Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘social sciences

Who is still Fighting for the Man?

Food aplenty for the few:

They are addicted to junk food.

Leftovers for the leftover of humanity;

Delicious: hungry

 

Fighting for the signs, given and wanted traits,

Thriving for characters of the beyond;

Fighting for the provocation of the ambient collective;

The objective environment and the living one;

The social, psychological, and family entities;

Fighting for the Man.

 

Toys aplenty for the few;

They are addicted to one-on-one machines.

Leftovers for the leftover of humanity;

 

A piece of paper and threads gets kites flying high; smiles even higher;

A couple of sticks get a team running and laughing;

An old makeshift ball got kids gamboling and shrieking with joy.

 

Fighting for the society of objects, consumer goods;

The historical environment, of body and soul;

The cosmic belonging, the instinctive thrust;

The defense of the ego and the taste to live;

The denying and utilization of the other;

Fighting for the Man.

 

Vaccines and antibiotics for the few;

Open heart surgery for the few;

They got to be ninety and end up in nursing homes.

 

Alone: the refuse of humanity.

Leftovers for the leftover of humanity;

Barely first generation antibiotics dispatched to them;

They don’t get to live long,

They were Not meant to live long.

 

Their young memory didn’t erase the fresh good time.

They die within their community and among parents.

 

Fighting for the nutritional instinct, sexuality,

The race, age, gender, and life;

Variations in metabolism, language of the forms,

The sick body and the domesticated body;

The presence and ascendancy of the other.

 

Fighting for the Man.

Spaces and green horizons for the few;

They are addicted to tiny cubicles in overcrowded megalopolis.

Leftovers for the leftover of humanity;

Wind, dust, eroded land, dry earth,

A shade under an old resilient tree out in the nowhere;

A trickle of water of a drying source;

Crying babies, skeletal babies, over-stretched stomachs;

And white carcasses dotting the parched landscape.

 

Fighting for the emotive duality, the emotive matrix,

The emotive root of characters;

Getting a grip on the conscious, rhythm, perseverance;

Space and living duration;

The I, here, and now; in extension, in tension, and in intention;

Generosity and avarice.

 

Fighting for the Man.

Homes, gardens, and highways for the few;

They are addicted to driving and drinking.

Leftovers for the leftover of humanity;

Trekking for hundreds of miles for a handful of food;

Bare foot, crackling skin, sore dried up eyes;

To reach one of those Blue Tents

Erected and tended by romantic hearts.

 

Fighting for accepting reality;

Refusing reality, imaginary refusal;

The real, irrational and the surreal;

 

Carnal intelligence, dramatic intelligence,

Dialogue, rational arguments, democracy, discrimination,

The master action, the power of deciding,

The struggling with obstacles,

The greatness and misery of the will;

 

Fighting for the Man.

A car accident, a mugging,

A child left unattended, locked in a car,

A dog, a cat, an iguana for the few.

One million widowed, two millions disappeared,

Three millions refugees,

Four millions disabled in pre-emptive wars,

To depose a dictator here, a tough-minded leader there.

 

Five millions orphans, dislocated institutions and social fabrics;

Fifty thousands incarcerated:

Potential terrorists, with no hope for legal due processes,

For the leftover of humanity.

 

Fighting for the moral character, the moral act,

The religious expression of moral limitation;

Comprehending the Man is a science;

Far more complex and exhilarating of sciences

Than inanimate physical sciences.

 

You don’t need to be neutral in human behavioral sciences,

Just be plainly unbiased.

You don’t need to be odorless and insipid in social sciences;

I have got to be fighting for the Man!

 

I created a new graduate course for students about ready to start finding a PhD proposal.  The idea was to facilitating the task in matter of topics that a student might feel more inclined to selecting for further investigation.  The purpose was initiating graduate students to openly extending feedback to their colleagues and to learn asking the right questions.  The method was getting aware of the various scientific methods available in approaching and resolving problems.

