On Choosing Ideas Part 3 – The Hierarchy of Ideas

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On Choosing Ideas Part 3 – The Hierarchy of Ideas

Introduction
The first post in this series only answered how to determine which idea should be implemented over another idea aimed at solving the same problem, what I will term horizontal idea differentiation. Basically, the first post answered how do I know which idea is better to solve a problem when, each of the ideas to be analyzed have common goal/problem to be applied to. This post provides the analysis to answer how to know when one domain of ideas is more important than another that solve different problems? I term this concept vertical idea differentiation.

The importance of this post should not be understated. We live in very turbulent geopolitical times. 2 Additionally, there are more activist groups, think tanks, lobbyists, campaign spending, protests than ever before all trying to persuade our elected officials to enact their agenda, claiming their ideas are the most important. With all of this noise, it is no wonder why we are living in very unproductive legislative times as well. 3 Moreover, given the complexity of some ideas and the fact that the individuals educating others on the importance of their idea are working professionals, in particular academic researchers, we must acknowledge that there is a significant amount of personal bias given that most of these individuals are confined to one area of specialization, which causes them to think what they are doing is most important, or at worst, not admitting another idea is more important than the one they have specialized in.

One of the most well-known examples of where vertical idea differentiation has been utilized is when Professor Lawrence Lessig stated in his pitch to get ordinary citizens to understand how important his ideas he outlined in Republic Lost where he stated that the problem of campaign finance in our elections is not the most important idea, it is simply the first problem that has to be solved. 4 For me this is problematic, the first idea to be solved by definition should be the most important, if it was not then why are we implementing it first. In an extreme example, given Professor Lessig’s statement, his idea should be implemented first over, for example, finding a solution to a six-mile-wide meteor heading for Earth. Obviously, given Professor Lessig’s intelligence and pedigree he could not have possibly meant this. While Professor Lessig does elaborate as to why his idea of fixing our elections is the first idea that needs to be implemented, I believe more could have been done.

This post will attempt to provide a framework of considerations to determine which domain idea is more important than another. This post can aid in the prioritizing political agenda both on the right and the left from the politicians themselves to the activist groups seeking to pursue them. Additionally, this post will assist individuals to determine which ideas are actually more important. Thus, a situation becomes possible that someone advocating for limitations on carbon emissions, can simultaneously also advocate for a more important idea because they would now be endowed with an analysis showing them that there are other ideas that are more important than their own – hopefully.

Before I begin, I can already see the hordes of people saying who am I to determine that an idea I am seeking to implement is more important – what arrogance I have! Nevertheless, I again point to an extreme example – it would be nothing short of immoral to state that ending the use of fidget spinners in U.S. schools is more important than solving the problem of an impending six-mile-wide meteor impact because on its most basic level the use of fidget spinners in US schools effects 50 million students, 5 and a meteor impact of the stated magnitude could affect not only all 7.6 billion human lives but also all life on the only planet we know (or are able to adequately get to) that can harbor life. While utilizing logical extremes in an argument can be a logical fallacy, 6 the practice can be used initially to understand which side of an argument – at least initially – is “more correct.” In this case, the example I provided clearly establishing that some ideas are more important than others, and simply needs an analysis to explain and argue why that is the case. Ultimately, no analysis can be comprehensive or even conclusive. Instead, this post attempts to list the most important considerations when determining which ideas need to be implemented or problems that need to be solved over another idea or problem.

Laying the foundation
To determine how the analysis should be constructed, we first have to define what “important” means as importance inexorably creates a hierarchy which we can use to prioritize ideas. Taking a page out of well-established principles of statutory construction, we will first look to the dictionary. 7 Taking the top result from three widely used sources we find that “important” means:

  • Google Dictionary: Of great significance or value; likely to have a profound effect on success, survival, or well-being. 8
  • Dictionary.com: Of much or great significance or consequence. 9
  • Merriam-Webster: Marked by or indicative of significant worth or consequence, valuable in content or relationship. 10

Each of these definitions have essential parts which can be better explained by creating a unified definition that is reasonable given the information above. For purposes of this post, important will be defined as of significant value or consequence to survival, well-being, and success to both the society at large and the individual. I am using this definition for several reasons. To create a more concrete definition we need to discuss each of the items in the stated list separately.

Survival, the first of the three listed items in the definition (i.e. survival, well-being, and success), is by definition the most important variable to an individual. Without survival, nothing can be important because you would be dead. It is axiomatic that something that is/can be important → You are alive. By definition, importance is a concept that is attached to an idea, concept, or object by a living creature, if anything the very idea of survival is the driving force of evolution itself.

Continuing down the list, well-being must be second to survival because although you would be alive, thus satisfying the first consideration in our list, you could be suffering. One such example could be one who is on the verge of death from dehydration. Just because you are alive does not mean you are living.

Considering the third variable, we get to success. Success can be codified in an individual and subjective way, but there are some essential elements of success that are universally understood. However, codifying a framework for subjective experiences is beyond the scope of this post, while it will be addressed in a future post for simplification, we can actually define success as its ability to facilitate the first two items in our importance list.

