learning, that fewer rules encourages creativity but also encourages and enables greed. While excess of rules and enforced control of centralized economies controls greed but crushes creativity, and the control of greed is limited since centralization results in high levels of political privilege where again too many people are sidelined. 

Effective political policy needs move beyond ideological slogans such as right and left and capitalism and socialism or communism; we need a balance of rules in each mind that walks the difficult line between strong creativity and entrepreneurial drive, and moderation of exploitation, greed, and political privilege. Along this line lies economic justice. 

Under my social analysis and theory, there will emerge globally just one political structure that balances the best and worst of us, aimed at deeper social justice, based on better social theory and insight including insight into social causality, and benefits all more than any other system.  

I have used two terms that I suggest are core social and political issues, the first is economic justice, and the second is social justice. To these I add a third, economic growth. 

To deal with the last first, it is unquestioned that without wealth there is often lack of water, health care, food, poor housing, inadequate security, etc. A healthy community depends on wealth. Hence economic growth is crucial to provide infrastructure for communities. I suggest these linkages are universal. 

Once economic growth under way, then it needs to be felt by those involved. This is economic justice. It is crucial to understand the term economic justice goes way beyond the crude idea of redistribution so familiar in socialism. Individuals need feel a sense of fairness. Owner, entrepreneur and employee must feel it is fair. Although likely none will state so, but it must be such all can live with it without violence and within just rules of dispute. 

As part of the exchange between organizations, work, and communities we need better economic justice, so salary gaps must be reasonable, directors and governance need commit to the communities that the organization serves, and must stop seeing the community as serving the organization. We must reduce privilege and jobs for the boys, when more capable people sit idle. And it is not profits that need be of greatest concern, but ensuring the wages, salaries and expenses go into the communities. It is unions (organized labor) that offer the pressure to balance excessive profit extraction, ensuring staff gain their share since they do indeed create much of the profit. 

We need much better insight into the framework of rules that best enables economic creativity without enabling greed and selfish, self-serving conduct.  Walking the ethically thin line to forge policy to curb the worst of us and draw forth the best of us. And in finding that line every nation can learn from every other, there is no right or left, but the policy line that most effectively balances the emotional forces and competing ideas and wishes within each of us. 

If any policy will not work in your mind then very likely it will not work in anyone else’s mind either.

Finally social justice, the extent the social structure (legislation) treats people fairly.  The social structure is the framework of rules and laws, it is this that must fall equally on all people with no group of people either excluded or privileged by the rules.  In particular no race or religion should be specified in the rules of the social structure. 

Given the liberal western philosophical foundations to my values as I stressed early in this article then I would seek the rules of the social structure to respect the right of each person to seek fulfillment.
We have then the conclusions in relation to seeking rigorous intellectual foundations to our economic and social philosophies.

  1. We need rules that limit greed and encourage creativity. To the extent all people are emotionally similar, with culture is less a factor than often claimed, it is likely that countries can learn from each other as they experiment to find the set of rules that balances economic creativity and greed.
  2. We need test rules not in relation to grand ideas of how groups may react, but in terms of how individual minds may react and see any rules as a necessary balancing force between conflicting emotions.
  3. Economic justice is for both the successful and wealthy and those not. We need better insight into ownership, obligations of governance to commit to communities, limitations on the range of salaries payable to employees, restriction of privilege arising from relationships, and balance of power so that employees feel able to counter the power of employers. Exploitation is not acceptable in any circumstances. Dividing wealth does not create wealth.
  4. We need legislation where every person feels able to pursue their own path, free of direction from anyone, where none are advantaged or disadvantaged.
These things seem to me as necessary; these things have nothing to do with left or right, socialism or capitalism or communism. All of these terms are passé; they never were effective thinking about the sorts of social circumstances we need that will serve everyone. 

Social system based on economic growth, economic justice, and social justice within a sustainable economic framework that does not destroy the environment. We need move away from old ideological catch cries and supposed divisions, and build better more effective rules as the basis of a fairer and more balanced society.

I believe in social structure that treats everyone as equally important, if you do not believe this then indeed we hold different social philosophies and I would be your political enemy.

[1] Modern quantum theory assumes a photon as a point particle and hence has no internal mechanism. This is a big assumption that necessarily leads to probability for predicting the outcomes of the photon. And while this gets excellent numerical results, the view of knowledge and science offered here raises question on whether probability is the actual state of the universe or is merely the tool that gets results and eventually someone sometime will solve the question of the internal mechanisms of photons. A second key point is that if we have theory that assumes photons have no internal mechanism, and that theory gets good results consistent with empirical evidence then we are likely not to look very hard for the internal mechanisms since we would be looking for something we do not think exists.
[2] This in the only analysis that separates cause and necessity, and this separation is essential if we are to understand both.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Only we can do that.

