Category: Philosophy

Dunning-Kruger vs Shuhari

Dunning-Kruger vs Shuhari

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Lovingly borrowed from Psychology Today.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is a close personal friend of mine.

I’m sure you seem to means, my favorite being that the first rule of Dunning-Kruger club is that you don’t know you’re in Dunning-Kruger club. Boiled down, without math or graphs or anything, it’s a cognitive bias that essentially says the skills you need to understand whether you are good at something or not are the same skills that you need to actually be good at that thing.

If you’re unaware of the effect, graphically it looks like a super steep line when you first learn something, peaking way above actually being good or knowledgeable about that something. So, early on, when you learn just a little bit, you think things are easy and that you’re really good at it. And then you learn a little bit more, and there’s almost as steep a drop-off into understanding just how ignorant of the subject you are. It drops into a bowl that, very slowly over time and learning, you come out of until, at essentially expert level, you figure out that you’re more or less doing okay.

Thank you, Wikipedia.

There are also a variety of concepts of cyclical learning spread across the world, but I like the Japanese version the best, which I may have discussed before: Shuhari. Emulate, adapt, transcend.

I try to look at both of these things together, really. A lot of the time, I know just how not good I am at something. In terms of cyclical learning, I’m still in the emulation phase. Looking at what people are doing around me, seeing the things that work well and don’t, and adapting my practices as result. I read, study, learn.

On good days, when Mr.’s Dunning and Kruger are my friends, I actually feel like I’m on the upward curve of the bowl. I’m in the adapt or extend phase of learning, providing the right example to the people around me, and being good at whatever job it is I’m doing at the moment. There are even flashes of transcendence, moments, hours, even days sometimes when I feel like everything is just working right, when I’ve got a grip on things, when I’m making things work, when everything is going well and I’m making a difference. Those never last, of course.

Most days are a mixture of the three, with, over time, more and more in the middle zone, where I’m maybe on the upward curve, mostly in the adaptive phase. But then there are days, or even weeks, that kick my ass.

Every morning, I should stop and wonder what kind of the day today will be. On Monday’s maybe it’s what kind of week.

I guess I just have to wait and see, and do my best at whatever I turn my mind to.

Be well, everyone.

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People Are Hard

People Are Hard

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Hard. Complicated. Difficult to understand. I think a big part of that problem is that every person is different, even if we can consider certain general personality traits that reach across many people.

I think I’m wired differently than most people, although I’m not sure that was always the case. I do think it’s possible to adjust your own mental wiring, to decide there are things you don’t like about yourself or your personality and consciously over time change them.

I grew up in a certain environment in a certain time. Paired with my genetics made some significant impacts and adjustments to how I look at the world, how I perceive people, and how I react to things. But our experiences change us, and if we continue to learn and grow, we will never be the same person from one day to the next. We learn and understand new things and some of those new things change us, and some of those new things we change. More frequently, both, if there other people involved.

But we can consciously make the choice to change how we think and feel about something or someone. Or to not change how we feel. We can decide we don’t like how we react when confronted with a certain circumstance or situation and then we can decide what we think the right reaction should be. After that, it’s just a matter of practice, when confronted by that situation, of stopping our initial reaction and consciously replacing it with what we want that reaction to be. Eventually, given enough repetitions, the reaction we want becomes the preferred one, and probably even slightly more tailored over time.

But is that my wiring or general human trait?

Over the last decade or so, I keep hearing the phrase brain plasticity, about how things can adapt and change inside your brain even deep even old age. About how we can change and learn and grow at any stage in our lives, if we want to.

But not everyone does, and not everyone wants to. You can’t choose the things or situations or people the universe puts in front of you, but you can choose how you react to them. And while self-interest is important, it’s not the only thing. I’m not quite certain how we got to the point culturally where it is the only thing.

I’m angry about a lot of things, all time, culturally and socially. I don’t do as much as I could to change them. I could do more.

Self-interest is important, but it’s not the only thing.

And there are times, and quite a few people, where self-interest crosses over into selfishness.

