Friday, November 13, 2009
But, what if you don’t want to just survive, what if you want to know, what if you want to feel and enjoy, what if you want everybody to be able to enjoy what you are enjoying, what then? Too many questions and too little time to answer; I guess, the fundamental problem with this is that we look at everything from one and only one perspective, ours. We try making the best judgements from our perspectives, our eyes, and the neurons in our brains. The fallacy in this is that, in looking through our perspectives, we forget about other’s perspectives. The academics, who like giving fancy names to everything, call this the bounded rationality of humans. All humans, well, a major component of humanity at least, wants and tries to be rational. Yet, when they make judgements, their emotions play a major role in that judgement. Emotions are just one of the cognitive biases, we humans possess, making it ever so impossible to actually make a decision completely rational.
Hundreds of hours and millions have been spent trying to understand rationality, cognitive biases and how to account for the biases so that human actions can be predicted. Yet, the closer we get to predicting, we find more and more inaccuracies which we can’t account for.
This forces me to ask the questions, why in the world are we so worried about being rational? Has being rational helped?
If you come up and tell me, well, if we had been rational, we could have avoided wars, we could have avoided genocides, poverty and what not. I wouldn’t totally agree with you, because, if we ever had wars, genocides, poverty etc. it has been because somebody has been selfish enough to maximise his returns will minimising his inputs, which as per the rational choice theory is being rational, forcing his version of the rational in the process. So, if you look at it through, Hitler’s or Idi Amin’s or Mussolini’s perspective, they thought, they were doing the right thing by creating a world that they felt was less random and more reasonable. The war for land, riches and resources is driven by rationality as per the perspective of the governments/heads of the warring countries/clans. Your rationality now tells you, they were wrong to do what they did, but under those conditions, they did what they thought was rational. Only, now we see it as being irrational. So, it was not only irrationality, but a good dose of rationality as well, which contributed to all the atrocities in this world.
If we were to be completely rational, we wouldn’t worry about optimising the system (the system being the society or the world we live in) over the unit in the system (the unit being us, human beings, of course. Although, this process of being selfish creates a pattern which in turn helps the system indirectly). At the same time, it is emotions that make us cringe when we see children in Sudan crying for food, cry out in outrage at the wrongs in the world, make an effort to change things, dream, make spontaneous decisions and find new things and enjoy good music, food and arts.
Once you take out all the biases, what remains in us is not something human, it is just a computer which can walk, talk, and make decisions on its own. What make humans human are these irrationalities, these small glitches in our head. It is these same irrationalities that make us happy when we achieve something, angry when we fail or underachieve, sad when we miss something or somebody sorely and so on. Without emotions, we are not human anymore. Without irrationality, rationality is just a 11-letter word, humans created, which has no meaning. Rationality without irrationality is like good without evil, happiness without sadness, peace without war, and life without death.
As the war between irrationality and rationality wages on, what we need to do is not to force our perspective of the rational on others but, to take a step back, look at things from their perspective, look at it from a third person’s perspective, think, appreciate and try understand because there could be some method in all that madness, after all.
All this conflict in this write-up is because, I have been trying to show, how conflicted and limited, human reasoning can be, and however rational we try to be, and try make everything look rational, what we need to realise is that all humans are irrational and random to a certain extent and that breaks down our own attempt to make everything around us appear rational.
As Sartre put it so aptly in his Existentialism is a Humanism: "Man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterwards."
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
During the last few days, I have been talking to a German guy by the name of Daniel. We talk about things that every Indian talks to a German abt the first time they meet each other: cars and motorsport, beer and Hitler. Well, we talked quite a bit.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Thisis a continuation of my previous post, written wheni wrote the previous post..but uploadin only now.
There comes a new question now: Why is the society pushing me? Why does the society need somebody to do its dirty work? Do I care about being someone I wouldn’t want to be, but, as I am already here wouldn’t mind doing?
Well, I am not sure. But, when I have thought about it, I feel the society needed this to a certain extent. Yes, I know, it is surprising. But, in a developing country like ours, especially one with such large geographic boundaries, and gifted with such a large amount of flora, fauna and other natural resources; we needed people with the technical know-how to convert this basic raw material to a finished product. This is because, a finished product earns us income many times a raw material does. So, we needed people who could find out new and better uses for our natural wealth, yet protect these above mentioned God-given(something we have to discuss, but later) money machines(if you want to look at it, the capitalist way). Also, we needed the medicine men, who could look after and take care of both of our thriving, vibrant and diverse fauna and our most valuable resource in the 21st century, our human capital.
