Wednesday, August 8, 2007

L/C Persistence

I see from a comment by Howard that I may not have been clear about my L/C brain concept. I'm not suggesting that there is one key characteristic that separates L-minds and C-minds. A dominant local-versus-global point of view is only one that I suggest. Here's another that may prove interesting. I think there's a difference in persistence according to my observations. Although this C-mind is very persistent in personal goals, I fatigue easily when trying to accomplish a communal objective.

For instance. I speak French fluently, although it took me fifteen years to accomplish that, having no real gift for languages. I've worked at oil painting for all my life, taking a month or two on average to complete one painting. I'm still not any good, but I persist. One the other hand, in a committee or public situation, I can debate opponents for one meeting. If the decision is postponed for further discussion, my tendency is to lose interest. My impression from university internal politics is that L-brains can persist forever. What is your impression in this domain?


Ira Glickstein said...

From: Ira Re: L/C Persistence.

Each of us, whether L- or C-minded, sometimes notices a "disconnect" between ourselves and the external world, and sometimes a "connect". How we react reveals whether we are L- or C-minded.

Metaphorically, we slip our personal "key" into the slot in the "lock" representing the environment.

When our key fits and there is "match" and the key turns easily -- the environment responds in a pleasant and positive way and we are happy.

On the other hand, when our key does not fit and there is no "match" it is unpleasant and negative.

I believe an L-mind tends to credit him- or her-self when the key fits and blame others or the world in general when it doesn't. When things are going his- or her way, it is because of personal goodness and righteousness and intellectual qualities and so on. When things go badly, it is the fault of the world and/or of the other people, particularly those with power.

On the other hand, a C-mind has a more balanced view. When things go his- or her-way, it is because he or she has worked hard to figure out how to learn to do things that please the powers-that-be in the world (e.g., Joel *finally* learning to speak French fluently). When things go wrong, it is generally not the fault of the world environment -- he or she must work harder and learn more to succeed, or, perhaps, conclude that some type of talent is missing (e.g., Joel's failure to do oil painting at a highly proficient level, despite long effort.)

I think that difference in viewpoint and blame assignment explains why L-minds are not as persistent in improving themselves (why improve if, in the end, it is the world situation and other people who are to blame?) Yet L-minds are quite persistent in trying to change the external environment (if only other people agreed with my opinions, which they would if given proper education and regulation and taxation and so on, all for their own good of course!)

It also explains why C-minds tend to balance their efforts to improve the situation. They are quite persistent in trying to improve themselves and are also willing to work with others to try to improve the world situation, but only up to a point. Beyond that point they conclude further effort is a waste of time.


Ira Glickstein

Stu Denenberg said...

From Stu:
I have to disagree with Ira's contention that L-minds tend to want to change their environment and C-minds themselves in order to achieve happiness.

As a counter-example, most Buddhists I have known are politically Liberal but as Buddhists believe that "one must pursue one's salvation diligently" by oneself; eg "Look within", they are definitely C-minds!

On the other hand, it may be possible that one is an L-mind in politics and a C-mind in spirituality? And if the distinctions between L and C minds are context-dependent, does that make the pursuit less or more interesting?

Respectfully submitted,


Howard Pattee said...

From: HOWARD Re: Another L-C-mind difference.

I propose another basic difference between L- and C-minds stimulated by Ira’s views on insurance. It is their differing attitudes toward spreading risk protection. Life insurance is a relatively minor problem in the world, but risks in general are a major problem. Optimum strategies for “spreading risk” is fundamental for evolution. Risk (which includes costs and benefits) is also implicit in all aspects of society including work, welfare, taxation, health care, wages, investing, equal opportunity, affirmative action, and so on.

There are two extremes. One can imagine that Ira’s “selfish” insurance carried to the extreme leads to the evolutionary Darwin/Dawkins “selfish gene” limit of “every-gene-sequence-for-itself.” In this case of minimum spread of risk, individuals are “insured” only by their own defenses. Of course there is always “population insurance” called natural selection, but its cost is exceedingly high -- the death of all biologically “less fit” individuals.

The other extreme is the maximum spread of risk -- the total welfare state where every individual is indiscriminately insured from “cradle-to-grave.” In this case natural selection is useless at the species level, so there is no adaptation and inter-species natural selection will lead to this species’ extinction. Consequently, organisms have evolved more optimum risk strategies or “social contracts” in between these sub-optimal extremes (usually involving many species). The variety of social contracts in nature is enormous even compared to the extreme human left and right social policies.

[IRA suggested I might start a new topic on L- and C-modes of evolution in primitive species that range from totally socialist ants to hermit spiders (n.b., the genus Nephilengys, not the Star Wars hermit spider on Naboo). Human societies, up to a point, are the result of evolution, but now our brains, our social structures, and technology can in some sense replace natural selection by artificial selection. I’ll have to think more about this. Back to the topic.]

