Wednesday 14 November 2012

Of flowers and people: the EU and Greece

Much has been said about the financial disparities between the member states of the European Union. Right now the willingness - some would call it an obsession - of keeping Greece within the EU has resulted in setting aside another chunk of euro billions to patch over Greece's insolvency. According to the latest reports 31.5 billion euros are waiting to go to Greece which the nation needs to pay its debts. “We need to find creative solutions,” AustrianFinance Minister Maria Fekter said

One could phrase the situation as follows.

Someone is so much in debt that he can't even pay the instalments. So he gets more money with further conditions attached. Why yet another loan should suddenly solve the problem is anyone's guess.

So, for the lender the money paid to the borrower is now lost to the account of the former (where it could have done more work), instead it is in the coffers of the latter where it causes things to get worse. The idea is of course that eventually all these sums get repaid, but that is not happening.

What if the additional sum is not paid in full, but minus a percentage which is used to earn interest for the lender (that side of the economy works, remember), the interest thus earned is diverted to the borrower who needs it. The conditions there are less onerous, and the total loan is not growing as it otherwise would. The result - less turmoil on the borrower's side, less angst for the lender, and in overall terms the money has never left the entire bloc anyway.

What of those flowers? Let's say there is a sick flower bed; no amount of watering and fertiliser help. One option is to grow the same flowers somewhere else where they are healthy and introduce some plants gradually into the sick group to slowly take over. In essence the approach is the same.

Perhaps the time has come to be more creative after all.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Those tricky (re)interpretations!

Recently two articles of mine were rejected because their reviewers had certain issues with them. What those are and my responses are described in detail on my website (My Home, The ISAA...).
On a more technical level (in terms of the Otoom mind model) however there are issues that go beyond someone's personal or political opinion.

A preconceived notion represents an already established cognitive template about what is to follow. Even if subsequent paragraphs explain more their mind is already set; so much so that further statements are not accepted because it is not what has been expected. The problem has been recognised in Neuroscience for some time now. Norretranders' "The User Illusion" [1] provides many interesting results from experiments along those lines.

Should the reader - or reviewer in this case - get any further response to a criticism this is constructed as further proof that the criticism has been correct all along. If not responded to (and so this kind of information spreads unchallenged) the preconceived perspective becomes the norm, further strengthening the framework (the template) from which further a priori perspectives and starting points are created.

Anything now not in line with that ambience (the results create indeed an entire ambience) are seen as beyond the standard and hence fair game for attack. This happens within general society and also within groups who tend to isolate themselves from the rest.

If a group has a large enough membership or their perspectives cover many areas, overlaps with other groups are possible through their respective intersections, although whether the entire ambience of a group can be altered via such links would depend on the conceptual scope of the latter.

Which raises certain questions: to what extent is the interplay between a group's composition, its parts, their mutual influence on each other, and the potential of any of them to be an agent for change, being realised? Are some groups more susceptible than others, and so which types make up a certain society at any given time, and if the overall conditions change would the groups change as well?

In other words, do the groups operating within a society determine the effectiveness of its environment, or is it the other way around? More likely it would be a combination of the two, which of course complicates the entire scenario to a large degree. This is an example of how the complexity of such an observation and its analysis can explode in a very short time.

As for the mix of the two possibilities, since we are dealing with complex dynamic systems, it would be virtually impossible to decide for one or the other, especially since by the time an observation yields a result those interdependencies have already come into play. At that point to talk about any particular directional cause-and-effect relationship is meaningless.

Does that mean any further analysis is therefore useless? Actually no, because although the initial direction is indefinable, since the dynamics operate in any case any decision at a given moment will have an effect provided it is followed by some action that involves the existing dynamics; that is to say, if the action occurs within its conceptual space.

In other words, it doesn't matter what the action at that moment produces (ie, a cause-and-effect relationship in this or that direction), some result will be produced. The validity of that result does not depend on the identification of the previous direction but depends on the efficacy of the action itself.

When information has passed back and forth between two entities (individuals, groups at any scale) and a third party injects some further information, then at that point the salient aspect is the affinity of the latter with the existing context.

It doesn't matter how that context was formed, its precise history is neither here nor there. If there is an affinity between the new information and the context, new connections will form between the two. The dynamic continues to evolve. This is the reason new concepts - sometimes called memes - form with their exact source often remaining unclear. 

Nevertheless, in practice accusations and remonstrations can ensue, but both sides are justified in arguing they are not the guilty party. In the immediate sense they are correct, but we are dealing with a type of system in which our understanding of exactitude does not hold - it's the nature of complex, dynamic systems.

All this is another manifestation of progression lock (the ongoing development of a scenario based on what happened previously), and the only way in which such a situation can be resolved - if this is the right word - is by either having an outside force capable of unseating a sufficient number of participating elements, or the system exhausts its reserves on its own (ie, those entities become ineffective). Functionally speaking both outcomes are the same.

A scenario where all parties are arguing to the hilt, and every accusation only making things worse despite no-one really desiring that turn of events, and above all everyone being equally responsible but no-one ever admitting to it ... does this sound familiar?


1. T. Norretranders, The User Illusion, Penguin Books, New York, 1998.