Wednesday 31 January 2018

Nine Ladies

During our walk yesterday we passed the Nine Ladies on Stanton Moor.

A small early Bronze Age stone circle traditionally believed to depict nine ladies turned to stone as a penalty for dancing on Sunday. It is part of a complex of prehistoric circles and standing stones on Stanton Moor.

This was the first time for many years that I've been able to photograph the stones. Usually there is someone sitting on one of them or kids playing around them. Yesterday the place was deserted. One advantage of winter walking I suppose.

Tuesday 30 January 2018

Neolithic News

The Looming Peak Flint Fiasco
By our environment correspondent Ug Nariad

Peak flint anyone? We are all familiar with flint utensils, they are part of our daily lives, but for how long? That is the concern of an overwhelming number of flint academics. They point out that our reliance on dwindling flint resources highlight just how precarious our lives really are.

From scrapers to axes, from arrow heads to hair trimmers, our dependence on flint has exhibited unsustainable growth over recent generations. There is mounting evidence that dependence on flint cannot continue indefinitely. Our entire clan is edging ever closer to a catastrophic tipping point where the supply of flint simply runs out. Only this morning on my usual stroll to the lake I didn’t stub my toes on a single piece of flint. All gone.

Flint academics have devised ingenious spells and incantations to predict the effects of indiscriminate flint use. Firstly of all the sheer scale of flint consumption is mind numbing. Within a normal life each of us may use more flint than an adult can safely carry. To put this finding in more precise terms, that amounts to a lot of flint in quite a long time.

This is simply not sustainable say the academics, but unfortunately their wisdom has been challenged by a few fanatical flintists, some of whom now advocate an even less sustainable technology - bronze. This the flintists claim will replace flint so we should not be concerned about flint running out. Flintists base their entire argument on something they refer to as staying alive.

Needless to say, bronze is even less sustainable than flint because it uses up such a lot of fire and where will all the fire come from when we’ve used it all up making so-called bronze? Not only that, but a single bronze axe head can cost as much as an entire pig. Bronze is shiny claim its proponents and although shiny has enormous appeal we should not blind ourselves to the obvious drawbacks.

The only truly sustainable resource is of course the stick. Sticks grow from the earth and they return to the earth, a mystical cycle which goes on and on until the Great Bog rises up and we all sink into Bog Heaven. The stick is Brown, the earth is Brown. Hardly likely to be a coincidence as flintists try to claim. We Browns have recognised the importance of Brown for some time and as well as advocating Brown lifestyles have embraced the stick as the only truly sustainable resource. Sticks can do anything flint can do apart from cutting, piercing and not breaking.

Recent stick developments have greatly assisted us in promoting the Brown message against powerful vested interests who claim they don’t want to die. We are back to that tired old staying alive mantra which they tediously claim is incompatible with abandoning their addiction to flint and embracing the stick. For these die-hard flintists, Brown is a step too far, however enlightened it clearly is for the longer term.

What about the future, what about the future of our children? This is the unanswerable Brown question and it is a powerful one in spite of the enormous forces behind flintist propaganda. Not only that, but we now have to contend with bronze propagandists who clearly expect to stay alive more easily by adopting a wholly unsustainable bronze culture.

Something we can all do here is to lobby our clan elders, promoting the Brown message and the Brown path of hope for the future. We must not be forced into the position of allowing mere hunger to divert us from fundamental Brown virtues. Stick technology works. Each season sticks will become ever more available until sooner or later flint addicts will have to admit that the future is ours, the future is Brown.

Monday 29 January 2018

Cate at Davos

By making himself, almost in his entirety, the medium of his art, the actor is morally diminished, and as little of him remains in his work, when this is good, as of his work in history. He lends himself without interest, and after being Brutus at one moment and Falstaff at another, he is not more truly himself. He is abolished by his creations, which nevertheless cannot survive him.

George Santayana - The Life of Reason (1905-1906)

As many will know, Cate Blanchett was a Davos attendee airing her concerns about the global refugee problem. Fair enough and she may be a fine person for all I know, but her overall campaigning ethos comes across as little more than an off the shelf script. Refugees, climate change, feminism and so on.

