Sunday, 11 November 2018

The Circuit Board Of Mental Excellence

Minds are perhaps best thought of like circuit boards - and a coherent, consistent, accurate worldview is represented by a set of small lights that all stay illuminated in conjunction with truth and facts. Information, in the form of propositions, is like enlarging the circuit board, and increasing the assembly of data circuits and the copper that delivers electricity to illuminate the lights.

The size of the light display depends on the dimensions of the worldview, which itself primarily depends on the time, effort and intellectual rigour put in to the process of building a larger and larger circuit board that can facilitate an ever-increasing light display. A genius polymath may have a light display about the size of a football field; a highly intelligent polymath may have one about the size of a tennis court; and an average person may have one about the size of a small back garden.

Now here's the key thing. You can increase the dimensions of the light display by learning more, and by increasing the connectivity of your mental artillery - and to some extent, most people do this on their life journey. But what they don't do enough is stand back and check the light display to see how many of the bulbs have gone out. Nor do they step back and observe clusters of light patterns that have gaps because the additional bulbs required to illuminate the pattern more comprehensively are missing.

A large, light display with all the bulbs illuminated is extremely rare - but it ought to be the primary objective for anyone who strives for truth, facts, proficiency of reasoning and excellence of mind. The beauty of the light display is that its consistency of illumination is exhibition to the fact that one's ideas, thoughts, views and propositions fit nicely into the rest of the circuit board of experience. If you keep getting things right, the new beliefs operate consistently with the structural workings of the circuit board, not disrupting the electricity to other items on the board. But if you get things wrong, and introduce faulty viewpoints into the equation, you disrupt the electricity flow, both to local illumination clusters, but also to isolated bulbs elsewhere in the display.

Naturally, given the complexity of the mind, and the complexity of everything there is to know, and the near infinite ways to perceive reality, this is a really epistemologically intractable model of analysis. But it isn't that difficult to identify practical examples of how the malfunctioning of the circuit board may occur, as most people host mutually contradictory or incongruent ideas, especially due to identity-based dispositions, cognitive biases, emotional self-preservation and propensities for over-simplicity.

For example, suppose you're a Christian with a fairly comprehensive understanding of scripture, but because of your upbringing you've been infected with the cultural virus of young earth creationism, with a limited recourse for correctives. The cluster of lights pertaining to Biblical exegesis and hermeneutics is going to be affected as the connection between the conductors supplying the electrical power will be shorted. The high current flow of falsity will put out some of the theological lights, and prevent other bulbs from being added to the cluster. This will mean others see you as a Christian with inadequacies in several areas of discourse - especially when it comes to Biblical interpretation of text and other related areas of science and how the edifice operates and functions - which will have a corollary effect on the consistency of your worldview, and on the impression and influence you have on the world as a Christian.

Here's another example. Suppose you're quite economically and politically astute, but you become duped into believing that there is a systematically unfair gender pay gap in the UK, or that price controls on housing might alleviate the shortage. As with the first example, your circuit board will be negatively impacted, lights will go out in various areas across the display, and there will be patches in the clusters that never get the bulbs required for a full illumination of the pattern. You might start believing that price controls in other areas of the economy will start to do some further good; or you might start over-exaggerating the extent to which climate change alarmism is fruitful; or you might take your eye of the principles behind the law of least effort; or you might develop too much a victim-mentality, and so forth.

I could offer loads more examples, but I think the gist of this is crystal clear: there is always a price to pay for bad ideas, false beliefs and inadequate reasoning - and these things infect; first at the individual level, then at the familial level, then at the community level, and then more widely across societies and even nations as falsehoods spread memetically.

By equal measure, though, there are always rewards for building a prodigious circuit board that provides the power to a fully illuminated light display that consistently, coherently, factually and truthfully supports the ideas, views and beliefs associated with all the major and minor subjects, and the interconnectedness between them all. In fact, I'll take it further: there is no better way to live, and no more rewarding and no more necessary and no more morally and intellectually compelled pursuits for any human being.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Good Cop, Bad Cop Economics: Bad Cop

For some of you this will sting a bit, but it has needed saying for a while now. It is you, the left, that stand accused as being the principal cause of most of the economic problems in your home country. You are largely to blame for the state of the NHS, for the problems with social care, for the high unemployment levels in the under 25s, for the fact that too many people are doing university degrees, for the housing shortage, for much of the decline of UK industry, even for the rise in inequality in this country. Moreover, you are also largely to blame for Donald Trump, for Brexit, and for the rise of far right groups in the UK and across Europe.

