Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Red Meat

- We'll miss you. We're like in prison here.
- And I your regular visitor, on my way in and out of the building.
- We enjoyed talking to you, you know that. Will you go on talking to people about revolution?
- With University guards who say they are prisoners? I don't know. Is that how you see me? As someone who talks to people about revolution? Put that way it sounds futile. I like finding words to describe the situation we're in.
- You're lucky you can leave. We wish the best for you.
- Do you have time to talk, one more time, in the way you like? I thought maybe I was boring you with these conversations. That you would talk to anyone, that even being bored by a bore on his way out was better than being bored alone.
- No. We like you here.
- Alright. Lecture begins, last in the series, visitors on their way out, parting words. Title: Correlation And Causation. Do you know the difference?
- No.
- People who eat red meat have more heart attacks than people who don't. New Harvard University study. This place is a Harvard colony, you know.
- We know. The Rector, the lecturers.
- Yes. Red meat and heart attacks. That is correlation. When you start doing experiments to separate out other factors that lead to heart attacks, you get close to causation.
- I don't understand.
- It could be that people who like red meat also like to go without sleep, or are nervous, or agressive, and any of these might be what is really linked to heart attacks.
- What's the difference?
- If you want to prevent heart attacks, and you don't do the experiments, telling people not to eat red meat will have no effect at all, if really the connection, the cause is aggressive behavior.
- I see now.
- Next: social life, success in career, works with correlation, not causation.
- You've lost me again.
- You know George Soros' theory of reflexivity?
- Yes.
- When I talked with him a few days ago, when he was up on stage of the auditorium down the hall - were you there?
- For a minute. Then I had to go back to work.
- So maybe you heard him say the usual economic theories have now been proven wrong, it was irrational to continue to apply false theories. And how his own theory described only irrational group behavior, how in the stock market traders in good times followed each other in overconfidence, then reality hit and they followed each other in flight from their overconfidence.
- Yes. I know these ideas.
- Ok. Business operates by finding correlations: do this, and profit follows. Why exactly this happens is not known. To find out you'd need to conduct experiments. To be successful in business is the same: you do certain things, go to certain schools, dress a certain way, repeat certain formulas: doing this gets you the job, then in the job, you do the same thing, whatever works, without knowing why. Correlation, never causation. In the stock market you see this reduced to the simplest terms. Correlation need not reflect any real relation. The reason for confidence in a stock, or the market as a whole, may be, usually is, entirely false, a correlation, not a causation. Eventually this comes out and a downturn follows.
- Ok
- Good. I don't like this economics any more than you do. Really it makes me sick. But here's the point. Have you ever wondered why economists are always talking about efficiency?
- No, can't say I have.
- Well they do. It isn't because they are technocrats, because they have knowledge of technique. They don't know anything, as Soros said right here a few days ago. All they know are correlations, which almost always are sooner or later proven false. So what do these technocrats, technically educated people do?
- What do you mean by technocrats?
- I mean people educated at places like this University, teaching correlations without causation.
- Ok
- Efficiency for people who don't know anything means reducing complexity. It means eliminating the distance between causation and correlation.
- Again, you lost me.
- If you don't know why there is a correlation, you nevertheless know that as long as you can keep things the same, you keep the real causes connected to the false ones. If you are making money in the stock market, in banking, you will try to simplify everything else so as to make banking and stock trading go more smoothly, efficiently, without change from outside.
- And you say that is what economists mean by efficiency?
- You've got it now. Austerity measures, smaller government, lower deficits, all this means more efficiency in the areas where people making money are relying on presently unstable correlations. Let's go back to the Harvard red meat study.
- OK
- Harvard, the government all is funded by business, by professional associations. Let's say someone is making money factory farming chickens and pigs. We don't know why eaters of red meat get more heart attacks. But what if we can stop people being aggressive, nervous, afraid of being discriminated against on the basis of race, sex, nationality, age, income? We control, eliminate all other possible causes. Correlation will suffice, all will work more efficiently.
- But that's crazy.
- No! It's literal reality. And no more crazy that the last 50 years' imposition of so-called neo-liberalism, the long proven-false economic theory that unregulated markets works to the benefit of the majority and to the stability of democracy. This university, funded by George Soros' Open Society Foundation, teaching tolerance of all nations, ages, sexuality, races, religions is putting into effect the same kind of efficiency.
- Explain that.
