Psychometric tests: can we make more optimal use of ’em?

I think I first encountered psychometric tests used as a recruitment tool more than twenty-five years ago. It’s probable that I have been asked to complete a few of these tests, though bless me, for the instances themselves have been lost from my memory.

And it happens that I have hired a lot of people in my time. Nothing too high-powered, and mostly as running busy desks in employment agencies that provide temporary workers. But I did spend time working in personnel kind of role, evaluated people, interviewed people, hired people in numbers, and I studied for recognised qualifications in human relations (HR).

I can come at, indeed have come at, psychometric tests from both sides, as the prospective hirer and the prospective person hoping to be hired. Coming at psychometric tests from either angle is consistent in the main and extends about as far as, ‘What’s the point?’

The test usually has some direction at the beginning. ‘Don’t think too hard about your answers, and reply in accord with your first thoughts’, is one of the common directions. Then quite reliably there will follow a cautionary warning; ‘Don’t be random’ as the test is designed to detect a person who is not giving any thought at all to his or her responses. I have always been tempted to be random in my responses, but never have.

I simply cannot perceive any merit in the tests whatsoever, save that they can be applied as a filter. They take a bunch of applicants and the test results can be used to whittle the bunch down. If they are used to filter in, that is applicants progress on the merits of their test results I think that is wasteful of time and effort. Suitable applicant with off-axis test results will be overlooked. If they are used to filter out, but as weak filter and not a strong one, so candidates with wildly off-axis results get rejected at this stage then, to a point, fine.

I just don’t think the tests themselves are that sophisticated, then in turn I do not think that the recruiters ability to analyse results will be that sophisticated either. When it comes down to interpretation there must be a lot of ‘noise’ involved. ‘Noise’ that stems from the tests themselves and their limited ability to extract coherent and consistent responses from candidates, and ‘noise’ that stems from variance and limitations in the human ability to interpret the results.

Psychometric tests make me feel uncomfortable. I have no qualms at all about completing them, it is the uncertainty that ranges in my mind over how useful they are or how appropriately they will be used that forms the basis of the unease.

Even if they are reliable in the context of a test, they are just that, they are a test. The working environment requires real-world responses to complex situations; and human behaviour is subjected to all manner of influences. The ‘ecology’ of the test and setting cannot be a match the ecology of work.

I know these tests are only meant to indicate traits like decisiveness, willingness to compete, willingness to co-operate, willingness to conform and act in accord, or willingness to innovate and depart from the norm, etc., but none of these traits are fixed in any of us, they are dynamic and vary from day-to-day or context to context. We are truly enigmatic people, and the work-place is a truly enigmatic setting which brings people together in collective enterprise, but then has them compete as rivals in all manner of ways.

Psychology is coming of age, and this could be instructive. In our lives we contribute to all manner of influences that bear upon how we think and how we act. The human psyche plays a big part in this, but then so too do external influences that bear upon the psyche. Our thoughts and actions are rarely ‘free’, nor rarely truly ‘open’, and rarely truly objective, either. They are consistently acted upon by influences we often do not notice nor understand. Consequentially we wind up with a head full of false narratives and/or preference sensitive beliefs that bear upon our actions. There’s an instructive book upon this, ‘You Are Not So Smart’; David McRaney, that is worth a read and in assocaition with a title by Daniel Kahneman, ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’.

The greatest value in psychometric tests, I think, is that they have leant an air of gravitas and purpose to certain people. Management consultants and recruitment consultants top the list. They have promoted the use of psychometric testing because it makes them look good. The tests have the look of adding value to the services they provide, and the tests can be one of a lists of selling points used to attract business. Psychometric tests, I’m sure, have become more widely used simply because they help make some people money, and along the way nobody has really bothered to question, ‘do these tests constitute any real benefit in a real-world setting?’

I haven’t checked, not in the sense of having set out to examine any available evidence, hence I may be wrong in relation to psychometric tests. ..

However our world is now quite replete with products and services that have narratives attached that say they do good, yet anyone who does go to the trouble of checking the factual and evidential basis then the evidence turns out to not be so supportive of the narrative(s) as one might expect. There are some classic examples.

Cholesterol causes heart disease tops my list. Marg is better (healthier) than butter is another. Statins reduce incidence of heart disease because they lower cholesterol. And, ‘you can stay slim by eating lots of carbs and little fat’. Then finally, intensive farming and use of NPK fertilisers has increased yields and contributed to food security. Each is these narratives are widely accepted, but they are wrong, either in entirety for being completely false, or in part for not being wholly representational of the all-inclusive truth(s).

NPK agriculture, for instance, does raise yields, but only in the sense of restoration and not elevation. Intensive agriculture doesn’t pay enough regard for how water and nutrients find their way into plants. The process is essentially electric. Tiny charges matter. The nature of water molecules themselves matter because they are a simple example of a polar molecule that tends to be positive at one end and negative at the other. Waters polarity attracts ions. Water attracts mineral salts present in the soil and forms little ionic taxis, so that when roots take up water they also take ions of the mineral salts that convey the trace elements that enter and rise up the food chain.

The ‘ionic strength’ of a soil matters. two soils could have the same pH but one is low in ions and the other full of them. The soil full of ions is the more fertile and perhaps the more water retentive. The job of a rich soil ecology (lots of critter and earthworms) feeding off lots of organic matter (OM), like rotted manure and composted plant-matter, is to add to the ionic strength. Put simply things that live in the soil emit more ions than they take in. They add to the ionic strength of a soil and thus they contribute to fertility and yield. If intensive agriculture has neglected anything it is the soil ecology (lots of life feeding off lots of OM) and this has resulted in a reduction in ionic strength, that causes loss of yield, and it greatly diminishes mineral capture from the mineral cycles too.

To get back to the point, people will tell you owt (anything) to sell you owt, for they must think that we know nowt (nothing). It’s unfortunate that in this they are often correct. However all it takes is a little interest and a little thought to prove them wrong.

But if you were to prove them wrong, they wouldn’t want you aboard. Hence if you returned your psychometric test without completion, or if they could sense you were random in the manner of completion (I doubt they can), or if you tore the ruddy thing up, you’d prove you could be truly independent of mind.

They’d hate for such a person to shatter the delusions off which they trade, so they wouldn’t want you aboard. There’s a way in which psychometric tests and interpretation must be intrinsically biased, I feel, for the willingness to act in dissent is isn’t really included in the test or analysis.

