Monday, 27 July 2009
People use lies to deceive and manipulate others So the best way of not being duped is to know when people are being honest. But is there a sure fire way of making sure people are being honest?
Dr Stefan Fafinski has set up honestylab.com in an attempt to apply science to that most subjective of human pastimes...deciding if someone is telling the truth.
Can it be done though? Uncovering the truth has vexed the layman and the philosopher for thousands of years. Pontious Pilate posed the question What is Truth to the Pharisees at the trial of Jesus Christ.
There isthe constant possibility of deception in our attempts to rationalise events. Referring to the ideas of Robert Trivers, Steven Pinker (2002:263-264) says that
“Every human relationship…has a distinct psychology forged by a pattern of converging and diverging interests” adding that we “suppress evidence that we are not as beneficent or competent as we would like to think”
Trivers (1976) explains this phenomenon in the following way:
“If…deceit is fundamental to animal communication, then there must be strong selection to spot deception and this ought, in turn, to select for a degree of self-deception, rendering some facts and motives unconscious so as not to betray…the deception being practised. Thus the conventional view that natural selection favours nervous systems which produce ever more accurate images of the world must be a very naïve view of mental evolution”
So can we ever spot the double bluff? Is deception just a look in the face or does it also have something to do with the situation and the pattern of events that have led up to the deceptive act.
Fafinski's research is interesting. It is only one part of the story. Therefore it can never honestly claim to be the truth about honesty.
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
So the surviving Mubai terrorist wants to be executed. What possible reason does he have for thinking that anyone should give him what he wants. His victims had no choice.
We'd be gullible if we hung this Mumbai terrorist. A far greater punishment would be to keep him alive. It might also be important to insist that he develop his education during the rest of his life by studying alternative world views.
He might even reach an epiphany where he recognises the appalling nature of his crime and atones for it by convincing people pursuing a similar path to give it up.
The longer he is alive the more we frustrate his original ambition. Surely this is something he must fear, and we must give him the time to reflect on that.
Monday, 20 July 2009
Jethro Tull's lyrics are interesting
"Nothing To Say"
Everyday there's someone asking
what is there to do?
Should I love or should I fight
is it all the same to you?
No I say I have the answer
proven to be true,
But if I were to share it with you,
you would stand to gain
and I to lose.
Oh I couldn't bear it
so I've got nothing to say.
Nothing to say.
Every morning pressure forming
all around my eyes.
Ceilings crash, the walls collapse,
broken by the lies
that your misfortune brought upon us
and I won't disguise them.
So don't ask me will I explain
I won't even begin to tell you why.
No, just because I have a name
well I've got nothing to say.
Nothing to say.
Climb a tower of freedom,
paint your own deceiving sign.
It's not my power
to criticize or to ask you to be blind
To your own pressing problem
and the hate you must unwind.
So ask of me no answer
there is none that I could give
you wouldn't find.
I went your way ten years ago
and I've got nothing to say.
Nothing to say.
It seems that nothing has been something for thousands of years. Philosophers down the ages have pondered over Nothingness which begins by asking why there is something rather than nothing.
Is this the end to writers block?
Are we wasting time and money going back to the moon? The argument 'for' says that it will be the ideal springboard for exploring further. It is an argument based on the practicalities and technology of 'now'. It is the view-point of the technocratic manager not the inspirational leader.
Going for Mars is driven by more philosophical ambitions. To go to Mars is difficult, to go to Mars is demanding, to go to Mars stretches the capability of mankind.
Big Hairy Audacious Goals are what get people going places and doing things. I'm with the Apollo astronauts on this one. The very process of 'going for Mars' will produce far more than the mere technical and commercial benefits. The Mars ambition is aspirational, it is inspiring, it is exciting.
Getting there requires collaboration. Getting above petty differences and the medieval mind-sets of the gangsters and terrorists that are so consumed with this place and this time. The people of the world need to see far into the future of possibility so that they can reject the idea that we are stuck on the Blue Marble to be forever at each others throats.
We need heroes. We need to go to Mars
Thursday, 16 July 2009
The BBC reports that Bank boards are to come under closer scrutiny. In the article it is pointed out that several banking heads have no banking industry back ground and no banking qualifications.
This shouldn't really come as any surprise. The reason this has happened is because business and society have bought into the 'MBA' myth that has historically reinforced the idea that a professional manager has 'transferable skills' allowing them to manage any business regardless of its commercial setting.
General tools, deployed by general managers who all speak the lingua franca of business-ese. The language of 'forces', of 'gap analysis', of ROI, of 'brand equity' and so on and so on.
This 'managerialist' philosophy is 'taken for granted', so deeply embedded that its truth and nature is, for most aspiring managers self evident. It is 'the' way to run a business successfully, because it 'stretches competences' (sic) and wraps ruthless scientific rationality up in the soft velvet of service and relationship rhetoric.
Kurt Lewin said there was nothing more practical than a good theory. The implication of this observation is that the way in which a person conceives of their world determines how they act in it. Chris Argyris calls them 'theories for success', deeply held ideas that determine how problems are defined and solutions created.