The course intended for each student to researching four topics, among peer-reviewed articles:  Two in different engineering or scientific disciplines and two in social sciences fields of study.  Each topic will be followed up by another supporting or related subject article to be presented in each session.  The final two sessions were reserved for the presentation of a definite topic that students have decided for submitting draft proposals.  That proposal had nothing to do with the advisor’s line of research, but the student would greatly benefit if he shared his interest with his advisor.

There are a few graduate students who directly resume and build upon their MS thesis, saving many years of searching and suffering.  Those particular students were welcomed and encouraged to enroll in the class:  The only condition is that the “potential proposal” presented in the last two sessions should be different from the proposed thesis.  The rational is for a graduate student to learn flexibility in focusing on several topics of research:  The opportunity for that kind of research diversity and availability of alternative perspectives will be rare to come by in a “professional environment” later on.

I got the phone numbers of students and did call them during the semester to follow-up on their academic progress and behaviors.  Students were not forbidden to calling me up:  I lack time and resources for additional tasks that end up within the psychological domain of expertise.

For example, two days after each session, I would reserve an hour to calling up the students with sample questions such as: “Did you find an article? What is the title? You don’t remember the title then you may fill me on the subject matter.  You cannot because you had no time to browse through the article?  What if the day before the session you realized that the title was misleading?  What if the article does not involve any experiment?  You have a few more important courses to focus on?  Define me what is “more important”….

In the first session, I distributed sample articles in many fields, disciplines, and experimental methods.  The articles were distributed in random to students.  I select one student to read his selected article to class.  Actually, every session requires a student to reading to class.

The next session is basically a “looking dumb” experiment:  First, all students were confused explaining new topics they were not familiar with; second, they had no idea what kind of questions to ask that made sense to them; and third, the most important factor, every student was considering the backlash of the other students when his turn comes to present his article.  The student is saying: “If I ask corny questions then, the other students will get their revenge and harass me pretty good.  Let me go through this course in the most advantageous peace of mind.”

Fact is, most students have not be exposed to any kind of “experimental design” courses; they had no idea what is meant by dependent variables, independent variables, control variables, or confounding variable…  The students manipulated equations for years but have no idea what they are manipulating and how to discriminate among the variables.  Students sat in lab courses and still have no idea of experimental methods.

The students are smart, but the logic for designing experiment and controlling variables or factors is not familiar to them:  This logic requires training and frequent initiations.  I tend to believe that knowledge of designing experiments is the basic common denominator method in sciences, whether hard or soft sciences.  I am bewildered that most engineering and scientific fields do not require a single course in the logic or philosophy of designing experiments.  How can any professional comprehend articles outside his domain if he is not initiated to designing experiments?

I gave more weight to social sciences articles because they were sources of demonstrating the far more complex experiments that social scientist are confronted with:  The hundreds of human variables to control in order not to end up with confounding results that ruin months of assiduous work.

Most probably, my course was designed to initiate students on methods of designing experiments before it is too late when approaching their thesis:  It is a way of encouraging the students to enrolling in “design of experiments” courses, even if not required (which was generally the case in engineering and sciences).

I used to retain two students after each session and give them each an article to read.  The following session delivers what I expected:  half the follow-up articles were identical to the one I handed the two students with comical excuses of how they related to their original topic.

The third session was meant to overcoming barriers erected between the presenter and the other students.  Anyway, one of the main objectives of this course is asking openly the right questions with the purpose of comprehending another topic and learning to focus on the presentation instead of worrying on “when is my turn and how stupid will I look?”  This objective must be the hardest to achieving and the most useful, if successful, to a professional career.

Note:  This post is a fictional short story on teaching methods.

Idiosyncrasy in “experiments”; (Dec. 30, 2009)

Idiosyncrasy or cultural bias related to “common sense” behavior (for example, preferential priorities in choices of values, belief systems, and daily habits) is not restricted among different societies: it can be found within one society, even within what can be defined as “homogeneous restricted communities” ethnically, religiously, common language, gender groups, or professional disciplines.

