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(5) "sociopolitical structure" But the reality for me is that you have not provided me with adequate explanation (e.g. what is a sociopolitical structure) of elements of your argument for me to respond to them.By "sociopolitical structure", I mean no more than it implies - the social structure (relations) of political power (dictionary: 'sociopolitics' as "the interaction of social and political factors"). In more detail, the social components (individuals, groups, classes, institutions, states) as structured by their relations (wealth, power, information flows, status, whatever), with a focus on political process. (The 'structure' will have an enviroment/context: technology, economics, culture, events/contingencies, etc.) As a term 'sociopolitical structure', I don't imply a specific model, method or interpretation. I try to use standard terms - the same meanings as in a dictionary or on Wikipedia. (6) your 'likelihood' of doom, my 'hope' of survival ...I see the likelihood of collapse and die-off as quite high (>90%). I acknowledge that "something" could intervene that none of us could know about that would change outcomes.My main comment on this (and how I frame 'defeatism') is in my 'final thoughts' section. Your 90% refers to technical chances, understood. The conclusion I'm critiquing is your conclusion that we humans can do nothing to save our species. I.e., that the probability of current and future efforts to increase our survival, is effectively zero (e.g. less than one in a trillion chance). I have queried this explicity with an approximation of moral worth of trying to save the species (at 250 million lives per person making an effort), but you haven't commented on that. You seem to hold out some hope (sorry don't know what else to call is since by your own admission you haven't really expanded on your reasoning/evidence) that something called a sociopolitical power structure can somehow be aligned so as to do this minimizing. You certainly could have at any point offered an actual vision of what that would look like. Merely saying you "see" it as possible doesn't quite inform the rest of us as to the basis of what you see.I set out my position in enough detail for you to critique, but you haven't addressed it. I could repost all those relevant statements in one post if you want to consider them. Regarding "hope": I've outlined that I think we have a chance - this alone means that if we are using critical thinking then my opinion is just that - an 'opinion' (or position, viewpoint, a 'conclusion' as a working opinion, whatever). To be unable to reference my opinion as 'opinion' and choose the term 'hope' is prejudgment (a psychologism, as I addressed the same problem in two earlier posts), it is not critical reasoning of the subject itself. Thus, if you spend effort trying to preserve civilization, in the short term, against the odds as they stand, then you are wasting your efforts...The 'norm' at the moment is that people recognise the need for change and make some efforts (large or small) to, in loose terms, 'make their leaders do what needs to be done'. My view is that this unfocussed approach is ineffective (which is similar to your view). But I have stated that we could survive if we target a change in power structure (in the similar sense as happened historically during the transitions from feudalism to capitalism - though the drive for that was primarily the economic transformation due to technology). You are saying that all such efforts are a "waste of effort". This is the significance of our disagreement (the motivation for my critique, but not through blind hope). I still can't guess why you are so emphatic on this considering the moral significance (as I evaluated with my 'moral worth' calculation). And there is really nothing to be done about the long-term extinction of H. sapiens. Such an effort would be foolish to the extreme since extinction is the fate of all species.For me, this is an exercise in futurism. I take a different view, that if we survive the next few hundred years, our 'lives' won't be structured by biology but by technology instead. But that's another topic. Yes, one way or another, our species will be finished soon. If we don't 'survive', you have an interesting take on what can be contributed - I would want this pursued in parallel with survival efforts (with a focus on the latter). I was interested to read your views on 'social theories', I would like to post a few ideas on this later (not a full treatment). Bonce.
Toggle Commented Sep 7, 2013 on Either Profits Go or We Go at Question Everything
(3) my critique and phrasing: ...totally open to critique. Cannot the same be said of you and your position? You imply that debate is the result of my failure to change my mind based on your critique. But I reiterate, I do not understand your critique (see below).I have set out my position a few times and from a few angles. I am focussing on only one aspect, which I can summarise in three sentences: To predict an outcome for humans you would need to model the systems which have effect on that prediction. I can see you have a 'bottom' layer for human sapience (individual biology), and a 'top' layer - an understanding of the environmental/technological crises which might cause doom. I have not read any description of the subsystems/layers in the middle: behavioural; societal; economic; political. I cannot assess or critique your opinion without knowing the model for your prediction. (I have attempted to make a model, but I can only guess your assumptions.) I have also countered that a change in 'power structure' in these middle layers is the route to survival (though only in simple terms as an example alternative). I simply do not speak your language and the semantics of many of your phrases is opaque to me. ...I have tried hard to find the reasoning and tried hard to grasp the meaning of your terms and failed.Sorry to hear this, I do try. We could have tried to address what I wrote - you did raise a couple of phrases in your last post that I try to answer below. I'm sure I am easier to read than a typical postmodernist, don't dismiss me into that basket (I don't fit in those baskets). I think time is needed to consider unfamiliar paradigms, we just lack the procedure. (4) 'inevitablity' framing, my "single