S&P downgrades America. We take them seriously. Reaction sets in, and we inflict economic pain on ourselves.

The rating agencies also classified packets of junk mortgage bonds as AAA, we believed them and bought the bonds. Then when the bonds crashed, in the Inside Job narrated by Mat Damon, we are shown those same rating agencies sitting before a senate committee stating that their ratings were merely a judgment and they could not be held accountable for what people do with that judgment. And we don’t think these people unreliable rogues. We really think that because some bunch of manipulative over paid ass holes do a downgrade of some mythical 'rating' that the sky is about to fall.

Yes, we need understand there is no one somewhere else looking after 'society', if we do not do it, then ... Which means self-serving political positions, where I deserve the money not them, needs cease, only we can do that.

Yes, as succinctly put by China, the debt time bomb needs defused, not merely have its fuse lengthened. Which means our standard of living is likely to slip since we need live within the means of the economy. Some one somewhere is going to have to go without, those decisions are political, but if a function of crude self-serving pressure group politics, without reference to a greater social whole, then where goes Greece, Spain, and Italy, then so goes Australia, New Zealand, and USA. We need better personal political economic balance. Only we can do that.

Yes, we need put a lid on rampant welfare that is accepting that people need take care of themselves, that there is no endless pile of money somewhere that we can dip into to save them. This means we need accept stretching of wealth inequalities, for to crush inequality is to crush from our society the creative thrust to build a bigger cake. We need eliminate envy as a driver of social actions, and to teach our children from an early age these social realities within which they will grow into adults. Only we can do that.

Yes, we need manage fairness as an aspect of social relationships. But we need accept inequalities of wealth come with our individualism, and social freedom. We need accept freedom is not a ‘thing’; it is merely the opportunity to discipline ourselves, and not have discipline imposed on us from without. We need better self-discipline in relation to our place in a vision of the whole society. Only we can do that.

There is no causality in 'society'. It is just a 'bucket term', that catches and collects the conduct of us all. In New Zealand, we need learn that we are each one 4 millionth of 'society'. We need beware of losing our sense of social responsibility due the scale and the minute level of that responsibility. For those in positions of influence - teachers, judges, business leaders, church leaders - if we do not exhibit the balance and deeper concerns that go beyond our immediate desires, then do not expect anyone else to so exhibit it. Perhaps the revolution has finally begun in NZ when that rogue finance company director was thrown from a Parnell Bar by a bar patron pissed of with the show of wealth by the director when he had caused serious financial pain to thousands. The revolution consolidated when the courts froze private assets of another rogue when he tried to slip off shore. May we all have such courage to live such ethics to the betterment of our society. Only we can do that.

Only we … only we … and if we don’t … then may your God help our grand children for clearly we were not able to.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A society needs rules

For several centuries a thread through Western thought has been a search for utopia. The perfect place of perfect people. In From Dawn to Decadence Jacques Barzun devoted a section called The Eutopians to this theme and those who wrote on it. A common link is most writers regarded some 'natural' state of people as closest to the perfect state, and implication bought out later by Rousseau, where every where we are in the social chains. Not perhaps fully a pure 'noble savage', but on that side of any ledger. All this effort is little more than the passionate longing of deluded men.

Two questions dominate and overpower any such discussion.  First, does a society need rules? And second, what exactly is freedom?

Let us deal first with science and the sometime suggested failure of social science to address issues of human ethics parallel to physical science addressing the many advances as it has. This apparent failure is of course nonsense, does any one seriously think Julius Caesar did not understand respect, compassion, honesty, integrity, discipline, and commitment. What can any science tell of those very human issues, I would suggest the Minoan civilization of 10,000 BC knew as much of these human frailties as we know today. Science is not needed to tell us how to act with dignity, truthfulness and respect, we already know that.

To live by transparent ethical principles positioning oneself on the basis of principle not immediate opportunity is hard and takes courage. The problem is not that we do not know what to do, but that we do not have the courage to do it, or we wait for the other person to do it first. Science cannot give us courage that is something we need find in ourselves.

If our 'natural state' is lack of courage to decline immediate opportunity if it breaches ethics to which we are committed, or lack of courage to manage our immediate internal states of feeling, putting them aside with reason and self-discipline - if this be the natural state of the 'noble savage' then what becomes of society if not a free for all serving few and they the most aggressive.

I can hear the riposte, what of ancient tribal societies that did not collapse due internal violence? The key is 'tribe', the closeness of association, this then the governing factor moderating the behavior of the individual. Our society is best considered a multitude of such tribes, with the internal working of each according to mores of the tribe, but that one tribe may have very different views to another.

