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Thursday, 23 November 2017

Waves

In my 17 November blog on the TV series Mindhunter, I made a casual remark that kept me thinking afterwards: "the background music already suggests an accelerating society." The relationship between technology, music and society is a difficult but intriguing one, especially because they are characterized by waves.

The Technological Revolution of 1800-2100 (my blogs) is characterized by three major waves:
1. 1800-1900: Mechanization which includes the Industrial Revolution (1760-1820/40);
2. 1900-2000: Automation: computer (1938 onwards), personal computer (1946 onwards);
3. 2000-2100: Artificial Intelligence and Robotics for caredomesticindustrysexwarfare.

The history of music has seen three major waves so far:
1. the classic composers of the 19th century, like Beethoven (1770-1827);
2. introduction of electromechanical instruments, like electric guitars (1931);
3. introduction of "instruments that artificially produce sound using analog or digital circuits and microchips", like the Moog synthesizer (late 1960s). This 3rd wave is being renewed right now: AI-composed pop songs (eg, Futurism-2017, Quartz-2016, Verge-2016).

Main events in societies often relate to the 7 Belief systems, and its Knowledge and Power domains. Wars or military conflicts are the main struggles in the Power domain: French invasion of Russia (1812), WW1 (1914-1918) and WW2 (1939-1945) and many, many others.

An overview of the main events in the Power domain since 1800:
1. events related to Money: Great Depression (1929-1941);
2. events related to Politics: rise and fall of communism in Soviet Union (1922-1991);
3. events related to Religion: Islamic terrorism (late 1960s - onwards).

An overview of the main events in the Knowledge domain since 1800:
1. events related to Philosophy: scientific racismwhite peopleWhite Supremacy;
2. events related to Science: atomic bombings (1945), medicine (eg, PasteurFleming);
3. events related to the Truth: global use of fake news / disinformation (21st century).

Love, the 7th Belief system, also had an impact on societies through declining birth rates, increasing divorce rates, disintegrating family life (eg, urbanisation), single households, nursing home-care for elderly people, dating by technology (eg, Tinder app), same-sex marriage.

Society at large also had several major waves:
1. Urbanisation (ever since at least 1st millennium BCE);
2. Technological Revolution of 1800-2100;
3. Globalization (19th century onwards);
4. Secularization (20th century onwards).

Everything goes in waves. Evolution goes in waves. The ocean goes in waves. Energy goes in waves. Sound travels in waves. Quote by Edgar Ramirez (b. 1977)

Waves (2013) by Mr. Probz - artist, IMDblyrics, video, Wiki-1Wiki-2


Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Competitive advantage

In my 5 July 2017 blog on Advantage vs Empathy, I concluded that humans are driven by gaining advantage in life. Our relentless drive for advantage is what separates us from any other species on this planet. Recently, I realised that this view is somewhat similar to a concept from the field of microeconomics, known as Homo economicus (Wiki).

Homo economicus was/is driven by his utility function and his choice (or preference) is based on the highest added utility (a.k.a. value). However, lots of things in life do not have a price tag and can thus not be valued. Critics also referred to reciprocity in human behaviour and the related "gift" economy rather than the market economy.

Our drive for gaining advantage is broader than Homo economicus. To put it bluntly: everything we do is geared towards gaining advantage. It covers financial, psychological and social advantage. Hence, advantage includes behaviour that makes people like us more than others. Hence, I wonder whether altruism is an exception to this view.

Mahatma Gandhi is generally considered being an example of altruism. Some of his quotes reveal a philosophical view rooted in gaining advantage: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." Or: "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." Or: "Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will."

Perhaps it's a simple as this: gaining competitive advantage equals survival. This seems more appropriate than the survival of the fittest given its actual meaning: "Survival of the form that will leave the most copies of itself in successive generations." (Wiki).

Obviously, competitive advantage is primarily business terminology. However, one cannot but conclude that all life-forms use this same survival concept. It just shows that humans have understood this prime driver of life and also apply it to businesses and organisations.

Gaining competitive advantage is key in the 3 stages of Life: (i) Needs (eg, food, shelter, and water for all life-forms), (ii) Wants (life-forms using tools), and (iii) Beliefs (the 7 Belief systems are for humans only). Nevertheless, "more than 99% of all species, amounting to over five billion species, that ever lived on Earth are estimated to be extinct" (Wiki).

The concept of gaining competitive advantage is perhaps most visible in the Beliefs stage and its Knowledge (PhilosophySciencethe Truth ) and Power (MoneyPoliticsReligion) domains. Even in Lovereciprocity gives an advantage. Pascal's Wager claims that not believing in Religion gives a disadvantage. Knowledge and Power are the pillars of competitive advantage.

