Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Key Topic - If We Care About "Our People" - Any Comments?

Anthropology and evolution studies the historical process of "making hunters & gatherers, into thinkers and builders." That has obvious implications for the challenges currently facing our Middle Class.

That's been happening since the dawn of time, in pauses & spurts. From hunter-gatherer humans to tribal/cultural humans was only the latest step.

Our biggest, perennial question is, how to keep growing the spurt/digest cycle across bigger aggregates?

We ALWAYS face demand for more thinking, and bigger cultural building ... on a greater scale?

So how we do that? Where do we go from here?

That's a huge topic, yet it just occurred to me that the physiology of sleep is a useful lesson. The physiology of sleep involves multi-tasking, but one function seems to be the review of reality-navigation options.

Basically, an analog network of cells takes in a LOT of information everyday. To navigate unpredictably changing contexts, it has to take time out to re-iterate, digest, review, recognize and SELECT replicable, ADAPTIVE, useful patterns from that data.

Our bodies & brains simply can't keep up with adaptation in real time. Adaptation requires analysis, testing & SELECTION.
[Mathematically, that implies that we're only chasing context, at maybe 1/3 it's rate of change. We can chase by plodding, but never keep up, let alone catch up? There may be some exceptions and advancements, via delegation of interleaved tasks, but that's a topic for subsequent discussion.]
Most histories of humans suggest that we've achieved ~the following in the physiology of humans and the culture of human-aggregates.

1) 5-8 hours/day of USEFUL data gathering (maybe only 2-5, really);

2) 5-8 hours/day of USEFUL inter/intra-person waking review (discourse & thinking);

3) 5-8 hours/day of neural cycling/reviewing/distilling (sleep).

Anything less than that, and individuals & groups stray too far behind the data onslaught, & are labeled as "insane," or aristocrats, Control Frauds, politicians, rogue states, or ... "empires." :)

What's that imply about nations & cultures?
We're just a larger ensemble. Trying to stay sane, on a national, not just a small-group level.

Our net numbers take in full bandwidth data.
Our own actions & interactions throw off all the additional data we need.

So the data regarding adaptive policy-options is always there. Sensing it, and reporting/analyzing/testing/assessing enough of it, fast enough, among one another? That's what is rate limiting for the adaptive agility of any and all groups.

What about our nation as an adaptive group?

All indications suggest that we're spending far too much time haphazardly doing, and not enough time reviewing? At least as a functioning nation-group.

Reviewing comes in - at least - two forms (and likely in a near-infinite, tailing curve of interaction "levels," going all the way back down to molecular & even quantum statistical evolution).

1) reviewing local data in local ensembles (personal thinking, small group discussion)

2) reviewing subsets of national data, in national ensembles (national thinking, national group discussion; of necessarily limited topics)

Multiple questions immediately arise.

For 320 million people, how many levels of review is required, to distill topics and data down to agile segments? (e.g. tactics, strategy, policy, milestone goals, Desired National Outcome)

Perhaps we need to delegate far more decision-making to county and town levels, not just state legislatures, let alone agency bureaucracies?

How do we achieve - and maintain - enough crosstalk between all processes at all levels, to achieve national agility?

I could go on and on, but it's already clear that our whole nation is missing what's perhaps the most pressing question of all. How to train students in K-12 education to even be aware of the most pressing question of all? We need to change K-12 education as fast as economic challenges change. We are obviously NOT doing that right now.

"How to achieve - and maintain, and GROW - net Agility of a growing aggregate?"

If we don't teach context awareness, or Situational Awareness, to a large enough proportion of our students - before they reach voting age - then we obviously can't maintain an informed electorate capable of navigating through unpredictable obstacle courses with adequate group agility.

Suggestion to citizens. Start volunteering at your local elementary schools. NOT, I repeat NOT to do mundane busywork, but to tell students real life stories, and update their situational awareness of where their country is, and where it is going. If upcoming citizens are not far better prepared to be far more involved in updating context awareness, at far higher rates than at present ... then we cannot attain and maintain a functioning democracy. It's that simple.

There is no alternative?

"We know not of the future and cannot plan for it much. But we can ... determine .. what [group, adaptive rate we can express], whenever .. the hour strikes ... ."
Paraphrasing Joshua Chamberlain

Friday, December 13, 2013

Has It Happened? Is This A Call For A Dictator? "Temporary" Of Course!

Two recent articles seem to have passed under the radar screen of most mass media in the USA. Yet they're the kind of "calls to action" that Wall St. financiers can get behind. Like the early support from foreign investors for, say, Mao, Tojo, Hitler, Stalin and Lenin, just to name a few. We could add a long list of smaller actors too, from Pinochet to Quisling, all supported by "business interests" interested more in business than in the general welfare of the people of their respective countries.

Should we worry about the following calls for action? Should we at least discuss them widely, and ensure that more than just the input from "investors" is represented? What is - for us - different this time is that it is the USA itself that is the target of the latest call to action and "intervention."

You can read these articles for yourself.

David Brooks and FRANCIS FUKUYAMA seem to be in agreement that we have a problem.
“So we have a problem.”
Do we, though? Or are we the problem?

If it's us, then making one of us a temporary dictator seems to be grasping at straws.

James Madison and the other Framers of the US Constitution thought long and hard about what had been written about the fall of all prior republics and democracies. They foresaw what we're now facing, called it "factionalism" and said that the best way to forestall it's development was to form a more unique form of government than had come before, one with MORE, not fewer, checks and balances.

Fukuyama calls that a "vetocracy." Greater minds, 200 years ago, called it what it was precisely intended to be, institutional checks and balances.

In addition, the framers of the Constitution also explicitly cautioned us that it will always be the character of our people, not the peculiar form of our government institutions that get us through national challenges.

So my suggestion would be to revise the character of our people first, and be more selective about whom we send as representatives to our national Congress ... before we consider weakening the checks and balances that got us this far.

If Ben Franklin were here today, he might scoff at calls for more power, and repeat his famous "table talk" about shaving something from all planks in order to join the parts together into a enduring piece of furniture. He might then go on to ridicule calls for a sledgehammer to smash the furniture, if one faction felt it was taking too long to produce something in their narrow interest.

It'll take a bigger intellect with a more reasoned argument than calls for unlimited emergency powers to make me acquiesce to temporary dictatorships, one faction at a time. That sounds more like a return to the old thinking that held sway before the US Constitution was written, when government of the people, by the people and for the people hadn't yet taken hold, and the ancient device of despots calling for more power was recognized as leading to national insanity.

Fukuyama argues that "We need stronger mechanisms to force collective decisions." Surely he jests? By definition, a collective decision is not one that is forced. As Walter Shewhart and W.E. Deming lamented for decades, an ounce of prevention and preparation speed the quality, not just the tempo, of distributed decision-making - far more than any attempt to repair the process after the development of the actors.

If dictatorships were so valuable, surely the USMC would also be calling for them on the battlefield, rather than going the opposite direction, and also acknowledging the enduring superiority of improving the quality (including tempo) of distributed decision-making. That kind of quality comes only from preparing and developing the character of the people involved, not in trying to force unqualified people through chattle-chutes of imaginary quality. The path that Brooks and Fukuyama dream of has led only to collective disaster, albeit temporary gain for individual looters.

Fukuyama goes on to mention multiple points of personal frustration, in a manner reminiscent of all people who have yearned for simple dictatorships. He wraps it all up with what is itself a peculiar claim.
"Whatever the reasons, the American state has always been weaker and less capable than its European or Asian counterparts."
Personally, I predict that that particular statement will produce more surprise, laughter and outright indignation than agreement from Americans. If not, then I truly don't know my country.

Predictably, Fukuyama then trots out the bogeyman of regulation, both it's absolute magnitude, various distributions, and methods of development. Having built several premises, i.e., that there IS a problem, that said problem is embedded in our very institutions, he now asks credible readers to wrap those presumptions around what "everybody knows," i.e., that there's too much regulation. Of Wall St, presumably?

At this point, I sincerely do hope that most credible readers are, indeed, laughing. Yet what Fukuyama is toying with is not a laughing matter. Tojo would have approved of his underlying message, even if he chafed at the slow, political correctness of it's delivery. If nothing else, you have to credit Brooks and Fukuyama for working so hard at what is, at heart, an incredibly simple and ancient message. "Give us the Goddamn Power! NOW!"

Finally, Fukuyama unravels his own case by making the mistake of exposing a simpler solution to his entire thesis.
"Thus, conflicts that in Sweden or Japan would be solved through quiet consultations between interested parties through the bureaucracy, are fought out through formal litigation in the American court system."
Fine. Delegate more of the tactics and strategies that now masquerade in Congress as National Policy, and get Congress, SCOTUS and the POTUS the heck out of tactics, and back in matters of true policy, national goals and Desired Outcomes for the nation ... where they belong.

For that, you don't need a dictator. Shoot. You don't even have to strengthen the Presidency. Just improve the quality of distributed decision-making, by investing more in the character development of all citizens? What a concept! Again, Fukuyama shoots his own argument in the foot, by overdeveloping it's lopsided armaments.

