Posts Tagged ‘choice’

How to Create the Perfect Need-Machine by Analyzing Personal Activity Patterns

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

In the approach of Taylor and Ford, the employees and customers are treated as programmable machines.  The focus was on a perfect coordination of the senses, the muscles and the production system (the assembly line).  The emotions and the imagination were neglected.

In mass customization, the emotions are involved. In customer innovation, the imagination is imperative. In a demand oriented system all the parts of the human cognitive system have to play a role in a coherent and balanced way.

The human body acts on its environment with messages and action-patterns. The incoming and outgoing messages are observed by the senses and transformed to an internal format. The internal communication system sends the messages to the appropriate place in the body. The emotions are always looking for danger. They want to control the priority of the actions to make it possible for the body to react immediately. The imagination creates an image of the outside world and helps the body to generate scenario’s to improve its action-patterns. 

The senses are the connection to the physical outside world. They shield the human being from the enormous amount of signals that are trying to enter the body. They filter incoming data and transform the data in a standard internal format. When the senses detect an event, it is evaluated by the emotions. If the event is not important, nothing happens. It the event is unusual it becomes aware in the conscious. Events that are highly repeating are not noticed after some time. An internal program (an action-pattern) automates the handling of the event.

The muscles act in physical space. They acquire an enormous amount of reaction-patterns by repeated practicing. Humans learn from their failures. When the senses detect an event, many appropriate patterns are located and enabled. 

When the patterns enter mental space, they change into models. Complicated patterns are compressed into models. Humans use all kinds of compression techniques to make the world compact and therefore more understandable. Static models (e.g. an organization contains employees) compress the world in wholes (nouns) and parts (attributes). They create identities. Dynamic models (the employee sells a product) compress causal chains (event, actor, result). They make it possible to reason.

Models behave the same way as sensors do in physical space. They shield the mental space of the human being from the enormous amount of ideas that the imagination is producing.

The emotions act on hostile and friendly forces. They shield the body from physical injuries (avoiding pain) and take care of the self re-production process of the body (looking for food and a sexual partner).

The emotional system determines the amount of resources that is allocated to the evaluation and the search for adequate action patterns. If an event is dangerous, all resources in the body are used. The body reacts without thinking and uses a biological inherited and fast pattern (fight, flight, freeze, the primary emotions). If there is enough time to react, the emotional system evaluates its preferences and enables the preferred actions-patterns.

If the preferences are related to a long-term perspective, they enter mental space and the human has a choice to make. In the evaluation of long-term preferences, the other plays an important role. People want to take care of the other (family, friends, children), are afraid to get in to a conflict (dominance, status) and want to be praised by the other for what they are accomplishing.

Humans imagine (by creating pictures connected with feelings) what events they like to happen (a wish). When they are pessimistic, they imagine what events they do not want to happen (a fear).  The imagination is the innovative part of the human mental space that generates all kinds of new connections (ideas). The imagination is also the most free to play with new ideas. People can simulate and practice in their imagination without getting into trouble. The imagination produces the idea of the identity.

The imagination uses visual metaphors to create an understandable world. On the lowest level the metaphors are connect to the action patterns. The image of a cup is connected to picking up the cup, holding the cup and moving the cup. New structures are blended with old familiar structures.

Many metaphors make use of the human understanding of technology.  Freud based his theory of the unconsciousness on his understanding of the steam-machine (“I am steamed up with emotions”). Many theories of the mind are based on the metaphor of the computer. People always relate new phenomena to something they already understand. They sometimes do this (in the eyes of others) in very strange ways.  A skilful teacher knows this and tries to find the bridge (the right metaphor, a story) between his world and the world of the student.

In the human body, all the sub-systems (e.g. the services, the organs) are connected by shared communication-channels. There are fast (the nervous system) and slow reacting shared channels (the endocrine system). All the sub-systems use specific messenger-molecules to communicate their actions and act on incoming messengers.  Messengers materialize with every thought we create and with every emotion we feel. When a messenger enters the boundary of a sub-system, (e.g. a cell) it triggers messengers that are specific for that sub-system.

The action patterns make the muscles move according to a movements-plan that is stored in memory. The movement-plans of the muscles enable people to walk, to work (using tools) and to talk. In this last case, people communicate their intentions. The human communication contains a complicated mix of signals that are related to the emotions (e.g. visual expressions, gestures), the patterns (assertions) and the imagination (visual images, ideas).

People resist change. The patterns they have acquired control their behavior and determine their potential. People do not want to change their patterns dramatically. They want to acquire new patterns (by doing) without noticing the change. Only a major event (a critical moment), mostly with negative impact, can have a radical effect. If this event happens it takes a very long time to recover and get into harmony again. When people have to adjust their patterns too often, they experience stress and on the long run get sick.

If people cannot adjust their patterns, they have to involve the other parts of the cognitive system. When they involve the emotions, they have to set priorities and make a choice. People do not like making choices. They are incapable of evaluating all the possibilities. They can also make use of the senses and look at the real opportunities in the outside world. People are almost incapable of doing this because their imagination produces the images it wants to see. If the imagination really faces the facts, the identity is attacked. It feels powerless and unable to control his path of destiny. The last possibility a human has is to adjust the imagination. He has to realize that the possibilities he imagined were just illusions.

If everything stays the same, people get bored. They hope that an event will occur that relates to their wishes. People are the most satisfied if their environment produces just enough change (a challenge) they can cope with. They want a balance between the will (what they want, the imagination, variation) and their capabilities (what they are able to do, predictability, the patterns, their skills).

