Phishing for Phools by Akerlof and Shiller – book review

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This must be a scholarly book if we accept that 75 pages of notes for 179 pages of text is a measure of scholarship. Phishing for Phools: The economics of manipulation & deception dives into the truths, half-truths, spins, embezzlements and bezzles that are embedded in the American economic system. That word bezzle was a new word for me. Apparently, it was made up by John Kenneth Galbraith and it means that a person in charge of something of value is illegally taking a portion for themselves but before it is known to be missing. The portion taken is defined as the bezzle. A legal owner of property may feel that it is behaving properly while their factor is bezzling a tiny portion.

This book is about the bezzling that is being perpetrated against us in our daily lives in what appear to be all of our commercial transactions. It covers many examples of how that is done in various situations such as the purchase of cars, houses, credit cards, phood, pharma, tobacco, alcohol, bankruptcy and more. This widespread “phishing” challenges the standard economic model that the free market will always lead to the greater good by Adam Smith’s “invisible hand.”

The authors explain various questionable practices that take advantage of people’s informational and psychological weaknesses. They say that if a potential exists for some advantage to be taken and there is money to be made, then someone will step forward and supply that need, to create a “phishing equilibrium.” The implication is that the need is often fulfilled by the bezzle. What the capitalist system does well is to expose needs and provide a way to satisfy those needs for money. A little bezzle helps grease the gears of commerce. The authors call this conning of the public phishing for phools.

Apparently phishing for phools is the new paradigm for legitimate economic transactions?

You have more fun being a child.

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You have more fun when you have grown into the psychological condition of being a child rather than a helpless infant dependent on others for everything. You have the opportunities to go to all sorts of places and explore them without supervision and to find new things you haven’t experienced before. You get to meet new people and play with them and find out what they can do and what you can do together. You get to take things apart to find out how they work and maybe put them back together. It’s fun climbing up on things, and going into special places like dark rooms and being a little scared, but always there’s something fun to play with. You get to have some big toys too that you can ride around on, and have your own computer with some of your own games on it.

Sometimes, after a while, things aren’t interesting anymore so you have opportunities to turn your attention to things that are interesting. If you are lucky you have some people around with access to new stuff and they encourage you to play with it, to make it work, to do interesting things with it. Sometimes, when those people like what you have done they give you presents of even better toys.

If you are unlucky the people in charge of your situation may be mean and complain a lot about everything you do. Even when you do what they say they want you to do they complain and sometimes punish you. That’s a bummer, but usually you can get away and go somewhere else and do things that are more fun, like breaking stuff or beating up on the inferior kids. It is fun to be in control of other people.

Being a child is fun because you are in control of things and people.

Now is always the time to preadapt to a new world.

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Every day is a new day and the time to adapt to the changed situation is always now. Today with a new administration in office the adaptations will probably be greater than usual, but as the stated goal is to make things better they probably will be better in some ways. With a different allocation of resources to make some things better, other things may not be as good.

Using the theory of antifragile as a guide, a person should design their situation in such a way that no matter which of the possible alternatives comes into being we can do okay or perhaps even prosper. The main idea is to have enough slack in the essential necessities such that when opportunities break either good or bad you can come out okay. That requires a physical supply of the right stuff and a mental preparedness to act promptly when the right signals are apparent. That means getting into the right flows of what’s happening and getting out of the wrong flows too. We should be aware of possibilities and act to get into an antifragile condition as early as possible.

Being prepared means having alternate uses ready for your mind and property.

A Dictionary of New Epigrams – Habits

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A Dictionary of New Epigrams

Go to — the alphabetical list of epigrams.

Habits

When external experiences are fixed we form habits for dealing with them.

We develop habits by responding to events with conscious actions.

A routine cultivated into a habit becomes our character or our vice.

A species’ habits are the foundations of its genetic changes and the behavior becomes encoded into their DNA. That happens because the habit then works even better.

Habits congealed into DNA responses are stronger than personal willpower.

Old habits can be overlain with new ones, but it takes a conscious effort in a response that perceives something that is slightly different about the stimulus.

A DNA-based habit easily becomes a compulsion.

We are oblivious to our habits until we encounter a stumbling stone.

To change a habit requires becoming aware of its precursors and changing your response to them.

When we get our routine going we become convinced it is the right way to go.

You won’t change a habit that is serving you well.

You can’t change a habit except by preventing its stimulus from getting to you.

A habit is like gravity. It attracts things and controls them.

Nothing is stronger than gravity.

You can grow habits just like you can grow flowers or weeds.

Cultivate the seeds of good little habits to grow them into mighty oaks of great ones.

Plant your tree where you want it to grow.

Our habits are the results of our environments and our responses to them, so choose environments and responses that will take you where you want to go.

 

A list of ways to help old people.

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The following list is based on the 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents and is adapted to old people. Yesterday’s post concluded with the suggestion to Make a poster with specific suggestions for how to help old people. This post will outline and explore that idea.