Lastly, importance should apply to both the individual and society. Put simply, while individual well-being, at least in the short run, can be “important,” as is the case with survival, it is irrefutable that one’s well-being is also intrinsically tied to the well-being of the society in which they inhabit. Additionally, because of the consideration that importance to the individual in the short run and importance to society in the long run, or vice-versa can have adverse outcomes, to smooth the analysis both of them should be considered simultaneously. Thus, at the very least we can determine that if an idea does not promote the survival or well-being of both the society and the individual it must be less important than a one that does.

From this we can already extrapolate a hierarchy, the most important ideas consider the survival, well-being, and success of both the individual and society. Less important are those ideas that only facilitate the survival, well-being, and success of just the society. Less important than that are ideas that only facilitated the survival, well-being, and success of the individual. And the least important ideas do not facilitate the survival, well-being, and success of either the society or the individual.

Before continuing, it is important to justify why I have placed ideas that facilitate the survival, well-being, and success of the society over the individual as I am certain that at least modern philosophers would find the mere utterance of this principle abhorrent and nothing short of immoral. 11 However, while I also alluded to this principle in my previous post and have failed to define my reasoning or even what constitutes a society, 12 I will once again postpone my reasoning for another future post. Instead, please accept this position as true.

Vertical Idea Differentiation Analysis

To properly determine which sets of ideas is more important there are two avenues of factors. First, there is understanding the nature and magnitude of the harms and benefits that would result absent the implementation of the idea. Second, there is who/what is harmed or benefited from the implementation of the idea.

Detailing the Nature and Magnitude of the Harm

  • How immediate will the consequences of not fixing the stated problem/not implementing the idea be experienced? (i.e. Immediacy) For example, without the implementation of this idea, would death be immediate → If yes, this idea becomes the most important idea. Given the limited time all humans have on this planet, the easiest determination is the sooner a problem impacts us, depending of the other factors, it is potentially more important.
  • Does the stated problem get worse over time? Linearly, Exponentially, Logarithmically? (i.e. Incipiency) The purposes of this question is to ensure the answer to the first question is not distorted in any way. Essentially, just because the consequences of the lack of implementing an idea are not immediate does not mean it is not important. The most obvious example this applies to is climate change.
  • How long will it take to implement the idea, gain mass market appeal (if needed), and to at least start reversing any negative consequences that have already taken place from the lack of implementing the idea? (i.e. Duration)
  • Should solution not be implemented how irreparable is the damage (in time and money), and to whom does the damage implicate and to what degree (a country, citizens, state, etc)? (i.e. Irreparability) Obviously, if the consequences deriving  from a problem are irreparable, it is more important than consequences that are not.
  • How many problems is this harm linked to? Does solving this problem alleviate other problems? (i.e. Connectivity)

Detailing who is Harmed/Benefited

  • What is the absolute number of people affected by the problem and benefited by the solution? (i.e. Numerosity)
  • How individualized is the harm? (i.e. Individuality)
  • Where will the harm take place? (i.e. Locality)
  • How is the environment impacted?

Additional considerations

The following considerations while not dispositive should be discussed. The reason they are not necessary to determine importance is simple, given the lack of either of these variable does not mean the idea is not important. A simple example is just because I cannot observe the six-mile meteor that is going to hit our planet does not mean it is not important.

  • How observable is the problem? (i.e. Observability) Not an absolute requirement, but makes understanding the problem much more likely, and thus support from the general public is much easier to obtain.
  • How understandable is the problem to the average person? (i.e. Understandability) While I hate to admit it, most solutions to a problem need to have the backing of the majority of people or at least the decision makers. Ideas that are not understandable will most likely not be implemented.
  • What is the ability/cost/probability of implementation of the solution, the number of people required to be involved, the amount of financial resources, the amount of technology to solve the problem – do we have the technology to solve the problem or does it need to be developed)? (i.e. Feasibility and Dependency) This is the hardest variable to contend with given the human spirit of trying to succeed regardless of the odds. While I acknowledge that there are some situations where the odds should not matter, especially given the consequences – consider again the six-mile-wide meteor hitting Earth – on a more practical side these variables must be considered. It should be noted that trying should not be conflated with taking any conceivable action. A misunderstanding of this point could lead someone to pray that an individual’s stage four cancer to disappear. Trying, in this case, is limited to reasonable actions with verifiable results that simply have a low probability of success.
  • Are the people causing the problem internalizing the harms they are causing? If so, how? (i.e. Externalities) It is important to consider whether the individuals potentially created the harm(s) both (1) acknowledge the problems existence and (2) willingness to participate in the solution.