So why would a supermarket retailer get a job as a top banker then?
One reason is because he is a 'general manager'. At one level all businesses are the 'same' so they can all be run in the same way. The other reason is because of the answer to that most profound of business questions - 'what business are you in?'
This question will have a senior management team split asunder if they have never pondered on it before. It demands an explanation of what exactly the business 'does'. So what business are the banks in?
Generating ROI for investors (the avowedly Freidmann-esque position)?
The 'Service' business (the deceptive landscaping of the service offer pushed by most banks to disguise the fact that they are aggressive sales led organisations)?
The 'Retail' business (we sell consumable products to individual consumers through high street and on-line channels to market)?
Add the last explanation to the previous two and you have a justification for employing Barrow Boy MBA at the senior level of your banking business!
On the other hand, characterise the business of banking as something rather more profound, something rather more central to social welfare of the country and its citizens, something rather more essential to the working of a modern society, then, the business the banks are in is nothing at all to do with getting the sales team to push the latest 'gee-whiz' offering from new product development, nothing to do with callously casting itself as a friendly service provider who cares for YOUR finances through the journey of life.
What if Banking is a prudent guardian of financial stability, the essential counterpoise to the pull of rampant consumerism with its powerful and persuasive temptations to overstretch the wallet? What if it is about 'saving' to spend rather than 'borrowing' to spend?
Retailers want every last penny from us, because every little helps their profit margins, they don't care if its baked beans or shoes for the kids. The banks should,and the way to do it to have absolute clarity about what business they are in!
Wednesday, 15 July 2009
Dr Huw Davies writes a fascinating article in this BBC article about British involvement in Afghanistan. Given the recent shift of strategy to increase face to face combat instead of using air support it is tempting for the armchair strategist to reach for history books and predict the improbability of success.
The key of course is to recognise that the 'context' is different from before. The British and their allies are in the country to deal with a specific group of ideologues, and whilst they might have local knowledge it is only their terror tactics that provide local support. In other words their apparent 'supporters' do not believe in them, unlike say the Viet Cong, who admittedly used 'terror' tactics and also had a base of support in the population at large.
So are the British being gullible thinking they will achieve a positive outcome? I don't actually think so.
Wednesday, 8 July 2009
'There's nothing so practical as a theory' to paraphrase Kurt Lewin. This means that your 'philosophy' determines how you act. In particular it means that how you 'see' a problem determines how you 'see' the solution (sic)
So for Simple Nick the solution to a perceived immigration problem is to sink the boats they travel in. Well we all know about GIGO - garbage in garbage out. in this case we have foolish thoughts in foolish proposals out.
Just imagine...this is Simple Nick in 'restrained' mode. What would he be like if there were no restraints?
Monday, 6 July 2009
By his own admission Robert McNamara admitted the gullibility of having blind faith in your assumptions.
Famous for claiming about US endeavours in the Vietnam War that "Every quantitative measure we have shows we are winning this war" His statement is a classic of managerialist thinking that shows just how crazy over-reliance on numerical metrics is when trying to determine social behaviours and outcomes. He came from a school of thought that claimed that only rational scientific methods should be used for determining policy. Take the subjective and the emotional out of the equation and you are closer to the truth.
The fact is Mr McNamara has died. It is also true that his thoughts and opinions live on as fascinating historical perspectives on a diverse and high power career. So has he really died?
His legacy? Whilst maybe not directly attributable to Mr McNamara the 'sanitised' measurement and reporting of warfare is from his time. bodycount, megadeath are just a couple of terms that echo from the past. We might also remember that the term strategic hamlet does not refer to a well earned cigar whilst pondering the latest loss of ground to the enemy!
Saturday, 4 July 2009
So here is the scientific argument that 'Self Help' might easily become 'Self Delusion'.The appeal of mantras that you can 'be whoever you want to be' and 'do what whatever you want to do' are certainly appealing.
Many therapeutic, counselling and advisory approaches do a fantastic job of helping people recognise self imposed limitations on their ambitions. This is invariably achieved through helping the 'client' notice what is missing or ignored from their mental map of the world and then guiding them in drawing upon their often undervalued resources and potential.
Much of this approach is founded upon a philosophy that manifests itself through Positive Psychology a type of psychology that affirms the good in the situation and the capability of the individual.
This is all well and good, and psychologically we have 'bad' feelings because of their evolutionary benefit. They help us recognise the 'reality' of situations and they protect us from engaging in unnecessarily risky behaviours. Imagine acting on the song lyrics 'I believe I can fly...believe I can touch the sky..." when standing on a cliff top. The result of such an attempt would rapidly confront you with ontological reality of gravity, velocity and mass.
Perhaps the most famous positive thinker was King Canute who sincerely believed he could stop the tide coming in!
The message is clear. Don't be gullible and believe everything you read from a blogging 'Life Hack'. Remain sceptical of their claims, and be sure that you check that they advise what they advise for 'your' benefit and not theirs!