Monday, October 7, 2019

21 – Towards Implementation

A Revised Approach to Implementation … But
to Enhance the Process, a Paradigm Shift is Necessary 

It will be clear to the readers of these articles that the problem being discussed is deeply rooted in human nature (while in practice, the only possible solution is through improved basic education) and thus that it is global in scope … and consequently, that any solution to it must also be global. 

Further, the sociopsychological situation in virtually all nations around the world – see paragraph six, article #20 – leaves little doubt as to the seriousness of the problem and thus the urgent necessity for a solution.

And yet, in spite of the evident urgency and in spite of the soundness of the arguments of these articles, there seem to be lingering doubts on the part of academics/educators about their readiness to get involved. 

A foremost reason for this hesitancy may be due to the implication of a corollary to the thesis of these articles – that the foundation on which education has been built for the past two-and-a-half millennia is on shaky grounds … for education to-date has failed to address a most vital/pivotal concern of human wellbeing.  (In all likelihood, educators are largely unaware that such a concern even exists, thus it is no surprise that to-date there is no solution to the problem.)  And this concern in its turn is symptomatic of a much deeper ailment of world basic education regarding its primary purpose – see article # 13.

A second reason may be the departure of these articles from the accepted academic norms in some important ways, foremost among them being that their arguments are not supported by references.  Given that academic scholarship is usually based on referencing, the articles, however sound their logic and/or rationale, are therefore perceived deep down and at an emotional level to be wanting. 

Perhaps a third and a more immediate reason for the reluctance may be that academics/educators are not used to global thinking; their focuses usually being limited to their favourite projects, apart from teaching. 

There are other possible reasons as well, but the above three are probably the most significant …  

As to references, one might want to be mindful that this is a pioneering work, implying that it is at best unlikely that related references could be found.  Expecting references to these articles is akin to expecting Nicolai Copernicus to cite references to his heliocentric theory when the world at large believed in the then prevalent geocentric worldview.  Or take the notion of a spherical Earth when everyone else believed the Earth to be flat.  Pioneering works, by definition, don’t have precedents, and therefore references.  They stand or fall by virtue of the soundness of their arguments; their reasoning/consistency – and not by what someone else might or might not think of them; there is no scope for social proof in pioneering works. 

Thus a paradigm shift is called for regarding one’s cherished beliefs – which drive all of us – if we are to find a viable solution to one of humanity’s most compelling and entrenched problems.  

And towards facilitating the implementation of the solution suggested in these articles, a different approach could be adopted than was originally suggested, which called for a simultaneous global effort.  To make the process more manageable, a more localized approach can be adopted initially.  

This is a merely a tactical retreat, however, and the ultimate solution should be global – it has to be global since the problem is global and since today the world is interconnected and interdependent, and thus to be worth anything, the solution to the problem also has to be global in scope. 

The effort could start in either the education department or the psychology department of any large university – since our problem is psychological in nature while the solution is through education.  Or, for that matter, it could start with any of the other four of the six disciplines identified as being pertinent to the problem, namely, philosophy, sociology, political science, and communication (see article # 9, paragraph 10) – as long as the focus is kept initially, when analysis of the problem is the concern, on the psychological aspect of the topic and subsequently on its educational aspect when dealing with the solution.

Two factors that can especially enhance the process are: i) those departments belonging to a university with a global reputation, and ii) such a university being in close proximity to other such universities.  The process can proceed without them, of course – just that they will prove to be very helpful bonuses.  

This way, efforts in one department can expand to the relevant departments in the same university as well as in neighbouring universities – face-to-face interaction being of vital importance in this earlier stage. 

The involvement of more than one university will be especially helpful in refining and augmenting the ideas of these articles and thus bolstering the final product for the peer-review process that has to follow necessarily. 

The latter will involve expanding both nationally and globally, and the ease of modern video interaction will minimize the spatial friction arising from distance, especially if such interaction is supported by a dose of personal familiarity.  Details can be worked out as to the best practical approach to adopt.   

From here, it will be fairly easy for the effort to achieve global academic notice … and acceptance. 

Please note that the above process, while somewhat different, is in good accord with the second part of article #9, which was more congenial to the comprehensive and global approach initially suggested. 

And as outlined in article #14, and if it is deemed worthwhile, I can be of help in clarifying any ambiguities and/or elaborate on any aspect as required, and in coordinating and bridge-building among the relevant professions, in spite of my not having expert knowledge in any pertinent field – but as readers will be aware, I do have an excellent overview of the broader dimensions of the situation. 

Finally, there is the ultimate issue of the proposals distilled from the process becoming actual public policy.  This has been conceptualized at the outset, in the endnote of article #1, Introduction – simply that whatever is in the collective heads of the educators will become public policy, for even dictators rely on those who have relevant degrees to actually run their education establishments.  

Thursday, May 23, 2019

About Me


Since I created my blogs in 2012, Google Blogger had provided space titled “About Me” which is accessible from each blog for information about me that allowed readers to know who I am, along with contact information.  But it had disappeared when I deleted some posts from one of the blogs.  Given the potential usefulness of that info to readers, I had no choice than uploading it as a post, or part of the blog  requests to Blogger administrators for help being in vain. 

I am from the Maldives and have been engaged in development-related endeavours for more than 35 years.  Based on the experience gained from these efforts, some of which mentioned in passing in these writings, I consider the important and critical problem outlined in them and the multitude of ramifications arising from it the ultimate stumbling block that impedes efforts for the betterment of human wellbeing on a global scale; the rest of the other factors in my opinion being of lesser importance.  

I completed graduate studies at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning of the University of Hawaii, culminating in spring 1992 with a master’s degree focused on the development of small island states.  Ever since, I have been broadening my theoretical background and thus the scope of my understanding of the multifaceted issues of development.  Once back home, my involvements were with the broader issues of national development.  My initial background was in architecture, which I practiced for 12 years before the local conditions convinced me that I should hasten to broaden it, which led me to graduate studies.  The training I received as a designer also helped me to view issues both in detail and in perspective, and in conjunction with the wide background I acquired during and after graduate studies and still continue to acquire, this mindset helped me to dig deeper into development issues and finally arrive at the rather unorthodox but breakthrough insights detailed in these writings. 

The above description was originally written in relation to the writings on my blog www.rifatafeef.blogspot.com.

I can be reached by phone at (960) 332-7488 most of the time between 0500 and 1900 hours GMT – that is, between 1000 and 0000 hours the local Maldives time (= GMT + 5 hours) – or by mail at PO Box 2139, Malé 20026, Maldives.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

20 – Closing of Minds

The Closing of a People’s Mind …
There is Much More to the Cliché than Meets the Eye

The writings on this blog have sought to address the foremost problem that plagues the modern world, which problem, I believe, largely underlies most other problems that impact negatively on human wellbeing.   

