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Monday, 29 February 2016

Germany versus Europe

I have long been a huge fan of German Chancellor Angela Merkel until several months ago. In my January 2015 blog, I even named her as the future President of the United States of Europe. Both feelings are gone now. Today Ms Merkel could even win a prize for dismantling Europe and her 2017 chances for re-election decrease every day. Both due to the ongoing refugee crisis.

Speaking on a talkshow on Germany’s ARD TV channel, Ms Merkel said she could “understand” a recent poll which showed 81 per cent believed her government had lost control of the migrant crisis. But she rejected the proposal backed by many in Germany to introduce an upper limit on migration. There was no point, she said, in making a promise she couldn’t keep. “I have no plan B,” she said. “There’s no sense in working on two [plans] at the same time.” A quote from FT 28 Feb 2016.

The unemployment in all European countries (see Eurostat table) is (much) higher than in Germany. The EU average is 11.6% compared to only 5.0% in Germany.

Other European countries struggle - and mostly fail - to mirror the German economic miracle.

Given this Eurostat table on unemployment rates, Germany probably needs young labour migrants in order to fulfil future German jobs. 

Perhaps young male Arabic refugees could fulfil these German jobs if they would successfully integrate in German society. Since the 1960s, Germany has also become the home for nearly 3 million Turkish people (Wiki). 

The German Chancellor is entitled to decide on what is best for Germany. However, she cannot decide for herself what is in Europe's best interests. Perhaps she is confusing her (future) role. FT: Ms Merkel criticised the Austrian action, saying Greece had been let down. “We didn’t keep Greece in the euro in order to leave it in the lurch like that,” she said. “That is not my Europe.” And I would like to add: indeed it's not!

In my view, it's even sheer ridiculous that Ms Merkel has the guts in asking for European solidarity to resettle German refugees to other European countries while she is the one who - at the very least - accelerated the European refugee crisis by what is now called her "open-door refugee policy".

In order to avoid total chaos in Europe, including an immense humanitarian refugee crisis on the Greek islands, there is only one drastic option left to Europe: to revoke the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees. Else we are heading for a European suicide. Ms Merkel has been able to dismantle 65 years of European integration in less than 12 months.

Vaya Con Dios - Heading For A Fall (1992) - artists, lyrics, Wiki 

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Eigen bevolking eerst?!

Ik ben geen fan van extreem rechts en/of populistische partijen en toch vind ik dat ze een punt hebben met het argument 'eigen bevolking eerst', en zeker bij banen, huizen en sociale voorzieningen. De politieke peilingen lijken te bevestigingen dat veel meer mensen dit vinden. Dat betekent nog niet dat die mensen (of ikzelf) uiteindelijk op een partij als de PVV gaan stemmen.

De Nederlandse regering probeert de opvang ten behoeve van de vooral economische vluchtelingen te versoberen. Het geven van banen, huizen en uitkeringen valt niet uit te leggen aan een Nederlandse bevolking die zelf nog steeds gebukt gaat onder werkloosheid, stijgende huizenprijzen, strengere hypotheek criteria en steeds verder versoberende sociale voorzieningen.

De Nederlandse ratificatie van het VN Verdrag uit 1951 over de status van vluchtelingen dwingt Nederland om alle asielaanvragen in behandeling te nemen en opvang te verschaffen. Een afwijzing van een aanvraag is mogelijk bij een zeer strenge interpretatie van het begrip 'vluchteling' uit dat Verdrag. Het sluiten van de grenzen, zoals de PVV voorstelt, stopt asielaanvragen dus niet.

Het VN Verdrag uit 1951 over de status van vluchtelingen is ook van toepassing op illegale toevlucht tot asiellanden. Daarom is er een enorme handel in mensen en in valse paspoorten van onveilige landen ontstaan. Criminele organisaties lopen bovendien erg weinig risico omdat ze vooraf worden betaald en niet achteraf zoals bij drugs en wapens. Trieste ongelukken met gammele bootjes zullen de criminelen daarom een zorg zijn.

De regering doet haar best om binnen het juridische kader van het VN Verdrag uit 1951 te blijven. Echter, zolang Nederland dit VN Verdrag niet opzegt, valt er eigenlijk helemaal niets te doen aan de enorme en voortdurende toevlucht van vooral mannelijke economische vluchtelingen. Dit VN verdrag was ooit bedoeld voor de ontheemden na de Tweede Wereldoorlog.

Het (nagenoeg) sluiten van de grenzen door Oostenrijk en vele Balkan landen is de nieuwste ontwikkeling in deze tragedie. Op korte termijn zullen de (economische en echte) vluchtelingen vast komen te zitten op de vele Griekse eilanden in de buurt van Turkije. Feitelijk heeft Europa dan een kopie van het (door velen betwiste) Australische antwoord op het migratie vraagstuk.

Aangezien de Griekse welvaart veel lager is dan de rest van Europa zullen de minimum eisen aan de opvang, conform het VN Verdrag uit 1951, ver naar beneden kunnen worden bijgesteld. Het zal uiteindelijk een Grieks probleem worden zoals het ook ooit zo begon. De Grieken en Turken zullen proberen om zoveel mogelijk munt te blijven slaan uit de vluchtelingenstroom. Griekenland zal straks weer gaan dreigen om uit de EU ("Grexit") te stappen als Europa niet met miljarden over de brug komt. Vluchtelingen zijn big business, niet alleen voor criminelen.

Het valt mij steeds moeilijker om compassie te blijven houden met "vluchtelingen" als gevolg van het enorme misbruik van het asielrecht en ook door rellen zoals in Keulen. De echte vluchtelingen worden de dupe van de enorme hoeveelheid (mannelijke) economische vluchtelingen.

Hoewel geen enkele politieke partij antwoord heeft op het migratievraagstuk, raakt de kritiek van extreem rechts een gevoelige snaar. Regeringen zijn gekozen door de eigen bevolking en niet door vluchtelingen. Wie niet wil luisteren, die zal moeten voelen dat de kritiek menens is.

Apple vs FBI or Business vs State or privacy vs safety

Apple’s legal fight with the US authorities over access to the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone is an intriguing and very interesting one. On the surface it looks like a fight over one (1) iPhone. Clearly it is not, else this dispute would never have seen the (public) light of day. I have no shadow of a doubt that Apple would have unlocked this iPhone (and the related iCloud account) if only this iPhone was at stake.

