Active Thinking Topic 17 -  The Road to Hell iss Paved with Good Intentions

Monday 25 October 2021, 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Any replies to the organizer -

Venue: Cafe Brunelli, 187 Rundle St ยท Adelaide (You must buy a drink or something. We are 'renting' the space for 2 hours)

About Focus Questions: a) Please read them before you come to the meetup. Think about them so you have more than "instant opinions" to offer. b) Feel free to add more focus questions. c) THE FOCUS QUESTIONS ARE JUST A MENU TO CHOOSE FROM. From this menu we can discuss whatever seems interesting. d) Focus questions are not intended to push one viewpoint! You can adopt any position you wish. We actually like friendly disagreement - it can lead to deeper understanding

Focus Questions

Recall the concept: The Law of Unintended Consequences states that an intervention in a complex system tends to create unanticipated and often undesirable outcomes. ( ) . In nature and in pretty well everything else each action excites a reaction. Sometimes results are simple and predictable, but often not.

1. When voters choose a political party, they might expect certain policies/results to follow. From your life experience, how has this kind of expectation worked in practice? Examples?

2. Marriages, we must suppose, usually start out with good intentions. They may work well, but often not. How does this particular path often lead to a certain kind of hell?

3. So you want a career. Surely this will lead to respect, security, a house on a mortgage, a spouse + the regulation 2.5 children. Well, your intentions were good. How can it all descend into hell?

4. Organizations, as they grow, accumulate ways of doing things, regulations, roles, sections, equipment, software .... Each choice along the way might have been made with a good intention. A new CEO takes over, surveys the scene and decides it's a sprawling mess. With the best of intentions he decides to rebuild the organization. What could possibly go wrong?

5. After the carnage of World War I, nations of the world, horrified at what they had done, organized the League of Nations to sort out stuff before it came to war. Hmm. We wound up with World War II. The United Nations was formed to save us from World War III, and to generally do good things. How has that worked out, pluses and minuses? Any roads to hell from those good intentions?

6. Karl Marx and Frederich Engels met as two smart young Germans in Europe's most progressive country of the 19th Century, England. Seeing many social and economic problems, they put their heads together and wrote The Communist Manifesto. Written with the best of intentions, it was intended to light a pathway for mankind to a better, kinder world. How did that work out?

7. God(s) in various disguises has/have been a wonderful ventriloquist for a long queue of prophets in every society stretching back into antiquity. The general pattern has been for a god to inspire or even dictate a book of guidance to propel groups of humans in the same direction, encourage them to get along together (at least with believers), behave decently, and generally make a the world a better place. How have these supernaturally approved good intentions worked out?

8. Big decisions have big consequences - good or bad. A million small decisions each have only small consequences - good or bad - but considered all together they set a pattern, a tide, a trend. Now apply this to the development of a country - what is the best balance between centralized planning (big decisions) and a million small choices by individuals and businesses? Examples? (e.g. China's original one child policy).

9. What are some examples of bad intentions (or no intentions at all) actually leading to great outcomes, either personally or on a societal scale? [recall that beautiful word, serendipity].

10. Are forces for good and forces for bad (whatever good & bad mean) entirely random effects? Or are good & evil forces somehow organized on a cosmic scale (supernatural, or from scientific laws not yet understood)? If the whole deal is pre-organized, why do good intentions so often lead to bad outcomes? For that matter, why do bad intentions so often confound their agents by leading to good outcomes?


Extra Reading

Wikipedia (2021) "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" @ 

Wikipedia (2021) "Unintended Consequences" @ 



 The Road to Hell iss Paved with Good Intentions (c) Thor May 2021 

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