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How do we win?

“That may be, sir, but you can win battles. There’s no way you can win in putting a city back together. There’s always more to do, and always someone unhappy.”

L. E. Modesitt Jr., Princeps

If you only focus on your own needs, interests and goals then it is possible to win. By looking at a negotiation or discussion as a battle or a game to win, then you will either win or lose. You have to prepare yourself to be surrounded by a lot of people that feels like they have lost, and you will have to prepare yourself to lose. By accepting that we need to balance other people’s needs and our own then we will realize that we are in a never-ending balancing-act. More often than we think we will be able to satisfy other people’s needs and our own at the same time. We just need to spend some time thinking about what the problem is really about.

No matter what you do though; sometimes you will be happy with what is happening and sometimes you will be unhappy. You can either see this as a struggle that is difficult and unfair, or you can see this as life and a fun challenge! 

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What are the rules for being human?

“1: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm;

2: A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law;

3: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law;”

Isaac Asimov

For some reason I started thinking of the three laws of robotics last night. I must have been around fifteen years old when I read my first Isaac Asimov book and I remember reading these laws and I found them extremely fascinating, and I remember spending a lot of time thinking about them.

How you define harm? Is it only physical or is it emotional harm as well? Are the robots allowed to go around being rude jerks or do they have to be polite all the time? And if it includes emotional harm as well, then the robots must be extremely good at being able to read and understand humans. Because one thing I have noticed is that things that seem extremely harmless or fun to me, might really piss someone else off. It is impossible to be perfect all the time, and it is much more important to learn how to say ‘I’m sorry’ than to try tiptoeing around in life.

What I like about the laws is that they take into acount both action and inaction. To say that it is equally wrong to not do anything is so important and I think it ties in perfectly with the forth law that he added later. I think it is self-explanatory and something to think about every day:

“The Zeroth Law: A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.”

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Safety first?

“The plans were drawn up by the best, then checked and re-checked by the very best, and then the checkers themselves were scrutinised, analysed and vetted for any sign of fifth columnism or martyr tendencies, or even a serious and hitherto undetected case of just-plain-stupid, and then the contractors went to work under a scheme which emphasised thoroughness and adherence to spec over swift completion, and which imposed penalties so dire upon speculators and profiteers that it would actually be safer just to throw yourself from a high place, and finally the quantity surveyors and catastrophe experts went to town on it with hammers and saws, lightning generators and torsion engines, and declared it sound.”

Nick Harkaway, The Gone-Away World

How much time should we spend on making sure no mistakes are made?

How much time should we spend on rereading, revising and editing a text before publishing it? 

How much time should we spend on practicing before trying our skills in real life? 

How much time should we spend on filling in evaluations and reports instead of getting things done?

How much trust should we have?

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Step off the path

“Step off the path, and maybe you’d get back and maybe you wouldn’t, but you would be changed. Which sounds like strange and awful until you realise that that’s actually pretty much how it’s always been, and if you think any different, it’s because you’ve never left that little stretch of comfort and gone someplace where what you know gets a bit thin on the ground.”

Nick Harkaway, The Gone-Away World

When you try something new, something you don’t do every day, then you will be changed. Your body will change form the physical experience and your mind from the new thoughts and feelings. Your mind will need to carve new pathways to handle these new experiences. What we often forget is that we change by doing the same things as well. Every time you repeat something our mind strengthens those pathways and makes it easier for us to do them the next time. It will be easier and require less energy every time you do something which is both a good thing and a bad thing. The bad thing is that it might be harder and harder to try new things if we get used to the low amount of energy required to just do what we always do.

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What do I love doing in life?

“What do I love doing in life? After several moments of silence, Quaeryt replied, “That’s because I question that myself. I don’t know that I have an answer for you, not one that would be completely honest. I like making things … better. But ‘better’ is something that is different for each man, each woman.” He offered a crooked smile. Darlinka looked to Vaelora, questioningly.”

L.E Modesitt Jr., Princeps

There are many great questions to ask yourself, but I think this one is among the best: What do I love doing in life?. Instead of focusing on our strengths or our weaknesses. Think first about what you really love doing or what brings a smile to your lips. If you really like it you can always become better at it.

As long as you choose to spend time on what you really love doing in life…

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We can be too trusting, but can we be too trustworthy?

“Recently, I talked to a man. Some of you know him. Some don’t. I asked for his help in a matter some would call small and some would not. He said that he would do what he could. From this man, those words meant what they said.”

