(Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-posting blog by Drs. Ramamoorti and Morrison. The second part will be in a posting immediately following this one.)
(By Dr. Sridhar Ramamoorti) My Behavioral Forensics GroupTM, LLC partner, Daven Morrison, MD, recently leveraged his usual role as a concerned doctor, psychiatrist, and public intellectual who’s keenly aware of his civic duty in this time of global pandemic. Hitherto we have been mostly concerned with the dire economic fallout; Dr. Morrison has added to our knowledge of potential social and behavioral implications in dealing with this scourge.
Knowledge is power. We can only fight dangerous ignorance (darkness) with knowledge (light). And ignorance can be dangerous when the light of true knowledge is limited or absent. The Rand Corporation has a name for it, Truth Decay. We live in a time of an asymmetrical relationship between the rapid creation and lethargic verification of “fake news.” And so the fertility of the human imagination eclipses our comparatively limited, ploddingly sluggish fact-checking capabilities and patience to execute them. This undesirable asymmetry encourages mendacity to win over probity and morality, with evil overwhelming the good. Whether the “breaking news” is that “the sky is falling” or imagined menacing wolves lurk outside the village, the constant drumbeat that “present fears are less than horrible imaginings” (Wm Shakespeare in Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 3) leads to public tune-out and apathy making it a form of informational fraud.
Instead, we surely want truth and goodness to prevail in times like these. But truth, goodness, and effective public judgment come from active participation in political activity, especially in a democracy. That activity requires awareness which in turn requires alertness and eternal vigilance. Such participatory actions are discouraged when significantly powerful segments of the public fall victim to the darkness of ignorance.
So, what can we do about this dilemma? In our B4G work as a partnership, we start with what we know and that knowledge frames how we think about what to recommend. “What we know” in this case, means what we know after testing what we read and hear against all the factors involved in critical thinking. If we act on our professional biases (without considering them as potential biases), we are not as powerful as when we share perspectives and gain a refined and more reality-based solution. It is the logic of “convergent validity”—when independent methods and perspectives all point to the same inescapable conclusion, we are most likely staring at the truth in full view.
So, “what we know” is critical to finding solutions to knotty problems such as the dilemma described above. 2000 years ago, Plato presciently wrote, “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” (Presumably, he meant those with the darkness of dangerous ignorance.) Plato argued for something similar to a Democratic Republic, where the leaders are “philosopher kings.” He imagined these to be individuals more educated and also more principled than the common people. (In modern American values, this concept would fit as long as the philosopher “kings” were ultimately held to a reasonable account by the electorate, not the Electoral College which can be “gamed” more easily). We infer that these enlightened leaders would be intelligent, curious, endowed with the propensities of beneficent judgment, and kindness in leading their societies to safe and prosperous existence.
We are undergoing a massive sociological experience calling for execution around two critical elements of a society: physical health and economic health. We are currently living within a context where ethical decisions are hard to make and where authoritarian traps are seductive and abundant. And, of course, fraud is also finding this context a fertile field in which to flourish. This is where my partner and colleague, Daven Morrison, offers us his most compelling and relevant insights.
(Editor’s Note: See the next blog posting for Dr. Morrison’s refreshing perspectives and insights.)
BEHAVIORAL FORENSICS GROUPTM LLC
The Behavioral Forensics GroupTM LLC is a team of professionals with vast experience in detecting fraud, understanding why it occurs, and in recommending steps to mitigate fraud incidence within the corporate workplace, particularly within higher-level (and therefore more costly to the enterprise) executives. The fields of investigation, organizational psychiatry, accounting and behavioral forensics, and law enforcement are represented within the Behavioral Forensics GroupTM LLC. Acting in synergy to help organizations prevent, find, and/or reduce fraud, B4GTM is a premier, pioneering practice in this field.
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