[PS: Note that Fukayama conveniently does NOT review all the failures of every other form of government worldwide, during the time course of the events he laments in the USA. Japan? Right. Nothing has happened in the last 70 years of THEIR government's history. His oratorical arguments lack the barest of required statistical controls. His arguments wouldn't receive any attention at all in any scientific debate. Indeed, they receive attention only for the dangers they present to an electorate challenged with responsibility for reasoned and logical discourse.]

Nevertheless, Fukuyama drones on and on about various cases, each time imaging tactical issues that he's presumably conditioned readers to see a Strengthened POTUS as the solution to. He even mentions the current mess of financial regulation, but not how elegantly the same issue - and effective responses - were developed back in the 1930s. We didn't bother strengthening the Presidency back then. Why now?

While it's unstated, the underlying, fantastical premise is that the ONLY rational solution for a Congress filled with micro-managers is to have a POTUS free to veto each and every inappropriately micro-managed Congressional gambit?

That's not the way the Framers of the Constitution saw it. Even though Fukuyama's essay mentions and discards James Madison's comments, there is nothing of substance in Fukuyama's essay that wasn't more fully developed by James Madison et al, first in the Virginia Plan, then in the Congressional Convention leading to the actual signing of the Constitution, and on to it's initial amendments. [Madison's actual notes on this process are fascinating, and little read by our 320 million citizens of today.]

The solution that the Framers saw as a better way, was to maintain the quality of the American electorate, and charge THEM with preventing the development of an incompetent class of politicians in all three branches of the newly designed government.

I see no further use in belaboring all the remaining points Fukuyama or Brooks trot out in their call to action. Rather, I'll close with a simple point.

The easiest way to form a vetocracy of the type they fear, is to populate ANY form of government with irresponsible people unfit for the task at hand.

Rather than trying to create a fool-proof formula for protecting ourselves from the Idiocracy they fear, isn't the simpler, and more scalable solution to instead invest in the quality of people we send as representatives to any form of government? And to do that by developing an electorate capable of selecting better quality representatives for themselves.

No Child Left Behind? How about no Democracy left behind, by leaving no citizens behind?

Personally, I don't see any other way. If Fukayama and Brooks are right, then we could engineer institutions so idiot proof that we could populate them with the proverbial 500 monkeys with typewriters, and then just sit back to wait for the guaranteed results.

There is a better way.

"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."
James Madison to W. T. Barry, 1822

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Statistically Significant Practice Of Democracy: The Adaptive Culture Cup Challenge For Context Nomads, and Teaching Citizens To Think.

This essay was prompted by yet another advertisement that both cracked me up, and also unleashed the stream of reform. Here's raising a cup to those who pave the way.

Consider the following ad.

"Live well, Live Green [buy a printed book]"
For 200K years, the answer has been "talk to people," right?

For 3.5 Billion years, the answer has been "interact," right?

So what is this ad really referring to, in what context? For what reason?

Living? That's a life-process, for individuals and groups.

Green? That's a sustainability-through-extended-maintenance efficiency concept - about extended life.

Printed book? That's a static repository of fixed observations, usually raw data plus notes about a few data-interdependencies.

Yet what are the real boundaries and substance of the data "store & hold" matrix that these concepts reveal? When presented with such ads, all kids face the same dilemma, and eventually ask the same questions, in fumbling ways, depending on age and background.

Basically, as soon as all concepts being discussed are wrapped in a single matrix - i.e., a recognized situation or context, then kids can't help sensing - and maybe voicing - questions about the matrix itself.

Where did we come from, and why?

Where ARE we, anyway?

And where are we going next?

And why. Why? Why? Why? Why? [SETA: search for extraterrestrial answers to kids questions. The genesis of all religions?]

Even some adults retain this natural inclination, if it hasn't been "successfully" trained out of them, in their typical dinosaur race to become uselessly over-adapted to one, transient context.

When considering the questions that kids ask (when protected and left to their own, imagination, especially if it's actually nurtured, and not beaten, "educated" or otherwise "trained" into arbitrary prejudices and biases) - several answer patterns frequently appear.

A large % of the stuff implicitly described/learned/used ... is never explicitly written down! (usually more than 70%?)

Another large % of the stuff written down ... is written down by people who never use it anyway. [Go figure!]

Most of the stuff that actually, unpredictably gets done ... is done by people who do a little of everything, while "everything" keeps changing?

But where does that leave us? In a system that no member can fully understand?

There obviously is a "way," since we're here, after 3.5 Billion years ... but it can NOT be written down as a static message that most people can use, regardless of how many rules-based systems we cycle through when trying to describe change.

Sisyphus pushing Budda up a Tao finally learned that no static rules are Sufi_cient? :)

How do we finally discern the "sufi" in what's "transiently necessary" as opposed to what's "enduringly sufficient?" By neural tuning of repeated, sensory-triggered patterns? Upon reflection, every reactive or agile system ideally requires every supposedly static component to in actuality be an agile, reactive unit displaying degeneracy.

Like system components, system interdependencies (aka, "rules") in an agile system must also display degeneracy if that system is to "stay in the race" for very long. In short, the necessarily tuned rule is not an absolute rule, only a dependent probability function. Again, go figure!

Systems, pre-human and human, have obviously evolved, and aren't stopping yet. So we ALWAYS have a challenge: to quickly & simple describe the source, the current state and the next-steps of our developing population.

Selecting which of many aggregate, composite steps is THE next systemically adaptive aggregate step, from any given state, is the fun part of existing.

How do we prepare and encourage kids to solve that challenge, and enjoy every part of it?

There are no easy answers, but here are a few observations and thoughts.

Observation. A growing system's net operation can only be described in terms of past/present/emerging dimensions that 99.9% of people never get anywhere near enough practice describing, thinking about or manipulating - in every day activities. Unless, that is, they stay proportionally involved in personal, regional and national policy - and thereby maintain statistically significant practice of democracy.

Observation. A growing human system can only evolve through maintenance of full-group practice/observation/discourse as a navigation process?

Yet what moving target are we chasing, and what changing obstacle course dimensions are we navigating through?

If target-location and obstacle-course-dimensions are both constantly changing ... then there's nothing we can write down fast enough to solve everything.

Therefore our navigation process has to be constantly weighted towards discovery of emerging dimensions of obstacles to navigate or steer past.

Individual organisms initially evolve through natural selection from prior, diverse sets of individuals. Social species also evolve, through natural selection from diverse models, known as cultures, presently organized into nation states.

Ongoing development of each human cultural evolution model is aided by constantly referring to and updating an evolving navigation guide, i.e., from a given culture's net body of cultural knowledge, practices and discourse. To remain relevant, that navigation guide requires continuously interleaved stages of discovery/editing/re-writing - reinitiated in roughly that order. Obviously, the proportion of net group and individual time applied to each interleaved stage must float, as fleeting situations dictate?

Surely that reference model can be absorbed by all ten year old humans. In fact, we can do even better, and it's long past time to do so.

Walter Shewhart famously said (80 years ago!) that "Data is meaningless without context."

Really, Walt didn't go far enough! Our conceptual hole is actually deeper than that.

"Data - and paradigms too - have no enduring relevance, without context path!"

In the end, even redneck stock car racers realize that no one gets brownie points for being #1 in every process that may or may not even be needed in each pit stop. There's a bigger goal - one that requires staging, linking and sequencing of multiple contexts for some longer term purpose.
Our cultural race never ends, and every context is simply a pit stop.
So why do so many preening capitalists strut around bragging about their quarterly results? They're stupid for taking their eyes off our moving, cultural prize. And we're just as stupid, for pausing to watch current capitalists in their mindless action.

Their entire paradigm is only randomly connected to our long term requirements! That's an inescapable corollary to the observation of evolution itself. The unassailable reality is that we are charged with navigating through a "context path" where the details of each and every successive context, as well as their rate of arrival, are entirely unpredictable. We want dynamic cultural options, not just instantaneous, static results! The two vary independently, but one always serves the other.

Results are simply the dimensionless "currency" which we denominate our increasing options with. Today's results are yesterdays loose change, most are soon discarded, and all are soon just incidental to new options.

Results are meaningless without option paths. 

Where can we go from these results?

For every year and every generation of humans, data, paradigms and results will always be meaningless without not only context awareness - or Situational Awareness, if you prefer - but context path.

In short, we remain Context Nomads, migrating between transient contexts. All that's changed is that context change is - for now - no longer dominated by geography, at least not here on planet Earth. Yet the progressions of unpredictable contexts certainly didn't stop. Rather, our awareness of the dimensions of the personal and aggregate context changes we're experiencing have simply lagged.

So what is actually relevant and enduring about all this? Is there anything here that we can use to update and refine our Cultural Navigation Manuals for all 10 year olds?

