The rational skeptic world view

Humans have always tried to make sense of the world we live in. We have always tried to come up with simple explanations that covers what we see. From the four elements and a flat earth inside a dome to a spherical earth and a heliocentric world view, our view of the world has evolved. But the quest has always been to come up with a complete and consistent model that will explain all of existence. Just like Newton’s classical physics. He viewed the world as clockwork obeying a complete and consistent set of physical laws. And when those laws didn’t quite fit the bill, Einstein extended this quest with his theories of relativity. His goal was to come up with a grand unifying theory that could be encompassed in an equation no longer than two inches.

Einstein’s famous discussion with Niels Bohr where the former exclaimed “God does not play dice” was his rejection of the spookiness of quantum mechanics. This branch of physics seemed to destroy the quest to unearth a model for an ultimately orderly and rational, complete and consistent world.

And despite the hints like Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, the Double Slit Experiment and Bell’s theorem, some physicists still believe in a deterministic world where everything is neatly explained and codified.

Graphics by Geir Isene

Had they only looked to mathematical philosophy and seen the same quest fail there. At the start of the 20th century, there was this adventure in mathematics where the major thinkers of that field tried to codify all of mathematics into neat axioms and rules to rule’em all. But alas, Kurt Gödel shot it all down with his Incompleteness Theorems. And decidedly so. There cannot be any complex axiomatic system that is both complete and consistent. And to those who would like to believe that the universe we can observe is all that can be, mathematics is a subset of our universe. And as the universe is then a superset of mathematics, then the universe itself cannot be both consistent and complete. And that has some profound implications that I will cover in a OnePageBook sometime in the future.

Now, what prompted me to again delve into this? I was inteviewed by Aaron Smith-Levin the other day, and one of the comments on the resulting Youtube video read:

“Geir, so much of your world view hinges on the “law” a system cannot be both complete and stable, including the large conclusion that humans are spiritual beings, have you ever questioned the conclusion on systems, and if the conclusion about systems were the opposite, would you conclude you are not a spiritual being? If you were not a spiritual being, would you feel you should adapt the rational skeptic world view?”

To which I answered:

“The proof that complex axiomatic systems cannot be both consistent and complete is among the most solid mathematical achievements in human history. It’s irrefutable. So is the double slit experiment, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and Bell’s theorem. There is nothing rational about refuting any of these. They all point in the direction of consciousness being non-physical. Read my OnePageBook in free will for details: https://isene.me/2017/07/17/free-will-do-you-really-have-a-choice/”

Just like the old, classical Newtonian world view was naive, I believe the modern “rational skeptic world view” to be equally naive.

As for the rest of the interview, here it is:

What is Scientology, really?

Scientology is a trick to make you believe that you need Scientology to finally let go.

Specifically it takes you on a ride where you are led to believe that a “Rective Mind” is responsible for your ills – until you are rid of it. Then it is the fault of tormented souls infesting your body. And when those are exorcized your ills can be attributed to ARCX, PTPs, O/Ws, W/Hs, MW/Hs, PTSness, Out List, BPC or yet unreleased OT levels. All instead of just letting go. It will cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars until you finally believe you deserve to let go and simply do just that. The “smarter” you are, the more it will take for you to believe you can simply “let go“. The “smarter” people will crave a more complex solution to “become free”.

letgo

Scientology: The Borg of ideologies

Here are some quotes from L. Ron Hubbard about Scientology:

When somebody enrolls, consider he or she has joined up for the duration of the universe — never permit an “open-minded” approach… If they enrolled, they’re aboard, and if they’re aboard they’re here on the same terms as the rest of us — win or die in the attempt. Never let them be half minded about being Scientologists.

We’re not playing some minor game in Scientology. It isn’t cute or something to do for lack of something better. The whole agonized future of this planet, every Man, Woman and Child on it, and your own destiny for the next endless trillions of years depend on what you do here and now with and in Scientology.

Scientology is the only workable system man has. It has already taken people toward higher IQ, better lives and all that. No other system has. So realize that it has no competitor.

We’re playing for blood, the stake is EARTH.

In all the broad Universe there is no other hope for Man than ourselves.

If attacked on some vulnerable point by anyone or anything or any organization, always find or manufacture enough threat against them to cause them to sue for peace.

There is no more ethical group on this planet than ourselves.

Scientology insists on being the Only True Way. Scientologists buy into this and are convinced that Scientology is Right and that other paths are Wrong. Scientologists becomes adamant on defending Scientology regardless of opposing facts. It is the opposite of Science. When a Scientologist starts admitting Scientology is wrong in some area, he has started to move away from being a Scientologist.

Scientology is a self-perpetuating ideology insisting it is right. It is The Borg of ideologies.

The Borg

The Borg

You are an imperfect being, created by an imperfect being.

We only wish to raise quality of life for all species.

You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

Scientology: How delusional can you get?

This is sadly how off the rails one gets from remaining in the Truman Show.

