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.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

We've Cleverly Trapped Ourselves, Swaying Part-Way Between Nation And Individual? Or Is That Stupid ... Like a Fox?


1/2 way between team and lone wolf?
1/2 way between social-coordination and social-looting

It seems inaccurate to simply call humans eusocial. That's certainly not the whole truth.

Readers can select from endless examples, but here's one, arbitrary, example, below. If you don't like THIS example, please just choose another one, instead of getting entirely side tracked on the perfection of arbitrary examples. Our goal is adaptive generalization, not fixation on details always lagging emerging context.

The opening sentences in this investment advisory article don't even make sense .. unless?

Oil slips on U.S. stimulus outlook but supply worries support "... analysts said prices were unlikely to sustain that level as European refiners cut processing rates because of gains in oil costs stemming from supply-curbing unrest in OPEC members ..."

Unless there's collusion to keep local prices at some arbitrary target?

Isn't there always at least some collusion? The balance swings between official and private? Either way, it's hard to follow the semantics of this kind of reporting. What is the underlying message implied by such confused messaging?

The underlying message when trying to combine public fiscal policy of so-called nation-states with personal-investing advice .... is that the populations of all families, neighborhoods, tribes, nation-states are suspended half-way between pursuing return-on-coordination, and pursuing supposed personal gain at distributed expense?

Such habits don't persist for millions of years without solid reasons.

So why, indeed, do we seem to keep doing this? Are we really doing so purposefully, or is the perceived outcome of diverse, mixed messaging only a spurious happenstance? A shadow thrown off by one or more other, ongoing processes?

For example, could our continuously muddled outcome occur simply because it really is excruciatingly difficult to fully integrate an additional infusion of millions of people per year - into any nation or culture, anywhere?

In contrast, few physiological entities maintain continuous growth. Lobsters, as one of many examples, manage continuous growth right up to the point of any arbitrary cause of death. Yet they do so partly through relatively slow growth rates, and also by rigidly controlling the organizational state of the adult. Evolution in most complex physiologies is largely - though not exclusively - restricted to sexual recombination events. It's apparently too difficult and risky to continuously tinker very much with models once they come off the assembly line. Human and other social cultures, in contrast, undergo continuous cultural-embryology, cultural-ontogeny and cultural-phylogeny ... all simultaneously. Cultures, in contrast to individuals, fail to evolve and survive precisely when they DO try to rigidly control their organizational state.

It's a miracle we survive ourselves at all. How do we actually do it? Why don't we focus far more on those subtleties, instead of all the spurious details? When trying to at least intelligently discuss the size of government vs size of nation, it wouldn't hurt to refer to useful analogies?

Human cultures - as super-organisms, on a completely different scale from the cellular-cultures which we call lobsters - have not only kept up continuous population growth for millennia, they've also maintained an Adaptive Rate that - usually - exceeds population growth rates. The fact that population growth rates in large, advanced nation states - or even European Unions :) - slow as a function of both organizational state and sheer numbers suggests another aspect of human cultural growth. Namely, that the absolute number of evolving system components - each increasing it's degrees of freedom - matters more than rate of population growth rate alone. Once again, absolute magnitude matters, in this case, the absolute number of inter-dependencies to manage.

Adaptive management of a constantly growing list of inter-dependencies requires exquisite maintenance of social instrumentation to distribute required patterns of feedback data. It's that simple? Why do we discuss everything BUT that simple, primary fact in our idiotic media services?

We're left with a conundrum. Growth of an entity - nation, union or culture - is a function of net Adaptive Rate. We also know that net, national Adaptive Rate is described by the running output of a long, polynomial of factors, where personal-, discipline-specific, institutional- and public-policy features constitute the cultural "factors" in that polynomial. All the growing #s of factors in those growing lists are capable of varying dramatically and triggering unpredictable inter-dependency effects. In short, every single term in that - constantly lengthening - polynomial has complex co-factors that can vary independently, but which impose dependent consequences. The output range is certainly messy. Constant cleanup is the order of every day. Let's simplistically describe a mutating human culture this way, by summing NAR, Net Adaptive Rate, including p-personal, d-discipline, i-institutional, and pp-public-policy groupings.

