June 23, 2007

How good does it get? (4) - Fluctuation and progress

Thus far in this thread, I have argued that life cannot do without tension and problems (see here, here and here) and that Utopian circumstances will never exist (I also pointed this our here: Good enough is the goal). However, this ubiquity of tensions and problems does NOT mean that life is doomed to be miserable and tragic. I like what Chris Peterson, author of A Primer in Positive Psychology would say to people who think this: "Even if everything sucks, some things suck more than others, an irrefutable fact given how people actually behave if not what they say. We prefer some outcomes rather than others, pursue some goals rather than others, and desire some emotional states rather than others. Whether we label these preferred circumstances "positive" or "less sucky" then becomes a matter of semantics." What Peterson points at is what I tried to explain is this post: When and where can you find solutions?. This visual shows that many phenomena in complex systems constantly fluctuate. Sometimes things will be worse, sometimes they will be better. I believe however, we can add an element of gradual progress to these fluctuations. By analogy, I'd like to use of share price fluctuation here. If you look at share price fluctuation over a relatively brief period of time, you will often perceive what seems to be a rather random fluctuation. The price goes up and down and there may seem to be no overall growth (view example). When using a wider view by looking at a longer time period, you notice that share prices of and index on average usually steadily grow over time (view example). I believe this element of progress is crucial for finding meaning and gratification in life. In a later post, I'll go into how progress over time may be built.



  1. I think that's one thing I've truly gained a useful understanding of from learning about SF - things do fluctuate. In "Don't Believe Everything You Think" by Thomas Kida, he explains how not realizing that things fluctuate can lead to biases in thinking. It can lead to people thinking sham treatments work because they may try one of these treatments when they are at the peak of pain. Well, it's likely that after any above average experience there will be below average experiences - a statistical fact called regression to the mean - so a person in pain would experience a drop after their highest level of pain in many cases. If you try a new treatment and notice a pain drop, you may think it was caused by this new treatment (of course it could be caused by a placebo effect too).

    In any case, it's interesting to see how SF relates to principles of accurate thinking.



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