8 Forms of human relations

..belongingness, respect, protection, love, security, self-esteem, .. cannot be satisfied by trees, mountains or even dogs; only from healthy relations with other human beings. It is also, only, to other human beings that we can give these in the fullest measure – Maslov (p. 97-98)

In designing social institutions, perhaps not enough focus is given to the human relations that would be inherent or nurtured by their structures. A good social institution gives to its members the greatest possibility of health and self actualization by having its institutional arrangements set up to foster a maximum of high level relations and a minimum of low level relations (Maslow, p. 105). This essay attempts to describe various human relations that can be classified either as high or low level.

At the heart of all human relation are the various capacities that are characteristic of the human organism, including those in the hierarchy of needs. In high level relations, these capacities are permitted and nurtured, contributing to the health and self actualization of the individual. In contrast, in low level relations, the capacities are exploited, suppressed for the purpose of domination, and thereby contribute contribute to the development of neurotic and other behavioral and chronic illnesses (Maslow p. 151-157, Mate p. 1-12).

Dependence is a key factor in all relations. While it, in high level relations, can be said to be healthy, empathetic, cooperative, mutual and reciprocal, in low level relations, it is unhealthy, isolating, exploitative, competitive, enslaving, demeaning and dehumanizing.

Characteristics of high level relations

(Maslow p. 151-157)

High level relations permit the greatest self expression: spontaneity, the greatest naturalness, the greatest dropping of defenses, and protection against threat.

The relations are not a struggle but something that just happens;  there is a growing intimacy and honesty (allowing one’s faults, weaknesses, and shortcomings to be freely seen by the other) and self-expression, … it is possible to be oneself, to feel natural. Furthermore, it is not necessary to be guarded, to conceal or to try to impress, to feel tense, to watch one’s words or actions, to suppress or repress. One can be themselves without feeling that there are demands or expectations upon them; they can feel psychologically as well as physically naked and still loved and wanted and secure. It can also be said that the high level relations are also cheerful, humorous, and playful. They come naturally as an enjoyment and a delight.

(Maslow p. 154): Respect is also a fundamental characteristic of high level relations. Respect is the ability to be pleased rather than threatened by the triumphs on another individual. Respect also acknowledges the other person’s independence and autonomy. Respect also means that the wishes of another are not controlled, or disregarded. It affords the respected individual a fundamental irreducible dignity, and protection from humiliation. Inherently, one’s relation to the other is  of enjoyment, admiration, delight, contemplation and appreciation, rather than use.

High level relations also allow the expression of a healthy amount of passivity, relaxation, childishness, and silliness, since if there is no danger and we are loved and respected for ourselves rather than for any front we put on or role we play, we can be as we really are, weak when we feel weak, protected when we feel confused, childish when we wish to drop the responsibilities of adulthood (Maslow p. 98).

In addition, high level relations feature cooperative behavior, mutual reciprocity, a responsibility towards each other, and empathy.

High level relations enable the gratification of those human needs that only other humans can fulfill e.g. Love, respect, belonging, …

High level relations tends toward holistic growth of the individual and thus health as there is no repression on individuality. High level relations also enable the gratification of those human needs that only other humans can fulfill e.g. Love, respect, belonging, .. It is healthy individuals that are also more likely to have high level relations with others (Maslow, p. 97-98). As Mate (p. 202) explains, “one learns to love not by instruction, but by being loved”.

Characteristics of low level relations

Low level relations’ characteristics can be said to be the opposite of high level relations. The litany can include the absence of genuine concern for the other, and interaction with others that is strangulated and mixed with embarrassment, guilt, defensiveness, role play, and with a struggle for dominance (Maslow, p. 99).

Boundaries are a fundamental aspect of low lever relations. Boundaries are usually implicit e.g. as traditions or identities but can also be explicit for instance in a constitution, or in society’s human or organizational roles. Boundaries limit the expression of oneself and conceal one’s true nature – one cannot be oneself. Individuals involved in low level relations therefore struggle as their true nature is repressed. At their most extreme e.g. in ethnocentrism, the boundaries afford little or no human freedom or expression.

Low level relations inhibit the gratification of those human needs that only other humans can fulfill e.g. Love, respect, belonging, …

Low level relations are likely to result to psychopathology and other forms of sickness as there is little or no gratification of needs that only other humans can fulfill (Maslow, p. 100). As Mate (p. 16) argues ‘a lack of psychological independence, an overwhelming need for love and affection, and the inability to feel or express anger have long been identified as possible factors in the natural development of the disease’It is also the sick that are more likely to have low level relations with others.

Another way to look at low level relations is in terms of what can go wrong in human relations; i.e. either things that should happen do not happen or things that should not happen, happen.

High level relations

1. Parent-child

Before birth

The Parent-child relation is a special one. Firstly, the relation is cemented by nature. It contains a bond that goes beyond the bodily interaction with one another; one that is fundamental to the growth of the baby and the parent. The bond is like no other in the sense that at the beginning of the relation, the parent and child are one; they both reside in the same body; the need for belonging for the human organism begins here. Even before birth, the baby can experience its environment including the physiology of the mother and experience a belonging in it.

After birth

A parent-child relation is perhaps the highest form of human relation. It involves the enjoyment of the other, as it is, without necessary seeking to change it. It also features an interesting form of respect and empathy; one of speaking the language of the other; a mother speaks to a child in a simplistic manner so that the child can understand, a child tries on his parents shoes. The mother and the child play together, with each finding joy and laughter in the actions of the other even when they are simple and not necessarily meaningful. They enjoy the company of each other.

