January 15, 2015

Future & Predictions

There is no future and talk of the future is an invention based on past experience. The truth is that no-one really knows what will happen next. The human sense of the future is an important survival strategy, however. What we can do is pay attention to the most relevant information we have right now, compare current circumstances with past events that are well known and use intelligent extrapolations to guess what is most likely to happen next. Smart humans are extrapolators who develop a sense of consequences from experience.

My premise would be that the economy of the 21st century will have a different set of operating rules and projections based on the 19th or early 20th century are academic amusements of little practical value; nobody knows what will happen next. The world's stock markets are testing grounds for predictions. All methods of analysis are based on extrapolation. You assume that stock’s future performance can be predicted if you review past performance and analyze stock values using charts and computer programs. Analysts study sales and earnings rates, historical stock prices and calculate numeric measures such as price-to-earnings ratio. If stock performance prediction were simply a matter of applying mathematical equations to past performance data, then everyone could become rich investors. However, accurately predicting the future is impossible, so that uncertainty prevails and all investment involves risk.

Stock prices fluctuate with general market factors, investor mood and confidence, factors that cannot be calculated in advance. It does not matter if you are a well-informed rational analyst, a gambler, a prophet, a psychic or just a woman with "good intuition" - all fail to accurately predict what will happen next. Two predictions -- that stock values will change and that human nature will not change -- are reliable prophecies. While social and economic conditions are unprecedented in the 21st century, human nature has not changed ,Stock markets go up and down because investor confidence goes up and down. The formula for wealth is to buy for less and sell for more. People buy stocks when they have extra money and feel confident and sell stocks when they are afraid or just want to spend the money. Most investors are conservative, since they do not want to lose money. At the same time, conservative investors will gamble, when they see or hear of others making more money. The “me too” mimetic motive often interrupts or replaces a more reasonable long-term plan. Promoters and traders use gossip to excite “me too” buying or “not me too” selling. The expansion of market commentary in the last decade of the 20th century established an unprecedented level of investor gossip that involved every citizen who reads newspapers, magazines, television or browses the internet. The increasingly chaotic interactions of markets, currency exchanges, government policies and failing countries in the 21st century make predictions conspicuously untenable.

I have often admired the mass movement of flocks of birds and schools of fish and wondered at how the behavior of so many individuals could be so well coordinated. The mass movement of investors is coordinated by messages broadcast in multimedia, in a self-referential, recursive manner. Technical traders make money on price changes and are indifferent to the real value of the stock. Equity and commodity markets reveal human tendencies. The dialectic of optimism and pessimism is always at play. At times, over confident investors will feel powerful and in control; they overestimate their knowledge and ability when they mortgage the house to buy stocks or commodity futures. At other times paranoid, pessimistic attitudes prevail; the relevance of bad news is exaggerated, fear of impending doom renews interest in superstitious ideas and market values decline, sometimes precipitously. `

Krugman asked: “Will limited supplies of natural resources pose an obstacle to future world economic growth?” He described three competing views: “1. Speculation caused by investors, looking for high returns at a time of low interest rates has gambled on commodity futures, driving up prices. This inflationary bubble will burst and high resource prices will decline.2. Soaring resource prices are based on fundamentals especially rapidly growing demand from newly meat-eating, car-driving Chinese. Given time we’ll drill more wells, plant more acres, and increased supply will push prices down again. 3. The era of cheap resources is over for good — that we’re running out of cheap oil, running out of land to expand food production and generally running out of planet resources to exploit. Concerns about what happens when an ever-growing world economy pushes up against the limits of a finite planet ring true. For one thing, I don’t expect growth in China to slow sharply anytime soon. That’s a big contrast with what happened in the 1970s, when growth in Japan and Europe, the emerging economies of the time, downshifted and took a lot of pressure off the world’s resources... the bad weather hitting agricultural production is starting to look more fundamental and permanent than El Niño and La Niña, which disrupted crops 35 years ago. Australia, in particular, is now in the 10th year of a drought that looks like a long-term manifestation of climate change. “

In late 2014 world oil prices dropped and surprised almost everyone with vested interests. Oil-dependent economies suffered sometimes drastic reduction in government revenues. Two consequences are in competition: 1. increased fossil fuel consumption and 2. reduced production. Reduced oil and gas production and increased cost worldwide would be a long-term benefit for all humans. Reduced consumption reduces air water and land pollution and is a perquisite of controlling climate change. The sustainable solution has three components: 1. Reduced populations 2. Non fossil fuel energy sources 3. Economies with no dependence on oil and gas revenues

A study funded by the UK Energy Research Centre concluded that the world should forego extracting a third of its oil and half of its gas reserves before 2050… The majority of the huge coal reserves in China, Russia and the United States should remain unused along with over 260 thousand million barrels oil reserves in the Middle East, equivalent to all of the oil reserves held by Saudi Arabia. The Middle East should also leave over 60% of its gas reserves in the ground. The development of resources in the Arctic and any increase in unconventional oil – oil of a poor quality which is hard to extract – are also found to be inconsistent with efforts to limit climate change.

