[extropy-chat] [extropy chat] "Hierarchical Power is out"

Thomas Thomas at thomasoliver.net
Thu Dec 28 19:28:18 UTC 2006

Jef Allbright wrote:

>(1) What do we mean by coercion?
>[...] the reason I don't like to use the word, is that it
>fails when extended.  For example, suppose five individual farmers
>operate within a small town, all using traditional farming methods for
>many years, but recent developments in agricultural technology now offer
>greater productivity at lower cost.  If four of the five farmers adopt
>the new technology, but the fifth resists due to, say, religious
>beliefs, then it's likely that he would lose his livelihood due to being
>unable to effectively compete.  In such a case, is he being coerced?
Not specifically nor in any predatory or unethical fashion.  If the 
greater productivity failed to materialize, the four farmers  would 
 suffer the consequences of their self determined faith in technology. 
This example seems to rely on determinism. 

>Others have defined coercion more narrowly as relating only to cases
>involving the threat of *physical* force, including incarceration.  This
>attempt at narrowing to "physical" fails because any number of alternate
>forms of pressure ultimately lead to physical pressure.
>I expect that our Libertarian list members might want to express some
>strong views on this subject.
Once again I sense a deterministic bias.  I don't deny that the pre 
physical can be causal.  What I mean by coercion includes what can lead 
to physical pressure.  In my usage coercion functions in a stochastic 
process where a person or group has chosen to use force in an ethically 
entropic manner with an intention to dominate the will of any other 
human (trans or post included) individual.  Whether that "free will" is 
viewed as an illusion or an impossibly difficult Markov property, I 
think, may be irrelevant.  I think we came here (to this list) with a 
will to progress, improvement and some sense of moral responsibility. [ 

>(2) What do we mean by hierarchy or level? 
Here we discuss hierarchical power.

>On the other hand, in the context of PJ's reference to that news article
>and the phrase "Hierarchy is out" it seems clear that we're referring to
>Social Hierarchy, which comes loaded with considerable values-related
>connotations. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_hierarchy> So, when I said earlier: 
>>>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.
>and you replied:
>>Still hierarchical?  What mitigates forceful conflict -- a balance of
>> Class I and Class II residues?
>This may be a good place to focus on both coercion and hierarchy.
>First of all, let me say that I greatly admire much of Pareto's work,
>his Pareto's Law distribution and what many know as the 80/20 rule, but
>I have a very difficult time using his arcane terminology of "residue"
>and "derivation".  (I also don't care for "liberal" vs. "conservative"
>for that matter.)  Please defend this usage if you feel it is central
>and/or important to our discussion.
I feel little attachment to this terminology.  I used this to illustrate 
the futility of a two level power structure, alternating sadistic and 
masochistic roles.  

>So to the topic at hand, yes, I think that a hierarchical system that
>reorganizes at progressively higher levels of complexity and
>effectiveness should be seen as good--and it happens to be as
>unavoidable as the laws of physics.
Is physics the topic at hand?  I thought we were discussing the demise 
of social unilateralism.  There's a big difference between a system that 
reorganizes by means of decapitations and mass exterminations and a 
structure that enables more than it constrains. 

>Is there conflict?  Yes.  Conflict between competing methods, with the
>more successful tending to persist and the less successful tending to
>perish. To "mitigate" such conflict would cause the system to stagnate
>and become more likely to eventually succumb to some external threat.
>Note that I specifically mentioned that conflict at one level leads to
>*cooperation* at a higher level.
I didn't say mitigate competence.  Let's mitigate bloody methods.  Let's 
compete to do our best, not our worst.  The persistance of the 
hunter-gatherer mentality does little to insure that we'll survive, for 
example, an invasion of hive mind aliens who just don't understand our 
"illusion" of free will.  

How about a voluntarist structure that enables the less successful to 
reorganize more successfully -- rather than letting them perish.  If 
they couldn't beat you, they could join you.  I suspect social exclusion 
signals the collapse of your hierarchy. [ 

>Now here's the part I'm guessing you really won't like:
>Will such progress be seen as "good"?  Generally yes, because what works
>tends to proliferate and what doesn't work tends to die off, and success
>is assessed by those remaining in a position to assess.
I don't regard deterministic justification of Machiavellian methods as 
progress.  [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machiavellian]

>Is there coercion?  Well, as I said I prefer not to use the word because
>ultimately every gradient in power, strength, capability, effectiveness,
>etc., can be interpreted as leading to coercion as with the farmers
>mentioned earlier.
If your higher level can't mitigate violence on a lower level and admits 
of no constraints on its own lust for power, then "strength, capability 
and effectiveness" sound like euphemisms for an addiction to intimidation.  

>  But in the case of the farmers, I think it would be
>much more realistic to see the situation in terms of a positive-sum game
>for any who choose to play.
And the low tech farmer could open a museum, but when the "powerful" 
played with guns last century -- 180 million died -- not a very positive 
sum.  [http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/war-1900.htm]

I agree.  That's enough for now.  

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