As Maslov (p. 86) suggests, one of the reasons that babies are loved and wanted so much must be that they are without visible evil, hatred, or malice in the first year or two of their lives.

Most interestingly to note in this form of relation is the fact that the child is without (for lack of a better word) hypocracy and prejudice. He or she acts out and speaks their minds without fear of judgement. They may show uncertainity towards things and people they are not familiar with but they do not withhold their curiosity in paying attention to them.

“No infant is born with a propensity to repress the expression of emotion. Anyone who has ever tried to force a baby to swallow foods he disliked .. can testify to young human’s inherent capacity to resist coercion and to express displeasure. So why do we start swallowing food we do not want or feelings our parents do not want?” When we recognize that our parents may withhold from us things that we need or want (Mate, p. 200 – 201)

We may hypothesize that it is not until they have been prejudiced that babies develop the character of hiding their intentions, saying things they do not mean and so on. Perhaps it is at this point in life that a disconcerting split occurs within them; that they are one thing yet they are expected to be another, a burden they have to carry hence forth.

As a result, the parent-child relation may transition to friendship, neighborly or other low level relations depending on the reciprocity exchanged by the two as the child approaches adolescence and seeks independence.

2. Love-Sexual

This relation, we may say, is a foundation for the highest form of human relation: the parent-child relation. In addition to the various values exchanged and experienced in friendship and neighborly relations, the love-sexual relation surpasses these two specifically in one aspect: it leads to the gratification of sexual needs, which are considered important for the human organism, at least in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

A difference (and perhaps an important one) that may be noted between the love-sexual relation and other high level relations is that while you can be a parent to many children or be friends or neighborly to many, cultural/state/religious/ideological arrangements have at some point suggested or dictated that an individual only love one and not many. Why has this been the case when we know in practice it has not been so? Why have the social, economic and political institutions suppressed the expression and satiation of a basic human need? Why is the sex need, out of the many, singled out to have this limitation?

3. Friendship

Friendship may be described as a long term relation between individuals, with respect, understanding, enjoyment and caring for each other as its main aspects. It may also involve love for each other but not necessarily with a sexual aspect.

Friendship mainly differs from the neighborly relation in the dimension of time; in friendship the striving to be the guardian of the other is long term while in a neighborly relation, it is short term – it happens only in the moments of contact without necessarily being future oriented. It may however, be said that friendship transmutes from the neighborly relation and in turn it – friendship – can transmute to a love-sexual relation.

4. Neighborly

Simply put, a neighborly relation involves a striving of one to be the guardian of the other. Not in the sense of running their affairs but in safe guarding their well being (in the moments of contact) as if it was one’s own.  It is best expressed in non-commodified social transactions such as giving a seat to an elderly in a bus, or helping a child cross a road, or noticing someone is experiencing a problem and attempting to help them. It is not necessarily determined by the familiarity of each other but the acting of each other as humans – the acknowledgement of human vulnerability depicted by developing, declining or weakened human capacities. Neighborly relations are however endangered and are quickly getting replaced by the strangerly relation.

Low level relations

5. Strangerly/Proximal abandonment

Just as it sounds, this is a strange form of relation. One way in which is it is expressed is in the feeling of loneliness in the midst of other people. This form of relation is weird as it appears to be neutral – there are no negative attitudes towards others even though genuine concern for others is usually subdued – yet it bears negative results; that of feeling alone. Inescapably, since there is no relation with others, there is no gratification of human needs that only other humans can fulfill.

The phrase proximal abandonment has been used to refers to the strangerly relation – where people in the same physical location – whether it be in a house, car, office, or whatever – do not interact with each other for whatever reason. Mate (p. 208) calls it proximate separation and defines it as “the phenomenon of physical closeness but emotional separation.

Perhaps proximal abandonment can be seen as an inherent characteristic of social institutions. Urbanization, schools, businesses, health institutions; hospitals, nursing homes etc separate generations and tear familial and high level relations for various reasons (Mate, p. 223). Children are kept separate from adults and their parents, in schools or daycare, adults are locked in offices, the old in nursing homes, the disabled and the sick in hospitals or in special schools and homes. This means that no generation can withstand, understand or know how to interact with the other. The young cannot stand adults. The adults do not stand the young. No one understands or can stand the old, the disabled, the sick and so on, and they in return are unable to stand other generations. A household may physically appear to be but its members could be emotionally detached. Every generation is a waste to the others. And so, like the garbage they are, they have to be placed out of sight of each other (Carse, 1986 p.133). The resulting society is one whose members are maladjusted to dealing with their own human condition.

The danger of proximal abandonment has to be taken seriously, as it is now acknowledged, the lack or denial of physical or emotional contact is detrimental to health (Mate, p. 199 – 209). Proximal abandonment is the case where what is supposed to happen – social and emotional attachment, gratification of social needs – does not happen. Mate (p. 187-198) describes in detail how these contributes to reduced immune systems leaving individuals susceptible to stress and illness. He (p. 211 -225) strongly cautions on the neglect to resolve social-emotional stresses as this are easily transmittable across generations as has been demonstrated with the Adult Attachment Interview and Strange Situation studies.