It feels inappropriate too – inviting a person who has made a career of pretending to be someone else, but maybe there is no point being snarky about that. It happens and it will happen again because this is how things are done, how publicity is done.

A more sinister point stems from an extended version of Santayana’s fascinatingly grim observation. Many may reject the observation as roles are so close to what we are and maybe what we admire. However, we do run a risk of being morally diminished by the roles we play, particularly if playing the role is all there is to do. However much we put into a role, we never own it and when we are gone it remains for someone else to play. In Santayana’s terms - we are abolished by our creations which nevertheless cannot survive us.

Sunday 28 January 2018



As we have been told a number of times, Donald Trump hasn't received an invitation to Prince Harry's first wedding. Ha - tweet your way out of that Mr Trump.

Come to think of it, I haven't received one either. Could be a mistake.

Saturday 27 January 2018

Friday 26 January 2018

Drifting away

Busy at the moment so limited posting. We attended a funeral today, an old family friend who was almost our last link with our parents' generation - the WWII generation one might call it. It leaves a strong sense of something good and worthwhile which has almost drifted away now.

Wednesday 24 January 2018

This online world


I wonder how long this blog will continue to receive hits from online V i a g r a outfits? Since using the word 'gender' in two post titles there has been a flurry of them. Could be a coincidence of course. This online world is pretty strange at times.

Monday 22 January 2018

Shelter in’t mill

Yesterday it snowed all morning. Light stuff which settled as a thin, damp layer but enough to keep many people indoors. We hate staying indoors all day whatever the weather, so by early afternoon we were off to Masson Mill.

Sir Richard Arkwright’s Masson Mill was built in the 18th century on the banks of the River Derwent at Matlock Bath, and reflected the grandeur of its river gorge setting.

Masson Mill was the only Arkwright mill to use the Derwent, a power source ten times greater than his first mill at Cromford.

The mill site now houses a shopping village, a restaurant, conference facilities and a textile museum with historic working machinery.

In spite of the weather, driving along the Derwent valley was almost enjoyable. Road conditions were slushy but not too bad on the main roads. Light snow, low grey cloud and a pervasive mist turned familiar hills and woods into stark black and white vista which was not unappealing from inside a warm car. Not a beautiful snowy landscape perhaps, but the chill bleakness of it was certainly atmospheric.

We used to take Granddaughter to the mill because she enjoyed the soft play area and we had time for a coffee in the large cafe. Not our favourite place, but it is an easy journey, easy parking and by early afternoon yesterday's weather had reduced our options. When we arrived there were only two other people in the cafe, the snowy weather having killed off what would usually be a brisk Sunday trade. We sat by the window overlooking the brown turbulent water of a fast-flowing river Derwent – the reason the mill was built in the first place.

Although the mill is now a shopping centre selling inexpensive clothes, household goods and giftware, there is no disguising what it once was. Overhead metal beams, metal pillars and many odds and ends from a long industrial past leave the visitor in no doubt about that. In the basement there is a museum with regular demonstrations of an old power loom. To my mind the loom demonstrate the noise they made as much as the cloth they wove. Visitors are invited to imagine hundreds of looms all clattering away together. It isn’t easy – one loom was loud enough for me.

Adams, in his "Gem of the Peak"' (1840) said that Masson Mill 'is replete with the improved machinery employed in making cotton thread'. He also described the night time view as 'exceedingly imposing. The spacious mill, with its hundred lights reflecting on the river and the thick foliage, mingling the din of wheels with the noise of the waterfall. Source

Working conditions at the mill must have been dire, but yesterday I recalled the bleak, snowy hillsides outside. Life as a farm labourer would probably have been worse. In winter the mill must have seemed warm, sheltered and almost comfortable by comparison.

Sunday 21 January 2018

Feckless opinions

In a modern democracy where most lives are tolerably comfortable, is it possible to have a rational electorate? Do we need the stimulus of privation to make democracy work rationally? Once privation has gone do we become democratically feckless?

