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Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Diverging interests

The US-China trade war is causing a dilemma because neither party wants to blink first. A recent Bloomberg Politics article suggests that Trump has blinked first by delaying "new tariffs on a wide range of consumer products such as smart-phones, laptops and toys until December". Bloomberg: "Beijing may sense its best option is to wait Trump out as the election approaches".

A late 2017 Patribotics article ("Exclusive: China Syndrome – Xi and Putin Partnered in U.S. Election Interference") argued that that China "was part of the 2016 US Election attack" mainly because of "Donald Trump’s opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership or TPP".

The (massive) joint China-Russia military exercises following Trump's election also suggest a closer cooperation (eg, Economist-2018EuroNews-2018, Guardian-2018CNA-2019).  

However, Trump's 2020 reelection campaign has (very) different interests for China and Russia: 

Moreover, Nina Khrushcheva, the great-granddaughter of former Soviet Union premier Nikita Khrushchev, and Professor of International Affairs, has a different theory about Russia supporting Trump during the Russian interference in the 2016 US elections:
"I disagree with the Mueller report's assertion that Russia made an organized and concerted effort to elect Trump. Whatever actions Russia took, they were aimed at undermining Hillary Clinton. Trump, with his sloppy overtures toward Putin, emerged over time as a means for Russia to advance its goal of keeping Hillary out of the White House." (Project Syndicate interview)

If Russia opposes to and China benefits from America's Democratic party, diverging geopolitical interests between China and Russia will soon emerge. Russia may benefit from Trump ruining the American economy. China needs a healthy US economy and free trade, including less tariffs.

"And we went our separate ways without having understood each other. As in this world nobody understands the other easily." A quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a German writer and statesman.

Separate Ways (1972) by Elvis Presley

I see a change is coming to our lives 
It's not the way that it used to be 
And it's not too late to realize our mistake 
We're just not right for each other

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

One question says more than a thousand answers

Recently, I asked a question while looking at her: do you think we are a match? It was a genuine rather than a rhetorical question. However, asking that question was answering it, albeit to myself. She hesitated answering me. My question revealed a lack of mutual chemistry. Afterwards, I realised once again that asking questions is more dangerous than answering them.

The title of my blog is a paraphrase of another saying: a picture is worth a thousands words. Words can be meaningless. Deeds are usually meaningful. Someone's intentions are nearly always a guess. In this context, answers are like words: they can me incomplete, incorrect, irrelevant, late, and thus meaningless.

Obviously, one can also ask meaningless questions, like: how is the weather today? If you are looking for meaningful answers (like "yes, we are a match") then you must ask meaningful questions. Nevertheless, every answer you're getting could be meaningless. A (meaningful) question always reveals someone's intentions, an answer may not reveal anything.

Hence, I prefer letting people talk freely. Most people like talking about themself. It makes them feel (more) important. For the ones wondering: yes, the same principle applies to myself. I prefer asking a minimum of questions, and use them for validation, and/or steering the conversation into the desired direction.

Letting a person talk reveals much more than letting her/him answering questions. Asking closed questions only requires answering through a "yes" or "no", a "maybe" or "perhaps", or an evasive "I don't know" (idk). Therefore, these are considered the worst questions for obtaining meaningful information.

You might try asking several innocent questions first, before asking the Big One. Some people will be off-guard by then. They may answer without careful reflection on the implications. I suppose most of us answer questions by differentiating between (potential) opportunities versus threats.

Sometimes, there is no better way than to ambush somebody with a blunt closed question. The time required for answering, including the non-verbal body language, will reveal the truth which you are looking for.

The episode above ended several hours later in her question to me: shall I go home?

Such a Shame (1984) by Talk Talk

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise

Monday, 19 August 2019

Who cares?

A wealthy American pedophile has died. Either he committed suicide, or he was murdered to protect some other (important) people. However, my only question is: who cares?? The world is better off without him. That should be the only thing that ultimately matters. Apparently, it's more interesting for news media writing about this murder/suicide anyway. Why?

The meaning of the phrase "the end justifies the means", was never more clear to me than in this case. This phrase is from The Prince, a 1513 book by Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527), "an Italian diplomat, politician, historian, philosopher, humanist, writer, playwright and poet of the Renaissance period".

The Bible states "thou shalt not kill", "a moral imperative included as one of the Ten Commandments in the Torah". The morality of this murder/suicide is indeed interesting.

Does morality prohibit feeling indifference towards someone's death? I cannot imagine that. Each day, people die and most of them are unfamiliar to us. Are we indifferent to them? I cannot imagine that. The main difference is that we do not know that these other people died.

Does morality require feeling empathy (collective) or sympathy (individual) towards others? I cannot imagine thatSympathy requires knowing someone and having a personal connection. Empathy requires not knowing people and feeling sorry about their circumstances. Altruism is beyond the scope of this example (my 2016 blog).

Obviously, some people do know this guy, and some of them may even appreciate what he did for them. Does morality then require having sympathy for this guy? I cannot imagine thatIf people would feel sympathy for this guy then what would that imply? Collective guilt perhaps? Regret, remorse and shame would prevent feeling sympathy for him.

So, what does explain the interest of news media in the downfall of wealthy men, like the former managing director of the IMF, a former multiple Italian PM and business tycoon, and a former California governor (eg, TIME-2011). Is it envy about their wealth, or is it about gloating? Vocabulary: "If you gloat, you express great satisfaction at the misfortune of others".

Is the continued news coverage on the murder/suicide about the future - or imminent - downfall of his (alleged) co-conspirators? Or is it because conspiracy news boosts sales volumes? Is the newsworthiness about his political connections to a former and a current US president?

Ultimately, I keep telling myself: who cares? I have no sympathy for this devil.

