The explanation for the Polly mentalitygreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
Thanks to "Bad Company (email@example.com)", I finally understand the Polly mentality. The key was in the following sentence, which was part of a discussion about my offer to report what I find out this coming Friday about progress of the rollover around the world:
If I adhered to your beliefs about the impending doom which is about to befall us, I'd certainly want your take on things, because it is human nature that perception basically is reality.
It is almost impossible for a person with a properly functioning cognitive apparatus to understand this point of view, but once understood, it explains all of the Pollys' apparently incomprehensible behavior. Here are just a few of the endless questions about Pollys that can be answered now.
Q: Why are the Pollys so angry at those who try to point out the possibility of trouble as a result of Y2K?
A: Because perception is reality. Those who are trying to point out the problem are actually causing the problem by convincing people that there is a problem.
Q: Why are the Pollys still spending so much time denying the possibility of trouble as a result of Y2K, even at this extremely late date when it would seem that people's opinions cannot change the course of events?
A: Because perception is reality. If only they can convince people that Y2K will have no bad effects, then it will have no bad effects.
Q: Why do the Pollys refuse to acknowledge all of the signs that the government and businesses are taking extraordinary precautions, indicating that the potential for serious problems is real?
A: Because perception is reality. If people refuse to see the problem, then it doesn't exist.
Perhaps the best description of this way of looking at the world comes from Atlas Shrugged (p. 964, Signet paperback edition, 40th printing):
"Dropping below the level of a savage, who believes that the magic words he utters have the power to alter reality, they believe that reality can be altered by the power of the words they do not utter -- and their magic tool is the blank-out, the pretense that nothing can come into existence past the voodoo of their refusal to identify it."
Of course, the entirety of John Galt's speech, from which that is an excerpt, is also applicable to the current situation, but that one passage is really all we need to know about how the Polly mentality (if that is the correct word) operates. I wish I'd realized this sooner, as it would've saved all of us a lot of time and effort, but at least this is one puzzle that we won't have to take with us into the new year.
-- Steve Heller (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 28, 1999
Not this same old garbage again. Can't we move on? By now, people have made up their minds about Y2K. This is getting soooooo old!!
-- (Here@today.com), December 28, 1999.
Thanks for the info, Steve! The pollies are such stupid morons.
-- (email@example.com), December 28, 1999.
Good luck selling any books next year Steve when I continue to post your psychotic ramblings to all the comp.lang.c/c++ newsgroups.
Oh, no, not that! Anything but that! The only thing you could do that would be more horrible would be to take out a full page ad in one of the computer trade journals explaining how I'm "psychotic". Please, please, don't do that!
-- Steve Heller (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 28, 1999.
For those who'd like a full view of my posting to Mr.Heller, may I suggest that you click on 'monitoring the rollover', authored by Mr.Heller. I understand that it is doomer SOP to take ideas out of context, but Mr.Heller takes the cake in this regard.
I still am not so sure that I am a polly, but I'll continue to resist Mr.Heller's way of looking at things. (in his way of thinking, that somehow paints me as sub-intellectual, LOL).
Here's hoping that everyone here interested in maintaining our way of life has a great rollover and that Mr.Heller never needs to get a job that places him in a people-oriented profession.
-- Bad Company (email@example.com), December 28, 1999.
I've known Steve Heller for several years. He is a friend of mine.
I think Steve's position is extreme. I do not share them. My "most probable scenario" can be found at http://greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=0027Zh
But this I can say about Steve: He is a very intelligent man. He is a man that I consult with when I have difficult computer algorithm problems. His answers are always cogent and insightful.
Steve is most certainly not psychotic. He makes his arguments strongly and intelligently. That intelligent people (me!) can differ with him does not bother him.
Think about this: The essence of computer programming is to be able to see the consequences of a large number of interrelating systems. A good programmer is both a holistic and reductionist thinker. Steve is good programmer and excels at both types of reasoning. His books on C++ demonstrate that.
Discussions with Steve caused me to move my preparedness from near-zero to the level of preparedness necessary to endure the worst case that I outline in http://greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=0027Zh.