Conclusion

I eagerly acknowledge that the framework stated above does not lead to concrete answers – although it does provide the considerations for people to consider and have the debate. Nevertheless, as I have shown, it is obvious there is a hierarchy of ideas. It is up to us to admit to ourselves and to others that some ideas are more important than even the ideas we truly believe in and have spent most of our lives advocating for. Given the never-ending onslaught on nefarious actions by our politicians, there is as philosopher Sam Harris has stated a “war of ideas.” 13 Who wins this war will determine the nature and distribution of power in our society. There could not be more at stake. We need to convince people that climate change is real, abortion is a right, marijuana should be legalized, antitrust should be actively enforced, and more. I am more than happy to admit while antitrust is the most important cause for me and it is the cause I will spend the rest of my life advocating for and studying, antitrust is NOT the most important cause or issue. While effective antitrust enforcement can redistribute power in many circumstances, antitrust does not aid with how to properly structure our government to insulate it from corporate control, outside interests, or foreign powers, and certainly does not provide a basis to create rules that prevent political corruption. Many scholars, such as Lawrence Lessig and Yascha Mounk, especially since the election of Donald Trump, show that our republic is vulnerable and it currently being weakened. I hope others follow suit and admit this as well so we can all support ideas that are on top of the hierarchy.

 

Reddit comment page: https://redd.it/94dpjb 

On Luck

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On Luck

One of the few things I often think about is just how lucky I have been in my life. Routinely when people ask me how my day is I give them the same answer – “Every day is a great day.” When I utter this statement people frequently look at me perplexed. No doubt the first thing they think is that I must be lying or exaggerating. I can confidently say I am not. My reasoning is simple – I quite literally have no problems in my life and am not apprehensive to state that any potential “problems” that I can state I have experienced are not meaningfully significant.

The following is just a short list of some of the things I have never had to deal with or endure in my entire life: a physical or intellectual disability, lasting hunger, 2 police brutality, leaded water, any disease or infection of any significance, homelessness, poor education, any sort of direct racial bias/racism, abusive parents, gun or drug violence, lengthy periods without access to a computer, internet, or informational database, political instability, any sort of environmental disaster, or financial instability of any kind.

What may not be obvious to the average reader is that my inexperience with almost all of these circumstances comes down to pure luck. Yes, some of these events can be received from my work ethic, but luck is certainly the dominant factor. I cannot control the weather. I did not choose my parents. I did not choose the color of my skin. I did not choose my genetic composition. I did not choose where I was born or grew up. I did not choose the school system I attended. The easiest example I can conjure that can explain this point succinctly is leaded water and hunger. The severe and irreparable adverse effects of leaded water and hunger are well documented. 3 I could for a second believe that I am smart, that I work harder than most people, it is because of my sheer effort that I am as successful as I am, and I deserve it. However, this is simply not true. Here is the proof. All I have to ask myself is the following – would I still be as successful as I am today, would I still be as hard of a worker, and would I still be as smart as I am today if I had 10% more lead in the water I drank when I was a child? How about if I had 10% fewer calories? What about 20%? The answer is simple – I would not. If everything I have ever worked for, and everything that has supposedly been a result of the work I have done in my life can all be erased with just either of these two variables – did I really work harder than most people or it is luck. Staying true to my framework for choosing ideas 4 and general notions of logic, the likelihood of each event must be weighed against each other – luck is the most likely variable that has determined most of my success.

I believe there are several points to take away from this conclusion that are worth elaborating on. First, those who have never faced any of the above problems, they should be thankful to the individuals that were capable of providing them the privilege they take advantage of and the luck they experienced. More importantly, individuals should understand that when they see struggling individuals remind themselves of the advantages that they had that they did not take any part in determining and the privileges absent from the other person’s life. Unfortunately, there is still a pervasive belief that people can simply get ahead by working harder. 5 For those that believe this, consider for a moment how different your life would be if any of the aforementioned factors changed even slightly. Moreover, I plead with those who still believe this principle to ask exactly how much harder do we want people to work. 6 I implore those to determine for me how does a teacher work harder? How about a coal miner, a waitress, or a truck driver? Move faster or work longer? Such modest acts could have an impact, but I am near certain they will not radically or even moderately change one’s overall situation. The fact is there are innumerable jobs where working even 10% longer will most likely not change the current situation, decrease one’s overall happiness, or worse endanger their life and the lives of others. Would we want a truck driver driving two or three hours longer? Do we want teachers devoting even more hours in the day to their students? 7 Should coal miners extract even more coal in some of the abysmal working conditions at the expense of their physical health and well-being? I do not think it is radical that the answer to all of these questions is no and I am not sure of how anyone could justify such as position.

Lastly, I believe people should recognize, given the dispositive impact luck has on life’s outcomes, encouraging people to reflect on the role luck plays can be a method to garner support for a redistributive society. If much of one’s success can be attributed to luck – a fundamental contradiction to a meritocracy – should we want a society that rewards luck and not compensate those with the most unfortunate of circumstances. The ideological divide between those that desire a redistributive society or not is undoubtedly a fundamental division between liberals and conservatives, and a recognition of the determinative impact luck has is necessary to critically evaluate how our political, economic, and social systems are currently constructed and how they should be designed.

