Many people write or speak to tell us what we should think. Some want to be believed because they are experts, or think they are. Some want to be believed because they claim to speak for us. Some have had revelations. Others want us to trust them because they communicate through prominent media outlets. Many tell us what we should think. I write to encourage my readers to think for themselves. I write to ask you to inquire. Question me. Have fun.

Comment of the Day
The Editorial Board should have no opinion

Jul 11, 2020

The WSJ Editorial Board expressed its opinion about the case of Michael Flynn. It does not matter what they said; in my book, the Editorial Board should have no opinion on any topic. Editorial boards’ job is not to lecture, but to facilitate views from individuals who can present valid arguments. The Editorial Board's job at the WSJ is to guarantee to me, a subscriber, that the different opinions presented are fact-checked. I pay a subscription for the WSJ because I do not have the time nor the means to fact-check whatever is written and posted on the internet. I do not pay for the subscription to be brainwashed by whatever the self-anointed authority of the Editorial Board believes is right. I can make my judgment based on the facts and their interpretation by other individuals.

More parenting is needed
Aug 01, 2019
Peter Gray in Psychology Today advises for less parenting. The problem is exactly the opposite: There is not enough parenting. In the past, when most of our ancestors lived in self-supporting households, often a farm, out of necessity, children were an integral part of whatever adults needed to do during their daily life, and they learned that way. Now, we do not need to do as much at home. Work is outside the home, food is brought in, heat is turned on and off, and mysteriously magical, colorful screens are the center of most activities. If we leave children free to explore what they find the most attractive, they will play video games. There might be some educational value in it, but one needs to learn much more. Hence, we need more effort in parenting, with parents doing more in the home than is otherwise required, and spending more time with children outside in order to introduce them to the real world. This realization hit home after I witnessed the surprise of a 7-year old seeing apples on my apple tree.
Less fight more work
Jul 30, 2017

The fight over Obamacare repeal is over, at least for now. The GOP can start to work on a new proposal that each of us can look at it, and then compare how my particular health care solution would play in it, as compared to Obamacare. In a television interview, HHS Secretary Tom Price said that Obamacare “may be working for Washington, it may be working for insurance companies, but it’s not working for patients.” Maybe it is time to consider patients’ involvement in the preparation of an Obamacare alternative? It could be that Obamacare repeal failed just because it has been prepared by Washington with consultation from insurance companies. Let us start with addressing 19 health care issues that politicians avoid talking about.

How to pay for the wall?
Apr 04, 2017

If you want to build the wall, pay for it with your own money. How much of your own money are you willing to donate? Trump received 62,979,879 votes. If each of Trump’s supporters voluntarily donates at least $1,000, which corresponds to about $42 per month for the next two years, and if we encourage those who are more affluent to double their donations, then Trump can have on hand about $100 billion, which may suffice for a substantial piece of the wall. Hence, all of you who are talking loudly about spending my money on building this wall, stay away from my wallet, but open your own wallet and send money to the “Build the Wall Fund.” Put your money where your mouth is.

What is wrong with Russia?
Dec 22, 2015

It appears that Russian leaders cannot free themselves from the medieval concept of regional influence, where weaker neighbors were subdued into becoming serf states. Is anyone capable of explaining to them that in these times of a global economy, any influence comes from economic strength? Russia, thanks to its size, natural resources and well-educated labor force, has everything that it takes to maintain a dominant position in the region, just by maintaining free trade with all its neighbors. It can do so without military interventions in Georgia and in Ukraine. Russia has everything that it takes to be a respected wealthier neighbor, to whom everyone in the region would turn for help when needed. Instead, it is a bully and a hooligan. It would take so little to change that. But it is so hard for Russia to do it. 