Most disciplines (scientific or pseudo-scientific) have mushroomed into cults, with particular terminologies and nomenclature:  They want to impress the non-initiated into believing that they have serious well-developed methods or excellent comprehension of a restricted area in sciences.

The initiated on multidisciplinary knowledge recognizes that the methods of any cult are old and even far less precise or developed than perceived; that the terms are not new and there are already analogous terms in other disciplines that are more accurate and far better defined.

Countless experiments have demonstrated various kinds of idiosyncrasies. Thus, this series on idiosyncrasies.  I have already published one on “conjectures” in mathematics.

This article is intended to compare the kind of controlled experiments that are applied by scientists in (natural science), such as physical natural phenomena, engineering… and those developed by scientists dealing with the behavior of people or employing human participants in the experiments (psychology, sociology, economics, or education).

Although the physical sciences, such as all the branches in physics and chemistry…, used controlled experimentation long time ago, in order to develop the huge body of knowledge on the natural phenomena, it was the social and psychological sciences that tried to develop the appropriate and complex statistical modeling packages in order to study the more complex and more varied human behaviors.

It appears that the restricted and countable number of variables in studying the physical nature, and their relative lack of variability with time, did not encourage the physical scientists to contemplate sophisticated statistical models for their controlled experiments, or even to teaching the design of experiments in the engineering curriculum.

Before we expand on the variability of human behaviors it might be more appropriate to analyze the most critical difference in the two sciences. Knowing that any concept is synonymous with the corresponding necessary set of operations in order to be able to measure it scientifically in experiments, we can understand the big leap forward of the body of knowledge in natural sciences compared to the social and psychological sciences.

Whereas the physical scientists can define the concepts of force, moment, power and the like through the relationships of measurable variables based on length, time, and mass the scientists investigating human behaviors have to surmount that hurdle before seriously contemplating to measure human concepts.

Human behavior and the cognitive concepts of attitudes, mental abilities, and moods, problem solving mechanisms, perception, and the like cannot be measured scientifically until sets of operations are agreed on, for each one of these concepts, through the study of human activities or the things that people do while performing a valid task or a set of purposeful tasks.

For example, saying that color blindness is a deficiency that confuses colors will not cut it; what is needed are a set of instances that could define this illness such as what exactly are the colors of the spectrum with mixtures of two primary colors can a “protanope” (color blind individual) match that are different from normal people, he will confuse a blue-green color with white or gray, will confuse red, orange, yellow, yellow-green, and green when suitable brightness and saturation of these colors are used, and has reduced visibility in the red end of the spectrum.

Two decades ago the air force in the USA contracted out groups of psychologists and human factors professionals to specifically establish a set of operations that could be submitted to potential airplane fighters to measure and evaluate their capabilities for the mental and perception workload needed for the job.

This set of ten or twelve operations measuring short term memory capacity, reaction times, computational abilities, attention span, and types of errors committed in each operation is the kind of hurdles that the study of human behavior have to surmount.

The operation measurements of a single human concept may be a life project for a group of scientists that require secure and continuing funding from concerned parties who have vested interests in thorough study of the concept.  It is obvious that a few human concepts will enjoy deeper and more complete investigations than others.

Maybe because the physical scientists did not face the problems of establishing sets of operations that the method of controlled experimentation was not deemed essential enough to rigorously teach in high school programs, and ultimately failed to initiate the students to the experimental methods.

Social sciences made significant in-roads into the educational programs in the last decade.  This lack of early initiation of students to experimental methodology might also be the main reason why rational thinking and the experimental mind is not that widespread throughout all societies and are just confined to the privileged who could afford higher education at select universities.

Physical scientists rely on equipment to “objectively” observe and measure, and the more the equipment are precise the more accurate are the data.  Scientists of human behavior have to rely on people’s responses and observations.

It has been proven that man is Not a good observer of complex events; even when viewers are forewarned that they are to see a movie about a crime, and that they are to answer questions about details later on the accuracy of the observation, subjects were discovered not to be that accurate.