Apart from our natural disposition as biological beings with an evolutionary history, it essentially has to do with the explosion of knowledge in modern times, particularly from the early decades of the twentieth century, and the technological proliferations that sprang from it (both of which processes had since been exponentially accelerating at an unrelenting pace) and the social impacts resulting thereof – in the form of information overload; the specializations necessitated by the process; the inevitably fragmented knowledge bases; and the resulting equally fragmented worldviews …  

Many scholars have written about the outcome of this state of affairs but are deafeningly silent on both the causes and dynamics that had brought it about and remedial action to minimize/alleviate its increasingly expanding detrimental fallouts. 

One of my favourite examples is the quote by Professor Will Durant attached at the end of this article (which in fact had been attached to two earlier articles as well – #6 & #2) which eloquently elaborates on one side of the outcome of the state of affairs described above but mentions nothing about the causes of or remedial action to the havoc that state had created.  (But the account may be just an afterthought thrown in in the preface of the second edition, from which it was excerpted.) 

A parallel conclusion can be drawn from similar scholarly works.  For example, a rather cursory glance through both Professor Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind and a forward review of Professor Anthony Kronman’s forthcoming The Assault on American Excellence seems to confirm this view.  And there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of other works in the same vein. 

Eminent though those scholars are, it seems to me that they lack a grasp of the realities of today’s world, which is characterized by the situation depicted in paragraph #2 above – and that the outputs of those of such fragmented milieus will be equally fragmented; that it will be virtually impossible for most people to have views that integrate the multitude of societal issues; and as a result, that they are led to desperately cling to whatever faction/ism within reach in the hope of salvation – and whether they are average citizens or in the academia doesn’t seem to make much difference.  We may not like it, but this is the mechanism through which the mind of a people gets closed, and no amount of complaining/pontification can reverse the tide, for it is part and parcel of the march of progress** – unless history can be arrested, which is unlikely, barring a global catastrophe that can revert what remains of humanity to stone age; but then, who wants to live in prehistory?  So we might want to make the best of the situation at hand and plan prudently for a better future. 

Towards this end, the thesis put forth on this blog is both fundamental and grounded in reality rather than in abstract high-sounding pronouncements, and it will lay a solid foundation upon which future measures can be based with confidence, and from where the flow of events can be guided with effectiveness and efficiency.  As can be seen from the last article, the improvements suggested to the world basic education system will put future generations onto a path to be much better informed of the likely multiple societal stresses; those improvements will also get them to be much better equipped to handle any situation that may arise and with much better outcomes – for more specifics, see the three footnote paragraphs of the article.   

A last point that I feel had to be mentioned here is about perceptions of the successive generations of scholars/academics who are the products of the state of the world described above – those who had achieved high levels of proficiency in specialized areas but do not have a common language.  I reckon such perceptions to be like views one sees by looking at a complex scene through a multi-lensed face-mask – one portion of the scene becomes clear at one point, then another, and then yet another … while they alternately recede out of focus and merge in a haze … depending on one’s area of expertise … and a coherent picture of the total scene just does not materialize.  In common parlance, dots are selectively clear but their connection remains elusive.***  As I had pontificated at the end of article #7, understanding comes from within when relationships between elements of the topic being deliberated begins to make sense … no one can make another person understand but only help him or her to understand.  (Apart from having a wide background that covers the spectrum of basic issues, even if lacking much depth, struggles/experiences of the kind described in article #5 as well as in the postscript following the first part of article #15 would also be of much help in “connecting the dots.”) 
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**  The nature of progress itself has put us on a slippery slope on many fronts, by enhancing some of our abilities while not lending us the mental prowess to cope with the downsides of those abilities, which deficiencies the proposals of this blog are specifically designed to counter.  

***  Realistically, for that connection to happen, one has to exert a little – say, going over the referenced previous pieces instead of thinking that one has understood them all, and reflecting/contemplating a little on what was said … it should not be surprising that the dots cannot be connected if one read the articles as if they came from a newspaper.  Relying on one’s laurels and unwilling to open one’s mind to new ideas, and thinking that one knows best implicitly, of course – also won’t help to connect the dots.  In this regard, the realization of a crucial point would be helpful: that unless one has a wide background, one’s perception will likely be constrained by one’s area of expertise and thus it will be very difficult to gain an overview of the complexity of the entwined dimensions of the broader issues at hand – see account of perception formation, above.  It is precisely to avert this kind of limited mindsets in preference for more positive and flexible ones that creating a younger generation with attitudes to listen … to learn … to think logically … and so forth, along with attendant values, had been incorporated among modifications proposed for the world basic education system.  And given the state of the world as described in paragraph #2 above, if we are unable to garner the wisdom/courage to incorporate such vital/pivotal modifications to the curricula of today’s young – thereby creating the conditions for bridging the growing fragmented/polarized societal perceptions, in turn paving the path for viable future policies – we can kiss good bye to a better future for humanity.  


Tuesday, January 1, 2019

19 – A New Mindset


To Recap: Creating Positive & Flexible Mindsets – the Practical Means for Addressing Our Problem

Update:  While the solution to our problem is through education, the problem is psychological in nature.  I thus appeal to those who do not have a background in psychology to consult an experienced psychologist, preferably a social psychologist, if you are inclined to pass unwarranted judgements on the writings.  

As would be clear to readers, the essence of the primary problem we have been dealing with on this blog arises from our inability to get across to or communicate meaningfully with fellow humans, which in turn arises from numerous barriers to such communication, and which in their turn are rooted in our very make-up as biological beings to begin with and the outcomes of this inherent nature being vastly exacerbated by modern specialized education; this is not to mention the complexities arising from language-related issues.  And this state of affairs is perpetuated by our lack of awareness of these realities and consequently by our failure to take countermeasures.  

It would also be clear that we cannot do anything about the roots of the problem, given that we cannot change our biological nature (or rather, the way we go about making sense of the world) that came about through millions of years of evolution; nor can we do away with specialization, which is the foundation on which advanced societies are built and differentiates our world from that of Robinson Crusoe (see the accounts under the subheadings “Making Sense of the World” and “Specialization,” respectively, in article #13: “World Basic Education System”).  

What we can do to counter the devastation arising from the above realities is therefore limited to efforts to minimize the deplorable outcomes of the original problem – rather than engage in futile pursuits to eliminate the roots of the problem itself.  Thus we have to do the utmost to maximize the potential of that limited scope available, and at the same time try to lay a solid foundation for moving humanity towards a better future – if we are to improve the current human condition and successfully face the global challenges that are growing more complex by the day; it also would not be implausible to state that the future of the human race may very well depend on that effort (see the last two paragraphs of article #15: “An Email and Two Parallels”). 