Particularly and increasingly, urban dwellers are not part of any reciprocal, continuous, well-articulated community and are profoundly alienated from their own human interests – those of interacting, relating and having genuine concern for each other. It may also be said that the ubiquity of communication technology is contributing to the rise of proximal abandonment: increasingly, people are tending to technology rather than to their fellow beings next to them.

In contrast to other low level relations, in proximal abandonment, what is supposed to happen does not happen, while in the other low level relations, what is not supposed to happen, happens (Mate, p. 202).

6. Exploitative-dependence

This form of human relation is mostly found in commodified interactions. I.e., where the basis for relating and interacting are on the one hand exploitative – one party gets more than they give back – and on the other hand are structured in such a way that the dependence recurs. As Dr. Richard Wolff [Youtube] illustrates, exploitative-dependence is the hallmark of leading economic paradigms.

It is through this type of relation that the modern society has achieved the 1% – 99% split among other socially stratifying and disintegrating elements. This form of relation impedes the realization of the high human relations especially when it replaces genuine social transactions with commodified ones.

A fundamental aspect that may be observed in exploitative-dependence relations is that they start out with seemingly good intentions but end up as undesirable. For instance with fractional reserve banking, loans may be seen as good, except the end result is an exploitative dependence.

By this measure, the exploitative-dependence relation can be described as addiction if addiction as Mate defines it is any pattern or behavior that you crave that gives temporary pleasure or relief in the short term but negative consequences in the long term, that you still persist in despite the negative consequences. And in turn by this measure, the exploitative-dependence can also be termed enslavement.

In schooling, emotional and intellectual dependencies (both effects of the invisible curriculum) impedes the growth and development of children. Inevitably, they become maladjusted for their own futures. Governments and corporations may also be observed as institutions that cement and promote this relation; whether it be the in cases where a minority govern the majority or the business owner gives less to the worker than he gets from the worker. For economic institutions to promote high level relations, Dr. Richard Wolff suggests cooperatives as alternatives.

Another main aspect of this relation is that the individuals involved in them do not voluntarily choose each other, unlike in the high relations such as friendship or love. Maslow (p. 101) argues that human relations aimed at improving the health of individuals should be based on participants selecting each other where the choice should be made not solely on the basis of reputation, size of fee, technical training, skill, and the like, but also on the basis of ordinary human liking for each other.

Vigilance is a necessity in the design of social, political and economic institutions, else they result to and nurture exploitative-dependence relations whenever applied.

7. Competitive-combative

This human relation strives to find, expose and exploit the vulnerabilities of one by  another, so that the one is diminished and the other exalted. Sibling rivalry may also be seen as a competitive or combative relation (Maslow, p. 87). When the competitive-combative relation takes place over long periods, it may impede or inhibit the coming into being of the high levels of human relations. Enemies, as the opponents they are, either come together with the intent of defeating or destroying each other.

While the intent of relating to each other is of this kind, any high relations that may form are likely to be factitious. Potentially this form of relationship can transmute to ethnocentrism

8. Ethnocentrism

Ethnocentrism can be said to be the lowest form of human relationship. It is built on the premise that one’s culture – beliefs, customs, and traditions – are better than those of others. By default ethnocentrism seeks to belittle, demean, disregard and even to outright eliminate the other.

No need to point fingers on this as most societies have histories laden with ethnocentric driven atrocities. Unfortunately this is also evident in the present. To sidestep a bit, Stephen Hawking have warned us against making contact with aliens; he believes that what happened to the natives in the Americas with the arrival of the Europeans would be a likely occurrence were aliens to visit earth.

~

Peculiarly, it is possible for a human to have all forms of relations with others simultaneously.

It is paramount to consider the human relations that may be nurtured or inherent in various social institutions arrangements, if not for other things, simply for the health of the human members participating in these institutions. As Maslov (p. 92-110) argues, there are human needs that can only be satisfied through positive interaction with other humans.

Metaphorically

A healthy human relation is akin to the relation between a seed and the soil, where a seed sees a part of itself health – the source of growth – in the soil and the soil – its renewal – and thus part of itself in the seed.

In other words, the relation is of mutually reciprocity and non-exploitative. The seed sees the source of its growth in the soil – through the use of the various minerals in the soil while the soil sees its regeneration (renewal) through the growth, fruition and finally fertilization by the plant (after its life), – not in an exploitative way but to continually nurture new seeds. The plant itself does not necessarily die but rather also goes a renewal. This relationship is special in a number of ways, but most importantly in the respect of the well-being of the other (perhaps due to the recognition that the health of the one is also in the other).

Certainly if either or both the soil and seed would suppress their relation to each other, growth for both would be inhibited. The seed would lack vital nutrients and minerals for its growth while the soil would not regenerate. Both the soil and seed would be under stress; they would lack an expression of their originality in themselves and the other. In absence of a vital attachment – healthy relation - to each other that spurs growth in each, both would eventually die!

Ref & further reading:

  • Maslow, A. (1987). Motivation and personality (3rd ed.). New York: Harper & Row. [Love in self actualizing people. (p. 199 - 209, 151-157)]
  • Maté, G. (2011). When the body says no: The cost of hidden stress. Random House LLC.
  • Carse, J. P. (1986). Finite and infinite games. (p. 4-10)

 

The human purpose

One cannot choose wisely for a life unless he dares to listen to himself, his own self, at each moment in life (Maslow)

In order to discern what a/the human purpose is/ought to be, lets recap what a human is. A human being is: a complex, ambiguous, meaning-makingunderstanding, and feeling creature that has a unique biologically rooted, intangible mental life; ..a human is as a whole in process; his ‘minding’ processes are simultaneous functions, not discrete compartments (Humans are not machines, 2014).

