Thursday, April 11, 2013

467: The Art Not to Be an Egoist 32

In general nobody regards him or herself as a bad person. We all prefer to be regarded as good people. And yet we can be so evil now and then.

What can go wrong , how simple family men can change into killers we learned in the previous lecture: by conformity to the group.

But also in the individual situation we can loose hold on our moral standards, tho human nature isn't inclined to be the cause of evil.

We often aren't aware of how we shift our moral standards to a next level. Social psychology has a name for this, adopted from ecology: Shifting Baselines.

Shifting Baseline Syndrome refers to a gradual change in our accepted norm for ecological conditions.  

The phrase describes an incremental lowering of standards that results with each new generation lacking knowledge of the historical, and presumably more natural, condition of the environment.  

Therefore, each generation defines what is ‘natural’ or ‘normal’ according to current conditions and their personal experiences.  

With each new generation, the expectations of various ecological conditions shifts.  The result is that our standards are lowered almost imperceptibly.

Daniel Pauly, a Canadian scientist, first elucidated the idea of shifting baselines in a 1995 "Trends in Ecology and Evolution paper". 

He wrote about the gradual accommodation of the disappearance of fish species, how each generation of fishers and marine scientists assumed that the population of fish at the beginning of their career was the standard.

Take for instance a leg, a woman's leg to be more specific. In the Victorian Age you already had to faint seeing a naked ankle. Standard was a totally covered leg.

In the 50s everybody stayed on his feet when seeing a naked calf below the knee. And seeing two completely naked legs of a lady here today in SL doesn't disintegrate anybody's pixels anymore.

More serious becomes the story, when we look at the Milgram experiments, first tried by Stanley Milgram, a 28 year old psychologist in 1961.

How can ordinary, decent people become such immoral murderers and torturers. In camps in WWII, in Vietnam or in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

The basic phenomenon is, that in all these situations obedience seems to push aside someone's conscience.

When put under pressure many people are willing to do things, that they actually think are wrong, if not reprehensible or despicable.

Such a stress situation can be pressure of time, or a situation for which one is completely unprepared, or the emphatic instructions of an authority.

In such a situation ordinary people are obviously capable of alleviating their troubled conscience in that they give up their responsibility.

This is a process of small steps. Eventually, what was experienced as immoral gradually becomes normal: we shift our baseline.

If Hitler in 1933 had told  the German people, that he  was planning to murder 6 million human beings for the only reason that they were jewish, I don't think he would have been applauded for that.

It all shifted step by step. In 1935 came the anit-Jewish racial laws. In 1938 the first synagogues were set to fire and only in the summer of 1941 he began with his "endlösung", the final solution. A gradual shifting of moral standards of almost a whole nation.

Conformity to the group and shifting baselines go often hand in hand. This you find in all aspects of society.

When we are convinced that others cooperate, we cooperate. When we are convinced that nobody cooperates, then we don't cooperate either.

Take tax morale: Greece. Every Greek is convinced that his neighbor is evading taxes, so he does the same.

In a company. Everybody believes that the others don't give their utmost at all… why should you, tho your moral conviction is, that you have to put all your energy and motivation in your job.

Maybe secretly you think "actually I behave like an asshole here", but on the other hand you adjust to the situation.

For our self-image however we must stay convinced that "the asshole" and the adapted person are yet one and the same person. 

Next time I'll look into the question how we do that…how these two can go hand in hand……