And it was precisely to achieve this that the measures for improving the world basic education system in article #13 were suggested – they will go a long way towards countering the outcomes of our original problem and thus minimize significantly the massive damage that currently result from that handicap, and simultaneously help raise human wellbeing to unprecedented heights. 

Let us recap the challenges we face in this regard as detailed in these articles and outline how the suggestions will counter those challenges and minimize the fallout of our original problem. 

For starters, the second footnote of the article #18 has provided reasonably sufficient detail in support of the rather abstract summarizing statements of the first two paragraphs above – that nature has not equipped us humans to adequately understand each other’s messages and that we are constrained in our efforts to face the situation.  The article as a whole also identified and elaborated upon the dual nature of the starting point for countering those shortcomings – namely, becoming aware of the nature of the situation to begin with and equipping ourselves with the tools necessary for handling it as effectively and efficiently as possible. 

Further, the second paragraph of the second part of article #15 has highlighted the importance and the central/critical role of attitudes and behaviours in any effective solution and established (I hope) the fact that any successful program has to start with the younger generation.  And this latter underlies the timeframe given four paragraphs down the line in that article – the duration of two to three generations from the inception of the program for the realization of its full potential. 

As we are aware, the ultimate goal of the program is to help enable effective communication and interaction among people.  Such communication/interaction would be characterized by empathy and a willingness to listen, to clarify meanings encountered, to think logically, and so on.  The specific measures outlined under the subheading “Understanding the Social World …” of article #13 aim to achieve this.  And the first paragraph of article #12: “Empathy and Fundamentalism” outlines how to begin implementing the program in classroom settings. 

The account of the subheading of article #13 mentioned in the above paragraph also emphasizes the importance of instilling appropriate values – values that are in tune with both the natural and social worlds we are living in today (see also last paragraph of article #9: “Last Explanation”). 

All in all, the outcome of the program would boil down to right attitudes and behaviours that are permeated by commensurate values, which would translate to positive and flexible mindsets.  Supplemented by technical capabilities that would result from appropriate incorporation of the basics of both communication and related psychology in the world basic education system (see article #18, paragraph six) they will enhance effective and efficient communication that would have the power not only to significantly overcome the effects of our original problem as outlined above but also catapult human wellbeing to unprecedented heights – and in all likelihood save humanity from impending doom as well, judging by the trend of global affairs in modern times. 

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The impact of positive and flexible mindsets on society at large will not be limited to enabling humanity to interact and communicate better – important though they are – but will also pervade people’s generic behaviour with utmost positive results.  In this regard, two interrelated aspects should be noted.  One is that, apart from the obvious defects of fragmented information bases and ineffective communication, it is the lack of such mindsets that are responsible for much of the undesirable behaviours cited variously in articles of both this blog and my blog targeted at the locals in the Maldives; with positive and flexible mindsets a person will be more likely to be sensitive to common interests and hence make efforts to minimize, even if unable to completely eliminate, the debilitating effects of the other two defects just mentioned.  The second aspect we should note is that, as mentioned in the account under the subheading “Understanding the Social World …” of article #13, much of the negative attitudes and behaviours we see in people are likely to be the cumulative outcomes of their having been unable to handle challenges they faced daily, for as we grow-up, we would be subject to varying degrees of psychological stresses which we have to cope by resorting to any means necessary, many of which would be destructive psychological defence mechanisms that ultimately take permanent root in our psyches and behaviours, and that such outcomes will be largely preempted by our program as it would guide us from a young age by channeling our attitudes and behaviours into more positive directions when confronted with stressors that would otherwise push us into negativity. 

A parallel outcome of positive and flexible mindsets related to enhanced communication and interaction would be an exponential increase in our ability to effectively deal with the mounting range of problems that plague modern society and form a central source of the currently impoverished state of societal wellbeing and related conflicts.  In fact, it is through this increased ability that our program will help catapult human wellbeing to unprecedented heights.  Two interconnected reasons for societal underperformance are on the one hand the complexity resulting from the fragmented knowledge bases we acquire through specialized education and on the other our inability to bridge the immense gulf arising from the depth of that knowledge.  The enabling power of the new mindset that our program will bring about will ease the way and facilitate the bridging of that schism and enhance expedient reaching to solutions to problems (see paragraph seven of article #18 for the dynamics of how this process will work in practice). 

An important and critical point to keep in mind is that with our program in effect, enhanced understanding of both the natural and social worlds initiated by the modified world basic education system would have already produced a citizenry that will be much better informed of the numerous dimensions of societal problems and hence much less dogmatic in attitudes than the current one,*** and thus opinions will be much less polarized and the path to solutions much less controversial.  There will be problems, to be sure, in particular those arising from the increased levels of specialization, but the approach to face them will be radically different than is currently the case.  It can be seen that a large part of our current problems are outcomes of our having failed to understand the nature of the world we are living in, especially in view of the exceedingly fast changes occurring around us, and our approach to-date has been chasing after symptoms rather than causes of those symptoms.  Humans act according to what is in their heads, and if that is deficient or divorced from reality or distorted, their actions will become hard to fathom (see account under the subheading “Understanding the Nature of the World” in article #13: “World Basic Education System”).  
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***  For an explanation of why a broader range of information on a given issue/topic, or multiple dimensions of it, will make a person with such information less dogmatic than one who does not, see the outline of Social Judgement Theory in article #2: “Education and Fundamentalism” – the third and second paragraphs from the end of the article.   

Sunday, October 7, 2018

18 – An Overdue Explanation

An Overdue Explanation
to an Apparent Contradiction

Readers who have followed the ideas explored in the writings on this blog from the beginning may perhaps feel that I have left them with an unexplained contradiction regarding the suggested solution to the central problem explored in the writings.   

The problem was identified as arising from the limitations of the constrained information bases that we are able to acquire during our lifetimes on which we depend for understanding the world around us (see also “basic argument” in paragraph four of article #17) and the resulting damage to humanity in each and every aspect of our existence and endeavours, and on a global scale. 

In the earlier writings, the (partial) solution suggested was the incorporation of communication and related social psychology in education curriculums, while in later writings – beginning from article #13 – the emphasis was on the modification of the world’s basic education system along the lines suggested in that article.  Thus although both call for the modification of educational systems, there seems to be a contradiction. 

But in reality, there is no contradiction – and the discrepancy is only an apparent one, which arose from a missing link … an explanation; for both components are essential to the solution.  Thus providing such an explanation, and elaborations thereof, is the purpose of this piece. 