Complexity and scale breeds local association, there is loss of association to the whole, we know of it, we understand it, we live in it and accept what it can provide, and within the common structure of law we are free within it.  We understand all of that, and most of us would act with good sense in relation to this whole, but there are major and very significant exceptions as testified by rates of violence, robbery, the seeking to force some particular point of view on others despite that the view is legal and legitimate (not the least was the liberalization of the financial rules recently and the move by many to take dramatic advantage of that opportunity). 

Does a complex society need rules, yes, we best all drive of left or right, the choice does not matter provided we all do it.

Does a society need rules, yes, we need moderate tendency of some to act in a violent manner when faced with actions of others they do not accept and do not agree with, despite the actions being legal.

Does a society need rules, yes, we need moderate the actions of those with power and privilege and limit their ability to use that power and privilege in ponsy schemes, or insider trading, or  manipulation of financial rules so that senior officials are able to secure extreme incomes at the expense of those keen to progress but with less vision and lower support and resources.

If a society needs rules, then we can deduce we need people to manage and moderate the rules according to social mores and expectations (legislature). We can deduce the need for some one to ensure adherence to the rules (police and ethical standards committees of professional associations). We can deduce the need for some way to assess whether rules were broken and to reprimand and punish appropriately (judiciary and again ethical standards committees of professional associations). Finally we of this society need someone to negotiate with those of other societies, such that both can benefit without war and bloodshed (executive of government).

Society needs rules, needs a whole heap of social processes to make rules, rule making and rule enforcement effective. (We tend to call this the political processes, but it goes rather deeper than the obvious politics of the state).

In modern plural and complex society the 'noble savage' may exist within their tribe but we have a mountain of evidence that proves (scientifically) that the noble savage does not exist as the common state of humanity in the greater social structure. The very idea is scientific nonsense, was even intellectual nonsense without the scientific data verifying it is nonsense. 

Social science has given us an exact answer,  we need courage to act according to transparent principles beyond ourselves and our immediate concerns/opportunities. At one time it was thought religion provided this ethical structure, but today we need get far beyond what religion is able to offer, we need find in ourselves commitment to build a utopia here now, one for our grandchildren to inherent so they will look back and say 'well done grandad and grandma'.

What then is freedom?

All societies need rules if it is to function at all, not just function effectively or efficiently (this is the key point those pursuing ideas of utopia completely missed). Living within rules demands discipline to adhere to the rules. Discipline then either comes from within or is applied from without.

Freedom is the privilege of being able to discipline oneself. The person truly free is chained to their ethics and principles which locates them within the rules, while acknowledging the right to legally challenge the rules.

Meanwhile the rules and their forced adherence will continue to be required even intensified until we learn to be truly free.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Why did that happen?

Causality is why.  

Causality goes back to at least Aristotle around 350BC. So we humans have been grappling with the question of ‘why?’ for near 2500 years.  Along the way everyone has had a go, think of any philosopher you can name, it is nigh certain they had a go at the problem.  Einstein spent heaps of efforts on the problem of causality; partly due he was never satisfied with the probabilistic interpretation of modern quantum physics. The quote God does not play dice is not accurate, but it is well known… it depends if he intended it as a real serious comment or he made a throw away like ‘Damn it, Niels (Bohr that is) God doesn’t play dice’…which does place a different slant on the issue. 

Then along came David Hume, around 1750AD, who showed conclusively that because the sun rose yesterday and the day before etc, it is no reason to state conclusively it will rise tomorrow. He showed us we need to separate ‘cause’ from ‘causal expectation’.  We have heaps of causal expectation, but seldom if ever is it cause, which is why we get astounded when our teenager acts with poise and respect.  It is so unexpected, where on earth did that come from we think. 

Actually the problem is vastly easier than one thinks, well, like all things it is when you have the answer. Let’s stick with the issue of the sun rising and setting.  No doubt at one time it was a function of the gods, but we are a bit beyond that. We know about gravity, we have various rules and theories that tell us quite exactly what is happening in the solar system. So, we have mathematics and models and theories that predict with great accuracy the events in time sequence, in short we know the ‘mechanisms’.  And because we know these mechanisms, and how these mechanisms[1] work and interact etc, then we can predict with great accuracy not only that the sun will rise but exactly at what time it will rise and at any given point on earth. There is one proviso, namely that there is nothing that will interfere with the operation of the mechanism.

What exactly have we done to come to this obvious and quite simple revelation that 2500 years of philosophers have grappled with?

Think of a box; now place the solar system in total in the box. The sun rising and setting is then an output from the box. We can now say that it is the mechanism inside the box that results in the outputs of the box.  Presto, cause in a box. 

Let’s get bit more technical. Let’s now call our box a ‘system’, and let’s make it a closed system, so that nothing from outside the box can impact what happens in the box. Let’s think of a TV, they are definitely black boxes to me, I tweak knobs and presto, I get pictures and sound etc. why? Well, the pictures and sound etc are outputs derived totally from the workings of the mechanisms inside the box. I tweak knobs, and the quality and volume, intensity etc, change and I adjust things to suit me.  Remember this is a black box, I do not have a clue what is happening inside the box, and nor do I need to.  I discuss this in much more detail here[2].

