We need New Therapies For Aggregate Clumsiness. There Is No Cure. Forget The Federalist Papers. We Need The Autocatalysis Memes. Pronto.
Written by Roger Erickson
We read a great article by Mike Lofgren in the Washington Monthly: Operation Rent Seeking: How the war on terror becames a business model. It brought back to mind a concept we have discussed before, cultural or aggregate human coordination. But Lofgren made us think about the problem of lack of coordination: How about cultural, or aggregate clumsiness? (Yes, it's called evolution. We'll return to that in a moment.)
What is aggregate clumsiness?
If this doesn't say it all, I don't know what does (from Lofgren):
'How could government agencies with a vast network of research labs and armies of science PhDs fall for a technological hoax as elementary as the "Mechanical Turk" of eighteenth-century Europe or the hundred-miles-per-gallon Fish carburetor of the 1950s? There are several factors: the long-standing American bias toward technological panaceas; the bureaucratic competitiveness of the S&T directorate, which wanted to enhance its role in the war on terrorism; and the smothering blanket of government secrecy, which prevented other agencies from learning of the hoax.'
There's a simple rule to this. Emerging aggregate stupidity always rises to exceed aggregate expressed intelligence.
Aggregates undergoing a growth spurt - like adolescents - HAVE to get clumsier before they can regain or improve aggregate agility, or aggregate intelligence.
It's simple mathematics. Our problem is that human populations are undergoing a CONTINUOUS GROWTH SPURT! Our organizational demands are outstripping all other demands.
Every growing network is only as smart as the practiced activity which it maintains throughout all of it's inter-connections. And that's a race that cannot be won, since every added node adds more options than the aggregate's previous organizational state was geared to solve. (Since we adjust by re-gearing AND THEN RELAXING to a state over-specialized to a unique context. It's 2x as hard to undo outmoded efficiency as it is to re-create resiliency. Habits are a crutch we can less afford every day. That is the exact reason why all species have programmed lifetimes. To re-gear everything, continuously. Now we just have to find a way to do so even faster.)
Growing populations have to completely re-gear, every day. That's the lesson realized by Darwin. We call it the theory of evolution.
Our own organization is the last thing we can afford to ignore, but it's still the very thing we ignore the most, by still practicing politics as-is.This example illustrates the core, and greatest, challenge facing the USA.
Will we as a people respond?
Not unless we find ways to pose this challenge - ASAP - to enough citizens to matter, before our unaddressed frictions cause a mis-educated population to disassociate.
Forget the Federalist Papers. We need the Autocatalysis Memes. Pronto.
Any suggestions? Examples?
Editor's note: An earlier version (but different) version of this article appeared at Mike Norman Economics.