Corruption

5 Jan ’14 :Todays Q: CORRUPTION

“Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
We’ve all witnessed the insidiousness of this to varying degrees at work, school, in committees and especially in politics.
What causes corruption and is there any way to avoid it?

This is a very complex question.

At one level, there seem to be at least three major systemic causes of corruption:

1/ Taking too short a term view of self interest. If we take a long term view of self interest, then cooperation and integrity are in the best interests of all of us.

2/ The discount rate (or uncertainty factor) we apply to future events. If the uncertainty of future outcomes is too high, then that forces a short term outlook, which tends to work against cooperative ways of being that produce long term benefits.

3/ A lack of sufficient attendant strategies to prevent cheating from destroying cooperative activity (at all levels). This is particularly the case in respect of our monetary and financial systems, which seem to be dominated by cheating strategies and to have taken over the political systems to a substantial degree.

Thus, in one sense, the only way to prevent corruption is to have sufficient attendant strategies to detect and remove any benefit from cheating that cheating is not worth the risk. At one level, the only way to achieve that is “eternal vigilance” by everyone.

At another level, fostering awareness that it is in the self interest of everyone to cooperate at all levels is the most powerful first step to eliminating corruption.

Once that awareness is in place, a thorough grounding in the sorts of strategies that can be used to remove any benefit from cheating needs to be part of the education of all individuals.

At present, the fundamental problems we have is that we live in a society that is essentially (to a first order approximation) defined by market values (money). Markets are now such a fundamental part of our cultural heritage that most people don’t even distinguish the value set as a possibility, it is just a given. The idea that there are other value sets is rarely taught or practised.

And it is possible, to distribute power widely.

The communication levels available through the internet, and the possibilities of automated production, make it possible to give everyone near equal power, which is one powerful way to prevent corruption. Once some new source of power is found, it can be rapidly distributed through the internet.

So we have the potential to remove corruption, and there are a few embedded power structures that are yet to be convinced that it is actually in their long term self interest, and I have no reasonable doubt remaining that it is in fact the case.

[followed by]

Hi Judi

Well said – exploring a different layer of the degree to which we have freedom is the degree to which we are aware of the thing.

Becoming aware that the conscious awareness us is but a small part of the vast processing network that is our brains, which is in our bodies, which is in our universe, is part of the process. Becoming increasingly aware of the many layers and classes of processing that make us who we are gives us greater ability to choose context and override the default modes of behaviour that we all subconsciously contain.

So certainly there is a sense that we are the totality, and there is also a sense that we can localise out the various levels within that – the singular genetic body with a brain, the cultural entity, the many instances of declaratively instantiated software within our brain.

The depth of our individual subconscious minds is so much greater than our individual conscious awareness, that becoming aware of our individual subconscious can feel like becoming aware of the infinite. The primary modes of computation between conscious and subconscious are very different – the subconscious mode feels like instantaneous knowing.

So yes – a very complex set of relationships, often with many levels, and many competing systems of control.

[followed by]

Hi Mendy, Judi, Jen, FOS, Andrew & OM

Some great thoughts expressed here, some great questions asked.

For me, it seems clear that all modes of understanding have strong cultural contexts. For me, the culture has been one of questioning, that has had me question the very ideas of knowledge and truth (both of which now seem to me to very likely be illusions). It seems to me, having examined the historical stories and interpretations, and having looked at the assumption sets, that we are each something very different from any explanatory frame that is more than a few decades old.

And it seems to me that there are clear trends in the sorts of conclusions people came to, and the sorts of questions that people asked over time.

Plato asked questions about the nature of knowledge, but made assumptions about knowledge without any idea of the nature of computation, or the nature of strategy space, or the nature of theorem space, or how evolution works to produce bodies and brains and cultures. So philosophy from Plato to Kant is interesting from the perspective of the the sorts of errors that were made, and given the extremely restricted information and logic sets they were working with what they achieved was amazing in a sense, yet just not at all accurate from a modern set of datasets (including datasets about the nature of possible and probable forms of logic and computation).