If management consultants, recruitment consultants, estate agents, and the designers of psychometric tests are ever proven to be exempt from harbouring false narratives along with preference sensitive beliefs and behaviour then I’d like an assisted passage through the door marked ‘EXIT’, please.

If psychometric tests were printed on rolls of sufficiently strong, and adequately soft paper with little perforations making up around 50 -100 tear off sheets, only then would I be convinced they would be entirely fit for purpose.

Dare to be entirely random. They have no way of knowing. Be brave enough to try to become objective about the plight of our world. Aspects of our world are greatly in need of improvement. Understanding being one. Then if you come to detect a false narrative and understand it, dare to speak in dissent. Here’s my contribution to dissent:

  •  The dangers of cholesterol and saturated fats have been greatly overstated from objective, which is ‘non-existent’.
  • Butter is quite safe to use. Margarines contribute a surfeit of omega-6 PUFAs to the diets of many people and contribute to oxidative stress.
  • The benefits of satins have been greatly exaggerated, mostly through being attached to a property that is not the benefit it is made out to be. Lowering cholesterol actually does harm.
  • Low fat diets add to prospects of gaining weight and do not reduce them.
  • Artificial fertilisers do not elevate fertility and yields as such, they restore former and lost fertility that was present when the soil was naturally rich in organic matter, and a diverse ecology of species feeding off that plant matter (contributing to ionic strength) that is normal for nature in the wild. The fall in ionic strength in intensively farmed agricultural determines agriculture doe not make optimal use of natures water cycle and mineral cycles, raises costs, and diminishes humanity’s food security.
  • The design of the currency that dominates humanities money systems and economies has bearing upon all of the above.
  • Valuable and finite functional resources are abused as a result of the scarcity of fiat currency (that’s a kind of money) whose extent of scarcity is systemically endemic but escapes most peoples’ notice.
  • The scarcity of money acts like a selection pressure that rewards the endurance and persistence of false narratives.

Are we in danger of taking metrics and league-tables too far?

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The horse-meat scandal. Events move on.

Today has seen two eventualities of interest.

At an Open Board Meeting of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) held at its offices within Aviation House, London, Prof. Pat Troop reported her verbal preview of her findings to the board. Pat Troop was appointed by the FSA to conduct a review of the FSAs responses and her report made for interesting listening.  Prof Troop will be refining her report which when ready will be submitted in writing, and I hope the document will be made publicly available.

Professor Troop is an experienced and seasoned campaigner where major incident planning and incident management is concerned. She largely praised the team of people within the FSA that had to respond to the horse-meat affair for the level of resourcefulness and commitment that they showed. At times it was almost a camp-bed mentality that prevailed around the clock in what became a major node and nerve-centre in a collective response involving a number of authorities. However she identified some significant weaknesses in the levels of advanced preparation and planning and she took those forwards in a positive way acknowledging lessons could be learned and taken forwards.

For the most part Professor Troops review was independent in that she was promised unrestricted access to documents and people, and she made the point in her own way that she enjoyed these freedoms, but it was also a relatively insular look at the affair as it focussed mainly at what the FSA did well along with what it could have done better. This oughtn’t disappoint the board too much for she has done precisely what she was appointed to do, and goodness, members of the board were spell-bound. Seeing  FSA Chair Geoff Rooker had me think of the term ‘flabbergasted’, for he was evidently amazed by the extent of her review, and the depth of insight that came through.

There was discrete reference to the 2010 changes which had the FSA lose some of its former remit chopped off with an axe of political intervention, and the realignment of remit had some people at the FSA confused about their role in taking up with the standard in the light of the emergent scandal.

Form an operational perspective I do not think anyone could have rivalled Professor Troops review, for it was class, but I did feel some disappointment.

We, and the FSA were lucky with horse-meat. It was and remains a serious food scandal that resulted in more offence than it did actual harm. It was a major authenticity incident and breach of consumer confidence that turned out to be relatively low in conventional risks.

Of course, what horse-meat points to is that some things, such as trace-ability and detection, are not working nearly so well as they should, and it points to the modern, convoluted, cross border and at times intercontinental food chain as something that gives rise to as many complications and risks as it does benefits. The authorities of many countries are ill-prepared to match this level of complexity. The review, as was presented to the board in this spoken presentation disappointed, I think, for not exploring wider contexts so well as it could. Then in addition to this shortcoming Pat Troop showed no willingness to venture towards discussion of cause and effect.

Now I think the prime cause of the scandal, right there at the point where butchered horse is substituted for butchered beef is undoubtedly criminal, and criminal investigations are advancing, but I also think criminality and the failure to detect are facets that reside in a wider socio-economic context. For one it is increasingly difficult to earn a decent living by honest means alone, and conditions in some countries are worse than in others. For another the people contracted to supply the multiples are now operating under considerable financial duress. They have to supply the big supermarkets upon terms that barely cover their operating costs.

At home in the UK this scenario describes the state off affairs in relation to bread, to eggs, and to milk. One dairy, Robert Wiseman Dairies, found a fall in the price of bulk cream for export left it with a whopping hole in its business plan and it was forced to seek a buyer. It found one, just in the nick of time, in Muller. Dairy farmers in the UK are still campaigning for a fairer deal.

I do not see the business of making pies, pasties, and burgers as any different. There is and has been a relentless quest for value. It was the lower priced products that were contaminated. What I am indicating here is the presence of a vicious circle. The multiples feel they have to compete on value, because a significant number of consumers cannot survive without it. Small wonder the multiples pin down suppliers and processors to meagre contracts and margins, and no wonder these suppliers pin down their suppliers to meagre terms too. Horse-meat informs me aspects of food supply are depressingly sustainable. The multiples don’t have sustainable associations with their suppliers, because they insist upon supply at a price that scarcely covers the costs. They don’t have particularly sustainable relationships with groups of their customers either, because the ‘system’ is fast losing the ability to supply great swathes of people with food of satisfactory quality and integrity at a price they can afford or perceive they can afford. And the multiples employ a lot of people, yes, but many on part-time hours and paid not much above the minimum wage, which is depressingly viewed as a living wage. The incomes of the lower paid workers have been trending down, in real terms, and people find themselves trending to the bread-line. The process has a term, and that term is wage repression. Wage repression is extensive presently, and the supermarkets have been culpable in contributing to the trend.

