ALS Topic 5 -
Plan, take a risk, or just let it flow?
Focus questions for Adelaide Lunchtime
Seminar, 2 April 2018
questions below are not supposed to suggest biased answers. You
really can adopt any point of view your can suggest evidence for. Do
be prepared for others suggesting counter-evidence! Note: clearly
not all of these questions can be properly covered in a meetup, but
they give us a conscious choice about what to talk about while
making the background context clearer. It is up to the people who
come on the day to choose what aspects they would like to deal with.
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám
Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy
Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
|Into this Universe, and Why not
Nor Whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing;
And out of it, as Wind along the Waste,
I know not
Whither, willy-nilly blowing.
1. When do you plan, when do you take a
risk (calculated or otherwise), and when do you just let it flow
from day to day? Do these choices cause a conflict with others?
Beware: what you believe you should do, and what you really do might
be two different things.
for business and entrepreneurship often praise 'risk taking' as a
necessary ingredient of innovation and growth. Ironically, most of
the students in these courses are extremely risk adverse : they want
'secure' jobs. What kind of risks do you take? Has your risk taking
changed over your lifespan? How do you calculate risks? What do you
do when you take a risk but lose? Try to think of real life
the day" (carpe diem - Horace 23BC) is ancient advice,
maybe dividing personality types. One of Aesop's fables, The Ant and
the Grasshopper, captures one half of the dilemma beautifully (https://www.umass.edu/aesop/content.php?n=0&i=1
). The ant scolds the grasshopper for being lazy in summer, then
having nothing to eat when winter comes. Somerset Maugham turns this
fable on its head with his own version of The Ant and the
Grasshopper - a lazy fellow who gets through life on luck and
borrowing from friends, then winds up better off than all the hard
). Who is right? Aesop or Somerset Maugham? Why?
do you want to be when you grow up?' becomes an arrow of ice in the
heart of many kids (I'm still deciding myself). Does everyone need
to plan some kind of career? (Have a look at this plea for
'"multipotentialites" in a TED Talk video at
earlier meetup discussed 'social engineering' where external parties
attempt to imprint some kind of structured behaviour on your mind.
At the other extreme, libertarians believe that everyone can be
entirely autonomous and efficiently self-directed. Who is right, or
what is the balance?
6. One of
the original explanations of Chaos Theory used the example of a
marble running down the corrugation of a roof (James Gleick). The
path of the marble is unpredictable within the boundary of the
corrugation, unless its velocity throws it out of the corrugation
altogether. The corrugation boundary sets the 'degrees of freedom'
for the marble. Similarly, no two heartbeats are the same, short of
fibrillation. Different individuals (schools, societies ...) need
different boundaries on their degrees of freedom to function
effectively (because of differences in psychology and intelligence
and resources). Without boundaries, many cease to function well at
all. How do you set your own boundaries? How do you enforce the
professions and structured activities involve a) a set of
procedures, and b) a storyline to justify the procedures. The
storyline often does not have to be coherent or true to be useful,
so long as it is accepted. Religions and ideologies emphasize the
storyline, but their effectiveness stems from the procedures they
promote. Religious procedures (to take one example) all set
boundaries on degrees of behavioural freedom (e.g. meeting patterns,
moral boundaries, prohibitions on this or that etc), with a kind of
freedom & security inside the boundaries. Many people find such
religious boundaries useful or essential to organize their lives.
For example, because Islam is a highly structured religion (or at
least some sects are) and many prisoners crave structure, prisons
have a high rate of conversion to Islam. Others will find those
boundaries too constricting. The boundary conflicts will always be
with us. How do we find a compromise that works best for everyone?
"Five Year Plan" announcements of early Russian Soviet governments
became a kind of standing joke for fantasy. The "Great Leap Forward"
plan of Mao-era China led to tens of millions of deaths from
unnecessary starvation. Yet we also become frustrated with
governments which live from day to day by popularity polls of
voters, and appear to have no credible long-term plan for service &
development (Australia anyone?). How can national plans provide real
guidance without suffocating initiative?
metaphor from Chaos Theory* has been that of an 'attractor'. For
example, a stick stuck into the bed of a stream of water will alter
the current patterns which flow around it. The stick is an
'attractor'. Each culture has a number of dominant attractors.
Chinese cultures, for example, tend to view wealth acquisition as a
dominant attractor, so that much other activity revolves around it.
This has consequences in a world where cultures compete on the basis
of economics (as opposed to religion, or social equality or
whatever). There are other cultures where, say, social generosity is
the dominant attractor, or competent performance, or honesty ... and
so on. What are the dominant attractors in Australian culture? How
do these attractors influence public and private plans?
meetup began a few years ago as a simple discussion group with a
simple topic each time. Quite a few people came at first. I hoped
they would learn a bit about the topic before they came. They hardly
ever did. Like any other group in a pub their conversation wandered
here and there, re-telling favourite opinions. People usually went
away with the same opinions they arrived with. I wanted them to
learn something (that's my personality type and profession), so I
put "attractors" into the discussion current, internet links,
essays, and eventually focus questions like the ones above. Some
people are uncomfortable with this and don't come. In a meetup (and
in a democracy) most people want the illusion of 100% degrees of
freedom to ramble. The only purpose then is social relaxation - they
are "grasshoppers", at best hoping for a lucky break, a lottery win,
a rich inheritance. They are right, from their point of view. But
I'm a born "ant" when it comes to ideas (not money) trying to make
an "ant university" in a pub (and now also writing a book about the
experiment). Is there any hope? Who do you think might be attracted
to a meetup which has not just a topic, but a plan (focus questions)
aiming to help participants learn something new?
1. articles at
legacy site: http://thormay.net