NAR = F(j..n)[ fp(j..n) ~ fd(j..n) ~ fi(j..n) ~ fpp(j..n)] ... at least.

That certainly doesn't do reality justice, but it's enough to begin to get a very simple point across.

For a given nation to grow into a bigger, more agile, more capable entity, it is necessary that the degrees of freedom of any subset never grow beyond local tolerance limits imposed by systemic feedback. Exceeding such tolerance limits would simply degrade inter-dependencies with all other subsets, and thereby reduce the return on net coordination of the whole. That happens in human cultures and markets, as surely as dramatically increasing the power of only one or a few pistons in a V8 internal combustion engine quickly causes more harm than good to both engine and vehicle maintenance costs - maybe even to driver & pedestrians!

Would it do your body much good if, say, your liver, turned into a SuperLiver, and tried to rapidly evolve into roles that randomly complicated the functions of the other, roughly 60 human organs, ~300 human cell types, and ~70-Trillion cells making up a functioning human physiology? Unlikely - but who's to say what our physiology will look like in another million years? In all likelihood the resulting physiological disorder triggered by your SuperLiver would seriously impair your behavior in the interim, or even kill you. With indirect help from other humans, you'd probably label your new SuperLiver as either a benign or cancerous tumor, kill or excise it, and go on a transplant waiting list to get a liver that could stay within SURVIVABLE, local Adaptive Rates.  By analogy, it's certainly relevant to ask whether the current, runaway asset-overgrowth by the 1% is killing the entire USA, not just the Middle Class.

Point is that it is excruciatingly difficult to select distributed tolerance limits that allow net adaptation. And, it is incredibly dangerous to pursue long-term projections based upon very limited samplings of full-system feedback! That should be obvious to citizens of the USA, but it obviously isn't!

How does your liver stay within tolerance limits that keep your body alive? How do all components in complex systems tie all local ambitions and rate of evolving degrees of freedom to systemic as well as local needs?

They do so by tying all local functions AND emerging interactions, to the entire spectrum of local-to-global feedback loops. Listen to all, and then practice ... knowing how to use some or all that data - when and as needed - to grow and protect the system you're a part of. Don't just grow your local wallet. The result of coordination is called evolution, and it's worked miraculously for billions of years. That is, it works when supposedly brilliant humans stoop to actually participating in the collective activity. Sound tedious? Of course. Yet it's certainly not difficult. That's the rub. To accelerate return on coordination, we need only be patiently selective.

Yes, adaptive evolution is actually quite simple to do with TEAM PRACTICE at distributed trial and error. In fact there's a very simplistic name for it. [Whole System] Outcomes-Based Training and Education - or just OBT&E for short.

OBT&E is simple to achieve via team practice - yet it is mathematically impossible to DESCRIBE via academic theory or rules. Why? Because the near-infinite lists of workable vs non-workable permutations of all possible degrees-of-freedom and actions that can be taken by say, either 70-trillion cells in a human body (at one scale) or ~320-Million citizens in a nation state, are far more rapidly selectable via ongoing feedback from ongoing trial and error than by predictive calculation! From the point of view of individuals, you might call the selection process the Traveling Entrepreneur Task.

The task is even more difficult for the sum of individuals making a human culture. No complex system can mirror and calculate all system data fast enough to execute Central Planning. That's a mathematical reality. The volume of data generated is an exponential function of our own actions. The adaptive solution is never calculable - despite what Luddite "Austrian Economists" hypothesize. It is, however, always SELECTABLE, and that's what evolutionary adaptive rate is all about. Evolution is the slow process of finding ways to tap feedback from more and more sources, so as to shield ourselves better and better from the constant effect of entropy. That's why many biologists have taken liberties with semantics & slang, to call evolution or auto-catalysis a "reverse-entropy" method. Given that agility, maybe it's even possible to fuse philosophy and actual science? Probably by abandoning the faux-religion of economics? A field that even bankers say is more trouble than it's worth.