While communication and social psychology are in fact the essence of the solution, until I had immersed in the details of related issues in article #13, I had not been explicitly aware of the enormous psychological barriers that will block messages from being fully understood, and thus that I have to first resolve this problem in order to make headway with communication and social psychology.**  This in turn led to the suggestions of article #13 – although this was within the broader framework of the world basic education system.  Until then, I had dwelt on what could be called the technical side of the process arising from the lack of a common language that can bridge the diversity of the topics of complex dialogue – this aspect of the process has been identified as "technical," given its probabilistic, non-psychological nature .  These two aspects are intrinsically linked/entwined – one cannot be isolated from the other in a meaningful way.  From here arises the necessity for eliminating both these barriers to effective communication and interaction before we could hope messages of complex dialogue to be properly understood.***  (Readers who had difficulty in grasping the message of these writings will find this last footnote most helpful.) 

Central to this process is to realize that in our efforts to communicate with fellow humans, we don’t have the awareness of the existence of these barriers to effective conveyance of thoughts, and also that we lack the ability to do anything about it, even if we may have vague “feelings” that things are not working.  Modifications to the world’s basic education system along the lines suggested in the account under “Understanding the Social World …” in article #13 aim at rectifying, primarily, the awareness side of the problem, particularly by instilling relevant attitudes to enhance the process – see also the second paragraph of the second part of article #15.  (Effective communication/interaction calls for a host of the right kind of attitudes & behaviours.)  The incorporation of both communication and related social psychology at relevant levels aims at rectifying, primarily, the ability side of the problem, by providing the necessary theory and related practice that will empower us to deal with interactions as effectively as possible. 

Taken together, improving these two aspects will work to smoothen communication/interaction processes – by enabling participants to become aware of the serious gaps that exist in their understanding of others, leading to enhancing open-minded and sincere inquiry about meanings involved rather than shouting matches, in turn leading to gradual reduction of the gaps in meaning, and so on.  I am not claiming that the process will lead to the creation of a common language straightaway, but the process of reaching that goal will become very much smoother.  Naturally, the process will be time-consuming, but we can expect that duration to shrink gradually when people begin to interact more frequently and trust gains a higher status.  And while such a process would be unimaginable with current attitudes and levels of trust, once the two aspects of our concern have been addressed, the process will progressively become common-place and thus second-nature.  (It is towards enhancing this outcome that the creation of an appropriate mindset, and behaviour arising from it, become so critically important – the aim of the suggestions of the account under “Understanding the Social World” in article #13 – for it is through our interactions with others with the right attitudes that we can become aware of our shortcomings, and thus motivate ourselves to improve; the process will become especially taxing when the participants are from diverse backgrounds.)  Luckily, we do find such processes among close-knit groups and also among the members of some groups in the same profession, but sadly we find them only rarely.  The suggestions proposed will help make such processes common-place rather than rare; the norm rather than the exception – particularly among groups composed of members from different specializations, the rarity of the process in which is most disturbing, given today’s fast pace of change and thus where accord is most sorely and urgently required.  The process will also spill into interactions of family members and community groups, and will expand to national and international levels. 

It should be emphasized that the two aspects of our concern are two sides of the same coin and, as such, that improving one side cannot be effective without improving the other; neither side can stand alone.  It should also be emphasized, as had been in the section of article #13 referred to above, that appropriate attitudes do not get instilled spontaneously and on their own; thinking that they could is akin to requiring humanity to reinvent the wheel and foregoing all benefits accumulated through work based on the initial invention – besides, instilling the right attitudes itself is hard work!  (Again, refer to the second paragraph of the second part of article #15.) 

The proposed measures for improving the education system will help propel the two aspects (our awareness of the existence of intangible barriers to effective communication/interaction and our ability to neutralize their destructive effects) to vastly superior states and thus help improve the quality of our thinking enormously, in turn helping to achieve unimaginable improvements in the quality of our communication/interaction.  This will bring about far-reaching advancements in every facet of our lives, including our wellbeing and happiness.  (This is also the end-state that the accounts of article #15 aim at regarding the elimination of barriers that arise from our natural disposition, or human nature, and the exacerbation of outcomes of that disposition arising from the specialization requisite of human advancement – see the last two paragraphs of that article.) 

Apart from the immeasurable benefits the program will bring to humanity over time, it will also play a vital role in helping us choose the right path in the uncertain times we are living in today, when unprecedented and accelerating change is occurring around us and when our opinions are polarized in virtually every field regarding the policies we should adopt towards our perplexing and critical problems, many of which threaten humanity’s long-term survival itself.  And clarity of the choices over such issues will translate into a much better future with much less conflict, and thus a more peaceful world – even much less, or no, radicalism/ fanaticism/ fundamentalism, as pointed out in the first boxed piece at the end of article #1, or “Introduction.”   

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**  This is the essence of the clarity about the nature of our problem mentioned in the parenthesized last sentence of article #17, and was in large part an outcome of reflection on the barriers to the ability of the Maldives government to formulate viable policy.  This reflection also reinforced my earlier intuitive conclusion that the ramifications of the problem explored in these writings are the culprits (see first paragraph of the piece “About Me” at the end of the blog) both directly at the decision-making levels and indirectly as relates to hidden factors underlying the less than desirable attitudes and behaviours of the ranking officers of the establishment – the impacts and severity of which would vary depending on the circumstances.  But this scenario is actually not specific to the Maldives – as can be inferred from the first part of article #15, the US is also in the same boat (one might also want to contemplate on its current socio-political condition) and by extension/implication, so are all other nations.  Thus if we desire to improve the human condition, this is the one area the betterment of which would make the most decisive and profound impact. 

