Saturday, April 9, 2016

Roger Erickson — The Cognition of Aggregate Discourse

The Cognition of Aggregate Discourse

The Neurology of Consumer Compulsion is the title of an interesting, recent essay.

This essay includes & extends what I've been saying all along ... but this still doesn't answer the question of "how".

If only it were that simple. How about adding "The Cognition of Aggregate Discourse" ?

Let me explain what that means. Warren Mosler once asked me a killer question, one that I knew the answer to.

"How do you get people to explore their options?"

If you can ask that question, you can also ask "How do you get an aggregate to explore it's aggregate options?"

For individuals, the answer is simple. You challenge them, or they meet their own challenges, and then natural selection takes over ... assuming they are a recombinant species.

For aggregates, the answer is the same, just on a larger scale. How do aggregates perceive, parse and select from their expanding options?

Roughly the same way as individuals do, but on a larger scale. Whether among neurons or between citizens, "cognition" is held in the body of discourse of an aggregate.

Why isn't OUR electorate acting more inteligently, and letting itself explore the insanely great options staring us in the face?

Because there's a great disconnect here.

More than 99% of people with biology backgrounds don't practice or study the fundamentals of political economics or business.

Similarly, more than 99% of political economists or business people don't learn squat about any field of science whatsoever, let alone some biology.

The disconnect is between all forms of those that know "how" but never know where their aggregate is going or why, ..... and those who ponder long enough to discern "why" but in the process never learn quite enough about how to actually get anything done very quickly.

Until the how- & why-people interact far more seamlessly, they can't produce an aggregate that is greater than the sum of it's uncoordinated parts.

Without more practice, group intercourse never gets past the 1st-date phase, and the whole aggregate is doomed to being a lousy parent churning out socially-clumsy offspring.. Everything requires extensive practice, and nothing more than re-inventing culture on a larger scale.

So there's a simple truth sitting in the mirror all the time.

It's never enough to publish or announce what you know.

All that matters in the end is practicing interactions with all available neighbors, so that the value of those interactions catalyzes the urge to selectively explore greater, not just lesser, tempting options.

It's even more important to discover how to integrate inventions & discoveries than it is to invent or discover. Both are necessary but not sufficient.

Why? Because there are vast differences between what key individuals and whole disciplines claim to know ..... and how their electorates actually behave.

Face it. Our cells, ourselves and our aggregate are all biological machines, with already amazing and rapidly expanding degrees of freedom.

Neither individuals nor aggregates are fully engaged and motivated until they sense the actual carrot in front of their nose. And they don't SELECT which carrot to pursue, until it's overwhelmingly clear which is larger/sweeter/surer.

Interdisciplinary (democratic) interactions drive aggregate awareness.
Aggregate awareness exposes personal+aggregate opportunities.
[Aggregate+personal] opportunities drive optimization of personal/aggregate activity.
Coordination of personal/aggregate activity drives further interactions ...

And so it is that an auto-catalytic culture is born, with an intrinsic feed-forward loop. But that loop engages only if we drive group-wide interactions above the threshold that separates growth from decline, and cultural inflation from cultural deflation.

I often conclude that the solution for all of our ills is to simply add this particular tale to our collection of "Just-So-Stories" told to pre-K students, and ingrained into their consciousness by age 10. If they achieve a sense of their expanding context, then manipulating new data is a trivial coincidence.

The Neurology of Consumer Compulsion

Roger Erickson's profile photo

"Aggregate success tracks the quality [including tempo] of distributed decision-making."

Corollary? The dynamic-quality of distributed decision-making tracks PRACTICE at increasing the aggregate tempo of distributed discourse.

Google Plus
The Cognition of Aggregate Discourse
Roger Erickson
Posted with permission


Random said...

Well my take on democracy is that it is not a system designed to achieve good outcomes for a country through the wisdom of crowds or other mechanisms.

It is a system designed to make voters accountable for their votes, to punish voters if they make stupid voting choices, for example when the median voters are disengaged and/or fall for marketing directed at their wishful thinking by vested interests.

