Were it possible to reliably predict the response of other people to our chosen words and acts, the potential benefit in person-to-person interaction would be inestimable, especially as to the needed minimization of misunderstanding and preventable discord. Unhappily, there would seem to be no discipline or formulation capable of such a salutary capability, and it would appear that this useful aspiration is destined to remain utopian.

Whatever potential benefits may accrue in the future from the promised  “artificial intelligence,” in the spectrum of computational or analytical facility, it cannot reasonably be expected to furnish any assistance in our quandary, which is intrinsically dependent upon individual nuance and perception.

Even with reference to the ratio-driven discipline of probability mathematics, we come up far short. This area of mathematical application deals only with the “likelihood” of an occurrence, as compared with all other calculated possible occurrences, and affords us no assistance for the above stated reasons. It has utility in such areas as weather forecasting, gambling and to some degree in finance; none of which are affected by the vagaries of human perception or subjective behavioral phenomena.

The same may be applicably said for those who would prefer to apply the theory of cause and effect to this behavioral area. With the rare exception of the most exceptional traumatic events, such as the decease of a loved one, or the receipt of an unexpected fatal diagnosis (or the most fortuitous and unexpected good luck) a specific cause’s effect on another is unpredictable for such subjective reasons.

We have written extensively on our recommended concept of proportionality as between a stimulus and its response; emphasizing the proper reservation of one’s profound responses for matters of appropriately extreme circumstances (stimuli) and lesser reactions to matters of relatively minor significance, as is appropriate to a rational life and a normal balance of priorities.

For purposes of this writing we expressly exclude the subject of the neurotic or otherwise unhealthy personality; in such cases the problem is pathological (regarding which we are not qualified) and not ascribable to social or perceptional failings.

We would accordingly conclude that predictive selection, from the unlimited array of possible responses (except in extreme cases, as noted) is not feasible, since they are universally motivated by subjective considerations; the latter, by their nature vary with individual perception and personal nuance. As a very simple, but common example, critical comments may be defensively perceived and asserted where none were in reality intended. Borrowing two words from the area of probability mathematics, one can reasonably assume that the “likelihood” of unintended offense may be “lessened” somewhat by knowledge of the previous history and known inclination of the other person. Otherwise, we are prudent only when we speak or act with an awareness of the possibilities of misinterpretation.  On the receiving end, we are obliged to accept the natural meaning of the words used, and not exercise our considerable talent for creativity. –p.

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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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