One of our major problems is that so many middle class people have political opinions which entail no personal risk. They seem silly because they are, but they are not personally risky in the short to medium term. What risk there is tends to fall upon other people, mostly poor people and those with uncertain employment prospects such as the young. Hardly surprising if we see things through the lens of self-interest because that is human nature, but what value should we place on the political opinions of people with no skin in the game? 

Political life seems to have reached a stage where huge numbers of middle class people are virtually isolated from economic and social realities in spite of fashionable claims to the contrary, often centred on supposed concerns for minorities. The situation is particularly marked in large swathes of the public sector with its secure employment and generous pension provisions. I know, I was there.

Such people can afford to be politically radical because there are virtually no personal consequences for modern radicals. Radicalism has always been something of an indulgence for those in a comfortable situation, but when the indulgence catches on and becomes fashionable we have a problem. A few trite phrases about equality, immigration and racism, endless demands for the government to do something, a spot of recycling, a vegetarian cookery book, some finger-pointing and a basic knowledge of political fashions will do. There is absolutely no risk of being called to the barricades.

Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May are good examples, particularly Mr Corbyn, a middle class radical in comfortable circumstances who has enjoyed a long and fecklessly radical political career with never a hint of personal risk. If anything the risk of an undistinguished career seems to be one he welcomed rather than regretted. The safety of radical impotence seems to have been his preferred option until quite recently and even party leadership was not something he actively engineered. Even that development is safer than it seems now a comfortable retirement is his for the taking.

Mr Corbyn cannot possibly cause himself any personal harm however much damage he may do if voters are as politically feckless as he is and usher him into No 10. If his past is any guide then he may have no desire to be Prime Minister anyway but that may be a question for the future. He has no skin in the game. His political ideology and promises are worth less than nothing.

Mrs May is in much the same position. It hardly matters to her personally if Brexit succeeds or fails. She will always live her life in comfortable circumstances well beyond the aspirations of the vast majority of voters.

Of course this is not a problem we can resolve, but useful experience outside politics could go some way to mitigate it. Successful people outside the political bubble are less likely to disregard the prospect of failure and more likely to care about outcomes. As far as our current political class is concerned failure hardly matters one way or the other - it doesn't really affect them.  It doesn't affect far too many voters either. Not yet.

Saturday 20 January 2018

Adult gender confusion

Cafes are interesting places, good for people-watching and who doesn’t enjoy a spot of that every now and then? For example, the other day Mrs H encountered a chap in the ladies toilets – presumably a man who identified as female. At least that was what Mrs H assumed from his clothes and physical appearance - she has a sharp eye for these things.

Identified? An intensely fashionable but strange use of the word ‘identified’ I always think. Although the toilet lurker seemed to be a chap who identified as female, Mrs H identified him as male. A rather more correct identification I suspect. From her account of his appearance most women would have made the same identification – most real women that is.

The trouble is, although one may wish to be fashionably accommodating, it is not obvious why we should identify people incorrectly merely on their say-so. Children do it when playing their games of make-believe, but adults are supposedly made of sterner stuff. Not all adults obviously.

There is a politeness angle of course. If one knows such a person personally then it may be polite to go along with their self-adjusted gender but apart from that I don’t see why the rest of us should join in political games of let’s pretend. We do enough of that as it is.

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Childhood gender confusion

Mercatornet has an interesting piece on children suffering from ‘gender dysphoria’ written by Dr John Whitehall, Professor of Paediatrics at Western Sydney University. He describes this trend as a "behavioural fad" and even in the absence of personal experience I'm inclined to believe him.

Childhood gender dysphoria is described as the distress associated with persistent, insistent and resistant identification by a child with the gender of the opposite sex. No one knows why this occurs: there is no proven biological or psychological cause. It is not a new phenomenon. Rare cases are on record from years past.

But now children are reported to be suffering in numbers which are increasing exponentially every year. Protagonists argue that, in the past, the phenomenon was hidden by social attitudes but that, now, access to the internet is providing confidence for children and parents to declare membership in the ranks of the ‘gender fluid’.

