New Tricks for Old Dogs

(Also available as a podcast )

You’ve been around the block a few times – you know what’s what. You have your own unique way of dealing with life, and have all sorts of tricks up your sleeve for when things don’t go the way you want, to make the cards you’re dealt a bit fairer. Whether it’s about making the best of your skills and qualities as a person, to get along in the world, and feel like you’re top dog, or just doing your best to make the best of the hand you’re dealt, you may well feel it’s all about how you play.

Everyone has their own way of dealing with challenges that come along, and life has a way of throwing hoops out in front of us, and saying “Jump!” We don’t always have a trick for every situation, and we can get stopped in our tracks, when we don’t know how to respond to a situation effectively. This can make for a lot of stress, since life is about learning new things, or learning the same things as everyone else, to fit in socially. There’s often the fear, a realistic one in many cases, that we will get left behind, and the hand holding the hoop, and demanding we jump, will whip us if we don’t learn quickly.

These are the pressures of the modern world, you might think, but there’s always been some pressure to conform, and learn the tricks required to fit in, or keep up, or whatever else is needed as a skill, in any society. Society isn’t as concerned about the individual’s happiness, as it is about the smooth functioning of its own organisational structures, in which you are just the dog that must jump through hoops, with no fancy treats if you don’t. There’s not a structure there to accommodate those who can’t, or won’t go along with the ring master, since it’s the antithesis of what a society is about, to live in a way that says you don’t need to learn its tricks to be able to live well.

Societies have to be about compromise, to an extent, since they generalise about individual behaviour, and advance the mean for the average, in terms of how you’re supposed to behave. The degree of personal freedom allowed depends on what kind of society you live in, of course, and the more repressive the society, the more they tend to talk about responsibility to others, and place value on that, rather than on individual rights and freedoms. Your rights don’t matter as much, if others’ as a group do, and if you don’t like how you’re told to behave, well, you can lump it.

If we think about it a little, we can see how much consensus is important, as a concept, in a society, to make that society function in such a way that the animals in it will learn to jump on command, or be shamed, or berated, or punished in some way, if they don’t. So control is a very big issue indeed, and a certain degree of uniformity encouraged in a society, with responsibility the flip side of being allowed any freedoms in it. Your master feeds you treats, and provides fresh straw for your cage, if you jump. If not, well, it’s your own fault what happens then, and you’re just a bad dog for biting the hand that feeds you, if you’re not always behaving in a grateful and obedient manner.

It’s harsh, but it could be argued it’s fair. It’s not argued as often that it’s also rather mad. This is because it’s a madness all humans have, to want to control things, and keep them stable, so it’s all considered perfectly normal, to want to tell others how to live, and expect them all to want the same things you do from life. It’s easier, if you don’t have to learn any new tricks, even if it’s not in nature’s nature to stay still. It’s built into every human mind, apparently, this kind of controlling behaviour. Or is it? Is it real, this need for stability and social structures that have some endurance, or is it a construct built on fear of losing ourselves, and our place in the structure, if we don’t jump when told, and just a lazy shortcut in thinking, so we don’t have to examine other people’s different notions about how things are, and feel more like we know what’s expected of us, so we don’t have the fear of the dark jungle, potential tigers, and feeling lost?

All animals have social structures of some kind. It’s a biological necessity for animals to work together to breed and get food, shelter, safety etc., but only humans seem to be able to turn the whole biological endeavour into a moral drama, since they have the trick of language, and with that comes all sorts of moral concepts, based on ideas about the nature of reality, rather than the reality itself. This is where it turns into a circus, because everyone has ideas about how everyone else should live, and it gets pretty heated when we don’t agree. One of the hardest things for humans to do is to just let someone get on with life, without telling them how to live, since we tend to see anyone who doesn’t think the same way about life as a threat to our own lifestyle, since they live in the same society, and therefore (again, depending on which societal model you use, in your local circus) have an effect on the running of that society.

You may have noticed that people tend to like people who they perceive as being like them, and tend to dislike people who they perceive as not being like them. It’s pretty easy to see why; those whose ideas are different represent a small threat to ideas about how society should run, and how personal behaviours and lifestyles fit into that structure, and so on. These different ideas are challenging, and hard work, intellectually, because they make you question why people should behave in certain ways, require you to argue your point to defend the status quo, and maybe be prepared to have to defend your argument logically. These issues can take quite some thinking through. If we have a way to make our minds up quickly, though, and don’t change our minds much subsequently, we won’t have to always stop to think carefully, or consider all the factors influencing every attitude we have, and this turns out to be a swift and energy-saving way to take action, and make decisions. This human trick is based on shortcuts and generalisations in our thinking, which are very good handy for acting swiftly, when dealing with attacking tigers, etc. Black spots on yellow background always means tiger, so panic, or run, or both, based on what our previous experience or our elders taught us.

