Friday, May 18, 2012
Needed, investment in info-channels to tune return-on-coordination.
Sanjeev Kulkarni emailed some comments about viewing multiple nations as an organized eco-system. That, of course, weakly implies that each given nation is an organized eco-system. How organized is our nation? Are we being everything we could be? Or are we fat, sick, drunk & passed out on the curb? If we're somewhere in between those tolerance limits, which are we closer to? These questions open up a bigger can of worms, and unleash queries which span bacteria, amoeba, social insects, and humans. No worthwhile question is easily answered, so, I'm going to query multiple disciplines for some perspective.
Why fuse input from different disciplines? Because too much of academia has become academic, and the potential relevance of channel-specific insights is no longer propagating quickly enough to the cultural power zones where our moment-of-adaptation is actually held hostage. Those power zones include lobbies, industrial & business centers, and our Fed/state/local congresses. Outside those zones, we have backlogs of both data and knowledge building up, in info-channels choked by sclerosis. Luckily, we have other adaptive power zones, being held in reserve. Why are we waiting to access our adaptive reserves? And what, exactly, could we be doing to unleash them sooner rather than later?
The core task is to drive organization on a larger scale, and mobilization rates as well. Solving that task depends on key methods, not just desire. For us, most roads affecting this outcome quickly lead to the practice, training & education our electorate receives, so let's just jump to that part.
So far, efforts to improve modern education inevitably push too much, overly fragmented, information into increasingly uncoordinated info-channels.
We've known this for a long time. And that sentiment led us to define the "liberal arts" education. Unfortunately, our methodology hasn't scaled up very well, and is now a rather neglected topic. Our own educators school graduates are no longer palpably aware of the following insight.
"There are two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live." John Adams
Or, just fuse the diverse, education channels, sooner? That necessity of that fusion is implicit in all prior aggregates, from before bacteria evolved all the way up to human tribal cultures. In prior examples, info-channel fusion is mediated through direct, inter-component or inter-personal connectivity methods.
How do other, model systems, eventually coordinate the increasing scale of emerging behaviors spawned by their own adaptation rates? That process eventually creates new species, but since methods drive results, it's the adaptive methods we're interested in, so that we can use those examples to re-examine our own adaptive methods, or lack of.
To scale up larger populations, any aggregate has to constantly titrate how little key info must be distributed in interleaved channels, in order to reap return on coordination. The complexity of that map-reduce fusion task quickly scales up to, and beyond, the complexity of thermodynamic statistics within & between channels in an organized aggregate. It's awesome to imagine, yet we have to tune it even further.
Any ideas? :)
Adaptive tuning of complex systems obviously happens, yet mostly by distributed trial & error. We can't personally tune our national outcome in realtime, but we can tinker with all the channel processes, wait for the distributed feedback, and then parse it.
To analyze & use that trial & delayed error reporting, no matter how distributed, one suggestion is that we need a core matrix of aggregate "Welfare of the People" signals. A background hum, so to speak, that unsettles us when it dwindles. It equates to maintaining homeostasis. In your own body, for example, no part can survive without the others, and a spectrum of signals are used - in any combination - to trigger homeostasis-preserving behaviors. Yet in a scaling national culture, we're never completely free from the idea that some subgroup can strike out on their own as a colony somewhere else. That's fine, but we've let that dissociated thinking get out of hand, expressed as rampant social disparity. The outcome is a sum acting as less, rather than more than the sum of it's parts, and an astoundingly large Output Gap.
Is aggregate awareness of our Output Gap just another info-channel to manage? Is that awareness very different from whatever is internally perceived when a honeybee colony reaches a crescendo and decides to swarm? Point is that bee colonies do this in a reserved, organized way. If they all go their own way too soon, they all die.
In honeybee colonies, there are subtle sub-processes which drive worker-behavior to compete with queen-behavior. In good times, the workers induce & nurture new queen larvae & let 'em hatch. They may even let the old queen kill most of them (how selectively?) but not all. What subtle process titrates the workers to scale queen protection until the ONE colonist-queen (or a few competitors) is chosen & kept alive? They may also quit feeding the old queen, so she slims down enough to fly. (Is that the core reason the "ruler" leaves? Just to escape starvation?)