From the book Surviving Human Nature by Stephen Gislason

January 12, 2015

Hostility and Hate

Hatred is often misrepresented as an emotion. Hatred is another complex of cognition, behavior, emotions and feelings. Hatred is based on casemaking and story telling and thrives on misinformation. Hate can be defined as persistent, recurrent story telling that treats outsiders as aliens who are to be feared and despised.

The emotions associated with hatred are fear, disgust, anger and rage. Hostility is a broad term that refers the mix of cognitive structures associated with hatred, the frequent expression of anger, threatening displays and the dysphoric feelings that are prolonged and/or recurrent. A hostile human usually has a well-developed case against the targets of his or her hostility. The case is prejudicial and unyielding.

Hostility is a feature of discrimination that is practiced systematically and may become a permanent feature of an individual human's life. Hate is mostly a cognitive process that is constructed slowly but surely; the emotional components may erupt only occasionally. Angry hate is destructive and leads to acts of aggression that, from time to time, disrupt efforts to establish peaceful co-existence in many areas of the world.

The beliefs that support hate tend to be enduring and resist modification by new learning. Strong beliefs associated with religious fundamentalism almost always have a hate component and underlie enduring or recurring conflicts. Religions involve groups with strict boundaries, inclusion-exclusion rules and belief in the superiority of group leaders, icons and gods. All groups, large and small, define and defend their boundaries with hate stories.

The benefit of hate is to enhance the readiness of a group to defend itself or to motivate an attack to weaken by killing members of and stealing scarce resources from a neighboring or rival group. An alien is any creature, real or imaginary, who is not a member of the group.

The dynamics of hate involve repeated telling of a hate stories to arouse fear and anger. Hate groups, preparing for an attack, will meet and use story telling, dancing, chanting, music, drama and ritual to arouse the emotions of the group to energize an attack. Mobs, hostility and hate go together. The reptilian part of the human brain clings to old routines even when circumstances change and the old routines are no longer effective. Painful past events tend to be recalled more often by selftalk and are repeated and embellished as casemaking. The hostile case argues that someone or some group has wronged you in the past and/or will harm you in the future; the wrongs are detailed; revenge and retribution is sought. Grudges and revenge motivation, as hate, can be maintained for generations.

From Emotions and Feeling by Stephen Gislason

January 10, 2015

Conversations with God

Like Moses, I have made special preparations and often climbed heights of land with some difficulty-- mountains in BC, for example--- to have a conversation with God. This has occurred eight momentous times in my life so far. One exceptional encounter occurred when I was meditating on a Texada Island beach. I had begun one warm summer evening early when the water was calm and the sky clear. I entered Samadhi with a wonderful sense of relaxation. I became one with the rocks I was sitting on and with the water that lapped over my legs. The air seemed to thicken with world lines that channeled micro events in curved paths.

Suddenly, I heard my name called out in a giant whisper, just once. The whisper was very loud and low-pitched, but not disturbing. The conversation that followed was all in mind with no audible component. I could ask questions and wait for answers. The answers were brief and concise. I stated that many groups believed they were chosen by God to have special status and privileges. I asked if she preferred one group of humans over another. God stated: ”I have no preferences.“

I suggested that humans were in trouble. They fought with each and were relentlessly destructive. Perhaps, a slight modification in brain structure could resolve this problem. She informed me that she has a non-interference policy toward planet earth. None of her people are allowed near our planet.

I asked if there were any destinations or rewards away from planet earth when humans or other animals died. God replied: “No.” She stated: “Earth is a self-contained experiment in life and spontaneity. I like to watch occasionally, but never intervene.”