Sympathy for the Devil (1968) by The Rolling Stones

Please allow me to introduce myself 
I'm a man of wealth and taste 
I've been around for a long, long year 
Stole many a man's soul and faith

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Deense primeur: hypotheek met geld toe door negatieve rente (Volkskrant)

Volkskrant titel: Deense primeur: hypotheek met geld toe door negatieve rente

Volkskrant ondertitel: Negatieve rendementen op obligaties kent Nederland al tijden. Negatieve rentes op spaarrekeningen zijn heel dichtbij met de huidige rentes van 0 of bijna nul (0,02) procent, hoewel banken aarzelen het laatste zetje te geven. Nu komen ook negatieve rentes op hypotheekleningen in het vizier.

Publicatiedatum: 15 augustus 2019

"Denemarken heeft daarvan de primeur. Jyske Bank, de derde bank van het land, verstrekt op onderpand van de eigen woning leningen met een looptijd van tien jaar met een rentepercentage van min 0,5 procent. Dit betekent dat bij het opnemen van een hypotheeklening geen rente hoeft te worden betaald aan de bank, maar dat men geld terugkrijgt. Het is niet zo dat de bank jaarlijks een kleine rente overmaakt. Wel krijgen de huiseigenaren elk jaar gratis een klein bedrag aan extra aflossing cadeau.

Rente bijtellen in plaats van aftrekken
Wie omgerekend een hypotheek van 300 duizend euro zou opnemen – Denemarken heeft nog zijn eigen munt –ziet die zonder iets te betalen voor aflossing toch met 1.500 euro per jaar verminderen.

Mikkel Hoegh, woningeconoom van Jyske Bank, zegt dat het niet meteen storm loopt. ‘Denen kiezen meestal bij de aankoop van een woning voor een hypotheek van dertig jaar. Daarop moet nog 0,5 procent rente worden betaald.’ Tien jaar lopende hypotheken worden vooral opgenomen voor reparaties en verbouwingen.

Het negatieve tarief beperkt zich tot hypotheken tot 80 procent van de executiewaarde van de woningen. Aan het afsluiten van de hypotheek zijn nog wel kosten verbonden, want een filantropische instelling is Jyske Bank ook niet. Bij concurrent Nordea Bank kan voor de aankoop van een woning een hypotheek tegen 0 procent rente worden opgenomen met een looptijd van 20 jaar.

In Nederland liggen de laagste rentetarieven voor hypotheken nu op 1 procent. Maar verdere dalingen zijn niet onmogelijk, omdat de ECB overweegt de rentes in september verder terug te brengen. Als de rente negatief wordt, komen mensen hier in de doldwaze situatie terecht dat ze geen een rente meer mogen aftrekken van de inkomstenbelasting, maar rente moeten bijtellen op box 3 van het belastingbiljet. Een belastingwoordvoerder van het ministerie van Financiën zegt dat ‘ze geen idee hoeft men een dergelijke hypothetische situatie moet worden omgegaan.’ Hoegh zegt dat het in Denemarken wel zo zal werken. Ook daar bestaat hypotheekrente-aftrek."

Negatieve rentes? Nieuwe instrumenten"Banken moeten een nieuw instrumentarium ontwikkelen: negatieve rentes kennen geen historisch precedent. Voor spaartegoeden is dat het minst moeilijk. Banken kunnen bij een negatieve rente van een half procent, zoals dat in Zwitserland het geval is, gewoon elk jaar 5 euro inhouden op een spaarbedrag van 1.000 euro.

Voor instellingen die schuldpapier in de markt plaatsen, zoals overheden, is het ingewikkelder. Ze zouden elk jaar ineens rente moeten gaan innen in plaats van overmaken. Het ministerie van Financiën zou elk jaar mondiaal (want een groot deel van de Nederlandse staatsschuld is in buitenlandse handen) allerlei aanmaningen moeten gaan versturen als bijvoorbeeld een pensioenfonds in Austin (Texas) niet over de brug zou komen. Deze administratieve rompslomp blijft het ministerie bespaard. Het rendement op een tienjarige Nederlandse staatslening is nu -0,5 procent. Iemand die een tienjarige obligatie van 1.000 euro koopt, betaalt niet jaarlijks 5 euro toe, maar moet bij aankoop van deze obligatie 1.050 euro betalen, terwijl er over tien jaar maar 1000 euro wordt afgelost."

China Loses Status as U.S.’s Top Foreign Creditor to Japan (Bloomberg)

Bloomberg title: China Loses Status as U.S.’s Top Foreign Creditor to Japan

Publication date: 15 August 2019

  • China had held top position for two years before Japan rebound
  • Japan holds $1.12 trillion to China’s $1.11 trillion stockpile

"Japan surpassed China in June as the top holder of U.S. Treasuries as the trade war between the world’s two largest economies intensified.

Japan increased its holdings of U.S. bonds, bills and notes by $21.9 billion to $1.12 trillion, the highest level in more than 2 1/2 years, according to data released by the Treasury Department on Thursday. Meanwhile, China’s ownership rose for the first time in four months to $1.11 trillion, up by $2.3 billion.

The last time Japan held the position as America’s largest foreign creditor was May 2017. The nation has added more than $100 billion worth of Treasuries at a fairly steady pace since October 2018. Treasuries have become more attractive as the globe’s pool of negative yielding debt grows, according to BMO Capital Markets. While benchmark 10-year U.S. yields have plunged to the lowest level since 2016 in recent months, the rate on 10-year Japanese government bonds is currently negative 0.23%.

“The buying we have seen from Japanese investors is really a reflection of the globally low and negative yield environment,” said BMO strategist Ben Jeffery.

Bloomberg, U.S. Treasury Department

A cautious months-long calm in the U.S.-China trade war was interrupted in May when talks between the two sides broke down. In June the U.S. raised tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25% from 10%.

While Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed to a ceasefire in late June, that only lasted about a month before the U.S. president announced that on Sept. 1 he’ll impose a 10% levy on virtually every import from China not yet subject to duties.

This week, Trump partially backed down by delaying the 10% charge on certain items, including mobile phones and laptops, until Dec. 15 to stem the impact on holiday shopping. Beijing says it still plans to retaliate.