I like to be the soft and fuzzy guy, the guy who puts things in as positive a light as possible, who sees the best in everyone. Some people make that difficult, but sometimes, there comes a moment, a realization, when you have to cut things short with that person. Some people refuse to be reached, refused to engage in actual conversation. I usually keep trying to engage long past that point. A character flaw, maybe. I do believe that most people are reachable, most people are able to have actual dialogue, even if it seems like an increasing proportion of them don’t want to. That’s a learning process for me. Something that, maybe, I have to alter my reactions to.

I do like to be soft and fuzzy, I do like to find the silver lining in things, I do like to see things and people in the best light possible. But when the person I’m dealing with doesn’t, and walls, and can’t even consider meeting me partway, am I throwing good time after bad?

People are hard, people are complicated. Don’t expect that to change.

Be well, everyone.

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I Kind of Hate Christmas

I Kind of Hate Christmas

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Is it worth it?

Confession time: I kind of hate Christmas.

Okay, maybe hate is too strong a word. And I don’t necessarily mean the basic concept of Christmas itself. Whatever religious significance you’d like to attach to the holiday, to me Christmas is the gatherings of family and friends, a sharing of thoughts and time, a reminder of the important things. Whatever particular version of a particular holiday you choose to celebrate this time of year, I’d be willing to bet that those things are somewhere close to its core.

Unfortunately, that’s not what our society is trying to force down our throats, and hasn’t been for a really long time.

What we have is Christmas decorations for sale starting as early as the long weekend in August. As the calendar advances, they take up more and more space, barely giving away anything to Thanksgiving, which, due to its nature of it primarily just being about being grateful for what we have, has a hard time completing, hence the spread of the black Friday plague. It grudgingly allows some space for Halloween, which people like to celebrate with a sugar overdose, but before those decorations can come down on the first of November, Christmas is in full swing. The music, the decorations, the moral outrage that the holiday isn’t what some people think it is, the public displays of over-consumption and conspicuous goodwill.

No other holiday requires two full months to celebrate and three more to remind us that it’s coming.

So yes, I hate Christmas. But what I hate about it, we’ve done to ourselves.

If it makes you happy, if you find joy in it, you can have your annual debt increase and smoking credit cards. You can have your ridiculous pile of decorations and your inflated electric bill. You can have your rampant materialism and consumerism and all your shiny new toys. You can even have your table-breaking, seam-splitting, belly-bursting, enough calories to survive on for a month Christmas Day feast. I’m good, thanks. I’ve had enough.

I’ll have my family, a quiet meal in a safe place, and as much time with them as I can manage. I’ll have my friends where I can find them, a shared drink, and a toast to warm memories.

“It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?” (Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!)

At least, he thinks it used to.

Be well, everyone.

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Faith-Based Schools

Faith-Based Schools

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherThe title of this post should probably serve as a warning.

I have a great deal of sympathy for children sent to the faith-based schools.

Yes, that sounds patronizing, and, I suppose, to a large extent it is. But, in the vast majority of cases, those children are being cheated of anything resembling a real education or a legitimate, functional worldview. If school is supposed to, at least in part, help prepare you to join the real world, a faith-based school only does so if you stay with in that same faith-based bubble after you graduate. Try to move beyond that bubble, and you will be confronted by a harsh reality that not only do most people not share your particular bubble, but some significant portion of them will actively push back against you, and if you’ve never been exposed to anything that disagrees with you, it seems unlikely that you will have any significant defense against it.

I think, if that happens, there are only a couple of possible choices for you. Question your beliefs and worldview, and either adapt to the world as it is and merge your views with reality or watch your worldview and beliefs crumble under the pressure. Alternately, you can choose to deny or reject anything that doesn’t match up with your comfortable beliefs, and either become a crusader against the infidels and those you will see as oppressors or retreat back into the bubble your parents carved for you.

I don’t feel like there’s a lot of in between.

Either way, the parents of those children in those faith-based schools have deliberately set out to make their children’s lives far more difficult than they need to be. The modern world is a difficult enough place as it is. Why would you want to make it harder for your successors, biological or otherwise?

I’m not adverse to the concept of faith, whatever higher power you might like to attach to it, at least until you decide that the rules governing your faith also apply to people who don’t share it, but a lot of people who are so secure in their faith they pity those of us who don’t share it (or try to demand that we share it anyway) don’t seem to understand that they also live in the modern world. That’s a choice, and one any adult is free to make, but don’t parents usually want better for their children?

