visibility | b | t

Law abiding citizenship

Do a bit, see a bit more. Seek a bit more, see much more. This is a brief blog, highlighting sources of information we may wish to explore.

Many more blogsites have come to my attention since I began blogging. Here are two of note.

Increased visibility by looking more

visibility | b | t

Reliance on media feed seems our collective default. However, blogsites with specific interests and specialism are everywhere. It seems to me a more effective means to see more of what needs to be seen. One less filter between the subjective viewer and the objective reality they are trying to see.

v | behaviour | t

But of course there is new bias to reflect upon. It becomes more demanding of the viewer to seek out these better questions. Be more present to the issues. More vigilant to the need to seek out more. Not be overwhelmed by the task of finding the sources that the media headlines do not.

v | b | trust

This then becomes a new form of trust. There is necessary need to trust yourself. To have honed your own ability to seek answers to new questions. To self-determine the validity of the source. Take more care in the degree of trust in the source.

Being present

I have explained this in the language of enquiry I now use. Directing my interest in intended change – as a project. The sources we accept, are our own projects of information gathering. Something we are pre-programmed to do. Something we are minded to make efficient and easy. But not always therefore with necessary interest in what is truly true.

Hope is at hand

The good will of the masses is what I think sits near at hand. The doing actions of those motivated by truth. Their version of truth, but still a better truth, a more visible truth, than what media commercialism has become. I am grateful for finally finding some new windows to look through.

What is immediately apparent is just how much we do not see. What is not reported. What is not of interest to the filters. This is said with no grudge. It is just a commercial reality of life. This is not conspiracy, this is behaviour. Giving us what we want, or what is easy to see. As consumers this is our vague trust. Our happy distance from the real. I see little merit in blaming the media moguls, when it is we the public who can at any moment dictate a different tone. Dictate what it is we intend to see.

Own your enquiry

Blog-sites are everywhere. They just need to be unearthed. Then assessed for quality, bias, and reliability. But if you have the time, or the inclination, there is more than social media click-bait, derived from headline grabbing media feed, waiting for you.

I am learning this only now. Maybe you can learn this too – without having to become a blogger just to take in this view. I began this blog by highlighting two blogsites of note, to get you on your way. The upholding of law is a place where hidden behaviours are exposed. Where trust is questioned. Tested. Sought to be proved. And if so inclined, visible to us all.

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here:

@Medium

What’s the last best thing you read? Write about why you loved it, or why it stuck with you.

Medium is a blog site. They have just started a writing hour, where you just log on to sit with other writers, each silently at their craft. Options are made available as a response to a prompt. I chose the title question above.

I actually struggled to narrow down a single recent read as best. I read some Oscar Wilde last week. He always carried his diary with him, as “it was important to have something sensational to read”. I am not sure my blog sits in that camp, but I do read my posts again as they are a collected work in progress. Plus, someone has to read them to the end…

Here is a piece I have read several times with wider reading in support. “Sonnet : England in 1819”, by PB Shelley. It is a haunting read, the second time around. It sticks with me now because two hundred plus years later, much of the sentiment remains. I had to read the history of the Peterloo Massacre to even understand the context of the piece. A terrible day. And once the history was read, without needing to equate the living to the dead, it now sits weightily with poem in one hand, and news feed in the other. Cynicism lasts more than one age. Representation in parliament hardly holding itself to sit with more empathy today.

…Princes, the dregs of their dull race, who flow

Through public scorn, mud from a muddy spring, —

Rulers who neither see, nor feel, nor know.

But leech-like to their fainting country cling.

‘Till they drop, blind in blood, without a blow

PB Shelley, from “Sonnet : England in 1819”

…and then the hour was up. Normal blogging will resume tomorrow.

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here:

More in than out

I’m not discriminatory, but…

Is it even possible to be truly egalitarian and harbour no prejudice at all? This is my initial reaction having spent this evening with my MSc lecture series on prejudice and discrimination theories. This is another blog from the world of social psychology.

Take this example of stereotype content. Which Dr. Susan Fiske put forward in 2002.

