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Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant

#177: Aug. - Oct. 2021 (Non-Fiction)
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Mr. P
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Re: Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant

I think it important to point out that the book says nothing about the climate scientists Robert mentioned above. Since he is posting in summary style, I had to re-read this section to see if I missed something. Then I remember this was a recurring theme...these climate scientists.

We should strive to separate what is in the actual book and what is our added commentary.
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Re: Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant

Mr. P wrote:I think it important to point out that the book says nothing about the climate scientists Robert mentioned above. Since he is posting in summary style, I had to re-read this section to see if I missed something. Then I remember this was a recurring theme...these climate scientists.

We should strive to separate what is in the actual book and what is our added commentary.
I did keep em separated by having separate paras but have edited to note your request.
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Robert Tulip
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Re: Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant

On Page 27, Grant says the greatest US Presidents were like scientists. By that he means they were eager to learn, willing to change their views, curious and open to a range of views, seeing policies as experiments rather than points to score.

I see this as a really important ethical point. The outcomes of decisions depend massively upon the extent to which policy is based on evidence. Too often (hello Trump, Bush) leaders see intransigence as a sign of strength, so are emotionally unwilling to rethink their initial opinions. That can cause massive dangerous impact, such as with the Gulf War.
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Re: Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant

One comment on "think again" as a remedy for error, or what we might judge as the wrong position: we shouldn't expect rethinking to do the really heavy lifting of fundamental change in outlook or worldview. Robert's geoengineering example might illustrate that point. The resistance you see to even considering geoengineering is more than a failure to recognize the basic math involved. The idea is so frightening to most people, summoning up images of hubristic scientists adjusting dials on the planet, that most will say, I think, we'll take our chances on less drastic, more comforting, measures, come what may.

I see rethinking as most suited to boardrooms and to some individual decisions. As for applying it to the large percentage of Americans who believe the last election was stolen, it's weak medicine.
Last edited by DWill on Tue Aug 24, 2021 1:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant

Well... Ya gotta have a brain, or lack an agenda, for it to work after all.
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Re: Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant

Page 28 contrasts scientific thinking, defined as humble rethinking, against overconfidence, where we validate our pride through fallacious and biased psychology. Science discovers through doubt and curiosity, through the humble cognisance of our own ignorance that enables wisdom.

This insight from Grant is deeply important for the morality and productivity of culture and politics. Conventional societies see the maintenance of a rigid social hierarchy as a key political objective. That means admitting error is to lose face – Napoleon’s dictum never to retract or retreat. Unlike prosecutors, politicians and preachers, scientists need a respectful, collaborative, inquisitive culture. By extending scientific method into all areas of society, leaders can affirm the value of a constantly questioning approach, promoting a far more democratic and inclusive world.
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Re: Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant

Page 28 defines scientific thinking in contrast to the pervasive attitude of constructing a front, a persona that we show to the world to impress others. Grant thinks that such image-based construction of social roles easily degenerates into an arrogant overconfidence in validating appearances where truth gets ignored, dismissed as socially unacceptable. Page 29 then explains how Blackberry fell victim to such attitudes, looking within its own relatively small circle of users for validation and ignoring how the iPhone touchscreen and computing power presented a superior technology. “Our convictions can lock us in prisons of our own making.”
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Robert Tulip
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Re: Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant

DWill wrote:One comment on "think again" as a remedy for error, or what we might judge as the wrong position: we shouldn't expect rethinking to do the really heavy lifting of fundamental change in outlook or worldview.
The principle here is paradigm shift, that we bring a set of assumptions to our worldview and psychologically resist anything that challenges those assumptions. That extends from the time you brush your teeth as a regular habit all the way through to your philosophical beliefs about the nature of reality.

If our worldview is wrong, something that constantly occurs as new science reveals the error of past beliefs, then accepting our error means we are plunged into a wrenching transformation of fundamental change to outlook. Or we can decide to cope by rationalising with a series of fallacious lies.
DWill wrote: Robert's geoengineering example might illustrate that point. The resistance you see to even considering geoengineering is more than a failure to recognize the basic math involved. The idea is so frightening to most people, summoning up images of hubristic scientists adjusting dials on the planet, that most will say, I think, we'll take our chances on less drastic, more comforting, measures, come what may.
This opposition to discussion of geoengineering well illustrates the rethinking problem that Adam Grant describes. Psychological resistance is far more than a difficulty with arithmetic, it is a refusal to acknowledge the possible legitimacy of the sums described.