You’ll seldom come across the idea that we shouldn’t be disapproving of another’s lifestyle, or beliefs, as long as the ideas being discussed aren’t our own, and if any hint arises in conversation that we could examine our own beliefs, we realise it’s a dangerous idea to express within a group, as it can cause the disapproval to be aimed at ourselves, rather than the intended target, situated in an out-group, not within our circle, if we express it aloud. It threatens the social cohesion of the group, to threaten any central or fervently held ideas it holds. Other people’s ideas, it seems, can be wild tigers waiting to spring at our throats, rather than obliging dogs that will jump through our little hoop for us, at times.

We don’t like pain, although interestingly it tends to be more memorable than pleasure. We tend to seek out pleasure, and avoid pain, because our human organism wants to live, and overall, happiness contributes to better health, and longer life, unlike stress and anxiety, which wears the organism down, maybe not as fast as a real tiger at your throat, but gnaws away, nevertheless. The displeasure we feel when encountering something which results in psychological pain is the same mechanism as that for physically painful encounters; escape as quickly as possible, is the message our minds and bodies are giving us. Go towards pleasure, and avoid pain, if you want to live longer, or just live.

The problem with pain avoidance though, is that we often can’t avoid pain. It’s part of life, and we have to tolerate a certain amount, to push through to pleasure. This perception of what pain is about, or for, and our way of jumping through hoops to avoid as much of it as is humanly possible, can actually create more pain for us than is necessary, through focussing on pain, in our fear of it, and effort to avoid it.

Part of the reason we sometimes seek to exert control over our environment, which includes other people, is to create a situation where it’s less likely we’ll experience pain we think they created in the first place, when they didn’t play the game we wanted, and jump through our hoops, and wanted to play the ring-master instead, trying to have us jump through their hoop. To plan for the avoidance of future pain, then, we become like hunters, lying in wait for our prey, watching out for pain, before it ever appears. It might not appear at all, but still we keep watch, and waste our nights looking out into the darkness, seeing movement in every bush, ready, and on high alert.

It’s tiring, and doesn’t always have much point, when you start thinking about it, because it doesn’t always prevent attacks, but can make us experience the tiger going for our throat many times over, in our imagination, and make us tend towards dwelling on pain, and wanting to inflict it on others, in retribution for what we perceive as pain entirely caused by their actions, and not also our responses to the threat. It’s very understandable that we would want to balance the justice scales in our own minds, by returning the pain to the source, as we might see it, but is it an optimal response, in terms of its effect on us, if it keeps us stuck in the same cycle of stimulus/response, and high alert state, when the stimulus may not be as immediately life-threatening as a real tiger attack? This is a very sensible life preserving function of our psyche, which unfortunately runs a bit haywire if we lose our perspective about the immediacy or seriousness of the threat to our lives, or lose our sense of perspective, because pain is more memorable than pleasure. Where does all the pleasure go, if you’re stuck in the pain?

Of course, a lot of this is just using metaphors, and ideas, to discuss societies and our roles and behaviours interpersonally, and within societies, and you could think about our interactions with other people in a variety of other ways, of which the way I’ve just used is only one that I was playing around with. The mind loves metaphor, but language is an approximation, remember, and it stands in as a description of the dog that’s jumping the hoop, rather than being the dog itself, or, for that matter, the hoop. The reality gets lost a little (or a good bit!) between the thing, and the conveying of the idea of the thing, in language. When you take away the stories, and points of view, you’re just left with reality, and that’s rather harder to control, because you haven’t written the story around it, and constructed the ending, which in the story I just told, consists of a life with no pain in it, just pleasure, all there at your fingertips, when you are the ring-master, and controlling everything skillfully. Sometimes, we’re so sold on the stories, that we can’t even see the reality of the thing in itself.

This is actually a really popular way to think about life, this pain-free life, these days. It’s possibly an offshoot of consumerism, or it might be just a natural by-product of being human, because we’ve developed this ability to think ahead, and plan, along with our ability to verbalise these plans we have for how everyone should behave around us, so we can be happy, and not have to experience pain. We often completely miss the fact that we would have no word for pleasure if we did not have a word for pain. There would be no distinction between the two, were both not present at times in our perception of reality, and our explanation for how reality works. We’d be at as much of a loss, in fact, without pain, as we would be without light and dark, good and evil, black and white, or any other opposites you can think of, for constructing our ideas, and categories for how things are , and how they should behave, the science of things, if you like, for the average thinker, who is a still quite a bit of a scientist, when it comes to organising ideas, or rules of thumb, in order to make sense of the world, for day to day functioning. The idea of removing one of these negatives in opposites from our concepts, like pain, or controlling it to the extent it isn’t part of your life, seems a bit ridiculous, then, yet this is what we seek to do with pain, when we imagine a life without it. Where would the value in comfort be, without discomfort, which is what the definition of pain is, if you look it up in our word-symbolism book, the dictionary, to establish what in the world it signifies?