First a definition; IAS = International Association of Scientologists, an organization created to facilitate donations from Scientologists for no service in return. Scientologists are required to donate huge chunks of money to remain in good standing with the church as they move on up the Scientology levels.

Here’s a quote from an e-mail intercepted by Mike Rinder:

…”what would the planet be like if there was no IAS?”. Great question, isn’t it? When you really take a look it does not take long to realize that without the IAS the world we live in would be way worse than what it is today, that probably the majority of the population would be on psych drugs and maybe worst of all, there would be no hope for the future.

When you start believing that Scientology in any context has a real impact on society outside of being a media joke, you are delusional.

The cult of ITIL

ITIL is the major framework for IT Service Management.

ITIL-V3

It comprises 5 books of Shakespearian English flanked by huge amounts of models, figures and diagrams. It is unwieldy and complex, leaving the reader in awe of its awesome.

chart-itil-v3-v1.9

ITIL has thousands of followers organized in country chapters of the IT Service Management Forum. Piles of papers are written every year, ITIL projects abound, and it remains a huge industry with vendors eager to leech off the ignorance of customers. And while organizations experience real IT challenges, they all too often jump to the conclusion that ITIL is the savior.

  • Problem with Peter.. Peter will not take responsibility? Enforce ITIL!
  • Trevor and Jack won’t work together? Go for ITIL!
  • Lack of IT documentation? ITIL!
  • Sandra shows lack of motivation? ITIL!!
  • Ben is a horrible manager? ITIL!!!

The less passionate employees are about their job, the less they feel a strong purpose, the less they take responsibility, the more ITIL seems required.

The ITIL congregation knows that it has the ultimate solution to every issue facing an IT organization. ITIL is the answer. Never mind the question. Bring out the Powerpoints and hard hitting argument. Oversell like mad and brainwash the customer into a true ITIL believer. The cult of ITIL rolls on in the all to recognizable self-serving fashion.

Sounds like Scientology, doesn’t it?

While the differences are obvious, the similarities are striking. Method before result. The tool becomes more important than the objective.

ITIL has been around since the early 90’s. My experience dates back to the early 2000’s. I used to be an ITIL evangelist, but the glare and glitter wore off along with my many ITIL projects. I did several high profile and very successful projects, but they often succeeded despite of ITIL rather than because of it.

Few ITIL projects succeed in making customers happy. Most fail due to some serious faults in the very foundations of the framework. Like the responsibility model, the complexity of the framework, the lack of true customer focus, the lack of real service focus, the lack of people focus. And above all, the belief that a certain method yields a certain result when the input is unknown. One should be very careful trying to implement a mindset of industrialization in the human spheres. What works splendid in a factory may wreck havoc on human initiative, creativity and motivation.

It is more important to help and motivate people than to enforce tools, processes, methods. The belief in the superior process rather than the superior will to deliver excellent results is the hallmark of a failed ITIL project.

People matters. More than the rest.

This is not to say that ITIL doesn’t have some excellent tools and tips. ITIL is good at describing the playing field and different typical
positions for people to play. It points to some good practices in dealing with IT issues, incoming requests, changes to systems that affect many, etc. But as with Scientology, one has to tread carefully in a minefield and wade through some rubbish to get to the good bits. As Scientology fosters a culture of irresponsibility, ITIL tends to do the same. Not by teaching irresponsibility per se, but by focusing so much on everything else as to leave little room for real empowerment and create a culture of self-thinking, responsible people with initiative and guts.

ITIL purports itself as “Best Practice“, but I was there when Sharon Taylor, the Chief Architect for ITIL version 3, said that the framework contains about 60% Best Practice and some 40% Wishful Thinking.

The best that Best Practice can do is to create followers. Leaders innovate, tread new ground and through guts and allowing themselves to fail come up with ingenious ways of doing things even better. Broad ideas and principles may be great guidelines, but when a framework becomes too detailed, it looses its punch and becomes a one-size-fits-few.

ITIL has created hoards of followers. Resembling a cult. But we don’t need cults. Rather than producing followers, one should strive to make everyone a leader in his own work area – even if the person leads only himself to deliver great results.

A few days ago I came across a blog post that was distributed by the LinkedIn news feed titled, “Top 5 ITSM Tips for 2014“. It reads like a gust from the past and serves well to underline what I wrote above. Tip #1 “Cost-effectively implement best practice ITSM” starts off with a whiff of fluffy business English:

Implementing best-practice IT service management not only ensures you are improving customer satisfaction and relationships with better reliability and quality of service, it will also give your service desk a competitive advantage.

Say what? Implementing this will ensure customer satisfaction? The answer is given. Don’t mind asking the customer. Maybe they don’t need anything even resembling ITIL. Maybe they don’t even need an IT department. Maybe they just need more care from the IT staff. Maybe something else entirely.

I don’t think the health profession was ever as narrow minded as this. Enter the doctor’s office. He has already decided what you need. Without even a second of examination. “You sir, is in dire need of an appendectomy!”

The article goes on with tip #2, “Measure your success”. Now this sounds very good. Except:

Measuring the success of your IT service desk will become ever more crucial as senior management hone down on overspending and look at ways to cut costs.”

