Spotify very kindly suggested that I might like these chaps. Spotify knows me too well. Just give me a tune with all the notes in the right order at exactly the right time, and I’ll be happy… Is that too much to ask? Evidently not.
Saturday, January 19, 2013
Friday, December 7, 2012
Notorious Atheist Sam Harris makes the case for applying scientific methods to questions of morality. So far as I can make out, his core arguments are:
- human wellbeing is a meaningful, objective concept
- if you pick any two responses to a particular moral dimension, you can in theory (if not in practice) scientifically assess which is going to lead to more human wellbeing.
- we have a duty to maximise human wellbeing throughout the world
- therefore we should challenge suboptimal choices in our own and in other societies
- in particular, we should not abdicate the concept of morality to religion, but should consider it scientifically.
All good stuff and hard to argue. He illustrates his talk with side swipes at a number of practices which he considers religiously motivated. These are less convincing, but should not distract from his core message.
He implies that we can determine a single metric for human well-being which can be assessed. This is where I lose him. It seems to me that there are a number of dimensions to consider. We can generally agree on which of each of the following is better:
- freedom – slavery
- sickness – health
- life – death
- a life of passive acceptance – a life of meaningful contribution
- respect – contempt
- safety – danger
- scarcity – abundance
- construction – destruction
- pain – pleasure
We can probably resolve these into a limited number of independent dimensions. If there are is more than one dimension, then the best we can hope for from science is that it can show us how to get to the envelope where increasing one dimension requires a trade-off in another. At that point, any further change requires a value judgement as to which dimensions we consider most important. Science cannot help us with this.
It is also not as obvious as it may appear that any society is actually far from the envelope already. In any case, to assess this, we need to identify a robust set of rigorously defined set of dimensions of well-being and models showing how they are constrained. Then we can sensibly discuss individual cases and value judgements.
This is so obvious that it must have been done, or at least worked on, already. Presumably Mr Harris can point me in the right direction?
Thursday, October 11, 2012
The alchemists had a number of techniques. Perhaps the simplest was to boil off the spirit and distil it. Then take the distillation, boil off the spirit and distil it. Then repeat. And repeat. And repeat. By which time you should have got to something pretty pure. the five times distilled “quintessence”.
Swooping back to the present, Nicholas Bate's series on "Simplicity, the far side of complexity" rolls on. Episode four is "Dig Deep: Find The Real Issue". But how deep? Bate offers "Deeper", with the implication that you'll know when you've gone far enough.
Slithering back a couple of decades, let me offer a tip I got from Shoji Shiba, the TQM guru, in the early 90s. He recommends that, however well you think you understand a question, you will always understand it better if you go down five levels.
This is a trivial example. As often as not, round about the fourth question, you break through a bland, conventional explanation to get down into the root of a problem, or make a lateral link that gives a new and useful insight.1. Why didn't I get the management team to sponsor my project?
A. Because the presentation was poorly prepared
2. Why was the presentation poorly prepared?
A. Because I did it in a rush the day before
3. Why did I do it in a rush the day before?
A. Because I was too tired to make time amongst all my other priorities until I had no option
4. Why was I so tired?
A. Because I stay up late browsing social media late into the night
5. Why do I stay up late browsing social media?
A. Because I don't feel I've achieved anything worthwhile during the day
This is very much Mother Nature's learning strategy, as any parent of a small child will recognise. Can a million years of evolution be wrong?
Perhaps it should be "The Rule of Five Year Olds"?
Try it: it costs nothing to release your inner toddler!
5 More 5s
- Pentagrams: getting ready to celebrate the feast of All Souls?
- The Five Marks of Mission: the CofE has always been corporate. Whilst I wouldn’t normally recommend a five part mission statement, theirs is worth five minutes’ contemplation. Would Jesus have allowed weasel words like “seek to” and “strive to”? Still, a good effort, I think. Having read it, how does yours stack up?
- Five honest serving men: Any of the five Ws from Kipling’s six will each guide you faithfully down to the next level of insight. I had forgotten that he rested them during working hours. Times have changed.
- Five steps to a project: David Allen’s Natural Planning Model will bring focus and purpose to any task. Requires: the back of an envelope, a pencil and five minutes.
Saturday, October 6, 2012
From Nicholas Bate’s acclaimed “Instant MBA (52 Brilliant Ideas)” , now free on Kindle in the UK (which means that Nicholas sees this as outreach, not product. One of his basic principles is to sell on value, not price.):
“Here’s the bottom line. To pull ahead in what’s known as the New World of Work, you must give your customers a powerful and positive and enlivening experience, one which is so good that they want to return.”That experience doesn’t end when they walk out of your door. Here’s a harrowing example of how easy it is to turn a positive experience into a negative disaster.
Another of Bate’s principles is that sometimes, you should fire some of your customers.
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Briem.Net’s sage advice:
(He has a practical and engaging alternative more suitable to our namby pamby times…)
And just in case you missed the reference to Rosemary’s hair and for some unaccountable reason are unfamiliar with Edison Lighthouse’s 1972 hit (also unaccountable):
Ah, they don’t write ‘em like that anymore. Let’s all be thankful for small mercies.