Break down the silos

by Rhode

May be best for the political page, but I found some similarities to what we’ve talked about here and what this Tedx talk focused on – the idea that we are in silos and respond only with “like minded” people, so we never push to the folks we don’t know well enough and have a conversation. We don’t leave room for compromise. The title of the talk is “Why we’re the reason Washington’s broken”

This is part of pre-homework I have for the leadership program. This month’s focus is on leading in this complex age, how to use conversations as a mechanism for leadership (that you must engage all levels rather than top-down directives), that you must be willing to be disturbed (that is have your opinions tested, and listen to others rather than react), and find a way to have safe conversations to draw out those people who don’t want to be heard for fear of reprisal or judgement.

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83 thoughts on “Break down the silos

  1. Pingback: Break down the silos – cherishthelady

  2. People are tribal. The commonality that makes them into a tribe can vary over time. Right now, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat is an important tribal divide. There’s no simple answer to this issue.

  3. Rhode – I too recently had a leadership training session on creating safe spaces, making it OK to experiment and fail, engaging with people with whom you might not normally involve, collaboration (can I throw in any more buzz words? ah yes . . ) and innovating. I have a bunch of thoughts on this, but am slammed at work today. Maybe I’ll post more later or offline directly.

    You should look for David Frum’s advice on posting on twitter. Ian Bremmer has also spoken/written about engaging with people not in your silo. If I find their stuff, I’ll try to post or send it.

  4. There’s no simple answer to this issue.

    Sure there is. War. China sinks a carrier in the South China Sea and all the tribalism vanishes in an instant. I mean, it’s not a good answer. But it is simple.

    I would add that I subscribe to the theory that it’s the end of the Cold War and the lack of an external threat that has caused the rise in partisanship.

  5. Rhett – that’s an interesting point that I have heard before. Without a unifying “hatred”, folks have turned inward.

    For those of you interested, do you attempt to break out of your silos? Does this creep into your workplace?

  6. Is there any hard evidence that breaking out of one’s silo actually changes one’s attitude?

  7. RMS,

    I think it can as long as you happen to be engaging with someone who is attempting to change someone’s mind. If you’re a shrill partisan, I don’t think that ever changes anyone’s mind. But…for example…if you happen to know some conservatives who agree that IQ is innate, immutable and as heritable as height. You can make progress with that.

  8. Over the years, I’ve come to mostly agree with the thinking in that essay someone shared about a week ago, which argues that we are mostly products of our genetics (primarily) and childhood circumstances (secondarily). I even support, to some degree, the more controversial part of that argument that even the ability and inclination to “work hard” are, to some degree, outside of our control. Some of my change in thinking I attribute to breaking out of my silo, some I attribute to advancing age, and some is based on observation, including of people close to me.

    Interestingly enough, we were having dinner Sunday night with our very Totebaggy and moderately progressive friends (and, obviously, fellow football haters) when I brought this up, and they both disagreed with me. They’re progressives of the more elitist sort, and things like the husband’s medical degree and their comfortable life are entirely of their own making, and wholly deserved. The wife even brought up that they favor the death penalty, which is something that I’ve long opposed — see yesterday’s comments about my belief in redemption.

  9. I hope you all don’t mind a quick hijack–

    I’m in the process of registering for a trade show. One of the required fields on the registration website is, “Title.”

    I don’t really have a job title, nor do I have a royal title (at least not TMK), so I thought I might have some fun with that. Also, doing something unusual like that can have the added benefit of making me a bit more memorable, which helps with networking, which is one of the purposes of attending shows like this.

    Because it is a professional show I’m attending as a representative of my employer, it has to be clean. One of the first things that came to mind was, “Grand Poobah,” but that’s not very original.

    Any suggestions?

  10. “Any suggestions?”

    Yes. Don’t do this, is my suggestion.

    Rhett / Rocky – I’d be curious to know where you might have changed in your thinking.

  11. like the husband’s medical degree and their comfortable life are entirely of their own making,

    How would they react to the IQ argument? Do they think everyone is born more or less equal and some people just choose to study harder than others?

