Sunday, June 22, 2008

Writing What You Know

I don't know what to think about it, but I can probably consider the last 5 or so years working in the insurance industry as research. The ideas of risk, losses, risk management, peace of mind and hazard, especially morale hazard, have become vital to at least one paper. . .and could easily become important to the other papers, too.

All the above have become central concepts in insurance, and I read about them years ago, near the beginning of my career in insurance. Unfortunately, I didn't perceive the helpfulness of these concepts to my project until recently. I think this failing on my part came from

+ Something of an unconscious thought process that insurance and my project couldn't have much of anything in common

+ Not having the right frame of mind when being introduced to these insurance concepts to incorporate them into my project. Didn't help that I really had no idea of how to define utopia and dystopia in ways that could apply in a universal manor to utopias and dystopia

After reading some social psychology, including the importance of having the needs for meaning fulfilling for people, and reconciling social psychology and needs for meaning with arguments for human rights and people's psychological motivations for being social rather than anti-social, the need for insurance terms, especially morale hazard, came to the fore.

I won't need the insurance terms so much, though. Using those terms in the context of my project became somewhat problematic. They get used in a professional context and could end up sounding judgmental of the people I'm writing about and non-professionals in the world. And the recent studying I did for continuing ed credits reminded me that people in the insurance industry are professionals, so they have more knowledge than someone else who doesn't really think much about insurance and have the responsibility to help other people understand their insurance policies, situations and concepts.

Even the reasonable, prudent person test can have its problems for the context of my project. This reasonable, prudent person, I believe, fits into the same archetype of the economic man, who is rational and self-interested. We all know people like this, but we also know plenty of people who differ from this archetype.

From somewhere, I've even read that someone who has the knowledge of economic concepts probably fits this archetype more than most, but, in addition, they probably have less pro-social tendencies. In other words, someone with the knowledge of an economist will probably be so rational and self-interested that they have less compassion for their fellow humans.

We all have reached different parts of our lives where we have reached different stages of career, knowledge, instinct, spirituality, etc. etc. Our backgrounds can dictate a fair amount of our destiny. Our social environment and genetic, biological makeup can determine our fate. Sure, we have free will to an extent and all the factors involved combine to create an individual.

Throw all the above factors together, however, along with the large amount of people in poverty, having had bad educations, having stronger motivations for crime that sends them to jail, having grown up in the mob, having grown up in an environment that got you ownership of a corporation but no conscience, having lived with a biker gang, having lived in a cult and the range of experience of people that form their identities can almost reach infinity. Nonetheless, do these life experiences that don't encourage people to develop their sense to avoid loss mean that they're any less human?

I prefer not to believe so. At the level of their humanity, they deserve as much respect as anyone else. Trying to teach them the importance of avoiding loss would certainly benefit them and the world, but the fact that they don't know now does not make them dumb or any less of a person. Hell, they may have some advanced knowledge that we don't know and could help make things more interesting and better for the person who knows better ways to avoid loss.

So I decided to approach the problem from social psychology, specifically by addressing the issue with the concept of diffusion of responsibility, a phenomenon that can actually provide for a motivation to allow for morale hazards in your own life. In many ways, not addressing an issue can make life easier, but dealing with it can also help improve the quality of life.

At least, it can help the quality of life as long as you direct all your energy trying to avoid loss. Doing that can lead you to no longer live life. Enjoyment of life requires that we take risks, which, in itself, could be seen as a form of morale hazards and diffusion of responsibility. Being too cautious leads to staying bed all day, not driving on the roads, staring at the walls and ceiling, trying not to think and all types of neurotic behavior.

Sure, I guess a monk that meditates all day could fall into this category, but, in some ways, even a meditating monk takes risks when meditating. . .not being able to focus and concentrate is failure to some degree. Someone could take that as an indication that they're a failure, and that they're worthless. There you go, someone trying to do nothing and think nothing has just gone had a loss to their self esteem.

Yes, all this thinking came from "research" into the insurance industry and insurance concepts combined into studying into social psychology. Who would have thought so much could come out of these two fields that most people probably don't think about at the same time? Go figure. . ..

Then again, this is me we're talking about. . ..

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