The real problem is that the US authorities (mis)use this specific iPhone incident to insist on generic access tools through new software to be written by Apple. Apparently, the US authorities have not been able to convince Apple to (secretly) cooperate with their request at an earlier stage.

Consequently, we now witness a public fight between a major US Corporation (privacy) and the US State (safety). The arguments used by both parties mirror the importance of that fight. Essentially, this is a fight about the role and scope of government. I expect that soon US politics will interfere. Some Republicans may have a hard time choosing between 'Business' and 'State'. Political meddling may cause a new US deadlock which would obviously benefit Apple.

This discussion about the role and scope of government is taking place in most countries, and especially the ones that have opted for severe anti terrorist laws (eg, France, UK, USA). Usually, the majority of citizens agree with - or allow - such laws considering the argument that only terrorists have something to hide rather than ordinary citizens. 

While this is a valid argument, it's not entirely true. The computer hack at the Canadian website for adulterers - Ashley Madison - resulted in several suicides (eg, BBC, CNN, WPsource). Everyone has something to hide, including ordinary citizens like you and me. 

In general, the legitimate fight against terrorism requires more and more disproportionate counter measures (eg, the Apple-FBI case). In that context, Apple has a legitimate argument in claiming that the constitutional rights of its customers are at stake. 

This fight between Business and State can only be decided by an independent party that uses legal arguments rather than business or political arguments. Actually, I am glad that Apple resists this FBI request and allows this matter to go to court. 

Unfortunately, the independence of judges is more and more at stake in several countries. The current political fight about a nomination for the US Supreme Court is another clear example. Mr Scalia, the Supreme Court judge who recently passed away, did not face any opposition by Democrats following his nomination by Reagan in 1986 (Wiki). Nowadays that would be unthinkable.

In general, government surveillance does not interest the general public. John Oliver addressed this in quite a funny way in a recent episode of HBO's Last Week Tonight. Nevertheless, the underlying message of this comedy show was that no secret is safe, especially in case of any computer server in the US domain. PolitiFact considered a similar statement as 'Mostly True'.

Episode of HBO's Last Week Tonight about government surveillance

Friday, 26 February 2016

MH-17: means, motive and opportunity

Any crime requires means, motive and opportunity. Without any reasonable doubt the Russian army was involved in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH-17. They had the means (Buk-M1 surface-to-air missile system) and the opportunity (using Ukrainian soil and separatist fighters). But what about motive??

On 24 February 2016, a private international group of researchers, known as Bellingcat, "links higher-ups in Russia's military chain of command to the tragedy" (GS). Bellingcat even states: "Ultimately, responsibility for the downing of MH17 from a weapon provided and possibly operated by the Russian military lies with the Ministry of Defense and the Supreme Commander of the Russian Armed Forces, President Vladimir Putin".

It seems that Bellingcat is operating well ahead of the investigation by the Dutch Safety Board, a government agency charged with investigating aviation disasters, and also ahead of the four-nation Joint Investigation Team, which is responsible for assigning criminal blame. Possibly Bellingcat has ulterior motives (source) but that would not affect 'means' and 'opportunity'. Bellingcat may confuse the concepts of accountability and responsibility and does not address motive.

Clearly, as Supreme Commander of the Russian Armed Forces, the Russian President is accountable for any acts of his army. Nevertheless, in some cases it is conceivable that he is not responsible for wrongdoings of the Russian Army. That would normally imply that (a part of) his army would act against his orders. That thought alone is worrisome.

Since 17 July 2014 I have been wondering about the other ingredient for committing a crime: motive. What could the Russian President's motive be for this crime??

The status quo of the war in East Ukraine bugs me. Why invade a country and then "stop"? The Ukrainian situation does not make any sense when you compare it to the Russian invasion of the Crimea. Allegedly, the Russian President even said the following to the Ukrainian President in 2014: "If I wanted, in two days I could have Russian troops not only in Kiev, but also in Riga, Vilnius, Tallinn, Warsaw and Bucharest." (eg, Süddeutsche ZeitungTelegraph)

Perhaps this was a Russian threat, perhaps it was Mr Putin's way of denying responsibility for the war in Ukraine. And perhaps even both. Unfortunately, Mr Putin may also have implied that he does not control all of his vast Russian Army. Again, that thought is very worrisome.

In my 3 February 2016 blog, I referred to the following Guardian quote of 1 March 2015: "It has been suggested for a long time that the serious popular threat to Putin comes not from liberals but from nationalists, and these forces have been newly invigorated by the war in east Ukraine".

The Russian President is fully accountable for his army but responsibility requires motive. I suspect that the motive for downing MH-17 lies with nationalist parts of the Russian Army in order to destabilise the Russian leadership and its President and also to blame Ukraine for this tragedy.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

A Dutch retail canary in a European coal mine

Some 20 years ago there was quite an international discussion about the future of 'bricks' and 'clicks' in retail (eg, Wiki). This discussion vanished as 'brick' stores and online shops both flourished together for many years. Today this old discussion is very relevant in The Netherlands as brick stores are losing rapidly from online shops.

In my (Dutch) blog of 6 December 2014, I outlined the many bankruptcies in the Dutch retail sector and its reasons: (1) continued economic crisis, (2) mismanagement due to egos and greed, (3) highly leveraged company financing, (4) excessive shop rents based on excessive commercial real estate valuations, (5) excessive car parking rates compared to "free" online transport charges, and (6) a structural shift from 'bricks' to 'clicks'. This trend has continued ever since (eg, NL Times)

In 2014, I considered this retail decline as a typical Dutch phenomenon. Today, I am wondering if that assessment was right. Essentially, most of the reasons for the rapid decline of the Dutch retail sector appear to be universal. A Dutch newspaper article of 24 February 2016 mentions several retail problems in other European countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, UK) but nothing like what is happening in The Netherlands today. I am inclined to believe that the Dutch are just ahead of a European retail trend.

According to The Economist of 18 April 2015, more than 90% of the world’s businesses are family-managed or -controlled. The Dutch bankruptcies in the retail sector appear to be mainly in that other 10%. To some extent, Dutch family businesses are even picking up the (best) pieces (eg, NL Times). I doubt that the ownership of Dutch retail chains is more biased towards listed companies and/or Private Equity rather than family businesses.

I am convinced that the decline in the retail sector and the surge in online shopping is related to an ongoing demographic shift. Old(er) people are reluctant to buy online (eg, IT fears, lack of trust in online banking) while the life of young(er) people is already mostly online (eg, dating, Facebook, games, music, shopping, WhatsApp, YouTube).

