FORWARD BASE B

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Tag Archives: change

Social Engineering Should Be Tested First

The best intentioned reformers often make things even worse.  But so would anyone trying to solve massive, complicated problems on the first try. It’s actually more surprising anything ever goes right.
It amazes me looking back over history to see how reformers and revolutionaries try to apply their ideologies without ever having tested them. Imagine a tech company releasing a new device without extensively testing it first or a computer programmer writing code for an entire program without ever trying to compile it. Ridiculous, yet that’s what people try to do all the time. Too often the result is disaster.
The higher castes have greater agency through which they deal with greater responsibilities. They can’t just say “oops” when there’s a big logistical screwup and a couple million people starve to death.
Any responsible sentient being in power naturally has a system to test new ways of organization before implementing them on a large scale.
Observing differences between local governments and the study of history provides lots of fertile material for hypotheses, but the devil is in the details.

There would have to be some sort of R and D department for trying out new social technologies. Perhaps there could even be reality shows of a sort where in the first round groups of maybe 150 or so live under a hypothetical social model then those groups that make it past the elimination get expanded up to 1000 and so on. There would be rules to keep it ethical. People who “die” in the experiment would just be “voted off the island” and sent home. Not being “real” would of course distort the data, but perhaps money or other incentives could make the results worthwhile. Someone who “dies” might lose all their prize money, representing a total loss.

Or to make this simpler maybe a reform simply gets tried first in a small town or a single city first and upvoted or nexted based on results. Perhaps there might be an actual experimental province set aside with discrete zones. Those who chose to live there would simply vote with their feet. In the absence of any Berlin walls, it would quickly become evident which zones people like and which they avoid and what type of people or demographics prefer different systems. Of course, the experimental province might give unrepresentative data if they attracted outliers of the population, but it could be a start. Not to mention, there would probably have to be incentives to get people to choose to live in experimental land.  Perhaps they’d sign contracts to stick around in experimentland for a year or two or else they lose all their bonuses.
As enough information was amassed from real life experiments maybe computer simulations would become more effective at projecting results and maybe programs could be written to project hypotheses for ideal social organizations taking every aspect of human nature into account that maximize both raw competitiveness and creativity/adaptability to new stressors.

Throughout history, groups have settled on something that works for the time period and then try to perpetuate it ad nauseum across milennia.  Talmudic Judaism was a brilliant way to coordinate a particular Semite tribe over 2000 years ago.  Islam turned out to be the right solution for quarreling Arab city states about 1300 years ago.  But one of the things we immediately notice is that all these systems buy a professional suite of anti-virus software to prevent change to that successful formula, even if it’s a thousand years later.
Sadly, social technologies tend to stagnate because they only ascend to apotheosis in the first place because they have serious protection against change.
The challenge before us then is how to design a society to be both resilient and highly adaptable to new stressors, so that when the next big asteroid hits, we aren’t among the dinosaurs.

Politics is Changing Because of Internet and Social Media

It has been a delicious spectacle to watch new competitors not only messily shit all over business as usual in politics, but actually take over the existing party machinery for themselves.  There’s something poetic about that since the established parties protected their mediocrity by rigging the system against competitors.  It ends with their own weaponry turned against them.
I have been typically apathetic towards politics, but it has been a particular fixation of mine to watch the consensus that has existed all my life begin to finally burn down.

There’s a lot of talk as to why this movement is finally happening now even though people have complained about “choosing the lesser evil” for decades.
It’s simple.
a) enough people are getting desperate enough.
b) more importantly, the internet is maturing as a technology and we are beginning to feel its true impact.

The internet is the new printing press. It changes society by dramatically increasing people’s access to information. The original printing press set up the right circumstances for the emergence of mass literacy. The trouble with mass literacy was that traditional monarchy, religion, and social mores were predicated on most people having very little access to information.
The change was slow but steady and sure. Over a few centuries, more abundant information made kingdoms and empires non-viable. In the age of the railroad and telegraph, nation-states began to replace the old kingdoms in earnest and WW1 settled the matter.
The emergence of radio and television provided more access to information but ended up bolstering the power of nation-state because both mediums were very easily controlled from tiny centralized sources.
The internet as a decentralized medium was always going to be a challenge to the order of nations.
It was already beginning to destabilize things as a minority of curious people browsed nerdy websites on their PCs. This was the printing press. Then “mass literacy” began to take hold with the advent of social media that involved ordinary people in online discourse. In 2008, Barack Obama soared to victory as the candidate of the internet. Around 2011-2012 we saw twitter riots in Tunisia and Egypt spread to the Western World as Occupy Wall Street. This spate of activity was startling but not enough to upend business as usual. One more development was needed. The spread of smartphones has finally sealed the deal. No longer can “soundbites” on TV and radio, or “experts” in the newspapers decisively control public opinion.
It took over 300 years for the implications of the printing press to be felt in full. The internet in 30 years is making an impact much faster since it is
a) orders of magnitude beyond previous breakthroughs—even the printing press at first just gave people access to the bible, a few classics, and public posters and pamphlets.
b) starting off with a society that already has orders of magnitude more information and wealth than was available in 15th century Europe.