Wage repression, more than anything, contributes to the imperative that is the relentless quest for value.  If you are new to this description conceiving what is that causes wage repression will be difficult for you. There are always down ward forces upon wages because there is a general oversupply of labour, even when employment levels are high (sounds odd, I know) and wages are seen as costs in production, but more that anything else wage repression is driven by decline in money supply. Periodically the supply of new money cannot be sustained in keeping with the expectations and demands for profits and gains. In effect money becomes ‘scarce’, and I say it trends from being simply generally scarce to becoming especially scarce. Providing a person has the rightful grasp of the attributes of money and the well-spring of supply predicting the periodic scarcity of money is a simple run of reasoning. But the key thing to grasp is that when people are trending towards and even below the bread-line it is not so much a costs issue as an earnings issue.

Money, and what I really mean in this is that fiat currency as a principal kind of money adopted by choice, periodically plots its own downfall, and its great undoing is that ceases to provision the most needy of people with the food they need. We don’t have to do away with money as we know it, but it would be prudent to wonder if alternate types of money would come in handy when the most familiar kind of money, fiat currency, ceases to feed people. That’s what I’m largely about, I’m an advocate for companion currencies. These are money systems of alternate design and attributes that can be used in conjunction with regular money. Companion currencies are nothing new and nothing radical, but they escape our notice. What’s needed is more in the way of open debate and discussion, and definitely more in the way of promotion.

The electorate and the elected seem largely unaware of the dangers lurking ahead, and I’m not about to describe them here save that the last time money seemed this scarce was in the 1930s, and it was felt most intensely in Germany.

Through their loyalty schemes and rewards vouchers the multiples already embrace alternative or companion currencies, but not of the kind of design that could make a difference. Frankly, the only way the supermarkets can restore increasingly sustainable relationship with suppliers, with consumers, and with the people who work for them is if they adopt increased willingness to embrace companion currencies conforming to the right designs. If the multiples can be made to perceive this then the occasional horse-burger will have been a small price to pay. In a letter to Pat Troop I said as much.

The supermarkets are not to blame, simply because in a way we all are, but the supermarkets are still intent upon making profits in the way they have become accustomed to in the past, yet in the present the supply of new money needed to confer the added value that would represent everybody’s gains is no longer coming to market with the gusto it did before. Why? Well, the decline in real earnings and disposable income of the low paid and even ranging into the middle classes simply means would be lenders are no longer lending as willingly as they did and would be borrowers are not showing anything like the former interest in borrowing. If anything escaped your notice it is that lending is the process that accounts for the well-spring of new money.

Wealth and indebtedness grow at the same rate, but they attach themselves to entirely different groups of people. If you thought money would make you rich you may be right. But the great trick attached to fiat currency is that it makes only a minority of people richer, whilst it makes the majority of people poorer, yet does so in ways they tend not to notice until the supply contacts markedly after a banking crisis and shortly prior to the depression.

The second event?

Owen Paterson, the secretary of state attached to DEFRA, has today announced the appointment of Professor Chris Elliott, of Queens University Belfast, who is to head the review of the horse-meat affair commission by the government. The Troop review is expected to feed into this Elliott review, and the Elliott review may join hands with other nations reviews to become pan-European in scope. It is expected the Elliott review may take up to 12 months to complete. If he’s not careful events may overtake him.

We could cross fingers and hope for the best, or we could willingly welcome  more open debate about the relief companion currencies could bring. In sensing what events may lie on the horizon I’m not sure crossed fingers would contribute much to contingency.

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New study on earthing finds potential benefits for the circulation

A new study has appeared in the The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. [1] Its’ authors looked at the zeta potential of red blood cells. Zeta potential describes a small electrical potential residing upon the surface of blood cells. This is a quite normal and healthy phenomenon. If zeta potential is low red blood cells exhibit a natural tendency to want to clump together. Quite why this is the case I do not know, but I imagine a well-kept secret in nature is what attracts cells to form groups or clumps in the first place.

If single-celled organisms persisted for so long, what event or eventuality had some of them alter their strategy to begin associating in colonies that exhibit tendencies for collective enterprise and division of labour? It’s a possibility that stems from when eukaryotic cells emerged above (later than) the prokaryotes. Despite that makes me sound knowledgeable – I haven’t the foggiest notion of the functional implications.

Anyhow red blood cells reveal a tendency to clump together in blood, and this tendency may bear upon the ‘stickiness’ of blood. But zeta potential, which is a negative charge sitting upon the surface of the blood cell counters this tendency. Opposites attract and likes repel, remember, so sufficient and satisfactory negative charge, or zeta potential, helps keep the red blood cells apart, and that may assist their fluidity, and the fluidity of blood, by reducing blood viscosity. Keeping the blood viscous would seem to be good for flow, and must aid the passage of blood down the finest of capillaries.

At first thought you might think that there is absolutely nothing you can do to influence the zeta potential of your blood cells, but you’d be quite wrong.

Good and healthy zeta potential of red blood cells is made possible by the presence of free-electrons that may be conveyed by species of biochemicals that are ‘ionised’. Being ionised simply means a molecule of something or other has been stripped of an electron (and has a net positive charge)or is carrying an extra electron (which gives it a net negative charge). Quite how negative ions can be transported to the surface of a red blood cell remains a mystery, but some people seem satisfied they are.

Water is a simple molecule with the formula H2O, but it has some interesting properties. The shape isn’t linear as in H-O-H. Instead the two hydrogen atoms hang off the atom of oxygen (kinda like swept back wings) to form a deltoid shape. The atom of oxygen tends to hog the electrons and so the molecule of water is slightly negative at the oxygen ‘head’ and slightly negative at the hydrogen tails. Water molecules exhibit a dipole-dipole charge and when they get together they arrange themselves in a neat lattice. The lattice is fluid above OoC but becomes rigid below:It freezes.

Additionally H2O readily ionizes to H+ and OH- (H is hydrogen and OH is hydroxide) and this property amongst others seems crucial to life. Much of the bodies biochemistry, physiology and metabolism is about ionic exchanges, but the textbooks guard against thinking that water itself supplies most of the hydrogen ions the body may utilise, for often, the textbooks say it doesn’t, and the hydrogen ions are supplied by other biochemical species. Biochemistry is out to confuse, but setting that aside for a wee moment ..

.. Our Earth equates to a giant battery. The upper atmosphere, sometimes called the ionosphere, is highly +ve, (to the tune of several hundred thousand volts) and the surface of the Earth, its’ watercourses, and oceans are very -ve. We tend not to notice. Living upon the negative terminal of a giant battery is what nature intended: It’s quite ‘normal’.