The IT service desk… What if the customer got such amazing IT that a service desk was hardly ever needed? How about instead asking the customers what they think about the IT services and measure that instead?

Then tip #3 reads “Manage ITIL like never before”. So, instead of managing customers, and IT staff, we are lead to believe that ITIL is something to manage. Actually, it is the thing to manage. You don’t really manage ITIL or even processes. It’s like stating that the soccer manager should manage ball passing like never before. Nope. Manage the players like there was no tomorrow.

“Deal with the increased demand for accelerated delivery” is tip #4. Sound advice as long as your customers needs are assessed and as long as you are not relying on rubber stamp conclusions from analysts. Your customers matters. More than Gartner statistics.

And finally, the sales pitch for the ITIL certification industry: “Qualify your team”. If that would only advise the reader to qualify your team toward what your customers really need. But no, it means getting your staff through multiple choice questionnaires to pass a theoretical exam. A great exercise to produce followers. A louse exercise to enable IT staff to handle customers better.

The article manages to miss the major point in making IT successful – that what is really needed is motivated people that take 100% responsibility for delivering amazing service to their customers. The area of IT thrives through creative genius, people with heart, people who give it all to deliver excellent products and services, interested staff, real and honest communication and people with guts.

ITIL is traditionally very introverted. Not surprising given it’s a framework for an industry overrepresented with people having a hard time picking up girls. More extroverted contributors have come on board in recent years, but as the framework piles on with complexity, it still suffers from the internal focus.

To enhance IT, we need to inspire dedicated customer focus and a culture marked by 100% responsibility.

What I lost in Scientology

While we hear about abuses, human rights violations, harassment, criminal conduct and “fair gaming” in the Church of Scientology, I have been very satisfied with the service I received in my 25 years being a member. Others have lost money, time, careers, family members, unborn children or even themselves. I lost none of that. But I did lose something. And it took me by surprise.

I was nervous as a child. Worrying about stuff – mostly social situations. I was shy, terrified to be asked to read aloud in class. There was often a cocktail of emotions, blood pumping, adrenalin, fear, uncertainty and doubt. Amid the social stress was a boy seeking refuge in hard core natural sciences where I could satisfy my appetite for knowledge and master the crafts. Logic and reason was safe. Emotions not.

When I got into Scientology in 1984, I was seeking new answers and new angles to particle physics and astrophysics. But they offered me a path to gain control of those unruly social situations. I was intrigued to learn that I could gain some level of mastery of shyness, stress and my worrying.

From the very first communications drills and all the way up Scientology’s Bridge to Total Freedom I was longing for less worrying, more control. Mastery of emotions, of self, of stress and of the worry.

And lo and behold, that was just what I got. In spades. No wonder I was happy with my Scientology services. I went from a worrying and shy boy to a radio show host to a CEO of several companies and a renowned public speaker. I got exactly what I wanted.

But be careful for what you wish.

I am seldom stressed or worried. I can be thrown headlong into any public situation, be it impromptu speaking on an unknown subject or going on radio or TV without preparation. No stress, just a pure “Fuck It” attitude to whatever the situation may bring.

I miss the stress. The anticipation of the unknown. The adrenalin. The rush. Much zest have been lost. If anything, that is a source of some worry.

This is why I seek situations where I am not in control. That is why I want challenges beyond my abilities to cope. I need to feel more of those emotions, that part of life.

It is harder and harder to find exciting challenges. If you have any ready, please throw it my way.

In hindsight, I would still do it all over again. Because the benefits of calmness and harmony outweighs the loss of zest. But it is a loss that I am very much aware of.

(From my heart, pure text, no graphics or even links. Delivered as-is.)

The Scientology Mindset

There is enough to say about the Scientology mindset to write a book about it. But I will be brief and sum up what I see as the main point in this short blog post.

It boils down to introspection. And it goes like this:

There must be a reason. In the past. Something you did or something that was done to you. Something you don’t know that you must know. Every bad thought, every “misemotion”, every discomfort, every quirk has a cause that must be uncovered. What happened? Why did it happen? What did I do to cause it to happen? And there is no way you can rid yourself of anything except finding the root cause and get that elusive “cognition“. And it can only be done with L. Ron Hubbard’s tech(nology). You must find out. You must uncover. Or else you will carry the burden, the problem with you indefinitely. And it will only get worse. Unless you avail yourself of the tech. Ponder. Ponder. Figure. Figure. Why?? Hmmm. why, oh why? It must be me. Me. Me!

Jeez. Take a chill pill. Stress less. Learn to say “Fuck It!” I believe the main problem is the person thinking there is a problem. And the problem is created here and now. The reason, the cause is never in the past. The reason there is a mental issue is because the person creates the mental issue — right here, right now. What about not giving a shit and stop creating that problem. Never mind the past. Just chill, relax, take a deep breath and say “Fuck It!”.

“No amount of worry can solve any problem” (Godwin Delali Adadzie)