My Political History

[ 10/May/23 ]

I grew up in a household that discussed politics, and had a family history of rebeling against orthodoxy.

At university I got involved in the Values Party movement, and supported Virginia Horrocks in contesting the 1975 election.

By 1982 I was involved in the Labour Party, as secretary for the Hauraki Electorate committee, and as a member of the Waikato Regional council of Labour, and as a member of the Primary Producers Council of the Labour Party.

I stood as a candidate for the 1984 election. I first contested the Hauraki nomination, but lost to Gary Taylor (who came 3rd in the election). I then tried for the nomination for the Birkenhead (John Course got the nomination on the night, and came second to Jim McLay in that electorate). After that meeting Jim Anderton spoke to me, and said that if I was serious about getting into Parliament, then I needed to show a good effort in an electorate that I couldn’t win, and asked if I would consider trying for the Tauranga Electorate. He provided an introduction to the committee, and I duly went through their selection process. Then Muldoon called the snap election. So it was 6 weeks of full time campaigning, daylight until well after dark. Winston Peters was the new candidate for National, David Parlour for the NZ Party. I got 3rd, 4,667 to David’s 4,804 and Winston’s 9,716.
I did not find the process enjoyable. I learned a lot, particularly about myself, about crowd dynamics and their impact on me.

Following that I spread my attention, between electorate level, regional level, national level. Much of my focus was on the Primary Producers Council, and the Quota Management System.

I did not contest the 1987 Election.

I had gotten to know Roger Douglas quite well, and Richard Prebble – neither of whom were anything like their public media profiles. I had always had a strong leaning to classical liberalism, to the power and dignity of the individual, mixed with the need for social responsibility. In 1990 I stood for Act Party in the Hauraki electorate, and got 833 votes (5th of the 10 candidates standing).

In 1998 I moved to Kaikoura.

In 2002 I was the Act candidate for the Kaikoura Electorate (6th with 458 votes), but strong factions within Act were going in directions I could not support. My support for individual liberty and individual responsibility remain strong, and that has to be in a fundamentally cooperative context if we are to survive long term. The overly simplistic focus on the power of competition is not survivable long term. A deep understanding of evolution clearly shows that all new levels of complexity are the result of new levels of cooperation, and to survive long term, all level of cooperation require evolving ecosystems of cheat detection and mitigation systems. At their best, that is what our legal and ethical systems are, but they can also be captured by levels of cheating strategy and agency (and that seems to have been done to a significant degree).

2005 I stood as an independent. Mostly to be a voice in the process warning of the need for fundamental change to our political and economic systems, and the approaching impact of artificial intelligence, and the absolute need for fundamental cooperation (underlying any and all levels of competition).

2008 I did not stand, but supported Steffan Browning, as the need for ecological reform was dominant at that time.

2014 I tried to work with the Money Free Party, but that turned out badly. Trust was broken, I was set up by media, and the complexity that I was trying to make public got over simplified to an extreme degree.

2020 I again stood as an independent, again speaking to need for cooperation, the rapidly approaching dangers from AI, and the need to fundamentally rethink how we approach strategy and politics. (93 votes)

Now it is 2023.
Chat GPT is with us. It is an extremely simplistic model for AI, yet is exceptionally powerful at some classes of problems.
We are in the most complex time in the history of humanity.
We are all, necessarily, strongly biased to simplify where-ever possible, but we do seem to actually live in a reality that is deeply complex, and contains multiple levels of fundamental uncertainty, and is highly likely to produce eternal novelty.
Our tendency to over simplify is our greatest danger. Over confidence in overly simplistic models produces several forms of blindness and confirmation bias.

I think that we actually have a better than even chance of having a great future, but that requires that we are able to see and mitigate the many levels of very real dangers present.

Ignoring the dangers, pretending they do not exist, is not a survivable option.

Going backwards to any sort of mythical simplicity of the past is not a viable option (of that I am confident beyond any shadow of remaining reasonable doubt).

The existing economic system cannot possibly work long term, yet it is too complex and too tightly bound to our productive systems to simply break. We must evolve it in ways that are survivable; quickly.

To have a future, we must be able to see that competition is only survivable if it is built upon a cooperative base that accepts and respects diversity at all levels that are not an actual unreasonable threat to existence.

Part of that is being able to appreciate that every human being is more complex than any human being can appreciate in detail; and any AGI is going to be even more so. That is a deeply complex space.

Existing AI systems in social media, with their simple target of keeping attention on a site, tend to feed us information that reinforces our biases, rather than providing balance. These systems promote division and conflict, and are one of the great dangers of our age.

Every person needs to be able to appreciate that all of our understandings are necessarily simplistic approximations to whatever reality actually is, however complex and nuanced those approximations are.

So we are in a very complex and dangerous time, and I have no clear view on this day as to what is the best course of political action for me to take. If anyone has any good ideas, given the context of all of the ideas expressed on this site, then I would appreciate you contacting me.

I am confident that we all have both conservative and liberal aspects, and that both are needed. Putting them as an either/or dichotomy is not survivable.

Similarly, I am confident that individual freedom is essential, and it has to be in a context of social and ecological responsibility. Freedom without responsibility is necessarily self destructive.

We need to empower distributed agency at all levels, and we also need cooperation, respect and diversity; and that is often hard.