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Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Mrs May's Machiavellian Moves (9) - Labour's U-turn

In my blogs on Brexit, I expressed my astonishment that UK politics was more or less united over Brexit, while UK population is deeply divided. This is no longer the case because UK Labour now wants to be in "a" customs union with the EU. This may sound trivial but it is not. I am inclined to conclude that (a bit of) common sense has returned to UK politics.

News media are concluding that this is hurting Mrs May's position. I do not believe that. The new position of UK Labour will make it easier for Mrs May to steer towards her goal. I still believe she has a goal although "seeing is not believing" in this case. Hence, the title of this blog series: Mrs May's Machiavellian Moves.

UK's Brexit debate is largely about ideology versus common sense. The almost 50/50 vote of the UK population is evidence for this.

The superb cartoon by Morten Morland, as just published in The Times, illustrates that UK politics was largely about ideology (Brexit = Brexit) - until last weekend.

I suppose that Labour's U-turn was fed by its hunger for government power. Power is stronger than ideology and/or common sense.

The return of common sense to UK party politics will benefit the UK population. There is - once again - a choice. I suppose that Labour's leader must have realised the same. Almost 50% of the UK population is not represented in Parliament. These votes could easily define the difference between having and not having Power. Hence, the U-turn.

Mrs May has never been a Brexiteer and she defends Brexit with utter clumsiness and empty rhetoric. I think, feel and believe that she will benefit from Labour's U-turn as she can now steer the Brexit debate into safe waters rather than surviving on its fringes.

The empty rhetoric of Brexiteers is already swelling: "Brussels accused of 'outrageous' attempt to turn Northern Ireland into EU province by rejecting British compromises" (Telegraph). This empty rhetoric will get worse because the prospects of a (hard and soft) Brexit are diminishing.

It's still hard to predict whether common sense will ultimately prevail over ideology in the UK. Yet I have confidence in Mrs May's Machiavellian Moves. She has already come a long way there, although it's still a long way to where she is going.

It's a Long Way There (1976) by Little River Band

And it's a long way there
It's a long way to where I'm going

Note: all bold and italic markings by LO unless stated otherwise

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Disbelief (2) - Believing is seeing and seeing is believing

Recently, I was searching for material in connection with the phrase "seeing is believing". I stumbled on a 2017 article called Believing is seeing and seeing is believing by Daniel Christian Wahl. It includes the "Ladder of Inference", a concept that was developed by Chris Argyris, "American business theorist and Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School".

Much to my surprise, it combines several of my blog labels & topics: assumptions, beliefs, expectations, perception, and my concept of the 7 Belief systems.

The Ladder of Inference combines these topics in a natural order: seeing, comparison with past experiences, using assumptions to fill the blanks, resulting perception, comparison with beliefs, and a conclusion in conformity with one's beliefs.

Hence, believing is seeing and seeing is believing.

This Ladder of Inference also supports my recent 2018 blog: Disbelief and the 7 Belief systems. Disbelief lies at the heart of Homo sapiens rather than the 7 Belief systems or Wisdom, which I originally assumed to be at the human core.

Now, I must assume that we need and want our beliefs to cope with our fundamental disbelief. Disbelief is the left vertical bar of the ladder, while Needs, Wants and Beliefs (my blogs) - and perhaps also Awakening - are the individual horizontal steps on this Ladder of Inference.

If disbelief were indeed at the heart of human behaviour then it may explain human irrationality. The science of human irrationality has led to fields like behavioural economics and Dan Ariely's 2008 best-selling book Predictably Irrational (eg, NYTScientific American).

Quartz, 2017: "In the 1970s, two psychologists proved, once and for all, that humans are not rational creatures. Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky discovered “cognitive biases,” showing that that humans systematically make choices that defy clear logic."

Remarkably, human irrationality is to our advantage: "But what Kahneman and Tversky acknowledged, and is all too often overlooked, is that being irrational is a good thing. We humans don’t always make decisions by carefully weighing up the facts, but we often make better decisions as a result." (Quartz, 2017)

“I guess love is the real suspension of disbelief.” A quote by Melissa Bank from her 1999 book The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing (eg, NYT).

I Don't Believe in Miracles (1972) by Colin Blunstone - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Note: all bold and italic markings by LO unless stated otherwise

Monday, 26 February 2018

The Curse of Knowledge

One of the great hurdles in relationships, is that your partner assumes that you will understand what he/she is thinking. This might be true when couples are together for 20+ years. In new relationships, this assumption and/or expectation will often be wrong, and is likely to cause disappointments between romantic partners.

Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, calls this phenomenon the Curse of Knowledge. "This cognitive bias basically means that "when you know something, it's extraordinarily difficult to know what it's like not to know it. Your own knowledge seems so obvious that you're apt to think that everyone else knows it, too." Note: italic marking by CNBC.

The Curse of Knowledge causes additional problems. CNBC: "The problem with that, he says, is that you're more likely to use jargon that most people don't understand, to skip steps and explanations, and to rely on abstractions instead of describing things in concrete terms."

Examples of this "Curse of Knowledge" may be found in journalism, management, philosophy, politics, relationships, religion and science. This equals the 7 Belief systems, being: Love, Money, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science and the Truth.

I think, feel and believe there is an opposite pattern between the private and the professional Curse of Knowledge, and its use by men and women. In general, the Curse of Knowledge is used by men in professional settings, and by women in private settings. However, be aware that this Curse of Knowledge might be nothing more than sheer bluff.

2016 study ("To Bluff like a Man or Fold like a Girl?" – Gender Biased Deceptive Behavior in Online Poker) indeed confirmed gender bias in the use of bluff. Also see August 2000 Independent article. In other words, men typically use bluff as a professional tactic to hide ignorance by displaying arrogance (my blogs of 2016, 2017 #1, 2017 #2).

In a professional setting, women typically assume that men know what women and men are talking about. However, the assumption is the mother of all mistakes (my 2015 blog). This female assumption may even help explain the "gender gap" in careers and remuneration.

In private, women use bluff by "constantly gauging and testing a man’s strength" (sourcevideo). In biology, female bluffing is "when a female animal behaves in a way that is intended to discourage a potential predator from attacking her young" (source).

The best response to bluff and/or the Curse of Knowledge is simply by asking: "Why??" Also see my related 2017 blog: The fear and love for asking Why. The more people use "jargon, skip steps and explanations, and rely on abstractions", the more likely it is that they do not know what they are talking about. People who understand things, prefer explaining in layman's terms.

"The hardest tumble a man can make is to fall over his own bluff." A quote by Ambrose Bierce.

The Pretender (1976) by Jackson Browne

Say a prayer for the Pretender
Who started out so young and strong
Only to surrender

Note: all bold and italic markings by LO unless stated otherwise

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Canção do Mar

Canção do Mar (1955) by Dulce Pontes (1993)

Fui bailar no meu batel / I was dancing in my boat
Além do mar cruel / Beyond the cruel sea
E o mar bramindo / And the roaring sea
Diz que eu fui roubar / It says that I was stealing
A luz sem par / The peerless light
Do teu olhar tão lindo / Of your beautiful look

Vem saber se o mar terá razão / I want to know if the sea will be right
Vem cá ver bailar meu coração / Come, see my heart dancing

Se eu bailar no meu batel / If I dance in my boat
Não vou ao mar cruel / I am not going to the cruel sea
E nem lhe digo aonde eu fui cantar / And don't tell you where I was singing
Sorrir, bailar, viver, sonhar contigo / Smiling, dancing, living, dreaming about you

Vem saber se o mar terá razão / I want to know if the sea will be right
Vem cá ver bailar meu coração / Come, see my heart dancing

Se eu bailar no meu batel / If I dance in my boat
Não vou ao mar cruel / I am not going to the cruel sea
E nem lhe digo aonde eu fui cantar / And don't tell you where I was singing
Sorrir, bailar, viver, sonhar contigo / Smiling, dancing, living, dreaming about you

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Britain sees Europe through the distorting mirror of Brexit

"Brexit has had the unfortunate effect of turning British political analysts into football fans. The issue is so divisive that the two camps — Leave and Remain — are no longer capable of dispassionate analysis. Instead, they react to news from Europe like football supporters; cheering anything that seems to confirm their prejudices — and dismissing any discordant information, with the partisan certainty of a fan disputing an offside call against his team.

Any new development — viewed from Britain — now goes through the distorting mirror of confirmation bias. So Leavers saw the recent crisis in Catalonia, as confirmation of their belief that the EU is falling apart and is, besides, an anti-democratic project. They were also delighted by the struggles of Angela Merkel to form a coalition government; further evidence, as they saw it, that the EU is collapsing. By contrast, Ms Merkel’s apparent success in forming a coalition government and the easing of the Catalan crisis is interpreted by Remainers as confirmation of the innate stability of the European project.

The truth is more nuanced and more interesting. After a lousy half decade, the EU has had a very good year. Fears of a populist surge were beaten back in France and the Netherlands in 2017.

In Emmanuel Macron, the French president, the EU has found a new and charismatic champion. Economic growth is reviving — undermining the Leavers’ claim that being a member of the EU is liked “being shackled to a corpse”.