The power of group selection, i.e., teamwork, is an age-old lesson that humans have ALWAYS known, since we evolved. We keep using teamwork because it slowly sinks for all new arrivals that we have zero net predictive power. What is it that we're all feverishly working towards? Whatever it is, it is ALWAYS far easier to cooperate on exploring those endless options, and quickly agree on whatever we can all most benefit from agreeing upon. What we are tempted to agree upon thereafter, appears to be related by some power function to the mass of what we can collectively sense and perceive, rarely including anything we can or should actually calculate with any significant precision. The group intelligence of a human culture is held in the body AND DISTRIBUTION PATTERN of it's group discourse. Similar to the function that a nervous system fills in a given physiology. The message is the same for individuals and whole cultures ... FEED YOUR BRAIN. That means both of them, your's, and your nation's. Feeding either in isolation won't help.

At the end of every day, it's again better to kick back with a cold beer & your feet up ... or at least have a clear path to doing so again, WITH addition of some capabilities that - last year - you or others convinced us that we were bored NOT having. Metalworking, steam engines, automobiles, telephones, big-screen tvs, internet, yada, yada. What's next, and - more importantly - why will we struggle to more systemically leverage it, vs clinging to poorly distributed allocation? Excessive personal hoarding of static assets causes us far more trouble than it is worth. There's no doubt that it holds us back.

It takes us far longer to learn the optimal uses for new tools and methods. Far longer than it takes to intially mis-use them.  As many have noted, net system progress tracks the transition from random application to Automatic Stabilizer function.

Our nation of ~320 million people is once again trying to arbitrarily over-expand the degrees of freedom of some small set of citizens (the tumor, some mix of Innocent Frauds & Outright Frauds), while drastically limiting the degrees of freedom of all the rest of our citizens - supposedly unexpectedly.

What is wrong with this picture?

There are 1001 ways to express HOW stupid it is. Let's have yearly student contests to re-describe the changing spectrum of those descriptions. We adults already have bigger issues to move on to.

More importantly, WHY are we doing this, repeatedly?

If nothing else, it's because we are NOT training our constant wave of new children to appreciate the evolving system they are a part of? While newcomers learn details about the disciplines, institutions and public they choose to participate in ... don't they also need to appreciate the overwhelming importance of evaluating whether or not local actions and even degrees of freedom at EVERY level are compatible with actions & degrees of freedom at all levels? "All levels" includes the WHOLE NATION that is supposed to be far greater than the sum of it's ever expanding number of parts.

Every member born into a social species faces first and foremost a colossal, monumental tuning task, and can help more than hinder ONLY if they appreciate the difference between being a wrench, lubricant or carefully selected catalyst thrown into the workings of an exquisite system. With that simple perspective always in mind, multi-level selection - in the form of distributed teamwork PRACTICE and FEEDBACK - can proceed as a matter of fact, even if unpredictably.  In practice, citizens can generate adequate group practice only if they guarantee everyone's basic needs, through Automatic Stabilizer functions. That simple truth describes the 1st step in achieving and maintaining an Agile Culture.

Our greatest focus should be on group SELECTION of the excruciatingly rare permutations of things which we can do to actually increase the Adaptive Rate of an already mind-numbingly complex and complicated human culture.

If that isn't a challenge worth going after, I don't know what is. It's a challenge that makes most local ambitions trivially boring. Why don't we make all students intimately aware of this reality, by age 10? That little effort would produce a sea-change in the adaptive rate of any culture that does it.

How could we keep citizens down in their ruts, after they've seen that great possibility? Why would we want to?