At least, I thought that was the idea.

Be well, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

My Bullshit Meter

My Bullshit Meter

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherWinter is certainly on its way a little earlier than usual this year, or maybe I should say earlier than in most recent years. To me, at least, it seems odd for it to be particularly cold in November anymore, and I know we’ve had early morning lows in -5 to -7 range already. In fact, we’ve had daytime highs in the zero area. There has been snow. It didn’t stay, but there has been snow.

While there’s plenty of bitching about the weather, I’m very glad, so far, to have not overheard any bullshit about how global warming is obviously myth after all, because look, it’s cold outside today, and it’s only November.

Perhaps my bull ship meter is a little too finely-tuned lately, but I’m certain my reaction on overhearing that person is going start out along the lines of, “You’re fucking with me, right?”

Again, maybe I’m just a little too sensitive to bullshit lately, but I’m less willing to let the normal, everyday stupidities go, and more likely to call out obvious troll behavior both in the real world and in my online interactions.

In fact, fairly recently, I deliberately and specifically called someone a troll online, someone I’ve known for some years, and I think it shocked the hell out of him and a few people who happened to be looking the right way at the time, at least based on at least one a response I got and a couple of people liking that initial response. But when you’re posting something you know is stupid and factually incorrect in order to get a reaction, and even more specifically to get a reaction out of certain people on your friends list, that’s pretty much the definition of Internet troll behavior.

It’s notable that a couple of people agreed with me calling out the behavior, and did so openly.

The person in question never unfriended me after the conversation that resulted from my statement, and, so far as I can tell, that person did stop posting pseudoscientific bullshit, so even if it actually cost me the limited friendship that person and I shared (coworkers, really, and my subordinate most of the time, which doesn’t mean we couldn’t of been friends, but does put some extra restrictions on what relationship might have occurred) and possibly the goodwill of several other people who weren’t actually in my friends list begin with, just because of the way I approached. A limited engagement win, in my mind.

But I have found, as I move to become solidly entrenched in middle-age, I am less inclined to let stupidity pass. To borrow from an ancient Roman quote, qui tacet consentire videtur. He who is silent is taken to agree.

To borrow from Elie Wiesel: We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

What I do know for sure is that not enough of the reasonable people stand up against stupidity or crackpots, whether it’s smack talk about climate change, standing up the to Anti-Vaxxers, verbally rolling eyes at champions of organic myths, or folks who are just plan anti-science. Not all opinions are created equal, and just because you have one doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to disagree.

And I just might.

Be well, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Perception Is Not Reality

Perception Is Not Reality

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherIt’s actually a stupid statement, whether you mean it literally or figuratively, but it’s been so often repeated over the last several decades and in so many places that it bears making the point again.

Perception is not reality.

But people do react to their perception, and the picture they built in their heads of you is a reflection of how they perceive you. It’s entirely reasonable to remember that every person you have ever met has a different perception of who you are. That perception can never be based on complete data and always comes coloured with whatever life experience and mental baggage they are bringing to it as well. That’s a piece that most people miss. Who you think I am is in part based on your experience of the world and how that experience has shaped you. And you probably no more know the real me than I know the real you.

And most the time, that doesn’t occur to most of us.

Perception is not reality but people react based on their perception of reality.

I do think it’s reasonable, however, that once you learn of some person or group’s perception of you that you examine that perception. Not so much to find out if you agree with it not, but to examine your actions and motivations to see if that perception might be reasonable in their eyes.

Let’s say your perception of me is that I’m a giant jerk. What if the way I see things is that I’m constantly in a position of having to make quick and concise decisions without the ability to be able to explain those to everyone every time. If I examine that through your eyes, can I see how you might see it that way? Can I then soften my approach?

If your perception is that I’m slow to act and wishy-washy, but my reality is that I’ve strong preference for information gathering and making as informed decision on something as possible, and then, perhaps, changing course when new information becomes available, can I see how you might view me that way? Can I see that you’ll be surprised if I pull you up short and cut you off on something when a decision changes because I’ve got new information?

In either case, I’m not responsible for your perception of me, but in both cases I am responsible for my presentation me.

