Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Founders Thoughts: Fibonacci, mugglism and other riddles

Despite having a punishing time of it myself recently I invariably find that what doesn't kill me will, sooner or later make me stronger and more determined. The prospects for the next 12 months for everyone still look decidedly grim with the threat of more cuts and more hardships on the way. Why though, when the answer I feel remains in our own hands?

Either the same amount of money is still milling around somewhere so all that needs to really happen is for it to start circulating again, or people lied about the amount of money there was in the world. To me that's the long and short of it. Why complicate it further? Why panic?

That, to many I know sounds crass and naive, but the truth often does. Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) is I think a useful maxim to help us all whittle things down to the bear essentials to ensure that functioning in our highly complex world can continue. There are occasional glimmers of hope here and there, but perhaps the greatest cruelty of all is to give hope only to snatch it away again from those in most need.

Economists will no doubt argue that due to inflation and the complexity of modern financial systems of trading etc that things are not that simple. Track back to the Dark Ages and we find similar mumbo jumbo gobbledegook to try to distract us from the truth - the implication being that ordinary mortals are stupid. Yes, there is more money about than in the Dark Ages but it is proportionate to the increase in global population and our concepts about wealth along with other silly ideas that have cursed our beautiful planet since the year dot. Don't get me wrong, I don't think money is the root of all evil, but what we do with it can be.

Economists I feel are rather like doctors and solicitors, it's not that they are all bad many are honourable trustworthy people, but some are... shall we say... slightly less ethical than others simply by not being entirely straight with us. Sometimes that is for our own good, sometimes they assume that covering up is wise when it is emphatically not. Privately most such professionals would agree with me - publicly few would as they would rather not end up unemployed themselves.

Facts do have an unavoidable pitfall, namely our individual interpretation of them - most so called stats are usually edited to suit a particular argument. Too late not to educate the general population on such things I'm afraid - they already know. It rather begs the question of why so many try so hard to continue to bamboozle ordinary folk. Yep, I own that I am guilty of it too, but I at least attempt to see both sides of any argument.

I also confess to being mischievious, glib and challenging to prompt reaction in order to hopefully help people to think beyond their lot in life and relate it to the whole. Everyone's action or non-reaction has a bearing on the rest of us to a greater or lesser extent. If others take that the wrong way, well that tends to say more about them than it ever could about me.

A curve ball thought

What would happen if all banks throughout the world suddenly went on strike? Or if all multinationals did? Would human life suddenly cease? No, it would not but not for the reasons that many would suppose. A voucher system is money by another name. Barter systems are not viable as the crew that builds your home only has to do it once while you might have to spend a lifetime working to feed them in exchange with little time for much else. Like it or not money as a system for trading remains the only system that is viable but we need not be as reliant on it as we think.

We're lumbered with this inanimate crazy substance and its quirky system, but we don't have to be lumbered with how it is used. Now steady on, don't get excited, I don't advocate violent revolutions here, quite the opposite. In the most democratic of nations of recent times we have neatly avoided those by using protests, voting, lobbying, petitions with the occasional strike and riot thrown in for good measure. Shame about the latter two, but at least we haven't resorted to civil wars for a while so it's progress... of sorts. Long may it continue that way but preferably without with strikes and riots - not being a deity I'm afraid I have no control of that.

The root of the difficulty is not money, but our own addiction to it's potential to provide power. However, through working for many years in the world of theatre and events I can assure you that not many reach positions of fame and fortune and survive it well as I'm sure former inmates of both the Priory and the Betty Ford Clinic would testify. In short, money isn't life or death in itself, what we do or choose not to do with it can be, but it remains a matter of personal choice and that is something that has never changed throughout human social history and will not change unless we collectively agree to change how we use it.

Muggles and mugglism

I've referred to us all being as muggles (JK Rowlings' term for not very bright humans or non magical types), and following on from that I had a conversation with someone who works with victims of domestic violence on the hypothesis that we are as children no matter how old we are. They commented that we are brought up with fairytales of good triumphing over evil precisely because as adults it's what we perceive to be facing every day. It's a way of preparing our children for that world. I say perceive as we often mistake one for the other because as humans we are all endowed with a degree of fallibility. I am no exception at all as on occasions I have allowed my passions to get the better or me - hence the moralising, hence the at times appallingly phrased tweets at times for which I most humbly apologise. Who of us has never been guilty of mistakes and therefore mugglisms?

In the business world we tend to be less forgiving of such things, yet expect the slack to be cut for us whenever we blunder. So are we all muggles and hypocrites? I would say so, but we also all have the potential to be the most magical creatures of all and to do all manner of wondrous things.

Fibonacci sequence

Unlike a male friend of mine, I don't happen to be a whizz at the sciences or mathematics as being at school in the 1970s and female I got streamed and encouraged into the arts despite having an equal aptitude for both. I used to mind, now I don't. The arts and humanities are far from the easier option given employment challenges that ensue which is part of the reason I like both - I usually rise to challenges even when most come in unwelcome form. Interestingly organisations like NESTA have recognised that there is much to be gained by challenging the arts and sciences to work collaboratively.

With regard to the sciences, I remain for the most part like a window shopper peering in enviously at what's on display. It doesn't mean to say I don't understand concepts though - when time permits I read up on things. For those who are not acquainted with the Fibonacci sequence it's in essence a mathematical equation that 'seems' to be behind the structure of about 80% of life on Earth. Nearly every tree, plant, animal or insect can be analysed and identified as having something about its structure or formation that matches up to the Fibonacci sequence. I doubt anyone has quite worked out why yet. The question "why" is an infinite one as any parent will tell you when their child first starts getting the hang of using it. "Yes, but why does it do that? Okay... but why is that? I don't understand! Why, why, why?"