To some extent, the Dutch retail sector already shows a shift from 'products' to 'services' (eg, bars, cafes, restaurants, and even Chinese massage & nail parlours). In general, services compete less on price and more on place (ie, location) and promotion (ie, advertising). Brick stores usually lose customers on 'price' in case of a similar product and non urgent shopping.

Lastly, there is also a political component. As long as (European) trade unions and municipalities view entrepreneurs as the 'enemy' and 'cash cows', the decline of the retail sector will continue and probably even accelerate. Jobs are created in the private sector and taxes levied on the private sector - including the wages of its employees - allow for jobs in the public sector. This is the essence of a social-market economy and nothing else.

The massive loss of jobs in the Dutch retail sector may be a canary in a European coal mine (Wiki). Perhaps it's even related to the expected jobs disaster due to AI and robotisation (eg, FT, Guardian). The Technological Revolution (1800-2100) is still increasing its pace.

The Police - Canary in a Coalmine (1980) - artists, lyrics, Wiki

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Unknown Knowns - Friends and Enemies

Remember your parents asking you whether you made friends in school? Remember when you asked your children if they made friends at school? We do not even wonder why we ask such things. It only occurred to me because I was writing a blog about the opposite phenomenon - enemies. Why are parents so concerned when children are loners? Why are friendships that important?

I suppose that for most - if not all - parents, the importance of friendships must be an 'unknown known' - or human knowledge based on intuition. As a parent we subconsciously know that friendships are crucial for the development of our children into adults. We urge our children to play with other children although we know that our children will get hurt - either emotionally or physically.

This hurt at a young age is minor compared to the hurt that we often face as an adult. Nevertheless it may feel the same or worse to a young child. Social contact amongst young children is probably crucial in their survival as an adult. Friendships amongst children is minor compared to alliances amongst nations although essentially a similar feature. In that context, friendships are probably crucial in our emotional and physical survival.

As an adult, friends and enemies are about trust and betrayal, respect and contempt, love and hate. Certain events in our lives can turn friends into enemies (eg, break-up, divorce). Even enemies can turn into friends: eg, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. As a child we hardly know the concept of an enemy. Usually we refer to them as 'bullies' who are 'mean' to us. Nevertheless, 'enemies' are people who love to hate and whom we love to hate - whether as an adult or a child.

Friends and enemies both serve a purpose - as a child and as an adult. The purpose of an enemy is much easier to define: it unites people (eg, citizens) and directs an intense negative emotion to that entity (eg, government, politics, religion), people (eg, Jews, Kurds), or person (eg, your ex partner). I suppose that the purpose of a friend is to share - goods, information, money, time and also love.

While friendships only give energy, enemies initially give energy but later consume energy. Having enemies for a too long period of time can drain all of your energy. There is another striking difference: friendships are genuine and mutual and enemies can be imaginary and unilateral.

An enemy is largely a concept that we create ourselves in order to simplify the world around us. PT: "[] this research suggests that people create enemies in order to maintain a stable, coherent, clear view of the world. This is because they can attribute the negatives of the world (which are inevitable) to these enemies. Having enemies even appears to make people feel, ironically, safer".

Losing a friend is hard but losing an enemy is even harder. We embrace a friend and turn our backs towards the enemy. Showing compassion to a friend is the right thing to do and showing mercy to an enemy is wrong. We love to love our friends and we love to hate our enemies.

Donna Summer (1948-2012) - Love to Love You Baby (1975) - lyrics, Wiki-1Wiki-2

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

A future without jobs (part 2)

In my 17 February 2016 blog, I mentioned the expected disastrous impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotisation on human jobs. I outlined two extreme scenarios: (1) In the absence of tax credits by governments, humans are likely to raise money through criminal activities; and (2) with tax credits again two extreme scenarios may develop: (2a) humans dulled by entertainment and (2b) humans focusing on art and science (a new Renaissance).

I did not address the question if humans can survive a future without jobs.

People with jobs often use the excuse that they must work. For people without jobs - like me - the word must is entirely misplaced. For jobless people, working people are entitled to work. It's a right rather than an obligation. Not having a job raises a feeling of "We don't need you".

To most people, having a job brings a purpose, a sense of belonging, or being needed. That feeling is far more lasting and important than its remuneration - the dollars or euros. Most people will only realise this once they are out of a job. The dollars or euros provided by welfare feel very different than the ones paid to you by your employer.

To me being unemployed felt like being a loser and I was convinced that people could see the "L" on my forehead when doing errands. My home became more and more a hiding place. Ongoing financial commitments made me increasingly desperate for a new job. Once I got my new interim CFO assignment, it turned out to be my worst nightmare ever. Since that moment, I know that having a job can even be worse than not having a job. An important lesson learned.

Today, my writing brings me purpose but no euros. Being a self-employed contractor, or freelancer, implies that I am not entitled to Dutch welfare despite decades of paying social premiums as an employee. Usually I don't mind too much as it also gives me the freedom to do what I (don't) want to do. Mostly, I have come to see my period of unemployment as an overdue sabbatical.

At times, I do miss the appreciation and recognition that comes with a job. Sometimes, the worries for not finding new income return again although I do have a fallback scenario in mind. Finding a part-time job may already be a long-term solution given my cost cutting skills. It's amazing how quickly avoidable expenses can grow, once you do have income.

I fear for a society and a future without jobs. Jobs are essential for dignity, friendships, relationships, self-confidence, and - most of all - social contact. A population consisting of many have-nots and a few who have-it-all may be unsustainable. Perhaps entertainment can dull people but I am afraid for the (disputed) Abraham Lincoln saying: You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.

Hope keeps individuals and societies alive. Without hope everything disintegrates and chaos will rule until a new balance is found. Recently, the UAE appointed a Minister of State for Happiness (eg, FortuneRTL). If we no longer need Ministers for Employment then we certainly could use Ministers for Hope. In the absence of Hope, we don' t even need governments.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Commitment issues

Recently I was asked to read a Dutch newspaper article as she thought that it would interest me. In fact, it did. The writer, Daan Heerma van Voss (1986), describes the roles that he assumed in his long-term relationships with women. He concludes that one element in all these five roles was the same: fear of commitment.

Perhaps I should wonder why she asked me to read it. And I will, but later. I am certainly no stranger to commitment fears. I know that I don't commit easily but I doubt that it's driven by fear. To use a heading from another article: “I am not afraid of commitment - I just need to be sure". More importantly, my head, heart and intuition need to be in sync with each other. Commitment "fear" only comes up when either head, heart or intuition tells a different tale.