Bias assessment

  • High income
  • Homeless
  • Professional athlete
  • Physically impaired
  • Science Graduate
  • Arts Graduate
  • Religious
  • Atheist
Fiske 2002 Stereotype Content Model

I have presented alternative categories to those offered by the studies in question, but ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and belief all feature in the original lists. The overriding point being that across these two metrics of warmth and competence, there are underlying generalisations that seem to recur.

Asch 1946 had theorised that categorising all traits, could be grouped into broader sets. Referenced as central or peripheral traits. This is not without critics but it offers some support to the attempted categorisations by Fiske.

Asch 1946

Central vs peripheral traits

Terms such as warm deemed to influence other trait opinions too (Asch, 1946; Kelley, 1950). Certain information key in forming an impression (cf. Asch’s (1946) “configural model”)

Fiske 2002 is therefore using relative warmth towards others, and task competence, to show how stereotypes exist to favour “in-group” assessments vs other (“out-group”) comparison. Our behaviours influenced by this subjective schema placement that we have made.

Implications on behaviour

What Fiske further demonstrated was that our in-group response tends toward itself or those it pities. Whereas a competitor group is a cold but competent other, perhaps a convenient supporter of the same system we benefit from but from whom scarce resource should be taken from. A passive indifference exists towards those of neither trait strength.

A common theme however was “in-group” only were both warm and competent and thereby encouraged.

Fiske 2002 Stereotype Content Model

Bias as automated activation

Category activation is not necessarily an applied bias. Fiske, argues however, that additional information – perhaps with application of inconsistency resolution and other person individuation being factored in – are possible to be allocated according to the perceivers motivations and capacity (ibid pp124). Fiske indicates that some bias does appear to be easily stimulated in some settings, and can be worrisome, “…automated reaction to out-group members matters in everyday behaviour” (pp124). Fiske concludes that there is perhaps more automation of bias than most people generally think, but less than psychologists traditionally thought.

The possibility of control – if so motivated

That is not to say however that we are without means to manage or change – if we are so inclined.

Whether bias is conditionally or unconditionally automatic, less prejudiced perceivers still can compensate for their automatic associations with subsequent conscious effort. If category activation is conditionally automatic, then people may be able to inhibit it in the first place. In either case, motivation matters

Susan Fiske, Princeton University, New Jersey – American Psychology Association 2002 pp124

Amongst such moderate attitude, inhibiting bias can rebound (pp124). Repressing specific bias less effective than attending to active focus upon individual appraisal of all. Not that this is easy, or perhaps even possible. Moderate bias can take the form of withholding of liking or respect, and an indirect bias can be upheld if it represents the norms of appropriate response (pp125).

Project Implicit suggests an implicit bias in many people who were tested. It was not without its detractors as a study but offered a large sample set of data and outcomes which are still hotly debated today. As quoted on the website “The mission of Project Implicit is to educate the public about bias and to provide a “virtual laboratory” for collecting data on the internet. Project Implicit scientists produce high-impact research that forms the basis of our scientific knowledge about bias and disparities.” It is worth a visit.

As an area of scientific research the subject of prejudice (thought) and discrimination (acted upon) is still being contested, particularly when at a personal level. In our lecture series today we have been directed toward work concerning culture vs personal attitude (Uhlmann, Poehlman and Nosek, 2012); Deliberate or automatic (Devine, 1989); Category activation as avoidable (Bargh, 1999); Mere exposure effect – Zajonc (1968); Social Learning (Bandura 1977, 1997); Frustration aggression hypothesis (Dollard et al., 1939) and the counter-positions (Miller, 1948; Berkowitz, 1962); Personality: Dogmatism and closed-mindedness (Rokeach, 1948); Personality: Social dominance theory (Sidanius and Pratto, 1999; Sidanius et al., 2001); Belief congruence theory (Rokeach 1960).

v | behaviour | t

It was estimated by Fiske that around 10% of a population of tolerant society would present openly intolerant views (pp123). The reflection upon this subgroup indicates a tendency towards vocations intent on maintaining a status quo (police not social work; business not education) and holding core values against out-group deviation with aggression. It is also observed that such extreme positions tend to bias within packs and are typically held against more than a single target out-group.