  12. Before I address that question, Milo, I’ll just mention the hobby-horse of one of my friends, a PhD psychologist who teaches at a Mennonite college. Mennonite colleges are huge on sending kids overseas on “mission” trips. These trips last about three weeks. But all the evidence shows that they come home with their stereotypes reinforced, not changed. Kids who spend a year overseas, living with local families, change their views. But just visiting for three weeks not only doesn’t accomplish anything, it backfires. That’s why I ask if there’s any evidence that chatting for awhile with the guy in the MAGA cap / woman with the rainbow braids really helps break down barriers.

  13. I’d be curious to know where you might have changed in your thinking.

    When I was a teen I was a rock ribbed Ayn Rand republican. I used to listen to Rush Limbaugh in the car and everything.

  14. I’d have to probe that further. I’m thinking that their unexamined philosophy on the topic, which I would say is fairly common among those on both sides of the political aisle who have succeeded in life, is that possessing high intelligence, while mostly innate, is likewise virtuous for those who are gifted with it.

  15. like the husband’s medical degree and their comfortable life are entirely of their own making

    Many liberal posters on this blog believe that. “Yes, I was fortunate to have great parents and good schools, but I’ve worked damn hard for what I’ve got.” Objection, Your Honor — irrelevant.

  16. There are certain hot button issues that both sides of the divide feel very, very deeply about. These are also issues over which both sides tend to demonize those who don’t agree. After spending a fair amount of time with evangelicals in the adoption community, as well as reading certain conservative writes, I have come to realize that the conservative view on one of these issues is deeply held and does not stem from hatred. I am not going to say which issue because that belongs on the political page. I think progressives should stop demonizing conservatives who hold this belief. At the same time, I also think people on the conservative side demonize progressives over this issue, and fail to understand that we also feel deeply about it. It is hard to explain, but I think I can understand where conservatives are coming from on this issue even though I don’t agree. I wish conservatives could do the same.
    I don’t think the answer is that kind of kum-ba-ya, lets all get along together, shallow engagement though. That just papers over real differences that will eventually explode. And simply saying, hey Democrat go watch some Fox, hey Republican, go watch some Rachel Maddow won’t work – that will just make everyone even madder. I wish people would spend time grappling with the writing and ideas of serious thinkers on the opposing side. We need to really think about it – why does this person believe this thing? Why do I think they are wrong? Is there some part that I agree on? But, sigh, most people don’t seriously grapple with ANYONE’s ideas, let alone ideas they disagree with.

  17. By the way, I’m thinking about your question and trying to come up with an interesting case where I’ve changed my views. This one’s minor, but it’s all your damn fault, Milo. I started listening to Dave Ramsey and decided to get a part time job. That’s why I’m spending my early mornings lifeguarding. My husband would stab you if he knew it was your fault; I’ve been waking him up earlier than he likes when I get ready for work.

  18. “Yes, I was fortunate to have great parents and good schools, but I’ve worked damn hard for what I’ve got”
    I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. You can be fortunate in life, and also work hard to get somewhere. I think the problem is that many people who were fortunate, and I see this on both the right and the left, don’t understand that people who are not so fortunate in life may have also worked very, very hard, but end up with little to show for it.

  19. Finn, I agree with Milo. Unless your company does “fun” titles for traditional roles (e.g. the VP of People vs VP of Human Resources). Entering something like Software Engineer IV like it says on your official in-house paperwork isn’t the direction you want to go either.

    My active suggestion is to choose something that describes what you actually do a lot of in your job. Like “Strategic Planning” “Business Development” “Advertising Sales”

  20. Milo,

    In terms of specifics? I’ve mentioned working really shitty jobs as a teen and then getting a job my first summer in college as a temp putting 360 review feedback into a spreadsheet. Working in the 30th floor office of a VP who was out on maternity leave. My takeaway? Oh…you mean you can make 2-3x as much money for literally 1/10th the work? Ah….how hard you work has very little to do with how much you make.

  21. “When I was a teen I was a rock ribbed Ayn Rand republican. I used to listen to Rush Limbaugh in the car and everything.”

