Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A New Position is Needed

Well our sorcerers of a thousand years ago have been replaced by our economists with about the same rate of success when advising our rulers. Our astrologers have been replaced by our statisticians, and again the success in predicting the future are comparable. One can wonder if the Economist is just the more acceptable word for Sorcerer in a supposed age of scientific rationality, and we can wonder about Astrologers vs Statisticians as well.

The Economist and the Sorcerer has an internal logic to its "worldview", both have an unknown reliance on some unnamed outside force with "almost" mystical powers. The invisible hand of the market to regulate things mysteriously back to its proper rational order? Sounds mystical doesn't it? As I mentioned, the internal logic is sensible. As long as the initial premises, the underlying assumption of how things are supposed to work, are completely true, then the logic follows to a proper conclusion. The study of economics are based upon worldview assumptions of "supposed" philosophical thinkers of the 18th and 19th centuries. I say "supposed" because they begin the first words of their masterpieces with assumptions as if everyone agreed with them as if they were fact when in reality, 3 seconds of thinking demonstrate this assumption to be mere wishful thinking. Imagine Thrasymachus from Plato's Republic were to write a book about Economy and then our entire society bases its foundation upon those ideas, well you don't have to really imagine very hard because this is pretty much the state we are in today.

The Astrologer and the Statistician both use mathematical calculations to chart out data and as long as the data is solid, the interpretation sound, we can predict events with a fair accuracy. Well for astrology, the planets and orbits show their influence upon our events, while the statistical method uses such things as questions asked of the fickle human mind. Today your answer would be X, while tomorrow you decide to answer Y because you had a bad lunch and you did not sleep well or whatever other excuse. You don't quite understand what the question means, so you answer based upon your understanding of the question, a week later after having done a few extra crossword puzzles, your understanding of grammar improves and you are faced with the same question and you answer differently, not because your opinion has changed but because you understand the question differently. As much as the Statistician tries to prevent such misinterpretations by offering unambiguous questions, they aren't linguists so they have no idea how difficult that particular task may actually be. Nevermind that the ones asking the questions are paid by this current capitalist system where the speed of asking questions is more important than the quality, we have many who are tempted to cut corners to get that extra pay bonus for having filled out more questionnaires. Did the respondent answer "what" or did he answer "one", next question please.

Looking at previous blogs, I also mentioned how sometimes the wrong questions are asked. Assumptions are made to determine what a given problem is and the questionnaire does not allow for a person's personal comments because personal comments can't be quantified and then tabulated mathematically for a given result. "The medium is the message" said a Canadian scholar Marshal McLuhan, he was talking about television specifically but I suggest that the actual questionnaire for the statistician also is its own message and people will respond to that message instead of answering what would have been the true thought. Look at the questionnaire as a sort of prism that you are forced to look through to get your data of the world and exclude all other prisms and only focus on this one prism. What happens if this prism allows you to see like a binocular? Useful for very specific inquiries but useless if you want to navigate inside a house or to work on a car engine.

Why criticize these two disciplines? Am I being too harsh? Well the over-reliance upon these flawed disciplines and the pretense that their flaws are either non-existent or downplaying their severity encourages me to blast at them. Especially since our governing rulers consult the Economist and the Statistician exclusively to make decisions, not that they always listen to their advice good or bad, but the "Thinker's" voice is not heard. The Thinker who would take his time to consult and contemplate a problem. We have had Thinkers in the past, they are usually the ones who contemplate something, ignore the statistics of the day or the scientific beliefs of the day and make an outlandish claim in their area of expertise and then let the non-thinkers work among themselves the "proof" and the statistics to arrive at the same conclusion as the "Thinker". Einstein is one who decided to "think", and in his area of expertise, he was more correct than the scientists of his day.

