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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! 



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