Total Pageviews

Monday, 20 November 2017

Rearview mirror

Many - if not most - of us are interested in the past and the present and the causes of events, including their (moral) accountability and/or responsibility. Even the people who are interested in future consequences, often cannot refrain from blaming others. Blaming others, however, seldom contributes to finding solutions. Why are few people interested in tomorrow's solutions?

Thinking about future consequences takes time, which is usually a constraining factor for many. Often it's also necessary to apply assumptions (my blogs) during our thinking. Assumptions are dangerous as they are "the mother of all mistakes" (my 2015 blog). Using the past as an assumption for extrapolating into the future makes sense as often "history repeats itself".

Our vocabulary makes a difference between (historical) factsopinions, and (future) predictions. In general, we do not believe in predictions. More and more, people do no longer believe in facts (eg, history, science). More and more, people only believe in their own opinions.

Hence, opinions are often stronger than facts (my 2016 blog). Essentially, predictions are opinions on future events. Nevertheless, predictions rank lowest in this hierarchy. The only predictions that we like, are horoscopes and weather predictions. We believe that the former is innocent gossip and we can always blame the weatherman.

The belief that our own opinion ranks higher, might be the best explanation for our (ferocious) use of the rearview mirror, like on social media. Internet trolls leverage on this belief by using social media "to provoke, inflame or defame others they rarely know offline or online" (source).

Another explanation for using our rearview mirror rather than looking forward, is our fear of the future. The future is uncertain and open to Change, and we generally dislike both. In this view, people who formulate opinions on the future (ie, predictions) should not be trusted.

Generally, people like to blame others (my 2015 blog) and also like to hold them accountable and responsible. It's hard discussing the accountability and responsibility (my blogs) of future consequences if the future is still open to Change. It's much easier blaming people for events that can no longer be changed as these events are part of history.

The odd thing, however, is that many of us try to control the present. We know that we cannot change - or control - the past. The present is however nothing more than today. Moreover, control is a consequence (output) rather than input. It takes a lot of effort to achieve some control.

Looking in the rearview mirror is a waste of time to me. Being right or wrong may seem important but it doesn't change anything to the future consequences. Blaming someone for being wrong in the past, is a guarantee for blocking a future. Solutions are all that matter.

Perhaps, a rearview mirror is important to those who are not interested in solutions.

Rearviewmirror (1993) by Pearl Jam - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Im Nin'alu


If there be no mercy left in the world,
The doors of heaven will never be barred.
The Creator reigns supreme, and is higher than the angels
All, in His spirit, will rise

By His nearness, His life-giving breath flows through them.
And they glory in His name
From the moment of genesis, 
His creations grow,
Captivating and more beautiful.

The wheel in his circle thunders
Acclaiming His Holy name
Clothed in the glory of His radiance,
The six-winged cherubs surround Him,
Whirling in His honor
And with their free wings sweetly sing,
Together, in unison

Im Nin'alu (1978) by Ofra Haza - artist, lyrics, lyrics-2, lyrics-3video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Notes: The above translation by Keren Barak appears on Ofra Haza's 1984 album Yemenite Songs. In USA, this album was renamed into: 50 Gates of Wisdom (Yemenite Songs). "The Fifty Gates of Wisdom are an essential concept found in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the Jewish Qabalah" (source).

Saturday, 18 November 2017

I'll Take Care Of You

I know you've been hurt
By someone else
I can tell by the way
You carry yourself

But if you'll let me
Here's what I'll do
I'll take care of you

I, I loved and lost
The same as you
So you see I know
Just what you've been through

And if you'll let me
Here's what I'll do
I just have got to take care of you

You won't ever have to worry
You don't ever have to cry
I'll be there beside you
To dry your weeping eyes

So darlin' tell me
That you'll be true
'Cause there's no doubt in my mind
I know what I want to do

And just as sure
One and one is two
I just got, I got to take care of you
I just got to take care of you
Take care of you

I'll Take Care Of You (1959) by Joe Bonamassa and Beth Hart

Note: originally by Bobby Bland

Friday, 17 November 2017

Mindhunter - a Whydunit

Recently, I read somewhere that Mindhunter is the #1 binge-watch show on Netflix. Frankly, I had ignored Mindhunter as it seemed just another a dime a dozen crime show. Its #1 binge-watch rating made me wonder about my initial assessment: so many people cannot be wrong. This week I watched the first episode. I can tell you this: it's definitely not a dime a dozen crime show.

The setting is in the early 1970's, when I was a teenager myself. The atmosphere feels authentic as attention has been paid to details (eg, goldplated digital Pulsar watch). I still remember those watches as they were quite popular. All cars are American brands as the invasion of Japanese cars had not happened yet. Episode 4 introduces a car that looks Japanese. Actually, it's a Ford Pinto which still ranks as the #1 ugliest car of the world.

