Do I think Asian? Do you?

Maybe I do? During my wild youth, I spent four years trying to solve some deeply fascinating (to me, at the time) questions in field of astrophysics. I was trying to figure out exactly how a plasma of protons and alpha particles (fully ionized hydrogen and helium) ignited under the immense pressures that obtained from the gravitational field of neutron star. I ran endless numerical calculations of coupled equations that tracked how the dynamics (think Newton, or rather Einstein), the heat transport, and the nuclear reactions all responded to each other.

As a result, any inkling of the typical western “A causes B” modes of thinking was utterly destroyed in my mind. If A influences B and B influences A, it doesn’t make any sense, whatsoever, to try to disentangle the two or designate one of them as the prime mover.

And this is why the endless disagreement between Austrians and Keynesians amuse me. Each are missing half of the big picture, namely the other half.

This is also why I don’t look to eliminate causes when I fix problems. Rather, I look at the environment. At this point, if you haven’t already, you should go back and read the first link. The one about Nisbett.

If you want to influence anyone, including yourself, I submit that the most efficient approach is to change the environment around the cause. Don’t focus on the cause itself. This will be much easier on your mind. It will require less mental fortitude.

For example, if you want to diet, don’t battle your desires to eat the ice cream in your freezer. Rather completely remove the ice cream from your freezer. It’ll be much easier, I promise.

If you want to ERE, don’t try to sacrifice your spending. Rather, change your lifestyle completely to avoid battling the temptations. Change your environment and the rest will follow, automagically!

How important is this change of perspective? Very, it turns out.

I first read Sun Tzu’s Art of War in my teens, but as it turns out I didn’t really “get it”. I’ve subsequently read it several times. And yet I still didn’t get it. But maybe I do now(?)

If you control the environment, you can control whatever enemy you face (including yourself) very easily. Here’s an example of “Western thinking”. “If you ride a bike, you might get run over by a car and therefore, to protect your head, you should wear a helmet”. However, now reconsider this from the perspective of the environment: If you DON’T wear and helmet and occasionally swerve a bit (especially if you hear a car somewhat behind you), the driver might think you’re a cycling noob and swerve out giving you quite a bit of space. By doing this you’ve induced volatility (investors might ponder how this observation applies to the market), and as such the car behind you decides to take the safer approach giving you plenty of space.

Conversely, if you’re a roadracer with solid form, down in the dropouts with your torso like an unmoving rock, drivers will pass you closely assuming you know what you’re doing. Which do you think is safer? The helmet wearing roadie describing a linear path or the helmetless noob swerving all over the road?

Ponder this.

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Originally posted 2013-03-20 17:13:25.