vector" = no mediation I already suggested that I saw no inevitability in the sociopolitical processes, while you seem to see it as a single vector from your sapience model. [trim]More evidence that you must believe you are providing adequate arguments. You, personally seeing no inevitability is not sufficient to argue that there is NO inevitability. The term "single vector" must have some meaning to you that is, I suspect, different from my interpretation (language). The context here is my critique of your prediction, so the "NO inevitability" thing is the burden of proof problem, so I refer to my earlier post. But to reiterate: I don't need to present an argument to say that something might be possible (is unknown) because that is the default starting point == no prediction == null hypothesis. Also, if our context is 'problem solving', then the default assumption would be to 'do something'. You do need to provide an argument/justification if you predict an outcome, especially if you draw conclusions from that prediction. (This 'burden of proof issue' is separate to my outline for survival.) I was saying 'vector' in the dictionary sense - a magnitude with a direction. I.e. that you have a subsystem model of sapience from which you draw inferences about capacity for behaviours. I was saying these inferences can be seen as vectors toward the problem domain (the crises/solutions, notionally at the top of the entire system). The direction of the vector is toward better or worse outcomes, the magnitude is the strength of the effect. If a 'vector' from a lower system is not mediated (modified, including emergence) by the social-societal-economic-political layers above it, then it is just a "single vector" which passes through them (or maybe a bunch of vectors, if they are not mediated then they might be aggregated). Your vector(s), as I see it, is then applied directly to the problem domain at the top - the technical crises/solutions. (I used 'vector', in this sense, only to highlight the problem I was raising at this abstract level of critique.) Here is an example of why I am inferring a 'single vector', you said:...the reason that people pursue self-interested power structures is precisely because they do not possess adequate sapience!Whereas I have set out alternative mechanisms for changes in power structures (such as my 'A/B hypothetical outcomes') based on contingencies/opportunities/efforts (not species capacity). As is reflected in history - the question is the degree to which different historical processes reflect a capacity for real solutions in the future (we didn't get that far in our discussion).
Toggle Commented Sep 7, 2013 on Either Profits Go or We Go at Question Everything
Hi George, thanks for your further post. We can leave our last few posts as summaries on most matters. Following up your "one last go" post, to break it down in a different order: 1) you say that knowing my background might help your procedure 2) without an outline, you cite your blog as a resource 3) you don't understand my critique, and find my phrasing opaque 4) you query my use of "single vector", also inevitability (burden of proof) 5) you query my meaning for "power structure" 6) you clarify your likelihood of doom, and describe my "hope" 7) you consider 'social and political theories' to be "failures" Thanks for posting your views on 'social theories'. The 'science vs social theories' debate is a gargantuan task, but I'd like to post a very limited discussion later. It is clearly relevant to our disagreement, though indirectly - it isn't involved in my initial criticism (what I see as a lack of societal modelling). Some responses to the other areas... (1) my background for procedure: You explain how knowing my background/status might be useful. I understand what you say but my approach in this case is still as I outlined in my "final procedurals" paragraph. I'll give a bit of my background if I post on 'social theories' (I'm science/eng background - I can understand what you've written). Just to clarify one wording: ...My identity shouldn't have any bearing - ideas are ideas (ad hominem covers this). ......BTW: an ad hominem is when the attacker impugns the reputation of the other and has nothing to do with wanting to know the background from which the other comes from. I know the typical use of 'ad hominem' means 'abusive ad hominem', but I wasn't referring to that specifically. When I said "ad hominem covers this", I meant that the meaning is contained in the theory of 'argumentum ad hominen', specifically 'circumstantial ad hominem' - that the reasoning should be independent of the person's identity (for critical reasoning, not other contexts). (2) your outline or resources: And I believe I have provided a sufficient amount of evidence and reasoning over the past many years to be fairly confident. Several times I suggested that what you were asking me to do had already been done and was totally open to critique. ...I have spent a number of years extracting a variety of threads of scientific data/information, used system dynamics reasoning, and documented all of that here in these blogs. An outline per se is not forthcoming. If you are truly interested in understanding how I came to this conclusion you are more than welcome to read everything I've written in QE that relates.Because you haven't presented an outline/abstract/model of your reasoning for your prediction of 'doom', I have attempted to outline the necessary subsystems for such a prediction. (I'm not treating it as logic, just some form of justification.) I have read several articles on your blog and some of your Sapience Explained and you have plenty of material on the 'top' (crises:CC,etc) and the 'bottom' (biology:sapience) subsystems/layers. I found no material on the 'middle subsystems' (social, etc.) and I have raised this from various angles. If you could point to resources that would deal with these subsystems and what you conclude from them, I could try to address that. But we haven't managed this, so perhaps we don't have the time.
Toggle Commented Sep 7, 2013 on Either Profits Go or We Go at Question Everything
I tried posting earlier and it didn't show up. So I split into three and the first two parts didn't show. George, please check for my parts 1 and 2 in your spam/moderation filter (there are no URLs, typepad can be flaky). Thanks, Bonce.