The human purpose

If what a man can be he must become, then, he must be able to use his human character as a whole (psychic, emotional and moral dimensions) to his best in the pursuit of whatever he may find as having potential for fulfilling him (Maslov, 1987; Postman, 1992 p.118).

Put another way, the human purpose involves the voluntary participation in phenomena that may have potential for the most pleasurable, satisfying, and meaningful emotional state one can experience. This voluntary participation is characterized by freedom, firstly, to withdrawal from phenomenon that may harbor harmful experiences and secondly, to engage in phenomenon that may result to pleasurable, satisfying and meaningful experiences (Design for voluntary participation, 2014).

When this freedom is suppressed or restricted for whatever reason, the human purpose – the becoming what one can be, of having pleasurable, satisfying and meaningful experiences – becomes an impossibility for the affected individual. If man, for whatever reason, must not become what he can be, then whatever else he must become or must do, denies him his essence; it dehumanizes him.

The human purpose is a quest, a mystery, a leap of faith (Lanier, 2010). No one knows what they will become or what will make them happy. To take the leap of faith, or to undertake the quest, one has to daringly use all his human characteristics and abilities to listen to and determine for himself, his own self, at each moment in life (Maslov, 1987)

Human purpose and the hierarchy of needs 

The hierarchy of needs (Maslow, 1987 p. 15-60) provides a basis for exploring the various motivations that determine the human purpose. Even though the hierarchy of needs is classically visualized as a hierarchy, such a visualization should be negated as it suggests a mechanical division of the various needs or motivations within the being, of which none exists. Fundamentally because no one need is absolutely isolable from another – the body is the unified experience of the environmental, physiological and psychological health (Maslow, 1987 p. 3-8; Mate: When the body says no).

With human needs, any need can easily have dynamic and complex relationships with almost every other need (Maslow, 1987 p. 3-4, 8). In addition, the human is at all times integrated, organized and acting as a whole; when he is thinking, he is at the same time also acting, emotioning, spiritualizing, livering and so on (Maslow, 1987 p.3; Postman, 2009).

Nothing records the effects of life so completely, so graphically as the human body – Gabor Mate

Essentially too, the environmental, psychological and physiological health (that on an equal basis constitute an individual) are inseparable. While it is important to focus on the individual, we must not forget that he is the collective experience of the three integral healths. In contrast to Maslow’s (1987 p. 57) claim – deprivation of higher needs do not produce so desperately a defense and emergency reaction as is produced by lower deprivations – we now acknowledge the deprivation of higher needs as contributing factors for chronic illnesses (Karasek & Theorell, 1992; Mate: When the body says no), a reaction that is as destructive to an individual’s Physiological health as the deficient gratification of his Physiological needs.

Human needs as holistic for a being

If an individual is at all times integrated, organized and acting as a whole, then the individual is tending to all his needs simultaneously and according to his preference. The individual does not necessarily seek to gratify ‘higher’ needs because ‘lower’ ones have been satisfied but is gratifying all, even if pathologically.

A slave does not wait to to be free to self-actualize (e.g. to develop morality, or to solve a problem – resolve his situation) but rather self-actualizes either pathologically or healthily during enslavement. Similarly, a starved person does not wait to eat to seek the gratification of other needs, neither does a prisoner or a soldier. These individuals are at all times being (driven and seeking gratification) of their human needs healthily or otherwise.

Perhaps a visualization such as the one below can be used to communicate the wholeness rather than separatedness of human needs. The visualization also implies that the needs are of equal importance to the whole being – a deficiency in one affects the individual as a whole not just a part of him.

Human needs as holistic (Maslov's hierarchy of needs)

Human needs as integral rather than isolable, independent and hierarchical units

One implications for considering human needs as composites of a being is that we cannot design a society in which some human needs or motivations are not accommodated or whose accommodation is delayed. Indeed, a humanistic society must afford the pursuit and fulfillment of all human needs – it must contain the conditions for self actualization – for all its members at all times (Maslow, 1987 p. 120). An individual in such a society can be said to be tending to all needs simultaneously or according to his preference as there is no constraint placed on him by his environment or living condition. The individual can then be said to be at potential for self actualization as his freedom to do so is not withheld from him (Maslow, 1987 p. 120).

The consideration of human needs strictly as a hierarchy may only be characteristic in a deficient and dysfunctional society, in which the engagement in the human purpose is restricted e.g. through the lack of freedom, food, safety, etc.

Of course such humanistic societies are yet to be realized, with the mechanical societies of today, at best, only a few individuals can engage in the human purpose, a vast majority are dehumanized (Humans are not machines, 2014). It should be noted that with the ingenuity of the human species and the current advancement of technology there is nothing that may inhibit the realization of a humanistic society, other than humans themselves. As J. F. Kennedy (1961) argued in his inaugural speech man now possesses the ability to address all forms of human needs.

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty, and all forms of human life.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johnfkenn101186.html#S5mJuRDbCbeTT3eE.99
The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty, and all forms of human life.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johnfkenn101186.html#S5mJuRDbCbeTT3eE.99
The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty, and all forms of human life.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johnfkenn101186.html#S5mJuRDbCbeTT3eE.99
The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty, and all forms of human life.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johnfkenn101186.html#S5mJuRDbCbeTT3eE.99

Hypothetical relations and magnitude of needs

Even though impossible in any realistic sense, if we were to draw the relations of one group of needs to others such as in the sketch below, we would find that the strengths and even relations would be different for each individual. (Keep in mind that a need or motivation may not always be identifiable to the individual on whom it acts upon). Henceforth, we can acknowledge the differences in individuals, and have an appreciation and respect for their originality in their essence and human purpose.