People, it follows, although a pain in the behind at times, are a necessary evil, since we wouldn’t appreciate being alone with our freedoms, perhaps, if we didn’t experience them being under attack once in a while, just as we might not appreciate our individual uniqueness, if it wasn’t brought to our attention by other people’s behaviour being different to our own. I know, it’s a slightly simplistic way to put it, but look at the sunrise shown below, and then imagine there’s no sunset at the end of the day. The sun just stays up there all day. How much pleasure would you get out of that? How good for the planet, or any of us on it would that be, if things never changed? This is a simplistic argument, but we tend to forget that change is part of life, when we’re in the middle of suffering, or difficult situations, because we’re trying to exert some sort of control over something that’s happening, that we are wanting not to, or we think someone else is trying to control us, and make us jump through hoops, or learn new tricks we don’t want to learn. Change can be beautiful, but it isn’t always painless, even if it’s not always bad.

Should we seek to avoid pain, then, or to control the behaviour of others? It does seem necessary in some respects, if you want to live in society with others, and all animals have this give and take built in, at least the ones that survive, and thrive do. Humans, though, having the ability to over-think, as well as think things through, may be a bit too concerned with learning all kinds of fancy tricks for managing life, to really be getting pleasure out of how they live in the moment, aside from all the big plans, and ideas about how they and others should be living. Turns out that one of the best tricks you can learn is how to enjoy what you have, and are, and let go of worrying a little about what every else is up to, or wanting to have everyone behaving the same way. Let others jump through hoops, if they like, and enjoy watching the circus, or learn a few new tricks yourself, by all means, but ensure they’re the ones that do you the most good, in terms of your own happiness, as well as those you come into contact with. You deserve a little pleasure in your life, right now, as there’s only really now, when you take all the ideas and words away. Although pain may be inevitable, and necessary, you may find you still have some options when it comes to how much you want to suffer, or cause even more suffering, in your own life, or in others’ lives. Being happy is one of the most fun tricks you can learn. If the ring master isn’t happy with that, that’s his problem, not yours.

They Said There Was a Pandemic

After reading the Irish headlines this morning, I was angry. Restrictions extended, yet again, after promises that it would all go away, if we played along, did our part, lined up, took our medicine, followed instructions. The truth began to sink in, eventually, that it might be a little game that Big Brother’s quite enjoying playing, since he wants to keep it up, although most complied with all the guidelines, and got no reward for playing along.

When there’s no promised land at the end of the road, just miles and miles more to go, before you can take your muzzle off and sleep, with the phone stuck to your face, in case new, important regulations which might keep you safe from something you can’t see, are issued in the middle of the night, your dreams get rather dystopian, and perhaps a little nightmarish. When you wake, you check your screen. Is it real, or just a bad dream? The screen will tell you the truth, surely, and put your mind at ease. In the back of your mind, however, something else has woken up. The lurking dread that this is your life now; that they’ve made it a meaner, smaller thing, deliberately, and that you might have even helped them build the cell you’re now inhabiting, hoping you are let go free again, some day. At their discretion, of course.

You hear muffled laughter from somewhere, and turn to the screen on the wall. Can it hear your thoughts, or broadcast Big Brother’s thoughts, straight into your mind? No. That’s crazy thinkin’, right there, you tell yourself, and choose your muzzle for the day, matching it to your outfit. Something comfy, since you don’t go out much, anymore, except on food runs. Who in their right mind would want to be around people, after all, with this invisible plague-of-some-sort circulating constantly? If only one didn’t need to breathe at all, but the human body is so badly designed, that it comes with flaws. Add to that, the fact that some humans just don’t care enough, and forget to keep their muzzles on over their breathing apparatus properly, so that a sensible and cautious person has hold their breath like a deep sea diver of old (we don’t have those any more, I think, but I have seen them in freedom era reruns on the screen), and get the food transaction over quickly, in as minimal contact and brief a mode as is humanly possible.

I wish they’d hurry up and transplant the human mind into something with a better design. Surely, it would be cleaner, and greener, to do so, and we’re nearly at the singularity, according to my screens, so I’m looking forward to the Brave New World. It’s gotta be better than this, right? Right?

