Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Tuesday, May 6, 2003day link 

 Why do societies make disastrous decisions?
picture University professor Jared Diamond talks about why societies sometimes make decisions that result in their collapse, or why they fail to make decisions that would have rectified things.
What I'm going to suggest is a road map of factors in failures of group decision making. I'll divide the answers into a sequence of four somewhat fuzzily delineated categories. First of all, a group may fail to anticipate a problem before the problem actually arrives. Secondly, when the problem arrives, the group may fail to perceive the problem. Then, after they perceive the problem, they may fail even to try to solve the problem. Finally, they may try to solve it but may fail in their attempts to do so. While all this talking about reasons for failure and collapses of society may seem pessimistic, the flip side is optimistic: namely, successful decision-making. Perhaps if we understand the reasons why groups make bad decisions, we can use that knowledge as a check list to help groups make good decisions.
There's an interesting little video on the site of him lecturing about it as well. Why is that kind of clarity and simplicity only found scattered among people who lecture and write books? I mean, why aren't people who ask such questions part of running our societies?

Some of what he talks about is environmental mis-management. For example, the people on Easter Island cut down all the forests on their rather small island, to build canoes, roll around statues, and whatever they were doing. Thus they killed the resources their lives depended on, and they started dying off, turning to canibalism, etc. until they had turned themselves into a faint shadown of their former glory. A question is: What did the Easter Islanders think as they were cutting down the last tree? That wasn't any subtle mistake. Did they really not notice? How can we avoid making that kind of mistakes? Or, since we probably already are - how can we truly comprehend that as a society?
[ | 2003-05-06 23:59 | 20 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Matrix Reloaded
picture The new matrix movie has premiere here soon. I'm definitely not alone in being excited about that. Paul Hughes on Planet P:
This article in Slate came out a few days ago and it sums up nicely what I always felt about the matrix after seeing the first film - in the matrix we can do anything. Since the late 1980's after probing in depth the potential of consciousness becoming software via nanotechnology and perhaps quantum computers, I have endeavored to visualize the future of reality enhanced by fully customized hyper-intelligent neurological circuits and synthaesthic hyper-sensory pathways. This potential is the primary theme of my book-in-progress. As this article points out Neo shows us the way:
"The real source of the fascination with The Matrix is that, despite all appearances, the movie is not a dystopia. Rather, it's a utopia, a geek paradise. The Matrix is a sci-fi John Hughes movie, in which a misfit learns that he's actually cool. (Think Harry Potter with guns.) At the software company where Keanu Reeves works, his boss might as well be the principal castigating Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club when he says: "You have a problem with authority, Mr. Anderson. You believe that you are special. That somehow the rules do not apply to you. Obviously, you are mistaken." Of course, we learn that the oppressive Figure of Authority is the one who is mistaken. But instead of going to the prom, Keanu gets to pack heat, learn kung fu, wear a black trench coat and sunglasses, and, to top it off, he gets a hot, ass-kicking girlfriend who sports fetish wear. What kind of dystopia is this?"
Read on, more good stuff. Also, if you have broadband, go and see the animated short movie series Animatrix, outlining the history of the matrix.
[ | 2003-05-06 23:59 | 30 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Laughter is the best medicine
picture
Via SynEarth, from Laughter Club International.
Madan Kataria writes: In March, 1995, I thought of writing an article on 'Laughter - the best medicine' for 'My Doctor' a health magazine that I edited. When I found a large amount of scientific literature on the benefits of laughter on the human mind and body, I was amazed that very few people laugh and smile in Mumbai. I was very impressed by American journalist Norman Cousins' book 'Anatomy of an Illness' in which he described how he laughed his way out of incurable disease of the spine - Ankylosing Spondylitis. I also read about the research work done by Dr. Lee S. Berk from Loma Linda University, California, who showed how mirthful laughter reduced the stress hormone levels in the body and the effects of laughter on the immune system. Early morning at 4 a.m. on 13th March 1995, I was walking up and down in my living room and suddenly an idea flashed into my mind: If laughter is so good why not start a laughter club? Then I decided not to publish the article, but instead I went to a public park at Lokhandwala Complex, Andheri, in Mumbai and spoke to people about starting a Laughter Club. The remarkable thing about this idea was that I conceived it at 4 a.m. in the morning and within 3 hours a plan was put into action.
Hahah, sign me up. We need many of those. They have many splendid initiatives on that site. Corporate laughter seminars. The Laughter Bank. World Laughter Day. Instruction manual for Laughing for No Reason. News about new laughter clubs in Iran, Vietnam, Hungary, etc. ROFL.
[ | 2003-05-06 23:59 | 5 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Cops or strippers
picture Reuters:
JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- An Israeli policeman responding to neighbors' complaints about a rowdy all-female party received an unexpected welcome at the door when revellers mistook him for a stripper and began to take off his clothes and stroke him. "The women had ordered a stripper dressed as a police officer," national police spokesman Gil Kleiman said on Monday. The policeman showed the women his badge but they thought it was part of the act.
That's just splendid. So much better than going out and beating people up and arresting them. And now we're at it, imagine we send an army to some other county, and they just think the soldiers are all strippers and they take them inside to touch the hair on their chest and stuff dinars in their underwear. Nobody would get around to that war thing.
[ | 2003-05-06 23:59 | 14 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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