Given the abundance of articles on this issue - either from a female or male perspective - male commitment fears must be universal. PsychologyToday states the following reasons for this fear: (1) No more freedom, (2) Loss of space, (3) One sex partner - forever, (4) Being burned again, and (5) Lack of compromise.

I doubt this list is complete as I miss perhaps the most important one: The Next Best Thing (IMDb). The Next Best Thing is about "risk management": the chance of making a big mistake now versus waiting a little longer for Mrs Right. Young people are more likely to delay deciding to commit in comparison with older people, partly based on (in)experience and partly based on remaining lifespan. Older people know that the grass is not always greener at the other side of the fence.

To me it's curious how women can be so convinced of making the right choice while men generally lack that ability. Obviously there are exceptions in which women prefer not to commit. Perhaps the real question is: Do women also have commitment issues?

HealthGuidance: "Commitment issues have always been associated with men, while women were assumed to be hugely loyal in this department. However, there is a twist in the tale today. Formally assumed to be "commitment crazy", most women seem to have taken every liberty to break the age-old notion associated with their fragile gender. Today’s fast paced lifestyle coupled with other demands and social carvings have overpowered most women’s commitment stand. After all, not every woman out there is able to cope up with the career and lifestyle changes".

HuffingtonPost - Confessions of a Commitment-Phobic Woman: "But, my first thought was, women can't be commitment-phobic. It's a male trait. Surprisingly, it affects women more than anyone talks about and it is becoming more common as women attain more financial independence".

Today, female independence is already causing female commitment issues. Equality has now also entered this area. The predictability of male and female behaviour will be affected by this but I wonder whether that is a bad development at all.

Bryan Ferry - The Price Of Love (1976) - artist, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Kiss one girl, kiss another
Kiss them all, but you won't recover

And that's the price of love, the price of love
A debt you pay with tears and pain
The price of love, the price of love
It costs you more when you're to blame

Friday, 19 February 2016

Bye bye banknotes. Hello Mr Taxman.

There is quite some discussion about the 100 dollar, 500 euro and the 1,000 Swiss franc banknotes. It is conceivable that soon no new banknotes will be printed similar to the discontinued issuance of the $500, $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000 bills in 1969. Although the U.S. stopped issuing those notes, they remain legal tender. As of 2015, the face value of such notes is around $300 million, although they have now become collectors’ items often worth more than their face value. (WSJ)

Frankly, I am puzzled by these plans: What's the impact if these banknotes remain valid??

Supposedly, criminals would be hampered by such act. They would be hurt if the old banknotes in circulation would no longer be valid. They would also be hurt if there would be a single agency (eg, Central Bank) that would allow swapping into smaller notes provided that the holder shows identification and explanation and that all such swaps are registered. However, that is clearly not part of the considerations.

Stopping the issuance of new banknotes increases the ageing of old banknotes. Such ageing could be worrisome but these banknotes - most likely - seldom change or touch hands. Another interesting feature that would arise is that the value of the old banknotes may vary from its face value. Similar to Bitcoins, it's likely that the daily value of an old 500 euro banknote will differ from its face value as its supply is maximised and demand will vary on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

One could even argue that Central Banks would only increase the total cost of maintaining cash in circulation as the demand for smaller banknotes (eg, 100 euro note) will increase. In other words: it's more expensive for a Central Bank to issue five 100 euro banknotes than one 500 euro bill. Essentially, efficiency and effectiveness of cash are decreasing. 

Possibly these proposals serve another purpose as bad money always drives out good money. In economics, Gresham's law is a monetary principle stating that "bad money drives out good". For example, if there are two forms of commodity money in circulation, which are accepted by law as having similar face value, the more valuable commodity will disappear from circulation. (Wiki)

It is conceivable that the 100 dollar, 500 euro and the 1,000 Swiss franc banknotes need to disappear as this would further increase the use of electronic cash (eg, bank accounts). The benefits of electronic cash is that it leaves a (tax audit) trail. In Gresham's Law, intangible electronic cash is certainly less valuable than tangible banknotes.

Indeed it makes more sense to assume that the real consideration for this plan is a crack-down on tax avoidance: "A more recent estimate from economists Richard Cebula and Edgar Feige in 2011 found that as much as 18% to 19% of all taxable income earned in the U.S. goes unreported - illegally depriving the government of nearly $500 billion in revenue" (WSJ).

Since this news, Greek "citizens who keep cash outside the banking system are running in droves to bank branches to ask for details and clarifications on reports that the European Central Bank is planning to withdraw 500-euro notes". (ekathimerini, 11 February 2016)

George Harrison - The Beatles - Taxman (1966) - artist, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Let me tell you how it will be
There's one for you, nineteen for me
Cos I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman

Should five per cent appear too small
Be thankful I don't take it all
Cos I'm the taxman, yeah I'm the taxman

Thursday, 18 February 2016

You get what you deserve - Merkel, Trump, Wilders

The saying 'you get what you deserve' is quite ancient given its mentioning in the Book of Proverbs, part of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament. Proverbs "is an example of the Biblical wisdom tradition, and raises questions of values, moral behaviour, the meaning of human life, and right conduct". (Wiki)

The political landscape of my country - albeit in the polls for the 2017 Dutch general election - is changing fast. The predominantly right-wing populist Freedom Party of Geert Wilders (anti Islam, anti refugees, pro elderly care) is heading for 42 - nearly 1/3 - of the total of 150 parliamentary seats. Currently his party has 12 seats. The 70 year old social-democratic Labour Party is heading for a dramatic fall to 9 seats while having 36 now.

The 2016 political landscape in the USA might be the weirdest ever. On the far-left and the far-right two very successful candidates have emerged from the shadows of an expected Bush-Clinton race: Mr Sanders and Mr Trump. Mr Bush may give up anytime soon. Mrs Clinton is much less likely to do so. Mr Sanders may make the USA the largest social-democratic country ever, bypassing some countries which carry socialism in name rather than deeds. Mr Trump would be able to alienate the USA from its friends and further increase its number of enemies.

