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Monday, 13 August 2018

Why technocracy?

copyright: New Yorker

We define “technocracy” as “rule of the skilled”, that is as a system of government composed of knowledgeable experts. The exact implementation of technocracy can have many forms. There have, for example, been a number of technocratic governments in Europe since the end of the Second World War. These government tend to be caretaker governments composed of civil servants who run the country till a democratic form of government takes over. EOS propose another form of technocracy base on teams of experts in a holarchy. Either way, all forms have the central idea of experts making the decisions.

Experts are knowledgeable in their domain of expertise. They often have studied and worked in the area for many years. We would argue that such a system can form a better way to govern the current systems we use today. I will point out two main reasons as to why; the first has to do with the complexity of society and the other with human cognitive abilities.


We can define complexity as “composed of many parts”, where “many” makes it difficult for us to understand the full workings of a complex system.

Society forms an example of a complex system. It has many parts and we find it difficult to understand society fully. The “many parts” include the individual human beings that make up society but also groups of people that make other organisational parts to society such as families, clubs, societies, institutions, communities, sports teams, and work colleges. All these parts interact with each other following sets of rules that define or govern the behavior of the parts. Some rules have a formal nature such as laws and club rules but others have a less formal nature such as individual likes and preferences. In the end with have systems within systems in a complex, dynamic, network.

Out of the interactions of the parts comes the society we live in. It can take many years of study to understand just part of how these societies work. For example, most universities offer three to five year degree and master cources in subjects suchs a sociology, psychology, computer science, and electrical engineering. But even outside a formal academic environment we only learn part of how a society functions. We learn about our local communities, clubs, and societies through living within those groups. Yes, even for people who have many degrees, we never gain a full and complete understanding of every aspects of society. We become specialists or experts within certain domains but not others.

Many issues that face us today have a complex nature such as global warming / climate change. He we have technological aspects where we have, for example, systems of systems of energy production and use. But we also have other aspects such as social and psychological to do with how we live as well as political dimensions. This make solutions that involve one aspect such as politics or economics unlikely to succeed.

Human nature

We have evolved as social animals. As such we have many built in mechanism to enable us to quickly think and make decisions in a social context. We haven’t evolved to understand the physics of the world. Thus, we tend to have a poor understanding of how the real world works and we make the same cognitive errors over and over again.

Buster Benson did an excellent summary of our cognitive problems:

  • Too much information
  • Not enough meaning
  • Not enough time nor resources
  • Not enough memory

This results in our minds taking shortcuts in thinking, using heuristics and past events to make quick decisions that often serve us well in a social context but are often wrong when we deal with the complex real world problems that surround us.

Our problems with thinking lead to other cognitive difficulties such as the Dunning–Kruger effect, where those who know the least tend to overestimate their cognitive abilities such that people with little knowledge of a subject tend to have higher confidence in their decisions. Thus, the majority are often wrong on many technical problems that we face in society; yet many are confident in their solutions!

When it comes to making decision we tend to get it wrong more than we get it write. This has to do with the fact that there are more ways to get something wrong than right and our cognitive biases means that we tend not to know if something is right or not.

Rule of Experts

Experts are human too. That means they suffer from the same cognitive biases that we all do. That means they can get it wrong, like the rest of us. Or even disagree among themselves. They have the same problem know if something is right or not. However, experts don’t need to get it right. They only need to get something that is workable. “Workable” and “being right” are not the same thing. Many technically wrong decisions can be workable if they are close enough. For example, Newtonian physics is wrong but workable in most situations.

Experts have studied, and even have worked in, their area of expertise for many years. This increases the probability that experts will make workable decisions that non-experts. But following on from the complexity of society, no expert will know all that is needed to make set of decisions necessary to run a society. Thus a technocracy would need teams of expert at various levels of society to make a workable form of governance.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

The Technocracy Party

The geodesic dome at CAT, Wales, UK.

Should we set up a political party? This is a question that has come up a number of times within EOS and the answer has been “no”. EOS hasn’t been set up as a political organisation but one that aims to research a possible alternative, sustainable, moneyless, socio-economic system. I personally have never liked the idea of setting up a political party till we have something we can demonstrate works. The way to do that is build something and test it out.

Over the years we have had many discussions and ideas. We have held lectures at Universities, had many on-line meetings, and written many articles and other publications. We have had quite a bit of interest on Facebook, with our main group page having 4 157 members as I write.  Most of our ideas are now written up in the Design. We have had some cooperation with other groups and individuals. Frustratingly, however, we haven’t got much to show for our work on the ground. We have had many real life meetings and started with building a bio-dome. However, we are still far from building a community. In addition, the world seems to be doing nothing but paying lip service to the idea of sustainability. Despite international agreements here and there we are still not tacking the main cause of the problem; our current socio-economic system with its inbuilt need to maintain exponential growth with finite resources and resulting environmental damage.  

So, I’ve been thinking about “force multipliers”; the idea of trying to maximise return on the effort we put in, which brings me back to the idea of a political party. I’m now thinking that perhaps my original objection was wrong, or at least, partly wrong. EOS should not, itself, get involved in politics but should remain focused on research. So, I’m thinking of a political party separate from EOS but one that aims to support the same goals. The idea being that through politics we can get a leverage to start getting an alternative to our current system tested and implemented. Start building a sustainable socio-economic system.