So for example I have observed that climate change is mainly due to committed warming from past emissions, which total 640 billion tonnes of carbon. That is about forty times more than annual world emissions of 15 billion tonnes.

The implication of that is that removing the cause of warming that we have already produced is a far bigger problem than slowing the speed at which we add to the problem in the future. Indeed, this basic math involved suggests that cutting our fossil fuel use is likely to prove marginal to the overall massive problem of climate stability.

My view is that we should aim to convert CO2 into useful products that don’t cause warming, alongside ongoing emissions. I call this the 7F strategy – fuel, food, feed, fertilizer, fabric, forests and fish. And we should aim to do this on multi-billion ton scale, utilising the area, resources and energy of the world ocean to grow algae.

Unfortunately, the blockage to discussing that strategy is primarily psychological, not scientific. People who want to see climate action would like to be able to make an individual contribution, such as by switching to an electric car, having less children and going vegetarian. Crucially, they would also like to define and demonise an enemy, the fossil fuel industry, as enthusiastically prosecuted by leading climate advocates.

The result is that cooperative action involving a gradual shift away from fossil fuel pollution becomes like a religious anathema. Rather than objective cost-benefit analysis, climate policy is determined by personal emotional psychology, aggregated to the mass social level.

That pervasive psychology of the dominance of emotion over evidence means inevitably that the world will fail to adapt to warming unless there is a rethinking of priorities, through a cooperative approach to develop cooling technology. Refreezing the North Pole would be a great step, which the G20 could use to build peace and confidence for international cooperation.

The “I’m not biased” syndrome that Grant mentions comes into play, as people insist “the science” validates their personal prejudices. A clear example is that the IPCC has defined “mitigation” to only mean emission reduction, not geoengineering, despite the obvious fact that geoengineering would mitigate climate change.
DWill wrote: I see rethinking as most suited to boardrooms and to some individual decisions. As for applying it to the large percentage of Americans who believe the last election was stolen, it's weak medicine.
When people are constantly told that tribal pride is the highest moral value, there is great psychological and social pressure to construct an imaginary fantasy that rationalises away any challenge to this system of thought. For an outsider, 'we wuz robbed' looks to be an absurd analysis of the 2020 US election, but when tribal pride is at stake, any sort of logical contortion will be employed to justify ignoring the facts.
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Re: Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant

What are the possible unintended consequences of geo engineering? Use the algae example.

And how long a period are you 'observing' for your 'committed warming' scenario?

The concern I have with your rail against the scientists you name is that it doesn't seem to me that your assessment is fair. From what I had read (whatever you posted last time this came up) and what I just read now doing some quick research...all I see is their concern about how attempts to mess with the 'dials of nature' can backfire. It is a huge undertaking. Our species has messed up lesser endeavors with our politics, faith based resistance and simple lack of attention to the long term efforts involved.

As for decarbonizing our economy...if there is a gasoline fire raging... It kinda makes sense to stop throwing gasoline upon it, no? And it engages people, as you did mention, to feel like they are a part of the effort.

I get frustrated with your dissertations because they are all conjecture, accusation, and unsupported statements...topped off with your views on what 'should be done.'

Please detail the process, projections and potential adverse impact of your algae scenario. And if you did the 'science, ' please provide your data and/or sources.
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Re: Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant

Mr. P wrote:What are the possible unintended consequences of geo engineering? Use the algae example.
The most prominent scientific concern about geoengineering relates to stratospheric aerosol injection, which would inject a tiny fraction of the amount of sulphur that volcanic eruptions like Mt Pinatubo in 1991 send to the high stratosphere. Under a White Sky by Elizabeth Kolbert speculates that this might turn the sky white, although scientists such as David Keith of Harvard University disagree. There is also speculation about affecting country rainfall, despite models showing the overwhelming advantages of its benefits such as preventing dangerous changes like sea level rise, stopping of ocean currents, melting of the poles and broad biodiversity loss.