The VW-Audi emission scandal eroded the consumer trust in products labelled "Made in Germany". It's still doubtful whether the VW-Audi Group can even survive the American lawsuits; see my 22 September 2015 blog. Despite the Russian PM's ulterior motives, he is right in saying "It is just stupid to open the European doors and invite everyone that wants to come to Europe” about the German Chancellor’s “open-door” refugee policy. (Politico)

One could argue that these countries - Germany, Netherlands and USA - get what they deserve. Germany gets what it deserves as their leadership culture lacks proper checks and balances (eg, refugees, Volkswagen). This enables their leaders to rule from an ivory tower, surrounded by fear for its leaders. This fear even freezes the information flow to its leaders (eg, Cologne, VW). The German culture of superior orders - with no questions asked - still seems to rule.

The Netherlands gets what it deserves as mainstream political parties are still making the very same mistakes as they did before with Pim Fortuyn, the successful politician and professor, who was murdered in 2002 by an environmental and animal rights activist prior to the 2002 Dutch general election. The views of Mr Fortuyn and Mr Wilders on the hottest political issues (eg, Islam and refugees) are virtually the same. Nevertheless mainstream political parties are very slow in accepting the voters' reasons behind the success of these parties.

The USA gets what it deserves for several reasons: (1) The US presidential elections are basically for sale to the wealthiest people with political aspirations; (2) The two political parties hardly reflect the nature of the US population; (3) The popular vote does not even count in this democracy, and (4) The two political parties are like two Japanese Sumo wrestlers fighting for total surrender while leaving the US government in a deadlock situation.

You get what you deserve - including its synonyms "what goes around comes around" or "what you sow, you shall reap" - refers to the spiritual principle of cause and effect where intent and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of that individual (effect) - or karma.

 You Get What You Give (1998) by The New Radicals - artistslyrics, videoWiki-1Wiki-2

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

What jobs are left for humans?

Last Sunday's TV episode of VPRO's Backlight was about how automation - including robotics - is taking over our love - and sex - life. At the same time, the FT and the Guardian are warning us: "AI and robots threaten to unleash mass unemployment", "AI could leave half of world unemployed" and "Intelligent machines will soon replace human workers in all sectors of the economy".

Much earlier I had assumed that jobs that require human contact could survive. Perhaps I was wrong. Japan is introducing robotic care for children and the elderly (eg, CNN, Independent, TI, Verge). Companies develop chatbots that simulate human romantic contact. AI researcher David Levy expects that humans will have sex and marriage with robots (NBC).

I am wondering: If robots could take over our sex life then what jobs are left for humans??

In my 14 December 2015 blog I already stated that in our ongoing Technical Revolution "many jobs do not require human creativity. Essentially, these jobs could be automated and robotised with some - limited - human supervision". This is in line with my 12 February 2016 blogImagination separates human intelligence from artificial intelligence. 

Creative - or imaginative - jobs would then be left to humans: art, books, games, inventions, music, movies, religion, research, sports, studies, teaching and so on. Any job that requires well-defined tasks could be taken over by a robot. Well-defined jobs would probably include many - if not most - production, sales and servicing jobs. Jobs that require extensive multitasking (eg, top management) are likely to remain exclusive to humans. The span-of-control for middle management would become huge and thus this need for supervision would be minimal.

The consequences of AI and robots have been addressed in several of my blogs: melting populations, fear of (killer) robotsrobots taking over from humans, need for governments to grant tax credits to their citizens (eg, USANL-basisinkomen), a political turn to the left in the USA (eg, Bernie Sanders).

Another question: What will humans do and how would these societies look like??

Essentially, two extreme types of societies could arise, depending on governments (not) giving tax credits to their citizens: a welfare society versus a haves-and-have-nots society. The former could either give rise to a new human Renaissance or a humanity dulled by entertainment (eg, WALL-E). The latter could - and probably would - result in excessive criminality.

For many centuries, governments predominantly taxed people rather than the other two production factors, being land and "capital" (LO: money and machinery). Regardless of a country's political system, companies always strive to minimise the cost of production inputs (eg, labour), maximise production outputs (eg, sales), and increase returns (ie, profits). The substitution of production factor labour for machinery (including robotics) has been universal. 

Governments now face the ultimate consequence of their policies: future tax credits to citizens in order to support their cost of living and to prevent massive social unrest.

Aloe Blacc - I Need A Dollar (2010) - artist, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

I had a job but the boss man let me go
He said: I'm sorry but I won't be needing your help no more
I said: Please mister boss man I need this job more than you know
But he gave me my last pay check and he sent me on out the door

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Refugees, labour migrants and the 1951 UN Refugee Convention (3)

On 11 February 2016, the Russian PM said the following in an interview with a German newspaper: "My European colleagues may not like this, but I believe that this is an all-out and total failure, an all-round fiasco of the European immigration policy". The irony is that (1) he is right, (2) that Russia is also responsible for this influx due to their military efforts in Syria, and (3) that Russia welcomes a destabilisation of the EU in order to (4) prevent the rise of a new Superpower.

Currently, there is a thin line between immigration and asylum. The Russian PM: "Who are these people? Some are fleeing the war, and there are many of them. They want to survive and, frankly, to receive the promised EU financial assistance. I think these allowances are approximately ten times larger than what these people earned in Syria". 

I still believe in my proposals as outlined in my blogs of 8 August 2015 and 21 December 2015: treating refugees as labour migrants. However, there is a legal obstacle: the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees which is (mis)used for immigration purposes. In my view, this Convention is the main reason why European attempts to control the refugee crisis fail - and will continue to fail - and also why my solution to this problem will not work.

The 1951 Convention defines a refugee as a person who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country or return there because there is a fear of persecution” (source). Italic marking are mine.

Basically, this Convention allows refugees to ask for asylum regardless whether access to the host country happened legally or illegally. Latter probably explains why human refugee trafficking - including fake Syrian passports - has become such a big business for criminals. Clearly, the 1951 UN Convention never intended such purposes. It covered a (post) WW2 event.

Most countries signed and ratified the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol: see UNHCR list. Some did not: most Arab Countries (source), USA (Protocol only). The problem with the 1951 UN Refugee Convention has been listed in a 15 year old Research Paper by the Australian Parliament. Long before Europe, Australia faced a similar refugee problem. The Australian solution may be disputed but it works (eg, BBC).

In my view, there are only a few ways to deal with the 1951 UN Refugee Convention: (1) a very strict application of the above refugee definition, (2) the Australian way by using Greek islands, and (3) to repeal the 1951 UN Refugee Convention through national parliament(s). 

