Tuesday, May 01, 2007

I have finally realized that the old argument of fate versus free will can be explained by the fact that some of the games described in game theory are co-ordinated and deterministic while others are not co-ordinated. Since we play both types of games and we require one rational explanation for both types comes the duality of the determinism of God versus the free will of mankind. When you look at either argument as an observer you only observe game theory.

Cult Cult

One of the foremost problems I have had with relegion is the emphasis on faith as a mental mechanism. I have a problem with faith as faith is a word that has entirely too many meanings attached to it. Faith is after all humanity's explanation for random variables and this would have made it confusing enough in itself. But that it has also been used as a tool to enforce agreement with prevailing orthodoxies means it is by far the one tool which has the potential for most misuse and I do include nuclear bombs, paneer and Punjabi folk songs in that arsenal.

To have faith in something can mean you believe in it. Of course believing in something can either be through rationality where the validity of rational premises makes you believe something, or you could believe it inspite of there being no rational reason to do so. Unfortunately over the last century faith has come to mean exclusively the latter and I hope that 'faith' does pick up this pejorative meaning since doing so would stop people from using to justify everything

As you can see I am a little upset about this issue. Faith which would mean belief is not strictly binary. There is a spectrum of faith. The simplest is belief in that which is evidently true. In the middle is normal self belief which is faith in oneself. And at the other end is of course belief in miracles and faith based healing. Where you believe in the system because you have faith in it. You don't believe it because of certain premises, but you believe it because of course you believe. Exercises in circular reasoning notwithstanding the irritating thing is that this is the only valid argument put forth by practitioners of relegion today. Especially when they wish to convince me. And when I point out this logical inconsistency all they have to say is, "But faith is the basis for eveverything?". Of course they aren't the only people who are out to convince me using that particular dodge. How can I forget Amway distributors?

I had a pitch from an Amway IBO to join the business which I had rejected. For personal reasons. I am not interested in soap as merchandise or as a business idea. I can't sell soap. Soap doesn't excite me. But of course. I didn't understand the business.

It was explained to me that the whole idea of the business wasn't selling soap but recruiting more people so that they also sold soap. Profit came from building a team. Hmmm. Good idea, but who were they selling soap to? They were selling soap to those people they had recruited. But was there some end to this consumption at a non-distibutor? Nope. Which meant that consumption was driven entirely by each distributor who purchased these products for personal consumption. My earnings of course were a percentage point of all that me and those under me had purchased. My objections:

  • This is an excellent case of incentive bias.

  • This is an excellent case of conflict of intrest

Let me explain

If my goal is to maximize my earnings, I would be forcing my business partners to purchase the maximum amount of soap, since my consumption too is limited. Unless of course I can sell to people outside Amway. Which would mean advertising cost. However since by Amway regulation I can't advertise it would mean that my profit would only increase if I sell a lot of soap to my immediate business partners.

Even assuming my business partners are willing to buy this amount of soap from me, why would they want to do it? There could be two reasons for this:

  1. They need those products for their use

  2. They need those products since it increases their percentage points in the business

1 would mean that if you need to make a profit in the business household consumption should increase marginally but increase month on month from completely independent causes. While household consumption does improve how this can do a month on month increase or sustain I do not see. However 2 is what what makes it a complete conflict of intrest.

Even if I could maximize my profits only by selling soap to my immediate business partners there is no bias if the entire evaluation of the soap in question is objective and there is no extra incentive to buy the soap other than the normal ones. Does the soap clean? Is it worth the money? However if there is the extra incentive that if I buy this soap my business standing goes up, there is quite some potential for misuse. A person would buy this product not specially because of it's own attributes, but because of it's other advantages. Where is the thin line when Amway introduces a new product. If there is motivation for me to purchase it, is it because it is actually useful for me, or is it because it is more useful for my upline that I purchase this?

Of course I also incur a benifit when I purchase this product. But the return oninvestment per purchase is lesser than the return on investment/advertising dollar that my upline spends. Since if I buy the product, nobody profits except me,however if I buy that product, my upline probably profits even more. So overall there is a tilt in the balance towards making me spend more and more on unwanted personal consumption.

So I looked for two clues:

  1. A remarkable set of products that I normally would not have any necessity for

  2. And a pressure to purchase those products from my uplines

Guess what I found? Both. There were a tremendous set of products all of which I did not want. Ginseng Bilboa, Protienex and softeners for my clothes, stuff I would never have considered buying. And then of course there was the pressure. The IBO who pitched it to me, said it was necessary to purchase all these products month on month and use them, since I needed to be fully confident about each of these products before I could sell it to my customers. Which again had a grain of validity. Where I drew the line was that I would have to buy cassettes and motivational books from the support organization to Amway e.g. BWW, IDA and others. Spiritual (sic), support organizaitions whose system(sic) I had to follow if it was anyway necessary to make a profit.

I drew a line at that. Support organizations and psychiatrists I am wary about since it is always in their best intrests to keep their patients dependent. Ensures book sales, motivational tapes keep selling. However that argument was met with, "don't worry I believe it". Whoo! Hoo! Explanation: I believe it. So do so many people. That doesn't mean it's wrong. And that's because we all believe it. At which point the primal fault having been so clearly displayed I firmly rejected the offer at hand.

However it's not surprising that Amway and it's support associations have decided to so fully follow relegious memes. Which brings up a few questions:

  • Are there a list of mental memes?

  • What are the other circular reasoning memes that have existed since history? Have any been as successful?

  • Since I consider such thought patterns almost pathological, is there some cure for such patterns? Other than thinking of course? Or even certain arguments?

#Comments are open. So feel free to do so

*The support organizations fall under the definition of cults

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