Wednesday, November 22, 2017


In the UK at the moment there is much talk about the problem of productivity.  The mainstream media has been repeating a message to the effect that the UK has fallen behind in its productivity.  But what is productivity, and why is it considered important to politicians?

A technical definition of productivity is 'the rate of output per unit of input'.  It leaves us none the wiser, because unless we define output and input, we have no idea what we are talking about.  Starting with input: let's imagine we are looking at a person's 'productivity'.  From the point of view of an employer, the 'input' is what it costs to employ and maintain that person; in other words, the resources that the employer has to pay for in order to have that person do their work.  Moving on to output: output is often talked of as the value of things produced.

This is one of those ideas that sounds great in principle, but in practice starts to fall apart.  If I tell you that Bert costs £10,000 a year to maintain, but produces £20,000-worth of goods, you might immediately see a ratio of 2:1, and say 'great: Bert is producing twice her cost'.

But we haven't analysed how Bert is doing this.  What if she is failing to see her family, failing to eat properly, and sacrificing her mental health in order to produce those goods.  None of this will appear in her productivity ratio, because it is hard to put an economic value on wellbeing.  So productivity cannot tell us anything about wellbeing.  Furthermore, our £10,000 only includes the direct costs of employing Bert.  We haven't taken into account what her parents spent in helping her to grow, what her friends spend in helping her to function: in other words, our direct cost approach completely ignores many of the real resource inputs for an activity.  And finally, what if Bert is producing guns for export to an oppressive regime?  Do we attach the same value to that?

The above highlights three problems with productivity calculations:

1. They ignore wellbeing
2. They ignore the true cost to society
3. They are amoral in that they can't discriminate between good and bad activities

Productivity calculations can vary.  National data, for instance, sometimes just calculates average output per individual.  On the most basic level, this is just estimating the total value of stuff produced (i.e. total national sales), and dividing it by the number of people. 

Imagine total stuff produced (economists call it GDP, Gross Domestic Product) is, say, $3 trillion (that's 3 with twelve zeros).  Imagine also that the total number of people is 75 million.  $3tr/75m = $40,000 per person.  Each individual 'produces' $40k of output.  This is roughly the position in the UK.

So when the government says it wants to increase productivity, assuming a stable population, it usually means it wants to increase the total stuff produced, or GDP.  To increase the amount of billing we all do to each other.

This doesn't take into account, as we mentioned above, wellbeing, or the true cost to society, or WHAT we are actually billing each other for.  As far as the government is concerned, we could all be drinking, smoking and gambling our way to higher GDP.

Those who say so, assert that higher productivity implies more successful economic activity, and more successful economic activity implies greater wealth, and greater wealth implies a better standard of living.

There are a host of assumptions implied in that conclusion, including the following:

1. When someone bills other people more, they are succeeding
2. Personal wealth is to be measured as success in gaining an inflow of money
3. Personal wellbeing is to be sought via wealth

If you happen to believe these three things, then productivity ratios are more likely to mean something to you.  You may wish to monitor them in order to control your wellbeing.

However, if you think success, wealth and wellbeing lie in places other than money, then you may wish to focus on other statistics.  Examples of statistics that take a different view of wellbeing are already produced by the Office for National Statistics.  Please see the following link:

When you review the data around the above link, you may notice something strange.  It goes like this: in the last year or two, while productivity may have been falling, wellbeing may have increased.

Perhaps this should make us think again about the assumption that higher productivity is good per se.

Think about it.  Are you at your happiest when you are working hard to charge other people for what you do (being 'productive' according to the government), or when you are giving, helping others, being creative and exploring your world?  I'm sure your view will differ depending on your life philosopy and politics; but it's a question worth asking. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017


Recently, the UK government has received bad press for excluding a reference to animal sentience from a legal statute.  The clause at issue was a part of an EU regulation which ensures that each state, 'since animals are sentient beings, pays full regard to the welfare requirements of animals' in formulating all policies that involve them.  The government decided to leave this out of UK law in future, as part of the secession from the EU.

Why would the government seek to do this?  A couple of ideas include:

1. Creating more flexibility in policy making, in order to give the UK a competitive advantage in developing agricultural and industrial policy
2. Preparing the way for a relaxation of hunting regulations, as it removes a constraint on forms of hunting that cause animals distress or pain

Two questions arise from the current debate:

1. Are animals sentient beings?
2. Should animal welfare be given priority over human requirements?

There are two parts to this question, relating to two primary meanings of the word sentient.  Firstly, are animals able to feel pain?  And secondly, are animals conscious of their painful experiences?