But it is also true that the long-term questions facing the European project have not been answered. The pro-EU centre is shrinking and political developments that would once have seemed shocking are now greeted with a shrug.

A decade ago, the powers-that-be in Brussels regarded Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, as a dangerous populist and Eurosceptic. But the rise of more radical populists is now so pronounced that the EU is left hoping that Mr Berlusconi will emerge as the kingmaker, after next month’s Italian election. In 2000, the presence of the nationalist Freedom party in the Austrian government was shocking enough to provoke the rest of the EU to shun the country. But when the Freedom party rejoined the government in Vienna a few months ago, there was little reaction from Brussels.

This lack of comment reflects the fact that the EU now faces even more troubling political challenges in central Europe — where both the Hungarian and Polish governments have moved in an increasingly illiberal direction. And even if the “grand coalition” goes through in Germany, the political centre is likely to continue to shrink — as the venerable, centre-left Social Democrat party loses support to the far-right and the far-left.

The danger for Britain’s Remainers, (and I am one of them), is that they are so determined to prove the idiocy of leaving the EU, that they endorse a one-sided narrative, in which everything is rosy in the Brussels garden. When bad news from Europe comes along — and there will be plenty — Remainers will be in danger of looking loftily out of touch.

Leavers have the opposite problem. Their difficulty is being the “boy who cries wolf” — forever proclaiming the imminent collapse of the EU, and then looking petulant and dishonest when the much-anticipated crisis fizzles out.

Britain’s anti-EU forces already have a record of consistently underestimating the resilience of the European project. This analytical flaw stems partly from a failure to understand the utter determination of the European elite to preserve the bloc’s integrity.

The Brexit process is also underlining another important point — the extent to which the EU underpins what businesses and ordinary citizens now regard as normal life in Europe. Breaking up the EU — by reimposing border controls and tariffs and restrictions on freedom of movement — would have a disastrous effect on the operations of businesses and a hugely disruptive impact on the lives of millions of people.

Ideology aside, Brexit is illustrating that the EU now provides the framework of laws and regulations that keep goods and people moving. The EU undoubtedly faces serious problems and — after a good patch — these may worsen again. But as long as the single market exists and the EU hangs together, the UK will still clearly suffer economically from leaving.

And then there is a moral question, as well as a practical one. Britain’s Leavers are so desperate for confirmation of their view that the EU is heading for disaster, that they often slide into quietly cheering on some of the darkest forces in Europe; tacitly supporting every nationalist movement, from Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France to Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party in Hungary.

In that sense, the current problems of the EU actually support the case for remaining — not leaving. When faced with problems such as supporting liberal values in Hungary, dealing with the refugee crisis or preserving financial stability in Europe, there is no substitute for the EU. For all its flaws, it is the only real mechanism for trying to find solutions to pan-European problems that are legal, humane and equitable, and that prevent Europe sliding backwards into beggar-thy-neighbour nationalistic antagonisms. Britain should be part of the effort to find those solutions. Instead, through Brexit, it has become part of the problem."

Source: FT article written by Gideon Rachman

Cashless in China (Bloomberg)

"I spent last week in Beijing, where Tencent's WeChat has become inescapable for the roughly 900 million daily users (out of a national population of 1.4 billion) who use the app to do everything from chat with friends to hail a taxi or pay rent.

Even beggars in China reportedly accept handouts via WeChat, using QR codes linked to payment accounts. (Some have cautioned that this phenomenon might be more of a marketing effort, or an attempt to gather IDs).

However, as a foreigner without a bank account or phone number from mainland China, once I landed in Beijing I was locked out of WeChat's pay function. Ditto for Alibaba's Alipay, the other big pay app with about 520 million users. I could use both services in Hong Kong, but not in Beijing. In order to do so, I would need a Chinese bank account, due to know-your-customer and anti-money laundering rules. Still, I completely underestimated how difficult this would make daily life. (Tencent last month said WeChat would start accepting foreign credit cards. Hours of trying with local colleagues failed. It turns out, users may be able to link foreign credit cards, but to qualify for WeChat pay in the first place they need to verify their identities with a mainland bank account or national ID.)

Take grabbing a taxi to a meeting. Now that ride-hailing app and Uber-killer Didi Chuxing has conditioned drivers to depend on it for passengers, it's increasingly difficult to hail a cab on the street. Private cars accept only mobile payments. It's possible to use the Didi app to summon a traditional city taxi that accepts cash but the drivers I encountered rarely carried enough to make change.

