Author Archives: ozmansoor

About ozmansoor

Public Health Physicians treat populations rather than individuals. How to treat the world's sickness? That's my worry. We have new solutions with new technologies, but first need to deal with humans and the cognitive biases that lead us astray.

Orphaned at a late age.

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A shrine to mutti, my mother, Jutta.

A German name, tiring her in England and Mauritius as ‘Uta’ became “Jutter”, having to explain that the J was a Y sound.  She didn’t have a middle name, but three surnames: Scharfstein, Singer, and Mansoor. The road to the house they built is now called “Dr Jutta Singer-Mansoor lane”.   29 Oct 1922 to 20 Apr 2018.

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Fractal Love

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour”  Auguries of Innocence, WILLIAM BLAKE
Beautiful fractal imagery, at least to my mind. Love Blake! His pithy claim that life is woven of joy and woe. But what is fractal. Constancy over scale. Think of a coastline. The same pattern of beach and wave can be seen close up and far away. The paintings of Pollock exhibit fractal mathematics. That  may explain its emotional appeal. The fractal nature of the world is seen in the use of fractal maths for CGI improvements in depicting the natural world.
Fractals, whilst emotional appealing, are cognitively challenging.  The challenge is transferring an intuitive visual insight into complex, non-linear maths.  For the purposes of natural selection, our brains evolved to be very good at some things.  Despite evolution’s limited purposes for out brains, we have been able to develop amazing science that tells a story of our creation more wonderful, more awe-inspiring, and more morally directive than any traditional religion.  But I digress. (Except to plant the idea of a Fractal God.)
I confess that I do not understand the fractal math.  Except that it tells us a deep Truth about the world we live in.  Which by definition also includes the entire human family, and me.  (I add in the me there because I am unlike anyone else, and I have a tendency to think that rules that apply to everybody else may not apply to me; and I always deserve a special ‘pass’)
I can only experience the world through my body and brain.  Neuroscience tells me I do not experience the world through my senses, and that my gut is part of my brain. My conscious experience is a model that my brain creates.  This creation is not based entirely on the immediate sensory input, it is a ‘prediction’ of what will happen next.  When what I experience is not sufficiently different to the prediction, I do not experience the slightly different reality, but stick to the prediction.  Of course, this applies less to primary sensory inputs than derived interpretations.  However, the failure of even visual data to be ‘seen’ (~90% of the brain’s sensory input comes from the eyes) can be demonstrated.
This is a core communication challenge: different mental models, especially of the social world. Conversations are entirely at cross-purposes because of different mental models, using the same words but with different meanings, especially emotional.
Understand the limitations of the mental models that we live in; the potential for us to create new models that are more ‘fit for purpose’; and that we do not share the same ones.  Is this fractal love?  To try and understand yourself by better understanding others?

Start a Cold Shower

A good place to start: gives you a brave heart, grateful soul, clean parts. It’s a free and life-changing art.

For one minute at most; even a few seconds are fine. If willing to just step over the line.

I am lucky. Over a minute it takes our shower to warm.  I started slow, but now I can the full minute go. Still summer now, harder in the cold.

Cold shower, why do I do extol?

Many reasons can be told, but here’s the rationale for my plan. I step into discomfort, and from this learn that I can.  Each day, I still hate to do it, but still do it.

And once done, it is soon over.  Yes, I have to slowly count my breaths.  It takes me to a count of 30, if I am brave enough for the full minute.  And then, warmth, bliss and gratitude to be alive and comfortable.

Warm shower, working body, a mind cleansed of stress.

There is a hormone release that not only wakes me up. It  re-sets my stress response.

 

The day’s ablutions completed, or not.

The hormone release for flight or fight, has

As one initial action, a rapid bowel movement.

Only to the internal sphincter.

Did you know you had two?

The Next Day

After Caesar fell, they praised and buried him. The die was cast, the Republic soon gone. (SPQR, Senatus Populusque Romanus: the Senate and People of Rome.)