How about this notion. There is a 3-step challenge that every ten-year old can easily grasp, with only minimal practice, without even bother to call it Set Theory.
Kids in ancient nomad cultures absorbed this lesson effortlessly, before learning to walk. 
You can still quickly demonstrate this to kids in a wide variety of past/present/future, simple card games, to drive the point home.

Challenge Level 1: Gather data and recognize patterns of data that reveal interdependencies in a given context (end of your nose, here & now). Local Survival Navigation in Dimension Level N.

Challenge Level 2: Gather data-pattern harmonics and recognize patterns that reveal process interdependencies (end of your nose, over extended context). Local Survival Navigation In Families of Dimensions.

Challenge Level 3: Gather data-sub-pattern harmonics and recognize sub-patterns that reveal multi-process interdependencies beyond end of your nose, over multiple, successive contexts). Agile, Navigation-Upon-Demand, Through a multi-Context Obstacle Course.

How does complexity of that obstacle course vary? It gets more complex, simply as an exponential function of our own numbers and characteristics AND our own rate of change! Not to mention any outside sources of change. We have to constantly practice, just to stay in the Cultural Game. That's why play behavior is literally EVERYTHING!!! That discussion, however, is for another time.

In the meantime, if those simple challenges can be consolidated into a Culture Cup Challenge that student's can aspire to continuously vie for, surely it would provide a better outlet for growing individual and group intellects than does our present spectrum of competitions for static assets, sex, drugs and rock&roll?

Screw the Sprint Cup, Davis Cup and even the America's Cup! We have bigger cups for our group intellects to pursue! The Adaptive Culture Cup.

Friday, December 6, 2013

What is Homo Sapiens going to DO with itself? Rates of Exploring Local-vs-Aggregate Options ... and the Fate of Nations.

To answer that, let's first look at a seemingly unlikely context.

Amsterdam Gives Alcoholics Beer to Clean City Streets

And then range up to analogies, such as "USA gives sociopaths power ... to "clean up" social interdependencies."

Before delving too deep, too quickly into taboo subjects, lets practice on the one with less implications. Beer.

I don't know how widely this particular issue was discussed in Holland, but it opens a small, useful window exposing a view of group policy-development methods. Isn't that a window all citizens should look through more often?

It's a bubbling, boiling topic. In the particular case of beer, we've come full circle in the past 100 years, first to Prohibition, then to the opposite extreme. We bounced all the way from tolerance limit to the other. Is there a way to spend more time near whatever intermediate zone is safer?

You have to immediately wonder just how many times throughout history this - and similar - social experiments have been conducted, the results noted - or not - and eventually completely forgotten all over again!

Does that sound familiar, or what? 

It's largely a number problem. Lets say that ~24 grandparents had to learn some lessons the hard way, and that to many of the ~48 or more parents either forget, or never learned those lessons. Can we minimize how many of the ~100 or more grandchildren have to relearn too many of those painful lessons - starting from scratch? With growing numbers of grandchildren involved, maintaining adequate affinity, motivation, interactions, coordination and Group Intelligence becomes a increasingly distributed task, with no simple policy fix possible. It can get ugly ever 3 generations or less, if there's no brewmaster tending the fermenting brew. If we are both brew and brewmaster, how do we tend ourselves to get a better brew, and not keep losing whole batches?

At heart, the sweeping Amsterdam beer policy, is an extension of what EVERY merchant lobby drifts into working towards. That is: merchants lobby to get policy tilted toward favoring THEIR product. And electorates look for ways to accommodate the endless sea of wheels squeaking to different extents.

Why do merchant sectors lobby? Why do electorates accommodate given patterns of merchants, to given extents, at different times?

Merchants lobby because bureaucratizing access to their product, as a policy ... inevitably opens options for shifting (& stabilizing) the spectrum of it's REAL price point (i.e., relative to other current & emerging static/dynamic assets).
Thereby, anyone in that and dependent industry sectors tend to ASSESS that policy development as "improvement" (for them).

That is the temptation that creates the phenomenon of Control Frauds, as the culmination of unchecked, Innocent Fraud.

Yet what does it mean for net Adaptive Rate of the "more perfect union" all citizens are supposedly pursuing? Electorates end up accommodating troublesome Control Frauds too long, precisely because of confusion. Re-tuning a complex system is far more difficult than the simple, local acts that can screw them up!

Is a group's NET development rate decreased, stalled, or increased by enshrining certain decisions in bureaucracy policy? By simple statistics, degradation is dramatically the norm, and required investment in CAREFUL regulation is always increasing, never stabilizing or decreasing. 

National self -regulation is rarely, if ever, a significant problem. Lack of self-regulation is the perennial, #1 problem keeping us from reaping the insane return-on-coordination.

How can we re-tune our changing system? Well, that always depends entirely upon context first of all, ultimately including how well the NET impact of the chosen context-response is ASSESSED by that electorate. Hoard, horde, lord knows we've all seen disastrous policies maintained for decades ... by squeaky wheel "elites," or even because of our own ignorance, in the person or the aggregate. Often we can't generate successful responses, or can't do so soon enough even once we realize what the solution is. There are many processes which sometimes seem at odds, not just the heart and the mind.

If you sample feedback from additional sectors, and plot them into a response spectrum ... how many lobbyist sectors or individuals approve or disapprove of a given policy change, how vehemently, and for what reasons?

Hmm, this example looms as one reflection of a bigger, more systemic need. How DO we the people actually assess where our policies are leading us?

Our reality is that we have to find solutions to that complex question.

There is no point of seeming stability that is not a dynamic equilibrium between conflicting forces. Get over it.

Further, there are no adaptive paths in the natural world that are not maintained as dynamic equilibria between an endless history of opposing factions! Get over that too!

There's always at least two, even bigger questions. Where are WE going from here? And HOW are we gonna get enough of us there, soon enough to matter?

The second question we've already answered. Rather haphazardly, obviously!

The answer to the first question is a neverending, and unpredictable. Simply put, there is always an even better way. If we don't find it. Some other nation will.

Meanwhile, we are ALWAYS putting far too much policy power in far too few hands.

Then we haphazardly select "leaders" to wield that delegated power.

Then we haphazardly select methods for developing, training and assessing criteria that define leaders. Any sociopath in a nice suit, with an expensive hairdoo?

They may be sociopaths, but they're OUR sociopaths?

All of them? When do their very numbers get in the way of OUR net progress?

Is zero tolerance for ALL frictions a viable option? No. We adequately documented, millennia ago, that recombination outstrips isolation or active reduction. Cultural recombination builds on sexual recombination. It's messy, but leaves all other methods in the dust.

Is accommodating ALL frictions a viable option? Also no. There's a huge gulf between too much selection (over-adaptation to one, fleeting context) and no selection at all. Those extremes have been documented as survival tolerance limits.

Natural selection is the survival path through that gulf. Finding the most adaptive balance between those two tolerance limits - over time & contexts - defines ongoing success. Obviously, it demands massively parallel, combinatorial sociology.

That sounds daunting, but truly amazingly, we can do this. Damn. We are GOOD! It's just that we can do even better, and must. Yet ONLY if we embrace the audacity of having the insane amounts of fun it involves, to commit to working on that together. Valhalla exists. It's just that we don't go there just to fight. Rather, we send our offspring as delegates, to emulate AND THEN EXTEND the fun we keep building. You got a better idea? If not, then ramp up the party!

So just how far down the path the Dutch have taken, can we all go, and in which combinations, nay ongoing permutations?

Now that we're all drunk on audacity, let's just jump right over some prior taboos.

Shall we just give all our sociopaths nice suits to pontificate in? Civilian as well as military? With hordes of trainee journalists to hang on their every word, and take photos?

Wow! To do that, we'd clearly need to reassign our best choreographers, to help stage, link and sequence presentable ways to work - just well enough - WITH a just-adequate sampling of our own squeaky wheels.

Why would we want to do that? In order to accommodate their addictions with cheap prevention instead of expensive repair of the NET mistakes they "lead" us into?

How far could we take this process? It will ALWAYS remain a group art .... until some new permutation of art becomes unpredictably enshrined as a documented principle of scalable science. We'd be going from analogous "givens" like selective chemo-taxis, to selective resource-taxis. The same behavioral principle, just expressed on a different scale, with uniquely scale-dependent methods.

Forget par-allel evolution. We're witnessing scale-allel evolution. Analogous principle, but expressed on a completely different scale. Personally, I doubt we'll progress as a nation, until every student learns such perspectives by age 10, so that they can move onward from their parent's obsolete contexts, not just over-study details irrelevant to our emerging resource-taxis demands.

How far can we go with more scalable versions of the Dutch approach? Right now, only as far as our un-coordinated, industry-sector lobbyists, and their paymasters? Remember that the commonly expressed goal of capitalism is blindly sequestering real resources from your growing community, by constantly promoting a higher real-price-level for your particular product. "Hey re-source. Hey re-source. Hey re-source." The mating call of the rank capitalist.