Hierarchy of needs - possible dependencies

Hypothetical relation & magnitude of dependence for Physiological needs

And what profound implications this would have on all aspects of human life; we would seize all efforts to control and mechanize individuals for there would never be a single way to do so while respecting the human purpose. Each individual would be in control of their human purpose for only they can see and understand the complexity of their situation and how to best self actualize hence.

The human purpose is playful and not necessarily productive

If the human purpose strives for the most pleasurable, satisfying, and meaningful emotional state one can experience, then, it should be no surprise that it may not necessarily be directed towards productivity (How to measure motivation, 2013). As Maslow (1987 p. 176) argues, thinking is not always directed, organized, motivated, or goal-bent; it is also playful and engages in fantasy, dreaming, symbolism, unconscious thinking, infantile, emotional thinking, and psychoanalytic free association.

The human purpose is however, more favorable to productivity because it does not dehumanize individuals in the process of productive work (Design for voluntary participation, 2014; How to measure motivation, 2013; Humans are not machines, 2014). For if it is only through dehumanization that work can be done, what would be its value if it diminishes the quality of human life? (Gatto, 1992 p. 83).

Unfortunately, today, the society is obsessed with the praise of individuals whose efforts are productive, with the rest being undervalued, demeaned, belittled and even punishable. This notion is repugnant because it veils the true nature of being human; that none is necessarily productive but that productivity takes place (or ought to) as a side effect of their playful, creative nature.

For individuals engaged in the pursuit of the human purpose – what Maslow (1987) refers to as self-actualizing people – there is a unification of desire and reason: a harmonious and coherent reflection of the mental and moral structure of the individual, their desires and purposes into the imaginative and emotional outlook on life (Maslow, 1987 p.149; McDermott, 1973 p. 612). In other words, for self-actualizing people, work is play: it [work] is simultaneously an expression of one self, a striving for a higher self, a seeking for pleasure and happiness, and as a side effect productive in its own right (Maslow, 1987 p.149).

Here is where it gets interesting: Maslow (1987 p. 175-176) argues that self-actualizing people – those engaged in the human purpose – enjoy being productive, as it comes naturally for them; they do not have to be manipulated or coerced into it.

Maslow (1987 p.175-176): … thinking also is often produced without effort, automatically, as the liver secrets bile. For people who do so, they enjoy being thinking animals, they do not have to be harassed into it.

Control of the human purpose results to dehumanization

Dehumanization is the antithesis of the human purpose. Dehumanization involves the detachment or restriction from an individual the human characteristics and abilities that consist the individual as a whole. This can be in various forms including the restriction of self expression, the detachment from the environment, the detachment of one’s reason from his emotion, will, intellect, or reason. Such restrictions or detachments we can equate to mechanization; which unfortunately is dangerous because it destroys the delicate interconnectedness of the special human qualities (Postman, 1992 p73; McDermott, 1973 p. 612; Mate, When the body says no; Karasek & Theorell, 1992).

Even the open playfulness of children is exploited through organized athletic, artistic, and educational regimens as a means of preparing the young for serious adult competition - Carse.

in the struggle to see who can squeeze the highest test scores out of their kids, we are depriving them of sleep, freedom to play and explore; childhood - Gray

Inevitably, dehumanization reduces the human to one whose self expression, playful and artistic (unique personality and behavior) purposes are suppressed (Humans are not machines, 2014). Eventually all spontaneous, playful and leisurely activities and time will be used for productive and competitive work but with a catastrophic effect. I need not reiterate what becomes of Jack when he goes on about work with no play. In Dewey’s (DcDermott, 1973 p. 484) words we get either the narrow, bigoted man who is obstinate and irresponsible even in his own preconceived aims and beliefs or a character dull, mechanical and unalert, because the vital juice spontaneous ingenuity has been squeezed out of him.

Dewey (McDermott, 1973 p.600) laments not so much for the vast number of individuals who are dehumanized by society, but mostly for our inability to comprehend their moral and psychological predicament.

Dehumanization reduces life itself

Scientifically, we do not yet (and maybe we never will) understand the human-as-a-whole well enough to comprehend the human purpose for an individual (Lanier, 2010). When we use a standardized/computer models of learning or friendship or self actualization, and ask people to conduct their lives through our models, we are potentially reducing life itself (Lanier, 2010). We must acknowledge that such models encourage narrow philosophies that deny the mystery of the existence and experience for an individual (Lanier, 2010; Postman, 1992 p.71 – 91).

Postman, 1992 p. 89: ..when we are made to believe that a test can reveal precisely the quantity of intelligence a person has, then, a score on a test becomes his or her intelligence. The test transforms an abstract and multifaceted meaning into a technical and exact term that leaves out everything of importance. An intelligence test is a tale told by an expert, signifying nothing. We come to believe that our score is our intelligence, or our capacity for creativity or love or pain, when in reality it is none of these.

In any case, dehumanization creates short-term benefits for some but ultimately a disaster – a society of maladjusted individuals – awaits all in the long term (Lanier, 2010). In all truism, to become themselves, individuals must to be left to their own instruments of human characteristics and abilities to listen to and determine for themselves at each moment in life (Maslov, 1987).

