From a practical, motivational and experience-based perspective, it is useless to try to do something that is not favoured by the current circumstances, if that activity is something regular or habitual or something that requires many contributions over time (as part-time work). Such attempts will all fail eventually, and up to that point of time, they burn a huge amount of motivation, strength and other resources.

The solution is to change the circumstances instead. That is, to create surroundings (infrastructure, organizational rules etc.) that favour the activity one wants to do. This can be called “behavior setting design”; see the behavior setting theory.

It is however possible to perform one-time projects “against the circumstances”; this also consumes much motivation, strength and other resources, but that is o.k. if one can “re-fill” that wile living in ones day-to-day circumstances.

Examples:

  • To gain fitness, don’t create regular “train this or that” tasks, instead find a friend as a training partner, or a sports group so that training will get a regular, fun activity.
  • To become a more social person, move into a flat sharing community instead of creating tasks to meet people while still living in a very isolated way.
  • To recover from a burn-out situation, place yourself in a relaxing, supportive situation instead of creating tasks to relax, tasks to train physically, tasks to socialize etc..

A related insight is that it’s complete nonsense to permanently try to exhort and persuade the population to do more sport and live healthier, to increase public health. Because, all of the population know about the risks of not following these recommendations, and still do not follow them; so this must have a reason, and cannot by cured by simply intensifying the exhortations. The reason are multiple obstacles in the circumstances that make it impossible to uphold healthy activities in the long term with average human motivation (see above). People are simpl in a behavior setting that promotes unhealthy action (on average and in long term; individual actions and people might deviate, but a behavior setting is always effective on average, and average health is of interest here). So peopel cannot be blamed for living unhealthy, instead, these circumstances have to be changed to be more supportive.

Examples:

  • open, friendly sport groups to join
  • more informal social security to motivate people (by friends and family)
  • 24 hour gratis gym, operated by the city, incl. trainers
  • well-known places to meet for sports in informal manner
  • city-operated public Internet forums to find sport mates etc.

Have wrath, just don’t do evil: this seems to be the Biblical idea about how to deal with people if some tougher mode is required: if it is required, use the tougher mode (have wrath). There is no meaning in whimsy-flimsy behavior if only strength and tough, honest words lead to the goal. This phrase is actually something Paul wrote once to the Ephesisans: “Be angry, yet do not sin” (Eph. 4:26 ISV); so, it is “biblical”. (On a side note, this is not necessarily a quote from Ps.4:4 which rather speaks against wrath at all; because this connection can only be made via the LXX version, says Matthew Henry in his commentary on Eph.4:26.)

But then also, as Paul goes on to say: “Do not let the sun go down on  your wrath!” (Eph.4:26 ISV) . What does he mean? Know the limits of your wrath. When keeping wrath long term (“over night”, and longer), it breeds aggression and every kind of evil-doing. Therefore it is necessary to limit it to being a short-term emotion. Because then it is just a mode of more powerful social interaction: using the human expression abilities to full potential where that becomes necessary. It seems to me that Paul means this function of wrath here.

Remaining things to think about here:

  • What role does culture have here? Is it wise to adapt the severity of ones expression of wrath to the surrounding culture (like being less wrathful in Asian countries, as they are not used to it, but being more wrathful in South European countries, as they get the message only then?)
  • How to “not let the sun go down” if the reason for ones wrath is still there on the evening? Wouldn’t it corrupt ones message and credibility to still reconcile with the other party?
  • What actually are legitimate expressions of wrath if doing evil  (like destroying things, shellacking people) is not included? From the example of Jesus it seems that screaming and shouting is not even necessarily a part of showing wrath, rather a sharp message that is uttered in a direct, authentic, but sober-minded, low-emotional way.

I have some ideas in mind how to structure content in a way that is more adequate for skimming. Long texts are simply not really navigable in the finer portions (only in chapters and subchapters), and that makes them unadequate for serving in a workplace for content (snippets of scientific work etc.) and as a storage for content that is indexed in the mind.

