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Posts Tagged ‘Bertrand Russell’

Man-Made And Person-Specific

January 9, 2013 Leave a comment

George Pransky taught (err, finally convinced) BD00 that all stress is man-made and person-specific. One person’s stress is another’s exhilaration. Nevertheless, environmental and situational factors probably do influence stress levels to some extent, no?

One would think that as one ascends the ladder in a hierarchical institution, his/her stress levels increase with rank, stature, and responsibility. This may be true in general, but there is some research evidence to the contrary:

No Sweat: Less Stress in Higher Ranks. “..this study suggests that those who manage others actually experience less stress — as measured through both biological and psychological assessments — than non-leaders. In fact, the stress level seems to go down as executives climb up the corporate ladder. Leaders with more authority, and more freedom to delegate day-to-day oversight, do better on this front than managers below them.”

The Whitehall Study. “The Whitehall cohort studies found a strong association between grade levels of civil servant employment and mortality rates from a range of causes. Men in the lowest grade (messengers, doorkeepers, etc.) had a mortality rate three times higher than that of men in the highest grade (administrators).”

It all comes down to “control“. If you believe (like BD00 does) in William T. Powers’ Perceptual Control Theory (that every living being is an aggregation of thousands of little control systems interconnected for the purpose of achieving prosperous survival), then the results make sense. It’s simply that people in the higher ranks have more “control” over their environment than those below them.

Stress Curves

Of course, take this post (along with all other BD00 posts) with a carafe of salt. He likes to make up stuff that confirms his UCB by carefully stitching together corroborating evidence while filtering out all disconfirmatory evidence. But wait! You do that too, no?

Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day. – Bertrand Russell

Incomplete AND Inconsistent

April 12, 2012 Leave a comment

In the early 1900s, Bertrand Russell and Alfred Whitehead published their seminal work, “Principia Mathematica“. Its purpose was to “derive all of mathematics from purely logical axioms” and many smart minds thought they pulled off this Herculean task. However,  Kurt Godel came along and busted up the party by throwing a turd in the punch bowl with his blockbuster incompleteness theorem. The incompleteness theorem essentially states that no system of logic can be both consistent and complete. One or the other, but not both.

So, let’s apply Godel’s findings to “logical“, software-intensive systems:

Next, let’s apply the incompleteness theorem to “logical” management systems:

Me thinks that Mr. Spock, one of my all time heroes because of his calm, cool, and collected demeanor and logical genius, was wrong – at least some of the time. Damn that Kurt Godel!

Fish On Fridays II

By popular demand, he’s back! Who, you ask? Why, it’s guest blogger “my name is a different kind of fish every time I post a comment on BD00’s blawg“. Here’s the second installment of “Fish (Sometimes) On Friday“. Enjoy!

Surrounded by Marching Morons

 The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”~Bertrand Russell

I saw that quote on the back door of a tractor trailer while driving down the highway. It wasn’t scribbled by hand in the dirty road buildup – it was actually printed on the truck itself as part of the company’s on-road marketing.  Don’t ask me what the company was. I don’t remember, other than it was some printing/copying company delivery truck.  Not sure how that quote was relevant to their business, but it sure is relevant to mine (and maybe yours?)

Does it ever feel like you’re the only one in your org who knows what’s going on, what needs to be done, and ends up taking care of it because the clowns around you are clueless?

Ayn Rand‘s character John Galt in Atlas Shrugged has this to say:

The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to all those below him, but gets nothing except his material payment, receiving no intellectual bonus from others to add to the value of his time. The man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains.

I scraped the above from  Mike LaBossiere‘s blog Talking Philosophy where he also says:

…innovations and inventions are developed by relatively few people and then used by the many who generally have little understanding of the technology, science, or theories involved.

All this started tickling the back of my head because I remember reading a short story from a Science Fiction collection back in the days of my youth and for the life of me, couldn’t remember what it was called or who wrote it.

After hours of fruitless explorations of my overloaded bookshelves (I did find an old quarter!), I sat down to an internet search where lo and behold, I uncovered the source of my memory.

Cyril M. Kornbluth published a short story in 1951 (no I don’t have the original, just a late 70’s paperback with a bunch of older recycled stories by Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, etc.) entitled The Marching Morons. I actually found the full text here, but to summarize, The story is set hundreds of years in the future: the date is 7-B-936. A man from the past, John Barlow, is reanimated in this future, where he discovers a fantastic world where people drive around in fancy souped up convertibles at hundreds of miles-per-hour with the wind blowing in their face, but very little makes sense, until he learns that due to a massive population explosion, there are only a small group of intelligent people in the world who struggle to support this ever growing population where the average IQ is around 45. (If you’re interested, you can cheat and read the ‘cliff notes’ synopsis here.)  My favorite part is when he realizes why the wind is blowing in his face, even though it doesn’t feel like he’s traveling very fast.

