Sunday, March 10, 2013

460: The Art Not to Be an Egoist 25

Before embarking on the question, if there can exist something universal in human nature, based on the idea that biologically and physiologically we all have the same brain,

I want to bring to your attention, that all our efforts to understand human nature and thence the possibility of moral behavior, is not just an intellectual game or just non-committal interest.

Let me draw for you the whole picture as I see it. Roughly, you can distinguish two brain areas: the limbic system, which evolved in early mammals to control fight-or-flight responses and react to both emotionally pleasurable and painful sensations,

and the prefrontal cortex. The most typical psychological term for functions carried out by the prefrontal cortex area is executive function

Executive function relates to abilities to differentiate among conflicting thoughts, determine good and bad, better and best, same and different, 

future consequences of current activities, working toward a defined goal, prediction of outcomes, expectation based on actions, and social "control" (the ability to suppress urges that, if not suppressed, could lead to socially unacceptable outcomes).

In my previous lecture I associated the limbic system with Aristotelian thinking and the prefrontal cortex with Kantian thinking, moral behavior based on drives and intentions and  moral behavior based on a sense of duty.

Then this morning I read the headline "Man is apparently not so rational after all". Who has attended my lectures for some time now, may not even blink. I have already pointed several times at this fact.

But the writer of the article is talking about economists and how they, before the rise of behavioral economics, regarded man as an individual that made decisions based on rational considerations.

Just take this example. Ask someone how much he will pay for a nice present. Say, it is 10 dollar. You sell it for 10 dollar. Then ask him to sell it back to you. Eight out of ten would ask more than 10 dollar for that.

Possessing something makes it suddenly more valuable, it appears. They call it "loss aversion", which also might explain why housing prices rarely decline to market clearing levels. Irrational of course.

Ask someone what he want…..10 dollar now …or 20 dollar next week. Most people seem to take the 10 dollar. The present seems to have greater value than the future. Als irrational.

And we are so easily manipulated. Happens every day. A book priced 19.99 dollar sells, the one priced 20.00 dollar doesn't. 

What consequences  has this for a government? Should the government base policies, rules and regulations on the optimistic illusion, that people are mainly rational beings?

Or should the government rely on the truth who we really are: manipulable,  conservative, short term thinkers, who also poorly calculate?

It is interesting to look at things from this perspective. At least in the Netherlands for every employee it is mandatory to participate in a pension fund. Leave it to the workers themselves and you'll may expect problems  at old age.

On the other hand, the Department of Housing has approved of a kind of mortgage, which creates lower monthly payments for starters on the housing market.

This to get something moving again in this dead market. However, lower monthly payments, but after 30 years the mortgage is not paid off, 

like would be with a decent mortgage and higher monthly payments. Only 50% is paid off and you are left with a debt of about a 100.000 euro or more!

This is aiming at our weakness of short term thinking for a short term political and economical goal. "This is going to cost consumers a lot of money", was said to a spokesman of the Department of Housing.

"We know", he answered, "but people don't need to buy such a mortgage. They have a choice and they will make that choice deliberately."

Here you see how human nature and politics come together. Put this in the perspective of slogans like "Less government" or "Not the free market is the problem, the government is the problem."

What government do you choose, one which bases its politics on who we hope to be - thinking people who make more or less rational choices, or one which bases it policies on who we really are?

As you see, you find our modern philosophical issues in your morning newspaper, which tells you about all national and international news.

So let's repeat our next question: does the apparent biological and physiological resemblance of brains also imply at least a promise of some kind of universal moral understanding?