In addition, man shall not realize his potentialities and achieve his highest possibilities, until he acknowledges and respects himself, for what and who he is. Until then, it will be impossible to lead a healthy and full life. If you like, man shall not live by bread alone – the gratification of a single need or a diminished array of his needs – but by the gratification of every need that is his essence.

References

  • Maslow, A. (1987). Motivation and personality (3rd ed.). New York: Harper & Row.
  • Karasek, R., & Theorell, T. (1992). Healthy work: stress productivity and the reconstruction of working life.
  • Gabor Mate: [Video] When the body says no; Caring for ourselves while caring for others
  • McDermott, J. (Ed.) (1973). The philosophy of John Dewey. Chicago and London. Chicago Press.
  • Lanier, J. (2010). You are not a gadget. Random House Digital, Inc..
  • Postman, N. (1992). Technopoly: the surrender of culture to technology.
  • Postman, N. (2009). Teaching as a subversive activity. Random House Digital, Inc.
  • Gatto, T. J. (1992) Dumbing us down

I stand atop giants

I stand atop giants, I no longer look up to them

I’m n’t necessarily interested in their kilter view,

If so, I’d ask them, not strive for my own, but,

I want to see things anew, with my own oomph

For every look, there is something to see, for myself

 

A fanatic doubles his efforts after forgetting his aim

The giants are fanatic in imposing their insidious view

They are fighting tooth and nail to nix other views

While theirs remains welsh-ful, merely serving the 1%

The giants are wary of their demise, but it is imminent

 

The giants, humongous, lack agility in mind and body

Maladroit, their view, through a Judas hole, is diminished

Their vision has become dazzling, inescapably histrionic

It is fixated on making a giant step for mankind, but

Humanely, we ought to aim for small steps for every man

 

There is no silver vision for matters of human purpose

Lets stand atop giants and draw a cornucopia of visions for

Diversity, lithe, spontaneity, exuberance, coexistence

To transcend imposed minion-ism, gullibility of mind & body

Stand with me atop giants, lets make a humane society

 

The race to nowhere, a snapshot of civilization

A fanatic redoubles his efforts when he has forgotten his aim (Postmann)

Foreword:

Around 2020, your phone operator will upgrade their network from 4G (LTE) to 5G. The 5G will be 1,000 times faster than 4G. To this I may pose some questions: What will be the implications of this upgrade?; Will it require an upgrade for the network infrastructure? Will it require that we upgrade our various devices so we can be connected? What will be the social, ecological implications? And above all what problems will it solve?

~

For whatever reasons, society seems to be in state of need for speed where everything has to get better, faster, and bigger.

Almost every one can testify under oath that they are in the process of making something better with the rationales that these improvements will make better the way society conducts its business; which is making things better. The ambiguity of the goal makes it impossible to determine whether an endeavor is worth its expense or not.

Surprisingly, we have come to define our live’s worth by the work we do which is finding problems and striving to fix them at the cost of creating more problems. Unavoidably, ‘..our inventions become nothing more but improved means to an unimproved end..

..as incomprehensible problems mount, as the concept of progress fades, as meaning itself becomes suspect, we stand firm in believing that what the world needs is yet more information. To the question ‘What problem does the information solve?‘ the answer is usually ‘How to generate, store, and distribute more information, more conveniently, at greater speeds than never before’. (Neil Postmann)

Qualifying for the race

Almost all work starts with the identification and description of a situation of interest, usually a problem. This takes a form such as: there is some phenomenon which is causing an undesirable condition, for which a group of people, will attempt to intervene to minimize the occurrence of the undesirable condition. Sometimes, it doesn’t take the existence of an undesirable condition but the desire for an external excitation or amusement from some phenomenon.

Resources are earmarked to be used in such endeavours. Licenses are issued, equipment and machinery are made, workers are recruited/trained/educated and the earth, without representation, provides the resources.

When a company of any sort comes into existence, it requires the support of other companies to go into operation. The support is usually given in the form of goods and services that are used in the duration of a company’s operating life. If such support companies are not available, the new company must acquire the means to provide them for itself.

Starting the race

So a group of people organized into a company commence efforts to intervene in the identified problem. A constant change in resources, people, materials, and machinery used come into play. The resources have to be mined, changed from one form to the other, or moved from a place to another.  Similarly, the people involved in the mining and transformation of resources or provision of services also have to be mined (from their community), transformed – usually trained – and also moved from one point to another.

At this point it is fair to say that all hell breaks loose! In most cases, this is an understatement. Once hell has broken loose, the once seemingly identifiable, and isolatable problem loses its boundaries, and seemingly enlarges. As a result, more resources and support have to be brought into play to address new problems that sprout in the midst of addressing the primary one. They, the resources used to address emerging problems, add on to the litany of emerging problems, for they too have to be mined, transformed and moved. And so on and so forth.

The problems are always wicked but so is the race

In almost all cases, in the midst of mitigating an undesirable condition, other undesirable conditions arise. To some extent, this is always known beforehand. In fact, in issuing operating licenses, respective authorities also have to issue licenses for the creation of other problems. For instance, an energy company will be awarded a license to operate and a provision to release a given amount of pollution. In other cases, the derived solutions are themselves problems, cause problems or do not address the intended problem in anyway.