China’s U.S. debt hoard has come under increased scrutiny in the trade dispute amid speculation that the Asian nation could sell Treasuries in response. Earlier this month, the U.S. formally labeled China a currency manipulator after the yuan weakened past 7 per dollar."


Saturday, 17 August 2019

Study shows women benefit from multiple marriages while men do not (Phys)

Phys title: Study shows women benefit from multiple marriages while men do not

Publication date: 14 August 2019

"A pair of researchers, one with the University of California, the other with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, has found that women in an East African community benefit from multiple marriages while the men seem to suffer. In their paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Monique Mulder and Cody Ross describe their study of people living in Pimbwe, a community in a western part of Tanzania, and what they learned from them.

British geneticist and botanist Angus John Bateman proposed in 1948 that variability in reproductive success is greater in males than females. Since that time, Bateman's principles, as they have been named, have become somewhat of a standard that describes variability of partnerships in human sexual relations. In effect, they suggest that because men are able to spread their seed around indiscriminately, they more effectively reproduce if they have multiple partners. Women, on the other hand, women, bound by time and the number of children they can carry, are more likely to fare better in fewer and longer sexual relationships. In this new effort, the researchers have tested those principles in a real human population and report evidence that contradicts them.

Mulder and Ross analyzed data covering a 20-year period for approximately 2000 people living in Pimbwe. The data covered marriages, divorces, births and deaths for virtually everyone living in the small community. The researchers found something surprising: women who married multiple times had more surviving children than women who married fewer times. Also surprising was that men who married multiple times had fewer surviving children than did men who married fewer times.

The researchers note that swapping partners is quite common in Pimbwe, and marriage is a rather loose term—either partner is free to leave at any time. They report that they were surprised by their results, as they contradict at least two of Bateman's principles. They also acknowledge that they were not able to explain why there were differences from the expected norm in Pimbwe. They further suggest their findings challenge evolutionary stereotypes, and point out that female mating strategies are clearly more complex than has been suggested by prior studies."

More information: "Monique Borgerhoff Mulder et al. Unpacking mating success and testing Bateman's principles in a human population, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2019). DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2019.1516

Press release
Journal information: Proceedings of the Royal Society B "

Recursive language and modern imagination were acquired simultaneously 70,000 years ago (Phys)

Phys title: Recursive language and modern imagination were acquired simultaneously 70,000 years ago

Publication date: 5 August 2019

"A genetic mutation that slowed down the development of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) in two or more children may have triggered a cascade of events leading to acquisition of recursive language and modern imagination 70,000 years ago.

This new hypothesis, called Romulus and Remus and coined by Dr. Vyshedskiy, a neuroscientist from Boston University, might be able to solve the long-standing mystery of language evolution. It is published in the open-science journal Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO).

Numerous archeological and genetic evidence have already convinced most paleoanthropologists that the speech apparatus has reached essentially modern configurations before the human line split from the Neanderthal line 600,000 years ago. Considering that the chimpanzee communication system already has 20 to 100 different vocalizations, it is likely that the modern-like remodeling of the vocal apparatus extended our ancestors' range of vocalizations by orders of magnitude. In other words, by 600,000 years ago, the number of distinct verbalizations used for communication must have been on par with the number of words in modern languages.

On the other hand, artifacts signifying modern imagination, such as composite figurative arts, elaborate burials, bone needles with an eye, and construction of dwellings arose not earlier than 70,000 years ago. The half million-year-gap between the acquisition of the modern speech apparatus and modern imagination has baffled scientists for decades.

While studying acquisition of imagination in children, Dr. Vyshedskiy and his colleagues discovered a temporal limit for the development of a particular component of imagination. It became apparent that modern children who have not been exposed to full language in early childhood never acquire the type of active constructive imagination essential for juxtaposition of mental objects, known as Prefrontal Synthesis (PFS).

Dr. Vyshedskiy explains:

"To understand the importance of PFS, consider these two sentences: "A dog bit my friend" and "My friend bit a dog." It is impossible to distinguish the difference in meaning using words or grammar alone, since both words and grammatical structure are identical in these two sentences. Understanding the difference in meaning and appreciating the misfortune of the 1st sentence and the humor of the 2nd sentence depends on the listener's ability to juxtapose the two mental objects: the friend and the dog. Only after the PFC forms the two different images in front of the mind's eye, are we able to understand the difference between the two sentences. Similarly, nested explanations, such as "a snake on the boulder to the left of the tall tree that is behind the hill," force listeners to use PFS to combine objects (a snake, the boulder, the tree, and the hill) into a novel scene. Flexible object combination and nesting (otherwise known as recursion) are characteristic features of all human languages. For this reason, linguists refer to modern languages as recursive languages."

Unlike vocabulary and grammar acquisition, which can be learned throughout one's lifetime, there is a strong critical period for the development of PFS and individuals not exposed to conversations with recursive language in early childhood can never acquire PFS as adults. Their language is always lacking understanding of spatial prepositions and recursion that depend on the PFS ability. In a similar manner, pre-modern humans would not have been able to learn recursive language as adults and, therefore, would not be able to teach recursive language to their own children, who, as a result, would not acquire PFS. Thus, the existence of a strong critical period for PFS acquisition creates a cultural evolutionary barrier for acquisition of recursive language.

The second predicted evolutionary barrier was a faster PFC maturation rate and, consequently, a shorter critical period. In modern children the critical period for PFS acquisition closes around the age of five. If the critical period in pre-modern children was over by the age of two, they would have no chance of acquiring PFS. A longer critical period was imperative to provide enough time to train PFS via recursive conversations.

An evolutionary mathematical model, developed by Dr. Vyshedskiy, predicts that humans had to jump both evolutionary barriers within several generations since the "PFC delay" mutation that is found in all modern humans, but not in Neanderthals, is deleterious and is expected to be lost in a population without an associated acquisition of PFS and recursive language. Thus, the model suggests that the "PFC delay" mutation triggered simultaneous synergistic acquisition of PFS and recursive language.