Toggle Commented Aug 28, 2013 on Either Profits Go or We Go at Question Everything
(part 3) Closing thoughts My closing thoughts would be on the significance of all this. The question is whether the 'humans are doomed soon' outcome is inevitable or not. If it is inevitable, then good luck with working out some way of contributing (interesting area). If we are not doomed then every effort is more significant than we can imagine, while your position works against this - this is the bottom line for me. The bipolarity is all the more striking because we have some significant areas of agreement. Take my highly simplistic calculation of moral worth (that we never got to address, I commented the calculation to Oliver a few posts ago). If our doom is 99.9999% certain (0.0001% survival), then for each person that pursues 'nothing can be done' but would otherwise actively pursue survival routes (say one million), I calculate the loss of hundreds of millions of lifes - that is not 'wishful thinking' that is a calculation that can be critiqued. The further problem from my perspective is that focussing on the crises themselves tends to lead to policies like population reduction. The actual barrier to survival is the 'power agenda' which allows these crises to develop. I didn't get to outline how this works, but I suggest that such medium-term power agendas (which are somewhat documented) are based on managing the crises while maintaining capacity for themselves only (at the expense of global population size). Yet our route to survival lies exactly in their inability to control working mass opposition. (Don't prejudge this viewpoint as missing something.) I hope your position is not so much a 'conclusion' as two sets of features from your work on sapience at one end and your knowledge of crises at the other. As such it would be open to mediation by the dynamics/emergence of the social/economic/political layers between. Perhaps in the future we might discuss which methods are best suited for this. Good luck with the book George. I'll keep an eye on your blog. My email should be visible to you as the blog owner if you want to contact me. Cheers, Bonce.
Toggle Commented Aug 28, 2013 on Either Profits Go or We Go at Question Everything
@Tom Denial and myth is what we grasp for when faced with extinction. The "anything is possible" idea is a pipedream... ... Bonce: proofs, shmoofs - tell it to the dying trees. In my disagreement with George, I'm not focussed on the range of the contingencies (technical crises/solutions) and I'm not disagreeing with or downplaying George's outlines of these. (As to their severity, George seems to suggest that our species will die but our genus will live, though I don't discount that it might end up much worse.) I'm questioning George's prediction/conclusion with a focus on the sociopolitical model. Tom, if you don't qualify the range of the crises and the range of the mitigation/solution (including sociopolitical change), then you are presumptively defeatist. If you want to start qualifying your position, that's fine but that's not a debate for me. As to "proofs, shmoofs", I guess I've dealt with that further up.
Toggle Commented Aug 27, 2013 on Either Profits Go or We Go at Question Everything
Hi George, lots of interesting topics, though I think we're getting a bit tangled in a few places. This is long (lots of quoting for clarity) but I've tried not to introduce new lines (holding stuff back). Procedural matters Firstly to outline the structure of what I'm debating/discussing. You're concluding that humans are doomed soon and I am questioning that conclusion. I don't have a clear outline of the lines of reason for your conclusion. You are presenting some reasoning and I'm questioning some aspects of that and proposing aspects of alternative viewpoints. I've been suggesting that the central area of difference is how sociopolitical structures can work and change - I've been asking how you are concluding that they cannot work for the given task and I don't have a clear picture of why you think so. To jump to a procedural matter: BTW, the concept of burden of proof (one way or the other) does not apply here since proof is not what science does. It can only disprove at best (falsify an hypothesis). So in this sense the burden of some kind of falsification rests on those who claim my thesis is false. For example, if they could show that cold fusion was economically viable and readily implemented over the next the years, that would completely undermine my thesis about energy decline.I'm not sure how you are reasoning this. You are making a claim - limiting the range of prediction of a complex system to draw a strong/definite conclusion. I'm not asking for a formal proof (and I don't see how it can be formally scientific), just an outline of your reasoning. Where you present some of your reasoning, it's then up to me to critique your reasoning, if I disagree. If along the way, I make a counter claim, then I will have the burden of proof for that claim. The challenge to you is to follow your own advice, critically consider, etc. and if you arrive, via that route to a conclusion that something can be done (and let us know what that is) then good on ya. Bear in mind, however, you cannot get by with merely claiming you did the critical analysis. We will all need to see it (in the spirit of scientific verification) and perhaps dissect it to see if we agree with your conclusions. It sounds like shifting the burden of proof for the whole thing: I am critically considering the routes and trying to break this down into manageable sections (my suggestions are in the direction of critical tradition). The context is your route to your conclusion. If, as a separate task, I were to address the whole shebang and present my complete reasoning for a range of possibilities, then that would serve the same process but make it much less manageable (I don't have the time for that and I doubt you have to time to get tangled up in lots of long essays in the comment sections of your blog). (replies 1) You raised some interesting things in your reply, but I feel you didn't always follow what I was trying to question, though it's clearly rather complex. back to (reply 1), some tangles ... I have a hard time understanding what a "sociopolitical struggle" is if not the result of people interacting. If those people are clever but not wise in the sense it is defined in the literature (which I have pointed to) then I can easily see it being a struggle because those people are incapable of seeing consequences of not cooperating (which would eliminate the struggle part). You seem to be claiming that this struggle is a construct outside of the interactions of people that then conditions what they do. I think this is pre-assigning causal force to something that is, itself caused by that which you claim it causes. I'm OK with mutual causality and