 

Reddit comment link: https://redd.it/8fxvvo 

On Choosing Ideas Part 2 – You Are Not Entitled To An Opinion

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On Choosing Ideas Part 2 – You Are Not Entitled To An Opinion

Introduction

In a previous post, I detailed my method for choosing ideas, and while I plan on releasing at least three more posts in addition to this one explaining my method in depth, this post addresses one of the most pernicious tactics that I have too often witnessed and encountered when debating ideas. That tactic is the claim that individuals are entitled to an opinion. 2 This dangerous idea has seeped into the mainstream media, been asserted by President Trump, and has been implied by Chief Justice John Roberts. 3 Of course, there are a plethora of logical fallacies each deserving their own post and analysis of the consequences of their harmful effects, but it is this seemingly innocuous action that I believe is the most repugnant. 4 

To start, obviously there are conditions when opinions must be allowed which I will detail in this post, however, I must be clear by what I mean by opinion. Opinions can be categorized into two types of statements. The first type of opinions are objectively measurable. For example, consider the statement “radishes taste sweeter than strawberries.” Inherent in this statement is an objectively measurable and quantifiable variable – sweetness. This variable can be verified by scientific testing the result of which is essentially irrefutable. 5

The second kind of opinions are based on ethics, morality, and philosophy. For example, consider the statement “sentencing a thief to death is a better way to teach individuals not to steal things than simply putting them in jail or fining them.” 6 While “better” could mean that the action is a more effective deterrent that prevents or dissuades individuals from stealing, which is a quantifiable variable, the statement could also mean that either of those actions are a more “just” punishment for the action. 7 The essential point of division between the types of statements is the presence of an objectively measurable variable. This post will focus on the first type of statements, and while the second is discussed in part they will be more adequately addressed in a future post. Nevertheless, both types of opinions generally require the same analysis. 

A Simple Request

Individuals must accept facts as they are and subject one’s position to change upon the introduction of new, sufficient, and accurate evidence. This statement I believe underpins the formation of modern society and allows for its advancement, and perhaps if accepted and practiced by all, is the greatest inhibitor of tyranny and authoritarian rule. Let me be clear on my point. A submission to a mere opinion without any scientifically valid evidence is a surrender of the most important neurological capabilities of our species – critical thinking, rationality, doubt, and the capacity for intellectual change. There are no words that can stress how important this idea is.

It is hard not to find a single issue advocated by both the left and the right sides of the political spectrum which does not originate from an abandonment and deflection of facts and evidence. Take for instance climate change. 8 The evidence could not be more prevalent, available, and obvious. 9

Now there are those who will continue to state that they are entitled to say what they want about a subject. At least initially, I will emphatically agree with them that we as individuals deserve an opportunity to debate a topic in furtherance of the social nature of our species, 10 but the moment one claims that they are entitled to an opinion is where I draw the line.

Why People are Not Entitled to an Opinion

I can think of five definitive reasons why an entitlement to an opinion should be rejected. First, the invoking of such an entitlement is often used to shield individuals from opposing positions regardless of the facts, validity, and potential consequences of their ideas – a practice I personally believe to be pure ignorance and shameful.

Second, acceptance of the entitlement, or affirmative pronouncement of it, only continues the cycle of ignorance for the individual touting the expression. Such ignorance has two other consequences. First, by merely stating that you are entitled to an opinion or accepting such a conclusion incentivizes individuals, perhaps unknowingly, to be participating in intellectual laziness. It seems sensible that should an individual decide to articulate their opinion on a given subject matter that they have at least educated themselves on the basic principles. Second, this undesirable positive feedback loop can foster more ignorant people, which will subsequently continue to deepen the divide between individuals who are fact-based and those that are not. I will detail the additional consequences of this later in the post, but given the current political environment, it seems fairly evident what they are. 

Third, invoking the statement inhibits individuals from having a consensus on ideas. Consensus on ideas allow society to extrapolate reasonable, although unproven, conclusions from those ideas, which in turn leads to a testable hypothesis to ultimately establish a fundamental truth about a given situation. Additionally, consensus, in one form or another, provides exponential human capital economies of scale to tackle a problem and is necessary for mass market adoption. It is simply blind ignorance not to acknowledge the importance of every additional unit of human capital to solve a problem, even if people do not completely understand the idea.

Fourth, if individuals are allowed or invoke that they are allowed to fabricate their own facts derived from their opinions, then it is axiomatic that they are also allowed to procure their own conclusions or even their own reality from those facts. Such a situation only exacerbates the potential harms caused by an idea and is contrary to the fabric of the scientific process. 11 One must recognize that adhering and practicing the scientific method is not only a process by which to test claims, but also can be a set of guidelines for how to interact and engage with our growingly complicated world. To quote Carl Sagan, “science is more than a body of knowledge, it is a way of thinking.” 12 Allowing the creation of individualized facts is also an abdication of one’s duty to defend evidence, science, and reason, and subsequently provides permission for individuals to believe in whatever they want regardless of the harms they cause to themselves or society.