    Rhett, it appears that we traded places.
    I didn’t read Ayn Rand or listen to Rush as a teenager, but I voted against Reagan, embraced massive gun control and a woman’s right to “choose,” and thought that religion was for the simple-minded. And supported the death penalty.

  22. You can be fortunate in life, and also work hard to get somewhere

    Do you really control how hard you work? I figure you have a set capacity for effort and at best you can crank it up or down a few percent.

  23. “Sure there is. War. China sinks a carrier in the South China Sea and all the tribalism vanishes in an instant.”

    No, it just makes for bigger tribes.

  24. “I wish people would spend time grappling with the writing and ideas of serious thinkers on the opposing side. We need to really think about it – why does this person believe this thing?”

    Dave Rubin has an interesting podcast in which he tries to do this.
    Do you know of any others? Drawing a blank.

  25. Rhett – changes that occurred before the age of about 25 don’t really count, unless you want to say that you’ve never reconsidered a system of beliefs in the past 15+ years.

    Where have you changed since then, or where do you differ from those in the tribe that you normally side with?

  26. “Do you really control how hard you work?”

    People who are arrested and sent to gulag labor camps usually develop the ability to work hard, don’t you think?

  27. At a conference dinner last week, I got to hear a senior engineer discuss her experiences in Montgomery, Alabama from 1963-1965 with our young African American statistician. The senior engineer’s brother was in kindergarten with George Wallace’s child.

    It was interesting for me, as someone who has grown up in white communities with no significant African American presence or overt racism, to hear people 30 years different in age discuss racism and how it has changed over time and with geography. (The senior engineer has been in a high-travel job for ~30 years.)

    The statistician’s family is thinking of moving out from South Carolina because, in terms of race relations, she has described Oregon as “utopia” to them.

    It helped me understand some of the conversations I read here better.

  28. People who are arrested and sent to gulag labor camps usually develop the ability to work hard, don’t you think?

    No. Everyone just dies in order for capacity for effort from lowest to highest.

    Although It would be more accurate to say capacity for effort per unit of reward or punishment is the variable.

  29. or where do you differ from those in the tribe that you normally side with?

    Schools and their funding don’t matter above a very low subsistence level.

  30. I find that conversations typically :

    1. Stay in silos when the conversation revolves around trying to initially determine the other person’s opinion.

    2. Can bridge silos when the conversation initially revolves around facts.

  31. Over time, I’ve come to detest the pseudo-religions of both the left and the right. On the left, I just walk away from all the fact-free worship of breast feeding, of eating in some specific “pure” manner (vegan, paleo, whole30, whatever), obsession with “knowing your farmer”, and so on. My close friends are all into that stuff and I just try to glaze over with a pleasant expression unless someone says something SO counterfactual that I can’t keep quiet.

    I won’t say what the pseudo-religions on the right are, because this isn’t the political thread.

  32. Ability to work “hard”. 1. Hard is relative across people and compared to what norm? For example, in my MBA class there was a gentleman who was slow on understanding new concepts, but he went from getting it to mastery more quickly. He was determined to succeed, but he put in twice as many hours per week as the average classmate. 2. Ability to do so and need to do so are different. As Rhett says, why work harder that you have to? But, if needed most people can ramp it up, at least for the short to intermediate time frame.

  33. “For those of you interested, do you attempt to break out of your silos? Does this creep into your workplace?”

    My current and past employers have both had big pushes for diversity in the workplace. Even if the pushes aren’t for political diversity, the types of diversity they’ve pushed do tend to lead to dealing with people from different silos.

  34. He was determined to succeed, but he put in twice as many hours per week as the average classmate.

    Do you control how much you care about succeeding?

  35. “Over the years, I’ve come to mostly agree with the thinking in that essay someone shared about a week ago, which argues that we are mostly products of our genetics (primarily) and childhood circumstances (secondarily).”

    OTOH, I’ve heard many stories of kids going off to college and coming back changed.

    “changes that occurred before the age of about 25 don’t really count”

    So do you consider college, at least undergrad, to be part of childhood?