This model calls for:
  • two or more children with extended critical period due to "PFC delay" mutation;
  • these children spending a lot of time talking to each other;
  • inventing the recursive elements of language, such as spatial prepositions;
  • acquiring recursive-conversations-dependent PFS;
  • teaching recursive language to their offsprings.

The hypothesis is named after the celebrated twin founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. Similar to legendary Romulus and Remus, whose caregiver was a wolf, the real children's caregivers had an animal-like communication system with many words, but no recursion. Their parents could not have taught them spatial prepositions or recursion; children had to invent recursive elements of language themselves. Such an invention of a new recursive language has been observed in contemporary children, for example among deaf children in Nicaragua.

"The acquisition of PFS and recursive language 70,000 years ago resulted in what was in essence a behaviorally new species: the first behaviorally modern Homo sapiens," concludes Dr. Vyshedskiy. "This newly acquired power for fast juxtaposition of mental objects in the process of PFS dramatically facilitated mental prototyping and led to fast acceleration of technological progress. Armed with the unprecedented ability to mentally simulate any plan and equally unprecedented ability to communicate it to their companions, humans were poised to quickly become the dominant species."

Humans acquired an ability to trap large animals and therefore gained a major nutritional advantage. As the population grew exponentially, humans diffused out of Africa and quickly settled in the most habitable areas of the planet, arriving in Australia around 50,000 years ago. These humans were very much like modern humans since they possessed both components of full language: the culturally transmitted recursive language along with the innate predisposition towards PFS, enabled by the "PFC delay" mutation."

More information: "Andrey Vyshedskiy, Language evolution to revolution: the leap from rich-vocabulary non-recursive communication system to recursive language 70,000 years ago was associated with acquisition of a novel component of imagination, called Prefrontal Synthesis, enabled by a mutation that slowed down the prefrontal cortex maturation simultaneously in two or more children – the Romulus and Remus hypothesis, Research Ideas and Outcomes (2019). DOI: 10.3897/rio.5.e38546"

Friday, 16 August 2019

Under pressure, everything becomes fluid

There's a Dutch saying that "under pressure, everything becomes fluid". It's a philosophical saying rooted in science. Some 25 years ago, my (wise) mentor used this phrase to explain organisational changes. Resistance to change always disappears once the pressure (to change) becomes high enough. The required amount of pressure varies per person.

Since a few weeks, I have been deleting so-called "memories" from my Facebook profile. My 2012 postings already show an increase in pressure, well before my 2013 burnout. Only with hindsight, I realise how much pressure was needed to make me change my life. I don't give up easily. My strength is also my weakness. Under pressure, everything becomes fluid, including me.

Activists, like the ones in Hong Kong right now, use this same saying for creating change: under pressure, everything becomes fluid. It's however increasingly unlikely that the Hong Kong protesters can exert enough pressure for achieving their goals. The Chinese military is already gathering in Shenzhen, a city close to Hong Kong (eg, Independent).

The saying also refers to nature's way of creating diamonds, objects of perceived beauty and perfection. Elgin Power Solutions: "Diamonds are crystals of pure carbon that have formed under a combination of high temperatures and extreme pressure in the Earth’s mantle."

Pressure results in Change and adequate pressure results in improvement.

It appears adequate pressure is positive, while inadequate pressure gives negative results.

However, the outcome of Change determines - with hindsight - the label (in)adequate (pressure). Hence, it's exactly the other way around.

Remarkably, I didn't notice an English equivalent for this Dutch - and German - saying. My observation seems confirmed in a 2017 ING Bank press release. I did however notice a remotely connected quote by Canadian-American motivational speaker Brian Tracy with a (very) different context: “Nobody works better under pressure. They just work faster.” (eg, CIO, GoodReads, Newslocker)

“True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure - the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character's essential nature.” A quote from Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee (b. 1941), an American author.

Under Pressure (1981) by Queen featuring David Bowie

Pressure pushing down on me 
Pressing down on you, no man ask for 
Under pressure that burns a building down 
Splits a family in two 
Puts people on streets

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Love-Knowledge-Power (8): Identity

For many centuries, knowledge was a privilege of the wealthy. This explains why nearly all famous scholars and scientists came from wealthy families. Some people even believed in a conspiracy  between "the King" and "the Pope" against workers: “If you keep them stupid, I'll keep them poor" (eg, Google booksHistorisch Nieuwsblad, humucontweet).

By suppressing knowledge and wealth, the Power domain (then: Money, Politics, Religion) was able to create so-called "ignorant masses" and pluralistic ignorance. However, identity is much more difficult to suppress. Human identity is derived from a loving family and/or tribe. Urbanization (2000 BC - onwards) has however become a threat to a person's identity. 

The rise of social media, like LinkedIn (2002), Facebook (2004) and Instagram (2010), has created a global surge in identity profiles. Some of these identities gained power by spreading their knowledge. Other identities were undermining power by spreading disinformation (eg, my 2016 blog Fake news). Also see my other blogs on Identity vs Power.

The flipside of our online identity profiles is slowly becoming clear:
Wired, 24 June 2019: "Facebook knows more about you than the CIA";
- TechCrunch, 2018: "Facebook knows literally everything about you".

Chinese equivalents of Western social media are part of China's 2020 Social Credit System. Chinese - and Western - (online) identities are essential for a government in gathering knowledge about us and exerting power over us. The future regulation and operating licence of Big Tech will - most likely - include data sharing agreements with governments.

Our online identities are becoming a weapon against us (eg, tracking cookies). That is why some - allegedly "paranoid" - people are living "off-the-grid": "without the support of remote infrastructure, such as an electrical grid", including the internet that keeps track of all our online activities.

Currently, electronic tagging is already common for cats, dogs, cattle and some criminals. I expect that paper-based passports will (soonish) be replaced by radio-frequency identification (a.k.a. RFID) technology and biometrics (eg, microchip under our skin, NCBI-2012). Future humans may be like today's cattle and "resistance will be futile".

