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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?


Saturday, 5 March 2016

Pain, suffering and Ultrasociety

I find it quite fascinating watching the current migrant crisis in Europe and Sweden's response to it. Combine that with the actions of the previous Alliance government in Sweden and it appears to me that both the left and right in Swedish politics suffer from a collective form of “insanity”. Although I don't think this “insanity” has its limits within Sweden. On the right we have neo-liberalism; a “fnck your buddy” ideology that has demonstrate an ability to create short term economical miracles and long term nightmares. Not surprising as it has its foundations in a distorted view and erroneous application of science, especially Game Theory and Chaos Theory. The left, however, has its own kind of collective insanity; often referred to a the “regressive left”; the “I hate myself” ideology. With its political correctness, cultural relativism, identity politics, and socially acceptable anti-Semitism, it has a very detached view of reality "where facts are just so untrue" and feelings rule.

Modern Educayshun (the regressive left )

The Information Flood

We live in a sea of information. Our five sensors constantly feed data to our brains giving us not just information about the physical world but also about social interactions and, as a result of modern technology, events the other side of the planet, on other planets, other star systems and even other parts of the Universe far back in time. We don't need all this information and our brain acts as if it employs a filter that filters out anything that we find not relevant. And how do we determine if the information has any relevance to us? Well, the filter acts like it models aspects of the world around us. If the information agrees with that world view it passes through. This allows us to concentrate on what we need and prevents us from drowning in the tsunami of information that greets us. 

I have seen people suggesting that society has become more “dumbed down” and point to the decline of education and the rise of certain politicians. But on the other side, we also see a rise in IQ suggesting we have become more intelligent. Perhaps, we haven’t become “dumbed down” but we have less and less of an idea of what happens in the World because we have so much information that we can only utilise an ever decreasing percentage of that information? This filtering helps us to protect ourselves from information overload.

However, it does have a disadvantage; what happens when our world model deviates from reality too far? Well, our world model no longer agrees with reality therefore, it will filter out any information that will show us that we have deviated from reality. We become more and more deluded. As we deviate further from reality we can become stupid. Stupid in the technical sense of an adaptive/maladaptive behavioural pattern that can results in harm to ourselves or others. Pain becomes the method that gives us a way to get out of this. In the past nature had a way to correct this. If you believed a saber tooth tiger was a cute cuddly and misunderstood animal you probably didn't get to breed. But today, especially in Sweden, life is too easy. 

As reality breaks through it become distressing to us. A situation referred to as cognitive dissonance. Although it can sometimes work the other way. People who have suffered mental torment dive deeper into the delusions to escape pain.

The Reality of Reality

We live in a real physical, complex, multi-agent, dynamic and chaotic society. The neo-liberals partly understand that but the regressive left appears to have absolutely no idea of it. However, the neo-liberals rely on models that scientist have demonstrated false, in some cases as far back as the 1950s. Neo-liberals understand the multi-agent aspect of society but only model such agents as selfish agents who seek to maximise their own utility. A behavioural pattern that only economists and psychopaths utilise. Real people display far more complex behaviour that doesn't fit the model. Neo-liberals correctly assume that an economic system exhibit the characteristics of a self-organising system but make an error in assuming that, left without government interference, the system will self-organise to an optimal state. However, the phase space of a socio-economic system has many optimal stable states, not all of which benefit people. When it all goes wrong, like in the 2008 financial crisis, the "do more of what caused the problem" solution becomes the standard neo-liberal solution to the crisis.

The neo-liberals fail to understand other aspects of reality such as the physical nature of resources. We cannot sustain infinite exponential growth with finite resources.

The government forms part of the system and can act to limit the stable states of the system and the paths through phase space that the system can take such as with functional socialism once employed in Sweden. For example, left to its own the system will result in a state where a small number of agents in the system starts to horde and ever increasing amount of resources; the rich get richer. This produces a state not beneficial to the majority and can cause the system to collapse. Governments can act, through taxes, to limit this aspect of the system making it more equal and more beneficial to all, keeping it stable.

We can see the real physical, complex, multi-agent, dynamic and chaotic nature of our socio-economic system if we look at the migrant crisis in Sweden. Sweden once formed an example of a relatively cultural homogeneous society. Apart from the Lapps (who don't differ too significantly from Swedes regarding values), the Swedes acted as agents that basically followed the same rule set with only minor variations. The agents reached an evolutionary stable state which contributed to the rise of Sweden from a third world like nation to a modern wealthy post-industrial nation. The generous Swedish immigration policy has, however, brought in new agents into the system using a different rule set. What we should see should exemplify a change in the dynamics of the system depending on the flow of immigrants coming into Sweden, like looking at a Lorenz Water wheel. A Lorenz Water wheel has a set of buckets attached to a wheel. The buckets have holes in them. As the water flows in it also flows out, though the holes. If the flow in is too slow the water will flow out too fast for the wheel to turn. However, if the flow becomes just right and balances with the flow out then the wheel turns and behaves as a normal water wheel. However, the really interesting behaviour occurs when the flow in becomes greater than the flow out. The wheel behaves chaotically; first spinning one direction then the other in an unpredictable pattern.

A Lorenz Water Wheel also forms an example of a real physical, complex, multi-agent, dynamic and chaotic society. Much simpler than our socio-economic system but our socio-economic can display the same sort of chaotic behaviour to inputs that flow too fast. A flow of people from one group to another has its advantages; new ideas and new blood. But if it becomes too excessive it can destabilise the society. A society, however, has many more complexities than a water wheel and it is not just the amount of immigration but also the type of immigration. Not all cultures follow the same rule set but we can often find overlaps or similarities. The greater the difference in rule sets the lower the threshold before chaotic behaviour could emerge. When you get Swedish politicians say they want 30 million immigrates (when we have 7.5 million ethnic Swedes as it is) and they think people in Sweden will still speak Swedish as the main language. Or when you get politicians saying Sweden has no limits to the amount of immigrates it can take. Or saying Sweden doesn't belong to the Swedes. Or saying they will make a temporary adjustment to reality and the majority of Swedes go along with this, you get an indication of how detached from reality Swedish politicians and people have become. 

 A Lorenz Water Wheel

Now enters Ultrasociety. Ultrasociety, a book by Peter Turchin, looks at the rise in cooperation between humans. It takes an approach called cliodynamics which aims to present the evolutionary logic behind the development of our species through history; why do we cooperate? Basically, we evolved as we did to form such complex, cooperative, peaceful societies through war; as if to become fully human we need struggle, pain, and suffering. As if we need to be purified through fire. Pain and suffering have a role to play; they can help bring us back to reality. I have a friend who describes Sweden as damaged by 200 years of peace and the evidence would suggest he got it right. Perhaps that accounts for what has gone wrong in Sweden? Why we see the decline in education and in social systems? Why the state became so strained last year to the point that people were talking about a collapse (although I think we were far from a collapse)?

On to the Future

But what is the relevance of all this to a future, moneyless, sustainable society? I often see a tendency within the futurist community to dream of societies without pain, suffering or war; beyond politics, poverty and war as Jacque Fresco puts it. Some transhumanists go so far as to want to re-engineer nature so that animals won't cause suffering to other animals; the lion will lay down with the sheep. Human behaviour emerges from both genetics and environment, each feeding back on the other. We evolved in a world of violence and suffering. But if we do that, if we create a society that has no war, no suffering of any kind, if we take away the pain, could we create for ourselves an insane nightmare? 
Insanity reigns supreme!