The Discussion

[13:25] herman Bergson: Thank you ^_^
[13:25] Debbie DJ: I feel manipulated ;)
[13:25] Debbie DJ: Thanks Herman
[13:25] Lizzy Pleides: Thank you Herman
[13:25] Merlin: The problem with long term thinking is that sometimes 'Tomorrow never comes', and especially younger people will think that way.
[13:25] herman Bergson: I can imagine Debbie :-)
[13:26] Merlin: There is a saying, A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
[13:26] .: Beertje :.: tomorrow doesn't's always now..
[13:26] Merlin: meaning that certainty now is more valuable than a promise for tomorrow
[13:26] Debbie DJ: Yes merlin, and financial tools discount future values due to uncertainty...
[13:26] herman Bergson: yes Merlin...and you are right Beertje....that is our basic mistake
[13:27] herman Bergson: so take the 10 dollars:-)
[13:27] Debbie DJ: And let the government worry about the future on your behalf...
[13:27] Debbie DJ:  ✧✩**✩✧ G I G G L E S ✧✩**
[13:27] herman Bergson: My basic issue here is that in our brain there is a constant battle going on
[13:27] Merlin: yes, that £10 / £20 thing .... you have to ask, 'can you believe the promise?'
[13:27] Gemma Allen: is true
[13:28] herman Bergson: yes Merlin...uncertainty....
[13:28] Debbie DJ: Some of the promises made daily, especially via advertising, are very rich - and unbelievable
[13:28] herman Bergson: that is exactly what is going on in our minds...
[13:28] herman Bergson: on the one hand...
[13:28] Lizzy Pleides: politicians get votes with little presents and promises which concern our short term thinking
[13:29] herman Bergson: rationally you would say...waiting one week delivers me 200%...
[13:29] herman Bergson: but then there is that feeling of uncertainty.....fear...
[13:29] Merlin: Regarding the link between our thinking and economics, I noticed that when they replaced the £1 note with a small coin it caused people to spend more freely.....
[13:29] herman Bergson: so you grab the 10 bucks
[13:29] Merlin: Inflation!
[13:30] Debbie DJ: there is a scale factor here... size. If it is an insignificant amount - it is easier to take the risk of losing..
[13:30] herman Bergson: Makes me think of what I observed last week...
[13:30] Merlin: But Debbie, isn't that another example of illogical thinking?
[13:31] herman Bergson: a kid if 6 had a 2 5 euro bills...
[13:31] Merlin: If you think a horse is worth a bet, it should be worth a big bet
[13:31] herman Bergson: the mother wanted to give the kid a 10 euro bill for she needed the 5 euro bills
[13:31] Gemma Allen GIGGLES!!
[13:31] Gemma Allen: ...LOL...
[13:31] Gemma Allen: i can see it coming
[13:31] herman Bergson: Hell broke loose..
[13:31] herman Bergson: Impossible deal....:-)
[13:32] Debbie DJ: Yeah Merlin. Some people even go gambling ;) tax for people who cant calculate ;)
[13:32] .: Beertje :.: of course..he had 2 bills and mother offered just 1
[13:32] herman Bergson: Exactly...:-)
[13:32] herman Bergson: the number 5 or 10 had no meaning at all
[13:33] herman Bergson: tho the kid can count
[13:33] .: Beertje :.: never offer 1 bill:)
[13:33] herman Bergson: but what I wanted to say...
[13:33] herman Bergson: there is a constant battle going on in our brain
[13:34] herman Bergson: between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex...
[13:34] Debbie DJ: A corporate observation is that about 80% of work time is spent on trivial stuff - like painting the bike shed, or getting pencils, and 20% is real useful work with customers...
[13:35] Merlin: Hmmm.. the workplace... dont get me started on that!
[13:35] Merlin: Luckly Bejiita is not here too
[13:35] Debbie DJ: So we are not good at picking our priority puzzles ...
[13:35] herman Bergson: Ohhh..makes me think of DELL Debbie
[13:35] Debbie DJ: Dell?
[13:35] herman Bergson: Yes the computer firm....
[13:35] herman Bergson: The owner wants to take it form the stock He buys all stocks...
[13:36] Debbie DJ: they must be good - their logo is in front of me ;)
[13:36] herman Bergson: But the management is against...
[13:36] Merlin: hehe I have a Dell too
[13:36] herman Bergson: because they got bonuses in stocks and options...
[13:36] Merlin: Some advisors say that guy is making a bad move
[13:37] Debbie DJ: Its certainly an unexpected move...
[13:37] herman Bergson: Sorry..dont know why it comes to my mind :-)
[13:37] Merlin: Dell is old technology and will not prosper
[13:37] Merlin: He said
[13:38] Merlin: I don't know either Herman... psychology?
[13:38] Debbie DJ: It seems that computer manufacturers have largely missed the migration to pads and smart phones
[13:38] herman Bergson: Well it was said that productivity increased when the employees received bonuses...:-)
[13:38] Merlin: That was the issue Debbie, yes
[13:38] herman Bergson: ahh...interesting observation Debbie
[13:39] Lizzy Pleides: i am glad they cut the bonuses in swiss now
[13:39] herman Bergson: Real world experience....
[13:39] herman Bergson: I went on vacation to Schiermonnikoog....
[13:39] herman Bergson: took my laptop and iPad with me...
[13:39] herman Bergson: never unpacked the laptop..:-)
[13:39] Debbie DJ: Bonuses are heygine issues according to management practices...
[13:40] Debbie DJ: Short term motivators...
[13:40] Gemma Allen: could you get to sl with the ipad?