Our faith and belief in the concept of competitive advantage makes Homo sapiens willing to accept - and even drive - Change. The Technological Revolution of 1800-2100 might be the best example of this. In the words of Julie Sweet: "Innovation is the new competitive advantage."

Advantage (2011) by Machel Montano - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki


Note: after watching this video, I realised that even our (lack of) clothes are geared towards gaining competitive advantage...... ;-)

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Learning

I have been learning nearly all of my life. The last few years, I have learned the things that really interest me. That is far from over as there are always questions on my mind. The more I am alone, the more I think, and the more questions arrive. Without these questions, I would have stopped writing in 2014 after my anger had gone. Today, there are nearly 1,100 published blogs.

Learning has a push and pull phase, of which the former is also known as teaching. Teaching brings answers to questions that were not raised by ourselves. The teacher decides on the curriculum (ie, the questions) and the students listen to the teacher's answers. Some teachers may, however, put future questions on your mind.

At the end of the - usually long - push phase of our learning, we have developed a set of beliefs. These beliefs relate to Love, Money, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science and the Truth, a.k.a. my concept of the 7 Belief systems. Our beliefs translate in our attitude (mind), behaviour (body), and our values (soul).

Our set of beliefs is usually lasting as beliefs are deeply rooted, like human firmware. Changing your beliefs thus becomes far from easy. In my case, it took a burnout (my blogs). A burnout is a loss of faith in your beliefs which results in lacking willpower to execute your beliefs. Writer Jennifer Senior refers to a burnout as "a crisis of faith" (NY Magazine, 2007).

A "crisis of faith" triggers existential questions: Why am I here? What is my purpose? Who am I? When will this [eg, heartache] be over? How will I survive this? The answers to these existential questions will slowly but gradually result in a new set of beliefs. I think, feel and believe that these answers have always been there but were slumbering inside us.

It takes a lot of time to develop faith in a new set of beliefs. I refer to this period as a (spiritual) Awakening. It's like putting on a new "coat". Your old "coat" still looks nice but it doesn't belong to the new you anymore. Once in a while, your old "coat" will bring back memories. These memories should - and will - reassure you that the new you is an improved version of your old you.

The push phase of my learning was very long, including professional education and mandatory continued professional education (CPE). Essentially, the answers in the push phase are "feeded" to you by bosses, coaches, parents, teachers and so on. The belief in these answers, and the faith in the persons giving them, will result in the willpower to taking these answers to heart - a.k.a. learning.

The answers in the pull phase arrive in a very different way. It feels like connecting to an elusive network of answers. Solitude is my prerequisite for establishing this connection. The answers appear to flow in some kind of void and you need to pull them in for digesting them. Writer Elizabeth Gilbert calls this process "your elusive creative genius" (TED video, TED transcript).

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning." Quote by Albert Einstein

Learning To Fly (1991) by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

Well some say life will beat you down
Break your heart, steal your crown
So I've started out for God knows where
I guess I'll know when I get there


R.I.P. Tom Petty (1950- 2017)

Monday, 20 November 2017

Rearview mirror

Many - if not most - of us are interested in the past and the present and the causes of events, including their (moral) accountability and/or responsibility. Even the people who are interested in future consequences, often cannot refrain from blaming others. Blaming others, however, seldom contributes to finding solutions. Why are few people interested in tomorrow's solutions?

Thinking about future consequences takes time, which is usually a constraining factor for many. Often it's also necessary to apply assumptions (my blogs) during our thinking. Assumptions are dangerous as they are "the mother of all mistakes" (my 2015 blog). Using the past as an assumption for extrapolating into the future makes sense as often "history repeats itself".

Our vocabulary makes a difference between (historical) factsopinions, and (future) predictions. In general, we do not believe in predictions. More and more, people do no longer believe in facts (eg, history, science). More and more, people only believe in their own opinions.

Hence, opinions are often stronger than facts (my 2016 blog). Essentially, predictions are opinions on future events. Nevertheless, predictions rank lowest in this hierarchy. The only predictions that we like, are horoscopes and weather predictions. We believe that the former is innocent gossip and we can always blame the weatherman.

The belief that our own opinion ranks higher, might be the best explanation for our (ferocious) use of the rearview mirror, like on social media. Internet trolls leverage on this belief by using social media "to provoke, inflame or defame others they rarely know offline or online" (source).

Another explanation for using our rearview mirror rather than looking forward, is our fear of the future. The future is uncertain and open to Change, and we generally dislike both. In this view, people who formulate opinions on the future (ie, predictions) should not be trusted.

Generally, people like to blame others (my 2015 blog) and also like to hold them accountable and responsible. It's hard discussing the accountability and responsibility (my blogs) of future consequences if the future is still open to Change. It's much easier blaming people for events that can no longer be changed as these events are part of history.