- I used to think the problem with current politics is that the demand for tolerance, to see all ideas as relative, dependent on personal circumstances, had made people incapable of talking to each other, of caring about each other. Democracy was failing because everyone tolerant of everyone has nothing in common with anyone.
- And you don't believe that anymore?
- I never had confidence in the idea because I saw that, at least in America, people still liked strangers, truly liked them.
- What is the problem then?
- It is knowledge. Knowledge! Correlation and causation.
- And you are going to explain that to me.
- Yes. Do you know what it means when we say we rely on intuition?
- Yes. But I'd like to hear what you have to say.
- It means that we have noticed correlations in our personal lives - when we do this, that happens - and we have tested that correlation, acted on the relation, done experiments to see if it was a chance relation, or a real one. Over time we get a general, what we call intuitive sense of which kinds of correlations are likely to be real relations. But only because we have been actively testing these relations in our own lives.
- That's interesting.
- If you are a stock trader, a banker, a government official or a university founder, president, or professor, you make your living by keeping your behavior in role, keeping your role tightly correlated with other roles.
- What does that mean?
- It means you play by the rules. You have to to keep your job, to be a success. Adapting your behavior by personal experiments, looking for knowledge, not mere probably false correlation, will make you a cause of inefficiency in the organization, will cause everyone else trouble.
- I know that from personal experience. You have no idea what it's like to work here.
- I have an intuition. I know you are mocking me when you ask about the revolution, my political aims. I just write stories, find words. I've found new words, that's all, but for what it's worth, here they are: no matter how corrupt, idiotic, inefficient our governments are revealed to be, people can't do anything, can't respond, because they too have become like politicians.
- How?
- They are living in this open society. Society that is all correlation, no causation. Everyone has his type, his role, all is acceptable, open, all in fact as meaningless as red meat being correlated with heart attacks because no one is agressive, anxious, discriminated against anymore. Look at the dead faces of the students here. They rigorously study the correlation between red meat and heart attacks. They follow rules, they're all ambition to make money and be a success, they create a personal efficiency by the elimination of all human qualities.
- You think so?
- Yes, I do. Personal investigation, personal development is punished by career failure, social exclusion. In fact, the Open Society leads to closed society.
- How?
- The ignorance it is based on is exposed, the false correlation revealed, by increasing social disruptions. The society supposed to be efficient above all else is revealed to be inefficient. Think about George Soros, the billionaire who founded this university. Efficiency policies result in monopoly, concentration of wealth. Efficiency creates billionaires. Billionaires monopolize property. Which means more and more people have no property. Democracy cannot function, no matter the perfections of institutions and efficiency, when people own no property and are in the conditions of slaves who can be forced by life or death necessity to do anything. This is a destructive influence enough, but monopoly of property inevitably leads to bribery. Or in the case of our open society times, to legal bribery, where bribery is seen as an expression of the personal opinion of the wealthy.
- How can bribery be legal?
- According to numerous Harvard and other University professors it makes democracy into an efficient "marketplace of ideas".
- Hard to believe.
- The open society leads to corruption, to legalized bribery; it leads to concentration of property and consequent slavery of the property-less, which leads to social disruption. Finally the open society, we see this happening now, leads to repression in the name of efficiency, and in some places, is leading to an attempt to return to the original role relations, the original ignorant correlation before outside influences, foreigners, and foreign trade disrupted things. When you don't know anything the best you can do is return to the conditions where things seemed to work better.
- You're talking about Fascism. Neo-nazis.
- It's the destiny of the open society. The invisible hand of economics. Which is no more than people who know they don't understand what they rely on trying to lessen the risk of their ignorance. The invisable hand of economics is the efficient protection of ignorance. Remember, I told you the story, I asked Soros when he spoke here another time to support the Occupy protest movement? He answered that he couldn't. It was a disruption which would lead to more disruptions. He sympathized with the people's suffering, but efficiency was the high principle he worshiped.
- You really think he believes that?
- Yes. His two principles are open society, and efficient management of marketplace ignorance. Together they are a sort of religion, the invisible hand of ignorance protecting itself by monopoly and social repression. He's collected every type here in these buildings - every variety of sexuality, nationality, age, race, each is in its cage, each incapable of communicating with the other types in their cages, each incapable of getting out of the cage by personal testing and experiment, incapable of looking for the truth. A zoo where there is no relation of red meat to heart attacks except the profit to be made by assuming there is one.
- And this is your good-by to the University.
- Red meat thrown to the cages!