Its rarity, however, was confirmed for me, a paediatrician of over 50 years experience, when I polled 28 of my colleagues and found only 12 cases could be re-called from a total experience of 931 years. In 10 of these cases there was severe mental co-morbidity: the other 2 were associated with severe sexual abuse.

I believe this modern phenomenon represents a behavioural fad which is spreading through the community in a contagious manner, fanned by an uncritical and enthusiastic media, and given direction by websites and such governmental directives as the so-called ‘safe schools programme’. The problem obviously affects children but also, strange to say, parents, especially some mothers who seem prone to become so enmeshed they emerge as cheer leaders in the transition of their offspring.

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Cold but -

Our walk took in Middleton Moor today. Lots of mud and up on the moor the wind was bitterly cold, but look at that blue sky. To my mind this is one of the great attractions of winter. There is nothing quite so exhilarating as a bright cold day with distant views to please the wind-blown eye.  

Monday 15 January 2018

Leave it to the inmates

Do you ever think about taking a break from political battles? Are you tempted to brush aside all those fatuous opinions disguised as news and explore other issues? There is no shortage of alternatives to stretch the mind – it doesn’t have to be politics, politics, politics. Are you tempted to take a holiday from the madness which never seems to subside even for the briefest moment? I am.

Politics is a rum game anyway. So many sects, parties, fake solutions, fake news, fake campaigns, fake ideals, dismal slogans, infantile mantras and pointing fingers, yet they all seem much the same to this outsider and that stirs up a thought or two.

The overall political game, whatever its flavour seems to be one where outsiders are always looking in, trying to make sense of the asylum merely by gazing through the windows. No sensible person wants to step inside. Sensible people seem more inclined to reject a political outlook in favour of something more pragmatic and no so much rooted in the sterile soil of political mantra.

It is almost as if the main political choice we all face is whether or not to enter the asylum in the first place. Yet what we are supposed to do on the outside? Not much of a choice really. Leave it to the inmates? Doesn't work does it?

Saturday 13 January 2018

Coffee Logs


I recently bought a pack of coffee logs from the local garden centre for use in the wood burner. These are artificial logs made from compressed coffee grounds. Very expensive but I hoped for a faint aroma of coffee while burning.

Testing almost complete. They burn well and give off lots of heat, but no coffee aroma while burning. Just a whiff of coffee left on the fingers after handling the things. An imaginative idea I thought, but at about £1100 per tonne typically environmental - expensive with no real advantages. I'm burning the last few as I write.

Friday 12 January 2018

Trump and those pays de merde

Oh dear whatever next? Donald Trump is alleged to have poked yet another stick at Newspeak enthusiasts. From the BBC

US President Donald Trump has sparked outrage after he was reported to have used crude language to describe foreign countries in an Oval Office meeting.

Mr Trump said he did not say "anything derogatory" about Haitians and appeared to deny calling any countries "shitholes", as was reported, generating a worldwide backlash.

However Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said Mr Trump used "racist" language.

The president did call some African nations "shitholes", he said.

 A blunder? I don't think so. I wonder if Trump plays chess? Whether he said it or not this feels like another move in the game, one that is bound to stick if I may use the expression. Why is it bound to stick? Everyone knows why.

Around the world, journalists reporting in other languages faced the question of how to translate what Mr Trump had said.

  • In French, headlines featured "pays de merde", using the expletive to refer to the countries but without the word "hole"
  • In Spanish, "países de mierda" was used, similar to the French, as well as "países de porquería", which means "trash countries"
  • In German, "Drecksloch" , which literally means dirt hole but like the word used by Mr Trump is considered vulgar
  • In Dutch, one newspaper used "achterlijk" (backward) as its headline
  • In Japanese, a word that translates as "outdoor toilet" was used
  • In Portuguese, one outlet used a word that translates as 'pigsty', while others translated the quote literally

Thursday 11 January 2018

Off to Davos


His robust pride prevented him from experiencing any discouragement, but he was always irritated, and in that state of exaltation, at the same time factitious and natural, which is characteristic of comedians.

