A commentator on my blog, "Revolutionary thinking on this May Day", GaryA mused thus:
A few years ago in one of my Insomnia bouts I came up with my (admittedly) utopian ideal...which would consist of a selected multi-tiered meritocracy from local to global level
They would be selected by those members of the meritocracy immediately above them, by a combination of psychometric tests and accumulated knowledge/wisdom/practical standards.
At the top global level would sit ‘The Guardians’- guardians of Humanities and the biospheres long term health who would set limits and criteria (constantly updated as scientific findings progress) for each successive downward-chain meritocracy to apply.
They would set definite limits to human resource use for each area of the planet –convergence and ratchet downwards to a long term more equitable sustainable and just level for everyone. The guardians would rise through the ranks from young local activists by merit of dedication talent and demonstrated reverence for all of life.
Of course the colossal problem is how do the sapient and intelligent elite rest control from the 'dictatorship of the stupid' ruining this planet? I confess apart from fantasy-driven scenarios of committed individuals using herf guns and e-bombs to weaken and take over nodes and leverage points I cant see how realistically it can happen. Also the masses are not going to give up their overstuffed lifestyle without some form of coercion which is alien to our engrained libertarian instincts. Maybe its more moral to let it all collapse and attempt to rebuild from the ashes.
GaryA got me to thinking a bit more about how hierarchical control and sapient governance might be actualized in the 'real' world. I share with GaryA a vision of organizational and institutional structures that are based on small (tribal-sized) structures each headed by one or several 'most sapient' individuals within that group. I've been working on my last paper in the sapience series — The Evolution of Sapience — which is close to completion. I will borrow a bit of it here to try to formulate an idea of what ideal group and collective governance might look like. From the series I have tried to establish that sapience includes a very high level of strategic thinking (with adequate logistical and tactical support). A wise leader sees the furthest and plans the best for the most.
In this paper I say:
The capacity for wisdom arose in this recursive, self-similar framework of individual expansion of judgment coupled with the dynamics and cohesion of groups in which individuals lived. Sapience and group management co-evolved in that one spurred the other and vice versa. Language, too, evolved in this framework, being essential for sophisticated communications between control specialists needed for a distributed hierarchical system to work.
Figure 1. The evolution of hierarchical control at both the individual level and that of the group. As group sizes get larger, more coordination and long-term planning are involved in maintaining group cohesion and success in surviving. Individuals evolved to have greater strategic capacity with respect to their own lives within the community. But some individuals, representing the higher end of the sapience distribution, could function as strategic thinkers for the group as a whole. Likewise, some individuals may specialize in tactical management (lead hunting parties) and others specialize in logistical management (making sure there are enough arrows and bows, etc.).
Key individuals who showed particular strength in strategic thinking could assume the duties of doing such thinking, or at least influencing the group thinking, for the group as a whole. The success of such individuals rested on their ability to understand the external environment, including other groups, and understanding one's own group members and their capabilities. Providing guidance for the group's long-range activities, such as where and when to plant seed or hunt, etc. based on a lifetime of accumulated tacit and explicit knowledge would set such individuals apart, with others in the group looking up to them as wise folk.
Humans evolved within the matrix of sociality and developing culture. There was strong selective pressure for groups to have wise leaders, those doing the strategic thinking for the group. There was also pressure to have logistic and tactical thinkers who could organize the work to be done.
It seems reasonable to think like the evolutionary psychologists that this organizational structure and functions of individuals within it was a large part of how we evolved and what we have evolved into (see the paper when I get it done for more details). It is our basic nature to be happy operating in this kind of structure.
Imagine then all organizations, from the neighborhood, to businesses, to towns, all the way up to the global community, essentially built along these distributed, hierarchical decision-making lines. Each small (tribe-sized) group organizes itself as shown above, choosing the most strategic thinker to do that job, the most tactical thinker to do tactical planning, etc. It need not be just one person either. If there are several people who can work together and have equal skills in terms of planning and organizing then so be it. There should probably always be apprentices in these planning jobs anyway.
Any individual need not only be a member of one or two groups. Depending on the purpose of the grouping (work, entertainment, spiritual, etc.) people might find themselves in different roles in various groups to which they belong, just as happens now. What is different in this approach is that there be an explicit recognition of decision-making roles and that meritocracy means the person best qualified to carry out that role in the context of the group and its purpose be assigned those duties.