Fifth, the invoking of an entitlement to an opinion, particularly by those in power is an entryway toward the degrading of republican values and the imposition of tyranny. 13

Application

To better explain these reasons, it is helpful to apply them to specific situations – take for example vaccines. One of the signature benefits of vaccines, outside of their disease preventing properties, is that if one person were to be infected so as long as there is a sufficient number of people that are immune the disease would eventually be thwarted and thus an epidemic or in the extreme case a pandemic would be inhibited. This concept is known as herd immunity. 14 Quickly preventing the spread of disease also has another signature benefit, the quicker a disease can be suppressed the lower the chances are of mutation which would make the vaccine obsolete through the process of evolution as pathogens, similar to all life, seek to adapt themselves to their environment through the passing down of successful genes to the next generation. 15 Vaccines provide one of the best examples of the benefits that consensus has and the harms of fact less and opinionated assertions can have. When there is a consensus on the idea that vaccines are good and that they work because people who have spent the better part of a decade or more are telling you they do and all of the evidence corroborates that idea – both society and the individual benefit. Stated simply, just by believing in this idea, never mind convincing other people that the idea is good, has incalculable benefits. One such example includes the eradication of Small Pox as there is no reason this process cannot be applied to other diseases such as Polio. Unfortunately, there are hordes of people who continue to believe that vaccines cause autism contrary to all of the evidence, 16  or that taking them is an attempt by Western Powers to sterilize Muslim children. 17 It is hard to imagine a person more wicked than one who willingly, knowingly, or ignorantly putting people and humanity at risk.

Another analogous situation is present in the context of educating students on evolution. For example, we still have a faction of people that not only do not believe in evolution, but who are also actively trying to suppress its teaching in schools. 18  The consequences of this practice are already present in schools across our country that are graduating legions of scientifically inept students. 19  Meanwhile, the lack of knowledge in this domain by itself are enormously consequential since almost all biological research, development of medicines, understanding the mutations of diseases, combating antibiotic resistance, and the development of genetically modified plants and organisms are derived from a literacy in evolution. 20

Each of these examples elaborate on how stating that you are entitled to your opinion is utterly reprehensible and destroys the signature benefits that accepting facts and evidence has – reaching a consensus on a set of ideas, the consequences of ignoring science, logic, and reason, the effects of being able to procure one’s own conclusions, and the problems of continuing the cycle of ignorance.

Setting the Stage for Debate

It is practically certain that when opinions and positions on ideas are invoked a debate is necessary. With this in mind, it must be established that there are at least three requirements for people to be willing to debate an issue. First, both participants must be able to arrive at a consensus on the facts by accepting them as true (so long as the facts are scientifically accurate), regardless of any personal bias against them. 21  Second, each position advocated by each party must be defeasible, such that there is a situation where if certain provable conditions are met then an individual would be willing to change their position.22 For example, if you advocated that all lobsters are red, you must be willing to acknowledge that your position is incorrect based on seeing a blue lobster or at the very least admit that it would take you finding evidence that there are lobsters other than ones that are red. In the case where something cannot be visually provable, such as the existence of black holes or gravitational waves, then you must sight information that you need to confirm or deny your position. It is worth explicitly noting that the burden of defeasibility is on the person asserting the claim(s). Third, statements made or positions argued must be falsifiable. Falsifiability means that the statements made must have, intrinsic to their utterance, a probable and describable situation or circumstance that make the statement untrue. Such statements are the foundation of scientific thinking and hypothesis testing. Utilizing our lobster example, if the statement was made that all lobsters are red, then it would be falsified upon the viewing of a lobster of any other color. Only after these three conditions are met may a meaningful debate and thus the advancement of the collective knowledge on a topic can commence.

From this point, you could be asking, “why do I have to care about what other people think and do.” While I plan on expanding on the need to advocate for collectivism over individualism and its limits in a future post, here I will provide a basic introduction as I think it is necessary to explain this fundamental position I have asserted. To summarize, almost every human advancement from farming to the building of cities, and nearly all human inventions or at the very least the mass market infiltration of them have arisen from the collective organization and behavior of individuals. Debate inherently leads to collective action and consensus on ideas, thus an attack on the ability for our species to form collectives must be judged and criticized under the highest possible scrutiny.

The Great Enabler to Tyranny

The imposition of tyranny is a prospect that both the left and the right should fear. I have purposefully separated out this reason mentioned above until this point to emphasis rejecting the entitlement to opinions is an inhibitor of tyranny and its acceptance enables it. Debate and the need for scientifically valid facts and evidence to drive it, what I find most heinous is that Republicans – members of the party that purports to be the ones of freedom, liberty, and limited government – are not radically accepting this idea and perhaps it seems that they are wholeheartedly rejecting this premise. 23

It is well understood that dictators and tyrannical leaders who wish to entrench their hold on power first seek to distort the facts of any story and replace them with their versions of the “truth.” 24 Take for example some of the most dictatorial regimes on our planet, Russia, China, and North Korea all have predominantly or exclusively state-run or state-sanctioned media and internet outlets only. 25 The control over the streams that disseminate fact in turn controls which facts are actually released and known by the public. It is also a common tactic for dictators to over-load the media with a barrage of either misleading, false, or outright ostentatious statements to distract the public from the core issues at hand – a practice nonetheless currently being implemented by President Donald Trump. 26 More disturbing is the persistent support of Mr. Trump despite the overwhelming evidence against him that at least some collusion took place between himself and the Russian Government all while he and his army of surrogates continue to deny almost every documented and verified incident. 27 Once again the problem is clear, but not accepting and disseminating the facts as they are is inhibits the public from coming to a consensus about what is true, which deprives society of understanding the gravity of the situation and the ability to accurately respond to it. I will go further to state that any action seeking to encourage this behavior, especially from those that are in power, should only be seen as tyrannical and the research shows that many societies have faced such an unfortunate fate and I know of no evidence that shows that the United States is immune from tyranny. 28