In my view, the only permanent solution is revoking the 1951 UN Refugee Convention through our national parliament(s) and to replace it - simultaneously - with a national Asylum Law. This would also address the legitimate concerns (eg, jobs, houses and welfare for local population) of far-right European political groups and could even help reducing their support back to normalised levels. If you can't win the game then you better change the rules.

Monday, 15 February 2016

We need to talk (2) - problems and solutions

Despite all insight that I have gained over the years, I still fall in the same old trap: offering solutions to problems while she only wants to talk about her experiences. Sometimes I realise this just in time and then I am able to adjust my mindset but not too often. The problem is that women don't like being offered solutions and that men don't like to talk about problems. Also see my 8 November 2015 blog - "We need to talk".

Women don't like being offered solutions as they look for emotional support and understanding rather than advice (source). Men are perfectly happy to talk about solutions but they don't like talking about - or listening to - problems. To men, talking about problems - without solving them - feels like a waste of time and effort. To women, it feels like bonding and sharing.

I suppose that this difference is ultimately rooted in human evolution. Even some 1,000 years ago, many humans still lived like the hunter/gatherers of 3 million years ago. The 3 minute video in my 13 February 2016 blog would show that almost 3,999 of our 4,000 kilometre journey are behind us and that we have been living in the final kilometre of our human journey for the last 1,000 years. Human evolutionary psychology has been shaped for an extremely long time.

In a hunter/gatherer culture it made little sense to talk about the new hunt as the food opportunity might be gone by then. The tribal leader had a solution and the rest of the men executed his decision. Success would develop trust in his skills. Failure would give rise to new leadership - with or without a fight. Male conversations could easily imply conspiracies for mutiny. Hierarchy is still essential to men whether in companies, military, or organisations.

From an evolutionary perspective, nearly all human and animal hierarchies are male dominated. Female-biased dominance occurs rarely in mammals (Wiki). Most anthropologists hold that there are no known societies that are unambiguously matriarchal. In several theologies, matriarchy has been portrayed as negative. (Wiki) From an evolutionary perspective, one could argue that "today's" male attitude towards women is only of "yesterday"

The role of men and women in societies has been clear for some 3 million years. Only since a few hundred years, the female role in our society has changed enormously: (1) The female right to vote only started in the early 1900s and is still ongoing today (eg, 2015 in Saudi Arabia), and (2) during and after WW2 (1940-45), "the absolute urgency of mobilizing the entire population made the expansion of the role of women inevitable" (Wiki). This timing equals the last 100 metres in a human journey of 4,000,000 metres.

In my view, men haven't found a solution to the problem of finding a "new" balance between men and women. This may be upsetting to men but sexual aggression against women (eg, Cologne) is clearly not a solution. Saying "We don't need you" is neither a solution nor the truth. The ongoing female fight for Equality complicates finding this new balance and makes it even more urgent. Perhaps it's time for men to say: "We need to talk".

Ani DiFranco - Talk To Me Now (1990) - artist, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

he said ani, you've gotten tough
'cause my tone was curt
yeah, and when I'm approached in a dark alley
I don't lift my skirt
in this city
is a full time occupation
I'm determined
to survive on this shore
you know I don't
avert my eyes anymore
in a man's world
I am a woman by birth
and after nineteen times around I have found
they will stop at nothing once they know what you are worth
talk to me now
I played the powerless
in too many dark scenes
and I was blessed with a birth and a death
and I guess I just want some say in between
don't you understand
in the day to day
and the face to face
I have to act
just as strong as I can
just to preserve a place
where I can be who I am
so if you still know how
talk to me now

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Small is beautiful - the Rise and Fall of nations (3)

When you look at a map of Europe then you will notice that Spain is a huge country and totally surrounds small Portugal. The first question that springs to mind is why did Spain never invade Portugal? Actually, they did but Spain was never successful in its efforts. A more generic version of this question is why did small countries survive history?

The Netherlands is even less than half the size of Portugal (WA). Both have several features in common which may be crucial to the answer to the above question. Both were naval countries which ruled the world for quite some time: Portugal from 1400 to 1600, and The Netherlands (including Dutch Belgium) from 1600 to almost 1800. Both countries received help from allies (ie, UK) when under attack by mutual enemies (ie, Spain).

By 1139, Portugal had established itself as a kingdom independent from the Kingdom of León. In 1373, Portugal made an alliance with England, which is the longest-standing alliance in the world. This alliance served both nations' interests throughout history and is regarded by many as the predecessor to NATO. In the 15th and 16th centuries, [] Portugal expanded Western influence and established the first global empire, becoming one of the world's major economic, political and military powers. It was once the the longest-lived European colonial empire [] (Wiki).
The ties between the Brits and the Dutch are even more ancient and also royal: the Frisian language is still the closest to English related living language on continental Europe, and the Dutch prince William of Orange who became King of England in 1689. The immense success of the Dutch Republic (1581-1795) resulted in competitive forces (eg, France, UK) which ended the Dutch rule and started the British rule (1800-1900). Also see my 11 April 2015 blog on Superpowers.

Switzerland is another small country and almost the same size as The Netherlands but with half the people (WA). It is bordered by Italy (south), France (west), Germany (north), and Austria (east) and is geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura. Since 1291 it has been independent and quite likely because it has been a buffer state for its surrounding big powers.

Today Denmark is a country of the same size as Holland but with 1/3 of the people (WA). However, the Danish kingdom already emerged in the 8th century and covered large parts of Scandinavia although its extent is unknown. Combined these countries are also known as the Vikings. The Danes used to rule several other countries but lost control over England (1035), Sweden (1523), Norway (1814), Schleswig (1864) and Iceland (1944). (Wiki 12, 3)

Based on the above, the ancient and contemporary elements of Power still are: (1) a direct and ice-free passage to the sea (eg, navy, ports, trade), (2) having strong allies, (3) embracing Science and Technology, (4) access to Money (eg, from colonies and trade), (5) a large population (eg, army), and - last but certainly not least - not being hindered by (6) Religion and (7) Politics. 

Although the Dutch ruled the world for nearly 200 years, its population was far too small to resist the large French armies of Napoleon around 1800. Small is beautiful but ultimately size does matter.

Dulce Pontes - Canção do Mar (1993) - artistlyrics (UK)Wiki

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Technological Revolution (1800-2100) - part 3

In my 11 February 2016 blog ("We don't need you") I made a comment in its final lines about the speed of changes in our society especially with respect to science and technology. This speed has been superbly captured in a 3 minute video by BusinessInsider Science. I thoroughly recommend watching this short video. It will give you a new perspective on time and space.