Roughly speaking, C-minds favor taxes that pay generously only for population insurance (e.g. national security, military spending) but pay minimally for individual’s insurance (e.g., welfare, health). C-minds say they are against taxes for spreading risk insurance to the individual because (1) it is an unfair burden on the rich and healthy and (2) it weakens incentive and responsibility of the poor. Government spending for individual risk insurance of any kind is seen by C-minds as a form of socialism.

I’m no less selfish than Ira when it comes to my own money, but except for my personal comforts I really find it hard justify selfishness alone as an adequate basis for a social contract, and I think Ira would agree. (The selfish gene metaphor is literally false, as Dawkins admits.) What should we do about all those uncontrollable risks over which the individual has no influence, like natural disasters, earthquakes, epidemics, Ira’s few “bad genes,” or being blown up by an IED? Broadly sharing recovery from these uncontrollable risks is often claimed as characteristic of successful social groups, even by C-minds. The issue is: how inclusive should the group be?

Success in war demands, above all, an open and honest sharing of risks and costs. Counter-case in point: the dishonest propaganda about Iraq, and the grossly unequal risks and costs of our combat troops and their families as contrasted with the security and profits of the draft-evading neocon leaders, and war profiteers like Halliburton and Bechtel. Compare this with Churchill’s honest war challenge: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

Rational, performance-based government policies in spreading risks works better than religious and moral government policies in democratic societies, because democracy won’t work unless there is tolerance toward a wide variety of personal and private beliefs. Like it or not, medical technology will require establishing care priorities (triage). In health policy most L-minds accept data-based rational government priorities, but today’s C-minds (at least those currently in power) impose dogmatic religious, moral, and ideological government priorities. (For example, Bush says he will veto the Child Care bill because it is too “socialist,” and his stem cell and abortion policies are based on religion)

Today’s C-minds approach similar issues, like genetic errors, defective fetuses, abortion, premature birth care, elective suicide, and use of stem cells, not as government cost-benefit-risk issues that avoid personal religious and moral issues, but as government religious, moral, and ideological issues. That is what is dividing the country and why compromise and even rational discussion with C-minds is usually impossible.

Ira Glickstein said...

From: Ira Re: L/C and spreading risk protection costs.

Thanks again, Howard, for a really well-thought-out posting. (As I mentioned in our private email exchange, I think you could well have made this a new Topic, perhaps in the L/C meta thread. I hope you will do so in the near future with this or some other Topic.)

I cannot find much to disagree with in Howard's analysis. His statement that: "Roughly speaking, C-minds favor taxes that pay generously only for population insurance (e.g. national security, military spending) but pay minimally for individual’s insurance (e.g., welfare, health)" nails it pretty well!

I *really* believe in Dawkins "selfish gene" neo-Darwininan analysis of the value of competition between species as well as his idea that selfish memes (Dawkin's word for the cultural analog of genes) also compete in a "social Darwinism" sense.

Epictetus, the Roman Stoic who wrote "The Enchiridion" ("The Manual", a slim volume I treasure and have carried with me since a 1957 Social Studies course) wrote:

"Remember that you are an actor in a drama, of such a part as it may please the master [the Diety] to assign you, for a long time or for a little as he may choose. And if he will you to take the part of a poor man, or a cripple, or a ruler, or a private citizen, then may you act that part with grace! For to act well the part that is allotted to us, that indeed is ours to do, but to choose it is another's."

Each of us is part of a hierarchy of greater wholes: our family, our culture, our language, our philosophical outlook, our occupation, our neighborhood, our country, our world -- in that general order.

Our "part" in nearly all of the above has been inherited -- pre-assigned by others, or by chance, or by God if you have religious beliefs -- without our consent or control. What is within our control is to "act the part well".

I found myself in a lower-middle class Jewish family in an English-speaking (if you count Brooklynese as English :^) country with a republican form of democratic government and a limited capitalistic economy, and so on and on. I qualified for a special High School (Brooklyn Tech) and a public college (City College of NY) and found gainful and mostly pleasurable employment as a system engineer for IBM. I married a woman smarter than myself and we have daughters and granddaughters and, a month ago, a grandson. I earned my PhD at the age of 56 (thanks to Howard Pattee, Chairman of my committee) and now teach online for U. Maryland and live in a wonderful retirement community, etc.

Given my roots, I think I have played my part well. If everyone did the same our neighborhoods would be better and our country and culture would be stronger.

Although my motivations have been "selfish" the results have generally benefitted our society. That, in my mind, is what Dawkins means when he writes about "selfish" genes and memes.

