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.