Man is unable to be an objective recorder of the events that transpire because he gets involved in the scene actions.  Man has a very narrow range of attention and barely can satisfactorily attend to a couple of stimuli. This observation deficiency is compounded by our sensory differences and illusions; for example, one in sixteen is color blind, many suffer from tone deafness, taste blindness and so on.

Man does not think of himself objectively but rather has convictions, feelings, and explanations based on very restricted experiences, hearsay  memories and he tends to generalize and develop a set of beliefs concerning the operation of the mind (idiosyncrasies).

Man usually expects to see, and then see what he wants to see, and hardly deviates from his beliefs, even when faced with facts.  For example, many scientists have overlooked obvious data because they clanged to their hypotheses and theories.

Man has to generate an abundance of reliable information and assimilate them before he could eliminate a few systematic biases that he acquired from previous generations and his personal experiences.  Consequently, experimenting with people is more complex and more difficult than the physical scientists or engineers have to cope with.

First, there are no design drawings for people’s mind and behavior as engineers are familiar with because the structure of human organisms is approximately delineated and the mechanisms are imperfectly understood.

Second, people vastly differ in anthropocentric dimensions, cognitive abilities, sensory capabilities, motor abilities, personalities, and attitudes.  Thus, the challenge of variability is different from physics where phenomena behave in stable fashions, are countable, and can be controlled with minimal management.

Third, people change with time; they change in dimensions, abilities and skills as well as from moment to moment attributable to boredom, fatigue, lapse of attention, interactions among people and with the environment.  People deficiencies in senses, physical abilities and cognitive capabilities changes with time and thus, the techniques of selecting subjects have to account for the differences in age, gender, specific deficiencies, training, educational levels, communication skills, and incentives to participate in an experiment.

Fourth, the world is constantly changing and systems used by people are changing accordingly.  Thus, interfaces for designing jobs, operations and environment have to be revisited frequently to account for new behavior and trends.

Fifth, everyone feels is an expert about human behavior on the basis of common sense acquired from life and specific experiences and we tend to generalize our feelings to all kinds of human behaviors but not so expert in the fundamentals of natural sciences such as physics or chemistry.

We think that we have convictions concerning the effects of sleep, dreams, age, and fatigue; we believe that we are rather good judges of people’s motives, we have explanations for people’s good memories and abilities, and we have strong positions on the relative influence of nature and nurture in shaping people’s behavior.  Consequently, the expertise of psychologists and human factors professionals are not viewed as based on science.

Six, physical scientists may enjoy the possibility of “testing to destruction” of prototypes or the materials under study, a luxury that experiments on people forbid or are impossible to do outside the safety range allowed by moral standards, laws, and regulations.  Research on people has to circumvent this major difficulty by using dummies, animals, or willing subjects thoroughly aware and educated to the dangers of the procedures.

Seventh, research on people is regulated by privacy laws and concepts such as consciousness, mental images, fatigue, and motives are highly personal experiences and not open to public inspection while science must be a public affair and repeatable by other researchers.

Consequently, human and social sciences developed terminologies that natural scientists cannot comprehend.  For a experimental natural scientists a variable is a variable.  What is on the left hand side of an equation is the data and what are on the right hand sides are variables and coefficients.

For social scientist you have dependent variables (data), independent variables (factors, manipulated variables, within group variables, between group variables, confounding variables, control variables, treatment variables, sub-group variables, and on).

Controlling an experiment in social sciences is a major project that requires months in preparations to eliminate biases related to people selections and material used by the subjects and the experimenter.

Social sciences have developed many “sophisticated” statistical analyses packages and each discipline prefers its own set of “experimental design” because the members are familiar with the interpretation of results and not because the experiments are pertinent or useful for practical usage.

Multidisciplinary studies are important for a university student to get clear on the many idiosyncrasies of disciplines and start reflecting seriously on what is objective, what is experiment, how valid are research results, how biased are research, and how to correctly interpret results and read scientific studies.

Producing a good reflecting “scientist’ is not an easy task; we are not searching for the appropriate equation but for a good formed scientific and empirical mind. Courses in experimental designs are fundamental even for philosophy students, especially in religious schools.