Here are my initial thoughts:
The Technocracy Party

1. Foundation ideas

1.1 Pragmatism

1.2 Skill and expertise; those who know what they are doing make the decisions.

1.3 Reality based

2. Goal:

2.1 (a) Highest standard of living (b) for the longest time possible

3. Sub goals

3.1 The appliance of science to society. Follows from 1.1, 1.3, and 2.1 (a) as science is our best way to understand the world and the likely consequences of our actions.

3.2 A sustainable society. Follows form 2.1 (b) as to achieve the longest time possible a society must be sustainable and live within the bounds of nature.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Building Rationalia?

Neil deGrasse Tyson
Prof. Neil deGrasse Tyson

Over the summer, Neil deGrasse Tyson proposed a virtual country called Rationalia. In Rationalia government policies would need a body of evidence before they could lead to laws. The people in Rationalia would conduct observations and experiments instead of basing decisions on unsubstantiated beliefs or opinions. This would lead to a civilisation very different form the one we have today.

The original proposal created a lot of posts that disagreed with the Prof. Tyson, arguing that it would not work. Generally, I would go along with Prof Tyson’s Rationalia but there are potential problems that would need to be addressed. For example, in Prof. Tyson’s facebook post he mentioned: 

That could involve experimentation where we implement capital punishment and see what effect it has on crime. Data gathered would then form the bases of policy. The obvious problem with the experimentation has to do with the fact we would have to implement it to see if we should implement it. Perhaps we could get around this in some fashion or other, we have, for example, implemented capital punishment in the past and perhaps that would supply sufficient data to form a rational policy. However, if not capital punishment then sooner or later something else would come up where to collect data we would have to implement the policy; governing becomes the experimentation. 

I assume that the idea of making Rationalia a virtual nation would form part of ironing out potential problems and a way of implementing something to gain date for policy making. Thus, overcoming the problem above. Way back in the 1990s when I first looked at Technocracy I looked at the idea of creating a “virtual nation”. Virtual nations were popular at the time and people created their own Kingdoms and Empires with themselves as head of state. But it occurred to me that such a platform could be used to experiment with a new way of governing. We could play that we lived in such a nation as Rationalia and see what would happen given certain scenarios. Playing “Rationalia” could become a way of training people to live in such a nation.

But should Rationalia remain a virtual nation? There are many groups who would like something similar to Rationalia. From “Star Trek” inspired groups to transhumanists to our own ideas of a skilled based moneyless society that we proposed in the Design; a society based on the application of science and engineering. 

If we could gather together enough people should we not aim to build such a future society?

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Chimps don’t throw stones

Well, actually they do. It is just that they are not very good at it. Humans, on the other hand do display a high degree of skill when it comes to throwing stones. This skill, argues, Perter Turin forms part of why we developed a reverse hierarchy when compared to other apes. Chimps, like gorillas, have a dominate alpha male; the silver back. But humans don’t have such a beast. It is true that some people do get to such a position in our modern societies but the evidence suggest that for much of our existence as a species on this planet, humans formed egalitarian societies. If an upstart occurred within a community, the ability to effect at a distance was able to put down (i.e. kill) the upstart through cooperation with minimal risk of harm to participants. Spears, bows and arrows, and eventually fire arms just added to our power to effect at a distance. Perter Turin argues that this violence encourages cooperation within groups. Competition between groups forms the main driving force for cooperation within groups. Cooperation is destroyed with competition within groups. Warfare is the ultimate competition between groups. The loser has much to lose! Victory goes to those who cooperate the best.

Perter Turin takes us on a tour of human cultural evolution to make his point.

Over the millennia our culture has evolved from egalitarian societies to god-kings to empires to mega-empires and on to today. Not smoothly. Not perfectly. But over time we have become more and more cooperative and more and more peaceful (with the exception of a rise in violence during the stone age). We lost egalitarianism along the way but not for good. Equality and trust strengthens cooperation so we have tended to return towards more egalitarian societies again. 

Christopher X Jon Jensen & Greg Riestenberg
Stag Hunt Game By cooperating the players get the maximum reward.

The benefits of cooperation are self-evident. We can obtain an exponential increase in our ability to do things if we work together towards a common goal.  Over many millennia we have changed as a species to become the most cooperative animal on the plant. Our ability to cooperate overtook that of ants 2000 years ago.  Today we build complex projects that take hundreds of millions or more people working together, such as the complex distributed network of international air travel. 

But cooperation is not easy.

The benefits of cooperation are self-evident. So why, then, do we have defaulters? The benefits to society as a whole might be exponential but for the individual it can be costly. If it takes 1000 warriors to defend a village and you are one of them then the best action for you would be to default. 999 warriors could do just as well without you and you will not run the risk of injury or death. You get all the benefits but none of the costs. But if everyone reasoned like that then no one would defend the village and you, as well as everyone else, would run the risk of a nasty death or enslavement. So, societies developed ways to punish defaulters. Yet, in cooperative systems we still can find defaulters.

So, how do we build cooperation? Well, it appears there are a number of important ingredients. Although Perter Turin does point out that the science of cultural evolution is still young and we have much more to learn.  However, we can say the following for now:

·         Enhance cooperation within the group
o   Increase openness
o   Increase equality
o   Increase trust
·         Avoid things that destroy cooperation within a group
o   Internal competition
o   Fear of group reprisal
o   Corruption
·         Increase competition between groups
o   War is the best for this. Nothing like life threatening danger to get you to work with others but I hope with the application of intelligence we can come up with a more socially acceptable alternative.

Thoughts on how this would work with EOS? Cooperation between like minded groups seems very difficult within the alternative or RBE community. Perhaps we don’t feel threatened yet?