There is a planet-wide market for political systems, and there will be countries with a political culture of voters who are well informed and engaged and this drives better policies than in countries with a coarser political culture.

The countries with better voters will prosper and outcompete the countries with worse voters.

Eventually the more engaged capable voters in a country with mostly disengaged wishful thinking voters will want to emigrate to countries with a majority of people like themselves.

Consider each country as a housing association for a housing estate; those with smart, engaged members prosper and attract other good, engaged members, those with credulous, distracted members get swindled by their management and decay and lose the better residents.

Random said...

Politicians on the whole are honest: they tend to do what their voters want (plus what their sponsors want) rather than what voters say would be nice....

More generally my impression is that many voters are hypocrites, and say many things and vote for another.

Politicians care very much about the votes of voters, not the words of voters, and are well prepared to pretend to listen to the words, and be accused to be liars, as long as they get the votes to be re-elected.

A vital skill of a politician is then to understand what voters will vote for, as opposed to what voters would like to happen if they were perfect, and deliver what voters will vote for while preaching homilies about what voters would like if it cost nothing.

The median voter has a safe-ish career and/or a fixed income or capital gains from property, and regards the (say) unemployed as a problem that only parasitical losers have.

It is all about enabling and managing voters' hypocrisy.

Is unemployment going to be a major electoral issue, will it swing majorities in critical districts or states? Obviously both the Republicans and the Democrats have so far calculated that either the median voter likes unemployment to stay high or does not care.

How many congresspeople in either House or Senate failed to be re-elected because they voted for PATRIOT, Iraq, TARP? I guess that they noticed that the number is close to zero. How many Congresspeople will fail to be reelected because unemployment stays high? I guess the estimate of both parties is similarly large :)

Voter intentions seem driven by "F*ck YOU! I am fully vested".

The USA median voter to me sometimes seems like the mythical well-off resident of Calcutta who is angry about poverty because he has to step over the bodies of the poor who have died or are dying on the pavement while he walks around town, without regard to how inconvenient that is to their betters.

Time to get out again the second most important fact in UK (and similarly for USA, Australia, etc) politics:

"In 2001, the average price of a house was £121,769 and the average salary was £16,557, according to the National Housing Federation. A decade on, the typical price of a property is 94% higher at £236,518, while average wages are up 29% to £21,330"

This means that in 10 years owners of average UK houses have enjoyed (most often tax-free) capital gains of around £12,000 per year, or a boost of 80% on top of after-tax average earnings, all easily extracted without selling the house thanks to second mortgages.

Again: 12,000 pounds tax-free yearly extra income for the average/median voter, for 10 years, every year, nearly doubling their after tax income.

Why do they need the state to pool risks, when they are having the risk-free ride of their life?

For them risk pooling, when they are used to get year after year massive tax free capital gain, means giving some of the windfalls gained by their sagacity in investing in property, to some irrelevant losers!

What the average/median "aspirational", "striver" voter, in particular female, middle and older aged ones, wants is simple: more tax-free capital gains for rentiers, lower wages (or welfare) for everybody else, rather than pointless, wasteful ideas like state insurance.

Tom Hickey said...

Politicians on the whole are honest: they tend to do what their voters want (plus what their sponsors want) rather than what voters say would be nice....

Studies contradict this. Much policy that the majority wants is not enacted but rather policy that is favored by the donor class.

So-called democracy is not working, it would seem.

See Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page ' Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens"

Random said...

"Much policy that the majority wants is not enacted but rather policy that is favored by the donor class."

Yes, and gerrymandering, voter suppression etc mean additional challenges...

But my point was even if all election were publicly funded completely, I doubt a majority of voters would introduce progressive legislation.

Voters tend to be the richer, more rentier and prosperous 50% of citizens, and the vital 5% who are donors are usually the top 5% by income and wealth and are largely rentiers.

The 5% who donate are those who *nominate* candidates, and the 50% who actually vote elect the President.

The President therefore represents *them*, not the "little people" that don’t vote and don’t donate. Bernie may have changed things a little, but I doubt it will make much difference in the long run.

