Coen Berkhout

Groningen, Netherlands

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Coen Berkhout
Posted about 3 years ago
Is there actually any wisdom displayed by the crowd? Or is it just the latest pet term to describe quantifiable results from chaos? .
Almost all of what you say is true, and i agree 100% that the economic market is rigid, not transparent enough and chaotic. It is just not susceptible to groupthink, while it is very similar. In political and social science, groupthink happens in close knit groups of *decisionmaking*, not in something as abstract and large as *the market* or in an *economic theory*. Also since the late 1930's interference in the world market by governments has decreased significantly, this is obscured by the fact that by then many international monetary banks were set up, and international cash flows increased due to international trade booming, and the exchange rates that had a large impact on many national economies (according to the Keynesian model). However, this was natural economic behavior, following from the introduction of floating exchange rates. This has very little to do with groupthink. Overall, governments started interfering *less* in the economy, especially after what happened after the first global monetary crisis (fall of the gold standard), not a single government has since dared to take sever economic measures that interfere in the market. I do agree with you that the economic bias that is holding the EU captive right now in dealing with the euro-crisis may seem strongly related to a groupthink incident, were it not for the fact that the huge discussion, slow descisionmaking and switching of positions makes it entirely the opposite of what constitutes the concept of groupthink (which is spelled without an hyphen) The economic market suffers from *structural institutional flaws*. Groupthink is a *spontaneous occurrence* that is created by the "wrong" composition of a small group of people that have to make a quick decision. If you wanna read about groupthink, this is probably the best contemporary work: http://www.worldcat.org/title/groupthink-versus-high-quality-decision-making-in-international-relations/oclc/699670351&referer=brief_results
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Coen Berkhout
Posted about 3 years ago
Should terrorism be understood as a state action as well as a non-state action?
The definition of terrorism at its base is very simple. It is a *political* act of *aggression* (either physical: bombings, or non-physical: boycotts) that *randomly, and without differentiation between groups in society* targets the *civilians* of *another state* (or province, in the case of countries that have different cultural groups within one country), to inspire *terror* and thus have *leverage* over political decision taken by the opposite state. So yeah, evicting citizens, while a crime according to the *International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights*, is not terrorism, because it does not aim at achieving leverage over another international (political) entity. And in the case of the Turkish government, it is a violations of the *Universal Declaration of Human Rights*, but hardly terrorism, it's what we usually call *oppression*
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Coen Berkhout
Posted about 3 years ago
The traditional Left V Right picture of the political world has become a destructive force.
The idea of left right is an illusion, created by democracy. People are too dumb to figure out what a certain political idea means for them, and especially what ideology created that political idea, so they have gathered various ideas and ideologies (many of which should NOT be in the same category) and put a stamp on it, like this: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/36/European-political-spectrum.png/372px-European-political-spectrum.png The truth is that, because of democracy, politicians want to differentiate themselves from "opponents", even if they think the same way. Because the average voter will vote for the politician who just copies that other guy. This is why you will never get the same answer on a question, if one politician says 2+2=3 the other one will say 2+2=5, simply because that makes him unique, and then we will have a long and pointless discussion about things that don't matter, only to win votes from the stupid consumers because they don't know that 2+2 is actually 4. And it's not even the fault of the politicians, it's a fault of the system. Every day politicians have to struggle for their power, to be able to exercise their ideas, they *have to* engage in the political games and discussion, which leaves them with less time to make proper decisions. And not even talking about how we managed to rape democracy since the second World War, how did democracy go from "the people govern" to "each individual has equal democratic power to everyone else, but there is no longer a collective power because nobody even listens to the opinion of others." Democracy went from *power for the people* to *power for the individual*, and now we are on the brink of various political crises, it is time to change something.
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Coen Berkhout
Posted about 3 years ago
Is there actually any wisdom displayed by the crowd? Or is it just the latest pet term to describe quantifiable results from chaos? .
The market is not in any way a form of groupthink, it is an automated process driven by speculation on supply and demand. While groupthink definitely is a problem with the wisdom of the crowds; it relies on the level of cohesiveness of the group (do the members have a natural or personal tendency to agree in the first place, before arguments are made?), the structure (is there a strong leader-figure who carries a power position over the other members?),the situational context (is there little time to make the decision, "code red"?), and transparency of the group (do experts have access to the discussion? Or are people aware of the decisions that are taken). Groupthink is a political process that has been the driving force in western democracies since the Cold War, but it has nothing to do with market equilibrium.