The global electrical circuit escapes our attention unless we get struck by lightning, or face the prospects in a thunderstorm. Lightning is happening all the time somewhere upon Earth, and lightning is how the global battery self-regulates the build up of its own potential through regular discharge. Steady and repeated discharge (through lightning) prevents the global electrical circuit storing up too much charge.

The key thing of note is that the negative terminal of a giant battery, or even a small one, is replete with free electrons. Our Earths surface is replete with free-electrons. Any creature, or plant, that has contact with Earth or water taps into these free-electrons and, if you like, sucks them up, through roots, or through the soles of the feet. Electrons are the mobile aspect of electricity, and they are drawn to wherever there may be a deficit. A retired Cable TV guy, named Clinton Ober, was prompted to take some readings and he found the body establishes a net positive charge. He began wondering if this was normal.

Low zeta potential arises if we do no have a conductive arrangement with ground, and what this study is at pains to point out is that redressing an unnatural electrical isolation from ground and its’ store of free-electrons, or ions, works wonders for the zeta potential of red blood cells. Low zeta potential is evidence, if you like, that a creature, humans in this case, have been starved of free-electrons through insufficient contact with Earth or ‘ground’. So if a person takes trouble to connect themselves to ground, free-electrons will be sucked up, the build up of positive charge will be countered, and blood cells can re-establish the rightful, and healthful, level of zeta potential.

Proponents say earthing has benefits for health, and it is intimated that lack of earthing, as arises because we now make shoes, beds, and homes from material that isolate us from ground, results in a dearth of free-electrons and thence contributes to inflammation and to inflamm-aging. I think they are correct. Their theories stack up well, and are supported by personal experiences and accounts of people who have tried it. I tried it. The headline result seemed to have a positive effect upon an elbow strain whose recovery and healing seemed to have ‘plateaued’. The bodies ability to heal itself is greatly diminished if free-electrons are in short supply. Other and more subtle benefits seemed to follow, for me.

I actually put off reading the ‘Earthing’ book for almost six months after I first caught sight of it. During the delay I kinda figured for myself that the natural precedent is that every living thing has a conductive relationship with Earth, and that the human was once no exception, but has become one in the modern age.

Once I read the Earthing book [2] I was convinced, but I still harboured questions. The most profound question centred upon the issue of how we become depleted of free-electrons to wind up with a net positive charge, as the proponents direct we do, such that we should then find it therapeutic if the electron deficit is addressed. And after 12 months I feel I have touched upon the answer.

If you like you can read what a qualified doctor has to say about earthing.

Dr John Briffa generally retains an open mind and in March 2012 he took up with interest on the matter of earthing. He blogged about it in a post dated 18th April 2012 (link here) and then again on 3rd May 2013 (link here). He’s been earthing for a year and acknowledges that over the course of that year some niggling health issues have righted themselves. He remains an advocate, but you’ll detect from his words he is careful not to rush to conclusions that are difficult to substantiate.

I am genuinely pleased for Dr Briffa and I think Dr Briffa could allow his level of assurance about the benefits of earthing to trend more towards being convinced, and in my next post I’ll run to explain why. Before I do I’ll let you in on a little secret:

Early in 2012 I tugged at Johns’ coat-tails having sent him a couple of emails intended to direct his attention to the natural phenomenon of earthing, and to the growing attention given to the purported benefits, and I’m glad that eventuality has been a benefit to him, as the book evidently has been to others. I think it is good if good and helpful words get passed around.

If you have tried earthing and noticed nothing it doesn’t mean it isn’t doing good.  If you have tried earthing and noticed it is doing good that’s great, and it is no bad thing if you better understand how and why, for then you can spread the word about a natural and normal phenomena that ought to seem to us to be as essential to life as is water itself. Let me also address the case that you’ve heard the term and learnt about the craze but consider it no more than a fad based upon mumbo-jumbo. I shall make it as plain as I can.

Earthing was normal practice right back at the beginning, when life got started 3.9 billion years ago. Life began in the oceans. The oceans are teaming with life and diversity. The oceans are also an electrolyte. Earthing has remained the persistent policy for all of life ever since – with just one exception. Just so long as you can figure for yourself which species has allowed itself to become the exception you ought to become better placed to begin to appreciate the supposed benefits. It’s effects upon the viscosity of blood would seem to number among them.

Notes:
1, Chevalier G, et al. Earthing (Grounding) the Human Body Reduces Blood Viscosity – a Major Factor in Cardiovascular Disease. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2013;19(2):102-110
2, Earthing: The most important health discovery ever? (Book) Clinton Ober, Stephen T Sinatra MD and Martin Zucker. (2010)

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Could intelligence be compared to genes?

This may sound an odd question to ask. Bear with me, as I think the answer is helpful.

In 1953 a biologist, James Watson, and his colleague Francis Crick announced the discovery of a structure for deoxyribonucleic acid, a term far harder to remember and say than ‘DNA’. Then in 1990 a huge collaborative effort was announced, and a $3 billion effort to decipher the human genome was under-way. Imaginations ran wild as people envisaged all manner of developments and applications that might follow. If anybody at the time had said, “I think you will find things will turn out to be more complicated than you think”, then they’d have been right.

It was thought genes would have singular associations with outcomes. Very soon after the hacking of the genome that idea was blown out of the water. Several or alternate genes were noticed for having a part or involvement with one trait or health issue, and conversely two quite different health concerns appeared to associate with mutant form of just one gene. It was a shock and one that marked the beginning of another learning curve.

There are about 25,000 genes in the human genome, and that seemed relatively few, not least because seemingly simpler lifeforms may have more, and in case of that 25,000 around 95% seem not to have much significance at all. There are a lot of junk genes in the genome.

Yet another intriguing and unanticipated finding was that genes can be quite dynamic; genes can be present and be inactive, and they can be switched, not just in the cross-generational sense, but also in vivo. Genes can be switched ‘on’ and be switched ‘off’ in the course of a life. Some of these ‘switchings’ may be lasting, and some quite transient. This focussed minds.

So now geneticists think of the genome in terms of that string of genes that’s scripted into DNA and now think of famous double helix as being shrouded in a kind of filter-layer. They call this filter-layer the epigenome and it isn’t really a layer at all, but that’s a convenient way to think of it.

The epigenome is really a switching layer that can sit above individual genes, as my limited understanding has it. Some little molecules made of carbon and hydrogen can be attached to individual genes. (I hope I have the case the right way round !) These methylated markers as they are called deactivate the gene, and if it is removed the gene is allowed to be active – or to ‘express’ itself. This side to genetics is the new kid on the block, and it helps explain a lot. The more it’s understood how it works the more it will aid general understanding.