In a perfect demand oriented economy, a supplier has to provide a challenge to the customer. To provide this challenge the supplier has to understand the wishes and the fears (the imagination) of the customer, his behavior (the patterns) and the balance between the two parts. If the customer is out of balance the supplier has to help the customer to acquire new patterns (learning), help him to make a choice (advice) or show him the real opportunities (scenario’s) taking care of the customers identity.  

It is very difficult for a supplier to get accurate information. Most people are unable to make their behavioral patterns conscious. When people are asked about their opinion (an aspect of the emotions), they often do not want to offend the other and give proper answers. People only want to share their most secret wishes with people they trust (partner, family, friends). Correct information about the customer can only be acquired by carefully observing and analyzing the activities of the customer (what he is doing).  It is completely impossible for a company to observe the activities of all their customers. The only one who can do this is the customer himself.

Customers can observe their activities if they were able to gather personal activity-patterns, get the opportunity to analyze their behavior, and share their activity-patterns with others to get an advice. Most of the needed data is somewhere already available (patient records, buying behavior, payments etc) or can be made available by making connections to the tools the consumer is using in his personal- and work-environment (Emails, Content). The only thing that has to happen is that companies and government agencies make these patterns, which are most of the time privately owned by the customer, available.

It can be envisioned that all personal data is kept in a private space. Only the customer (the owner) can make the data available to others. This approach would prevent many problems in the current situation (e.g. spam).

The last step in a perfect rational demand oriented system is reached when the personal activity-patterns are automatically transformed in standardized need-messages that are sent out to appropriate providers.

About Ethical Dilemma’s

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

Moral Dilemma’s are situations where two or more moral rules are in conflict. You have to make a choice between two or more actions you don’t want to perform because Ethics forbid you to do so.

A famous example was formulated in Book I of Plato’s Republic, Cephalus defines ‘justice’ as speaking the truth and paying one’s debts.

Socrates quickly refutes this account by suggesting that it would be wrong to repay certain debts – for example, to return a borrowed weapon to a friend who is not in his right mind.

Socrates’ point is not that repaying debts is without moral import; rather, he wants to show that it is not always right to repay one’s debts, at least not exactly when the one to whom the debt is owed demands repayment. What we have here is a conflict between two moral norms: repaying one’s debts and protecting others from harm. And in this case, Socrates maintains that protecting others from harm is the norm that takes priority.

A tragic moral dilemma is formulated in William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice. Sophie and her two children are at a Nazi concentration camp. A guard confronts Sophie and tells her that one of her children will be allowed to live and one will be killed. But it is Sophie who must decide which child will be killed.

Sophie can prevent the death of either of her children, but only by condemning the other to be killed. The guard makes the situation even more excruciating by informing Sophie that if she chooses neither, then both will be killed.

Actions are organized in chains of cause and effect. An (ethical) rule defines a `forbidden` effect. The effect is caused by an actor. In one situation the effect is certain in other situations the effect is (highly?) possible.

Ethics tries to formulate action-guiding principles to prevent that humans create a “forbidden” effect. In the case of Sophie this effect is the killing of a human being. In the example of Plato more or less the same (“doing no harm”) applies.

The example of Sophie shows that some people are able to create contexts where ethical dilemmas are forced upon people. In this context “Sophie has no choice” and when there is no choice ethics is simply not applicable.

The only thing we can do is to avoid these contexts and to prevent the creation of these contexts (concentration camps, crime, war, violence).

Ethics is not only a cognitive action. The emotions are also involved. Although the choice of Sophie is enforced she will feel guilt when she has made a choice. The emotional effect of a forced choice is the same as the effect of a free choice. Avoiding a certain emotion (“feeling guilty”) can be the reason to formulate an ethical rule.

Some people are more empathic than other people. That is why the acceptance of ethical rules varies. People without any empathic feeling don’t agree with the rule that it is forbidden to kill or to do harm. In some cultures those people are called mentally ill in other cultures they are highly praised.

We can always create an example where one rule conflicts with another rule or where the precedence of one rule over the other rule is violated. The rule of “not killing a human being” is overridden by many other rules and these rules are again context-dependent. Some people believe “killing a human being” is allowed to punish or to defend (a human being or a country) or even to enforce a principle (“freedom of choice”).

It is always possible to formulate an external cause. Finding an External Cause is the best way to remove the feeling of guilt or to prevent the feeling of guilt. The Guard in the concentration camp was able to do his work without any remorse because he was helping to accomplish the aims of his Fuhrer.

A soldier can accept the killing of a human being when the other is an enemy. Somebody has convinced him that killing enemies is an important goal. The same applies for all the other people that are part of the immoral context. All of them have created a chain of reasoning where they are not direct connected to the immoral situation. They “have to do it” to make a living or to make a career.

It both cases people have failed to prevent the concentration camps or the war.

What is really behind this all?

Behind this is the issue of world-views.

Ethics shows itself in many (five) flavors and combinations of flavors. The most important combination of these flavors is a combination of the Unity (Rules) and Sensory (Cause/Effect) worldviews. Will McWhinney called this combination the Analytical Game.

The Analytical Game is the dominant game in Western Society. It is highly cognitive. It denies the existence of the emotions (Love, Empathy, Social) and the imagination (Art, Poetry, Music, Mythic).

The emotions and the imagination are transformed by the Analytic Game in a cognitive instrument. Everything has to be planned and evaluated. It blocks improvisation (context-dependent behavior) because it is “Afraid to Loose Control”.

What to do?

The most important advice is to avoid and prevent (!) Ethical Dilemma’s.

When you are encountering a dilemma please trust your “gut feeling”. It is guided by your Emotions and Imagination.


About Ethics

About Ma’at, the Egyptian Goddess of Harmony