To get fully technical, the outputs of any system depend on the mechanisms internal to that system. Once we understand those mechanisms we can then predict the outputs given the system is closed, and nothing from outside will alter the functioning of the mechanism.  

The universe is a closed system; we don’t actually think there is anything outside it so we are reasonably confident that everything that happens within the universe depends on the mechanisms within the universe. The effort of trying to work out what those mechanisms are and how they work we call science. 

Is this cause? Good question. 

No, it is not.  It is the mechanisms… not cause. That sort of does not take us further ahead. So let’s drill deeper.  Imagine we have a black box; say for me a TV set. I know I can do all sorts of things and get different results by twiddling the knobs. Now let us say I did not know it was a TV set, I did not know what it was, only that by twiddling knobs or their equivalent I get different results.  But I also know that all outputs of the box are generated by the internal mechanism of the box. Do I know cause? No, I know about mechanisms, they exist in the box; they are unknown to me since by definition we made it a black box. The mechanisms work according to their own internal forces, under their own steam, and given no external interference result in the outputs of the box.

Someone then gets sharp, and takes the lid off the box and begins to explore aspects of the mechanisms in the box, and slowly is unraveled the miracles of the box, through careful scientific endeavor we learn the mechanisms and can write them down. 

So what do we have now? We have in the Reality[3], the mechanism, which we have conceptualized into formal sequence, perhaps mathematical, or electronic diagram or details of how a seed germinates. We now have something in Reality, some mechanism, and our conceptualization of that mechanism. And if the conceptualization is sufficiently precise[4], then we can indeed manipulate it to produce outputs more to our preference, what ever that may be. 

The conceptualization is knowledge; precisely it is conceptualization of the mechanisms.  We know the mechanisms drive all the outputs, so we know that the mechanisms are the necessity of the system which operates according via the mechanisms, which in themselves have their own internal necessity.  So, ‘mechanism’ equals ‘necessity’ in Reality, in fact the two terms are quite interchangeable, since ‘necessity’ refers to the ‘mechanisms’ of a system that result in the outputs of that system, hence mechanisms implies the necessary operation of the system resulting in outputs[5]. Things happen due their own inherent mechanisms with or without our understanding.
In my paper I also show how ‘there is always a mechanism’, and gave detailed definition to this proposition I called the ‘universal mechanistic postulate[6]’.
We know nothing that is not knowledge. If we have no knowledge of something we do not know it, we can have senses and feelings about something, but this is strictly knowledge of how we feel and is not knowledge on the object we feel about. 

Therefore what we know of cause must and can only be knowledge. So we can never know necessity, we can only know our model and approximation to the mechanism, and this approximation to the mechanism I call cause. 

The conceptualization of the mechanism is our knowledge of necessity which I define as the cause. 
The mechanism just is … cause is our understanding of the mechanism. So we can say with precision we know the cause of the sun rising and setting, and given our knowledge of the immediate vicinity of the solar system, so we know there is nothing to interfere with the causal analysis, we predict with great certainty exactly when the sun will rise over Karikari Bay and Rangiputa[7].  

Closed system are great and easy, so we understand mechanism, and conceptualization of mechanism, that there always is a mechanism… it all ticks over just fine provided there are no external circumstances that will interfere with the workings of the mechanism. Let’s make it a bit more complicated, let’s make it that the internal workings inside the box depend on the circumstance of the box. 

So, our teenager acted with poise and respect because an old friend was visiting and our daughter really fancied our friend’s son who came visiting with his mother, unwillingly, but they were from out of town and he could nothing else. And clearly during the visit he fancied our daughter, which we and our friend had really hoped for.  

It can never pay to assume that the mechanism of any black box is not influenced by the situation of the box. It is perilous to assume that the outputs of any box are independent of the environment.  All a bit esoteric one may think who would make that assumption. Well, a theoretical physicist does, it is assumed in quantum theory that photons are point objects with no internal mechanism, so by definition cannot be linked to the environment. 

We put some such particle into a two slit environment, then single slit environment etc, and then we wonder why we get different and contradictory results, it would seem. Waves and particles, which is it? … Why does it have to be either, maybe it is just the assumptions we are making about the lack of internal structure, and that the internal structure is actually linked to the environment. 

What if our friend’s young man was nerdy and really awkward… would our daughter have acted the same way? Not that there is anything wrong with nerds, Bill Gates has told us to be nice to them, likely we will end up working for one. But we know our daughter does not enjoy them …

It may seem a stretch to move from people to elementary particles, but from a scientific stand point that is wrong, both are merely systems, with mechanism dictating their outputs.