I may be wrong as to how bad the world is going to get ... but it will not be because Steve didn't warn me.
-- Ralph Shnelvar (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 28, 1999.
Good point Steve. I have reached the same conclusion independently. The only way to explain the disconnect between what the evidence points to, and what the masses expect, is that an artificial consensual reality is being constructed. The bricks and mortar of this belief system are now impenetrable to the concepts that the "thoughtful pessimists" have been advancing for the last two years.
-- a (email@example.com), December 28, 1999.
Speaking of "constructing reality",
What do you call it when the Sysops delete posts left and right to "keep the peace"? I posted two things that Steve Heller had written before, but now they are gone. I guess that if Steve writes it, then it's okay, but if I repost it then it's get deleted.
I'd call that contstrucing reality.
[because you've been trolling the forum--making nasty comments left and right--steve hasn't--GI?--Sysop]
-- (why@do. only a few people see this?), December 28, 1999.
So far, I haven't found anyone, however optimistic, who denies any possibility of problems. There is plenty of room for legitimate debate as to the most likely severity of those problems, and there are people who consider an insignificant severity level most likely. But everyone acknowledges the *possibility* of problems.
What's annoying is the constant application of the rules of disinformation, and every trick in the dishonest debater's handbook, in an attempt to build an airtight case for the *inevitibility of catastrophe*.
It's just another trick to paint those trying to make a realistic assessment as being in total denial, simply because they don't buy into the tricks. So I agree with 'a' that there are people who have painted themselves into a corner by substituting impermeable convictions for rational thought. Where perceptions come in, is that 'a' refuses to recognize that he's done this to himself. Nothing seems more rational than a shared prejudice.
-- Flint (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 28, 1999.
Actually, Steve's point strikes much deeper than the silly flamewars here over "polly and doomer" crap, (and I wish Steve and others wouldn't throw fuel on this fire, but that is another issue for another day.) That is why Ayn Rand wrote about it. I am not "Randy" since I am a composer and her portrait of a composer's mind was utterly off base.
Since I am a composer, which is about the most anachronistic thing there is anymore, I don't have any technical or economic expertise to bring to this forum. Y2k is not a contrapuntal form such as a fugue, or I would work for IBM. All I have is a curious mind, a knowlege of the history of art and civilization, and whatever life experience I have gained in 42 years. I myself have fallen prey to the 'perception is reality' error. We all have.
Humanity is like a tightrope walker, striving to balance a universe of dialectical opposites. Like Ecclisiastes says, we see through a glass darkly, we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
We exist in this tension of the rational and irrational, Logos and Eros, knowlege and intuition, science and religion, and so forth. This is a common idea, elaborated on at length in the philosophy of every culture. But I will illustrate an example I am intimately familiar with.
We have all heard the idea that music is "mathematical". Yet we are also aware, when we hear music that moves us deeply, that music is a psychic/spritual art, that it is "emotional" (an isufficient term in my view.) So which is it?
Music was regarded as a branch of mathematics from ancient times. The first extensive explanation of the construction of scales was given by Pythagorus, who also listed what types of emotional effects he associated with each scale, that it incited lust, or warlike rage, or what have you. His list seems silly now, but obviously meant something culturally at the time.
All through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, music was taught as a scientifc subject in its own right, along with Astronomy, Mathematics, Rhetoric, Grammar, and Theology. Although medieval scholars accused music of fomenting sexual immorality, especially through dancing, they mostly rejected the ideas of Pythagorus concerning music's emotional effects, and concentrated on his science. They expanded on the mathematical proprtions of Pythagorus and gave us our modern, 12-note chromatic scale, our tempered system of tuning, and the birth of the science of acoustics.
The Baroque era was, before our own time, the first period where music was 'scientifically' written, and its forms, the chaccone, canon, and the fugue, are the apogee of precise and logical construction. The fugues of Bach, especially the Well Tempered Clavier and the Art of Fugue, fascinate scientists and are the subject of study to this day. Yet the Baroque saw itself as an emotional, subjective art, they concentrated on the musical doctrine of 'affects',or deliberately inducing emotional affects in the listener. They used phrases like 'sturm und drang' and 'weltschaung' to describe their attitude, and gave us the most wildly emotional musical form there is, Opera.
