Saturday, September 22, 2012

Blue sky optimistic or cautious & grounded : Nature or Nurture stronger ?

nature or nurture ??
We are all born leaning to either being (a) basically optimistic about the new and the unknown or (b) leaning to being cautious and skeptical towards them : that's Nature talking - our genetic and epigenetic mix. But can our upbringing (and later our own adult life circumstances) restrain or encourage those innate tendencies --- ie does Nuture also play a big part ?

I certainly think so.

The life circumstances of your parents and relatives, of your neighbours and of your local community, of your race or religion, of your class, gender, regional geography  --- all feed into how you think a particular set of circumstances that potentially will affect many people - will actually end up impacting YOU.

So talk of an impending recession might mean for some the thought that cutting a week or two out of their annual stay at their time-share condo in Florida might just to be prudent.

Or it might mean that when lay-offs come at the mill as a result of the recession - and you just know they will come despite what the President says,that you - as the most recently hired employee - and as a black woman - will almost certainly be laid off before your other 'brothers and sisters' in the Local.

Or news of a new free trade deal with the South East Asia trading block might mean wonderful wealth opportunities for your investment firm - or it could mean your electrical wiring assembly job will be soon be out-sourced to another hungry woman -  in some Cambodian "factory" that likes to surround its employees with barbed wire.

But on the other hand, some investment bankers might still be sceptical of financial deals in the farthest parts of the Far East - still feeling that too much local "who-you-know" and "who-you-bribe" is the rules of the game to make them eager to put their clients' money there.

And some at the local factory might see Far East trade simply means more places to sell their firm's tractors and hence more production hours and more overtime for them.

They figure ,"Hey wiring electrical assemblies might seem easy and might even go to Cambodia eventually, but its actually much more difficult to do the job correctly - the first time - than it looks."

"For 50 years, we here in North America have learned to make the assemblies right, so that they keep working even in tough conditions."

"Cambodia could face a hell of a learning curve ,what with angry unhappy customers unable to get their tractors onto the field in a very short plowing season because the ignition won't start. We'll survive - for a few more years - I'm sure of it."

We all fit on a continum between extreme optimism and extreme skepticism, varying somewhat on an issue to issue basis, but deep down I feel that Nurture, not Nature, is usually most powerful in determining our most likely position, in advance, on any issue.

WE don't know our future - but we do know our past - if it has generally been consistently good or bad that will powerfully color how we see our future.

As Mitt Romney learned to his doom this week, the hard working optimistic poor and the hard working optimistic rich both might be hard working, both be optimistic, but because one is rich and the other is poor, they still bring very different sets of expectations to every new situation.

I think this is how most of us intuitively decide whether we prefer the First or the Second Law of Thermodynamics's take on basic reality : we bring many lifetimes of experiences (ours and our various sub-cultures) to the decision.

As to whether Reality is simple and certain or complex and chaotic, NUTURE far out weighs Nature when we come to make our individual assessment

If Life (our parents/community/race/economic class et al) has taught us its an uncertain world out there and rarely does it go our way - we will be pessimistic and inclined to see Reality as funnelled through the Second Law's insights.

But if Life has been good for us, our parents and almost everyone down at the Country Club, we'll see the First Law as a bang-on way of looking at the world.

Victorian sentimentalism might then be seen  as the work of people who are up today, but who have been down before and easily see themselves as being down again : empathy for the downthrodden comes easy when you have - literally - already walked a mile in shoes very much like theirs.

And Victorian Social Darwinism comes easily when you have had a lifetime of being told the only rich people are people who earned their way to the top by sheer hard work .

"If they can do it ,so can anyone, and if you can't  - or won't - do so,  then Nature should throw you to the wolves --- for the betterment of our species."

Without knowing how their individual genomes propelled them to being basically pessimistic or optimistic in nature, I am willing to stake my life on the assumption that almost all white protestant upper class professional victorian males in Manchester England saw the 1870s -1910s technological revolution much more positively than did almost all colored female peasants in Western Africa.

Nuture, (aka our past life experience) I argue, is by far the most powerful force upon how we view Reality : whether as simple and controllable or as powerful and chaotic.....

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