The pace of Mindhunter is (very) slow which fits the early 1970s as I recall myself. Nevertheless, the background music already suggests an accelerating society. This mix of fast and slow is seducing and captivating. After only 1 episode, this has become my favourite Netflix show.

The main 2 characters are each other's opposites: old school versus new school. The respect for each other's experience and knowledge makes them become a successful team. Their opposites also emerge from the interviews with prisoners: die-hard, skeptic, bad cop versus a friendly, sensitive, good cop. In episode 3, the former says to the latter that being able to act as a prisoner's friend makes him one of the best cops ever.

Netflix's Mindhunter is about psychology which explains its name. Old school detective work was about "What + Why = Who". In 9 out of 10 situations, the perpetrator could then be caught. The decreasing 1970s crime solve rates showed that the police had a serious problem. Without a "Why", just about anybody could be the perpetrator.

The emergence of the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit (1972-2014) at the FBI Academy was probably an answer to the increasingly missing "Why" component in crimes. Mindhunter focuses on the early days of the FBI's BSU. Interviewing prisoners for their motives, and collaborating with the academic world, was (very) uncommon. This makes Mindhunter a fascinating watch.

Unlike many other crime shows, the Whodunit plot is almost irrelevant in Mindhunter. Essentially, this Netflix show is a search for the Whydunit, and slowly emerging Whodunits. The focus on the "Why" is required to narrow down the number of possible suspects. Politics soon gets involved as it might be a new way for increasing the crime solve rates.

The 1995 book and 2017 TV-series Mindhunter (8.8 in IMDb) is a freeze-frame on the 1970s, when forensic science was still about fingerprints (USA: 1905 onwards) rather than DNA (1984 onwards).

Freeze-Frame (1982) by The J. Geils Band - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Thursday, 16 November 2017

The 4 stages of Life

Following my recent blog on the cycle of happiness and satisfaction, I noticed a 2015 article about Carl Jung's 4 stages of life. I realised that a similar 4 stages of life also transpire from my recent blog. In my 29 October 2016 blog, I had already covered Carl Jung's 3 births of the human spirit. It made sense to me to reconcile these topics. The result is my diagram below.

Compared to my recent blog on the cycle of happiness and satisfaction, I have shifted all 4 quadrants 90 degrees to the left, in order to synchronize with Carl Jung's 4 stages of life. The result below is pretty amazing considering the similarities.

The diagram suggests that Carl Jung's concepts validate my concepts of (i) Needs, Wants & Beliefs and (ii) Awakening. To some extent, the births mirror the Body, Mind & Soul concept. The 4 stages of Life also mirror the 4 seasons of Nature: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.

The words spirit and soul have a connection to the ancient Sumerian civilization of 4,000 BC.

Essentially, the spirit or eṭemmu is the earthly component while alive, and ghost after death.

The soul or zaqiqu is the divine component at birth (breath of life) and death (last breath).

Carl Jung's 4 stages of Life and the 3 births of the human spirit both indicate a learning process in which the spirit and soul are shaped by good & bad deeds, words and thoughts during life. Soul and spirit follow separate ways after death. Please see my blog on soul vs spirit for clarification.

We will learn that all our choices (ie, deeds, words and thoughts) have consequences. That is the essence of (good & bad) karma. Both choices and consequences will tell us what is important. We only care about people who - and things that - are important to us.

The above is captured in a quote from the Tao Te Ching by Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu:
“Can you love people and lead them without imposing your will? Can you step back from your own mind and thus understand all things? Giving birth and nourishing, having without possessing, acting with no expectations, leading and not trying to control: this is the supreme virtue.”

The Four Seasons / Le quattro stagioni (1725) by Antonio Vivaldi feat. Janine Jansen
video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Project Europe

Last Monday, Project Europe made a major leap forward without too much noise. Of all 28 EU member states, 23 agreed to join a military defence pact, called Pesco (eg, FT, NYT, Quartz). From a European perspective, this move is almost similar to the 1999 introduction of the Euro currency. From a NATO perspective, nothing much has changed. For Russia, a lot has changed. Project Europe is the main reason for Russian interference throughout Europe.

Project Europe started in 1951 when Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands founded the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC).

In 1957, its purpose was enlarged and its name rebranded in European Economic Community (EEC).

In 1960, 8 other European countries raised a similar group, called the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). In 1970 and 1991, 2 other countries joined.

In 1973, the UK and Denmark left EFTA and joined the EEC. In subsequent years, 4 other EFTA members did the same.

In 1993, the EEC changed its name into European Union (EU) through adoption of the Maastricht Treaty. Until 2004, only 3 countries joined the EU: Greece, Spain and Ireland.

