BIAS: behaviour deviation influenced by an agent

Whilst it seems that some phenomena in the universe do not appear to have any influence on other phenomena... 'electric fields' do not influence 'uncharged particles'... the 'human mind' alone cannot move much 'mass' around in the garden ... 'biological aging' takes its course in spite of any 'cosmetics'... for example... never-the-less, most of the mass-energy aspect of it interacts continuously and observably. So from a cosmological perspective then, it is not stretching matters too far to suggest that most aspects are 'biased', to a greater or lesser extent, by the presence or not of other aspects. The presence of the moon orbiting the earth influences (biases) the orbit of the earth around the sun. The intensity of solar radiation influences (biases) the make-up of a particular ecosystem. The growth of a tropical cyclone influences (biases) the behaviour of the atmosphere in its vicinity. The use of the word 'bias' is perhaps not normally used in this rather 'causal' sense, but it is still worth reminding ourselves at the outset, that the universe itself presents in a manner that seems to indicate that any one particular state-of-affairs would have been otherwise, had it not been for the 'biasing' influence of various other aspects.

In a very general sense then... in circumstances where one particular orientation or one set of possibilities is favoured rather than another... we can think of 'bias' as some sort of preference or inclination that makes itself evident in a situation ...the direction indicated by a magnetic compass is biased by the presence of an electromagnetic field... a bowling ball has its tracking biased by the asymmetrical distribution of its mass... the growth of all living things is biased by their environment... the attitudes and thoughts of human individuals are biased by their own unique experiences...and so on....

In order for 'bias' to be claimed or suggested, there needs to be one or more plausible alternative possibilities. The left/right handedness of spirals and rotations is a duality, whereby the spin of certain fundamental particles, the rotational direction of screws, and the bilateral symmetry or rotational preference of many living organisms can present unambiguously in either one form (of bias) or the other. A screw or helix can be either 'right-handed' or 'left-handed' but not both at the same time. It is not possible for such configurations to exist in any sort of partial form. The left/right-handed chiral molecular chemical forms cannot be any sort of proportional ratio of both. They are one or the other. The bias is absolute. A mechanical screw cannot rotate partially clock-wise and partially counter-clockwise at the same time. When a screw rotates it turns either one way or the other and that is the end of the matter. Being 'ambidextrous' does not suggest any sort of counter-example. It simply means that an individual has bodily control over both the left and the right sides... it does not mean that they can rotate something partially clockwise and partially anti-clockwise at the same time. That exercise is existentially impossible.

Other existential situations have sometimes been presented as biased, but have for the most part proved to be quite unhelpful to gardeners and garbage collectors. If there is only one possible situation, then it does not seem immediately sensible to call it 'biased'. One might suggest, for example, that the universe is 'biased' by exhibiting periodicities and chaos rather than static and unchanging uniformity. But such a suggestion is a contrived speculation, beyond verification and entirely impossible to experience. Similar speculations have been made about the present cosmos being 'biased' by the presence of 'mass', or by having a triplet of spacial dimensions. The distribution of some intrinsic aspects of the universe may exhibit some sort of 'bias'... 'mass' is present in clumps of gravitational bias for example... but the universe itself is not a biased version of some other different possible universe.

Whilst the bias of clockwise rotation could only be changed by total replacement of the 'clock-wise-ness' by 'counter-clock-wise-ness', never-the-less, some forms of bias might possibly be modified on a continuous basis. Like the amount of off-centre mass on a bowling ball, or the quantity of lead in the keel of a mono-hull sailing boat, for example. The preference of many individuals, to use one hand or eye or foot rather than the other... either by design or necessity... can usually be changed by perseverance and physical training. The bias of an exclusive religious nurturing might possibly be modified by extensive and liberal exposure to alternatives. A parochial upbringing would probably be relieved by the broadening experiences of education, access to information and travel. Whether an 'anti-social' bias towards criminal behaviour can be modified by a stint in prison seems to depend upon a wide range of factors. Many physical biases remain, however, that are difficult or impossible to counter or modify. The biases of genetic makeup, physical and medical handicaps, intellectual attributes and constraints, are very often beyond inclination, technology or financial capabilities to compensate for. Clearly, many biases can be changed... but not without difficulty... and many cannot.

