Thursday, July 07, 2016

Launching Cars Off Cliffs And Rockets To Jupiter - Short Term Versus Long Term Thinking

Two stories on the front page of the Alaska Dispatch News Wednesday, July 6, 2016:

ARTICLE 1:  The one with pictures is an Alaska story about launching cars over a cliff as part of Fourth of July celebrations.

ARTICLE 2:  The one below is an international (interplanetary?) story about the Juno probe to Jupiter.

I don't want to read too much into these stories, but I can't help thinking they symbolize two ends of the continuum of human development:  Short term thinking at one end and long term thinking at the other end.

One article tells us about childlike, instant gratification.  That's acknowledged in the article:
"'Any little kid's dream is to roll a rock down a hill. This is times 10,' said Arnie's son, Dustin Hrncir."
And there's even some science in the video (at the online link above) when one person comments, "Gravity always wins."

And they say they drain the fluids before and clean up the mess after.

The other tells us about humans who have to do an amazing amount of calculation, planning, and then have to wait five years to see whether their launch was successful.  People who think this patiently and carefully,  make possible the cars launched over the cliff at Glacier View.

One group takes pleasure in solving incredibly complex puzzles to increase humankind's understanding of the universe, the other takes pleasure in fairly simple problems like launching cars over the cliff.

How we think is invisible to others, and often to ourselves.  We see the outcomes maybe, but not the thoughts.  We might know one man shot another, but we can't know if it was intended or not.  

Over the years, I've discovered that people assume everyone 'thinks' the same way, but there are lots of factors to consider when it comes to thinking and people combine those factors differently.

One of the big differences in this case is between short-term and long-term thinking.  Probably not too many people in the world today do the kind of long term-thinking folks at NASA do.  But any organizations that deal with long term projects - like expanding the Panama Canal, building a pipeline, inventing a self-driving car - have to think long term.

When I think, for example, of Putin's engagement in Syria, I know that Russians play chess a lot more than Americans.  Good chess players think long term - three or more moves ahead.  I'm sure that the Brexit vote is an intended consequence of Putin's intervention in Syria.  Move 1:  force people to flee.  Move 2:  they have few places to go but Europe  Move 3)  Europeans feel invaded by different cultures  Move 4:  Some EU countries, chafing under the EU regulations about refugees, start to look for a way out.  Move 5:  An internally fractured Europe can't agree on how to deal with Russian aggression on former Soviet countries.  Move 6:  Russia can do what it wants with little opposition from Europe.  Putin didn't necessarily anticipate Brexit, but something like it.

When George W. Bush intervened in Iraq, I'm not sure he had even thought out his initial move all that carefully.  The media and Democrats can say what they want about Trump's comments on Saddam Hussein, but it's clear that he kept Iran and internal terrorism in check.  I don't think Bush thought through what would happen when that check on Iran and internal Iraqi dissent was removed.  I'm not endorsing Hussein's methods at all.  His rule was brutal, tyrannical, and cruel.  Not anything an American presidential candidate should laud.  However, a chess player would never have invaded Iraq without anticipating the aftermath of Hussein's fall.

I think a lot of Trump supporters are getting instant gratification through Trump's expressions of their anger and prejudices.  A lot of short term thinking.  Like the people who voted for Brexit, I think the people supporting Trump would quickly find their lives worse off rather than better.  Because they haven't thought out what the next moves will be.

In an Alaskan aside, I heard officials in the Matsu Borough this morning upset by the magnitude of the cuts caused by the Governor's line item vetoes.  I have to say that their representatives and senators have been among the loudest calling for no new revenues and greater cuts in spending.  They  seem to be getting what they were asking for.  (I'd note the one Republican conservative representing Matsu who has been more reasonable on these issues - Colver - is the target of the Republican party's wrath.)

Generalizations are always tricky

But let's be thoughtful about both groups.  Making assumptions about people based on one act in their lives, often leads to miscalculations.  I'm guessing the NASA folks can do incredibly childish things when they're unwinding and having fun.  And I'm guessing that the Glacier View folks have a lot of talents that aren't obvious in this video and story.  Many probably didn't have the kind of family lives that would launch them into good colleges that would enable them to develop their innate abilities to the fullest.

And, assuming they really do clean up all the mess as they claim, off their own property, what is the harm?  It does look like fun.

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