Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Best Asset To Accumulate Is A Toolkit Of Aggregate Coordination Skills

How do we fool ourselves? Let me start counting the ways, including a new way every year ... by default, since "Past performance does not predict future results."

(restricted; precursors may be viewed here)
As another bit of next-epoch or supposedly "long-term" investment advice, this recent pdf contains some helpful perspectives and commentary, although the author sounds as though he's squarely within the NeoLiberal camp (see "Living the Lie" - or why they think that Social Democracy is to blame for current G7 economic & cultural ills).

This line caught my eye as the author's central premise.

"... the next revolution will be based on understanding and developing quantum mechanics, quantum chemistry and quantum biology and all that it entails."
That's a credible hypothesis to test, yet many will either disagree, right off the bat or just chuckle. The author is not specifically wrong in his comments, it's rather that he's missing the bigger context, and therefore missing the overall point. Here are just 3 counter-indicators.

1) Biology has been harvesting quantum mechanics, quantum chemistry and quantum biology for ~3.5 billion years, just on planet earth. It's called photo-synthesis, and other forms of energy-transfer. As you will see, we're not doing anything new, although some things are subtly different.

2) The author's initial premise - that occupying many possible ecological niches is indicative of an "efficient" pass-through ecology or economy - is highly subject to local conditions. As Walter Shewhart famously said, "data is meaningless without context."
(Pick 40 islands or other micro-habitats around the world, and you can find ecologies ranging from near mono-cultures to the dense, pass-through ecologies/economies the author seems to expect. Location, location, location - or context, context, context.)

3) IF one's hypothesis is that increased energy handling (efficiency) equates to evolutionary adaptive strength, then it would seem logical to expect the next stages of human evolution to reliably follow where we can go from here, energy-handling-wise. Yet there are already many well-known flaws in that argument. Even if it were true, we'd still expect surprises. In 1870, the same author might have predicted expanded development of hydro-carbon chemistry, which would have missed the expansion of all forms of telecommunications, including the internet, not to mention quantum mechanics itself. :) Don't presume it's over.
a) Energy-handling efficiency has not reliably predicted survival across niches. In fact, the opposite is exhaustively documented. The most "efficient" (i.e., "successful") species in all archeological contexts invariably disappear from subsequent or later contexts, and are labeled as species that over-adapted to transient contexts. Ditto for corporate history. Proverbial dinosaurs go belly up. Quite literally, over-investing in efficiency has been the death of most species and investors. 
b) In contrast, the recurring lead in both ancient biological as well as current economic evolutionary races are overwhelmingly documented to go to the most agile, and NOT the most efficient. Time after time.
That discrepancy between a) and b), is amply discussed in biology, ecology, military doctrine, and systems theory.

Aggregate Adaptive Rate soon trumps efficiency, every single time. Some barely-adequate mix of efficiency plus resiliency always wins. It's just a question of when.

Which calls our attention to some subtler questions.

If it's not energy efficiency, then what is it that we ought to be smart enough to be looking for? One pat answer is "survival paths," no matter how unpredictable. Next, how do we keep ourselves on unpredictable survival paths, or at least within striking distance?

If there's a unending race, in all disciplines and all economic or cultural wars, to RAPIDLY explore emerging options, based on insufficient data, then survival follows some well-known rules of thumb, and the main competition seems to be executing these principles on increasingly larger scales, which brings up unending "problems of scale."

[As members of a social species, we're now well aware that Aggregate Agility (teamwork) trumps individual agility (contrary to NeoLiberal economic doctrine). Aggregate size matters, and the scale of aggregate-agility represents the Golden Fleece. :) ]

c) pattern recognition trumps energy-handling (the minute you know what NEW signal you're looking for, it's a race to briefly ignore the noise; agile focus beats raw power, every time) ... 
d) then adaptive "recruiting efficiency" trumps energy-handling, and that combination [c & d] determines aggregate response agility (from motor-neuron pools to military "maneuver warfare" to business marketing to cultural mobilization). Serial survival of the fittest. Or, as it's termed in education theory and military doctrine, "Outcomes-Oriented Training & Education" or OBT&E.

It's remarkable how much of military doctrine consists of concise restatements of the theory of evolution. See "Return On Coordination."
Yet so-called socialists and capitalists seem to have scared each other with irrelevant details, and keep uselessly throwing their own baby out with their own, shared bathwater.
The more I think about these issues, all roads lead to a consistent answer.
How do we invest in a democracy that ensures the highest National Adaptive Rate,
... not just energy or military or business efficiency?

Remarkably, that same question is central to the history of biology, military doctrine, democracy and the onset of the US Constitution. Our consistent goal is seemingly to "make a more perfect union."

If that goal is kept in mind, then most economic issues become incidental. There seems to be a simple, 2-step optimization occurring in all surviving aggregates. Sum(i+j), while looking for those combinations that are greater than the sum of the parts.

Where i+j are respectively:

i) Keep the components alive, and adequately provisioned (it's not a functional army if the generals hoard all the weapons)
j) Grow the Aggregate (by expanding Net or Aggregate Agility, not just agility of some sectors, nor merely aggregate size alone)

This easily falls under the category of Group Capitalism, with tolerance limits separating it from narrow Personal Capitalism (i.e., NeoLiberal orthodoxy). I predict that the intelligence to see the difference will trump efficiency at pursuing the latter, even though the latter forms of parasitism will always follow, in unpredictable patterns. Part of survival agility includes being able to harvest what's necessary, when necessary, while also leaving tools unused in expanding toolkits when not specifically needed.

We can't provide for our grandchildren by sequestering more resources. That is, quite simply, a naive idea. Few want the heirlooms passed on by their grandparents, except as mementos, because they're hopelessly obsolete.

The best assets to accumulate are Coordination Skills. If you don't believe me, ask a Neanderthal ... if you can find a survivor. Yet instead of investing in Democracy, we're killing the Golden Goose, by hoarding current fiat instead of future options.

Here's my investment advice.

The next evolutionary leap in human culture is more likely to be based on understanding and developing "quantum perspective" on our own, aggregate context, and all that that entails.

If you can help more precisely define "quantum" - i.e., subtle - aspects of human cultural or aggregate perspective, you'll not only be rich and have a busy, fulfilling life, you may well save the human species.