The long and the short of all this is that any person is possessed of a lot of genes that rarely see any active service; some appear to be junk genes, and some appear to be important but deactivated for some reason.

Psychologists, I think, are trending to see our minds in similar way. The human is a species that has intelligence, but it has also evolved to use intuition as a substitute for hard and intelligent thinking. For one thing the mind likes to recognise patterns, and it likes to identify recurring patterns. It makes sense if you think about. A pattern may be made up of a number of features. The first time the mind encounters a set of unfamiliar features it has to seek out the features and assimilate them into a pattern it can recognise. Once it has a sense of the pattern and the features it has a blue-print by which it can recognise a recurrence of the same, or a similar, pattern.

When I was young a picture hung on the wall. It was an artists recreation of a street scene and it featured a café with outside seating. It may have been Parisian, or it could have associated with Malta. I could not make sense of this picture. It used to haunt me, almost. To my young and underdeveloped mind it looked like a diesel locomotive, face on, and steaming (that’s a poor choice of word) out of the frame towards me, the viewer. My mind didn’t have the ability to register the features correctly, so it did the best job it could, and it did badly. It used an inappropriate short-cut.

If you think about quick and intuitive recognition of patterns could have aided our survival. Suppose its the stone age and your out gathering berries or something. In the corner of your eye you see Could intelligence be compared to genes?a fleeting flash of black and orange in the hues of the vegetation. It makes sense to think, ‘tiger!’ and then to move purposefully in the other direction, doe it not. It might not do to be too analytical or to wonder if it is your mate George with his face painted in ochre and charcoal, or with a skin thrown over his shoulders. Judge it badly and you end up on the menu. In an evolutionary sense your rewarded for being intuitive, or instinctive, and of course much animal behaviour is directed by instinct.

Two books have sold well of late.

Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman

You Are Not So Smart – David McRaney

Within these two books, and annexed to something of a thrust in psychology, is content that points to human traits that have us think economically. Sometimes this helps us and sometimes it lets us down. The thing about this is that we are up close and personal with ourselves, and we don’t notice so readily when our willingness to think intuitively may be letting us down. Hard thinking is hard work, and so with experience and advancing years we seem less inclined to ask questions in the way that we did as children. We think we understand affairs and ourselves when actually we may not, or may not understand matters so well as we think we do. The upshot is were not so in control of our own minds as we tend to believe we are, and if psychology can tailor the explanation in a way that suits ease of cognition amongst the likes of you and me then psychology has come of age. The sales of the two titles above indicate it may have.

Neither of these two books indicates the presence of filter-layer in quite these terms and neither seems to make comparisons to the genome and epigenome, but if you venture to read either of these highly readable and interesting titles then I think you will agree the concept of a filter-layer is a useful one, because each of these two books point to aspects of the human psyche that may be constituent to that filter-layer. Hence we have intelligence, but aspects of the psyche frequently deny us access to all the intelligence we have.

So I have come to think that average human is possessed of intelligence in broadly equal measure. Where one human differs most is in the ability to make optimal use of the intelligence it has. It can do so via channels too. One person may be good at maths, the next can be perceptive in art, in the event both are examining and applying patterns to good and intelligent effect, but elementary features of those patterns can be quite different.

We should always keep an open mind, and we should always be ready to learn something new, yet aspects of lives conspire that we place greater emphasis and trust in the familiar, and shy away from that which is unfamiliar, and in the main it is in the defence of our time. But we cannot know the importance of that which we do not know, nor above all that we do not know we do not know, so the will to be economical with our intellectual horsepower can let us down sometimes.

I think it is useful to have it pointed out that there is potential in unused intellectual horsepower in everybody, for knowing it is there is a good step on route to making better use of it.

Einstein himself thought he was quite normal in almost every way, but he did acknowledge he had curiosity in buckets.

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Barry Groves, author and campaigner, dies aged 77.

Earlier this week I learned of the death of Barry Groves. Barry passed away on 29th April 2013. He was aged 77.

Barry and his wife Monica came from a line of farmers or farming families. Barry himself served a full career in the RAF. When he came out of the RAF he took up with research.

Both Barry and Monica had experienced weight problems in their lifetime and Barry set about trying to shed those excess pounds. He and Monica began trying the conventional regimes and found it difficult to lose weight, or hard to keep it off. They wound up doing the rounds of alternate diet plans without much success and then sought to go against conventional wisdom and began to incorporate fat into their diets, as opposed to avoiding it. Having tried various regimes with not much success they found this strategy worked for each of them.

Barry was naturally curious to establish that what they were doing was safe, and of course there were reasons to think it might not be; fats, and saturated fats in particular, had been demonised for supposedly causing heart disease, and they still are. So he set about checking the facts. As he ventured into research he began to imagine he’d been presented with a myth, and as he advanced a bit deeper he became increasingly assured that the popular understanding about saturated fats and cholesterol was wrong. Saturated fats and cholesterol are not the dietary demons they are painted to be.

Barry published three books.

  • Eat Fat Get Thin was published in 2000
  • Natural Health and Weight Loss (2007)
  • Trick and Treat (2008)

Trick and Treat is a tour-de-force. It’s a book I have read to around ¾ of its extent. I had it on loan from the library and another borrower kept requesting the darned thing. It was being passed between us like a hot potato. Trick and Treat is thoroughly researched and thoroughly referenced.

Towards the close of 2008 I had a similar experience to Barry. I am type 2 diabetic and at times prior to 2008 diabetes really muddled my life and my mind. I knew I could manage my diabetes with diet and exercise and I had some good results. But my results were variable and the variations owed a lot to the level of my resolve. But at the close of 2008 I was in a bad way. Something planted a seed in my mind and I began wondering that three factors could work against a type 2 diabetic such as myself.

  • Too much carbohydrate in the diet isn’t good.
  • Too much refined or highly glycaemic carbohydrate in the diet definitely isn’t good.
  • Too much polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) in the diet may not be good, and especially so if those PUFAs were high in the omega-6 varieties found in vegetable oils and margarine.

I figured I’d research the topic and write a book about it. Heavens, was I naïve! Soon after I became aware of Trick and Treat and then I ventured into Chapter 1. I was overwhelmed, but before i advanced much further I got side-tracked. In the event I didn’t come to appreciate the full significance of this book until early in 2011. And I didn’t really commit to reading it thoroughly until 2012.

However I attended a an event where Barry was present and Monica was by his side. The event was in September 2011. In the mid morning interval I approached him and shook hands. “You and I have something in common,” I said, “in that we have both submitted ASA complaints against Flora.”

