[extropy-chat] Name that system

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Tue Dec 19 18:54:33 UTC 2006

Thomas wrote:

> This sounds very encouraging to me.  Now if, as
> PJ Manney said, "Hierarchical power is out,"[1]
> then what is the unmuddled concept of the
> organizational scheme for this complex ecosystem?

It's an ecosystem, so the organizational scheme is dynamic, where
conflict at one level leads to reorganization and cooperation at a
higher level of complexity and effectiveness. This is not Social
Darwinism [1] in it's crude form because the focus is on self-awareness
and intentionality to select for maximize positive-sum outcomes over
increasing scope by identifying and exploiting principles of effective
interaction. (The preceding is a somewhat technical description of
"enlightened self-interest". [2])

> Does it supercede democracy or is it a new form?

The closest (possibly) workable variant of democracy I've seen is
sometimes referred to as "deliberative democracy" [3] but I think that
in practice the process could be greatly enhanced in two ways:

(1) Increasing awareness of our fine-grained values
A database for collection and visualization of fine grained values,
probably most effectively extracted in the form of short
scenarios--stories expressing preferences within context--then processed
using feature extraction and vector analysis to identify principle
components, clusters, similarity rankings, interdependencies, etc.  I
suspect this would best be done in the form of games (collaborative
story-telling?) to get enough people to participate (to provide
sufficient independent samples.)

(2) Rational modeling of actions and probable outcomes
Given an increasingly effective fine-grained awareness of our shared
values (#1 above), an increasingly accurate model of our environment
(accumulating factual data), and increasing knowledge of how things work
(scientific understanding of principles extracted from regularities in
our environment), we can expect increasingly accurate modeling of
actions and probable outcomes and apply them to social decision-making
in the Rawlsian mode [4] such that there are no artificial pockets of
narrow self-interest.

Do any of us think we would not tend to make better decisions if we
applied increasing awareness of our values and of what works over
increasing scope? If so, then by induction can we agree that this is
generally true of others as well?  If so, shouldn't we cooperate to
create such a framework?

But given the facts of human narrow self-interest and discounting the
future [5], cognitive dissonance [6] and self-deception [7], again I
suspect that this process would have to be in the form of a game or
other form of entertainment in order to entice people into intentionally
using it for decision-making operating at a higher level of morality
than their own. Perhaps trends in collaborative music selection, book
and movie recommendations, etc., will point to the way forward.

On the other hand there's already a strong and dangerous innate human
tendency to subordinate one's moral agency to a higher authority [8, 9,
10] along with a strong popular belief that morality must necessarily
descend from an ultimate god [11] or godlike power rather than ascend
from a natural process of increasingly effective selection of what
works. These powerful innate tendencies exist because they worked well
within a long process of biological and cultural evolutionary selection.
But as we on this list well know, there's much more rapid change in our
environment than in our instincts.

Therein lies the rub; how to sell people on the importance of
broader-context decision-making (that deflates one's self-importance),
broader-scope consideration of consequences (when human lifespan is so
brief one can't expect direct personal benefit), and acting to benefit
the group (when it's obvious that one's own individual efforts can't
really make much difference [12].)

Over our evolutionary past, the individual always focused on its
individual needs, and cooperation emerged unintentionally and
sporadically, but persisted due to synergetic advantage. It's about time
for us to step up to the next level and *intentionally* exploit this
principle of positive-sum interactions to our maximum benefit.  To do
less would be immoral.

Self-transcendence and irrationality, indeed.

- Jef

 1. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Darwinism>
 2. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enlightened_self-interest>
 3. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deliberative_democracy>
 4. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Theory_of_Justice>
 5. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bounded_rationality>
 6. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance>
 7. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-deception>
 8. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment>
 9. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_prison_experiment>
10. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm_syndrome>
11. <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-arguments-god/>
12. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons>

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