The Romantic period seems to swing heavily towards emotionalism, but a close study of their scores reveals another aspect. The wildness and explosive qualities of Beethoven's music seem like spontaneous eruptions, but his manuscripts show his processes were highly analytical and detailed. He crafted and choreographed every surprise, making endless experiments and using performances as experiments to verify his results. No one's music seems more lyrical and emotional than Chopin's, yet if you analyze his work, you find a mind with an iron discipline, and a view of harmony based on the movement of tonal elements in a matrix- almost a '3-D'effect.
In the modern era, Stravinsky and Bartok stand out as models of strict logical constructionism, yet there is no denying the primal force of the Rite of Spring or the humanity behind Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra.
Now I have enjoyed this little digression into my own arcane subjects for a change, but I'll bring it home. Does broken code matter, or human reactions to it? Both, together, and inseperably. It only matters that computers fail because it affects us, the humans. It affects us objectively, our physical welfare, and it affects us as a society and how we think about ourselves. Much of the discussion on this forum has been about the effects of y2k on the structure and moral course of our society, and inevitably so. It simply isn't possible to seperate the technical and the human issues. We are all a little polly and a little doomer, and some more one than the other. Whatever we can say at this date, we have no hindsight yet, to see how all these threads will play out. But I get the impression here that it is like a one-man Three Stooges act, where the right hand and the left are hitting and poking each other. Reality is both the result of our perceptions and objectively out side of them, a cognitive dissonance. Only we humans can hold contradictory ideas at the same time, and we do so very tenaciously.
But we have to remember that we see through that glass darkly, we know only in part. We can only expect that we don't know what to expect. Life is like this, an I'll bet it always will be.
Well, I had better get going on something more productive and less fun.
-- Forrest Covington (email@example.com), December 28, 1999.
I must tell you that I have met quite a few people who haven't looked into this at all and have concluded smugly that "it is all just a money making scheme and hype" - They seem to be able to ignore the reality that there even is a REAL y2k issue with computers - they say things like "you give computers too much credit, they don't THINK, why would they worry about whether the year is 2000 or 1900" - yikes, am realizing that the MAJORITY of the people think this way. When I would hand out the OES brochures to co-workers, friends, etc., about 40-50% would disregard it without reading it stating that "I don't own a computer so it won't affect me".
This is still the awareness out there, IMHO.
No, I don't think major disruptions are LIKELY, but I certainly recognize our vulnerability, and have done my best to protect my family against this, or unemployment, etc.
Very sad to me to see how many folks aren't even interested in understanding things like this, or voting intelligently, or getting involved in their community, or, or, or.
-- Kristi (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 28, 1999.
You might see through the glass darkly, but I'm the one you're looking at.
-- (email@example.com), December 28, 1999.
Having gone through the whole Quantum Mechanics/Eastern Philosophy mode of thinking, I also am one to feel that the views of the observer do effect the actions and manifestations of the observed. But if, for instance, you run out of gas and everyone in the car believes there is a full tank, the car probably still won't start. Reality is a funny thing.
-- Ludi (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 28, 1999.
Ah, Steve. So glad to see you are consistent. Basically, according to you, things are crap and anybody who disagrees is a moron (or worse). Nice to know some things never change. (What was that line about "consistency" and "the hobgoblin of little minds?" Oh well, I won't bring that up now.)
"Thanks to "Bad Company (email@example.com)", I finally understand the Polly mentality."
Perhaps not so well as you think.
"Q: Why are the Pollys so angry at those who try to point out the possibility of trouble as a result of Y2K?
A: Because perception is reality. Those who are trying to point out the problem are actually causing the problem by convincing people that there is a problem."
Actually, a lot of what you percieve as anger is really amusement. Frankly, the gloom and doom crowd can be funny as hell at times.