co-evolution, but in this case I assert that the social fabric (and dynamics) are a result of our cognitive capabilities lacking a capacity to think in a sapient fashion.I think that 'sociopolitical struggle' is an emergent abstraction/result of human interaction (and that human interaction is effectively guided by such abstractions: culture, economic structure, etc.). You didn't quote what I said that made you think that I thought otherwise, so I'm not sure what you're referring to. It would be a hasty generalisation to conclude from this alone that we are doomed. Well I would hardly consider a decade of study as hasty. Nor have I concluded from our lack of sapience "alone" that we are doomed. You must have read me too quickly. I was separating out a line of reasoning that crops up (esp in the comments) , i.e.: because something hasn't happened before means it won't happen - formally that is 'hasty generalisation'. I was careful to say that "to conclude from this alone". I was separating this in order to focus on the substantive analytical stuff, I said: It would be a hasty generalisation to conclude from this alone that we are doomed. I assume your conclusion (that we are doomed as a species) is an extrapolation of the qualities of sapience that you have modelled - that you apply your model of sapience to a model of sociopolitical process (and circumstantial factors: technology, etc.). Have I got this right? Which you then begin to answer: I saw from the various trajectories of major predicaments and the nature of the received wisdom of neoclassical economics that we are doomed. I then wondered why we are stuck acting so foolishly. ... (Understood. I have learned to interpret 'foolish' to mean lack of wisdom, not lack of 'cleverness', but it is still dissonant for me due to paradigmatic reasons that I've discussed.) (power structures) I would position the role of self-interested power structures as the main feature of sociopolitics. Quite so. I agree, but the reason that people pursue self-interested power structures is precisely because they do not possess adequate sapience! Later you seem to conflate "cleverness" with sapience and, again, I need to restate that these are not the same thing (even though they are obviously related as cognitive processes). I'm glad we agree on the power structures bit. The sapience is inadequate where the outcome is inadequate, but the question is whether it might be adequate for our future - our predictions of possibility. (I no longer conflate 'cleverness' with 'wisdom', but if you think I've used either term in a problematic way, please point it out. It may be that I don't know your definition of 'cleverness' though I tried to define my need for a usage at the end of the Remember comments.) WRT: scenarios A & B, you might be interested to know that there has been a tremendous amount of both anthropological and theoretical work (sociobiology, evolutionary sociology, etc.) done on this exact sort of modeling. I wasn't trying to build a naive model/simulation from scratch, I was just setting out a notion/paradigm and raising the question from that. I thought it was usefully succinct. (Similarly with my 'Good King Thomas'.) You didn't address what I was trying to set out (I asked why 'outcome B' was not possible). Thanks for citing the "Why We Help", but it doesn't seem to address the same level of analysis that I was aiming at (power structures and change, etc.). I found your next paragraph very interesting (and in agreement) - sapience selection, 'defectors', ownership, power structures. (BTW, I do see sapience as 'weak'.) I'd like to quote your paragraph and expand on this soon (it seems to go in the direction I'm asking about). (replies 2), range of crises I will admit that my rhetoric has become a lot more strident of late in this regard. However, I assert for good reason. Consider this argument. We have scientifically known about the trends and consequences of most of our current predicaments for well over fifty years. You then set out the inevitability of CC catastrophe.... "already too late to avoid catastrophe" - indeed, catastrophes are due and cannot be avoided completely. I don't disagree with the general severity of the problems due, and in no way am I downplaying the importance of the analysis. It is the headline news that isn't. I don't think this is the source of our differences. As I said:As to the circumstantial factors (technology, the timescale and range of climate change, etc), I don't think this is the source of disagreement. Back to you...So given the high certainty of calamities from multiple phenomena hitting us in short order (any one of which could cause our demise), the fact that these calamities are already in motion, with inertia, and will get very much worse, and the prevailing beliefs that capitalism will solve all problems, that is the reason I conclude that we are doomed.As you might guess, I agree with all of this except the conclusion (it is implied but how is it inevitable?). If you and I were the world leaders, I'm sure we could sort it out in the medium and long term. Really??? So you think there are technical solutions that could be brought to bear on these predicaments with nothing but good outcomes for the future? Geoengineering, for example? Sorry, but there is nothing that is going to sort out FF depletion and declining EROI. Those fall under the category of laws of nature. And short of the cold fusion miracle mentioned above, what we will experience is a given.If by "nothing but good outcomes for the future" you mean survival of humanity, then yes we would save the day (eventually). If you mean keeping the population above 1 billion, then that would depend on the contingencies/solutions. It's an absurd suggestion by me, but it does seem to tease out a difference in our futurist perspectives. I could expand on my view in a later post if that's of interest. (...modelling the complexity) I don't understand how the claim that we are doomed can be so strong, considering all the uncertainties in the models and methods for the prediction of a supremely complex system. Well take a look at what the actual "uncertainties" are about. There is no uncertainty about the direction of global warming and the climate forcing effects, the uncertainty is about the sensitivity of the forcings per units of carbon. Hence the IPCC projects a slew of scenarios from a best case (low sensitivity) to a worst case (high sensitivity). The earth is warming and the RATE of warming is due to anthropogenic sources of carbon. On that there is very little uncertainty (only possibly the noise due to natural climate cycles). I strongly recommend you take a look at the special section of Science, Vol.341, 2, Aug. 2013, especially the reviews on pages 486 and 492 (actually you should read them all). This is what the science has to say, not the main stream or Fox News media. Sure, important stuff, which