ButWhatFor? Four for Friday | No. 042
Deceiving Negotiators, Cheating Students, For Now, & Nothing Happened
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ButWhatFor? Four for Friday
One Quote: Deceiving Negotiators
One Long: My Students Cheated
One Short: Greatest For Now
One Extra: Nothing Happened
Just as ignoramuses are not good negotiators, so there are certain minds so finely drawn and delicately organized as to be even less well suited, since they become overly subtle about everything. They are, so to speak, like those who break the points of needles by trying to make them too fine.
For the best results, it is necessary that men hold themselves to a middle course. The most successful ones use their keenness of mind to prevent themselves from being deceived, having care not to use the same means for deceiving those with whom they are negotiating.
One of my colleagues is very good at approaching any negotiation with an orientation to finding a win-win situation. In our work, often times a one-sided contract where there is definitively a "winner" and a "loser" just results in arguments / lawsuits / animosity / people looking to find alternatives over the medium term.
Alternatively, if the contractual relationship is mutually beneficial, both parties have an incentive to make the relationship stronger over time.
As Richelieu mentions above, a lot of times negotiators approach situations with a mindset of "how can I win?" However, a "how can we win together?" mental model is an exceptionally better way to approach these situations.
Outside of negotiating, I find this applies to nearly every interaction you have with others - meaning, a person should have a constant focus on "how can I make others enjoy interacting with me regardless of the situation?" Over time, you find you have more and more good people around you willing to reciprocate the same.
My students cheated... A lot
Last semester I witnessed the worst cheating in a course I’ve ever seen. And, I’ve seen stuff... It started in August 2021. I was about to give my first lecture of the semester online. Just as quickly as I started the lecture, one of the students used the chat to post a link to join a WhatsApp chat group for the class. I joined...
[It was] filled with hundreds of pictures of laptop screens. Not my laptop. I didn’t take those pictures. I looked closer and recognized the screenshots. My quiz and midterm questions...
OK, let’s recap. I have about 70 students on WhatsApp cheating like there is no tomorrow. I have counted what they did, I have almost filled out the forms to let them know the consequences; but, no one knows yet that I am aware of the cheating. I made the second midterm more cheat proof. I’m still on the WhatsApp chat. The day of the second midterm comes around. I log into my class so that students can talk to me while they are taking the midterm. The midterm begins, and so do the WhatsApp messages...
— Matt Crump, from crumplab.com
While I tend to find that formal education almost always falls short of internally motivated learning, we need to learn a lot of things that kind of have to be forced upon us. Yes, you might not be intrinsically enthralled with the concepts of the ideal gas laws (in middle school, for some reason, I was, however, so enthralled :P) when you are a kid, but it is good to know that you can hurt yourself with an accidental explosion by heating a container.
Thus, cheating in a formal education system, even if it seems boring at the time, probably doesn't make a lot of sense.
Matt Crump found out that cheating is increasingly a systemic problem at universities - and students view cheating as an altruistic, mutually beneficial behavior. As highlighted in the Quote above, mutually beneficial situations are strong and enduring. Thus, Crump has a rough time dealing with how unabashedly the students defend their actions or continue ever after being caught red-handed.
To steal from Byrne Hobart's review of the article, sometimes that formal education system has incentives that are so different from those incentives found in self-motivated learning that we have to expect these sorts of outcomes:
Students were organized, helpful, and prompt, but focused on getting grades rather than learning the material. Those traits translate well to actually learning, though. Plenty of disciplines have agency and measurement problems: CEOs also have a tendency to optimize for what they're rewarded for, not what's in the best interest of the company and its stakeholders.
Solving that motivation problem is tricky, but it's important: learning to avoid learning but still get good grades is worse than useless.
The Greatest Life Hacks in the World (for Now)
Stealing from last week's trend, it looks like a bulleted list is needed, this time from the founder of Wired magazine, Kevin Kelly:
Denying or deflecting a compliment is rude. Accept it with thanks
Getting cheated occasionally is a small price to pay for trusting the best in everyone, because when you trust the best in others, they will treat you the best
The thing that made you weird as a kid could make you great as an adult
Just because it’s not your fault doesn’t mean it’s not your responsibility
If you meet a jerk once a month, you’ve met a jerk. If you meet jerks every day, you’re a jerk
Ignore what they are thinking of you because they are not thinking of you.
There was a lot of talk this week about a potential coup in China and the disappearance of Xi Jinping. Based on the fact that Xi is back in the limelight and hanging out with stuffed animals, this seems to not have been the case.
However, what was more interesting to me about all this speculation of a military coup and Xi being placed under arrest is that 1) we had no actual hard evidence and no information from ordinary Chinese citizens suggesting there was anything going on in the capitol — but 2) we believed it could be happening because the CCP is so adept at information control that it was easily believed they could hide something like this from both their citizens and the rest of world.
And that reminded me of how many things are forgotten over time in China due to that information control. Those of us in the US collectively forget things as well - especially those things that happened by our hands outside of the US - but we at least tend to remember the big things that happened long ago on our own soil.
I find a lot of sub-30 Chinese citizens don’t always have knowledge like that. For example, if you check out my 2020 annual recap below and scroll down to the “Favorite Memoirs Read in 2020” section, there are three memoirs by survivors of the cultural revolution. The quotes are pretty revealing.
When I have shared those books with Chinese friends and family that grew up in China, there are always two reactions, one or the other or both: 1) this is an over-exaggerated and embellished story, and 2) they are angry that I am insulting China by sharing these memoirs.
And that second one is the more powerful point here, I think. Somehow, the CCP has gotten an entire (exaggerated adjective, but not far off I would guess) generation to believe that remembering the negative things of the past is the same as personally criticizing Chinese individuals themselves, along with their family and their culture.
That is a very powerful, new-age Chinese Wall of emotion built up by the CCP to prevent an understanding of where things have gone wrong in the past and how we can collectively learn from them — seemingly because it is more convenient for them to not have citizens learn from history.
This coup speculation also reminded me of a location in Beijing… where in 1989, nothing happened:
So, maybe it wasn’t so hard to believe that a military coup could be hidden under 1.3 billion people's noses. That doesn’t seem to have been the case… but maybe something did happen in China this week and the CCP is just that good.
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Have a great weekend,
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