Group Decision

April 28, 2003 at 9:09 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Group Decision

Here in British Columbia, the Women in the Woods today posted a last ditch message on Victoria’s Indymedia. Betty Krawczyk writes, “The ancient forests hold the history of human and animal evolution as well as the earth’s evolution. We humans evolved along with these awesome wonders, and to degrade them for the momentary profit of a few is to degrade the human race and the earth itself.” She concludes with a plea for more help, for more women to come to the Walbran Forest: “We, Women In the Woods, and our supporters, are making a last-ditch stand to save these wild forests that hold our biological and spiritual evolution. Please come join us. We need you. The forest needs you. All that is beautiful of this earth needs you. Come to the Walbran.” As it happens, my husband sent me a transcript he found through of a talk by Jared Diamond called, “Why do some societies make disastrous decisions?” Diamond’s analysis focusses on how and why groups make the wrong decisions, and it’s perfectly applicable to my provincial government. Apropos of environmental disasters, Diamond describes how the failures of group decision making pile up: “First of all, a group may fail to anticipate a problem before the problem actually arrives. Secondly, when the problem arrives, the group may fail to perceive the problem. Then, after they perceive the problem, they may fail even to try to solve the problem. Finally, they may try to solve it but may fail in their attempts to do so. While all this talking about reasons for failure and collapses of society may seem pessimistic, the flip side is optimism: namely, successful decision-making. Perhaps if we understand the reasons why groups make bad decisions, we can use that knowledge as a check list to help groups make good decisions.” To read the entire transcript, click on Jared Diamond and scroll nearly halfway down the page. It’s a very richly illustrated, concretely made, argument, and it will help people to understand why their governments or business leaders might, despite all appearances of expertise to the contrary, still be making the wrong decisions, and why the warnings of a small assembly of opposition in the face of organized power can be right.

Skull, once removed

April 28, 2003 at 8:24 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

I usually look forward to reading anything by New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman, but his weekend op-ed piece has me shaking my head. Friedman hinges his piece around a photograph of a group of Iraqis surrounding a freshly exhumed skull, the human remains of one of Saddam Hussein’s many political prisoners. For Friedman, the photograph symbolizes the freedom now given to the Iraqis, the freedom from tyranny. “America did the right thing here,” Friedman intones. What appalls me is the singular amnesia: who enabled Saddam to be in power, to stay in power? What country didn’t want to go into Kosovo to liberate its people from terror and tyranny? And what country continues to condone similar human rights’ abuses in other Arab countries, in Africa, and so forth? And are we now supposed to jubilate when that country unilaterally decides it’s time for regime change in other countries whose despots it has singled out because they happen to control some commodity we need? Where are the standards here, and what kind of world is this?

More from the totem pole

April 28, 2003 at 7:53 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on More from the totem pole

In today’s Toronto Star, Mitch Potter relates the ‘cruel lesson in newfound capitalism’ that his translator Amir Mohsen learned in the wake of finding the documents that link Osama and Saddam.

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