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Coen Berkhout
Posted about 3 years ago
Is there actually any wisdom displayed by the crowd? Or is it just the latest pet term to describe quantifiable results from chaos? .
You are right, but Surowiecki takes cover behind his 'criteria'. You know that the modern group of consumers does in no way meet those criteria, and if the criteria are forced on the group, it's called positive/negative discrimination. This is why democracy does not work for extended periods of time. Democracy relies on wisdom of the crowd, as it was with the public representatives in Greece. What we have done is transform it into the idea that power lies within the *individual* rather than in the people/group. Democracy is just everyone trying to force his own opinion into society, we are more individualistic than ever.
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Coen Berkhout
Posted about 3 years ago
Schools need to update their text books for higher, up to date, education.
Actually, that is the mistake a lot of people make. While my university has a database, a very useful and large one at that. All the papers I've written so far, required me to spend hours in the city library looking through stacks of old books and papers by scholars. Sometimes the information you need is not where you want it to be. All the knowledge of this world is in the books, it's not on the internet, because not enough effort has been put in putting all the information on the web yet. For the future it would be great, but we still have a lot of innovation and effort to put into getting "the web" ready for educational purposes.
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Coen Berkhout
Posted about 3 years ago
Schools need to update their text books for higher, up to date, education.
No, I'm not implying that students would use wikipedia (my university has a database with academic articles and books, online). But I want to stress that reading books Is still very important. And for some subjects there is a lot of essential information that is not easily accessible trough the internet, because the books have not been put online, due to them being old or very specific.
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Coen Berkhout
Posted about 3 years ago
Schools need to update their text books for higher, up to date, education.
While I definitely agree on textbooks being an outdated concept, I'm not entirely on board with the idea of tablets (or laptops) -> being online, replacing books as a method of gathering knowledge. Textbooks aren't very useful, I agree, they list facts -> you rehearse them -> you reproduce them. Thats a very linear way of learning, which is bad. However, online, a lot of good and proper information is hard to find, so if you don't change the -> absorb -> rehearse -> reproduce way of teaching and learning, you will only get a worse educational system. Teach kids in a Library, where you have selected various books and reading material by scholars related to the subjects you teach. Give them assignments on that subject, and have them present their assignments to the other students. If you want you can give students a preliminary assignment to find relevant literature online and in the provided books. This changes the learning process. The kids will have to find their facts, eliminate irrelevant facts, and then actually work *with* the facts to create theories, which means that even the same assignment can net 5 different results. Then presenting (the most important human skill since the Greek Democracy) would give them feedback, which encourages a creative and ever changing learning environment. Also I think philosophy should become a baseline subject for all students, I think it is the subject that has the largest potential in teaching kids about the world we live in, while encouraging a critical attitude to subject (which no other subject does, encouraging a critical attitude), because in philosophy, there is no consensus, which makes it an ideal subject for creative thinking.
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Coen Berkhout
Posted about 3 years ago
Schools need to update their text books for higher, up to date, education.
I think textbooks are an outdated concept. With the vast amount of knowledge available from anywhere at any time (smartphones, tablets, the internet), teaching should be more than pushing facts into students heads. Right now, discussion and forming opinions is way more important than if you memorized what the second mineral layer of the earth is. Education should change from 'memorizing' knowledge of other to learning how to work with theories, how to interpret facts (a often neglected skill), and how you form your own opinion and knowledge. Research should become more important. Independence and discussion! Why would you spend your valuable time memorizing something you have access to at any time right now?
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Coen Berkhout
Posted about 3 years ago
Is there actually any wisdom displayed by the crowd? Or is it just the latest pet term to describe quantifiable results from chaos? .
I would say the rise of a dictator is the natural order. The primitive (natural, if you will) side of human society relates more to the animal kingdom, where "dictatorship" is the normal (again, if you will, natural) order. Saying that the rise of an dictator is artificial order, I'm strongly opposed to that belief. Because humans are able to diverge from natural order and replace it with something artificial, we are different from animals. Artificial order is what keeps human society and International Relations stable and going, without it we'd be hunting elephants again.