Taking the first question first: humans get very confused when it comes to deciding if other species can feel.  They get all tangled up in debates about what it is to feel.  Some say feeling is simply the ability to respond to sensory data.  By that argument, even plants have feelings, because they evidently respond to such stimuli as light, heat and wind by changing their behaviour.  To find a definition that applies to animals rather than plants, some people point to the development of a complex nervous system as a definer.  So, the argument goes, if you have a complex network of sensors that report stimuli to a central system - a bit like mobile phones have begun to do - then this qualifies the being for special treatment.  A problem with this is that, as I just hinted, even some modern mobile phones might qualify for special rights under these definitions.  Complexity of response is a problematic way to distinguish animals as worthy of special treatment, because if we apply it to animals, we may have to apply it to machines in due course.

If we discard an ability to respond or recoil as a definer of welfare rights, we are left with the idea that we may have to find something special in the response of certain animals which makes them worthy of privilege.  There are two main concepts which are used in developing this idea.

Firstly, there is the concept of consciousness.  Consciousness has two main sides to it.  Firstly, an ability to reflect on your own experience.  This falls prey to the above problem of generalisability to machines: many machines, as they develop, will be able to reflect on their own experience, in the sense of being able to create metaperceptions of their own perceptions.  For example, a computer can already observe the way it is experiencing data management, and adjust its metacognitions, or master concepts, in the light of what it learns.  This is one of the principles of machine learning being incorporated in artificial intelligence projects.

The second main side to consciousness is the mysterious one.  It is best expressed by your surprise when you realise that you are a sentient being stuck inside yourself - you feel like you are kind of inside your own head, uniquely, and are nowhere else.  You cannot explain where this 'self' came from, nor where it is going; you just feel strongly that your awareness, your perspective, is unique.  Humans have developed some ability to extend this awareness to their fellow humans - in other words, they have come to a general understanding that each human, because similar, is likely to experience the same sense of being a unique centre of awareness.  We talk of 'subjectivity', meaning the understanding that, in our communications, we are each unique centres of awareness.

Humans have developed ethical structures around this sense of common subjectivity.  But they have trouble extending this to animals.  Much thought has been expended trying to justify a boundary between humans and other animals.  You can see it in many religious approaches, which seem to give humans a special position in a hierarchy of being. You can see it in much literature, which seems to glorify the human individual's centre of awareness as unique in comparison to an animal.

But at what point does an animal acquire a subjective nature, in the sense of being a unique centre of awareness?  And why do some humans still insist on differentiating between human subjectivity and animal perception?

I would like to suggest that the problem here lies in a unique deficiency of humans, rather than a unique awareness.  It goes like this:

Other species are able to live their lives without the assumption that they are special.  Humans, however, have a thing I'd like to label 'Interspecies Psychopathy Disorder', or IPD.  A species suffering from IPD cannot conceive of any other species having the same powers, and therefore the same value, as it does.  It lives in its own little bubble of power-hungriness and self-aggrandisement.

This explains why the government cannot include a sentience clause in the latest legislative adaptations.  This is especially true of a conservative government, which by definition sees itself as there to continue recent historical views rather than develop new ones.  As the heads of a state of people with IPD, they feel duty-bound to make life more comfortable for those who wish to continue being power-hungry and self-aggrandising.  Anything else might cause undue shock in the general population, as they realise that they are not alone on the planet, but part of a network of sentience, in the sense of subjective consciousness, that extends beyond humans.

We don't want to scare the masses.

Some may wish to develop beyond human-specific concerns, and see the world as more of a network of different, but equally valuable, consciousnesses.  They may even wish to stop being terrified by the idea, and to start thinking that empathy with all things, even so-called lower beings, is a generally good thing.  Such people may even find themselves becoming happier, as their need for self-protection, and therefore fear, reduces.  I couldn't possibly comment.

Monday, November 13, 2017


Harrassment is unwelcome verbal or physical conduct.  Sex is anything involving either intimate physical relations, or gender.  So sexual harrassment is unwelcome talk or behaviour towards a colleague, compromising their freedom to manage their own body, or their own sexual identity, as they choose.

