The Risk of In-difference, Part I

Thanks to Jonah Lehrer for the delightful post in Wired that is the source idea for the first installment in this series. To keep my high school English teacher happy, here is my topic sentence: If you can’t tell the difference between right and wrong, how do you expect to recognize risk when it is ready to spring upon you like a lion in waiting?

But first, Jonah’s exquisite imagery:

…look around at the cafe. It is, for lack of a better adjective, a hipster joint. …then I look at the other people in line. I notice their costumes: the slim dark jeans, flannel shirts, scuffed boots, designy glasses, mussed hair. Everyone is staring down at the gadget in their hands. They all look like me. I look like them. This is the definition of self-loathing.

… people primed to think of distinctiveness… were also willing to pay about 70 percent more for it. Wired, 14 October 2011

I think this article would’ve just passed right by had I not encountered, in living color, a real, live hipster, at the Round Rock Barnes & Noble. It was eerie: the description Jonah cites, down to a T!

At the other end of the spectrum, removed in time, place and culture, is Fazlur Khan, the creator of the modern skyscraper, who says that the “technical man must not be lost in his own technology. He must be able to appreciate life; and life is art, drama, music, and most importantly, people.”

In a previous post I’ve commented on the One World or Occupy Wall Street (same thing) movement, if we take away the (paid) professional protesters-du-jour, we seem to be left with a bunch of folks contributing to the problem rather than the solution. Having no coherent message, is in fact, a message that speaks so loudly it’s hard to hear what you’re trying to say.

In Psychiatry, a neologism occurs most often in the speech of schizophrenics, when they combine words that make sense only to themselves. Words like:

We want the standard of living produced by the effective interaction of thousands of components, put together by hundreds of companies, led by scores of business leaders who have risked their hard-earned resources, their capital (both human and financial) to transform the raw ingredients into the lifestyle we now enjoy—but we don’t want to pay for it. In fact, we want to penalize those who have produced the lifestyle we’re enjoying and we want to abuse the ‘quiet enjoyment of the commons’ for our own pointless, incoherently articulated, selfish agenda.

Yep, to warp the technical definition just a teensy-weensy bit, the One Worlders, or the Occupy-other-peoples-attention movement, are speaking neologisms. Having surveyed a number of the protest writings, there seems to be a common misunderstanding: in the US (I cannot speak for other countries), we are a republic, not a democracy. If we were a true democracy, there would be no need for our Congress, because we would not vote through our representatives, but directly. Much of what these apparent anarchists seem to be protesting is greed and corruption. Who, other than Gordon Gecko, is for those things?

Out-of-tune in both major & minor keys

On a minor scale of unethical, giving the appearance of wrong-doing, even if no specific statutes were violated, is the US State Department buying bulk quantities of books for which the sitting President receives royalties.

On a major scale, there is the quasi-governmental agencies Fannie & Freddie giving their bosses massive bonuses, monies that come from the taxpayer, rewarding performance that would get them fired in a small or privately-owned business. And what may end up being the Campaigner-in-Chief’s Waterloo, is the Solyndra scandal.

Next up: Organically Deriving y.o.u.r. path to profit

Until then, Carpe Diem!


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A walk in the forest…

Systems Thinking teaches us how to scale our perspective to study the forest or the trees, while Systems Engineering tells us what to do with the data we find.

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