The usual warnings : you must protect your mind from bad ideas when reading stuff like this, and this kind of analysis should be considered light entertainment, possibly containing points you will wish to incorporate in your thinking. Your local interests should be the measure of the worth of every idea.
A common quote among connoisseurs of systems is “In a system, you can’t do just one thing”, meaning ‘everything is connected’.
“But everything is NOT connected”, you will protest. Give me an example, please. Prove it.
While you consider the philosophical implications of that problem, consider some examples of known, but non-obvious, connections.
This is a discussion of the fact that telephone companies, especially mobile companies, have collected very vast amounts of information about their customers via phone numbers called and calling, location at frequent intervals, txt content sent and received, and internet use, including all web sites visited and purchases made, and can associate all of it with your billing information. That in turn means it can be associated with all of the other vast amounts of information collected by your credit card companies, your governments, every online form you have ever filled out, credit rating agencies, schools, every source used by data brokers.
NSA is not the only entity in the world spying on you and using the information against your best interests. You do not own your data, and so you have no privacy, and thus you are an exploitable resource for your phone company, much more reliable than any natural resource and on much more profitable terms than if you owned it and they had to negotiate use. The ads you see are one aspect of that exploitation, our political system another.
This is a discussion of the fact that basic science is less a driver of new invention than vice versa. Matt Ridley is always worth reading.
Commodities traders, taking advantage of the opportunites created by US Greens’ support of alcohol from corn in gasoline, starved many people and sparked the ME wars. We rational technologists tried to tell everyone that gasahol was an energy-losing proposition, dammit, and could not stop that program. Still can’t although it goes broke again every time the price of oil increases, a rather telling fact that nobody wants to notice.
This is the Gates Foundation making sure Gates’ investments are fostered.
This is the world of philanthropy making the world safe for plutocracy.
This is the pharmaceutical industry destroying the science they rest upon, layer by layer, for short-term gain, along with FDA’s and CDC’s able assistance.
This is federal prosecutors, with all of their advantages, failing to convict someone, not a frequent occurrence. I didn’t look at the details, which they claim is due to overly-complex law. The overly-complex law is true, at least.
This says that the public school systems’ standardized tests are interfering with education.
This says that blacks sleep differently and less well than whites.
The unifying factor in that list is hidden links, things happening for reasons not obvious if you don’t see the link. It is also a measure of how people and institutions make the world too complex and thereby endow it with a very high failure rate. The CIA believes its own propaganda about the effectiveness of torture, which can’t be good for either the CIA or the world. The pharmaceutical industry has very good profits at the same time as the number of effective and trusted drugs declines. Absent fully-informed juries, prosecutors have been very successful in their careers precisely because of the complexity of the laws, it is a rare jury that decides against the prosecutor’s interpretation of law and evidence. Gates and the public and very profitable testing services think testing is the key to the effectiveness of education, against all evidence. Etc.
Short-term wins for a segment of our total system at the expense of others, negative-sum strategies, no consideration of opportunity costs, all together cause a continuous decline in political legitimacy, which raises everyone’s costs in a myriad of ways. All justified by analysis by the best minds, and all working against the stated goals of the institution pursuing these remedies and the systems within which it resides.
All contribute to the failure that the larger systems they are part of, and of our world-wide civilization. They continuously reduce the wealth of our civilization and increase the failure rate of our citizens, and do it via links, flows of value, of information and money and material, if not hidden, certainly not often remarked upon. Our systems spend a great deal of effort doing bad QA on each other and themselves, and more working against their own purpose.
To mention our public education establishment once again, they have taken a simple thing like satisfying the great need and delight of children in learning new things, keeping their own minds and body active, and turned the satisfaction of that into a system that imprisons children at desks and kills their creativity and love of learning by age 12. The many the ways children rebel against a system that violates their requirements for normal development have ruined so many lives, and should be a scandal, but we ignore all of the evidence that almost anything works better, especially home-schooling and un-schooling.
With some work, I could extend the list of known hidden connections to longer than any of us could read. All such connections are not known.
Very stupid, and we citizens have let the processes degrading our civilization via domination of our elites continue far too long.
The amount of social wastage represented by perverse operations is such an obvious and dependable result, it does not represent a simple failure to do the right thing, or even some set of right things. These results opposite of what the institutions intend are huge social overhead built into the organization of our social structures. There is a fundamental problem that needs addressed and removed in all of these institutions.
The issue is rarely addressed, much less corrected. Obviously, we do not have much understanding of what the right thing would be. The level of complexity our civilization has reached is completely unprecedented, we can understand our world only after we finish reconstructing it, that reconstruction being continuous through history.
But I think we know enough to discuss the pattern of failure. That is fairly standard, another ecosystem exceeding long-term constraints in some area. Another attempt at a better political system has failed to prevent the corruption–>failure–>renewal cycle of history. What could be more common?
My problem with that is that it doesn’t tell us what to do next time. You really should never let a good crisis go to waste in that respect. Extract all the marrow you can, and learn again about the limited possible configurations of humans in non-corrupt systems, and the dangers of exceeding classic forms. This time we have, among other mistakes, exceeded the ranks in the hierarchy between dung-collector and the most powerful person on the planet.
Greater than that, the most powerful have too much power and are too removed from social reality by those layers, and much larger projects can be run longer and harder before their inherent stupidity can be shut down. Welfare programs, for example. History indicates that welfare can only be successful person-to-person, including church and other locally-directed groups. If done by government, it inevitably corrupts the society because sets of rules are easily gamed. Therefore we must do charity individually and locally and as a part of being in a community, we cannot leave such functions to rule followers. Foreign aid is another good example, it does not work when institutionalized.
One aspect of the failure is a mis-understanding of what ‘understanding’ is. We believe that words like this arranged in patterns like this essay constitute understanding sufficient to act upon, and we too-highly value the training and mental attributes that produce them and the institutions that employ those people. We believe that a valid form of ‘acting on understanding’ is translating them into policy and law and treaty, that by these acts we can make the world a ‘better place’, for some value of ‘better’, and we generally attribute the very great material benefits of modern civilization to those, analysis and acts via words.
In fact, business and mathematics and science applied to practical matters, i.e. farming and engineering and medicine, are responsible for our civilization’s material wealth and quite a lot of its intellectual vigor. Look at Thinking About Thinking, tho this entire blog is about different aspects of this problem.
Whatever good has come from government policies, it is now indisputable that all of the world’s crises are now caused by government policies. World economy, EU, ME, Ukraine, China, refugees, food prices and availability are driving the declining legitimacy of gov everywhere. Their remaining props are the crises they caused, e.g. ‘terrorism’.
Fundamental truth : we are one rather inbred species, there can be no natural reason to hate each other. If we could eliminate the stupidity of our systems working against their own goals, there are far more than sufficient resources for all of us on earth. Things should be getting cheaper, that is what functioning economies do. They would be getting cheaper, were our governments and institutions not pursuing policies.
The fact that we still have reasons to hate each other is surely the most damning thing we can say about our governments and policies.
Added later, another example of self-defeating policy.