Yes,” replied Barry, and what narked me about the process was the willingness with which the ASA will take as read the advice that is returned from the FSA.” I could not help but agree.

I found Barry to be charming. He was assured too, and had grounds to be. Monica was unassuming and equally charming. I warmed to then both, and I never have guesed he was well into his seventies. He had a sharp mind and a sparkle in his eye. Barry told me Trick and Treat was 10 years in the writing, and I suspect there was ten years of work that preceded even foreseeing the book in concept.

Trick and Treat is landmark work and the parts I have read I have read attentively and critically, and for the most part I can see no reason to consider it less than objective. Barry examines the relationship of dietary factors with aspects of ill-health, and he come at from several angles. He examines alternate conditions in sequence and discretely points to cause(s). He doesn’t often describe causes in terms of certainty, he frequently tables a balanced argument, and he leads to consider a probability that certain factors have bearing. But as he advances from one condition to the next patterns begin to emerge. The same suspects keep recurring as being implicated in alternate diseases. What are these suspects? Well, lots of refined and highly glycaemic carbohydrates are repeated in the dock, and do are polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) especially the omega-6 variety. We’ve been sold a lie, much of the healthy eating advice that is dispensed today, and has been dispensed for four decades, is actually making many of us quite ill.

Barry knew money played a part in this process. He probably had some idea how, but money is a thoroughly enigmatic entity that influences outcomes in odd ways. It has been heavy going, when I made mention of being side-tracked it was by virtue of being stimulated to want to study the workings of money in more detail. Slowly, and I do mean slowly, I have trended to an improved understanding of the systemic workings of money. In the first half of 2013 I have trended to becoming better able to explain it to others. Our money system has had a bearing upon peoples health, sometimes for the better, yet often-times for the worse, and Barry describes many of the instances where it has influence for the worse. It’s not complicated, it just isn’t readily explained in brief.

In April 2013 I was pressed to produce a piece of work intent at linking some pieces of a significant puzzle. Along the way of progress I had often wondered about meeting up with Barry to have a more meaningful conversation. Barry I thought, above many people, was equipped to grasp the advance I felt I had made, and I did think he would be genuinely interested. Tripping to the Cotwolds to pass some time in his company was something I hoped to do and soon.

Learning of Barrys’ passing was a great moment of sadness. I shed a tear for Barry and for Monica. I feel nothing less than heartfelt sympathy for Monica for being presented with her loss. But I feel sad for humanity. Barry set out to uncover the truth. He didn’t go about that with agenda or preference. He just wanted to be as assured about affairs as he could be, and he did a darned good that job he and other could be proud of.

Barry produced the kind of analysis I loosely envisaged and might have been guided to. He did it and I could never have. Soon after he began Barry committed to the project full-time and it easily occupied two decades of his life, perhaps three. I just could not commit those kind of resources of time and energy to that kind of project. I simply could not match his ability either. But for the small amount of progress I did make it was in broad accord with his findings., and then the advance I did make justified the portrayal of money as a part of the artwork on the cover of the book.

How I wish I could have told him, in his living years. Bless him, and the deepest of condolences extend to Monica.

Trick and Treat should be compulsive reading for any Health Secretary incumbent in any government. It is half the explanation why our health service is close to breaking point.

 

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A HELP TO BUY BUY SCHEME

A Cartoon:

A woman sits behind a desk, and a couple are seated in front.

The sign above reads,

‘HELP TO BUY SCHEME’

The caption below says,

We’d like to but some food”

(Appeared New Statesman, 26th April, p7)

On of the most succinct things that has come to my attention of late was a cartoon that appeared in New Statesman on 26th April 2013. New Statesman is a weekly newspaper published here in the United Kingdom. The content is oriented to politics and to social affairs. Some might say the content tends to the left, I might concede there tends to be a left of centre balance perhaps, but I wouldn’t say all content is necessarily left of centre; the views expressed may extend to both sides of the political fulcrum.

I’m not a naturally political astute person, and I haven’t been reading New Statesman for long, but the magazine came to my attention when I spotted an edition with a cover given to the horse-meat affair. I recognised the name of the articles author, and that was enough to induce me to buy the magazine. From then on I took up with more interest.

The last twelve months in the UK have been marked by some Farmer protests. Dairy farmers have taken to protesting about the price they receive for each litre of raw milk they produce. The farmers don’t get to set the price they sell at, instead they have to accept the price offered by the party they elect to sell to. Often they sell to a process dairy, and the process dairy in turn will be contracted to supply bottled milk to the leading supermarkets. The leading supermarkets in turn now sell most of the milk that is bought by consumers.

Milk is price sensitive product. The supermarkets are all out to sell milk at the cheapest price they can. Consumers think all milk is of the same quality. They are correct in one sense, though they are totally incorrect in another; but lets leave that aside for now. Consumers don’t make a any price/quality judgement when they pick up a bottle of milk, so they judge the bottle, and the supermarket entirely upon price, and so milk equates to a loss leader item for sale, with a great deal of price rivalry between retailers in the quest to deliver value to their customers. But this quest for value now dictates the nature of transactions and dealings in the supply and process chain that is upstream of the bottle be offered for sale.

The process dairies do not get a generous price for the milk they supply to the leading retailers and they must operate on excruciating margins. This used to be OK. Much of the milk sold is now skimmed milk or semi-skimmed and that means some of the cream has been removed. Actually in a diary all the cream is removed in large centrifugal skimmers and then some cream is added back to meat the desired fat content for the type of milk. The dairies wind up with with vessels full of cream and it was the habit to export cream in bulk. Tanker loads of the stuff got shipped across to Europe. The cream price was so good it was that that generated the profits for the dairies. But in 2009 the price of cream on the open market fell markedly, and so cream could no longer subsidise the business of bottling milk.

Since the process dairies no longer receive a decent price for the milk they process they cannot pay the farmers that supply the raw milk a decent price either. Buyers sometimes announce price rises or price reductions with little notice or consultation. In 2012 several dairies reduced the price they pay to farmers. Some farmers were vocal and said plainly the price had dipped below the costs of production. It is scandalous state of affairs, indefensible really, that a producer cannot set his price and recover his costs of production, but that is where we are at.

It wasn’t, or isn’t, just the dairy farmers either, the egg-men and the bread-men have each said they face risings costs but against stagnating or declining returns and incomes. Farming Today, on BBC Radio 4, and Countryfile on BBC 1, each covered the plight of these British farmers in the course of 2012, and likely still do in 2013.