Foreign credit cards aren't accepted at most restaurants or convenience stores. So when I tried to use cash to pay for meals or odds and ends at 7-Eleven, waiters and shopkeepers were either confused or bemused. Patients can now book hospital appointments using WeChat, letting them avoid wait times that can last hours.

There are more smartphone users in China than any other country in the world. Penetration stood around 52 percent in China last year, compared with 69 percent in the U.S., U.K. and Germany, according to gaming consultancy Newzoo. But almost all those who access the internet in China do so using smartphones, while Beijing, Shanghai and other big cities have an 80 percent penetration rate, according to China Internet Watch.

Alibaba, Tencent and other web businesses already have a pretty good picture of where people are and what they're buying at any given moment. The stakes are about to get even higher as China moves to digitize everything from subway and train tickets to national identity cards used for opening bank accounts or accessing social welfare programs.

At some point, being locked out of China's digital economy will make it difficult, rather than just annoying, to get anything done. Based on my week in China, it's clear that a sort of forced digitization will happen in more places. The question is, will we be be using Alipay and Wechat, or will some other payment system (Apple Pay or Android-based) become dominant?"

Source: Cashless in China by Shelly Banjo from Bloomberg's Fully Charged newsletter 

Friday, 23 February 2018

Waves (3) - history and nature always repeat itself

The wave pattern can be found anywhere: economical cycles, gravitational waves, human migration out of Africa, mass extinctions, ocean waves, and so on. This wave pattern is also hidden in expressions that history repeats itself - or nature. "The ctenophore’s brain suggests that, if evolution began again, intelligence would re-emerge because nature repeats itself" (Aeon).

George Bernard Shaw once stated that "if history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience". To some extent, this is an example of the Mediocrity principle: "The principle has been taken to suggest that there is nothing very unusual about the evolution of the Solar System, Earth's history, the evolution of biological complexity, human evolution, or any one nation".

"What’s fascinating is how these different pathways of evolution arrived at nervous systems that look so similar across the animal tree of life. Take for example the work of Nicholas Strausfeld, a neuro-anatomist at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He and others have found that the neural circuits underlying smell, episodic memory, spatial navigation, behaviour choice and vision in insects are nearly identical to those performing the same functions in mammals – despite the fact that different, though overlapping, sets of genes were harnessed to build each one." (Aeon)

Aeon: "These similarities reflect two key principles of evolution, factors that are probably important on any world where life has emerged. The first is convergence: these far-flung branches of the evolutionary tree arrived at common designs for a nervous system because they each had to solve the same fundamental problems. The second is shared history: the idea that all of these differently built nervous systems shared at least some element of common origin. On our world, they each evolved from molecular building blocks that were forged in the physical and chemical environments of early Earth."

"Take these two ideas to their logical ends, and one arrives at a startling conclusion. If the history of Earth was rewound and played back, evolution might not arrive at this present year with the same assortment of animal groups that we see today. Mammals or birds, perhaps even all vertebrates, might be absent. But evolution might still arrive at most, or even all, of the same innovations that permitted the emergence of sophisticated brains: those innovations might simply emerge on other branches of the animal tree." (Aeon)

The neuroscientist Leonid Moroz explains this by stating: "‘It was much more than just the presence or absence of just a few genes. It was really a grand design." The scientific notion that nature follows a grand design is one of the root causes for the existence of religious beliefs.

“Nature, which makes nothing durable, always repeats itself so that nothing which it makes may be lost.”A quote from Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), Irish poet and playwright

History Repeating (1997) by the Propellerheads featuring Shirley Bassey

The word is about, there's something evolving,
whatever may come, the world keeps revolving
They say the next big thing is here,
that the revolution's near,
but to me it seems quite clear
that it's all just a little bit of history repeating

Note: all bold and italic markings by LO

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Does atheism cause materialism?

Some weeks ago, I read a Dutch newspaper interview with the Egyptian-Sudanese writer Leila Aboulela. She argues that the rise of European atheism causes more materialism. This ongoing debate has resulted in many Google search hits (eg, Quora, source 1, source 2).

At first glanceLeila Aboulela seems to have a valid point. However, materialism is certainly not limited to atheists. Nor is it limited to Christians and/or Jews. Just look at the extravagant wealth in several countries in the Middle East. In fact, the opposite might be true.

The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14) and the Parable of the Minas (Luke 19:12) show that "God gives us our gifts for a purpose, and that is to be profitable servants" (source). Wiki: "A thematically variant parable appears in the non-canonical Gospel of the Hebrews." To some extent, the Quran provides a similar parable, related to the Sower (source, Wiki).