I asked if human astronomers and astrophysicists were on the right track with their amazing discoveries of galaxies, exploding stars, dark matter and black holes. God replied: “These exceptional humans display the kind of intelligence that interests me. I have scheduled more frequent visits to monitor your progress in understanding the dynamics of the universe. “

I asked the next obvious question about space travel. Will humans be able to locate and travel to other planets? God replied: “Humans are creatures of location, specialized to the conditions on your home planet. You will not be able travel to and adapt elsewhere. You fate lies with your success or failure on planet earth.”

Needless to state, I was disappointed with the non- intervention policy. I appealed, saying that the human mind was a work in progress but there were many problems, even beyond the delusions of moral superiority that dominated human interactions.

I suggested that intelligent intervention in the genome could fix the more obvious mind problems and give humans a better opportunity to thrive on earth. I appealed on behalf of all animals whose existence was in peril because of human activities to no avail. The God in charge of our corner of the great universe is too busy to pay much attention to planet earth. The God is not moralistic and the non-intervention policy is strict – no interference with life on Earth or other planets. The divine being explained that Gods never interfere with planetary life; there have only been rare exceptions. I attempted another approach and asked; “Can you offer some advice or guidance for humans?” But, she declined, explaining again that humans are the authors of their own destiny and will rise or fall on their own merits or weaknesses. God said that that is the interesting part – to see what happens as life forms evolve.

My impression is that God gets interested in planets that host advanced intelligence. My God suggested the time allotment for earth was increased recently to something like 30 human minutes every 50 human years. Before, it was 4 minutes per 1,000 earth years. Of course, She works at ultra high speed and learns a lot in a few minutes of earth-time. Unlike Job’s Yahweh, my God was feminine and, despite her policy of non interference with earth’s affairs, I felt only her benevolence. There was not a hint of criticism or blame.
From Religion for the 21st Century by Stephen Gislason

January 5, 2015

Status and Privilege

Success depends on who you know more than what you know. When a society is described as traditional, social status and mobility are strictly linked to the status of your family and your mate. "Traditional" means the groups within the society are well defined and the boundaries that separate groups of different social status are well defended. Social privileges are linked to economic privileges so that wealth is distributed in traditional societies according to social status. Communities of humans divide themselves into classes with rules about who interacts with whom. Behavior protocols are well defined in terms of etiquette, privileges and duties.

Racial segregation and discrimination in the United State and South Africa have been well studied examples of racial boundaries and white oppression of blacks, but everywhere on planet earth there are small groups of privileged humans who maintain oppressive authority over everyone else. An obvious racial or ethnic boundary is not required. The worst expressions of high status individuals oppressing low status individuals occurs within relatively homogeneous groups of the same-race, same ethnicity and same religion

An ideal of free states is to recognize the merit and ability of individuals and allow social mobility based on learning and achievement. Racial and ethnic boundaries, at least in the ideal model, are undesirable and are suppressed by social policy, law and the good will of citizens. American (self-made) heroes such as astronaut and Senator, John Glenn, advised young Americans that they can achieve anything they want; that intelligence, courage and determination can overcome all obstacles. While this is the aspiration of an egalitarian society, the reality is somewhat different.

The growth of a middle class of "self-made" men and women has shaped free societies and a large, thriving and proactive middle class is essential for the survival of democracies. While there is an undeniable ethos of individual freedom in the best countries, human nature does not change. Group rules and boundaries remain in place. Instead of a rather simple traditional society with three class groups, we now have elaborately stratified societies with hierarchies built inside of hierarchies. The society is partitioned horizontally and vertically to keep incompatible groups separate.

The freedom to start poor and gain great wealth and social status has existed in Canada and the United States and many notable individuals have been self-made men and women. The paths to higher social status, however, are few in number and are blocked by a succession of obstacles. Even if you are one of the unusual individuals who rise to the top, humble origins return to haunt you and the wealthy folks who belong to the old establishment will speak disdainfully of the gauche tendencies of the "newly rich." Political schemes to redistribute wealth and power mitigate the extreme social consequences of concentrating wealth, power and privilege, but true equality is a fantasy.

Persona Digital Books

Human Nature is a 21st century description of anthropology, neuroscience, sociology and psychology - disciplines that need to be integrated as they are in this book. The topics are essential to understanding human nature, its origins and its problems. You could treat each topic as module of a larger system that develops emergent properties as the modules interact. Each reader discovers the features of human nature in himself or herself and then discovers similar features in others. After you understand more about the dynamics of close relationships, you can look at larger groups. You can continue by applying your insights into human dynamics to governments, countries and international affairs. Other Persona Digital books describe the same dynamics but emphasize different vantage points and concerns.

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