The main concerns are political and religious, that this action involves ‘playing God’ like Frankenstein, that once started it could not be stopped, that it represents an extension of western colonial patriarchal dominance over nature, and that it would give a free pass to fossil fuel industries to keep emitting.

All these criticisms are in fact absurd, based on the implicit idea that humans must not use our brains as our key adaptive advantage to prevent our extinction or collapse, but must instead stumble into catastrophe because we deserve it for being so greedy and selfish, like a redemptive punishment from God. The ‘moral hazard’ criticism about the licence to keep emitting is the most pernicious imagined unintended consequence – it is like insisting a severely bleeding patient should not be given a tourniquet before reaching the operating table.

As for large scale ocean-based algae production, this is my own view of the most effective strategy to stabilise the planetary climate. It is generally ignored as science fiction, but has good traction with groups such as https://oceanvisions.org/ . Key precursor ideas are the Offshore Membrane Enclosures for Growing Algae researched by NASA, and the work of Professor Charles Greene of Cornell such as his paper Geoengineering, marine microalgae, and climate stabilization in the 21st century

A good commentary is from leading Australian scientist Dr Tim Flannery, head of the Climate Council, who wrote in his book Sunlight and Seaweed that algae production on 9% of the world ocean would be sufficient to reverse global warming, based on a scientific paper from the group Ocean Foresters. Such a massive planetary transformation would cover 27 million square kilometres with seaweed. This idea is important to understand the scale of the response needed to address the warming problem, which is orders of magnitude bigger than the physical mass of future emissions.

Any other effective stabilising response would need to be on similar scale, otherwise we are condemned to ongoing heating with all its dangerous effects. Such a project is something that could not be approached unless solid research showed the benefits would vastly outweigh the risks and costs. The analysis indicates that such expansion of industrial aquaculture could protect and preserve biodiversity by providing habitat and slowing down the current rapid warming which is now causing extinction through poleward migration, acidification, etc.

Algae production on that scale would increase rain by making clouds from emissions of dimethyl sulphide into the atmosphere, a main cause of ocean tang. Ocean Foresters through Marine Agronomy have been funded by ARPA-E to do related work on seaweed cultivation in the Gulf of Mexico, but they have found that the popular opposition to geoengineering means they need to avoid contentious debates.
Mr. P wrote: And how long a period are you 'observing' for your 'committed warming' scenario?
The Oxford University website https://www.globalwarmingindex.org/ gives an up to the second estimate of total historic CO2 emissions, now 660 billion tonnes. Committed warming is discussed in a book The Climate Question by Australian Ocean scientist Professor Eelco Rohling. He analyses the stable situation of the Holocene, when CO2 was at 280 parts per million, and sees all the CO2 and equivalents (methane etc) that humans have added as committing the planet to further warming, arguing that we are now already committed to two degrees Celsius even with no further emissions. In the long term, earth system equilibrium will mean the CO2 level will drive the sea level. Last time CO2 was at current level the sea was about ten metres higher.
Mr. P wrote: The concern I have with your rail against the scientists you name is that it doesn't seem to me that your assessment is fair. From what I had read (whatever you posted last time this came up) and what I just read now doing some quick research...all I see is their concern about how attempts to mess with the 'dials of nature' can backfire. It is a huge undertaking. Our species has messed up lesser endeavors with our politics, faith based resistance and simple lack of attention to the long term efforts involved.
They need to balance that concern against the looming reality that failure to invest massively in cooling technology – as distinct from decarbonisation technology – will backfire big time. McKibben and Mann especially are unbalanced in asserting emission reduction could be sufficient to stabilise the climate.
Mr. P wrote: As for decarbonizing our economy...if there is a gasoline fire raging... It kinda makes sense to stop throwing gasoline upon it, no?
Sure it makes sense at first glance, but that is not a good analogy. Looking at a fire, we need systems thinking. As Adam Grant explains in this chapter of Think Again, fire fighters tragically lost their lives by assuming they had to put out a fire which probably should have just been left to burn. The emotional reaction of Smoky Bear methods have caused the massive buildup of fuel loads, causing eventual extreme wild fires, whereas more regular small mosaic burns are essential to protect biodiversity.