Closed mind for closed borders
Nov 19, 2015

Known to some as a libertarian, Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr. speaks against open borders. His argument is that it is an infraction against private property. He misses the point that most people migrate just because Mr. Rockwell’s neighbors want them on their private property – for picking apples, washing the dishes or writing a computer code. Then, Mr. Rockwell wrongly laments that those foreigners invited by his neighbors violate his private property rights by loitering in the public spaces that he frequents. He wants the government to deny the rights of his neighbors to do on their private property whatever they wish, so he will not need to face immigrants in the public spaces. Mr. Rockwell left the train called “liberty” at the station called “xenophobia.”    

They do not know…
Sep 14, 2015

Mr. Trump says: “A lot of what I’m doing is by instinct.” I prefer that our President would make decisions based on systematic due diligence. The instinct that guides Mr. Trump in his professional life arrives from his vast experience, starting when he was growing up under the mentoring of his successful father, followed by a solid education and years of practice. Mr. Trump's confidence is misguiding, as it gives his supporters the illusion that someone who mastered real estate dealing can be equally skillful as President. It is similar to the illusion surrounding Dr. Carson, that he can be as good a President as he is a brain surgeon. If both gentlemen were humbler, they would realize that they qualify to be President equally as much as Mr. Trump qualifies to conduct brain surgeries and Dr. Carson to run Mr. Trump’s real estate empire. The problem is not that they do not know many things they should; the problem is that they do not realize that.

More Comments

The future has the great past, but the present stands in the way

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Americans are pessimistic about the future. Opinion polls confirm what most of us get from daily news; because of profound political disagreements, we are unlikely to reach any consensus on issues like health care, immigration, climate change, guns, abortion, and many others.

That depressing tune dominates in Medium’s recommendations. America is declining into a dystopian nightmare, as claims the article that Medium editors recommended to me recently on the top of their daily emails. Every day brings a new dose of the doomsday scenario porn, as some call it. 

The future has the splendid past

That was the mantra of the late Stefan Bratkowski, one of the brightest minds of contemporary Poland. The written human history reaches a few thousand years back. We might have fancier toys, but whatever challenges we face today, they are variations of problems others encountered before. I worked with Stefan half a century ago and can say that the challenges we faced then, at their core, were similar to issues Americans deal with today.

At that time, Poland was a part of the Soviet bloc. There was an overwhelming conviction that, due to political constraints, there was not much we could do to shape our future. The unofficial but common mantra was that individuals should go into survival mode, milking the system and hoping that one day a knight on a white horse would arrive and fix everything. I find that mood akin to the doomsayers in the United States today, claiming that our political system has reached the point of dysfunctionality that is not even worth trying to fix.

Bratkowski was one of those who had no illusions about the knight on the white horse. Success does not arrive as a gift. One needs to work for it.

For most of us, prosperity means affordable conveniences. Bratkowski often provocatively stated that there should be nothing political about making cars or breeding pigs. We know the right ways to do it at a given stage of science and technology.

Everything is political

About a year before I joined Bratkowski’s team, I had a chance to ask a well-informed politician what the Polish government intended to do about permanent food shortages. That politician was stupid enough to tell me the truth. Most farms in Poland were tiny family operations not suitable for modern agriculture. Large private farms would be more efficient. If the government allowed that, in every county, several of the wealthiest farmers would soon have more political power than the ruling party had. That politician candidly stressed that the ruling party would never give up its political power.

From petty everyday experiences, most Poles got the same message despite not being told that so explicitly. At that time, buoyant, young baby boomers were entering adulthood. In his flagship venture, Życie i Nowoczesność, (Life and Modernity), a weekly insert to Życie Warszawy (Warsaw’s Life), the main daily in the Warsaw region, Bratkowski tried to leverage the energy of the youth to modernize the nation by implementing new technologies and science. He knew that in Polish reality, even pig breeding could be political, but he tested the system in the public view.

His support for a Polish minicomputer K-202, which was abreast with the worldwide state of the art, became that “one drop too many” for apparatchiks. Bratkowski and his team were fired and got “wolf tickets,” banning them from being published in major publications. They lost their jobs but won in public opinion by proving that the political system was the main obstacle to a better future. The genie was out of the bottle.

