Politics, Business & the Common Good

  • Politics, Business and the Common Good and the relevance to Probably42.

    To help with my own thinking in retirement about some of the big issues and then coming up with ideas for how we might tackle them, I decided to do an Oxford University Continuing Education evening course run by Dan Dennis, called Politics, Business and the Common Good. I thought this would be a good way of putting some of my own views and own thinking to a more rigorous test, especially interacting with others with different views, and perhaps finding I needed to change some of those views.

    Having done the first session and gone through the handouts yesterday I wanted to draw out the things that particularly struck me and how I plan to modify my thinking as a result, and do that on an on-going basis throughout the course. I thought it might be interesting to share some of the things coming out of it because it has relevance for anyone who agrees with the Probably42 approach of generating ideas through thoughtful balanced discussion. So this Ideas blog will be developed over the coming weeks.

    Session 1

    The first thing to say is that it has started me thinking quite deeply which is good and enjoyable.

    The first thing it made me do was to examine my own decision-making process. I believe I’ve developed quite a good one myself over the years, particularly in relation to business when I’ve had important decisions to make, but I have only really used it once in relation to decisions about society. That process has been to look at a problem or opportunity by considering the options and separating my thoughts out into 3 points of view, pulling out the pros and cons under each:




    and writing them down under these 3 headings. I then look first at the logical view and see which option I think is best. I then examine if my emotions are driving me towards a different decision. If they align then the decision is made, as long as there are no pragmatic considerations that affect it. If they don’t align then I have to decide what weight I should give each point of view in this instance. At this point pragmatic consideration if they exist may need to come into the equation. Once I’ve in theory made my decision I then test it by trying to imagine what things will then be like and how I will feel as a result and particularly whether I will have any feelings of regret in relation to the alternative/s I’ve discarded.


    The course has made me go back to first principles and look at whether this approach is valid, particularly which I have decided it is, but also whether there are other factors (especially for thinking about society) that I will add to my decision process. In fact I think I do a lot of these other things automatically as part of my thinking but I’m going to, at least for a while, explicitly add Ethical (I have developed my own set of ethics over time but not examined them rigorously). I’m also going to add some associated Qualifier questions. It makes my model a bit more unwieldy but I think it’s worth trying them out. So my model now looks like:



    • Logical
    • Emotional
    • Pragmatic e.g. is it practical to implement? Is the cost, or consequential cost of implementing too great
    • Ethical



    • Are there any potential bad consequences?
    • Can I think of any unintended consequences?
    • Would the risk level associated with each option change my views?
    • Are any Stakeholders in the decision likely to have very different Worldviews? If so does my decision change or need to be adapted?
    • Would the decision be different if I decided to suspend using my experience? For example is there any reason why something that didn’t work in the past and I’ve automatically rejected, might work now because of technology advances etc?




    I found the concept of Worldview important i.e. we each have a totally different Worldview based on our own unique set of experiences. We all implicitly understand this but it is because of such totally different experiences, or lack of experiences, that leads to different groups of people having completely opposite views. So, especially when looking at society I think it is important to spend time understanding these diverse Worldviews. In a sense it is very similar to Marketing when you look at your target markets and the profile of your target audience in each.


    So I intend to spend some time to see if there are existing categories of Worldview for use in politics already defined and if not to develop my own.


    One other thought is that our Worldview and therefore our decision-making process is largely random, based on what experiences we happen to have. However our parents and school have a fundamental role in the development of that Worldview, as does the culture they operate in at that time.  


    Understanding of self


    As part of all this it seems important to know yourself


    • How you think and make decisions
    • Why your Worldview is the way it is and whether it has any shortcomings that could seriously affect your decision making.
    • How your brain works when it is on auto-pilot.


    Artificial Intelligence


    I wonder if this way of looking at Decision Making goes deep enough e.g. does AI change all this? Our human brains all work in the same way and there is therefore likely to be a lot of commonality in our decision making and conclusions. However, an AI system will certainly have a very different Worldview to humans based on the examples we give it, even if it does encompass simulating physical feelings and empathy. There could be multiple variants of such AI e.g. the Google AI model , or the Amazon AI model which reach their decisions in subtly different ways. Can our existing approach to Philosophy encompass this?




    These notes are my initial conclusions after one session. They may change as we progress!


    I'd welcome comments on these posts as I do them to help question and/or evolve them for the benefit of us all.