Gustave Flaubert - Sentimental Education (1869)

Wednesday 10 January 2018

The flying whale

In order to form an idea of an unknown situation our imagination borrows elements that are already familiar and for that reason does not form any idea of it.

Marcel Proust - À la recherche du temps perdu

Proust was an extraordinary chap. He wrote an absolutely enormous tome of a novel, but within that vast mountain range of words he scattered some of the most succinct insights one could ever wish for.

Suppose we concoct a commonplace example of the above quote. Imagine a whale swimming along just beneath the surface of the sea minding its own business. Doesn’t matter which kind, any whale will do but let us imagine a whacking great big one, an entirely whale-like whale.

Imagine our whale cruising sedately along as they do - then suddenly and with unexpected grace it takes to the air like some monstrous bird. One minute it is swimming in the ocean like any other well-behaved aquatic mammal but the next minute finds it swimming through the air fifty feet above the waves as if the air has become its natural element. 

The ocean is so last year my dear.

Impossible of course, but we can imagine it. At least I can and I trust I’m not alone in such a trivial accomplishment. Yet the image of a flying whale doesn’t even make sense because it would violate a number of scientific laws. Yet even though it doesn’t make sense we can imagine it. We can imagine lots of things which don’t make sense, it’s one of the things we do rather well. It can be entertaining but there are drawbacks.

Imagine a leader of a major political party, a long time member of the legislature with no government experience because this person has always lurked on the periphery, disdaining the various responsibilities which come with governing and making decisions. Imagine this political leader is past the normal retirement age so learning the complexities of government are likely to be substantially more difficult than in earlier days.

Now imagine a situation where this same political leader has wandered into a situation where there in a possibility of becoming Prime Minister. Is he or she likely to be successful? We can easily imagine success just as we can imagine the flying whale, but is our imaginary PM any more capable of flying in a Prime Ministerial sense? For most or even all of us the answer depends largely on our powers of imagination.

Perhaps this is a key point. Imagination is easy - it arises from the least energy principle and isn’t necessarily something we should admire. In order to form an idea of an unknown situation our imagination borrows elements that are already familiar and for that reason does not form any idea of it. As Proust knew and highlighted so neatly, those borrowed elements are borrowed because they are already familiar, but not necessarily applicable. 

It’s a problem but how do we find a solution? Do we begin by imagining one?

Monday 8 January 2018

Fat BBC cats


The story triggered by Carrie Gracie is surely enough to brighten the day of even the most
curmudgeonly curmudgeon. 

Carrie Gracie, who last night resigned from her post over equal pay, has said the broadcaster's top salaries are "unacceptably high".

Gracie, who was China Editor, revealed she turned down a £45k pay rise and suggested male journalists in equal roles to women should take a pay cut in order to close the gender wage gap.

She told BBC Woman's Hour: "I believe in public service broadcasting and I do think salaries at the top are unacceptably high both for presenters and stars of various kinds and also for managers.

Always a delight to see the Beeb entangle itself in the same political correctness it promotes with such priggish tenacity.

Maybe not a huge nail in the corporate coffin, but every little helps. The number of people comfortable with fat BBC salaries cannot be large and with luck may dwindle still further after this reminder.

Saturday 6 January 2018

New car sales

From the BBC

UK car sales see first drop for six years
New car sales fell for the first time in six years last year, with demand for diesel cars plunging by almost a fifth.

In total, there were about 2.5 million cars registered, according to industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The figure was down 5.7% from 2016, while diesel sales fell 17.1% as higher taxes and pollution fears hit demand.

We were due to test drive a new car this weekend but in the end we didn’t bother. There were a number of reasons, but the biggest was an attempt at the hard sell from a sales guy at the other end of the phone.

Yes we know our car is depreciating all the time and we know the purchase price of a new one could be lower if we take out a finance deal and we know our current car will just go to auction if we trade it in. However - we don’t need to be told these things as if we are mere supplicants asking a favour and we don’t need a breezy assumption that the deal is already done.