I think, feel and believe that the human focus largely was - and still is - on the first word: profitable servants. In most - if not all - religions, people forgot to focus on the 2nd word: servants.

I'm tempted to connect this "omission" to the surge of Liberalism, which focuses on freedom (Liber). Liberalism came in waves: (1st) personal freedom by the ancient Greeks, (2nd) economic freedom in the 18th century, and (3rd) today’s individual human - rather than group - right of freedom (my 2017 blog).

The 3rd wave of Liberalism may, however, cause a break with materialism. The current surge in individual human rights seems to coincide with different views on consumerism (eg, cars, houses, jobs). There is a tendency of not owning cars but using Uber. The tiny house movement may become persistent. The rise of AI Robotics (my related blogs) and the loss of human jobs, may also change the view on (lifetime) employment. 

Although Religion is in decline due to secularization, spirituality seems to be on the rise. Ultimately, everybody needs something to believe in. This expression is also a Jimmy Randolph song and part of a funny quote by American comedian W.C. Fields. Usually, consumerism / materialism and spirituality do not go well together.

There is another - more fundamental - reason why atheism does not cause materialism. Every society follows at least 3 phases: Needs, Wants, and Beliefs (my concept and related blogs). An Awakening might be the 4th stage (my related blogs). Materialism belongs the 2nd phase of Wants. Atheism and Religion both belong to the 3rd stage of Beliefs. 

“To be content with little is difficult; to be content with much, impossible.” A quote by Baroness Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach from her 1879 book Aphorisms.

Material Girl (1985) by Madonna - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Living in a material world
And I am a material girl
You know that we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl

Note: all bold and italic markings by LO

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

A future view on the 7 Belief systems

An article in Futurism mentioned the recent World Government Summit in Dubai which discussed "vital future topics including artificial intelligence, space, youth and happiness, climate change" (WGS). In one of these WGS sessions, theoretical physicist and futurist Dr. Michio Kaku described what life would look like in 20 years.

The diagram below shows my future view while using the 7 Belief systems and today's drivers. This future view is dystopian rather than utopian, which is - to a large extent - due to the disruptive impact of technology on our societies. The book and movie Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) by George Orwell was probably a century too soon.

Our future can already be witnessed in China 2018. Please see my 2017 blog on "China: from Hukou to Social Credit" and Bloomberg's recent article on China's cashless society. China's Social Credit System and its cashless society make anonymity virtually impossible. Big Brother is watching your every move (eg, Guardian-2017Telegraph-2008, WaPo-2017).

The 1st Futurism article claims that "The Next Step in AI is Augmenting Humans". Similarly, news reports stated that the Chinese police is using Augmented Reality (AR) glasses that enable facial recognition "to spot criminals in crowds" (eg, ABC, GeekTelegraph, the Verge).

China was once "the world's technology copycat" (FT). News reports now compare China and USA in respect of innovation (Bruegel, CNN, Fortune, FT, NYT, Quora, SD, USA Today). SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket is however viewed with envy in China (Diplomat, Quartz, SCMP).

Recently, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross expressed his (deep) concerns in Davos on China’s 2025 high tech ambitions: ”That is a direct threat. And it is a direct threat that is being implemented by technology transfers, by disrespect for intellectual property rights, by commercial espionage, by all kinds of very bad things.” (Reuters)

China in Your Hand (1987) by T'Pau - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Don't push too far your dreams are china in your hand
Don't wish too hard because they may come true
And you can't help them
You don't know what you might have set upon yourself
China in your hand

Note: all bold and italic markings by LO

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Water - states of matter do matter

In physics, these 4 states of matter are observable in everyday life: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. Other states of matter only happen under extreme circumstances: extremely high cold, density, and energy. Wiki: "Some other states are believed to be possible but remain theoretical for now. For a complete list of all exotic states of matter, see the list of states of matter."

In December 2016, scientists at Stockholm University reported that they "have discovered two phases of the liquid [water] with large differences in structure and density" between 50℃ and 60℃ (eg, ConversationFuturismInternational Journal of NanotechnologyQuartz, Science DailyStockholm University).

In November 2016, scientists at the University of Florida State and Edinburgh reported that water is stored in - and transported from - a stable high-pressure phase of the mineral brucite, far below the Earth's surface (eg, IBTNWNPhysPnas). Obviously, this discovery had - and still has - far-reaching consequences, like future human space travel.

On 24 July 2017, Brown University confirmed that while "using satellite data, Brown researchers have for the first time detected widespread water within ancient explosive volcanic deposits on the Moon, suggesting that its interior contains substantial amounts of indigenous water." Also see reports by CNN, Express, Nature, Telegraph.