You Can’t Kill Freedom

The words appeared on my screen. Does not compute, was my first thought. What’s this? Doesn’t look like a health edict, or guideline about how far away from someone you should stand for the next while, until the next edict’s issued, by experts. Not that I worry about that guideline, when I wouldn’t dream of standing near to anyone, outside of having to interact with the cashless machine where the till used to be situated (always swab your card after use; power user tip there, from someone who’s never been on the Suspicious Contacts list, yet). What’s it mean, though? Are there further instructions, that make more sense of the first statement? I must find out, because I don’t know what actions to take next, until I know. How can I know, if they don’t tell me, in words I can understand (scans phone, swiping screen anxiously, looking for directions)?

Oh, I see. It’s a book. Must be someone working for the Ministry, writing a manual, finally, of how to navigate our way in safety through the matrix of restrictions, without getting arrested for something or other, under the ever changing guidelines that might or might not be laws. Thank goodness. It should alleviate some of the strain, not helped much by the further restrictions placed on my breathing, by the terribly selfish post-person who delivers my mail, and will keep leaving the mail slot device in the Open position, allowing outside air to circulate within my personal boundary, with who-knows-what-else circulating with it, necessitating the wearing of my muzzle indoors, just to have that extra layer of safety on my person.

You Can’t Kill Freedom

(continues scrolling, on sanitised phone)

What (scrolls down more frantically now, with a rising feeling of discomfort, increasing respiration, and precipitation on muzzle)

You Can’t Kill Freedom

They said there was a pandemic“.

What in the actual………? (stops self from cursing, as the new guidelines might include being arrested in one’s own home for that, and it’s now not clear to what extent the devices are listening in).

Them? Tyranny? Freedom? This is not A Ministry person. This is clearly a mad person. I hope they are not outside their home, running amok, with these statements, or they will surely be arrested. I hope they are. You just can’t say things like that, and get away with it. It’s not the kind thing, and we have to care about others. It’s why we follow all instructions, and do what we’re told. It’s because we care.

Who’s this “we”? I don’t think she means Big Brother, since it’s not an official publication, this book. Hopefully she won’t be allowed publish it. It sounds very wrong, in its whole conception. Very dangerous, in its thinking. Perhaps they’ll have new guidelines introduced soon, where they’ll arrest people like this in advance of them expressing dangerous thoughts. Then the rest of us can have peace of mind, which contributes greatly to our safety, because I believe even stress can contribute to stuff in the air getting inside you, and killing you in the most horrible way, stopping you from breathing properly, and so on and so forth (beads of sweat break out at the thought, and heartrate and breathing rate shoot up, saturating muzzle and resulting in unpleasant tingling which may or may not presage a fainting fit is on the way).

No. No, I’m sure Big Brother won’t stand for this. Take these peoples’ money away, whoever they are. Don’t even let them do voluntary work, around sensible people, to earn their credits. They deserve to be not only shunned, with these dangerous book ideas, which look waaaaay outside the recommended guidelines, but to be locked out of decent society forever. Hopefully, they’ll starve quickly, without the state’s help, and without the rest of us having to look at them do it, and we won’t have the stress of seeing them, or hearing them, any more. It’s too much, to have to put up with these selfish types, rabbiting on about freedom, when we have to pull together, and follow the rules and regulations, all as one, all together (except alone).

You won’t make it ’till March, my little dears, if I get my way. I’m a dab hand, when it comes to writing Emails, picking up phones, and sending comms out to the masses of allies I don’t know personally, but who I’m sure are on my side (the right and only reasonable one) on Twitter and Metaverse virtual app. etc etc. We’ll meme you out of your book plan, shame and name you, then get you chucked out of life as you would wish to know it, before you get to the end of Chapter 1!!!!

Ha! You won’t have a lamp to light, at all, when me and Big Brother, plus all the ground troops for sanity and wholesome healthiness, promoting the bright future, dependent on the miserable present, get started on our “corrections” to educate you as to the error of your ways. You think you’re gonna write that book. We think we’ll need to stop you, and we’ll stop at nothing, to get what we want. We’ll make sure that not even your first sentence survives our cull! He he. The perfect way to take that anger out, without even going out.

At The Edge of Chaos

It’s critical to understand processes, in any science, as we need both definitions of terms and ways of measuring processes in nature’s systems. These turn out to be pretty amenable to theorising about, and modeling how they’re constructed, with new information getting added to scientific schemas we devise, and model in mathematical and imaginative ways. I took the creative path myself, when studying material about how the universe works, since the universe is a very arty affaire, from the human point of view.

In my last post, I took a trip to the Galapagos, to explore how we managed to get this far, and survive, in the balancing act between order and chaos, that is an ongoing game played out over generations, with different species that inhabit our planet.