Recently, there has been a lot of talk in the press and on social media about where lines are drawn.  The suggestion is that it is not always clear when sexual harrassment is taking place.  Some have suggested that what is friendly banter to one person, can be unfriendly harassment to another.  Others have replied that the lines are indeed clear, and that those who say there is a grey area have limited understanding.

Both are in a sense right.  Sexual harassment is one of those areas of behaviour which requires the operation of something psychologists tend to call 'theory of mind'.  Theory of mind is the ability to speculate (i.e. theorise) reasonably accurately about what is going on in someone else's mind, and to moderate one's own behaviour in the light of that speculation.  We use this ability all the time in our human relations.  It is perhaps shown most clearly when one human openly empathises with another, saying 'you must be feeling...', and offering a helping hand of some kind.

Essentially, things go wrong if person A fails to moderate their behaviour in a way that respects person B.  In other words, avoiding sexual harrassment is the same thing as demonstrating respect in your actions.

In order to appropriately adjust to B's needs, person A needs to make sure they have the following skills:

1. An understanding of the general rules of human interaction in the particular social context
2. An appreciation of any additional flexibility that person B might need
3. The ability to modify one's own conduct in keeping with 1 or 2

Most of the arguments for a grey area are situated in areas 1 and 2.  The general rules of human interaction do change from culture to culture; and, on top of that, each individual will have their own requirements for a comfortable social interaction.

There is no magical age or time when a human suddenly becomes qualified to make judgements as to local social rules, and others' individual requirements.  There is no doubt that some of us are better at it than others.  Some people genuinely find it difficult to get a hold on social etiquette; and some people find it difficult to read other people's individualised social signals.  

This is where caution comes in.  One reason we are shy in new social situations, is that we are holding back from social interaction until we have a better appreciation of the social rules of the gathering, and the character of the individuals contained within it.  In this way, shyness, far from being a social dysfunction, is a social skill which prevents us from harassing others unduly.

Negotiating any social situation involves practicing a degree of shyness, or caution.  This buys all parties time to 'size each other up', to get to know existing social hopes and expectations, and to begin negotiating any new ways of behaving that might be necessary to involve everyone well.

Caution can massively reduce the risk of harassment.  Using a driving analogy, slowing down, and increasing observational awareness, reduces the risk of unwanted accidents.

Linked to this idea of caution, is another kind of reticence - respect for the other person's freedom of mind, and modifying one's behaviour to allow the other to exercise consent without feeling pressure.

This requires perhaps more skill than any of the above.  It takes time to learn a behavioural style which allows others the ability to say no gracefully.  A hand on a knee, for instance, if unwelcome, requires the other to be quite explicit in response, either removing the hand, or drawing attention to the act and explaining that it isn't welcome.

The burden on the other to say no explicitly, and the difficulty of doing so, is at its most pressurised when person A has power over person B.  In such situations, A is used to having their wishes met by others, and the social environment is often adapted to this expectation.  Conversely, person B, if in possession of less prima facie power, will have to summon far greater courage to express a refusal - not least because the social rules of the workplace imply that solving problems for a boss is a good thing.

Hence, person A has a greater responsibility than usual to ensure they leave a large amount of room for person B to say no.  Ironically, this is the opposite of the behaviour expected of many bosses, who are often applauded for an ability to reduce others' ability to say no.  In other words, the lauded dealmaker for the firm, has to learn to put this particular deal into the hands of a weaker person, to leave it there, and to accept no as an answer.  Furthermore, it is wise to treat the absence of a yes or no in the same way as a no.

There has also been recent discussion of whether, and how, flirting can be allowed in the workplace, and whether it is compatible with the workplace.  Many politicians have commented that they met their current partner at work, and, without the ability to flirt, they simply would not have had a relationship.

Flirting is complex.  It is, roughly speaking, the expression of a willingness to enter into an exclusive intimacy with another person.  I say exclusive because flirting implies the possibility of a special relationship.  Not necessarily sexual; but an intimacy of a special kind, not afforded to the world in general.  For example, a person would not normally be expected to flirt with a cat; society has expectations as to who might be expected to flirt with whom, and why.  This definition of flirting does not necessarily relate to concrete reality: it is one of those words which does something just by being used.  Thus: 'Are you flirting with me?' implies that the other may be intending to open the door to a special relationship that is only really definable in terms of flirting.  Romance is similarly a word which defines its own world: sprinkles some kind of fairy dust over certain relationships, and implies they are special in a particular way.

