Political Failure Modes

Political failure modes and the beige dictatorship

And resistance is futile, because if you succeed in overthrowing the beige dictatorship, you will become that which you opposed.

[comment 160]

The points you identify seem to me to be valid to a point Charlie, and there are many deeper issues at play also.

asuffield raised some interesting points.

napadvocacy comes very close to identifying a solution to the problem you posed, when he writes of real time networks.

rou.xenophobe raises some interesting points which have a degree of validity, but don’t reveal a full picture.

Colin Crouch’s post democratic analysis is interesting, and shallow. It does not explicitly delve into the deeper set of incentive structures that produce the outcomes described.
It seems to me that all such approaches are about to be overtaken by exponential trends. The thing about exponential trends in noisy environments is that they are invisible in the noise to most people right up to the point that they emerge as almost vertical walls.

neville.kyut’s idea that people need to work harder has no real basis in reality.
The reality is that machines are getting better and better and producing stuff with little (if any) human input. The fact that those products are not getting to the people who need them is a failure of the distribution system (markets and capitalism) not a function of productive capacity.

heteromeles gives a possible strategy, but it is still one firmly based in an economic paradigm, and as such, has no hope of ultimate success (as the deep incentive structure is against it).

First we need to look at the history of democracy.
It started in small city states – of just a few thousand people. Each person had direct contact with the people he represented. When human groups get much above 200, their stability breaks down. Around 200 seems to be a limit imposed by many different factors (mostly within the human brain) on the number of stable social relationships we can maintain in one context (it seems that we can maintain multiple contexts, and there does seem to be a working limit of around 200 within any one context).

Before exploring that theme any further, I need to introduce a few other themes, before bringing them together.

Evolution, cooperation and competition.
The traditional view of evolution is one of competition (nature red in tooth and claw) and that is certainly part of the picture, and it is only part. The full picture of evolution is seeing that all new levels of development in evolved systems come about when sets of strategies come together that allow for new levels of cooperation to stabilise. In the history of life this has happened many times, between RNA and amino acids to deliver proteins, then between RNA, proteins and lipids to deliver cells, then the jump to eukaryotic cells, then multicellular organisms, then to complex organs, then to brains and to the many levels of mimetic evolution we now observe.
It seems clear to me, that what is required to empower the next level of evolution, is a set of technologies and strategies that stabilise cooperation at the global (galactic) level between all self aware languaging entities.

Money, market valuation, and capitalism.
It is clear to me that most of the problems we observe today are the result of the systemic incentives within the market valuation paradigm. Markets are great tools for allocating scarce resources, and have served freedom and humanity well over the last few millennia, and there are serious limitations in the paradigm.
The paradigm is essentially the product of two sets of functions. One set of functions is how important something is to us, and that can have a potentially infinite set of components to it. The other set of functions is how scarce we perceive something to be. The more important it is, and the less common it is, the more money we are prepared to pay in the market. Conversely, the less important it is, or the more abundant it is, the less we are willing to pay.
The aspect of this that most miss, that is critical, is that markets cannot deal meaningfully with real abundance. Real abundance must always have zero market value, and there is thus a real set of meta incentives within monetary systems to destroy anything that threatens to deliver real abundance to all (of anything).

This aspect of market valuation systems (aka money) is in direct conflict with our exponential development of automated production systems, that are rapidly approaching the ability to deliver real abundance of all the necessities of life to every individual. There is simply no meaningful way to deal with such a thought from within an economic paradigm – it does not make any sense.

Concentration of power, protection of money and money production.
The incentive structure within monetary systems is to deliver free markets, and the free movement of capital, which logically tends to accumulate into ever greater clumps in corporations. One trap is that those involved start to treat fiat money as if it had any meaning in reality, rather than acknowledging the reality that it is simply a convenient myth that has had some historical utility, which is now coming to an end.

Evolution of understanding, intuition, and the role of what is common to individual minds.
As human beings, we did not come with a users manual. It seems that what happened was, that as language evolved, we came to consciousness as languaging entities, and became aware of ourselves in a world. We had little idea about anything; so we made up stories to try and make sense of what we were. These stories were a product of the contexts of the time.