We could tell he was young, had been on a number of training courses, had targets to meet and so on and so on. Yet for all his smooth patter he just wasn’t very good at selling cars to people like us. He couldn't adjust the mood of a potential transaction in his favour, didn't even seem to understand that there was a mood and it wasn't working for him. He was a type we’ve come across before. 

Maybe more and more people just buy a new car off the internet - I can see why they would. So we decided not to bother. The old car is just fine for now and if new car sales are sagging that’s too bad but not particularly surprising.

Thursday 4 January 2018

Don't kill the conversation

A paper from Cornell University describes an intriguing aid for online conversations. Why not let an artificial intelligence read what we are writing and offer constructive suggestions before we put our online foot in it?

Find the Conversation Killers: a Predictive Study of Thread-ending Posts
How to improve the quality of conversations in online communities has attracted considerable attention recently. Having engaged, urbane, and reactive online conversations has a critical effect on the social life of Internet users. In this study, we are particularly interested in identifying a post in a multi-party conversation that is unlikely to be further replied to, which therefore kills that thread of the conversation. For this purpose, we propose a deep learning model called the ConverNet. ConverNet is attractive due to its capability of modeling the internal structure of a long conversation and its appropriate encoding of the contextual information of the conversation, through effective integration of attention mechanisms. Empirical experiments on real-world datasets demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposal model. For the widely concerned topic, our analysis also offers implications for improving the quality and user experience of online conversations.

What do you have to say about that? Nothing constructive? Then maybe you need ConverNet.

Wednesday 3 January 2018

A hatcident

The other day was cold so I wore my hat while tootling around town. It was also quite windy and a sudden gust blew my hat off, sending it rolling merrily down the pavement and into the road, tumbling along at a far greater rate than I could hope to achieve in hot pursuit. Well - lukewarm pursuit.

As it sat there in the road a bus swerved round it, a car missed it but inevitably the following car ran over it. Third time unlucky – that’s the rule isn’t it?

I managed to nip into the road to retrieve what I assumed would be a ruined piece of headgear. To my surprise I easily knocked it back into shape and close inspection revealed the startling fact that it was as good as new. Not a mark on it. I’ll be more careful next time, but these little incidents strengthen the bond between a chap and his hat.

While we’re adjacent to the subject of heads - was Nick Clegg awarded a knighthood so Her Majesty can get close to him with a drawn sword?

Tuesday 2 January 2018

Meddling addiction

From the BBC we have two reports which highlight the growing problem of meddling addiction.

Firstly we have

Half of the sugar young children in England consume comes from unhealthy snacks and sweet drinks, figures show.

On average, primary school children have at least three sugary snacks a day, Public Health England found.

This means they can easily consume three times more sugar than the recommended maximum.

PHE has launched a campaign to encourage parents to look for healthier snacks of no more than 100 calories - and to limit them to two a day.

Followed by

Gaming addiction is to be listed as a mental health condition for the first time by the World Health Organisation.

Its 11th International Classification of Diseases (ICD) will include the condition "gaming disorder".

The draft document describes it as a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour so severe that it takes "precedence over other life interests".

Some countries had already identified it as a major public health issue.

Many, including the UK, have private addiction clinics to "treat" the condition.

The last version of the ICD was completed in 1992, with the new guide due to be published in 2018.

It is all very worrying for anyone addicted to worrying, but perhaps this quote from the second worrying report may actually reduce the amount of worry.

Dr Richard Graham, lead technology addiction specialist at the Nightingale Hospital in London, welcomed the decision to recognise the condition.

"It is significant because it creates the opportunity for more specialised services. It puts it on the map as something to take seriously."

More specialised services eh? What a surprise.

Monday 1 January 2018

What’s the deal?

Among other characteristics Donald Trump is known as a deal-maker. Perhaps this is what his supporters see in him but do not see it in mainstream hacks such as Hillary Clinton. Deal-makers do deals while the political class prefers one-sided iceberg type arrangements where most of the weighty stuff is out of sight below the waterline.

