Sunday, May 3, 2015

“Good decision-making”

“Indeed, what our government lacks with respect to many of our problems today is not only resources or the scientific analysis of experts. What it does not have is the basic capacity for good decision-making.” [In defense of liberal education, Christopher Ryan Maboloc, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 10th Apr 2015; Christopher Ryan Maboloc teaches philosophy at Ateneo de Davao University; he has a master’s degree in applied ethics Sent from my iPad

“Science is very important. Science has changed the world. But innovation requires a basic element: It must have a purpose . . . In Rudyard Kipling’s immortal words: ‘If you can dream—and not make dreams your master; if you can think—and not make thoughts your aim.’

“The liberal arts thrive in criticism. But students need to know why—and how. While a lot is objectionable in the thoughts of Jean-Paul Sartre, one would not really be able to question his points unless one understands what he meant when he said that ‘existence precedes essence,’ which can be translated into the idea that man has no history. This point is difficult for an uninitiated mind, and yet the mind of young people should be exposed to such a manner of questioning. Our assumptions need to be questioned critically because believing in something without discernment means that one is simply being dominated by pretentious authority.”

“What [the government] does not have is the basic capacity for good decision-making.”

We don’t have to go very far: “[T]he government needs to be serious in implementing a more strategic solution to this problem, which has plagued the economy for more than a decade now. According to the paper, titled ‘Beyond Band-Aid Solutions and Emergency Powers: The Need for a Long-Term Energy Security Plan,’ one path to energy security is to attract more investments in the power sector. The paper said the lack of power players currently defeats the objectives of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM). More players could improve competition in the industry and bring down the cost of power . . .” [Think tank urges long-term fix to power woes, Iris C. Gonzales, The Philippine Star, 10th Apr 2015]

“‘Increasing the supply of dependable power and therefore the competition in the generation side of the industry will also lower prices in the long term. The best way to do this is to attract more investments into generation . . . The frequent forced outages of the country’s aging power plants also show there is a need to revisit the technology used in the plants. If possible, facilitate the construction of plants that utilize updated technologies that are more reliable and environment friendly,’ the paper said.”

If we don’t deal with something tangible like infrastructure, how do we deal with something that is more abstract? “There is enough reason to ask for Mindanao independence since the Manila colonizers do not see or concern themselves with the problems and aspirations of the people of Mindanao. (This is the sentiment of some.)” [Mohagher Iqbal, Emeterio Barcelon, Manila Bulletin, 9th Apr 2015]

“The Muslim minority, because of constitutional promises of some degree of autonomy, have proposed the Bangsamoro Basic Law. There is a good chance it will pass but there are also good reasons it will not pass. No law is perfect and so is this one. The prejudice of the people of Luzon is palpable and strong and those who do not want Pres. PNoy to succeed will fight against this BBL just because it is sponsored by one they do not like.”

Thankfully, The Peace Council formed by President Benign Aquino III to study the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) said the bill was ‘overwhelmingly acceptable’ and ‘constitutional.’” [Aquino peace council: BBL ‘acceptable,’ ‘constitutional,’ Marc Jayson Cayabyab,, 27th Apr 2015]

Life was never meant to be a walk in the park. “Geno Auriemma and his players didn't like each other early in the season, but things changed as the season grew older and the effort got more intense.” [UConn Sees Lone Loss as Turning Point in a Championship Season, Jonathan Czupryn, The New York Times, 8th Apr 2015] “Did the players want to coast or achieve greatness?”

“In Auriemma’s eyes, his players chose the former when they started out six months ago. ‘This year, I didn’t like them in October, and they didn’t like me, either, because I knew . . . I knew what we were doing in October and November wasn’t going to be good enough to get what they wanted . . . But they didn’t want to listen to me. They didn’t want to hear it.’

“The star-studded group . . . thought they knew what needed to be done to repeat. They thought they could coast . . . It was never like big, big things; it’s not like they didn’t feel like coming to practice or they were dogging it in games . . . It was more of, this little detail is really important, and they would tell you by their actions, ‘No, it isn’t.’ 

“Players complained about nearly impossible drills, not realizing the tasks were structured to see how they reacted to difficult situations and not to determine if they could accomplish them. Auriemma recalled his players murmuring in one practice: ‘Coach, there’s only four of us on defense, and there’s five of them on offense. How do you expect us to guard them?’ He responded: ‘I know there’s five of them. You’re supposed to figure out how to guard them.’

There is no free lunch. No pain, no gain. “What [the government] does not have is the basic capacity for good decision-making.” Similarly,“Did the [UConn women basketball] players want to coast or achieve greatness?”

Are we too nice and subservient that our leaders take us for granted, as the UK Ambassador would point out? On the other hand, we are so homogeneous that diversity unsettles us? And so when confronted by people not of our makeup, say, our Muslim brothers and sisters, we are expected to be different if not adversarial – and different we think and different we are?

But back to Professor Maboloc: If we are to successfully pursue nation building, should its object and the principle that must apply be the common good and by definition it demands a community sense and an egalitarian ethos? And that's how we will develop the basic capacity for good decision-making? 

And what about innovation and the liberal arts, can they be compatible? This blog recently discussed DT or Design Thinking: while it is associated with innovation, it is about problem-solving and founded on human empathy. “The essence of DT is that all design [and an economic model is one] must be empathic, and centered in what humans need [not the few]...DT is sometimes known as “human-centered design” or HCD. In DT it is rare that a super brain like a Steve Jobs comes along. Instead we rely on observations and stories about users to gain insight into what they need.” [Ricardo A. Lim, Notes on design thinking, Asian Institute of Management, 2015]

Sadly, hierarchy is in our nature thus poverty becomes a given. Understandably, to keep our sanity, we block out the poverty around us. And while we like to talk about it, our oligarchic system undermines development. [And it now holds true for the US with the pendulum swinging back to the 1%, as in the Gilded Age, away from its once enviable middle-class character.] I’ve witnessed poverty both as a resident and a visitor. As a visitor to India for a decade, I couldn’t block it out. And similarly, foreigner-friends visiting the Philippines are instantly riveted by our poverty.

The bottom line: our biases overwhelm our decision-making. And given our nature, it is not natural for us to adopt the techniques of DT or HCD, for example, in our decision-making efforts. But can we step up to the plate?

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