Understanding the Deeper Political Consequences of Baseless Opinions and Detailing a Model for Assessing Ideas

What we as a society must recognize is that although it is difficult for us to accept the truth and change our minds, 29 we must do it. We cannot continuously allow ourselves and others to be sheltered by disbelief of science, reality, facts, logic, and reason. All of them must be persistently practiced and demanded from others. Absent this demand, I fear that the inability for individuals to be fact-driven will only further deepen the political partisanship present in our society. 30 Such partisanship only weakens our government designed on a consensus-based model to actually achieve any significant policy goals. 31 Worse I propose continued partisanship actually erodes the belief in the necessity and effectiveness of government itself. 32 The only reasonable remedy for this situation is whenever you engage in any form of debate with any person it is necessary and prudent to cordially i) Discuss the source of the facts, and ii) Discuss the validity of those facts, and iii) Arrive at a consensus about what the facts are. Only then may a substantive debate on the topic take place. I also propose, for the sake of both sides of an argument, that the following proposition be adopted. The required degree of scrutiny of an idea and evidence required to implement an idea is exponentially proportional to the harm caused and adoption potential by society, which I call the SEHA (“see-ha”) Framework. Stated another way. Scrutiny and Evidence Required for the Implementation of that Idea = (Harm + Adoption Potential)². Put visually  

Asserting an Opinion

Although the title of this article can be seen as provocative and hyperbolic, nevertheless I do think that there are in fact very limited circumstances where opinions are allowed. Opinions only have value when the facts surrounding a claim are uncertain or unknowable (whether at the current moment or ever). If an opinion is going to be asserted, the grounds for the opinion must be detailed. First, the assertion of an opinion should be clearly disclosed. Second, the opinion can be asserted only after the unclear, unknown, or unknowable facts are clearly stated. Third, the person asserting the opinion must state their claim and authority to assert an opinion by stating their expertise (Ph.D., Lawyer, etc) and their experience (years in an industry). Fourth, any assumptions, the reasoning for those assumptions, and the evidence that is the basis for those assumptions must be explicitly stated and detailed. Fifth, the conditions for falsifiability and defeasibility must be stated clearly and unambiguously. Sixth, the opinion must be judged by its relationship (given what we know about the position) with the Foundational Elements detailed in the first post of this series. Stated here, any good idea must incorporate and facilitate the following:

  1. Logical reasoning and rationality to utilize evidence-based scientific thinking;
  2. An equitable and socially mobile society;
  3. Individual self-sufficiency and personal liberty;
  4. Ethical and productive discourse and commerce between peoples;
  5. Justice for all individuals by ensuring and securing freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of thought, freedom of the press, freedom of privacy, and enforcing reasonable rehabilitative punishment for individuals when just laws are broken;
  6. Continuously balancing environmental costs with societal costs; and
  7. Recognizes and acknowledges human frailty and the influence of emotions when making decisions balanced against our species’ limited place in the Universe

In short, opinions need to facilitate the Foundational Elements and the basis and authority for the assertion of the opinion should be clearly disclosed. Again, I will detail why the Foundational Elements are good, necessary, and beneficial to society in my next post in this series.

Here is a visual of the entire process described. 

Conclusion

We have a moral obligation to believe in reason, science, and logic they form the basis by which debates, and thus progress toward solutions to the most challenging issues of our time, take place. Debates can only be resolved by presenting sound arguments with supporting evidence. Stating one’s rights or entitlement to an opinion adds nothing to the debating process, continues to allow individuals to be disillusioned with their own statements, inhibits consensus on facts thus depriving society of the potential human capital gains of that consensus, allows the extrapolation of false conclusions, and can be used as a wedge for tyrannical governments to consolidate and expand their power to supplant the democratic process and splinter the foundation of necessary norms for a well-functioning republic. 33 The entitlement deserves no utterance in our discourse and should only be used in accordance with the limited circumstances and strict adherence to the procedure described above – otherwise, it should be outright rejected.

It seems to be the easiest thing to do to benefit our society is to believe in facts, science, logic, and reason – to constantly be skeptical of ideas and acquiring knowledge, as no major human advancement is devoid of these abilities. Such an ask is not just a way of living but is a means to question those in power and hold them accountable to the truth, which only seeks to insulate our society from the constant threat of tyranny. Simply nothing less can be asked for. The principle “quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur” (“What is freely asserted is freely dismissed”) must be abided by and practiced, and all ideas should have sufficient evidence and be scrutinized by their harm and adoption potential – the alternative should not be tolerated.

 

Reddit Comment Link: https://redd.it/7iqux8 

A Side Note On Annoyances

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A Side Note On Annoyances

In my first post and in my conversations with colleagues, I have stressed that this blog was intended to discuss antitrust and its related concepts. However, I fully admit that every so often I need to digress from this original intention as I did when I published my post on how I choose ideas that I support.