To be replaced by Emperors, until the death of empire. Some great, others not so much. Can we blame all the Casears for its destruction, or would it have happened anyway? And why did the Roman Republic never return? Is democracy just a transitional phase in human progress, always ending in tyranny of some form?

It was a bold new idea; even if limited to the Patricians at first: democracy. (Its birthplace, not Athens, if you believe the Roman myth of 509BC)

We, children of democracy, obscure its value, as we have always had this treasure. And the idea that lies behind it: government by, for, and of the people.

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”   Abraham Lincoln starts his speech after the battle of Gettysburg, and ends a less than 200 words later, hoping  the deaths were not in vain and the nation “shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The Roman Republic did not survive, but died from the inside. Unlike the Roman Empire that was destroyed by outside forces – as well as its inner weakness.  The founders of the constitution knew their classical history well, and designed the constitution to prevent dictators – a term first established by Rome for an absolute leader but whose term is time limited.  There were many who stepped forward, saved the Republic and then stepped away from power.  Was this part of what made Rome grow form a small city state to the Empire on whose shoulders Western civilisation was founded.  We still use the same letters!  (yes, with a few additions…)

The Ides of March, 44 BC

On this day, the Roman Republic fell. The Act, killing Julius Caesar, was to prevent Caesar from becoming king.  Rome’s origins are shrouded in legend, starting from Aeneas fleeing from the Greeks in the Trojan Horse.   The lack of documentation from the sacking of the city by Gauls in 397 BC.

After that, recorded history starts.  Before are the 7 kings, then the 12 law tables when the Patricians (descendants of the 100 original families) of Rome decided to no longer have kings, because of the problems of the last, Tarquin the Proud (Superbus in Latin!).

He was dethroned in 509 BC, creating the Roman Republic.  The year may be mythical, as it conveniently predates Athenian democracy by one year.  Yet, all the Roman gods come from the Greeks, with just a name change: Zeus to Jupiter, Aphrodite to Venus,  Ares to Mars and so on.

Paradoxically, the rationale for the murder of JC was to prevent him from becoming king.  Yet, it enabled his nephew Octavian to become the first of the Roman Emperors, Augustus Caesar.

[From these two we get the months of July and August, and thus the numbers of the following months, starting with September (Sept= 7) have to have two added for their new order; Octo = 8, 10th month, Nov = 9, 11th, Dec = 10, 12th.]

Mars built Rome into an Empire on war.  From a small city-state surrounded by all kinds of dangers, Rome grew into an Empire that covered most of Europe and extended into Asia.  When Alexander conquered the Persians, the Greeks took over their empire. And the Romans took over the Greeks.  But after the Romans we had the dark ages in Europe, when conditions of life regressed.

Does all of this come from this act, on the ides (the middle of the month, or 15th) of March 2062 years ago.  If instead of killing Ceasar, they had fought in the senate would the Roman Republic have been preserved?

All Western history and learning is founded on the classics from Greece and Rome.  Chinese history offers different angles from having been the premier power, the inventor of all creations, the longest lasting stable empire.  Then banning marine exploration, just before Columbus sailed to the “New World” and becoming a technological backwater until recent decades, and now ready to eclipse a declining American empire.  India and the Buddha yet another view.

 

Fraud: Kia Ora, world!

via Daily Prompt: Fraud

We steal.  That’s the beauty of human ideas.  Each one can generate another one.  Good artists borrow, great artists steal.  Or did I get that wrong?

Fraud is not quite the same as stealing, is it?  They are clearly in the same universe of “Thou shalt not” , if you like Olde Englishe. Both are wrong, immoral, and just not nice. the person who harms another or the common good is a thief or a fraud.

I pretend to care.  That’s a fraud, but can also be a kindness.  Words are so messed up, when the only way to find Truth is to agree it is bipolar.  That our minds create sharp categories, but biology is fluid.

All words lie.  They can only partially express the Truth, if such a thing even exists outside of our minds.  But this is where discussion starts getting futile, pointless and off the topic of fraud.