How else does the game play out? If the same processes are at work, universally, and physically, are they also played out socially, and individually? Yes, according to Game Theory, which we explored in relation to biology and evolutionary theory, in that post; but what about politically? Of course, Game Theory has all kinds of applications, and explores political developments as well, within the parameters of the rules of the Game. The next video isn’t one of mine, but it’s a good leadup to the article linked to under it, if you want to understand the rule book that the best players, and game designers who know how to play the Game at an expert level, wrote. See, they know already how the Game of Life is played, and how to move the players around the board, with chaotic but perhaps somewhat predictable results. If you don’t wish to be a pawn that’s swept from the board, or just want to up your game a little, you’d do well to understand it, too, since you’re one of the pieces on the board, in play. You’d better get used to the idea, and study the rulebook, to avoid a disastrous outcome. Watch out for cheats, while you play, as they designed the game, and they have their own rulebooks squirreled away up their sleeves. If you’re not enjoying the game, just hang in there. Remind yourself it’s only a phase. Hey, maybe you’ll adapt.

Are We on the Edge of Chaos? Complexity Science and phase changes in complex systems

Nature’s Tipping Point ~ Red Queen, Tooth and Claw

Games are attractive, aren’t they? While not everyone is drawn magnetically to their charms, no matter how lovingly the little figures on the board are carved, or how gay the plumage of the various pieces, studying the rulebook can yield a lot of information about how the thing works.

Even Those who prefer ornithology might find the notion of note-taking on their observations delightful, and nature not only parades its varied plumage, but plays by some rules, too, as species evolve, to win the game of life. The feathers may fly, sometimes, in the fight for survival, but that’s how the game is played, and the rules, it turns out, are very simple to grasp.

Let’s have a look at how Game Theory comes into play in evolutionary strategy, with an example from the game played on the Galapagos Islands. The pieces on the board in this case are finches, so even the ornithologists who don’t like to be stuck indoors, when they could be out in the field, bird watching, might like this game.

Ask the ornithologist to read the Rulebook, to know how the Game’s played

It starts with two pieces (finches), and you win more as you go along (takes a while, ‘cos you have to wait for them to mate, and observe the proceeding generations as they evolve). What fun the game is then, as you notice the new pieces begin to change the game, as they develop new characteristics over time, and the game plays out, with the best players dominating the board. All the time, things edge towards chaos, but gravitate towards stability, in order for the species to live to fight another day, and play the game that goes on and on, until someone upsets the board, and all the pieces are thrown into chaos.

Mashup vid with a reading of John Gribbin’s book, “Deep Simplicity” chapter 6, “The Facts of Life” (turn the sound up a smidge at 2:17, and down a bit again, at 4:29, as the Red Queen was interfering slightly, as she loves to do)

Darn Red Queen is always getting her flippity flappity sleeves caught in the edges of chaos, so sometimes it’s just sensible to move the board out of her reach. Quite a nice island, this. Lots of birds about, beaches to swim on, and sandpiles galore, for the progeny to roll down. Splendid view, too, from the top, if you’re King of the Hill.

Video Sources:

Fish footage was from the BBC Earth YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/vewtmQ5xrtU

I also loved the sea birds chase, again from BBC Earth: https://youtu.be/zKzeMovBwL0

The Mourning doves fighting were from Ostdrossel’s video, here: https://youtu.be/D_06PqxJ4Ws

Then there were Greg Dill’s fighting cranes: https://youtu.be/XA_U9Siej08

There was nice footage of finches to be seen on Mogan Hallas’s Galapagos channel: https://youtu.be/9uZGSuOxFVM

…and from Latest Sightings channel, from which the fighting hawk bit came: https://youtu.be/XFR0wtyZCNk

The sand footage was from Manuel Meier’s channel: https://youtu.be/a7bX7T8lltI

…while the Bak Sandpile explanation was on Art Scott’s channel: https://youtu.be/NuSXOb0q8q0

(Per Bak wasn’t in my vid, but he’s so interesting I’m including this short clip of him speaking about Self Organised Criticality, so there)! https://youtu.be/ydt99BXi3YU

If, like me, you like a nice Trilobite, you’ll enjoy Ben G Thomas’s video: https://youtu.be/95RzyaNgiPM

Primer does lots of informative and fun animations, including the one on hawk/dove game theory: https://youtu.be/YNMkADpvO4w

Best of Science had nice stuff on evolution as well: https://youtu.be/G0UGpcea8Zg

You might have recognised the elderly guy enjoying his chess game as coming from Pixar Productions. That’s Geri: https://youtu.be/9IYRC7g2ICg

The Red Queen footage was straight from the Queen’s mouth, so to say, as it’s on Helena Bonholm Carter’s YouTube channel (or maybe just a fan chan). I bet she enjoyed playing that character: https://youtu.be/i_zhBLF1Fu0