When we look at the United States today, the most comparable would be the attempt to make the health care system work, proudly announced in January 2018 by the three pillars of American business – Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, and Jamie Dimon. Three years later, they gave up. Buffett said they “were fighting a tapeworm in the American economy. And the tapeworm won.” They lost, acknowledging politics as having been the major obstacle.

Paul Krugman was right

Some may argue that comparing the United States to Poland under Soviet domination is a stretch. I would disagree because the cases of politics obstructing prosperity might be different, but the mechanics are the same.

Interestingly, Paul Krugman compares the current political situation in the United States to the 18th century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. By the end of the 16th century, it was the largest and wealthiest regional superpower. Then it gradually weakened. For most of the 18th century, it was apparent that the nation would collapse if not reformed. Despite much lofty talking, none of the attempts prevented its ultimate loss of independence in 1795. In his column “America Is Not Yet Lost,” Krugman saw the gridlock of the current political system in the United States as analogous to Polish indolence in the 18th century. Sadly, no one at The New York Times or any other major media outlet can let the genie out of the bottle by explaining the cause

The third rail on the railroad to the future

Hot political issues are like that third rail; touching it could be deadly. It would be safer to get rid of that third rail, but we have it because it is the most efficient way to power the trains. Engineers are not afraid of the third rail. They know how to use that rail to propel trains. Why can we not use politics the same way to thrust us as a society to achieve a better future? What are we missing?

We fail to communicate in times of phenomenal development of communication technology

We need more than technology for a better future. Despite better communication abilities than any prior generation, we do not resolve our problems faster or better. The opposite has happened; more falsehoods are spreading, or at least more of us do not trust what others proclaim as the truth. What happened, and how can we get out of it?

Our future depends on our ability to address that conundrum. We might use modern technology to address it, but AI will not do this for us. To figure out what to do and how, we need the same technology that Socrates had.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

How is the sausage of gloom and doom made?

CNN has its truth, and so does Fox News. Their respective gullible viewers swallow everything unconditionally and condemn their adversaries without even checking.

Skeptics trust neither and seek the truth from the galaxy of self-professed prophets all over the internet. All of them preach the truth, their truth. But those closer to the truth do not make more money than the liars. The money goes to those who can lure a bigger audience for their chant.

Americans are in a decadent mood because most of them smell the rotten meat in the media. They feel they are lied to and do not know whom they can trust.

Part of the problem is that with technological advancements, our economy and social life have become more complex. Many Americans have a poor general education; they do not understand the technology they use and lack basic knowledge of the economy and finances. They are easy targets for all sorts of misinformation.

Stone Age politics

In 2009, I was involved in the public debate about the proposed health care reform, now known as Obamacare. I soon realized that in a country proud to be founded on reason, feelings and emotions guided the critical discussion of our times.  

Mobs were called to action and brought to the public square to shout whatever they were told to yell. It looked like a world where a decision table was an invention thousands of years from being discovered. It looked like a nation without universities, where most people could not conduct a basic logical deduction. Microsoft and Google seemed galactic distances away. It was a reality where fears, prejudices, and other emotions dominated over reason. It was a Stone Age society in action.

No one even attempted to use the knowledge about decision-making that is used daily in commerce. 

There will be no prosperity in the future without the truth in the present

Our dysfunctional health care is just one of our fundamental problems that, if not resolved betimes, can make irrelevant even the most exciting investments that the all smart Silicon Valley investors make in new technologies. We will be too poor to afford it.

A business needs the truth to succeed. It means accurate information about the market and the competition. For the leaders, the company’s best interest should be the priority. Transparency in communication should build trustful relationships with employees, customers, and business partners. The lack of permeable communication leads to falsehoods. It never goes unpunished.