  1. Old people will have lost the direct support of their parents, and may not have a family to give them love and support. When you encounter old people give them clear signs of giving personal space but combined with appropriate physical contact such as shaking hands, or a gentle hug. Make a specific inquiry into your mutual interests. Show and sometimes give them a photo or other memento of a shared interest.
  2. Get input from the old person on all decisions that affect them.
  3. Demonstrate helping other people do things important to that other person.
  4. Have something important for them to do that helps the whole community.
  5. Do group art and music projects that are designed for public display and benefit.
  6. Never be physically abusive or even remotely suggestive of being abusive.
  7. Find a young person that the old person can value and encourage.
  8. Give immediate rewards for a generous act; first an instant word, then a gift.
  9. When a person is disturbed look at their problem as they see it.
  10. Demonstrate easy little ways to help others by helping them with a little thing.
  11. Talk about movies and TV and the behavior of the characters, not just names and titles.
  12. Participate in what old people have to say about their life experiences.
  13. Comment on the positive effects they have had on people and the world.
  14. Ask them what they can do for the community.
  15. Give them the power to make a difference again even in little personal things.
  16. Make it easy for them to use the abilities they have to do what they want to do.
  17. Make good quality things like TV, internet, and books easily available.
  18. Make it obvious that you enjoy being with them.
  19. Do things for others because you want them to succeed at what they are doing.
  20. Encourage people to work at the limit of their creative skill.

 

 

 

 

Developmental assets, young to old

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Two days ago I posted: “His community was later involved in a study named 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents, which sounded like an exact reverse of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study.” “I was unaware of the 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents when I created the Positive Childhood Experiences test (PCE test) which is a simple flip of the ACE test.” My PCE was a polar opposite of the ACE on how to raise children and it would be appropriate to do a flip on the 40 Assets as I did on the ACE test, but I am hesitant to do that because it would be giving more detail on how to raise physically, mentally, and morally sick children on how to become discontented people.

We need to create charts similar to the 40 Assets but aimed at adults, middle adults, old adults, and elderly adults. Perhaps the Search Institute already is exploring that need but their present website doesn’t list it. They are working to discover what kids need to succeed and promoting that. Its goals seem similar to the Encampment for Citizenship which I attended in 1957 at the Fieldstone School in New York. My point is that adults and old people need the supports mentioned in the 40 Assets program.

As I scan through the 40 Assets list aimed at kids age 12-18 it appears that just replacing the words “young person” with  “old person” would give real help in how a fully functioning person of any age could and should relate to old people. Basically, that comes down to respect, but that word doesn’t convey the details of how respect is given by the giver and received by the receiver. People need more exact instructions on how to demonstrate respect. For example, the last part of “#40 – Positive View of Personal Future (TAKE ACTION) = Ask your kids about their goals and dreams. Help them think about the resources (financial and otherwise) they will need to make these goals a reality.” The only thing that needs to be changed to make it apply to old people as opposed to adolescent ones is to change the words kids to old people. That simple change would guide another person on how to relate to old people. The other 39 developmental assets could be similarly adapted to old people, and for adults too.

Make a poster with specific suggestions for how to help old people.

Saving the world … again! This time with pleasurable activities.

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I have aimed at saving the world many times. None of them have worked in any measurable way and yet we’re still here. Some of the grandiose attempts were:

As a USAF pilot, refusing to drop hydrogen bombs on people because it wouldn’t save America but destroy the whole world.

Self-publishing the book Tao and War which develops ideas for creating peace and avoiding war.

The Life Haven Project for saving a broad genetic group of humans on which to create a new humanity after a major war destroyed everyone else.

The Earth Ark Project for saving all of the seeds and other DNA possible deep-frozen at the top of Antarctica.

Probaway blog of Life Hacks ~ Many helpful hints on living your life more successfully.

Also when in Berkeley for fifty years my helping a dozen or more other people get their projects going. Many of them were quite successful, but none as grandiose as mine listed above. But now I am working on what may be the most practical and doable of all of those projects. Helping humanity to become more mature. The Maturing Humanity Project.

The basic idea of the Maturing Humanity Project is simply to help individuals to move toward greater personal maturity more quickly. When all humanity becomes more mature it will reach a state of greater happiness and a worldwide contentment. There is nothing new in the idea of helping people to mature except exposing a way to do it. For everyone to mature more quickly and be happier, more able, more valued, more productive, more nurturing, more encompassing, more universal. The way is not to push or pull others into something they don’t have any interest in doing. It is to expose them to something that is clearly more desirable than something else they might desire.

One principle for becoming more mature is to choose to engage in more mature activities when you have the opportunities.

Hillbilly Elegy and Thank You for Being Late compared.

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Two recent bestseller books are perfect bookends for an idea for advancing human maturity to a new level. Hillbilly Elegy, A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance, and Thank You for Being Late by Thomas Friedman are both about men coming out of their communities and entering into very successful lives. They both came from Old-World cultures that are renowned for personal frugality and industry. Vance from a Scots-Irish culture that produced over one-third of U.S. presidents and Friedman, whose Jewish culture produced many scientists and intellectuals. Both cultures have deep historical roots and fabulous intellectual achievements, but Vance’s fragment of his subculture hit a very bad spot this last hundred years as their American homeland of Appalachia’s coal-mining culture fell apart and many moved to  Middletown, Ohio, and withered. Friedman’s subculture got displaced also and moved to St. Louis Park, near Minneapolis, Minnesota, and it thrived.