Crazy Jobpath Doesn’t Understand COVID-19 Lockdown

Jobpath

TurasNuaLetter
Text sent to me today, during the Irish COVID-19 lockdown, about JobPath job activation interview

Whenever I’ve been unfortunate enough to have to do business with the dole office, to try to access payments I’m legally entitled to, I’ve had a bit of bother, as Frank Spencer would say. He wasn’t as good in the skills department as me, I imagine, and his CV wouldn’t have extended to one page, let alone the two and a half that the dour-faced and depressing-to-look-at pen pusher behind the interview desk frowned on, as being far too much longer than the one page she thought a tech job CV should be. She shared her top tip, keep it to under one page, when casting a look that could turn clients to stone, first at me, then my CV, which she handled as though COVID-19 was already here, last time I was called for a “Job Activation” interview. Never mind that I had taught CV preparation myself, as part of my work, before, or had done a top-up module in CV skills, on a digital media journalism Diploma course. No. She knew best, Ms. dole office, or at least hoped I thought she did, as she struck me as a lot more grim-faced after she’d seen my CV, which I imagine had a lot more qualifications listed than hers would have (not that she would need to be producing hers for some sour wagon at a pointless dole interview, since she already had her pen-pushing gig) . It didn’t get me a job of course. In my mid fifties, in a job market dominated by imported workers from EU agencies, and a gap in my CV showing I was unemployed, I wasn’t terribly surprised. I’d even applied for jobs overseas, ‘though I baulked at the few that were advertised that I had some chance of getting, teaching jobs in Saudi Arabia and China. Nah. I thought. I’d just shake some guy’s hand the first week, and it’d be downhill quite quickly from there. Even three hots and a cot wouldn’t be guaranteed, either, I’m thinking, in those sorts of regimes.

Mind you, our regime isn’t much better, if they insist you hike it out to attend a going nowhere that results in a job session, in the middle of a COVID-19 lockdown. I had already been getting letters every couple of weeks from them, to attend meetings cited over 50kms away, with no public transport route to get me there. I don’t drive, of course. I’m unemployed, and was a zero-contract dispos-a-worker type, when I was getting the crumbs of work left over from what the foreign agency workers hadn’t time for. I was the first to go, and last to be respected, as many Irish employers seem to prefer agency workers, who provide the quick turnover needed, to Irish employees, who, let’s face it, answer back, ‘cos they speak English. They might also have a super CV, which could put you to shame if you hired them, and make you look like the complete thicko that you are, just there because you slept with the boss, and know where the tax money is hidden, or maybe your actual daddy’s the boss. Small companies like to keep things in the family, while larger ones like to keep things as impersonal as possible, preferably by not having anyone Irish working there at all. Hence the bewilderment of visitors to Irish shores who wonder why there are no Irish staff in hotels or restaurants. They’re probably busy completing a series of Job Activation interviews, for jobs they have no hope of getting, in which they are berated by being told they are just not trying hard enough to get one of those jobs there are so many of, according to the massaged figures, which count the various work schemes the state runs as employment.

I’ve been shoved onto those as well, and if I don’t get a job, can be expected to bounce about from one type of work scheme to another, until I am an old age pensioner, as although each type has a maximum timelimit, it’s easy to get around that by having lots of differently named ones. Usually, they involve picking up litter, sweeping roads, or freezing your behind off in the rain in a range of ways that seem designed to destroy the individuals dignity, and health, but keep an army of supervisors on a good wage, while the person on the scheme gets none of the training in skills suitable to their existing skills, which the schemes promise in the small print, nor the training grant that they are entitled too either. I know. I’ve asked, as I figured learning to drive might increase my ability to get work, but my question was brushed under the carpet, as I almost was too, when they put me on a scheme which said it was an office job, and turned out to be a janitor’s job. I had to go home that first day, to change out of smart office clothes into my oldest jeans, as no work wear was provided. I refused to go up on a roof to clean a gutter on that job, and kicked up a stink, arguing that I had never worked in the janitorial arena, so had no existing skills there I wished to build on. My teaching and digital media qualifications, as well as my rather super, if I don’t mind saying so myself, communications skills, persuaded them to get me off the roof, and into an office, to teach web design. I learned nothing, and had few students, but it’s about keeping the little gulag going, as this cheap labour helps provide services for councils, and keep the unemployment figures looking healthier than they really are.