Whilst the extreme is important my own interest is amidst the more ambiguous, ambivalent or moderate bias which Fiske addresses throughout pp124-126. Here the “them and us” is addressed in increasing visibility, with behaviours from simply inhibited intervention, through to passive allowance and favouritisms (pp125 citing Brewer & Brown 1998) and the norms that allow this to occur; to exaggerations of difference and homogenous reaffirming negative perspectives. As ambivalence nears moderate bias so dislike of some groups becomes justification of social exclusion (pp125) whilst tolerating those equally competent but deemed cold, as parties also intent on maintenance of the system integrity to the benefit of both. Exclusion and avoidance, outward disregard, and increasing expectation of resource allocations directed with bias toward the in-group in mind, are presented as increasingly a shift toward the more extreme.

These are complex issues. I barely grasp the magnitude of this locally, let alone the globally real. However, what is clear to me is this behavioural element is visible and therefore actionable. It also seems clear from this reading that normalising behaviours are tolerated or encouraged behaviours. In that regard it seems necessary to have that in mind of ones self but not just for ones self, before then considering what that means for everyone else. Respect, seems a good place to start. And that really does start with the self as if it were other.

To be continued…

—//—

References:

Fiske, ST. “What we know now about bias and intergroup conflict, the problem of the century” American Psychological Society, 2:4 Aug 2002.

Further reading references and wider notes credited to University of Nottingham lectures, Psychology MSc, 2021.

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here:

Lies, damned lies and statistics

Facts (statistics) don’t lie

Well, actually they do. That is why understanding how facts have been represented is a crucial life skill. I thought I knew stats reasonably well but I have been in need of a refresher, and some new focus for new reasons, with my latest return to university.

I am back to some mathematical basics (again) as I clearly missed a few statistical steps along the way in my youth. It is why this blog is so brief. My weekend has been anything but normally distributed. Full of power calculations, multiple regressions, summing squares, failing to reject hypothesis, and noting type one and type two errors.

But this does present an opportunity to share a little internet gem for anyone wanting to revisit the stats. “Online Statistics Education: A Multimedia Course of Study (http://onlinestatbook.com/).” It is an easy use format. It has basic explanations, quiz questions, and video links. And it is free….

Per their introductory remarks, statistics are all around us, understanding them is therefore key.  Persuasion is effective in making loud and quickly attainable understanding.  Statistics is effective in this way, but the joke[79.48%] of statistics are made up on the spot” presents the problem well enough.

If you are looking for other free materials, Khan Academy is still amazing in so many numerical ways. But if you need to get immersed in a structured stats series start to end, there is plenty here to get you on your way.

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here:

Gunpowder Plot

One example of how much change and chance we live in

Guy Fawkes was neither the ring leader nor the instigator of the atrocity he was thwarted from concluding. A few readings this evening and I know this little pocket of history a little better.

1605 was a torrid time in European history. Martin Luther and the protestant break from the Catholic church (1517 onwards) was still a major new force of change. The might of the Spanish charge over Catholic Europe facing up to this new threat. The Spanish Armada limping home in 1588 still a recent memory. A recurring revolt from the vassalage of the protestant Netherlands refusing to acknowledge new Spanish suitors in their realm. Uprising, rebellions, and a regularity of revolt facing monarchy of all nations through this time.

If I wished, I could write many more chapters on the wars between Catholics and Protestants. But I won’t. It was a dreadful era.

Ernst Gombrich “A little history of the world” opening line of Chapter 30 – Terrible Times

Confessions to priests was a cleansing of the soul but was it more than just God listening in? In the power games of this era there was fear in both this world and the next. There was paranoia aplenty and every court of every King was a place of high visibility of riches on display, the favours of high office and of church.

In England, Henry VIII had made much of the protestant opportunity. A period thereafter of short-lived reigns and then a strength of a Virgin Queen to whom all England stayed openly intolerant of Catholic practice

A faith divided in Europe

Throughout Queen Elizabeth’s reign, until 1603, Catholics were forced into hiding, enforced conversion, forced into debt, or required to die at the stake for their faith.

Not that Catholic Spain or France were offering more tolerance. We can observe this at much greater scale. The first encounter between the Inca and Spain was in 1532. On 16th November the Conquistador Francisco Pizzaro met the absolute monarch and most powerful leader of the Inca. This was Atahuallpa, a man held to be a sun-god by his people. And these were the most advanced civilisation of the New World. Conquerors or unifiers of all lands they knew. A Conquistador of Spain, meeting the deity of a race.