  36. “But all the evidence shows that they come home with their stereotypes reinforced, not changed. Kids who spend a year overseas, living with local families, change their views. But just visiting for three weeks not only doesn’t accomplish anything, it backfires. ”

    That’s similar to findings about business diversity training. Typical training doesn’t work or actually reinforces stereotypes.

    Personally I usually find it’s fine to interact and learn from friends and family who are in different silos. Neither I nor they have to change views; we can agree to disagree on many things. OTOH, I have other friends and family who strongly react to views I have that are polar opposite to theirs. I’m not sure what the particular factors are that make these relationships so much more hostile.

  37. Rhett – yes, I think you do or can adjust how much you care. It may be purely externally motivated though. Example, if I do X, I will get a 5% raise, I would be motivated to succeed at X. Given how much X requires, I might decide that 5% isn’t enough motivation. But, if instead for the same effort to succeed at X, the raise was 25%, I would be more motivated to succeed. OK, I agree in this example, money must be a motivator, but I still think a person can have a spectrum of motivation or hard work, etc.

  38. Finn – probably something boring is the right answer. “Polymath” is a great title though, and rarely understood. (I know someone who changes her title on LinkedIn to that when she doesn’t want recruiters contacting her. It’s highly effective.)

  39. Finn – definitely do the boring title. Either official title or descriptive.

    My opinions that are unpopular in my silo: I think there is far too much inefficiency in our state govt, and the inability to fire incompetent people makes me mad (especially when I go to court).

  40. AM,

    Right but you don’t control how much you care per unit of motivation. A lot of you seem to think coach and an AirB&B is perfectly fine. I would literally rather die. But I don’t think any of us has any control over that. You either care or you don’t*.

    * it would be more accurate to say you fall on a spectrum of caring.

  41. Thanks for the recommendations. I just went with “Engineer,” which is part of my official job title.

  42. “Over time, I’ve come to detest the pseudo-religions of both the left and the right. On the left, I just walk away from all the fact-free worship of breast feeding, of eating in some specific “pure” manner (vegan, paleo, whole30, whatever), obsession with “knowing your farmer”, and so on. My close friends are all into that stuff and I just try to glaze over with a pleasant expression unless someone says something SO counterfactual that I can’t keep quiet.”

    Oh God yes. Also…the fact that screens are absolutely evil. Don’t forget the technology is ruining our lives.

    @Rhett – That’s just preferences about what you care about and what motivates you, not some innate capacity for effort.

  43. the inability to fire incompetent people makes me mad

    I’ve seen it be beneficial. In the private sector everyone is always trying to justify their existence. In the public sector, if they think it’s a good idea they just give the OK. They don’t need to make a big show about how important they are so they don’t get laid off.

  44. “After spending a fair amount of time with evangelicals in the adoption community, as well as reading certain conservative writes, I have come to realize that the conservative view on one of these issues is deeply held and does not stem from hatred. I am not going to say which issue because that belongs on the political page.”

    You’ve piqued my curiosity. I’m looking forward to discussing this on the politics page.

  45. not some innate capacity for effort.

    Sure it is. You don’t control what you care about. And how much you care partially governs how hard you’re willing to work to get it.

  46. And if you think you control what you care about then try not caring about those things.

    You are my least favorite person to engage with because you end up arguing for the sake of the argument rather than the substance of the idea, but I could not disagree with you more on this.

    Are you saying that you think it’s impossible for a person to step back and reevaluate life, shift priorities, and train your mind (and heart) to focus and care more about some things and less about others? If that is what you are saying, I feel a little pity for you. Truly. There have definitely been times in my life that I have cared about things that weren’t the right things (be them a boy, an experience, or a material item, whatever), and had to actively change my mindset. The ability to think, to grow, to change…this to me is the essence of a soul. Everyone has capacity for personal growth.

  47. One thing bothering me is how people of my generation and older think they were so much better than today’s kids. They are so stuck on this. I wanted to be the voice of dissent but I didn’t feel like getting into it on WhatsApp.
    I think of myself as being a centrist. I do believe that many talents are innate. I think what earnest Totebaggy types mean when they say they worked hard is that they did not squander their innate talents. Maybe they could have gotten an adequate education and a decent but undemanding job but they pushed themselves to get a professional degree, took up a demanding high paying job etc.
    Just yesterday I had this discussion with DD on innate talent and effort. I don’t think she completely got it, but she will over time.

  48. I have cared about things that weren’t the right things (be them a boy, an experience, or a material item, whatever),

    You stopped caring about those things for a reason, right? I would agree that you can change your priorities based on feedback.

    Or let’s say you’re really career focused and then you had a kid and you decide to stay home. Was that entirely your choice or were you always predisposed to make that choice given the circumstances at that moment.

  49. I like Rhett’s qualification that it’s motivation PER UNIT REWARD/PUNISHMENT.

    I separately came to the same conclusion thinking about that essay and other topics. In a gulag, or if you’re getting hungry, or if you’re finally going to get kicked out of your parents’ basement and your cell phone will be cut off, then you will find more motivation because the denominator has been increased.

    This is important in considering any sort of UBI, or other benefits. There are competing goals where, on one hand, we want to minimize undue suffering, particularly among those for whom extra motivation will not yield better results.

    At the same time, the purpose of a society is to advance, both in an absolute sense of human progress and development, and to continue to be competitive among the rest of the world. The objectives go further than simply maximizing pleasure and comfort for the highest possible number of people given our current material resources.

  50. Lark,

    Or think of this thought experiment. We turn back time and reset you back to the moment just before your birth. You know just what you knew at that moment. Then we let the years run forward. Same you, knowing what you knew at the time, same circumstances, etc. Would you make the same choices again? Again not knowing anymore than you knew at the time? I bet that you would. Now go back and swap out me or Milo or Meme or LfB. Would we do have made different choices? Sure. So weren’t you always destined to make those choices? The only way you would have chosen differently was if one of the variables changed.

  51. “I started listening to Dave Ramsey and decided to get a part time job. That’s why I’m spending my early mornings lifeguarding. My husband would stab you if he knew it was your fault; I’ve been waking him up earlier than he likes when I get ready for work.”

    Going back, what’s this about? Why did Dave Ramsey convince you to work as a lifeguard again? Is it just because he thinks that 50-something too young to not work?

    I’ve found him to be hypocritical on that one. Any time he gets a caller who’s about 52, with a pension and $2M saved, and plans to take it easy and do a lot of fishing, he always shits on them. “I mean, you’re in a great position. You’ve done so well. Congratulations. BUT….you don’t want to spend the next 40 years fishing. That’s too much fishing. You need to do something else as your second career.”

    At the same time, whenever money/marriage issues come up, he’s a hard-liner on the idea that it’s a common pot of money, not separate bank accounts, not one person pays this, or one person has her own debt. (And I tend to agree with him unless there are complicating factors from prior marriages.) But to illustrate his point, he always talks about how he has over 100 million dollar net worth, and his wife, Sharon, has not worked for pay in 29 years, but it’s all their money just the same.

    So obviously, early retirement is fine for his wife. (He’s very sympathetic to SAHMs with little kids, but the Ramsey kids are all grown and are bringing home “grandbabies.”)

  52. It was more his shtick about how you should always have a side gig. My side gig is “side” to my retirement. I wasn’t doing anything else from 5:00am to 9:00am. Why not get my 10,000 steps in by walking around the pools (there are two in the enclosure), occasionally swim laps (encouraged because it’s considered a “necessary skill”), chat with the customers and with the other staff, and then go home for my final cup of coffee?

    I have a whole post’s worth of sociological observations about how lifeguarding has changed since I was a teenager. Maybe I’ll post it over the weekend so people can read it or ignore it as they choose.

  53. And we absolutely pool our money. And DH thinks I’m insane for doing this.

  54. Rhett, it’s not going backwards would you make the same choices, it’s going forward. Do you have the capacity to grow, to change, to reassess, to re-prioritize, to focus differently. Or because you made one choice, do you always make consistent choices because you are who you are. I believe that the ability to grow and change is the point of the human experience. I don’t think innate traits are the same as destiny.