So looking to your gasoline example, we can think of the fire having two sources, one obvious (= current emissions) and one hidden (= past emissions). ‘Throwing gasoline upon it’ equates to the obvious problem of burning hydrocarbons, which is visible and seems simple to fix. But the hidden source of the warming is forty times worse, so imagining we can stop warming by focus on the 2% solution is delusional.
Mr. P wrote: And it engages people, as you did mention, to feel like they are a part of the effort.
That is exactly the problem of the social priority of emotion over reason that Adam Grant is criticising in Think Again. We like something that is popular, easy to understand, with goodies and baddies, providing a simple explanation. But as Mencken said, “Every complex problem has a solution which is simple, direct, plausible — and wrong.”

Like putting out forest fires as soon as they are detected, engaging popular support for climate measures has the effect of distorting policies away from those that will work towards ones that won’t.
Mr. P wrote: I get frustrated with your dissertations because they are all conjecture, accusation, and unsupported statements...topped off with your views on what 'should be done.'
That is a pretty extreme exaggeration and generalisation. I am perfectly happy to back up my statements. And the context here is that climate change is the major planetary example of the urgent need to think again.
Mr. P wrote: Please detail the process, projections and potential adverse impact of your algae scenario. And if you did the 'science, ' please provide your data and/or sources.
I wrote a paper for a peer reviewed journal on this last year. One of the peer reviewers recommended it for publication, but the other one insisted on changes I was not willing to make, so I abandoned it for now. I have mentioned some sources above, from NASA and Cornell and Ocean Foresters. At the moment, I see the practical path forward for my own climate work as implementing a minimum viable product, which I am doing for a technology to remove methane and other GHGs.

I see the process of the algae scenario as analogous to the evolution of whales, beginning in rivers and coastal estuaries and gradually moving to the pelagic depths, as systems are developed that are able to work effectively in increasingly challenging environments.
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Re: Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant

Your confidence is admirable. But we do not understand the implications of much of what we have done and no real research on the grabs scale of environmental manipulation has ever been done because it has been impossible.

Small scale experiments do not always imply large scale results. We can knee-jerk ourselves into a worse situation.

The algae scenario and evolution of whales... That might just be a bad analogy... Evolution is a loooong process. How long would that algae scenario take to make any real difference?
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Re: Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant

Mr. P wrote:Your confidence is admirable.
In fact I fear the human race is likely to prove too stupid to address climate change and will sleepwalk into oblivion. Watching Hurricane Ida barrel toward New Orleans, it is clear the USA has no coherent understanding of national security, given the failure to do anything to mitigate such major climate risks. Marine cloud brightening is a readily available, simple, safe and low cost technology to reduce the intensity of ocean storms by reducing water temperature. It would pay for itself if funded by the insurance industry. The complete failure of any nation other than Australia to apply this basic method displays the incoherent and irrational attitude toward security problems that now prevails. That is a prime example of the importance of rethinking our priorities and values.
Mr. P wrote:But we do not understand the implications of much of what we have done and no real research on the grabs scale of environmental manipulation has ever been done because it has been impossible.
(‘grabs’ looks like a typo?) Research can be done at a theoretical level. The hypothesis is that pushing systems toward a cooler situation will generally be good, while allowing drift to a hotter system will be bad. Exactly how to do that requires field research. That looks pretty obvious, but the irrational opposition is impervious to logic.
Mr. P wrote: Small scale experiments do not always imply large scale results. We can knee-jerk ourselves into a worse situation.
It is essential to conduct experiments so we can assess the issues around scaling up, as this type of climate management is inevitably necessary, and should be planned not rushed. Unfortunately as the religious objections to the recent Scopex proposal showed, such rationality is marginal to public policy.
Mr. P wrote:
The algae scenario and evolution of whales... That might just be a bad analogy... Evolution is a loooong process. How long would that algae scenario take to make any real difference?
My view is that it would be physically possible for the planet to achieve net zero emissions by industrial algae production within twenty years, providing a trajectory to net negative emissions to return to Holocene stability by the end of the century.