The odd thing, however, is that many of us try to control the present. We know that we cannot change - or control - the past. The present is however nothing more than today. Moreover, control is a consequence (output) rather than input. It takes a lot of effort to achieve some control.

Looking in the rearview mirror is a waste of time to me. Being right or wrong may seem important but it doesn't change anything to the future consequences. Blaming someone for being wrong in the past, is a guarantee for blocking a future. Solutions are all that matter.

Perhaps, a rearview mirror is important to those who are not interested in solutions.

Rearviewmirror (1993) by Pearl Jam - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


Sunday, 19 November 2017

Im Nin'alu


IF THE DOORS ARE LOCKED

If there be no mercy left in the world,
The doors of heaven will never be barred.
The Creator reigns supreme, and is higher than the angels
All, in His spirit, will rise

By His nearness, His life-giving breath flows through them.
And they glory in His name
From the moment of genesis, 
His creations grow,
Captivating and more beautiful.

The wheel in his circle thunders
Acclaiming His Holy name
Clothed in the glory of His radiance,
The six-winged cherubs surround Him,
Whirling in His honor
And with their free wings sweetly sing,
Together, in unison

Im Nin'alu (1978) by Ofra Haza - artist, lyrics, lyrics-2, lyrics-3video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2



Notes: The above translation by Keren Barak appears on Ofra Haza's 1984 album Yemenite Songs. In USA, this album was renamed into: 50 Gates of Wisdom (Yemenite Songs). "The Fifty Gates of Wisdom are an essential concept found in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the Jewish Qabalah" (source).

Saturday, 18 November 2017

I'll Take Care Of You


I know you've been hurt
By someone else
I can tell by the way
You carry yourself

But if you'll let me
Here's what I'll do
I'll take care of you

I, I loved and lost
The same as you
So you see I know
Just what you've been through

And if you'll let me
Here's what I'll do
I just have got to take care of you

You won't ever have to worry
You don't ever have to cry
I'll be there beside you
To dry your weeping eyes

So darlin' tell me
That you'll be true
'Cause there's no doubt in my mind
I know what I want to do

And just as sure
One and one is two
I just got, I got to take care of you
I just got to take care of you
Take care of you


I'll Take Care Of You (1959) by Joe Bonamassa and Beth Hart


Note: originally by Bobby Bland

Friday, 17 November 2017

Mindhunter - a Whydunit

Recently, I read somewhere that Mindhunter is the #1 binge-watch show on Netflix. Frankly, I had ignored Mindhunter as it seemed just another a dime a dozen crime show. Its #1 binge-watch rating made me wonder about my initial assessment: so many people cannot be wrong. This week I watched the first episode. I can tell you this: it's definitely not a dime a dozen crime show.

The setting is in the early 1970's, when I was a teenager myself. The atmosphere feels authentic as attention has been paid to details (eg, goldplated digital Pulsar watch). I still remember those watches as they were quite popular. All cars are American brands as the invasion of Japanese cars had not happened yet. Episode 4 introduces a car that looks Japanese. Actually, it's a Ford Pinto which still ranks as the #1 ugliest car of the world.

The pace of Mindhunter is (very) slow which fits the early 1970s as I recall myself. Nevertheless, the background music already suggests an accelerating society. This mix of fast and slow is seducing and captivating. After only 1 episode, this has become my favourite Netflix show.

The main 2 characters are each other's opposites: old school versus new school. The respect for each other's experience and knowledge makes them become a successful team. Their opposites also emerge from the interviews with prisoners: die-hard, skeptic, bad cop versus a friendly, sensitive, good cop. In episode 3, the former says to the latter that being able to act as a prisoner's friend makes him one of the best cops ever.

Netflix's Mindhunter is about psychology which explains its name. Old school detective work was about "What + Why = Who". In 9 out of 10 situations, the perpetrator could then be caught. The decreasing 1970s crime solve rates showed that the police had a serious problem. Without a "Why", just about anybody could be the perpetrator.

The emergence of the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit (1972-2014) at the FBI Academy was probably an answer to the increasingly missing "Why" component in crimes. Mindhunter focuses on the early days of the FBI's BSU. Interviewing prisoners for their motives, and collaborating with the academic world, was (very) uncommon. This makes Mindhunter a fascinating watch.

Unlike many other crime shows, the Whodunit plot is almost irrelevant in Mindhunter. Essentially, this Netflix show is a search for the Whydunit, and slowly emerging Whodunits. The focus on the "Why" is required to narrow down the number of possible suspects. Politics soon gets involved as it might be a new way for increasing the crime solve rates.

The 1995 book and 2017 TV-series Mindhunter (8.8 in IMDb) is a freeze-frame on the 1970s, when forensic science was still about fingerprints (USA: 1905 onwards) rather than DNA (1984 onwards).

Freeze-Frame (1982) by The J. Geils Band - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2