In this post, I need to take a moment to vent about several activities that truly frustrate me. Life is full of things that annoy us, however, most of mine are derived from five specific activities. In my efforts to mitigate these annoyances as much as possible, I have drafted a set of rules and considerations which I will hold myself accountable to every time I engage in any of these situations and share my thoughts with as many people that I can ultimately alleviate all of our suffering.


1) Asking for help

People need to recognize how overworked everyone is and approach others with caution when they need help. Everywhere I go the emotional expression on an individual’s face when they are asked to complete a task is indicative of how great a place is to work. Below is a set of considerations one should utilize before engaging the help of another employee.

    • How many employees does the individual you are asking for help supervise?
      • The degree of the request must be inversely proportional to the number of people supervised by the individual. i.e. the lower the number of people overseen by that person the more complicated your request can be.
    • How many people does the completion of your task benefit (you alone, the entire office, etc.)?
      • The amount of deference and leniency that is given to determine whether the individual should be asked to complete your request is directly proportional to the number of organization members it effects. i.e. the more people the individual supervises the less willing you should be to ask them to help you. 
    • Are there any administrative, bureaucratic, or knowledge barriers preventing you from fulfilling the request yourself? Are there any time constraints preventing you from learning or completing the task yourself?
      • Obviously, employees such as CEO’s have lots of responsibilities and commitments that lessen their ability to do things themselves.  
      • However, individuals should make these constraints known to the person you are asking for help as it increases the desire and willingness to complete the requested task. 
  • When asking for someone’s help, is the question or task you are asking for help on directly related to a function, where given the intrinsic nature of the individual’s position, such that the person you are asking is best able to complete the task and there is a high probability that:
    • 1) You would not be successful in the completion of this task, or
    • 2) Attempting to answer the question yourself constitutes foolishness, or
    • 3) The task is too difficult to explain and the completion of this task is either:
      • A) A one-time request, or
      • B) Sufficiently outside your job description where knowing how to do the task is does not substantiate what so ever you actually learning how to do it yourself.

2) Sending emails

People need to stop sending so many emails. Unfortunately, the career path I have chosen offers no recourse. 2 Nevertheless, while I understand the advantages of emailing, it is not always the most efficient means of communication. Below is a set of considerations one should utilize to determine if an email should be sent.

    • Is documentation of this event necessary? Do you desire accountability with this communication to the individual you are sending the email to?
    • Is there a likely probability that the response you will get will be adequate to solve your problem?
    • Is there a likely probability that you will get a response in the format that you want?
      • Is the request less ambiguous through an email than through other forms of communication?
        • Deference should be given to the least ambiguous form of communication.
    • Is sending the email necessary?
      • The desire to an email should be inversely proportional to the complexity of the text contained in the email and its length.
      • Note: The transfer of documents, for practical purposes, can only be done through email.
    • Who initiated the conversation?
      • Usually if someone emails, they would prefer an emailed response, unless stated otherwise.
      • Communication should be sent in the method it was received.
    • Do you know the person(s) you are sending the email to is unable to communicate through other means?
      • If not, try another means to communicate first.
      • Does waiting a reasonable amount of time open up an opportunity to not send an email?
      • If so, wait and communicate through those means.
  • How time sensitive is the issue? Does the email specify which method of response is required?
    • If the issue is not time sensitive or does not specify the method of response required, deference should be given to the most expedient form.
      • A phone call is usually the most expedient form of communication, whereas sending an email only adds to the barrage.

3) Having meetings

Managers and executives need to stop having so many unnecessary group meetings. In my short time as a working professional, I have come to realize that it is axiomatic that the net happiness of an office is inversely proportional to the number of meetings. Below is a set of factors to consider as to whether a meeting is necessary and if so the procedures one should follow to ensure an optimal outcome.

  • What are the factors to determine whether a meeting is necessary?
    • Are you looking to build camaraderie among your colleagues? i.e. Is the meeting meant to be a social gathering of some kind, rather than a professional setting to assign tasks and/or provide updates on current projects?
      • If so, do you believe that a meeting is really the optimal way to accomplish this task? Why not try an out of the office activity?
      • Are the topics sufficiently difficult and complex that they cannot be communicated through other means and where a meeting of multiple minds will decrease the interval between having a problem and finding a solution?
  • If a meeting is necessary then…   
      • An agenda must be provided or at least documented that details:
          • Who is speaking?
          • On what?
          • For how long?

     

      • Does the meeting facilitator have a clear and purposeful objective for the meeting that is known to the attendees of the meeting?

     

      • All participants must have all of the documents to be reviewed during the meeting at least one hour prior to the start of the meeting to review them to prepare for questions and feedback. 
        • I believe that the questions and feedback on the material and subject matter used/discussed in a meeting ultimately provide for a richer and more impactful meeting than the communication of the idea and documents in general. Should the documents be sent out, it is the responsibility of the attendee(s) to read them beforehand.

     

        • Does everyone have to be there for the whole meeting time? 
            • If so, all parts of the meeting should be directly relevant to their current or future work.