Distinctions – binaries to infinities, and the infinity of possibility.
When one first encounters an infinity, one cannot distinguish it. The simplest act of distinction we can do is to choose some essentially arbitrary point (though it might have some relevance to us at the time) and make a binary distinction at that point. As children we each do this many times, with distinctions like hot/cold, dark/light, tall/short, right/wrong, good/evil, heavy/light, ….
None of those simple binary distinctions has any sort of absolute reality, they are first order approximations of understanding an infinity. As our experience sets grow, so do the depths of our distinctions, and no human mind (I suspect no mind) can actually comprehend any infinity. All infinities are beyond comprehension by definition, and we can make ever more useful approximations (as we gather more experience).

Epistemology, probability and error.
It seems that all of our experience, all of our perceptions, contain finite probabilities of error.
The more common our experience, the greater is our confidence around it.
Thus, for many of the ordinary every day experiences of being a human, we have such high confidence that we do not normally think of the probability of error, until we do something like meet a stage hypnotist, or a stage magician.

Habits, intuitions, and context.
It seems that the human brain is an exceptionally complex set of sets of collections of patterns, and it is capable of doing many things.
We are capable of learning habits. We do this automatically for the most part, and we can take some conscious control of the process.
We are capable of having intuitions. Actually we do this many times a second, but most of us are rarely conscious of that fact. It seems that our intuitive faculty (our ability to distinguish pattern that was not previously distinguished from a set of precepts or concepts) is the result of the way we store and retrieve information in a distributed fashion (much more analogous to how LASER holograms are made than how our current computers store and retrieve information). The really interesting thing about such “holographic” storage, is that the intuitions returned are completely dependent upon context. One does not need to maintain indexes, or indexing algorithms. Simply by changing the context of recall, all of the available data in memory is automatically aligned to the new context, and the intuitions returned (most of which are subconscious) realign accordingly). This can result is state changes of consciousness that are profound. The habitual aspect of brain requires a lot of retraining if one wishes to alter such a “state change” to a “stage change” of awareness.

Now, in order to allow your underlying “holographic” processors to freely associate, I ask you to consider the contexts of games theory, information theory, evolution, probability, systems theory (and a few years of programming at multiple levels is useful in the experience set) and all aspect of science and the history of humanity, our planet, and the cosmos within which we find ourselves.

Which brings me to my answer to the question Charlie posed:
A credible alternative to democratic governance seems to me to be to completely decentralise governance, and establish distributed trust networks.
It seems to me that real time communication of information between intersecting trust networks does provide an alternative. If we are each responsible for the integrity of our own datasets of such things as, when did you meet someone, how often do you meet them, how much do you trust them in different situations or contexts, etc. And we are open with that information to anyone we trust sufficiently within our networks, then we could create a system of cooperation that is universal and highly resistant to cheating at all levels.

If that system is further empowered by a set of machines that are capable of manufacturing and repairing themselves, and also providing a basic range of essential goods and services, then no one needs to “work” to survive. Our age of abundance has secured an abundance of the essentials of life for everyone.

There are constraints.
Reality to be commanded must be obeyed.
We are natural evolved entities.
We are part of natural ecosystems, and I strongly suspect that we depend upon them in far more ways than we are currently aware (and we are aware of many levels of dependence).
So this is no licence to act on a whim, and it is freedom for responsible action (though not freedom from the consequences of action – the distinction is extremely important).

My 2c worth for the evening.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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2 Responses to Political Failure Modes

  1. Mark says:

    I think that’s a bit unfair on Colin Crouch. Are you talking about the interview or the book? If the former then I’d definitely suggest reading the book. It’s inevitable that there will be simplification in a short e-mail interview.


    • Hi Mark
      I haven’t read the book, and I have dug a bit deeper following your comment, and my original remark stands, in the sense that I intended it – which is to say that he deals well with the surface level phenomena, without delving deep enough into the systemic incentives present to show the systemic incentive structure that necessarily (in a probabilistic sense, rather than a strict deterministic sense) produces the outcomes we observe.

      The next logical step from that being, that if we intend to change the system, the only effective way to do that is to alter the underlying systemic incentive structure.
      That seems entirely possible, and not from within an economic paradigm.
      It seems possible only when one can make the transition to a paradigm that sees markets and economics as one of an infinite possible set of paradigms available to use as interpretive schema.


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