    And it’s the same with the silos – do we have the capacity to understand different positions, to empathize, to see different points of view.

  55. We don’t pool our money. My parents never pooled theirs. They just paid for categories of things over the years and so do we. It worked for my parents and up to the present it has worked for us. My parents had friends where the wife was treated very badly and was denied adequate spending money, with no income of her own it was a bad situation. Both my parents and the situation with their friends influenced me.

  56. “Maybe I’ll post it over the weekend so people can read it or ignore it as they choose.”

    I’d be curious to read it because I was a lifeguard in the late 90s. It was the age of Ritalin’ed kids. Any kids who were too wild at the pool, their moms would come to apologize to me that “he just hasn’t had his Ritalin yet.”

  57. “So weren’t you always destined to make those choices?”

    Rhett, you don’t seem to have much faith in human agency.

  58. The objectives go further than simply maximizing pleasure and comfort for the highest possible number of people given our current material resources.

    I agree. I think there is a sweet spot. Above some level, lavishly rewarding the already lavishly rewarded doesn’t move the needle. And below some level further immisererating the miserable doesn’t do much either.

  59. Rhett, you don’t seem to have much faith in human agency.

    Free will is an illusion? Totally. There is a lot of science to back it up. Your brain makes it’s choices before you’re aware of them and your conscious mind tries to explain why you chose the way you did.

  60. Scarlett,

    If we ran the clock back wipe your memory and then let it run forward, would you make all the same choices?

  61. I agree that what motivates one person is unique to them. (The what may be the same or different, but when it is the same the magnitude is still liikely different. the amount of money it takes to get AM to stay at a specific AirBnB vs Rhett is clearly different. Or, the what for AM might be how cheap the AirBnB is for that trip, but for Rhett it might be the next vacation he gets to stay in the place he dreams of.)

    I also agree that what motivates people over time can change. (As a fresh college grad, it might be all about the money, but as a new parent, it might be more about additional weeks of vacation or additional work day/time flexibility. Or, while I might move across the country for a 5% raise as a new grad, it might take 20% as a seasoned professional who is currently employed to uproot my family and weather a time where my spouse may not have employment in the new location.)

    If you roll back time and everything were to happen the exact same way would I do the same things? I think the answer is logically yes, but that is because given what you knew at the time you made the decision that you thought was in your best interest. It is only in hindsight that you can tell that was a good or poor decision. However, make a poor decision and suffer the consequences and I think many people would shift to a different motivation. Maybe not an 180 degree shift, but may be 10-20 degrees.

  62. I think the answer is logically yes

    Then logically going forward you’re always going to react to and incorporate any new stimuli in the way you were destined to incorporate and act on it.

    So you try for the big promotion that you were promised. But Dave gets laid off from his startup and gets hired in your department and becomes the new favorite and he gets the job you were promised. So getting burned you decide to put in less effort and spend more time with your family. But Dave’s startup was always going to go under and his resume was always going to hit your bosses desk at the right moment, etc. etc. and you were always going to react the same way.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cause_and_Effect_(Star_Trek:_The_Next_Generation)

  63. I agree with Lark in that some people are primed to grow and are out there seeking opportunities to do so. For others, what changes their minds is more tied that something happens to them or someone for whom they care deeply or that it is going to affect something that they have so examples could be:

    The person who is 100 pro life has a pregnancy themselves or someone they love that abortion is the choice that needs to be made. The person who is 100 pro choice has a wanted pregnancy in their life that then makes them change the definition of when “life” begins.

    The gun owner who is opposed to any type of gun control experiences a gun accident with a loved one that changes their mind. The gun control person experiences a crime that makes them want to arm themselves and “protect” their loved ones.

    You make a new friend and see the world through their eyes. You have a love one with a different lifestyle then you approve of but through love and time you gain a new perspective. Or you could think your open as can be and then be confronted with losing something – resources for your child say and suddenly your pushing a different solution because your snowflake is special or its now affecting your property values and suddenly its not a good policy at this time. We all have our opinions and biases.