Random said...

BTW B Obama is pushing for compulsory voting. Good idea that won't happen...

Good old Upton Sinclair remarked in “I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked” that when he presented policies as socialist he got few votes compares to when the described the very same as conservative common sense.

Even the Democrats 1940-1980 were the party of the coalition of labour immigrants (italian/jewish/irish white workers) with the southern racists rather than the left, and when their constituency made good salaries and bought property and sent the kids to college they all became Republicans.

Today there is no left party because there is no left constituency among VOTERS. Only the better off 50% of those with the right to vote actually vote, and 70% of voters are property (and some stock) speculators, wishing for ever higher asset valuations and for ever lower wages, especially the vast numbers of older middle and upper class women.

Roger Erickson said...

Tom Hickey:

"Much policy that the majority wants is not enacted but rather policy that is favored by the donor class.
So-called democracy is not working, it would seem."

Is that as passe as the old saying that "the squeaky wheel gets the [fiat] oil" ?

If that doesn't work for us anymore, what's the solution?

What sort of tuning instrumentation do we need, to coax a higher Adaptive Rate out of this system? This is a job for a team of Cultural Engineers, WORKING TOGETHER, not just the same old, uncoordinated arguments & opinions.

Seems to me that the purpose of a mandatory, national education system is to produce a citizenry that IS the corp of Cultural Engineers.

Tom Hickey said...

I think that there are several key factors involve. The first is that money does buy access. That's legalized bribery. It needs to end and there cannot be a credible attempt at a democratic republic without campaign finance reform, reining back lobbying, and locking the revolving door.

The second huge issue is the one that John Dewey and others called attention to long ago. The title of his book, Democracy and Education, says it all. Buckminster Fuller called it raising the general level of collective education.

I have mentioned many times that the bottom line is raising the level of collective consciousness. That's a broad subject involving many factors that I won't broach here.

The goal is participatory democracy where all the participants are highly qualified and highly motivated. Instead, what we have now is voter suppression, dumbing down the electorate and all the other nonsense that this dragging the process down.

Bob said...

Representative democracy is like representative child rearing - who would choose this?

jrbarch said...

I noticed Stefan Klein, PhD (studied physics and analytical philosophy, holds a doctorate in biophysics ... phew!) settled on the Golden Rule - ethic of reciprocity, is a moral maxim or principle of altruism found in many human cultures and religions, suggesting it may be related to a fundamental human nature - selflessness, and the joy of giving (as opposed to the pain of taking) as the way out - in his book 'Survival of the Nicest - How Altruism Made Us Human and Why It Pays to Get Along'. We only have one planet, and it is incredibly unique.

But you see, nobody teaches human beings how to look inside of themselves, see something that is good, honorable and beautiful - so that they can like themselves, and feel proud of themselves. See what human potential really is. And know the same exists in everyone. Because when you feel good, that is when you are generous and kind.

Bob said...

Having a roof over your head with enough food to eat helps people feel good. That however, is but the foundation in Maszlow's pyramid.

Tom Hickey said...

Having a roof over your head with enough food to eat helps people feel good. That however, is but the foundation in Maszlow's pyramid.

Maslow's pyramid is contested on psychology if it is taken temporary. First the bottom layer and then the next, ladder-like up the pyramid. Some psychologist look at it as a constellation of needs that run from the material through the mental and emotional to the spiritual (self-actualization, transcendence).

There is a similar misunderstanding about the eight limbs of Yoga set forth by Patanjali, who describes them as "limbs" of the body of the teaching rather than as successive step to be taken. Similar with Buddha's eightfold path.

Human needs are not a step function but rather simultaneous, at least for adults, and adolescents should be educated in this for happy individuals in a good society.

Tom Hickey said...

But you see, nobody teaches human beings how to look inside of themselves, see something that is good, honorable and beautiful

That might be a bit of exaggeration. There is a whole body of perennial wisdom out there and versions of it are found at the cultural core of every society, even so-calleed primitive societies. See Charles Eastman (Ohiyesa), The Soul of the Indian. This knowledge and how to develop in in one's self has been available worldwide from time immemorial.