Then in 2013 along came the horse-meat scandal, in the course of which minced horse was found in products that declared they contained minced beef. In all 14 of the leading supermarkets were revealed to have offered such contaminated or adulterated burgers, or similar products, for sale. The products effected tended to belong to the value ranges.

I should think the supermarkets, the big ones and the ones we sometimes refer to as ‘the multiples’, each put the suppliers of meat products and ready meals under the same level of excruciating duress that is evident in the dairy industry. It all comes down to the relentless quest for value.

Arguably the price of some food needs to rise so that the price returned at the point of sale will meet the costs of production and process in the upstream supply chain. But consumer pockets operate on increasingly tight budgets, so price rises would not go down with them. In fact, for certain demographics incomes need to rise, then if they did they would support a rise in prices at the tills. I concede it is controversial to suggest this. However.

If a person knows how to read the signs there is something worthy of note. We are fast losing the ability within society to feed significant swathes of people with food of satisfactory quality and integrity at a price they can afford, or perceive they can afford. And under a more inclusive analysis this eventuality is not really an issue that comes down to the cost of food, it is in fact an issue that has more to do with a steady and consistent decline in incomes, either in absolute terms, of in terms adjusted for inflation, what is sometimes branded ‘real terms’.

We are in a dangerous place. The last time we trended to this point was in the 1930s, and it was most acute in Germany just pre-war. The predicament then arose because the distribution of wealth and indebtedness had attained an untenable excess, and while the need to remain concise means I cannot explain at length, we have fallen into exactly the same trap today.

The kind of money that predominates and circulates is a kind called fiat currency. Fiat currency is a kind of money that consistently plots its’ own downfall. For all the ups and downs of the economy there is a longer phase which looks to be around eighty years. A number of factors could bear upon this periodicity, though I won’t list them now.

Putting a figure upon the periodicity is not something than can be done with precision, the significance of unfolding events has to be assessed and judged in real time making judgement a dark art, but systemic banking crises of certain magnitude may mark certain turning points in the state of affairs, and so one has to look back in history to find a banking crisis whose magnitude compares with that whose nemesis befell us in 2008.

Fiat currency is a generally scarce entity whose scarcity sometimes makes it presence more apparent (he writes sounding a little ‘Irish’). Sometimes the supply of new money cannot be sustained in keeping with demand or ambitions. And you probably won’t have thought f this before, but if everyone is out to make financial gains, to save for a pension, or return a profit, the money that adds such value must come from somewhere, and it doesn’t grow on trees. To make these gains the market needs a steady stream of new money, and it doesn’t come from ‘printing’ money either; new money comes from lending. So if enthusiasm or ability to lend or to borrow goes in decline then the supply of new money is constrained. This is a case of special scarcity and it destabilises the system.

The wages of the low paid are driven down as enterprises seek to reduce the costs of production; a process called wage repression. So if we stitch things together we ought be able to see a causal chain at work, which forms part of a vicious circle.

  • Wage repression drives the consumer quest for value.
  • The consumers quest for value drives the retailers quest for value.
  • The quest for value in the supply chain drives down margins for suppliers.
  • The supermarkets and suppliers must have an eye on costs, including wage costs, and
  • each tries to reduce their wage bill – which drives wage repression, because,
  • they are each out to make gains and return profits, despite the new money needed to make such gains possible, isn’t coming to market in the way, and with the strength, it was before, so
  • enterprise can make profits, but only to the detriment of the those who do the work.
  • The self-limiting factor is extended asymmetry in the distribution of wealth and indebtedness, and when the value of money, and incomes relative to it, no longer cover the cost of life’s essentials.

You probably thought money makes you wealthy. There is a deception involved. Money makes the majority of people poorer. And it isn’t the presence of money that makes them poorer so much as it is the scarcity.

Fiat currency is always scarce in the sense that if you could sum all the assets of the world and summarise them on a balance sheet, and if you could do the same for liabilities, then you’d be in for a surprise. This total global balance sheet TGBS would balance. The only way incumbents living somewhere on the TGBS can make capital gains is for new capital to stream into the TGBS, and it’s just the nature of the beast that new capital accompanies a contemporaneous growth in liabilities.

When money ceases to cover the costs of living, like a roof over one’s head, energy to heat it, and food to place on the table, then the enthusiasm for borrowing or lending declines, and the supply of new money is girded, which makes the problems worse.

We do not have to do away with money, and we do not have to do away with the kind of money that conforms to the design and attributes of fiat currency, but we would to well to have alternative currencies in place as highly functional contingencies for the times when fiat currency becomes especially scarce. Without such contingencies we will continue to steam headlong into very difficult times.

They say a picture can speak a thousand words. In this instance a well-conceived and well-observed cartoon succinctly summarised around 1700 words. I cannot decipher the cartoonists ‘tag’. If I could I’d mention him or her by name. I wouldn’t think it would be Christine Lagarde.

Some useful resources.
Money As Debt
Lietaer.com

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The difficulty of determining and ascribing ’cause’.

The principle of ’cause and effect’ is an important one in science. Science is about understanding, and it is about understanding how events and eventualities arise. Science demands that the explanations it formulates should be founded upon evidence. Events and eventualities are ‘effects’ that can be witnessed and the presumption within science is that all ‘effects’ have ’causes’, so the task in hand is to determine the ’cause(s)’ wherever possible. On the occasions when science has the evidence before it then arriving at an interpretation of the evidence ought not to be too difficult.

Understanding doesn’t have to be scientific and it doesn’t have to resort to lots of data and equations. Understanding can be based upon reason. When Charles Darwin wrote and published ‘On The Origin Of Species’ his explanation contained little in the way of data and not a single equation, but the book was no less scientific as a result. Darwin pointed to something profound and there are ways that essential profundity is still rippling through science today.

Evolution is decreasingly thought to be the sole preserve of living things and diversity. Despite that Darwins theory was subjected to ridicule and was slow to catch on cosmologists now increasingly regard evolution as pertinent to the development of the universe; a facet acknowledged by Professor Brian Cox in The Wonders Of Life series. In turn economists could do well to look to Darwin and evolution for inspiration.

Daniel Kahneman is an accomplished academic that has spent a lifetime thinking about cause and effect and the ability to make predictions based upon understanding. Kahneman was awarded a Nobel Prize for one of his leading achievements and so he’s evidently no slouch. He has a book out and the book has been selling well. [1]

Kahnemen cultivated an off-shoot that was a persistent interest in the course of his career. He became intrigued by ‘heuristics’.