  64. “If we ran the clock back wipe your memory and then let it run forward, would you make all the same choices?”

    Maybe, but maybe not.
    Some choices were essentially rolls of the dice. I could have chosen to attend a different law school, which would have put me in contact with different professors, one of whom might have been a feeder for a different judicial clerkship.
    DH could have chosen to take one of the outside offers he received in the 1990s.
    I could have chosen to hire the American nanny with a driver’s license, instead of the Pakistani nanny without one, which might have resulted in a longer tenure as a working mom.
    We could have decided not to move to the midwest.

    Those are the major choices, but we all make countless minor decisions every day that have unforeseen consequences for our future lives, such as the decision to go to THIS party (where we met our spouse) rather than THAT one (where we would have met the date rapist), or to sit next to THIS person (who became a professional contact) rather than THAT one (who didn’t) on a flight. It makes no sense to take the position that we were “destined” to make a particular choice simply because we did so.

  65. “Maybe, but maybe not.
    Some choices were essentially rolls of the dice.”

    It’s also not uncommon to decide by not deciding, e.g., analysis paralysis while the window to decide closes.

  66. Some choices were essentially rolls of the dice.

    To use your dice example – if we roll the universe back those dice are going to roll the same way every time.

  67. “To use your dice example – if we roll the universe back those dice are going to roll the same way every time.”

    Hey, what about Back to the Future? ;)

    Seriously, people can learn behaviors that can greatly (or slightly) influence their life outcomes. While it’s clear to me that genetics play a dominant role in a person’s life, environment is also important. To use one example, the phonics discussion triggered by a podcast about a month ago continues to flourish and hopefully influence educators. A child with a weaker potential for reading skills could have their life completely turned around by being effectively taught to read. That child may never reach the pinnacle of literacy skills, but could do so much more with their life than the child stuck at the 5th grade level of literacy because of poor instruction.

    We can change our thinking, our attitudes, our preferences, and our motivation over our lifetime. We all have inherent limitations, but not always such that we cannot exert free will and change many aspects of our lives.

  68. I understand Rhett’s point: in the absence of anything different, people will make the same decisions. He isn’t saying that people can’t change or that outside factors don’t affect/influence people. He is saying that if everything is exactly the same, we will make the same choices.

    Absolutely we can change our thinking, and we could achieve more with extra help, or not achieve as much because we got pushed back. But if we don’t get that extra help or don’t get pushed back, and nothing happens to prompt us to change our thinking, we will make the same decisions.

  69. “He is saying that if everything is exactly the same, we will make the same choices.”

    But he seems to be going beyond that observation, to conclude that we therefore *had* no choice, and were destined or compelled by circumstances beyond our control to take the decision we did.
    He can correct me if I’m wrong.

  70. What an interesting topic. If some people are naturally more driven or hard working, how do we reward effort? Also, how does society deal with negative traits if there is no free will, but everything’s genetically programmed? Is propensity to steal, cheat, or lie genetic? If so, how do we deal with it?

  71. I think of my hard working FIL supporting his lazier siblings, who feel that they can complain about his generosity. What are his obligations? What are the siblings’ obligations?

    I do believe a lot is hard wired, because FIL will continue to support them, even if he is unhappy doing so.

  72. I’ve lost the original point – which I think was something along the lines of “don’t bother to interact with people in other silos because your entire life is already fated anyway”. @Rhett – if you really believe that, why do you spend so much time arguing with people on here? Not to change their minds? Not to learn anything yourself? (as both are futiile)

    Anyway – I totally agree with Used to Lurk’s post, July’s point about there being genetic potential but the environment influencing outcomes as well, and Scarlett’s point that destiny isn’t so just because it happened.

  73. Rhett – if you really believe thaT

    I don’t. I’m just fascinated by the logic of it all. You have to agree the time loop senario does lead one to the conclusion that it was all fated to be.

  74. “You have to agree the time loop senario does lead one to the conclusion that it was all fated to be.”

    No randomness?

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