Neither author mentions the other and they may never have crossed paths but because they are both now in that rarefied circle of successful nonfiction authors, they will soon meet. What made Vance’s life journey to success so unusual is that he grew up with a background of high Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE test). His culture was one of gross alcoholism, interpersonal violence, childhood abuse and personal defeatism. Although Vance’s mother was abusive, and her father was an abusive alcoholic, that very man rejected drink and became a model grandfather for Vance. Vance was naturally brilliant intellectually and a super hard worker and against all odds made it to Yale Law school and onto the NY Times best-seller list.

Friedman grew up in a culture of emotional, social, and financial support with excellent schools and teachers, and many of his schoolmates became famous. His community was later involved in a study named 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents, which sounded like an exact reverse of the Adverse Childhood Experiences study. From his writing, it appeared that Friedman was a normally bright kid who was given lots of opportunities and support by his culture and just grew naturally into a successful adult. His coming to the Times bestseller list was almost a given outcome for his journey through life.

I was unaware of the 40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents when I created the Positive Childhood Experiences test (PCE test) which is a simple flip of the ACE test. PCE gives a starting point to show the way, but The 40 Assets not only has a more complete list but it gives a whole strategy for implementing the suggestions.

Read these two books together and understand more deeply what creates a wonderful human being out of a normal child.

Thank You for Being Late by Thomas Friedman – book review

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This book purported to be about accelerations in technology, climate change, and globalization moving humanity into the future and exploring the priorities of what we as individuals ought to be doing now to prepare for these changes. It sort of did that, but the first third of Thank You for Being Late was mostly an overview of the past decade of computer chip improvements and the projecting of Moore’s law into the not too distant future. Thomas Friedman tells us that the year 2007 was the tipping point in the accelerating power of computers. He lists developments such as the founding of Facebook, Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android, Amazon’s Kindle and IBM’s Watson.

It isn’t apparent that Friedman is aware that on page 148 he sets up the meaning of the last third of this book. That part is totally different; it’s not about accelerating of technology and the society based in that, but a setup for what makes civilization take off. Friedman grew up in a small middle-class town that could have been anywhere, anywhere in America, but it produced a large number of very productive and thus famous people. On p. 148 he is quoting William H. McNeill:

The ultimate spring of human variability, of course, lies in our capacity to invent new ideas, practices, and institutions. But invention also flourished best when contacts with strangers compelled different ways of thinking and doing to compete for attention, so that choice became conscious, and deliberate tinkering with older practices became easy, and indeed often inevitable.

The book slowly drifts from future technology until in the final hundred or so pages it becomes mostly about Friedman’s hometown of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, and his friends there who became famous. Then it becomes obvious that the main point of the book is on page 316 – “Embracing Diversity – As for embracing diversity, it is more vital than ever today for creating resilience in a changing environment. Thanks to diversity, no matter what climate changes affect your environment, some organism or ensemble of organisms will know how to deal with it.” Friedman doesn’t quote Taleb but Amory Loving in the next sentence: “it automatically adapts to turn every form of adversity into a manageable problem, if not something advantageous.”

That diversity in Friedman’s town created a wonderful community of trusting people, which has carried over into more recent times coping with influxes of Somalis, Hmong and other immigrants.

Thank You for Being Late will help you to realize that human beings can become a wonderful species when they are raised properly.

A Dictionary of New Epigrams – Self-Reliance

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A Dictionary of New Epigrams

Self-Reliance

To become a mature person you must keep your promises to yourself.

You can not trust a person who can not trust himself and that includes yourself.

Don’t expect people motivated by childish things to behave as adults.

The people who will help you are the ones who will benefit by helping you; the others will ignore you and therefore you must rely on yourself for critical things.

When your trusted facts support your predictions for the future you may safely move away from the crowd.

Do not ask of another what you can supply for yourself.

You may be secure in the wisdom that people will always act in their own self-interest as they perceive it to be in the current moment.

You may depend upon a man who can depend upon himself because he can see the value in being dependable to others.

You can become a more mature person only if you choose to become a more mature person and consistently act on that decision.

When you are feeling good, look around and choose to do the most mature action available.

At every moment it is only you that is can perform the task before you.

Satisfaction comes from completing an important task that others can not.

When you realize that your life is your journey and only you can find your way, then you alone are able to choose the paths that will get you where you want to go.

Only those who believe that they can do a thing are likely to succeed in doing it. For the common man it is routine things that he attempts, for the uncommon one it is strange things.

Rely upon your own actions and base those on cultivating the right habits in everyday actions.

Always do the right thing, and that usually means helping others to do their right thing.

Participation in the moment always involves some form of self-reliant action.

The moment for action is always now, and the question is always, what should I be doing now?

Always be ready to act appropriately right now.

Listen to others and observe their actions and then think for yourself and act on your own thoughts and not on theirs.

When it comes to self-reliance point the way but never give the slightest shove as self-reliance must come from within.