Since 2004, the EU has expanded significantly and picked up twelve East European countries: 9 countries in 2004, 2 in 2007 and 1 in 2013. These countries had been in an economic and military vacuum since the fall of the Soviet Union (1922-1991). Economic expansion by the EU is considered a military threat by Russia, which loses buffer states and/or a potential for expansion.

Remarkably, all 12 East European countries have signed Pesco. This probably relates to their fear over Russia and its military expansion (eg, 2008-Abkhazia, 2008-South Ossetia, 2014-Crimea, 2014-Eastern Ukraine). Moreover, continued Russian election interference in Europe, UK, and especially USA, has now created what was once unthinkable: the prospect of a European army

The Russian efforts to weaken Project Europe have become a boomerang that may even threaten the 2018 Russian presidential (re) election (eg, BI, Express, TIMETimes, WP).

Leningrad (1989) by Billy Joel - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Hide in plain sight

"The Cambridge Spy Ring was a ring of spies in the United Kingdom, who passed information to the Soviet Union during World War II and was active at least into the early 1950s" (Wikipedia). When you think of spies, you think of cloak and dagger. Considering their business of espionage, secrecy is key for spies. Perhaps there is one better option: hiding in plain sight.

The people whom are mentioned in the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller share a similarity: they all hide in plain sight. Perhaps this very characteristic makes (some) people doubt the allegations of "conspiracy against the United States" a.k.a. high treason (my 31 October 2017 blog). How can a well-known businessman or politician be a spy or a traitor??

Well, betrayal or spying is usually either about ideology, love, and/or money. Ideology is the preferred motive. Money can always be outbid and turn someone into a double agent. Ideology is a synonym for a belief. Hence, the 7 Belief systems (ie, Love, Money, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science and the Truth) are also applicable in this area.

It's intriguing why some news articles hardly raise any fuss or noise. Guardian, 4 November 2017: UK's Foreign secretary among three senior past and present Foreign Office ministers targeted by people linked to FBI investigation into Donald Trump’s alleged collusion with Moscow.

Soon the UK may have its Westminster 5 after having had its Cambridge 5 in the 1950s and 60s. Some of the prominent names in the Vote Leave campaign for Brexit immediately spring to mind, like Boris Johnson the Foreign Office minister. Brexiteer Nigel Farage is also a "person of interest" in the FBI investigation into Trump and Russia (Guardian, 2 June 2017).

Last weekend, Dutch newspaper NRC reported that a Dutch politician knowingly misinformed the families of the victims of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. This Dutch politician used a fake Ukrainian witness who corroborated the Russian version of the downing of the airplane with a Buk missile. The Dutch politician offered his apologies in a Tweet and later on Facebook, while claiming to be looking for "the truth" and the perpetrators.

Ironically, China and Russia both use Facebook and Twitter for their political interference while banning them at home (NYT, 8 Nov 2017). This might explain the Russian investments in Facebook and Twitter, as leaked in the Paradise Papers (Guardian, 5 November 2017). 

On 30 October 2017, Guardian and NYT reported that "Russian influence reached 126 million through Facebook alone". This news received much less attention than the initial - Facebook based - assessments of 10 million on 2 October (eg, CNN, Guardian, Reuters).

"That's what a good crime novelist - any good novelist - should do with you: play with your perceptions while showing you everything in plain sight". Quote by Harlan Coben, writer.

Hide in plain sight (2016) by Jim James - artist, Fblyrics, video, Wiki

Monday, 13 November 2017

The cycle of happiness and satisfaction

Nowadays, I describe myself as happy and satisfied. To some extent, life feels like my boyhood again in which life was (also) simple. Before, my situation was (very) different. In the worst of my years, I was unhappy and dissatisfied. It seems that I have come full circle. I am determined to stay in the upper right quadrant of my diagram below.

All 4 quadrants describe the various phases in our lives. They seem to overlap my concepts of (i) Needs, Wants & Beliefs and (ii) Awakening, and also the concept of Body, Mind & Soul.

Start and Finish is in the Awakening, which represents the initial natural physiological birth and (perhaps) a future spiritual birth.

The Needs stage is characterized by varying degrees of satisfaction and varying degrees of emerging unhappiness. The unhappiness may relate to missing a soulmate or romantic partner.

The Wants stage has varying degrees of both unhappiness and dissatisfaction. A typical example at this stage is consumerism. Please also see my 2016 blog More is Better.

The Beliefs stage should bring back happiness but controlling one's dissatisfaction may remain a challenge. A typical example is minimalism (Big Thinkmy 2014 blog Less is more). Any extremism is likely in this area of Beliefs, dissatisfaction and (emerging) happiness (eg, Black Lives Matter, Brexit, Political Islam, #MeToo, Trumpism, White Supremacy).

My current state of well-being does not imply that I do not complain. I do. The short autumn and winter days and its low temperatures, are a nuisance to me. I do realise, however, that it's just several weeks. The shortest day of the year, December 21, will arrive soon. Complaining does not always equal dissatisfaction, unhappiness, and/or negativity (eg, Big ThinkNYT).

It's tempting to fast-forward the above cycle. Life does not offer that option because life is about learning. Learning what is important to you and what is important about life. Both are not necessarily the same. For some, more will always be better. Others will realise that owning more stuff brings more worries. In life, you can find happiness and satisfaction for some time but you cannot keep it. Ultimately, both happiness and satisfaction are a state of mind, a belief.

Happy (2013) by Pharrell Williams - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Here come bad news talking this and that, yeah,
Well, give me all you got, and don't hold it back, yeah,
Well, I should probably warn you I'll be just fine, yeah,
No offense to you, don't waste your time

Sunday, 12 November 2017

House for sale

The sign went up one rainy morning
Just a couple of hours after dawn
Mrs Handley peaked out through her curtains
Wondering what was going on
The neighbours said over coffee cups
That nice young couple is breaking up

In the living room the linen and the crystals
Sit all packed and set to go
I tell myself once more I won`t be here this spring
To see my roses grow
And all the things you tried to fix
The roof still leaks, the door still sticks

House for sale
You can read it on the sign
House for sale
It was yours and it was mine
And tomorrow some strangers will be climbing up the stairs
To the bedroom filled with memories
The one we used to share

I know you`ve always loved that painting
From that funny little shop in Spain
Remember how we found it when we ducked in
From that sudden summer rain
But I think I'll keep the silver tray
My mother gave us on our wedding day

House for sale
You can read it on the sign
House for sale
It was yours and it was mine
And tomorrow some strangers will be climbing up the stairs
To the bedroom filled with memories
The one we used to share

House for sale
You can read it on the sign
House for sale oh
It was yours and it was mine
And tomorrow some strangers will be climbing up the stairs
To the bedroom filled with memories
The one we used to share

House for sale (1975) by Lucifer featuring Margriet Eshuijs

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Luxe probleem

De Nederlandse woningmarkt wordt vooral door de ogen van de koper bekeken. Deze blog schrijf ik als potentiële verkoper. Ik heb afgelopen week mijn zoektocht gestaakt om vervangende woonruimte te vinden. Het beschikbare aanbod is binnen een paar dagen "onder voorbehoud verkocht", of staat weken/maanden te koop wegens kwaliteit, locatie, en/of prijs.

Verkoop van mijn huis is een optie omdat ik kleiner wil gaan wonen. Dit lijkt mij een verstandig besluit. Emotioneel liggen de zaken iets anders want de locatie van mijn huis is perfect. Het vinden van vervangende woonruimte is een frustratie geworden omdat het aanbod kwalitatief en kwantitatief mager is. Qua woongenot lijk ik er alleen maar op achteruit te kunnen gaan.

Qua verkoopopbrengst lijk ik er alleen op vooruit te kunnen gaan. In de periode 1975-1979 had de Stichting Studenten GezondheidsZorg (SGZ) een reclameslogan: "Vraag niet hoe 't kan, maar profiteer ervan." De gemiddelde woningprijs in 2017 Q3 van Euro 262.000 is inmiddels ruim boven het niveau van Euro 246,100 in 2007 Q3 (NVM). De piek van 2007 was echter de hoogste van de afgelopen 400 jaar (bron). Die oude reclameslogan lijkt daarom weer van toepassing.

Toch is de NVM marktinformatie over de periode 1985 t/m 2016 enigszins misleidend. Weinig mensen weten (nog) dat de woningprijzen van circa 1975 tot 1984 hard waren gedaald. Tevens waren de rentetarieven in die jaren zeer hoog, tot ruim boven de 10%. De prijsdaling van circa 1975 t/m 1984 is vrij goed vergelijkbaar met de prijsdaling van 2007 Q4 t/m 2013 Q3.

Macro-economisch lijkt er een duidelijke relatie tussen de stand van de (internationale) economie en de gemiddelde hoogte van huizenprijzen. Deze relatie baart mij nog het meeste zorgen. Ik betwijfel of de internationale economische crisis van circa 2007-2014 echt is "verwerkt".

Micro-economisch is er sprake van een soort olievlekwerking die begint met verkoop in Amsterdam. Die verkoop wordt deels gedreven door enkele beleggers die (zeer) veel huizen opkopen (Parool). Amsterdamse verkopers kopen in Haarlem. Haarlemse verkopers vertrekken richting Alkmaar. Zelf keek ik in Gelderland en Overijssel. De prijsverschillen zijn soms absurd.

Mijn frustratie bij het zoeken heeft geleid tot een heroverweging. Rationeel gezien sta ik nog steeds achter verkoop. Emotioneel waarschijnlijk ook. Toch ga ik langer nadenken over vervangende woonruimte, binnen Nederland en daarbuiten. Een recent AD artikel stelt dat "een groeiend aantal Nederlanders hectisch Holland verruilt voor een riant bestaan in Hongarije". Verkopen tegen (gemiddeld) 260.000 en aankopen tegen 50.000 euro klinkt inderdaad als riant.