***  A little reflection would also reveal that our natural disposition is not very well-geared for understanding the messages coming from the outside.  This arises from some simple facts – that information in our brains is the basis for understanding the outside world and that meaning of information from other people’s messages are not similar to our own (see account under the subtitle “Making Sense of the World” in article #13), and as a result, that we have to “interpret” outside messages into our own “language” before we can make sense of them.  This would cause varying degrees of distortion depending on the nature of those messages, our attitude/mindset, and so on.  Outside messages are also likely to induce an inner tendency for tuning them out since they would require effort to process them (the brain has only 2% of the total body weight, but accounts for a whopping 25% of its glucose consumption), and this tendency may take volatile forms if those messages contradict our core databases – our deep-held beliefs (outcomes of this latter are reflected in the difficulties we have in dealing with "outer" groups or in thinking objectively about ideas/concepts we are unfamiliar with, and also why we feel so comfortable among "birds of a feather").  The direct result of all this is a diminished capacity for people to get across to, or communicate with, fellow humans – and this process will become progressively worse the more specialized people become, due to both the shrinking common ground and the increasing psychological barriers arising thereof.  Thus much hard work is called for before we can fully/correctly understand messages coming from the outside.  Ironically, we are not even aware of these realities, and that our very existence, let alone wellbeing, depends on our ability to accurately process outside messages.  This state of affairs should not be surprising, however, given that those processes operate largely below our conscious radar.  It is clear that we need to have a better grasp of our communication process that is currently so ineffective and inefficient, and whence so detrimental to our wellbeing.  (This is the crux of the problem deliberated variously in the writings on this blog.)  Naturally, we cannot have complete control over the process, but we can overcome many obstacles that currently stand in our way.  (This is part of the reason for the suggested solution being described as “partial”; there are also other identifiable obstacles, and likely many unidentified ones – our problem is highly complex!)  Towards this end, the obvious first step is to become aware of the nature of the situation, and the logical next step is to build-up our ability to deal with that reality effectively/efficiently.  To be sure, this is easier said than done, but it can be done – only if those responsible for the world basic education policy bothered to come to grips with the realities of the situation and mustered the necessary courage to overcome their inertia.  [See footnote #2 of "1 – Introduction" for both the logic and dynamics of the suggested course of action for achieving our goals; given the extended reach of relevant publications, however, it would be more effective to propagate the message via articles in such publications (the mere mentioning of it and urging people to read blog articles and citing its address, will do) rather than relying on dialogue among individuals as I had initially suggested – to get our program implemented, it is vital/critical to propagate the message widely; in fact, given the dynamics of the process as described in the piece referred to, it will be virtually impossible to achieve our goals without wide propagation of the message, as there is no particular person or government that is responsible for taking decisions about world basic education.]  

Sunday, July 1, 2018

17 – Business World Insight

An Insight from the Business World
  
The following is a self-explanatory comment I sent recently (without the footnotes) to the moderator of  a Harvard Business Review webinar.  The purpose of publishing it is to underscore the fact that our problem (the topic of this blog) does not spare any human activity without manifesting itself in it and thus that any effective solution has to cut across all human activities, including businesses.  But as explained in footnote two below, the starting point of an effective solution must be the world basic education system.  (Reaching this inference was helped by the experience I gained by having been engaged in development-related endeavours for the better part of the past 40 years.)  (See footnote one of article #13 for the underlying reason for my reference to a “world” basic education system.)   

There is much talk about the “silo effect,” but I’m not sure if the pundits really understand its nature.**  

In my opinion, much of the factors underlying the formation and endurance of silos are the same as those dealt with on my blog www.rifatafeef.blogspot.com – the silo phenomenon is only an outcome and a subset of the broader problem of barriers to effective communication in the highly specialized and thus complex world in which we live and function today.  

The basic argument is as follows: i) humans make sense of the world based on the information they have in their brains; ii) on average, those knowledgeable of affairs in a given area would not know much about other areas; and as a result, iii) those in any given area would be hesitant to venture into other areas and thus would tend to cocoon themselves – people usually don’t venture into areas they don’t know about; they would also be apprehensive of being ridiculed for their shortcomings.  Naturally, rivalries, perceived self-interests, misperceptions, etc. etc., would also play a role in the silo effect, but their negative impacts would likely be minor compared to those arising from the basic problem of the lack of common ground and the resulting lack of meaningful communication and interaction. 

Given its importance, it would be worthwhile to systematically investigate the phenomenon instead of resorting to clichés to describe it and stop there.  I suggest that you share these thoughts with your editor colleagues and perhaps with HBS faculty – in addition to competent social psychologists who can enlighten on the topic;***  in fact, the essence of the problem is one of social psychology while its outcomes are manifest in the practical realms of human endeavour, like organizational settings. 
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PS:  You might want to refer to the June 13th webinar in which mention was made of the strategy of the Development Bank of Singapore to provide digital backgrounds to all its staff.  The measure was aimed at improving the bank’s functioning.  Although I don’t recall “silos” being mentioned in the webinar, that strategy would contribute to reduce, although not entirely eliminate, the silo effect – since there are other factors as well that contribute to the phenomenon; this is not to mention that a "digital background" is only one part of a common language, although a significant part nevertheless. (Any strategy for improving the functioning of an organization in a complex setting has to take measures to reduce the silo effect.) 

PPS:  Of the 16 pieces on the blog, I suggest you focus initially on articles #13 (World Basic Education System); #15 (in part an email to Professor Jared Diamond); and #16 (comment on NatGeo program Year Million).  [You’ll find more on my background at the end of the blog, under “About Me.”] 
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**  The “silo effect” is the tendency for departments of an organization to work in isolation and not actively cooperate with other departments – other than at a level they perceive to be minimally sufficient.  Growth and advancement will be hard to come by in such an organization, and the resulting cumulative impacts will ultimately lead to its demise, in the same way that any entity that cannot cope with the stresses it faces will cease to exist; see the first footnote of article #16 – corporations go bankrupt; species go extinct; nations disintegrate or are taken over by others stronger than them; and governments are kicked out of office or overthrown by dictatorships: different labels but equivalent outcomes.  And our problem cuts across all levels of human activities – individual, family, local community, national, international. 

***  Social psychologists, however, can only illuminate on the nature of the problem; they can’t solve it.  Although the silo effect arises from human behaviour, it is at the early stages of a child’s life that behaviours of our concern begin to take root (see paragraph two of the second part of article #15) and it is only a program as that outlined in article #13 that can effectively address the problem.  The program also focuses on people and not on settings; this is important, given that people carry around their core traits to multiple settings, and also since the ways in which they manifest can vary from setting to setting – for example, the same trait may give rise to different behaviours at home and at work.  Given these realities, it would be clear that solving our problem is beyond business organizations, although they could try to understand its nature to improve their functioning.  But articles #13 and #15 make it clear that world basic education can effectively address our problem – to the extent to which it is practically possible.  Meanwhile, business organizations can help: i) by raising awareness of the criticality of the problem; ii) by facilitating funding for getting the program implemented (see the second part of article #9 for the tentative process suggested); and, most importantly, iii) by urging those responsible for the formulation of world basic education policy to face their moral responsibility, since it is they who hold the key to the solution to our vexing problem and since the ramifications of the problem are chocking humanity while nothing is being done to rectify it – see the first part of article #15, and the above, for some aspects of this.  (See also footnote two of article #1, or “Introduction,” for the strategy envisioned for implementing the program – after it was published in March 2012, however, the nature of our problem had become clearer and more delineated, but this would not affect the suggested strategy, given that the essential concepts remain the same and it was only some expressions describing them that had changed.)  

Saturday, October 7, 2017

16 – NatGeo Year Million

Comment on the National Geographic Program Year Million

Below is a self-explanatory comment I made on the NatGeo program Year Million, aired over the past several weeks.  But it is a much modified version of the original comment.  The reason for publishing it is that it relates to the central problem discussed on this blog – which relationship, though, is limited to the narrow area of the program identified below.  

