Thursday, July 19, 2018

Book Review: THE MYTH OF ECONOMY

'THE MYTH OF ECONOMY - WHAT NATURE CAN TEACH US THAT HARVARD DOES NOT' by Dr. Rajkumar Chetty, MD FRCPath, begins with an interesting question. "When it comes to economy, You have hardly any say in it as a common man. Do you? Here, I am going to explore the nature of our economy and look for things we are doing wrong and what we can do about it." Naturally, I read the book with attention, which is about the enormous similarities between the way our economy runs in the society and the way life systems conduct the needs of the body(energy economy). And what we can learn here, to fix the problems before it is too late.

It begins by analysing the economic model, and finds that what we have devised for ourselves is plain wrong and unfair. It is a bad design. It helps some lucky ones while ignoring the interests of the majority. It is evil in that respect. What does not work for the majority cannot be considered a good idea. The world economic model is not democratic, it is evil and wrong.
Next chapter is about the similarities between the economies, life systems maintain to control its resources, and that the society nutures, in handling the same. How our metabolism is a great equalizer, which always stores the surplus energy for a rainy day. How our fat cells (Adipocytes) act as our bank of food energy. Surplus is stored here, which we know, when not used, causes more harm than good. Hence our body promotes its regular use. Instead of this, when it comes to managing our society, why big economies are introducing instability, the author wonders. 
The way we presently deal with such situations are discussed in the few following chapters. How we ensure a desirable standard of living, and the evolution of financial entities like, banks, currency, etc. 
The next and last chapter is about the theme of the book. How to put into practice, the easy systems, the life adopts for its maintenance, in controlling the economies of our society. Since there is a lot of similarity between the way natural life systems conduct their economy and the way we do it in our monetary economy, there hardly should be a difficulty, the book finds. The author then goes on to make many suggestions, all of which looks sensible, to say the least. For example, energy economics of a life system is based on socialistic principles. Nothing in a life system is owned by any single organ or a group of cells. Ownership is a nonexistent phenomenon in life systems. Once we introduce such ideas into the human society, we will be freed of much of the squabbles, fights, or wars.
I liked the book. It smells of freshness, vision and ingenuity, as well as being a thorough study. Supporting reasons are shown for the proposed changes, wherever necessary. However, as author says, a system like this can put a stop to our attempts to maximize self-centred gains even if it means suppression or oppression of others, only when we assume that we have succeeded in making excess of wealth, unattractive or harmful. I was looking for a few, firm suggestions in this regard, to aid my imagination run riot!. Alas, I couldn't find any.



Monday, July 16, 2018

Book Review: 'THE CRITIQUE OF PRACTICAL REASON'

'THE CRITIQUE OF PRACTICAL REASON' by Immanuel Kant. Humans, the author mentions, are quite free with the theoretical use of reason and are stranded with unattainable notions. That brings the need to have a vision about the practical use of reason, where, the influence of reason on free will and its actual manifestation can be subjected to scrutiny. Unlike pure reason, where we start with our senses and formulate principles to meet the end, in practical reason, we start with the governing principles, apply our senses, and arrive at our imperatives. 
The book then discusses two theorems to analyze the motive of practical reason. One: one cannot make a practical principle based on one's desire. Two: All practical principles branch out of one's ideas of self-love, or private happiness.  Private happiness, the author says, is not easily definable. "The same man may return unread an instructive book which he cannot again obtain, in order not to miss a hunt; he may depart in the midst of a fine speech, in order not to be late for dinner..." Therefore there cannot be a universal law for this, each one will follow one's own path.
The book then goes on to examine free will, and the possibility of a law for governing it. Not able to postulate a satisfactory one here, the author comes up with this idea: Man has invented a universal law in this regard, which we call the moral law. And, the book says, for moral laws to be effective, the will has to completely free. One can therefore say: the moral law expresses nothing else but pure practical reason. Which can be seen in the expressions we often use. For example, one not happy with self may say, "I am a worthless fellow, I have chosen to fill my purse"; and when one approves oneself, may say: "I am a prudent man, for I have enriched my treasure."
The embodimemt of principles of practical reason is examined in the end. To stay away from hypocrisy, author says, one should not follow laws for the sake of one's own advantage. The letter of the law would be found in our actions, but not the spirit of it in our minds (morality); and as with all our efforts we could not quite free ourselves from reason in our judgement, we must inevitably appear in our own eyes worthless, and depraved. 
I tend to agree with the author, moral maxims are nothing but a collection of practical advices. Where people gather, the most animated discussion is about the moral worth of this or that action by which the character of some person is to be made out. I agree with the author again. As we saw in the beginning, though we can be quite free with theoretical reason, we tend to opt to be practical, when it comes to morals. And it is rather effortless to pontificate about morals, when compared to other aspects of arts or science which takes considerable mental effort.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

About Governance

We associate good governance with the those of the ruling dispensation. I think we are not being right. 
In a country, both the opposition and the ruling side shall comprise of people who have the will and the ways to bring good to the society. However, those on the ruling side is always under the shadow of enticements. Unlike those in the opposition, they need to rise above natural human weaknesses to stay clear of that. If the opposing side keep their eyes and ears open, they will be observing irregularities here and there, which can enable them to raise to many accusations. The ruling side will have to listen to those of the opposition and mend their ways, effectively leading to good governance.
The corollary is also true. If governance is found wanting, an indifferent opposition could be the reason, more than the ruling side. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

A New Idea?




Dealing with the Germs of Mind
Through my hub, A New Approach to Mental Health, (https://soapboxie.com/social-issues/A-New-Approach-to-Mental-Health) I proposed the concept of mental germs. Let me ponder further.
Let us say, we got hurt. Two things happen. We may sustain serious damage, both as a result of that injury, and due to the repercussions owing to our reactions to same. The damage we sustain can thus get aggravated, or mitigated, by our reactions. And when it comes to bodily injuries, we are protected rather well, both by our immune system, and by a continuously updated medical science. Where, separating the symptom from the disease can be cited as the single most important component that has led to this success, we may say, by channelizing our efforts towards better productivity.
But, our mental injuries are getting only a step motherly treatment. I think we need to follow here also, something similar to the above. And there we face many challenges.
Firstly, what constitutes an injury? This is easily understood in case of physical injuries, as something that can hurt. Anything which is used beyond its purpose can cause hurt, and everything too can do the same, if one is not careful enough. In the same lines, can’t we say, anything that we say, hear, see, or sense, can act as an injury, if it is beyond certain limits, and everything can act thus, whether within limits or not, if one is not careful enough.
If so, what constitutes a limit?
To appreciate this better, let us take a moment to chart out our responses to such matters in other fields of life. Here, we agree that our style of living contributes to the plethora of germs, and other substances capable of bringing harm to our well being. Also, we are able to continue with a healthy life only by resorting to a planned strategy of a better environment, and a conducive way of living that involves both prevention and cure.
We need a similar approach for our mental health too. I think, firstly we can acknowledge that our daily transactions, potentially, result in an atmosphere fully infested with mental germs. That can let us identify the need to develop a strategy to maintain a sound mind, notwithstanding such an inclement atmosphere. As above, such a strategy too may have both preventive, and corrective steps.
What is happening? Presently, we get, bombarded with information of various kinds, and of differing intensity. Some, most unreal, but exciting, some others, clearly true but tasteless, and many others of in between stature. As a reaction to these inputs, our minds are constantly on a churn.
We identify with sympathy, or oppose totally, those signals that belong to the first two. And we neglect the third group, though those potentially contain early warnings of many a disaster. Both of which produce, directly or by reflex, transactions of severe nature in our minds, leaving us always in a state of mental strain.
Therefore, what is needed is to limit all our transactions, whether of enjoyment, expressions of grief, of anger, or whatever, such that only the signals that belong to neither of the extremes take part.
(Why is that, since time immemorial, nobody thought in these lines? Surely, this does not look anything revolutionary, or out of the world.
I think, that exactly is the reason, why such ideas never interested us. Our forefathers were, just as we are nowadays, looking for an opportunity to grapple with something esoteric.)


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Book Review: 'THE 15% SOLUTION

'THE 15% SOLUTION: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022 - A Futuristic novel' by Steven Jonas.