They met at a Peruvian highland town of Cajamarca. Pizzaro represented the Holy Empire of Spain and led 168 men, in unfamiliar surroundings, and one thousand miles from any support. Atahuallpa was in the middle of his empire of millions of people, accompanied by a war-ready 80,000 troops. Yet within minutes of the first encounter, the Catholic faith had been offered and declined, melee quickly ensued, and with great loss of their Elite men, Atahuallpa was captured and forcibly detained. He was to be held hostage for 6 months until a ransom of gold able to fill a 22ftx11ftx8ft space was paid. Atahuallpa was a sun-god to his people. His capture was a shock to the core of an existence. It was the first time horse or gunpowder had been seen, heard, and keenly felt. With a sun-god imprisoned, the Spanish could insist upon safe passage of scouts to map the wider terrain. The delivery of gold marked the execution of their sun-god. Reinforcements had arrived to drop off more troops and carry away the gold. And Europeans advanced across a new map (Jared Diamond, 2015 pp67 ff).

In these times, we can better understand the motivations of people through their faith. Everything was at stake between European powers. The Society of Jesus, a Roman Catholic order of priests founded by St Ignatius Loyola – 1534 – were Men of high education, high resolve, and zealous in opposing the Reformation. These Jesuits acting by sanctioned authority of the Pope from 1541 and soon at the front line of education in Europe, missionary settlement in the Americas, Africa, and Asia. For the world was now being connected, and Europe was gearing up for new cause in the name of their faith, their Kingdoms, or themselves. To understand the politics of Guy Fawkes, this greater tension and ambition must be known.

Lat Am silver trading for grain

New coin from new world metals were being imported (exploited) from South America, repurposed as coin, and exchanged for foods from a more arable north. A dynamic of trade in a time of intolerance, tensions, fear of starvation, and war.

Food stuffs were being introduced from the new world too. New influences and new reasons to be taking interest in seeking to influence, even more so than what the feudal era had been.

The potato beginning to feed a European population
Spain was dominating Lat Am
British and Dutch protestant settlers

The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 sits amidst this wider history. Fireworks representing the 35 kegs of gunpowder retrieved from under the Houses of Westminster. Bonfires are lit with a Guy upon them. Whether we know it or not, what we celebrate was the foil of a terrorist plot. In an age when terror was a weapon of faith, power, and vanquish. This one act, motivated by a persecuted Catholic supporting minority, in one pocket of a much bigger political plot. Two sides made this plot. The reforming others delicately balancing their own powers, that unites behind a feared Catholic ambitions. Ambition to return former outside political influence back to a British (and wider European) set of thrones.

In England, Rome’s excommunication of a Queen’s power (1570) was a formal acknowledgement to which fractures of faith were destined to remain inflamed. A unifying King of England and Scotland anointed in 1603. Power base splits born of a basic choice, as influence and interests at home or in Rome. Add to this the Netherlands breaking from Spain. A European wide 30 Year War not far away (1618-1648). In England a war of three Kingdoms awaited the next King – a King who lost his divinity, his crown, and his head.

These were terrible times to live through indeed.

Not that this era of reformation (of the Western Christian Church) can be considered an isolated incident of power and monotheistic belief colliding with violence. History reflects many such moments. From Roman rise once Christianity found its way in. Or the splits reflected at the Battle of Karbala which was as much about control of tributes as it was a divine hereditary or meritocracy dispute. This has been a reality of life and death since the Axial Revolution.

Monotheists have tended to be far more fanatical and missionary than polytheists. A religion that recognises the legitimacy of other faiths implies either that its god is not the supreme power of the universe, or that it received from God just part of the universal truth. Since monotheists have usually believed that they are in possession of the entire message of the one and only God, they have been compelled to discredit all other religions. Over the last two millennia, monotheists repeatedly tried to strengthen their hand by violently exterminating all competition.