The part they miss is that there's a hidden refrain, detected only by those with an ear for their groups NET or aggregate refrain. Net or Group Capitalism, like other subsets of biology and thermodynamics, simultaneously reflects the ADAPTIVE SUM of all individual and aggregate drives to explore ever more options. The aggregate result, over time, is that our growing chorus line drifts into organizing on an even greater scale. By the statistics of accumulation alone.

It's true that at any time, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. That happens right up to the occasional point where rich and poor once again trip over the fact that they can all get richer than any imagined ... by working together, insteading of stealing from one another. After a round of cooperation, they set about looting the perceived excesses from one another. The better way is to fully invest that excess in ALL of our offspring. That's how we got it in the first place!

Obviously, local competition is not all that's happened in history - although the typical, under-educated capitalist will deny it. By hook or crook (pun intended), even the most narrow-minded pirates eventually work together to pursue a greater return-on-coordination. Usually only after they trip over it once too many times.

So - jumping ahead - perhaps at the present time, our best challenge to tackle might be getting the entire spectrum of political lobbyists to put their heads together, in order to provide their best ASSESSMENT of how random policies will ripple out through all the inter-dependencies currently carefully tuned to code in our complex democracy.

Obviously, they'd rather not have to face that responsibility! To survive, however, we have to make enough of both them, and us, face that truth. If the question of responsibility isn't asked, it's far easier for them to rationalize, and to take the money and run, and for us to let them do so. Whether Active Frauds or Innocent Frauds, do we EVER need people that run from all duty to nation?

So how DO we get all industry sectors, and the lobbyists they mob Congress with, to actually use their heads, collectively, rather than ONLY in mock isolation?

The implications cascade all the way back to Kindergarten, to pre-natal care, and to EPA and all other policy functions. Human culture is a frog that can easily boil itself, before it knows which direction it's net options are heading.

Like General Patton, I am NOT going to prejudice anyone - or constrain their thinking - by trying to suggest HOW this will be done. I'm just suggesting this as a plausible, Desired Outcome. We need all of us to participate, uninhibited, if we're to act smarter than any subset of us.

What I will suggest is that we need more recruitment platforms. Many more of them. So that we can quickly recruit an adequate fraction of citizens to provide patient feedback, and engage in adaptive POLICY, not just tactical discussions. If we want to get away from "Ready, Fire, Aim," then we need to find ways to get people together, so that they can at least start hearing everyone's ideas on how to aim first.

Meanwhile, all populations grow, and spawn MORE sectors, with each spawning it's LOCAL assessment system. Our aggregate task gets MORE complicated daily, even while we sit still, slowly boiling and growing into a dissociated mob instead of a coordinated whole that is more, not less, than the sum of it's parts. Like it or not. We are distilling ourselves. What fraction are we selecting to distil? And why? If we get enough people to address those two questions, the "how" always follows their consensus, incidentally, as Patton noticed, and many before him.

Key Problem:
With increasing numbers, how do we constantly reconstruct a newer, AGGREGATE ASSESSMENT method, to chase the rate of spawning new factors which complicate our net assessment task?

Fast enough to matter?

In other words, how do we Scale Democracy, including it's Minimal Adaptive Tempo?

That's a tough problem to start with, and it's made harder by neglect. It's usually the LAST thing discussed, and then usually rejected on the grounds of obsolete tradition. The Aggregate can't do that because some components would have to adjust ... what they've "always?" done ... since the last time they made adjustments? Past experience suggests that we first approach these taboo subjects through patience and humor, since it involves goading people we like into actions they don't yet see the need for. Humor helps.

Even among the Dutch, is this particular step - in this case, mitigating mundane alcohol addiction - viewed as anything less than damage control within fractions of an otherwise frustrated, bored population who'd rather have access to bigger net options worth assessing? You'd have to be there to know for sure, and to assess the emerging options.

Our big issue, quite frankly, is "What is Homo Sapiens going to slowly DO with itself?"

Are we going to FIND & succeed at new challenges worthy of applying our exponentially increasing talents to?

And, even given consensus Desired Outcomes, how vigorously are we going to try to SELECT success, by optimally trimming the differences between LOCAL ASSESSMENTS and NET ASSESSMENTS? How will we know if we as a people are making progress, or not?

If past biology is any indication, those questions will be explored in regional enclaves (call 'em nations or not).

The first enclave that figures out a faster/leaner/better way to explore more options per-unit-time than the rest of us are doing ... will cull the rest of what was Homo Sapiens. Just like we culled Neanderthal, Denisovans, chimps, gorillas .. and all other competing primates.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

What Do We Do When We Have This Much Contention At The Highest Levels Of System Governance? ALLEVIATE IT!

Last Friday, I was just at a contentious seminar that turned out to be a model for nearly every systemic policy process underway today.

The forum discussed MICC decision-making & how well it aligns vs ignores critical service demands for CAS (close air support) decision-making.

see also

The whole event was literally riveting, from start to finish!

Why? Ultimately, for what it revealed about our systemic governance processes, beyond even what it meant for those working with the topic at hand.

There is far, far too much to relate about the content of this forum, but here are two key points that cut through all the other details.

1) A retired AF pilot and officer, Chuck Myers, said the whole concept of CAS had been off-track from it's inception (>85 years ago), and should be re-named as MAS (maneuver-air-support) - to direct all discussion of it to the key concept of net, team agility (i.e., Adaptive Rate). Chuck seemed to be the oldest person present, yet seemed to have the most - and an astounding - grasp of system development, or appreciation for a "system," from tactics all the way up to politics. Yet, his story was one of lifelong frustration. Learning much, and passing on cogent warnings about tragic, unsolved systemic issues. Made me think of a drill-down of Eisenhower's MICC speech.

2) Chuck Myers also related a story from post-WWII, involving a legendary AF Gen he once worked with, Elwood Quesada. Quesada had suggested to the highest levels of DoD command, that AF/Army/Navy/USMC coordinate weapons platform development ... and was told by senior generals that they couldn't do that, since the competing service leaders "are the enemy."
    You can't make this stuff up!

As I understood it, that observation of deep, organizational toxicity occurred before even the Korean War! Worse, it has never been remedied, and persists, magnified, in the highest levels of our cultural policy governance, even today.
(At this point my mind was already silently screaming to myself: "What about our Goddamn 2-party system - that makes an ongoing art out of having whole swaths of citizens name each other, and each other's representatives, as enemies? And all our isolated, narrow-thinking lobbyist processes? What have we descended into? And what are we going to DO about THAT?)
More direct ruminations triggered by the meeting.

The meeting agenda revolved around the immediate furor over the AF removing the A-10 CAS/MAS airplane from service, and leaving a significant needs-gap with only vague promises that it would or could be filled by alternate means. There were deeply moving testimonies from multiple service veterans documenting that morale suffered from such decision processes, starting with a sense of betrayal, progressing to organizational fatigue, and culminating in performance degradation.

Amazingly, the resulting discussion REPEATEDLY drove home the hierarchy - for systemic success - of people(affinity)/practice/equipment - in that order ... YET, the whole meeting concluded with a question rather than a conclusion: "We've nailed the problem, now what do we do about it?"

That conclusion - or lack of it - was astounding, (for an outsider) since they'd all just finished re-documenting and re-agreeing on the classic solution ... at least at THEIR level. Yet, they COULD NOT, for the life of them, see that the systemic solution was simply a process of extending the "people(affinity)" grouping to the larger set of people that every task-team has to coordinate with every year (in every evolving culture) - as both populations and their layers of organization governance expand!

Restate it this way, as a question. What did pre-homo-sapien species do, as their cell-count and physiological complexity kept evolving (from, say, 1/2 Trillion cells in some small mammal, to the 10X Trillion cells, different cell types, and different organs in the current human physiology)?

Answer: First off, all the human cell numbers in our body maintain their total group affinity, above all else, as they grow from one egg cell to the 10X Trillion cells in an adult.

System growth simply cannot outgrow it's methods for maintaining affinity and hence it's motivation for "inter-service coordination" among ALL system components.

It's either a system ... or it's a mob in some grade of civil war.
With system expansion, every (seemingly) intractable system-organization task has a solution, and that solution involves adding yet another layer of indirection - to maintain first affinity, and then coordination? Ya think?
In other words, systems evolve by coordinating on a larger scale. Success is DEFINED as reaping the astounding return-on-coordination.

That dynamic at the meeting was, for a systems scientist, simply astounding to see, and experience, and to see ignored and missed once again!

To me, it seemed to be a system not hearing feedback from it's own new trees, simply because of the increased size of today's forest. They were missing their own, self-evident solution once again, and snatching defeat from their own, migrating, jaws of victory. The bigger problem - overall - seemed to be the task of expanding our electorate's perception - situational awareness - as fast as our own, bureaucratic situations expand.

The pace of the meeting was so quick that I never could get a comment in. There were always too many people with uniforms or urgent testimony to give - all dotting more "i's" and crossing more "t's" in the sympony which the chorus was preaching to itself. That's exactly what made the meeting so riveting, and yet we simply ran out of time to discuss what to do next. But I did get to talk with a few people afterwards, and think I have a follow-up path to try to help this critical effort along.