And let’s muddy the water a little more. Can both of those perceptions result from the same set of actions? If you only see the quick, decisive action, then maybe I come across as a giant jerk. If you only see the slow gathering of information, slow decision, and flip-flop, then maybe I seem slow to act and wishy-washy. If you see some piece of the slow gathering of information and after perception that I’m soft and weak but the decision, when it comes, is quick, decisive, and doesn’t fit with your view, am I both wishy-washy and a giant jerk?

Are both perceptions true at the same time? Is neither? I don’t know. I can’t see inside your head.

Only I know the reality of who I really am. But I can also fool myself, and many people do.

Perception is not reality, but it does matter.

Be well, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherI don’t follow the calendar much for cultural reasons, at least not for cultural reasons tied to the culture I live in. I pay attention to important dates in my family’s lives, and a couple of key things that everyone celebrates, one of which is New Year’s.

Personally, I find the January 1st designation a little arbitrary. Well, the whole calendar is a little arbitrary, really, but it’s been far less than 300 years since the New Year was moved by British Parliament to January 1st from March 25th, which I will grant is rather longer than normal human lifespans, but January 1st as the start fresh date is relatively recent, and other calendars use different dates. Personally, I’ve always thought that the calendar should be a little more tied to the physical world. Make the equinoxes and solstices the anchor points and go from there, but I didn’t get a vote.

From a more personal perspective, I prefer to count years from my own birthday, my own specific orbital completions.

But I’m stuck with what we’ve got, I suppose, like everyone else, and it does give me markers for a one-year period that would be intelligible to anyone who picks up any of my logs or posts.

So, since New Year’s is a major event in our shared calendar, I hope everyone had a happy and safe one and that 2018 unfolds in the best way possible for everyone reading this.

If that isn’t clear enough, I’ll just say be well, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

That’s My Secret, Cap

That’s My Secret, Cap

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Sometimes, I wonder if it’s a bad thing that I’m angry all the time. Oh, I’m not in a bad mood, and I’m not that stressed out. While certain decisions I’ve made in life have made things harder for me in the long run, I’ve mostly done okay. I have an incredible wife and three great children. We have sufficient income for food, shelter, and to make a serious dent in the overall cost of postsecondary education for kids. I have the leisure to do things I want to do, not just things I have to do. I am lucky enough to have been born into a wealthy country, and one that has yet to elect a Prime Minister comparable to the Orange Menace currently in power south of the border. Of course, we also have yet to elect our version of Obama.

So it’s a pretty sweet life, really. I have opportunities and rights and privileges and wealth that 80% of the world would kill for. Or at least be willing to lie, cheat, or steal for.

So, why so angry?

Because, large segments of the population in the country I live in, and other rich, Western democracies, are blindly stupid and willfully ignorant about really, really important things. And some of them hold extremely significant wealth and power, and some of those think that wealth and power entitles them to shove their beliefs and views down the throats of the rest of the population. Disregarding, for the moment, how some people in my society see the rest of the world.

Looked at globally, the social trend has almost always been upwards, and mostly has been throughout human history. Trend. That doesn’t mean any particular moment, but over time.

It matters who’s in power and what their view of the world is, but large portions of the population either follow along blindly, or don’t think there’s one bit of difference between one politician and the next, one crackpot and the next, one power-hungry narcissist and the next, one world view and the next when neither of them are their own.

So we have people who believe that vaccines cause autism, that the earth is flat, that chemtrails are a thing, that the universal cure for all cancers is being kept secret in the name of profit, that it really doesn’t matter who you elect to office because they’re just going to screw things up anyway, that religion is actually a force for good in the world.

We still have people who think they are better than other people because of their skin tone, gender, sexuality, ethnic background, religion, or shoe size.

The Internet lets those people be loud, lets them find other people who have the same idiotic viewpoints, lets them shout down anyone who disagrees with their uninformed opinions. And most of us don’t shout back, because we think it’s a waste of time, because we don’t want to offend anyone, because of we think we won’t make a difference.

Most days, I can find the time to be bothered, I don’t care if it offends someone, or upsets someone, and I can make a difference, if only to onlookers. Sometimes, silence is taken as assent. And just because a minority opinion is louder than everyone around them doesn’t mean that it’s a good opinion.

