All of us show bias when it comes to what information we take in. We typically focus on anything that agrees with the outcome we want. - Noreena Hertz
Fortunately for serious minds, a bias recognized is a bias sterilized. - Benjamin Haydon
I have always been fascinated with lateral puzzles, simple puzzles that challenge our preconceptions and biases by presenting a simple puzzle with a simple, obvious solution that we often overlook because of biases created by our Life experiences
Here’s an example of a lateral puzzle:
Acting on an anonymous phone call, the police raid a house to arrest a suspected murderer. They don't know what he looks like but they know his name is John and that he is inside the house. The police bust in on a carpenter, a truck driver, a mechanic and a fireman all playing poker. Without hesitation or communication of any kind, they immediately arrest the fireman. How do they know they've got their man?
The person solving the puzzle must ask a series of questions to which only yes or no answers can be provided until the puzzle is solved.
The difficulty in solving such puzzles is that our biases drive our perception of things and so the person solving the puzzle will often amuse us as they dance so close to the answer without seeing the obvious solution.
While the lateral puzzles may be a lot of fun and are a great exercise for our brain, they reveal surprising details about how our Life experiences cause us to jump to conclusions or ignore important but obvious details.
In the case of a game such as a lateral puzzle, the impact of asking the wrong questions or jumping to poor conclusions is insignificant.
However, in areas such as business, politics (domestic and international), society, relationships and other areas, our biases play a significant role in the individual and collective choices we make and thus the results we produce.
The Two Extremes
There are people who believe that love and love alone conquers all. Such people blindly go about thinking positive thoughts as ignorant, indifferent and evil people go about accomplishing what they wish to accomplish. Tell the “love conquers all” people that the world is at risk from things like cyber attacks on our infrastructure, nuclear war, collapsing economies and the like and they will ignore you, leaving society vulnerable to such challenges which in the coming years are becoming more and more likely. No matter what is happening in the world, you will find them sharing things like this on social media:
Love: Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Conversely, there are people who believe that the world is inevitably doomed and they are blind to acts of love, kindness, generosity and service that occur all around them. Tell these people that miracles are in play all around us and they will tell you that it doesn’t matter as the world is coming to an end anyway as they allow their sense of defeatism to prevent them (or us) from seeking solutions. You will probably find posters like this one hung up in their office:
Positivity: If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands. And put your face between 'em when you do. You'll save me a lot of trouble. Thanks.
The reality is that the potential for either to be true exists as the forces of good and evil struggle for supremacy in a world filled with challenge and unlimited potential. What exacerbates this battle is that in many situations, the interpretation of good and evil is both perspective and Life context-based and so battle lines and objectives are often blurry.
Meanwhile ….. Oil and the Economy - When Biases Go Wrong
As the price of oil continues to fall ($48.00 per barrel USD as I write this), people are celebrating that cheaper gasoline is available on the market. Many of these people are celebrating the idea (proven or not) that the “large and greedy oil companies” are finally being punished for years of alleged obscene profits. Others believe that lower energy costs will drive the economy in a positive direction, forgetting that counter forces are in play that may negate the positive effect derived from cheaper energy and transportation costs.
One writer in Calgary, Alberta went as far as to cheer on the collapse of the energy sector, conjecturing that if the Alberta economy collapses, it will be easier for people like him to buy a house. His article is here – It’s Hard Not to Cheer For Economic Downtown. He forgets that if the economy collapses, credit rules will tighten and he will still unlikely be able to buy a house. He also forgets that if the economy collapses, many government services will be reduced because of tightened budgets, thus hurting many people who rely on such services while sparing those who are already financially secure. His belief that an economic collapse narrows the gap between the haves and the have-nots is unfounded since such a collapse would likely increase the gap.
All of these people fail to notice the larger, more significant play – that declining prices in commodities, specifically the energy sector, could play a significant role in a larger global destabilization that may impact ALL of us.
The Bottom Line
A commodities market in free fall, especially in the energy sector, creates opportunities to destabilize economies already built upon the house of cards that is our debt-based political and societal systems. It may also reveal how well prepared our political leaders are for the market collapse which many of us have been predicting for some time since they won’t be able to candy coat the scenarios that the collapse creates. Likely they will act surprised and say that no one could see it coming. *Yawn*
The collapse may also create a problematic situation for countries like Russia, whose economy is already in economic free fall. If Russia gets desperate for cash, Putin gets desperate to retain his hold on power or he is desperate to find an opportunity to restore national pride, we may have more trouble than we realize. Never underestimate what desperation can produce in a person or a nation.
In either situation, the cheaper gasoline we are enjoying today may seem desirable but we may pay a much higher price down the road and because of this, we need to be careful what we cheer for.
Unrestrained love alone will not solve the potential problems this creates nor will unrestrained pessimism do much better as either creates the opportunity to hurt everyone significantly if we guess wrong.
An effective solution must be found quickly but in seeking such a solution, some questions come to mind:
- Can we find a long term solution in time or are we content to harvest what we believe serves our needs for the short term?
- Do we even care?
- Do we understand what may happen if we don’t care?
Would your answers be different if you knew that political and military leaders were planning for potential disasters on a national and international level should things go wrong with what is developing in the energy sector?
Some of these leaders believe that such disasters are inevitable and are planning political, law-enforcement and military-based responses for such events.
Do you believe that such disasters are possible?
Are you prepared for what could be produced as a result of the current commodities free fall?
I guess it depends on what kind of biases you have, doesn’t it?
Which way are you biased?
Are your biases destroying or saving the world?
How do you know?
In service and servanthood,
Lateral Puzzle Answer:
The answer to the puzzle is fairly obvious. The mechanic, the truck driver and the carpenter are all women.