I'm not debating (and I don't follow mainstream news but I know what you're referring to). As I mentioned with "circumstantial factors", I'm interested in how these crises might play out (the technical problems and solutions), but I want to focus on what I think is the source of our different conclusions, which I've been focussing on. What I meant by "uncertainties in the models and methods" was how the prediction is reasoned. In particular, how the sociopolitical model is affected by the sapience model. Take a quick hierarchy leading for predicting doom/survival (nothing definitive), bottom up: human biology (sapience, etc); human behaviour (environmental); societal; economic; political; crises policy (technical). We are discussing whether the top of the hierarchy can be achieved, and if it can be implemented through each stage of the hierarchy down to, or up from, the level at which sapience is defined. I have been suggesting that the significant area of difference in our viewpoints is centred on how change occurs (between the societal and the political layers). To consider what is attainable we first need to critically consider how things are the way they are. If we can model past and present effectively, then that will guide us as to what is possible and how to go about changing things. Couldn't agree more. Of course that is what I have argued I have done! And because of that analysis I have concluded the doom (for the population) scenario. Ergo there is no going about anything to be done to change things; there is nothing that can be done (to save the population or even the species). We agree on the need/emphasis for critical thinking. You have quoted my preamble but not addressed what I was setting out, e.g. I followed with "...can change if the majority struggle against the existing structure." I.e., I need to know why you think this is not possible. You say you have set out your case, but I don't see the outline of it and I have questioned various aspects of this a few times (and acknowledged other aspects that we apparently don't need to address, there is also plenty of agreement). Bonce
Toggle Commented Aug 27, 2013 on Either Profits Go or We Go at Question Everything
@Oliver - To suggest I have "wishful thinking" is a psychologism - a psychological explanation for why I am wrong. First, we need to determine if I am wrong (the substantive issues). I understand your position (humans and our predicament are dodgy so we are doomed). I have been setting out an alternative viewpoint and arguing that it is a better explanation of how things work (that's what I meant by 'paradigm' - a way of looking at things, not a wishful solution). I accept your comment that what I've written is hard to follow, that's not my intention but I do think that the questions we are addressing have a depth of headache-inducing complexity that's hard to avoid (whether I've expressed it well or not). You didn't address what I was trying to set out, so we'll have to agree to disagree for now.
Toggle Commented Aug 25, 2013 on Either Profits Go or We Go at Question Everything
@Oliver, thanks for looking at my A/B scenarioWhy do you think the world has always run on scenario A, rather than scenario B?To be specific, I said essentially 'scenario A' with transient glimpses of 'scenario B'. But yes, I characterise 'A' as having a minority class with most of the wealth and power, and, if we look at history, this is pretty much always the case. We are taught a gentleman's history where we are told how 'Good King Thomas' valiantly tried his best to lead his country. But if we are critical (we doubt and question), then we might find evidence that King Thomas was ruthlessly pursuing his own self-interest (bumping off rivals, killing thousands in wars for profit, making peasants die of starvation by taking common land, agreeing to meet rebels and then boiling them in oil, etc.). We then have two theories: King Thomas was trying to do his best but making the odd mistake; or King Thomas was essentially pursuing ruthless self-interest. We should develop the theory that is better at explaining the events. Add to this the difficulty in interpreting the record of events (nobody wrote down anything critical of King Thomas). My question would be, which period of history does not match the general nature of King Thomas? I would say most of it (with only transient glimpses of cooperative systems). You discuss scenario B as if it's a real option in the real world, but I see no evidence from history or the present day that gives me any reason to suppose that scenario B will ever become a reality. Firtly, just because it hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it won't (to think otherwise is just generalisation). Circumstances are constantly changing (to say the least). And if we ever attain a proper cooperative system, then that's it - eutopia - done and dusted ('the end of history' as Fukuyama would pretend). To consider what is attainable we first need to critically consider how things are the way they are. If we can model past and present effectively, then that will guide us as to what is possible and how to go about changing things. The world is facing crises that will ruin the lives of billions. Things aren't too good for the majority of the billions alive now. In my view, a small minority control the vast majority of effective wealth (productive captial) and power (bombs and influence). That can change if the majority struggle against the existing structure. (You might correctly guess from this that I'm against population reduction for political reasons as well as practical morality.) I'm trying to set out an alternative sociopolitical paradigm (way of looking at how the world works), which isn't easy. I'd best leave it there for now. You may hope it can come to be, or wish it to happen, but while (of course) it's not impossible in theory, are you really sure in your mind that it's attainable, beyond wishful or magical thinking?Yes, I'm sure it's possible without magic. I just want to reiterate the 'burden of proof' thing. Our starting point for an open question or complex prediction is 'anything is possible'. We can then start reducing the possibilities by reasoning why certain outcomes are effectively impossible. What we are left with is a list of known possibilities. So, yes, I think that it is possible because I've not been convinced that it isn't. And there's a bottom-line: if we are the last chance for intelligent life to survive on this planet, then our actions decide whether future life exists or not. That's at least: 5 billion years of 5 billions of lives (if we stay homo sapiens and don't evolve or propagate). So, if our chance is one in a million, and one billion of us try to save the world, then each of us is responsible for 5b*5b/100 divided by 1m*1b = 250 million long happy lifetimes. Or not. @George Sorry to post so much on your blog.