Bob said...

Maslow's pyramid is also self-centered, but I don't see how not satisfying one's physiological needs allows for any sort of growth. The crime rate and brutality found in third world countries is testament to that.

Bob said...

One of the factors that destroys homeless people is boredom.

jrbarch said...


Well. agreed - I would call it a generalisation though, not an exaggeration. The whole body of perennial wisdom is just one huge recipe book to whet your appetite. Only cooks can teach cooking. Only quality food can refine the taste.

Tom Hickey said...

Only cooks can teach cooking. Only quality food can refine the taste.

That's true. And it is also true that everyone naturally finds their own way. It's all natural, part of natural unfolding of potential. At some point intentionality enters and one begins the quest, which really a sort of experiment that involves testing and operates based on rejection of false positives. Then one begins to refine the process and intelligent people realize that there is no advantage in wasting time reinvention the wheel.

“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
Mt 7:7-8

"The thing we tell of can never be found by seeking, yet only seekers find it."

Quoted in James Fadiman and Robert Frager, eds., Essential Sufism, p. 37.

This Nasrudin tale elucidate it:

"Nasrudin entered the teahouse and disclaimed:

'The moon is more useful than the sun.'

'Why, Mulla?,'

'We need the light more during the night than the day.'"

Indies Shah, The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasrudin, NY: E. P. Dutton, 1971, p. 52

It looks like a joke but it is a riddle. The sun symbolizes the self-effulgent "light" of consciousness. The moon symbolizes the mind, which reflects the self-effulgent light as mental activity.

One aspect of ignorance is taking the trivial as important and the important as trivial. The ignorant prize the reflected light of the mind and are ignorant of the self-effulgent light "in which they live, move and have their being." (Acts 17:18) The "enlightened" know this "light" for what it is.

The Gospel of Thomas, Saying 5:

"Yeshua said, Know what is in front of your face and what is hidden from you will be disclosed. There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed." (Marvin Meyer, tr.)

As my internal arts teacher said to me, "I can show you how to find the chi (qi, ki), but you have to find it for yourself."

jrbarch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jrbarch said...

” ... also true that everyone naturally finds their own way”.

Yes – that’s the really fundamental truth Tom. It stands like a beacon, in a world full of coercion.

I know full well, that it is the heart that seeks the experience, and as you have written above, mind reflects. I have seen many times how mind trails the heart in understanding. Mind may have a PhD in everything, but the heart does not care . It is a different kind of learning, and a different kind of knowledge. The teacher speaks to the heart of the student and has a big role to play in how the student learns, and what the student accomplishes. The teacher massages the experience, the ‘seed’ in the heart of the student, allowing them to experience for themselves as that beautiful knowledge of the Self begins to break free; allowing them to start anew; begin to joyfully learn and motivate themselves, work their way through their own uncertainties and doubts - to clarity. A living teacher for living students; a dead teacher, the written word, or a Powerpoint will not suffice. A teacher has no greater joy than to see that experience blossom in the heart of the student, and understanding dawn in the mind. Both enjoy; both are teachers and students, and because it is the energy of Love-Wisdom that is emerging, there is no fear or doubt – a commitment is made; effort doubles on its own. Because the teacher has proved the experience to himself, he can take others through the same, it is no problem to the teacher - allowing the process to unfold in the student, and expand as the student becomes more aware.

This is why only cooks can teach cooking, while the rest teach recipes. The teacher hurries the natural process of finding your way. The process takes place beyond the ego of the student because mind is not involved other than as a witness, that slowly begins to understand what is unfolding in front. We all live at a threshold, every moment of our lives. In the realm of the heart, we are discovering, not conquering. In this sense, the mind lives on vapour, the heart lives on substance.

“Sometimes in life believing is not enough. Faith and knowledge and an unquestionable desire are necessary as well. The choice is yours and always will be”. [Prem Rawat]