Monday, October 16, 2017

Acronyms

You know, it is difficult to imagine what the world would be like without acronyms. Especially in the social sciences. I rather fancy that 90% of the work of social scientists is devising the acronyms to capture the attention of people.

It certainly seemed that way in Management. There was this time when an 'alphabet series' was all the craze. When first someone devised 'Product, Price, Place and Promotion' as the four Ps of marketing management and it caught the fancy of the world, they set off a revolution. Soon, every single management theorist worth his salt had picked up his alphabet of choice and started on his own theory on that basis. 7 S, 9 this, 5 that...

THAT, though, is not really acronyms. Politics, especially Geopolitics...Well, the days of the cold war were full of wonderful acronyms. SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks), START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) and so on. They really got the attention of the public and THAT made the citizens invested in the process. Too often, though, you DID find that your leaders thought that having devised a catchy acronym, their job was done and nothing further was needed but still...

I rather feel that this Climate thingy is suffering from a lack of attractive acronyms. I mean, take that UN nodal agency - United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). I can quite see Donald Trump starting off with UNF and wondering how many Cs came after that. It was not like UNICEF where he could roll it off his tongue with no-one the wiser about the fact that he was not sure about whether it was a 'C' or an 'S' in the middle. No wonder he wants OFF the entire Climate thing only to avoid mucking up with UNFCCC.

Just imagine if, instead, the UN had named that agency United Nations Framework for Using Climate Knowledge (UNFUCK). THAT acronym just rolls off the tongue. AND Trump could find it rather handy when he is caught swearing ('Oh! I was speaking of Climate change. You just did not hear that UN there'). It also leaves the issue delightfully vague as to what use you would put the climate knowledge to, leaving the back-door open for a retreat. Of course, it intrigues the common man, if any such exist. He starts wondering about how one could undo an act that everyone thinks of as irreversible. THAT creates a climate where...err...climate can be discussed.

You need to devise dinky little acronyms for the actions of the agency as well. Like, say, Polluting Industries Suppression Strategy (PISS). Or, to take another example, Crackers Reduction Universal Drive (CRUD). Or, even a proposal for nations to act upon - Suppression of Harmful Irritants Tariff (SHIT) and, possibly, a Suppression of Nitrogen Oxides Tax (SNOT).

Can you not see people discussing on the streets like this...

"CRUD, I think, is a necessary accessory to PISS"

"I think that SHIT is an important adjunct to PISS"

"SNOT, I think, should go hand-in-hand with SHIT"

There you go, make the thing popular and you get a buy in from global citizenry. But the UN seems to have totally lost the fine art of creating acronyms. Or, maybe, they just do not realize that social re-engineering is ALL about proper acronyms.

No wonder, the world is knee-deep in shit (the non-acronym version) on this issue of Global Warming!

Disclaimer: Please do not read a Trumpesque disdain for Climate change into this and uncork vituperation. IF I can write self-deprecatory humor, I CAN make fun of my own stands on social issues, too.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Freedom of Speech

I wish I had been born a generation later. So many things have changed for the better for the child that it would have made a tremendous improvement to my childhood experience if only I had not been born too early to take advantage of it.

"Suresh! What is Boyle's law?"
"It explains why milk boils over while water does not."
"Wrong answer! Stand up on the bench."

And, being born too early, I had no choice but to stand up on the bench for the entire period. Now...ah, now I could have told the teacher, "You cannot punish me for exercising my freedom of speech."

How handy it could have been in inter-boy relationships too. AND on the consequences of the inevitable ructions that occur in such interactions.

"I love Chess, Suresh"
"Namby-pamby! Only cricket is worth any interest."
"I understand that. Chess requires brains after all"

I smack that guy for restricting my freedom of speech and the issue, obviously, gets escalated up to the parents.

"Why did you beat him?"
"That #@&! said that..."
"Suresh! What have I told you about using swear-words?"

AND when I get spanked I cannot even tell my parents that using corporal punishment to restrict my freedom of speech was a grave violation of my fundamental rights.

Not that it would have been any help with parents. They WILL bring in the fact that I smacked that guy, too. Parents really have no grasp of nuances. Have you seen that? They do not understand, that when I smacked him, it was in defense of my right to speech whereas when they spank ME it is a contravention of mine.

What was that? This freedom of speech thing that I hear of is from ADULTS? Not children?

Come on, they say it when someone is only saying that what they say is wrong? Even when they  speak of 'freedom of speech' when all that they need to do is prove that they are right?

They are really adults

How can that be? I mean they say it even when someone is merely disagreeing with them. Since when have adults thought that disagreeing with them is tantamount to stopping them from what they want to say?

They. Are. Really. Adults.

You are joking, right? I mean, like they are on Facebook, in groups that give out a mile long list of what they can say and cannot say and do not consider THAT a restriction on their fundamental rights. But, if someone opposes what they say on that someone's own post, they remember their constitutional rights?

THEY. ARE. REALLY. ADULTS.

Oh! All Right! If you say so...

Though I must say that what you have been doing so far is a restriction of my freedom of speech!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Argumentum ad populum

THIS should certainly have got the academics into hot water. I mean, 'Vox Populi, Vox Dei' (The voice of the people is the voice of God) after all and these guys have the gall to say that to consider something correct because it is the popular belief is a logical fallacy? Come on, did anyone bother to get their brains examined?

They really need to be reminded of Galileo. Everyone KNEW that the Earth was the center of the universe, so obviously it was true. And, yet, that chappie persisted in putting the Sun at the center of the solar system and look what happened to him. It is a different thing that, once everyone started believing that the Earth was NOT the center of the Universe, God changed things around to make THAT true. After all, Vox Populi Vox Dei...or, in this case, the action of Dei.

Never mind, though. God still has human beings as the center of the Universe...everyone says so. And THAT shall BE true till such time as everyone starts believing otherwise. As though we would. Anyone who dares say that we are NOT the center of the Universe will be hounded out of life, unless an alien species conquers us.

To more mundane things...Everyone KNOWS that we shall ALL benefit as long as we all pursue our own goals to the exclusion of everyone else's. THAT is what keeps the wheels of commerce running and that is absolutely important for the world to keep spinning on its axis. Till some day the wheels come off...

What beats me though is that, nowadays, people do not all seem to believe in the same things. But, never mind, we have what are called 'echo chambers'. Everyone who believes otherwise than we do is cast away into the outer darkness viz blocked, unfriended, whatever, and we are surrounded by people of whom we can say 'Everyone believes as I do'. That is, indeed, the ideal world to live in...and some day we shall enter the outer darkness and exterminate those vermin.

It is surprising though that people say that this is a logical fallacy - that to believe that what everyone 'knows' is necessarily true - and that they have proof that will Trump our belief. As though any proof ever can! Vox Populi IS Vox Dei, after all, and even God cannot make us believe otherwise!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Survivorship bias

You know, there are some things that seem so apparent when someone says it but never as clear when it happens in real life. Take this 'survivorship bias' for example. It is a widely prevalent logical fallacy. Like all logical fallacies, this too is one of those things which you nod wisely when you hear of it while going about committing it with gay abandon.

"You know I think that jumping off the sixth floor is not at all fatal"
"Why do you say so?"
"Well, everyone I have met, who has jumped, is still alive"

I was flabbergasted. I mean, come on, faced by something like that too many questions jostle your mind for you to be coherent. How many such people could he have met? How did he meet even one? AND how on Earth did he expect to meet someone who had NOT survived?

THAT is the easiest example of the 'Survivorship Bias". If the only people you meet after something like that are the ones who survived, how can you draw a conclusion from that?

By now, you are all nodding and finding it funny that ANYONE could draw a conclusion like that. Let us try another one on you.

"I think you can easily make money playing on the stock markets."
"Really?"
"Yup! I met some twenty people in a stock market seminar who knew nothing about it before and have been making money on it for the past five years."

Nice. You are the next Warren Buffet. But...if 80 other people had also started off at the same time and become bankrupt do you expect to meet them at a seminar on the stock markets? Obviously, you did not also pursue your research with the beggars at the traffic lights. (Exaggeration, of course, but then separating a writer and exaggeration IS tough!) Could it be survivorship bias...those who survived and thrived DESPITE not knowing anything about the stock markets?

"Bill Gates is a school drop-out and look at him. I think your chances of being hugely successful is better without education."

Really? AND how many school dropouts have you studied other than Gates?

"To become a successful writer you do not need to know good English. Or even be a reader..."

Ye Gods! Now, go back to the first example and STOP laughing at THAT guy!