De ECB heeft recent besloten voorlopig gewoon door te gaan met haar opkoopprogramma, alhoewel gehalveerd in omvang. Hogere obligatiekoersen betekenen lagere rentes. De absurd lage rentetarieven zorgen voor een aanhoudende vraag naar woningen. Door het geringe aanbod blijven de huizenprijzen stijgen. Het lijkt bijna alsof ik achterover kan leunen.

En toch blijft het knagen: Vraag niet hoe ‘t kan, maar profiteer ervan.........

House for sale (1975) by Lucifer featuring Margriet Eshuijs

Friday, 10 November 2017

Demographics and the rise & fall of nations (6)

It is tempting to see the fall of nations as externally driven events, like earthquakes, military conflict, pandemic diseases and so on. Wednesday's (Dutch) Telegraph featured an article of electoral geographer Josse de Voogd. Thursday's Telegraph featured an article of senior citizens complaining about the Dutch PM's political party. This made me wonder about a fall of nations, driven by internal events. The diagram below is the result of my thinking.

My diagram captures several developments, like declining Western child birth, urbanisation, (political) chaos, and the 3 main stages of society (Needs, Wants & Beliefs).

This diagram may explain (i) the fall of Western social democratic political parties, (ii) UK's Brexit, and (iii) the rise of Trump in USA. These 3 regions are in the Beliefs stage of civilizations (see part 4 in Monday's blog).

Brexit is a good example. Guardian, 2016: "it’s clear that densely populated urban areas with a lot of young people such as Hackney and Islington in London voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union." "Local authorities with a high proportion of people born outside the UK, typically in London, also voted to remain in the UK." Note: italic markings by LO.

The US Electoral College system makes rural states much more important than in a system based on proportional representation. Hence, the immense margin of 2.1% and some 2.9 million votes between both election outcomes. It's tempting to wonder how the USA could look like.

In the forthcoming decades, China will test my hypothesis. Today, China is still in the Wants stage. China's one-child policy "was introduced in 1979 and began to be formally phased out in 2015". The toppling of China's pyramid would bring China in the Beliefs stage of society for the simple reason that older people generally dislike - or even hate - Change.

Civilizations on the rise usually have the left pyramid with a predominantly young(er) population. The younger average population age brings them in the Needs stage (eg, Africa) or in the Wants stage (eg, China). Wikipedia's list (and chart) of countries by median age appears to evidence my hypothesis.

It's tempting to see age as nothing but a number. Usually only young people view age that way. Ageing brings resistance to Change and protecting what you have achieved (my 2016 blog). Young people typically embrace Change because they have less to protect (my 2016 blog). 

Age Ain't Nothing but a Number (1994) by Aaliyah - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Thursday, 9 November 2017

What goes around, comes around

The idea for today's blog came while watching an episode of Suits (8.6 in IMDb) on Netflix. This TV series is about a law firm, its partners, its clients, its competitors and - most of all - about Knowledge and Power. Suits shows that Knowledge equals Power. The series also shows that both Knowledge and Power can be used for good and - more often - bad purposes. Bad deeds sow the seeds for Revenge & Retaliation: what goes around, comes around.

A good and bad soul as well as deeds, words and thoughts are key concepts in Zoroastrianism, which connects the ancient Sumerian beliefs about our soul to the Abrahamic religions of today (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). There 5 elements offer numerous choices in life, including deception: a mix of good deeds with bad thoughts (a.k.a. intentions).

Karma translates as action, activity or deed. Wiki: "Good intent and good deed contribute to good karma and future happiness, while bad intent and bad deed contribute to bad karma and future suffering." The concept of karma shows that thoughts, words and deeds are a trinity

The most remarkable thing about karma is that we generally believe that bad karma exists while we generally doubt that good karma can be achieved. Our belief in bad karma withholds many of us from doing bad deeds with bad intentions. Our doubts about good karma makes altruism a rare quality in humans (my 2016 blog on altruism).

The result is that many of us stay in a neutral zone by abstaining from both bad and good karma. Both bad and good karma would then be the deviation from the 95% average. Perhaps this is evidence of the mediocrity principle (see yesterday's blog) and/or of Pascal's Wager, which poses that humans apply a no-risk strategy on the existence of God.

In my 2017 blog on Advantage vs Empathy, I concluded that humans are driven by gaining advantage in life. Our relentless drive for advantage is what separates us from any other species on this planet. Striving for advantage and bad karma go well together (eg, crime). Advantage and good karma may seem an unusual combination. I know that it's not.

The above translates in my diagram to the right. The word "advantage" is pictured outside the trinity of deeds, words and thoughts.