Perhaps Trump’s supporters were attracted to his reputation as a deal-maker simply because of this perception, a sense that deals are the stuff of social and political life. A sense that political deals matter in a democracy so they should be out in open, not hidden away behind closed doors where all the caveats and dishonesty lurk.

In this sense life itself could be described as an infinite mesh of deals. Big deals, small deals, family deals, down the pub deals, professional deals, social and political deals. Deals are everywhere, they pervade everything we do.

At a basic level a deal can be as automatic as stimulus and response, but what is the best response? What is the deal and is there a better deal, a smarter response? Much deal-making is likely to be subconscious because we learn about deals as we grow up, particularly through rewards and punishments. Rewards are good deals, punishments are bad deals – we all know that. We absorb the deal-making message and we absorb it early.

Even if nobody ever explicitly explains what deals are and how universal they are, we still grow up knowing exactly what they are. As adulthood looms the deals become complex, covert and ambiguous but they are still deals, still essentially the same as they were during our early years.

In these terms human progress has been a long and protracted attempt to forge better deals, both individually and collectively. The written word, books, newspapers, travel and wider horizons all seem to have expanded our ability to understand the deals we make voluntarily and the deals we are forced to make in order to navigate our way through life. Over recent centuries ordinary people have slowly learned to expect more socially efficient deals, more economically efficient deals, usually in the teeth of implacable resistance from those who always benefitted from one-sided deals and incidentally from inefficient deals. The rich and powerful are the obvious one-sided deal-makers. The entire political class is another, whatever their pretensions.

Human progress seems to be a painfully slow recognition of these one-sided deals, a recognition that more equitable political and social deals are generally better for everyone. Even elites eventually understand why life has to be more even-handed. More equitable deals reduce social tensions, crime and the threat of violence. Economies grow. Government is more effective and secure until it forgets that even its deals must evolve.

Yet there is still a long way to go and the one-sided deal still has money and power rooting for it. Now we have those complex deals we are busy forging with the online world, particularly with the media giants. What kind of deals are we forging with Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Google and co?

More traditionally, we encounter social deals all the time but do not generally recognise them as deals.

Speak as we speak, behave as we behave and we’ll accept you as one of us. That’s the deal.

Align yourself with our virtues and you too are virtuous. That’s the deal.

Style your hair as we do, wear the clothes we wear and you are one of us. That’s the deal.

Laugh when we laugh and you are one of us. That’s the deal.

Build to this specification and your building will be accepted. That’s the deal.

Design your experiment to support our paradigm and we support you. That’s the deal.

Feed me, keep me warm and I may climb on your lap and purr. That’s the feline deal.

Even this blog post is a deal. If I say enough to attract a comment or two then that makes it more worthwhile even if the comments offer other perspectives. Otherwise I won’t get comments and that’s less satisfactory but that’s the blogger’s deal. There are a number of others.

Voting in elections is generally one-sided deal. Voters receive very little from their trip to the polling station. It should come as no surprise when we occasionally try to make the voting deal less one-sided. Unfortunately we aren’t very good at it because the overall political deal is heavily skewed against us even though we supposedly live in a democracy. The outcome of the voters’ deal is so feeble, diffuse and protracted that it isn’t at all easy to tell the difference between a bad deal and an even worse deal. Not a satisfactory situation.

If one looks at the world in this way then certain clarifications emerge. Good deals ought to require knowledge and insight but we are seduced by our emotional sensitivity to the mores of the times, by our willingness to strike a lifestyle deal with those mores. Personal philosophies are skewed by the social and political deals we make. Deals with the establishment, deals with, the status quo or deals with reality. The first two are easy, the third not so easy.

Yet there is a curious satisfaction in not making deals, especially certain mainstream social and political deals. No deal may be better than a bad deal and therein lies a core problem of modern times. There is a definite trend towards forced deals, towards a level of political and social correctness which is already damaging the dynamism of deal-making and our ability to spin new deals from the inadequacies of older deals.

Deal-making in this sense is the stuff of progress, Stifle it and we go backwards. Eventually the ultimate hard-nosed deal-maker takes a hand, That deal-maker is reality.