In my work, as I’ve said before, I’m a designer (with a lower case ‘d’, for style).  I went through lots of schooling to learn my trade – I even have a masters degree.  As a result, I’ve received a great deal of highly specialized training in how to think, look at the world, and solve problems.  Innovate.  All my peers are cut of the same cloth with years of experience, training, and successful problem-solving under our collective belts.  Programmers are the same–you don’t learn code from the back of a crackerjack box.  (or maybe you did, which could be the root of the problem).

Most of the other supporting cast in our company, on the other hand, lack this specialized focus – many have simply fallen into their current management and executive positions by luck, in-the-right-place opportunity, or because they fit the suit.  These are the people who set the parameters of a project, provide the starting information, eventually critique the solution, and the approach to that solution even though they themselves lack the knowledge to effectively ‘drive the bus‘.  And as Adam Bellows says, “… the more incompetent someone is in a particular area, the less qualified that person is to assess anyone’s skill in that space, including their own.”  As BD00’s post on interdisciplinary team effort complexity shows, as a business grows, the seemingly disconnected groups that influence the project direction also lack many of the skills to even complete it, so their own inputs add little relative value to the result other than increasing the size of the output pile – and it’s relative stench.

Misconceptions And Truths

November 21, 2011 2 comments

In the modern world the stupid (like BD00) are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt. – Bertrand Russell

Thanks to multi-fish-name dude, I was introduced to the hilariously serious work of David McRaney. In his terrific book, “You Are Not So Smart“, David starts off each chapter with a pair of misconception-truth assertions. He then proceeds to make his case by skillfully citing and summarizing a multitude of psychological studies.

Here’s a sampling of several misconception-truth pairs that I hope will get you to consider helping David out and buying his book:

Of course, being the self-smug, smarty-pants, know-it-all that he is, BD00 held none of the misconceptions and knew all of the truths before buying the book. Mr. McRaney’s work simply added another layer of concrete to the sarcophagus that holds the BD00 UCB comfortably in place.

Full disclosure and hidden agenda: The real reason I’m promoting Dave’s work is because he’s got the funniest web site marquee on the planet:

So what d’ya think? Should I ask for permission to change the “meh” banner on this blog from this boring and bland image…..

to this YANSS derivative….

Unfriendly Fire

October 29, 2011 2 comments

In Nancy Leveson’s new book, “Engineering A Safer World“, she analyzes (in excruciating detail) all the little screw-ups that occurred during an accident in Iraq where two F-15 fighters shot down two friendly black hawk helicopters – killing all aboard. To set the stage for dispassionately explaining the tragedy, Ms. Leveson provides the following hierarchical command and control model of the “system” at the time of the fiasco:

Holy shite! That’s a lot of levels of “approval required, no?

In typical BD00 fashion, the dorky figure below dumbs down and utterly oversimplifies the situation so that he can misunderstand it and jam-fit it into his flawed UCB mental model. Holy shite! That’s still a lot of levels of “ask me for permission before you pick your nose“, no?

So, what’s the point here? It’s that every swingin’ dick wants to be an esteemed controller and not a low level controlleee. Why? Because….

“Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid.” – Bertrand Russell

People who do either kind of work can be (but perhaps shouldn’t be) judged as bozos, or non-bozos. The bozo to non-bozo ratio in the “pleasant” form of work is much higher than the “unpleasant” form of work. – BD00

American Idle

February 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Are you as talented as I am for probing your environment, filtering out stuff that doesn’t fit within your entrenched UCB of the world, and whole-heartedly embracing ideas and thoughts that match it? The blabber that follows is, as Pink Floyd would sing,  “just another brick in my wall“.

In 1932, the brilliant Bertrand Russell wrote his essay “In Praise of Idleness“. Here’s the brick mortar, in the form of quotes carefully plucked from Mr. Russell’s essay:

I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous, and that what needs to be preached in modern industrial countries is quite different from what always has been preached.

In these days, however, no one will deny that most enterprises fail. That means that a large amount of human labor, which might have been devoted to producing something that could be enjoyed, was expended on producing machines which, when produced, lay idle and did no good to anyone.

I want to say, in all seriousness, that a great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by belief in the virtuousness of work, and that the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organized diminution of work.

Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid.

These landowners are idle, and I might therefore be expected to praise them. Unfortunately, their idleness is only rendered possible by the industry of others; indeed their desire for comfortable idleness is historically the source of the whole gospel of work. The last thing they have ever wished is that others should follow their example.

The conception of duty, speaking historically, has been a means used by the holders of power to induce others to live for the interests of their masters rather than for their own. Of course the holders of power conceal this fact from themselves by managing to believe that their interests are identical with the larger interests of humanity.

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