In what at first seems a surprise twist to us, it's the old queen & experienced workers that set out to form a colony somewhere else. That leaves an inheritance to the inexperienced young'uns, in a method that works well for bees. Back in the original hive, there may or may not be a succession-fight. How much input do the workers exert on who becomes the next queen? Do they have a strong union, called the Wobblies? :)
Researchers like Tom Seeley may be able to tell us something about the molecular or hormonal substrates that allow different bees species to manage the particular info-channels that sum to trigger swarm behavior. It would be particularly interesting to know the degrees of freedom governing interactions between info-channels. What varies across the bee species which can support markedly different maximum hive sizes yet still express colonizing swarm behavior? Much is context-specific, but there's also inter-species variance.
Meanwhile, the way Americans scale up exploration of our own, emerging options is largely based upon completely different methods, although the outcome is recognizably similar. Even the US Constitution does not deliver the tight organization of a bee colony, where there are few, if any, analogies to unemployment and/or economic disparity. As with honeybees, much of our organizational state is highly context-specific, but there are obviously extreme differences in the methods supporting organization in bees & humans. As far as I know, disparity in native bee populations is expressed largely between hives, not within. Also, I've never heard of immigration/emigration between hives, other than total war (are foreign drones allowed into other hives to feed?). Mammals generally allow more degrees of freedom in how Romeo & Juliet find one another.
Far as I know, there's no example of diverse bee colonies fusing to create empires. That level of organization is beyond them, so far. Humans are organizing on a greater scale, but we're still VERY inefficient at it, and obviously still working out the kinks.
The social amoeba Dichtyostelia provide a remarkably pertinent analogy for fusing & dissolving human lineages into and out of culture.
Nevertheless, we don't seem to have any human institutions capable of accelerating adequately distributed awareness of lessons from other model species as warning examples, or at least not fast enough.
The main point is that we don't need answers to these questions to ONLY be published for academic credit. We need emerging methodological options to be practiced & explored - at faster tempo - in our state & federal Congresses, or in indirect practices which bypass our existing Congresses.
We need academia to be more relevant, and less academic. That's obvious.
How? Why don't we have more academics studying how to be less academic? Or more entrepreneurs providing that service to academics, faster?
We may need to spawn more info-coordinating channels, ones that cross all existing channels, akin to agile standards groups. An interesting prototype was the German General Staff, which was remarkably effective - and an early prototype for Open Source as a cultural method, not an abstract philosophy. Ironically, the concept of a novel, "General Staff" parallel to existing info-channels, was first undermined by the 1919 Economic Consequences of the Peace, then later destroyed by the Nazis, and finally ostracized by the winning Allies, simply by association with the losing "Germans" triggered by the allies as an Economic Consequences of the Peace. Go figure. Why does it often seem that a highly adaptive emerging regulatory option is universally opposed - via a mal-adaptive selection process - by the very institutions which would thereby be saved from themselves? The Economic Consequences of the Peace occurred precisely because an aggregate was not listening to it's own, emerging info-channels!
It seems that every example of organizing on a larger scale requires an emerging information channel specifically for selecting from the emerging, indirect options being spawned. That task is palpable in, say, software programming. It's recognized that every insurmountable programming task has a solution, and that the solution always involves another level of indirection.
Yet individual or even team programming doesn't compare to the complexity of market or cultural adaptive rate. Our nation spawns indirect options at a rate at least exponential to our population growth. How do we create - quickly enough - specific info-coordinating channels allowing us to select net-adaptation from all the emerging options being explored? That sounds like a tongue twister, and it is. We've been solving this problem for 3.5 billion years, at least. How do we accelerate that process, from our current context?
Anything less is pathetically boring in comparison.
We can obviously do this. First step is to describe the spectrum of emerging tasks in existing hieroglyphics. Next step is to crowd-source efficient expression of the leanest, adaptive re-statement of that task, by a process of distributed trial & error.
To love your kids, you have to first love the future. If you love the future, you have to let it go be distributed, by indirect paths. Then you have to accelerate it's distribution, with a nudge out the door.
To paraphrase Darwin and Boltzmann, as well as the USMC:
Adaptive survival follows the quality and pace of distributed decision-making.
"We generate pace by decentralizing decision-making."
To which I'll add:
To prepare for the future, openly accelerate our distribution of adaptive preparations.
To have co-citizens, you have to be one. To help tune, you have to be tuned.
To help tune an aggregate, faster/cheaper/better, you have to invest in tuning instrumentation. Right now, the moment of aggregate tuning in our nation appears to be hovering over Open Source methods. We need to extend those methods faster/cheaper/better, to more info-channels. To reap the insanely large margins from return on coordination, we have to write off the relatively negligible cost of coordination.