Early 2018, scientists discovered that NASA images of Mars reveal "layers of ice peeking out of eroded cliffs [] which start three to six feet beneath the surface [and] strongly suggest that they are made of water ice" (Nat Geo, 2018). Also see NASAUS Geological Survey, WaPo, and Wiki.

Before these discoveries, scientists assumed that other planets than Earth would not have water because their water had vaporized due to a lack of an atmosphere, like on Earth. Remarkably, the opposite appears to be true. Earth has lost much of its water due to the existence of an atmosphere. Water on planets without an atmosphere didn't vaporize but turned into solid ice.

Furthermore, "NASA recently revealed new details about the oceans that lurk beneath the surface of Saturn’s tiny moon Enceladus and Jupiter’s Europa" (Business Insider, Conversation).

In fact, "the Solar System and beyond is awash in water", according to NASA in 2015: "Astronomers see the signature of water in giant molecular clouds between the stars, in disks of material that represent newborn planetary systems, and in the atmospheres of giant planets orbiting other stars."

Water is more unique than we realise as it comes in 3 of the 4 daily observable states: solid ice, liquid water and vapor gas. Water also shows hybrid states like in a fog (gas/liquid) and snow (liquid/solid). Water stored in the volcanic mineral brucite shows what can happen to water under extremely high pressure. We may be in for a lot more scientific surprises about ........ water.

The Whole of the Moon (1985) by The Waterboys

Note: all bold and italic martkings by LO

Monday, 19 February 2018

The Maunder Minimum

In the 1980s, British PM Margaret Thatcher started warning for global warming. Before, global cooling and a new Ice Age had been the leading themes. This was probably due to the Little Ice Age which is "conventionally defined as a period extending from the 16th to the 19th centuries, but some experts prefer an alternative timespan from about 1300 to about 1850".

The Little Ice Age showed strange events: a freeze of the Baltic Sea in 1303 and 1306-1307, a Swedish army invading Denmark by marching across the ice in 1658, a 7 week freeze of the river Thames freeze in 1683-84, Viking settlers abandoning Greenland, and "Norwegian farmers demanded that the Danish king recompense them for lands occupied by advancing glaciers".

One could well argue that even the winters of the 1960s, and especially the one of 1963, still supported global cooling. In 1963, some 5,000 (!!) Dutch automobiles participated in a rally across the enormous IJsselmeer while riding on 70 cm of ice (eg, video 1video 2VK).

In 2015, media warned that "Earth [is] heading for [a] 'mini ice age' within 15 years". This conclusion was based on "research [that] predicted a new solar 'Maunder minimum' in the 2030s" (eg, IFL ScienceTelegraph). A December 2017 scientific study also predicts a Maunder Minimum around 2050 which could, however, start as early as 2030 (Big Think).

Although the number of events is too small for sound statistical conclusions, it's tempting to connect the timing of a Maunder Minimum with the timing of the Little Ice Age.

The 8 scientifically known causes for climate change are: (#1) strength of the sun, (2) changes in the Earth's orbit, (3) changes in the orientation of the Earth’s axis of rotation, (#4) quantity of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, (5) carbon dioxide content of the oceans, (6) plate tectonics, (7) ocean currents and (8) vegetation coverage on the land (British Geological Survey).

In a Maunder or Grand Minimum, "we’ll see a 7% reduction in the Sun’s light and heat — and remember, that’s 7% lower than the lowest of the 11 year cycle that we usually see" (Big Think).

It's unclear whether the new Maunder Minimum (#1) will have a stronger impact than the quantity of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (#4). So far, we have been lucky because the start of a new (mini) Ice Age was delayed at least twice (eg, Bloomberg-2016, NYT-2003).

Climate change is not the exact science that many people think it is. It's more like a belief system (my 2015 blog). We know little to nothing about most of the known 8 BGS parameters for climate change. The decades following 2030 might be as Cold as Ice - or not.

Cold as Ice (1977) by Foreigner featuring Lou Gramm as lead singer

Note: all bold and italic markings by LO

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime

Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime (1980) by The Korgis

Change your heart, look around you
Change your heart, it will astound you
I need your lovin' like the sunshine

Everybody's got to learn sometime
Everybody's got to learn sometime
Everybody's got to learn sometime

Change your heart, look around you
Change your heart, will astound you
I need your lovin' like the sunshine

Everybody's got to learn sometime
Everybody's got to learn sometime
Everybody's got to learn sometime

I need your lovin' like the sunshine

Everybody's got to learn sometime
Everybody's got to learn sometime

Everybody's got to learn sometime
Everybody's got to learn sometime
Everybody's got to learn sometime

Everybody's got to learn sometime
Everybody's got to learn sometime
Everybody's got to learn sometime

Everybody's got to learn sometime
Everybody's got to learn sometime

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Why do opposites (not) attract?

