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The value to yourself and the country of pursuing self-interest in constructive, intelligent, win-win (where possible) ways (1 Viewer)

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Thomas Newton

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Hi,

If the moderators don't mind, I would like to continue discussion of this topic here, separately from this fhread (which was mainly about arbitrary suspension of my FaceBook account).

Premises:
  • Pursing self-interest in intelligent, creative, flexible, truthful, country-above-party, try-to-make-everyone (including your opponents) win ways is MUCH more productive for you and the country than pursuing it in base Daffy Duck style ways that require much less hard thinking, much less control over your own emotional reactions, and just a destructive "I win by making everyone else lose" approach.
  • Why? Because when everyone spends their energy on fights aimed at making others lose, even when there are better (if harder to find) compromises and win-win solutions, much effort goes to waste creating deadlock and rancor instead of being available to crack shared and individual problems. Daffy Duck style of working == lots of waste once you consider that others practicing it will be happy to "do UNTO you as much as you do unto them."
  • The Founders knew the former as "enlightened self-interest" and people such as George Washington thought that it was one of our most important achievements, one to be guarded carefully.
  • Operating out of enlightened self-interest is a generic skill of many levels, which requires study and learning and practice before you can reach the more advanced levels. In this, it is like the generic skills of reading and writing and arithmetic.
  • Operating out of enlightened self-interest doesn't mean giving up your essential self-interests or core beliefs. It is not a political ideology, but a way of working (civics / rational debate) that will help you and others to do a better job of meeting your own and each other's needs in many contexts (business, careers, civic life, life).
  • Although the reason why it works is easy to grasp once you think about it, practicing it can be complicated by many factors and traps, which create a perfect storm that make many people think that only destructive ways of working are "realistic" and that constructive ways are "naive/suicide". But once you are aware of the factors and traps, you can see past that illusion.
  • The value of getting everyone / most people to operate out of enlightened self-interest is very high. The more of us who do it, the more all of us (individually), & the economy, & the democracy, will benefit.
  • It took me my whole working life to come to these conclusions, even though my educational background is in a field (Computer Science) that emphasizes complexity and scalabilty; even though my software engineering experience introduced me to the subtleties of requirements analysis (analogous to the Harvard Negotiation Project's "Getting to Yes", and even though I had read many relevant books and watched many relevant nature videos and had seen Digital Equipment Corporation destroy itself from within by refusal to adapt to strategic inflection point change (the PC revolution). It's not that I'm so special – rather, I just happened to be in the right places at the right time with the right background to finally piece together what George Washington knew 200+ years ago, and tie it more explicitly to the complexity of large group dynamics.
  • But now that I finally have started to "get it", it is in my interest to spread the news far and wide, to help others to "get it" and spread the word, too. So much so that even though it would be nice to sell a lot of books about this subject, I cannot in good conscience hoard the information, and demand that "being paid is the only way you are going to get it out of me."
Sorry for the length of this post – but this requires more than a sound bite (Ben Franklin: "Gentlemen, we must all hang together, or we will most assuredly hang separately.") to explain in a way that is likely to convince anyone.

Comments and correction welcome, but please steer clear of particular political applications and focus on the civics / rational debate angle. Thanks in advance.

Tom Newton
UNC-W and CMU graduate (Computer Science); software engineer and DEC alumni; big BBC/David Attenborough fan

Recommended reading/viewing: "Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In"; "Planet Ant" (nature video showing emergent behavior of a colony of dumb ants, who have much less individual freedom to affect their society than human citizens do)
 
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Thomas Newton

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Another useful concept is the Japanese concept of Ikigai, or a reason for being. This involves doing introspection and hard thinking to discover careers/jobs/hobbies

  • Which are interesting to you
  • Which you can do well (using any combination of your competencies, not just your formal education, or whatever your job was for the last 10 years)
  • Which the world needs, and
  • Which the world is willing to pay you for. (Some of this has to be in money, so you aren't homeless and starving. But you don't have to go for the highest possible $$$$ if you are getting enough $$$$ to live on, and you would prefer to take some "pay" in the form of time with your family; knowing that you are helping a good cause; etc.
Basically, seeking "win/win" solutions in your personal interactions with the work world.
 

jcroy

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It took me my whole working life to come to these conclusions, even though my educational background is in a field (Computer Science) that emphasizes complexity and scalabilty; even though my software engineering experience introduced me to the subtleties of requirements analysis (analogous to the Harvard Negotiation Project's "Getting to Yes", and even though I had read many relevant books and watched many relevant nature videos and had seen Digital Equipment Corporation destroy itself from within by refusal to adapt to strategic inflection point change (the PC revolution). It's not that I'm so special – rather, I just happened to be in the right places at the right time with the right background to finally piece together what George Washington knew 200+ years ago, and tie it more explicitly to the complexity of large group dynamics.

In hindsight, this is easy to see. When it is happening in real time, it is not always easy to "see" what will happen in the near future.

Especially when upper management have their own "golden parachutes" and can walk away without doing much of anything to improve the company's near-future prospects.
 