What we call 'individuality' is the set of unique physical biases we have acquired at sex, height, genetic peculiarities, health disabilities, and so on... in addition to those distortions of accident and circumstance... like amputations, tattoos, and intensive training... coordinated with a network of unique memories and perceptions that have accumulated since our birth and thereby shaped and influenced the formation of our reactions to life circumstances. Many of these characteristics are often measured and conceptualized into statistical distributions with computed 'means' and 'deviations', so that any one individual value can be described in terms of its deviation from a hypothetical 'average', but the purpose here is to remind ourselves that they can also be viewed as 'biases' from some sort of 'norm', and hence any one individual can never ever be 'objective' in a general sense. We are all so uniquely biased by the times and places and preoccupations of our social circumstances, so that any suppositions of 'objectivity' or 'balanced perspective' would be impossible to substantiate. Making an 'unbiased decision' is an existential absurdity. Any individual who imagines that they are 'unbiased' have lost contact with reality. We are each and every one of us unique packages of idiosyncratic bias. Our memories and recollections define our bias. All our preferences of diet, sexual inclinations, dress codes, professional choices, political choices, religious indoctrination, and so on, describe an intricate web of biases that is unique to each and every individual.

Many circumstances frequently occur where 'fairness' and 'equitableness' and 'even-handedness' are assumed to be necessary or at least assumed to be present. The promotions and organization associated with sporting contests, political elections, legal judgments, educational opportunities and so on, are usually imbued with assumptions and public protestations of 'fairness' and lack of 'bias'. It would be difficult... if not impossible... to justify numerous human activities, if the processes involved were not at least seen to be 'unbiased'. Gambling on sporting events could not be successful if everyone knew what the biases were. Democracy starts to break down when the winners always seem to have some sort of advantage. Respect and tolerance for a ruling political organization vanishes when the treatments meted out to groups and individuals is starkly biased.

Although it is quite evident that there are certain individuals who are significantly less inclined to actively promote their own biases, nevertheless, individual 'objectivity' is probably an existentially absurd aspiration. Agreed-to 'rules' seem to be the only process whereby bias can be minimized in situations of social concern... even though the challenges of devising a satisfactory set of such statements can be overwhelming. Juries are selected by legalistic filters in an attempt to minimize supposed bias. Judges are controlled as far as possible by a documented structure of rules and regulations that is supposed to guide their individually biased circumstances. 'Scientific' objectivity is not governed by what selection of 'research' activities are deemed to be the most relevant, but what pragmatic realities eventually impose themselves upon the circumstances of concern. It is not any evaluation of 'objectivity' or 'credibility' attributed to studies or judgments that determines outcomes but reality itself. Whether smoking is lethal or global warming is occurring or human over-population has happened is determined ultimately by the actual deaths, temperature rises and environmental habitat loss... not any of the biased predictions promoted beforehand. Determining the credibility of the multitudes of 'scientific' studies about all the facets that nature and the universe presents to us is a major consideration. One certainly cannot credibly claim 'objectivity' just by citing a set of 'scientific' papers, or a group of 'legal' precedents or quotations from a religious text...etc... The dilemma posed by this phenomenon of 'bias' has the unfortunate consequence that when 'nature' or 'reality' unequivocally reveals its hand, it is too late to make any significant modifications to behaviour.

In a sense, the estimation of a bias can provide a measure of predictability. In the game of 'bowls' the bias that is deliberately engineered into each of the playing balls is part of the nature of the game. It is possible to predict how much the direction of the bowl will be biased off a straight line when it is rolled towards the target 'jack'. Living and remembering sentient entities... humans in particular... do not normally react in a random and unpredictable manner to the various life scenarios that they find themselves in, but behave in a way that is strongly influenced... biased... by their accumulated resource of life experiences.

The active promotion of a bias of self-interest is one of the single most intractable and intrinsic of human characteristics. Wars and violent aggression are conducted in circumstances as strongly biased as possible in favour of the perpetrators managing to achieve their goals. Superior weaponry, intelligence and numbers are most usually the biases favouring the victors. Similar comments would apply to international trade, sports teams and beauty contests.
Whilst many individuals understand and appreciate the influences of bias with respect to attitudes, beliefs , behaviours and motivations, never-the-less the enduring reality is that most do not. Most individuals have neither the will nor the inclination to imagine that any other set of values and experiences could have an equal or better claim to validity than their own.