Yuval Noah Harari 2011 “Sapiens : A brief history of Humankind” pp243

So what of Guy Fawkes, what now does he represent? If he had succeeded the power vacuum would have been immense. The opposing force of interest at home and abroad ever ready to steer interests their way. But the Gunpowder plot was betrayed from within. Per the London Encyclopaedia 3rd edition 2008, he was betrayed from within a conspiracy party of 30. His original co-conspirators had planned their deed at Hart’s Horn Tavern, Carter Lane, EC4. They were Robert Catesby, Thomas Winwith, Thomas Percy, John Wright, and Guy Fawkes (pp365). There is some debate as to who betrayed the plot, but a tight group of five needed to swell to a looser thirty trusted men. Lives of a King, his family of all heirs, a parliamentary elite and the great and the good were saved. On arrest gruesome torture would have awaited at the Lieutenant’s lodgings within the Tower of London (pp929). Guy Fawkes was tried at Westminster Hall – (Parliament Sq. SW1, (pp1011). Executed by hanging, but taken down alive to know of the drawing out of all innards, before being quartered by horses at Old Palace Yard SW1, 1606 (pp601). The four quartered limbs would have been sent to the four corners of Britain. Heads of all conspirators would have been left atop spikes to look upon a London now readying for world-wide change.

If they had succeeded, how different the world may have been.

Sources:

  • Overy, R. “Complete History of the World : the ultimate work of historical refence” 6th Edition, 2004. The Times, Mapping History. Illustrations pp201-213
  • Yuval Noah Harari “Sapiens : A brief history of Humankind” 2011. Vintage edition 2015, pp243
  • Gombrich, EH. “A little history of the world” 1936. English translation 2008
  • Weinreb, B., Hibbert, C., Keay, J., Keay, J. “The London Encyclopaedia : Completely revised third edition”. ed. 3, 2008 MacMillan London Limited
  • This YouTube video is also worth a watch

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here:

Take a pill and chill

IMAGE SOURCE. MERCK, via BBC

Is this the end, for SARS-CoV-2?

If this pill is as effective as widely claimed, the potential for Covid19 to be confined to the history books may be close at hand. The speed of advancement of the medical science behind this progress is a marvel to behold. Even compared to vaccination this new weapon being dispatched to the front line is game changing. It destroys the virus from within its host. Destroyed to the core of it’s replicating genes.

A moment of hope that we can soon turn all attention back to the bigger challenges in hand. The next test more fundamental. But if this first is overcome, we must be living with hope of future breakthroughs more profound than even micro-biology at its best…

…we have advanced our understanding of both the behaviour and the control of viral threats. Next is reappraising the behaviours of us all, and what we need to turn new attentions toward. Next is regards our collective selves, the system of systems upon which we live, and the frameworks of our own forward-focused control.

  • BBC article here (reporter Jim Reed)
  • Dr. John Campbell here

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here:

CoP26 – cometh the hour

A quandary of Leadership

If you are democratically elected to serve a community, how can you not? Yet if that service is set in the now, and the future need is not what is on the minds of the electorate you serve, what to do?

This is the quandary of every government official at all levels of leadership or management at the CoP26. My own view is we need diplomats not warriors to unravels problems that we attempt to share and solve in times of peace. We have tough discussions ahead but also need of time spent listening, learning, empathising, and understanding. Bringing our best expectations of representation and respect, and expecting the same in return. But with that comes a need to be strong in action, not words. To take the strain and persuade those that you serve, that they should take the strain too.

v | b | t

visibility | b | t

That starts with clarity of goal, vision, or simply visibility of the whole – by the quality of our enquiry not just the easy factoid to bend into truth. This clarity comes from the ground up, and from the top down. It comes from being seen to be acting as one would want the other to you.

v | behaviour | t

As leaders we then have behaviours in mind, and the manner of control. As directed by motivations. Addressing attitudes that are not fit for the purpose at hand. Addressing the goals of others so that goals are then shared rather than required by coercion or force. We take on the hard, because we know we should.

v | b | trust

That is where we build trust. By our actions and set against the better path. This starts with each of us, as self-control. By what ends we seek to choose, and with the other party’s needs not just our own. Knowing the path ahead may have unknowns. Leaders making decisions from being present to the task, and not simply to keeping decision-blame at another’s home.

This is why I become ever more determined to find better ways to bring projects into one space. To bring more collaborative effort and cooperative ideals to the more difficult challenges ahead. I found my self somewhat bemused at several LinkedIn exchanges this week. From leaders who seem intent on being anything but. I will return to all in due course, but the below reflects well enough why we need leaders who can find hope, and not simply share their own impotent despair.