[13:40] herman Bergson: No Gemma
[13:40] Gemma Allen: :-)
[13:40] Gemma Allen: but everything else i bet
[13:40] herman Bergson: But I was only away for a week...I can hold my breath that long in SL:-)
[13:40] Merlin: Well look at Haku, she is using a mobile phone for this
[13:41] herman Bergson: Does she??
[13:41] Debbie DJ: Oh? Haku?
[13:41] Debbie DJ: are you on a phone?
[13:41] Gemma Allen: Yes-ah!
[13:41] Gemma Allen: there is a program you can get
[13:41] Gemma Allen: text only?????
[13:41] Lizzy Pleides: but you can only chat with it, right?
[13:41] herman Bergson: SL on your mobile????
[13:41] herman Bergson: wow 
[13:41] Merlin: I have known others to use mobile phones too
[13:41] Gemma Allen: text
[13:41] Merlin: No
[13:42] Gemma Allen: no?
[13:42] Merlin: With text only you cannot move about
[13:42] Gemma Allen: the whole thing??
[13:42] Merlin: or see anything
[13:42] Gemma Allen: right
[13:42] Debbie DJ: haku, can you see us?
[13:42] Merlin: She seems to be akf
[13:42] Merlin: akf
[13:42] Lizzy Pleides: Hey Haku, ... waves*
[13:42] Merlin: afk
[13:42] Debbie DJ: afk
[13:42] Gemma Allen GIGGLES!!
[13:42] Gemma Allen: ...LOL...
[13:42] Merlin: lol
[13:42] herman Bergson smiles
[13:42] Debbie DJ: or aak - asleep at keyboard
[13:43] herman Bergson: anyway....
[13:43] Merlin: hahaha Debbie :)
[13:43] herman Bergson: as you see...our brain and what politics we want are closely related..
[13:43] Lizzy Pleides: i have a program for the iphone for sl
[13:43] Gemma Allen: can you see
[13:43] Gemma Allen: ?
[13:44] Lizzy Pleides: you can only see the map
[13:44] herman Bergson: Now we need to investigate the question...can there be something universal in mankind due to that brain????
[13:44] herman Bergson: but I see..real students...
[13:44] Debbie DJ: well, there is a lot universal...
[13:45] herman Bergson: more interested in iPhones than a discussion..:-)
[13:45] Gemma AllenGemma Allen GIGGLES!!
[13:45] Gemma Allen: ...LOL...
[13:45] Lizzy Pleides: lol
[13:45] herman Bergson: So Class
[13:45] Gemma Allen: ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:45] Debbie DJ: Like love ;) and a desire to get our children educated
[13:45] Lizzy Pleides: it is getting a part of our brain
[13:45] herman Bergson: Thank you all again :-)
[13:45] Debbie DJ: oops too late - have to wait till next week
[13:45] Lizzy Pleides: Thank you herman
[13:46] Debbie DJ: thanks Herman... good lecture.
[13:46] Gemma Allen: Bye, Bye   
[13:46] Gemma Allen: for now
[13:46] herman Bergson: thnx Debbie :-)
[13:46] Vadaman: Thank you so much prof.
[13:47] Lizzy Pleides: we stay here until you say us what our brains have in common Herman :-)
[13:47] herman Bergson smiles
[13:47] herman Bergson: thought so...
[13:47] Debbie DJ: they all turn into jelly with too much tv :)))
[13:48] herman Bergson: Well we al have the reptile brain to begin with...
[13:48] Lizzy Pleides: true Debbie
[13:48] Merlin: Well my thought was that if the brain is universal to mankind, then it will give all mankind those universal qualities
[13:48] herman Bergson: that is evolutionary the oldest part...
[13:48] Debbie DJ: well got to go...
[13:48] Debbie DJ: night all...
[13:49] Vadaman: Bye!
[13:49] Merlin: Bye Debbie
[13:49] herman Bergson: Bye Debbie
[13:49] Lizzy Pleides: night debbie and fred
[13:49] .: Beertje :.: bye debbie
[13:49] Debbie DJ: see you all next week... byeee
[13:49] Fred123 Aiten: night everyone
[13:50] herman Bergson: the most interesting part of the brain is the prefrontal cortex....
[13:50] Lizzy Pleides: the Kant part
[13:50] herman Bergson: because that is the part that makes us as mammals unique...
[13:50] herman Bergson: yes...
[13:51] herman Bergson: When that part gets damaged we stop being moral beings....
[13:51] Merlin: Isnt Autism a bit like that?
[13:52] herman Bergson: No...
[13:52] Lizzy Pleides: its always tragic when a man gets a brain damage
[13:52] herman Bergson: Autism is a problem with connections in the brain....
[13:52] herman Bergson: I recently read an article about it...
[13:53] Lizzy Pleides: you mean the synapses?
[13:53] Merlin: Autistic people are said to lack empathy
[13:53] herman Bergson: a normal brain has longer and wider connections than a brain of an autistic person...
[13:53] herman Bergson: Yes they do...
[13:54] herman Bergson: But Phineas Gage is the historical example of what becomes of you when the prefrontal lobe is destroyed
[13:54] herman Bergson: before the accident he was a real decent person....
[13:55] herman Bergson: after the accident he just became an uncontrolled say it in a decent way
[13:55] herman Bergson:
[13:57] herman Bergson: an amazing story this man....
[13:57] Lizzy Pleides: just reading it*
[13:58] herman Bergson: a classic example of the first neuro scientific insights
[13:58] Lizzy Pleides: I have to go , Thank you again for the wonderful lecture, Good night everybody
[13:58] Merlin: Goodnight Lizzy
[13:58] Merlin: I will go too now
[13:59] herman Bergson: Bye Lizzy
[13:59] Vadaman: Bye!
[13:59] Lizzy Pleides: byee, waves*
[13:59] Merlin: Bye everyone
[14:00] .: Beertje :.: sorry I didn't write anymore..I was struggleing with windows 8...
[14:00] herman Bergson: Can happen :-)

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