When our country had just become independent in 1947, our leaders had very people who could do this, hence, they encouraged people to go study, acquire the required knowledge and help our country to progress. Thus, we got our first premier engineering, research and medical institutions; not forgetting to thank the visionary Tatas, Birlas and other families who helped in this process.
The society and that time, though had a much different demographic. A majority of the people (I am not foolish to assume, that there were no fools, money-mongers and selfish people because, where do you think a lot of the current age politicians come from) knew reason, they knew the advantage of thinking before jumping into anything. But, after all, we are all human. So our great leaders made a mistake, even though they made a constitution based on democracy, made for the people, by the people and of the people, they erred in making America and Russia our role models. Our leaders chose Non-Alignment over communism or capitalism, yet they covertly sided with Russia for military and space capabilities and America for many of the industrial advances. There, in their attempt to maintain democracy in all its even-handedness and parity, they made it unbalanced and unfair.
Sorry, I am going off-topic. I shall talk about our great nation and its leaders, both past and present, further down. So, what I was alluding to was that, our nation’s young society in an attempt to acquire technical know-how started making journeys to new corners of the world, learning new things, seeing new and wonderful places, acquiring new experiences. Many came back to tell about this wonderful dreamland abroad, with flush toilets, coffee and tea in packets, bakeries with all sorts of mind boggling and mouth-watering foods. Imagine the delight of an Indian who must have gone to America or the U.K or Russia during the 40s,50s and the 60s. A time when even owning a bicycle was a luxury in India. Thus, began the great Indian gold rush.
Many a person came back to India, after acquiring the technical know-how, proud of themselves and their motherland, which in their minds was day by day becoming greater and greater. But, only when they came back did they notice with dismay the lack of equipments, the machines without which their training is worthless. So, many went back, and settled down abroad; making arrangements very slowly and painstakingly to amass money and then purchase machinery, equipments and everything they could get their hands on, so that our country could progress. Thus, went the first few years of our country. More and more people entered technical field, at the same time, the country started progressing in earnest, one step at a time.
The engineering, scientific and the medical fields started booming because of new wars, plagues, the population explosion, need for better amenities, rising lifestyles and also due to opening up of markets after the downfall of the Soviet Union. Thus, as the industries also matured, so did the incomes and the paycheques.
But, then somewhere in the late 80s or the mid-90s we misplaced our blueprint for the nation. Instead this position was taken up by money, lifestyle and one-upmanship. Thus, began our second Indian gold rush, though we didn’t realise it. People continued going abroad to learn. Yes, learn, but to learn what? 80-90% of the people went to learn the big buck jobs. The big buck jobs being science and engineering, management and medicine (I classify medicine as a separate division though it comes under science because of variation in the practice of medicine and other sciences.). 5-digit incomes became a prerequisite to be an elite member of a growing middle class which is largely materialistic, money-hogging, selfish and attention seeking.
In all this hurry, we the people forgot the arts completely; the people who choose arts courses being called either dunderheads or people who have a wish to commit social and financial suicide. The people who become successful in the arts fields being called savants and geniuses; many of them are true geniuses, I agree. But, the truth is all of us have the gift to be beautiful and artistic, we just don’t look at it or develop this gift, or by chance if we do, it’s just another achievement to add to your precious resume.
One other change is in the demographic of our country, that has seen, a declining number in true political and intellectual leaders; People who could think. Nobody is willing to take up this responsibility, as it is not an easy one, nor, is it one which guarantees you any money. Due to this, we now have leaders up in the ruling class, who have either half-baked or no knowledge of the art of reasoning. All they know is argument without applying themselves and arguing for that cause till the end. And, also, the knowledge of how to make money by swindling the people of the country, anyway, they are not making any hue or cry. The middle class which is the one of the biggest and most influential classes of this country is conveniently asleep, hoping and praying only 2 things. One, that he gets more and more money by the day. Two, that he fares better than his neighbours. Because of this, the ragamuffins, our supposed leaders who are supposed to run the government machinery loot us day in and day out, and yet, the middle class accepts it resignedly, because even now they are thinking” After all, my neighbour is also paying it”.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Let’s start from this last one and then we will try to answer to all the other questions, some already mentioned, some not mentioned.
Well, there is nothing wrong.