The language of flirting is in conflict with the language of business in certain ways:

1. It implies a preferential relationship between two people independent of the requirements of business
2. It therefore implies that the requirements of business might be compromised
3. Flirting challenges the impartial operation of business hierarchies and boundaries

Given the value put upon the role of impartiality in business, flirting is therefore often considered an abuse.  Whether in a job interview, or a work meeting, or a court, or a police station... a situation designed for fairness is severely challenged if one party playing one role attempts to enter into a special relationship with a party playing another.  Suddenly, it becomes hard to communicate on a 'business' basis, because the world of 'special intimacy' has been invoked.

So on one side we have people saying that flirting should be banished from the workplace.  On the other, people saying that many relationships start at work, and to banish flirting would be to impoverish society.

One solution commonly used is to banish 'special relationship' type behaviour from the workplace.  It is hard to eliminate it entirely, but, broadly speaking, many workplaces expect business behaviour in business hours.

Professions with problems in this area are often professions like acting, media, modelling... professions which are often in the business of promoting, albeit temporarily, 'special relationships'.  Some of the biggest recent scandals have come from film and theatre, where the distinction between 'business' and 'special relationship' can become blurred.  For example, a director may feel that it is OK, in the name of art, to walk across boundaries of intimacy with an actor.

Power has a particular role here if the object of flirting, the object of an invitation towards a special relationship, is dependent on the flirter for their welfare or livelihood.  There is a simple sequence of questions that might be asked in order to develop good working practice:

1. Am I interested in a deeper relationship with this person?
2. If so, am I in some way in charge of this persons welfare?
3. If so, does it better protect their welfare if I keep my interest to myself?
4. If so, perhaps it is better not to flirt.

Some professional relationships have a built-in quasi-legal framework which reflects this.  Thus a doctor, prima facie, is under a duty not to flirt with a patient.

To negotiate relationships without harassment, we need to have a practical understanding of social expectations, but also individual personalities.  We need to have an ability to manage our own behaviour, and to make situational judgements which protect both ourselves and others.  The role of caution is not to be underestimated: it is better to do nothing than to risk an accidental misunderstanding.  And, most importantly, if we have power or responsibility over another person's welfare, then we would do well to keep any flirtatious interest to ourselves, and at the very least to respect the other person's personal decision space, to allow enormous room for a 'no', and to treat the absence of a positive response in the same way as a no.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


There's a great hoo-ha at the moment in the UK about things offshore.  A recent release of hitherto secret information has revealed that several influential individuals have investments held offshore.  This means that they have invested funds in organisations registered elsewhere than the UK, to take advantage of more favourable terms.  Those favourable terms can include such things as lower tax rates, greater secrecy, and differences in regulations which enable the saving of money.

There is, in many cases, no indication that the individuals concerned have done anything illegal.  Offshore investing has a long history.  And it got me to thinking: what, exactly, is the problem that the media are feeding on?  What, in our, the readers', perceptions, is this news stimulating?  Certainly, if you watch the UK news at the moment, there is an impression being spread that something dodgy is being exposed, that wealthy people have been doing what they shouldn't do, and that something should be done about it.

As with many stories with a scandalous feel to them, the public is feeling its way as it goes.  Cultural viewpoints have a way of developing themselves as they go, using news events as catalysts for changes in ideology.

Picking out a few of the materialising assumptions, some of which may not be conscious in everyone's minds, what do we get as emergent ideas?

Let's choose an example of such news stories, and then try to take apart what it is inciting.

Lewis Hamilton, the racing driver, is being accused of acquiring a private jet via the Isle of Man, to take advantage of a VAT exemption on planes exclusively for business use. Additionally, it is alleged that he in fact went on to make some private use of the jet.

There are a range of assertions that members of the public might make in their minds in response to the story.  Teasing apart a few of the ethical assumptions we might apply, here is a short list of statements you might approve or disapprove of:

1. A citizen should pay home country tax on all their earnings
2. A citizen should not use transactions outside their home country to reduce their tax liability
3. A citizen should not make financial transactions in secret
4. A citizen should not benefit financially from making a false statement

The first three, while possible moral views, are, as a matter of fact, not the legal position in the UK.  Legally, the UK allows certain offshore schemes to avoid tax, and does not generally require immediate public disclosure of such schemes.  Number four may have the law on its side - Lewis Hamilton may have fallen foul of tax regulations in claiming exclusive business use of his plane.