After the marine dinosaurs were wiped out by the meteorite in Yucatan 65 million years ago, their ocean niche was empty. The ancestors of hippos living in rivers found they could gradually expand into salt water environments. Within a few million years they had evolved to fill the pelagic expanse of the world ocean, more than double the area of the continents. Mimicking that evolutionary path for algae farms at sea could be done in years if an Apollo Project style of urgency was applied.
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Re: Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant

Robert Tulip wrote:Page 28 contrasts scientific thinking, defined as humble rethinking, against overconfidence, where we validate our pride through fallacious and biased psychology. Science discovers through doubt and curiosity, through the humble cognisance of our own ignorance that enables wisdom.
Digging into the beginning of the book, the first thing I came to was the Mann Gulch fire. And oddly enough I had just been reading about that in Michael Lewis' fine book, "The Premonition" about the beginnings of the covid crisis and the difference between the response of those who were primed to look for threat and those bureaucrats who were primed for same ol, same ol'. (Yes, the same Michael Lewis of Moneyball and The Big Short.)

The group who had realized what a devastating effect a pandemic could have (reacting, as Lewis would have it, to George Bush, Jr. having read about the 1918 Spanish flu in the wake of 9/11 and allocating some money to study what could go wrong) had a culture of passing around bits of news, insight, concern, or just picking each other's brains on whatever problem they were dealing with (definitely a scientist's approach, in my view) and when someone ran some numbers on the likely numbers of infected individuals in the US in Feb 2020, after it was realized that it could be spread asymptomatically, they re-told the story of the Mann Gulch fire to convey the idea that the flames were on their way, just over the ridge, and would engulf the country before anybody in authority had moved to do a thing about it.
Robert Tulip wrote:This insight from Grant is deeply important for the morality and productivity of culture and politics. Conventional societies see the maintenance of a rigid social hierarchy as a key political objective. That means admitting error is to lose face – Napoleon’s dictum never to retract or retreat. Unlike prosecutors, politicians and preachers, scientists need a respectful, collaborative, inquisitive culture. By extending scientific method into all areas of society, leaders can affirm the value of a constantly questioning approach, promoting a far more democratic and inclusive world.
It is worth thinking about why a collaborative and inquisitive culture must be a respectful culture. There is an awful lot of gatekeeping in academic culture, and it threatens the possibilities for collaborative and inquisitive progress. When we consider how valuable it is to engage, one on one and thoughtfully, with those inclined to prefer their own conspiracy theories to any established consensus, we can recognize that the disrespect often starts at the center, where scientists are busy jockeying for influence and grant money and may be as resistant as anyone else to re-thinking.
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Re: Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant

A general reflection.

My view is that the underlying evolution of morality is seeing the steady rise of evidence as a primary moral principle. Atheists observe there is no evidence for the existence of God. The 'woke' ideology objects to the rampant injustice in the world, citing abundant evidence. However, this whole process creates a psychological fallacy, namely that people claim their opinions are factual knowledge based on evidence, where in reality they are often subjective beliefs based on emotion.

This fallacy is immensely attractive, because it establishes a simple framework of good and evil, an implicit system of faith. It is far harder to logically examine all our assumptions against evidence than to accept a tribal loyalty as the basis of our beliefs. The ethical framework of evidence and logic as primary values can often lead to ideas that people across the political spectrum find unacceptable.
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Re: Ch. 1: Think Again by Adam Grant

Page 30: When Apple engineers pitched to Steve Jobs to turn the iPod into a phone, Grant says his response was to snap “why the fuck would we want to do that? That is the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.” That certainly contradicts the legend of the brilliant farsighted innovator. In public he repeatedly said he would never make a phone. Such a response could have been expected to intimidate the advocates, but they re-pitched to him with a vision of continuity. Continuity within an organisation is absolutely essential to bring people around, combining evolution of strategy with stability of identity.

Everything else in your pocket as well as 20,000 songs. Still with the genetics of a computer company. The skill and will to open our minds.
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