Below: A written response (not addressed to me) from an MP who seems to have decided there is no point in being present to the challenges we all face.

Philip Davies MP

Screen shot from a third-party LinkedIn post

The above letter has been a news item and general social media fodder for a week. This MP has allegedly responded with encouragement to circulate it further on the grounds it represents the attitude of many of his constituents. It has legitimacy as a perspective – all Members of Parliament are voted for as the representative voice of those they serve.

My quote opposite was made on LinkedIn. The position expressed by this MP one I found to reflect all who seem to have taken to despair. But equally, I reflect upon this sentiment being a very human response, that I think many will hold true. We are after-all programmed to act in defence of our own communities first. But what is democracy to do when the popular and easy comes face to face with the harder position to take? On the basis of looking after your own first leadership, this attitude can become the default and convenient position for all.

One observational riposte

It’s refreshing to at least see a defeatist elitist open up. “It’s too hard. It’s their fault not ours. Why should we if they don’t?”
Bonkers to think this counts as leadership or even representation.
We [UK] are the 5th biggest economy in the world. We have historic connections to more of the planet than most. We hold the guilt of past endeavour to hold and overcome. But we also have means and a presence on the world stage. We are the persuaders, and the influence. The diplomats. And when needed the front foot accountability demanding bureaucrats.
I don’t see much Churchill, Nietzsche, or Ayn Rand here. “We will fight them on the beaches; or spite them with our meekness”
“The will of power (naps)”.
Maybe he reflects the real darkest hour…the hour we chose not to choose. Reneged on service as leaders of more than one flock. Instead counting cash in a vault and doubling the locks.
Be present, and be leaders. Or give way.

LinkedIn feed

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In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

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Earth history, our future

We have choice, we have self-control

A blog addressing self-control. The piece of the environmental puzzle we each own. A contribution to the whole, if we so choose.

As CoP26 gets moving past the administrative tasks of state, I find myself wondering on what it is we all do that makes changes for the common good so hard to follow through.

The piece I think we all lose sight of, is self-control. Behavioural control in its most personal form. There is contemporary debate as to what consciousness is, and whether it is even a thing at all. Whether free will or biology, given the magnitude of the dilemma we all now face together, I am minded to think that the answer to that matters little. This is our moment to make action our goal. That starts at home. With a little reorientation of our self-control

Success requires clarity of purpose and self-control

For every self-made success these two factors seem to me present. There is clarity of purpose. And intent on keeping to this task, and thereby enacting self-control. When people talk in admirable terms of ambition, effectiveness, or being on the ball. When addressing ourselves as being present. In the moment. As one person, as a team, or collaborators in a project. We purposefully take to action and all distraction is kept under control.

v | b | t

The achievement accomplished is appraised based upon what was before, compared to what is now. Or what is now possible, that was not possible before. This achievement required a visibility, a clear directed change by the actor(s). It then took behaviours directed towards this goal. A determination to overcome unforeseen event. And a personal and/or shared trust that this could be seen through.

Managing behaviour is what we do

What makes consciousness interesting here is what is going on within. We are permanently being distracted. Distraction is at the heart of what our competing systems within us do. They present us with choice, or bring to our awareness wider issues, opportunity, or threat, to give option to reprioritise some more.

The privilege of the human condition is the extent to which we have put ourselves at the fulcrum of this distraction. We can act upon distraction with additional strategic inference. We can move our inference to higher levels of perspective. We can move our enquiry to lower levels of insight but higher levels of detail. We can seek more detail or bigger picture or put time to both. We can communicate this enquiry or we can do this from within. We can place ourselves in externally different, better, more challenging, less certain, or more exciting, places to be distracted over and over again.

Choice

That is what I take choice to mean today. These days of global need. We have basic needs as individuals. Our brain and body collude to make us ever aware of that fact. Our social instincts enable that need to be embraced as family concern. Tribal influence. National pride. And now, if we choose, global unity to inform a global act.

Competition

What this also reflects is the fundamentals of our biology. Fundamentals of our chemistry before life was even a thing. There is finite resource and more demand than supply. Nature and chaos find their own delicate equilibrium. We are gifted with the means to make something of that equilibrium. By our action we do some nudging of our own.