After all, if this group - who are SO close to perfecting continuously developing methods - can't be helped to take another step, then what hope is there for all our other sectors, who haven't accumulated anywhere near as much experience at actually having to make complex social-systems work? Those would be our other congressional/industry/agency/professional complexes.

That question stuck in my mind all weekend, and I woke up Sunday morning with an epiphany ... that surviving, agile systems are those that select for feedback loops operating with at 3, parallel, time constants (an old observation in biology; that there are always AT LEAST immediate, medium and long-term response mechanisms at work, EVERYWHERE you look, involved in every process).

My epiphany was that, in human-team terms, one can say it this way:
"Leaders" save the butts of adult groups in critical situations - immediate term.
"Teachers" train adolescent groups to handle newly discovered, critical situations - medium term.
"Parents" are always adding subtle new wrinkles, preparing developing groups to avoid getting deep into whole new patterns of critical situations (prevention through early intervention, as an improved form of "steering"). Long term adaptation.
Amazingly, military science has long recognized a parallel observation (but failed to adequately apply it to their own, personnel systems?). Their counterpart of this same observation is called the "3ɪˈs" of contingency management.

That is, deal with impact/interception/instigators[causality]. Military teaching also states that if you don't manage all 3 processes in parallel, that you can't win. Right?

So, an obvious question arises. Can we continuously adapt if we don't apply the same logic to our own, system development processes?

Isn't that how we avoid developing views which lead us to disastrously label our own team members as our enemies? For Kilroy's sake! Why is that NOT our #1 priority?

The "3ɪˈs" of managing the parallel contingency of our own, changing, internal systems ... are:
total team performance (self-leadership), 
total team training,  
total team gestation (cultural development).

What's that old saying?
If war is too important to leave to the generals, then surely EVERY process is too important to be left to the presumed process owners?
That lesson quite obviously holds for owners/managers of whole systems too.

It's fatally erroneous to presume that processes AND WHOLE SYSTEMS (including ourselves and our institutions) are permanent, and not transient.


ps: Someone also just sent me a reminder of a similar issue, currently in the news.
"The United States House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) was established in 1976 to investigate the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. The Committee investigated until 1978 and issued its final report, and concluded that Kennedy was very likely assassinated as a result of a conspiracy."
Tactically, it no longer matters whether JFK's death was or wasn't conspiracy by whichever particular people who saw him as "the enemy." It DOES matter that we have no systemic method for dealing with this taboo subject - in a timely manner - at ALL levels of our current culture. The perennial questions are - where can we get to from HERE, where we currently are, and how soon?

The claim is that some of our own people in high-level governance positions came to view Pres. JF Kennedy and Senator RF Kennedy as "the enemy?"

Again. For Kilroy's sake! If we can't quit targeting ourselves, then how can we focus, as a team, on external challenges and explore our own, emerging options? If the return-on-coordination is always the highest return, by far, then how do we keep our eyes on that, instead of lesser, goals?

If the lesser goals are below us, then we really have seen the enemy, and it really is true that "he is us." Therefore, our chief task is selection, and eliminating those process attributes that hinder team coordination. Those friction-generating sub-processes are our biggest enemy. We just have to train ourselves to recognize "them" as we keep spawning their child-processes, in every new thing we add.

It's a process of selectively pruning the high-friction parts of all the new activities which we constantly sow amongst ourselves?  Ya think?

There's no reason why we can't be better "parents" for our evolving culture - as well as leaders and teachers - of our existing electorate. We just have to teach appreciation for our own systems ... and their evolution ... to every student by, say, 5th grade. (Or, make that age 10, if we're already going back to self-directed, Open Source, education.)

That doesn't sound like a difficult task at all. These are simple concepts. We just need to apply them more systemically.

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Thinking Electorate Capable of SELECTING A Thinking Policy Staff? Why A Liver Cell Doesn't "Retire" On It's Own.

We are now deluged with discussion of "retirement" as a personal, not a national concept.

Let's put things in perspective. The best security for an aging, human atom is to establish and help maintain coordination among the 10x Trillion atoms inside a typical human cell.

The best security for an aging liver cell is to help establish and help maintain coordination among the 10xTrillion cells and ~60 organs making up the typical human physiology.

The same holds for any single person among the ~320 million residents inside the USA.

How do WE organize on a bigger scale? What are the unimaginable returns we could reap if we'd just all work together? We have a long way to go to match previous organizational achievements. We're not even getting started, folks. Could we stop this evolving train, even if we wanted to?

Thinking ONLY as isolated individuals is obviously not the solution.

This is NOT a difficult concept to comprehend. Life-cycle utilization of aging components in an organized, GROWING AND EVOLVING system is a trivial task - IF all components just work together. Teamwork makes progress and growth incredibly easy for team members. That's why "social" atoms, molecules, cells and species evolved, and why teams work. Call it the return-on-coordination.

The opposite - team members ONLY parasitizing one another - only leads to dissolution of teams and nations, and loss of the original return on coordination - which is the highest return, BY FAR. This is 2nd nature to all kids converging on a playground, or huddling around a game. What are we doing to remove it by the time they're adults? Our real goal is to drive adaptive SELECTION at all levels, from local to national ... and then to mold mold them into NET, not random, adaptive selection. That requires a lot of connections and interactions. More than none, and less than too many. But how many in any given context? There's no pat answer, other than "just enough," but working teams can easily figure that out on a daily basis, if they try. Even large electorates can do this easily, but only if they at least try.

What happened to our founders original goal of a thinking electorate capable of selecting a thinking policy staff?

Instead, we're faced with with a flood of randomly distracting messages, like the following.

Every $5 worth of food stamps generates $9 back into the economy.

Seems to me that the whole article falls into the trap of being confused, divided & conquered, by unnamed opponents who are getting us to promote our own demise. Those opponents might even be ourselves, purely by accident! For Pete's sake! Instead of being distracted, divided and conquered by the mass of disorienting details in this story, please briefly ignore those details, and instead ask a simple question about context.

What Desired Outcome is this discussion implicitly embracing?

A strategy for an undefined SOME of us, to live off a "stabilized" serf class?

The whole discussion drifts towards an abstract view the US Middle Class as a commodity, somewhat like cattle on their way from Kansas stockyards. However, the new slaughterhouses are on Wall St., not in Chicago.

Why is this even happening? Where does this view come from? Partly because of the highly publicized - and highly abstract - economist's myth of "equilibrium" in an evolving system?

Doesn't that make you wonder who finds it convenient to SELECT economists who spout such nonsense? When all you have is a parasitic ... er, aristocratic outlook, every policy question looks like a question of ruling? By idiosyncratic Central Planning? Regardless of whether the commodity SOME have targeted for domestication involves sheep, cattle, serfs or even our former Middle Class?

For us "commodities," it doesn't matter whether we were targeted innocently or purposefully by those who think they are destined to rule. Either way, we need to refuse to go on the journey to the financial slaughterhouse others have selected for us. Stop cooperating with those targeting you, and start playing team ball with YOUR teammates in the former Middle Class.

That's how we can ALL retire while seamlessly rebuilding, not looting, our nation, and enjoy every step of that journey too.

The whole failure of Central Planning is that the perspective from yesterday's context is never sufficient to avoid mistakes in tomorrow's, bigger context. Only with constantly increasing perspective can further adjustments continue, sooner, rather than later. Adaptive adjustments are those based on expanding perspective. All other team adjustments - individual or group - tend, by definition, to be random actions, mostly maladaptive.

So why are we still drifting back to Central Planning, this time under the guise of capitalism? We can't see the context for all the fees we're charging one another?

There is a better way. We have the tools of democracy. Let's just use them. Once perspectives are broadened and stimulated to at least LOOK at our constantly changing and EXPANDING context, an element of doubt is possible. Those doubts about how we're navigating through a CHANGING situation are the only thing that keep any evolving system alive.

Without an adequate fraction of nagging doubt about all actions AND their growing connectivity, we don't re-examine our increasingly complex systems.

And if we don't re-examine emerging outcomes, and actually assess what we're seeing? Well, then don't be surprised if outcomes don't steer towards what YOU recognize as survival - for you, your kids, your neighborhood or your entire nation.

That's how we end up even dwelling - so much - on the occurrence of mal-adaptive things that clearly have no public purpose.

Take the following series, as another complement to Bill Black's scathing review of banksters, their lobbyists, and the "policy staff" which "we" SELECT to let them buy.

How to Steal a Lot of Money: Part I in a Series

How to Steal a Lot of Money: Part II in a Series

How To Steal A Lot Of Money (Part III In A Series)

How many ignored messages DOES it actually take, to make the US electorate actually wake up and re-examine what they really want?

Not mention their actual process for SELECTING their own, national policies that steer us to those outcomes?

Nor our methods for SELECTING the policy staff they task with delivering those Desired Outcomes.