"Q: Why are the Pollys still spending so much time denying the possibility of trouble as a result of Y2K, even at this extremely late date when it would seem that people's opinions cannot change the course of events?
A: Because perception is reality. If only they can convince people that Y2K will have no bad effects, then it will have no bad effects. "
One could also ask why the "doomers" like Milne and Infomagic spend so much time insisting that all is lost when at this late date it would seem that people's opinions cannot change the course of events? I notice you do not question that viewpoint, even given Infomagic's latest rant.
Also, you are off on a couple of points. First, most "pollies" don't deny the possibility of trouble from Y2K. It's just that we don't believe the likelyhood of severe effects to be nearly as high as you do. Second, there is a difference between "trouble" and "catastrophe." Most "pollies" believe in and expect trouble without expecting catastrophe.
"Q: Why do the Pollys refuse to acknowledge all of the signs that the government and businesses are taking extraordinary precautions, indicating that the potential for serious problems is real?
A: Because perception is reality. If people refuse to see the problem, then it doesn't exist."
Again, you simply don't know what the hell you are talking about and revert to the "disagree with me and watch your IQ slip" argument. Of course the potential for serious problems is real. It always has been, and anyone who has given the subject any real thought at all knows that, doomer and polly alike. The difference here is that the "pollies" are willing to believe that the end result of all that work and spending on the part of businesses and governments might, and in fact has, actually had a positive effect on resolving the problem. I see no such willingness from the "doomer" camp, and I beleive that is the fundamental difference between the two positions.
Along the same lines, I see two kinds of "doomers": Those that believe that the problem can't be fixed and those that believe that it hasn't yet been fixed to a satisfactory level. The first is a reactionary position that says simply "my mind is made up and I won't hear of anything that would make me change it." Gary North and Paul Milne seem to fall into this camp. The second is simply a pessimistic opinion on the meaning and validity of the information that is available. Ed Yourdon seems to me to be in this group. I may disagree with the second set of doomers, but at least I can respect their opinion. As for the first crowd, well, they are the ones providing the bulk of the amusement I mentioned earlier.
"Of course, the entirety of John Galt's speech, from which that is an excerpt, is also applicable to the current situation, but that one passage is really all we need to know about how the Polly mentality (if that is the correct word) operates. I wish I'd realized this sooner, as it would've saved all of us a lot of time and effort, but at least this is one puzzle that we won't have to take with us into the new year."
Bull. You wrote off the opinions of those who disagree with you on this issue months ago and you haven't saved yourself a damn thing. If you were truly "saving yourself anything" you would have saved the effort of writing this little "Polly = Moron" piece and spent the time on something else.
-- Paul Neuhardt (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 28, 1999.
Perception is not reality. Only reality is reality. And nobody will know what the reality of y2k was until we get through it.
-- impala (email@example.com), December 28, 1999.
You still don't "get it" do you?
Think... those who did not invent the metal have taken it and are using it without bothering to learn it's basic properties. One symptom of this has resulted in the metal cracking when it was used under the wrong temperature. Had the manufacturers put in the "hard work" and effort that was needed to truely understand the intricate properties of the metal they would have known it would crack and at what point, and most importantly, why.
Fortunatly those who were able to understand it "came to the rescue" and those who pretended to know were exposed by their molding the metal incorrectly in the first place, their lack of understanding that it would crack and their attempt to bluff their way through repouring the metal by having others who knew how to pour do the actual work.
They were more interested in learning how to profit from the use of it, learning how to convince others to buy it without bothering to understand it, then blame the inventer for it's failures.
The results just happened to be one very noticable failure, there are many other problems resulting from inadaquate training in the metal, subtle yet pervasive.
The gulibility of society at large and businesses in particular in believing and choosing the untrained over the trained workers of the metal has resulted in not only the cracked metal, but the metal being used in areas where breakage would be catastropic and it should never be used alone in the first place.
Perhaps potential disasters have been averted if it can be shown that metalworkers should work on metal, and the polishers should polish. Knowing the color and shape is not enough knowledge to be given the responsibility of combining the raw materials and pouring the metal.
