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The world is in turmoil largely because of an inherent human flawDonald Steward3/30/2015

The human fault that I believe causes humankind the greatest trouble is not one of the vices that first come to mind, such as greed or envy. And it is a fault that a computer program can help us overcome. The argument is based on two primary concepts, which are underlined below.

When people cannot see the problems being solved that adversely affect them, they become frustrated and irrational. We are seeing the consequences of this everywhere we look.

Due to advances in technology and increased globalization, we are now able to create systems with so many different aspects and interrelations that we are no longer able to predict the consequences of what we do. And so we create even more complex problems that affect us adversely. This process is very contagious, eventually infecting a world that has become chaotic and unruly.

Problems can be solved by putting together cause-and-effects logically to see what they tell us. We may do this conscientiously or subconsciously.

Unfortunately, we are severely constrained in the number of cause-and-effects we can deal with to solve the problems that are adversely affecting us today. This is the inherent human flaw.

George A Miller’s 1956 paper “The Magic Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two” presented research that showed that we could only keep 7 plus or minus 2 independent items in mind at one time. To solve problems we need not only to keep the independent cause-and-effect statements in mind at one time, but also able to be able to put them together logically to determine their implications. We probably have an even more severe limitation in the number of cause-and-effects we can deal with than Miller’s limit.

How many cause-and-effect statements do we have to put together logically to solve some of the problems we face today? And could we use a computer to put together more of these cause-and-effects to solve these problems than we otherwise could by ourselves?

A computer program, the Explainer, has been developed to deal with more cause-and-effects than we could possibly deal with by our own faculties. And we, the Explainer and I, have found that some of the problems that are vexing Congress have involved dealing with forty or more cause-and-effects. This is way beyond our human capabilities. This helps to explain some of the turmoil we have created.

Using the computer, we have been able to shed light on a number of problems we face today. For example, we have found that a likely cause of the economic crisis and widening wealth gap may be due to some people in negotiations having the information they need to evaluate their self-interests while others in the negotiation do not have the information that they need. This gives those who have the information they need an unfair advantage over the others who do not have the information they need. This is a weakness in the capitalist system that is overlooked by most, but used by some to gain an inappropriate advantage over others. Think of the subprime mortgage negotiations.

The Explainer has also been used to show how the problem of how fast to reduce the deficit might be reframed in a way that each party may find a more comfortable solution. Reducing the deficit faster today leaves less deficit to be dealt with in the future. But investing in education, infrastructure, and research today will increase the deficit today but prepare those in the future to be more prosperous and better able to pay off the deficit. The issue could be reframed as: How do we reduce the deficit to enable the greatest prosperity in the future at the least cost to prosperity today. This will get both sides to consider the balance between today’s and tomorrow’s prosperities.

We have also looked at how the economy could be improved by increasing demand. This involves a cause-and-effect circuit. If A causes B, and B causes C, and C causes A, this would be a circuit.

Let’s trace this circuit:

  1. Businesses will not increase their capacity to produce more goods and services if there is no demand for them.
  2. People will not increase their demand if they do not have the money to satisfy their demands.
  3. People would have that money to satisfy their demands if businesses were to hire them at good salaries.
  4. Hiring more people would increase businesses’ capacity to meet the demand.

This completes the circuit.

Circuits generally have two solutions. One solution causes a cycling up, while the other solution causes a cycling down. Which cycle prevails is determined by external causes that can drive one or the other cycle.

If there is not an external cause to drive one of the solutions, it can cycle equally well either up or down, i.e. it can float. This suggests that by driving this cycle by increasing the minimum wage would cause the system to cycle up, creating more demand, more business, and people to be paid more. This would be a benefit to the overall economy.

But further analysis reveals a difficulty. Much of our production today is done by automated equipment rather than by employees. But automated equipment does not produce demand nor does it pay taxes as employees would. This suggests that we should tax automated equipment and provide tax credits for businesses that create more employment. A tax on automated equipment would be a tax on wealth. Such a tax on automated equipment and a tax credit to businesses for hiring more employees might be in order. It might also reduce the effective wages in the U.S. that are currently causing businesses to offshore their production or base their business oversees where they can pay lower taxes. This may call for more consideration.

The Explainer has also allowed us to deal which such problems as:

  1. How to find the causes of faults in systems,
  2. Given a patient’s medical symptoms, what are the possible diagnoses and what tests would be required to obtain the correct diagnosis, and what tests could be eliminated to save money?
  3. Given the evidence concerning a crime, what further evidence might be needed, and with that evidence, determine who is the culprit.
  4. Given the desired behavior of a system, turn the assumptions for one of the explanations for that behavior into a design that would achieve that behavior.

The Explainer, if accepted, could be a very useful tool. Unfortunately, most people cannot conceive of how such a tool could be developed, and thus are inclined not to believe in it even when it is demonstrated to them. They suspect the person who claims to have developed the method must have made some mistake or has tricked them.

So now, we need to focus effort on getting people to consider this method more carefully and when they are satisfied, use it to solve those problems. Perhaps we can help create a world that is a little bit less frustrated and more rational and congenial.  

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