• John Shrawder

Problem Solving and Decision Making in Different Spheres

Spheres are groups of people that interact with each other. Each of us can be a member of many spheres. The analytic decision making model applies to each sphere. However, decision making and problem solve works differently for each sphere. Spheres can be small or quite large. The following are the three broad classes of Spheres.

Personal Sphere. The Personal sphere are all our day to day relationships with family, friends, coworkers, and members of the community. We all participate in a personal sphere.

Autonomous people make many large and small decisions in our personal spheres today. In previous posts we connected happiness and misery to health, work income, and education.

We typically avoid argument and debate in our personal spheres. Usually decisions are made through coercion or through some form of persuasion. Most of the harm we presented in the sections on persuasion resulted from decision making in the personal sphere. Critical thinking can help us improve our decision making in the personal sphere.

Technical Spheres – Technical spheres are professional groups that share a common interest. These include specialized domains like science, medicine, law, business, government, and religion.

Technical spheres are a relatively new group of institutions. In many cases members need a license to be recognized as a member of a technical sphere. In 1912, Medical licenses were the first licenses to be granted. Professional spheres were created to solve the most difficult problems, make life better for everybody and reduce the misery people face.

Technical spheres are governed by professional groups and organizations that determine standards and practices that govern all members. Goals of technical spheres include addressing society’s most difficult problems, serving the overall public, and assuring that each member complies with the group’s standards. This includes having a code of ethics for members which narrows the GOALS of each technical sphere.

Another goal of technical spheres is to continually advance their knowledge and practices. The key decisions are about knowledge and practices. Technical spheres are careful at creating and using FACTS. Each group has its own specialized language. It has accepted rules for developing knowledge and judging arguments and controversies. Members communicate with each other in specific structured formats. These are typically professional journals. Groups typically require members to have ongoing education on the latest knowledge and practices.

Every person is not part of a technical sphere. Substantial education is typically required to have one’s opinion accepted in a technical sphere. A perspective member must understand the language, methods of argumentation, methods of communication, and ethics of the domain. People who attend college or graduate school are typically committing to entering the technical sphere. Being accepted as a member of a technical sphere can take years of study.

We can see members of technical spheres as experts. We can use them to benefit our personal decision making in the following ways:

  • Goals: Experts have specific expertise at solving complex problems. They can understand problems in depth and identify opportunities and risks that average people cannot see. They can solve problems faster and with a greater likelihood of success.

  • Options. Experts can identify more good opportunities and dismiss bad options.

  • Facts. Experts are equipped with facts that are more likely to be accurate and complete. They can use logic to build new knowledge. They can determine when their knowledge is inadequate and can use other experts.

  • Effects Experts should be able to make more reasoned choices from a series of options by assembling good facts and applying them against all options.

  • Review. Experts are better monitoring and making adjustments when decisions are complex, time consuming, or risky.

As discussed in an earlier posting, the average American sees many technical spheres as being corrupt and untrustworthy. Some of the reasons could include the following:

  1. The group expresses cannot provide evidence that it serves the general public. Frequently, a group or member of a group will use its reputation to work on a problem where it has no special expertise.

  2. The group is self-serving. It overcharges for its service. It is on the side of the rich and powerful who can bribe the group.

  3. The group has good ideas but does not monitor individual members who ignore the group’s overall standards and ethics

High schools should teach all students on how to use and evaluate various technical spheres. They should also try to prepare interested students for the education needed to enter technical spheres by teaching about the vocabulary, communication standards, information standards, logic, and ethics of particular domains like science, engineering, or law.

Government and the Public Sphere

Public Sphere – Some countries have public spheres. This sphere includes all the persons in your city, state, and nation who seek to participate in public decision making. Examples of decisions we discussed to this point are how the communities health should get better, how can income grow, how can we lower unemployment, and how can schools work better.

Governments and Personal Happiness. Government decisions include spending, taxes, lending, regulations, arrest and imprisonment, and war. They can affect our happiness by affecting health, income, employment, education, and personal freedom. Governments in the United States exist at the Federal, state, local and local levels. The following are ways governments affect our lives.

When a public sphere exists. The Public Sphere is the forum where issues of general social interest are discussed. Participation can be face to face, written, on television, Radio, or the Internet. Anyone can participate. The media is a major part of the public sphere. This is the sphere with the largest number of participants. Like the technical sphere the arguments may address complex issues. Unlike the technical sphere, the persons engaged in debates and arguments may not fully understand any particular issue.

Public spheres are different depending on the form of government. In some cases the public sphere is limited or nonexistent.

For this class, there are four rough forms of government.

Despotism or Authoritarianism – This is a society where a government is ruled completely by one person—a king or dictator. The ruler is supported by the police, the military, and possibly a secret police force. One person oversees all important decisions and can intimidate or silence opponents using coercion. There is no public sphere in these societies.

This was the form of government favored by Thomas Hobbes in The Leviathan. He described life in ancient societies as a “war of all against all”. Hobbes felt that the misery that ancient societies faced from the “war of all against all” is best minimized when one person determines the law and uses coercive power to enforce it.

This may lead to increased misery. It makes the happiness of an entire society dependent on the decision making of one person who can coerce all instead of using argument and debate to develop superior decisions. It may also lead to a reduction in personal freedom from excessive regulation or law enforcement. The following are some autocrats of the twentieth century and the results of their harmful decisions.

  • Adolf Hitler, Germany – 11 to 12 million noncombatant deaths

  • Joseph Stalin, Soviet Union – 6 to 20 million dead

  • Mao Tse Tung, China – 30 million dead.

Plutocracy - This is a society where the wealthy rule and government decisions are made on their behalf. The meaningful public sphere consists of the opinions of a few wealthy people who run the government and its major institutions. The opinions of others do not matter.

Technocracy – This is a society where a government decision making is determined by experts. Debate and decision making is through technical spheres. There is no public sphere. An example is the belief that only education experts should determine everything that happens in schools. A strength of technocracies is that the special training of experts can lead to the best solutions. A weakness is that a particular group may be corrupt and offer a solution to a narrow problem and create rules that limits the autonomy of the average person.

Democracy – This is a society where everyone can have an effect on the government. Unlike the other forms of governments, everyone is a citizen. No one is a subject and no one is a master. The public sphere is quite large-- it consists of everyone who chooses to participate. It presumes that the opinions of average people should matter. It assumes the collective wisdom of average people will lead to results that serve us the best. Many of the surveys presented in this blog assumes that people in positions of authority should care about the opinions of average people on public policy issues.

Unlike with the technical sphere those who make contributions must be able to communicate using the language of ordinary people. One does not know other participants in the public spheres so arguing is much more acceptable than in the personal sphere. The rules and assumptions that apply in a technical sphere or a local community may not apply to a larger population.

Debates are conducted face to face, in written media, or electronic media like radio, television, or internet. Average people are asked to make decisions about complex issues that they may not completely understand. These are the arguments most of us witness. Many people do not choose to participate in the public sphere. They may feel they have less training and information than experts in making many of these decisions.

The following table summarizes the differences among the three spheres of problem solving and decision making.

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