Regarding the first three: while fiduciary loyalty and openness are what the public may like in a rich citizen, they are not legally required.  If UK citizens want them, they may have to press for legislation to require it.

So what is all the fuss about?

I suggest the power of the story is in the language used by the journalists, and it is this language that may ultimately incite change.  The key words here (even if they are not always uttered out loud) are:

1. Disloyalty
2. Secrecy

The feeling left by the language of journalists, is that Lewis Hamilton, in seeking to invest money elsewhere, is being (a) disloyal to his home tax regime, and (b) secretive in order to gain an advantage.  Compare these two sentences:

1. Lewis Hamilton bought a plane via the Isle of Man
2. Investigations reveal that Lewis Hamilton avoided taxes of £3 million through an Isle of Man scheme

Using the language of revelation and exposure makes the original act sound more sinister and secretive.  And in saying 'avoided taxes', there is a double hit.  Avoiding can be positive, but has many negative connotations; and 'taxes', in the plural, rather than 'tax' in the singular, sounds less technical, and more as though Lewis Hamilton is avoiding what most people have to pay.  In this way, the language used by journalists can emphasise social division, and stimulate a sense of social injustice.

If UK citizens want new legislation that requires UK citizens to maximise the UK tax they pay, and publicise all of their financial information, then that option is open.

I just have a couple of balancing reflections.

Imagine you are in a relationship with someone who requires you to do nothing unless it benefits them.  If you do, then they accuse you, directly or indirectly, of disloyalty and secrecy.  Under UK legislation, this can be classified as controlling behaviour, and there is a law against it.  Carrying the analogy across to the UK's financial affairs: is it a good way of encouraging people to be UK citizens, or residents in the UK, if the government and media insist that to benefit from an offshore transaction is to be disloyal and secretive?  Do we want to become a world of selfish countries, with each government only interested in its own benefit?  Just asking.

Have you holidayed abroad?  If so, how do you feel about it being characterised as an offshore transaction? 

What a disgrace!  Instead of supporting your home country and investing your money there, you skulked abroad and gave your money to foreigners!  You avoided traditional UK weather in order to benefit from enhanced conditions offshore.  Shame on you!

Have you learned another language?  If so, how do you feel about that being characterised as an offshore ruse?

What a disgrace!  Instead of supporting your home language and enriching it, you slipped away to evening classes and used your hard-earned brain capacity helping to promote a language not your own.  You avoided your traditional words in order to benefit from an enhanced relationship with those that use other languages.  Shame on you!

I guess I am suggesting we think carefully about what world we are trying to create.  It is all very well to be watchful of hypocrisy, and to ensure that those with wealth and power are aware of the great responsibility they can hold to behave with dignity and respect.  Speaking truth to power is a great function of the media.

But readers of the media must be careful that they are not led into hypocrisy themselves.  It is easy to view the rich and powerful as a different species, prone to disloyalty and secrecy.  It is harder to realise that we can all, even when we think we are being righteous, be prone to controlling, intolerant and invasive behaviour. 

Offshore is not necessarily sinful.  A sense of balance, perhaps, would help.

Saturday, November 4, 2017


'The news' is a thing that we all take for granted.  If something is 'on the news', it is invested with a certain amount of authority as an event, as though it is more important than all the other events that happen.

But I guess we have to remember that 'the news' is selected by those who make the news, in such a way that even they themselves are unsure how the selection happens.  A decision to run with something as a headline can happen on a thin premise.  For instance, if other news outlets are already running an item as a headline, then the decision can be made on that basis, which is effectively copying.  Furthermore, if a train of thought is trending, then an event that plays into the centre of that train of thought is more likely to hit the headlines.

In this way, the news industry acts a little like the fashion industry.  In some ways it appears to feed current trends and obsessions in society.  In other ways, it seeks to stir up and guide enthusiasm for new modes of thought that lend themselves to a sensational push.  The former appears to be democratic in a loose sense.  The latter somewhat autocratic.  They seem to feed each other in a kind of circle.  Those with editorial power pick up and feed trends, but also edit and refocus those trends in a biased manner.