The video shows the Earth's history of some 4.5 billion years (time) by travelling from Los Angeles to New York City which equals nearly 4,000 km or 2,500 miles (space). All the big changes of our Technological Revolution (1800-2100) only happened for the last 21 centimetre (8.2 inch) of that 4,000 kilometre journey. Science and technology are increasingly just happening to us.

Recently, Professor Stephen Hawking made some comments about the dangers of science and technology in his 2016 BBC Reith Lectures. Especially, his comments that "the world should be very careful for the next 100 years" attracted worldwide attention (eg, BBCCBSGuardian, LiveScience, ToIWP). Actually, his full comments (PDF) are even more interesting.

SH: "Most of the threats we face come from the progress we have made in science and technology. We are not going to stop making progress, or reverse it, so we have to recognize the dangers and control them. I'm an optimist, and I believe we can". Italic markings are mine.

To some extent, the warnings of Stephen Hawking (eg, 2014-AI, 2016-Science & Tech) feel like the warnings of Robert Oppenheimer, a founding "father of the atomic bomb": The warnings of an insider who was also responsible for developing the threat. Nevertheless, the warnings of an insider should be taken more serious than anyone else's.

Science and Technology used to be for nerds. Today we seem to love such nerds, if only based upon the immense success of TV shows like The Big Bang Theory - 8.4 on IMDb. Even Professor Stephen Hawking has had guest appearances in this comedy show.

In the scientific revolution during the Renaissance (14th-17th century), Science was still stopped by Religion (eg, Galileo Galilei) as Science is usually a threat to Power. Nowadays, Science is absent in countries dominated by Religion unless it was absorbed for the purpose of Power (eg, Iran). Please also see my 30 January 2016 blog on Money, Politics, Power, Religion, and Science.

Today, Western cultures mainly embrace Science and Technology as we only see Good in them. Bad and/or Mad scientists only happen in movies. A (serious) warning will not change this attitude and neither did man-made disasters (eg, BhopalChernobylEnola GayFukushima).

In my view, the reason for this is our attitude towards Risk Management. Also see my 8 February 2015 blog: Environment = Probability x Impact. While the impact of risk is often understood, the danger lies in the probability of a risk. Any probability above zero means that it will certainly happen in the future - either sooner or later. A catastrophic risk that could affect future generations should never be assessed on its "statistically insignificant" Probability but only on its Impact. That is what Professor Hawking implied with recognising and controlling dangers.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - Enola Gay (1980) - artists, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Enola Gay
It shouldn't ever have to end this way

Friday, 12 February 2016

Unknown unknowns - dreams

In my 12 March 2015 blog I introduced the terms (un)known (un)knowns which terms I borrowed from Nassim Nicholas Taleb's 2001 book 'Fooled By Randomness' (PDF). I used these terms to explain the differences between human and artificial intelligence. See graphic below.

Initially, artificial intelligence (AI) only covered the area of 'known knowns' (facts). Nowadays AI also covers 'intuition' (eg, DailyMail, Wiki).

One could even argue that Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics (1942) already covered the area of 'beliefs' - the belief that a human life is more important than a machine's life.

The only remaining distinctive area for human intelligence is imagination (eg, dreams, fantasies). 

I sincerely doubt that AI could ever cover this. My argument is that we still fail to understand our own imagination. "While many theories exist to explain why we dream, no one yet fully understands their purpose, let alone how to interpret the meaning of dreams. While research has not demonstrated a purpose for dreams, many experts believe that dreams do have meaning". (Psychology)

Frankly, it's hard for me to understand how something can have meaning without having purpose. This idea might just be a typical philosophical (if life has no purpose, can it have a meaning?) and scientific belief (eg, evolution and religion, universe and design). 

In my view, the meaning of dreams should reveal their purpose. So let's start with the types of dreams. Unfortunately these are not exhaustive: "Dreams can have varying natures, such as being frightening, exciting, magical, melancholic, adventurous, or sexual. [] Dreams can at times make a creative thought occur to the person or give a sense of inspiration." (Wiki). The last sentence may suggest an implicit purpose.

After some consideration, I concluded that the answer is probably hidden in plain view in my own graphic above. The meaning of dreams - or imagination in general - is to provide another kind of human intelligence. The purpose of human intelligence - or life in general - has been addressed in my 21 July 2015 blog: Why we are here.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. Albert Einstein

Fleetwood Mac - Dreams (1977) - artists, lyrics, Wiki-1Wiki-2

Now here I go again, I see the crystal visions
I keep my visions to myself
It's only me
Who wants to wrap around your dreams and...

Thursday, 11 February 2016

We don't need you

The increase in the average age of women giving birth, the decrease in birth rates, the increase in divorce rates, the increase in fights for Equality, the increase in economic / financial independence of women, the increase in single households, the increase in one parent families, the increase in distance between families, these are all ingredients of a potentially scary cocktail.

I fear that men and women will no longer feel that they need each other. Obviously, there is a huge distinction between need and want. Usually wanting each other is of a short term nature while needing each other is more of a permanent nature.

The root cause for my fear is similar to the famous words by Bill Clinton in his successful 1992 presidential campaign against president George Bush: "It's the economy, stupid!"

In human evolution, raising large families has long been an essential tool for survival at old age. I still remember a Dutch expression from my youth: "kinderen zijn je oudedagsvoorziening" which would translate like 'having children provides your pension'. A 2006 article in a Dutch newspaper claims that this is an old African saying. I think it used to be a global saying.

The former economic need for having children has evolved into a view of an economic burden of having children. Over the years, I have read several articles which all claim that raising one child into adulthood will cost you 100,000 euro - or the chance of driving a Porsche. The economic mindset about having children has changed from an asset into a liability.

Removing the economic need for having children raises a fundamental 'why' question. This 'why' question may already (partly) explain the trends listed in my 1st paragraph. I am convinced that (not) having children will become a well considered choice for future human generations. The economy will again be the reason for that choice: Will it even be possible to raise children given future salaries, cost of living, and - most of all - the chances of (un)employment?

The increasing hedonistic nature amongst people in their teens, twenties, thirties and sometimes even forties, might be an implicit answer to this 'why' question. The prospect of raising "yourself" might already be enough reason for not having children yourself.

The short-term (< 100 years) consequence of these trends are "greying" populations sustained by the influx of foreigners (eg, Germany). The medium-term (>100y and <500y) consequence would be "melting" human populations sustained by machines (eg, care robots). The long-term (>500 years) consequence would be the introduction of genetically engineered human fertilisation farms (eg, Gattaca), the absence of biological parents, and the use of institutional child care.

