Sunday, October 26, 2014

Diversity and Control

A very simple way to look at many of our world's problems is in terms of 'control'. There are plenty of people out there that want to control others. Some people allow this, but often many do not. When control issue arise, both sides feel justifed in their agenda, both put significant effort into the brewing conflict.

Sometimes control issues are justified. We live in large collective groups for which we need to abide by a common set of principle and rules. This benefits all of us, but not everyone realizes it. So we'll always need to have people in a controlling position to enforce the rules and deal with those who go against them. It is easy to understand that for an issue like 'murder' this is a very good thing. 

Sometimes control issues are are problematic. Some people think that things would get better if they personally had even more control. If they could just control the little things, keep all of the people in line, then our world would be a happier place. 

One of the most interesting things about 'opinions' is you can pretty much count on someone, somewhere, to have any possible opinion. Some opinions are more reasonable than others, but all of the possibilites are held by at least one person. Not only that, but pretty much most of the combinations of opinions, whether they clash or not, are also held by someone. 

This relates back to control, because it means that pretty much for any level of control, someone out there believes it is reasonable, but there is also at least one person out there that does not. As the lines of control constantly shift in our societies, there are always at least two groups that are activily engaged in that process. One tries to push it further down, the other ties to push it upwards. Both believe that what they are doing is for the benefit of all. Both, relative to their own opinions, believe they are right.

Over the last few decades, due to our realization that our behaviour has a real impact on the world around us, we have closely studied our planet and understood that it is a somewhat volatile place. Our lifespans have been short, so we've mostly lived with the myth that our world is static, unchanging. We used to see things like the little ice age as anomalies, but a closer look has shown that our planet is an ever-changing, and sometimes unfriendly landscape. Coupled with our learning more of our vast history, we have been slowly converging on an understanding that in order to survive in such a volatile environment, our strongest asset is diversity. That is, if we were all identical clones that thought identically, our static nature would make us far more susceptable to the wild mood swings of the planet. If we are diverse, and scattered, then although those changes are devistating, we are able to rebuild and move on. Our diversity is not only a strength, but a necessity of our environment. It's no accident that we all have different opinions, that we see things so differently.

That diversity is a core strength of our species means that to continue we absolutely must preserve it. It isn't optional. But interestingly enough, one of the side-effects of diversity is that someone out there will always have the opinion that diversity is bad, that if they personally had more control they could wipe it out and make the world a better place where everyone behaves identically. So what is necessary for us to adapt to our world is also the seeds of the desire to bring us down. 

As people struggle for control around the world, the diversity issue often gets caught in between. We must preserve our diversity, but in doing so we allow those who don't want it to continue to pursue their agendas. We can't just wipe them out since if we did we'll just be following a variation of their agenda. At times this doesn't seem to make sense, and the world looks to be a crazy place that never gets better, but it's not. Conflicts are inevitable, and both sides will always believe that they are right, but in the backdrop we do gradually expand our knowledge and refine our behaviour. As we continue with those larger trends, we have learned how to expect and preserve our diverse range of thinking, and have hopefully learned less destructive ways of mediating the inevitable conflicts. It might be nicer if we weren't always clashing so hard, but that friction is a byproduct of the paradox from which we were spawned.

Friday, January 3, 2014

I feel guilty. It's been years since I last ranted about the irrational nature of our modern world, yet some readers desperately hang on waiting for a post. I wish I could say that in the interim we've managed to fix the world, correct the injustices and become a rational global society so there is nothing left to write about, but that's pretty much the opposite of what has happened. Rather, bad economics saw us slip a little farther down the notch of insanity, while most of us tried to hide from the madness. As a species we seem to pride ourselves as being "intelligent" but then we go off and do the stupidest things. We may know more than our ancestors, but we seem incapable of applying that knowledge collectively to better our lives, our planet or even ourselves. We keep buying into that next vile of cheap snake oil in the hopes that "this time it really will cure us" without every really considering that our problems are always caused by 'buying snake oil'. You'd think at some point we'd learn, but I suspect we'll just keep doing this over and over again until we can't or we hit some major turning point. Either is as likely at this point.

I don't feel guilty anymore : -)

Sunday, November 25, 2012


There are two types of problems we face as a species: a) natural and b) control.

Natural problems are a competition between us and a rather unstable planet. Gradually we've have started small, but over time we have learned to tame larger and larger problems. This trend will continue.

Control is by far our most significant problem. Basically as a part of cooperation, we cede control of our actions to other. But as a result of competition, there is a never ending supply of people who want more control. And so, most problems can be framed in terms of who is trying to control whom, and why. Most conflicts result from a rejection of that controlling effort.

Because the duality of cooperation and competition define our relationships, we're perpetually fated to repeat the same struggles. We need cooperation to survive, but we rely on competition to excel. Without initial cooperation, there is no basis for competition (there must always be a game to play), but in order to increase the likelihood of wining, people often seek to bend or break the rules. To get away with this, they need to enough control to avoid being caught. Thus competition drives the need for controlling others.

If we could articulate the control necessary just for cooperation, but restrict the control desired by competition, I'm pretty sure the world would be a nicer place. Perhaps a bit boring for some people, but nicer anyways ...