I find I have to remind dole office workers, and the companies they liase with, of Irish law, regularly, as they have broken their own department’s rules several times already with me, e.g. insisting I work on a scheme while already having a real job . Now it seems, they’d like to again push the boat out, by ignoring Leo Varadkar, who’s going hoarse telling everyone to just stay at home, to observe the COVID-19 restrictions. The foreign contract workers must think we Irish are stupid, for paying them €350 for 12 weeks, to sit at home during the crisis, so the company they worked for will hire them back whenever the crisis is over, while the people like me, who were made unemployed before the virus sent the country into lockdown, get the old rate of jobseeker’s benefit, and told to risk infecting people by traveling to even-more-pointless-than-usual job activation interviews, for what, exactly? To work on a CV again (oooo, maybe we could shorten it even more, and leave out those three qualifications), and be asked why I think I haven’t gotten any replies this week from employers, I suppose. Em, because we’re on a feckin’ lockdown, you complete idiot.

Update: I discovered I shouldn’t have been asked to do JobPath at all, since I haven’t been unemployed for 12 months yet. They started insisting I go to JobPath interviews, however, as soon as I signed on as full-time unemployed. They’ve tried illegal things on me before, like insisting I do a community employment scheme when I was employed; those schemes are also only for those unemployed, for over 12 months. One finds oneself having to do battle with these dishonest people, just to get one’s legal rights upheld, as they will insist black is white, even as you show them their own rules, off goverment websites. Perhaps the fact that there is a lot of money involved in the schemes is a factor in their stubborn hostility towards unemployed people, but it’s certainly made difficult for unemployed people to access the payments they are entitled to, without having to put up quite a fight for them.

The Data Collectors’ Book (The Face That Drove You Mad)

Mark Zuckerberg is a guy that puts a lot of work into how the company he founded is perceived. His version and other people’s versions tend to diverge on some rather relevant issues, and now at least some of the horrible truth is becoming more obvious to the general user of the Facebook, and Facebook are having to scramble to re-invent the services they offer, as well as alter the demographic they target for their attentions, in an effort to keep the sinking ship afloat. Social media giants like Facebook have all sorts of dirty tricks up their sleeves to keep users on board, and the psychology of marketing isn’t the only source of their power, as they hold such huge sway over our behaviour, so it stands to reason that they have many friends in high places too. How can we ever truly be free, if we don’t really take a hard look at what these platforms’ purposes are (and like all my posts, I must point out that I don’t endorse uncritically everything that’s proposed in the following video, as I’m an individual, with my own views, and not a demographic, but I do think the video frames the discussion points, which could be explored further by users of social media)?

Remember the official story of how Facebook started? It all sounded so cosy and friendly, didn’t it? People coming together, and sharing, with Mark the bright spark helping us all to shine.

Sorry Zucky, but your lies suck, and you blow. This isn’t real life, as we know it, and you ain’t the captain of our ship. More and more long time users of Facebook have jumped ship, and are swimming for shore.

We hoping you sink with the ship, and all the rats below deck drown with you. We see you, trying to bail the ship out with buckets, and we hope your true toxic face becomes more obvious to the new users you are trying to drive mad, by pretending to be their bestest friend ever, arranging to meet them in other places at a convenient time, a helpful app, providing a hug in the form of a thumbs up. Well, it’s a Thumbs Down to you, with no hug, from us. We’re so sorry Mark. Honest.

Rat Trap ~ Social Media Conditioning

Rat B.F. Skinner Experiment

Checked my Twitter, YouTube channel and of course, my beloved blog first thing this morning, while munching away on my breakfast. I used to read in bed, before I had a smartphone, but those days are a distant memory, and although I usually do a half an hour of meditation after breakfast, it’s becoming increasingly challenging to drag myself away from my beloved social media platforms, as I circle like a rat in a maze that’s leading nowhere, and I run back to where I’ve already been, to see if anything new has happened. This morning, in my YouTube Recommended feeds, this video caught my attention, as it was about the topic of social media’s addictive qualities, and I’ve been noticing how hard it is to fight the addiction which seems to leave one wanting more, the more one engages in it.

Now, I’m a bit leery of guys like Jaron, when they tell us how bad for us social media is, and how we should think of it as a wild Tiger that’s going to gobble us up from the knees down, if we don’t run like billy-o to safety, and fast, if only ‘cos they are so engaged in developing the tools that they say they hate, so where is their personal morality at, then, if they are still in the biz? The fact that he’s spouting his political opinions, under the cover of talking about social media addiction, makes me think he’s not too different in outlook from the big businesses that write his paycheck at the end of each month.

My advice, for what it’s worth, is to take the channel 4 clip, as you should all media you use,  with a very large pinch of salt, and a sceptical mind, rather than watching in the passive way that the media loves. Remember, the media is excellent at packaging propaganda in a very covert, and persuasive way, to get under your critical thinking radar, or bypass critical thinking altogether.
That being said, he makes a few points which are worth looking at in relation to other people’s work, like the Behaviourist School of psychology.  These psychologists broke human behaviour down to a perhaps over-simplified view of behaviour, positing a reward/punishment model, saying that animals like ourselves can learn to peck through all sorts of tasks if they think they might be getting some nice birdseed at the end of it.