The ball is distributed all over our court. We have 320 million players on our team. Can we organize this team to achieve what we want to achieve? How soon can we mobilize to do that? Before it's too late?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Everyone's "Looking for a Better Way" - How Do We As A People Actually Achieve It?

There's a steady stream of articles every year on this topic, everywhere EXCEPT the front page of your local, corporate media outlet.

Example: Ethics and Complex Systems

Key passage for me was this. "The reason [for] the lack of concern with ethics as a focus is that ethics are an important, perhaps the most important, guide for managing complex systems. One of the points that John Kay argues persuasively in his book Obliquity is that most systems are so complex that we cannot map an efficient path through them. He’s taken pairs of companies in the same industry, similarly endowed, one of which focused on maximizing shareholder value, the other which set a richer set of goals which seldom included making shareholders wealthy. The ones with the loftier aspirations also did better for stockholders."

These discussions of "group mission" by non-biologists or non-anthropologists always strike me as searching for higher meaning, while leaving more to search for and summarize.

Of COURSE every succeeding context is MORE complex than the last one. If it isn't, nothing is changing or evolving.

Seen from the light of additional disciplines, EVERY discipline in isolation is, of course, lacking as it faces each new context. Overall, just like war is too important to leave to the generals, EVERY old and emerging process of an evolving, WHOLE SYSTEM is too big to be left to the PRESUMED process owners. (Surely that holds for often-obtuse, rules-based application of the law as well?) Not surprisingly, every additional bit of perspective improves sustainable pathway - aka, policy - selection. This is just like benefiting from a higher ladder in the middle of a corn maze. It's also called "democracy," remember that quaint subject?

So what members of any & all social order always need is more perspective? We always need an even better sense of a bigger system in transition, traveling along an endless, meandering pathway, and one tasked with not straying too far off course? From past situations to our current one, and on to unpredictable future situations? That always puts things in perspective, like widening a peephole to a window, and then climbing a hill to look down on your camp (or context).

One immediate conclusion is that we as a growing population are always neglecting a core task? And that task is "How to build, then keep, then accelerate achievement of MORE net-situational awareness among our entire electorate?" Let's call it "Group Context Awareness."

My gut feeling is that our Founders called this outcome an Informed Electorate, and worried about it a lot. They also called their response the teaching of Civics. Said that way, it also drives home the fact that humans have been discussing this as a critical topic throughout the history of organized culture. Certainly longer than recorded history, and back to the onset of even moderate-size tribal systems.

The question we're now facing is how to grow and keep growing group-context-awareness even as our population doubles again, from 315 million to somewhere past 600 million. Once put that way, it comes down to discovering and adopting new methods, fast enough. That's what Adaptive Rate means. Since we have zero predictive power in such complex systems, we have to fall back on adaptive power, and do enough trial & error exploration to keep our growing tribe together.

Why keep it together? To reap the insanely large return-on-coordination possible IF we can coordinate on a larger scale. WWII certainly demonstrated that, and we did all that purely with pencil & paper! We could be doing astounding things today, if we would only commit to mobilizing ourselves to tilt at windmills worth achieving.

We always have our own, growing tiger by the tail, and we must either hold on to our growing mobilization skills, or let go and die. To me, holding on as a group means instilling a sense of purpose into emerging generations, so that they are aware of this challenge, and therefore align and APPLY their millions of distributed decision-making paradigms to solving it, by orienting all their local adjustments to common, AS WELL AS personal, goals. Organizing on a larger scale is always a 2-stage optimization task - our current stage (already achieved) PLUS the emerging stage (our bigger scale).

Even while it's irritating enough already, common goals are much easier to enunciate than the methods themselves. All we can do is enunciate past organizational principles, and challenge kids to get better at what I'll call "Mobilization Games." If evolution is occurring, and we're in an Adaptive Race, then lets just be honest with all kids, and give them safe Mobilization Games platforms that allow them to safely prepare for the future.

As DoD-rebels repeatedly say, quoting Froebel, group discovery works faster when we don't FURTHER prejudice and thereby constrain practice or play groups with our own suggestions. Let 'em PRACTICE generating and selecting from their own diversity. Make self-mobilization their fall-back habit. That's how they'll get good at it, and stay good at it once we're gone.

Yet we need to safely challenge our emerging population. So we're still left with a challenging conundrum, how to recruit our constituents to practice exploring their [Local+Net] group options without instilling bias or prejudice.

After some consideration here's what imagination suggests. Act like unbiased "Kindern" ourselves, and just try many platforms that recruit citizens to organize themselves, NOT for us, or under our aegis?

Then we can TEST those platforms as "electoral Kindergartens." That way we can safely - with care to avoid prejudice - continuously work on recruiting our electorate to challenge THEMSELVES without prejudice.

The hard part will be to protect ourselves & our electorate from our own, inevitable prejudices! :)

Luckily, Natural Selection removes us all pretty quickly, so how much damage can we do? Certainly not as much as we've BEEN inflicting, by NOT practicing at accelerating our own, net mobilization!

One outcome of this train of thought is the old suggestion that we need fewer politicians, and more "parents" interested in encouraging but not owning national policy - so we can enlarge our Policy Space, and increase our Policy Agility. Considering the new methods always required only brings us back to ENCOURAGING kids to invent their own methods, ones that help electorates improve the net, adaptive quality of distributed decision-making. Then we need to quit constraining them. It's a delicate process, but we've been doing this for 3.5 billion years. It sure as hell ain't gonna stop without us. It's OUR TASK to get in paradigm, or continue aiding and abetting self-suicide.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Surviving The Bureaucratic Complexities We Create? That's A Good Way To Describe Our Challenge

At the present, we're repeating an endless debate, and questioning The Folly of [Every System?]

Won't it be better if our grandchildren can have a different debate, rather than repeating one we leave unsolved? So, can we make our debate different than the one OUR grandparents had?

Why not? Let's put it this way. Complex societies disintegrate when they cannot sustain the bureaucratic complexities they've created? So how DO they survive as long as they do, and how DO the components pick up the pieces after failing to escape traps they're not yet ready for?

One answer is abundantly documented throughout evolutionary history. Systems grow by building up methods that work, and when they hit dead-ends, the components dis-associate and start over again, from a regressed state. Then they try again. The interesting part is how long it takes 'em, and how far they back up before taking another run at it.

In short, net survival continuously tracks PARTIAL undoing, redoing, overlaying and repurposing of existing bureaucracies, families, corporations, species, phenotypes, cultures or "systems" - whatever you want to call them. They all have a lot in common, and it's useful to examine those commonalities.

In some instances, we refer to repurposing as "shaping" individual or even small group behavior patterns, through initially indirect paths that use existing momentum to get started, before re-directing it to pursuit of emerging options. The methods used to shape any situation are unique to that situation. Such changing methods have to be lived and practiced, not assumed to be fixed or in "equilibrium."

Now we have the challenge of reshaping our own, entire culture, either gracefully, or by letting it die and be reformed in another guise that allows growth on yet another scale.

This is what we do! It's what we've always done. When young, we all took things apart. Most can never be put back together again - but with enough trial and error, some useful recombination occurs. It used to be clothes, then watches, then cars, then computers. As adults, we mostly settle into bureaucracies, but inventors throughout history have always insisted on "making snowmobiles" from cannibilized components. The biggest "snowmobile" construction challenge is remaking our own, entire democracy more frequently, as Tom Jefferson suggested.

As a guide, the known processes of speciation and embryology offer some very useful, orienting lessons for everything we're going through. They serve as axioms, or basic principles to keep in mind and tie all emerging details to.

First, 3.5 billion years of species differentiation has left traces documenting the slow transformation of new forms from prior ones. Next, it is the incredibly infrequent, adaptive changes in embryology steps that reflect the growing toolkit of methods that drive speciation.

During embryological development, random hints of a historical pattern are observed, namely that some parts of ontogeny always reflect some parts of phylogeny. Parts of a developing fetus clearly START to make structures found in the adult stage of ancestral species, only to halt, undo or re-purpose the budding structures in an astoundingly long sequence of "shaping" steps that (normally, in humans) leads to birth of current humans as we know them. This net, shaping process in embryology is recognizably similar to concepts expressed in military science. All mobilization - of any system - comes down to "staging, linking and sequencing" existing and emerging components and processes on increasingly larger scales.

So, while dabbling in "nation building" elsewhere, why are we struggling to continuously rebuild our own, obviously changing, developing and evolving nation?

What about cultural embryology? Cultural embryology proceeds rather analogously to all other known evolution processes. The details at every new scale are completely different, of course, but the basic challenge remains. How do we continuously "shape" a process that starts more things every year and continuously creates ever more "institutions" that - while integral steps in the core "shaping" process - have to themselves be continuously interrupted, partially or completely undone and ultimately repurposed, bypassed or overlaid with newly emerging institutions? That's a LOT to keep up with, let alone improve. Nevertheless, it will improve, with or without our participation. The only question is whether we in the USA want to step up and lead, or follow, or even cede the path.