The tradition of observation and questioning which can be reasonably said to have started with Bacon (at least at the higher levels, and certainly there were many who preceded him) led to the collection of datasets that allowed ever more refinement of our understanding of the processes at work in our universe, and in the sorts of processes that are possible and are stable or unstable.

When it comes to the nature of knowledge, the work of people like Heisenberg, Goedel, and Wolfram have exposed different levels of the fundamental uncertainty present in both reality and logic, exposing the classical concept of knowledge for the illusion that it is.

So it seems that we have no certainty in the classical sense that we all find so attractive as children, or when under stress.

It seems that all we have available is context specific confidence, where even the identification of context involves fundamental uncertainties 😉

It seems that very few people are yet aware of those levels of uncertainty.

It seems clear that most people are still operating from paradigms where truth and absolute certainty exist – which tend to lead to judgements of right and wrong (where any schema that is not their true one must be wrong at some level), which when used in the declarative sense tends to lead toward conflict rather than cooperation.

So, it seems clear to me, that part of establishing stable cooperative behaviours is removing the illusions of “truth” (which is, of fundamental logical necessity, intolerant), and replacing it with levels of confidence and uncertainty (which are logically tolerant of other approximations based on different paradigms).

Part of that process is understanding the mechanics of brain to the point that it is clear that what we experience as reality is not in fact reality, but is rather a predictive model of reality created by our brains, and it is all that the software (spiritual in this sense) entity that is our experiential awareness gets to experience.

Once one is clear that what we think of as reality isn’t, but is rather a software construct that is influenced in part by inputs from reality via our senses, in part from our memories (short, medium and long term), in part by the distinctions we have made in our life to date, in part by the abstractions we have made, in part by the paradigms available to us (both cultural {in the widest sense, where the bodies of scientific “knowledge” can be thought of as a form of culture much like any other form}), in part by the genetic configuration of our neural networks, and in part by the reconfiguration of those networks by our experience to this point in our lives).

Once one starts exploring from that paradigm, it very quickly becomes both logically and practically apparent that we will always have profound uncertainty, should we live for the rest of eternity – our consciousness is so small and infinities are so big – that even should our consciousness expand to incorporate galaxies, it would still be minuscule in respect to any infinity.

So I have a certain confidence that all cultural paradigms are deficient in ways I have some awareness of, and at the same time I have a similar confidence that the paradigm I am using now will be found to be equally deficient at higher levels of abstraction that I currently have no awareness of – which acts as something of a brake on runaway hubris.

And I acknowledge that for most day to day purposes, most cultural paradigms give useful first order approximations to optimal solutions to practical problems common in most cultural contexts.

And at the same time, I am clear that transcendence of “Truth” is a prerequisite for the sort of pan-sapience cooperative society that is logically required to deliver liberty and security to all over the long term.

[followed by]

At the purely systemic level – corruption comes from allowing systems with inadequate strategies to remove the benefit of cheating.

In so far as each of us choose to participate in such systems, we are implicitly condoning them.

Ultimately, the only real counter to cheating is individual awareness. Ultimately, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

And awareness of the need to consciously incorporate anti-cheating strategies into any cooperative system is a great first step.

There are many levels at which such strategies can work, physical goods, access, social status, trust values, ….. A potentially infinite set.

There is no simple way to judge which strategy is most appropriate to any given situation – making such calls is a matter of judgement at many levels, because often there is multi-level strategic overlap. So no hard and fast rules, and there is a need for awareness at the highest levels one can generate.

And the existing economic and political systems are so heavily biased towards protecting and enhancing the interests of the rich and powerful that real change is not a trivial exercise.

The only stable way I can see of doing so is to convince those currently in power that they will be better off in both material and security terms from the transition.

I believe such can indeed be the case, and it involves increasing the material and security and freedom options for everyone (no exceptions).

Exponential technologies can deliver on such promises, and we do need to get away from using markets, and actually start designing our systems to actively work with the biological ecosystems of the the planet. So plenty to do to keep interested people usefully occupied.

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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