I did a short livestream on the topic, while still wiping the sleep out of my eyes, discussing what I found interesting about the ideas raised by my morning viewing. In other words I went back to the screen for another shot of the drug. Please, please, give this post a like (bites nails in anticipation).

Socionics and Sofia ~ Psychology & Computing Communications Concepts

Magritte at computer

Psychological Types book cover
Carl Jung’s “Psychological Types”, published in 1921

What’s the difference between a personality type and a personality trait? Well, in Jung’s  theory of types, developed in his book Psychological Types (1921), he developed 8 different categories of types of people, based around the psychological functions (how people perceive the world, and make decisions) of consciousness. He examined the tensions created by personality complexes created around these functions.

MyersBriggsTypes Personality Type Chart
Myers-Briggs Types Personality Type Chart

It’s heavy stuff, and can be confusing, but the main idea of the theory of Socionics, developed much later (1970s and 1980s) is that one could figure out, to some extent, people’s behaviour within groups, based on their personality types and the tensions that arose in interpersonal dynamics within groups. It takes into account Jung’s theories on personality types and character traits, as well as the  Informational Metabolism theories developed by the Polish  psychiatrist, Antoni Kępiński, which explores how people interact with their environment, via signals.

Socionics Model A Grid
Socionics Model A Grid

In other words, Socionics explores how people interact with their environment based on their personality (the area psychology  concerns itself with), and how they process information signals in their environment (sociological element of the theory). It’s a fascinating area of study, since not only does it attempt to catagorize complex human behaviours and perceptions into an order which can be expressed diagrammatically, it can also be used to attempt to predict and shape behaviours.

It doesn’t take much of a leap of the imagination to see how these theories might have some relevance to the consideration of social media groupings as Multi-agent systems, with people communicating on various media platforms (MASs being defined as self-organizing computerized systems, see also Agent-Based Models (ABS), comprised of intelligent agents), although the initial theory of MASs examined the interplay of strictly artifical agents,  and a further implication of being able to diagrammatically organize a theory around the processes at work  with human agents operating within a constructed environment consisting of perameters defined by the system.

Multi-Agent Systems Models Diagram

While the MAS idea may suggest  interesting correspondences to the theory of Socionics, it also presents problematic issues if the models are compared or examined for comparative purposes, since with human interactions both personality traits and characteristics come into play, and often override the mechanical, stimulous/response element of the computerized communications theory. Much of the material I looked at wasn’t current, with materials on the topic spanning the 1960s to the 1990s, and after that time, online research papers becoming sparser, although the MAS model has been more extensively employed in computer technology communications fields, such as Gaming Theory and the field of Artificial Intelligence, in disciplines such as Informatics.

So is Socionics a failed theory? Maybe. Certainly my short investigation into it yielded surprisingly little literature discussing practical current applications, at least on the relationship between the two, though they seem to be at least tangentially related, in that they both are theories which involve decision making in a computing environment. There is, however, unarguably,  a point at which the humans and machines must intersect, and interact, and messages are communicated, and some interesting applications of the conjunction of humans and machines can result in new technologies and modes of communication developing, such as when bots imitate human modes of interaction, acting as influencers or agents of change within groups, with a higher level of autonomy envisaged for the future, via the rate of technological advances being made in this direction, in the field of computing.

What does the future in these fields hold? The designers of this robot, called Sofia (now the first robot citizen ever) would like us to believe that sentience is an achievable goal, but can computers ever truly be human, and do they behave as humans do? Authors such a Stephen Pinker have argued that our brains behave like computers, but can a computer ever really be said to behave in a subjective way? Might it ever?

Just for fun: Briggs Myers personality type test click here.
Bonus Article: Five Eyes Surveillance purposes and networks, Wikipedia article.

Reblog Of The Week. “Deviant Sociology”.

A big shoutout to the kind reader who hooked me up with this Wikipedia page, which discusses Howard S. Becker’s social theory of “Moral Entrepreneurs”. I found it really interesting, particularly in relation to the idea of splitting this group into Rule Creators, and Rule Enforcers, and studying their role in society, along socio-economic lines, and I wanted to read more, after my interest had been stimulated by this always relevant topic. I came across this WordPress site, which expanded on the topic, and I thought my readers might find it interesting.

https://deviantsociology.wordpress.com/2017/01/25/howard-beckers-outsiders-studies-in-the-sociology-of-deviance/#comment-2778

Bonus: A livestream chat about the articles I linked to here, and a few more thoughts.