The comment is specifically aimed at episode four of the program, which has six episodes.  The reasoning underlying the comment is that (the first part of) the episode was based on a fallacyequating communication with being connected.  (In fact, the talks of several of the contributors to the episode – and to the program in general – inadvertently alluded to that discrepancy.) 

Communication is based on shared meaning and not on just being connected and the speed of that connection – though, obviously, connectivity is a necessary condition for effective communication.  (Communication Theory would classify talk that does not make sense to the connected parties as “noise” – also known as “gibberish.”)  The meaning we attribute to anything or event is shaped by the experiences of our interactions with the environments in which we grow-up, both natural and human, and will vary from person to person, even in the same culture.  It is such variation that is responsible for a large part of our humanity; it is also the basis for much of the misunderstanding and conflict of our messy world – for which deplorable outcomes we do not have an effective solution to-date; in fact, we don’t seem to be even aware that there is a compelling need for one.  

Further, today’s explosion of knowledge and the need to specialize into increasingly narrower fields to cope with that explosion** (which is a self-feeding and exponentially expanding process, like an uncontrolled nuclear fission or chain reaction) renders that we will have increasingly less shared meaning.  (Those who find the premise given here insufficient to reach the conclusion drawn from it may refer to the quote from the Preface of Professor Will Durant's book The Story of Philosophy at the end of posts #2 and #6.)  This means that people will have increasingly less meaningful communication (and thus would result in an increasing range of more problems and on a global scale, about the nature / scope of which we can only speculate) regardless of the increasingly sophisticated gadgets / means we may have at our disposal unless a suitable mechanism is found to counter the downsides of increasing specialization, which is precisely what the recommendations of this blog aim to achieve, among other things (see the last two paragraphs of article #15).  

Naturally, the increase in connectivity leading to access to a wider range of information and more frequent interaction among people and nations would necessarily broaden shared meaning (they could also lead to information overload – render us unable to process and make much sense of the deluge***) but the extent to which it can better human mutual understanding remains to be seen. 

For more info along this line of thinking, please refer to my blog www.rifatafeef.blogspot.com.  I suggest you focus on articles #13 and #15 – which will provide an illuminating/sobering insight.  
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**  This is how complexity grows in nature – and societal evolution through specialization and increasing complexity is the natural process of its growth.  If we can't cope with its downsides, it is a problem, and a dire one, since evolution also leads to extinction, if objects of that evolution cannot cope with stresses induced by the process.  Mentioned in the article are symptoms of such stress, which we must reduce to survive  along with other downsides cited on the blog.  

***  The process began in earnest with the Scientific Revolution (Greek philosophy had paved the path) – after the world had been a simple place in which causes of events were assigned to higher powers, it had become an increasingly complex one by virtue of events began to be seen requiring logical reasons, the pursuit of which, after having wavered for a time, had finally gained traction over the past century and the momentum had been increasing at an accelerating pace ever since.  This is besides the technological proliferations it had helped spawn – from the Industrial Revolution to nanotechnology and the vast range of gadgets and processes in-between that embody them – at even a faster pace.      

Friday, April 28, 2017

15 – An Email and Two Parallels

Email to Professor Jared Diamond, and
Two Parallels to the Dynamics of the Proposed Program


Below is the body of a self-explanatory email I sent to Professor Jared Diamond, author of The Rise & Fall of the Third Chimpanzee and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, among other books.  It is being shared with readers (with permission) because it sheds significant light on an aspect of the topic of the blog – more specifically, on how the human condition brought about by downsides dwelt on in the blog articles affects the mechanisms of decision making by people’s elected representatives, which decisions impact their lives for the better or for worse.  This also elaborates on account under the subheading “Public Policy Making” of Article #13: “World Basic Education System.”  The email was dated March 3, 2017; some minor changes were made later.  The two parallels follow the email – the second part of the article/post

I stared reading your book The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee and found it very informative and interesting.  The purpose of this email, however, is to provide a comment on the book. 

The problem of “the lack of political will,” towards eliminating/minimizing of which the book aims, has deeper and more intrinsic/subtle and also more benign roots than you seem to realize.  The writings on my blog www.rifatafeef.blogspot.com, especially article #13 labelled “World Basic Education System,” would provide significant insight/illumination into the matter. 

My point will become clearer if we note an implicit theme/premise underlying that quote – that human action has a knowingly irresponsible side, which implicitly implies that they are aware of the consequences of their actions.  My argument, given the way the human mind works (see article), is that they don’t know what they are doing, by and large, and whence the long-term consequences of their actions; they are just unable to see beyond the immediate horizon, if that!  (This is not to say that humans do not have an irresponsible side, but it is mostly a secondary factor and more often than not would not contribute significantly to their ill-advised actions.)  Of course, the fast pace of change of the world we live in and the resulting complexity would make necessary long-term thinking doubly difficult, besides shortcomings of their ability to begin with. 

To drive the point home and as an example (which just popped to my mind) I urge you watch Gone with the Wind with a focus on the mindset of the Southern elite on eve of the outbreak of war, and note that sensible advice/accounts (by the movie’s hero) fell on deaf years.  (Margaret Mitchell had admirably described a complex socio-psychological situation, and the movie was faithful to the novel.)  This is a direct outcome of the fact that we make sense of the world based on the info bases in our brains, which are drastically limited (see article).  Thus a foremost reason they were unable to comprehend the reality of the situation and take the advice they received was because they did not have the necessary info for understanding and thus meaningfully evaluating that advice and hence were unable to give it its due weight.  (To be sure, there are other significant factors, but most of them would likely be related to the problem we are considering here.) 

This state of affairs also by and large describes the state of mind of those in positions of power, say those in the US Congress, regarding their stances on contemporary issues of significance.  This is, of course, besides vested interests and obligations to toe the party lines, forms of which they currently take are most likely the outcomes of their lack of the needed knowledge – if endowed with right kind of knowledge, they would have been able to satisfy both, by and large, without necessarily jeopardizing the right decisions beneficial to their nation as well as humanity at large.  (In this regard, please note that their being given “explanations” about issues – in the form of reports or presentations or in any other form – will not help them much to understand; to really understand, they have to first master the basic vocabulary and concepts of the subject matter, in the same way one has to first master basics of a language in order to understand fully any communication using that language; one might also note the many long years it usually takes to actually master a new language, or a profession for that matter, which attests to the difficulty of the process.) 