The real comparison is that we can assess both people and elementary particles using the same intellectual tools. From that conceptual stand point both are just systems… and we can apply the conceptualization tools to both systems, in exactly the same way. It is wrong to mix science up with other beliefs, it is wrong to argue and claim that in some manner social science is different in principle from physical science: It is not.
There is just one intellectual process that for now can use two clearly defined tools, one is mathematics, and other are the tools of ultimate and immediate effects of W Ross Ashby coupled with his process of primary operations. Both tools lead the key intellectual process, which is precisely the conceptualization of the mechanisms so that we build causal models of systems. That is what science is about; at least that is what it is about under the model of knowledge sketched here. There is no physical and social science, just science, same intellectual tools, same goal. 

Once we have a causal model we can then of course use our understanding to tweak system toward our preferences, just like tuning the TV.  

There are many questions, such has what happens when we apply the tools of conceptualization to the system a person in their environment, and what exactly are these tools of conceptualization, can anyone learn them, and how do we know when the tools have been applied rigorously, and what is being offered is good versus what is being offered is just some person seeking their moment of fame…?

These questions and many others must await further blogs.

[1] See the paper Little, A model of knowledge and tools for theory creation

[2] Little,  Perception and a general theory of knowledge,

[3] Use of term Reality to specify that which exists beyond our perception, in this discussion then we can say that Reality is the name we apply to mechanism that we may or may not understand, but that are always present.

[4] It is not a topic here, but this position makes absolute nonsense of any suggestion that science is cultural bound or dependent in any way on the point of view of the observer. 

[5] This model of knowledge has it that the lowest level of knowledge and understanding are black boxes which encapsulate our ignorance of the internal structure, hence ignorance of the links those black boxes make with the environment or with other black boxes. At this epistemological level the only tool we can use is statistics, and any outputs from any system built at this level will appear random and probabilistic.  It is worthy of note, that the assumption that quantum particles, such as photons are assumed in the theory to be points with no internal structure, with this model of knowledge then it should come as no surprise that the outputs are perceived as probabilistic. 

[6] Little, A model of knowledge and tools for theory creation

[7] I am a New Zealander, look it up. Google will do. It is a really beautiful spot by the way; I camped there for six weeks each summer for 20 years, and my children joined me each year. My spirit belongs to this area, and I will have my ashes spread on the beach so for eternity I know I will reside in peace and contentment.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The cycle of birth and rebirth

It is commonly accepted the universe began with a ‘big bang’.

The interesting question is ‘what was before the big bang?’ with the ancillary question ‘where did the singularity come from?’ In this note I address both questions based on largely accepted propositions in science, with the addition of several speculative propositions.

The second law of thermodynamics gives us entropy and the tendency of entropy in closed systems to increase. Entropy is associated with randomness, but more recently described as the tendency of closed systems to seek the lowest energy levels available.

Proposition 1: A closed system moves to the highest level of entropy that is the lowest level of energy available to it.

Proposition 2:The highest levels of entropy in the universe are found in black holes.

The bottom of black holes are the lowest temperatures in the universe with minimal to zero vibration. Approaching the bottom of a black hole from a 'random' point of view, then it is random in the sense of a crushed motor vehicle is random, none of the functioning parts are in appropriate relationship,and the details of the crushing are not predictable, with the parts ending up in random relationship. What can be said to be fully crushed in a motor vehicle is its functionality, that is no part of the vehicle is in an operational relationship with any other part. The same can be said of all that falls into a black hole.

Proposition 3 is that the universe is a closed system.

Therefore energy and matter in the universe will tend toward the bottom of black holes.

Now speculative propositions 4: Space-time depends on matter for support, and in the absence of matter space-time collapses: 5, that a singularity is formed only when space-time collapses in on matter in a black hole: 6, Matter-space-time singularities are unstable and explode at the moment of formation.

At the moment the last support for space-time ceases, the last piece of matter falls into the black hole taking space-time with it, so is formed a singularity which explodes and the cycle is renewed.

Evolution guides everything between consecutive singularities.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The abuse of science

At a recent conference in New Zealand people used the idea that science is a culturally bound set of prejudices; ‘science’ is just a point of view. There are a number of complex issues behind the idea of culturally bound science.

  • What exactly is the relationship between knowledge and the object of that knowledge?
  • What exactly is happening when we perceive? 
  • What exactly is the structure of ‘science’ as a subset of all knowledge, and how do we define ‘science’ relative to all other knowledge?

A second major consideration is the one empirical event exploring these issues. In 1996 Professor Alan Sokal (then Professor of Theoretical physics at NYU) presented a paper to a prestigious social science ‘cultural’ journal where he argued the link between consciousness and quantum variability. On being published Sokal dismissed his own paper as a hoax suggesting the editors were self-serving publishing ideas they wanted to believe. There was an immediate furor.