I must admit that the above is a rather depressing view on future societies: companies no longer need men and women, men and women no longer need each other, and - most of all - we no longer need children. And it's doubtful that planet Earth even needs humans.

Nevertheless, we should not give up and lose hope. We always have a choice even when events in society (eg, technology) increasingly just seem to happen to us. To be continued.

Kate Bush & Peter Gabriel - Don't Give Up (1986) - lyrics, Wiki

don't give up
'cause you have friends
don't give up
you're not the only one
don't give up
no reason to be ashamed
don't give up
you still have us
don't give up now
we're proud of who you are
don't give up
you know it's never been easy
don't give up
'cause I believe there's a place
there's a place where we belong

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

China - part 3 - the awakening

My blogs of 9 January and 31 January of this year were about the imminent Chinese economic and financial implosion. There is also a remarkable and public "explosion" of something that largely happens without too much attention: Christianity. Economist 2014: "Many experts, foreign and Chinese, now accept that there are probably more Christians than there are members of the 87m-strong Communist Party. Most are evangelical Protestants".

From an ideological background, Christianity and Communism are not each others enemies. Perhaps even to the contrary. I am not surprised that some Americans are calling the new Roman Catholic Pope a communist (eg, BBC, PoliticoWP). China may claim to be a communist country but actions speak louder than words. From an economic perspective, China displays an even more raw version of capitalism than the USA. In this context, the Chinese communist version of capitalism will have mixed feelings about the surge in "communist" Christianity in China.

Strangely enough this trend in Chinese Christianity has been predicted by the famous American clairvoyant Edgar Cayce (1877-1945): On one occasion, Cayce told a group of people that eventually China would become “the cradle of Christianity, as applied in the lives of men.” In 1943, Cayce promised amazing changes in the country that would lead to more democracy and greater religious freedom. He also suggested that eventually the height of civilization would move from the West to the Chinese people: “And these will progress. For, civilization moves west.” (source)

An 2015 article in the Catholic News Agency provides an interesting explanation: "Christianity is spreading rapidly in China, and it could be because of how well the faith fits in with modern scientific technology". They quote Rodney Stark, an American sociologist of religion, who stated that China's intellectuals, “are very convinced they've got to turn West to understand the world they live in and they're convinced by my argument that eastern religions don't fit the modern world they're engaged in, and that they need to look to the West to find philosophies and religions.”

Eastern religions, like Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism, Stark maintained, “are all anti-progress; they all proclaim the world is going downhill from a glorious past, and that we should look backwards, not forwards. None of them admit that we're able to understand anything about the universe – it's something we have to meditate on, not something to try and theorize about, as the physicists and chemists do. And that doesn't fit with the world that modern Chinese are experiencing having happened around them.” (CNA)

Based on an alleged annual growth rate of 7%, it would take until 2050 to be well over 1 billion Chinese Christians. The imminent Chinese economic and financial implosion may be like the Phoenix mythology: a phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor. Decades ago, Edgar Cayce cautioned that it would take a long time to manifest but that it was the country’s destiny: “Yea, it is far off as man counts time, but only a day in the heart of God – for tomorrow China will awake.”

Frankly, I am baffled by the above. Sometimes the best kept secrets are hidden out in the open. 

China Crisis - Christian (1983) - artists, lyrics, Wiki

I could lose myself
In this honesty

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Givers and Takers

For some time, there has been a topic on my list which I did not really know how to approach. I do feel that it's an important one though. It's about the difference between Givers and Takers. Today I noticed "Give and Take", a book by Adam GrantWharton professor of Management and writer at NYT. He even mentions a third category in his book: Matchers.

I consider myself a Giver - at home, at work, or anywhere else - and that may be one of the main reasons why my energy has been draining again lately. I consider these energy drains as the most dangerous aspect of being a Giver. My current (and previous) relationship is (was) with another Giver and in general that works well. The one before with a Taker was not a good combination.

Obviously, these roles are not fixed in time. Even Givers may become Takers for a while in order to compensate for certain events in their life and to restore their balance. And even Takers may act like Givers for a while but with a different perspective: "If you’re a taker, you help others strategically, when the benefits to you outweigh the personal costs" (source). Italic markings are mine.

BrainPickings: "Outside the workplace, Grant argues by citing Yale psychologist Margaret Clark’s research, most of us are givers in close relationships like marriages and friendships, contributing without preoccupation with keeping score". It's important to note that Margaret Clark does restrict giving to "high quality intimate relationships" (source). Else, we probably do keep score in the Ledger of our relationship (see my 10 January 2016 blog).

Given the byline of Adam Grant's book ("a revolutionary approach to success") and his teaching on Management, most of his book is about Givers and Takers (and Matchers) at the workplace. In his view, there are three human routes to success at the workplace: give, take and match (reciprocity). The outcome is different than what you would expect which may explain the book's success.

The worst performers and the best performers are givers. Matchers and takers are more likely to be in the middle. This needs some explanation.

The characteristics of takers may well drive them quickly to the top but those same characteristics will also lead to their imminent fall. In general, people have little empathy for leaders who are only working in their self interest, busy with self promotion, and getting plenty of personal credit for - essentially - team results.

The explanation for givers is twofold. There is a first category who easily gets ignored and neglected when it comes to measuring success at the workplace. Partly, because takers may claim the credit for the work done by givers. Partly, because "it appears that givers are just too caring, too trusting, and too willing to sacrifice their own interests for the benefit of others". The second category of givers is different: "it turns out that successful givers are every bit as ambitious as takers and matchers. They simply have a different way of pursuing their goals". (BrainPickings)

The above reminds me of some conversations with my former friend when she complained about missed promotions and not being acknowledged at work for her contributions. To some extent, I was able to help her by explaining my approach at work. I have always been very ambitious, driven, determined, passionate and successful and also with compassion for others. In my view, success is always a team effort and failure is my responsibility, even without accountability. I miss this as, in my view, I stil haven't given the best that I got.

Anita Baker - Giving You The Best That I Got (1988) - artist, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Ain't there something I can give you
In exchange for everything you give to me
Read my mind and make me feel just fine
When I think my peace of mind is out of reach

The scales are sometimes unbalanced
And you bear the weight of all that has to be
I hope you see that you can lean on me
And together we can calm a stormy sea