Saturday, June 23, 2018


Historical Foibles

Some Uses of History

An example of a clear use of history is afforded by the game of chess. As most know, the chess game is divided into three stages: the opening; the middle game; and the end game. Chess master openings have been recorded for over a hundred years, which means that the first 15 or 20 moves of any real use have been stored away for players to study. This recorded history of thousands and thousands of games and their evaluations(plus or minus for the last position) is a must read and hard study for ambitious players all the way up to grandmasters. It is typical for masters and grandmasters to rip off these 15 or 20 moves inside of four or five minutes on their game clocks, since they have usually committed to memory several hundred of the best opening sequences of moves.

Then comes a deviation from the record (or "book" as they call it) by one player, which launches them into the middle game, and beyond the help of "book". They are now dependent on their own mental ability to diagnose the position on the board and to decide their every move, but they now draw upon their knowledge of well-known general principles of middle game strategy and tactics developed over the years by grandmasters to guide their move selection.

Although many games are decided before the end of the middle game by the extraordinary play of one player, much of the time the game progresses to the end game, where there are many fewer pieces left on the board. End-game strategy and tactics have been developed also and it behooves the aspiring player to commit them to memory also, or he will lose or draw a game in what might have been a winning situation.

So far, we have shown how perfect knowledge of past games, that is, perfect knowledge of history, can be of great benefit, since we needn't expend a lot of energy to analyze the early moves, and we know when the opponent deviates from "book" it may be an error we can exploit. This is obviously true in real life as well.

We have also stated that knowledge of guiding principles of good play in both the middle and end games are vital to succeed, and this, too, holds up very well in real life gaming and decision-making situations. We do use historical information to derive lessons of good use or good play going forward.  

Huge differences from real life exist in this game: 1) in chess we have perfect "Intelligence" of the position of the opposition forces, which is not often the case in real world situations; and, 2) The perfect knowledge of past play in chess must be replaced in real life by the historical accounts of our past, which are just about never perfect renderings of long ago events, although they may well suffice to carry forward a lesson, a message, or a warning of value.

But there are problems with assessing historical lessons in real life. Some authors have spent their lives extracting lessons from the past for all to use, but at times they are simply not directly applicable to the current situation. The lessons drawn may be riddled with the bias of the historian, making it rather problematical to apply. Major events in the past may well be decided by pure luck, or a fortunate or unfortunate accident of fate, despite the semblance of a grander lesson from the event. Waiting around for a repeat accident of fate is not recommended.

Often, events overtake the situation making the search for historical guidance irrelevant. Many times there simply isn't any historical guidance at all. Searching through "history space" for an analogous situation to find guidance can be lengthy and exhausting, with no guarantees of finding a thing.

More often than not, we must rely on our own intelligence, knowledge, experience and a gut feel for the right path to follow, just as the chess player is cast onto his own abilities when the "book" has been exhausted.

There is a real payoff for studying the history of a specified area of activity, where the situations, players, decisions and events have been well documented, such as modern warfare, or chess, but even then some doubts remain as to whether all the facts were known, all the variables were accounted for, and hence were the proper lessons of history drawn by the historians.

The intelligent thing to do is to study the history of your field of activity and extract what lessons you can in the moment, but never let your innate intelligence and wisdom be lost in searching too long and too hard for relevant historical lessons.

Friday, June 01, 2018



A Sad State of Affairs

What I see, what I read, and what I sense about our society is very hard to identify.  It is composed of many facets, including:

              1.           Order on one side, but Chaos on the other side

              2.           Godliness on one side, but Atheism on the other side

              3.           Good Will on one side, but Will-Busting on the other side

              4.           Reason and Common Sense on one side, but Anti-Reason and Negation on the other

              5.           Virtues on one side, but Denial of Virtues on the other side

              6.           The Common Man on one side, but Self-Centered Elites on the other side

              7.           Morality on one side, but Amorality and Immorality on the other side

              8.           A Pleasant Life on one side, but Arguments Galore on the other

              9.           A Desire for Peace and Tranquility on one side, but Strife, Condemnation, Lies, and False Premises on the other side

        10.           Our Constitution on one side, but some sort of Flexible Set of Changing Words for Law on the other side

        11.           Reverence for Our Founders on one side, but Character Assassination on the other

        12.           Faith in Our Customs, Traditions and Institutions on one side, but Deliberate Destruction of them on the other side

        13.           Men of Good Will, Common Sense, and Morality can add to this list...

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