Heuristics are simple rules of thumb that often seem intuitive and that guide our thinking without us having to think too hard. “Red sky at night .. ,” is an example of a heuristic. Knowing this you’d easily recognise “Red sky in the morning .. ,” is another. ‘Coughs and sneezes spread diseases’ is one of the best.

Often heuristics are usefully summary, but often they are too summary to explain or reveal any rationale as may sit behind them. ‘Money is the root of all evil,’ can be argued to be a case in point, as money could be the root of possibilities, and my favourite is just four words long: ‘All flesh is grass’. At once this simple statement seems truly enigmatic, yet it is no more than a very summary description of a grand order in the great food chain as persists in any ecology. Creatures feed off plants, and some creatures feed of other creatures that in turn dined on plants.

Kahneman worked with a close colleague called Amos, and the relationship was one of those when two heads seemed better than one. They bounced ideas around and sparked off each other. The core theme they explored was whether heuristics could be deemed reliable. Did simple heuristics permit predictions, and how frequently would the predictions be correct? These questions annex with psychology because they help analyse the basis of human intuition and whether human intuition is reliable.

Kahnemans book, ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’, explore his lifes’ obsession and makes for an interesting contribution to real world psychology. Our intuition can be reliable, he directs, but it can let us down without our being aware. We can think fast, but there are occasions when we need to grip the reins and think slow to avoid certain pitfalls.

People are often praised for being quick thinkers, and the workplace is an environment that encourages economy in execution, Kahneman suggests the psyche is essentially lazy, and if thinking fast rewards us we persist with the strategy despite the policy may sometimes let us down. Such instances are an entry point for bias. And Kahneman says people are ‘statistically punished for being nice and rewarded for being nasty.’ The feedback to which life exposes us is perverse, he directs, and that’s discounting the bias that’s introduced by aspects of the money system.

‘Lots of different examples of bias are described by Kahneman there is a discussion of whether rewards for improved performance work better than punishment for poor results – a proposition supported by much evidence, but not apparently by many bosses. Kahneman relays the story of how an instructor in the Israeli Air Force told him this didn’t work for flight cadets: those who he praised for good performance usually did worse the next time, whereas those who he screamed at for poor performance usually did better the next time. What the instructor was observing was regression to the mean, due to random fluctuations in performance. The chances are, when we do something really well, next time it won’t go so well and vice versa. The error the instructor made was ascribing a ‘causal influence to the inevitable fluctuations in a random process.’ ‘ [2]

When I read this it was in a short review and recommendation and not from the book itself. Something about it offended my intuition and yet I didn’t know why. I’ve underlined the offending statement. I sought out the book and wondered how it was wrong and why it offended. It took a while to figure, but I got there in the end. Kahneman says he experienced a moment of inspiration when he saw new light in a statistical principle he had been teaching for years. The method is known as regression to the mean and despite it sounds grandiose it can be explained simply.

Suppose you have dice and you roll it. You’ll return one score in the range 1 to 6. You could get lucky and roll a ‘6’. If you roll again you have five times greater prospects of rolling less than ‘6’ than you have of repeating a ‘6’. If you roll a ‘1’ the same applies but in the converse. So in erratic systems ‘good’ results are likely followed by ones that are less good. The thing about rolling a dice is that if you average successive rolls they will quickly trend towards the mean score possible, and that is 3.5.

Trainee pilots who put in a bum performance are erratic performers whose next performance has every prospect of being better. Ones who did well may not have full grasp of the skills, they maybe got lucky one time, so their next performance could well be worse. But although performance of anybody on a learning curve may be erratic it isn’t strictly random. Kahneman wasn’t wrong to apply regression to the mean to a pseudo-random setting but he wasn’t strictly correct either.

You see trainee pilots can be erratic but they favour lower performances and scores. Suppose you roll that dice but the results returned range only in the range 1 to 4. The results can still be erratic and pseudo-random but you’d soon become suspicious if ‘5s’ and ‘6s’ were never to arise. Regression to the mean could still apply in that the scores would quickly trend to an average of 2.5, but the system is not strictly random because two real possibilities have been excluded.

Kahneman suffered a rush of blood to the head. In his rush to apply regression to the mean he applied the principle correctly but then took his conclusions one step too far. A simple heuristic reveals the lie; ‘practice makes perfect’. Erratic performance by trainee pilots is simple evidence the cadets need more flying hours to hone new and demanding skills. Fluctuations in performance of newly acquired skills are inevitable, to a point, but they are not so random as Kahnemans’ conclusion summarily suggests.

So the flight instructor was right .. and completely wrong. He could bark at pilots who did badly and they would do better next time, but they may well have done so without the instructor doing or barking anything. The instructor has been placed in charge and he has responsibility to deliver results. He is acting under influence that encourages him to believe his involvement has more bearing upon outcome than it actually does.

In turn Kahneman was correct, but not so correct as it is possible to be. Erratic performance is inevitable in the instance he describes, but the Nobel Priize-winners mind made a leap too far when the application of a statistical principle had him confuse ‘erratic’ with ‘random’. None of us are perfect.

This example shows the difficulty of discerning ’cause’ in what are really fairly simple eventualities. Three people can arrive at three interpretations and descriptions rising from entirely the same set of observations. That casts light on the difficulty.

The harsh reality is that there are occasions when a human may be quite summary and quite correct; if not for all the right reasons. There are occasions when a human can be correct; yet not be so correct as it is possible to be, and there are occasions when humans can be just plain wrong. Recognising the distinctions in these cases isn’t so plain or easy as it may seem.

The introduction to Kahnemans book ought to be more interesting for anyone knowing in advance that Kahnemans rush to apply a statistical method overshadowed the simple heuristic that works fine in this case, ‘practice makes perfect’. Performance and ‘scores’ would attain higher ranges and be more consistent as the cadets advance up the learning curve. There’s no real need to take a sledgehammer to the task of cracking a nut.

Life has become involved with complications arising in many a corner. There’s a danger when we have a heavy work load and when complications abound around us that the simplest of things that can inform and simplify can get overlooked. The human is an intelligent species, but sometimes eventualities conspire that the human cannot readily access some of the best of the intelligence, or capacity for intelligent thinking, it possesses.

1, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, Penguin, 2012

2, What’s your science book of the year?

Posted by Andrew Wadge on 21 December 2012 http://blogs.food.gov.uk/science/entry/what_s_your_science_book

Chris Palmer, 23rd May 2013.

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