Saturday, April 5, 2014

making sense

Neuroscience appears to be telling us that vertebrate brains operate with help from a variety of fast-response modules which don't always communicate well with one another, and that in human brains the same is true of the idea-linked public-relations (PR) module which plays such a big role in the way that we inform behaviors on all levels i.e. behaviors that look inward and outward from the boundaries of skin, family and culture. As a result idea-based redirection of behaviors is by no means perfect, regardless of what our PR module likes to pretend.

Hence the desire to "make sense" of reactive-module (e.g. fight/flight) behaviors on the part of others may itself be missing the fact that fast-response modules can operate without conscious permission. In fact these modules can also guide which patterns our PR module chooses to think about, whether we recognize their involvement or not.

This does not release individuals from the responsibility of managing all of their behavior modules to the greater good. However, it might require that our attempts to make sense of behaviors (socially and economically) move beyond the narrative of "conscious motive". The PR module in our head often only gets to make up its story about a behavior's reasonability after the fact.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

reduction to code

Cross-disciplinary science may be pointing toward the conclusion that folks (as well as the social systems that we work to support) are being short-changed whether or not we credit them with preconceived values. That's because like the self-assembled communities of which we are a part, our activities are in general guided by the fast operation of evolved modules that underpin the idea-rich public-relations modules which (thanks to the electronic mobility of ideas today) feed back into our pattern recognition only after the fact.

Reductions to code that fail to give folks credit for this adaptability shortchange them. Thus cartoonifications of people for better and for worse may be bound to fail, if used naively to guide the design of societal structures.

What examples pop up in your mind of judgement failures, concerning both values we might have expected folks to have, and values that we might have expected folks to not have? Examples of such failures might be worth listening to from folks with a wide range of vantage points on what worked, and what didn't.

Monday, January 6, 2014

re-framing life

Over time, if we're observant in the light of a continuing stream of "thermodynamic availability" from the sun, we'll hopefully become smarter. The idea-sets that we use might even become more adaptive, particularly in today's world of electronic communications.

Alas as you might be noticing with the news in the past couple of decades, constructive-synthesis doesn't automatically happen. It turns out however, that clues to a constructive-synthesis are already available thanks to insights from many different walks of life.

In this note, therefore, let's discuss how to assemble those elements into something that works as sustainably as possible. What would you do first?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

multilayer I/O

Cycles of revenge between families and cultures (electronically mediated or not) are often viewed as organism behaviors. However they might also be seen as group behaviors elicited among individuals by an evolved survival mechanism for families and cultures.

In a complementary sense, social consensus may also be seen as an evolved survival trait for groups of organisms as well as a skill on the part of individuals. Social consensus in principle can give the group many eyes, many arms, and many brains!

Like most patterns of behavior it is also a double-edged sword. Thus for better and for worse, it has provided a path to domestication for many large mammals in today's human-communities (cf. Diamond 1999).

Consensus itself is also inherently inward-looking. Consider for example (cf. Kuhn 1962) the challenge of paradigm-change in science: Like organisms in a maze, consensus scientists may be good at working the system but have no reliable way to learn about the big picture i.e. about places where the particular maze they are running falls short.

Thus the perception of "experts in the old", i.e. the authorities of consensus, may understandably miss better paths that start below the point on the hill to which they've already climbed. This is a shortcoming that consensus communities should keep their eyes open for...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

viral self-isolation

Modern media's wide range of options has (ironically) opened the door to a new form of manipulation, by exploitation of our neolithically-evolved reward-systems like e.g. the joy of criticizing others. The result is that big money can predictably put anyone out of business who doesn't pander to it, by mounting a media-campaign which directs those addicted to the spectacle of bad-mouthing toward the target of the day.

This self-isolated population, moreover, might be particularly difficult to reach except by information that is delivered in a package which likewise exploits that addiction. Looks like we've discovered yet another means by which humans can (by just following their natural instincts) inadvertently guide a social-system toward collapse.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

evolving idea codes

Evolving idea codes are the DNA of culture. Collaboration spaces, both local and global (like wikipedia), are idea-code evolution-spaces for which we all share responsibility. Do what you can to make them better!

Monday, July 1, 2013

wireless TV?

One of the phone companies has been running a series of commericals which falsely pretends: (i) that wireless TV is a new thing, (ii) that they invented it, and (iii) that it is difficult for kids to live without it. This is odd, since TV in our house was wireless from the beginning and still is.

Moreover, not once did I (or my kids) ever ask to take advantage of its wireless nature by moving the TV to the garage or to the closet. Is it really OK to pay children to broadcast a self-servingly false history of communications technology in this way?

What does it suggest about the technical competence and/or professional ethics of the people responsible for such uses of electronic media? Is this an occasion to ask advertisers to flag: (a) the audience they are targeting, (b) the soft spots within the target audience they are trying to hit, and (c) the places where technical and historical observations are being distorted to falsely-inflate the status of the organization running the ad.