The Discussion

[13:24] herman Bergson: Thank you ^_^
[13:24] Debbie DJ: Oh great lecture thanks Herman
[13:25] herman Bergson: thank you Debbie
[13:25] herman Bergson: Little reason for questions or remarks?
[13:26] Debbie DJ: Group conformity and shifting baselines nix badly with strong egotistical leaders who normalize "evil".
[13:26] Dain Shan: True ..
[13:26] Hakudanoku: thank you Herman
[13:26] Debbie DJ: Like a small mob of armed thieves are easily organized by an individual.
[13:27] Debbie DJ:  ✧✩**✩✧ G I G G L E S ✧✩**
[13:27] Debbie DJ: Or even a government -
[13:27] herman Bergson: yes..because then they leave the responsibility to the leader...
[13:27] herman Bergson: their individual  responsibility
[13:27] Debbie DJ: Yes. While conforming, unquestioning.
[13:28] herman Bergson: Yes in that sense the homo sapiens still has a lot to learn
[13:28] Debbie DJ: What effect does TV then have in normalizing imposed economic ethics...
[13:28] Debbie DJ: The mind boggles...
[13:28] herman Bergson: TV is doing even worse Debbie....
[13:29] Debbie DJ: The baseline shifts, and conformity is established
[13:29] herman Bergson: Soem French filmmaker...last name Nick reproduced the Milgram experiment as a TV show...
[13:30] herman Bergson: people from the audience were asked to test a candidate (who was part of the experiment)
[13:30] herman Bergson: and in public most people easily administered heavy electric shocks to the candidate....cheered by the crowd...
[13:30] herman Bergson: This "show" was broadcasted in 2010....
[13:30] Debbie DJ: Obedience pushes aside conscience. ....
[13:31] herman Bergson: France 2
[13:31] herman Bergson: exactly....
[13:31] herman Bergson: not only obedience...
[13:31] herman Bergson: but being on TV also here
[13:31] Debbie DJ: Thats like conformity - wanting to show your best side?
[13:32] herman Bergson: Something like that....
[13:32] herman Bergson: Everybody does
[13:32] herman Bergson: It seems that we live with double standards....
[13:32] Debbie DJ: Oh look at me... I am willing to hurt people to look like im part of the group?
[13:32] herman Bergson: personally we hold high moral standards....
[13:33] herman Bergson: yes... in a group they can easily shift it appears
[13:33] herman Bergson: As a matter of fact....a bit scary....
[13:33] Debbie DJ: But we are easily influenced, and at work we often do the strangest things in the name of profit.
[13:34] herman Bergson: That have become clear looking at the behavior of the financial world indeed Debbie
[13:34] Debbie DJ: Green behaviour is a prime example.... we fly around, paying fees to tree planters to offset our carbon emissions
[13:34] herman Bergson: economics is completely detached from ethics nowadays
[13:35] Debbie DJ: and trade carbon cap limits????
[13:35] Debbie DJ: yes.
[13:35] herman Bergson: yes..another absurdity....
[13:35] herman Bergson: CO2 rights...
[13:35] Debbie DJ: the very word "rights" is the first error
[13:36] herman Bergson: yes....^_^
[13:36] herman Bergson: I never have understood this....and still dont :-))
[13:37] Debbie DJ: So, what can we do as individuals to help avoid this moral absurdity we find ourselves in, without getting fired or feeling like outcasts?
[13:38] Debbie DJ: In other words how can we avoid being led by the noses?
[13:38] herman Bergson: Well..we have seen examples of what happens to people who leak information....
[13:38] Debbie DJ: Manning.... yes.
[13:38] herman Bergson: for instance now the "Offshore-leaks"
[13:39] herman Bergson: Have you heard about that?
[13:39] Debbie DJ: The only way I can see is to make all information open. Especially scientific information.
[13:39] Debbie DJ: no? what are the offshore leaks?
[13:40] Debbie DJ:  ✧✩**✩✧ G I G G L E S ✧✩**
[13:40] Debbie DJ: Wasn't that BP -
[13:40] herman Bergson: Someone ..a trust qqfund employee , has leaked 280Gb data about how the rich evade taxes and make their wealth invisible...
[13:41] Debbie DJ: Well, good!
[13:41] herman Bergson: Among them ministers of finance..politicians etc.
[13:41] Dain Shan: Ok herman .. Oceane and i call it a day now It was great as always.. very interesting !
[13:41] Dain Shan: Thank you
[13:41] Oceane: good bye everyone ,nice talk :)
[13:41] herman Bergson: Thank you :-)