Mathematics and science always seek the patterns behind things by way of trying to find answers and just like the arts, science too has it's trends. The laws of gravity were at one point in question when Einstein came up with his theory of relativity only to have those 'laws' brought into question when science embarked on the world of quantum physics. Just as in the world of business, science makes educated guesses based on what information is available and sets about exploring them by trying to prove or disprove theories. We all use what we know to capitalise on that knowledge and use it to our best advantage. We take a gamble - well you've got to go with something as a starting point. The more information we have the better equipped we become to reduce the risk of getting that gamble wrong.

What often happens when there's a conflict or dispute in the world of science is that eventually a kind of negotiation takes place until a compromise is found to make all systems still able to co-exist. So it is with science on gravity, relativity and quantum physics... at the moment. Sooner or later something will come along to throw a spanner in the works again no doubt, but here's where science seem to differ from the world of business and in part even to the world of arts and community services.

Instead of tearing at each others throats trying to win a war by discrediting anyone who disagrees, scientists have a greater tendency to huddle together to resolve the issue more often than not to find an alternative way to look upon things that helps explain things once more so that we can continue to function and, more to the point, develop and progress. Business, community services and the arts tend to diversify instead as a result of differences, but as we're in a recession, where there's a safe common ground to thrash out economic solutions perhaps...

Hence one of my quirky tweets... maybe scientists and mathematics will find the equation to fix the world's troubles once and for all one day. A rather happy thought I think, but yes, idealistic. The question is... Would we listen and act on it such a solution if science did find the answer to such a riddle? I think we have the knowledge, skills and ability to do resolve everything anyway, so just as a child might say, why don't we?

Co-existence of ethics and principles

I personally don't think it's in anyone's interests to prevent people excelling and getting handsomely rewarded for their skills and talents, so long as they truly merit it. We all have strong opinions on that which is why it's such a long standing bone of contention. I don't think it wise to stop people being rich because if we impose a restriction on others as to the level of reward that can be achieved we will deny such opportunities for ourselves. The wish to be rewarded for our efforts is a natural, normal, healthy human desire.

However, I think some public service salaries should be capped so that it deters corruption to a degree. Earning a big salary and gaining bonuses just doesn't fit with what should be the motivation behind those who choose such careers however much those who serve and often do merit the highest salaries of all. A trainee nurse could be saving someone's life from their very first day for example, so I'd rather see their salaries increase before directors of services do.

We should be realistic about who can reach the very top. No, it's not always the wealthy and well placed as programmes like the X Factor show. You just need to be particularly good at something and get lucky enough to be spotted and encouraged be it business, sport, arts or community services. You can even get ahead through personality alone. Who'd have believed someone who can stay in the same house for a few weeks and watched on TV 24/7 could end up famous? A far cry from that male friend of mine who could have been another John Nash (see the film A Beautiful Mind), had he been luckier early in his life, and had he been born at a later point in history. Who else have we missed out on I wonder, and why?

Do not expect a level playing field because life isn't fair as we will never all be born equal, but DO try to level out the bit you are playing in and if possible grab the whizzing goalposts when they least expect it and cement them in once and for all. That would just leave the rules of play to contend with.

TOP TIP: silly rules you can always use against the originators of them, but you mustn't break them even when others do. Two wrongs have never made a right even though in the English language a double negative makes a positive and how it can in science which could explain a few financial figures. The concept I believe is termed 'a negative profit situation' and I've heard some organisations and politicians have gone for this in BIG way!

Reality Check

The real truth is, no society will be able to function if we have just leaders and no workers. Lucky then that we have so many different interests and preferences for our working lives. How fortunate that we have diversity as far from it diminishing possibilities, it increases them. A pity though that although an entrepreneurial spirit seems to be the order of the day for the next generation, it still isn't as yet fully embraced or encouraged among ordinary workers who... build our homes, office blocks and factories and man them, install and maintain our utilities, grow and distribute our food, dispose of our waste, look after our health, educate our children, save us from fire and crime, install and operate transport and communications systems, manage our finances etc and hopefully help us with their expertise and advice.

"How to be wise: 1. make mistakes but learn never to repeat them. 2. learn to avoid the mistakes of everyone else." Tweeted by me.

I firmly believe we have great possibilities as a species, but only if we learn to be wise on what we should compromise on so that all can enjoy a quality of life of our own individual choosing. Yes, that's idealistic, but as the maxim goes - "aim high and be prepared to drop."

I believe we will always find what we seek so long as we are dedicated enough to keep looking. The trick is to spend the bulk of our time seeking possibilities to overcome the barriers in our way and to be flexible enough to adapt. For example I never thought I would suit care work or that it would suit me. I was wrong. It doesn't mean I will stop doing other things I enjoy just as much. Enjoyment it seems can come from the most unexpected directions, better to be open to that possibility than fixated with what happens to be the latest fad, especially if you want to excel and be unique.

My final thought is a question for scientists... are you absolutely sure the Fibonacci sequence only applies to 80% of life structure on Earth and/or beyond? What explains the other 20%?

Hoping my readers enjoy my musings and take them in the spirit they are meant - always.

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