Toggle Commented Aug 25, 2013 on Either Profits Go or We Go at Question Everything
@K-Dog I favour your angle:...If it takes all kinds or not as a society we sure got em all. Consequently we might actually be OK as a species but have totally allowed the wrong people to run the show.I think this relates to my 'scenario A'. I would add a qualifier, that if the power structure is corrupting (maintains privilege), then the leaders need not be the most ruthless and selfish for the structure to fail us - the structure needs to be right. @Oliver (to K-dog) "'s not true that nothing can be done." You are dealing in obligatory hope, not verifiable fact...As I understand the logic, the assertion is "we are doomed and nothing can be done", so the burden of proof is on those making that claim (and I've not read a clear version yet). There is no burden of proof to say: we may or may not be doomed and therefore should try. @Cantab Your story of financial trader friends is interesting. Does their culture reflect their innate qualities? or are they people who happen to enter into a pre-existing system? (financial capitalism creates their culture rather than the traders themselves) @George (to Oliver) ...there is nothing that even a coalition of world leaders could do.If you and I were the world leaders, I'm sure we could sort it out in the medium and long term. In my view, the current effective 'world leaders' aren't motivated to do anything yet because the powers that guide them do not fear their own position (they predict crises for the masses, not themselves). I would be more than happy to change my opinion if this can be shown to be true. The evidence I see and the magnitude of the predicament lead me to my conclusion (but always tentative!)Isn't the burden of proof the other way round here? More hopefully, if the 'doomed' conclusion is tentative, then shouldn't a tentative chance of survival trump any defeatism? I once tried to probabilistically calculate the moral worth of each individual alive now (in trying to secure beneficial survival) - it made a pretty maths expression. Each of our attempts to secure a better future has more value than we can imagine (magnitudes more than trillions of lives, effectively exponential). (sorry to butt in again, I might misinterpret the context a bit...) Insofar as a general statement about it being true that there are multiple possible futures (and that it is mathematically proven) is vacuous. It carries no predictive or causal power.we could take "there are many possibilities" to be a truism to remind ourselves that any prediction of a complex system might be wrong. ...when we are talking about predicting what kinds of scenarios will spin, we should always condition it with uncertainties and not try to make it sound certain by recourse to a claim of mathematical proof...I don't understand how the claim that we are doomed can be so strong, considering all the uncertainties in the models and methods for the prediction of a supremely complex system.
Toggle Commented Aug 24, 2013 on Either Profits Go or We Go at Question Everything
Hi George. Again, I agree with most of this except for the emphasis on sapience being the determining factor and thus the conclusion. I suggest that our sapience is essentially adequate for the task while sociopolitical struggle is the determining factor and that we should focus on the latter with an eye on the former. How do we predict the possible outcomes? What does a model of sapience indicate? It is self-evident (to us here) that our species sapience (as a component of a system) has not provided a solution thus far and that the future seems bleaker than ever before. It would be a hasty generalisation to conclude from this alone that we are doomed. I assume your conclusion (that we are doomed as a species) is an extrapolation of the qualities of sapience that you have modelled - that you apply your model of sapience to a model of sociopolitical process (and circumstantial factors: technology, etc.). Have I got this right? A source of disagreement:Put simply, there is, in my opinion, no institution or group of people who (have the power/effectiveness and) can or would make the effort to change anything that might make even a modicum of difference. So an important part of this equation would be the model of sociopolitical structures and processes, with a focus on how they change and how they can be stable and collectively beneficial. From the Remember comments you said:But the argument is precisely that you cannot have an effective sociopolitical structure until there is adequate sapience/wisdom in the agents (people) who construct it. So we might agree that a pivotal question is: what is limiting effect of human wisdom in practice? i.e. what are the sociopolitical possibilities? (Can "power/effectiveness" be gained but those who seek cooperativity?) Again this seems to depend on how we model sociopolitics (consistent with a model of limited sapience, but not defined by the sapience model). As to the circumstantial factors (technology, the timescale and range of climate change, etc), I don't think this is the source of disagreement. My comments in the Remember were questioning the explanatory power of the limited 'cleverness' of leaders in explaining current (and past) world events and realities. (I used the word 'wisdom' in the wrong context, which didn't help.) You cleared up some of this for me by acknowledging that there is a significant role played by self-interested agendas. I would position the role of self-interested power structures as the main feature of sociopolitics. I would still question any 'lack of cleverness' paradigm in understanding and explaining sociopolitical realities - this crops up but is difficult to disentangle from discussion of 'wisdom/sapience'. (Is this informing the sociopolitical model?) If I can introduce a simplistic hypothetical example... An isolated village of 100 humans. If a few of those villagers were particularly clever and selfish, they, by various mechanisms, might gain power and wealth advantage over the other villagers. If the other villagers recognise this, they would tend to resent this and oppose them. Thus the rulers (leaders with privilege) must use their cleverness and gained advantages (weapons, whatever) to maintain their privilege. Call the leaders 'rulers A'; 'scenario A'; if the scenario persists, 'outcome A'. If the villagers remove their 'rulers A' and choose new leaders (using their experience of the previous regime to guide their choice), then we have a village led by 'leaders B'. If these new leaders become corrupt over time then we return to an instance of type 'A'. While the leaders and villagers function for collective benefit, call them 'leaders B'; 'scenario B'; and if the scenario persists 'outcome B'. I suggest that human civilisation has been essentially 'scenario A' with transient glimpses of 'scenario B' . What makes 'outcome B' an impossibility? (I would say more but don't want to post too much at a time.)