We've already been doing such development, of course. The USA is itself the outcome of such a recombinant process, seen in a bigger scale. Even within the USA we've been adding, ending and re-purposing institutions, and amending our Constitution.

So the real question is how to do even more of all that, more quickly? And, do it with less waste of time and resources? In short, how do we help increase the adaptive agility of our own electorate as a whole? It comes back to increasing the Adaptive Rate of the US electorate. Instead of gridlock and shutting down our democracy, how do we "stage, link and sequence" our own bureaucratic complexities faster/better/more-focused? What happened to American ingenuity?

Finally, we know from experience that the vast majority of changes we try simply won't work. Only an incredibly few changes will be adaptive. So we ought to be TRYING new things faster all the time, in small simulations, in controlled settings. Plus, we ought to be incredibly careful in considering what key things to change on a larger scale. Finally, we ought to be even more incredibly careful about assessing what is and isn't adaptive for the whole nation, when we DO test it on a large scale.

Step one is focus? On what? How about accelerated analysis of national self-awareness? That brings us directly to evaluation of what can and can't be pared from a continuous, cultural-embryology process.

At this point, evolutionary hindsight offers only some key principles. How do we actually SELECT which interaction patterns among our current, national culture to keep vs discard? That is an entirely context-dependent, trial and error process which has to be discovered rather than predicted. That means living the details, not describing past outcomes. We have zero predictive power, but seemingly unlimited Selective Power - yet ONLY if we practice selecting fast enough. Other events might easily overtake us, as has been the norm throughout history. Our biggest challenge is to keep making the USA more different, fast enough, so that it CAN survive the bureaucratic complexities which we, ourselves are continuously creating.

So our task comes down to an endlessly iterative process, one only superficially discussed here - as a suggested view for all to consider. One perspective on this is the classic paradigm for describing all "living" species:

Context Goals (or niche; no system evolves in a vacuum),
Sensory System (sampling available feedback),
Interacting Sensory Flows (cross-discipline Pattern Analysis),
Motor System (probing context, exploring options),
Natural Selection (an Assessment System).

Lets call a nation or culture an emerging species, and take another look at ourselves, and what our tasks are.

1) Do we have enough context awareness, and enough group goals? Adequate group awareness of context and challenge. Whoa! To achieve that, don't we need continuously distributed, developmental briefings on where WE as a nation are, and where WE as a nation can be and are going? Do we even have enough platforms where people CAN discuss that? Are we paying ourselves enough to leave enough time to even have those discussions? Recent, "lean" industrial models somehow converged to the idea that 2-3% of net resources should be spent on "M&E" - measurement & evaluation. That flies in the face of historical patterns in RESILIENT systems, where 30-40% of time can easily be spent on analysis of context.  Can we really afford to be lean, i.e., over-adapted to a transient context, rather than resilient and always ready for the next context? Without a sense of options worth exploring, all roads look the same? A modern nation needs awareness of options, and outcome goals, as much as any previously evolved species.*

2) Do we have an adequately diverse, national sensory system? More instrumentation is just the start. Don't we need distributed self-training all on methods for generating diversity, so that citizens are familiar with that core mission, and comfortable deploying it where needed? More civics, so WE as a people can collectively hoard coordination skills, not just personally hoard static assets?
(Has universal pursuit of "lean" gone too far in too many places, thereby reducing resiliency everywhere, including places where we diversity is critically needed?)

3) Do we need more practice generating the actual diversity needed in key places, so that we have more feedback to analyze? Shouldn't we be diversifying deployment of many new sub-methods, thereby generating distributed, bureaucratic diversity to select from?

4) Do we have enough interdisciplinary cross-talk to drive pattern analysis ACROSS disciplines? Do we need MORE cross-instrumentation, information-sharing methods, for sensing and analyzing all bureaucratic diversity? So that we can self model all available feedback patterns? Forget the NSA and idiot savant advertisers, shouldn't our electorate be evaluating ITSELF and where WE are going? How much distributed civics discussion and involvement do we need, just to maintain our current adaptive rate? How much to survive? How about to exceed our own, lagging expectations? “I’ll let you write the substance. ... You let me write the procedure, and I‘ll screw you every time.” Is that anywhere near good enough for us to survive as a nation?

5) Finally, do we need to instill and practice constant re-development of more "net" ASSESSMENT methods and systems? If WE aren't selecting where WE are going, someone else - or outside events - will be doing that selecting? Why cede Natural Selection entirely to others, or to chance? Who's driving this democracy bus anyway, it's citizens, or something less? That boils down to practice using the platforms, instrumentation, information-sharing and analysis mentioned above.

Folks, we as a people have some distributed boundaries to push, before they push us.

* The very concept of speciation is inseparable from the concept of population. All evolving species arise from interactions among a prior confederation, initially built via budding clones, then by increasingly diverse transformation events - including symbiosis, and eventually by some accelerated form of "recombination" between population members, enabled by emerging methods that create new steps, ones that previously didn't occur at all.

It's not clear what view is optimal, nation-states as competing clones, or confederations participating in interleaved "cultural-recombination" events. We still have to find out.

The same question holds within each nation. Can growing "confederations" practicing "Distributed Planning" be kept more agile, and thereby adapt faster, than Central Governments, with their innate tendency to one-size-fits-all "Central Planning?" We still have to find out. It all comes down to the NET agility of the methods that can be deployed, by either, or by some audacious combination of both, or more. The future's so bright that we can't see it. However, that's no reason to look away precisely as it's unfolding.

Monday, October 7, 2013

"Tricks - and Common Pitfalls - of the Adaptive System's Trade"

Reader Derryl Hermanutz wrote:

"Roger, You may be interested in this book on the neuropathology of psycopathy, termed "ponerology", which literally means the science of evil. Basically, congenital psycopaths lack the neural circuitry that generates effects like conscience, compassion, empathy, and the ability to connect actions with their consequences. The article describes how a pathocracy develops, when psycopaths gain control of the reigns of social systems, Psycopaths are described as human pathogens who can infect a population and cause macrosocial disease. Stalin's Soviet Union, Hitler's Germany, and today's US are cited as recent examples of pathocracies. Derryl"

The Trick of the Psychopath's Trade: Make Us Believe that Evil Comes from Others

Thanks for the link, Derryl!

That's Exactly my decade-long point, although I must say that it's inadequately stated in this particular book. I'd prefer to call this the topic the "Tricks - and Common Pitfalls - of the Adaptive System's Trade."

To me, this ponerology book basically discusses analog-network-systems in purely anthropomorphic terms. That's a potentially useful step for people who've never considered the general principles of how any highly networked system must operate, nor the changing patterns of information feedback flows that adaptive systems must generate in order to navigate in different contexts. As such the book may be very useful as an acceptable initiator, given the great diversity in citizen education we're faced with.

However, in my opinion, this highly specialized approach can easily lead people into nominal, theoretical logical traps rather than into the path of maximizing ongoing options. That's important because survival basically means selecting paths that always lead to more, not fewer, future options.
see the section here on the Traveling Entrepreneur Task, and how that relates to our current, 80-year, misguided focus on managing nominal currency metrics instead of managing net, national options.

I'd prefer to approach this topic in a more general, "Adaptive Systems" sense, since the more general a paradigm is, the more portable and scalable, it is, and the easier and faster it is to adapt to changing contexts.

My, more simplistic take:

As the population of our nation grows, we're undergoing something analogous to what all kids go through growing up. A growth spurt, not in # of cells in our body, but in number of citizens in our country. Both are examples of growing networks of inter-connected components, i.e., networked systems.

For any network, of any sort, to leverage a growth spurt, it has to re-connect all the prior & emerging system components into a new whole that is a "more perfect union" - and more than the sum of it's parts. That means coordinating on a DIFFERENT, not just a larger scale. We're talking more about distributed sociopatholoy, which is different, not just the sum of the distributed neuropatholoy or behavioral pathology of individuals.

To grow continuously, a system is always in danger of getting clumsier BEFORE it can again get AS agile, or even MORE agile than before. So far, our national setting involves a permanent population growth spurt, rather like extended adolescence - but this time it's permanent social adolescence we're talking about, as the dilemma facing every evolving culture and/or nation state.

To regain or maintain old and then advance new agility, at a larger scale, emerging tasks and organizational methods have to be tackled, practiced, and assessed. Most trial methods are soon abandoned, while a very select few are kept, after adequate trial and error. Just call them network iterations while sampling possible solutions to new tasks.

In a social experiment, the squeaky, psychopathic "big wheels" always look attractive INITIALLY, and are discarded as failed methods ONLY after enough group experience. One constant danger is that we're simply being slow to recognize & discard what DOESN'T work?

Why aren't we doing more experiments, faster? That distinction brings home one of the points made in the ponerology book, but does so much more directly. Without social checks and balances, individual behavioral pathology can be accepted by a mal-adaptive culture, thereby allowing culturo-pathology. If we focus on the rulers, we can call it pathocracy. If we focus on the followers who select their rulers and allow that form of rule, then we're really discussing a culturo-path which is worse than the sum of it's individual sociopaths.

