Monday, September 17, 2012

Economics of The People Against Themselves

commentary by Roger Erickson

We're seeing the unfolding story of the people against themselves, which is tragic.  A capable populous divided, cannot be stood on it's ear by anyone but itself.

A mind may be a terrible thing to waste, but a Group Mind is an order of magnitude worse thing to waste. Bill Mitchell, makes a valid point familiar to anyone working with any scalable system, whether biology, military, networks, software, or anthropology. "The brightest minds can be so dumb in particular circumstances."  Unfortunately, that holds more than triply for group-minds, i.e., collective intelligence ... aka national policy. The only way to leverage the economics of a group-mind is to exercise it. Otherwise, the dynamic value of having one doesn't compound, while the static costs keep scaling.

There are countless other examples than the one Bill Mitchell uses, such as our counter-productive efforts to NOT prosecute fraud, and instead over-zealously prosecute those who attempt to refer fraud cases. Given what our actual capabilities are, it's surprising how poorly we select what to use those capabilities on. It almost seems that frauds are running the asylum. The only other credible theory is that our distributed divisions render us conquered by our own disorganization. What would Pogo say about the irony in that reality? We've met the evil genius dividing & conquering us, and that distributed intelligence also defaults to us, simply for lack of exercising it's own, distributed IQ.  The perennial greatest enemy to each of us is all of us.

So why do locally capable aggregates tend to dissociate and fail as they grow? Simply because any rapidly growing population size initially makes more of it's members more isolated - regardless of whether growth occurs by numbers alone, or by increasing specialization of dedicated members. Any form of growth always dooms us to become collectively dumber, before we can get collectively smarter again, through expanded group practice. Coordination always has to chase population demands, and the latency of catching up differentiates surviving vs extinct cultures. For social species, every adaptive race is eventually a race to scale up coordination faster than either population or distributed capabilities does.

During that race, the cost of coordination rises exponentially faster than population size alone, and is ALWAYS the highest cost, by far, in any organized system. The ONLY return that exceeds the cost of coordination is the return-on-coordination. Hence, scalable coordination methods are the ONLY things worth investing in. It's the only way to save ourselves, our nation and our children. Everything else is a life-threatening distraction for all people in all cultures.

How badly will we have to fail, before it's again clear that we must once again quickly organize on an even greater scale? When we recover the ability to smoothly self-organize faster than we spawn new members? An amoeba can do that, so can every human embryo. However, no human culture on earth can gracefully do that yet - except the internet. We have brutal national growing pains that are embarrassing to watch in the mirror.

When will we learn, fast enough? Will the next milestone occur when everyone currently over 30 dies off? Or are we making Luddites faster than internet engineers? We don't need kids who cry wolf, but we certainly need kids who will cry "mobilize!" Since we're spawning more people, and exponentially expanding group potential, we need to continually mobilize to reach for insanely great things ... or else we regress, through our own intrinsic overhead, the cost of coordination.

I keep coming back to a simple, obvious but seemingly still uncommon conclusion. We need to accelerate how fast we learn to hoard coordination capabilities* - and we desperately need to reduce hoarding of everything else - since everything else only slows us down, and hampers coordination. Instead, we're still hoarding everything EXCEPT return-on-coordination!  And we're encouraged to do so by the failed paradigm of a totally brain-dead, maladaptive economics orthodoxy!   At this rate, some other culture could eclipse us rapidly and completely. Why isn't THAT threat to national security our #1 political campaign issue?

*ps: In fact, what we need to hoard, and continuously develop, are methods for accelerating our coordination capabilities. Or else we're toast.

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