           

          • Note: This is the point of the agenda, it allows people the option to only attend the segments of the meeting they need and that are relevant to them unless joining the meeting part-way through would cause an interruption sufficient to derail the meeting.  
  • What are the factors needed to access the quality of a meeting?
    • Does everyone know what they are being held accountable for? Are the deadlines and, if necessary, the instructions or guidelines for completing the task clear, direct, and unambiguous?
    • Is there a division of responsibility between employees completing the task clear and the standard for successful completion of this task clear, direct, and unambiguous?
    • Do the individuals whom the tasks have been assigned have the proper authority, intellect, and financial resources necessary to execute the task(s)?
    • Is reasonable time given to complete the tasks balanced out with the demands of the enterprise and current workload of the employee(s)?
    • Does the employee(s) who are assigned the task(s) understand the “greater importance” of this project in the grander scheme of the enterprise? Is the importance of the issue sufficiently communicated to those who are working on it?

4) Driving

People really need to conduct themselves better on the road and simply need to be aware of their actions and how they may be perceived by other drivers. Below is a set of common situations and what procedures should be used when engaging in any of the actions.

    • When should the horn be used? 
      • The horn is the single most frustrating appliance in a vehicle. There is certainly no other appliance where the difference between what the customer needs or expects and what is actually given is greater. The horn is designed both to communicate awareness of an unknown or known event to another driver and to express positive awareness (something that would benefit the other person) or negative awareness (your own frustration with the other driver). Since a typical horn only has one volume and one sound the only aspect of the horn the user can control is its duration. Thus, long horn blasts should be used to communicate frustration and negative awareness, and short horn blasts should be used for everything else. 
    • When should turn signals be used? 
      • Anytime and every time your vehicle changes lanes or cardinal direction.
    • When should your vehicle accelerate? 
      • Immediately when a traffic light turns green and when merging onto a highway, see below.
    • How should one merge onto the highway? 
      • The moment your vehicle enters an on-ramp, your vehicle should accelerate to highway speed or not less than five miles-per-hour below it and immediately put your turn signal on to provide notice to other vehicles that you are seeking to merge.
    • What lane should your vehicle be in while driving? 
      • 99% of a driver’s time should be spent in the right lane. The left lane should only be used to either pass a driver, and subsequently getting back into the right lane as much as possible or to take a left-hand exit or turn. 4
    • When should high beams be used? 
      • High beams should be used only when there are no vehicles in front of you or approaching your direction.
    • When is your vehicle allowed to tailgate another vehicle? 
      • Never
    • When can a phone be used while driving? 
      • Only for emergency calls. The phone should never be used while driving for business or pleasure.
    • When can an individual text while they are driving?  
      • Never. Simply pull over.
    • When can a driver go through a red light? 
      • Never
  • When should drivers voluntarily give up the right of way, such as at a four-way intersection? 
    • Never. Drivers should not give up the right of way. Driver safety depends on a precise set of rules that govern everyone. When a single individual decides to change the rules in favor of being nice or are simply hesitant to make a decision, this situation only increases the probability of accidents as it is impossible to make your decision to waive the right of way known to other drivers outside of yourself and the person you are giving the right of way to as other drivers make the correct assumption that you are following the designated and established rules. 

5) Volume in public places

People need to be aware of the noise they are putting into their surroundings. This includes everything from talking on the phone in public to playing music loudly in your vehicle.

    • How loud should one’s voice be when talking in public? 
      • The voice of any individual should match that of the surroundings and sufficiently loud to communicate the message you are trying to convey appropriate enough for the setting and taking into consideration that there are other people around you that are not (or at the very least should not be) interested in what you are saying.  
        • For example, a waiting room in a doctor’s office is not the appropriate venue to be loud or even at a normal volume.
    • How loud should my music in my car be? 
      • Noise is a very important component of safety on the road, disturbing this vital stream of information whether selfishly or unknowing endangers yourself and others. As such, your music should be loud enough to damage your ears as much as you want such that the music cannot be heard more than one car length in diameter of your vehicle.

Reddit link: https://redd.it/6x3xlk 

Reddit for Comments

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Considering the nature and depth of my posts, I have decided I need an easy and efficient way to track comments, receive user input, as well as respond in a meaningful and organized way. I have decided that reddit is the best service to use.

From now on all future posts will now include a reddit link on my subreddit page where you can subscribe and where users can submit comments, criticize my posts, or provide suggestions.

Here is a list of all of my posts with newly generated reddit links.

TEDxUConn Talk on Market Consolidation: https://redd.it/6hk6j3

The Constitution: https://redd.it/6hk9yt

Reflections on Obama: https://redd.it/6hk9um

On Choosing Ideas: https://redd.it/6hk9oz

On Taxes: https://redd.it/6hk9ke

Sources of Information: https://redd.it/6hk9d4

Election 2016 and the Road Ahead: https://redd.it/6hk95n

Antitrust Law Come to UConn: https://redd.it/6hk8wh

Monopoly: https://redd.it/6hk8py

A Case Against Donald Trump: https://redd.it/6hk8is

Why Competition Matters: https://redd.it/6hk88s