[ExI] Groups

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Fri Jun 20 20:25:31 UTC 2008

Keith wrote (Sent: Tuesday, June 17, 2008 11:11 PM)

> Brent wrote:
>> It's time for intelligent people to finally do the 
>> cooperative work required to develop systems that can enable us to 
>> recognize there is something way better than dying and rotting 
>> everyone in the grave.
> Probably everyone here--or at least a substantial majority--agrees 
> with you.  Why are we so ineffective?  For example,  I think I know a 
> way to get humanity out of the energy crisis, but the chances are not 
> good that I will be able to interest enough people for the new 
> concept to even be evaluated.  It seems likely that there is a 
> fundamental mismatch between people like us and the ability to get 
> real world changes implemented.

"Why are we so ineffective?"  is a very good question. Of course, it
should be placed in some perspective such as "compared to what?
compared to whom?".

Nonetheless, I still think your observation/question a good one, and
I can think of several possible answers (all of which might aid explanation).

#1  doers vs. thinkers
#2  mailing lists draw ADHD types
#3  numerous interests dilute effort
#4  finishing usually requires some very unpleasant work
#5  many of us have occupations or hobbies that take most of our time
#6  teamwork often required, and you aren't always in charge

#1 Doers vs. Thinkers.

There have always been the visionaries, the dreamers, and the theoreticians,
like Keynes and Descartes, who are said to have done their best work
lying in bed. I don't think we'd want either of them on a cryonics suspension
team, nor would they be of much use in a materials lab.

It makes sense that people who often *discuss* ideas, who find shooting
off their mouths about a variety of subjects very pleasant and satisfying,
and who love ideas and thinking in general, tend not to be doers. Of course
there are exceptions.

#2  Mailing lists draw ADHD types

Nothing is as conducive to a spirit that likes to flit from one thing to 
another than hanging out on a half a dozen mailing lists. There is a constant
stream of unpredictable new stimuli, and any of them can appeal to some
totally optional interaction on one's part.  Hence, probably we'll count
among our numbers many who either have ADHD-like symptoms or
who simply enjoy endless variety (within, say, the intellectual realm).

#3  Numerous Interests Dilute Effort

That's rather self-explanatory. Now, outstanding achievement and
accomplishment almost always require tremendously sustained total focus.
My book group (we read many diverse books) is currently reading
"Human Achievement" by Charles Murray, and he makes this point
very well.

>From what I hear, Robert Frietas is an exemplar among "us". People
marvel that his books and research can actually be conducted entirely
by one man.  You may very well get the joke
    < If Jack Bauer had been a Spartan, the movie would have been called "1". >
which indicates that you know something of recent movies as well as
know something about what happens on Cable TV.  So I suggest
    < If Robert Frietas got Jack Bauer jokes, he probably wouldn't be Robert Frietas.>

So even if you don't have any ADHD-like symptoms, and are both a 
thinker and a doer, you may very well have such diversified interests
and parcel your time out across so many projects that being very
effective on any of them is quite difficult. Vladimir Lenin would have
banned the lot of us from his organization nucleus in 1916, for,
to be a successful revolutionary requires singled-minded focus.

#4  Finishing Usually Requires some very Unpleasant Work

Many highly significant projects that could influence or affect many
people require solid dedication to messy details and to some very
obnoxious subtasks. This is one reason that quite a few people
begin far, far more projects than they finish. We're all living pretty
well, and there is hardly a need to really do the dirty work. It's a
lot easier for me to complete infinitely boring details at work, where
my boss will be upset if I don't finish things right. (Besides, I have
very little choice if I want to continue getting paychecks.)

After Rossini became well-to-do (based on his earlier work) his
musical output virtually ceased. It may very well have been the
case that there were ugly details to take care of to bring any
score to completion, and he didn't feel like it when his livelihood
no longer depended upon it.

#5  Many of us have Occupations or Hobbies that take Most of our Time

I'm often amazed when I see how many people---even correcting
for time zone---manage to post a lot during their normal working
day. (Pace, Larks vs. Owls.)  I'm only posting today because I have
the day off, but even on normal days, I usually post only after getting
too tired to read math anymore.

In other words, many of us are also "bogged down" by certain
other activities we either have to do (or that we love),  which we
put a premium on---and so once again simply could not make
Lenin's pick list.

#6  Teamwork Often Required, and You Aren't Always In Charge

Many big scale projects also require teamwork.  And many of us are
rather too individualistic to be a good team members---unless everyone
does what we tell them to do.

                       *                         *                          *

So NATURALLY it must be immediately said that folks accurately
described by one or more of the above can be perfectly satisfied, or
nearly so, with their own productivity and their diverse activities, and
the way they feel that they've chosen to conduct their lives.  Suppose
you could swallow a magic tablet that would give you the urge and
the need to devote total focus to a single thing 12hr after 12hr day.
How many of us would really take it?  Far from everyone, I imagine.


P.S.  If everyone on the show did what Jack Bauer told them to do,
it wouldn't be called "24".  It would be called "8".   And, did you know?
When Jack Bauer was a child, he made his mother eat his vegetables!

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