I think, feel and believe that advantage draws a thin line between bad and good karma and/or soul. 

In the words of the famous Dutch soccer player and coach Johan Cruijff (1947-2016): "Every disadvantage has its [own unique] advantage." The concept behind his words is beautiful.

What goes around .... comes around (2006) by Justin Timberlake

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

The mediocrity principle vs black swan events

A simple look at Life and Nature reveals a lot of similarities: 2 arms (wings), 2 legs, 2 eyes, 1 mouth, 1 nose, 1 head, 1 brain and so on. Humans may thus appear average rather than extraordinary compared to (other) animals. Hence, some people claim that the "mediocrity principle" applies to humans (eg, Futurism).

Wiki: "The mediocrity principle is the philosophical notion that if an item is drawn at random from one of several sets or categories, it's likelier to come from the most numerous category than from any one of the less numerous categories". In statistical terms, the "mediocrity principle" would apply to the 95% in the normal or Gaussian distribution

In the Tree of Life, animals - let alone humans - are not even visible because both are part of the Ophistokonta, one the 5 Eukaryotic supergroups (my 2016 blog). A closer look at animals reveals that more than 1.3 million of species or 95% have no spine (invertebrates). Only 66 thousand species or less than 5% have a spine (vertebrate). These facts do not suggest that the mediocrity principle should or would apply.

Does the vast number of 8 billion humans warrant its application? I am not so sure. Only the global ant population may (!) amount to 100 trillion (BBC-2014) or 10,000 trillion (1994 claim by Harvard University professor Edward O Wilson and German biologist Bert Hölldobler). There are also at least 10 million trillion microbes (eg, bacteria) for every human on the planet (BBC-1998Nature-2012, PNAS-2015NYT-2016). 

Humans are extraordinary in various ways, if only as they have the (technological) capacity to destroy this planet (eg, nuclear warfare). They also seem to be the only species in the entire Tree of Life that migrated from Needs (eg, food, water) to Wants (using tools & technology) to Beliefs.

Without any doubt, there is another extraordinary species: the octopus. Some facts: it has 3 hearts, 8 limbs, 9 brains, has blue (copper rather than iron-based) blood and is also (very) smart. Smithsonian, 2013: "the big-brained cephalopod can navigate through mazes, solve problems and remember solutions, and take things apart for fun–they even have distinct personalities."

The evolutionary timeline of octopusesants and humans is very different: 296 mya vs 120 mya vs some 4 million years ago (mya). Clearly, octopuses and ants both did survive extreme climate change (see yesterday's blog on the Great Filter). However, both miss the technology to escape Earth and are doomed to go extinct unless they "join" human space travel.

Humans might actually be black swan events in Evolution. Nassim Nicholas Taleb introduced the term black swan events in his 2007 book The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. Wiki: "The book focuses on the extreme impact of certain kinds of rare and unpredictable events (outliers) []." Excerpt from my 2016 blog.

While it might be true that mediocrity is king for 95% of all humans, it’s the less than 5% that makes all the difference to this world. In the words of Arthur Conan Doyle: “Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself; but talent instantly recognizes genius.”

Mediocrity is King (2014) by Paul Thorn - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

The Great Filter in the rise & fall of nations (5)

There are enough signs that suggest the existence of earlier advanced human civilizations. From today's point of view, the Sumerians are the 1st advanced human civilization which did numerous inventions. There are, however, signals that the Sumerians inherited their knowledge. Extreme deglaciation from 12,000 to 4,000 BC, a.k.a. "Great Flood", "washed" most evidence away.

Some people think that extreme climate change might be the Great Filter that prevents civilizations from becoming everlasting in time. The Great Filter hypothesis is one of the explanations to the Fermi Paradox (my 2016 blog). We may not have found extraterrestrial intelligent life ("aliens") because it was unable to escape the boundaries of its original planet. Apart from technology, extreme climate change might be one of these boundaries. (eg, Futurism)

Throughout human history, technology has been used for 2 main purposes: building and destroying. The Knowledge domain of the 7 Belief systems usually focuses on building. The Power domain focuses on both: building one's own empire and destroying competitors. The beliefs MoneyReligion, and Politics, including the military, are in the Power domain.

In May 2017, theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking warned that "humans must colonize another planet in 100 years or face extinction". The extinction threats come from climate change, overdue asteroid strikes, epidemics and population growth. In 2015, he had already warned for the dangers of new technology, like Artificial Intelligent Robotics (eg, killer robots) and genetically-engineered viruses. CNBC-2017, Guardian-2016, Independent-2015.

Throughout human history, gaining advantage (my 2017 blog) has always been our leading motive. As a result, we migrated from the Needs stage to the Wants stage (using tools & technology) of society. Since the 21st Century, we seem to have arrived in the Beliefs stage. Yesterday's blog mentioned that there has never been a next, lasting, stage for human societies.