I’m not particularly interested in debate, but sometimes it appears be necessary. I don’t feel like I should have to explain things to people, because mostly, people are entirely capable of reasoning things out for themselves. Some just don’t so sometimes explanations and debates are necessary.

None of this should be my problem, should it? Actually, no. It should be my problem. I should be all of our problem. Because we have to live and grow and make life better for others and the world a better place. If we don’t, who will?

There’s an old saying when you want to ignore the crazy people: not my circus, not my monkeys. I’ve made the point recently in several venues that it is my circus, and they are my monkeys. The whole world, that’s my circus, and the whole of human civilization, those are my monkeys.

And they’re yours, too.

Stay angry, my friends. And be well, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Miyazato-Sensei Was A Wise Man

Miyazato-Sensei Was A Wise Man

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherI’ve been studying karate for closing in on nine years now, and I get a lot out of it, mentally, physically, psychologically, socially. It’s become an important part of my life and health, and I hope to continue that for the rest of my life.

My Sensei fairly often quotes Eiichi Miyazato-Sensei, the founder of the Jundokan (the Okinawan home of one of the two flavours of karate I practice), on a particular subject that doesn’t initially seem to promote karate, at least until you think about it a little. It probably sounds cooler in the original language, but still comes through fairly well in English:

“Family first, then work, then karate.”

Substitute your passion of choice for karate.

The point being that anything after your family’s wellbeing and the support of your family takes a distant third place.

It seems simple. Or it should.

So, for everything I do, there should be a series of three questions.

Does it help my family?

Does it help my career without harming my family?

Does it further a dream without harming my family or career?

If I can’t answer yes to at least one of these, there’s a fourth, obvious question: why the heck am I doing it?

Be well, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Let’s Talk

Let’s Talk

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherConversation is important. Meaningful conversation is important. And I don’t mean the way that men and women talk to each other or separately, because yes, evolution has provided more than one set of basic wiring and we don’t talk or communicate the same way, and yes, some of that can be divided at least partially along gender lines even as we recognize gender (like everything else) as being on a spectrum. And we can overcome evolution, but it’s hard.

What I mean is more in terms of when I’m having a conversation, I want to talk about things of consequence. I don’t care if it’s raining or if the grass is green or the carpet is still ugly today. Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t bring any joint my life. I seem to be adapting the phrase “life is too short” in several ways lately, but life is too short to spend time talking about inconsequential things. Nothing gets fixed and nothing gets better by my telling you it’s a nice day and you agreeing.

I want to talk about politics and religion and philosophy and major events in the world. And I want to talk about how my kids are doing in school and how yours are and how their experiences are different and how we’re helping them to adapting to a ridiculously stressful world. I want to find things out about you to figure out where you’re coming from, where you’re going, what you think, and how we can find common ground to stand on. I want to talk about things that matter, to you, to me, everyone.

There is no subject that is or should be off-limits.

Why doesn’t our society have a proper line dividing church and state?

How do we find a way to talk about the terrorist attacks in Las Vegas or London or Baghdad or Mogadishu or the Philippines that doesn’t send either side of the relevant social arguments off on a tirade?

How that last natural disaster really knocked us all on our asses and what we can do to actually prepared for the next. Or mitigate those coming in the farther future.

How we can help our American friends get rid of the orange menace who somehow got himself elected, without breaking any laws are opening ourselves up to being sued.

Is China’s human rights record really is bad as I think it is or am I remembering things from 20 years ago and just deciding that that’s the way things always are?

Talk to me, argue with me, fight with me. But do it about things that matter.

Not all communication matters, but it all has the potential to. It all could.

But it doesn’t.

A lot of noises we make day-to-day are just that, noises. Social lubricant so our brains don’t have to work too hard and get overheated, so we can avoid thinking too hard about each other because then we’ll have to try actually understanding each other. Sure, sometimes small talk can actually purpose, when you’re feeling around the edges of something important, trying to figure out where someone stands or to approach a difficult conversation situation. But most of the time, not so much.

So, let’s discuss, argue, fight. Rationally, and with consideration for each other. Remembering that while ideas don’t deserve respect, people do.

Be well, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather