nudge, nudge, wink, wink

October 20, 2017

Richard Thaler recently won the Nobel for Economic Sciences for his contributions to the field of Behavioural Economics (an amalgam of Economics and Psychology).   While it was for numerous works, I enjoyed his book on libertarian paternalism more commonly known as nudge theory (Nudge:  Improving Health, Wealth, and Happiness).  Moreover, he had a cameo in the Oscar-nominated film I liked called The Big Short (based also on a book) –  while intellectually I agree with the hot-hand fallacy as a former basketball player I can’t deny the boost of confidence this gave me.

I think everyone running for public life (or already in it) will be well-served to read it.  Hopefully, I can apply some of the teachings to my own life.

Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz were previously nominated by the committee for economics.  I wonder which author I read will be next?

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celebration

January 13, 2017

my wife’s grandmother is turning 100.  We will attend the celebration. She has a big family (180 guests, 120 of which are relatives) so we’re staying offsite.

What’s special about her is that she still has her mental faculties and some of her physical acuity (in fact, she still does the household laundry).  I think her “secret” is constantly being and remaining active.  If I ever manage to get close to her age, hopefully I’ll be the same.

As I will have intermittent Internet access, you might notice a “slight” hiatus but I’ll resume this when I get back.

brave, new world

November 13, 2016

it’s quite “easy” to be an armchair quarterback and we can offer analyses until we’re blue in the face. Most people are obsessed with the wedding and not the marriage – sure I can be “calmer” as I don’t live in America but it also has repercussions for the rest of the world.  The reality is that the US election went as it did – I’m now more focused on the First 100 Days of the presidency as a harbinger.  The real question is what now?

America looking more inwards is an opportunity for the rest of the world.  Sure it will be difficult but, in my opinion, it’s not really fair of us to expect them to be the world’s “policeman” (despite in the past assuming and cherishing that role).  Maybe it’s time for us to say thank you and wean ourselves from our dependence.  We should accept whatever help they offer but not expect it – it’s neither their duty nor responsibility.  Instead of looking externally to save us, we should also look to ourselves to alleviate misery:  sure a helping hand would be great and much appreciated but what would it do for our “pride” if we can participate in the “solution”.

Many of us confuse the “idea” of America for the country – in my dealings US citizens aren’t the government and it’s not right to think they’re interchangeable.  They should be viewed as an “exemplar” and not a “savior” despite recent history.  Why do we continue to pin our hopes on a single country and not more appropriately on a consortium of nations?  Sure, we can’t discount leadership but should it only always come from one source? In my mind, we depend too much on someone else to solve all of our “problems.”

You’d think that after the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, the markets would factor in all eventualities but they crashed nonetheless.  It’s this type of fingers-in-the-ears and hopeful thinking that contributes to the growing disdain for globalisation and interconnectedness.

As David Brooks rightly points out: there’s a rise of “ethnic nationalism” worldwide partly due to “elitist condescension”. We need to stop making others feel stupid to show off our intellect or schooling.  It shouldn’t be about telling people what to think but enabling others to think for themselves.  It’s not always about being “right” and sanctimonious about it.  Case in point, it’s not that political correctness per se is wrong but it’s the shoving down other people’s throat while acting smugly that leaves such a bitter taste in the mouth for some.  We can learn a lot about human psychology.

My supervisor once taught me the phrase: “Local maxima, global minima”.  It’s unrealistic to rely on altruism when self-interest is hard-wired in our DNA.  Sure there will be some where character and principles will override baser instincts but they are few and far in-between.  Why are we even surprised when most people don’t act as we expect?  Admittedly, I’m occasionally guilty of this optimism – I’m just more conscious of it now.  Not to be one of those but I think we need to review how we educate our young: just basic literacy and numeracy are no longer sufficient.

Like Dr. King said: “The arc of history is long”; but one has to wonder: is this merely a hiccup in “experiment” of America or the beginning of the end of the project?

better days

October 28, 2014

To paraphrase an expression from the cancer community, you can either be bitter or better. Not to be melodramatic but the same applies to living with a disability.   I’ve felt both – more of the latter lately. All of us with a “problem” can be overwhelmed – there’s no monopoly for this it’s just certain cases are “easier” for us to understand. I know logically that statistically speaking, there are no “bad” days but it sure sometimes feels that way – so does it really matter anyway. Perception is often considered more than reality. Having a shitty day affects our mood – it’s alright to feel this way as long as we keep this to a minimum and are fully aware of our resulting actions (at least that’s what I tell myself) . I’m Human after all and not an Econ. I can’t always be rationale (although generally I think I am). I’m not always logical or an automaton despite my computing background. I’m no paragon of how to behave but I think (hopefully) I’m gradually getting better at accepting it. Like an addict you’re never completely “cured” – every day’s a struggle.

Things won’t necessarily get better as the day progresses but my attitude and how I can handle things can certainly improve. It’s hard for me because my worldview is closer to Marc Maron than it is to Polyanna. Like Jim Jeffries in Legit, I should learn to just make the “best” out of “bad” situations. In short, I should try not to be so grumpy all the time.

I felt like this before I acquired my disability and I feel it now. Some of my views have changed but not all of them – surely in my case it’s just not solely out of life experiences but exposure to others’ thoughts. I’ve used exercise as an outlet lately but have to write sometimes even if it’s difficult. The former doesn’t allow me to express myself and have a “voice.”

i knew you were trouble

December 8, 2013

we lost a great man in Nelson Mandela. Our generation did not live in Gandhi nor Martin Luther King, Jr.’s time – Tata Madiba was our example of peaceful resistance.  That we lost him is sad – what saddens me more is that there is not enough like him.

Rolihlahla is the name his father gave him and is isiXhosa and colloquially means “troublemaker.” Until 2008, he was even branded a terrorist. Maybe he caused headaches to the Apartheid establishment but because you have always done something does not make it right.   Forget tradition, he had right on his side.  I think Australia was right to lead the boycott – they had witnessed first-hand the adverse effects on the Indigenous people.

He was given the English name of Nelson by his teacher – for reasons were not certain of.  It reminds me of how in my “old” country you used to not be able to be baptized unless you had a “Christian” given name or how the Spanish had “forced” us to adapt last names that sounded like theirs.  Why are people so afraid of the “other”?

My favourite quote of his is:

“I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

I think we should all endeavour to be the best that we can be.