The book is a novelized chronicle of the rise and fall of a Fascist regime in the United States during the years 2001-2023. It presents a view of the events of the “Fascist Period,” as it could have been seen contemporaneously to those events. Further, it attempts to show how the origins of each major step taken by Republican Religious Right during the Period dates much back, to what can be termed the U.S. pre-fascist “Transition Era,” 1981-2001. Once in power at the Federal and state levels, the Republican Religious Right is then projected to have achieved virtually all of its stated goals in the political, social, and economic arenas, and then some. In the beginning at least, through the electoral process they did this entirely by legal/constitutional means. 
A rather widespread use of force and violence comes later. More profound results of the takeover starts to happen, such as the creation of an apartheid-based “New American Republics”.  As the author mentions, "This book projects what things might actually look like, what actually might happen, should the Republican Religious Right take over, fully, and as I have said above, do exactly what they have already told us they would do were they to take full power (and are already doing to some extent with their partial power, especially at the state level)."
I feel vindicated. The thoughts about the bleak future, the mankind is likely to confront, as described in my books, is not much off the mark. If "how step by step they created Fascism by apparently legal means, how precious and at the time unappreciated our Constitutional Democracy was, and what must be done, even now, to defend it and eventually transcend it toward a far more real form of egalitarian power", for example, paints the picture of future polity, not only that my assessment stands, but also it provides a good reason for why things should be so irrational.
I however, am in total agreement with the author, a strong need exist for a convincing explanation for much of the events of human history, that too, those of great consequences. Since events of such stature has been a part of all known settlements, such an explanation should be our aim, which can account for the earth shattering moments of all of those, equally well. In this, this book has not been able to offer a convincing argument. (And here, my theory of The Unsure Male is a good fit.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Another Thought

I keep getting a nagging feeling that we are looking at evolution, upside down. The so called 'lower organisms', who are capable of meeting all the challenges of their life, and who needs hardly any hardware compared to the lofty ones, could in reality, be the one's at the farther end. A recent paper published by Youssef Belkhadir, a noted biologist, not only is supporting my doubts, but also suggesting that plants could have evolved even later! https://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/54663/title/Youssef-Belkhadir-Deciphers-Plants--Signaling-Soundtrack/
Plants need to be smarter than animals. They, tethered to the ground, cannot escape to a less unfriendly environment through locomotion. They need to constantly deal with whatever comes their way. Either, smartly adopting to the site of their birth, till their death, or acting in such a manner as to make the environment friendly for living and progression. That is, act in such manner, which could invite or encourage the other 'superior' versions of life to look after your welfare. 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Book Review: THE CRITIQUE OF PRACTICAL REASON

'THE CRITIQUE OF PRACTICAL REASON' by Immanuel Kant. Humans, the author mentions, are quite free with the theoretical use of reason and are stranded with unattainable notions. That brings the need to have a vision about the practical use of reason, where, the influence of reason on free will and its actual manifestation can be subjected to scrutiny. Unlike pure reason, where we start with our senses and formulate principles to meet the end, in practical reason, we start with the governing principles, apply our senses, and arrive at the imperatives.
The book then discusses two theorems and analyzes the motive of practical reason. Theorem One: one cannot make a practical principle based on one's desire. Two: All practical principles branch out of one's ideas of self-love, or private happiness.  While examining the scope of such principles as a part of the moral standards of the society, how one arrives at prudent choices, is elaborated. A discussion the doctrine of happiness versus the doctrine of morality as the underlying theme of every society, follows here. Quite interestingly, the nuances of practical reason in accommodating well, both the views.
Another equally thrilling investigation comes next. Nature of God is examined in the context of creation of things in this world, in the light of practical reason. Things are seen here, both as noumena ( present for ever) and as just experiences or appearances.
Part II of the book looks at another two the aspects of practical reason. How, rational conduct could necessitate a via-media between pure reason and actual endeavors. And how, over the years such adjustments took the shape of philosophy or science. And, since all this follow according to the local flavors of thought, we happen to possess many different schools of philosophy, about such things like virtue, or happiness, or common good.
I enjoyed this book. Though I took some time to grasp the content, the language being a little hard for me, it made a lot of things clear. As the book says, if we let philosophy act as a guardian of science, the resulting doctrines of all such examinations shall appear in a clear light.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Book Review: Study of Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes

Study of Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes, by National Academies Press. 
What are the short- and long-term health risks of regular use of e-cigarettes? What variables of the numerous types of devices and use patterns are important determinants of risk? Are e-cigarettes an effective means to quit smoking combustible tobacco cigarettes? 
Are e-cigarettes an “initiation pathway” of youth to smoking combustible tobacco cigarettes? 
The book gives a summary of the current state of knowledge about the health risks and benefits of e-cigarette use, and provides a series of research recommendations. 
It is not easy to categorize these, either as beneficial or as harmful to health, the book says. The net public health outcome depends on the balance between adverse outcomes (increased youth initiation of combustible tobacco cigarettes, low or even decreased 
cessation rates in adults, and a high-risk profile) and positive outcomes (very low youth initiation, high cessation rates in adults, and a low-risk profile). In some circumstances, adverse effects of e-cigarettes clearly warrant concern, such as the use of e-cigarettes among non-smoking adolescents and young adults, devices that are prone to explosion, and the presence of constituents in e-cigarette liquids that are of major health concern 
(e.g., diacetyl and some other flavorings). In other circumstances, namely regular combustible tobacco cigarette smokers who use e-cigarettes to successfully quit smoking, e-cigarettes may represent an opportunity to reduce smoking-related illness. For these reasons, e-cigarette regulation that merely considers whether to be restrictive or permissive to the marketing, manufacture, and sales of all e-cigarettes for all populations is unlikely to maximize benefits and minimize the risks.
A number of federal regulatory tools exist to maximize the benefits and minimize the harms of e-cigarettes. To provide data to inform regulatory strategies that maximize benefits 
and minimize the risks of e-cigarettes, research is needed to identify product characteristics with an unfavorable health profile across key outcomes. 

For example, if evidence were to identify certain flavor additives that increased toxicity and appeal to youth, but did not enhance appeal or efficacy as a smoking cessation aid, the development of product standards to prohibit the use of such additives would likely have net improvement on the health of the population. Like the effects of e-cigarette use on smoking cessation, which may carry considerable influence on the overall population health burden over the next 30 years.
We therefore need a nuanced and balanced consideration that should be taken with regard to scientific priorities for and policy implications from evidence on the health effects of e-cigarettes. Given how rapidly the e-cigarette product marketplace and user population are changing, there will undoubtedly be many new issues that are currently unknown and will require careful surveillance and scientific scrutiny, with future evaluations to follow. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

An Interesting Paradox

"A recent study points out a so-called “gender-equality paradox”: there are more women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine) in countries with lower gender equality. Why do women make up 40 percent of engineering majors in Jordan, but only 34 percent in Sweden and 19 percent in the U.S.? The researchers suggest that women are just less interested in STEM, and when liberal Western countries let them choose freely, they freely choose different fields".

The study further says that women in Western countries are not freely expressing their lack of “interest” in STEM. In fact, the best predictor of college women’s choice of major is the amount of gender discrimination they perceive in that major, not how “math”-y or “science”-y it is. Cultural attitudes and discrimination are shaping women’s interests in a way that is anything but free, even in otherwise free countries.

In effect there is more gender discrimination in countries with better gender equality. Hence we have a “Gender-equality paradox” 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Alternatives for Human Societies?


In theory, human society cannot be a peaceful one.
The reason for which resides in our society itself. It is a serious issue, primarily I think, it is dependent on the constitution of human society. Not much could I see written or discussed, in the vast collection of books or other articles I went through.
Life is like a keleidoscope, in which events appear in no particular order. Those among us who have their priorities set, perhaps by a strong bond with something else, tend to be capable of making sense out of such images. Where, the bond could be with another one, or a few others, or something else real or imaginary.
This is nothing special. One tends to overlook a few images, and having forgotten about what one did, registers a feeling that the images follow a pattern, one fully in tune with one’s priorities.
If so, can there be something like independent thinking? Is such a thing possible?
Well, if there is such a thing, it should have to be a style of thinking, where one is thinking effectively against one’s priorities itself. Because, as we saw above, one happens to form priorities by becoming effectively blind to certain images. If one has to have such images made visible, one needs to become effectively blind to one’s priority, that is, suppress all that one believes in, at for that specific duration.
How is this possible, if at all?
Another thought comes to me. All beings negotiate, whether in the distribution of spoils, or in claiming ownership of possessions, and certain kind of understanding exist between members of any species. Wherever negotiation fail, it immediately comes to our notice by its severely militant ambiance.
We humans being altruistic animals, our transactions in the philosophical sphere should be the prominent one. As I have shown above, one’s transactions being always under the influence of one’s priority, reaching a settlement satisfactory to both the sides is an impossibility. But we continue to hold ourselves as capable of free, independent choices, forcing all those who take part in such transaction to feel like participants of an unrequited exchange. Which gives rise to certain pent up feelings, feelings that are waiting for a suitable spark to ignite.
No wonder, human societies everywhere are in a state of boil. Naturally, with it churns the local non-uniformities present in the society. The eruption of which continue to occur, each and every society showing its signature color. A myriad of curious people of each society continue to get enamored by the neighbor’s signature, one being used to one’s own. That shows the neighbor’s as a society on boil, prompting one to ignore the wailing of one’s own.
Shouldn’t we question, why should we continue with the present nature of our society. Why shouldn’t we think of alternatives? Especially when it is clear that many, rather all the failure stories of humans pertain to natural calamities or instances of intolerance. It should also be clear as daylight, in any such disaster, the loss would have been much less and easily containable, had not the victims been living as a settlement, well connected to each other and with close interactions.
Time to think