Have you ever held two magnets opposite each other? From a distance, they attract each other. However, at a close range, magnets either cling to each other immediately or magnets just refuse to cling together. These two opposite forces work the same way in (new) relationships: from a distance there is attraction but at a close range this attraction might be gone.

Folk wisdom points at the first: opposites do attract. I think, feel and believe that this folk wisdom contains a lot of truth. However, attraction might be nothing more than lust in this context. In Love and/or relationships, opposites will always cause differences of opinion. These differences need to be bridged, preferably from both sides. Else, irreconcilable differences may occur.

The Conversation (2018): "Since the 1950s, social scientists have conducted over 240 studies to determine whether similarity in terms of attitudes, personality traits, outside interests, values and other characteristics leads to attraction."

The Conversation (2018): "In 2013, psychologists Matthew Montoya and Robert Horton examined the combined results of these studies in what’s called a meta-analysis. They found an irrefutable association between being similar to and being interested in the other person."

Being similar will translate in having similar opinions. On the one hand, this might be boring at times. On the other hand, there will be less arguments and fights on who is right and wrong. Hence, there is little need for reconciling opinions. This will help the "relationship ledger" in which we keep score of our pluses and minuses (eg, Karen Grierson, my 2016 blog).

I think, feel and believe that similarity in relationships creates comfort rather than attraction. However, both attraction and comfort support a relationship, although the duration of attraction is likely to be less than comfort.

In other words, attraction is the magnetism that brings people together. Similarity is the glue that keeps people together. To some extent, attraction and similarity are like apples and oranges

A William Blake quote on attraction: "Without contraries is no progression. Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate, are necessary to human existence." (eg, Wiki)

A Giorgio Armani quote on similarity: "It's not a good idea to match your shoes with a bag too stringently. Go for subtle similarity."

A Theodor Adorno quote that bridges attraction and similarity: "Love is the power to see similarity in the dissimilar."

Opposites Attract (1989) by Paula Abdul - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Baby, ain't it something how we lasted this long?
You and me proving everyone wrong
I don't think we'll ever get our differences patched
It don't really matter 'cause we perfectly matched

Friday, 16 February 2018

Why are there (no) boundaries in human thinking?

My recent blog on Admiration caused a discussion on why we love someone else. It's genuinely difficult to give an answer. It's not about reproduction as you don't actually need Love for that. Hence, it's not surprising that there is no clear definition for Love (eg, Wiki). The same issue applies to concepts like friendship (my 2016 blog) and the Universe.

The ancient Greeks used 4 types of Love: Agápe (divine/spiritual), éros (romantic), philía (brotherly/sisterly), and storgē (parental). Today, an article claims there are (at least) 11 kinds of Love.

In my diagram on the How, What, When, Where, Who and Why of Love, I noticed a common answer: no boundaries.

The reason why we struggle to understand the Universe is - probably - the same: its proportions appear to be infinite. Infinite is another word for no boundaries.

Our minds have a problem visualizing the concept of infinity. Our conscious senses (eg, ears, eyes, smell, taste) only experience finite dimensions on this planet.

We express these finite dimensions in length, width, height (Space) and minutes, hours, weeks, months, years and even light-years (Time). We struggle to understand - let alone accept - any other dimensions (eg, Multiverse) that are beyond our bodily senses.

The term thinking outside the box "is thought to derive from management consultants in the 1970s and 1980s challenging their clients to solve the "nine dots" puzzle, whose solution requires some lateral thinking" (Wiki). Outside the box are no boundaries.

There is one human area that thinks outside the box: our imagination (see my 2018 blog). Our non-conscious dreams and imagination are an example of unknown unknowns (my 2016 blog). Our conscious world is, however, defined by known knowns (eg, facts, history), unknown knowns (eg, intuition, my 2016 blog) and known unknowns (eg, beliefs, my 2015 blog).

Human inventions may seem an example of imagination. However, some of our (technological) inventions appear to be a copycat of things that we see in Nature: airplane (bird), armoured fighting vehicle (rhinoceros), ships (waterbirds), society (ants), solar power (flowers, trees), submarine (whale), and perhaps even the use of fire (black kites). 

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” A quote by Albert Einstein.