We apply the same structural logic to groups of groups, joined by a common overall purpose. For example, a business, or agricultural collective might be comprised of several operational groups, each with their own internal hierarchical structure. But to organize the larger grouping of inter-cooperating groups requires exactly the same sort of hierarchical decision structure as within the group. Now each smaller group becomes an operational process in the larger effort. This larger organization will require logistical and tactical planning and organization just as the smaller groups do. It will also require strategic management as well. Once again, those with the greatest capacity for making those distinct kinds of plans and providing direction to the operational groups would form the hierarchical decision structure.
An interesting question, reflecting on scaling issues, arises from this recursive structure. Do the planners/organizers at the higher level (group of groups) need to have much higher capacities for the kinds of planning and organizing they do than the planners/organizers of the smaller (tribal) groups? In other words, would the larger group (of groups) strategic manager need to be significantly more sapient than say the strategic manager of one of the smaller sub-groups? I suspect that this is the case. Of course, the higher-level manager role might actually be filled by a committee (again the idea of a council of wise elders), which might produce a collective wisdom capacity larger than just the sum of individuals' wisdom.
GaryA also raises the idea of politics, or what kind of polity would ensure that those best able actually get the jobs. It is easy to imagine what this might look like within small group organizations where something like consensus is feasible because everyone knows everyone else and communications channels need not be long or subject to a lot of noise. There can never be guarantees that the most sapient will be given the job of strategic manager, but if everyone understands explicitly that having that happen is in every ones best interest then it might happen more than not. After all, that is what we evolved to do, remember?
Selecting managers for the larger group of groups might be more problematic. One idea is that all of the strategic managers from the sub-groups form a council and selects the one amongst them that seems best able to do the strategic planning for the larger group, assuming there is someone to take her place in the sub-group. Or they search for someone who has the right qualities who is looking for a group to join. Similarly, the tacticians all get together and select a tactical manager while the logicians do the same.
Note that this is more like the original Greek notion of democracy than what we have now. Our current system, in the US anyway, was designed from the top down and assumed that real participatory governance would be impossible because of the large number of people involved and (at that time) the slow communications involved. Also the framers of the Constitution outlining the form of governance we built did not seem to regard governance as a holistic process. The whole notion that government and commerce were at arms length and followed different rules led to a schism that is only now becoming apparent should not have existed. In what I am projecting ALL human activity is considered integrated and supportive of ALL people and that every person is supported as a whole person. There is no real difference between cooperative efforts to produce food, build houses, save excess wealth, and form defenses as needed. All such activities require an organizational structure that is based on hierarchical management — strategic, tactical, logistical, and operational level decision making.
Small groups (tribes) organized around a single productive activity (say a farm or factory or office where data is processed for governance), cooperating with other small groups specializing in other but complimentary activities would provide a tremendous amount of flexibility in terms of allowing the whole society to adapt to changes in the future environment. Set in the context of local production and consumption to minimize the need for long range transportation, such groups, and a bottom-up structural organization, would, I think, provide the greatest amount of personal autonomy while maintaining the social framework all of us need to be happy humans. Each group would retain autonomy with respect to internal organization choices, and each would have a voice in the larger organization's (group of groups) functioning.
I think this vision is feasible in the sense that humans have sufficient individual sapience to be able to live within the framework. After all, it simply recapitulates what we evolved into in the first place. But we have gone so far into our current unhealthy state of power politics, aggressive competition, and personal greed and aggrandizement that it might be impossible to reorganize in this fashion. In the political climate of today what counts for achieving power is ambition, deceit, and often times ruthlessness. People think of the higher-level management jobs as having the 'power' and if you aren't in one of those jobs, you are under the thumb of whoever is. Therefore being a leader depends on the Machiavellian skills rather than sapience. That dominant perception has produced the dysfunctional governance system we have today. There are too many vested interests among too many stunted sapients that will not be amenable to a transition that I fear the only hope is for the collapse of current civilization to be followed by an intentional rebuilding along the lines I've suggested. It is more than likely that our civilization will collapse from its own weight and probably sooner than expected. Local small groups and tribes will form for survival purposes and they will be localized, even isolated initially, as they develop their work processes based on local resources. But over time I expect humanity to begin the process of developing more complex societies again and that is when the concept of sapient governance will come into play. As small groups make contact and start trading resources and products there could be a model of cooperation based on the hierarchical control model (management) that would act to allow these 're-groupings' in a wise way.
As I say in my sapience evolution paper, this kind of structure may once again provide the co-evolutionary selection pressure to push humanity to the next level of individual sapience. Homo sapiens is a species destined for extinction. But I see our genus going on with a brain better suited to very long-term stable civilization (true civilization) as we evolve into Homo eusapiens, man the truly wise.