Here is why you are to blame: your combination of wilful naiveté and yet strong opinions about the things mentioned above helps encourage the people that govern us to adopt all manner of foolishness on the basis that they think you will throw them out of office if they don't acquiesce. For decades you have been complicit in creating a political climate based on nonsensical arguments, shoddy counterfactuals and lazy myopia - fervently endorsing ideas and policies that are either based on factual misinformation, poor reasoning or idly choosing to ignore or overlook large swathes of the population that feel the costs of your decisions.

Take the most obvious case in point - the NHS. You have for years treated it like a sacred religion, and forced politicians to live with the lie that it can be sustained in the same way it was for the first four decades of its existence. Your belligerent demands for it to be safeguarded from proper market-based resource allocation has pressured politicians to ignore the supply and demand crisis, the costing crisis, and the fact that our living longer, our increased aging population, the increasing number of diagnoses and the increasing technological scope for medical advancement means it is no longer operating under the same framework under which it operated a few decades ago.

You have created this problem, by making politicians so terrified to respond to these realities that instead all they can do is resort to pathetic party political tit-for-tat squabbling about who puts more money in to the NHS and under whose leadership it would be less worse off. You have left them feeling like they have no option but to behave this way.

There are plenty of other cases where you have done something similar. For decades you have applied social duress on our politicians and made them believe that the only chance they have of carving out a political career is if they publically endorse a whole menu of economic foolishness that satisfies your beliefs. Where there is inequality, and people struggling to make ends meet, people struggling to find work, people in developing countries struggling to enter the competitive global marketplace, and people struggling to pay their rent or being able to afford to live in big cities - you must take a lot of responsibility for these things, because the truth is, the government you have been complicit in fattening up is responsible for pretty much all of these problems (and that is no exaggeration).

You have demanded that the political institutions that put up barriers to free trade become ever-bigger and more powerful; you have pressurised politicians to perpetuate facile price floors like the minimum wage; you have made more and more voracious demands on the earnings of the nation's most prodigious innovators and job creators; you have intransigently peddled the long-standing fairytale that the answer to most of the nation's problems are to be solved with higher taxation and more public sector involvement in our industries; and you have repeatedly promoted the economically toxic policy of domestic subsidies and the bailing out of financially deteriorating businesses and industries.

In short, you have pressurised the politicians of all parties into normalising bad policies - policies that increase unemployment and make it harder for the unemployed to obtain work; policies that stunt job creation; policies that make the cost of living higher for ordinary working people; policies that stifle growth and dissuade outside investors; policies that keeps regions in industrial atrophy; and policies that makes vital public services like health far more vulnerable to financial crises than they need to be.

For decades you have insisted on injudicious political ideas, and then demanded that the only people fit for governance are people who will enforce these ideas. And an equally bad (arguably worse) knock-on effect of this is that most of you let politicians get away with not having to proficiently justify their policies at a level beyond the superficially inane. You will almost never see a politician under even the slightest bit of pressure to admit the costs of a policy as well as the benefits, nor even acknowledge that most policies profit a small proportion of the population at the expense of a larger (unconsidered) group.

How preposterous it is that enshrined in our cultural climate is the habitual dismissal of majority groups affected by a policy, and the normalisation of anaemic economic arguments. And how sad that the politicians that govern us have to survive on spin, on popularity-mongering and by forever being afraid to admit their mistakes, or of having a public change of mind, or of introducing a prudent policy if it's unpopular.

You have played a big part in creating this monster and the concomitant lefty social commentators and politicians that feed on its body lice. And this needs to be at the forefront of your mind every time you open a paper or turn on the TV and see what you think is an injustice, or a group of people struggling to find work or live as comfortably as they could be. Most of the things you complain about and strive to fight against are creations of your own making. You are like Geppetto smashing up Pinocchio with a hammer, or like Victor Frankenstein taking an axe to the monster you've spent decades creating.

Fear not, though - the next Blog post that will be following this Bad Cop offering will be the Good Cop approach to remedying all that's wrong as per the above criticisms. I will offer a solution to how all this can be put right with a pretty radical but effective overhaul of our current framework.