Article 25, September 11, 2005

“My pet project for undergraduate engineering curriculum”

My aim is to produce hybrid scientists or Human Factors engineers who have an undergraduate engineering discipline and a higher degree in experimental research and statistical analyses training and drawn from multidisciplinary social sciences so that they can be better positioned to handle research involving mathematical modeling of theories in sciences.

I believe that at least 6 courses should be included in any engineering field involved in system design, which are: “Human Factors” in 2 courses, “Design for inferential experiments” and “Structural linear equations modeling applying the statistical analytical package LISREL”, “Human performance”, “Systems risk assessments”,  and “Occupational safety and health”.

         It is advisable that engineering departments, architecture and any field involved in designing systems or subsystems, with the avowed mission of reducing errors committed by end users in the application and maintenance of their tasks, need to offer 3 required courses and three elective courses related to the factors that affect the performance of end users.

         These courses are meant mainly to designing interfaces between systems and end users, whether the latter are engineers, operators, workers, technicians or consumers, but they are also important for the designers of the systems to be cognizant of the problems related to the capabilities, limitations and behavior of end users who will ultimately brake or implement any well intentioned and best designed systems from textbook standards and processes.

        The first required Human Factors course would be an introduction to the basics in designing for people, the physical and cognitive capabilities and limitations of end users, the environmental and organizational factors that may affect performance and the physical/mental applications and methods for designing interfaces between systems and end users. 

       The second Human Factors course, which could be elective, would initiate designers to actually design an interface with the needed experiments relevant to validating the requirements and guidelines that foresee the compatibility of the system performance with the level of skills and training required by the end users. A designed interface would be accompanied by facilitating aids, procedures and functional booklets to enable end users for ready application.  

         The third course called “Design of experiments” is to initiate designers on efficient designed experiments that would save time, effort and money with the additional result of accounting for the interactions among all the factors under study and providing designers with facts that they could readily apply in their design endeavors. This course is not meant to dwell heavily on the mathematical bases for the statistical analysis which require another follow up course but to form scientific minds which can critically analyze research papers and the experimental procedures and encourage designers to start reading research papers and appreciating the materials that would form the basis for their continuing education.

         The fourth course called “Systems risk assessments” would initiate designers to the trade-off decisions of the safety and health risks on the users, environment and organizational structures in societies and the financial cost from the adoption of technologically complex alternative designs.

         The fifth course called “Occupational safety and health”, in addition to initiating the engineers on the laws and processes for a safe work place, will also encompass the concept of consumer’s product liability and forensic engineering. A designer needs to be familiar with the problems and consequences of his designs to the end users, their idiosyncrasies and cultural differences in using any product or manufacturing process design in an occupational setting.  The knowledge of the standards and applicable laws and guidelines for a safe and healthy manufacturing or processing plant can make a substantial difference among graduating engineers not only in their people communication skills and designing performance but also for later promotions in any administrative or organizational positions. 

            The sixth course “Human performance” is designed to providing the skills and training necessary to designing and evaluating the performance of interfaces. Examples of these skills include the development of written instructions, designing relevant questionnaires to assess the characteristics and training skills of target users and how well the interface is performing, designing performance aids to helping the short term memory of operators, formatting instructions and information, input data display formats, output formats, coding design, personnel selection, determining qualifications and any written or verbal technique or method necessary to testing, evaluating and quantifying operators’ performance.

            An informed engineering designer, who can define the limitations, skills and needs of the target users for his interface and who is trained early on in his academic years to the consequences of his tasks, may save end users from committing many foreseeable errors, greatly alleviate their physical and mental anguish, suffering, pain and inefficiency and thus save his sponsors time and money for later redesign undertaking.

            The afore mentioned courses, if offered in the first 2 years of the curriculum, might provide the undergraduate students with a different perspective toward the remaining core courses that enhance the seriousness of his responsibilities and the importance of his profession. 