Now I would not recommend a "Physicist" to give advice to government officials on health or education, even if this "Physicist" is a thinker because this expert would be more suited in the laboratory than in making laws to improve healthcare access or how to determine which classics should be chosen to read for a 12 year old student.... Although this hypothetical "Physicist" would probably still do a better job in coming up with solutions than the "Economists" and the "Statisticians" of our society, it is better to have a "Thinker". The "Physicist" has his knowledge based upon very specific areas and the proper "Thinker" should be more of a generalist who has a bird's eye view of many disciplines of knowledge (which can also include economics, but we are way over-saturated by that tool-set that we can start swinging the pendulum away from them.... not necessarily too far away, the tools can be interesting exercises to see things differently and offer an extra perspective). Don't throw out the binocular just because it has been useless inside a house because you may enter a building like a stadium where the binoculars can still have a usefulness (as long as you then inspect close up with your own eyes as to not over-rely on a tool).

How do we define the "Thinker" and where do we find one? Well the thinker would be a true philosopher, not necessarily someone who has studied philosophy. Those who study philosophy are more like sports commentators than genuine athletes. They know the game, but they have never played, or if they have played, they would be incompetent compared to the real athlete. Some of our 18th century and 19th century "Philosophers" are closer to commentators than genuine athletes. But it is understandable that the layman can't recognize the difference because the commentator speaks a good show and can outplay the layman. Of course a genuine "Thinker" may have studied philosophy, but the criteria of selection should never be based upon the degree acquired. One does not look for a decent steak by looking at the pretty packaging but rather at the steak itself.

The main point of this blog is not how to find the proper "Thinker", this can be the subject of a future blog, no the point is that we should invent the position of the "Thinker" to be consulted by whoever ends up consulting "Economists" and "Statisticians". If a corporation can afford to consult "Sorcerers" and "Astrologers" then they should at the very least include the "Philosopher" on the payroll. Governments have an even higher necessity to include the "Philosopher". Of course, it becomes self-destructive if the rulers never listen to the advice of the "Thinker", but again, that is a subject for another blog.

So far our society reacts to new problems that seem to surprise the current experts who advise our rulers, so lets hire alternative experts who don't spend their time reacting to supposedly surprising problems but rather contemplate and avoid these easily foreseeable problems which seem to surprise many people. For example: if you have 4 people do a 10 person job, of course it will fall apart and disaster will strike. If a person gets promoted for speed rather than quality, of course we will have poor service in our industries. If a person gets a bonus for sales rather than having a relationship with a customer, of course lies will be told to get the sale.

The "Economist" and the "Statistician" can never understand why disaster strikes in the above examples because they assume in the first that the 4 people will work in such a way to achieve what the 10 had previously done through extra efforts and better posturing and 30 second less on a coffee break and other nonsensical calculations instead of accepting that a human being has defined parameters that you don't play with them unless you are ready to face disaster. Why are we surprised that absenteeism is so prevalent? The assumption is also that the increase in speed means that there is no reduction in quality. The next time you go to the grocery store and do at least $100 in purchases, go back with your receipt and do a price check on each of your items on your receipt, you will be surprised at how many items were mis-priced.... not because the grocery store wants to deceive you but because they are more concerned in speed than getting the job done right that corners are cut and eventually they will get to it.... but because of this, you lost out on the service of accurate pricing. You are told at a hardware store that the barbecue you are buying in December at a reduced price has the option you were looking for! Yay, then May comes and you try out your new barbecue and oops, this model doesn't have the feature you were looking for. (Do you really believe that that store's competitor won't have the same type of employee who lies?) Again, the "Economist" and the "Statistician" don't record these discrepancies or how the anger it produces makes you distrust the merchant who has "stolen" from you.

Previous blogs also show actual situations that have happened in the news which would be the direct result of not thinking for 2 seconds and relying upon a "reactionary" solution to when problems appear and always surprised when the easily preventable problems actually happen.

So to conclude, a new position should be available to advise leaders and this new position should have at the very least the same credibility as what "Economists" and "Statisticians" have in our current society.... even though once implemented and actually following the advice, they will show very quickly how they deserve much more credibility. Now the trick is to find genuine "Thinkers".