Eventually, what starts out as a simple, describable phenomenon becomes complex and too widespread to be properly contained leave alone to be dealt with, in any meaningful sense. To convincingly continue operations, a company must delineate the identified problem in a manner that conceals obvious problems arising during the process of attempting to solve the primary problem.

Lets illustrate this (mathematically) in a generalized manner.

The solution S for a delineated problem P, consumes uncountable resources nR and produces new problems nP, and affects various externalities nE, assuming that S is achievable.

For a problem p, S = nR + nP + nE

Where E = (un)foreseen/(un)known consequences that are unattended or cannot be tended to…

Resources used in S are in various forms including natural, human and materials.

thus Resource (R) = Materials (M) + human (H) + Nature (N)

The resources also create new problems nP; since they (materials, nature and humans) have to be mined and converted to one form or the other or moved from a location to another and maintained by or through other resources,

Since S = nR + nP + nE, and R = M + H + N,
Then S = n(M + H + N) + nP + nE

but if S is the solution for problem P; 
then P = S and nP = nS
thus
S = n(m + h + n) + nP + nE 
S = n(m + h + n) + nS + nE
S = n(m + h + n) + n(n (m + h + n)) + n(nP + nE)
S = n(m + h + n) + n(n (m + h + n)) + n(nS + nE)
S = n(m + h + n) + n(n (m + h + n)) + n(n (m + h + n)) + n(n(nP + nE))

and so on and so forth... 

The number of problems created increase in direct proportion with the number of problems ‘solved’ but so does the number of resources used up and the number of externalities affected. This illustration assumes that the solutions derived actually solves the respective problem.

Why there is no end in sight

As we may deduce from the mathematical illustration above, attempts to solve a problem inevitably, result to new problems. Any attempts to address the emerging problems to lead to the creation of yet another set new problems. Once this problem identification → solving → creation → solving cycle becomes established as the norm in a society, the society enters a race whose end is never sight.

If there is no end in sight, then we are in a race to to nowhere! Even though we may use science to defend our efforts to improve our situation, we are nonetheless actively engaged in creating a dystopia.

If the attempt to solve a problem brings forth other problems, then the sum of activities undertaken in all endeavors are in the negative. As a result it is possible that all measured aspects of the undertakings improve, while new problems increase and the surrounding externalities deteriorate.

If you remember the questions posed at the beginning of this article perhaps it may be worth to consider them. Specifically, What problems does a 1000x faster network solve? What problems does it create? Does it mean that the engineers will have to get back on the drawing board and start working on 5G capable devices and infrastructure? Does it mean even more resource have to be shoveled from the environment, get hauled halfway across the planet for processing and manufacturing and then hauled the other half to be consumed and then back another half to be disposed off in someone’s backyard? And all these to be done in time for 6G?

Effects of competition in education [Video]

Alfie Kohn on Competition & Education

Also see effects of evaluation on learning

we’re especially obsessed with measuring our children’s education. Children have become pawns in contests that pit parent against parent, teacher against teacher, school against school, and nation against nation in the struggle to see who can squeeze the highest test scores out of their kids.  We are depriving our children of sleep, depriving them of freedom to play and explore; childhood—in order to increase their test scores – Gray

User experience, a broader perspective

Defining User Experience (UX)

UX is concerned with the qualification (+/ quantification) of externalized (+ observable) behavior for a person using a specific tool (+ service) to complete a certain task in a given setting.

As a branch of usability, which itself is concerned with productivity (effectiveness, efficiency), UX is task oriented. It is concerned with the qualification of observable user behavior in the process of achieving a clear intentional goal.

For instance while usability may be concerned with the quantification of how fast and effectively a user can use a smartphone app to take and share a picture, UX may be concerned with externalized behavior in the process of taking and sharing a picture using that app.

Externalized Vs Internalized experiences

If UX focuses on qualifying externalized user behavior, it is not concerned with qualifying internalized behavior; i.e. the impact of the task on the user. Confoundingly, the qualification of behavior exhibited while using a specific tool to complete a task reinforces the necessity of the user to carryout the task.

It is one thing to qualify what a user does during work and another to qualify what the work does to the user.

For instance, UX may qualify externalized behavior for students using a specific app in their learning, but it does not qualify behavior internalized by the students during schooling. In addition, in qualifying the app, UX reinforces the necessity for schooling. (See Gatto, 1992 – invisible curriculum)

The connect percentage

In the sport of boxing, it is not enough that performance is qualified as a win or a loss. Because of the high possibility that a boxer who lands the most punches may lose a bout, another method of quantifying skill is necessary. A connect percentage is used to quantify the number of punches a boxer lands as positive and the number of punches landed on them as negative. Few boxers have a positive connect percentage. In the sport, connect percentage broadens the perspective for qualifying boxers.

If UX only qualifies externalized user behavior during work, then whatever is qualified is minuscule considering what is left out and the sum of the two.

Work Vs Play

If work is the process of carrying out actions in order to achieve a clearly identified goal, then work is concerned with productivity. On the other hand, if play is the process of carrying out actions without the necessity to achieve a clearly identified goal, then play is not concerned with productivity and is undertaken for its own sake.

If UX is concerned with qualifying externalized behavior during work, then UX cannot qualify internalized and externalized behaviors during play. As a result, UX is concerned with the transformation of play in to work for the sake of qualification.

Mechanizing the human experience

If there are a 100 ways to kill a rat, a rat killing machine can only accommodate a few, if more than one. Consequently, human ingenuity has to be set aside to qualify externalized behavior for a rat killing machine.