No Boundaries (2009) by Kris Allen - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

No Boundaries (2009) by Adam Lambert - artist, lyrics, videoWiki-1Wiki-2

Note: all bold and italic markings and underlining by LO

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Deficits, Losses, and (Government) Debt

"The failure to address our long-term fiscal situation has increased the national debt to over $20tn. This situation is unsustainable and represents a dire threat to our economic and national security." These recent words were expressed by Dan Coats, U.S. Director of National Intelligence, to the Senate intelligence committee (FT).

My recent blogs on Every 10 year a new US recession and The drivers of an asset bubble and a recession did not address the potential impact of (government) debt.

In order to visualize its impact, I prepared a diagram comparing the main actors: (Central) Banks, Consumers, Companies, Courts, and Governments.

This diagram shows that the comparison is different in its final stages. From a narrow legal sense, a country cannot go bankrupt while defaulting on its debts.

A country or sovereign default might be considered rare but is certainly not unusual. The Wikipedia list on sovereign debt crises mentions 6 sovereign defaults for USA, including the 1971 Nixon Shock.

Daily Sabah: "Although not commonly known, the U.S. has declared bankruptcy five times, since its foundation. Once it could not pay its foreign debts, and four times could it not pay its internal debts. These bankruptcies had resulted from financial crises in the banking sector, the first of which was in 1790, and the last of which was in 1933." 

A sovereign debt crises includes: (i) a sovereign default, where a government suspends debt repayments, (ii) a debt restructuring plan, where the government agrees with other countries, or unilaterally reduces its debt repayments, and (iii) assistance from the International Monetary Fund or another international source (Wiki).

In the absence of (ii) government debt restructuring, and/or (iii) IMF assistance, a country will usually face hyperinflation (eg, Brazil, Venezuela, Zimbabwe). 

National laws on consumer and/or company bankruptcies will usually differ. Some countries may offer consumers a debt write-off and thus a second chance in life. Company bankruptcies usually end in a legal limbo because termination often requires settlement of all remaining debts.

Money, Money, Money (1976) by ABBA - artists, lyrics, videoWiki-1, Wiki-2

Wednesday, 14 February 2018


Several days ago, I talked to my Brazilian friend. She told me she still admires me. The word admiration struck a nerve. I've never written about admiration in relationships. I do know how important it is: when I lose it, the flame dies. Valentine's Day is an appropriate day for this topic.

Research by Dr. John Gottman of the Gottman Institute showed that "fondness and admiration are two of the most crucial elements in a rewarding and long-lasting romance. Getting through stressful times and managing conflict is much easier if you and your partner regularly show how highly you value each other" (Gottman).

A 2012 Psychology Today article may explain why: admiration and affection or fondness build an emotional bank account of positive feelings prior to (marital) conflict. PT-2012: "As the account builds, we tend to override our tendency to see our partner negatively when stress causes irritability, allowing us to use our reservoir of positive feelings to be forgiving." Please also see my related 2016 blog The ledger of a relationship.

One of the most remarkable insights came from a 2010 Psychology Today article: "The woman should desire the man and the man should admire the woman's characteristics". Aaron Ben-Zeév, the writer, is surprised as he "felt sure that the opposite is true". The article continues by explaining the validity of this quote by Professor Yehshieo Leibovitz (Wiki?).

PT-2010: "we can conclude that women generally give less weight to the aspect of physical attractiveness and hence the issue of (sexual) desire is of less significance for them. If despite the lesser weight, a woman greatly desires her man it indicates that she is highly attracted to him and that is likely to be connected to her admiration of him as well."

PT-2010: "The same reasoning applies to men. If, despite the lesser weight men give to such characteristics, a man admires the characteristics of his woman, it indicates that he rates her characteristics highly and that is likely to be connected to his great desire for her."

The question whether you can love someone whom you don't admire is the topic of several articles: Elite DailyExploring Your Mind, HuffPostPsych Central. Love without admiration might explain today's high divorce rates. People may also confuse love with lust (eg, Elite DailyGuardian, sexMD, YourTango). Both may explain the success of dating apps (eg, Tinder).

In my 2016 blog, I mentioned the 7 criteria for a successful relationship, being: communication, forgiveness, intimacy, respect, togetherness, trust, and vulnerability. With the knowledge of hindsight, admiration would have been more appropriate as a criterion than respect. Admiration is always for the other person while respect no longer is (my 2015 blog).

Love is a combination of admiration, respect, and passion. If you have one of those going, that's par for the course. If you have two, you aren't quite world class but you're close. If you have all three, then you don't need to die; you're already in heaven.” A quote from William Wharton.

I Can't Make You Love Me (1991) by Bonnie Raitt

'Cuz I can't make you love me if you don't.
You can't make your heart feel something it won't.

Note: all bold and/or italic markings by LO