Stephen Hawking's warning is relevant due to the potential toxic mix of (i) the Technological Revolution of 1800-2100, and (ii) entering into the Beliefs stage of society at large. The Beliefs stage brings arrogance and carelessness, pride and gullibility. Hence, the relevance of Proverbs 16:18: "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall".

The human timeline started some 4 million years ago. Since 40,000 to 50,000 years ago, it includes us: the behavioral modern human. The Technological Revolution of 1800-2100 may allow us to become the first human species to leave planet Earth. We might even become the first human civilization to become everlasting in SpaceTime, similar to the Star Trek science-fiction creation by Gene Roddenberry

“Since, in the long run, every planetary civilization will be endangered by impacts from space, every surviving civilization is obliged to become spacefaring--not because of exploratory or romantic zeal, but for the most practical reason imaginable: staying alive... If our long-term survival is at stake, we have a basic responsibility to our species to venture to other worlds.” Quote by Carl Sagan (1934-1996), astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist.

The Joker (1973) by Steve Miller Band - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Some people call me the space cowboy, yeah
Some call me the gangster of love
Some people call me Maurice
Cause I speak of the pompitous of love

Monday, 6 November 2017

The rise and fall of nations (4)

I've always been fascinated by the rise and fall of civilizations and nations (blog 1, blog 2, blog 3). While writing last week's blog, Use somebody, I used geographical locations to illustrate my concept of Needs, Wants & Beliefs (eg, my 2016 blog). Apparently, that was a 1st time. Then I realised that the life cycle of individuals (ie, cradle to grave) may resemble the life cycle of nations. My diagram combines both perspectives.

Individual persons can - and will - migrate to the level of Awakening, including Wisdom. In each society, they will, however, be a numerical minority although their influence may well exceed their numbers.

Societies may rise from Needs to Wants to Beliefs. Apart from the fictional Utopia, I'm not aware of any society which was able to migrate to the Awakening stage and stay there.

Advanced societies seem doomed to fail and fall. Futurism: "technological civilisations usually go extinct after attaining technological knowledge". History also shows this phenomenon (eg, Nat Geo, Wiki).

There is a biblical proverb, Proverbs 16:18, which seems to be applicable to my diagram: "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall". The modern abbreviation "pride comes before a fall" is probably better known (NL: hoogmoed komt voor de val). In the Beliefs stage, pride and arrogance play a dominant role in societies.

Obviously, civilizations and/or societies can also fall before the Beliefs stage, for instance by military conflict or pandemic diseases, like the Black Death (my 2017 blog). Examples: Aztec, Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire, Chinese EmpireMaya. Also see my 2015 blog on (the history of) Superpowers. China shows that a fall does not need to be permanent.

My diagram contains 3 geographical regions in the Beliefs stage: North-West Europe, UK and USA. South and East Europe may still be able to mitigate the influence of Beliefs in North and West Europe. The UK and USA have already entered a path of destruction and failure, mostly following pride and a haughty spirit.

Even, the Russian interference with the 2016 US presidential election may relate to gullibility: "the quality of believing in things too quickly. Someone with a lot of gullibility can be easily tricked". UK's Brexit is another example of gullibility. As of result, both the UK and the USA show a staggering amount of disruption, chaos and destruction (my blog 1, blog 2).

“Tell people there's an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority will believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure.” Quote by George Carlin (1937 – 2008), American stand-up comedian, actor, author and social critic.

I'm A Believer (1966) by Neil Diamond - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Sunday, 5 November 2017


ut waas 12 oor, in Venlo ut waor tied um naor hoes te gaon.
Toen iemand zei heej loêp es mej, ut is heer nog neet gedaon.
Ik keek ow aan en ik schrok d'r vaan, ik háj ow jaore neet gezeen.
Geej waar nog moei, net zo moei ás toen gans in ut begin.
Op ut kerkplein, in November zág ik ow veur den ierste kier,
de wind dae weide daor ow hoar en ik zág ut gevaor.
ik zág mien hand al in ow hand en ik docht loêp doer loêp doer,
onderwaeg heb ik meej zelf verteld, ut waas ni mier dán un blaad dát velt.

már un blaad det velt en un book giet dicht már wat bleef dát was ow gezicht,
overdaag de zon en snachts de moan, ik kos ow oêge neet wirstoan.
Ik doch mier aan ow dan aan mejzelf ik doch daage aan en stuk,
wat is dit nou, moeîe vrouw, dit is weggegoeit geluk.

en snachts in bed sloap ik net komde geej op bezeuk beej meej,
mien bed is kalt mien kamer kaal en ik droêm hárd as staal.
en geej ziet zacht ás dons ás vacht en ik drej meej um ow hin.
en in ow èrm weer ik wèrm en droêm mien moeiste zin.