Sometimes, I feel like a fraud when I use “Kia Ora” as my opening greeting in an email.  It’s because I only ever use the spoken greeting at formal meetings.  It’s a wonderful Maori words that can be used to express all kinds of sentiments, wishes, and above all acknowledgement of a fellow human.  We say it when we are touched by what we hear, when we want to encourage.

Literally, it means ‘towards health’, or to your good health.  But most often used to say ‘hello’; a less formal greeting than “Tena koe” , which literally means “That you”.  Just as the Hebrew greeting for ‘hello’, is Shalom Kia Ora reflects different cultural values than the wish for Peace of “Shalom”.

A wish for health, as the most important human attribute.  Without health, what use is wealth?  But it is the meaning beyond the literal wish for health, that I find so appealing. That connection that we share a joint “Ora”  a healthy life. But do I live it?

I am a fraud.  I pretend to myself to be other than I am, because it makes me feel more comfortable.  I see the world not as it is, but as I wish it to be.  And manage the pretence, despite evidence to the contrary as confirmation bias, backfire effects, and other cognitive biases trick my brain that it is right, when it is not.

Financial fraud is interesting.  One can argue that many rich folk, are only so because of some kind of fraud.  The shady dealings of President Ignoramus come to mind.  Though I am told he would have been richer if he had just invested the money he inherited in the stock market, rather than leave the trail of destruction with his failed enterprises.  President Fraud who claimed he was going to fix problems, while just bringing us closer to the brink of nuclear apocalypse and planetary despoil that could spell the end of humanity.  And worse than these, has increased suffering among countless millions who are deported, abused, or impoverished by his administration.

I have proposed a solution to financial fraud: a single global financial transaction system, with full transparency for all transactions. When I was a child, I was taught of an all-knowing and all-seeing God.  Google was the first step in its development, and still key in its further development added by Facebook and other platforms that connect every global citizen to each other.

The solution will undoubtedly create a new type of fraud based on mathematical wizardry and ability to exploit any weak spots in the software design of the electronic financial transaction system.   Yet, there is hope that a shared ledger system that is well designed could at least detect it, if not necessarily prevent that kind of fraud.

What I find strange, is how today’s governments allow fraud  (or is it blackmail or just plain theft) by computer hackers of various sorts to continue to grow as a business.  Are they getting a pay-back?  Or is it the cover of rogue states?  I’d love to know the answer, as it would seem just a question of investing more technical capacity and resources to prevent this apparently ever-increasging threat of fraud through what should be the most sacred infrastructure of our society: our connectivity to each other.

Can we remove all fraud in out connections?  Probably not. But we can do more to discourage them, and catch them early – rather than wasting resources protecting copyright, for example.

Yet, another fraud.  How can Warner Brothers make millions of dollars on the Happy Birthday song, when its writers made nothing? Intellectual property is a fraud, since all human invention builds on earlier ones. Inventors need to be rewarded, but perhaps in a way that better incentivises common good than personal profit.  Creators create because they have to, not because of the reward.  So, support creation rather than rewarding its results.  And how does it help creation to maintain copyright for 70 years after the death of the creator?

Fraud is the rentier economy, that is increasingly with us.  The State allows a ‘fee’ to be demanded for use of knowledge or processes.  Or even property. Why is this fair and and not fraud?  What does it mean to say you ‘own’ the land.  Only that you paid for it, and are part of the chain of ownership; but where and when did ownership originate?

We are not owners of our land, our assets or even our knowledge. We are stewards part of an interconnected species that started with a dozen or so humans about 70,000 years ago in Africa, who now exceed 7 billion and cover every corner of the globe.  Wake up, don’t defraud our future.

 

Our story: 22. More on money

What is money? There are a surprising number of answers to this.  I will start with the one I learnt most recently. Money belongs to a set of words defined by Juval Harari as “fictive”. Animals communicate about the world about them.  Humans use words to do so.  These words extend beyond the natural world to the social world.

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