Karl Popper established that to disprove the proposition all swans are white one only needs to find a single black swan. Unfortunately a significant section of academics choose to ignore this Popperian proposition. The Sokal result was sweep away in a flood of political posturing. Now a single event in issues this complex is never definitive. But, accepting Popper, a single event is enough to cause one to question.

An overall balance of thinking on science today is that there is an objective world we perceive through multiple points of view (including cultural viewpoints). By rigorously combining points of view we ‘see’ more clearly the objective world (what I call the ‘five blind people and the elephant’ problem).

Now, for people at some local conference to argue against ‘western’ science is silly enough, but to do so without reference to the complexity that lies behind the idea is a complete lack of intellectual integrity that must be condemned.

Unfortunately this pseudo science is done most by groups seeking to serve themselves, using it to support what is usually a weak case in the first place.

We need dismiss this shallow self-serving intellectual nonsense. Then get on with the real task of carving our way in a world that does not give a toss, and building the wealth and hence health of all citizens in our society.

Toward a fair society

“All animals are equal but some are more equal than others".George Orwell's brilliant satire focused on the world's oldest political problem:How to create a fair society.

We do not know what to do.

But we do know what not to do. George Orwell showed us in his clear and accurate language.Changing one set of pigs for another does not solve the problem merely perpetuates it from another point of view.We must not allow for more pigs.

Toward those feeling aggrieved who do not understand that making them the pigs will not correct the social problem, we need restraint and patience. Insights take longer in some, but come eventually.Making the current aggrieved the pigs may satisfy their tensions, but will inevitably give rise to other tensions which will eventually have their political expression.

We need to draw a line through today and determine firmly the past is past.

Where grievances are legitimate then reparations are due.

But, we must not codify the pig mentality. To codify inequality in law is not to correct mistakes of the past but to continue them.

All laws must fall equally on all citizens.

Not indigenous rights, but citizen’s rights.

Maori culture is seriously lacking in depth of social and political experience.For example, Thomas Beckett was murdered on the steps of Canterbury Cathedral around 1160 that is before the Maori arrived on these shores. The murder of Thomas Beckett consolidated movement toward separation of church and state, something today we take for granted, and also enabled Henry VIII to move against the Church of Rome with impunity.

The ‘barbarian’ tribes of Europe only offered compliance to Rome and were never subjugated. Their spirit has driven the West for over 2500 years and how we think today is a product of that movement. The fight for freedom and the multi-religious structure created by Henry VIII lead to individual freedom of worship which again, today, we take for granted.

Race in legislation does not work, leads only to the new marginalized taking up arms. We ignore this depth of social and political insight at our peril.

We need understand that our social structure is a liberal, plural democracy within which all have the right to freedom and fulfillment. 

We need understand that within the law we may live as we choose, many cultures expressing our commitment to the right of our neighbor living as they choose despite we do not approve.

For the sake of a better society for our grandchildren and great grand children we need create a legislative platform of equality.

The Maori seats must go.

When science isn't

There is a long history to questions of mind; it could begin perhaps with Socrates, who focused on the spirit as the only real object. Husserl explored intentionality, while Descartes tipped the issues into a cauldron of doubt culminating perhaps with Bishop Berkeley arguing it is all illusion corrected by some wag who said but God is always about so the world always is.

This is just so much imaginative poppy cock.

The rule of strategic thinking in science says that topics must be considered only within the framework of their ground, and only then in relation to the understanding as it exists of the issues of ground and that discussions of any topic if it is to remain intellectually rational must not go beyond the bounds dictated by the available
answers to the issues of ground.

What does that mean for social science, say, phenomenology? That any and all discussions of phenomenology relate to human psychology, and any and all discussion of phenomenology must be related to a general theory of psychology which identifies the causal issues underlying our psychic processes and the sum total of our psychic existence.  Any discussions on our existence not related to a general theory of psychology must be regarded as nothing more than speculation; not science, not even effective rational intellectual effort.

Real intellectual effort must be bounded by what we know and work to the edge of what we do not and need to find out, beyond that it is imaginative fiction.We do need a place to start, it is exactly the same as building a house, without solid foundations…well, I am sure you know the rest. The serious starting questions are as follows.

  1. If we had a complete and thorough general theory of epistemology, what would be its structure and what would it tell of actual knowledge and it relation to the objects of that knowledge?
  2. If we had a complete and thorough general theory of psychology what would be its structure and what would it tell us of causality behind actual mood and conduct in actual situations? 
  3. If we had a complete and thorough general theory of society what would be its structure and what would it tell us of causality behind actual societies in actual situations? If we had a complete and thorough general theory of cause, what would it tell us of causality in all the above situations and theories?
  4. What is the relationship between all answers to the above questions?

The answers to questions 1, 2, 3, and 5 are all at The theory of society is drafted, but not yet available. Taking this platform, I will now offer the summary answers to the above questions of phenomenology.

One of the greatest failings of virtually all social science with phenomenology as the perfect example, is the failure to distinguish between a variable and it values. For example the so called hard and easy problems of consciousness. Consider a pendulum; it is described by time being equal to a constant multiplied by the square root of the length over the gravitational constant (which is not quite constant). Now, what is the period of the pendulum in Timbuktu? Well, you ought to say, how can I know that without going to Timbuktu and measuring the length? Exactly! Length is the variable describing the system, for any actual example the value relative to the situation must be measured and then inserted into the theory to calculate that which the theory is able to describe.

Now imagine a complete and accurate general theory of psychology: what will it tell us of two people conversing in Dubai, Beijing, Mumbai, or Rangiputa? The issue is exactly the same; the theory can only describe and direct attention to the variables that are operational in describing the system under study, in this situation two people conversing, to describe the system it is necessary to go the place to measure values of the variables and insert them in the theory to gain that which the theory is able to describe.

All science is constrained, consisting of only variables and their relationships. Once the values of variables are selected it is no longer science; rather it is descriptive (normative) of actual situations. The easy problem of consciousness is fully solved with a theory of variables and the relations between them that describe the system under study.

The hard problem of consciousness…what is it like to be?...has to do with the values of the variables, not the variables or their relationship. For human kind, the so called hard problem of consciousness is fully resolved in literature, poetry, and song since these literary activities all largely seek to describe living experience: But, this is not science, and should science try to go there it need don the cloak of writer and poet, not scientist.

How ideas exist is the topic of a paper, and I will not review the theory here, merely stress that ideas are shown as existing, and as being causal in the theory of human mood and conduct. That does mean you need review the theory of cause so that the sentence has the precision the theory affords it.

Meaning lies in our world view and the attachment of feelings to ideas in our world view. Any discussion of meaning immediately goes beyond science; it has fully to do with values of variables not the variables themselves or the relationship between those variables. The model has it that ideas exist in mind rather like on a scratch pad, further that we have the ability to know how to move our body, a learned set of skills nested into any action we take.

So, when we see an idea we like, we are largely able to enact it if it is within the scope of what we can do, we are unable to do what we cannot do, as silly and obvious as that sounds, it is important, since it implies judgement of our abilities and skills in any circumstances, and how often have we bitten of more than we could chew?

With that structure we have choice, intent and freewill. Moving much beyond the structural aspects we then become entangled in values of variables that is not science, a classic example here is in political choice, when it is argued that some set of political values are better than some other, and in some way this is sociological cience when it is obviously values of variables and is no more science than Homers Iliad.

Free will, choice, intent and goals are all founded on the ability to select and implement one idea over another. A theory of psychology has to do with how these processes work, not which processes are operative in any person, nor which choices should be or are preferred by any person.

Immediate perception is the interaction between the perceptual structures on an observer and the perceptual field of the environment; it is mediated by neurology and dependent on the environment and results in active structures in our physiology that produce the sensory result. The sensory result is then linked with our psychology that is our views and feelings about the result, our knowledge of it and understanding of it, etc. Interpretation is secondary to the immediacy of the physiological perception. We perceive via events, an event defined as changes in Reality producing changes in the perceptual field, producing changes in our physiology (assuming our physiology is not defective): The object of all this processing stands in our minds in relation to the outside systems that contributed to the object in mind with the key issues of epistemology being the link between the object in mind (reality) and the object of Reality (that existing beyond us).

Note, as well, that objects are defined very precisely in terms of events, and are events with a rate of change slow in relation to the perceiving systems. So in effect, the idea of a static object is rejected in favour of the idea that everything is changing but some of that change is slow in relation to time scales relevant to some observers. Finally note that time is not seen as an aspect of the universe, but is only introduced by consciousness that note the period between events and so uses time to measure that period.

What do I experience when I experience an object?

Depends entirely on the meaning of the events for you (see the general theory of psychology). This immediately extends beyond science and into poetry and literature.

How do I know what is ‘real’?

In a nutshell, you don’t. To verify is to first seek out multiple inputs, such as sight, smell, sound, touch: so if it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, smells like a duck, feels like a duck and is where you might sensibly expect to find a duck you got pretty good chance it’s a duck! Modern virtual reality is clear testimony to fact that without other inputs any one perceptual systems can be deceived (even if the technology not very good yet, it will get better!)

How do I know what is true?