Competing towards collaborative ends

But now we compete not for ourselves. Instead we compete for the future versions of us. As our biology today reflects from all before. Whatever happens at CoP26, that all begins right here. In each home. With our manner of self-control. Making choice toward future generations we will not know. Or taking more for ourselves, eating more seeds than we sow.

We are each a project | within this project. This is our project of correction. Of planned redirection. To find the ultimate equilibrium. The platform that can sustain us all. This place on earth remains our ultimate system. We can choose it. Or it can consume us all.

—//—

Supplemental note: Earth History as observed in terms of behaviour

Intended change by us as humans vs the behaviours of chemistry or biology – a reflection on which is which. The latter requires none of the choice decisions we can make, but for all our talking is this road we passively take.

Archean Era to now

~3.5 Billion years of earth history. A few basics of what behaviours came before.

Settled chemistry

Any dynamic system can be said to behave. Predictably, or not. Well, or not. Living, or not. Nor is there anything in life that holds a privileged place in playing a part in change. In geology you can study what happens when the same chemistry plays out in different arenas with different agents of change. Deep within the Earth’s crust, in magma chambers, minerals and crystals can emerge differently from the chemical grabs that are made for the same finite resource. Time, heat, and gravity playing roles in what ingredients sit where. The conditions of what is left, dictating what is next. Some ingredients becoming heavy, others relatively light. Gravity settling occurring through relative viscosity. More pressure from above, or more heat from below can change the rates and settled nature within. There is only temporary stability and rates of change. Add more pressure or more heat, some of the solid masses return to liquid form, and what chemistry had been claimed becomes free to be reclaimed by new crystallising processes once again.

Change is inevitable

There was therefore behaviour before there was life. Chemical reaction and physical change well studied in timespans we humans have geologically categorised. At global scale this reflected atmospheric conditions where greenhouse effects were a positive influence. A young sun with heat held within a primitive atmosphere enabling temperatures that support liquid water to prevail. Pillow lava flows from 3.5 billion years ago evidence of this early water. Spewing into this water, were volcanic vents depositing chemical mixtures with energy and ingredients for life all mixing and settling within. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) settling amidst amino acids and other key components that would eventually make biological cells (cf. Science Direct).

Acting not settling

We are not rocks. Bacteria and archaea made the early headway there. How we define the precise moment that there was life is still not completely clear. At its most basic level however, the sentiment of passive chemical action makes way for biologically active intent. Perhaps. Settling into the chemical glue still brings about reactions, but the objective action may have some process its form is additionally enabling it to do.

Passive to active as regulated behaviour

An autopoiesis is what is now termed to describe these, and all subsequent, emerging first choices made. A regulation of the first defended boundary. A containment within the first cell. An inner influence to the outside chemical glue. Early life. Mobility in water. Gathering, collecting, interacting. Then finding new heat from the sun. Converting wider bandwidths of energy in the form of light.

Therein presenting a growing need for biologically active regulations.

Definition of autopoiesis

…the property of a living system (such as a bacterial cell or a multicellular organism) that allows it to maintain and renew itself by regulating its composition and conserving its boundaries… the mechanisms of self-production are the key to understand both the diversity and the uniqueness of the living.— Francisco J. Varela, in Self-Organizing Systems: An Interdisciplinary Approach, 1981

…the ancient common ancestor which evolved autopoiesis and thus became the first living cell.— Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan, What is Life?, 2000

Merriam-Webster

Still several billion years ago, amidst the trillions of chance events, an archaea and a bacteria were conjoined – rather than the one consumed – a Union. A first inkling into the power upgrade available if cooperation can resume. A repeatable fact that ballooned. This is mitochondrial symbiosis, that is still evidencing that chance happening today. Adding advantage of symbiosis, to the advancement and specialisms of two cells not dividing but instead remaining together and acting as one, and diversity of chance exponentially grows.

This is more than just selfish genes. This is life and 2 billion years of it as competing in rates of growth, not rates of evolution to hunt or avoid being the prey.

The predator age is much more recent. The Cambrian period. It begins in earnest 550 million years ago. With such predation the fashion of the age, competition steps up another gear.

Here is where a split of opinion in contemporary science exists. Whether the nature of us all is as savage as some would hold. Or whether a collaborative realism exists borne of that bacterial age. As explained by biochemist Dr. Nick Lane.

