Death, Tarot, Rorschach, scripts, and why economies crash

By Gordon Rugg

The best examples of powerful principles often come from unexpected places.

Today’s article is one of those cases. It’s about why it often makes excellent sense to use a particular method, even when you’re fully aware that the method doesn’t work as advertised on the box, or doesn’t work at all.

It’s a story that starts with one of the most widely misunderstood cards in the Tarot pack. The story also features some old friends, in the form of game theory, pattern matching and script theory. It ends, I hope, with a richer understanding of why human behaviour often makes much more sense when you look at the deep underlying regularities, rather than at the surface appearances.

So, we’ll start with Tarot cards. A surprisingly high proportion of people who use Tarot packs will cheerfully tell you that the cards have no mystical powers. Why would anyone use Tarot cards if they don’t have those powers? There are actually some very good reasons.

bannerv2Sources for images are given at the end of this article

Continue reading


In-groups, out-groups and the Other

By Gordon Rugg

This article is a quick overview of some long-established and useful concepts from sociology and related fields.

It’s mainly intended as background for another article that I’ll be posting soon, about how most systems treat people who don’t fit neatly into pre-established pigeonholes.

If you already know about in-groups, out-groups etc you might still find this article interesting, because I’ve included some thoughts about cognitive load as a factor in group dynamics.

header  Continue reading

Subsystem optimisation and system optimisation

By Gordon Rugg

When a politician or a manager tells you that they’re going to take a “common sense” approach to a problem, they usually mean that they’re about to take a concept that works in one area, and apply it to a different area on the unstated assumption that it will work there too. Once in a while, it actually does. A lot of the time, though, it ends less than well.

There’s a technical description for one common way in which this approach comes to grief.

Sub-system optimisation does not necessarily lead to system optimisation.

It’s not exactly the most catchy line ever written, which might be why it’s not as widely known as it should be. This article is about what it means, and why it’s important.

Continue reading