The state of mind of the members of Congress was also put in a nutshell in another movie I saw, titled The Distinguished Gentleman.  Its lead character (played by Eddie Murphy) who considers himself a “con-artist,” which is a politically correct euphemism for a crook, got lucky by being in the right place at the right time and exhibiting much ingenuity and with a lot of help from his associates got himself elected to Congress.  On the first day of office, he goes to Capitol Hill with his entourage, enters the building, puts his index finger in his mouth, and holds it up – to gauge the “political wind.”  This is precisely the state of mind of the newly elected plotting their carrier advancement, in which process the choice of the butts to kiss plays a key role.  Given their very limited info bases and regardless of educational backgrounds, the complexity of issues one is faced with forces them to resort to any means to survive.  (Yet another movie I saw much later, after this post was published, titled Game Change which is about selecting Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as the running mate of Senator John McCain in the US presidential election of 2008, and which the filmmakers proclaim to be fact-based, although perhaps a bit exaggerated, would amply illustrate my basic argument  that elected officials are anything but capable of formulating sensible public policy; this is quite apart form the irrational sentiment-based way the public tends to vote – you've to watch the movie to understand the gravity of the issues.)   
  
This is the state of the currently most advanced nation on Earth.  What about other nations?  A similar logic applies to leaders of all stripes around the world.  And with this in mind, what are the chances of their being able to come up with relevant solutions to the increasing range of problems of our fast-changing and complex world?  A common outcome of limited knowledge/understanding is that when faced with a new situation, we tend to stick to the familiar.  Thus in view of the complexity of today’s problems, a common reaction would be to sing the party songs louder and whence dig in their heels deeper which, among other things, would lead the differences of opinion about issues with the “other side” to become wider – not that either side would be much aware of their nuances; a vicious cycle of self-reinforcing, thus perpetuating, destructive behaviours.  This would naturally lend much of their actions to be reactionary rather than logic-based and thus rational. 

This in turn means that under current circumstances, logic-based recommendations as those of your book are unlikely to be effective (towards achieving its proclaimed goal).  In the same vein, so would the thesis put forth in the articles on my blog.  In general, the vast majority of the audiences in both cases are likely to lack broad-based knowledge necessary to grasp the range of deeper implications and, unfortunately, many of the relatively few who might are also likely to lack the courage needed to propel theoretical concepts towards practical implementation – a-thousand-and-one excuses will surface to urge them not to stick out their necks!  Thus only a tiny fraction of the audience can be hoped to be counted on in addressing the issues in question. 

In all likelihood, ancient civilizations that collapsed (I do have your book, but haven’t managed to read it yet) due to shortsightedness of their rulers would also have had farsighted people (their relative proportion can be expected to be higher than it is now given the much slower pace of change of their world and their much less complex life conditions, and also given that today’s highly specialized education would tend to make us lose perspective and thus lose the wood for the tree) some of who are likely to have cautioned their rulers of the dire consequences of their ill-advised actions but went unheeded, likely for comparable reasons.  And this is a recurring theme in human history.  (The postscript refers to a current example.) 
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PS:  Article #5 titled “From a Local Focus to a Global One” is a one-page overview of the process that led me to the understanding of our complex problem, and thus to the simple and effective, albeit necessarily partial, solution.  The theoretical side of the problem described in the post is supplemented by my more than two-decades-long experience of dealing with the former Maldives President (besides interactions with many colleagues as mentioned in it) whose lack of understanding of today’s complex world and the unwillingness to face reality and learn from mistakes (typical of many people, particularly the high-ranking) besides a host of other unfavourable factors ultimately led to his downfall; this is not to mention that the ill-advised actions being pursued by the current president (who happened to be his younger brother) will most likely push the nation to an unbelievably pathetic condition, if not worse!  The more recent of my writings aimed at preventing such a fate are on my blog aimed at local readers www.rifatafeefmaldives.blogspot.com.  All of my writings about policy matters had been sent to successive presidents – in a format that, according to our custom, would have made them at least aware of them – along with several hundred of the local politico-technical cadre, and most of the earlier writings to two rounds of parliament members as well.  In retrospect, all that effort had been largely a waste of time, which should not be surprising in view of the theoretical reasoning given above; most other reasons for that outcome such as their lack of interest and being engrossed in pursuit of self-interest are also largely due to that reasoning, by virtue of which they lacked a vital realization – that the tiny Maldives is vulnerable on numerous fronts and that the nation and her citizens sink or swim together. 


The following shows how dynamics of the proposed program parallels those of two unrelated phenomena and dwells on its potential; it also shows how the program will greatly dampen the human tendency for self-destruction.  The piece is not part of the above email, although it has referred to Professor Diamond’s work; it is nevertheless published in the same article/post as the email because of their complementarity. 

Much of humanity’s existence is marred by the kind of destructive behaviour described in the email above.  And while that description is focused on decision-processes in the government, the same shortcomings also operate in virtually all walks of life  from family life to business and corporate life to all societal interactions without exception.  I have argued in the articles on this blog that the downsides inherent in human nature as well as those arising from the current set-up of our education systems (which inadvertently exacerbates the outcomes of the downsides of human nature, both described in the articles) are responsible for the bulk of the woes of humankind and that they can be countered to a large extent by the right education policy, and thus raise human wellbeing to unprecedented heights.  The constituent elements of the proposed program are described in the blog articles, particularly in article #13, “World Basic Education System.” 

The program is focused on the younger generation.  This choice arose from the facts that downsides arising from the human condition mentioned above are psychological in nature and are outcomes of our behaviours, and given, as argued towards the end of the subtopic “Understanding the Social World …” of article #13, that the foundation of our behaviour is laid when we are young children and that as we grow older such behaviour becomes largely automatic and beyond our conscious control.  (These form our habits – many of which are counterproductive – we use to navigate through the complexities of everyday life.)  As a result, efforts aimed at changing adult behaviours and mindsets would be largely in vain; it is much like trying to shape a piece of clay that has already hardened.  This is quite apart from our lack of understanding of complex issues as a result of our very limited knowledge bases to begin with.  We would therefore be better off aiming for children whose thinking is still malleable and can be guided to the right path.  It is also vital that our focus be on the program instead of burdening children with trivialities that will not contribute towards achieving our goals. 

The purpose of this piece is to draw some parallels between the strategy behind the program and aspects of two topics that are unrelated to it, and through exploring the dynamics inherent in the latter, help readers to visualize the huge potential of the program.  It also shows that the workings of the program will dampen an inadvertent danger of technological advancement to a significant degree – our tendency for self-destruction, which is currently a great concern for those who think seriously about humanity’s future. 