I frankly cannot conceive of an engineer pursuing higher graduate studies without being exposed to the fundamental necessity of designing to target users.  Engineering is an applied science for practical human needs and not knowing the needs and behavior of target users then the engineer’s design endeavor might be flawed from the start.

Rationality Fraud: Can our leading minds pass Socrates’ dialogue test? (February 3, 2009)

This is a challenge to all the scientific and research communities. 

My contention is that over 75% of all scientists and researchers (in all natural sciences, all social sciences, all human sciences, and all engineering fields) lack the experimental mind. 

I propose this simple test:

1. Submit to the subjects three peer reviewed research articles from a field different from his research or professional discipline. 

2. Test the subject on his comprehension and interpretation for each research paper.  To be more specific: test his general knowledge on the experimental design, his correct discrimination among the various variables and factors (dependent, independent, control and confounding variables), his interpretations of the graphs and statistical results and what practical design suggestions he can extract from the paper. 

The objective of the investigation is not merely to guarantee valid results and accurate interpretations; it is to guarantee that the leading minds of our communities can pass Socrates’ dialogue test for sound rational societies and policy making. 

If what I said is still not clear then please read my article for new angles and the basis of my challenge.

An Experimental mind

 

I recall my advisor telling me once in frustration “At your age I was professor and had raised a family“. 

I didn’t need this reminder to comprehend my desperate situation: I am just plainly stubborn with no imaginations on earning money. 

These long years in a PhD program, the specialty of Human Factors in industrial engineering, at the age 35 to 41, should be considered a waste of time for any career-minded student, but they were valuable for my mind: I was exposed to the methods and vocabulary of five other disciplines in various departments. I think that I acquired an experimental mind, a mind that not many could claim to explicitly have. 

When someone asks “how” (the mechanical process or procedure),

1. it is usually tacitly understood that he comprehend the why and what of the subject matter or the system;

2. that he knows all the factors and variables that may affect the outcome of a system, including the human element within the system. 

Maybe a practicing or a professional knows his particular system (as engineers learn), but the fundamental question remains “has he acquired the generalized method and rationality to investigate systems outside his discipline?” 

I know what I am talking about, but the difficulty is to express and disseminate the problem. 

I have taught engineers who had no understanding for discriminating among variables such as dependent, independent, or controlling variables.

You think that they implicitly know how to differentiate among the variables; wrong, they don’t. Even after three sessions, coupled with examples they were still in the dark and still wondering what is all the fuss about.

You think that they can interpret graphs, extract wealth of information and comprehend pages of written materials from one meaningful graph, they generally cannot.  

I can testify that 30% of my engineer classes could not read; another 30% could not understand what they read.  It was a pleasure to educate a couple of good minds.  I have written several articles on that subject in my category “Professional articles” for further detailed clarification.

Worst, undergraduate engineers are almost never exposed to research papers.  Most Master’s graduates barely comprehend or interpret correctly research papers. 

Graduates join the “work force” of the rational minds practically illiterate. They cannot resume any continuation learning programs for a simple reason: they are illiterate in reading and comprehending research papers.

My contention is this.  If you acquired an experimental mind, you should be eligible to comprehend any field of study by reading the research papers in the field. 

The major contraption devised my professions to discriminate among one another is a flimsy mask targeted in changing the technical terms and vocabulary; a secret ritual inherited from ancient times to creating castes of literates.

Other than that, the experimental methodology is fundamentally the same.  When you acquire an experimental mind then all disciplines are one course away; you need to learn the slang, a new language that sound familiar, but with terms that have different meanings and connotations. 

The ultimate goal in teaching is for every university graduating mind to be trained to comprehend research papers of other disciplines.

 

The “eminent” minds of Athens needed the stamp of approval of Socrates’ rational mind; they submitted to his dialogue test; an interview on the investigative and coherent experimental methods of the proclaimed leaders of Athens; most failed the test.  Socrates was put to death because Socrates failed Athens’ Gods of ignorance.

Our scientific communities could be failing the dialogue test; our schools and universities are not graduating experimental minds.  No wonder war zones, famine, apartheid, and genocides are still the landmark of our modern times.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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