Some ideas for structuring:

  • all traditional means: title, headers, sub-headers, paragraph headers
  • Line headers, for summarizing the content of a short paragraph
  • making much greater use of symbols (using street sign symbols as a well-known reference set)
  • foldable paragraphs, like in mindmaps: there is a title, but the content appears only after clicking on the title
  • hypertext
  • paragraphs that appear when hovering over them with the mouse
  • diagram languages
  • using structured language, e.g. for todo lists, inspired by programming languages incl. their choice of indentation
  • formula typesetting

In all that, it is important that this kind of content is producable in real-time, just like long texts.

I got a new view on communication: non-verbal communication should be considered an asset. Something valuable. People say that 90% of messages are transported non-verbally, so we should see non-verbal communication as increasing the bandwidth of our communication  by a factor of 9!

However, many people see the realm of non-verbal communication rather as a liability, because the messages transmitted are often sent involuntarily, and then misunderstood. To deal with this problem, we simply need to learn to send and to receive non-verbally.

Learning to communicate non-verbally is quite a time-intensive process, but it is necessary to establish a communication link between each two people. Though time-intensive, it is actually great for people who have a shared life anyway: couples, intentional communities etc..

Mastering the channel of non-verbal communication offers many benefits, actually. Especially, it offers more subtle means of communication: ways to express something with less force and less sharpness than possible by any words. (Because words, as explicit entities, have always a lot of inherent weight.) And there are many situations where it is desirable to transport content in a subtle, gentle way.

And here is an idea on how to learn non-verbal communication: you simply need a “feedback mode”, to check what messages you sent (partially unnoticed by you) and what the other party understood. This can be done by agreeing that it is always (at all times in all communication situations) possible to request feedback; which means the other party has to say with absolute naked honesty what he or she understood. That requires a great amount of underlying trust, because saying what one understood also gives deep insights of what one thinks, making woundable. But in partnerships and good friendships, this should be possible.

Two or three days ago, I had an idea what to do to stop the flow of oil from the Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf.

Just entered it into the public suggestion form that you can reach via deepwaterhorizonresponse.com: Suggestions. And as sort of a “yes I was (virtually) there” souvenir, here is the idea:

This idea is a modified “top kill” variant to cap the flow of oil from the well: instead of pumping drilling mud etc. from the top down into the well, the idea is to use a long metal tube for that.

The tube, perhaps half the diameter of the well bore, would be inserted from the top into the well. The tube should be as long as technically feasible, even up to several hundred meters if possible. If necessary it should consist of multiple pieces that are connected to each other before insertion.

The advantage of this technique, if feasible, would be that it is more like what will be done via the relief well drilling (intercepting the well bore at some depth). In contrast to the “top kill” method, the drilling mud would hopefully accumulate in the well bore more easily, as it can be inserted without pushing against the flow of a gushing well. Means the chances that this works could be better than with a top kill. The advantage over relief well drilling is, it can be deployed immediately, not needing several month of preparation.

Note that, if this method successfully seals the well, it should also successfully have sealed the insertion tube, as that tube will be full of cement also. The tube can be left in the wellbore therefore.

And here is the “proof” that I was there: 😀

There are two possible roles that the law can fulfill: protecting the weak from being exploited, or protecting the exploitation of the weak. In the first case it works for the interests of the poor, in the second case for the interests of the rich.

In the case of employment, trade unions successfully fought to implement laws that prohibit the most severe cases of exploitation. Namely, physical exploitation. What remains is financial exploitation: the ratio of annual wage to yearly gain per employee is mostly far below 1, meaning people do not at all get what their work is worth just because the company owners (or investors) have the right to the company’s organizational “shell” and market power – though that was built up with the labour of employees also!

In the case of self-employment where well-defined customer relations exist that are regulated by law, exploitation is also not much of a problem. Probably less of a problem that in the case of employees, who still suffer from financial exploitation. This includes for example companies like a doctor’s surgery, a pysical retail shop, a web shop, a cab company, a small manufacturer, being a hirer, and all craftsmen and other people who are paid by time. Among them are also freelancers who got a high reputation by some means, and can now demand being paid by time.

Now the problem is the case of the self-employed freelancer. There are no laws that protect him (or her) from even physical exploitation. The freelancer mostly has to give fixed-price offers, and the full risk of miscalculation is his. There is no minimum wage guaranteed by law – and this can drive him out of business. The problem is that a freelancer is in the economically weaker position: he has to fulfill obligations before getting paid, and needs the payment to exist. This seems to be a hole in the law system: for every other economically weaker party, the state created laws (like for tenants, employees etc.), but the freelancer has to negotiate his own rights though being in the weaker position. Bold freelancers can succeed here, but many others fail. It is also no solution to set up very rigid contracts with customers, ideally payment by time; as customers simply would not accept that as they are themselves often forced by their situation to avoid such high risks. And the state does not do something about this except calling it “precarious occupation”. The best thing is leaving this business area as fast as possible …

Looking at the other side of the scale, there are many laws protecting “possession”, and laws that implement rights so that possession generates more possession (the fact that interest rates are not forbidden etc.). Also, politiciany are currently (2008-2010) very eager to minimize the risk of investors by state-based guarantees that their loans plus interests are going to be paid back (see e.g. the Greece sovereign debt crisis). All these are laws that protect and increase the means of the rich (investors, people with a private or passive income etc..). Sad but true, this seems to make up the majority of the German laws, its primary intention.

Summary: I now see that law (or: a legal system) can be a good thing, because it can prohibit people to exploit each other (meaning, the stronger exploiting the weaker ones). Strict legislation and well-defined rights make it possible for people to get along with each other in a large society, even though you do not know the people you interact with personally. So even though you cannot trust the people you interact with, law makes meaningful interaction possible nonetheless because it guarantees you meaningful rights in the case the other party should try to exploit you. In the case of Germany, there are many good aspects where the legal system fulfills this role; but there are also many holes (see above), and many things where overcomplication makes law effectively unapplicable (e.g. through high process costs that you have to pay yourself if you win but the other party has no money).

My more visionary solution is however this: to live in a resilient, autarkic community of trustable people. Within it, very little laws are needed (just about getting and losing membership, and a daily time of “community work” for everybody). And in the external relations, no protective laws at all are needed: the community is autarkic, so is never in the weaker (exploitable) position because it needs nobody from outside. It would for example accept no fixed-price contracts, but demand getting paid by time. If customers do not want this: no problem, the community does not need customers.

There is another side to the medal of law-regulated protection from exploitation: this normally makes it possible for the protected “weak” persons to exploit the state that protects them, by drawing its welfare finances etc. without need, and without motivation to repay by working at ones maintainable capacity. We have such a free rider problem in the German welfare system, clearly. It simply means the waste of resources that are there: the workforce of unemployed but unmotivated workers etc.. (Note that the “free rider” designation is not applied here to the motivated unemployed – exactly those are what the state should be proud to protect from economic calamity by simply not finding a job.) So liberals are clearly right by saying that there is a free rider problem and that it has to be solved; but it does not get solved by the neo-liberal, laissez-faire, capitalist style of economy, as this effectively cancels also all the valuable protection of the weak just becaus of the free rider problem. Which is clearly an overreaction. But still, leftist people, Keynesian economists etc. need to find an answer for the free rider problem within their proposals – or their proposed system is not long-term maintainable. We should look at Scandinavic models for economy how this might be possible. If taxes would be guaranteed to be used efficiently (!) for the good of all (!), why not pay higher taxes? They would come back immediately or mediately (less crime, better educated employees etc.) to oneself. We have only a problem, therefore, in a state that is incompetent to use its tax money that way. See for a discussion of this and related problems: Wikipedia on the New Deal, and this ZEIT article.

In my collection of blog post drafts, a sediment of very short posts accumulated that only contained a link and a note. Too short to post, but combined, they make up a nerdy mixture from interesting to fanciful: