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« Does nothing work right any more? | Main | Pseudo-sapient financing »

December 28, 2009


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Excellent post. I used to think of myself, perhaps, as a 'pragmatist', but I have long since realised that when Tony Blair talked of the economy and only doing "what works" he was deluding himself. It is impossible to deduce after the fact 'what works' from measurements, statistics and anecdotes in a complex, chaotic system of interactions, positive and negative feedback loops and time lags. Here, some sort of 'feed-forward' ideology is needed and also an over-arching 'lossy' ideology to help dampen down 'resonances' and oscillations while still allowing the markets to do what they do best. Or that's the woolly way I imagine it!


One of the unwritten rules I apply when reading peoples opinions of 'facts' is to work out their ideology behind the rhetoric. I've found very, very few people are free from some sort of subterranean ideology and therefore prejudice.I'm including myself in that statement-in the past!
Actually as I get older (in my fourties now) I trust more to intuition and instinct than purely the narrow torchbeam of conscious attention and rationality. There is a kind of 'wisdom of the instincts' which tell me when some idea or conventional POV is wrong (even though I cant articulate the unease at the time).
Subsequent investigation and thought have found my instincts were right in subtle ways I cant explain.
Apologies for the self indulgent direction of this post but its something I'm curious about and wonder if others have experienced this phenomona....?


"And as I've said before, especially in a democratically run political process, with the vast majority not able to think things through in an appropriate rule set, those leaders couldn't effect the kinds of changes needed, or reclaim the non-failed institutions as would be appropriate. They can't do it without losing their leadership roles. "

Is this a call for an alternative to democracy? And, dare I say it, some form of 'One World Government'?

Mark Twain

George, I posted a comment recently at TOD that touches on a thread within your tapestry above. I hope you don't mind if I re-post it here:

My slow journey of understanding the various problems facing the human race (and the rest of life on this planet) has lead me to seek the foundational assumptions that are - ultimately - the root cause(s) of our problems.

There are many problems - resource depletion, environmental degradation, population overshoot, EROI, politics and tribalism, energy production/export issues, behavioral psychology, and all the discussions to quantify them and rank their importance. TOD has been a great place to see and participate in these discussions.

Over the holiday break, I spent some time searching beyond these issues to the more basic assumptions that lead to these problems. I am faced with an inescapable conclusion:

It is our belief, as a species, that the planet and all life that lives upon it is ours to do with as we please. It is our belief that the Earth is under our dominion. We divide up what there is of the various pieces, and constantly fight others for some of theirs. If we could reach the planets or the stars, we would fight over them.

The Judeo-Christian belief-systems (and many other belief systems) clearly grant this right to humans, and all other problems grow from this poisoned illusion.

I do not expect that we are capable of altering such a basic belief in our own greatness. If we do not "own" everything, then we must admit to an equality with the rest of Nature - and this is not in within our capabilities as a species, and never has been.

George Mobus


I suspect you of being a control systems engineer! Your language suggests as much.

You might be interested in the series I did on the nature of 'sapient governance', the application of hierarchical control theory to governance issues.

My approach is not to, a priori, design a 'government' but to examine how such systems emerge in the evolution of bio- and eco-systems, e.g. homeostasis, autopoiesis, and trophic flow regulation. The point is to see where such regulation and coordination processes might apply to the governance of societies. Of course a necessary condition is that the society be comprised of sapient beings, otherwise one is faced with reversion to autocratic rule vs. cooperation for the greater good.

I liked your phrase, "...while still allowing the markets to do what they do best." I see markets (doing what they do best) as the main mechanism for coordination between low level work processes where one process is a customer of the product produced by an upstream process (similar to Toyota's TPS ( ).

You can see the links to the series in this index page:

WRT: "...a call for an alternative to democracy..." As per my comment above about a sapient governance depending on a sapient populace, I am not calling for an alternative, per se. I am pointing out that given the lack of sapience in the general population, that democracy has produced some unintended negative consequences. One wonders if Hamilton might not have had a better insight into human nature than did Jefferson?! But no. Even the elite are not wiser necessarily, so a plutocracy wouldn't have necessarily produced any better results. And it certainly wouldn't have provided a basis for an egalitarian society.

As for a World Government. I think it is clear that by maintaining nationalism and division, we have done significant damage to our planet in the name of sovereignty. Not to mention the horrors and human sufferings of wars to maintain such sovereignty. If mankind were ever to evolve into a more sapient species, I think the issue of unified global governance would not be a problem at all. The only reason 'world government' strikes fear into the hearts of many is that they intuitively recognize the impossibility of our current species to institute a wise form.

Of course another precondition for anything like a global governance system to work (aside from the level of sapience of the governed) is that the scale has to be manageable. Even if every man, woman, and child on Earth were eusapient, at 6.7 to 9 billion individuals, having overshot our carrying capacity several times over, I suspect it would be an impossibly complex proposition.


George Mobus


"I've found very, very few people are free from some sort of subterranean ideology and therefore prejudice.I'm including myself in that statement-in the past!"

Absolutely true (I think!) Hence my own approach to question everything, including my own subterranean beliefs.

I've actually gone from believing the world was in deep trouble, back in the '70s based on the evidence and hypothesizing of the time, to believing things could work out in the '80s based on what seemed like reasonable evidence at that time (I even voted for Ronnie, if you can believe it), to now believing essentially what I believed in the '70s! Only this time with a lot more empirical evidence to work with. Some people think I am wishy-washy or a bandwagon rider because I seem to so easily change my mind!

It seems to me the real trick is to recognize our natural tendency to have these kinds of beliefs and not be afraid to tease them out and question them. My suspicion is that the vast majority of people don't even recognize they have such deeply ingrained biases, let alone expose them to the light of reason.

As to your increasing trust in intuition, etc. I think you are experiencing exactly the kind of thing I talk about in sapience -- that your accumulation of tacit knowledge has proven veridical in past experiences and can be trusted. The application of such tacit knowledge to decision making is, by definition but also by empirical psychological testing, subconscious. That is why it seems to come from nowhere and why we call it intuition.

I would be cautious with using the term instincts, however. Instincts are the behavioral drives that are genetically programmed into us. Almost by definition they are most often right because they have proven to be advantageous evolutionarily. Where we run into trouble is that sometimes our instincts (designed for survival in the late Pleistocene) have some problems in dealing with modern situations. E.g. you can't rely on the fight-or-flight response when your boss threatens you! Your intuitions, on the other hand, are based on learned responses that can, when appropriate, override your instincts. Just a tiny semantics correction, if I may.

Good observation.


George Mobus


No problem. This blog is about disseminating ideas as well as questioning them. My hope is others reading here will be spurred to critical thought and provide amplification or present thoughtful questions.


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