Powerful suppression of identities is never a solution. It will only create even more radical identities. Using advanced technology for mass surveillance makes it easier monitoring and suppressing people. Knowledgeable people will, however, always find solutions for fooling powerful authorities. Identity has become a contemporary example of a philosophical belief.

Powerful People (1974) by Gino Vannelli

Look at the powerful people 
Stealing the sun from the day 
Wish I could do something about it 
When all I can do is pray

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

The 3 roads to Wisdom

Yesterday, I had a conversation in which I asked for the meaning of her Sanskrit name. It meant "the road from Love to Wisdom". Immediately, I saw the link with yesterday's blog, including its updated 2019 diagram. The only thing missing were the 3 arrows from the corners to the middle. Without that epiphany, I would still have overlooked these 3 roads to Wisdom (my blogs).

Knowledge is the obvious road to Wisdom for many or most of us. Unfortunately, there are no road signs, like: the more you know, the wiser you become. The opposite might be true.

Wisdom might be like filtering the essential from Knowledge. Interconnectedness is one of them because people often think and work in silos (eg, Forbes-2013).

Business Dictionary defines a silo mentality as:
"A mind-set present in some companies when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company. This type of mentality will reduce the efficiency of the overall operation, reduce morale, and may contribute to the demise of a productive company culture."

History mentions some wise men in power, like King HammurabiKing Solomonthe 3 wise Kings from the EastPeter the Great (eg, Ranker). Power is a road to Enlightenment and/or Wisdom, although a road not often taken (a Robert Frost poem). An 1887 quote by Lord Acton:
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.”

On the surface, the road from Love to Wisdom might be the least obvious of all 3. The confusion starts with the definition of Love. The ancient Greek used at least 4 different concepts for Love: agápe (divine love), éros (romantic love), philía (brotherly/sisterly love), and storgē (familial love). Agápe is the highest universal form of love, including love for God, nature and strangers (eg, PT-2016, Wiki). I think, feel and believe that wisdom is about agápe.

“Knowledge is power. Power to do evil... or power to do good. Power itself is not evil. So knowledge itself is not evil.” A quote from the novel Allegiant by Veronica Roth (b. 1988), American novelist.
Agape (2013) by Bear's Den

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

The 7 Belief systems - a 2019 update

Mid 2013, I experienced a burnout, a.k.a. a crisis of faith (eg, my 2019 blogNYMag-2007). It took me some 18 months to recover. During those 18 months, I lost faith in my existing beliefs (eg, Money). Early March 2015, I started writing about belief systems (my initial 2015 blog). Apparently, I was busy developing a new set of beliefs. My blog of 1 April 2015 featured my ultimate concept: the 7 Belief systems.

A belief system is the ultimate reason for sacrificing your own life for a Greater Good, or - alternatively - taking someone else's life for that same reason. Belief systems drive human behaviour and vary over time. In 2015, I concluded that the 7 Belief systems were: Money, Politics and Religion (3x Power domain), Philosophy, Science (& Tech) and the Truth (3x Knowledge domain), and Love (both a domain and a belief).

In 2018, I wrote about future changes in these 7 Belief systems (eg, A future view on the 7 Belief systems) following perceived paradigm shifts in Politics (my 2018 blog), Religion (my 2018 blog), Science (my 2018 blog), and the Truth (my 2018 blog). In yesterday's blog, I concluded that the future is now. Hence, a 2019 update of the 7 Belief systems.

My updated diagram reflects 3 main domains: Love, Knowledge and Power (a.k.a. trialism). In dualism, the Knowledge = Power equation rules.

The new Knowledge domain features 3 beliefs: Faith (or: spirituality), Philosophy and Science (excluding Technology). Out are: Tech and the Truth. Faith has replaced Religion.

The new Power domain features 3 beliefs: Data-Information, Money and Technology. Out are: Politics and Religion. This new Power domain is already active in China.

Love is the only selfless domain and belief.

China's migration from its ancient Hukou system to its 2020 Social Credit System, shows the importance of both Technology and Data / Information as new belief systems. The Truth has become obsolete now that Technology can make sure that Data/Info is the new official truth. In this context, it makes sense that Chinese history is being erased (eg, 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, any reference to Taiwan as an independent country).

These 7 Beliefs systems (of 2019) are a better reflection of societies like China today, and anywhere else tomorrow.

China In Your Hand (1987) by T'Pau

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 markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise

Monday, 12 August 2019

The end of Politics as a belief system

More and more, the belief system Politics seems impotent solving the main problems in society (eg, climate, gun violence, mass migration, refugees, terrorism). In that context, the surge in Nationalism and even authoritarianism makes sense. Early 2018, I wrote about a future view on the 7 Belief systems. Today, I'm wondering whether the future is now.

Around 380 BC, Plato wrote the Republic in which he defined the natural order of societies, being: (1) aristocracy, (2) timocracy, (3) oligarchy, (4) democracy, and (5) tyranny. Since a few years, various articles claim that our societies are moving to the 5th and final Plato stage: tyranny (eg, BBC, PT, Vox). Also see my 2018 blog on Plato's 5 regime types.

The ever-increasing disinterest of people to exercise their right to vote (eg, general or municipal election, referendum), shows that people no longer believe in the democratic power of politics. This disinterest is supported by statements like "my vote doesn't matter as politicians do whatever they want anyway". The occasional spike in voter turnout often has a specific background.

Once Politics is deemed outside the Power domain of the 7 Belief systems, politics would become obsolete. This idea may seem farfetched but some political leaders think it's not:
FT, 28 June 2019: "[] the Russian president said “the liberal idea” had “outlived its purpose” as the public turned against immigration, open borders and multiculturalism." 
The European Council President, Mr Tusk, may have expressed wishful thinking in his reply: “What I find really obsolete is authoritarianism, personality cults and the rule of oligarchs.”