The first of the two topics relates to biological evolution of more recent times.  It is commonly agreed among scientists now that humans share more than 98% of their genes with chimpanzees.  Furthermore, in his book The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee, Professor Jared Diamond points out that we might have shared perhaps as much as 99.9% of the genes with our near ancestors of just before 40,000 years (a blink of an eye on an evolutionary time scale measured in billions of years) and wonders about the remaining 0.1% responsible for the enormous difference between us and them – factors that enabled Homo sapiens to evolve from a species who could probably utter only grunts and had no propensity for innovation to one who had developed coherent speech and an unquenchable thirst for innovation that ultimately led them to not only overcoming the restraining earthbound gravity and become spacefarers, but are now deciphering the nature of life itself which was an impenetrable enigma for the preceding millennia and able to dig into the deepest of the smallest particles in nature and gaze into the farthest corners of the universe.  The key aspect relevant to us here is the notion of a tiny initial change inducing an entity to go through a mind-boggling transformation.  

The second topic we shall consider here relates to aspects of Chaos Theory, which according to Wikipedia is “a branch of mathematics focused on the behaviour of dynamical systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions”; emphasis added.  Without going into technical details (of which I’m not a master anyway) we can focus on how the internal dynamics of the system can be influenced/changed by imposing small variations on successive stages of its life (“stages” here is actually a hypothetical construct used for clarifying the concept; in reality the process is a continuous one with no discernible separation between the stages) and change the results to suit our needs.***  A familiar example is a hurricane or cyclone which causes immense damage to life and property – think of Katrina and Sandy.  For over half a century now, scientists in many countries have been using “seeding” techniques to dissipate their ferocity, but with mixed success rates to-date – the nations include the US, Russia, China, India, Australia, Israel, and recently some Persian Gulf states.  The technique has huge potential in regions where drought or damage due to hurricanes or tornadoes is a sizable concern.  (The US, however, has apparently stopped using the technique due to its inconclusive results and potentially damaging side effects, while most nations cited continue to use it.)  If science can improve the technique to make its outcomes persistently positive in a conclusive way, it can be considered a second example in which initial conditions, when nudged in the right direction, can yield enormous dividends.  

The proposed program has characteristics shared by the above two examples in that minor changes of the right kind to initial conditions can yield enormous positive results and, unlike numerous social programs of ambiguous outcome, has the potential to better the human condition decisively.  Obviously, any program set in the right direction and maintained over a sufficient period of time can bring about desired outcomes.  What differentiates the program and the two examples from the crowd is both the huge size of the changes and the relatively minute timeframes over which such change can take place.  For our program that duration, at least to achieve the first decisive results, can be set realistically at less than three generations from the time of its universal adoption (one generation – younger and school and college years – for learning and habituating the elements of the program; another – mid-20s through mid-40s – for putting them into practice in real life conditions; and the third – late adulthood – during which maturity will be reached, beyond which the full benefits of the program will continue to be reaped) which is a tiny moment compared to the centuries over which education was used as a means for uplifting humanity.  Well, two aspects of humanity did get uplifted by education – that which improved its health and that which improved its life conditions.  But the vital aspect we are dealing with, failings of which continue to inflict much damage on humanity, was neglected to-date.  That neglect, however, was not intentional – just that educators of the world were not aware that such an aspect even existed!  Once our program is adopted, improvement of this aspect of the human condition would continue to grow beyond the timeframe cited and at exponential rates, just as improvements related to the other two aspects had or, for that matter, just as humans evolved exponentially from their near ancestors to become the Earth’s dominant species or just as the ferocity of destructive hurricanes or cyclones and tornadoes can be dissipated and rendered harmless by rather small adjustments to their internal dynamics.  This is, of course, in addition to the indirect but immediate benefits accrued to humanity due to the new awareness/understanding the program will bring about to adults while it is still being operationalized; and for further improvement in this direction, the basics of both communication and social psychology could be incorporated at secondary and college levels as core subjects.  (The benefits that could be hoped for from the measures mentioned in the last sentence, however, would be rather limited in comparison to the enormous benefits that would accrue by our program, which is focused on the young  for the reasoning given above.)   

Where we will head from there is anybody’s guess.  Hopefully, not towards self-destruction, as technological progress has endowed humans with that capability.  In fact, as we shall see, improvements to the educational aspect of our concern will generate inherent mechanisms that will work to dampen such a tendency, the lack of which can be said to be responsible to a large extent for today’s precarious situation.  The damage due to the lack of such dampers had been felt by many for a long time, although no one seems to have done much about it; their lamentations being implicit in the many expressions that bemoan the fast pace of technological advancement while sociocultural development continued to remain relatively stagnant, which by itself is a peripheral outcome of the central thesis of this blog; see also footnote #5 of article #13.  (But we can see that improvements to what falls under the rubric of "sociocultural development" would not help minimize/alleviate the problem of human tendency for self-destruction, for it does not address, as does the program proposed here, the real causes of the problem – what happens where the rubber actually meets the road; see below.) 

We can now finalize the parallels between the elements of our program and the two examples which, as stated, is the purpose of this piece.  And given that those elements have already been spelt out in article #13, here we shall only highlight the parallels in relation to the format we have been using – initial conditions and affecting mechanisms.  We have two levels of the initial condition – one inherent in the human nature itself (see account under “Making Sense of the World” in Article #13) and the other created by human action, albeit by necessity (account under “Specialization”).  The prime characteristic of both (related to our topic) is that it progressively hinders effective communication among humans and leads to, in addition to downsides listed in Article #13, misunderstandings, ill-will, the resulting strife, and ultimately self-destruction.  Advances in technology had exponentially increased the killing power at the disposal of human groups, and the spectre of annihilation of the entire human race is now a reality.  Thus the reduction of ICBMs, while laudable, is not a solution (it is like putting out a fire after it has already happened); the solution lies in changing the mindsets behind those ICBMs (arranging things in such a way to ensure that a fire does not happen in the first place).  

Much of the downsides arising from the two levels of our initial condition can be mitigated and rectified by the program arising from the accounts under the subheadings “Understanding the Nature of the World” and “Understanding the Social World …” in Article #13 towards improving the world basic education system; it forms the affecting mechanism through which we can tame outcomes of both levels of our initial condition, and also the foundation on which we can build a more enlightened mindset that will underlie a much better world.  For the program will not only overcome the barriers posed by our initial condition to a significant degree and minimize the downsides outlined in Article #13, but it will also minimize miscommunication and ill-will and thus the tendency for strife and whence self-destruction.  And we can see that our program can not only raise human wellbeing to hitherto unprecedented heights (which is our primary goal  what we began with, anyway) but will also go a long way towards guaranteeing the very future survival of the humankind.  
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***  Strictly speaking, the focus of Chaos Theory is on systems that behave according to their own internal dynamics, not under human influence, and one of its central tenets is "order in apparent chaos."  But I believe there is no harm utilizing the concept for our own purposes.