The same principle applies to the welfare of the nation. Societies that can genuinely discuss their problems are wealthier than those that do not. There is no way to build prosperity on falsehoods. The New York Times recently reported that political elites realize that misinformation paralyzes our abilities to function. But the article concludes that the problem itself makes us unable to talk about the problem.

That article describes the failed attempts by the administration in trying to determine what the truth is. It conveniently avoids the question of whose job is it to inform Americans? It is not the job of the government. It is the job of the media, foremost the major outlets, like the NYT. We have the disinformation problem because the editors at The New York Times do not do their job. It is not an excuse that other media giants are not better. I posted a comment on the NYT website with that message, but moderators there did not approve it for publication. By doing that, they confirmed that the problem itself makes us unable to talk about the problem because they are part of it. It means they will do nothing to fix it. Who will?

Image by Mahesh Patel from Pixabay

The money is in the truth

Most media experts would disagree. They do not see profit in delivering the truth but in aggregating followers and telling them what they like to hear.

The experts are wrong. People are sick and tired of being lectured. They do not want to hear again what someone else believes the truth is. Americans feel competent in sorting the data and verifying the logic of any argument. They want convenient access to the relevant information. They yearn for a modern application allowing easy comparison of different points of view.

The money is not in telling the audience what one believes the truth is. It is in assisting people in fulfilling their inner desire to find out what the truth is for them.

Strictly speaking, not everyone who spends endless hours chatting about nothing on Facebook cares about finding the truth. But we have civilization because among us are enough people with the drive to learn and improve life. Disinformation impedes their abilities. Without them thriving, the future is hopeless.

The iPhone moment in media

A few recent technological developments have brought us many everyday conveniences and made our work more efficient, ergo made most of us richer, but none so much as the smartphone.

Now we know that engineers at major mobile phone manufacturers had prototypes of smartphones years earlier. Managers killed the idea. They saw the public fascination with the big-screen TVs and the industry’s chase to make cellular phones as small as possible. They could not imagine why people would want awkwardly large mobile phones with inconveniently small screens.

Steve Jobs saw an opportunity to turn a phone into a personal assistant; the rest is history.

One can see an analogy to the situation in media today. As those managers who killed the smartphone idea, the minds of today’s media leaders are locked in the concept of proclaiming the truth and shielding the audience from the alleged falsehood.

The truth is not a static revelation that needs professing and protection from challengers. It emerges from the never-ending process of us challenging what we know so far. The concept of the truth as it is dominating in the American media is false.

Unless we figure out a way to change it, the future of America is gloomy.

Leave a Reply

2 thoughts on “The future has the great past, but the present stands in the way

  1. Pingback: Can Medium be the next big thing in media? | Henryk A. Kowalczyk

  2. Pingback: Can Musk save Twitter? | Henryk A. Kowalczyk

About me

I was born in 1951 in Gdansk, Poland.
Since my high school years, I have interest in politics and love for writing. During my college years, I started writing to student papers and soon became a freelance author to major Polish political magazines.

In 1980 I wrote a book “Czy w Polsce może być lepiej?” (“Could it be better in Poland?” – this book is available only in Polish) analyzing major problems in Poland at the time and outlining possible solutions.

I was among those Polish political writers who by their writings contributed to the peaceful system transformation that finally took place in 1989. Since 1985, I have lived in the Chicago area. I went through the hard times typical of many immigrants. Working in the service business, I have seen the best and the worst places, I met the poorest and the richest. I have seen and experienced America not known to most of the politicians, business people, and other political writers. For eleven years, I ran my own company. Presently, I am an independent consultant.

My political writing comes out of necessity. I write when I see that the prevailing voices on the political arena are misleading or erroneous. Abstract mathematics and control theory (of complex technological processes) strongly influenced my understanding of social phenomena. In the past, my opponents rebuked my mathematical mind as cold, soulless, and inhuman. On a few occasions, I was prized for my engineer’s precision and logic.

I have a master’s degree in electronic engineering with a specialization in mathematical machines from Politechnika Gdańska (Technical University of Gdansk).

... more