Since late 2016, I have assumed that the Great Divide (my blogs) between Left and Right of 1800-2000, had been superseded by a new Great Divide between Nationalism and Globalism from 2000 onwards (my blogs). However, China shows that Nationalism (domestic China) and Globalism (China internationally) are not necessarily each other's opposites.

Last but not least, in several countries, politics has already become a window-dressing for a one-man-one-party system (eg, China, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Turkey, USA). Hence, the title of this blog: the end of Politics as a belief system.

Mid 2018, I came to a similar conclusion in my blog: Paradigm shift in the belief system Politics (2). Back then, it was more of a future expectation, which was partly based on the perceived decoupling of Money and Politics (my 2018 blogs: part 1, part 2, part 3) within the UK and USA. I was wrong in 2018 because the future is now.

The Future Is Now (2012) by The Offspring

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Turkey’s Erdogan Vows Not to Recognize Crimea as Russian (Moscow Times)

The Moscow Times title: Turkey’s Erdogan Vows Not to Recognize Crimea as Russian

Publication date: 8 August 2019

"Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Ankara will not recognize the Crimean peninsula as Russian territory during talks with his Ukrainian counterpart on Wednesday.

Russia annexed the Black Sea territory from Ukraine in 2014, incurring several rounds of Western economic sanctions. Moscow maintains that an overwhelming majority of Crimean residents voted to join Russia in a referendum.

“Turkey has not recognized Crimea’s illegal annexation, nor will it recognize it” in the future, Erdogan said at a briefing following talks with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Ankara.

“Our Crimean brothers and sisters are an important element of the historic and human connections between Ukraine and Turkey,” he said, calling the plight of Crimean Tatars a “priority” for Turkey.

Turkey is home to a sizeable diaspora of Crimean Tatars, according to a U.S.-based nonprofit. The Tatars, a predominantly Muslim community that makes up about 15% of Crimea’s population, have largely opposed Russian rule and say the 2014 annexation was illegal.

Russia’s Crimea-based senator Sergei Tsekov said Moscow “understands but isn’t really worried about” Turkey’s position.

A NATO ally, Turkey has imported Russia’s S-400 advanced missile defense systems in defiance of sanctions warnings from the U.S. Erdogan has vowed to continue the country’s defense cooperation with Moscow."


Anadolu Agency title: President Erdogan: Annexation of Crimea illegal

Anadolu Agency subtitle: Continuation of kinsmen's existence in historical motherland Crimea among priorities for Turkey, says President Erdogan

Publication date: 7 August 2019

"President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday that Turkey will not accept the illegal annexation of Crimea.

After meeting his Ukrainian counterpart in Ankara, Erdogan told a joint press conference: “Continuation of our kinsmen's existence in their historical motherland Crimea, protection of their identity and culture, preservation of their basic rights and freedoms are Turkey's priorities.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Russia to act within international laws.

He stressed that Crimea belonged to Ukraine and said his country and Russia would find a common path to re-establish peace and stability in the region.

He described Turkey as a “good neighbor, sincere friend and important strategic partner,” in highlighting Turkey’s importance to relations with Ukraine.

"I would like to thank you for your steady support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Zelensky said.

Zelensky said he wanted to make his country a “center of attraction” for foreign investors through economic and trade reforms.

Trade reached $4 billion in 2018 between Turkey and Ukraine, said Zelensky and the figure does not reflect the potential of the two countries.

The target trade volume between the two nations is $ 10 billion and a free trade agreement will also pave the for reaching this goal, he said.

”I would like to invite the Turkish business world to Ukraine,” said Zelensky and he guaranteed a comfortable work environment.

The Ukrainian leader is in Turkey for a two-day-visit.

The Eastern European country held snap parliamentary elections last month after Zelensky, a former popular comedian, dissolved parliament, Verkhovna Rada, during his swearing-in ceremony in May.

The elections did not take place in Crimea, a peninsula on the northern Black Sea coast illegally annexed by Russia in 2014, or in eastern Ukraine, which is currently under the control of pro-Russian rebels.

Peace corridor in Syria

Erdogan stressed the importance of a “peace corridor” in Syria, and said Turkey and the U.S. agreed to establish a joint operation center.

“Three-day talks with the U.S. military delegation ended positively,” said Erdogan, highlighting the important thing is to take a step in east of Euphrates with the U.S.

Turkish and U.S. military officials agreed that the safe-zone in northern Syria will be a "peace corridor" for displaced Syrians longing to return home, according to the Turkish National Defense Ministry.

The U.S. Embassy in Ankara also confirmed in a statement that the parties agreed to rapidly implement "initial measures" to address Turkey's security concerns and establish a Joint Operations Center in Turkey to coordinate the establishment of the safe zone.

Turkey conducted two successful cross-border operations in Syria since 2016, Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch, both meant to eradicate the presence of PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists.

Ankara expected the creation of a 20-mile (32-kilometer) safe zone in northern Syria and stressed that it wants the YPG/PYD terror group cleared in the region.

YPG/PKK is the Syrian offshoot of terror group PKK, which has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people in Turkey, including many children, women and infants, for more than 30 years.

Donbass region, Minsk process

Erdogan said he hoped that the conflict in the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine will end as soon as possible.

“We believe that the problem could be resolved peacefully in line with international law and the Ukraine's territorial integrity,” he added.

Ukraine has blamed the Kremlin for separatist violence in eastern Ukraine, near the border with Russia.

The situation was aggravated after Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew members on board.

Kiev put responsibility on pro-Russian militants in Donbass. In turn, Moscow accuses Ukraine of shooting down the plane.

Stressing that Turkey supported the Minsk process, Erdogan said he gave full support to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, which is headed by Turkish ambassadors.

He extended condolences to the Ukrainian people. He said that the cease-fire was violated in Donbass region and four Ukrainian soldiers were killed.

The Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine, consisting of representatives from Ukraine, Russia, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, agreed Wednesday in Minsk on "a summer cease-fire" in the Donbass region.