Toggle Commented Aug 24, 2013 on Either Profits Go or We Go at Question Everything
George, thanks for the detailed reply which has clarified a few things for me. Sorry for the slow response, maybe that suits if we are busy. I'll try not to expand things in this post, just a few questions, saving the main area for a further post. As Oliver suggested, I have tripped on a terminological hurdle - a different usage of 'wisdom'. I was interpreting your use of the term 'wisdom' to mean, essentially, knowledge and judgment - without any attached or derived cooperativity. So when you said leaders were not wise, I thought you were saying they were mistaken on their own terms. I understand your usage now (in this context at least) and this clears up some of the questions I was raising (and develops the other questions). I like the term 'cooperativity'. I could say 'cooperative wisdom' when it's useful to clarify, or is there a better qualifier? ('eusocial' sounds a bit bio-specific) To differentiate the dimensions of self-interest/cooperativity versus intelligence/stupidity, I need a term which refers to effective knowledge and judgment generally, without the cooperative framework - do you use 'cleverness' for this? or does 'clever' imply 'unwise' or selfish? Likewise, does 'foolish' imply a lack of cooperative wisdom (possibly due to self-interest)? or just somewhat stupid/illogical? As a side note, I do agree with the necessary connections between intelligent thinking and cooperativity and I don't mean to question your definition of wisdom (or Sternberg's) but I do find the word tricky because of my existing understanding and more general/limited use of the term (like the Wikipedia page on wisdom/sapience). For example: as I would judge them, Kissinger, Brzezinski and Rumsfeld are extremely knowledgeable and clever and also extremely 'unwise' - I can follow this but it's still a bit dissonant for me. As with my initial misinterpretation, I think 'lack of wisdom' can sometimes imply 'lack of cleverness' (whether that's intended or not). So, I generally agree with what you're saying. Which makes our disagreement interesting - it seems to centre on what is an adequate level of sapience:But the argument is precisely that you cannot have an effective sociopolitical structure until there is adequate sapience/wisdom in the agents (people) who construct it. ... My argument is for a "reset" followed by the evolution of greater eusociality and eusapience. My conclusion is that that is the only way that a better system of governance will emerge.Whereas I think there is a fair chance of stable solutions without bio evolution, but this requires a certain approach. I think our difference is on the question of how sociopolitical systems work and how they can change (and so what is adequate sapience). I'll have a go at this in my next post.
Toggle Commented Aug 19, 2013 on Remember at Question Everything
@Oliver. Hi and thanks for your input on my question, I am keen to avoid any terminology traps. Wikipedia suggests that 'sapience' generally means the combination of sufficient knowledge and good judgment - synonymous with 'wisdom'; or the ability to act with wisdom. I understand George follows the latter: the capacity for wisdom. I've read some of George's Theory of Sapience. Trying not to paraphrase... George raises the issue of altruism being a necessary component of widsom. I see the connectedness, but whether we conflate or separate 'wisdom' and 'altruism' would depend on the question being addressed. I've made some notes but won't diffuse them into this article commentary. Either way, I don't think this has any impact on the point I'm raising here. Your point about the 'rich and powerful' having no connection with 'sapience' might reinforce what I'm raising (their outcomes don't represent our capability). The broad question is: do humans have sufficient sapience to overcome all the oncoming crises? To judge that we do not based on current outcomes, is to judge that the species is represented by the governance within the existing sociopolitical structures. I am arguing that it is the nature of these structures that is the determining factor, not the species capacity for collective wisdom - i.e., that we can overcome the crises if, and only if, we are critically aware of the sociopolitical structures.