Again, in that nutshell, you don’t. The only out is multiple inputs to the decision. Truth is not measured by any rule, but solely arises as an act of judgement. Modern legal systems proceed largely on basis of multiple inputs, each side, any other sound opinion, etc…Verisimilitude as argued by Popper I relate to the extent the topic is explored, and extent there are clearly many facets bought to account and all well argued, researched and reasoned. So physical science in general has high verisimilitude, whereas much social science does not, and modern phenomenology has very little indeed and is largely very confused.

How do we distinguish the ‘truth’ of a mad person over a sane person? Not always easy, take the impact of Hitler on a whole generation in Germany. I do not think Hitler mad, but the point still remains, very bad ideas accepted and acted out by a very large number of people who now look back with horror. Distinguishing bad ideas from good can only come from balance, the multiple inputs including trial and error that lead to a  balanced view and balanced actions. Balance is not easy to maintain, emotions are often not balanced, and an important function of emotional intelligence is maintaining balance.

How do I know the outside world exists?

In that damned nutshell, you don’t. The first issue is perceptual: An act of judgement, is it ‘real’, or is it virtual reality and not real…I introduced the terms ‘Reality’, capital ‘R’, to refer to the Reality beyond the perceptual field (so it could be a virtual reality field generator); and ‘reality’ little ‘r’, to refer to the unique interpretation we each make of circumstances. Big Reality is not psychological, little reality is; science aims to map big Reality.

The second factor is structural and involves the rule of relations which states that for there to be a relation between two objects each object must be independently discernable. Where this rule is not effective, then it is not possible to establish the relationship between the two objects. Imagine some object in mind, in reality, and one in Reality – say a tree or horse -how can you possible separate the object in reality from the one in Reality? You cannot, they interpose to the degree that the rule of relations is broken, hence who is surprised Bishop Berkeley questioned as he did. It is not possible as a matter of principle for an individual to establish the existence of an external world on their own. Modern CAT scans linking events in the brain to events outside the person offer some technology for relating events in reality with events in Reality, however, there is still the issue of meaning which no CAT scan can provide insight into, and the theory states that there never will be any such technology since no two people necessarily have the same neural events linked to the same meaning, and even if so, there is still the issue of the exact nature of the meaning for one person over another, nuance can completely alter meaning, and nuance could involve a small handful of neurons that barely register on a CAT scan.

How do I know me, or self? And what is ‘I’?

The general theory of psychology has considerable amount to say on the underlying structure involved in these issues, and I will not repeat it here. Suffice to say that ‘self’ and ‘I’ are constructed objects and can be fully discussed and accounted for within the framework of the theory. We can come to know ‘I’, ‘self’ and ‘me’ exactly as we can come to know and understand better any part of our psyche we select to conceptualise.

How do I know I exist?

Are you just some disembodied brain locked away in some preserving jar…? I think therefore I am, yes, well, maybe. Same problem as knowing the truth or knowing what is real or knowing the outside world exists? You need multiple inputs to verify and enable judgement that yes, I exist and function as a person, not merely a disembodied brain in a jar, or an energy cell in some machine world Matrix.

What is mind?

Within the theory ‘mind’ is accepted as a useful term to describe operation of the causal model of our psyche, our neurological processes are the mechanism of mind so all neurological processes hold a correspondence with events in mind, because of largely the complexity, plasticity and the variability with which ideas and feelings etc, are generated by our physiology, mind is not simply reducible to underlying neurological events. This insight is able to be deepened, the essential issue is begun with the question 'is knowledge continuous?'.

To make the question concrete we the have a brain, our neurology, and we have our mind, our psychology. If knowledge is continuous then the issue of reduction arises with our mind be 'reducible' to our neural functioning. If knowledge is not continuous and exists in domains, then neurology may be the mechanism of mind, but mind not reducible to neurology.

Consideration of domains of science must involve review of definition of how domains are formed in our knowledge (all these issues considered in depth in the papers at So if mind is a major aspect of the domain of science called psychology, then these general principles of epistemology will bear significantly on the relation between psychology and the mechanisms of psychology namely the domain of science dealing with the brain and nervous system.

The problem of discontinuous knowledge gives rise to many issues, such as what exactly in a domain, how are domains defined, what exactly is the boundary between domain, etc. the question of whether or not knowledge is continuous is the formalization of an issue raised by Niels Bohr, when he formulated the complementarity principle seeking to resolve apparent perceptual and conceptual contradictions in physics.  Discontinuous knowledge with embedded unique and separate domains of science resolves the issues of concern to Bohr.

What is attention, how is it directed and how does it impact us? See the papers on the general theory for full account of these issues. 

Conclusion: Should you care I would be pleased to apply the base platform of models, theory and thought to any variation of these issues or questions. It is the underlying platform that bounds discussion on any topic and affords validity to the answers to the topic, and in the absence of a sound platform all is speculation built on sand; and so far most social science, phenomenology, psychology, organization and management theory, and sociology,  has seen little else than rampant speculation dressed as science.