Some things I read this week: 12/23/18

The Utility of Anger

  • When can anger be productive?
    • The expression of anger oftentimes results in all parties becoming more willing to listen, speak honestly, and accommodate each other’s complaints.
    • Anger can therefore serve as a release of negative emotion that can be a useful trigger for course correction
  • Anger is not helpful in a fragile state of affairs – when you’re on the brink of a break-up, driving down a treacherous road, or making a first impression with a future colleague. But to an antifragile system, one that adapts and becomes stronger with disruptions, anger is a valuable source of feedback that can be a leading indicator to promote course correction before a more severe event transpires.
  • Anger can promote an image of competence and power, and it is among the most potent emotions we have to push us beyond our preconceived limits.
  • Anger, of course, can also be used in our own manipulation. One example refers to calls from debt collectors: if they can get you to lose control of your temper, you’re much more likely to be receptive to their persuasive scripts and to concede to their payment demands.
  • News networks also “tap into our reservoirs of moral indignation” – without the cathartic delivery at the end. “On social media, the old rewards of anger—recognition of our unhappiness, resolution of our complaints—are replaced with new ones: retweets, likes, more followers, more influence.”

On Racism

  • Maybe it’s time to retire the “racist” label.
    • Primary Pro: social shaming can curb behavior that is divergent from social values, thereby promoting peaceful and unifying standards
    • Primary Con: writing off behavior and people as “racist” let’s us off the hook for having to consider the target as a human, made from the same cloth as ourselves. This intellectual complacency increases the degree of separation between people and helps justify punitive behavior upon the target, even when misplaced, with little room for reconciliation.

Concerns About Consulting Firms

  • If an iconic, elite American company is promoting the efforts of authoritarian and corrupt governments across the globe, how should we feel about it?
  • McKinsey has been bashed for its involvement in taking a near $700M contract with South African government-owned power company, Eskom, amidst a complex web of government corruption and a tragically unequal country. It has accepted engagements to reform a two-time criminal convict’s presidential campaign in Ukraine, tracked negative Twitter conversations against the Saudi Arabian government that was followed by the imprisonment of one such tracked Twitter member, and others.
  • Tyler Cowen offers a defense of McKinsey:
    • Many third world countries now follow best practices established in western nations such as collecting good data which are applied directly for solution implementation. McKinsey has certainly had a hand in this technocratic expansion.
    • The world as a whole still needs more managerial expertise.
    • Despite shortcomings in policy, important countries such as China and Saudi Arabia are not to be avoided – from a business opportunity perspective as well as for their roles to play in the economic future of tomorrow.
    • In addition, his advice for calibrating your reading: Does this article present some rough approximation of a cost-benefit analysis? And if the article criticizes an affiliation or cooperative working arrangement, does it show an awareness of just how widespread such affiliations are, and how difficult and probably injurious they would be to avoid?

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