If we set our spontaneity aside and deny our originality in order to operate machines, then we make ourselves into machinery in order to operate them. There is no style in operating a machine; the more efficient the machine, the more it either limits or absorbs our uniqueness into its operation.

If we make use of machinery in the belief we can increase the range of our freedom, and instead only decrease it, and if UX is concerned with qualifying behavior externalized when using machinery at work, then UX is concerned with the mechanization of behavior for the sake of qualification.

Conforming behavior

If UX is concerned with qualifying externalized mechanized behavior, when a worker’s spontaneity and originality has been set aside, then UX is concerned with conforming user behavior for the sake of productivity.

Momentary Vs Sustained behavior / short vs long term impact

UX qualifies externalized worker behavior during the usage of a specific tool to accomplish a task. As a result, UX is concerned with externalized behavior in the moment of work and not necessarily concerned with the long term behavior.

Tools (+ services) that may seemingly be qualified as having good UX in their moments of usage, may in the long run be injurious to the user.

Qualification based on fallible cultural values,

When the integrity and existence of memes in a society is manipulated either via the promotion or suppression of select memes, then the points of references for meaning making are inherently compromised. The qualification of such meaning will by default also be compromised.

As a result, UX may be a reliable qualification of externalized meanings of work but may not always be valid.

If a society comes to believe that peace must be pursued by force, or that its existence is only possible via the control of others, then its usage of machines of war and control may qualify highly in UX while the acts of war and control may be questionable.

“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”

Ref:

  • Law, E. L. C., Roto, V., Hassenzahl, M., Vermeeren, A. P., & Kort, J. (2009, April). Understanding, scoping and defining user experience: a survey approach. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 719-728). ACM. Chicago
  • Carse, J. P. (1986). Finite and infinite games.
  • McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world.
  • Gray, P. (2012). Can you measure an education? Can you define life’s meaning? Available from: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201212/can-you-measure-education-can-you-define-life-s-meaning
  • Gatto, J. T. (1992). Dumbing us down. Philadelphia: New Society.

To be interested is to be consumed

To be interested is to be consumed. Any property, idea or habit that we engage in consequently consume us.

The genuine principle of interest is the principle of the recognized identity of the fact or proposed line of action with the self; that it lies in the direction of the agent’s own self-expression and is therefore, imperiously demanded, if the agent is to be himself – Dewey.

Characteristics of interest:

  • Active, projective, or propulsive; to be interested in any matter is to be actively concerned with it. The mere feeling regarding a subject may be static or inert, but interest is dynamic.  
  • Objective; Interest does not end simply in itself as bare feelings may, but always has some ,object end, or aim to which it attaches itself to.
  • Subjective; it signifies an internal realization, or feeling, of worth. It has its emotional, as well as its active and objective sides. Wherever there is interest there is response in the way of feeling.

Interest marks the annihilation of the distance between subject and object; it is the instrument which effects their organic union.

If to consume is to use up a resource, and if an interest uses up our mental and physical energy in the time that we engage with it, then in engaging in the interest, we are consumed.

Consequently, by having an interest, we inhibit ourselves from having other interests when they are not related to our engagement in the primary interest.  By choosing to engage in an interest, one is in return consumed by it. Inherently, an interest to be engaged in consumes the mind and body in a manner that the individual can have no relation with other phenomena.

In order to be fully consumed; to optimally engage in one’s interest, an informed reflection on the self is necessary.

The unexamined life is not worth living - Socrates

If informed reflection can be seen as an empathetic interaction and relation with nature, then one can analyze the consequences of their engagement in a given interest.

If by claiming ownership to property means dispossessing it from others, then an individual seeking to claim property ownership must be vigilant so as not to compromise the well being of others. If owning property affects the owner’s relation with the dispossessed, then owning property, also, inherently, affects the owner.

To be optimally engaged is to be in a state of potentially intense, optimistic interaction and relation with the world; where one may feel fully alive, full of potential and purpose, completely activated as a human being.

Optimal engagement is also characterized by intrinsic motivation; voluntary participation in a phenomenon out of personal interest, with one’s sense of purpose, mastery, and autonomy.

The paradox of interest is that it has to be engaged in. In fact, we can barely exist if we ceased to be interested. At any given time, an interest occupies us; our thoughts and bodies.

If in having an informed reflection in our interests we are vigilant so that we do not compromise the well being of ourselves, nature and others, then, in being optimally engaged, we do not seek to create waste in nature or others but seek to let ourselves, others and nature thrive – the encouragement of spontaneity in others by way of one’s own, the respect for source (intrinsic motivation), and the refusal to convert source into resource (extrinsic motivation).

Waste is a consumed interest which no one engages in; whose value one cannot or one has chosen not to utilize further.

To dispossess nature or others of their interests is to create waste. This is not to mean that nature or others can be dispossessed of their interests (value) but that we as a society can choose not to utilize the value that nature or others have. In fact, we do so simply by rearranging our societal patterns in a way that reduces our ability to respond creatively to the patterns of spontaneity that nature and others present to us (Carse).

Life is the great indulgence – death, the great abstinence - Lavey

Further reading:

  • Carse, J. P. (1986). Finite and infinite games.
  • Dewey, J. (1896). Interest in relation to training of the will. Public School Publishing Company.
  • McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world.
  • Engagement Spectrum, Causes and Effects matrix