The group which was formed to facilitate a diplomatic resolution to the war in Donbass agreed to prepare for an exchange of detainees and reconstruct a bridge, joining the line of demarcation."

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Earth's last magnetic field reversal took far longer than once thought (Phys)

Phys title: Earth's last magnetic field reversal took far longer than once thought

Provided by: University of Wisconsin-Madison

Publication date: 7 August 2019

"Earth's magnetic field seems steady and true—reliable enough to navigate by.

Yet, largely hidden from daily life, the field drifts, waxes and wanes. The magnetic North Pole is currently careening toward Siberia, which recently forced the Global Positioning System that underlies modern navigation to update its software sooner than expected to account for the shift.

And every several hundred thousand years or so, the magnetic field dramatically shifts and reverses its polarity: Magnetic north shifts to the geographic South Pole and, eventually, back again. This reversal has happened countless times over the Earth's history, but scientists have only a limited understanding of why the field reverses and how it happens.

New work from University of Wisconsin-Madison geologist Brad Singer and his colleagues finds that the most recent field reversal, some 770,000 years ago, took at least 22,000 years to complete. That's several times longer than previously thought, and the results further call into question controversial findings that some reversals could occur within a human lifetime.

The new analysis—based on advances in measurement capabilities and a global survey of lava flows, ocean sediments and Antarctic ice cores—provides a detailed look at a turbulent time for Earth's magnetic field. Over millennia, the field weakened, partially shifted, stabilized again and then finally reversed for good to the orientation we know today.

The results provide a clearer and more nuanced picture of reversals at a time when some scientists believe we may be experiencing the early stages of a reversal as the field weakens and moves. Other researchers dispute the notion of a present-day reversal, which would likely affect our heavily electronic world in unusual ways.

Singer published his work Aug. 7 in the journal Science Advances. He collaborated with researchers at Kumamoto University in Japan and the University of California, Santa Cruz.

"Reversals are generated in the deepest parts of the Earth's interior, but the effects manifest themselves all the way through the Earth and especially at the Earth's surface and in the atmosphere," explains Singer. "Unless you have a complete, accurate and high-resolution record of what a field reversal really is like at the surface of the Earth, it's difficult to even discuss what the mechanics of generating a reversal are."

Earth's magnetic field is produced by the planet's liquid iron outer core as it spins around the solid inner core. This dynamo action creates a field that is most stable going through roughly the geographic North and South poles, but the field shifts and weakens significantly during reversals.

As new rocks form—typically either as volcanic lava flows or sediments being deposited on the sea floor—they record the magnetic field at the time they were created. Geologists like Singer can survey this global record to piece together the history of magnetic fields going back millions of years. The record is clearest for the most recent reversal, named Matuyama-Brunhes after the researchers who first described reversals.

For the current analysis, Singer and his team focused on lava flows from Chile, Tahiti, Hawaii, the Caribbean and the Canary Islands. The team collected samples from these lava flows over several field seasons.

"Lava flows are ideal recorders of the magnetic field. They have a lot of iron-bearing minerals, and when they cool, they lock in the direction of the field," says Singer. "But it's a spotty record. No volcanoes are erupting continuously. So we're relying on careful field work to identify the right records."

The researchers combined magnetic readings and radioisotope dating of samples from seven lava flow sequences to recreate the magnetic field over a span of about 70,000 years centered on the Matuyama-Brunhes reversal. They relied on upgraded methods developed in Singer's WiscAr geochronology lab to more accurately date the lava flows by measuring the argon produced from radioactive decay of potassium in the rocks.

They found that the final reversal was quick by geological standards, less than 4,000 years. But it was preceded by an extended period of instability that included two excursions—temporary, partial reversals—stretching back another 18,000 years. That span is more than twice as long as suggested by recent proposals that all reversals wrap up within 9,000 years.

The lava flow data was corroborated by magnetic readings from the seafloor, which provides a more continuous but less precise source of data than lava rocks. The researchers also used Antarctic ice cores to track the deposition of beryllium, which is produced by cosmic radiation colliding with the atmosphere. When the magnetic field is reversing, it weakens and allows more radiation to strike the atmosphere, producing more beryllium.

Since humanity began recording the strength of the magnetic field, it has decreased in strength about five percent each century. As records like Singer's show, a weakening field seems to be a precursor to an eventual reversal, although it's far from clear that a reversal is imminent.

A reversing field might significantly affect navigation and satellite and terrestrial communication. But the current study suggests that society would have generations to adapt to a lengthy period of magnetic instability.

"I've been working on this problem for 25 years," says Singer, who stumbled into paleomagnetism when he realized the volcanoes he was studying served as a good record of Earth's magnetic fields. "And now we have a richer record and better-dated record of this last reversal than ever before."

Explore further:

More information: 
B.S. Singer el al., "Synchronizing volcanic, sedimentary, and ice core records of Earth's last magnetic polarity reversal," Science Advances (2019).
Journal information: Science Advances "


Friday, 9 August 2019

The Difference Between Open-Minded and Closed-Minded People (FS)

Farnam Street title: The Difference Between Open-Minded and Closed-Minded People

"Why is it that some people seem to make constant progress in their professional and personal lives, while others appear to be doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over?

While the answer isn’t cut and dry, I’ve noticed an interesting mindset difference between these two groups: they approach obstacles and challenges very differently. It comes down to mindset.

Successful people tend to approach life with an open mindset — an eagerness to learn and a willingness to be wrong. The other group digs their heels in at the first sign of disagreement and would rather die than be wrong.

It turns out, the way each group approaches obstacles defines much of what separates them.

Which Group Are you In?

Before you smugly slap an open-minded sticker on your chest, consider this: closed-minded people would never consider that they could actually be closed-minded. In fact, their perceived open-mindedness is what’s so dangerous.

It’s a version of the Batesian Mimic Problem — are you the real thing or a copycat? Are you the real deal, or have you simply learned to talk the talk, to look the part?

