Define Your Parameters

One thing that I’ve notice often gets people in trouble is a failure to define the parameters of ones actions.

For example, if a cat has fleas, then a sure fire way to remove the fleas is to incinerate the cat.  It’s common sense that we don’t actually want to destroy the cat.  Our ‘common sense’ (which is really a poor euphemism for logical and critical thinking) is that we don’t want to destroy our pet.

If you where to make a joke about that to someone who doesn’t like cats… well…

So, what do I mean by defining the parameters?  There’s two things to think about.  The first is to define your goal.  The second is to define the available methods for achieving that goal.

Consider the game of poker.  The object is to get the most chips.  The object is not to win the most hands or to protect your chips.  This somewhat obvious difference separates the winners from the losers in poker.

In games, the methods to achieve those goals are usually spelled out very explicitly.  Yes, you could get the most chips by robbing the dealer, but the casinos frown upon that.  Instead you have a limited set of rules (what hands win, how chips move between players and the pot, etc) and you have to manipulate the system and other players in order to achieve the goal.

Any game works the same way.

Science, indeed reality, works the same way too.  Much of the present unpleasantness in the US is because people will manipulate the rules themselves in a way that benefits them and harms everyone else.  Then, upon the accumulation of more wealth have an easier time of manipulating the rules more.  Most of our population feel the need to follow the rules and do not have the financial ability to change the rules.

Science also has constraints.  Ethics, rules of the universe, financial ability, etc.  Just like the opponents of the middle class in the US, the opponents of science don’t have the same rules that scientists do.  They have no problem with lies, threats, and other offensive tactics, mainly to hide the simple fact that they can’t even define the problem, much less the constraints that they have to follow in working on the problem.

The ability to define the parameters of a problem and then manipulate everything but is a skill.  A  learned skill that a lot of people don’t learn.

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