Friday, May 4, 2018

Book Review: The 80/20 Principle

The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch

The 80/20 Principle tells us that in any population, some things are likely to be much more important than others. Or, the universe is predictably unbalanced. Few things really matter, and  some other few, never.  
The book then introduces the 80/20 principle as a stipulation that a minority of causes, inputs or effort usually lead to a majority of the results, outputs or rewards. It then goen on to its invention by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, and goes on to examine the resons behind the 80/20 principle. Next chapter discuss how the 80/20 Principle works in practice and what it can do. How it can meet the needs of both fuzzy thinking and accurate analysis.  
The next many parts of the book is about corporate success, where successful application of this principle in areas like statistical quality control is discussed. Also, the role of such principles in information processing related fields, inventory control, and other facets of an industry. The book then examine the role of time, while discussing certain snappy issues, like: a) 80 per cent of achievement is attained in 20 per cent of the time taken; conversely, 80 per cent of time spent leads to only 20 per cent of output value. and b)80 per cent of happiness is experienced in 20 per cent of life; and 80 per cent of time contributes only 20 per cent of happiness. It then introduce a quite different and, to those suffering from the conventional view, startlingly liberating, idea of time. "The 80/20 Principle says that we should act less. Action drives out thought. It is because we have so much time that we squander it. The most productive time on a project is usually the last 20 per cent, simply because the work has to be completed before a deadline. Productivity on most projects could be doubled simply by halving the amount of time for their 
completion. This is not evidence that time is in short supply." And to bring the benefits of these principles into our life, there is no need to wait for everyone else, the book says. "You can identify the mass of irrelevant and low-value activity and begin to shed this worthless skin. You can isolate the parts of your character, workstyle, lifestyle and relationships that, measured against the time or energy involved, give you value many times greater than the daily grind; and, having isolated them, you can, with no little courage and determination, multiply them. You can become a better, more useful and happier human being. And you can help others to do the same.
This book has discussed a modern management tool in a rather wide ambit. Though I could not find any explicit mention of the practical aspects of implementing it, it gives me new ideas, about how to assess or control, efficiency at workplace.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Book Review: 'Why Men and Women Can't Be Friends'

 'Why Men and Women Can't Be Friends' by Oliver Markus Malloy
"Men and women often fundamentally misunderstand each other, as some of the studies I quoted in this book have shown. For example, women tend to misinterpret a man's sexual interest as "just being friendly" while men misinterpret a woman's friendliness as sexual interest." 'Why Men and Women Can't Be Friends' will change the way we think about men and will never misinterpret their actions again.
Telling that men are pigs and the romance novels are the last places, a real one can be found, the author goes on to examine the meaning of life. And finds the answer disappointingly simple, mating. Followed by the treaures of raising a family. 
Author then finds that an unnatural custom lies with humans - monogamy. Not only that it is a rarity among mammals, but also the ones who "practice any form of monogamy" are not truly monogamous. Quoting instances of violent suppression of the defeated side, author mentions that the desire of the winning side was to rape as many as possible. While examining other facets of male famale interation, like romantic relationships, the only interest, the male have, is of the sexual vein.
Men and women can't think of mere friendship, the author finds.
Though I agree that sex plays an important part in the male famale imbroglio, I differ with the author. It is not sexual gratification that the males seek, but an escape from the implied responsibility of the male. Which leads to all the instances of 'fundamental misunderstanding', as rightly proposed by the author.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

One more Proof

The Guardian 16 Apr
"Trainee barristers are being told they will be docked points in their exams if they wear short skirts, colourful socks or “kinky boots”.
This is one more example, of the many signs that appear these days, pointing to the hard times ahead, as far as women go.