These are tough questions to answer. Nobody wants to admit to themselves that they’re closed-minded. But the advantages of having that courage are massive. The ability to change your mind is a superpower.

The ability to change your mind is a superpower.

The rate at which you learn and progress in the world depends on how willing you are to weigh the merit of new ideas, even if you don’t instinctively like them. Perhaps especially if you don’t like them.

What’s more, placing your trust and effort in the right mentor can propel you forward, just as placing it in the wrong person can send you back to the starting point.

So how can you tell what camp you’re in? How do you make sure you’re being influenced by the right group of people?

In his book Principles, Ray Dalio, self-made billionaire and founder of the largest hedge fund in the world, lays out seven powerful ways you can tell the difference.
1. Challenging Ideas

Closed-minded people don’t want their ideas challenged. They are typically frustrated that they can’t get the other person to agree with them instead of curious as to why the other person disagrees.

Closed-minded people are more interested in proving themselves right than in getting the best outcome. They don’t ask questions. They want to show you where you’re wrong without understanding where you’re coming from. They get angry when you ask them to explain something. They think people who ask questions are slowing them down. And they think you’re an idiot if you don’t agree.

In short, they’re on the wrong side of right.
Open-minded people are more curious about why there is disagreement. … They understand that there is always the possibility that they might be wrong and that it’s worth the little bit of time it takes to consider the other person’s views….

Open-minded people see disagreement as a thoughtful means to expand their knowledge. They don’t get angry or upset at questions; rather, they want to identify where the disagreement lies so they can correct their misperceptions. They realize that being right means changing their minds when someone else knows something they don’t.

2. Statements vs. Questions

Closed-minded people are more likely to make statements than ask questions.

These are the people who sit in meetings and are more than willing to offer their opinions, but never ask other people to expand on or explain their ideas. Closed-minded people are thinking of how they would refute the other person’s thoughts, rather than trying to understand what they might be missing.

Open-minded people genuinely believe they could be wrong; the questions that they ask are genuine.

Open-minded people know that while they may have an opinion on a subject, it could count for less than someone else’s. Maybe they’re outside their circle of competence or maybe they’re experts. Regardless, they’re always curious as to how people see things differently and they weigh their opinions accordingly.

3. Understanding

Closed-minded people focus much more on being understood than on understanding others.

People’s default behaviors offer a quick tell. When you disagree with someone, what’s their reaction? If they’re quick to rephrase what they just said or, even worse, repeat it, then they are assuming that you don’t understand them, rather than that you are disagreeing with them.

Open-minded people feel compelled to see things through others’ eyes.

When you disagree with an open-minded person, they are quick to assume that they might not understand something and to ask you to tell them where their understanding is incomplete.

4. I Might Be Wrong, But…

Dalio nails this one. I have nothing to add.

Closed-minded people say things like “I could be wrong … but here’s my opinion.” This is a classic cue I hear all the time. It’s often a perfunctory gesture that allows people to hold their own opinion while convincing themselves that they are being open-minded. If your statement starts with “I could be wrong”…, you should probably follow it with a question and not an assertion.
Open-minded people know when to make statements and when to ask questions.

5. Just Shut Up

“Closed-minded people block others from speaking.”

They don’t have time to rehash something already talked about. They don’t want to hear anyone’s voices but their own. (Dalio offers a “two-minute rule” to get around this: Everyone has the right to speak for two minutes without being interrupted.)

Open-minded people are always more interested in listening than in speaking.

More than that, they say things like, “Sam, I notice you’ve been quiet. Would you like to offer your thoughts to the group?”

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” 
— F. Scott Fitzgerald

6. Only One Sperm Gets In

Closed-minded people have trouble holding two thoughts simultaneously in their minds.

This reminds me of the memorable quote by Charlie Munger: “The human mind is a lot like the human egg, and the human egg has a shut-off device. When one sperm gets in, it shuts down so the next one can’t get in.” It’s our nature to close our minds around our favorite ideas, but this is not the ideal way to think and learn.

Open-minded people can take in the thoughts of others without losing their ability to think well—they can hold two or more conflicting concepts in their mind and go back and forth between them to assess their relative merits.

7. Humble Pie

Closed-minded people lack a deep sense of humility.

Where does one get humility? Usually from failure—a crash so terrible they don’t want to repeat it. I remember when a hedge fund I was on the board of made a terrible investment decision. We spent a lot of time rubbing our noses in it afterward in an attempt to make sure we wouldn’t repeat the same mistake. In the process, we learned a lot about what we didn’t know.

Open-minded people approach everything with a deep-seated fear that they may be wrong.


If you recognize closed-minded behavior patterns in yourself, you’re not alone. We’re all somewhere on the continuum between open- and closed-minded by default. Further complicating things, it varies by day and challenge.

Staying open-minded doesn’t happen by accident.

When you find yourself exhibiting these behaviors in the moment, acknowledge what’s happening and correct it. Don’t blame yourself. As soon as you can, find a quiet place and reflect on what’s going on at a deeper level. Try to do better next time. Remember that this stuff takes work.

Maybe you have your self-worth wrapped up in being right, or maybe you’re not the right person to make a given decision. Or maybe it’s something else. Either way, this is something worth exploring.

I have one more thing to add: Being open-minded does not mean that you spend an inordinate amount of time considering patently bad ideas just for the sake of open-mindedness.

You must have what Garrett Hardin calls a “default status” on various issues in your head. If someone offers you the proverbial free lunch, it’s OK to default to skepticism. If someone offers to build you a perpetual motion machine, I suggest you ignore them, as they’re violating the laws of thermodynamics. If someone offers to help you defraud the government and suggests that “no one will know,” I suggest you walk away immediately. There is wisdom in closed-mindedness on certain issues.

But consider this: Do you know anyone who doesn’t have any blind spots? I strongly doubt it. Then why would you be any different? As Dalio makes clear, you must be active in the process of open-mindedness: It won’t happen by accident."