Here's one simple point. If system components don't like the results of existing policy, then disseminating their feedback is the only responsible thing to do.

Related points. What if so few group experiments are done that components aren't even aware, soon enough, what outcomes are developing? What if distributed feedback is available, but assessment models are confused, or just slow? Or what if too few are listening to one another to discriminate useful signals from all the noise?

Net cultural failure occurs partly by failing to educate ourselves and think collectively about the quality of distributed decision-making, but also LARGELY BY SIMPLY NOT MAINTAINING ENOUGH EXPERIENCE IN ACTUALLY MAKING SELECTIONS? Without pursuing enough new goals yearly to target and then either achieve or fail at, we're simply not providing ourselves with enough activity to remain good at evaluating and selecting from our own diversity? Social practice makes perfect, so lack of social practice can easily preclude Natural Selection.

An electorate can continuously grow only if it grows any combination of it's numbers and/or it's skills, activities and tempo of social agility. Such growth can occur ONLY IF NEW METHODS ARE CONSTANTLY INVENTED, and even then, only if those new methods are all introduced, practiced, assessed and discarded or adopted faster than the sum rate function of net organic growth (again, any combination of numbers, skills, activities and tempo).

In practice, methods are useless if not actually practiced.
A mind is a terrible thing to waste?
So is a continuously growing POTENTIAL group-intelligence?

If we don't tilt the electorate of our country at goals worth achieving, we'll never even explore what we can or could be. Worse, without honing our skills with actual practice, we'll never even develop the skills to learn and educate ourselves as fast as we can.

Here's one trend and one suggested conclusion.
Social state of agility = current national survival skillset.

1st integral of social agility = education system (upping the awareness learning curve; the "what").

2nd integral of social agility = "why" education sub-system (upping the why/how learning curve)

What, where, who, how & why? If those are our next social questions, then the answers are: "context; here; us; methods; & adaptive rate."

Stated another way.

If mandatory education (1st integral of "state") seemed a prerequisite, 200 years ago, then ...
why doesn't mandatory "why/how" education seem like an obvious addition to our prerequisites for today?

One Suggested Conclusion.

We might want to re-tune all K-12 education a bit more towards the way our DoD tries to approach Officer Training Programs. Add more focus on group or social agility, rather than just isolated skills. Introduce all students to the importance of "staging, linking and sequencing" everything that goes into national agility, rather than just being isolated components never getting enough practice to actually contribute to national agility. 

#1 goal? Social Agility (continuously increasing National Adaptive Rate).

#2 goal? All citizens maintaining adequate practice at methods for pursuing that goal (NOT just knowing disconnected "facts").

That way we might generate and maintain a goal-driven electorate constantly demanding better leadership qualities in the staff they promote to public policy stewardship. We might also keep a better stockpile of citizens with more practiced "leadership" qualities, able and willing to step in and try new approaches as existing "leaders" fail to set, target and pursue worthwhile new national goals.

Monday, August 26, 2013

"Just Grow Stories" - or - Continuous Development Of Our Own Further Development

Call it methods development, or catalyst development?

A friend wrote recently, asking for advice on the utility of making an updated version of a classic "Coming of Age" story. His updated story would be aimed at making US youth aware of many key transitions looming, as they come of age in the decade from 2013 to 2023.

Such stories have a long history in western literature, known 1st as Germanic "Bildungsroman" and later in the USA as "coming of age" stories.

With no apology offered to Rudyard Kipling, maybe we should, in general, call them "Adapting to Context" stories? Their purpose will be to show how the characteristic methods utilized by the adapting person, group or entire culture were actually adjusted, to be adaptive to contexts that are not just changing, but which present constantly expanding degrees of freedom, exemplified by the Traveling Entrepreneur Task.

I think my friend hit the nail on the head. A nail we keep stubbing our toes on, then "fixing" by shooting ourselves in the injured foot.

Time for some cheap and productive prevention ... instead of such painfully expensive repair?

I think we need many such stories, each focused on the concept of adapting to context, but with new, context-appropriate twists added every generation or so. Especially for kids.

I've been wondering about the following for quite a while.

Today, individual humans are tasked with making at least 4 transitions during their lifetime.

An emergence transition, from recombination, through gestation to child (transcending birth).
Eventual transition from child to adult.
Eventual transition from adult to responsible family/clan/tribal/community-other member.
Eventual transition from tribal member to supra-tribal nation-citizen?
Eventual transition from nation-citizen to ... ?

[What's next? A cog in Star Fleet Federation? :) ]

Yet we have little or no folklore preparing kids to recognize that expanding roadmap - or even making all of them aware of it!!! No wonder incidence of frictions, stress & schizophrenia so often seem to peak at child/adult and other transitional inflection points in human development!

Every tribal culture I've read about has various "coming of age" ceremonies, of separate nature for the median male/female genders - or even for various guilds or disciplines. For tens of thousands of years of human social evolution, those transitions gradually became ever more formally acknowledged as a BIG DEAL. They formalize the transition from a childhood state to an adult state. A "virtual metamorphosis" of the sort that, e.g., insects do.

But what about transitions in social development? As an evolving social species, do we have ENOUGH and ADEQUATELY DYNAMIC folklore about enough of our accumulating AND EMERGING transitions? Even though tribal methods worked out very formal customs to ease the growth of individuals into their changing roles, few, if any, folk customs formally address the frictions of whole tribes making the transition into supra-tribal nation states, or the formal methods used to surmount those frictions.  It's as though the ONLY thing tribal context never addressed was the possibility of supra-tribal populations colliding.  Go figure.

Most tribes and other sub-groups are simply destroyed in the transition, and repeatedly lose most the ability to smoothly regenerate the tribal or sub-group launch phase. No one that I know of writes folk stories acknowledging and formalizing recent and emerging cultural transitions as a valuable, repeatable stage in continuous, group re-invention.

We don't keep ourselves abreast of the continuous transitions in our own, unending cultural embryology! Unending cultural embryology is evolution, folks!

To leverage all or our own, emerging transition phases, we have to learn to smoothly accelerate progression through them all. Why? So that our lifetimes include enough time for more of us to complete and extend our own group progressions!

Born by 9 months.
Child by 3 years.
Adult by (14 years?)
Citizen by 18 years?
Statesperson by 25 years.
  And ... ?? by age 40?

Otherwise, too much experience is always wasted on the elderly, who are left in a desperate race to contribute more of their accumulated methods to cultural Knowledge Management. The transition from egg cells to adults to group agility to cultural evolution requires comfort with and practiced experience at expanding the concepts and methods from confined degeneracy to constantly expanding regeneracy.

Surely any embryologist looking at "social embryology" or "cultural embryology" would likely say that we're neglecting critical transition phases? Most embryologists would probably say that we suck at continuous development of our own further development!

This is relevant to Germany, where the personal Bildungsroman concept was most recently reinvented, since many Germans admit that they're one of the most tribal nations on Earth. Until very recently, they kept many school units intact until graduation events. One very useful consequence of that unit retention was individual retention of unit identity and a sense of place, until transfer to a broader unit, through expected and anticipated graduation steps.

Germany is one of the few nations who managed to keep some semblance of tribal identity longer than other, recently fused tribal groupings - though even they are an amalgamation of many tribes and dialects - some of them actually non-Germanic.

However, even what the German's did is now gone. Most kids in most nations today are adrift, not being given any honest advice on what context they're really in, where their context is actually going, or what their emerging individual and group options are.

This is INCREDIBLY unproductive!

You don't screw up critical phases in embryological gestation.

Similarly, we shouldn't neglect critical phases in child/adult transition.

We sure shouldn't ignore critical adult/tribal/national personal transitions.

And we sure as hell shouldn't ignore tribal/national cultural transitions!

Do we even have FORMAL METHODS for actively analyzing the changing character of our culture? How about methods for tracking and managing the rate of that change? How about adequately assessing the ongoing OUTCOMES of our self-management methods?

Would we benefit from a rapidly growing, rapidly evolving and rapidly distributed fleet of new, OpenSource "Adapting to Context" stories, and a whole genre of expanding folklores? Surely we need stories that gracefully invite our increasing diversity of people and subgroups to help formally design our next stage of cultural embryology - so that we more consciously select the cultural transitions we make, and where they take us. That seems like a sensible step, to say the least. The alternatives seem destructive, rather than adaptive. Since we're gonna evolve, one way or another, we might as well be aware and cognizant of what we're doing? Ya think?

Given past precedent, maybe we ought to be paying very formal attention to our emerging transitions ... if we ever are to scale up to yet another level of supra-national organization.

Letting multi-national merchant corporations and cowboy financiers dictate the parameters of coming transitions seems totally random, at best. Not even our daily spectrum of online trivia makes a very attractive set of signals to sample.  We desperately need a diverse set of summaries too, not just raw, cultural data to distract, divide and uselessly conquer our future generations with.