Y2K is a symptom.
You still do not see the problem. Stop standing at the end of an airport runway, being in the left seat of the cockpit is way more fun.
-- Cherri (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 28, 1999.
All I know is, one thing you learn in this country is that it is dangerous to be different. Look what happens if you are the different one in high school, or if you are black in a white country. It isn't pretty. Nobody wants to be different. Seems to me, the government knows this and is playing on it. The comment about "pick-up trucks full of skoal" made by Clinton was clearly divisive and intended to foster an "us and them" mentality. The Pollys are playing it safe. When their families are dying, they can look around them and say "Look, everyone else is dying too." They never will have risked being in the minority.
Seems to me the government has played the Pollys like a Stradivarus.
-- Amy Leone (email@example.com), December 28, 1999.
Well, I don't think any of the mostly johnny-come-lately doomers in this forum can call me a pollyanna but I do believe there is something to this "perception equals reality" concept. There does seem to be a lot of misunderstanding about the idea and its implications though.
In the physical world "perception equals reality" is invalid except perhaps in the realm of theoretical physics. A fire is utterly indifferent to your feelings and thoughts about its reality, if you stick your bare hand in the flames you are going to get burned. Catch your thumb between the nail your driving and the hammer you're driving it with and it's going to hurt whether you realized your thumb was there or not. As some of you may know from my Usenet posts these last few years "the Universe is utterly indifferent to the fact you do not realize the consequences of your actions. You will have to deal with them just the same."
However, mankind does not exist solely in the physical world. We have an existence in the universe of the mind, a non-physical place, as well. Here the concept of "perception equals reality" frequently is true and this is demonstrated repeatedly every day. We have waged wars, won and lost them, over the way we perceived the circumstances surrounding those conflicts even when the physical reality was greatly different. We've executed men on the basis of what we perceived only later to find those perceptions were incorrect. Corporations (including, perhaps, the recent .com companies) rise to great financial heights or go bankrupt based on the perceptions of the people and organizations who invest or deinvest in them. Property is bestowed or taken on the basis of the perceptions of many organizations such as the courts and various governmental agencies. That their perceptions are incorrect (as in not truly based in physical reality) is cold comfort if it's your property, liberty or life that you're being deprived of. In the matters of men's actions towards other men, and all too often towards the physical world, perception is reality so far as what is to be done, or at least attempted, is concerned.
This applies not only to the pollys in this forum but the doomers as well. Some of the doomers here (fortunately a seeming minority) have so developed a perception that Y2K is going to be a major prolonged devastating disaster that if a disaster doesn't happen it's still going to be a disaster for them. Some of the pollys have gone to excessive lengths in the other direction by so convincing themselves that nothing is going to happen that they'll find themselves in a bad way if there's even a mild hiccup. The rest (pollys and doomers alike) fall somewhere in between and probably have more in common than they do in difference.
As the physical world has humankind in it "perception equals reality" does have some validity as a concept since the behavior of man is driven by what he perceives to be true whether it has anything to do with physical reality at all.
The Prudent Food Storage FAQ, v3.5
-- A.T. Hagan (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 28, 1999.
Amy, you said:
"All I know is, one thing you learn in this country is that it is dangerous to be different. Look what happens if you are the different one in high school, or if you are black in a white country. It isn't pretty. Nobody wants to be different. Seems to me, the government knows this and is playing on it. The comment about "pick-up trucks full of skoal" made by Clinton was clearly divisive and intended to foster an "us and them" mentality. The Pollys are playing it safe. When their families are dying, they can look around them and say "Look, everyone else is dying too." They never will have risked being in the minority. Seems to me the government has played the Pollys like a Stradivarus."
Ahh, so in other words, if I think exactly like you do (right thinking) then I am intelligent enough to think on my own, but if I think something different (wrong thinking) then I am obviously too stupid for independent thought and must be led by the Dark Forces of government. Follow you, okay. Follow them, NO WAY!
-- Paul Neuhardt (email@example.com), December 30, 1999.