Sunday, January 25, 2015

pitfalls & workarounds

Previous posts have hinted at shortcomings of organism-centricity as a general trait of human communications & perception. Two special cases of the problem, namely anthropocentricity where we think of our species collectively as the center of the universe, and self-centricity which may leave our individual actions un-informed to the perspective of even those closest to us, are already familiar themes.

One of the less-recognized consequences of organism-centricity in general is our pre-occupation with individuals for credit and blame, while collective processes (like the effects of evolving media, policy design, and self-assembly) remain largely invisible or at best treated anecdotally. Data-driven approaches to these collective-processes are starting to get attention (cf. Picketty in economics), although multi-layer approaches i.e. systematic consideration of processes on multiple-levels of organization at once are still in their infancy.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

them's bad guys

One place in the world of electronic communications, where our evolutionarily-important tendencies toward xenophobia and organism-centricity converge, is around criminal actions by non-state and rogue-state actors. Recall that a media "spectacle focus" on someone makes them seem important (in fact gives them net-surprisal), a result in the face of which the single bit of information as to whether it's " important-good" or "important-bad" may be insignificant.

In this context we've long argued that organism-centric humor ("look at what they are doing now"), rather than organism-centric xenophobia ("they may be evil incarnate") is a much more powerful evolutionarily-available antidote to the problem. Hence sarcasm is naturally seen as a more important target than is the enemy who speaks of your power, given that the latter may be an asset rather than a liability.

The root problem is of course generally not organism-centric at all, but has a solution which lies in a multi-layer focus on community health. Where else might this insight come in handy?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

multiplicity disadvantaged

Care for the (six) self-assembled layers of organization in our social systems (that namely look in/out from our skin, family & culture) is an obligation that those of us who populate these systems have not evolved to support. Instead, these social systems have organized themselves so as to accomodate the traits from simpler social systems (e.g. with five or fewer layers) for which we are adapted to care.

In this sense, all of us as individuals are (niche-network task-layer) multiplicity-disadvantaged. However our actions don't have to be.

The bad news is that electronic communications can in today's information age hook into naturally-evolved traits (like xenophobia, and our ability to react first then think) so as to redirect our attention toward pursuits that are not informed to the interest of subsystem-correlations on all six layers of social-organization. Humor directed toward cartoonification of these "multiplicity-disadvantaged" behaviors is a powerful weapon that, in my view, is so far quite under-utilized in pointing out the "unlayered ignorance" of actions e.g. that wantonly destroy cultures, break up families, and disrupt or even terminate the lives of individuals.

Does it make you better if you push others around and/or tear things down e.g. like a population's immunity to polio? Quite the contrary, you have to be deserving of ridicule in order to do such stuff.

Laughter is a powerful (and similarly evolved) weapon that can help us put such behaviors into context, for ourselves as well as for future generations. In that spirit, comedians unite!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

trait leveraging

Our ability to act fast, with rationalization by our prefrontal-cortex "public-relations module" catching up only after the fact, as well as our evolved tendencies to look out for family and distinguish our belief system from those of others, can be leveraged for better or for worse. This is especially true in this information age, as all kinds of new ways to elicit these traits (sometimes even globally) come into focus.

In other words acting on impulse doesn't always work for the better, just as promotion of family and bias against other cultures have dark sides to them. Moreover today's information media can help elicit xenophobia toward others, prompting us to arm ourselves with tools that make our unthinking responses harmful to others as well as ourselves.

What are ways for us to help put these three important traits (namely fast reactions along with our care for family & belief-system) to use for the better, instead of for the worse?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

maladaptive primitives

Our six-layer social systems have self-assembled to serve organisms with five-layer neolithic traits. This is not a bad thing, but it does mean that as organisms we often mis-characterize mal-adaptive behaviors (e.g. hooked to new technologies like guns, drugs, and electronic communications). Humor is one important (and neolithic!) way to get folks' attention in this context, although so far we have been missing many important opportunities.

What are some examples of such mal-adaptive neolithic behaviors? A list might include:

  • the trivially-expected (and sadly ignorant) pressure to deconstruct the 6-layer structure of our social-systems e.g. by demagogues of communism, fascism, and religious-fundamentalism,
  • focus on the role of organisms rather than the role of processes and concepts, including:
    • a pre-occupation with self,
    • radio, film, TV and internet mediated xenophobia,
  • the idea that life is about objectification (e.g. with looks, chemicals, gadgets, money etc.) rather than the buffering of long-term relationships with self, friends, family, community, kindred-spirits & professional-colleagues.
  • the idea that our modular neurobiology (e.g. in the interest of speed it is natural to act without thinking) serves the greatest good when everyone is carrying a gun,serves the greatest good when everyone is carrying a gun,
and what else?

How might be we better put them into an informed context for everyone?

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.