Storytelling Moral Survival System: Part 14 (suggestions)

We lose a lot when we use Boolean logic to understand Big T Truths.
We lose a lot when we use Boolean logic to understand Big T Truths.

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Technology has evolved from practical magic to mind-blowing magic during my lifetime. While I am deeply grateful that my brain developed without the influence of personal computers, my entire working life progressed through the stages of rapid technological advancement in real time. In the early 1980s, I combed through five- inch thick stacks of printouts with tables that cross-referenced metrics from primitive databases we called “mailing lists” that we rented to test selling strategies and assumptions. We tested the responsiveness of certain clustered demographics (personas) with a/b testing limited to mailed offers using deeply flawed tracking tools. If anyone can appreciate how machines learn by analyzing unstructured data, I can.

However, improvements in tracking and measurement improve accuracy that may not qualify as wisdom. Intelligence is a resource for being right. Wisdom is a resource for doing right. Systems designed to be right respond with kindness only if the expense of providing a kindness can be justified with measurable returns. Kindness, wisdom, and ethical decisions cost time and money that yield impossible to measure long-term collective returns. That means moral actions will never be fully justified with corporate metrics. Instead these metrics disrupt and re-categorize the expense of moral decisions – and morals can be very expensive—as unjustifiable expenses rather than worthy investments. The bottom line is that the high cost of protecting humanity from adverse events like pandemics and climate change will never “add up” as profitable on any single spreadsheet. Our survival depends on re-integrating moral reasoning into economic decisions.

I recommend storytellers keep two sets of books, one for easy-to-measure criteria and one to represent meaningful goals that cannot be measured. That way, we can pursue short-term metrics without forgetting that stories also produce long-range outcomes that are impossible to measure in meaningful terms. When we subject ourselves to systems that only fund measurable goals, transcendent moral goals like justice, equality, and human rights are left unfunded and people begin to feel isolated and unengaged.

Excerpt from Chapter 11, 3rd ed. of The Story Factor (2019)  AUDIBLE VERSION HERE


3 thoughts on “Storytelling Moral Survival System: Part 14 (suggestions)”

  1. Annette –

    I love your use of Venn diagrams and Boolean logic. It illustrates the truth that the assumptions and boundary conditions matter in any field of endeavor.

    Big T truths may encompass all, part, or none of those portions of the Venn diagram. Remember the Venn diagram exists inside a larger box that mathematicians call the Universe. Boolean algebra is merely a construct to work on certain portions of the Universe that are well defined and logically coherent. As you have pointed out many times, there are paradoxes that defy logical analyses and they are central to our being.

    Star Trek tried to wrestle with that problem through the half-human, half-Vulcan character Mr. Spock. Of course, they failed to rectify the paradox. OR DID THEY?


    1. LOL! Steve you crack me up. Spock was one of my favorite characters. Also Bones. So I’m under the impression that Boolean logic is the underpinning of all computer systems. The zeros and ones never end and never fail to reduce problems into chuncks small enough to be characertized as true/false. I was watching a documentary about George Boole and they told the story that his original work was designed to prove the existance of God. I guess he was a humble man.

      1. You are absolutely correct regarding computers reducing everything to ones and zeros. That’s one of the reasons why the boundary conditions matter so much.

        I wasn’t aware of his trying to prove the existence of God, but he wouldn’t be the first or last to try to use logic to either prove or disprove the existence of God. So whether you go with him or Voltaire, you will be in esteemed company as you fail.

        I’m not deliberately trying to crack you up, but I do get a certain pleasure from it. I look at it as validating part of your rationale for the power and necessity of Story from one who comes at the world from a dramatically different experience. It’s nice to know that you can arrive at a place with others who took a different path. It makes the world a less lonely place. And isn’t that the whole point?

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