This discrepancy is partly responsible for the schism that has opened between Margulis and neo-darwinists like Dawkins. Dawkins’ ideas about selfish genes are equivocal when applied to bacteria (which he does not try to do). For Margulis, however, the whole tapestry of evolution is woven by the collaborations of bacteria, which form not just colonies but the very fabric of individual bodies and minds, responsible even for our consciousness, via the threadlike networks of microtubules in the brain. Indeed, Margulis pictures the entire biosphere as the construct of collaborating bacteria – Gaia, the concept that she pioneered with James Lovelock

Dr. Nick Lane pp10

Not that Dawkins deems the selfish gene to be opposing others.

My first book, The Selfish Gene, could equally have been called The Cooperative Gene without a word of the book itself needing to be changed… Selfishness and cooperation are two sides of a Darwinian coin. Each gene promotes its own selfish welfare, by cooperating with other genes in the sexually stirred gene pool which is the gene’s environment, to build shared bodies

Richard Dawkins “The ancestors tale” cited by Lane pp11-12

From a behavioural perspective, the underlying point is the active role now played. The finite resources now in chemical soups that may be ingested, breathed, absorbed, or converted within, becoming increasingly complexed, and biology finding new ways to play. The passive competition of process of chemical reactions now a regulated phenomena. All now biological actions as determined by a need.

Complex enough to choose

It is only very recently – once the rarity of a brain cortex became sufficiently engorged that chemistry, biology, and the increasing complexity of organisation of process – that the divisions and specialisms of more and complex multi-cellular organisms became a means of influence with an awareness of their all. The mammalian brain, surrounding an emotionally reactive middle, but still influenced by the compulsions of a reptilian spinal column and stem. It is with this growing complexity that the external world, offering a momentary window of stability, that symbology and learning had a chance to stay.

Even now we debate what is real. Not only of this account of a history, but also of what is real by the perceptions of own minds. What the brain translates – from messages as smells, recoding from light-sensitive retinas, vibrations of sound, and an array of felt messaging from our boundary edges coated in skin – are the best guessed of a collective system of cells in the brain (only 10% of which are neurons) is a translation of sensed experience. From this space inside a skull shaped prison, a dark and silent space between our ears and behind our eyes, our brain perceives what is real. Who are we to be so bold as to think what each brain holds true? We can but presume and suppose. Only we.

Even our close cousins see through different eyes. Pay different attention to smell. And as for other possible consciousness such as our octopus cousins – of shared simple worm like grandparents from 350 million years ago – they skulk alone. One per 5 million or so offspring making it to their version of adulthood. Their wits tested in the extreme with plenty of interest in decision-making. Neuronal connections but in a very different home.

Each system of systems we each represents by the boundary layer of our skin, is in competition within. As it is with all complexity of life. Our distractions of our systems are just more complete in their means to make all feel as one.

How do we all win and compete?

Against this shared history of everything, this is the challenge of our time. Our whole chemical-biological-history has been about taking what our own internal systems need. Reward of survival via our selfishness, our greed. Social instinct a more recent win bonus for the biology that is able to collaborate and become more and with greater speed. That is the lesson I think we now all need to take heed.

Socially mobile, individually doomed

That it is our social skills that make us more adaptive to environments than all other living beings we oppose. Our shared ability to abstractly take constraints and limitations, add new perspective, introduce outside chemistry with our mathematics and our physics, our metallurgy, and technology, and become more. Yes, we compete. Neanderthals once vouched for how good we are at that. But we compete best together.

Now we need to compete as nothing has ever competed before. We compete beyond our inner need, and greed. Define better our tasks and our goals. Seek solutions to global problems we all now own.

Whether free will or not our biology gives us choice. What we now choose is with intent. We actively direct our next actions. We find new motivations for shared self-control. Or like rocks, we all passively sink. Let’s not leave it to nature to decide.

Why the Williams’ Inquiry must not narrow its Horizons

This is a great series of blogs. This is to the heart of visibility | behaviour | trust. Leadership having to answer allegations of enabling legal process to obfuscate behaviours that would undermine trust. Did they, did they not? No idea as of yet but the v | b | t outline reflects the totality of the question. Simples.