Sunday, January 25, 2015

We Can't Have Our Evolution And Centrally Plan It Too

   (Commentary posted by Roger Erickson.)
(Too bad financial liquidity isn't included in that plot!)

The image above drives home the ancient lesson that increasing capabilities always rest upon increasingly distributed foundations. That's true for weight in architecture, inter-relationships in resilient networks, and education in human populations.

As evidence, Bill Mitchell recently reiterated an idea that recurs periodically, but never quite often enough.

“A massive boost to public education is required."

Yet clearly, “more” education alone won’t necessarily help. “Different” education is also required.

For example, something along the lines of OBT&E, which is a method, and also a reiteration of Natural Selection.

It's also clear that each and every one of our methods is necessary but not sufficient without ongoing adaptive intent - which becomes a method for coordinating all other methods. The utility of all methods still depends upon slowly molding a human culture with a collective focus on Cultural Adaptive Rate as the common guiding light - for all the milestone, Desired Outcomes we pursue as we continuously muddle on.

We have countless options, and they are usually increasing. Increasing our cultural Adaptive Rate reduces to collectively sensing, on any given day, what permutations of our ongoing choices will actually optimally INCREASE rather than reduce our net options.

That’s a practical math problem. In fact, it's a constantly changing, massively multi-variate, adaptive cultural calculus task which we can only pursue via brute-force group calculation (utilizing massively parallel feedback, i.e., by Democracy). By definition, our survival challenges can never be modeled as fast as they change. We have to calculate them, via distributed, organized trial and error. That, plainly and simply, requires complete focus on re-connecting everyone to everyone, and summarizing all available feedback soon enough to matter.

No predictive power, but seemingly limitless adaptive power.

In other words, you can't have your evolution and Centrally Plan it too.

It seems that the baseline for all evolving organizations - of any sort whatsoever - is to have 80% of the components (whether cells, humans or even whole nations) enslaved & poorly managed by a minority still operating by yesterday's methodologies. Some things are always, briefly, the "keystone" species which both enforce existing structure & constrain Adaptive Change in every ecosystem. There are no clear lines separating phenotypic persistence, Institutional Momentum, and hegemony. Yet we must manage those distinctions as best we can.

That's our burden, as an evolving, growing aggregate. You better embrace & enjoy that task, 'cuz it's not going away.

That's the reality of organic growth. Central Planning is always fighting a staged retreat while racing to stay relevant to the expanding numbers who are escaping their comprehension.

On a personal level, it's not so different from what grandparents observe, as first their kids and then their grandchildren spiral out into the future.

It's up to us to make OUR continuous AND INCREASINGLY DISTRIBUTED transitions either relatively graceful, or rather tumultuous. How? Equally clearly, that depends on how we prepare our future citizens, by managing distributed education.

I’ll liberally paraphrase Joshua Chamberlain, circa 1865

“We have zero predictive power, but through training and education, we can determine what aggregate adaptive rate we can generate, when each novel group challenge appears.” 

What's that old saying? If you really love something - even the future for you, your kids and your nation - then set it free? No, not unprepared in the middle of the road, figuratively, but in a somewhat protected practice field, and then make the sacrifices necessary to protect it as it learns how to be free from your constraints.

That seems to be what human evolution is all about. We can't have our aggregate evolution and Centrally Plan it too.

No, 2 + 2 (+ something unexpected) never equals just 4. Yet our electorate has to keep making that calculation on a national level, every day, and adjust to the continuous surprises. Human cultures compete on the basis of their aggregate cultural-CPU designs.

What's that mean for citizens? Probably the following message.
If you can't stand the physical math, get out of the evolution!

The alternative is already apparent.

(Right now, we're not using our brains in any organized way, either.)


Roger Erickson said...

ps: We need to decentralize our university education processes too. What this plot shows is not adequate.

Tom Hickey said...

Excellent, Roger. Bravo, Encore.

Dan Kervick said...

Americans seem obsessed with decentralized evolutionary "emergence" and laissez faire models of human interaction. While we certainly can't centrally plan everything, the 21st century world is going to require significantly more organized planning than we have grown accustomed to, and a larger role for deliberate political choice in the shaping of our societies.

Roger Erickson said...

Worse, even naive Americans think "planning" is a permanent, 1-time step, as opposed to just practice at continuously re-aligning everything ... as the utility of EVERY plan lasts less than one, transient context.