Teveul gedoch te lang gewacht ik ging door op halve kracht,
der bleef niks mier oaver vaan dit schip, ut dreef langzaam tot èn stip.
tot èn peuntje aan d'n horizon, op enne oceaan zo groêt.
Ik heb álles, overboart gegoeïd dun háve deen kwam noeit.

Ut waar smerges vroeg, in Venlo hoêg tied um nao hoes te goan,
geej keek meej aan en ik keek ow aan van kiek os heer now stoan.
ik peek ow hand en ik lachte want, ow gezicht en owwe naam.
en hoe geej keek, ow hoar wegstreek toen de zon aan d'n hiêmel kwaam.

November (2000) by Rowwen Heze - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2, Wiki-3

November is a Limburgish version of "Raglan Road". (Wiki) "On Raglan Road" is a well-known Irish song from a poem written by Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh named after Raglan Road in Ballsbridge, Dublin. In the poem, the speaker recalls a love affair that he had with a young woman while walking on a "quiet street". Although the speaker knew that he would risk being hurt if he initiated a relationship, he did so anyway. (Wiki)

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Policy of Truth

You had something to hide
Should have hidden it, shouldn't you
Now you're not satisfied
With what you're being put through
It's just time to pay the price
For not listening to advice
And deciding in your youth
On the policy of truth

Things could be so different now
It used to be so civilised
You will always wonder how
It could have been if you'd only lied
It's too late to change events
It's time to face the consequence
For delivering the proof
In the policy of truth

Never again is what you swore
The time before
Never again is what you swore
The time before

Now you're standing there tongue tied
You'd better learn your lesson well
Hide what you have to hide
And tell what you have to tell
You'll see your problems multiplied
If you continually decide
To faithfully pursue
The policy of truth

Never again is what you swore
The time before
Never again is what you swore
The time before

Policy of Truth (1990) by Depeche Mode - artistslyricsvideoWiki-1Wiki-2

Friday, 3 November 2017

Use somebody

Women are accusing men (eg, Harvey Weinstein). Women also accuse women for sleeping with men to get ahead in life (eg, BI-2010, Forbes-2012, Guardian-2011, Telegraph-2013, WaPo-2017). Men are accusing men (eg, Kevin Spacey). Sometimes, men accuse women of sexual harassment (eg, 1994 book and movie Disclosure). In this movie, writer Michael Crichton uses a crucial quote: "Sexual harassment is not about sex. It is about power. She has it; you don't."

In 2011, Dr Catherine Hakim, a sociologist at the London School of Economics, wrote a book entitled Honey Money: The power of erotic capitalGuardian, 2011: "A controversial new book by an LSE academic has caused quite a storm with its suggestion that women should exploit their appearance to get ahead." In 2011, her view was considered controversial. In 2017, her view was already labelled misogyny, a.k.a. hatred of women (my blog).

My main worry is that the #MeToo campaign paints women as victims and men as perpetrators. This oversimplification - once again - fits the (extreme) beliefs of today's society. Victim roles are also dangerous as they feel comfortable and are hard to escape from. Perps know they are perps. Men who are not perps, will feel confused.

It's important to realise that different societies have different stages in my concept of Needs, Wants & Beliefs. African societies are mostly still in the Needs stage. China is mostly in the Wants stage. Western societies are migrating from Wants to Beliefs. In Africa and China, the view of Dr Catherine Hakim would appeal (much) more than the #MeToo campaign.

Ironically, the view on sex seems to follow my Needs, Wants & Beliefs concept. Originally, sex is for propagation (Needs). Throughout human history, sex has also been a bartering tool (Wants) and a weapon (eg, antiquityArab slave tradeISILsexual slaveryVikingsWiki). Hence, prostitution is deemed to be the world's "oldest profession".

In the Beliefs stage of Western societies, sex is now being used as an overt weapon. A decade before, sex was still a covert weapon in the Western bedroom in which partners either take or deny each other sex in a struggle for power, retaliation, revenge or whatever. In other words: sex as a tool in the balance of Power between the sexes (Beliefs).

In my 2017 blog on Advantage vs Empathy, I concluded that "Our relentless efforts in gaining advantage (eg, Knowledge, Power), might be what really separates humans from anything else on this planet." Let me paraphrase those words in this context: humans always use somebody in order to get advantage. All crimes and most of human behaviour are rooted in this.

Usually both parties use each other for gaining advantage. In the absence of a level playing field, Power is the dominating factor. However, Power is always temporary. Someday, the roles may reverse and bring revenge & retaliation. In the absence of consensual adults, using somebody would often constitute a crime.

One could argue that little has changed since Julius Caesar spoke the famous words: "Et tu, Brute?"

Use Somebody (2008) by Kings of Leon - artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

You know that I could use somebody
Someone like you, and all you know, and how you speak
Countless lovers under cover of the street