Reggie W

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So, I doubt this topic flies here but I will just go to the root of the issue in terms of how you have approached this.

1. Most people are not rational, do not make rational decisions, and so do not operate anywhere near this level of enlightened creative thinking. It is not likely at all that this will change as you would not just be dealing with an educational issue, teaching people to use creative thinking skills to evaluate their world/environment/situations, it would literally need to be....well...an evolutionary shift in the make-up of humans in general. So, you'd need many centuries to see that happen. Many.

2. Yes, human beings are already designed to work out of self interest and they do. This works in good and bad ways but it is difficult to control and because probably the majority of human beings either don't/won't/or can't apply creative rational thought to their problems/situations your idea here sort of ends at the same place many of these conversations will land...

Essentially, you need a minority of individuals that will attempt to apply the principals you are presenting and drag the majority with them, probably kicking and screaming, The simple reason for this is you do not get the sort of higher thinking, willingness to evaluate and make rational decisions that you are displaying when you present something like this.

Now, I could wander off into a number of issues that impact the two items above, disinformation, anger, fear, geopolitics etc...but basically I'm not certain this topic will live here very long and the two items above are just a massive roadblock.

Bottom line is I am not saying your ideas are wrong or would not work or are not valuable, I'm just saying getting that it is essentially an impossibility to apply them in such a way that you could actually get most of society to participate willingly.
 

jcroy

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1. Most people are not rational, do not make rational decisions, and so do not operate anywhere near this level of enlightened creative thinking. It is not likely at all that this will change as you would not just be dealing with an educational issue, teaching people to use creative thinking skills to evaluate their world/environment/situations, it would literally need to be....well...an evolutionary shift in the make-up of humans in general. So, you'd need many centuries to see that happen. Many.

This would require the entire human race "evolving" into vulcans resembling Mr. Spock or Sheldon Cooper.

;)
 

Reggie W

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This would require the entire human race "evolving" into vulcans resembling Mr. Spock or Sheldon Cooper.

;)

Well, I would not say Vulcans, ha, because I do think emotion is a valuable human trait and opens us up to things like compassion for others. But, yes, other than genetic engineering or creating some sort of human/technological hybrid there is no way to "fast track" that kind of evolution.
 

jcroy

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If one is looking into the "future", it turns out most of the "rational" extrapolation methods are largely not much better than wild semi-informed guessing. (ie. "Scenario planning", etc ...).

You mind as well be reading science fiction (sci-fi) books or hiring a zoltar "fortune teller", to get the same type of "foresight" into the future. Or better yet, just use a "magic 8-ball".

;)
 

Thomas Newton

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So, I doubt this topic flies here but I will just go to the root of the issue in terms of how you have approached this.

Bottom line is I am not saying your ideas are wrong or would not work or are not valuable, I'm just saying getting that it is essentially an impossibility to apply them in such a way that you could actually get most of society to participate willingly.
And yet, the Founding Fathers managed to pull it off when writing the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. We fought the greatest military superpower of the time (Great Britain) to win our freedom, won it with a bit of help from France, and survived even a bloody Civil War and WW2.

I refuse to believe that just because maintaining one of the things that secures our freedom is hard, that it is impossible. Especially since individuals have actual self-interest (not just "doing what's right for the country for the country's sake) to rediscover its value.

Woman to Benjamin Franklin: "What type of government have you given us?"
Franklin: "A Republic – if you can keep it."
 

Thomas Newton

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If one is looking into the "future", it turns out most of the "rational" extrapolation methods are largely not much better than wild semi-informed guessing. (ie. "Scenario planning", etc ...).

You mind as well be reading science fiction (sci-fi) books or hiring a zoltar "fortune teller", to get the same type of "foresight" into the future. Or better yet, just use a "magic 8-ball".

;)

Yes. That's because of the chaotic ("butterfly effect") and emergent behavior of large groups. We can't easily control or predict precise long-term outcomes because there is too much inherent complexity and sensitivity to "small" interactions; same as with the weather.

What we can do is to determine if we will get good unpredictable surprises or bad ones.

Characteristics of a system that produces good surprises:
  • Shared ethical top-level goals
  • Widespread pursuit of self-interest in constructive, cooperative, country-above-faction ways (voluntary behavior on the part of many citizens)
  • Laws, regulations, incentives set up to "align" individual self-interests with national ones.
  • Attempts to promote genuine two-way communications between grass-roots and leaders; between people in different functional areas; despite the impossibility of doing most/all of this in a direct fashion.
  • Government involvement in setting standards and helping to ease the pain of required infrastructure transitions.
  • Pushing down as many implementation decisions as possible to local governments and free markets.
Make communication as easy as it can be (given group size), and give everyone self-interests in heading in roughly the same direction, and you'll tend to get good surprises out of the motivating power of that self-interest.

Cats, like humans, are independent creatures. You can't herd cats, but you can get them to come running in the same direction in somewhat unpredictable fashion by offering tasty tuna treats. The same principle works for humans, if the treat is "getting more of what you personally want by playing nicely with others, and being able to count on their covering your back in return."
 
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