In the fashion industry, this dual force might be seen in an attempt to sell a fashion item as 'currently hot on the street'.  In this way, a fashion editor can appear to be democratic and sensitive, with an ear close to the ground.  The second part of the dual force, however, is the fashion editor's selectivity: they choose particular elements and aspects of the fashion item to focus on and present to the public.  This in turn affects the public view, and in an ongoing cycle, the editor can then re-interview the public to see how the mutually-generated enthusiasm for a new product is going.

In the news industry, the same thing happens.  A news item is picked up as 'hot on the street'.  It is then editorialised and re-presented in a re-focused manner partly determined by the attitudes and intentions of the editor themselves.  The public is thereby influenced, and there begins a cycle of mutual feeding until one is not sure where the public begins and the editor ends.

The above system works in terms of a market.  In a sense, the owners of the means of production try to detect changes in consumer behaviour and preferences, and then try to reflect that back to the consumer, flexed with the owners' own views and approach.

However, there are certain problems.  The main ones, perhaps, are:

1. It is a self-fulfilling system.  News producer and public can end up in a strange co-dependent relationship where they create their own self-justified reality, and become blind to anything outside it.
2. The system is biased towards novelty and obsession.  Psychologically, news 'consumers' are more likely to attend to things that are either new, or feed their own temporary obsessions.  This takes the emphasis away from long-standing truths, and makes it harder to see things in the light of distant or unfashionable ideologies.
3. The system relies on powerful editors to do its job.  Editors are subject to their own biases, and can feed the news cycle with unwarranted focus on what they, albeit unconsciously, want to focus on.

The result of these problems is:

1. Countries with such news systems become conceptually closed to anything outside their own world view.  Quite quickly, fashionable ideologies can be whipped up and self-justified without reference to how different things are from the perspective of other geographic locations, cultural standpoints, and ideologies.
2. Countries with such news systems become (a) short-termist, unable to think for the long term, and (b) local, unable to think widely with all of humanity.
3. Countries with such news systems become over-influenced by an oligarchy of powerful news editors, who often do not even know what they are doing, what unconscious biases they are giving their consumers.

I would suggest three controls to avoid falling too far down this hole.

1. Allow 'foreigners' to present, edit, supply and influence the news.  By 'foreigners', I not only mean people from other countries, but people from different regions, cultures and ideologies.  Also allow 'foreigners' to be the consumers of the news.  If an editor knows that their audience is worldwide, they are less likely to follow parochial concerns, attentional biases and obsessions.
2. Dedicate a large part of reporting to things that are not new, have not changed, and are outside current local attentional focus.
3. Use a system of guest editors, who, for a time, are given complete editorial control.  Deliberately choose them to introduce a different voice, a different choice, a different attentional bias and selection focus.

We all have our own internal news system.  We have an internal editor which dips into the world and seeks out information that is novel, or fits with our current obsessions.  Partly, this is necessary.  If the novel information is a falling tree, then it helps us to move out of the way.  But it has the same drawbacks as described above.  Our internal news system is self-focused, conceptually closed, narrow, self-justifying; it is short term, un-inclusive; it is unconsciously biased.

Individually, we can open our lives to influence from different locations, cultures and ideologies.  We can remove our minds from the apparent turmoil of local events, raise our eyes, and look a little more to the horizon, to patterns that can exist over millions of years.  We can introduce 'guest editors' into our lives, allowing them to introduce a different voice, to break our selfish attentional bias, and to help us to select things for attention that we are perhaps afraid of or unaccustomed to. 

It is beyond the scope of this article, but social media has an effect on all of the above.  One could argue that it offers an alternative to traditional news channels.  However, it is also arguably subject to the same bias-reinforcement as above.  Algorithms seek to establish our preferences, and then encourage us to consume according to those preferences.  

As individuals, we can use social media to expand our horizons; but it may involve an active effort on our part to break expected cycles of information, to ensure that we are not simply living inside the same small cardboard box, and painting its unilluminated inside with ever more convoluted colours.

News is fashion.  Editors try to detect consumer preferences, and then feed them back in a hyper-selective and artifically-focused form.  This causes poverty of thought and experience.  We can break the narrowness of this cycle by becoming explorers, mentally and physically travelling through alien places, cultures and ideologies, and allowing things outside our own selfish circle to break our petty obsessions and attentional biases.