Monday, September 2, 2013

Golden Rule vs Platinum Rule vs Common Preference Finding method

Somebody said that the platinum rule is better than the golden rule. So lets consider them:
GOLDEN RULE- Treat others as you would like to be treated.
PLATINUM RULE- Treat others as they would like to be treated.

Lets consider some examples...
A boss's employee likes hugs from people she likes. The boss doesn't like hugs except from his daughters (or his girlfriend/wife) -- The boss doesn't want hugs from anybody else. Following  the platinum rule, he'd hug her, which ignores his preference while respecting hers. Following the golden rule, he won't hug her, which ignores her preference while respecting his. So what's the solution to this?
Somebody is a racist -- he doesn't like to walk on the same side of the road as a black man. A black man is walking on the same road he is on, coming the other direction. What should the black man do? Well, the black man doesn't even know that this man is racist, so he doesn't know that he has the preference of not walking on the same side of the road as a black man. So following the platinum rule in this case doesn't work. Could he guess? Yes. Maybe the racist is making dirty looks to the black man. Then the black man might guess that he's racist and of his racist preference for not walking on sidewalks with black people. Then what? Following the platinum rule, the black man should get on the other side of the road. Following the golden rule, the black man should not change anything at all. So what's the solution to this?

So the golden rule is wrong and so is the platinum rule. They work only in some situations. They don't work well when there are conflicts of interest (as the examples I gave above are). So what's the solution to conflicts of interest like these where both the golden rule and platinum rule are no good? What could work in *all* situations of conflicts of interest?

The solution is the method known as Common Preference Finding. It goes like this. Each person states his initial preferences, and if they find that they conflict with each other, then they work to try to find a common preference, one that everybody agrees with -- one that no one has any criticisms of. The work involves guessing and refining and refuting the guesses with criticism. The first guesses are the initial preferences. The final guess is the common preference.

Now there are some common misunderstandings about this. I'll list them in no special order:

  • Stating initial preferences is not the only way to establish preferences. One can make guesses from reading body language and one can apply what he knows about the culture of the people he's interacting with.
  • The fallback common preference is to leave each other alone and not interact with each other.
  • This method works best when everybody involved understands the Principle of Optimism, that *all problems are soluble*, which means that *every conflict of interest has a solution where everybody gets what they want and nobody sacrifices anything important to them*. That way they will continue to search for a common preference before ever acting on an idea that isn't a common preference. [To be clear though, there are cases where one should act on an idea that isn't a common preference, and that's when somebody is initiating force/coercion on you and you are defending yourself.]

So here's an example.
Say you and I decide to go to lunch and we let the deciding of which place to eat to happen during the drive. So first we state our initial preferences.
Rami: I'm craving that fish dish from Fish House. (this is my initial
Jane: Fish smell makes me gag so I can't eat at any restaurant with
fish. (this is your initial preference)
Rami: Ok I like lots of other places too, and i like big salads. Where
do you want to eat? (this is me asking you for info that we can use to
find a common preference which also gives info from me to you about my
Jane: I like the soups and salads at the deli place on main street. (this is you giving me a suggestion for a common preference that is consistent with the preferences that i provided earlier.)
Rami: ok great i haven't tried that place yet. lets go there. (this is me saying that i don't have any criticisms, which means that we've found a common preference)

Keep in mind that if one or more people in the conflict are not following the method, then of course things fail. And that means doing things like...
- stop thinking before a common preference is found,
- getting offended,
- appealing to authority,
- not checking one's idea for accuracy,

All of this applies to many people as well as it applies to just one person -- a conflict within one mind. Its a situation where part of me says to do X while another part of me says to do NOT X. When this happens, when you have two parts of you pulling you in opposite directions, and if you act on one of them while the other one is still active in your mind, that's coercion. This is psychological suffering.

What is coercion?

How to avoid coercion?

So btw, acting on an idea that isn't a common preference means causing coercion/suffering. Another way to say that is that acting on an idea/emotion while another conflicting idea/emotion is active in one's mind, means causing coercion/suffering.

Lets start from the beginning.


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