Toggle Commented Aug 13, 2013 on Remember at Question Everything
Thanks for the clear outline George. You say that there is a lack of wisdom in leaders and the led. I am asking what is the evidence/reasoning that this is the case? (I get the broad logic but I'm questioning it's explanatory power.) I suggested an alternative paradigm: that leaders tend to follow minority agendas (that conflict with collective outcomes) and try to manage the masses. You imply that bad collective outcomes (e.g. Nagasaki) provide evidence that leaders have poor wisdom. I argued that 'bad' leaders do have substantive wisdom if they achieved their own goals (while appearing to pursue collective goals). I suggested that this has better explanatory power for the recent history of Iraq (lack of sapience doesn't work for me with Iraq). The pivotal question is: what proportion of leaders pursue the collective good (of their nation, or the species) versus other interests? If a proportion of leaders who pursue minority interests have a determining effect on policy, then the substantive wisdom of our leadership cannot be judged on collective outcomes. This seems to be foundational. It is the crux of why I disagree with your further outline that: we cannot achieve a better world, nor good governance, without evolving as a species. In your Sapient Governance III, you judge state governments by their nations (collective) interest, similarly with the emerging global governance. I've read a few of your other articles, which I like (complexity, crises, the need for evolved solutions) except for this paradigm (sapience instead of sociopolitical structure). From your Watching the Political System:Corrupt, stupid, narcissistic, politicians are playing into the hands of corrupt, stupid, narcissistic capitalists everywhere and in every level of governments. These days even those few earnest and generally honest politicians who got into public service because they really believed they could help the system and people living under it find they have to play the game by the rules that have evolved which are mostly about money, power, and getting re-elected... Does this not work just as well if the word "stupid" is taken out? The second sentence seems to set out that structure can negate good governance (instead of stupidity). You also raise corporate influence, and greed as a cultural norm. You say the political process is a shambles and failing, but for whom? - the rich and powerful are getting richer and more powerful! Why is political structure (power-relations) not the determining factor?
Toggle Commented Aug 12, 2013 on Remember at Question Everything
I agree with most of this article except for the emphasis on sapience as the key factor in world events and global outcomes. I wouldn't wish to knock the idea that humans have insufficient sapience - that's something we should all bear in mind individually and collectively. And there is a broad logic that poor reasoning tends to lead to worse outcomes. But are wars and destructive policies a result of a lack of species sapience? What is the explanatory power of limited sapience when analysing world events? And what should our focus be if we want a better future? We cannot vary species sapience, just make better use of it. Is it not defeatist to suggest that this weakness is a cause of our failure? And are we not components of a system (the level on which the outcome is judged)? In which case, can eusapience (new term to me) emerge at the organisational/societal level? Taking Nagasaki as an example act of evil, how could we have avoided it? I don't think that increased species sapience would necessarily change the outcome (e.g. less naivety to propaganda). Collective harm can be framed as the result of agendas (which emanate from small groups/classes of people: elites, rulers, 1%). If Nagasaki is viewed in the context of a political struggle between minority warmongering interests and majority peaceful interests (collective good of the species), then the determining factor is political structure, not sapience. Also, what is the validity of the collective 'we' when considering decision-making for global events which are guided by a minority group against the interests of the majority? There is a mainstream orthodoxy of looking at terrible events as "mistakes" or to say that "we made mistakes along the way". Western policies on Iraq are commonly referred to as "mistaken" - the result of insufficient knowledge and/or intelligence - that just isn't credible. However, if one posits a set of agendas, then one can ask - did the decision-makers benefit (rational, clever) or not (irrational, mistaken)? Iraq is a good example - catastrophic for the collective world, but highly beneficial to those with the power to influence the decisions/events (oil, arms, markets, geopolitics, etc.). (Hopefully this is self-evident, I don't mean to start a political debate here.) Despite the lack of species sapience (individually), the determining factor in the outcomes for the species (utopia vs dystopia vs extinction) is surely our sociopolitical structure - in loose terms, the struggle between good and evil. I suggest that solutions come via a focus on the sociopolitical processes (who decides what happens). Those with evil agendas - such as warmongers - spend a good deal of effort (focus their sapience) on targeting sociopolitical processes (propaganda and control of information, targeting opposition, framing culture, etc.). Though much is documented, I'm not saying this is always done in a conscious, delineated or coherent manner. It is a complex system, but the structures, components and processes are identifiable and might be addressed (there is a hope of doing so). Sociopolitical processes have enabled cruel and destructive actions since societies began, but also engendered reaction and progress against such injustice. Those of us who want to do good (promote collective outcomes) should have the same focus as those who pursue harmful self-interest - to unravel and engage the sociopolitical processes to our collective advantage. For example, to question orthodox understandings of events - this is clearly necessary with Hiroshima/Nagasaki and Iraq, etc. On the other hand, we (those of us who pursue collective outcomes) should be aware of the organisational difficulties (internal and external) caused by our limited species sapience. Therefore, we (the majority) need good organisational methods to be effective (forms of accountability, pluralism, scepticism, wikis, whatever).
Toggle Commented Aug 10, 2013 on Remember at Question Everything
Hi. I just found your site (Google image search for a Simon hierarchy - excellent diagram!). Very interesting. Good luck with the book. (I'd say more but I'm not supposed to get too deep until next year, though I am doing a lengthy comment on your recent Lack of Sapience post.)
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Aug 10, 2013