           – L.E Modesitt Jr., Scholar

Most people are focused on if they could trust other people. We look at how others behave, what they say, and what they do. From this we then try to figure out if we feel we could trust this person or not. Some have a very long memory and old wrongdoings will color their trust of other people for a very long time and other people have a shorter memory. What people often forget is to think about how trustworthy they are. Do I behave in a way that make people trust me? Do I do what I say I will? How open am I with my thoughts and feelings? This is much more important because this is something we can work on and something we have full control over.

We can be too trusting, but can we be too trustworthy?

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What exactly do patrols do?

What exactly do patrols do? For better or worse, he was about to find out.

          – L.E. Modesitt Jr, Scholar

I guess patrols are patrolling, but what does that in practice mean? What does an engineer do? An economist? A manager? A nurse? A president? A vice president? A teacher? A barista? A beggar? A scientist? A programmer? A clown? An artist? A dancer? An actor? A singer? A taxi driver? A doctor? A psychiatrist? A soldier? A police officer? A train conductor?

I have an idea in my head of what each of these people are doing at work. It is probably just an idea though, and the thing I think they are doing is probably only a very small part of what their jobs actually entail. And I’m probably completely wrong on a few of them as well…

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What would I do?

“Wooo!’ he said, slamming his shot glass down and coughing a bit. ‘That’s good stuff.’
I agreed heartily. ‘Shall we do another one?’ I asked.
‘Oh no,’ Jesus said quietly, his eyes growing round. ‘This is one of those situations where I have to stop and ask myself, what would I do?”

          – Kevin Hearne, Hammered (The Iron Druid Chronicles)

This books series is a lot of fun and in the above scene, Atticus (the Iron Druid) is in a bar drinking with Jesus. The question the quote ends with is a great one: “What would I do?” A common technique in brainstorming is to choose a person and ask yourself – What would X do? You can choose someone famous, someone you know or someone you don’t know. The person can be alive or dead. It can be your best friend or a relative. It is just about putting yourself in some other person’s shoes and try to picture what they would do in the situation you are in. It often gives me great ideas. 

Sometimes, it is an even better idea to ask yourself – What would I do? To really sit down and think about what you want to do. What do I need at the moment? What am I anxious about that might prevent me from doing it? What would be a lot of fun?

By answering the question you will get to know yourself better and what you want out of life. What would I do?

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Miraculous seem ordinary

“It’s a popular fact that 90 percent of the brain is not used and, like most popular facts, it is wrong…  It is used. One of its functions is to make the miraculous seem ordinary, to turn the unusual into the usual. Otherwise, human beings, faced with the daily wondrousness of everything, would go around wearing a stupid grin, saying “Wow,” a lot. Part of the brain exists to stop this from happening.”

          – Terry Pratchett, Small Gods

 

To stop us from overloading, the brain needs to reduce the information we see so that we can focus on the essential; what is new and things we have told the brain to regard as important. The problem is that this can cause us to get stuck in our routines and in our way of thinking: We keep doing the same things, reacting in the same way and thinking the same thoughts. To stop this from happening we need to make sure that we experience new things, talk to new people and review what habits we have from time to time. 

We should not overdo this though. For some people this takes energy and if we force ourselves outside of our comfort zone both physically and mentally too much then we will not have much energy over for our every day life. It shouldn’t be a problem though because most people don’t do enough new things. But it is good to remember to think about the balance between doing new things and following our patterns.

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Look at their pattern and not yours

“Rhenn…what are you thinking? You have the strangest look on your face.” “I’m trying to make sense of things that may not make any sense at all.” “Things always make sense if you look at their patterns and not yours.” I understood what she meant. Too often, I tried to impose what I thought should be the order or pattern of things, rather than seeing what was. “That’s the engineer’s way of thinking,” Seliora went on. “When you design things, whether it’s a card reader for a loom or a design for fabric, you get in the habit of assuming that everyone designs the way you do, or that there’s just one designer, like the Nameless, that arranges everything.” “But people aren’t like that,” I said with a laugh. “You need to let your mind rest,” she said. “Sometimes that’s more useful than worrying it to death, especially when you’re as tired as you are.”

          – L.E. Modesitt Jr, Imager’s Intrigue

When working in any team the challenge is often to understand one another. We might feel very predictable ourselves but when looking at other people it might be hard sometime to understand why they don’t understand our way of thinking. If you work with engineer’s as above or any other homogeneous group it is very easy to start looking at the problem from only one direction. Explaining something to likeminded people is usually quite easy and it is efficient because you can move to what you feel is the most important part quickly. The challenge though is to manage to explain something to someone who has no knowledge at all of what you are doing. I have received many insights from trying to explain things to people with other ways of thinking, people with other patterns in their minds. It was at times quite frustrating trying to explain something that was obvious to me, and I did not understand many of the questions at first but they somehow got stuck in my mind and after a while opened up some new ways of thinking or new ways to look at the problem.