This brings us to the "levels of selection" argument in biology. Although Dawkins claims there is only one level of selection, namely the gene level, even he, I beleve, would not say it is “every-gene-sequence-for-itself.” At the next level up, the organism (whether it be a sweet pea or a retired engineer) certain *combinations* of genes and memes lead to greater differential rates of survival and reproduction. Thus, individual genes and memes *are* dependent upon other genes and memes. Similarly, at the next level up, the group (whether it be family, tribe, political party, or country) individual humans are dependent upon other humans for survival and reproduction of the whole. (For more about "group selection" Google <"David Sloan Wilson" altruism>. He is a Biology Prof. at Binghamton U. and was involved in Howard's study group when I was a PhD student and he influenced my thinking positively!)

As an example, the Amish have a meme that, if one of their own looses his barn to fire, the next day others show up and build him a new one. That is an example of primitive (but very effective) fire insurance! Given a relatively small and homogeneous group, all have a relatively equal risk of fire and spread the cost of that risk fairly by that meme.

That meme would never work in the larger society, which is why we have fire insurance policies (and health insurance, and car insurance, etc.) As a C-mind, I seek fairness in assessing the costs and benefits. If you happen to have a greater risk, you should pay a greater cost. To the extent a practical, low-cost measure can assess that risk accurately, I think it should be used.

But, the "soft-hearted" L-mind objects, some people can't afford to pay the high rates associated with their high risk situations. And, it isn't their "fault" they are poor or have bad health, or live in a fire-prone neighborhood, or in a flood plain, etc. I'm sorry about that, but I have trouble feeling sorry for some half-wits who had a bunch of children and waste their money on cigarettes and booze and are careless about matches and are able-bodied but don't get along and can't keep any job, etc. (I do accept the need for a tax-funded welfare program for those whose situations are truely out of their control. However, no one on welfare should live better than anyone who is working at a legal job. No one!)

As Howard notes, in the "total welfare state ... natural selection is useless ... there is no adaptation and [that] ... will lead to ... extinction." Howard was speaking at the species level and I have boiled his words down to where they apply at the societal level. Simply stated, our society (culture, country, ...) is in mortal competition with every other society and we will go extinct unless, through hard work and perseverence and adaptation, we cooperate with like-minded societies and defeat the others.

Howard mentions the Iraq war and, by implication, the reaction of the current administration to 9/11 and the threat of fanatical Islam. I share Howard's great respect for Churchill and his "blood, sweat..." war challenge, but I don't think the British public was given all the facts about how dire the situation was, else their "stiff upper lip" might have quivered. During WWII there was strict censorship of the war situation, nearly all the UK and US troops were draftees (or volunteers who did so because they would be drafted otherwise), and US losses were over 400,000. That is a hundred times the number of American soldiers tragically lost in Iraq, all of them volunteers. Every bit of bad news comes out instantly, with disturbing videos, for all to see. I am not suggesting renewed government censorship, or even self-censorship by the media, since that is impossible, only a sense of proportion.

However, let me agree with Howard that the administration should have been more upfront with the American public about Iraq. This *is* about OIL. They should have called it "Operation Iraqi Liberation - OIL", rather than "Operation Iraqi Freedom - OIF".

Our stated desire to set up something like democracy in Iraq as a model for the rest of the MidEast was sincere, but not the main motivation by far. The problem with the neocons (and I am one :^) is that we believed the business about using technology as "force multipliers" and we simply did not have enough boots on the ground. We were also naive about Iran (we thought they would welcome our termination of Saddam and cooperate by not arming and funding the Shia terrorists) as well as the Saudis and other Arab states (we did not think they would not-so-secretly fund the Sunni terrorists). The war has not gone well at all (a tremendous understatement) -- but what were the alternatives? We need to recognize we are in a 40-years war with radical Islam. It is a clash of civilizations.

Given the situation, it is our duty, as Epictetus might say, to act the part well. We will disagree about the motivations of the current administration, but we can agree they have not acted the part as well as we wish they had.

I argee with you on the issue of dogmatic religiously motivated opposition to stem cell research. I favor virtually unlimited research in this area, with government funding.

However, some C-minds are not the only ones who are dogmatic. As my Topic on Nuclear Power showed, dogmatic opposition to nuclear power for electricity by some mostly L-minded activists, has inadvertently added to our dependence on volatile MidEast oil and, at the same time, increased CO2 emissions due to the use of coal for 50% of our electricity.

Howard ends on a sad note, writing "...compromise and even rational discussion with C-minds is usually impossible."

I sincerely hope this Blog continues to be an exception. I welcome Howard to even more active participation.

I'll admit this Blog has a definite "list to the right" and hope Howard (and others I've invited) to help make it more "fair and balanced" to borrow a slogan from the most successful and popular cable news channel.

Ira Glickstein

joel said...

I see that we're getting into nasty political accusations. I was hoping this group could avoid such a waste of energy. I would ask that you at least not use my L/C -mind terminology for this purpose. You are referring to politicians who may be properly termed as liberal or conservative, or democrats or republicans. They are only incidentally L-minds or C-minds, as they are obviously motivated by considerations which are far beyond the ken of philosophers. It's a shame, we seemed to be doing so well. You folks were coming up with some interesting concepts.