Even so, we are just beginning to understand how big the implications are. I’ve already guessed that nation-states and their political systems will be replaced altogether by more cohesive “tribe-states” steadily over time just as a literate public inevitably led to empires being replaced by nation-states. Each increase in access to information has made possible finer gradations of mass political organization:
Empires – Political associations decided by force of arms.
Kingdoms – Association often decided by some precedent of cultural cohesion at least in a core region, with subjugated peoples surrounding.
Nation-states – Association decided by common language, culture, and in varying degrees, ethnicity.
Tribe-states – Affiliation by one’s natural proclivities and values within a larger population. Ordinary people with incredible logistical capabilities and access to information allows cohesive bands to avoid being subjugated by massive bureaucracy-bound states. The development of politics goes full circle from small tribes that were subjugated by empires based in the first cities.

Politics has always been about “choosing the lesser evil.”
Empires/Kingdoms – The ruler taxes people to bare subsistence, but if you don’t back him, his competitors’ armies will destroy what little you have.
Nation States – Any sort of republic leaves most people mostly unsatisfied but properly implemented can maintain a tepid status-quo.
Tribe States – Most people get the society they want; that’s what defines this type of association.

Each upgrade in access to information enables people to pursue their interests more effectively. This is why the ruling classes have always wanted the masses to remain hobbled by ignorance but once a major new advance spreads, they can only struggle to contain it until they finally cease to be relevant.

There has been a growing inability of US political factions to reach compromises as each insists on fully realizing its agenda. When representatives have tried to behave more moderately, their constituents have denounced and abandoned them.
Not only is a shrinking pie making people more urgent, fewer are satisfied with getting only a part of their demands met. The masses begin to intuitively sense that it is now viable to associate more finely to more effectively get what they want. There’s no more Soviet Union, nukes make conventional wars unlikely, and internet allows people to associate with those most like them and pursue their shared objectives.
From now on, the alignment of tribes, not of entrenched parties will be the shaping force in the politics of nations.

An Aesthetic Declaration of Independence?

Rebel against an established order all you like, but it’s all for naught if you have wallpaper, music, and food characteristic of your people.
Archaeologists characterize ancient peoples by their dwellings, pottery, decorations, and trash piles.  Why doesn’t anyone think to analyze modern peoples in a similar way?  Perhaps the absence of contemperologists is just another blind spot in our established world view.
If we were to make stone spearheads in a particular way, we would be Clovis people, regardless of what we thought about the local chief.
If you like the same top 25 songs everyone else likes, you declare allegiance to your people, no matter if you dislike some politicians.
We’ve established that governments are just outgrowths of the people, therefore it is futile to change a government unless the people change first.  Or rather, if we changed the people, government changes naturally.

There never was a very rebellious soul who had Jif or Skippy peanut butter and Campbell’s soup in their pantry. Brand-name comfort foods connect people to childhood memories of nurture and care, allowing people to feel like warm fuzzy parts of a meaningful tribe even as mass society parasitizes them.
By the same token it is extremely powerful to dismantle these visceral attachments and replace them. To do this is to truly rebel and turn one’s back on a corrupt culture that feeds on its own.
To follow a culture’s aesthetic is an act of powerful ritual significance that ties one to it on a subconscious level. No matter how people might hate their lives within a society, they are trapped so long as peform the rituals of obeisance.
Confucius got it right. He understood the importance of ritual in everything we do—its connection to the movement of societies as gravity shapes the course of celestial bodies.
So by deliberately engineering the rituals on which we base our lives, we shape ourselves.
From the carpets in your dwelling, the architecture of all the buildings around you, the flavorings in your food, the most frequently occurring colors, the shows on tv, the advertisements, the holidays. All these together create an attitude and way of perceiving the world. It’s all around us and influences every thought we think. For example, how does the architecture of a big box strip mall identical to dozens of others make us feel? What more powerful ritual could there be to bolster a philosophy of every place being identical with people plugged into one mass culture and people themselves interchangeable economic units?

So when someone begins to change the cultural environment and how it influences them, they move towards an aesthetic declaration of independence, a sort of hellish, Luciferian defiance magnitudes greater than defying mere governments.

Career Bureaucrats Have More Power Than Political Appointees

Link

There is the assumption that it’s the political appointees who run things or change things or are the real power players in DC. My experience has always been that the real power in DC is the persistent class of senior bureaucrats just below the political level. The appointees typically last about 12-to-18 months, getting up to speed for most of that period and–maybe–having some actual impact if they’re quite focused in their goals. Otherwise they come and go, leaving nary a trace. They may think they run things and we may hold them ultimately responsible, but the truth is they’re more powerless than powerful.

The reality is not the change factor associated with new appointees in an active sense but more in a passive sense: it’s not what leadership they bring but what leadership-from-below that they allow.

This article cites two schools of thought on appointees:

One . . . argues that lots of political appointees can sweep away bureaucratic cobwebs. The other suggests that appointees mostly get in the way of the career professionals who really know how to make government work.

My experience definitely tends to the latter view. I mean, there’s just no comparing the knowledge base and wisdom.

Has the Way Humans Experience Consciousness Changed Over Time?

Jaynes’s theory can be broken down into four independent hypotheses:

1. Consciousness — as he carefully defines it — is a learned process based on metaphorical language.

2. That preceding the development of consciousness there was a different mentality based on verbal hallucinations called the bicameral (‘two-chambered’) mind.

3. Dating the development of consciousness to around the end of the second millennium B.C. in Greece and Mesopotamia. The transition occurred at different times in other parts of the world.

4. The neurological model for the bicameral mind.

LINK

How The Potato Changed European History

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