[13:41] Debbie DJ: I imagine that with the cloud it will become harder to hide things... and easier to find out
[13:42] Debbie DJ: Bye Oceane.
[13:42] Karsten Runningbear: bye
[13:42] herman Bergson: That cloud thing I really don't understand.....
[13:42] Debbie DJ: Technically? or philosophically?
[13:43] herman Bergson: storing your private data on servers you have no control of
z[13:43] herman Bergson: Nobody knows who has access to these these servers
[13:43] Debbie DJ: It has happened. Get used to it.
[13:43] herman Bergson: and don't tell me...nobody ..because of privacy laws....:-)
[13:44] herman Bergson: Yes and I still don't know why it happened
[13:44] Debbie DJ: The thing is that there is a huge swath of data following you - gps, cell phone, all your works and publications....
[13:44] herman Bergson: One keystroke and a malicious government can grab all data centers....
[13:45] Debbie DJ:  ✧✩**✩✧ G I G G L E S ✧✩**
[13:45] Debbie DJ: And as long as you use good encryption systems, you should be ok....
[13:45] Debbie DJ: and do backups of your own stuff.
[13:45] herman Bergson: And you believe that?!
[13:45] Debbie DJ: not really. its a little mantra I say to make it all right.
[13:45] herman Bergson: nice...^_^
[13:46] Debbie DJ: Its hard to resist the group pressure on this one...
[13:46] Karsten Runningbear: in the 80s we though, all governments collect our data, they couldn't do like google or Facebook do, i am very afraid about this
[13:46] herman Bergson: Same story again ..yes
[13:46] Karsten Runningbear: no data is secured
[13:46] Karsten Runningbear: if you want you get it
[13:47] herman Bergson: Type your name in Google search Karsten.....
[13:47] Debbie DJ: I must say that the positive spin offs are great. like knowing where you are, and getting mail on the move....
[13:47] herman Bergson: You might be surprised what will surface about you.....
[13:47] Karsten Runningbear: i never got a facebook account, but i often get email, people inviding me to facebook
[13:47] Karsten Runningbear: and i know this people
[13:47] herman Bergson: yes and that I find scaring.....
[13:48] Karsten Runningbear: i asked them, the didn't invide me
[13:48] herman Bergson: anonymous machines dig through data....
[13:48] Karsten Runningbear: facebook does it
[13:48] Debbie DJ: Facebook is a whole new pressure group too....
[13:48] herman Bergson: yes...
[13:48] herman Bergson: for then I get a list.....this one and that one seems to know you....etc.
[13:49] Debbie DJ: And bullying is a problem for teenagers. I imagine for adults too....
[13:49] herman Bergson: do you want to add as friend....
[13:49] herman Bergson: I thought I was smart.....
[13:49] herman Bergson: lol
[13:49] Karsten Runningbear: if you drive to fast, police searches google for a photo of you in germany
[13:49] herman Bergson: I deleted my Facebook account.....the one on my RL identity....
[13:50] Debbie DJ: What I find really fascinating is how quickly the kids have adopted typing on a tiny keyboard....
[13:50] herman Bergson: Kids are so easy going with all this
[13:50] Debbie DJ: and how it is always in use.... 24/7 almost
[13:50] herman Bergson: But I made a new Facebook account....
[13:50] herman Bergson: for herman Bergson.....
[13:50] Debbie DJ: Oh cool....
[13:50] Karsten Runningbear: *g*
[13:51] Debbie DJ: and what does google search show?
[13:51] herman Bergson: I thought...nobody knows me, but I can look into others pages yet...
[13:51] herman Bergson: How stupid I was....
[13:51] Karsten Runningbear: i think facebook knows
[13:51] herman Bergson: for I used my gmail account for it....
[13:52] Debbie DJ: ha ha - and it tied everything together. One sign in .....
[13:52] herman Bergson: so I got all shit again of people who I should know
[13:52] Karsten Runningbear: you can make a new email, if you use your computer at home they know you
[13:52] Karsten Runningbear: they know where you are live
[13:52] herman Bergson: that is the point Karten....we are prisoners of our IP address
[13:52] Karsten Runningbear: they know every byte on your computer
[13:52] Debbie DJ: Well for the paranoid, you can use TOR service and Linux...
[13:53] herman Bergson: I guess SL griefers do :-))
[13:53] Karsten Runningbear: they know the MAC address of your router

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